Point of View Columns

Four Days in the Life of America

August 25, 2020

5,741,189–177,284 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

The day begins with recollections of last night’s RNC Convention and wondering if the crass cavalcade of caricatures of conservatism was a nightmare, or did it really happen. Here’s a hint – it really happened.

Some of the lowlights included the embodiment of what Making America Great Again is all about, a young white man by the name of Charles Cook who looked like he stepped out of a Norman Rockwell vision of an America that didn’t include anyone who was not a white American. Mr. Cook actually said that “Trump is the bodyguard of Western civilization”. And as jaws dropped at the hyperbole all over the country there was this chilling realization that this line is straight out of the authoritarian playbook.

First it must be made clear that life as “we” know it is in mortal danger. Check. Second, that danger is readily identifiable – Democrats, leftists, lawless Black and LatinX people and godless masses – Check. Third, this danger is so overwhelming that as a group “we” are helpless and hopeless. Check. And Fourth, the only answer to this existential threat to “our” way of life is not some collaborative effort – that isn’t enough – “we” need an all-powerful leader, and only he can save “us”. Check.

The remaining box to be checked is that “we” don’t need a governmental apparatus, “we” place “our” trust in the one true messianic leader. And when that box is checked all of us will be living in a totalitarian state.

And if that seems extreme, it’s only because proper attention isn’t being paid. Four years ago Trump proclaimed at the 2016 RNC convention that “only I can save this country”. And that is the same kind of language that dictators from Hitler to Trujillo to all the other Hell-dwellers in between have used.

And not to be outdone, a woman by the name of Kimberly Guilfoyle who is Donald Trump, Jr.’s girlfriend and National Finance Chair to the Trump Reelection Committee. See screamed and screeched and shouted fire in an empty room claiming that Democrats “want to destroy this country”. And in an over the top tirade she checked three of the Five Steps to a Dictatorship. One – the country is in mortal danger. Two the danger is the Democrats – no need for specifics, “we” know who they are. And Three, this danger is overwhelming in that they want to destroy this country – and “our” way of life in the bargain.

Of course Don Jr. was among many others who echoed this theme. But the other item of interest was that there were by count three Black speakers who spoke glowingly of Trump and denigrated the Democrats with virtually every syllable. But former NFL and college football star Herschel Walker went over the top and stayed there.

He testified that since he grew up in the Deep South he knew what racism was (as if racism isn’t experienced by Black Americans in every state and territory). And because he, Herschel Walker was an expert on racist behavior, he could testify that Donald Trump was not a racist. So that settles that.

The morning also carried a reminder of the awful carnage arising from random police violence that stalks Black people all of the time. Jacob Blake, the 29 year old Black man who was shot in the back seven times by a Kenosha (Wisconsin) police officer on Sunday evening, actually survived this initial trauma. However, his father reported this morning that his son is paralyzed from the waist down and it is quite possible that he may never walk again.

Someone should tell young Charles Cook about this aspect of Western Civilization.

The day meanders, as every day does, and then there is the press conference in Kenosha. The mother, father, sons and sister of Jacob Blake, along with family attorney Ben Crump, provided a stark picture of what police brutality does to a person and to a family and to this nation.

It appears that Jacob Blake will never walk again. He lost his colon and small intestine, part of his stomach and his liver. He was also shot in the arm and may still die from his injuries.

The pain being suffered by his family is poignant and awful. All the more awful because it just keeps happening and justice continues to be delayed and perhaps even denied – again. Despite clear video evidence none of the three officers has been dismissed and the police officer who shot Jacob Blake has not been charged with any crime – awaiting a thirty-day investigation of what is obvious to every sentient being on the planet.

It may be that Black Live Matter in America. But it absolutely clear that, in America, White Lives Matter More.

