Rewriting History

So, considering history … if we determine to no longer teach about slavery, about Jim Crow … what will we replace it with? We cannot simply ignore the fact that Black people existed. Young people aren’t stupid … don’t you think they will ask questions? And what about books and movies like “Gone with the Wind” and “To Kill a Mockingbird”??? Will we destroy all copies of those? What do we replace the now-illegal facts of history with? Our friend Michael Seidel has written an excellent, thought-provoking post … thank you, Michael!!!

Michael Seidel, writer

In the Smithsonian Magazine’s excerpt of Narrative Tension, Inc.. From the forthcoming book Making History: The Storytellers Who Shaped the Past by Richard Cohen to be published by Simon & Schuster, Inc. Printed by permission, Richard Cohen writes this:

‘Around the same time, between 1934 and 1936, the Politburo, or policy-making body, of the Russian Communist Party focused on national history textbooks, and Stalin set scholars to writing a new standard history. The state became the nation’s only publisher. Orwell had it right in Nineteen Eighty-Four, where the Records Department is charged with rewriting the past to fit whomever Oceania is currently fighting. The ruling party of Big Brother “could thrust its hand into the past and say of this or that event, it never happened—that, surely, was more terrifying than mere torture and death.”’

He is writing about the old U.S.S.R., the Soviet Union, and how…

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Black History Month: Seeing America Clearly

It is one thing for me, a white person, to write about Black History, but I do so without having the personal experience of growing up Black, not having the true context of what it meant to grow up and live in a world where you were often mistreated and abused, where opportunities afforded to others did not apply to you simply because of the colour of your skin.  So, when I came upon one writer’s personal essay, I was deeply moved, as I believe you will be.  The following essay was published Sunday in the New York Times by Esau McCaulley, an author and a professor at Wheaton College in Illinois.


Black History Month Is About Seeing America Clearly

A woman who was born into enslavement in Alabama.Credit…Jack Delano/Getty Images

Feb. 20, 2022

By Esau McCaulley

Contributing Opinion Writer

Growing up, I didn’t know anyone who did the kinds of jobs featured at career fairs or depicted on television shows. I had never met a Black doctor, lawyer, professor or scientist. Where does a young Black man go when looking for hope? My teachers, overworked as they were, pointed me toward Black luminaries from the past.

The first Black History Month project I recall was about George Washington Carver. I was enthralled with the idea that the early 20th-century agricultural scientist, born into slavery, came up with hundreds of uses for peanuts. By the time Black History Month rolled into full swing, my ode to the master of peanuts sat alongside posters lauding the accomplishments of such stalwarts as Martin Luther King Jr. (he always inspired multiple posters), Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington and Sojourner Truth.

Black history, in this frame, is the story of exemplars. We learn about the first Black surgeon, Supreme Court justice or astronaut. This version of Black history endeavors to show Black capability and challenge stereotypes. The lesson is clear: If this Black person from history overcame racism, so could we. With enough grit, determination and patience, we too could go to space or invent hundreds of uses for a common crop.

These exemplars were helpful. But the exercise also left me with a feeling that there was a long list of things Black people had never done, and my job was to find one of those things and check it off the list. Then we could stand before the world and say: We have done all the things. Can we have justice now?

This exemplars-based approach to Black history also produced an unintentional consequence. It gave those outside our community license to use Black accomplishment against us. They told us that we needed more exceptional Black people, instead of questioning a society that required such greatness of us. Our very victories were transfigured into condemnations of those still languishing.

I was exposed to a second form of Black History Month when I got older: Black history as corrective. In this version, we learned about Black achievement that had been erased from the historical record. It points us to the African American female mathematicians involved in the space race, as recounted fictionally in the film “Hidden Figures” or the Tuskegee Airmen, whose contributions during World War II were long underappreciated. This is important. One reason that we are still chasing “firsts” is because too many of our accomplishments have been stolen from us. But the problem is that this way of teaching history is about amending a story, instead of telling a more truthful one.

It was not until I got to college that I began to see African American history for what it truly is. It is not a series of heroics or forgotten contributions. It is a different telling of the American story altogether.

What happens when we do not begin with the Mayflower but the slave ship, and tell American history from that perspective? The explicit aim of The Times’s 1619 Project was “to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.” This powerful, challenging idea led to a still-raging debate about racism in America that is playing out in school boards and local elections all over the country, with certain books and ideas being ruled out of bounds.

Americans have not been taught enough about anti-Black racism in our past and present. This, to my mind, is beyond dispute. We are poorer as a nation for these omissions. It is also true that scholars of good will can disagree when making sense of the lives of figures long dead. People are complex, and getting at the complexity is no small thing. Education should be a place where such matters are debated openly.

But endless discussions about the intent of the founding fathers miss a fundamental point. History is not merely the study of intent; it encompasses effect. Whether or not every founding father intended to create a government that sanctioned slavocracy, and later Jim Crow, those were the outcomes. To limit the question to the intent at the expense of the experience of the enslaved and their descendants is to prioritize white American intentions or ideals over Black bodies, a mistake our Republic has made over and over.

