Point of View Columns

May 2021 – Another Week in the Life of America

May 1, 2021

32,346,895-576,239 (Number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead at the beginning of the day)

Today it was announced that 101,407,318 Americans have been vaccinated. That amounts to one-third of the nation’s population. That is the good news. The not so good news is that it is going to be more than a struggle to get the other two-thirds to also get vaccinated.

Close to two-thirds of self-identified Republicans (60%) have indicated that they are not going to get vaccinated. Clearly this is a way for the Republican Party to be more of a minority than it already is – but stubborn stupidity is hard to overcome.

How stubborn and how stupid? The Man Named 45 has publicly encouraged Republicans to get vaccinated and while they would clearly follow him over a cliff in true lemming fashion, they are refusing to save their own lives and the lives of those that they love. That’s how stubborn and that’s how stupid.

May 2, 2021

32,415,395-577,007 (Number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead at the beginning of the day)

Clearly there is no such thing as a slow news day on this planet anymore. Tens of thousands of people are dying in India every day. Like something that might have been written by Dante, bodies are being burned in the streets as all of the crematoria are overflowing with corpses.

India is a nuclear power. India has a modern navy. India has countless billionaires and wealthy families. India is an international destination for concierge-style state of the art hospital care.

But clearly, the powers that be do not think that universal health care is a right, but rather its a privilege.

Sound familiar? It should. It sounds a lot like the talking points of too many opponents of the Affordable Care Act right here in America.

May 3, 2021

32,421,989-577,045 (Number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead at the beginning of the day)

It was reported that over the weekend Senator Mitt Romney was booed mercilessly at the Utah State Republican Convention. It turns out that the Romney was the target of a censure motion, his crime was voting to convict 45 both times that he was impeached.

It is important to remember that it was just nine years ago that Romney was the Republican presidential candidate in what turned out to be a losing campaign against Barack Obama. It is also important to remember that the Romney familiar, devout Mormons to be sure, are part of the institutional foundation of Utah.

And it is also important to remember that, during the ascendancy of the Cult of 45, none of that matters. Blind loyalty to 45 is all that counts and means everything. The Cult of 45 is the reincarnation of the Lost Cause that proliferated throughout the former Confederate states, keeping a tight fisted grip on unreality even in light of the fact that they had lost.

Elements of the Lost Cause exist to this day – consider the proliferation of statues of Confederate heroes and the stubbornness with which so many white Southerners cling to these faux idols to this very day. So it should be no surprise that in the modern era the Lost Cause has now been resurrected as the Cult of 45.

May 4, 2021

32,472,129-577,565 (Number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead at the beginning of the day)

The tumbrils are rolling down the avenues and boulevards of the Republican Party. The mobs are looking for the turncoats, traitors and apostates that might dare suggest that 45 didn’t lose the election and also dare to state that truth, not lies, should be the brand of the party.

Danton, Marat and Robespierre would have been proud, disappointed only that actual heads are not rolling. But careers, reputations and the work of lifetimes are being trashed – just ask Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney and we can be sure that there will be more.

The fact that 70% of Republicans still believe that 45 won the 2020 election reveals everything that we need to know about the Republican Party – it has become a nihilist tool of authoritarian strategies and ambitions, with healthy doses of white supremacy, racism, nativism, xenophobia, nationalism and guns – many, many guns – thrown in for good measure.

It should be clear by now that what is happening to the G.O.P. is a danger to democracy in the United States and should be the subject of real concern. Of course, figuring out what to do with 50 million Americans that have just gone off the rails of the nation will not be easy.

The last time there was a schism this profound was in 1861 – and we all know what happened then.

May 5, 2021

32,513,803-578,504 (Number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead at the beginning of the day)

Today an independent advisory group recommended that Facebook continue to suspend 45 from using its services for at least another six months. This means that he is barred from tweeting his brains out in the middle of the night but it will not loosen his stranglehold on the Republican Party for even a millisecond.

We have seen dominant political personalities in this nation, but any historian would be hard pressed to name a man or woman who has ever had such a widespread and devout following. By now anyone who has been paying attention knows that all 45 wanted out of being president was to be the object of attention and adulation.

To be clear, the job of president was always secondary for him – it was being the center of attention 24/7 that fed his insatiable ego. Now that he doesn’t have the busy work of the presidency to distract him, 45 can now spend all of his time cultivating his MAGA mob, which he has been doing quite well even without access to Facebook and Twitter.

It appears that we will not be hearing the last of 45 for quite a while.

May 7, 2021

32,558,718-579,286 (Number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead at the beginning of the day)

Say goodbye to Liz Cheney – at least as a part of the leadership of the Republican Party in the House of Representatives. It should be noted that Liz Cheney is one of the most strictly conservative members of Congress and has been that way ever since she came to Washington.