The day concludes with Day 2 of the RNC Convention, otherwise known as The Trump Show. Amazingly, but not shockingly, he is shamelessly using the Office of President of the United States as just another campaign prop. Consider:

  • Trump sends Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Israel just so that he can tape an appearance at the RNC from Jerusalem. Historically, the Secretary of State does not participate in partisan events like conventions, but Trump never studied history.
  • Trump administers the oath of citizenship to five new Americans in the White House in a Made for Convention TV moment. Since Trump has no shame, it is redundant to point out that he has no shame. And it would be stating the obvious that none of the five new Americans would have a shot at citizenship if they had tried to enter the United States after January 20, 2017.
  • Trump issues a presidential pardon to a Black ex-felon in the Oval Office in another Made for Convention TV moment. Presumably, as long as the pardoned individual doesn’t plan to move into the suburbs he is alright with Trump.
  • Melania Trump gives a speech from the Rose Garden which, of course, is part of the White House and is traditionally out of bounds for purely partisan events. But that observation is just a redundancy when it comes to Trump.

August 26, 2020

5,779,189–178,535 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

The day begins with twin tragedies, different tragedies but tragedies nonetheless. In Kenosha, white vigilantes, like the ones that were featured in the first night of the RNC convention descended upon a demonstration in Kenosha and killed two protestors. A seventeen-year old white man was arrested with his gun. Needless to say no shots were fired even though this white man was suspected of just having killed two people with the gun he was holding.

The irony does not escape the family of Jacob Blake or Black Americans everywhere.

To compound matters, the CDC has issued an obviously politically motivated directive to the effect that asymptomatic individuals need not be tested for the COVID-19 virus. This order is in perfect synchronicity with Trump’s wailing that there are too many tests which is why the United States leads the world in COVID-19 cases.

The stone-headed illogic of such a position should be obvious to every non-scientist, much less the leadership of the Centers for Disease Control. Yet, we now have a directive that will result in more infections, and therefore more cases, and therefore more deaths.

But at least for the next pre-election month or two there will be a decline in cases….it is truly a Faustian bargain.

August 27, 2020

5,837,800–179,604 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

The day begins with a virtual swirl of news – Hurricane Laura, California is literally on fire, vigilantes in Kenosha, more lies from Trump and….by the way, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to kill Americans by the minutes. So what does Trump do?

He narrows his narrow focus to himself and himself alone. This evening over a thousand people will array themselves on the White House lawn, shredding the last fig leaf of propriety and presidential decorum, so that Trump can accept the RNC presidential nomination.

Aside from the fact that given the events of the past twenty-four hours it might be a good idea to tone things down, the White House is not supposed to be an obvious political prop. But for Trump – everything and everybody is a prop in the The Trump Show.

We learned today that Hurricane Laura was the most powerful hurricane to hit the United States in over a century – and hurricane season has at least another six weeks to go. And one has to wonder how many times it will be necessary to point out that climate change is responsible for these bizarre meteorological occurrences – which of course, is the reason why one million acres of California’s forests are ablaze.

In Kenosha, a 17-year-old white man walks into the confusion of nighttime demonstration and protest and shoots two people, killing them both. He then walks away casually, right past the police who have been told that this young man with a gun has just shot two people. And the police let him walk away and drive 30 miles back to Illinois where he was finally arrested.

Meanwhile Jacob Blake lies paralyzed in a hospital, shot seven times for walking away from the police while unarmed. And that is why it is clear that, even though Black Lives Matter, White Lives Matter More.

And all the while Trump continues to add to his all-time presidential record of 10,000 lies as president – and counting – by claiming that the economy was in shambles when he became president – so untrue he might as well also add that the sun is actually the moon. But Trump Nation believes him and will continue to do so, the facts be damned.

August 28, 2020

5,883,700–180,700 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

Last night marked the finale of The Trump Show, a.k.a. the RNC convention. And it featured everything that is wrong with Trump, including seventy minutes of bellowing by Trump. The context of the finale is important however.

First, it took place on the White House lawn which is not where partisan activities are supposed to take place, let alone serving as the venue for the convention of a political party. And in attendance were over 1,500 people who wore no masks and totally ignored the concept of social distancing.

Second, while the Party of Trump celebrated, another 1300 Americans were dying yesterday. And Jacob Blake, he of the seven police bullets in his back, lay paralyzed and shackled to a hospital bed, with the prospect of justice still as far away as on the night when he was shot.

