John Lewis’ Final Words …

John Lewis knew he had few days left on this earth, and he left a powerful message to us all to be published on the day of his funeral, today.  I let his words speak for themselves …


John-Lewis

While my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life you inspired me. You filled me with hope about the next chapter of the great American story when you used your power to make a difference in our society. Millions of people motivated simply by human compassion laid down the burdens of division. Around the country and the world you set aside race, class, age, language and nationality to demand respect for human dignity.

That is why I had to visit Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, though I was admitted to the hospital the following day. I just had to see and feel it for myself that, after many years of silent witness, the truth is still marching on.

Emmett Till was my George Floyd. He was my Rayshard Brooks, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor. He was 14 when he was killed, and I was only 15 years old at the time. I will never ever forget the moment when it became so clear that he could easily have been me. In those days, fear constrained us like an imaginary prison, and troubling thoughts of potential brutality committed for no understandable reason were the bars.

Though I was surrounded by two loving parents, plenty of brothers, sisters and cousins, their love could not protect me from the unholy oppression waiting just outside that family circle. Unchecked, unrestrained violence and government-sanctioned terror had the power to turn a simple stroll to the store for some Skittles or an innocent morning jog down a lonesome country road into a nightmare. If we are to survive as one unified nation, we must discover what so readily takes root in our hearts that could rob Mother Emanuel Church in South Carolina of her brightest and best, shoot unwitting concertgoers in Las Vegas and choke to death the hopes and dreams of a gifted violinist like Elijah McClain.

Like so many young people today, I was searching for a way out, or some might say a way in, and then I heard the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on an old radio. He was talking about the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence. He said we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice. He said it is not enough to say it will get better by and by. He said each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out. When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.

Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.

You must also study and learn the lessons of history because humanity has been involved in this soul-wrenching, existential struggle for a very long time. People on every continent have stood in your shoes, though decades and centuries before you. The truth does not change, and that is why the answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time. Continue to build union between movements stretching across the globe because we must put away our willingness to profit from the exploitation of others.

Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.

When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.

What Could Happen …???

The race is on and with just over 100 days until election day, most of us know who we will be voting for.  Most every legitimate poll shows Biden leading Trump by somewhere between 8 to 15 points, and that’s comforting for those of us who genuinely believe that the nation cannot tolerate another term with Trump holding the reins.  But we cannot become complacent, for to do so would be a serious mistake.  Trump still has about a 40% following … people largely with a single agenda who will not abandon Trump no matter what he does.  His goal, and that of the Republican Party as a whole, right now is to increase that following, or short of that, to dilute the vote of the majority.  A lot can happen in 100 days!  The Washington Post published an article by a few of the pundits, opinion writers from both sides of the aisle, who have given their views on what, exactly, Trump could do in the next 100+ days to change the tide and actually win the election.  I thought they were worth sharing … some are worth some thought.  Take a look …


Here’s what could happen to put Trump in the lead

Post-PunditOpinion by The Ranking Committee

July 24, 2020 at 9:41 a.m. EDT

Rankings wrangler Drew Goins here for Round 67, which finds President Trump behind in a trailing-by-13-points-in-Florida sort of way. But it is yet July, which leaves time for not only an October surprise but an August and September one, too. Trump might be praying all those aliens pay a visit and reverse his fortunes, but short of that, here’s what the members of the Ranking Committee think could turn the race around for Mr. President.

— Drew Goins


Better pandemic management

He starts wearing a mask regularly and takes covid-19 seriously. Unless he does that well, he doesn’t have the credibility with swing voters to make any Biden gaffe matter.

— Henry Olsen


Pandemic credit-stealing

Trump would gain a huge amount of ground if he (a) set low expectations for his performance during the pandemic and (b) skated by on the achievements of health officials. Trump isn’t about to start handling the coronavirus competently or effectively, but voters often don’t judge presidents on pure managerial ability. They ask themselves, “Are things getting better or getting worse?” and if things are getting better, they tend to give the president credit. So Trump needs to set as low of a bar as possible and cross his fingers that people who work for him — scientists, public health officials, et al. — do their job well and unintentionally push him over the top.