What cannot be doubted is that for African peoples brought to this land against our will, slavery and anti-Black racism are defining characteristics of our American experience. This is why Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I have a dream” speech draws upon the Declaration of Independence in its opening movement. He highlighted the fact that this declaration had little purchase in the lives of Black folks:

When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men — yes, Black men as well as white men — would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked insufficient funds.

Black history, then, should be a challenge to our Republic and its core narrative. Instead of quibbling with this detail or that, it must raise a fundamental question about the quality of life Black people have been allowed to experience. If we are indeed a part of this nation, then our lives and experiences have a claim on our national narrative. African American history forces us to view the Black experience of injustice not as the interruption of or caveat to an otherwise grand narrative, but as a compelling story in its own right.

Would this leave us with only a tale of woe? No. There is a dark beauty to the American story. The beauty is not in our innocence. We have been party to too much death and terror for that. African American history requires the recasting of our central figures, where those on the sidelines are brought to the forefront. The enslaved must be allowed to unbend their backs and step into the light and claim the glory due to them. Washington and Lincoln must give way to Truth and Douglass as American marvels.

What makes America a wonder is that this is the land upon which my ancestors, despite the odds, fought for and often made a life for themselves. We are great because this land housed the poetry of Phillis Wheatley and Maya Angelou, the advocacy of Fannie Lou Hamer, the urgency of Nina Simone’s music, and the faith-inspired demand for change in Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermons.

This way of telling the story allows us to speak of American ideals even if the norm is failure rather than accomplishment. It allows our history to chronicle progress without diminishing the suffering necessary to bring it about. This means, too, that to tell the American story well the contributions of us Black folks cannot be limited to February.

Black history offers America a chance to see itself both as what we have failed to become and as we wish ourselves to be. It is not to inspire hate for one race or to foment division. America seeing itself clearly is the first step toward owning and then learning from its mistakes. The second step is the long journey to become that which we hope to be: a more perfect — and just — union.

Sixty-Six Years Ago …

It was sixty-six years ago today that a 14-year-old boy, Emmett Till, was brutally murdered for the crime of being Black in a town called Money, Mississippi.  You all know the story, but allow me to just quickly refresh your memories …

Emmett was from ‘up north’ in Chicago, but his mother had sent him to Mississippi to spend the final two weeks of summer with his beloved grandfather before returning to school.  One day he went into a small store to buy some candy and as the cashier returned his change, his hand accidentally and briefly touched hers.  That, my friends, was all it took to get this young man killed.

By the time the story had been spread and embellished on, it was said that he caressed the clerk … a woman much older than Emmett who he would likely have seen as being the age of his own mother … had wolf-whistled and flirted with her.  While none of these are crimes, more importantly, he did none of the above as witnesses would later recall.  But this was Mississippi in the 1950s, the Jim Crow era.

Long story short, his assailants—the white woman’s husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother, John Milam—dragged young Emmett from his grandfather’s home and made him carry a 75-pound cotton gin fan to the bank of the Tallahatchie River and ordered him to take off his clothes. The two men then beat him nearly to death, gouged out his eye, shot him in the head and then threw his body, tied to the cotton gin fan with barbed wire, into the river.

In September a trial was held for the two murderers and on September 23, the all-white, all-male jury deliberated 67 minutes before acquitting Bryant and Milam. Jurors later admitted in interviews that although they knew Bryant and Milam were guilty of Till’s murder, they did not think imprisonment or the death penalty were appropriate punishments for white men who had killed a black man.  The white woman, Carolyn Bryant, later recanted her testimony.

Why do I rehash this story today?  This is one of thousands of tragic stories from that era, but it is one that has received the most attention, one that we can point to and say, “That is who we used to be.”  Or … can we?  I have fairly recently come to believe that it is still who some of us are today.  I don’t think it’s a long stretch of the imagination to think of a similar atrocity happening in 21st Century Mississippi … or Alabama … Louisiana … Texas.

This is why we MUST teach about Emmett Till and the others in our schools today.  We must open the eyes of our young people to the past in order to ensure we don’t repeat that sordid past.  Just a few weeks ago, before Afghanistan took the spotlight, there was a big brouhaha about teaching ‘Critical Race Theory’ in the schools.  There is an element of our society who would have future generations believe that the U.S. was founded only on compassion and altruism, that the nation’s history is all rosy and beautiful.  It isn’t.

Every single schoolchild by the age of 12 should be aware of the story of Emmett Till, as well as Thomas Moss, Will Stewart, Calvin McDowell and thousands of others. Don’t recognize those names?  Look them up!  Some 6,500 Black people were lynched in the United States between 1865 and 1950 – and that’s only the ones we know about.  No, this is not the ‘pretty’ part of our history BUT … it IS part of our history, part of what has made this nation what it is today.  To hide it, to sweep it under the carpet, is criminal and ultimately will lead us right back to that dirty, dark place of the Jim Crow era.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to go back there.

