Point of View Columns

Time Travel into The Future

On many occasions hope has been expressed on these pages that there will even be historians one hundred years from now. Indeed, if this planet is fortunate enough to have the wherewithal to afford the luxury of people who will not have to forage to survive, then hopefully some historical perspective will be possible.

To provide some perspective, 1922 was one hundred years ago, and the changes that have taken place – atomic energy, world war, the dissolution of empires and colonization along with television, radio, jet travel and the assertion of human rights in all of its various iterations – have all been important hallmarks of the past century. We have also seen this planet dance with the twin disasters of climate change and nuclear war and as you read these words literally no one knows how all of this is going to turn out.

So we are left with hope.

Meanwhile, if there is even something called the United States of America that resembles the current nation, it will only be through some combination of the grace of God and dumb luck, with the emphasis on dumb. In real time we have watched forces at work that would, if left unchecked, tear this country into regional, hyper partisan republics that will be the forerunner of something even worse,

And if this seems like a particularly apocalyptic vision, consider the fact that a decade ago it would have been unthinkable that:

  1. A sitting President of the United States would not participate in the peaceful transfer of power at the end of the term of office;
  2. An armed revolt and attack on the Capitol to overturn an election would not be possible because…. well because nothing like had taken place since the Civil War in 1861;
  3. A former President of the United States would not roam through the nation decrying the legitimacy of his successor and have the support of over 60 million well-armed Americans;
  4. While climate change and environmental disaster are painfully apparent, millions of Americans steadfastly cling to the notion that climate change and environmental disaster are a fantasy;
  5. Candidates for national and statewide offices throughout the country would have as their central platform the belief in the illegitimacy of the current national government; and
  6. A hyper partisan Supreme Court would ignore legal protocols and shared concepts of constitutional law to rule in favor of the establishment of a truly authoritarian religious state.

All of these items are part of the current American narrative, and only the most rose-colored belief in the goodness of humanity can sustain a realistic expectation that all of this is going to end well.

That having been said, human history is replete with instances where the right woman or man, the right view of the present and the future, can make inevitable results not so inevitable. And since we know that it is true, it is clearly up to each of us to endeavor to be that right woman or man and avoid the imminent change that is all to near and establish a new reality that will be a wonder to those historians a century from now.

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Point of View Columns

Playing with Fire Will Burn Down America

Enemies of America must be absolutely joyful at the way that this country is being torn apart – by Americans. It should be patently clear by now that anyone with malign intent against the United States could not have come up with a better strategic plan than what we see being played out by the protoconservative right wing of the right wing of the Republican party.

In its efforts to stand against the tides of righteous change and justice, change and justice that has made this imperfect country a potentially better country, the neoconservative forces have managed to mangle many progressive initiatives and are trying to obliterate even the gossamer thin efforts to correct the countless wrongs committed in the name of the United States of America.

It appears that at some place along the path to true justice and reconciliation there are millions of Americans who are not interested in either. To millions of Americans rights and justice and equity of anyone who is not white somehow endangers their very existence. To millions of Americans – men and women – the idea of a woman having full and complete control over her body is not only a crime against nature, it is a crime against the foundation of America itself.

Someplace along the line millions of Americans have come to believe that civil rights, gender equity, women’s rights and a truly participatory and fair democracy are evil and must not only be curbed, they must be ground into the dust and tossed into the trash heap of history. These millions of Americans do not believe that American children should be told that the land on which they live was stolen or that the foundation of the wealth that many Americans enjoy was based on race-based slavery.

Somehow gender equity has become a mortal danger to American manhood. Somehow respect and care for the environment in which we will all live – or will all die – is seen as effete and against the American Way even as Environmental Armageddon is literally looming over the horizon.

For these millions of Americans, holding on to the broken and dusty shards of a misbegotten past is better that aspiring for a better and more inclusive tomorrow. And they will literally do anything and everything to hold on to those broken and dusty shards.

They will mangle interpretations of the singularly non-majoritarian Constitution to skew the voting process as well as declare fealty to rights that don’t exist (like the so-called right to bear arms) and to strip away rights that have barely taken root in Black and Latino and Asian communities.