— David Byler


Non-distancing Democrats

The race will close as they always do, but the momentum behind President Trump’s comeback will be significantly fueled by what Democrats and, by extension, Joe Biden don’t do: condemn violence in the streets of Portland, Ore., and elsewhere and repudiate utterly and without equivocation “defunding the police” or “redirecting funding for the police,” which are effectively the same thing in the ears of a majority of voters. As the Democratic Party collapses into apology for the protesters in Portland, Trump will regain ground lost to voters professing “Trump fatigue.” Better that than fear for personal safety.

— Hugh Hewitt


Large-scale retaliation from leftists

It seems obvious Trump is sending federal law enforcement into cities to confront protesters not just because the TV imagery it creates tickles his authoritarian fancies but also as deliberate incitement, to stoke violent civil conflict. But why? One possibility: to provoke a dramatic, large-scale retaliation from a self-described leftist. That might shift the suburbs against the protests and in Trump’s direction. Is that overheated? Perhaps. But ask yourself: Why is Trump actively trying to push the nation to the brink of civil war? Do you have a better explanation?

— Greg Sargent


A Supreme Court vacancy

A spot opening up on the Supreme Court could remind reluctant conservatives of the same deal they made with the devil in 2016 — and help them ignore even the most devilish deeds Trump has carried out in office. This could win back some of the suburban voters the president has lost over his tenure, and maybe energize others who otherwise would have sat this mid-pandemic election out.

— Molly Roberts


A time machine

Trump is so far behind and so personally discredited, I find it impossible to think of something he might realistically do to rehabilitate himself. Even if we developed an effective vaccine (very difficult given the timeline), it almost certainly would not be distributed in time. As for Biden, I do not believe a single gaffe out there could sink him. What I think would pose a real problem is massive voter suppression. Literally preventing people from voting or their votes from being counted is the greatest threat to Biden, and to our democracy. Aside from that, Trump would need a time machine — to go several months back, acknowledge the pandemic and put in place a mammoth federal response. While there, he could react to the killing of George Floyd like a normal, empathetic human and even champion a list of agreed-upon police reforms.

— Jennifer Rubin


Nothing

I genuinely don’t have a plausible scenario. At this point, I don’t think there’s any way Trump can become competitive with Biden in the polls. And I think the only way Trump could even conceivably eke out a win on Election Day would be through voter suppression on an improbably (perhaps impossibly) massive scale.

— Eugene Robinson


So Trump saying, “If elected, I will immediately resign and hand power to my new vice president, Mitt Romney,” doesn’t count? I mean, beyond that, we’re into “Joe Biden is identified as the perpetrator in a gruesome double homicide.” I’m struggling to think of anything else that will save Trump.

— Megan McArdle


My own personal favourite it Eugene Robinson’s, naturally.  However, the others all make valid points and we need to keep our eyes on the ball, my friends.

Good Riddance

At long last, the name of Washington’s football team is to be changed to … ??? … they haven’t said yet. However, the fact that they are changing it, decades long overdue, is a positive sign. Our friend Jeff over at On the Fence Voters has written an enlightening post about it … take a look! Thanks, Jeff!

On The Fence Voters

Redskin {red-skin}

noun Older Slang: Disparaging and Offensive

*a contemptuous term used to refer to North American Indian

My friend Jerry wrote an excellent post last week, reminding us that it’s not only black lives that matter when it comes to systemic racism in our country. Native Americans know a few things about hundreds of years of denigration, prejudice, and yes, genocide. I want to expand upon Jerry’s theme from a different perspective.

It finally happened. After years of vehement refusal to ever change the name of his NFL team, Owner Dan Snyder finally decided to retire the Washington Redskins. No longer will the name or logo ever grace the uniforms of their football players. The new name, at present still under discussion, will replace the old one for the upcoming 2020 season.

