U.S. Supreme Court v Common Sense

Ever since the former guy got the chance to nominate a second (Brett Kavanaugh) and then a third (Amy Barrett) Justice to the U.S. Supreme Court, I have been skeptical that the Court could manage to remain fair and non-partisan.  When the preliminary decision on Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization that could overturn the 1973 ruling on Roe v Wade was leaked back in May, my worst fears were confirmed, and this week they have been confirmed yet again – twice.


Congress Shall Make No Law …

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”  This is the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and is known as the Establishment Clause under which the federal government and all governments under it, cities, states, territories, etc., are prohibited from establishing or sponsoring religion.  In the words of Justice Stephen Breyer …

“The very point of the Establishment Clause is to prevent the government from sponsoring religious activity itself, thereby favoring one religion over another or favoring religion over nonreligion.”

In layman’s terms, since freedom of religion is important … freedom to observe any chosen religion or no religion at all … it is unfair for government funds that come from We the People in the form of taxes be used to support any one religion.  That is the basis for the 16th Amendment.  But on Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the case of Carson v Makin involving a Maine law that forbade public money to go to religious schools.  Under that law, if a town does not have a secondary school aka high school, parents may get vouchers from the state to pay for their children to attend a private school, but not a religious school.  Certain parents took umbrage, for the school that was available to them allowed LGBTQ students and these parents did not wish their children to attend school with LGBTQ kids and thus they petitioned the state for vouchers to send their children to a religious school whose entrance requirements largely eliminated the possibility of an LGBTQ child enrolling.

On Tuesday, the Court ruled in favour of the parents and in so doing, the Court in essence demolished the 16th Amendment and said that there is no longer a separation between government and religion.  This will no doubt be seen as a red-letter day for the bigots and no doubt many more will follow suit in the near future.  I wonder, though, how loud the furor will be when some parent chooses to obtain the vouchers and use them to send their kids to a Muslim or Hindu school?  Wait for it, for I’m betting money that those religious bigots will have their knickers in a knot when that happens.


That 2nd Amendment … yet again

And then yesterday, the Court made what I consider to be yet another grievous error in judgment in the case of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v Bruen.  Quite simply, since the United States Congress has steadfastly been unable or unwilling to pass any meaningful gun legislation, the State of New York passed its own law that prohibited most people, unless they could show need, from carrying a gun in public.  Makes sense, right?  If you claim you need a gun to protect yourself and your family from a home invasion, as most gun nuts claim, then you don’t need to take it to the library, grocery store, or a restaurant.  But, the gun nuts said it violated their 2nd Amendment ‘rights’.  For the record, the Amendment in question here reads …

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Period.  There is no more.  Nothing that says all people have the right to own killing machines that are capable of killing 20-30 people within a minute or two.  Nothing says the average Joe even has a right to own a gun, let alone carry one in public. I guess that Justices Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Thomas, Barrett, and Chief Justice John Roberts care more about pandering to the gun nuts than protecting our children.


So, to recap the results of these two Supreme Court decisions, we will now be forced to financially support religious education, even those of us who do not believe in or follow any religion, and … we and our families will continue to be in danger any time we leave our home, for we can’t be sure that dude sitting next to us in a restaurant or on the bus isn’t ‘packing heat’.  Way to go, SCOTUS.  Within the next week or so, given that the Court will be in summer recess around the first week in July, there are two more contentious cases that will be ruled on:

  • The aforementioned Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization whereby unless the Court has done a 180° reversal from May’s leaked ruling, women’s rights will be placed in the meat grinder and shredded forevermore (or until 100 years from now when the current Justices have left and some with a conscience have replaced them.)
  • West Virginia v Environmental Protection Agency where the State of West Virginia is claiming that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should not be allowed to set rules and regulations around greenhouse gas emissions. Given their recent rulings, I look for them to rule in favour of West Virginia, and if they do, you will hear me ranting some more, for this is our lives and the lives of future generations that’s at stake here!

Is “Infamy” To Become The New Normal?

Throughout history there are certain dates that stand alone, that in the retelling need no year for clarity.  December 7th, September 11th, and now January 6th … when we hear those dates, we automatically remember who, what, why, when, and where.  These three stand-alone dates all represent days when the United States was brutally attacked:  Pearl Harbour, World Trade Center/Pentagon, and the Capitol/Congress.  The first two differ from the third only in that Pearl Harbour and the World Trade Center were attacked by other nations or groups outside the U.S., while the attack on January 6th came from within, rather like having your son or daughter viciously burn your own house down with you in it.  In 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared December 7th to be “a day that will live in infamy.”  The same can and must be said about January 6th 2021.

