A Class Act — Ilhan Omar

It has nothing to do with how much money a person has, nor does it relate to a person’s position in society.  You cannot purchase it … you either have it, or you don’t.  Barack and Michelle Obama both have it in spades.  Donald and Melania Trump do not.  What is it, you ask?  It is a thing called ‘class’.

U.S. House Representative Ilhan Omar has this thing called class. ilhan-omarMs. Omar has been the target of some of the most vicious racist and Islamophobic threats and verbal attacks imaginable.  Why?  Because she is a Muslim, because the ‘man’ who is masquerading as president of this nation has instilled a fear of ‘other’ into some 40% of our population and has, in fact, launched a personal attack against Ms. Ilhan.

And yet through it all, she has retained her grace and dignity.

Back in March, Patrick W. Carlineo Jr. of Addison, New York, called Ms. Ilhan’s D.C. office and spoke to a staff member …

“Do you work for the Muslim Brotherhood? Why are you working for her, she’s a [expletive] terrorist. Somebody ought to put a bullet in her skull. I’ll put a bullet in her [expletive] skull.”

patrick-carlineoOn Monday, November 18th, Mr. Carlineo pleaded guilty to threatening to assault and murder the freshman congresswoman and for being a felon in possession of firearms.  He faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Carlineo hates Muslims and even went so far as to tell the FBI when they began their investigation into him, “if our forefathers were still alive, they’d put a bullet in her head”.

Ms. Ilhan, whose life he threatened, however asks for compassion for the man …

“We must apply a system of compassion to criminal justice. Who are we as a nation if we respond to threats of political retribution with retribution ourselves?”

This, folks, is class.  It is compassion.  It is human decency.

Although she had just turned 19 when, on 11 September 2001, 19 Middle-Eastern terrorists flew planes into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania, some have sought to place the blame, by extension, on her shoulders.  Trump himself re-tweeted an obnoxious tweet several months ago that falsely claimed she was seen partying in the aftermath of 9/11.  And, in the West Virginia State Capitol, a poster was at a table in the Capitol’s rotunda …ilhan-omar-911The poster led to a brawl outside the House of Delegates that eventually spilled into the chamber, where at least one person was injured.  The body’s sergeant at arms submitted a letter of resignation at the end of the day after being accused of a making an anti-Muslim slur during the dispute.

And then in August, Ms. Omar received an anonymous death threat …ilhan-omar-death-threatThis was shortly after Trump said that Ms. Omar and three other Congresswomen of colour should “go back to the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came”, and then-Senate candidate from Alabama, Roy Moore, echoed Trump, saying “… Trump was right, she should go back to Somalia from whence she came”.  When such ugly talk comes from our politicians, especially the faux president, is it really any wonder she receives death threats?

And that brings us to this week, when her republican challenger in next year’s election, Daniella Stella, got herself and her campaign banned from Twitter for her hateful tweets.  On Tuesday, she posted …

“If it is proven @IlhanMN passed sensitive info to Iran, she should be tried for #treason and hanged.”

And she followed up with an image of a stick-figure being hanged.  Her reference to Ms. Omar passing “sensitive info to Iran” stems from a conspiracy theory started by Canadian businessman Alan Bender who has links to the Saudi government, and he implicates everyone from Jared Kushner to Ty Cobb to Ms. Omar.  The story has been proven false, yet apparently Ms. Stella failed to get that memo.

Danielle-StellaThis is not the first time that Daniella Stella has come onto my radar.  Back in July, I wrote a snippet about her having been arrested twice for shoplifting, and once for trying to outrun the police when they stopped her for driving drunk!  She is also a supporter of the conspiracy group QAnon, if that tells you anything.  I don’t think Ilhan Omar needs to worry overly much about keeping her seat next year, if Ms. Stella is the best the Republican Party of Minnesota has to offer!

I began this post talking about class.  What is class, exactly?  It can be a lot of things – being kind and compassionate, being calm in the face of adversity, walking away from a fight.  Class is one of those things that … you know it when you see it.  Class is definitely not defined by racism or any other form of bigotry.  It is not defined by cruelty.  Those who would attack Ms. Ilhan Omar simply because of her ethnicity, her religion, or the fact that she is a woman, are the ones who have no class.  Ms. Ilhan Omar has more of it in her little finger than Donald Trump, Roy Moore, Daniella Stella, and Patrick Carlineo combined.

Note to readers:  Saturday Surprise will return next week … probably.

What Have We Become?