In 2013, Snyder famously said that he’d NEVER change the name. Yes, all caps is how he…

View original post 1,080 more words

Fodder For Da Snarky

One good thing about not being able to go out these days is I have lots more time on weekends to peruse the news, stay on top of things, and feed my snarky side.  This weekend there is much fodder for that snarky side …


Well, no surprise that Trump commuted Roger Stone’s three-year sentence.  The only surprise was that he commuted the sentence rather than issuing a full pardon, but apparently that was at Stone’s request, so he can return to the courts and continue trying to plead his innocence.  Make no mistake, Roger Stone is not innocent … he is a criminal, has been engaged in criminal activities most of his adult life, and the only thing he’s innocent of is being a decent human being.  Roger Stone is guilty of breaking the law in order to help get Donald Trump elected.  He has the blood of this nation on his hands, and it is my belief that he will once again be complicit in working to alter the election of 2020. Roger-StoneStone was to have reported to prison on Tuesday, after being denied a delay.  He claimed he has health conditions that put him at risk for contracting the coronavirus and possibly dying.  At the risk of sounding like a cruel person, to this I say, “Oh well … one less festering sore on the body of humanity.”

Stone stands a seven-times convicted felon, a record that will remain with him for the rest of his life.  He should be spending the rest of his life in prison, but instead he will no doubt be back to his dirty tricks by next week.   In fact, he told NBC News he plans to celebrate his freedom by writing a book about his experience, possibly filing a complaint against federal prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky, and helping “exonerate” his felonious friend, former national security adviser Michael Flynn.  Birds of a feather …


blm-bannerOn main street in the small town of Clifton, Virginia, there is a banner that reads, “Welcome to Clifton where Black Lives Matter”.  Most people are supportive of the sign, applaud its message.  But this woman took umbrage …

ginny-thomas

She said, in an email …

“BLM is a bit of a dangerous Trojan Horse and they are catching well-meaning people into dangerous posturing that can invite mob rule and property looting. Let’s not be tricked into joining cause with radical extremists seeking to foment a cultural revolution because they hate America.”

Do you recognize the woman?  Her name is Ginny Thomas, and she is the wife of Clarence Thomas, the only African-American on the U.S. Supreme Court.

ginny-clarenceOh, the irony!


It seems that our own “leader”, and I use the term very loosely, isn’t the only one who is clueless on how to address the coronavirus pandemic and keep the people in their countries safe.  Boris Johnson, aka BoJo, has come up with a novel idea for combatting the virus … put everyone on a diet!

According to The Guardian

Downing Street is planning what has been billed as a “war against obesity”.  As well as longer-term proposals to reduce the incidence of obesity, government officials are having urgent discussions about how to persuade people to lose weight in the next few months, before an anticipated resurgence in coronavirus cases in the autumn.

The UK has experienced the highest death rate from coronavirus in Europe, and one potential factor may be high rates of obesity and associated lifestyle-linked conditions such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, which are strongly associated with worse Covid-19 outcomes.

There is logic to people getting into shape, becoming healthier and therefore better able to survive a case of the virus.  However, a few things should be noted.  First, weight loss doesn’t happen overnight, or even over a summer.  Second, exercise is every bit as integral to a healthy lifestyle as better eating habits.  And thirdly, this doesn’t do a thing to address stopping the spread of the virus, only perhaps its intensity.

Ah well, at least BoJo isn’t suggesting that citizens of the UK ingest bleach!


In a comment to my piece about the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi, I noted that there was a video with a number of clips showing Trump’s personal financial involvement with the Saudi’s both before and during his presidency.  One reader asked me to share that video, which is well worth the 4 minutes it takes to view …

On Trump’s Friday Night Speech …

On Friday night, Trump gave a speech to … well, he said to the nation, but in truth it was only designed for his base, to rile them and motivate them to return to the fold, to support him with everything they’ve got in November.  With his poll numbers sinking, the GOP and many republicans in Congress are becoming concerned, and this speech was naught more than a campaign rally intended to bring his poll numbers back up out of the tank.  A campaign rally, I might add, that cost the U.S. taxpayers millions of dollars at a time when the nation and the people are struggling financially.

We all know that Trump lies, he cheats, he threatens and bullies.  So, you might ask yourself why I asked you to read this speech last night, why I even bothered to read it myself.  Here’s the thing, though … his base will buy into every word he uttered.  Throughout the speech there were cheers and chants of “Four more years”.  Therein lies the danger.  If the election had been held last Thursday, Trump would have been slammed at the polls.  But by next Thursday, all bets are off, for this speech, filled with hate, lies, and hypocrisy, will resonate with the 40% of voters in this country who will believe anything, as long as it plays to their fears and prejudices.  That’s why I think it’s important for us to pick apart those lies … or some of them, for there are, after all, only so many hours in a day!