If we don’t know our history, we are destined to repeat it – a much needed reprise

Keith’s words today are so true, so important, they should be heard by every person in this country, young and old alike. Please take a few minutes to read his words, to contemplate them in this period when some are trying to literally bury the history of this nation. Thank you, Keith.

musingsofanoldfart

I read this week from an UPI article that 60% of millennials and Gen-Zers are unaware that 6 million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust by the Nazis in World War II. I use the word “exterminated” as that is what the Nazis did by gassing Jews after they rounded them up. If the brashness of this statement offends – I apologize for the needed candor. It is meant to wake people up.

But, the Nazi genocide of Jews is among too many persecutions around the world and over time. The United States has had three persecutions of groups of people, two of which leading to many deaths. We should never forget these sad parts of our history or white-wash (word intentionally chosen) them away.

– European settlers of the US over time seized land from, killed many and moved Native Americans over the course of three centuries. Even today…

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A View From North Of The Border

Last week I did a post based on Charles M. Blow’s column titled “Welcome to Jim Crow 2.0” about the history of racism in this nation and how, with the current wave of voter suppression laws targeting mainly Blacks, this nation seems to have made a U-turn and is heading back to the days of slavery, of segregation, of “separate but equal”, of “sit in the back of the bus”, of racist horror.

My post inspired our friend rawgod, a Canadian, to not only share my post, but to share his views from a Canadian perspective.  Y’know … I have often said that those who live outside the U.S. can often see our situation more clearly than we ourselves do, and … well, rawgod’s post gives voice to my claim, I think, as well of giving us some insight into racism in his own country.  Please give his words some consideration … think about it …

THE HISTORY OF SYSTEMIC RACISM — WHAT WE ARE NOT TAUGHT IN CANADIAN SCHOOLS

When I was a K-12 student in Canada in the 50s and 60s, I was taught a lot of American history, along with a lot of British history, and a good smattering of world history. Our educators told us we had one of the best history curriculums in the world. And we believed those educators. Certainly we learned more about Americans than they learned about Canadians. What we did not know, what our educators never told us, is that what we were learning was White American history, indeed, White World history. While some mention was made of slavery, and the struggle of the Negro to gain equality, it was bare basics. Everything we were taught glorified America, and was intended to make us look up to Americans. I hate to admit it, being a person of colour in Canada, red, I had no idea how badly White Americans treated Black Americans. At that time there was no mention of people of other colours. While we were told there were brown and yellow people in the world, we were never taught much about them except as they interacted with White Canada, and White America and White Europe, especially White Britain. There were Black and Asian Canadians where I grew up in Winnipeg, but we learned little about them, other than that they were now Canadians, and so worthy of our respect and acceptance. In schools we were not taught to hate. What we were taught at home will not be discussed here at this time. Suffice it to say, we were taught it did not matter what colour people were, we were all equal, at least in theory.

… Read more of this post

My Worst Nightmare

Many things bother me at the moment:  Those who are actively rejecting the COVID vaccine; the determined obstruction by the Republican Party in Congress; climate change and those who refuse to so much as lift a finger to help reverse decades of man-made damage; wealthy people not paying their fair share in taxes; the ignorance of those who still believe in the former guy’s Big Lie, and the list goes on … and on.  However, the one thing that is keeping me awake nights, is bothering me more than any other single issue in this nation, that has made me contemplate seeking a new country to call home, is the current push for voter suppression and the fact that Congress and the Courts are doing NOTHING to stop states from attempting to move this nation back to the days of Jim Crow.

If you share my concerns, I hope you’ll take a minute to read Charles Blow’s latest column regarding voting rights … or should I say lack thereof …


Welcome to Jim Crow 2.0

By Charles M. Blow

Opinion Columnist

In the wake of the Civil War, liberals in the North went about establishing Reconstruction, passing the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, greatly expanding the rights of Black people in America, and putting severe restrictions on Southern states before they could be readmitted to the Union.

But of course, the Northern liberals soon grew impatient with and tired of dealing with Reconstruction and the racial issues in the South. At the same time, racial terror was regaining strength in the region.

After Reconstruction was allowed to fail, the last remaining federal troops — who had helped protect Black people from the terrorists — were withdrawn from the South. Even though there was a large percentage of Black voters in many of these states — and Black voters were the majority in some — the terrorists were able to significantly reduce that voter participation through intimidation and violence.

In Mississippi, where Black voters were the overwhelming majority, this suppression succeeded well enough that in 1890 the state called a constitutional convention to write white supremacy into the DNA of the state and to restrict the Black vote.

Only one Black delegate was invited to the convention.

When Mississippi established its Jim Crow Constitution, it didn’t submit it to the public for a vote. Instead, it simply declared that “This Constitution, adopted by the people of Mississippi in convention assembled, shall be in force and effect from and after this the first day of November, A.D. 1890.”

