A Shared Opinion …

There are a number of opinion writers who I read regularly, and Charles Blow of the New York Times is one.  His column on Sunday struck a chord, for much of what he says mirrors my own thoughts very closely, especially when he says, “I would love nothing more than to write about other things, worthy things, more intellectually stimulating things. But for more than two years, I have written almost exclusively about Donald Trump.”  I initially intended to only provide a few snippets from this column, but after I studied and pondered it a bit, I decided to share the entire column after all.  Give it a read … I think you’ll be able to relate to much of what he says …

You Have a Right to Weariness

The struggle for goodness and decency is an eternal struggle, not a seasonal one.

Charles BlowBy Charles M. Blow, Opinion Columnist

Do we have a right to weariness in an era of animus? More precisely, can we afford it, or is exhaustion a luxury reserved for those whose wealth, privilege and status insulate them from the losses the rest of us could suffer? Does patriotic defense of country require perpetual, obsessive vigilance, or is it permissible to retreat occasionally for one’s own mental and spiritual health?

These are questions I ask myself regularly, and ones that are frequently asked of me, if not in those exact words. People are trying to figure out the proper posture to take in a world riven by deceit and corruption, a world in which the leadership of the country represents an assault on decency.

This is a conundrum, I must confess.

I, as much as anyone else, feel trapped by our current predicament. I would love nothing more than to write about other things, worthy things, more intellectually stimulating things. But for more than two years, I have written almost exclusively about Donald Trump.

I feel compelled by what I view as history, fundamental and consequential, playing out right before me with nothing short of the life of the republic at stake. And yet, at a certain point, words begin to fail, or the obvious has already been stated. Once you have pointed out that Trump is a liar, you can then note only that he is telling more lies. The same goes for his racism, bullying, anti-intellectualism, corruption and grift.

At some point, it becomes clear that the abnormal, outrageous and unacceptable have become a constant, and even the rolling boil of righteous folk’s indignation reduces to a simmer.

People often ask me, “When will it end? What can we do to get him out of there?”

My answer always is, “I doubt it will end soon, and there’s very little anyone can do to change that.”

I hate to bear that message, but it is the only one I can deliver if I wish to be honest rather than popular.

As much as there was to celebrate last week, with liberals winning control of the House of Representatives, and doing so with such a diverse slate of candidates, it was also clear that Republican control of the Senate means that any hope of removing Trump via impeachment has shrunk to nearly nothing. Even if the House impeaches Trump, the Senate remains highly unlikely to remove him.

Democrats are even debating how far they can take oversight in the House without turning off people politically.

The only hope is that the Robert Mueller investigation may deliver something so damning that some Senate Republicans view it as unacceptable. But there is no evidence as of yet that anything would sway them.

Trump is taking steps to severely hamper Mueller’s efforts. Last week, he fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions and installed Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general. The F.B.I. is currently investigating corruption at a company where Mr. Whitaker sat on the advisory board.

At this point, it may be more prudent to view what comes from the Mueller probe as fodder for the 2020 presidential campaign. It may not pave the way for an impeachment conviction by the Senate, but could well pave the way for an electoral “impeachment.”

It is very likely that we are stuck with Trump until the 2020 election, and even then the Democrats can take nothing for granted if they wish to defeat him.

That is the root of people’s distress. How can Republicans in Congress abide this behavior and use it for political positioning? How can so many of our neighbors condone open hostility to minorities, the press and the truth?

Or maybe the questions are for us. How could we not have registered fully just how hostile a substantial portion of America is to inclusion and equality? How could we not have registered the full depths of American racism and misogyny? How could we not remember that American progress has always been like a dance with a disagreeable partner, stumbling backward as well as moving forward?

I remember calling my mother when Trump was elected, and she was not nearly as distraught as I thought she’d be. Her stated reason: We’ve been through worse. She is an elderly black woman from the South. Her sense of history and heartbreak are long and fraught.

Recently, I’ve delved even more deeply into this line of thinking, reading about how black people positioned themselves during both Reconstruction and Jim Crow, when the political structures were largely arrayed against them.

I wanted to know how they survived and made progress against open hostility. The recurring themes are to never lose hope in the ultimate victory of righteousness; to focus your fire on the things you are most able to change; and to realize that change is neither quick nor permanent.

The struggle for goodness and decency is an eternal struggle, not a seasonal one.