My comments and analysis are based on the portions of the speech I highlighted on Saturday … much of the rest was simply babbling drivel and not worth me wasting my time.  The numbers in this commentary are tied to the paragraph numbers on Saturday’s post.

#6 – The claim that the mysterious “campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children” is a) lies, fantasy, b) divisive. Nobody is trying to ‘wipe out’ history.  For better or for worse, our history is well recorded and will never be forgotten.  But many of those he calls “heroes” were men who were trying to preserve the institution of slavery … they were not heroes and do not deserve to be memorialized by statues and monuments, symbols of their hatred.  They are holding us back from creating a more just, more inclusive, fair and understanding society.  Weak or strong, what does it matter?  Trump’s clenched fist is not indicative of strength, but rather of a bully.  He speaks of values … yet his own are based on bigotry and hatred.

#7 – I do not know who “they” are that are driving people from their jobs and demanding ‘total submission’ from any who disagree with them.  Doesn’t sound like the democrats, liberals, or anybody I know.  Hmmmm … sounds more like the madman in the Oval Office, don’t you think?

#8 – As to Trump’s claims of an attack on our ‘liberty’.  Liberty?  Whose?  He speaks of the liberty of the privileged, particularly the white privileged.  For those who struggle to make ends meet, who are stopped by police simply because of the colour of their skin, who are killed by police for being black, that liberty is far less ‘magnificent’.  The “American way of life” in Trump’s world is racist, is misogynistic, is homophobic … we need to strive for a far better ‘way of life’.  As for the “far-left fascism” that he claims … I laugh, for he also claims that antifa, an anti-fascist group, is a huge threat from the left.  So, which is it, Donnie?  Am I a fascist or an anti-fascist?  In truth, Donald Trump’s way of governing is more nearly like that of Benito Mussolini, a hard-core fascist.  The rest of his comment on the topic is mindless babbling and not worthy of response.

#9 – So far, there has been no “left-wing cultural revolution”, but maybe it’s not a half-bad idea … let’s overthrow the Trump administration … throw them and their baggage out on the street and start fresh with someone who will remove the hateful monuments and tributes to the days of slavery, who knows how government works, and who has a heart, a soul, and a brain.  Yes, let’s have a cultural revolution!  Let’s vote Joe Biden into office on November 3rd and start to heal this nation!

#11 – ‘Hundreds’, he claims, have been arrested for attempting to take down the statue of one of our founding racists?  Four … not hundreds.  Four people were arrested in connection with damage to the statue of Andrew Jackson.  Ten years in prison?  I think not.  I wonder if he’s ever heard of the punishment matching the crime.  Ten years for perhaps writing ‘Black Lives Matter’ on a piece of granite is not going to get anyone a ten-year sentence.  More likely just a fine.  More threats and bullying … against We the People … the ones who pay his salary, the ones who fund all his golf trips and trips to Mar-a-Lago, the ones to whom he swore an oath.  Think about that one for a few minutes.  We are his sworn enemies, but we keep paying those taxes to ensure his lavish lifestyle.  Democratic Republic … or dictatorship?

#12 – Trump has his biases all mixed up.  Education in primary and secondary schools often whitewashes the history of this nation, glorifies the inglorious, and defines racists in a heroic light.  The founders of this nation did much that was good, but they were racists and misogynists and that needs to be taught as well.  They said, “All men are created equal”, by which they meant white men.  Not women, not blacks … white men.  Women and blacks have fought long and hard for our right to be treated as equals, and neither group is there yet.  Call a spade a spade … teach truth, not whitewashed, glorified fantasy.

#18 – So, to be clear, this radical ideology that would ‘demolish both justice and society’ … treating all people equally, ending racism, taking care of those who cannot take care of themselves, ensuring that every person has access to affordable healthcare, and ensuring that everyone, regardless of colour or gender, is able to earn a fair wage, narrowing the income gap … those things would demolish justice and society?  No, what is destroying justice and our society is having police killing unarmed black men just because they can.  It is having a government riddled with corruption that we are powerless to stop.  It is spending money to prop up the dying fossil fuel industry while we continue destroying our planet.  It is having a ‘leader’ in name only, yet one who proclaims he is ‘above the law’ in all things.  That, my friends, is tyranny.

