Point of View Columns

Break Up the Democratic Circular Firing Squad

The Trump presidency is like a Grade Z horror movie where the monster never dies. Incredibly, while virtually cloaked in corruption and impeachment and creeping instability that resembles mental disability, Trump had the best week of his presidency last week. And somehow, the Democrats continue to act as if this is just another presidential election in yet another election cycle. Even though that is clearly not the case.

Consider that last week Trump was acquitted – not exonerated by the Kangaroo Senate that is in thrall to their Great God Trump. That faux exoneration should have done nothing to boost Trump’s standing. His State of the Union – game show – tantrum should have confirmed for all who care that this man is unfit for the office of President of the United States. And of course, his Friday Massacre, firing and demoting members of his administration who testified as to the truth regarding his outrageous misconduct, allowed Trump to channel his inner Caligula.

Yet, incredibly, by the end of last week Trump had the highest approval ratings since he became president. And just as incredibly, the Democrats managed to mangle the Iowa Caucus and move on to the New Hampshire primary sniping and heaving body shots at each other until it would seem that it doesn’t matter who gets the Democratic nomination in Milwaukee in July as the “winner” will just get to play a role in the remake of “Trump v. Hillary”.

The worst part of all this is that the various candidates seem to think that normal partisan warfare is alright since the worst thing that might happen is that a Democrat might not win – after all there’s always another election only four years away. After all, how bad could things get if the Democrats lose.

And it is that kind of oblivious mindless thinking that just might get Trump reelected. We already know that 47% of the supporters of Bernie Sanders are not committed to voting for any other Democrat for president. And we know that in 2016, with Sanders supporting Hillary Clinton with what amount to a wilted bouquet of fake enthusiasm, his supporters actually voted for Trump in such numbers that they were able move Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin into the Trump column. In other words, Sanders supporters helped elect Trump in 2016 and Sanders has never been held accountable for this outrageous betrayal.

Yet Sanders is the leading candidate, Buttigieg is right behind him, Warren is lagging, Biden seems to be waiting either for Godot or South Carolina which also seems to be Patrick’s, and Bloomberg has already launched a New Jack campaign strategy that might yet propel him to a nomination that will be a hollow victory at best if the circular firing squad can’t stop firing.

The damage that Trump has already done to international alliances, the environment, to probity in the White House, consumer affairs, education, immigration policy and the economy is not irreparable. But another four years of this man in the White House will transform this country for a generation. The new normal under Trump will look a lot like this country’s morals and policies and values of 100 years ago.

That the Democratic presidential candidates cannot seem to put aside their personal ambitions and aspirations is a damning commentary on all of them. There may not be a clear solution to limit the damage that is characteristic of clashing political campaigns, but if they would at least publicly agree, and reiterate at every possible opportunity, that the urgency of defeating Trump requires every single candidate to take a solemn oath that they will support the eventual nominee no matter who he or she might be.

And further – these candidates must urge their supporters to also take that oath, a pledge of allegiance to the cause of defeating Trump, if you will, so that November 3, 2020 will be a day of exultation and optimism and not what historians in the future will term the saddest day in American history.

At least let the Democratic Circular Firing Squad should start firing blanks and save all that ammunition for Trump and all of his enablers.

The American people deserve no less.

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Point of View Columns

Celebrating Black History Month with Truth

Black History Month began as a way to counter the awful lies, misconceptions and derogatory characterizations of Black Americans that has been part of the American tradition since 1619. There is no way that horrors of slavery, racism, discrimination, Jim Crow, Klan domestic terrorism, mass incarceration and lynching could be rationalized without America being able to characterize Black people as “less than” and “the other”.

When Carter G. Woodson wrote “The Miseducation of the Negro” in 1933 he intended to provide a basis for Black Americans to understand the true history of Black Americans as opposed to the mythic characterizations that served to justify the mistreatment and abuse suffered by so many. That knowledge, especially self-knowledge, is an essential aspect to liberation, and the study of the truth about Black history in America has always served to provide a foundation for rights movements from abolition to the ongoing struggle for civil rights to the Black Power movement to Black Lives Matter.