Politics is one of those things that we have a bit of fun with up to a point, then it turns ugly and the fun turns to heartburn.  Okay, that is the norm, it is what it is, what it has always been.  I accept that, as I am certainly incapable of changing it.  But there is a line.  It isn’t even a fine line, but a broad, coarse line that should never be crossed.  When, due to political disharmony, debate, disagreement, the families of candidates or others involved in the political process are threatened or harmed, that crosses the line.  No if’s, and’s, or but’s … it crosses the line and anyone involved in it should be prosecuted and imprisoned.  Period.  No grace.

Colorado GOP Chairman Steve House began receiving death threats in the wake of the controversial republican caucus on March 1st.  His home phone number was published by angry Trump supporters who were upset (to say the least) with the outcome of the caucus.  Within hours, Mr. House had logged over 2,000 calls, some threatening harm to himself, and some to his family.  FOUL.  It is never appropriate to issue a death threat, not even in a moment of rage, not even in jest.  Even the 1st amendment does not protect this type of speech. Now, I admit the Colorado caucuses are just about as confusing as any political contest in the nation and I do not fully understand it myself*.  So, thus is the nature of politics, but you never threaten a person and you never ever threaten his family.  Have I made myself clear on this?  One particular threat against Mr. House himself went like this: “Do me a favor: Get your gun, put it in your mouth, pull the trigger, I’ll call you back in two minutes. If you can’t do that, I’m gonna send somebody over to the house and help you.”  YU-HSI LEE, Think Progress, 14 April 2016 

It doesn’t stop there, either.  Trump’s own family, as I reported in an earlier post, was threatened when his son, Eric, received a threatening letter containing white powder.  The powder turned out to be a harmless substance, but the letter threatened “harm will come to the kids” if Donald Trump did not pull out of the presidential race.  Tom John, the Indiana GOP’s 7th District Committee Chairman received an anonymous email telling him that he is “being watched” after he told Politico that Trump “doesn’t represent what I want my party to represent.” Trump ally Roger Stone once threatened to send supporters to delegates’ hotel rooms if they switched from Trump to another candidate. What are we becoming?  This is not the politicians, this is not the candidates, this is us.  The people indulging in these acts are citizens, everyday average citizens.  Politics is ugly, yes, but this is beyond ugly, it is beyond the boundaries of normalcy, it is unacceptable.  The candidates, Trump in particular, have done more than their share to stir the pot, to bring about this culture of hysterics, of fear, of violence and hate.  But that does not give us carte blanche to threaten anyone’s lives.  We are better than this, or at least we are supposed to be.

There are some who are apathetic to these types of threats, and they are as guilty as the perpetrators.  I immensely dislike Donald Trump, but I would never threaten bodily harm or death to him or his family.  Those who would are a sub-human lifeform in my book.  As a small child, I was taught sportsmanship.  I was taught that it is just as important to be a gracious loser as a gracious winner.  Apparently we no longer teach our children those values.  No matter what Donald Trump says or does, and make no mistake, he is the most noxious, vitriolic candidate I have seen in my lifetime, neither he nor his children should need to fear for their personal safety, for their lives.  Never the children.

* I plan to attempt to explain the process in a later post.

More on Trayvon Martin …

I didn’t want to write another post on the whole Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case. Enough people are offering their opinions and the media is certainly doing more than their fair share in keeping the case at the forefront of everyone’s minds without me adding my two cents worth. When asked if I would write a follow-up to my initial blog, I said, “No, absolutely not. Let America begin to heal so that eventually cooler heads may prevail.” And I meant it. And yet, here I am, fingers going where my mind really doesn’t want to go anymore. And it all started with a conversation with my granddaughter. When I happened to mention one evening that even the jurors and George Zimmerman’s parents were receiving death threats, I was surprised by her emphatic, “Good … they should!” This was definitely not the reaction I expected from my typically tolerant teen, and it was then that I began to think we, all of us, needed to be talked down off the ledge of anger and emotion so that some truly meaningful dialog could take place, conversation that might, just might stand a chance at helping avoid similar disasters in the future by helping us figure out what really went wrong and what should have happened and what we can do to ensure those things that went wrong do not go wrong next time. So here I sit on a Sunday night, writing the column I never intended to write.

First off, let me just say that death threats against George Zimmerman, his parents, the prosecutors or the jury are not helpful. It adds fuel to an already out-of-control blaze and never have two wrongs equaled a right, to use an old cliché. Death threats against anybody, for any reason, are a tool of the under-educated and the mind that is limited to using acts of violence as a solution to a complex problem. Most of us realize this and the majority of those who uttered such foolishness out of emotion in the hours immediately following the verdict will have, by now, allowed their wiser, saner minds to kick into gear and are feeling pretty foolish, hoping nobody heard or remembers what they said a week ago. The rest are in the minority and would prefer to add to the problem rather than be a part of the solution. That mentality is undeserving of any response.