If it had gone before the people, Black voters would have surely voted it down.

Because the Constitution was not put before the voters, there was some question about its validity, but that was put to rest in 1892, when, as The New York Times reported, “The Supreme Court today settled the point, which was made in a contested election case, holding that the Constitutional Convention was the embodiment of the sovereignty of the people, and that it was competent for it to put into effect the new Constitution without submission to be voted on.”

Without the courts or Congress stepping in to protect voter rights, Mississippi served as the shining beacon of a way forward, and state after state in the South followed, copying the Mississippi example and calling state constitutional conventions of their own, establishing Jim Crow in the South.

The racist South may have fallen in defeat in the Civil War, but it rose in victory in the ballot war.

Once Jim Crow was established, Washington was in no hurry to dismantle it. Liberals simply worked around it. For decades, they simply accommodated Southern racists so as not to offend them and to retain the possibility of earning their votes.

Black voters in the region, disenfranchised and therefore disempowered, were essentially written out of the political calculus.

It would take more than seven decades before Congress would fully restore voting rights for Black people in the South. So, a 30-year-old Black voter in Mississippi who was disenfranchised in 1890 very likely died never having cast another ballot.

These voter suppression efforts were so effective and so emboldening that they even led to a movement — though unsuccessful — to repeal the 15th Amendment, which guaranteed Black men the right to vote.

In 1903, Representative John S. Williams of Mississippi, a proponent of the repeal, called the 15th Amendment “one of the greatest crimes in political history.”

Fast forward to the present, when Donald Trump is calling his election loss “the greatest fraud in the history of our country from an electoral standpoint,” in part because it was made possible by the votes of Black and brown people.

Most of Trump history was a failure and embarrassment, but one of its great ignoble successes is that it is ushering in Jim Crow 2.0.

Just as in the 1890s, the courts and Congress are not doing much to stop the march of voter suppression. In 1890, Benjamin Harrison, a business-minded liberal who believed in Black people’s right to vote, was in office. He endorsed the federal elections bill that would protect Black people from raging voter suppression in the South.

The bill passed in the House but languished and died in the Senate — even though liberals controlled both chambers — in part because those liberals were more focused on other issues.

Then, as The Washington Post reported, around the time of the Mississippi constitutional convention, “African Americans from 40 counties in Mississippi had protested to President Benjamin Harrison, but he declined to intervene.”

President Biden hasn’t declined to intervene, but he has dragged his feet and not used the full force of the bully pulpit and still hasn’t given a full-throated endorsement of ending the filibuster to protect voting rights.

America is having a déjà vu moment, reliving in real time a horrendous history of more than a century ago, and it is impossible to understand how Democrats in Washington don’t see that.

There is no reason to believe that this round of voter suppression is the end of those efforts, and every reason to dread that any successful implementation of them would serve as an accelerant of further suppressive efforts.

Voter suppression is like an invasive weed. Either snatch it up by the root at the first sign of a sprig or it will spread, unchecked, and consume the whole garden.


I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live in a country that robs half of its people of the right to participate in government, the right to make their voices heard.

I Still Care, Dammit

I’m tired, folks.  I’m sick and tired of fighting to try to make people care about their own lives, their own future.  I’m tempted to say, “To hell with you all!  You want to die of COVID, then go right ahead.  You want to be a racist, a homophobe, to hate people you don’t even know based on a single characteristic – then go ahead, limit your world to a handful of white bigots like yourself.  You want to live in a country where chaos is the norm, where no laws benefitting you or anybody else ever pass, then fine … enjoy your petty, shallow life as a tool in the Republican toolbox!”  I’m tempted to say that, and I can afford to, for my own life is in its twilight hours, but what stops me is that the majority of us have children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren who deserve better than the ignorant among us would subject us to.

With every passing day, there is more and more wrong in this country.  The causes are two-fold:  the greed of our politicians and the ignorance of the voting public.  The majority of us still use our brains, still understand that the current situation is untenable, and are looking for reasonable solutions.  But therein lies the problem … reasonable solutions to unreasonable problems simply don’t work.

The personification of this is a statement by a right-wing shock jock the other day …

“If you tell people you can’t have a Twitter account, you can’t have a Facebook account, well, what else is there to do but actually walk into the Capitol and go all insurrectional? If you can’t talk about it, you can only act.”

Wow … so, next time I get banned from Twitter, I should go into the Capitol with my gun and face-paint and threaten people’s lives?  What rocks do these people come out from under???  Worse yet … how many people agree with his statement?  How many people believe that if you don’t like something, you should simply shoot it, blow it up, or otherwise disable it?

Among my former ‘friends’ are a number of people who are simply giddy … yes, giddy … about the current state of affairs, the chaos and drama perpetuated by politicians on the Republican side of the aisle.  It’s excitement in their boring little lives … to them it is akin to watching an exciting shoot-em up movie.

