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.

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…

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Then … And Now, 2020

Today, June 17th, marks the 135th anniversary of the arrival of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbour.  I did a post similar to this one last year on this date (actually, a couple of days late), but this year my point is still valid and so I have updated it to reflect the differences between then and now.  The main difference this year is the issue of police brutality, and I have added some pictures to reflect this.

The statue arrived dismantled, in 350 individual pieces packed in more than 200 cases, and it would be October of the following year before it was fully re-assembled and dedicated by President Grover Cleveland.  The statue was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States and came to symbolize freedom and democracy.

In 1892, Ellis 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, was placed on an interior wall of the pedestal.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

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, a land where all people, regardless of race or religion, would be treated equally.

This is that vision today …

Officer Derek Chauvin with hands in pockets kneeling on George Floyd's neck

2-year-old immigrant girl crying as mother is arrested by ICE

Police shooting tear gas against protestors

Immigrant boy behind wire cage

Line of police advancing on protestors on Capitol Hill

kids in cages at the southern border

Police knock down 75-year-old man and walk by without stopping

barbed wire and immigrants lying in the dirt

white supremacists giving Nazi salute with huge swastika burningIt’s funny that the longer humans are on this earth, the more ‘developed’ our society becomes, the better educated we become, the less tolerant and compassionate we are.Statue of Liberty crying

 

 

It’s Time To End The Civil War …

Among my favourite columnists is Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post … he always seems able to cut through the detritus and get to the heart of the matter, to make sense out of chaos.  His column yesterday is no exception and I thought very worthy of being shared here.  I also highly recommend you check out his link to the 1619 Project, an ongoing project developed by The New York Times Magazine in 2019 with the goal of re-examining the legacy of slavery in the United States and timed for the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans in Virginia.


Trump might go down in history as the last president of the Confederacy

Eugene-RobinsonBy Eugene Robinson 

Columnist

June 11, 2020 at 4:27 p.m. EDT

It should have happened 155 years ago, when Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, but maybe — just maybe — the Civil War is finally coming to an end. And perhaps Donald Trump, not Jefferson Davis, will go down in history as the last president of the Confederacy.

Symbols like flags and monuments matter, because what they symbolize is our vision of ourselves as a nation: the heroes, battles, movements, sacrifices and ideals we honor. So when I see multiracial crowds toppling the statues of Confederate soldiers and politicians, when I see respected military leaders arguing that Army posts should no longer bear the names of Confederate generals, when I see NASCAR banning displays of the Confederate battle flag at its races — witnessing all of this, I let hope triumph over experience and allow myself to imagine that this may indeed be a transformational moment.

Like the Civil War itself, “Lost Cause” symbology is simply and entirely about white supremacy. It has nothing to do with “heritage” or “tradition” or any such gauzy nonsense. The heavily armed “liberate Michigan” mob that invaded the statehouse in Lansing, egged on by President Trump, had no historical reason to be waving the Confederate flag. That banner represents the knee that has been kept on the necks of African Americans not just for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the time Derek Chauvin spent crushing the life out of George Floyd, but for 401 years

Lee’s surrender ended nothing, because the nation did not even begin to grapple with white supremacy. Reconstruction was strangled in its infancy; true racial reconciliation was never even attempted. The statue of Davis in Richmond, brought down by protesters Wednesday night, was not erected until 1907. Like almost all of the Lost Cause monuments, it was built during the revanchist era, when Southern whites were celebrating their reestablished dominance over African Americans via repressive Jim Crow laws and the terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan.

Many recall that the Confederate flag at the South Carolina statehouse was taken down in 2015 following the massacre of nine African American worshipers by a white supremacist at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston. Few realize that the racist flag had been installed at the statehouse not in 1861 but a century later, in 1961, when black South Carolinians like my parents were agitating for the right to vote.

The killing of Floyd has provoked a national moment of reckoning with police violence and white supremacy. But the position of the Trump administration is that systemic racism does not even exist — that our unexamined and unaddressed racial problems all come down to a few “bad apples” here and there.

Perhaps in an attempt to gain political advantage — and perhaps, as much evidence suggests, because it’s what he truly believes — Trump has used this moment to side with Lost Cause white supremacy. His all-caps tweets for “LAW & ORDER” sound like George Wallace when he was governor of Alabama; his demand for a militarized response to the protests reminds me of Bull Connor, the Birmingham commissioner of public safety who attacked nonviolent civil rights protesters with water hoses and vicious dogs.

