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 has 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 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 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, 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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Point of View Columns

The Two Faces of America

The United States was founded while suffering from moral schizophrenia. While words of freedom and liberty and human rights were being written into the Declaration of Independence in 1776 the systematic genocide campaign against the indigenous people of this continent (erroneously and carelessly labeled as Indians) continued at an horrific pace. And as the Constitution was written in 1787, the unspeakable peculiar institution of race-based slavery was literally written into that national founding document.

This bizarre compulsion on the part of Americans to deny and/or ignore this country’s history is clearly a part of the DNA of these United States. And this chasm that separates noble ideals from sad reality is on display in so many ways every single day.

A recent news report described a settlement between a Dutch railroad company (NS) and the families of Holocaust survivors which will result in payments to those families in recognition of the fact that NS transported Dutch Jews to concentration camps. While no amount of money could ever erase that singular evil, the attempt at justice is noteworthy.

What is also noteworthy is that this same news report stated that the Dutch company was pressured by U.S. lawmakers to arrive at a reparations settlement. Those would be lawmakers from the same United States that has yet to reconcile the genocidal near destruction of the lives, property and culture of the indigenous peoples of North America. And that would be the same United States that has yet to fully reconcile or recognize the virtually permanent damage that race-based slavery has caused along with its spawn of discrimination, bias and prejudice that lasts to this very day.

And the two-faced nature of America was seen again in Mississippi this week as we witnessed the election of a white woman named Cindy Hyde-Smith who proudly wears the hat of a confederate soldier and brags about being willing to accompany a supporter to a “public hanging”. And it should be understood that the confederate states fought to maintain the so-called peculiar institution of slavery and that the public hanging and assassination of black Americans has been a blood sport in Mississippi for almost two centuries.

Yet, this woman was elected by a large margin in Mississippi, the so-called Magnolia State. And yet, this woman will be sworn in and admitted to the United States and she will be counted as one of 24 women in the Senate – an historic high that will be celebrated even though Number 24 is a clear and present and unrepentant racist masquerading as a family values conservative. And while the presence of 24 women in the Senate could be the cause for celebration it is worthwhile to note that there have only been seven black Americans in the entire 229 year history of the Senate.

And yet business as usual will continue in these United States. And the accompaniment to that business as usual will be the continued moral schizophrenia that is so perfectly American that rarely is the dichotomy pointed out in polite company.

It is that dichotomy which results in a black security guard being gunned down by police as he tried to apprehend an offender while white perpetrators of mass shootings are “talked down” by the police. It is a sign of American schizophrenia that when with all deliberate slime Trump singles out several black female reporters by name for insult and disdain his actions merit a passing commentary in the news. But when Trump attacks Jim Acosta, a white man, CNN and every major news organization in America takes him to court. Did someone say “double standard”?

And it the two faces of America are there for all the world to see in this most recent instance of U.S. lawmakers pressuring a Dutch company to pay reparations to the families of Holocaust survivors (which is the least that NS should do as an accomplice to horror). All the while these same U.S. lawmakers will not even consider any kind of reparations for the families of survivors of the Holocaust suffered by the indigenous people of North America or for the black American families of the victims of slavery.

The dichotomy, the two faces, the schizophrenia of America needs to come to an end. And it begins with realizing the deep-seated and race-based hypocrisy that enables the daily injustice that arises from such hypocrisy.

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