#20 – When he says, “We embrace tolerance, not prejudice,” I want to scream.  Such hypocrisy is reminiscent of a third-world dictator speaking to an uneducated public.  But then, Trump is speaking only to his base, so … same thing.  This speech oozes racism, as have most of Trump’s actions over the past month (and before).  Trump is a racist, pure and simple, and his followers at this point are too, else they would not still be his followers.  When he speaks of “love of country”, I am sickened.  He has no love for any but himself.  The goal of the liberal thinkers in this country is not to end “America”, but to make the United States a country to be proud of, a country that takes care of the planet, of people, and helps others around the world.  Right now, I have zero pride in this country.

#22 – Trump calls those of us who disagree with him “bad, evil people”.  I may not be the best person in the world, but I am neither bad nor evil.  I only want everyone treated fairly and Donald Trump & his cohorts are fighting against that, as are those who continue to support him.

His masses will eat this speech up, and I believe that by the end of next week, his polling numbers will be on the rise … for no other reason than this lying, racist, phobic, fear-mongering, and divisive speech.  Oh, and by the way, with daily new cases over 50,000 per day now, it should be noted that Trump never once mentioned the pandemic.  Not once.  You can see what he thinks our lives are worth, yes?

A White Woman Listens … Really Listens

We have a serious problem in the U.S.:  we don’t listen to each other.  Okay, yes, we have many serious problems in the U.S. today, but many of them could be solved if we simply took time to listen … really listen … to each other and consider what the other person is saying.  Instead, we have preconceived ideas and, so sure that our own ideas are the right ones, we barely listen to those with opposing viewpoints, or from whom we might learn something.

Yesterday, I came across a Facebook post by a white woman who took the time to listen to a black man, who asked questions and pondered the answers, who learned from someone whose life experiences differ vastly from her own.  Her post has thus far received more than 220,000 views and some 182,000 shares.  I think this piece is well worth sharing, for we can all do a better job listening and learning from others, making the world a little bit better.  This is the sort of civil discourse that will eventually lead the way forward for this nation …


Caroline Crockett Brock

I am a 45 year old white woman living in the south, and today was the first time I spoke frankly about racism with a black man.

When Ernest Skelton, my appliance repairman, came to the front door, I welcomed him in. As this was his second visit and we’d established a friendly rapport, I asked him how he was feeling in the current national climate. Naturally, he assumed I was talking about the coronavirus, because what white person actually addresses racism head on, in person, in their own home?

When Ernest realized I wanted to know about his experience with racism, he began answering my questions.

What’s it like for you on a day-to-day basis as a black man? Do cops ever give you any trouble?

The answers were illuminating.

Ernest, a middle-aged, friendly, successful business owner, gets pulled over in Myrtle Beach at least 6 times a year. He doesn’t get pulled over for traffic violations, but on the suspicion of him being a suspect in one crime or another. Mind you, he is in uniform, driving in a work van clearly marked with his business on the side. They ask him about the boxes in his car–parts and pieces of appliances. They ask to see his invoices and ask him why there is money and checks in his invoice clipboard. They ask if he’s selling drugs. These cops get angry if he asks for a badge number or pushes back in any way. Everytime he is the one who has to explain himself, although they have no real cause to question him.

Ernest used to help folks out after dark with emergencies. Not anymore. He does not work past dinnertime, not because he doesn’t need the business, but because it isn’t safe for him to be out after dark. He says “There’s nothing out there in the world for me past dark”.

Let me say that again. Ernest, a middle aged black man in uniform cannot work past dark in Myrtle Beach in 2020 because it’s not safe for him. He did not say this with any kind of agenda. It was a quiet, matter of fact truth.

A truth that needs to be heard.