Don’t beat yourself up if you need to tune out every now and then and take a mental health break. There is no shame in it. This is a forever fight. Once you have recharged, reapply your armor and rejoin the fight with even more vigor.

That white privilege thing

Our good friend Keith wrote this post nearly three weeks ago. I intended to re-blog it at the time, and as seems to happen more and more with me these days, I got side-tracked and it fell by the wayside. No matter, for his words are timeless … they were as true 100 years ago as they are today, and I suspect will still need to be heard in another century. Thank you, Keith, for this post, for reminding me of it, and for your generous permission to share.

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Usually when Dr. Phil comes on, I leave the room. Seeing people yell at each other is not therapeutic for me. Yesterday, my wife said you need to see this one as it was an interesting group discussion on race relations and white privilege.

In one powerful, illustrating exercise, young adults of both genders and several races, religions, sexual preferences, and countries of origin stepped forward or backward based on answers to a series of questions. At the end of about thirty or so questions, white people tended to be at the front of the room, while other races tended to be at the back.

As a now 60 year-old white man, I can pretty much go anywhere I want without repercussions. And, I need not have to worry for my life when I am stopped by the police or state patrol. A black man in his Sunday best has…

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♫ Everyday People ♫

Most often, I just like the song for the music … the tune, the singer(s), the rhythm, and there is no real rhyme nor reason … I just like what I like.  But there are a few songs that I also like for the message, and Everyday People is one of those.

The meaning in this song isn’t deep, mysterious or cryptic … it is quite simple:  we are all the same … everyday people.  Nobody is better than another.  Personally, I think this song should be required to be played in every church, synagogue and mosque throughout the world, for it gets down to the basics of what religion ought to be about.  You get this message down, then the rest follows naturally.

The song was originally released by Sly and the Family Stone in 1968 and was the first single by the band to go to #1.

milk.h1The song was used in the movie Milk, about gay rights activist Harvey Milk who, in 1977 when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, became the first openly gay elected official in the United States.  Less than one year later, on November 27, 1978, Milk was gunned down along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone.  The shooter was Supervisor Dan White, a conservative board member who had campaigned on a platform of law and order, civic pride, and family values.  The movie is worth a watch, if you haven’t seen it.milk shootingSly & the Family Stone was a mash up of musical styles with band members of different genders and ethnic backgrounds — they lived the message they sang about.  And now, I’ve chattered enough … just listen …

Everyday People
Sly & the Family Stone

Sometimes I’m right and I can be wrong
My own beliefs are in my song
The butcher, the banker, the drummer and then
Makes no difference what group I’m in

I am everyday people, yeah yeah

There is a blue one who can’t accept the green one
For living with a fat one trying to be a skinny one
And different strokes for different folks
And so on and so on and scooby dooby doo

Oh sha sha we got to live together

I am no better and neither are you
We are the same whatever we do
You love me you hate me you know me and then
You can’t figure out the bag I’m in

I am everyday people, yeah yeah

There is a long hair that doesn’t like the short hair
For bein’ such a rich one that will not help the poor one
And different strokes for different folks
And so on and so on and scooby dooby doo

Oh sha sha we got to live together

There is a yellow one that won’t accept the black one
That won’t accept the red one that won’t accept the white one
And different strokes for different folks
And so on and so on and scooby dooby doo

I am everyday people

Songwriters: Sylvester Stewart
Everyday People (from Milk) (Re-Recorded / Remastered) lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Election Night Observations …

I wasn’t sure what I could write tonight for my morning post, for the election is really the only thing on anyone’s mind, and the results won’t likely all be in by the time I need to have this post finished.  Watching the election results has been much like watching a ping-pong game, but knowing that the stakes were quite nearly a matter of life and death … the life or death of a nation.  But here, at the end of the day, I have decided to go with a couple of observations … probably snarky observations, given my current mood.

georgiaThe Georgia election is a sham and should be declared null and void.  Never in my life have I seen so much blatant corruption in one single state in a single election.  Brian Kemp should be on his way to the federal penitentiary for his tricks to suppress the vote, but instead he is likely on his way to the governor’s mansion in Atlanta.  While running for governor in this election, he was serving as Georgia’s Secretary of State, and thereby overseeing this farce of an election!  Talk about putting the fox in charge of the henhouse!