So often we hear, “Well, whaddabout _____________?”, or “But both sides do it!”  And sometimes, to some extent depending on circumstances, that is true.  It’s call ‘moral equivalence’.  But there is not and cannot be any moral equivalency for what was done before, during, and after January 6th in an attempt to overthrow an election, overthrow a duly elected government, and destroy people’s lives.  This one, my friends, falls entirely on the shoulders of the Republican Party and their unofficial leader, one Donald Trump.  Kevin McCarthy said just this month …

“I think everybody in the country bears responsibility [for the January 6th attempted coup].

No, Mr. McCarthy … YOU, and Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Mark Meadows, Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, Andy Biggs, Mo Brooks, and most every other Republican in and out of Congress bear the full weight of this one.

Not only did Donald Trump, as we now know, incite the riot at the Capitol on January 6th, but was also plotting numerous other illegal and unconstitutional tactics to overturn the election and overthrow our voices, our justly elected president Joe Biden.  Democrats did NOT do this, Independents did NOT do this – it was done by and at the behest of Republicans.

But as if that weren’t bad enough … the average John Doe Republican voter caught the spirit of the moment and set out to destroy … property, the nation, innocent lives, and more.  If you watched the four people who testified in yesterday’s televised hearing, you had to be moved.  All four told heartbreaking stories about receiving threats of violence, not only against themselves but their families as well.  You will have seen Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers testifying that until very recently Trump supporters would drive around his neighborhood and falsely announce that he was a “pedophile” and a corrupt politician. He recounted an argument between a neighbor and a man with a pistol, and also talked about the reactions of his family …

“At the same time, on some of these, we had a daughter who was gravely ill who was upset by what was happening outside and my wife, that is a valiant person, very strong, quiet, very strong woman. So, it was disturbing.”

He fought the tears that we could see in his eyes.  What he didn’t mention was that his daughter died of her illness shortly thereafter.  My own eyes were suddenly in need of a tissue, as well.

The last testimony of the day was from Shaye Moss, a young woman who had been an election worker for some ten years prior to the 2020 election.  Ms. Moss was falsely accused, along with her mother, of carrying out a fake ballot scheme and Rudy Giuliani started the ball rolling when he called them professional vote scammers, allegations that led to death threats and intimidation, and forced them into hiding for a period of several weeks.  Both Ms. Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, spoke at the hearing yesterday and told of the ways in which they have been tormented and threatened.

“This turned my life upside down. I no longer give out my business card. I don’t transfer calls. I — I don’t want anyone knowing my name. I don’t want to go anywhere with my mom because she might yell my name out over the grocery aisle or something. I don’t go to the grocery store at all. I haven’t been anywhere at all. I gained about 60 pounds, I don’t do nothing anymore, I second-guess everything I do.  It’s affected my life in a major way, in every way. All because of lies for me doing my job, same thing I’ve been doing forever.”

And her mother, Ruby, said …

“There is nowhere I feel safe. Nowhere. Do you know how it feels to have the President of the United States to target you? The President of the United States is supposed to represent every American, not to target one. But he targeted me, Lady Rudy, a small business owner, a mother, a proud American citizen who stand up to help Fulton County run an election in the middle of the pandemic.”

This, folks, is what everyday Republicans are doing – to their own!!!  The first three to testify, Rusty Bowers, Brad Raffensperger, and Gabe Sterling were all Republicans!  The elected officials on the Republican side of the aisle keep the populace riled with hate-spewing rhetoric, but it is the average everyday white Republican who is allowing themselves to be manipulated into this horrific behaviour aimed at the very heart and spirit of the nation.  And in the past 24 hours, since yesterday’s televised hearing, there has been an increase in threats of violence against the members of the committee, leading to a security detail being assigned to each member.

For the record, in case any Republicans, or any others who still believe the Big Lie and are enamoured of Donald Trump:

DONALD TRUMP LOST THE 2020 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION!

Get over it and try to make something of your lives instead of living your life vicariously through your wishful dreams.

I hurt … I literally hurt for what this nation has become.  It’s like when Smokey the Bear used to say, “Only YOU can prevent forest fires” … only WE THE PEOPLE can turn this around.  And if we don’t, if we fail, then our children and grandchildren will pay the hefty price.  I leave it to your imagination to figure out what that price will be.

♫ Ebony and Ivory ♫ (Redux)

I might have skipped my music post today, for I am behind on almost everything and not feeling quite up to snuff, but yesterday afternoon my friend Jerry texted me and said he had a music suggestion for me.  With some trepidation, for Jerry and I rarely like the same music, I read on and much to my surprise he was recommending this song … one of my all-time favourites, which … on further thought, Jerry should know … hmmmmm … maybe he sensed I needed some of my man, Stevie Wonder at the moment, eh?  Sneaky, Jerry … very sneaky!  Anyway, yes it’s a redux, but it’s still a damn fine song, and I haven’t played it since 2020!


piano-keysPaul McCartney wrote this song, saying that the message was “that people of all types could live together.”  He liked the piano analogy, since you can play using just the white keys or just the black keys, but to make great music, you have to combine them.  So true.