Folks, this is not a game, this is not a movie, this is not some country in the undeveloped world … this is the United States, once a respected republic, but now … now the laughingstock of the Western world.  We are no longer respected, we are no longer trusted among our allies.  Why?  Need you ask?

While citizens in other nations are still under lockdown, still waiting for the vaccine to become available to them, the people of the United States are stubbornly proclaiming the vaccine to be akin to some nefarious plot by government, comparing it to Naziism, to Apartheid.  Obviously, these people have no sense of history, do not understand either concept, and have no concept of how many innocent people died as a result of both.  Ignorance, again.

I have to wonder … since we are obviously not teaching our children history, such as the history of South Africa or Germany and Europe before and during World War II, and since we have obviously NOT taught them to THINK for themselves, what the Sam Hell are we teaching them in school?  Which leads me to another pet peeve … the Republicans denial of Critical Race Theory, which is not much more than the fact that racism is carefully embedded in our systems as a result of the racist history of this nation.  The Republicans claim none of this is true … or, if it is, they don’t want the next generation to know about it.  Let’s hide slavery, Jim Crow, police killings, the removal and murder of Native Americans, the Japanese internment camps, and more.  Yes, let’s bury the evidence, not let our children know what evil has persisted in this nation ever since well before it was even a nation.

I am, needless to say, disappointed in the people of this nation.  I am disappointed in any who can still believe in the Big Lie, who can support anyone affiliated with the Republican Party.  I am disappointed in friends who are too shallow to even pay attention to what is happening in this nation, but instead focus on “being happy” to the exclusion of all else.  If the people of this nation don’t wake up soon, it will be too late and this nation will find itself in the same situation as other nations under dictatorial regimes.  The ignorance of people in the United States is rapidly driving us into a descent from which there may never be a lifeline.  For my money, I am 70 years of age with likely only another year or two on earth, but I have loved ones who will survive me and for their sake, I still care.  Damn me … I still care.

A Powerful Speech

Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia gave his first speech on the Senate floor yesterday and it was a powerful, moving speech in which he spoke of the need for voting rights legislation and he pulled no punches in referring to the current situation, where almost every state in the union is attempting to rob minorities and others of their right to vote, calling it “Jim Crow in new clothes”.  Below is the video of his speech, and also the transcript.  I, for one, am glad that Senator Raphael Warnock was elected to our Congress … he is the voice of reason, he is our conscience.


“Mr. President—before I begin my formal remarks today, I want to pause to condemn the hatred and violence that took eight precious lives last night in metropolitan Atlanta. I grieve with Georgians, with Americans, with people of love all across the world. This unspeakable violence visited largely upon the Asian community, is one that causes all of us to recommit ourselves to the way of peace and active peace that prevents these kinds of tragedies from happening in the first place. We pray for these families.

“Mr. President, I rise here today as a proud American and as one of the newest members of the Senate—in awe of the journey that has brought me to these hallowed halls with an abiding sense of reverence and gratitude for the faith and sacrifices of ancestors who paved the way.

“I am a proud son of the great state of Georgia, born and raised in Savannah, a coastal city known for its cobble-stone streets and verdant town squares. Towering oak trees, centuries old and covered in gray Spanish moss, stretched from one side of the street to the other, bend and beckon the lover of history and horticulture to this city by the sea. I was educated at Morehouse College and I serve still in the pulpit at Ebenezer Baptist Church; both in Atlanta, the cradle of the civil rights movement. Like those oak trees, my roots go down deep and stretch wide in the soil of Waycross, Burke County and Screven County. In a word, I am Georgia. A living example and embodiment of its history and hope, the pain and the promise, the brutality and the possibility.

“Mr. President, at the time of my birth, Georgia’s two senators were Richard B. Russell and Herman E. Talmadge, both arch segregationists and unabashed adversaries of the civil rights movement. After the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board ruling outlawing school segregation, Talmadge warned that “blood will run in the streets of Atlanta”. Senator Talmadge’s father, Eugene Talmadge, former governor of our state, had famously declared, “The South loves the Negro in his place, but his place is at the back door.” When once asked how he and his supporters might keep Black people away from the polls, he picked up a scrap of paper and wrote a single word on it: “Pistols.”

“Yet, there is something in the American covenant—in its charter documents and its Jeffersonian ideals—that bends toward freedom. Led by a preacher and a patriot named King, Americans of all races stood up. History vindicated the movement that sought to push us closer to our ideals, to lengthen and strengthen the cords of our democracy, and I now hold the seat—the Senate seat—where Herman E. Talmadge sat.

“And that’s why I love America. I love America because we always have a path to make it better, to build a more perfect union. It is the place where a kid like me who grew up in public housing, the first college graduate in my family, can now serve as a United States Senator. I had an older father, he was born in 1917; serving in the Army during World War II, he was once asked to give up his seat to a young teenager while wearing his soldier’s uniform, they said “making the world safe for democracy.” But he was never bitter. By the time I came along, he had already seen the arc of change in our country. He maintained his faith in God, in his family and in the American promise, and he passed that faith on to his children.