So, under Mr. Kemp’s watchful eye …

  • Some 390 absentee ballots were thrown out in Gwinnett Country alone … a county that is largely comprised of African-Americans, Latinos and Asians. Thrown away!
  • Approximately 53,000 voter registrations were “placed on hold” for minor discrepancies between the registration and other form of voter I.D. such as a driver’s license or passport. The discrepancies were as minor as a missing hypen in a hyphenated name, or one letter off in the name of a street address.  Kemp insisted on every registration being an “exact match”.  Even an extra space was enough to disqualify the registrations.
  • There was the bus filled with about 40 African-American senior citizens being taken to the polls for early voting, but when they arrived, a county clerk forbade the elderly people from getting off the bus.
  • An African-American city commissioner who spent the day driving citizens to the polls one day during early voting, was arrested twice in one day on trumped-up charges.
  • On Sunday, with absolutely no evidence to support the claim, Kemp claimed there were hacking attempts and ordered an investigation … two days prior to the election and with zero evidence.
  • Yesterday morning, the lines to vote in Fulton County, Georgia, were long and the average wait time was three hours. Why?  Because somebody mistakenly sent only three voting machines to the polling place, when many more were required.  Fulton County covers a large portion of Atlanta.  Many voters left … you know how it is … they had jobs and had to get to work!  The idiot responsible for the mistake apologized.    Gee.
  • And back in Gwinnett County, where 60% of voters are minorities, somebody forgot to bring power cords for the machines, so once the batteries died, the voting machines were … dead. The lines stretched, people left to go to work, and there was a 4.5 hour-long wait for most voters.  Mostly African-American voters, that is.  Are you starting to see a pattern here?

There has been no integrity in the Georgia election for governor and I personally am declaring it null and void.  My solution is to send every single registered voter an absentee ballot and allow them 10 days to fill out the ballot and return it.  This process and the counting of the ballots should be overseen by either the Georgia Supreme Court, or else members of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).  Nothing less is acceptable.

Stacy AbramsThe candidate challenging Brian Kemp is Stacy Abrams, an African-American woman.  In addition to all the above shenanigans, she has had to put up with lies, lies, and more lies told by none other than Donald Trump.  Trump has claimed that Abrams plans to “get rid of” the second amendment (false) and also that she would turn the entire state of Georgia into a giant sanctuary city (both false and irrelevant).  Now, to those of us with a working brain, these are blatantly made up rumours by the ‘man’ who calls himself a president, but how many of the under-educated white people in Georgia believed him and cast a vote for the bigoted Brian Kemp?  Another blow against election integrity in the state of Georgia.

My second observation is that I think we need some rules here.  Why is the so-called president of this nation allowed to put his two-cents’ worth in?  The U.S. Congress is one of three branches of the United States government, and per the U.S. Constitution, is intended to be entirely independent of the executive branch and is supposed to serve as a check on the power of the presidency.  Isn’t that independence lost when the president is actively and avidly campaigning for specific candidates, those of his own party?  Isn’t this a matter of carrying partisan politics too far?  Donald Trump has not likely spent a full hour doing his job — the one we pay him to do — for the past two months, for all he has done is attend rallies on behalf of republican candidates where he spoke ignominious lies about the democratic challengers. voting toonElection reform is needed, for this has been a year of dirty pool all the way around, in the congressional races and governor races alike.  Can we not at least require honesty, if not integrity, from our candidates?  We have blatant white supremacists running, people who are affiliated with hate groups, and yet we have a president who is championing these abominable people.  Is this civil?  Is it even sane?  Is it fair?  Is it just?  The answer to all of these questions is that no, it is not.  The 2018 mid-terms, no matter the outcome, has been the dirtiest, most unfair, nastiest election in the history of this nation and it has left me with a terrible taste in my mouth, pain in my heart, and a feeling of deep shame for the country I once respected.

One result made me happy … the defeat of Mr. Voter Fraud, Kris Kobach by Laura Kelly for the Kansas governor’s race … Kobach is a Trump clone, filled with lies and dark toxins.

On the downside, I was deeply saddened by two losses in particular … Andrew Gillum in the Florida governor’s race, and Beto O’Rourke for the Senate seat held by Ted Cruz.  Both of these men would have been valuable additions to our government and both were defeated by two of the most corrupt the GOP has to offer.  As of this writing, there is still hope, albeit slim, for Stacy Abrams in Georgia, despite all of Kemps unconscionable manipulations.