McCartney started recording this as a solo effort, but then got the idea to do it as a duet with Stevie Wonder. A demo made its way to Wonder, and he agreed to record it, standing wholeheartedly behind the message in the song. It was issued as a single and appeared on McCartney’s 1982 album Tug Of War.

This was Stevie Wonder’s first #1 single in the UK. His only other was I Just Called To Say I Love You in 1984.

Listen to the words, feel the camaraderie between these two men, feel the love … share the love, spread the love.  Love knows no colour boundaries, and neither should we.

Ebony & Ivory
Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder

Ebony and ivory
Live together in perfect harmony
Side by side on my piano keyboard
Oh Lord, why don’t we?

We all know
That people are the same wherever you go
There is good and bad in everyone
When we learn to live, we learn to give each other
What we need to survive
Together alive

Ebony and ivory
Live together in perfect harmony
Side by side on my piano keyboard
Oh Lord, why don’t we?

We all know
That people are the same wherever you go
There is good and bad, mmm, in everyone
We learn to live when we learn to give each other
What we need to survive
Together alive

Ebony and ivory
Live together in perfect harmony
Side by side on my piano keyboard
Oh Lord, why don’t we?

Side by side on my piano keyboard
Oh Lord, why don’t we?

Songwriters: Mccartney Paul James
Ebony & Ivory lyrics © MPL COMMUNICATIONS INC

One Thought …

I watched today’s January 6th Committee hearing in its entirety and … phew.  As I folded a load of towels after watching the last bit of it, the only thing I could think of was that if what was done to some of these election officials is considered ‘okay’, then democracy is dead in the United States of ‘America’.  If some 30% or more of the people in this nation believe that it’s okay to threaten a Secretary of State because he refused to change the votes of the people, if they believe it is okay to harass not only the election officials, but their parents, spouses, children and grandchildren … then folks, we are not “… one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” 

Ahhhhh … The Snarky Snippets Keep On Rolling

Sometimes I am focused on one particular topic or news story, but many times snippets of news draw my attention in many different directions.  Today is one of those days …


WHY???

Yesterday I signed up to follow a blogger I was only recently introduced to.  Why?  Not because I find any beauty or humour in his writing, and not because I find his words to be particularly intelligent or witty.  I disagree strongly with most of what he says and find myself growling by the time I’ve gotten halfway through one of his very wordy posts (4,000 words).  So … why did I sign up to follow him?  Is it because I went looking for an argument?  Do I not have enough angst in my life?  Or is it something more?  Is it that of late I seem to only read those opinions that are in sync with my own?  Do I read this man’s words seeking to find some common ground, a shred of humanity, or am I simply spoiling for a fight.  In truth, I do not know.


A ‘platform’ made from rotten wood

Every now and then, when they want to prove to the world just how stupid their political leaders are, the state of Texas threatens to ‘secede from the United States’.  The Republican Party currently has no platform, no set of goals and ideologies, but the Texas GOP settled on a ‘platform’ at the state party convention over the weekend.  Their platform is essentially, from all I can decipher, nothing more or less than the former guy’s Big Lie.  I plan to write more about this later, but the basis seems to be that they declare Biden did not win the 2020 election and they even refer to him as the “acting President”.  Their platform also includes statements about abortion (they intend to teach schoolchildren about “about the Humanity of the Preborn Child”), and the LGBTQ community (referring to homosexuality as “an abnormal lifestyle choice.”)

Senator John Cornyn, who had worked on the milquetoast ‘bipartisan’ gun legislation that passed in the Senate last week, was actually booed and “rebuked” by the party for his work on that bill!  I told you in a post a few weeks ago that they “eat their own”! The platform, such as it is, dismisses all gun regulations as a violation of “God given rights.” Wait, I thought it was the Constitution that gave “a well-regulated militia” the “right to bear arms”???  Now, I haven’t read the bible, but … does it even mention guns?  As I said, I plan to write more on this later, but for today, suffice it to say that I agree with columnist Michael Gerson that the Republican Party is in decay!


A boycott is in order

After the January 6th attempted coup, some 249 companies promised not to fund the 147 senators and representatives who voted against any of the results.  It didn’t take some of them long to break that promise, and today more than half are now back to funding those who played a role in attempting to undermine the election that day.  Among those companies are Toyota, AT&T, UPS, FedEx, Visa, Home Depot, GM, and Exxonmobil.  I don’t know about you guys, but I will boycott these companies to whatever extent is possible.  Our lives, the very foundation of our democratic republic, were on the line that day, but for these companies, obviously their profit is more important than our lives.