But there is still more educating that needs to be done. That is due to the fact that while the “miseducation” of Black people is an ongoing concern, the “miseducation” of all Americans has been, and continues to be, a matter of grave concern as well.

Too many Americans refuse to believe that absolute and unspeakable horrors of the institution of slavery and the complicity of most white Americans of that era in some aspect of this “peculiar institution”. Efforts to sanitize slavery tend to minimize the ongoing impact of two and half centuries of legal and absolute bondage followed by almost two centuries of residual oppression, racism and discrimination. The New York Time “1619” project is certainly a step in the right direction, but certainly not enough Americans have read it, and even fewer have absorbed its awful importance.

The “miseducation” of all Americans has resulted in the continued celebration of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and the other famed slave masters who were part of the group known as the Founding Fathers – as eight of the first ten Presidents were. The idea that for the first decades of its existence the elected leadership of this nation were slave masters is a stain on this country’s legacy that has yet to be acknowledged.

The “miseducation” of Americans has transformed the Civil War into a conflict that “ended slavery” when in fact abolition did not prevent the continuation of abuse, oppression and inhumane treatment of Black Americans. And that “miseducation” has perpetuated the obscene myth that the Confederate military leaders and it’s soldiers were “heroes” when in fact they were traitors and defenders of an evil institution – making them unworthy of praise much less being commemorated with statues and the memorializing of their names on universities, streets, towns and cities throughout this country.

Certainly this “miseducation” has persuaded too many people that the race-based disparities in these United States – income inequality, mass incarceration, higher infant mortality rates, lower life expectancy rates, higher incidents of police brutality, unequal access to education, housing and a range of professions and occupations – are not related to racism and race-based behavior in the public and private sectors.

Perhaps it is time for Black History Month to be about more than celebrating the accomplishment of Black Americans, past and present. Perhaps it is time for the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth to be recounted and taught – not only to Black Americans but to all Americans – so that there is a true understanding as to why we are where we are when it comes to matters of race and so that a reality-based path to a better day for all can finally be seen and understood.

That might be the best way to celebrate Black History Month this year and in the years to come.

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Point of View Columns

Kobe Bryant’s Parting Gifts

Kobe Bryant’s sudden death is as tragic as it is stunning as it is impossible to fully comprehend. As humans it is our nature to be unsatisfied in the face of loss. We want more time with our friend, our loved one or, in the case of Kobe Bryant, an iconic presence in our lives. However our friend, loved one or Kobe Bryant lived it can never be enough. And in moments of loss we can be so focused on wanting more that we don’t use those moments to consider gratitude for the gifts that the departed one brought to our lives.

Much has been written and will be written – much has been spoken and will be spoken – about the spectacular gifts that accompanied Kobe Bryant’s near mythical athletic achievements. In that context he entertained us, he thrilled us and he gave us respite from the shoals of everyday life as he permitted us to fly with him to unthinkable heights of the sport that he loved so much.

Indeed, much will be written and much will be spoken about Kobe Bryant the superstar basketball phenomenon. And it is right and just that his basketball persona should be one of the reasons why we feel his departure as such a deep loss. But Kobe Bryant’s gift to us is not one dimensional.

Because Kobe Bryant demonstrated with his life that excellence is worth striving for even if perfect excellence can never be achieved to the satisfaction of those who seek it. His life narrative demands respect if only because he was a man who truly embraced his passion unapologetically and stoked the fires of that passion with a commitment that was awesome to behold.

It is true that by playing professional basketball Kobe Bryant became a millionaire many times over. But one never got the sense that money was the driving force in his quest for excellence. He competed against some of the best basketball players of his time – but in his mind he competed against the best basketball player of his time by competing against himself.

And one of his parting gifts is his having been a living, breathing illustration of what the quest of excellence looks like. Because that quest is eternal, that quest is always present and that quest is never completed. And so, whether you are a doctor or a writer or a nurse or a student or a servant of the poor or a leader of your block association – any pursuit that we choose can be the reason to enter into a quest for excellence. After all, Kobe Bryant showed us all what that quest looks like in real time.