And as I close up shop for tonight and head up to bed for a bit of shut-eye, it appears that the democrats have gained a majority in the House of Representatives!!!clip-art-wooo-clipart-4.jpg

 

A Kinder, Gentler Time …

It was a kinder, gentler time in the United States.  It was a time when we had a president who valued human life, who placed human life above profit.  The year was 2012, and on Independence Day, July 4th, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former HuffPost editor Jose Antonio Vargas wrote an OpEd titled What Does It Mean To Be An American?  A lot can change … a lot has changed … in six years.

Jose Antonio VargasWhat Does It Mean To Be An American?

As we celebrate America’s Independence Day — as we explore what it means to be American on the most American of all days — I also celebrate my independence from the word “illegal.”

Today’s Fourth of July holiday, our country’s birthday, marks a new beginning for undocumented Americans like me.Time-mag-2012Last month, TIME magazine featured an unprecedented photograph of 36 undocumented young people, myself included, on the cover of its U.S. and international editions. “We are Americans,” the headline declared. “Just not legally.” Shortly after, President Obama, in the most significant step in the fight for immigrant rights since President Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986, issued a directive to stop the deportation of an estimated 1 million DREAM Act-eligible undocumented youth and welcome them to our workforce. America, in turn, embraced 1 million dreams. And in last week’s Supreme Court decision on Arizona’s immigration law, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion for the highest court in the land: “As a general rule, it is not a crime for a movable alien to remain in the United States.”

As we celebrate America’s Independence Day — as we explore what it means to be American on the most American of all days — I also celebrate my independence from the word “illegal.”

Academics and lawyers will be quick to point out that I, in fact, was never a “criminal.” Being in the U.S. without authorization is not a crime, but rather a civil offense for the country’s estimated 12 million undocumented residents. Yet for too long, the rhetoric around immigration has been shrouded in and synonymous with criminality. As a cable news producer on Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom” tells a colleague in the show’s most recent episode, we’ve grown accustomed to talking about human beings as if “we’re talking about scraping gum off our shoes.”

“These people chose to take a huge risk to become Americans,” the producer notes, “and they deserve a better descriptor than ‘illegals.’”

To me, what it means to be an American goes beyond your place of birth or the documents you have, back to when throngs of Irish, Italian and Eastern Europeans crossed the Atlantic Ocean in search of a better life, no papers asked. What it means to be an American is less about who you are than what you are about— how you live your life, how you contribute to this country, how you pledge allegiance to a flag hoping and praying it will make room for you. What it means to be an American is in the hearts of the people who, in their struggles and heartaches, in their joys and triumphs, fight for America and fight to be American every day.

A few weeks after I “came out” in June 2011 about my undocumented status in an essay in the New York Times Magazine, Washington state revoked my driver’s license. Among the first people to reach out to me was Aaron Sorkin. I’ve interviewed Sorkin before. He told me he was working on a new show about a cable news program, and that the second episode is set on the day Gov. Jan Brewer signed the Arizona immigration bill into law. He asked for my thoughts on immigration. In an email later, I told him about the first time I watched one of his films. It was 1997, not too long after I discovered that I didn’t have the proper documents to live in America. I was watching “The American President,” a movie starring Michael Douglas, and toward the end of the film, Douglas, as the president, says: “America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ‘cause it’s gonna put up a fight.” I was 16, lost and disoriented, and I told Sorkin that hearing those words helped me realize that I had to fight — that America was a fight and that America had to be earned.

Undocumented Americans, aspiring citizens like me, have been fighting and will continue to fight for this country we call home. And, as more and more undocumented Americans and the people who support us — the Good Samaritans in our lives, the teachers, pastors, neighbors and friends who make up our underground railroad — “come out” and tell our stories, America’s view of immigration and the nature of citizenship itself grows increasingly more complex and nuanced. It becomes about human beings.

Together with a small group of friends, I founded a campaign called Define American, which seeks to elevate conversation on immigration. And elevating and broadening the conversation means engaging different types of audiences from all walks of life. After appearing on “The O’Reilly Factor” last month, I received an email from Dennis Murphy of Omaha, Nebraska. The email reads:

“Mr. Vargas:

As founder and former state chairman of the Nebraska Minutemen, now merged with the Nebraska Tea Party, I was positively impressed by your interview with Bill O’Reilly. If I understand your situation correctly, you [were] brought into the United States by your parents when you were a young child, and they chose for whatever reason to do so in a fashion that avoided our immigration law. You now refer to yourself in your blog as “an undocumented American,” which I believe is a fair and accurate assessment.”