A bright side

More than 5,000 flights were canceled this weekend.  GOOD!  That much less CO2 being put into the environment, killing trees, killing us.  No, I don’t feel one bit sorry for the couple who was planning a vacation trip to Italy.  Yes, I do feel sorry for the woman who missed her mother’s funeral due to a canceled flight.  But for the most part, I would like to see all air travel limited to ‘emergency’ use only for the foreseeable future.  Just because we can fly doesn’t necessarily mean we should, especially in this time of severe climate change that is having a negative effect on most of the world.  People complaining about the price of gasoline and lettuce … well, think how much gasoline and lettuce you can buy for the price of that airline ticket!!!


Human vs Neanderthal

In ordinary times, you would likely never have known the name Adam Kinzinger unless you happen to be from his home state of Illinois.  But, today I think it’s safe to say that at least 85% of the adults in the U.S. know who Adam Kinzinger is.  In case you’re one of the 15% who don’t know, a brief summary …

Adam Kinzinger is a Republican legislator who has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2011.  Kinzinger became known for his vocal opposition to Trump’s claims of voter fraud and attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Kinzinger was one of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for incitement of insurrection in his second impeachment, and one of only two Republicans to vote to create a select committee to investigate the 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, to which he was subsequently appointed.  Due to the open hostility from members of his party, Mr. Kinzinger announced last October that he will not run for re-election in November.  In 2006, Kinzinger was named the Wisconsin Red Cross “Hero of the Year” for wrestling a knife-wielding man to the ground and disarming him after the man had cut the throat of a woman on a street in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Adam has a wife, Sofia, and one son, Christian.

A few days ago, Mr. Kinzinger’s wife, Sofia, received this letter …

I found breathing impossible as tears welled in my eyes when I read that … I could feel the evil, the hate emanating from those words.  For the rest of the evening, I felt on the brink of crying, felt that if I let it start, I would never be able to stop.  There are many people — politicians and religious leaders — whom I despise, whose faces I would spit in given half a chance, but never in my wildest thoughts would I even consider threatening violence against them or their families.  This, my friends, is the difference between a human being and a gun-toting neanderthal.

THIS, my friends, is who we are becoming.  The political divisions in this nation are leading to murder, to corruption, to destruction, and to widespread violence that I believe is inevitable in the coming months.  We the People have allowed politicians, have allowed our own greed, have allowed our sense of entitlement to bring us to this place.  We have forgotten our humanity and somewhere along the way have lost our sense of compassion, of empathy, of caring for others.

When we value our guns more than our children, when we pretend to believe the lies our politicians tell us, even though we know better, and when we believe that somehow one person is better than another because of skin colour, religion, gender affiliation, or any other criteria, then we are contributing to the kind of behaviour that cause this maniac to send this letter to Sofia Kinzinger, contributing to the likes of the teen who went into a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, aiming to murder Black people just because their skin was darker than his.

I hope law enforcement officials are able to track down the writer of that letter and that they will have the guts to prosecute and imprison him, for he does not deserve the privilege of walking on the same streets as the rest of us.  However, it’s more likely they won’t find him, if they even look, and that eventually he may carry out his threat.  And worse yet, he is only one of many such creatures who believe that violence is the solution to their problems.

This nation is rapidly losing its humanity, is becoming a violent banana republic overrun by people who care only for their own fortunes and to hell with those of us who cross them in caring for the greater good.  This letter-writer has convinced me that, while I know there ARE good people in this country, there is no longer a collective good, no longer a majority of people working toward a greater good.  R.I.P. former United States.

Juneteenth — Another Point Of View

This is another that I first published last year, but felt it was well worth reprising this year, for it is thought-provoking and adds context, another view, to the discussion. 


While I have applauded the passage and presidential signing of the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act and have chalked up most of the objections to both ignorance and racism, I did come across one thought-provoking OpEd.  This piece by a professor at Morehouse College, a historically Black liberal arts college in Atlanta, Georgia, makes some very valid points.  Professor Robert A. Brown is not against the Juneteenth holiday, but reminds us that declaring it a federal holiday is not the end goal, that there is much work to be done in this country yet before Blacks have true freedom and equality.  The phrase, ‘Talk is cheap, actions speak louder than words’ comes to mind as I read his words and ponder what he says …


Juneteenth As A National Holiday Is Symbolism Without Progress

June 19, 2021  6:00 AM ET

ROBERT A. BROWN

This week, President Biden signed into law the “Juneteenth National Independence Day.”

