The Bright Spots in 2020: Yes, There Were Some

The year 2020 will likely go down as one of the worst in the history of the United States, however … there were bright spots!  Our friend TokyoSand has spent hours and hours digging for the best stories from the past year, and she has done one fantastic job of it!  Please take a few minutes to read her wonderful post, reminding us that all was not lost in this year of the pandemic.


year-in-review

We are very close to putting 2020 behind us, but before we do, let’s take one last look back. Now if you’re thinking this is going to be a dreary look at everything that went wrong, you would be wrong. This list is all about the bright spots of light that appeared throughout the year, including some entries I received from my Twitter friends, plus a handful of editorial cartoons I liked. Let’s take a look:

January

The Supreme Court affirmed that cities may not criminalize conduct that is an unavoidable consequence of experiencing homelessness.

When Trump authorized the killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani (which he may not have had the legal authority to do), anti-war protests were held in over 70 cities and calls from activists poured into Congress. Politicians from both parties, notably in the Senate, pushed back against the administration and passed a resolution to limit Trump’s war powers.

Read TokyoSand’s entire post!

Harry Belafonte Speaks — On The Election

I found it interesting that just yesterday, my music post was The Banana Boat Song, arguably the song that Harry Belafonte is best known for, and then shortly thereafter I came across the following OpEd in the New York Times written by none other than the man himself.

Belafonte, now 93 years of age, is a Jamaican-American singer/songwriter/actor is also known for his activism. He was an early supporter of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s and was a confidant of Martin Luther King Jr. Throughout his career, he has been an advocate for political and humanitarian causes, such as the Anti-Apartheid Movement and USA for Africa.Belafonte-King

Belafonte has won three Grammy Awards (including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award), an Emmy Award, and a Tony Award. In 1989, he received the Kennedy Center Honors. He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1994. In 2014, he received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Academy’s 6th Annual Governors Awards.

I was moved by his OpEd and wanted to share it with you.


Harry Belafonte: Trump Is Standing in Our Way

If the president wins again, we have so much more to lose.

Belafonte-1By Harry Belafonte

Four years ago, when Donald Trump first ran for president, he urged Black people to support him, asking us, “What have you got to lose?”

Four years later, we know exactly what we had to lose. Our lives, as we died in disproportionate numbers from the pandemic he has let flourish among us. Our wealth, as we have suffered disproportionately from the worst economic drop America has seen in 90 years. Our safety, as this president has stood behind those police who kill us in the streets and by the armies of white supremacy who march by night and scheme in the light of day.

We have learned other things from this president, too. We have learned the names that we say now, over and over again, at each protest, so that no one will forget them. The names Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and Atatiana Jefferson and Stephon Clark and so many more. Such killings did not start with Mr. Trump, of course. But he wants us to forget them.

If we do, he has offered us a “Platinum Plan” for “Black Economic Empowerment.” The name is appropriate because Mr. Trump is a man who thinks always in terms of financial transactions and deals. A “Platinum Plan,” as if he is offering to upgrade our credit card status. The plan, which at two pages is derisively brief, offers us a hodgepodge of things that he thinks we would like. He will prosecute the Ku Klux Klan — and antifa activists — as terrorists. He will make Juneteenth a national holiday and lynching a national hate crime. He will create “peaceful” urban, Black neighborhoods, replete with school choice, increased homeownership and the “highest standards” of policing. He will begin “a national clemency project” designed to “right wrongful prosecutions” and “pardon individuals who have reformed.”

In his ignorance or his indifference, or perhaps in his contempt, Mr. Trump does not seem to understand the difference between promises made and promises kept. Another Republican president, Ulysses S. Grant, first suppressed the Klan 150 years ago (and notable by its absence is any Trump promise to suppress the right-wing “militias” of Michigan, the Proud Boys or any of the others). The United States — finally, belatedly — made lynching a federal crime in the civil rights era, almost 60 years ago. Peaceful neighborhoods with affordable homes, good schools, a police force interested in protecting its citizens instead of treating them as an occupied people; safety from domestic terrorists and mob violence, economic opportunity, the celebration of our heritage, and impartial and merciful treatment under the law — these are the rights that most white people in America have long taken for granted, not some sort of concession to be offered as if we were indeed another nation.