Thank you, Mr. Murphy, for considering me one of your fellow Americans. Let’s keep the conversation going. Let’s keep exploring what it means to be an American.

Yes, folks, it was a kinder, gentler time.  No, it wasn’t perfect … not even close.  But then, life isn’t perfect, people aren’t perfect.  Still, it was kinder and gentler … we cared more, hated less.  I miss that time.

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Think Your Vote Isn’t Important?

Well, here we are … the big day has finally arrived after months of divisive rhetoric, dirty tricks to keep voters from the polls, and demoralizing speech by certain corrupt elements in our government.  This has been the ugliest, nastiest election season I have seen in my 67 years. Today is the day those who haven’t already voted will head to the polls.  Well, most will.  Some will.  Others, it seems, have a thousand and one excuses for not voting, the top one seeming to be “my vote doesn’t really matter”, followed by “I don’t have time”.  Think it’s not important that you vote?  Let’s look at somebody who thought it was …

She felt violated, she felt abused, not by a single perpetrator but by the government that was supposed to protect her.Fannie-Lou-HamerHer name was Fannie Lou Hamer. She was born on October 6, 1917. Her parents were sharecroppers in the Mississippi Delta area. As a child, she often went hungry and without shoes. In the winter, she tied rags on her feet to keep her feet warm. She began working the fields when she was only 6 years old.

Later she realized she was not considered “a first class citizen” because she was poor, because she was black, because she was a woman.

In 1961, she went to a hospital to remove a tumor. She would be given a hysterectomy without her consent by a white doctor who was following the state plan to reduce the number of poor blacks in the state. Fannie Lou Hamer became another victim of the involuntary or uninformed sterilization of black women, common in the South in the 1960s. They were commonly called “Mississippi appendectomies” because women would be told they needed to get their appendix out, but instead they would be sterilized.”

“In the North Sunflower County Hospital,” Hamer would say, “I would say about six out of the 10 Negro women that go to the hospital are sterilized with the tubes tied.”

The government-funded program started in the 1930s targeting people in “institutions for mental illness” then slowly targeting “the blind, the deaf, the disabled, alcoholics, those with epilepsy, and ultimately the rural poor on welfare.”

This was the turning point in Fannie Lou Hamer’s life.

She would say, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

She decided at that point that she would fight for human rights, human dignity, and she would never give in, to anyone.

She soon realized that the only way to improve her life and the life of other poor blacks was to register to vote. If she was prevented to register or saw others who were prevented to vote, she would speak out and protest, if necessary.

She became relentless. She would be fired from her job, driven from the plantation she had called home for nearly two decades, she would be threatened, arrested, beaten, and shot at, leading to one arrest where she would be beaten nearly to death, suffering permanent kidney damage.

When she was stopped by police, she would start singing “This Little Light of Mine” and “Go Tell It on the Mountain.”

She would say, “I guess if I’d had any sense, I’d have been a little scared — but what was the point of being scared? The only thing they could do was kill me, and it kinda seemed like they’d been trying to do that a little bit at a time since I could remember.”

Fannie Lou Hamer would become a tireless champion for racial equality, working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), fighting racial segregation and injustice in the South. She also helped to found the National Women’s Political Caucus. She was instrumental in organizing Mississippi’s Freedom Summer for the SNCC, and she later became the vice-chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which she represented at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

At the Democratic National Convention, Hamer would be seen making her way through a group of old, white men to tell the world her story. At times, she fought back tears, such as recounting the time she was beaten in a Mississippi jail. She would add, “I was in jail when Medgar Evers was murdered.”

She would ask, “Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be threatened daily, because we want to live as decent human beings, in America?”

At the convention, rumors circulated that one of the toughest men in America, President Lyndon B. Johnson, was terrified of Hamer, her courage, and her voice.

Hamer would say, “We got to fight in America . . . for ALL the people.”

Still think it isn’t important, that your vote doesn’t count, or that you just can’t find time?  Do us all a favour and … think again.

**Note:  The header photo is John Lewis, Civil Rights leader and member of the U.S. House of Representatives serving Georgia’s 5th district, during the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965 in the struggle for voting rights.

Let America Be America Again

langston-hughes-5.jpgLangston Hughes was a leader of the Harlem Renaissance and a great poet, activist, novelist and playwright.  He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form called jazz poetry. Hughes is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance in New York City.