It is honoring the work of Black Americans, including people such as 94-year-old Civil Rights Activist Opal Lee, who had long advocated for the celebration that started in Galveston to be made a federal holiday.

Juneteenth celebrates the date when Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, on June 19th, 1865, bringing news that the Emancipation Proclamation had freed the enslaved population living in the Confederacy, albeit two years prior.

Yet the reaction amongst many African Americans, myself included, has been muted.

There is a growing discontent in the African American community with symbolic gestures that are presented as progress without any accompanying economic or structural change.

The vestiges of a shameful past continue

Though Juneteenth is a celebration of the people who endured slavery, the vestiges of slavery and the Jim Crow segregation designed to preserve it continue to this day.

As law professor Michelle Alexander notes, “There are more African American men in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850.”

The average white household holds almost 7 times more than the wealth of a Black household. Perhaps more concerning, education does little to close the Black-white wealth gap as white families headed by those without a college degree have more wealth than Black families headed by those with a graduate or professional degree.

And yet, in the face of these stark disparities, lawmakers have been more willing to engage in performative symbolism than passing laws to make substantive change.

We have seen federal lawmakers take a knee, draped in kente cloth, but we have seen no substantive change about reforming police brutality that inspired Colin Kaepernick’s initial protest.

Lift Every Voice and Sing” is sung across the country, while legislation for reparations for the horrors of slavery languish. Sports arenas and streets have the words “Black Lives Matter” emblazoned for all to see, and yet police reform and anti-lynching laws that were some of the initial goals of the Black Lives Matter movement remain unpassed.

What is needed are substantive steps

There are substantive steps that federal lawmakers could take to honor the historic debt owed to the descendants of the enslaved in addition to a federal holiday.

House Resolution 40 has called for a committee to study reparations. If advanced, it could ultimately begin a national discussion about cash reparations at the federal level.

Substantive reform to end the immunity police who brutalize our citizens should be enacted, as well as a reversal of the decades-long militarization of the police.

Historically Black colleges and universities, most of which were founded around the end of slavery, should receive substantial increases in federal funding.

In many ways, the history of Juneteenth and the end of U.S. slavery mirrors the uneven pace of progress for African Americans during the following 150 years.

I have celebrated Juneteenth at festivals that honor the culture and community of the descendants of those who had been enslaved. Those celebrations always featured a community singing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” just like members of Congress did upon the signing of the Juneteenth holiday into law.

This year, while I’ll sing about being “full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,” like many African Americans, I’ll be mindful that, as the song says, we must continue to fight on “till victory is won.”

Opal Lee — Grandmother Of Juneteenth

I first discovered this amazing woman last year, and … well, no story of Juneteenth is complete without Ms. Opal Lee!


Look at this beautiful woman …

This is Opal Lee, age 94, and on this, the first time Juneteenth is being celebrated as an official U.S. holiday, I want to tell you a little bit about Ms. Lee who is known as the Grandmother of Juneteenth.  While yesterday I wrote a bit about the negativity of some racists toward the new holiday, Juneteenth, today I want to put aside the negative and focus on the positive … and the voice of Ms. Opal Lee.


When Opal Lee was growing up in Texas, she would spend Juneteenth picnicking with her family, first in Marshall, where she was born, then in Sycamore Park in Fort Worth, near the home she moved into at age 10.  Ms. Lee’s paternal grandmother was born into bondage in Louisiana, and while Ms. Lee, born in 1927, was not a slave, she felt the cruel edge of racism at a very early age.

She and her family lived in a predominantly white neighborhood in Fort Worth. On Juneteenth 1939, when Ms. Lee was 12, a mob of 500 white supremacists set fire to her home and vandalized it. The structure was destroyed, and no arrests were made.  Says Lee of that time …

“People gathered. The papers say that it was 500 strong, and that the police couldn’t control them. My dad came home with a gun, and the police told him if he busted a cap, they’d let that mob have him.  If they had given us an opportunity to stay there and be their neighbors, they would have found out we didn’t want any more than what they had – a decent place to stay, jobs that paid, to be able to go to school in the neighborhood, even if it was a segregated school. We would have made good neighbors, but they didn’t give us an opportunity. And I felt like everybody needs an opportunity.”

And that incident was the spark that lit Ms. Lee’s subsequent decades of activism.  Ms. Lee earned her college degree and became a teacher.  She joined the Tarrant County Black Historical and Genealogical Society, which oversaw local Juneteenth celebrations. But she said that after more than 40 years as a community activist, she “really doubled down in 2016” by “going bigger.”

