Point of View Columns

From Black Shirts to Brown Shirts to Proud Boys

There are any number of reasons why a few days ago millions of Americans chose to watch Donald Trump on CNN lie about everything except the existence of gravity. Much in the same way that traffic slows to look at the four-car crash, millions of us took the time to clarify and ratify what we already know – one Donald J. Trump is a liar of epic proportions and he presents a clear and present danger to any pretense at democracy that is left in the future of this country.

Watching him lie about his recent loss of the defamation and assault law suit was like watching Aaron Judge swat hanging curve balls on a Little League field. Watching him lie about the war in Ukraine was reminiscent of Muhammad Ali toying with less talented pretenders to his heavyweight crown.

But when he started to lie about the 2020 election the scene was reminiscent of Patrick Mahomes throwing underhanded touchdown passes over thirty yards. It beggars the imagination that almost three full years after the 2020 election that Trump has embedded his imaginary victory into the minds of over 60 million of his followers and we began to see why.

Repetition of the election lies within the same paragraph, within the same sentence, sometimes without taking a breath for what seemed like minutes at a time. His ability to lie about his infamous call the Georgia Secretary of State when he asked him to “find” enough votes is just something to behold. Kind of like Steph Curry shooting jump shots forty feet away from the basket – nothing but net.

Trump did lie when he asserted that he had a legal right to hold on to any secret/confidential government documents. He did lie when he said that he never incited the January 6th mob to violently attack the Capitol.

He did not lie, however, when he said that he would pardon most of the January 6th insurrectionists if he was reelected. And we should believe him.

Indeed, we should have been believing him ever since he came down the Trump Tower escalator in 2015 when he announced that he was actually running for president after multiple false starts over a span of decades.

And we should have believed him when he said that only he could save America upon his inauguration in 2017.

That item is particularly important because those are the words of a true autocrat driven by an ego that has gone over to the Dark Side. And any student of history can see some real similarities.

Benito Mussolini seized power in Italy accompanied by armed thugs called the Black Shirts. And it was the Black Shirts that eliminated and intimidated all and any opposition or competition. And when the opposition realized that Mussolini was a real and present danger to anything resembling democracy in Italy, it was too late.

Following the Mussolini model, Adolf Hitler seized power in Germany accompanied by armed thugs call the Brown Shirts. And it was the Black Shirts that eliminated and intimidated all and any opposition or competition. And when the opposition that Hitler was a real and present danger to anything resembling democracy in Germany, it was too late.

And now, following the model of 21st century autocrats like Putin and Erdogan and Orban, Trump has organized his opposition to democracy in ways that are remarkably similar to his ilk. Not satisfied with the minority rule tendencies of American democracy which got him elected in the first place, Trump has his Proud Boys and Oath Keepers – organized and well-armed gaggles of thugs who have pledged their loyalty to Trump – no matter what. These New Age Black Shirts are better armed than anything the early versions of Mussolini or Hitler could have ever imagined.

These nascent Trump Guerrilla Gangs have already shown that they will kill on his command, that they will seek to overthrow the American version of democracy on his command and that they will follow him lemming-like off the cliff of a civilized nation into something more terrible than they can imagine.

Meanwhile there are over sixty million Americans who would vote for Trump as president today, without any fear or intimidation involved. There are millions of Americans who cringe at the notion of another Trump presidency but may not vote because of voting restrictions or worse, because of inertia or some misguided belief in the probable end of the American version of democracy.

Whatever the case may be, it should be clear that this nation is being threatened by a clear and present danger called Trump.

He is not just another demagogue. He is something so much worse because he has inspired belief in a matrix of lies that cannot admit the truth. That belief has inspired tens of millions of Americans to turn their backs on even a pretense of democracy in order to preserve an imaginary past is built on the foundation of white male supremacy.

Maya Angelou once said “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time”.

Trump has shown us who he is.

We should believe him.

Point of View Columns

Requiem for a Heavyweight and Hillary and History

Muhammad Ali

The death of Muhammad Ali has had an impact as earth shaking as anything he ever did during his dramatic, illustrious, glamorous, and gloriously seismic life. In his passing last week, Ali brought back to life all of the wonderful and wondrous memories of the living legend that he was – and will always be.

His epic bouts with Sonny Liston and Joe Frazier – the Rumble in the Jungle and the Thrilla in Manila – the Olympics and the Golden Gloves – all contributed to the larger than life man who came to be known as G.O.A.T. – The Greatest of All Time. But to speak of Muhammad Ali as a boxer is like referring to Miles Davis as a trumpet player. Ali was larger than life and like Cain, he walked the earth in great and historic strides.

Muhammad Ali was a hero to those who never met him and he was unforgettable to anyone who was actually in his presence. Ali will be mourned. Ali will be missed. Ali will be remembered.