As I have mentioned a few times before, I am poetically challenged and have a difficult time understanding poetry.  I am a pragmatist, a realist, and am rarely able to see hidden meanings, much preferring that words say exactly what they mean, rather than taking a roundabout path and relying on me to properly interpret them.  Poetry tends to often be elusive, cryptic, symbolic, and as such, I am generally lost by the third line.  There are exceptions, however.

A few days ago, this poem by Langston Hughes crossed my path, and as I read it, the words moved me, for they are just as true, just as meaningful today as they were when the poem was written in 1935.  For a time between then and now, perhaps the nation was on its way to realizing the dream of equality, liberty and justice for all, but we have since lost our way, more so in the past two years than at any other time.

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Let America Be America Again
Langston Hughes, 1902 – 1967

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

And We Thought Trump Was Horrible?

On Sunday, October 7th, Brazilians elected a new president, Jair Bolsonaro.  Until this man was elected, I thought that the U.S. was alone in having lost its collective mind, as evidenced by the election of Donald Trump.  Bolsonaro is every abominable thing Trump is … and much more.  I have to question the sanity of the 55% of Brazilians who voted for this demagogue.  But then, I have long questioned the sanity of those in the U.S. who voted for Donald Trump, also.  Oh, and guess who worked on Bolsonaro’s campaign?  None other than Trump’s former campaign advisor, Steve Bannon!!!Bolsonaro-TrumpFirst let’s look at some similarities …

  • Opposes most all forms of gun control
  • Strongly opposed to same-sex marriage
  • Opposes environmental regulations
  • Opposes women’s right of choice
  • Opposes affirmative action
  • Opposes land reforms
  • Opposes secularism
  • Plans to pull out of Paris climate accord
  • Plans to move Brazil’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem
  • Is on his third marriage (yes, it’s irrelevant, but still says something, I think)

But then there are those ideas and rhetoric that take him beyond even what Trump dares to say …

He has made statements in defense of the former Brazilian military regime (a dictatorship known for constant human rights violations). He claims that torture is a “legitimate practice” and says that he would try to pass new legislation regarding the introduction of life imprisonment to the Brazilian penal code.

Bolsonaro said that “the error of the dictatorship was that it tortured but did not kill”.

Brazil has the world’s largest tropical rainforest in the Amazon basin. Bolsonaro has chafed at foreign pressure to safeguard the rainforest, and he served notice to international nonprofit groups such as the World Wildlife Fund that he will not tolerate their agendas in Brazil. He has also come out strongly against lands reserved for indigenous tribes. Bolsonaro advisers additionally say that he plans to expand nuclear and hydroelectric power into the Amazon.

In a 2017 speech, Bolsonaro stated, “God above everything. There is no such thing as this secular state. The state is Christian, and the minority will have to change, if they can.”

Bolsonaro argued that men and women should not receive the same salaries, because women get pregnant; adding that he believes federal law mandating paid maternity leave harms work productivity.  Bolsonaro said that he had five children, that the first four were male and that for the fifth he produced a daughter out of “a moment of weakness”.

Bolsonaro said that “I would be incapable of loving a gay son,” and added that he would prefer any gay son of his “to die in an accident…”  Seriously???  Wow, what a dad, huh?  He went on to say that if a gay couple moved in next door to him, it would lower the market value of his house. Bolsonaro linked homosexuality to pedophilia, claiming that “many of the children who are adopted by gay couples will be abused by these couples.”  I have to ask … what rock did this pos slither out from under???  “If I see two men kissing in the street, I will beat them.” He then publicly defended beating gay children by saying: “If your child starts to become like that, a little gay, you take a whip and you change their behavior.”

On October 4, 2018, Bolsonaro said: “A father does not want to come home and see his son playing with a doll by the influence of school. Homosexuals will be happy if I become president”

trump-jr-eduardo-bolsonaro

Don Trump, Jr. (center) with Eduardo Bolsonaro (second from left)

Trump and Bolsonaro both indicate they plan to work together to improve relations between the U.S. and Brazil, and their sons have already met.  Eduardo Bolsonaro, Bolsonaro’s eldest son, met with Don Trump Jr. in Las Vegas. “They went to a shooting range together—not a major meeting but they got to know each other a bit,” according to a member of Bolsonaro’s party.  Following Bolsonaro’s victory, Trump tweeted …

“Had a very good conversation with the newly elected President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, who won the race by a substantial margin. We agreed that Brazil and the United States will work closely together on Trade, Military and everything else!”

