Point of View Columns

Trump as Macbeth

When it comes to Donald Trump there appears to be no limit to the depths to which he will descend in his faux campaign for the presidency, a campaign that seems more and more like a textbook exercise in narcissistic self-indulgence. But this time, using his dog whistle to suggest a “Second Amendment solution” to Hillary Clinton he has once again gone too far.

It was only six years ago that Sarah Palin rose from the ashes of a failed campaign for the Vice Presidency to reincarnate herself as the Tea Party Queen. But as she staggered and wobbled from one misstatement to another falsehood, she too went too far. In the fall of 2010 she “targeted” members of Congress who should be defeated by the Tea Party zealots.

In case anyone was short on interpreting symbolism, Sarah Palin’s website displayed a national map and put a gun scope on the offices of the “targeted” Representatives. And then, a few months later, one of the Congressional Representatives targeted by Palin, Gabby Gifford of Arizona, was shot in the head.

Although it has not been confirmed that the shooter was inspired by Sarah Palin, and it is clear that he is a deranged individual, Sarah Palin created an atmosphere where “Second Amendment solutions” start to sound sane to the insane. And the blood of the individuals killed and maimed in Tucson is on the hands of Sarah Palin – indeed she is a modern day Lady Macbeth who will never be able to wash that blood off her hands.

And now along comes Donald Trump, a virtuoso dog whistle player, intimating that Second Amendment adherents could somehow solve the “Hillary problem”. Defenders/enablers of Trump contend that he is guilty of no more than spewing a bad, tasteless joke.

But there is a huge part of this country’s population that has seen presidents shot (Reagan) and killed (Kennedy, John). Many Americans have also witnessed the assassination (Kennedy, Robert) and maiming (Wallace) of presidential candidates in real time. And now that we live in a nation with over 300 million guns it would seem that this would be the worst time to kid around, joke around or dog whistle around rhetoric that even hints of “Second Amendment solutions” to the presidential campaign.

The Secret Service has already taken note of Trump’s comments, another unprecedented occurrence in American political history. But much like Lady Macbeth, we already know that any violence directed against Hillary Clinton or anyone associated with her campaign will elicit a canned denial from Trump, who will then be America’s Macbeth.

Of course, what is so sad and sickening about this entire situation is that Trump is the designated candidate of a major American political party. What is worse is that there are tens of millions of Americans who think that this arrogant, indecent and profane man should be President of the United States. What is even worse is that even when Trump is defeated in November and he goes back to his gaudy hotels and his dfraudulent schemes and his golf courses, those tens of millions of Americans will still be ith us.

And that may be the greatest danger of all. Trump will go away and disappear into the swamp of indecency and self-aggrandizement from which he slithered.

But those tens of millions of Trump supporters aren’t going anywhere.

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Point of View Columns

A History Lesson for Supporters of Bernie Sanders

As the Democratic presidential campaign moves from a New York State of Mind towards the inevitable Finale in Philly, it is quite possible that Hillary Clinton might be experiencing a sense of déjà vu – every time she runs for President a little known but charismatic senator comes out of nowhere to challenge her for the nomination. Except this time it looks like she is going to come out as the winner and supporters of Bernie Sanders are not happy – and that is why it is time for a history lesson.

Many supporters of the Vermont senator are passionate in their belief that he is a leader who will bring about “real change” in “the system”. Indeed, Bernie Sanders himself is calling for a “revolution”. And it is pretty clear that if revolution is the goal a moderate progressive like Hillary Clinton is going to seem like weak tea after swigging Red Bull Bernie ideology.

The dismay in supporting a losing candidate is understandable and commendable in a very real sense. It is good when people believe in positive change in this country. What is not commendable, what is both pernicious and dangerous, is when some Sanders followers say that the differences between Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders are so profound that they would rather vote for Donald Trump so that the revolution that they seek will occur sooner- out of the rubble that a Trump presidency would create.

Susan Sarandon, a prominent Sandersphile, has actually articulated the Trump alternative to Sanders supporters and Susan Sarandon should know better. As a millionaire many times over, she will not suffer one bit if Trump or Rafael Cruz or John Kasich become President and follow the Teapublican playbook and begin to dismantle the governmental apparatus and infrastructure. Additionally, since she was 22 years old in 1968, Susan Sarandon is old enough to know better.

In 1968 there was a tremendous amount of passion flowing through the Democratic Party. The Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that he would not run for reelection in large part because of the raging opposition to the war in Vietnam, much of that opposition led by Democratic Senator Eugene McCarthy. Senator Robert F. Kennedy also entered the fray and brought with him the passion of a Restoration, in this case restoring the Kennedy Camelot that had been blasted to pieces in Dallas just five years earlier.

Hubert Humphrey, Lyndon Johnson’s Vice President was also a Democratic candidate and he was viewed by the raging McCarthy supporters and the passionate Kennedy supporters as a status quo agent of the “establishment” and absolutely unacceptable. And then this boiling political cauldron became superheated.

First, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis in April of 1968. The national black community, a major cohort in the Democratic Party after the passage of the Civil Rights of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, was outraged and tried to burn many of America’s cities to the ground. Then Robert Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles in June of 1968. And with his death dreams of the Restoration of Camelot evaporated and Kennedy’s followers were despondent.