When I asked Ernest what ethnic terms he gets offended at, he said that the most offensive term people use is ‘boy’. Ernest has a bachelors in electronics and an associates in HVAC. He is not a ‘boy’, and the term ‘boy’ in the south implies inferiority in station and status. He came to Myrtle Beach and got a job at Hobart. The supervisor repeatedly used the term ‘boy’. Ernest complained. After several complaints Ernest was fired.

Ernest says most white people are a little scared of him, and he’s often put in a position where he has to prove himself, as though he’s not qualified to repair appliances.

After getting a job for 2 years at Sears appliance, Ernest started his own company, one he’s been running for several years. He is the best repairman we’ve had, and has taught me about washer dryers and how to maintain them myself, even helping me with another washer/dryer set and a dishwasher without charging me. I highly recommend his company, Grand Strand Appliance.

I asked Ernest what he thought of “black bike week” in Myrtle Beach, where thousands of black people come with bullet bikes and trash our town. He says it hurts black people in our city, and he disagrees with the NAACP coming in to sue businesses that close on black bike week. He hates working that week.

Ernest doesn’t have hope that racism will change, no matter who the president is. His dad taught him “It’s a white man’s world”, and he’s done his best to live within it.

When I asked him what I could do, he said, “everyone needs to pray and realize we’re all just one country and one people”.

I am a 45 year old white woman living in the south. I can begin healing our country by talking frankly with African Americans in my world—by LISTENING to their lived experience and speaking up. I can help by actively promoting black owned businesses. That’s what I can do today. Let’s start by listening and lifting up. It’s that simple.

Edit: I asked Ernest if I could take his picture and post our conversation on facebook. He thought it was a great idea. As he left my house an hour later, he looked me in the eye and said, “If you ever march, or have a meeting on this topic, or want to change things in Myrtle Beach, I’ll stand with you.”Ernest-SkeltonWhat a great idea. Let’s begin standing together.
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Edit: 1pm EST on 6/1. Ernest just called me and we had one of the sweetest moments, both laughing and crying about the response to this post. He started the conversation by saying, “Caroline, I don’t know if I should kill you or kiss you–my phone is ringing off the hook!”
He doesn’t have a FB profile, so he’s coming over later so I can help him set one up. He’s been absolutely overwhelmed, as have I, with the response. We’re going to be sitting down together to read your comments. They mean so much. In addition, the Myrtle Beach city manager has contacted me and I’m getting all of us together to be sure this doesn’t happen in our city any longer. THANK YOU WORLD.

Edit 6/2 9am. Just got off the phone with Ernest and the local news. They will be interviewing us today, and it will be on the local news in Myrtle beach tonight. I’ll post it on my page later.

Edit 6/7. Ernest and I ended up marching together at a peaceful protest in Myrtle Beach! It was a lovely day and we went out to lunch with our spouses afterwards. What a whirlwind of events! Check out my FB live of the protest!

Edit 6/8: Ernest and I met today with a web designer to make sure his facebook and business pages are linked, so he’s good to go there! I spoke with an investigator at the MB police department who was top notch. More to follow.
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This is how we change our country. Normal folks. One town at a time. ❤️
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Caroline Crockett Brock

What a difference between this, and the couple in St. Louis pointing guns at people marching peacefully down their street in protest of Mayor Lyda Krewson’s decision to publish the names and addresses of people in favor of police reform.

Trump/Putin … Which Is Worse?

I came across this in The Guardian last night and felt it was well worth sharing. It is chilling, and at the same time thought-provoking.


Interview

Masha Gessen: ‘I never thought I’d say it, but Trump is worse than Putin’

Lisa O’Kelly

Four years ago, the author predicted that Trump would transform the US into an autocracy. Now, Gessen believes the country is in a revolutionary moment

Masha Gessen is a Russian-American author and journalist who has been writing about Vladimir Putin and other modern autocrats for two decades. After Donald Trump was elected president of the United States in 2016, they wrote an essay in the New York Review of Books arguing that it was folly to regard him as a regular politician and predicting that he would attempt to transform America into a Putin-style autocracy. Gessen’s new book, Surviving Autocracy, demonstrates how Trump has come closer to achieving autocratic rule than most people would have thought possible.

How do you feel about your predictions having come to pass?

If you look at the essay, I think it holds up awfully well, unfortunately. There’s nothing in it that I would walk back. At the same time, a lot of the things that have happened in the past three years have shocked me.

