Point of View Columns

Devil in The White Dress

Trump’s State of the Union speech received mixed reviews, to be kind. They ranged from “psychotically incoherent” (Van Jones) to “his worst speech ever” (Rick Santorum) to “the most inspiring State of the Union speech in history” (guess……………you are correct, Sean Hannity). The fact that for many the most memorable moment was Speaker Nancy Pelosi clap-shaming Trump kind of says it all. But there was more going on that night, and there are some women in Congress, all dressed in white, who have some explaining to do.

It was certainly noteworthy and historic and far too long in coming for the largest number of women in Congress were seated in attendance. Many of these women dressed in white to commemorate the centennial of the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1919. This amendment, which was ratified and became a part of the Constitution in 1920. The 19th Amendment was seen as the signal and most important victory of the almost 100 year old women’s suffrage movement.

One has to wonder if all of those women dressed in white knew what they were celebrating. The history of the (white) women’s suffrage movement existed hand in hand with domestic terrorists like the Knights of the White Magnolia and the Ku Klux Klan and the rhetoric of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton rang with words like “sambo”, “baboons” and “black rapists” as they advocated for (only) white women to have the right to vote.

But even in the age of Trump facts matter. The 19th Amendment did not give women the right to vote – it prohibited states from preventing women from voting. The 19th Amendment did absolutely nothing to protect or assert the rights of black women when it came to voting. And the almost 100 year old women’s suffrage movement was a virtually whites-only organization that grudgingly permitted black women a seat on the back of the suffragette bus, alternatively ignoring and insulting them.

And it is because of this skewed whitewashing of women’s history that little white girls and boys and little black girls and boys do not know the names of Mary Church Terrell, Ida Wells, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Coralie Franklin Cook, but they do know the names of unreconstructed racists and bigots like Anthony and Stanton.

While there was a linkage between the abolitionist and suffrage movements prior to the Civil War, ironically due in no small part to the advocacy of the African American hero Frederick Douglass. After the Civil War the cause of the rights of black people diverged from the advocates for women’s suffrage.

That is because the female leadership of the women’s suffrage movement were as racist as their American male counterparts. Leaders like Anthony and Stanton opposed the 15th Amendment because they felt that white women should have the right to vote before black men. The leaders of this movement barred black women from their marches and many of their public events and the historic Women’s March on Washington 1913, black women were forced to march – you guessed it – at the rear of the parade.

And when the 19th Amendment was ratified, the leaders of these (white) women’s movement did nothing to support their black sisters in their effort to vote. Black women were arrested, beaten, sexually assaulted and killed in their efforts to claim the benefits that the Women in White celebrated at the State of the Union.

Of course there should be no surprise that white women in the North and South stood by while their white brothers, sons, fathers and husbands rained all kinds of holy hell on black people in America.

Without Sanctuary is a photographic history of lynching in America. In almost everyone of these horrific pictures there are crowds of white people in attendance, looking on with undisguised pleasure and even glee. And at least half of those in attendance were — you guessed it – white women.

The facts are that the 19th Amendment did little or nothing for black women, and the rights asserted by white women as a result of this amendment meant nothing for black women until the passage of the Voting Rights Act — 45 years later. One wonders why these female members of Congress, black, white, Latina and Asian would think it important to celebrate this historic moment of white female supremacy – and not even the notice the irony of wearing white for such a celebration.

The fact is that there are many times in this country’s history and in the present when women of all colors and backgrounds have come together to advocate justice for all. The fact is that the 19th Amendment is not one of them, and just like Robert E. Lee’s birthday and the Confederate flag, does not deserve celebration or observation.

For more information and more facts please see Brent Staples NY Times article on this subject

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/02/opinion/sunday/women-voting-19th-amendment-white-supremacy.html

Standard
Point of View Columns

President Obama Did Not “Surrender”

As this column is being written the Danse macabre called the debt ceiling negotiations continue like some bizarre video loop of the 1990’s movie “Groundhog Day”. Every day it is the same intransigence. Every day brings hopelessness dimming the light of future days. Every day witnesses the triumph of greed over compassion. Every day witnesses the triumph of hate over common sense.

Please reread that last sentence………anyone who thinks that the G.O.Tea Party frothing intransigence and obstinate frenzy is about the debt ceiling and the budget deficit isn’t paying attention or is just fooling themselves. The Republican playbook calls for eviscerating and amputating every vestige of power and discretion that Barack Obama might exercise as President of the United States. The reelection of Barack Obama is viewed by the right wing of the right wing as being unthinkable and against the very laws of nature. It is something to be avoided at all costs.

We have now seen that those “costs” include the debasement and possible unhinging of the American economy. The fact that the unthinkable fiscal default of the United States government has almost occurred is due to the kamikaze-like belief of the G.O.Tea Party that it would be better to let this country crash, burn and die rather than let Barack Obama lead it.

Amidst the smoking embers of near catastrophe we can smell a whiff of brimstone from racist fires. The brutal invective and color-tinged vitriol directed at President Obama during the first two and a half years of his presidency have not been seen since the administration of Abraham Lincoln and that was in the midst of the Civil War.

There is old saying that goes like this, “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?” The G.O.Tea Party has taken a spin on this bit of bamboozelry to tell the American people that the debt ceiling crisis has been caused by a lack of leadership on the part of President Obama.