The 57th anniversary of the March on Washington was yet another sign that the outrage and fatigue occasioned by institutional racism and racist systemic institutional reality that has spread from the national Black community to the nation at large. One can hope that this is true.

It must be noted that the history of the 1963 March on Washington has been sanitized and romanticized in order to gloss over the uncomfortable truth about that event. The truth is that the March was preceded by months of argument and anguish by the white leadership of the national government, beginning with President John Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy who simply didn’t want the March to happen.

The national Black community was also far from unified about the usefulness of

such a demonstration, but ultimately common ground was found. The March was one of protest and an expression of frustration Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech was one of many, none of which were conciliatory, all of them being articulated expressions of a demand – not a request – for major institutional change.

Ironically, Dr. King’s so-called “I Have a Dream Speech” could fairly be summed up in four words – “No Justice, No Peace”- but it has been sanitized primarily to make white America comfortable. Today’s March, with signs and placards that could have been printed in 1963, it is clear that there is still no justice and there is still no peace.

A particularly poignant moment during the March occurred when Dr. King’s granddaughter, thirteen-year old Yolanda King spoke. She expressed the power and the promise of youth. She also demonstrated so eloquently and clearly, why we believe in the hope and promise that youth represents.

Her grandfather would have been proud.

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Point of View Columns

Three Days in the Life of America

August 5, 2020

 4,771,5199 –156,830 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

 The day begins with the news that a community activist by the name of Cori Bush soundly defeated 20-term incumbent William Clay in a Democratic primary in St. Louis which virtually assures her victory in November. That is actually good news for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, keeping in mind that Congressman Clay’s father held the seat for twelve years before his forty. Families, Black or white, should not “own” elected offices.

Second, Ms. Bush was only able to win despite Clay’s massive incumbency because she articulated a progressive change agenda that resonated with the people of St. Louis….and that is a good thing.

Third, it is clear from the 2018 election and what appears to be happening in the 2020 election is that people with more progressive agendas are getting elected because people with more progressive agendas are registering and voting. And that is what real change looks like.

Meanwhile, yesterday there was a massive explosion at a warehouse in in Beirut, Lebanon. Scores of citizens have died, thousands have been injured and the physical devastation to a significant part of this major city is quite visible.

Early reports indicate that a huge and incredibly dangerous amount of ammonium nitrate was being stored in the warehouse and the ensuing catastrophic event was a tragic accident of some sort. But leave it to Trump to announce at last night’s press conference that it was “an attack” literally without any evidence to support this misstatement.

The Pentagon went on the record stating in effect that they had no idea what the president was talking about. And further, that there was no evidence or indication that the tragedy in Beirut was the result of any kind of military action.

One has to wonder if Trump was trying to stir up even more trouble than he has already caused in the Middle East, or is he just a mindless simpleton who says whatever may wander through the alleys and byways of his mind. It would be a good guess that the second option is correct.

It would have been hard to predict in January of this year that mail-in voting would become a major presidential campaign issue. Of course, no one knew that a global pandemic would change life as we know it for all time. But it appears that the issue of mail-in voting doesn’t have much to do with the pandemic and everything to do with the Republican years long campaign of voter suppression.

Voter suppression is an American tradition that goes back at least 150 years. It was the suppression of Black male voting rights that resulted in the passage of the 15th Amendment. But sadly the end of Reconstruction also marked the end of Black voting rights until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

From 1965 until 2013 white supremacists disguised as conservative Republicans worked assiduously to gut the Voting Rights Act. For 48 years multiple lawsuits challenging the act made their way through the courts, usually leading nowhere until more rightwing racist judges started proliferating through the federal judiciary thanks to Reagan and the two Bushes (even the “compassionate conservative one).

Finally, those efforts bore fruit in the Shelby v. Holder Supreme Court decision of 2013 which did indeed gut the hated Voting Rights Act. Since then there has been a proliferation of laws, edicts, plans, ordinances and just plain executive action to make it more difficult for Black people to vote – in the process catching poor people, the elderly and people of color in that malignant net.

One of the principle tools to empowering voters has been mail-in voting. But we should keep in mind that mail-in voting has been the only way to vote in Colorado, Utah, Washington State and Oregon for over 20 years – with no problems worth mentioning.