Bolsonaro-2Bolsonaro’s election is another feather in the cap of the populist movement.  He won by tapping into a deep well of resentment at the status quo in Brazil — a country whiplashed by rising crime and two years of political and economic turmoil — and by presenting himself as the alternative.  Unlike Donald Trump in 2016, Bolsonaro actually won the popular vote by 55%, but one thing they both said that is striking is that “I alone can fix this”.  And they have in common their loudness, their crassness, their utter contempt for such things as respect, common courtesy and quiet dignity.  They are both loud, ‘in your face’ sorts.  Both countries have a large women’s protest movement … in the U.S. it is “Never Trump” and in Brazil it is “Ele Nao” (Not Him).

Like Trump, Bolsonaro has been a divisive figure in Brazil and those who love him seem to do so mainly for his tough talk.  Having seen what nearly two years of Trump has wrought upon this nation, I can only empathize with the people of Brazil.  Is this, then, the face of things to come, the type of ‘leader’ that people around the world will choose in the future?  Let us hope not.

Turn a Blind Eye …

Consider this from yesterday’s Washington Post

“A group of prominent U.S. evangelical figures, including several of President Trump’s evangelical advisers, met Thursday with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose role in the killing of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi remains unclear.”

What strikes me about this is how these same evangelicals openly condemn women who have an abortion, take birth control, or leave their abusive husbands, but they are willing to meet with a man who has blood on his hands and is a known violator of human rights.  Can anybody explain to me how a woman who refuses to be a punching bag is worse than a man who just this year threatened to behead a woman and her husband for being human rights activists?  Or how the marriage of two men is somehow more terrible than the bombing of innocent men, women, and children in Yemen?khashoggi-posterAll indications are that Mohammed bin Salman authorized or ordered the brutal murder of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi last month, yet Donald Trump continues to throw his support behind bin Salman.  And why?  In part, because his friend, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked him to, but also because Trump has significant financial interests in Saudi Arabia.  Trump has denigrated the leaders of many of the nations who are our allies, such as Canada, the UK and Germany, but at the same time, he is willing to befriend a cruel dictator … a man who almost certainly murdered one of our own.toon-3That Trump is such an unconscionable ‘man’ should not surprise us, but I am highly confused by a group of so-called evangelical Christians who are willing to turn a blind eye to bin Salman’s many human rights violations and sit around the fireside chuckling and telling jokes as if he were just another of the ‘good ol’ boys’.Evangelicals meet MBS.pngJust as an aside, does anybody remember that 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 came from Saudi Arabia?

toon-4The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act allows the president to impose sanctions, including freezing of assets, against individuals or entities responsible for or acting as an agent for someone responsible for “extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights,” or if they are government officials or senior associates of government officials complicit in “acts of significant corruption.”  In other words, Trump could freeze any assets held in the U.S. by the Saudi government or by bin Salman.  Instead, Trump sends a delegation of his trusted ‘religious advisors’.

The group was led by author/activist Joel Rosenberg (pictured at top).  As to why they agreed to meet with bin Salman, an article in Religious News Service (RNS) sums it up …

“U.S. evangelical leaders decided to meet with the Saudi crown prince despite the Khashoggi controversy because Saudi Arabia is among the wealthiest, most powerful, and most important nations in the Middle East, in all of history.”

So … still have any doubts about what takes precedence in the evangelical community?

The Saudi royal family is consistently ranked among the “worst of the worst” in Freedom House’s annual survey of political and civil rights.  Their human rights violations include capital punishment, torture, human trafficking, censorship and imprisonment of journalists, killing of homosexuals and transgenders, and the list goes on.  But, the religious leaders seem to have no problem overlooking those minor details.toon-1Trump’s evangelical advisory board has come under fire before for having tested the limits of separation of church and state by advising Trump and White House staff on issues including taxes, health care and judicial appointments.  And now, they are assisting in setting foreign policy, supporting a cruel dictator.  Ah well, they’ve been turning a blind eye to Trump and his obscene behaviour for two years now, so what’s a little bit of murder, beheading and dismemberment among friends, eh?  Especially when there’s a profit to be turned.toon-2

Score Four For Justice!!!