When it was reported that high-ranking Army officials are open to stripping the names of Confederate generals from military posts such as Fort Bragg, Fort Benning and Fort Hood, Trump reacted instantly. He tweeted Wednesday that he “will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations.”

Trump claimed, ridiculously, that the names are somehow part of the nation’s “history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom.” He may be historically ignorant enough not to know that the generals in question were traitors as famous for the battles they lost as for any of their triumphs; that ultimate victory went to the Union, not the Confederacy; and that the whole point of the rebellion was to deny freedom to African Americans. Or he may know these facts but believe his political base doesn’t.

Just hours later, however, NASCAR banned the Confederate flag. If there is one sporting venue that Trump might think of as a safe space, it would be a NASCAR race — until now. Heck, I might even go watch a race when the pandemic ends.

Trump must be bewildered. Unsubtle appeals to racial animus (remember his “birther” lies) have always worked for him in the past, but now he seems to be flailing. If it turns out that the Lost Cause is finally, truly lost, then so is the president who made himself its champion.

Bigotry – you have to be carefully taught (from “South Pacific’)

I shall let our friend Keith’s words speak for themselves, for he makes the case far more eloquently than I could …

musingsofanoldfart

I have often cited these words, but the following is from a post I wrote several years ago. I repeat it hear due to its relevance today.

For those of you who have seen the play or movie “South Pacific” by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, you may recognize part of the title as a pivotal song in the story – “You’ve Got to be CarefullyTaught.” The play involves a woman who falls in love with someone and then realizes his children are half islanders. She has a hard time coming to grips with her bigotry as according to the song, we are not born hating; hatred has to be carefully taught. A sample of Hammerstein’s lyrics follow:

“You’ve got to be taught, to hate and fear. You’ve got to be taught, from year to year. It’s got to be drummed in your dear little head. You’ve got to be…

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DAMN YOU, Donald Trump

The news of the day is that the U.S. unemployment rate fell in May to 13.3%.  Ho hum … yawn.  First … don’t be fooled.  Yes, with the re-opening of businesses, employees were called back to work and thus the unemployment rate was destined to fall, though I would question the 13.3% rate, as the figure comes from the federal government, and thus is not to be believed.  Plus … just last week, new unemployment claims totaled over 1.9 million.  Plus … with the re-opening of businesses and people out and about more, there will be a resurgence of the coronavirus.  Will businesses shut down again?  Quite possibly.jobs-graph

Even the Department of Labour cautioned that data-collection issues that have plagued the agency throughout the crisis continued last month. Some temporarily jobless workers were characterized as “employed” in May; had they been counted correctly, the department said, the unemployment rate would have topped 16 percent.

On the news of the drop in the unemployment rate (which, it should be noted, is still nearly triple what it was in the pre-coronavirus days), the stock market surges.  Stupid people.

More than half of the jobs added were in the food and beverage industry – restaurants and bars.  But even so, business is not what it once was, and once restaurant owners see that they are not making a profit … and they likely won’t for some time yet, as many people are still unwilling to mingle in public … businesses will start to go out of business.  There are so many variables in play that only a fool would take the numbers released today as a sign that the economy is on the rebound.  And speaking of fools …

Donald Trump gave himself his usual disgusting ‘pat on the back’ when the numbers were released this morning, claiming that the jobless numbers represent “the greatest comeback in American history.”  Not true … not even if the numbers were accurate would it be true, but then since when does Trump deal in truisms?  He also tweeted …

“Really Big Jobs Report. Great going President Trump (kidding but true)!”

What a pompous ass.   He had little, if anything, to do with employees being called back to work.  And in yet another foolish tweet, he claimed this single number, shaky as it is and in the midst of a nation afire with racism and police brutality, would cinch his bid for re-election …

“Oh no, the Dems are worried again. The only one that can kill this comeback is Sleepy Joe Biden!”

But all the bullshit aside, in his impromptu news conference this morning in the Rose Garden, he crossed a line when he said …

“We all saw what happened last week. We can’t let that happen. Hopefully, George is looking down right now, and saying, ‘This is a great thing that’s happening for our country.’ This is a great day for him. It’s a great day for everybody. This is a great day for everybody. This is a great, great day in terms of equality.”