And it has been said so many times, as long as a man is remembered, he never really dies.

Hillary Clinton

When the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, if there was a woman in the room she was serving tea. When the Constitution of the United States was written in the Philadelphia in the summer of 1787, there is no record of a woman having any voice in the deliberations.

Interestingly enough, the first significant appearance of women in public discourse in America is noted in the temperance, suffrage and abolitionist movements. After the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, women continued to move the temperance and suffrage movements forward and in the process these issued fueled the great struggles of the latter part of the 19th century right into the early years of the 20th century.

With the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920, women gained the right to vote throughout the United States. It should be noted, however, that black women (and black men) were routinely denied the right to vote in all of the states of the former Confederacy until almost a half century later.

And now, 96 years after the passage of the 19th Amendment, a woman will be the presidential nominee of a major American political party. Given the various inequities that women in this country still endure, Hillary Clinton’s nomination is not a complete victory for American women, nevertheless it is a victory.

The fact that countries as diverse as Germany, Liberia, Israel, Pakistan, the Philippines,  Jamaica, Brazil, Great Britain and India have all had elected female heads of state before the United States should not diminish the import of Secretary Clinton’s achievement.

And, as was the case when Barack Obama became the first American of African descent ever elected President, Hillary Clinton’s nomination only highlights the fact that even with this historic achievement, the struggle for full equality has not ended.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – June 1, 2012

Perhaps Mitt Romney isn’t as smart as he wants us to believe. Upon clinching the Republican presidential nomination he thought it was a great idea to stand next to Donald Trump and push his personal mute button while The Donald resumed his birther rant. And speaking of Donald Trump, what is wrong with this man anyway? Does he just think that the American electorate is dumber than the proverbial bag of hammers? And this just in….anthropologists have discovered that the heads of Americans have gotten larger in the past one hundred years. What we need to know is whether Americans have gotten any smarter.

The Contagion of Stupidity

We can assume that Rick Perry was nowhere near Mitt Romney when he won the Texas primary this past week because he got lost on the way. But why Mitt Romney thought it was a good idea to stand hip and thigh and cheek and jowl with The Donald is beyond comprehension.

An alleged billionaire who wears horrendous hairpieces and produces reality television shows while finding a way to monetize his failures by promoting his eponymous brand seems to be an odd help mate on the road to the White House. Donald Trump has made extensive and brilliant use of the bankruptcy laws of this country, but I am not certain how this qualifies his endorsement to be of great value in these challenging economic times.

What is even more puzzling, and troublesome, is that Mitt Romney stood by silently while The Donald exhumed the long dead and buried birther controversy. Like Frankenstein, this monster of a myth just won’t die, at least on the Planet Trump.

The reasonably sane people of America, even those who will vote against Barack Obama, have departed this theater of the absurd a long time ago.
Mitt Romney could have showed some courage, leadership and common sense by distancing himself from the truly stupid stew served up by The Donald. But he chose to pass on making any comment.

This was not Mitt’s Profiles In Courage moment.

The Trouble with Trump

Ever since he shrewdly used his father’s fortune and political linkages to promote his first real estate project, Donald Trump has relentlessly flogged the self-made legend of his own genius. Failed ventures, half baked and half finished monuments to his own ego, multiple bankruptcies, and armies of irate bondholders, phalanxes of disappointed investors and legions of abandoned contractors have done nothing to deter Donald Trump from proclaiming himself The Greatest of All Time. Trump makes Muhammad Ali look as modest as a Buddhist monk.

All this would just be more good clean fun in the United States of Stupid except that some people, too many people, take this pompous blowhard seriously. Donald Trump comes from the school of thought that says if you make a lot of money, no matter how, that means that you are smart and are entitled to bestow your opinions upon the poorer, unwashed masses.

Why anyone would value The Donald’s opinion on the anything other than the finer points of three card Monte is incomprehensible. Perhaps the mainstream media should try refraining from regurgitating the noxious spew that emanates from The Donald and see if anyone really misses him.

Big Heads in America

Sometimes a news story comes in that leaves me scratching my head – literally. Anthropologists have determined that the size of American skulls has increased significantly during the past one hundred years. A late twentieth century American head is just a lot bigger than an American head in the early nineteenth century.

This begs the question – have Americans gotten any smarter? During the nineteenth century Americans established the primacy of the federal government, abolished slavery and began to institute compulsory, free public education. I wonder how any of these initiatives would fare in twenty first century America.

Of course nineteenth century Americans engaged in the wholesale genocide of Native Americans and the Ku Klux Klan was founded in that same century, so it wasn’t all good by any means.

Still the question remains, have Americans gotten any smarter?

Have a great weekend!