But now……. with Trump seeing the demise of his horrific presidency on the horizon, it casting mail-in voting as the tool of the devil – except in states with Republican governors like Florida.

Trump’s ploy is a pretty transparent two step. Step one is to encourage governors in states with Republican governors and legislatures to ratchet up their voter suppression efforts by focusing on mail-in voting. Step two is to delegitimize the November 3rd election results in advance to prepare for Trump’s likely epic loss.

And then there is this quote from the historian Edward Watts in his book Mortal Republic – How Rome Fell into Tyranny:

 “No republic is eternal……It lives only as long as its citizens want it. And, in both the 21st century A.D. and the first century B.C., when a republic fails to work as intended, its citizens are capable of choosing the stability of autocratic rule over the chaos of a broken republic.”

Now most people would say that was then is this now. And they would be right. But we should all remember George Santayana’s quote….” those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

And the day would not be complete without another outrage emanating from Trump. “What did he do this time?” seems to be the eternal question in America these days.

And not one to disappoint, Trump announced that he was contemplating giving his speech accepting the presidential nomination from the Republican Party from……. wait for it………. the White House. Clearly there is no one in Trump’s very limited universe who would tell him that using the White House as a prop during a political convention is simply not done.

To be clear, presidents have always given political messages while in the White House. There is obviously no need for any president to run across the street to Lafayette Park to say something that had political overtones.

But using the White House as a prop for a political convention has simply never been done in the Age of Television. Trump seems to think that every facet, aspect and element of the federal government is there for his personal use. It is not enough that the modern presidency has many of the trappings of royalty already. Trump clearly is of the mind that being president is literally the equivalent of being a modern day monarch.

It is clear that Trump wants to use his incumbency as a political tool. Fair enough…. incumbents of any and every office certainly will do that. But accepting the nomination of a national party from the Oval Office is over the top – even for Trump.

But there is a very real possibility that this ploy might backfire. Seeing Trump accept the nomination from the Oval Office will remind many Americans that this clown playing the role of a buffoon is still president, and galvanize many voters to cast their ballots for Joe Biden just so that we can be rid of him.

Trump better be careful what he asks for.

But of course, Trump doesn’t know the meaning of the word “careful”.

August 6, 2020

 4,824,230 –158,268 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

It has been written several times in this journal, but it bears repeating. The listing of the daily register of sick and dead Americans seems like a satanic scoreboard from some hellish game. We become anesthetized to these numbers, which is why it is important to remember that each and every number is a person – perhaps with a family, perhaps loved and certainly entitled to a presence on this planet.

We are all destined to depart this Earth at some point. But to be the victim of not only a deadly disease but also the unwitting victim of the malignant incompetence, mismanagement of the amoral Trump administration is more than unfair.

And it is unfair because, with a minimum level of concern and with a minimum level of administrative ability and with a minimum level of empathy, Trump could have saved this country from the worst part of the suffering which is being endured by all Americans today.

Although so much of what we see and hear from Trump is too awful to be the source of humor, there are exceptions. Two days ago, while reading a teleprompter script announcing some programs aimed at improving national parks, including Yosemite National Park, he pronounced the famed park name as “Yo Semite” and then repeated his mangling of the park name as “Yo Semite”. It is literally impossible to make this stuff up.

There was a moment when the Anti-Defamation League leadership wondered whether this was an anti-Semitic slur that required an immediate response or whether he was trying to give a garbled shout out to the national Jewish community. And presumably, once it was realized that it was Trump speaking, it was just another reason to laugh at this pitiful excuse for a president.

On a much more serious note, the weekly jobs report came out and another 1.2 million Americans filed for unemployment during the past week. That means that over 50 million Americans have lost their job in the past 20 weeks. Put another way, one third of the American work force has been laid off during the pandemic.

Trump’s Carnage is real – think of it this way, one out of three Americans who went to work on January 2, 2020, the first day after New Year’s Day, are now out of work. And yet the Republicans are balking at a new stimulus package – the old one ran out 7 days ago – and as you are reading this there are countless citizens of the wealthiest country in the history of the planet who are homeless and going hungry.