Too often, the victories we have won have proved to be ephemeral or incomplete, and our full acceptance as Americans has once again been denied. We have learned to trust only those who will stand with us against the worst storms, who have proved themselves to be our friends not out of electoral expediency but through our shared belief in the best principles of this country and our common humanity.

The polls suggest, we are told, that Mr. Trump has made some small inroads in our vote, that a higher percentage of young Black men will vote for him in 2020 than did in 2016. I have difficulty crediting this. But if it is so, I would urge my brothers to listen better. Not just to the false promises Mr. Trump makes to us, but also at what he says when he is “alone in the room” with his white supporters, promising them at his rallies that if he is re-elected, people of color will not invade their “beautiful suburbs” from our “disgusting cities.”

Mr. Trump is too late. We are everywhere in America. We are in the bone and the blood and the root of the country. We are not going anywhere, certainly not to some fantasy of a new “separate but equal” segregation, we in “our” cities, white people in “their” suburbs.

Perhaps the president is confused by how the Rev. Dr. King Martin Luther King Jr., in his greatest speech, referred to the words of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as a “promissory note to which every American is to fall heir.” Perhaps that gave Mr. Trump the idea that this was all about money. Surely, money — the household stake, the money with which to buy a home, secure a good education, start a family — was a vital goal of the movement then, just as the need for Black people to be made whole, after all the years of slavery and Jim Crow, is still a pressing need today.

But I was there with Dr. King that day, over a half-century ago, in the shadow of Lincoln’s statue, and what he spoke of was “the riches of freedom and the security of justice.” He quoted the most fundamental promise of the Declaration, that all of us have “certain unalienable Rights” — among them “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It seems strange that we must still agitate for these basic rights, or that Mr. Trump thinks he is being magnanimous when he offers them to us again as last-minute campaign promises — so long as we stay in our place. In the past, we have turned the wheel in great bursts of energy and faith, and in between, when we stood exhausted and bloodied, there was some sliding back. That is always how it is in a democracy and a people’s movement, but now is the time to move forward again.

Four years ago, faced with the prospect of a Trump presidency, I wrote that what old men know is how quickly things can change. Well, I am still old but I am also still here, at 93, and for all the bitter lessons we have learned from Mr. Trump’s term in office, I can tell you that the wheel is turning again. That we have never had so many white allies, willing to stand together for freedom, for honor, for a justice that will free us all in the end, even those who are now most fearful and seething with denial.

We have learned exactly how much we had to lose — a lesson that has been inflicted upon Black people again and again in our history — and we will not be bought off by the empty promises of the flimflam man.

The Violence Must Stop

Our friend Jeff has written a thoughtful post about the violence happening in Kenosha (and other places) Violence that is largely a result of Donald Trump pouring fuel on a smoldering fire. There is so much anger in this nation, that I don’t know how we stop the violence, but it plays right into Trump’s rhetoric, and if it isn’t stopped, it may be the thing that turns the upcoming election in Trump’s favour. Thank you, Jeff!

On The Fence Voters

I’m fearful of November 3, 2020. The polls are starting to tighten, as expected. And they’re going to tighten even more. While things still look good for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, what’s unfolding on America’s streets as we speak, cannot continue.

Folks, it’s playing right into the current president’s playbook. He has no desire to bring this country together. The violence over the past 48 hours in Kenosha, Wisconsin, after another senseless shooting of an unarmed black man, threatens to hand this election again to the most dangerous president in American history. We cannot let that happen.

The violence has to stop. And while I wish I had a bigger platform to shout from, I’m going to say it as loud as I can. The looting, arson, assaults, and overall anarchy and mayhem are playing across American television screens and social media 24/7. And the current president is exploiting…

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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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