At the tender age of 89, she decided to start with a walking campaign in cities along a route from her home in Fort Worth, Texas, to Washington, D.C. It wasn’t a straight line. Over several weeks, Lee arrived in cities where she’d been invited to speak and walked 2½ miles to symbolize the 2½ years that it took for enslaved people in Texas to learn they were free.  She made the entire 1,400-mile trek from Fort Worth, Texas to Washington D.C.

“I knew I just had to spread the word about Juneteenth to everybody.  I was thinking that surely, somebody would see a little old lady in tennis shoes trying to get to Congress and notice.”

Since then, Ms. Lee has become known far and wide as the Grandmother of Juneteenth.  So, it only made sense that on Thursday when President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, Ms. Opal Lee was invited to attend the signing.

Not only that, but the President himself called her “a grandmother of the movement to make Juneteenth a federal holiday” and got down on one knee to greet her in the audience.  During his speech before the signing, Biden asked the audience to give Lee, who was seated in the front row, a standing ovation.  And after he signed the bill into law, he gave Ms. Lee the first pen he used to sign it.

“I have to say to you, I have only been president for several months, but I think this will go down, for me, as one of the greatest honors I will have as president – not because I did it, you did it, Democrats and Republicans. It’s an enormous, enormous honor.”


What follows is a part of an interview between Ms. Lee and the New York Times last year on Juneteenth:

What is your first memory of celebrating Juneteenth?

It was in Marshall, Texas, where I was born. We’d go to the fairgrounds to celebrate. It was like going to Christmas or Thanksgiving, we had such a good time.

Some people still compare Independence Day to Juneteenth. How would you explain the type of freedom and community that comes from celebrating Juneteenth?

The difference between Juneteenth and the 4th of July? Woo, girl! The fact is none of us are free till we’re all free. Knowing that slaves didn’t get the word for two and a half years after the emancipation, can’t you imagine how those people felt? They’d been watching — that’s what they call Watch Night services — every New Year’s, thinking freedom was coming. And then to find out they were free, even two and a half years after everybody else.

So, the 4th of July? Slaves weren’t free. You know that, don’t you? And so we just celebrate the hell out of the 4th of July, so I suggest that if we’re going to do some celebrating of freedom, that we have our festival, our educational components, our music, from June the 19 — Juneteenth — to the 4th of July. Now that would be celebrating freedom.

How do you think the protests for Black lives that are happening around the country have shaped the way that people understand Juneteenth?

We have simply got to make people aware that none of us are free until we’re all free, and we aren’t free yet. There’s so many disparities. You know, we need some decent education and some decent jobs that pay money, and we need health care and all kinds of things and if people would just get together and address these disparities, we’d be well on our way to being the greatest country in the world.

Right now lots of companies are making Juneteenth an official holiday. How does it feel to see your vision coming to fruition?

Ooh girl, I could do a holy dance. I’m so happy to see things coming to fruition and the fact that we are almost there making it a holiday. We started out talking about 100,000 signatures and now we’re saying let’s take a million signatures to Congress to let them know that it’s not just one little old lady in tennis shoes.

I hope they understand that we’re talking about a holiday like Presidents’ Day or Flag Day. We’re not talking about a paid holiday. However, I’m delighted to have the big companies give their employees the day off with pay.

What changes do you hope to see in our country beyond having Juneteenth recognized on a national level?

If we would unify, if we would get together and do something about homelessness, and do something about people having decent housing, and decent food, and they would have not only a place to stay but a decent education.

If we could just love one another, you know? If you could get past the color of my skin and love me like you do that boy next door to you.


And those, my friends, are words for us all.  If Ms. Lee has one message for us it is that one – get past the colour of people’s skin and just love them!  Stop the hate, the violence, the petty bickering and … just love one another.  Life is too short to waste it with bigotry of any sort.  And on that note, I wish you all a very Happy Juneteenth!

Understanding Juneteenth (Reprise)

This is the post I posted on Juneteenth in 2020, but since I couldn’t say it any better today than I did then (actually, Jamelle Bouie did most of the work on this) then I thought it apropos to run it again.


Today is Juneteenth, and I would like to start with a few words from President Barack Obama …

Obama“Juneteenth has never been a celebration of victory, or an acceptance of the way things are. It’s a celebration of progress. It’s an affirmation that despite the most painful parts of our history, change is possible––and there is still so much work to do.”

I planned to write a piece about Juneteenth, but I found that it had already been done, much better and much more authentically than I could possibly have done it, by Jamelle Bouie, an opinion columnist for the New York Times, and former chief political correspondent for Slate magazine.


Why Juneteenth Matters

It was black Americans who delivered on Lincoln’s promise of “a new birth of freedom.”

jamelle-bouieBy Jamelle Bouie

Opinion Columnist

Neither Abraham Lincoln nor the Republican Party freed the slaves. They helped set freedom in motion and eventually codified it into law with the 13th Amendment, but they were not themselves responsible for the end of slavery. They were not the ones who brought about its final destruction.