I was speechless when I read this … speechless for all of about 3 seconds until I let forth a string of expletives worthy of a truck driver.  How could anybody with a shred of human decency, anybody with even a tiny bit of conscience, make such a ludicrous, offensive statement?  But then, decency and conscience are not things that Trump has ever been accused of having.  Still … this is perhaps a new low for even him.

No, Donald, this is not a “great day” for George Floyd who was brutally murdered on May 25th.  It is not a great day for this nation, which is burning down around us.  It is not a great day for virtually anyone living in the United States, though some are not capable of realizing it.  Damn you, Donald Trump … just DAMN YOU.

What is White Privilege?

Jeff’s post needs no introduction from me — it speaks for itself. Thank you, Jeff.

On The Fence Voters

I’d like to share something with all of you. I’m not on Facebook, nor do I like Facebook. I think the platform is intrusive and, quite frankly, a danger to America in many ways, especially now, with the complicit Mark Zuckerberg refusing to fact check any political ads, regardless of whether they are outright lies. That’s a story for another day.

But while I’m not a participant on the platform, my wife is, and she shared a post with me that’s been getting a lot of attention. It’s very subtle and understated, but it shows the sheer volume of young black men and women who’ve lost their lives in recent years. For, quite simply, being a person of color in America and engaging in activities that many of us could never imagine might jeopardize our lives.

I do not have that problem. I’m white and have never once been stopped…

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When Silence Is NOT Golden …

There is an old saying that, “Silence is golden”.  Sometimes that may well be true … I utter that line frequently when Trump is heard going off on another of his many tangents.  But, there are times when silence is criminal.

Last week, as you all know, a man by the name of George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, who kept his knee pressed into Mr. Floyd’s throat for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, causing Mr. Floyd’s death by asphyxiation.  Chauvin has been arrested and charged with murder and manslaughter, for which he could be sentenced to as much as 15½ years, or as little as 3½ years.  George Floyd will still be dead when Chauvin is released from prison.

But, there were four officers at the scene.  What did the other three officers do?  Not a damn thing.  They stood there looking on while their compadre killed a man for no reason.  In my book, they are just about as guilty as Chauvin, for they could have stopped him and instead they stood silently by.

Who were the other three officers?  We haven’t seen much about them in the media, have we?

  • Tou Thao, videotaped watching as Chauvin continued to press on Floyd’s neck with his knee, has left Minnesota, his lawyer confirmed Friday. Criminal defense attorney Robert Paule said Thao is “safely elsewhere” and that he couldn’t comment further.
  • J Alexander Kueng, one of the two first officers at the scene who helped pin Floyd down, is believed to be staying with family in Minneapolis.
  • Thomas K. Lane has left and didn’t tell anyone where he was going, a relative said Friday.

Although Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced murder and manslaughter charges against Chauvin and said he anticipated charges against Thao, Kueng and Lane, no such charges have been filed as yet … more than one week since Mr. Floyd’s murder on May 25th.  WHY???  It isn’t rocket science, Thao, Kueng, and Lane were complicit in the murder of George Floyd.  Are prosecutors hoping it will all simply disappear, as the three former officers have done?  Not.  Gonna.  Happen.

enablersThere were bystanders who can be heard on the video yelling at Chauvin to let him go, to remove his knee, to no avail.  But the bystanders … where was the one brave enough to push Chauvin off Mr. Floyd?  Sure, he probably would have been arrested, but so what, if he saved a life?  He (or she) wouldn’t have stayed in jail long, once the facts of the matter were revealed.  Where was that brave soul?  Not in the group of gawkers, that’s for sure.  Would you or I have been that courageous bystander?  I like to think I would have, but when push came to shove, would I have, or am I all talk and no moxie?

Courage.  It’s something within us that we likely don’t even realize is there until one day something happens and we just jump into the fray.  Twice in my adult life, there have been situations where I found that my brain disengaged completely, adrenaline took over, and I plunged into the middle of a fight, once stopping a man from beating his wife, another time keeping a group of teens from hurting a younger child.  Would I have jumped on Chauvin?  I still cannot say.  It’s one thing to threaten a man with a rolling pin if he hits his wife again, and quite another to assault a police officer who has a gun!