His other gift is coincidental with his death. Without intending to do so, Kobe Bryant’s death teaches us that every moment of every day of our lives is precious. There is no way that any of us can predict which day will be the last day of our lives. And so, even as we boldly plan for the future, clearly we should also understand that it is so very important to treat every day as the precious gift that it is.

Wasting time is, in reality, actually wasting life – and so there is no time to waste.

So as we mourn the death of Kobe Bryant we should pause to give thanks for his parting gifts and find the best ways to use those gifts as we live our own lives.

 

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Point of View Columns

King Had More Than a Dream

The recent national celebration of the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. illustrated the caution with which the lens of history should be used. Obviously history depends upon who is telling the story and what are the motives of the historian. In the case of Martin Luther King there are competing motives.

Many of the celebrants who extol Dr. King’s virtues as a peacemaker and an advocate of universal harmony conveniently forget (or neglect) the broader of the story of this man. Seen through the lens of the times in which he lived he was a radical. Dr. King fought against a system of American institutionalized racism that was so vicious that a man could be killed for seeking the vote for Black Americans (e.g. Medgar Evers shot to death in his driveway in Mississippi in 1963 or for going to church on Sunday to worship God (four Black girls murdered by Ku Klux Klan bombers at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, also in 1963)

Only a radical Black man would stand up against the system of American racism that had countenanced, indeed accepted, the lynching of thousands of Black men and women in the 100 years prior to the Montgomery bus boycott that brought Dr. King to national attention. And only a radical Black man would seek to inspire Black people to shed the cloak of subtle resistance and instead to take up the armor of confronting the hatred and racism that flowed unchecked through the American bloodstream.

Much has been made about Dr. King’s commitment to non-violence without taking into account that he understood the very radical strategy employed successfully by Mahatma Gandhi. Both Gandhi and Dr. King understood that their enemy – the British in India and white American racists (and their enablers) in America, would meet resistance and protest with unimaginably vicious violence and hatred.

They both understood that strategically, exposing the imperialists in India and the racists in America for who they were would ultimately induce such shame and disgust that change would have to come. Certainly the imperfect results in India and America should not diminish the understanding that true victories were won against odds that would have been insuperable in violent conflict.

Dr. King espoused nonviolence as a strategy. He did not advocate complacency or the peaceful and timid acceptance of the status quo. Dr. King sought to uproot the status quo and for proof we need to go no further than to remember that Dr. King identified income equality and poverty as evils that also had to be confronted. He also understood the error of American imperialism so tragically exposed in the Vietnam War. And for taking those positions he was criticized and shunned by many in a country that now seeks to honor a sanitized version of a man who sought to change the world.

Even the so-called “I Have a Dream” speech has been misinterpreted and miscast as an expression of hope for a better day in some vague day in the by and by. But a more truthful understanding of his radical call for change on that August day in 1963 is revealed in his words before his reference to the “dream”. Consider some of these excerpts, clearly spoken and just as clearly, conveniently ignored:

“One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.”

“Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”

“It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning.”

“There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.”

“No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

These were the words of a man who had a clear-eyed vision of the vile and hateful nature of institutionalized racism and these were the words of a man who fought against it literally to his dying day. Those who wish to praise Dr. King without acknowledging his radical stance in the face of what were (and are) overwhelming odds, do not do justice to his memory.

Those who wish sugarcoat the memory of Dr. King through mythical hagiography dishonor everything that he stood for and died for.

It is right to remember Dr. King. It is also right to remember that he had a lot more than a dream.

 

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Point of View Columns

21st Century Circular Firing Squad

Read it in the papers,

And you’ll see,

Just exactly what is worrying me,

The world is in an uproar,

The danger zone is everywhere

                           ………..Ray Charles

The fact that Trump did not precipitate the immediate start of World War III with the assassination of the Iranian Major General Qasim Suleimani (does anyone remember Sarajevo in 1914?) passes for a cause for celebration in this first year of the third decade of the twenty first century. Which is just one indication of how madness has become as normalized as having a pathological compulsive liar as President of the United States.