They have gerrymandered themselves into the majority that they are not. They have packed the federal courts from the District level to the Supreme Court with young right-wing judges who will keep a stranglehold on any rights movement for a generation. And they have sanctioned the violent overthrow of the United States government if they don’t get their way.

As the January 6th Committee presents the results of a one-year investigation into the events of 1.6.21 we will learn the depths to which the right wing will lie, cheat, and kill in order to maintain their minority rule.

There was once a country with a race-based regiment of minority rule that ultimately faded away – but not without a fight. Indeed, the minority white regime in the Republic of South Africa laid out the blueprint for how white minority rule can work in the short term.

But it should be clear, America is not South Africa and it may be that the Afrikaner blueprint may just lead to a dystopian whirlpool of grievances from which it will be difficult for this country to survive.

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Point of View Columns

The American Truth

The confluence of recent events has revealed a set of very important truths about America. First, the leaked preview of the draft Supreme Court decision that will overturn Roe v. Wade reveals that male Christian dominance is alive and well and was only hibernating in the years after the Roe decision.

Second, the massacre of Black patrons of a Buffalo supermarket by a gun-toting white teenager reveals that the massacre of non-white people by white people is sadly an enduring tradition that began when the first European emigrants arrived in North America.

Third, the news analyses describing “white replacement theory” as some kind of novel and unique strain of xenophobia are either disingenuous or ill-informed when it comes to American history.

First, as has been noted in this space and in many other commentaries, the rationale of the anti-abortion movement is not based on some all encompassing and passionate care for unborn children. If that were the case the United States would not lag so far behind other so-called developed countries when it comes to universal child care, equitable distribution of educational resources as well as food and housing to the children that are supposed to be the object of such love and caring.

Instead, it should be clear that the anti-abortion is nothing more that a naked and brazen attempt to dominate the lives of any and all females who might at some point decided to have, or not have a child. It is clear that to the extent that even rape and incest cannot serve as exceptions is to make the Handmaidens Tale a horror story come true. In that reality, women are vessels and nothing more.

Second, it should be clear that the mass murder of non-white Americans is literally an American tradition. The genocide against the indigenous people of North America was real. The regular slaughter of Black Americans after the Civil War is a matter of documented fact. Rosewood and Tulsa may be taught in the history books, but there have been so many other mass killings and lynching of Black people that the real numbers are beyond calculation.

What transpired in Buffalo this weekend is just one more example of a sick behavior pattern that is as American as the Fourth of July.

Of course, there is irony in the fact that there are few records of mass killings of white people by Black Americans. Even though Black Americans are armed, many with military and law enforcement experience mass killings of white Americans only take place with white Americans as the shooter.

Finally, it should be clear that the so-called white replacement theory is neither new nor unique. That is not unique is clear from the fact that in France and Germany and Great Britain there are similar mutterings regarding white replacement by the “other”.

Of course, in the United States history shows that with the arrival of Irish immigrants, primarily white Anglo Saxon Americans were violently opposed to their arrival. In time it was the Italians and then the Eastern Europeans and the Jews and the Puerto Ricans and the Cubans and the Mexicans who gave rise to white replacement alarms – until they were absorbed and now there are descendants of the Irish and the Italians and Eastern Europeans and the Jews and the Puerto Ricans and the Cubans and the Mexicans who ring the same white replacement alarms.

The irony is apparent because to date Black Americans and Asian Americans have not been absorbed to any great extent.

And so, we stand at the threshold of a potentially traumatic upheaval in American society unless we can somehow find a way to first of all address and name the uncomfortable truths that lie just below the surface of the American epidermis and then begin find a way to move on differently.

Actually, we have no choice – unless there is someone who thinks that anarchy is a choice.

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Point of View Columns

The House is on Fire

By now there should be no doubt that the American house of democracy is on fire. It is not fully ablaze – yet – but now there is more than smoke and the flames are impossible to ignore.

As is the case with many house fires, the occupants are not fully aware of the conflagration until it is close to out of control. That is because many times the fire is not out in the open, the embers begin to blaze in a closet, a basement, a garage or a seldom used room.

While some aspects of this conflagration are seemingly obvious, much of it is out of sight. We are aware of the inflammatory rhetoric spewing from Trump and his MAGA nation sycophants, but is still hard to believe that all of this amounts to more than a few harmless sparks that will dissipate when realization of all of this nonsensical madness douses any real potential danger.