So much has been said about this case and the ultimate verdict that my head spins. I’ve heard that it was definitely a racist crime, that the outcome of the trial was a result of Florida’s now-infamous “Stand Your Ground” law, that the jurors were somehow coerced, that the prosecution did a poor job, that the prosecution should have gone for a lesser charge, that there were an extraordinary amount of gun-related deaths in Chicago over the July 4th weekend and nobody cares about those, that a white kid was killed by a black kid and nobody cares, that black-on-black crime is flourishing and nobody cares, that Trayvon Martin was on top of Zimmerman beating him to death, that George Zimmerman was on top of Trayvon Martin beating him to death, and on and on and on, ad nauseum. Some of which is true fact, but not pertinent to the issue at hand; some of which is exaggerated or only half-truths; and some of which is blatantly untrue. Not surprisingly, depending which side of the issue you weigh in on, you have a different story to relate. However, none of this is helpful and all of it is designed, whether intentionally or not, to distract our attention from the core of the issue. The core of the issue can be narrowed down to a few simple questions: is shooting a gun into an unarmed person’s body at point-blank range an appropriate use of force? Should a community security guard be allowed to carry a loaded weapon? Should said security guard be held accountable for firing that weapon and taking the life of an innocent, unarmed person whom he had no reason to believe was committing a crime? We will never know exactly what transpired that night. A friend argues that Trayvon Martin was atop George Zimmerman beating him savagely and George Zimmerman feared for his life. However, as his injuries did not appear to support that assumption and the only “eye-witness” is unreliable, we don’t know. We cannot know what George Zimmerman thought was going to happen. The first step here is to understand and admit that we really just don’t know who was beating whom, for how long, or how badly. Since we don’t know and cannot know this, then, is a moot point and must be left out of the equation, so that we can come to some fact-based understanding. What we do know is that when George Zimmerman initially contacted the police to let them know he saw somebody he was suspicious of, he was told by police to stay in his car. We know he disobeyed that order by police. Disobeying a direct police order is a crime. That is an undisputable fact. We know that Trayvon Martin was initially guilty of nothing more than walking on the street on his way home from a local convenience store. That is not a crime. We may strongly suspect that George Zimmerman’s reaction to this young man was altered by the fact that he was African-American, but we cannot know this for a fact, so it is a supposition at best and really cannot be considered in any intelligent discourse. All the other comments about other crimes and incidents that have taken place in other places, other times, no doubt deserve analysis of their own, but they are not relevant to this situation and should not be a part of any conversation about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. As I see it, there are only two things that could have been done in the initial scenario that would have resulted in a different, happier outcome. The first is that George Zimmerman could have stayed in his car as ordered by the police and either let Trayvon Martin have a safe journey home or let the police come sort it all out, which would have been appropriate. The other is that, immediately upon sensing Mr. Zimmerman following him, Trayvon Martin could have turned and gone back into the convenience store, if it was in fact close enough, and called the police or a parent to report that he was being followed, which would also have almost certainly resulted in a less disastrous outcome. What is the lesson here? I think it is two-fold: we need to really review procedures for security guards who patrol public areas. Should they be armed with loaded guns? Probably not. A Billy club, a can of mace, or even a stun gun should be adequate for most situations. And if we as a society are teaching our children to defend themselves, let us also teach them that to do so should be only as a last resort, that the best option is to get into a safe place and call police, a parent or other trusted adult. This should apply whether the person is Caucasian, African-American, Asian, Hispanic or Middle Eastern. It should be the advice we all give our children, regardless of race.

I am not saying that racism wasn’t a factor; quite possibly it was. I am simply saying that it isn’t the key factor we need to be looking at right now in order to prevent a repeat of this very tragic outcome. The issue of racism is a whole other issue, as is the issue of whether Stand Your Ground laws should be repealed and whether stronger gun regulation laws are needed. Those of you who know me know that I most likely have opinions on those issues also and that sooner or later those discussions will appear on this blog. For today, though, let’s stick to one issue at a time and maybe, just maybe, we can stay focused long enough to make a difference. And last, but certainly not least, let us not threaten death or bodily harm to jurors and lawyers who are just trying to do their jobs. It isn’t a reflection on them, but on us, and it helps not at all.