Who freed the slaves? The slaves freed the slaves.

“Slave resistance,” as the historian Manisha Sinha points out in “The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition,” “lay at the heart of the abolition movement.”

“Prominent slave revolts marked the turn toward immediate abolition,” Sinha writes, and “fugitive slaves united all factions of the movement and led the abolitionists to justify revolutionary resistance to slavery.”

When secession turned to war, it was enslaved people who turned a narrow conflict over union into a revolutionary war for freedom. “From the first guns at Sumter, the strongest advocates of emancipation were the slaves themselves,” the historian Ira Berlin wrote in 1992. “Lacking political standing or public voice, forbidden access to the weapons of war, slaves tossed aside the grand pronouncements of Lincoln and other Union leaders that the sectional conflict was only a war for national unity and moved directly to put their own freedom — and that of their posterity — atop the national agenda.”

All of this is apropos of Juneteenth, which commemorates June 19, 1865, when Gen. Gordon Granger entered Galveston, Texas, to lead the Union occupation force and delivered the news of the Emancipation Proclamation to enslaved people in the region. This holiday, which only became a nationwide celebration (among black Americans) in the 20th century, has grown in stature over the last decade as a result of key anniversaries (2011 to 2015 was the sesquicentennial of the Civil War), trends in public opinion (the growing racial liberalism of left-leaning whites), and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Over the last week, as Americans continued to protest police brutality, institutional racism and structural disadvantage in cities and towns across the country, elected officials in New York and Virginia have announced plans to make Juneteenth a paid holiday, as have a number of prominent businesses like Nike, Twitter and the NFL.

There’s obviously a certain opportunism here, an attempt to respond to the moment and win favorable coverage, with as little sacrifice as possible. (Paid holidays, while nice, are a grossly inadequate response to calls for justice and equality.) But if Americans are going to mark and celebrate Juneteenth, then they should do so with the knowledge and awareness of the agency of enslaved people.

Juneteenth-2

Credit…David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Emancipation wasn’t a gift bestowed on the slaves; it was something they took for themselves, the culmination of their long struggle for freedom, which began as soon as chattel slavery was established in the 17th century, and gained even greater steam with the Revolution and the birth of a country committed, at least rhetorically, to freedom and equality. In fighting that struggle, black Americans would open up new vistas of democratic possibility for the entire country.

To return to Ira Berlin — who tackled this subject in “The Long Emancipation: The Demise of Slavery in the United States” — it is useful to look at the end of slavery as “a near-century-long process” rather than “the work of a moment, even if that moment was a great civil war.” Those in bondage were part of this process at every step of the way, from resistance and rebellion to escape, which gave them the chance, as free blacks, to weigh directly on the politics of slavery. “They gave the slaves’ oppositional activities a political form,” Berlin writes, “denying the masters’ claim that malingering and tool breaking were reflections of African idiocy and indolence, that sabotage represented the mindless thrashings of a primitive people, and that outsiders were the ones who always inspired conspiracies and insurrections.”

By pushing the question of emancipation into public view, black Americans raised the issue of their “status in freedom” and therefore “the question of citizenship and its attributes.” And as the historian Martha Jones details in “Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America,” it is black advocacy that ultimately shapes the nation’s understanding of what it means to be an American citizen. “Never just objects of judicial, legislative, or antislavery thought,” black Americans “drove lawmakers to refine their thinking about citizenship. On the necessity of debating birthright citizenship, black Americans forced the issue.”

After the Civil War, black Americans — free and freed — would work to realize the promise of emancipation, and to make the South a true democracy. They abolished property qualifications for voting and officeholding, instituted universal manhood suffrage, opened the region’s first public schools and made them available to all children. They stood against racial distinctions and discrimination in public life and sought assistance for the poor and disadvantaged. Just a few years removed from degradation and social death, these millions, wrote W.E.B. Du Bois in “Black Reconstruction in America, “took decisive and encouraging steps toward the widening and strengthening of human democracy.”

Juneteenth may mark just one moment in the struggle for emancipation, but the holiday gives us an occasion to reflect on the profound contributions of enslaved black Americans to the cause of human freedom. It gives us another way to recognize the central place of slavery and its demise in our national story. And it gives us an opportunity to remember that American democracy has more authors than the shrewd lawyers and erudite farmer-philosophers of the Revolution, that our experiment in liberty owes as much to the men and women who toiled in bondage as it does to anyone else in this nation’s history.