The point that I’m trying to make, though, is a larger point.  I have friends … we all do … who are content to ignore what is happening in the world today so long as their own little lives aren’t affected.  I often hear, “Oh, I ignore the news … it stresses me too much.”  Not all of us can actively protest in the middle of the city, but we can all do something.  Write a letter to the editor of your local paper, write to your representatives and senators in Congress, make your voice heard!  If you can join a peaceful protest (note that I am NOT encouraging any of you to loot or riot, for I cannot cover your bail!), then by all means do so!  But if you cannot, there are other ways of being heard.  Condemn the racism, condemn the attacks on our free press, condemn the rollbacks of environmental regulations … stand for something.  Those who remain silent, who are more interested in posting pictures of their meals on Facebook or playing games rather than waken to the fact that our nation is in crisis, are guilty of supporting the destruction of this nation.  Period.  There are times that silence is golden, but these are not those times.

♫ What’s Going On ♫ (Redux)

Yes, another redux, but … frankly, in light of our circumstances today, there are few songs that fit the times better than this one by Marvin Gaye.  “For only love can conquer hate.”  Enough said …


There’s a lot of history to this song … more than I can cover in a brief blurb here.  The inspiration for the song came from Renaldo “Obie” Benson, a member of the Four Tops, after he and the group’s tour bus arrived at Berkeley on May 15, 1969. While there, Benson witnessed police brutality and violence in the city’s People’s Park during a protest held by anti-war activists in what was hailed later as “Bloody Thursday”.

Upset by what he had seen, he discussed what he witnessed to friend and songwriter Al Cleveland, who in turn wrote and composed a song to reflect Benson’s concerns. Benson wanted to give the song to his group but the other Four Tops turned down the request, saying it was a protest song.

“I said ‘no man, it’s a love song, about love and understanding. I’m not protesting, I want to know what’s going on.'”

In 1970, Benson presented the untitled song to Marvin Gaye, who added a new melody and revised the song to his liking, adding in his own lyrics. Benson later said Gaye tweaked and enriched the song, “added some things that were more ghetto, more natural, which made it seem like a story than a song… we measured him for the suit and he tailored the hell out of it.”

Motown founder Berry Gordy was against Gaye doing the song, saying …

“Motown was about music for all people—white and black, blue and green, cops and the robbers. I was reluctant to have our music alienate anyone. This was a big risk for his image.”

By some accounts there was a bitter quarrel between Gaye and Gordy over the song, but Gordy denies it.

Two bits of trivia about Marvin Gaye that I did not know until tonight:

  • He was married to Berry Gordy’s sister, Anna, from 1963 until their divorce in 1977
  • Marvin Gaye was shot and killed by his own father on 01 April 1984, after breaking up a fight between his parents.  Gaye was one day shy of his 45th birthday.  His father was given a suspended sentence and probation.

And now … What’s Going On …

What’s Going On
Marvin Gaye

Mother, mother
There’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today, eheh

Father, father
We don’t need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today, oh oh oh

Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
Talk to me, so you can see
Oh, what’s going on
What’s going on
Yeah, what’s going on
Ah, what’s going on

In the mean time
Right on, baby
Right on brother
Right on babe

Mother, mother, everybody thinks we’re wrong
Oh, but who are they to judge us
Simply ’cause our hair is long
Oh, you know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some understanding here today
Oh oh oh

Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
C’mon talk to me
So you can see
What’s going on
Yeah, what’s going on
Tell me what’s going on
I’ll tell you what’s going on, ooh ooo ooo ooo
Right on baby
Right on baby

Songwriters: Alfred W Cleveland / Marvin P Gaye / Renaldo Benson
What’s Going On lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Message to the Right: Racism is Alive and Well in America

I realize I have covered this topic already in the last day, but our friend Jeff has written such a thoughtful post, expressing himself far better than I could, that I simply had to share it. Thank you, Jeff.

On The Fence Voters

When it comes to race in this country, I sometimes hesitate to weigh in. After all, I’m a 58-year-old white male. What gives me the right to comment on the plight of African-Americans and other people of color when I haven’t experienced the kind of institutional racism they have?

I’d be remiss if I didn’t say anything, though. The rage I feel inside is real. It’s called empathy, the last time I checked. It’s putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, or at least an ability to think in that manner.

When I see a white cop with his knee on the neck of a black man screaming, “I can’t breathe!” my first instinct is to say to the white policeman, “take your goddamn knee off his neck, you’re killing him!” If that were me suffering the same fate, I’d like to think most would mouth those very same words.

It…

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