And it just may be that the most profound impact of the Trump presidency may be the normalization of fraud, lying, misogyny, xenophobia and racism – in no particular order. And it is this normalization that may be the reason why on November 4, 2020 we may be appalled at Trump’s re-election with a very clear understanding that this country will truly be slipping into darkness.

Reference is made to the normalization of the bizarre and the awful and the dangerous, because it must be the only explanation for why the Democratic Party is going through a “normal” process selecting its presidential candidate while Australia-like wildfires of confusion and chaos threaten the present and future of this nation.

While the “process” has finally begun to whittle the number of announced and active candidates from twenty to a dozen – which on the Planet DNC must be viewed as a reasonable number with less than six months to go before the Milwaukee convention – the damage may have already been done. And there may not be enough time to repair the leaks on the sinking Democratic ship prior to November 3rd.

With a dozen candidates come a dozen sets of constituents and zealots who have already contributed huge amounts of their time, emotional energy, personal commitment and many millions of dollars. It defies logic that these multiple constituencies will somehow magically coalesce behind someone other than their candidate with the same level of enthusiasm that they currently possess.

And let there be no doubt, come November 3rd the Democrats are going to need every bit of enthusiasm to overcome the Trump tidal waves of lies, falsehoods, dog whistles and lunatic rhetoric amplified by Russian bots, Iranian trolls and Chinese hackers. Indeed the greatest obstacle to a Democratic victory may be the voter suppression minefields planted by the Republicans since the Shelby v. Holder Supreme Court decision of 2013 which gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

What we now see is outright hostility between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. The clear distaste between these two leading candidates was palpable at the last debate. Even if Warren and Sanders kiss and make up, what about their supporters? We know from 2016 that many Sanders supporters stay cranky when their man doesn’t win (one more reason why we now have President Donald Trump instead of President Hilary Clinton).

We know that by spending $100 million dollars or more, Michael Bloomberg will be a force to be reckoned with after the first round of primaries. How many voters will be reluctant to vote for the Democratic nominee who is perceived to have “bought” the nomination? And, by the way, how many slings and arrows need to be aimed at Joe Biden before he becomes irreparably damaged goods after Milwaukee?

The normalization of the gross, of the stupid and of illogic seems to have afflicted the leadership of the DNC. If anyone believes that this is a “normal” election year, they should go to an opioid rehabilitation center immediately. There has been nothing “normal” in this country’s politics or policies since Trump was elected and traditional strategies and echo chamber group-think among the Democrats and their supporters have resulted in the very real possibility of a Trump re-election.

While it already may be too late, as the great New York Yankees philosopher Yogi Berra once said, “It’s not over until it’s over.”

Let’s hope (and pray) that it’s not over yet.

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Point of View Columns

When Nightmares Come True

First, will someone please tell Trump and Mike Pompeo that the one million Iranians gathered in the streets of Tehran are not “dancing in the streets” after the U.S. assassinated Iranian Major General Qasim Suleimani. We should remember that Pompeo opined that the people of Iran would be “dancing in the streets” after the rogue president flexed his ego and proved yet again that he is a disaster waiting to happen.

Prior to November of 2016 one of the worst nightmare was that the pompous blowhard named Trump might come close to being elected president and that his disgruntled constituency would have to be reintroduced to sanity. Of course, the undreamable nightmare of Trump being elected did come true and has been the source of countless sleepless nights for countless men, women and children who care about……………….just about anything.

Some observers took solace in the belief that the sheer gravity of the office of the presidency would ease Trump towards a path that at least resembled sanity and that wise advisors would do their best to make sure that this orange-hued bull in the American china shop would not destroy the planet. And we see now how that worked out.

Impeachment may have unleashed the very few emotions over which Trump had any control. It is clear that he is not concerned about his legacy or the consequences of his actions. The fact is that Trump’s immediate predecessors – George W. Bush (who will never be found on anybody’s Mensa membership list) and Barack Obama (a Nobel Peace Prize winner) both understood that  while assassinating Suleimani provided no long term advantage to the United States it would almost certainly be viewed as an act of war by Iran. And there was one other fact, despite the overwhelming military power of the United States, the vulnerability of the United States – and its citizens – was also overwhelming.