However, she seems to be considered guilty of the unpardonable sin (A least on the Planet Republican) of criticizing 45 for continuing to lie about the 2020 election and for fomenting and inspiring the 1.6.21 insurrection.

And for telling the truth and having the temerity to speak her mind on the matter she is being banished to the furthest reaches of the party.

And it should be clear that we are seeing a preview of what this country might be like if 45 was ever returned to power as president. Loyalty tests anywhere and everywhere will be the order of the day and the cult of personality would be a matter of public policy.

We have seen this before – Germany and Italy circa 1935, North Korea circa 1950, Iraq circa 1985 – and it never seems to go well for the subject country.

As Americans we can never say that we haven’t been warned.

May 8, 2021

32,652,416-580,904 (Number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead at the beginning of the day)

Federal civil rights violation charges against Derek Chauvin and three other officers connected to the murder of George Floyd – this simply never would have happened when 45 was president and William Barr was the Attorney General.

What a difference an election can make.

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Point of View Columns

The Chauvin Verdict – What It Is and What It Is Not

Today Derek Chauvin was convicted on all three counts for killing George Floyd. This former Minneapolis police officer faces more than a half century of time in prison. In many parts of the country and the world this has been seen as a cause for celebration.

In some very real ways this verdict is a reason for celebration because it is so rare that in America a white policeman is convicted for killing a Black man. It is so rare that when it happens it is a cause for celebration. White police officers in America have been killing Black men with impunity for centuries – so when there is a unicorn of an outlier of a result where justice actually appears, it is a cause for celebration.

It should be pointed out that in the days and hours leading up to the verdict that there was real concern that there would be an acquittal or a mistrial. There was a real concern that even though Derek Chauvin’s murder of George Floyd was viewed around the world, because in America the tradition was that white police officers could kill Black men with impunity.

In many ways it is a damn shame that a slam dunk, open and shut, videotaped murder might not be reason enough to convict a white police officer for killing a Black man. The concept of Black Lives Mattering has barely entered the national consciousness and even a casual student of history knows that there are far too many unreported tragedies at the hands of police that were never recorded and will never be known except by the dead victims and their bereaved families.

It should also be point out that this verdict could be a turning point, or a tipping point as Malcolm Gladwell has termed such opportunities for change. Even as a white supremacist America First Caucus was strangled in its Congressional crib, it is clear that many more Americans have become aware of the pernicious existence of the twin evils of racism and racial disparity throughout this nation.

When the President and Vice President of the United States take note of the conviction of a white police officer for killing a Black man any student of American history knows that this represents a real difference in America. The question remains as to what happens next.

There is already legislation pending in Congress – the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act –  that would provide new guidelines for police departments across the country when it comes to use of force. What cannot be legislated are the hearts and minds of the men and women in American law enforcement. What is not subject to a presidential executive order is the mind set of too many white Americans who are prepared to give the police the benefit of the doubt in virtually every lethal encounter with Black Americans, especially if there is no video record.

It is in fact telling that there was a sigh of relief when Derek Chauvin was convicted, because Black Americans know that verdicts in these kinds of cases have gone the other way – think Sean Bell, Eric Garner and Amadou Diallo for just a few sad and tragic examples. If nearly ten minutes of a video murder and the testimony of the chief of police and a boat load of experts was needed to get a conviction, what happens when the evidence is not as overwhelming?

Will white police officers continue to get the benefit of the doubt? Will Black men and boys have to consider even the most innocent encounter with the police to have the potential for a lethal outcome? Will Black mothers and fathers have to continue to tell their 8-year-old sons and daughters about the special care that they must take if they come in contact with the police? Conversations that white parents simply do not have with their children.

The Chauvin verdict does indeed represent the opportunity for change – but to be clear, it does not represent change itself.

The American justice system got it right this time.

We need for the American justice system to just be right.

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Point of View Columns

Another Week in the Life of America in 2021

April 1, 2021

30,461,748-552,076 (Number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

It is still early in the Biden-Harris administration but it is not too early to inquire as to whether the urgency of the nationwide suppression of the Black vote in America is being sufficiently prioritized within the public policy universe of competing demands including infrastructure, COVID-19, the economy and climate change.

April 2, 2021

30,548,745-553,241 (Number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

As the sad and tragic testimony at the Derek Chauvin trial for the murder of George Floyd ebbs and flows forward there is an overwhelming sense of maddening sadness. Sadness because the testimony to date makes it clear that Mr. Floyd did not have to die and in a normal universe he would probably still be alive to this day.

Maddening because this police-Black man scenario has played out so many times that it seems like well-rehearsed satanic performance art. A Black man has an encounter with the police and for no apparent reason the Black man ends up dead in a situation which would see a white man walk away or be peacefully arrested – and in any event alive.

It is maddeningly sad because we know, we all know, that this will not be the last time that we are witness to this tragic scenario.