“My mother grew up in Waycross, Georgia. You know where that is? It’s way ‘cross Georgia. Like a lot of Black teenagers in the 1950’s she spent her summers picking somebody else’s tobacco and somebody else’s cotton. But because this is America, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton went to the polls in January and picked her youngest son to be a United States Senator. Ours is a land where possibility is born of democracy. A vote, a voice, a chance to help determine the direction of the country and one’s own destiny within it. Possibility born of democracy.

“That’s why this past November and January, my mom and other citizens of Georgia grabbed hold of that possibility and turned out in record numbers, 5 million in November, 4.4 million in January. Far more than ever in our state’s history. Turnout for a typical runoff doubled. And the people of Georgia sent the state’s first African American senator and first Jewish senator, my brother Jon Ossoff, to these hallowed halls.

“But then, what happened? Some politicians did not approve of the choice made by the majority of voters in a hard-fought election in which each side got the chance to make its case to the voters. And, rather than adjusting their agenda, rather than changing their message, they are busy trying to change the rules. We are witnessing right now a massive and unabashed assault on voting rights unlike anything we have seen since the Jim Crow era. This is Jim Crow in new clothes.

“Since the January election, some 250 voter suppression bills have been introduced by state legislatures all across the country—from Georgia to Arizona, from New Hampshire to Florida. Using the Big Lie of voter fraud as a pretext for voter suppression. The same Big Lie that led to a violent insurrection on this very Capitol — the day after my election. Within 24 hours, we elected Georgia’s first African-American and Jewish Senators, hours later the Capitol was assaulted. We see in just a few precious hours the tension very much alive in the soul of America. And the question before all of us at every moment is what will we do to push us in the right direction.

“So politicians driven by that big lie aim to severely limit, and in some cases, eliminate automatic and same-day voter registration, mail-in and absentee voting, and early voting and weekend voting. They want to make it easier to purge voters from the voting roll altogether. As a voting rights activist, I’ve seen up close just how draconian these measures can be. I hail from a state that purged 200,000 voters one Saturday night —in the middle of the night. We know what’s happening — some people don’t want some people to vote.

“I was honored on a few occasions to stand with our hero and my parishioner, John Lewis. I was his pastor but I’m clear he was my mentor. On more than one occasion we boarded buses together after Sunday Church services as part of our Souls To The Polls program, encouraging the Ebenezer Church family and communities of faith to participate in the democratic process. Now just a few months after Congressman Lewis’ death, there are those in the Georgia legislature, some who even dared to praise his name, that are now trying to get rid of Sunday Souls to the Polls, making it a crime for people who pray together to get on a bus together and vote together. I think that’s wrong. In fact, I think a vote is a kind of prayer about the world we desire for ourselves and our children. And our prayers are stronger when we pray together.

“To be sure, we have seen these kinds of voter suppression tactics before. They are a part of a long and shameful history in Georgia and throughout our nation. But refusing to be denied, Georgia citizens and citizens across our country braved the heat and the cold and the rain, some standing in line for 5 hours, 6 hours, 10 hours just to exercise their constitutional right to vote. Young people, old people, sick people, working people, already underpaid, forced to lose wages, to pay a kind of poll tax while standing in line to vote.

“And how did some politicians respond? Well, they are trying to make it a crime to give people water and a snack, as they wait in lines that are obviously being made longer by their draconian actions. Think about that. Think about that. They are the ones making the lines longer– through these draconian actions. Then, they want to make it a crime to bring grandma some water as she is waiting in line they are making longer! Make no mistake. This is democracy in reverse. Rather than voters being able to pick the politicians, the politicians are trying to cherry pick their voters. I say this cannot stand.

“And so I rise, Mr. President, because that sacred and noble idea—one person, one vote—is being threatened right now. Politicians in my home state and all across America, in their craven lust for power, have launched a full-fledged assault on voting rights. They are focused on winning at any cost, even the cost of the democracy itself. I submit that it is the job of each citizen to stand up for the voting rights of every citizen. And it is the job of this body to do all that it can to defend the viability of our democracy.

“That’s why I am a proud co-sponsor of the For The People Act, which we introduced today. The For The People Act is a major step forward in the march toward our democratic ideals, making it easier, not harder, for eligible Americans to vote by instituting common-sense, pro-democracy reforms like:

    Establishing national automatic voter registration for every eligible citizen, and allowing all Americans to register to vote online and on Election Day;

    Requiring states to offer at least two weeks of early voting, including weekends, in federal elections—keeping Souls to the Polls programs alive;

    Prohibiting states from restricting a person’s ability to vote absentee or by mail;

    And preventing states from purging the voter rolls based solely on unreliable evidence like someone’s voting history, something we’ve seen in Georgia and other states in recent years.

“And It would end the dominance of big money in our politics, and ensure our public servants are there serving the public.