We are aware of the fact that the United States has the most well-armed civilian population in the world. We are aware that there are 330 million Americans and there are over 300 million guns, rifles and assault weapons in this country. We are aware that 35 per cent of Americans actually own guns. And we are aware that most of these well-armed Americans are members of MAGA nation.

We know that the protoconservative supermajority in the Supreme Court is intent on dismantling an array of rights and expectations that were assumed to now be a part of the America Way. The articulation and protection of civil rights and voting rights will soon be on life support. The protection of the abortion rights of women may just be a part of past history within a year of this writing. Environmental protection, the rights of workers and immigrants can soon become fading memories.

And for the last three decades the right wing of the right wing has assiduously pursued a strategy of disenfranchising and dispossessing all who do not kneel at the altar of white right-wing supremacy by seizing control the apparatus of local and state governments. While progressives and liberals have focused on the bright shiny objects like the White House and the Senate, the right wing of the right wing actually read the Constitution and realized that the real political power in this nation flows from the states to the federal government and not the other way around.

And now the right wing of the right wing is close to getting a stranglehold on democracy and extinguishing current rights and expectations and demolishing the expectation of things getting any better any time soon. Which means that progressives, liberals and those who care about any of this will need to focus on the crisis at hand.

Internecine battles between so-called moderates and so-called progressives will one day seem to be absurd when viewed by historians in the future (if historians in the future are able to write and publish true history and not the imaginary history that is being advocated today).

Certainly, there are enough men and women of good will in this country to douse the fires that currently threaten American democracy.

But it will require putting aside petty battles that do not lead to real strategies that address this existential threat.

After all, it is never too late until it is too late.

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Point of View Columns

Prelude to an Epitaph

As every day goes by, it becomes very clear that the elections of 2022 and 2024 may be the most important elections since 1860. We are now witness to hundreds, indeed thousands of elected officials and political operatives who are (a) denying the validity of the 2020 elections and (b) taking legislative and administrative steps to insure favorable outcomes even if that means invalidating votes that have been cast legitimately.

There have to be questions as to how did so many (predominantly) white Americans decide that, in the face of a growing non-white national population, the best response is not cooperation, inclusion and collaboration. Rather the sad course that they have chosen sets the stage for something resembling a civil war as efforts continue to impose minority rule in this nation.

Meanwhile China and Russia watch this passion play and don’t have to lift a finger as this country suffers from self-inflicted wounds that could prove to be mortal.

At this rate historians will one day look at the 2020’s and wonder at the extreme separation from reality and even a semblance of fairness that seems to have suddenly gripped virtually half of the American population. And they will wonder, as we wonder now, how the hell did this come to pass.

Let there be no doubt that the history and story of America is far from pristine. Whether the subject is stolen land, enslavement and genocide for starters, there are very few examples of shining humanity in the origins of the United States of America.

Nevertheless, in these days at time we now see that whether it is the denial of election results or the national campaign to restrict the voting rights and political power of non-white people to the cruel imposition of draconian abortion bans after a half-century of providing women with the right to choose what happens to their bodies – madness and meanness seem to be the themes in which far too many of the American people have adopted as the “new normal”. And of course, that new normal comes at a cost.

While these United States have never been truly “united”, the ease and frequency of movement between the states has regularly changed the demographics of the various states. At the risk of generalizing, a great deal of that movement has seen Black and Brown and more progressive white people moving to states which were thought of as bastions of white culture and presumed supremacy.

As the literal face of America has changed (consider that 2020 was the first census in American history that saw a decline in the white population in comparison to the non-white population), the reaction of the “original” residents of many of these states has been to redistrict, gerrymander and wrongfully manipulate voting requirements in a blatant effort to retain power.

And that power is meant to prevent the inclusion of Black history in school curricula, the right of women to freely exercise the rights of reproduction, initiatives to engender housing, education and economic diversity. Instead, that power is meant to ensure the supremacy of a shrinking white minority in all phases of life – not only in the states so inclined – but also throughout the entire United States by controlling the U.S. Senate (the 50 Republicans in the Senate represent 38% of the nation’s population) and the Supreme Court.