The Death of Lady Liberty 🗽

Yesterday marked the 137th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty.  Four years ago, I wrote this post.  At that time, we were in the throes of the former administration and immigrants were ‘personae non grata’ by the government.  I posited that we no longer deserved Lady Liberty, for we had failed to keep our promises.  Today, we have a different president, one who values ALL people, yet we still have a humanitarian crisis at our southern border.  There remains a large contingent of people in this country who would denigrate, expel, and even kill any who don’t look and think just like them.  As a nation, are we any better today, any more deserving of this statue that stands in New York Harbour than we were four years ago? 


One hundred and thirty-three years ago today, the Statue of Liberty came to our shores.  Lady Liberty, a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of America, arrived in some 200 cartons, in 350 pieces – rather like a puzzle to be put together.  She was reassembled and dedicated the next year and would become known around the world as an enduring symbol of freedom and democracy.

Perhaps we no longer deserve having her grace our harbour.  But first, a bit of history, courtesy of History.com

Intended to commemorate the American Revolution and a century of friendship between the U.S. and France, the statue was designed by French sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi (who modeled it after his own mother), with assistance from engineer Gustave Eiffel, who later developed the iconic tower in Paris bearing his name. The statue was initially scheduled to be finished by 1876, the 100th anniversary of America’s Declaration of Independence; however, fundraising efforts, which included auctions, a lottery and boxing matches, took longer than anticipated, both in Europe and the U.S., where the statue’s pedestal was to be financed and constructed. The statue alone cost the French an estimated $250,000 (more than $5.5 million in today’s money).

Finally completed in Paris in the summer of 1884, the statue, a robed female figure with an uplifted arm holding a torch, reached its new home on Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor (between New York City and Hudson County, New Jersey) on June 17, 1885. After being reassembled, the 450,000-pound statue was officially dedicated on October 28, 1886, by President Cleveland, who said, “We will not forget that Liberty has here made her home; nor shall her chosen altar be neglected.” Standing more than 305 feet from the foundation of its pedestal to the top of its torch, the statue, dubbed “Liberty Enlightening the World” by Bartholdi, was taller than any structure in New York City at the time. The statue was originally copper-colored, but over the years it underwent a natural color-change process called patination that produced its current greenish-blue hue.

In 1892, Ellis Island, located near Bedloe’s Island (which in 1956 was renamed Liberty Island), opened as America’s chief immigration station, and for the next 62 years Lady Liberty, as the statue is nicknamed, stood watch over the more than 12 million immigrants who sailed into New York Harbor. In 1903, a plaque inscribed with a sonnet titled “The New Colossus” by American poet Emma Lazarus, written 20 years earlier for a pedestal fundraiser, was placed on an interior wall of the pedestal. Lazarus’ now-famous words, which include “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” became symbolic of America’s vision of itself as a land of opportunity for immigrants.

Some 60 years after President Calvin Coolidge designated the statue a national monument in 1924, it underwent a multi-million-dollar restoration (which included a new torch and gold leaf-covered flame) and was rededicated by President Ronald Reagan on July 4, 1986, in a lavish celebration. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the statue was closed; its base, pedestal and observation deck re-opened in 2004, while its crown re-opened to the public on July 4, 2009. (For safety reasons, the torch has been closed to visitors since 1916, after an incident called the Black Tom explosions in which munitions-laden barges and railroad cars on the Jersey City, New Jersey, waterfront were blown up by German agents, causing damage to the nearby statue.)

Today, the Statue of Liberty is one of America’s most famous landmarks. Over the years, it has been the site of political rallies and protests (from suffragettes to anti-war activists), has been featured in numerous movies and countless photographs, and has received millions of visitors from around the globe.

The Statue of Liberty once stood for something, but today when I read those words … “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”, I shake my head, for they are a great hypocrisy.  We no longer welcome immigrants, but rather abuse them, call them names, and take their children from them.  We are planning to spend tens of billions of dollars – enough money to feed those tired and poor for many days, weeks, perhaps even months or a year – to build a huge wall, the sole purpose of which will be to keep immigrants out.

Here is how we greet immigrants today …With the exception of the Indigenous People in this nation, we are all descended from immigrants, but as time and generations have passed, we have become an arrogant lot, believing that somehow we are entitled to more, to better than others.  We no longer welcome the “tired and poor”, but instead would choose, in the words of Donald Trump, “only the best and brightest”.  Huddled masses?  Oh no, throw them in jails and detention centers, humiliate them, berate them, beat them and even kill them.No, my fellow Americans, we no longer deserve the Statue of Liberty for we are no longer the ‘land of the free’, but rather the land of the wealthy.  Only the wealthy are welcome here.  If you or I were attempting to flee to the shores of the U.S. today, would we be welcomed and embraced? I think not, but then … I would not choose to come to this country today, either.

Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers who have dedicated their lives to being awesome dads!