Such as?

The latest scene with the bible in front of St John’s church, for instance. The iconography of that, including the clearing of the square with tear gas, the Black Hawk helicopters – it was chilling.

Who’s worse, Putin or Trump?

In a way, I think Trump is worse. I never thought I would hear myself say that. They share a lot of characteristics although they are temperamentally extremely different men. They both have this contempt for excellence, they both have a hatred of government, and they both have this way of campaigning against government as such, even as presidents of their respective countries. I think in the end, Putin is somewhat less cynical. He has an idea – it is self-aggrandising and absurd on the face of it – that if he stepped away Russia would fall apart and so he has to carry this burden. And for his labours he deserves to have the yachts and the palaces and all that. But he is doing it for his country. Trump doesn’t even have that delusion. It’s all power and money in their purest form. And you could dig as deep as you want, you would never find a shred of responsibility.

Masha-Gessen

Masha Gessen. Photograph: Christopher Lane/The Observer

Can Americans rely on their institutions – the electoral system, the judiciary, the free press – to save them from Trump’s autocracy?
There’s a way in which Americans think about our institutions as a kind of religion. There’s a faith in the wisdom of the founding fathers who put down these sacred words, this idea that we have the perfect self-repairing system and it will run in perpetuity if we don’t spoil it. The problem is that many of these institutions are enshrined in political culture rather than in law, and all of them depend on the good faith of the people running them to fulfil their purpose and uphold the constitution. So when someone like Trump becomes president, the institutions become vulnerable. As an example, I think we have seen in the last couple of weeks just how effective Trump’s attempts to weaken the national press have been.

How so?
I am talking about the way that the police throughout the country have brutally targeted the media during the Black Lives Matter protests. That’s something that I saw as a foreign correspondent in war zones where there was really no sense of any kind of rules or laws. This happened because for the past four years Trump has been vilifying the media, portraying the media as the enemy of the people, as part of the problem, as part of the great conspiracy to unseat him. And that’s very terrifying.

You were born in Russia, spent your teenage years in America then moved back to Moscow as an adult. Do you feel more Russian or American?
It doesn’t really work that way. But when you have emigrated as often as I have, you learn the benefits of being an outsider. I am very comfortable not belonging. I find it extremely beneficial to my work as a journalist to be highly attuned to this culture yet at the same time hovering outside of it. I do sometimes bristle at this idea people have that my having been born in Russia qualifies me to talk about Donald Trump. I’d rather people said 25 years of studying totalitarianism qualifies me to talk about Donald Trump.

What is the most important rule for surviving autocracy?
For the state of one’s soul, for the state of one’s mind, I think it is absolutely essential to protest and show outrage. Does that have political consequences? Not immediately and not on its own. But I think what we’re seeing in America right now is several steps on from outrage. It’s outrage, plus organising, plus sustained political activity. The big question is how sustained will it be? If it is sustained in some manner, then I think we are in a revolutionary moment. In the book I talk about how in order to actually survive Trump’s attempt at autocracy we have to give up the idea of some imaginary pre-Trumpian normalcy and commit to reinvention. And that is really what these protests are about.

I don’t think there is anyone who is involved who would say: “Oh, we just have to get rid of Trump.” These protests are about the fatal flaw at the root of this democracy and that’s a really upsetting idea for a lot of somewhat conservative commentators. But culturally and politically Americans have a story of being born of protest. These protests are calling for an American reinvention. They are protesting for a more perfect union.

  • Surviving Autocracy by Masha Gessen is published by Granta (£12). To order a copy for go to guardianbookshop.com. Free UK p&p over £15

U.S. readers can check out Mr. Gessen’s book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble

She looked the hater in the eyes

There is a right way and a wrong way to make a point … our friend Keith writes of a young woman who made her point the right way … take a look! Thanks, Keith!

musingsofanoldfart

Peaceful protests are happening in huge numbers around the country regarding Black Lives Matter. There is danger from both the COVID-19 virus as well as counter protestors. From what I have seen, most of the protestors are wearing masks and they are outside, but they still need to be very careful.