There is no reason to believe that Trump ever thought about the consequences of his actions which is why we now live in the nightmare scenario avoided by two presidents when they walked up to this potentially disastrous precipice. We know that Iran has already walked away from the nuclear treaty which had curtailed its production of nuclear weapons. We know that Iraq now wants all U.S. troops out of Iraq. We know that the U.S. military has put its pursuit of ISIS on hold. And we know that we should worry about what we don’t know – and given the viciously mendacious nature of the Trump administration we can be sure that there is more bad news coming.

And because it should be beyond clear that elections matter, it is beyond baffling that there are Democratic operatives who think that it is a good thing that multiple candidates are spending millions of dollars attacking each other for the honor of being the bloody but unbowed winner in Milwaukee in June, somehow believing that this Training Camp episode will end up with a Democratic victor in November.

Someone please tell the Democratic Party leadership that nightmares really do come true….sometimes more than once.

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Point of View Columns

America at the Crossroads or the Dead End?

As America’s second decade of the 21st century staggers and stumbles to a close there are a few things that can be considered accepted knowledge….a few things that we all know. The Congress of the United States is hopeless divided along partisan lines with allegiance to a narcissistic megalomaniac being the key partisan issue. We also know that the President of the United States will be impeached but will not be removed from office in the first month of the third decade. And finally, we know that the Democratic Party is seemingly implacably dedicated to finding a way to re-elect Donald Trump even as that disaster threatens to morph into reality every day.

As far as Congress is concerned, ever since the first Black president was inaugurated and the Tea Party emerged as the voice of endangered conservatism and white supremacy, it has become a forum for vitriol, opposition, interposition and nullification. Democrats keep searching for a coherent articulation of their motivating philosophy.

Meanwhile the Republicans are comfortably settled into the realm of the reimagining the Constitution so that it suits the needs of the wealthy, the zealots, the xenophobes, the destroyers of the planet and the needs of those who are in need of the affirmation of their privilege as whites, as males and as the dominant voice of America.

And Donald Trump has become their avatar, their savior, their Chosen One to whom they have sworn allegiance and fealty No Matter What. And even as this country careens towards a dystopian future, the Republicans feign blindness even though they can see what we all see – there is a bleak future for this country if five more years of Trump ensue.

And while there has never been a President more deserving of impeachment – with the possible exception of Andrew Jackson – Trump has created this victimhood/martyrdom scenario that satisfies his base and confounds his enemies. Even those determined to be ignorant of history must admit that the Constitution was written in the aftermath of a revolution against a supreme monarch. And as flawed and more than occasionally awful as many of the so-called Founding Fathers were, they were in agreement that that a return to monarchical reign was to be avoided at all costs.

And yet, some 230 years later, the Republicans are arguing that Trump can attire himself with all of the operational garments of monarchy without consequence. They somehow approve of him using the office of the presidency in an attempt to conspire with a foreign government to subvert the 2020 presidential election. And the Democrats seem to be baffled at what to do when Trump simply refuses to observe the basic principles of the Constitution and ignore any summons from Congress.

So we know that Trump will be impeached shortly. And we know that the Republican Senate will be united in their defense of the indefensible. And yet, national polls tell us that at least 50% of all Americans are okay with this outcome. And indeed, this may be how democracies die.

And finally, in the midst of this historic institutional dumpster fire, the Democratic Party is going about the selection of a candidate to oppose Trump as if this were a normal election year. There are still over fifteen men and women running for the Democratic nomination even though most of them would stand less than a snowball’s chance of defeating Trump.

Yet we are supposed to believe that a Sanders or Buttigieg or Klobuchar or Booker or Steyer candidacy is a real thing. Perhaps in a “normal” political environment that might be true. But there is nothing normal about the times in which we live and the Democrats are truly fiddling while the American Rome burns and all of us will suffer for a very long time if this pitiful process results in the re-election of Donald Trump.

And so, the question becomes, is America at the crossroads or is it at a dead end? And we can only hope that we won’t have to wait until November 3, 2020 to find out.

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