It stands to reason that those who support seriously more progressive policies across the board will not stand by idly. And, it can only be a matter of time before minority rule becomes untenable and then the United States will not be so united anymore. Either through political arrangement or through more violent measures, it is certain that the majority of Americans are not going to accept minority rule that is so cruel, intrusive and offensive forever.

What happens next may be the subject of the epitaph for the United States – the story of a country with admirable ideals that fell far short of embracing and realizing those ideals.

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Point of View Columns

Times of Turmoil – Sixty Hours in America

December 9, 2020

15,174,018-286,338 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

Last night the Supreme Court decided, in a one-page note, that the Pennsylvania Republicans who were bringing a lawsuit to invalidate the presidential vote in that state. The case was so baseless and without merit that not a single Supreme Court justice, not even the three Trump justices, could find even a sliver of a hint of a whiff of merit to the lawsuit.

True to form, this did not deter Trump in the least. The Man with No Shame simply continues to rant and endanger the lives of election officials across the country, seeming to refuse to accept the reality of his loss. This logical dissonance could have dangerous consequences for the entire country because now, tens of millions of well-armed MAGA nationalists believe literally every word that he says.

Meanwhile Ken Paxton, the Attorney General of Texas, who is currently under indictment for multiple criminal charges which could result in a 99-year sentence (really!!) has brought a lawsuit on behalf of the Lone Star State against Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin with the goal of having those states invalidate the presidential election results. And it should be noted that the attorney general from seventeen other states are pursuing the same strategy.

A snowball in Hell stands a better chance than this lawsuit, but perhaps Mr. Paxton is hoping for some pardon largesse from Trump when he finally does waddle out the door of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

We also learned today that the U.S. Attorney in Delaware is investigating Hunter Biden, the oft-cited son of Joe Biden, for charges related to fraudulent dealings in China. The Justice Department held up on the investigation during the campaign so as not to influence voters. And clearly, some genius in the Justice Department thought that in the middle of a truly historically chaotic post-election tsunami, investigating the son of the President-elect would be o.k.

We are witnessing an epic stress test of American democracy and the outcome is far from clear.

Finally, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have certified their 2020 election results and guess what? Joe Biden is still the President elect.

December 10, 2020

15,392,196-289,450 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

The irony is inescapable. On the day after 3,124 Americans died from the pandemic – a sad and tragic record that will sadly and tragically soon be surpassed – 18 Republican Attorneys General from 18 red states brought a lawsuit in the Supreme Court seeking to overturn the presidential election results in four blue states. This lawsuit is without historical or logical or jurisprudential precedent or basis and is clearly born from a feverish desire to serve the transparently fiendish motives of Donald Trump.

It is clear that Trump will do and say anything to try to overthrow the election results. As of today it is unlikely that the election results will be overturned. But it there is a high possibility that the erosion of American democracy may be permanent. Certainly the future will see continued warfare in the electoral sector for the foreseeable future with the battle lines being drawn in red and blue colors.

Clearly nothing good can come from this – red and blue will be the colors of the battle banners and issues such as healthcare, racial justice and economic equity will be casualties left on the battlefield. Nothing but red and blue will matter. And one Donald J. Trump is the author of this madness.

Trump’s personal history shows that virtually everything that he touches has been colored by failure as well as pain and loss for all people and companies and institutions involved – consequences which Trump has largely escaped. And now he is leaving an indelible cloven hoof mark on the United States itself.

December 11, 2020

15,617,921-292,190 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

The numbers at the beginning of each entry rise inexorably. Death and sickness stalks this nation and makes no distinction between red and blue or black and white. And the people of the United States have been anesthetized by the enormity of this epic disaster of a pandemic and so as the insults to the body politic continue the capacity for outrage and protest seems to decrease by the day.

And what is there to protest? Let us count the ways. We can and should begin by watching the intentional incompetence and absolute lack of empathy in its handling of the pandemic. Totally ignoring the daily impact of thousands of American deaths while taking credit for the development of vaccines – i.e. Operation Warp Speed – is like an ambulance driver bragging about how fast he arrived at the hospital while the patient is near death because he chose to drive on unpaved roads the entire way.