And it is not being an “alarmist” to think that the worst is yet to come.

And, while we were watching the Trump Clown Show, the Trump Environmental Protection Agency gave permission for a Canadian mining company to begin work on something called the Pebble Mine in Alaska. Turns out the Pebble Mine would be the largest gold and copper mine in the world. And the Pebble Mine sits on waterways that flow into the river which hosts the largest sockeye salmon migration in the world.

The concern of most people, not just tree huggers, is that the waste from the Pebble Mine will ultimate pollute the salmon run resulting in something close to the extinction of this breed of salmon along with other irreversible environmental damage. The Obama administration had blocked this project for years so given that in Trump World all things Obama are bad, his EPA reversed earlier restrictions on this project. And an epic environmental cataclysm may be on the way.

And now, to the rescue comes Donald Trump, Jr.???? Yes, it turns out that Don Jr. is a passionate fisherman, hunter and all around outdoorsman and has now publicly lobbied his father to once again block the Pebble Mine project. Can’t wait to see what comes out the next father-son summit.

And, because things aren’t bizarre enough, we now have the Great Kanye Konspiracy Circus. It seems that some geniuses in the Republican campaign apparatus think that it would be a great idea to put a talented Black man with profound mental health issues on the presidential ballot in order to drain Black votes away from Joe Biden and enhance Trump’s reelection efforts.

What are we to make of this madness? Should the Biden team try to put someone crazier than Trump on the ballot in red states to drain votes away from Trump? Of course finding someone crazier than Trump who is not already institutionalized may be too much of a task in and of itself.

Do the Trump minions really think so little of Black voters that they believe Kanye West would make an even minimal difference in Black voter turnout for Biden. Granted, the late Herman Cain is no longer available, but they could have come up with Diamond and Silk as a competing ticket, which would in a bizarre world make more sense than Kanye West.

Welcome to the House of Mirrors a.k.a. the Age of Trump.

 August 7, 2020

4,884,406 –160,111 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

 Watching Trump is like watching a horrific car accident on the highway. You want to look away, but you end up looking anyway. And so it was yesterday.

There was Trump on the runway at an Ohio airport claiming that not only would Joe Biden attack the 2nd Amendment and religion. He actually said that Biden “would attack God” as president. There is no instance in any know version of the Bible, Koran or Torah where a human even threatened to attack, much less tried to attack God.

Of course Satan did wage war against God. But he was a rogue angel not a human and he literally caught Hell for that. So perhaps Trump is suggesting that Biden is Satan or a member of a satanic cult? The point is that Trump is distancing himself further from logic and sanity daily – and because he is President of the United States and not the host of some gimmick of a reality show – we should be concerned and worried.

The last time there was a president this incapacitated was Woodrow Wilson in 1919. But he suffered from a stroke and was pretty much confined to a bedroom in the White House and could speak very little, if at all. Of course, Trump never stops speaking, but one wonders if members of the White House staff have considered confining him to quarters for health reasons?

Meanwhile, count on Joe Biden to continue to engage in self-inflicted wounding. Yesterday, in speaking about the diversity of the LatinX community – Cuban, Colombian, Mexican, Puerto Rican, etc. – he felt compelled to take a brief trip to Stupid World and offer the observation that there wasn’t that level of diversity in the national Black community.

Now this came as a surprise to Black Americans who trace their heritage from Cuba, Panama, Nigeria, Barbados, etc. And it would certainly come as a surprise to the Black LGBTQI community as well as Black people who are very aware of the differences between the West Side and South Side of Chicago, or the diverse experiences to be found in Black Brooklyn as opposed to Black Harlem.

But the real point is that Biden really didn’t have to go there. His campaign staff then had to engage in another clean up job which could be summarized as “Joe didn’t really mean what he said”, which translates into “Joe really didn’t know what the Hell he was talking about”, which translates into “We really wish that sometimes Joe would just shut up”.

It is doubtful that Biden’s gaffes will drive any Black people into supporting the Trump presidency or the Kanye West campaign.

But right now Biden’s best bet is to stick to his best argument – I AM NOT TRUMP.

 

That’s really all he needs to say.

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