And, as a reminder of the madness that is flowing the streets and cities and supermarkets of America, a young Black man tried to crash his car through the barriers that surround the Capitol. After crashing he left his car and attacked two Capitol Hill police officers, killing one and wounding the other before being shot to death.

There appears to be no motive other than the madness that is on display in his social media rants. And while there appears to be no philosophical or political motive, it is undeniable that the atmosphere of madness and violence that hangs over America like some kind of cloud cannot have a salutary effect on people with serious mental health issues.

April 3, 2021

30,610,745-553,241 (Number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

There is a weekend pause in the Chauvin murder trial and it is definitely timely. The repetition of the recitation of the cause of the death of George Floyd is a necessary part of the trial process. However, the enormity of Chauvin’s crime goes beyond murder.

It is total dismissal of the humanity of Mr. Floyd – shared by his police colleagues on the scene – which is difficult to comprehend. Veterinarians and butchers demonstrate more empathy and care than Chauvin and that is what is so hard to understand.

One could actually understand a flash of cruelty – a gun shot or gun shots, for example. But killing someone so slowly and personally – sustained sadism actually –  for over nine minutes reveals a certain kind of pathology that endangers all of society.

Chauvin might be an outlier but he is not alone.

April 4, 2021

30,703,999-554,992 (Number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

Today marks 53 years since the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. King was killed by some nonentity named James Earl Ray, although how a two-bit crook was able to elude an international manhunt with multiple passports and funds seemingly from out of the sky has never been explained. And at this point probably will never be explained.

Dr. King’s assassination marked a turning point in the struggle for the rights of Black Americans and a recognition that whatever good will might exist in this nation, it was not enough the stem the centuries-old tradition of naked violence in support of white supremacy. His death also sparked insurrections and protests throughout the country, but in the ensuing 53 years there has been grudging progress but systemic change has been resisted virtually everywhere and anywhere.

Still, it was interesting that, even though it was Easter Sunday, there was virtually no mention of the anniversary of the slaying of Dr. King.

And that cannot be a good thing.

April 5, 2021

30,706,129-555,001 (Number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

The promoters of the Big Lie of Voter Fraud, which has served as the faux justification for the raced-based voter suppression assault across America. There seems to be a belief that if a lie is spoken enough times it will somehow be considered the truth.

It is a fact that the Black voters across the country, but particularly in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin are directly responsible for the electoral victory of Joe Biden, in the processing dashing the fevered dreams of conservatives and white sup remacists who desperately wished for a second term for 45. And so, in 43 states there are legislative commando raids going on which, while not being able to reverse the results of the 2020 election, will certainly make it incredibly more difficult for Black voters to exercise voting rights and impact an election in the same way.

It is clear that there is a virulent, cancerous segment of white America that is prepared to bring down the temple of democracy if it means holding on to white supremacist minority rights.

These are dangerous times indeed.

April 6, 2021

30,785,734-555,619 (Number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

So now we are learning that Major League Baseball (moving the All Star Game from Atlanta to Denver), Delta and Coca Cola (issuing statements of concern to date) are announcing their displeasure with the voter suppression efforts in Georgia.

It is good to see elements of corporate America publicly recognize the seemingly eternal need for racial justice in this country but it remains what it is that corporate America is going to do? After all, there are 42 other states considering various types of voter regulation that could easily morph into voter suppression.

What is corporate America going to do?

Delta is not going to stop flying to Texas. Coca Cola is not going to suspend sales in Pennsylvania. And Amazon…well Amazon is going to keep being Amazon. So if there is no consequence beyond some rhetorical sniper fire, we can be sure that voter suppression will soon become the de facto law of the land in much of America.

April 7, 2021

30,847,926-556,529 (Number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

Hopefully the Matt Gaetz Distraction of the Day will be just that. There is just too much grave and serious issues and tidal waves of perilous change to worry about finding out that one of 45’s most vocal and bellicose supporters is a sleaze bag.

How can that be a surprise when Gaetz idolizes 45, who has taken the concept of sleaze bag to Hall of Fame levels that will be difficult to surpass.

Meanwhile there are actual arguments over whether people should carry proof of vaccination as part of the effort to stem the lethal COVID-19 tide. Once again, we see the argument of personal liberty being juxtaposed against all of us dropping dead. It should not be a hard decision.

History does not reveal this kind of visceral opposition to the smallpox, polio or measles vaccines. So what has changed so that over a half century later, when ostensibly more people know more about science and how vaccines work, that there is this intransigent, indigestible segment of America that will refuse vaccines because (a) it threatens their personal liberty) or (b) there is no real “proof” that vaccines work. Insofar as (a) is concerned, the calculation that personal liberty is more important than the lives of others is stunningly cruel. With respect to (b), it may be that there is simply no arguing with intentional, obstinate and immovable stupid. But it will be hard for the (b) group to argue about anything when they are in an ICU somewhere

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