What is there to protest? Amazing, the Trump and Congress cannot seem to find a way to provide desperately needed financial relief to tens of millions of Americans and American businesses and American cities. The paralysis of will has now extended to the possibility that the annual National Defense Act budget and the national budget may not be resolved by the end of the day – wreaking even further havoc thought the nation.

What is there to protest? Over 100 Republican members of Congress have given their written support to the Texas + 17 lawsuit that seeks to overturn the election results in Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania – a brazen attempt to disenfranchise millions of Black voters who put Biden over the top in each of those states. Even though that suit will be burnt to a crisp by the Supreme Court within hours it is shameful to see what tricks Trump has the Republicans doing.

What is there to protest? There had been no federal executions in seventeen years until July of this year when Trump and Barr reactivated the death penalty. A number of executions have taken place under the radar and last night yet another Black prisoner was executed. There have been no federal executions during a presidential transition in over 130 years but Trump and Barr have already given the go ahead for five more executions between now and January 20, 2021. It is interesting to note that four of the five individuals on Death Row are Black.

Trump will continue to wreak his vengeance on anyone and everyone right up to Inauguration Day and in the days and years after.

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Point of View Columns

All Along the Watchtower

“There must be some way out of here
Said the joker to the thief
There’s too much confusion
I can’t get no relief”
Bob Dylan – Sung by Jimi Hendrix (among others)

Ever since the inauguration of Trump on January 20, 2017, there have been apocalyptic visions and versions of what is happening to these United States expressed in news commentaries and columns, Saturday Night Live and on every late night television show. And Trump has obliged the purveyors of doom and naysayers by reigning over the most destructive, pernicious and dysfunctional presidency in the history of the Republic.

And yet, just when you don’t think that he can be any worse, sink any lower or be a true imitation of an avatar of doom, Trump gets worse. He actually sinks lower and he makes national doom seem like a real possibility.

Trump’s recent Executive Order proclaiming a fake national emergency would seem to be his final step in convincing even his most fervent supporters that this man should not be President of the United States for even another nanosecond. Of course, the cold shower of conflict politics in this country informs us that there may be literally nothing that Trump can do that will dislodge his base from believing that he is their Orange-Haired Savior come to rescue from the black and brown hordes that would keep America from Being Great Again.

Most Americans cling to sanity and believe that something called the American Way will certainly sort out whatever damage that Trump is wreaking havoc on America and the Planet Earth. However, this declaration of a faux national emergency in order to circumvent Congress and the Constitution constitutes a national emergency in and of itself. And even the laziest students of history in the modern era must understand that this is how dictatorships begin, flourish and  finally reign.

It is no small thing for the President of the United States to actually state that he will circumvent the Constitution, which vests Congress with the sole power to allocate monies for government activities, in order to pursue his blatant political goals. This particular of allocation of power to Congress is in the first Article of the Constitution, which convince anyone of how serious the framers of the Constitution were when it came to the allocation and separation of powers. For Trump to consider the words “national emergency” as the equivalent of “open sesame” in granting him powers that supersede that of Congress is way beyond dangerous.

It would do well to remember that dictatorships in the modern era find minorities to demonize and mobilize their base, cast the media and journalists as enemies of the state, degrade the electoral process and slowly but surely erode the modes of government until all that is left is an imperial executive. We would do well to remember that Hitler was elected. We would do well to remember that Mussolini was elected. It was what they did after they were elected that created dictatorships which ruined Germany and Italy respectively.

The historic government shutdown, the dog whistle appeals to the worst racists that this country has to offer, the self-aggrandizement of Trump Incorporated on an epic scale, the strong scent of collusion with Russia and the energized and intentional demolition of international alliances are turning out to be just a warm up for Trump. While it is probably true that since he does not read and apparently has no knowledge of history, Trump has no real idea of what he is doing. But like the proverbial bull in a china shop or the four year old at the controls of a 747, he is capable of doing great harm.

It is now up to Congress – not Democrats or Republicans, and the Supreme Court – not Conservatives or Liberals – to decide to keep political battles within the demarcated boundaries of the playing field. Trump embraces chaos and wants this country to go there and stay there.

Congress and the Supreme Court need to make sure that this does not happen.

And if they don’t it will be up to you and me. Things have gotten that serious.

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