As for the other risk of counter protestors, here is what one young black woman named Samantha Francine did. Her actions are captured in an article written by Asta Bowen in the Jackson Hole News and Guide on June 10 called “Looking hate in the eye in Whitefish.” Here are few paragraphs. A link to the article is below.

“What happened here was much less dramatic. On a fine afternoon in the pretty ski town of Whitefish, a group was gathered to raise signs of support for Black Lives Matter. One large, angry man descended on the scene, cursing…

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Inhumanity

I know the majority of people in this … or any nation … are decent human beings who care about the planet, wildlife, and their fellow humans.  At least … I hope that’s still the case.  But those ‘bad apples’ sure do stink and they seem to be everywhere you look!  The latest example that slapped me across the face this morning was this one …bitch-womanThis woman was part of a counter-protest during a Black Lives Matter event in Branson, Missouri, on Sunday.  Okay, the confederate flag is offensive enough, but we’re used to the fools waving those things around. And the maga hat … it doesn’t even offend anymore … it is a joke.  It was what she screeched at the Black Lives Matter protestors that caused my jaw to drop …

“I will teach my grandkids to hate you all!”

Then she got to her feet with her Confederate flag and screamed, “suck on this.”  What sort of human being does this?  What is our society turning into?  I think some people in this nation have taken their 1st Amendment ‘rights’ just a bit too far!  Frankly, if I had been there, I likely would have lit fire to her damn rebel flag.  Rebellion is one thing … hate is quite another.

So, this woman will teach her grandchildren to hate black people.  Just when we think we’re making progress, that perhaps we can finally begin to end racism in this country, we have people teaching the youngest among us to hate … to hate only because of the colour of another’s skin.  How, then, can we ever end racism?  It is being passed down from one generation to the next by narrow-minded, arrogant, ignorant people.

On Sunday, days after NASCAR announced the banning of the confederate flag at their events, a noose was found in Bubba Wallace’s garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.  Wallace is the only full-time black NASCAR driver and a supporter of Black Lives Matter.  A noose.  The symbol of lynchings.  Why?  Because his skin is black, because some of those southern ‘good ol’ boys’ are angry at the banning of their symbol of slavery, the confederate flag.

I sit here looking out my window, watching the neighbor’s two dogs playing in the yard.  One is chestnut brown, the other dappled grey, and yet … they are equal.  They have fun together, they live together, share the same food dishes, and snif each other’s butts with never a care for the colour of their fur.  Not long ago, I saw a story of a dog who raised a kitten … not only was their fur a different colour, but they were of two different species … yet it did not matter to them.  Humans believe that they are the highest of all species, that their opposable thumbs and larger brains make them somehow superior.  I don’t think so.

Babies are not born hating.  Go visit a playground … notice that all the children play together … black, brown, white … it doesn’t matter to them.  But as they grow into adults, they are either taught that all people are equal and should be judged only on behaviour, not skin colour, not gender, not who their ancestors were, or else they are taught to hate.  They are taught to hate those perceived as “other”, just as that grandmother in Branson is teaching her grandchildren.  And 20 years from now, one of her grandchildren may become that cop who shoots and kills an unarmed black man … just because he can.

Where does it end, folks?  In the 1960s, I thought it was ending.  It wasn’t, it only became unpopular to express bigoted viewpoints, so people kept their opinions largely to themselves, else aired them only among those who they knew shared their views.  And in the past few weeks, since the brutal murder of George Floyd, with Civil War monuments coming down, protests gaining momentum, and calls for major changes in law enforcement, I once again thought that perhaps we were making some progress.  And perhaps some of us are, but as long as there are people who value their icons of slavery, who believe that people of colour are somehow inferior, we’re not going to end racism.  I think, well … the older generation will die out and the young people today are smarter, more compassionate.  But … not if they’re taught to hate.

Our friend Keith wrote a post a week or so ago titled, “Bad Apples Will Spoil the Bunch”.   How many ‘bad apples’ like the grandmother in Branson, like the person who put the noose in Bubba Wallace’s garage stall, are there among us?  How many more will they infect with their hideous disease?  Racism is a disease far more lethal than the coronavirus, for it is passed down from one generation to the next, and there will never be a vaccine.