There are some signs that perhaps judges and the courts are finally getting a bit fed up with the shenanigans of Donald Trump and his fellow GOP bullies.


Yesterday in Georgia, U.S. District Judge Eleanor L. Ross ruled that Georgia’s restrictive voting laws are likely to result in the violation of voting rights for a large group of people and needed to be halted immediately.

As I noted in a previous post the republican candidate running for governor, Brian Kemp, currently holds the position of Secretary of State and as such is the overseer of elections. Kemp has implemented strict “exact match” laws that may disqualify voters based on simple discrepancies, such as a dropped hyphen between the persons voter registration and other identification, such as a driver’s license.  Last month, a coalition of civil rights groups filed suit against Kemp.

In Friday’s ruling, Judge Ross said Kemp’s restrictions raised “grave concerns for the Court about the differential treatment inflicted on a group of individuals who are predominantly minorities.”  The preliminary injunction she issued required the state to change its procedures immediately to allow those flagged, some 3,100 individuals, to prove their citizenship more easily, with a U.S. passport or similar documentation.

Kemp was also ordered to issue a news release explaining how those flagged for potential citizenship issues could still vote by proving their citizenship, as well as offering a phone number for them to call with any questions.  Kemp’s actions as Secretary of State have been scrutinized in the wake of a report from the Associated Press that he had stalled more than 50,000 voter registrations by disproportionately black voters under the state’s exact-match requirements.

Score one for justice!  ⚖️


Did you think that with the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court last month, the Court would be naught more than a mouthpiece for Trump and his policies?  Think again.  Yesterday, the Court refused a request by the Trump administration to delay an upcoming trial in which a number of states and civil rights organizations allege there was an improper political motive in Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.  The trial will begin as scheduled on Monday.

Administration lawyers had more than once asked the Supreme Court to disallow challengers from questioning Ross and other administration officials about their motivations in adding the question.  When they were unsuccessful, they then asked that the trial be delayed, presumably until some point after the mid-term elections.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch said they would have granted the Trump administration’s request to delay the trial.  It is unknown how Kavanaugh voted.

Score another for justice!  ⚖️


Also, on Friday evening, the Supreme Court once again ruled against Trump in the case filed by 21 young people who argue that the failure of government leaders to combat climate change violates their constitutional right to a clean environment.  The suit is currently pending before a federal judge in Oregon, but the Trump administration sought to halt the lawsuit, claiming that the “suit is based on an assortment of unprecedented legal theories, such as a substantive due process right to certain climate conditions, and an equal protection right to live in the same climate as enjoyed by prior generations.”

The goal of the lawsuit is to compel the government to scale back its support for fossil fuel extraction and production and to support policies aimed at reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.

This is by no means the end, and the case is almost certain to ultimately land back in the laps of the Supreme Court justices, but for now, Trump did not have his way.

Score yet another for justice!  ⚖️


And finally, also on Friday, U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte in Greenbelt, Maryland, denied Trump’s request to stay a lawsuit alleging he is violating the Constitution by doing business with foreign governments.  Apart from the ruling against Kemp in Georgia, this is the one that had my heart doing a happy dance.

Additionally, Judge Messitte sharply questioned the president’s position that his business does not improperly accept gifts or payments — called emoluments — as defined by the Constitution.

The plaintiffs in the case, the District of Columbia and the State of Maryland, contend that the Trump hotel unfairly competes with convention centers and hotels in their jurisdictions. Among other documents, they are expected to seek records that reveal the identity of hotel guests who visited the White House on official business, as well as how much the president has profited. Ultimately, they could try to go after the president’s tax returns.

The Justice Department asked for the judge’s permission to appeal his rulings and to delay discovery in the meantime. But Judge Messitte said the department could follow the typical legal process and appeal when the case is over.

“If the president is permitted to appeal the court’s decisions in piecemeal fashion, ultimate resolution of the case could be delayed significantly, perhaps for years. That, as a matter of justice, cannot be countenanced.”

The judge also dismissed the president’s argument that discovery would be unduly burdensome, noting that Mr. Trump had threatened to sue his former campaign chief and others. “The president himself appears to have had little reluctance to pursue personal litigation despite the supposed distractions it imposes upon his office,” he wrote.

Score one more for truth and justice! ⚖️


Some of these cases may turn in the coming weeks/months, but for today, the judicial branch has shown Trump that he is not yet a dictator and that there is still a demand for both truth and justice, honesty and integrity in the American system.