“Amidst these voter suppression laws and tactics, including partisan and racial gerrymandering, and in a system awash in dark money and the dominance of corporatist interests and politicians who do their bidding, the voices of the American people have been increasingly drowned out and crowded out and squeezed out of their own democracy. We must pass “For The People” so that people might have a voice. Your vote is your voice and your voice is your human dignity.

“But not only that, we must pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Voting rights used to be a bi-partisan issue. The last time the voting rights bill was re-authorized was 2006. George W. Bush was president and it passed its chamber 98-0. But then in 2013, the Supreme Court rejected the successful formula for supervision and pre-clearance, contained in the 1965 Voting Rights Act. They asked Congress to fix it. That was nearly 8 years ago, and the American people are still waiting. Stripped of protections, voters in states with a long history of voting discrimination and voters in many other states have been thrown to the winds.

“We Americans have noisy and spirited debates about many things. And we should. That’s what it means to live in a free country. But access to the ballot ought to be nonpartisan. I submit that there should be 100 votes in this chamber for policies that will make it easier for Americans to make their voices heard in our democracy. Surely, there ought to be at least 60 people in this chamber who believe, as I do, that the four most powerful words uttered in a democracy are, ‘the people have spoken,’ therefore we must ensure that all the people can speak.

“But if not, we must still pass voting rights. The right to vote is preservative of all other rights. It is not just another issue alongside other issues. It is foundational. It is the reason why any of us has the privilege of standing here in the first place. It is about the covenant we have with one another as an American people. E Pluribus Unum, out of many one. It above all else must be protected.

“So let’s be clear, I’m not here today to spiral into the procedural argument regarding whether the filibuster in general has merits or has outlived its usefulness. I’m here to say that this issue is bigger than the filibuster. I stand before you saying that this issue—access to voting and preempting politicians’ efforts to restrict voting—is so fundamental to our democracy that it is too important to be held hostage by a Senate rule, especially one historically used to restrict the expansion of voting rights. It is a contradiction to say we must protect minority rights in the Senate while refusing to protect minority rights in the society. Colleagues, no Senate rule should overrule the integrity of the democracy and we must find a way to pass voting rights whether we get rid of the filibuster or not.

“And so as I close—and nobody believes a preacher when they as I close—as a man of faith, I believe that democracy is a political enactment of a spiritual idea. The sacred worth of all human beings, the notion that we all have within us, a spark of the divine, to participate in the shaping of our own destiny. Reinhold Niebuhr was right: ‘[Humanity’s] capacity for justice makes democracy possible; but [humanity’s] inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.’”

“John Lewis understood that and was beaten on a bridge defending it. Amelia Boynton, like so many women not mentioned nearly enough, was gassed on that same bridge. A white woman named Viola Luizzo was killed. Medgar Evers was murdered in his own driveway. Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman, two Jews and an African-American standing up for the sacred idea of democracy, also paid the ultimate price. And we in this body, would be stopped and stymied by partisan politics? Short-term political gain? Senate procedure? I say let’s get this done no matter what. I urge my colleagues to pass these two bills. Strengthen and lengthen the cords of our democracy, secure our credibility as the premier voice for freedom-loving people and democratic movements all over the world, and win the future for all of our children.

“Mr. President, I yield the floor.” 

Call A Spade A Bloody Shovel!

As I have mentioned before, 43 states are trying to quickly shove through over 250 bills that can only be labeled ‘voter suppression’ before the next election in hopes of reducing the number of people who are able to vote.  It is unconscionable and clearly against the best interests of this country, but what’s new?  The media, however, is refusing to call it what it is:  voter suppression, the attempt to rob us of our voice, our choice.  Eric Boehlert writes a daily newsletter, Press Run, calling the press to account when they let us down, and his piece this morning deals with how the press is letting us down … again.  I fully support a free press, but frankly they need to be held accountable.


No more word games — it’s GOP “voter suppression,” period.

Tell it like it is

eric-boehlertEric Boehlert   March 17, 2021

Scrambling in the wake of Joe Biden’s seven-million vote victory in November, Republicans continue to mount a powerful and unapologetic campaign to suppress voting. With so many state legislatures under GOP control, Republicans are sponsoring more than 250 bills aimed at drastically reducing ballot access in coming years. It’s being done under the phony banner of “election security.” After 2020, Republicans don’t want lots of people voting, especially lots of Black people. So far, the media’s failing to accurately label the crisis that’s unfolding.

The avalanche of bills aim to shorten the early voting period, reduce the number of hours that people can vote on Election Day, eliminate drive-through voting centers, create stricter deadlines for returning absentee ballots, block early voting on Sunday, limit ballot drop boxes, restrict mail-in voting —basically any possible initiative Republicans can think of that would suppress the vote. The obvious implication is that Republicans understand their chances of winning elections decrease when voter turnout increases. And 2020 shattered American records for voter participation. It all represents a massive attempt to roll back democracy.