Then came the Democratic Convention in Chicago with the police sanctioned violence and storms of political protest generated when supporters of Kennedy and McCarthy clashed with the police. The ensuing catastrophe of carnage was broadcast worldwide and “Chicago” became the synonym for Democratic disaster and dysfunction.

And out of the ashes of that convention Humphrey emerged as the party’s wounded nominee. And many supporters of McCarthy and Kennedy saw him as representing the “establishment” and either opposed his candidacy outright or were lukewarm in their allegiance. The prevailing thought that there was very little difference between Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey and that election of the outright conservative Nixon might hasten the revolution that was sorely needed in this country.

The outcome was that Richard Nixon was elected president. The outcome was that Richard Nixon turned out to be far worse than the most wretched predictions of the McCarthy/Kennedy followers. The outcome was that Richard Nixon brought about the wave of conservative ideology which continues to sweep across this country.

Because the supporters of Kennedy and McCarthy stayed on the sidelines Richard Nixon begat Ronald Reagan who begat George H.W. Bush who begat (literally) George W. Bush. In the process we have seen the mass incarceration of the national black community, the onset of massive income inequality, the engagement of this country in regime change misadventures at the cost of trillions of dollars and incalculable loss of life. In the process we have seen Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Antonin Scalia and William Rehnquist sit on the Supreme Court and roll back the reproductive rights of women along the with the marginalization of affirmative action and the gutting of the Voting Rights Act.

So before the Sanders Supporters decide to opt out if/when they lose in Philadelphia, let’s hope they learn from history and that they remember that as bad as Richard Nixon was – Donald Trump, Rafael Cruz and John Kasich – embedded with the most conservative Congress in history – will be so much worse.

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Point of View Columns

Remembering November 22, 1963

There are moments in life, some personal, and some shared, that are indelibly embedded into memory. I was in an airplane over Namibia heading to New York when my son was born. I was in a restaurant in Washington when my father died. I was in Ghana when the first man walked on the moon. And I was on crutches in the hallway of my high school when I first heard that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

This historical moment, which occurred fifty years ago today, is viewed very differently depending on the demographic that you occupy. Anyone born before 1940 had lived through the Great Depression and a World War – they had personally witnessed and experienced death, destruction and the explosion of dreams. While they would certainly have been moved to tears and carried very heavy hearts on that never to be forgotten Friday, the death of John Kennedy was one more painful episode in a life that had seen people lose their homes, their jobs and their lives.

Anyone born before 1940 had seen entire nations razed to the ground. Concentration camps in Europe, America and the Pacific were not distant memories. Anyone born before 1930 had seen much of the world turned into a charnel house, this planet had become the abattoir of the Devil. And the death of John Kennedy was one more familiar burden.

Anyone born after 1955 has only the faint memory of a child or a reference in a history book when it comes to the death of John Kennedy. Their memory is forever refracted through the prism of other people’s memories. And this particular death goes into the catalogue with other historical assassinations from Caesar to Lincoln. Historically important, deeply significant, but lacking in emotional burden – after all, no one weeps while reading a history book.

For those people born between 1940 and 1955 however, the killing of John Kennedy was a moment of profound significance – significance that went far beyond the horrific event of the president of the United States having his head blown off in full view of the world. For those of us in this particular demographic, the assassination was a wakeup alarm for a generation that was comforted with manufactured Technicolor dream scenarios.

In this scenario, all good things were possible, and bad things either happened to someone else in some other country, or just to someone else. In this scenario, the promise of the future was eternally bright and we were taught that this bright future was ours as a matter of birthright. In this scenario monstrosities and atrocities and cynicism belonged to the past.

The election of John F. Kennedy, the youngest person ever elected president, meant that youth was claiming its American – and global – inheritance. That youth was us and the idea of a New Frontier and a Peace Corps and “…asking not what this country can do for you but what you can do for your country” was intoxicating stuff.

It was cool to be optimistic. It was cool to care about others and the world. It was cool to be brilliant and educated and embracing of culture and sophistication. And it was so very clear that this would last forever, that this is the way it would be.

And then it wasn’t.

Black and white televisions broadcast the unbelievable news and radios crackled with reports that surely came from Hell. There was no way that dreams could just die. There was no way that a symbol of hope and promise could just be killed.

And there was no way that we could know that while the earth had barely settled on the graves of the young girls assassinated in Birmingham, Alabama that Malcolm X had less than two years left to live.

We had no way of knowing that both Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy would be dead in less than five years. We didn’t know that John Coltrane, John Lennon and Fred Hampton and Jimi Hendrix and George Jackson would also be dead before too long.

And we had no way of knowing that our brothers and sisters would be dying on battlefields in Watts and Newark and Vietnam and Waco and Ruby Ridge and Jonestown and Iraq and the World Trade Center.

But we began to learn how fragile dreams are and how precious hope is. We began to appreciate the uncertainty of tomorrow and unfortunately, we all began to drink from the cup of cynicism, too many of us too deeply.

And now, on the fiftieth anniversary of the death of innocence for an entire generation, it is now time for that generation to stop thinking about what might have been and spend the rest of the time with which we may be blessed working on what can be.

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