The fact is that the Republicans have refused to negotiate on any aspect of the debt ceiling /budget debate and remain welded to the anchor of their no new tax pledge that threatens to us all. The fact is that the right wing of the right wing has abandoned any pretense of seeking to work with Barack Obama and is prepared to place the collateral damage of their fanaticism on his doorstep.

Mean statements and harsh words are part of the political process. But the racial radar begins beeping when Senator Mitch McConnell talks about “breaking” Barack Obama. And then there is Congressman Doug Lamborn of Colorado stating that negotiating with President Obama is like “touching a tar baby”. On the Planet America, if these aren’t fighting words they are cause to start searching the crowd for nooses and pitchforks.

Critics from the left wing of the left wing contend that President Obama has “surrendered” to the G.O.Tea Party. My Dartmouth College classmate Robert Reich contends that Barack Obama should have “done more” to articulate the crass and brazen greed of the Republicans as they protect the greedy and continue to fleece the needy. I assume that Dr. Reich means that President Obama should spend even more time trying to convince the American people who vote for “American Idol” in greater numbers than they vote in presidential elections.

During the past few weeks President Obama was like the guy in a chair fight where everybody had a chair but him. The sounds of silence emanating from Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee and the Congressional Black Caucus and organized labor have been deafening. There have been some murmurs from AARP and Rachel Maddow and Bill Maher and John Stewart have weighed in on occasion.

But any support for the president has been drowned out by the 24/7 drumbeat from the right wing of the right wing and its personal television network, Fox News. The television commercials funded by the Koch brothers and organizations affiliated with Karl Rove have skewed and corkscrewed the mentality of the American public until no sense and nonsense make sense.

Too many people who stand to be victimized by the G.O.Tea Party agenda do not vote. Too many people who disbelieve the idiotic notion that “shared sacrifice” means that sacrifice is shared between the middle class and the poor do not vote. Too many people who instinctively understand that President Obama is being played like a cheap banjo stay silent – public officials and private citizens alike.

To suggest that Barack Obama has “surrendered” is to ignore the facts. Under the circumstances he will be fortunate to get out of the debt ceiling debacle with a decent portion of his epidermis intact. And we can see already that November 6, 2012 will be a real bad day for the progressive community if it doesn’t wake up from the hypnotic spell cast by the G.O.Tea Party.

Standard
Point of View Columns

Child’s Play

I will confess to checking my hall closet for a handy pitchfork so that I could join the crowds howling for disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner to resign. And then I did something that I try to do at least three times a day – I thought.

And I realized that Weinergate and all of its monstrously irrelevant iterations is the latest stale bread being served in the media circus. Holier than thou pundits and politicians have railed against his seemingly bizarre behavior which, it seems has disqualified him from ever walking the hallowed halls of Congress ever again.

These would be the same halls of Congress that has seen a former chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee cavorting in a Washington, D.C. fountain with a stripper. These would be the same halls of Congress that have been witness to obscene and salacious texts from a congressman to teenage pages and interns. We know of at least one senator with a “wide stance” while he solicited sex in a men’s bathroom and of another congressman who fathered a daughter out of wedlock while being married.

The sordid laundry list is seemingly endless. And now, Anthony Weiner has had his name added to the Wall of Shame that occupies a very prominent place in the halls of Congress. And now every politician and pundit with an urge for airtime has something to say about what Anthony Weiner and his betrayal of his marriage, of his constituents and the American Republic.

Of course what happens between Congressman Weiner and his wife is not the business of the public or the media. We don’t know the status of their relationship, nor should we. For now it appears that his constituents, the people who actually have voted for him, still support him and want him to stay in office. And if the American Republic can survive strippers in fountains and senators with wide stances, I am sure that it can survive salacious texts by Anthony Weiner.

Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, have called on him to resign as his presence is a “distraction” from the important issues facing the American people. Republicans, including Majority Whip Eric Cantor, have called on Congressman Weiner to resign because he is a “distraction” from the important issues facing the American people.

I hope that someone notices that the only people doing the distracting are Democratic and Republican leaders along with their media handmaidens. Certainly there are some Americans who will indulge in the titillation that comes with peeking through the keyhole into someone’s private life.

But there are at least 14 million Americans without jobs who probably are not spending a lot of time worrying about Anthony Weiner. There are millions of Americans who depend upon Medicare to keep them healthy and alive who are scared to death by the Republican plans to eviscerate this lifesaving program while Democrats offer limp and ineffective defense.

There are $10 billion U.S. tax dollars being spent in Afghanistan during this month of June and that worries most Americans more than the most ridiculous Weinergate “breaking story”.

It appears that Congressman Weiner has not broken any laws. He has not been accused of sexual harassment. He may have done some of his sexting from his congressional office but I don’t think any sane human being, even members of the G.O.Tea Party can argue that this is a reason for him to resign.

The intimate aspects of his private life became public. His private life should return to the four walls and closed door where they belong. No one reading this column, no one calling for Anthony Weiner to resign, would wish to endure the kind of scrutiny to which he has been subjected. The fact that some of this scrutiny was the result of his self-inflicted inadvertence is not really the point. We are all residents of glass homes and stoning Anthony Weiner is not only childish, it is hypocritical.

The fact that too many members of the media are now engaged in a third week of Weinergate while the world goes to hell in a hand basket is shameful and unspeakable. Prurient interest can sustain a story but so far – there have been no crimes, there has been no corruption, there has been no fraud and there has been no betrayal of the oath of office that Congressman Weiner has taken.

There is nothing worse than adults playing like children when they are charged with more serious affairs. Perhaps it is time for all of us to grow up.

Standard