And it’s clearly voter suppression, which is defined as, “any legal or extralegal measure or strategy whose purpose or practical effect is to reduce voting.”

The good news is we’ve seen lots of in-depth, aggressive reporting from various news outlets on the GOP’s plan to rewrite election rules in this country. The bad news is that message is getting muted by refusing to call this strategy what it is — voter suppression. The press prefers to frame the GOP’s war on democracy as another Both Sides, partisan dust-up over “voting restrictions.” That plays right into the hands of Republicans.

“The fact that we are about to be hit with a tidal wave of voter suppression legislation by Republican legislatures throughout the country is the most under reported story right now,” Democratic election attorney Mark Elias recently tweeted. “The media is unequipped to cover this in clear moral terms and instead prefers to both sides it.”

There’s a deliberate media movement underway to not use the clear, accurate language to describe Republican efforts to suppress the vote, just like there was a deliberate media movement to not accurately describe Trump as a “liar” for four years. (Instead, he pushed “falsehoods” and “exaggerations.”) The media erected guardrails against calling Trump and his followers liars. Now we’re seeing the same word games employed to avoid “voter suppression.”

A recent CNN headline announced, “Arizona Republican Lawmakers Join GOP Efforts to Target Voting, With Nearly Two Dozen Restrictive Voting Measures.” Neither the headline nor the article used the phrase “voter suppression” used to describe the GOP’s obvious attempt at voter suppression. Yet the URL for the CNN report did make that reference: “politics/arizona-republicans-voter-suppression-bills/.” Meaning, inside the CNN newsroom, it’s common knowledge Republicans are passing “voter suppression bills.” But CNN reporters aren’t using that language in their accounts.

Virtually every major news organization is guilty of the same misstep:

• “Republicans Advance More Than 100 Bills That Would Restrict Voting in Wake of Trump’s Defeat” (NBC News)

• “State GOP Lawmakers Propose Flurry of Voting Restrictions to Placate Trump Supporters, Spurring Fears of a Backlash” (Washington Post)

• “Republican-Led Legislatures in Dozens of States Are Moving to Change Election Laws in Ways That Could Make it Harder to Vote” (NPR)

An Associated Press headline recently announced, “Critics: GOP Measures Target Black Voter Turnout in Georgia.” But why use the  “critics” framing? Why can’t the AP simply treat as fact what is obviously factual — Republicans are pushing voter laws in Georgia specifically designed to suppress the Black vote.

The Washington Post failed in the same way recently: “A GOP Lawmaker Says The ‘Quality’ of a Vote Matters. Critics Say that’s ‘Straight out of Jim Crow.’” That is straight out of Jim Crow. The Post doesn’t need to hide behind “critics” to make that point.

What’s driving the media hesitation? Maybe it’s because “voter suppression” sounds un-American. It sounds undemocratic, and it sounds like advocates don’t support free and fair elections in this country. It’s much easier, and more polite, to use the watered down “voter restriction” description. Voter “restrictions” sound somewhat plausible or defensible. “Suppression” sounds illegal.

Voter suppression has a dark history in this country as a tool used to deter Black Americans and other minorities from voting, and from the media’s perspective it’s not something mainstream politicians endorse. The press very much wants to portray the GOP simply as a center-right party.

But words matter, especially when dealing with today’s radical and dangerous Republican Party. America learned that painful lesson during the Trump years when the Beltway media played senseless semantics games in order to obscure the truth about the GOP.

That truth was confirmed last winter when nearly 150 Republican members of Congress signed an amicus brief supporting a extreme lawsuit that urged the Supreme Court to throw out tens of millions of legitimate, legally cast votes, in order to clear a path for a bogus Trump victory. Lying about presidential election results is now, without question, a mainstream Republican talking point. As is the Big Lie about how the U.S. election system today is fraught with fraud, which requires legislative fixes in the form of voter suppression initiatives.

The media fell down covering the Big Lie last winter. And now it’s falling down with the voter suppression challenge.

Hank Aaron – quiet dignity, quiet strength

I had planned to write a tribute post to baseball’s legendary Henry (Hank) Aaron this afternoon, but as often happens when great minds think alike, Keith was on the same page, only he beat me to the punch and did it every bit as well as I could have. Thank you, Keith, for this lovely tribute to a man who was not only a great baseball player, but also a great human being.

musingsofanoldfart

A great baseball player passed away yesterday. His name was Henry Aaron, but he went by Hank. He was a very quiet man growing up in the south in the middle of the Jim Crow era. But, arguably he is on a very short list of the greatest baseball players ever.

Rather than bore non-baseball fans with endless statistics indicating how great he was, let me focus on how poorly this African-American was treated as he chased records set by white ball players. He received multiple death threats and family kidnapping threats and was openly called the N word both aloud and within the many letters of vicious hate mail.

Like Jackie Robinson before him, he took all of this with quiet dignity and a heavy dose of quiet strength. Racism and bigotry was dumped on this man like garbage. But, he stood strong.

When he chased the greatest of…

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