On Mr. McCain and Mr. Rivers

There are two links below – the first to a tweet by Conservative Bill Kristol contrasting remarks by President Trump and the late U.S. AZ Sen. John McCain when each was campaigning for the presidency, the second to Los Angeles Clippers’ Head Coach Glenn “Doc” Rivers’ comments regarding the recent police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, WI.  The 2008 remarks of Sen. McCain, taken together with those of Coach Rivers, offer the most eloquent rebuttal to the claims currently being spewed at the Republican National Convention.

On Mr. Trump … and the Prophet Ezekiel

A couple of weeks ago at a Cleveland campaign stop, President Trump indicated that Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden, a practicing Catholic, was “against God,” and that if elected president, Mr. Biden will “hurt God” and “hurt the Bible.”  I found the President’s rant both absurd and shocking, but it was, like so many before it, shortly driven down my stream of consciousness by Mr. Trump’s continuing torrent of malign inanities. 

I am also a Catholic, albeit deeply flawed.  What caused me to recall Mr. Trump’s Cleveland rant – faith-based attacks uttered by one who for all practical purposes espouses racism, has bragged about grabbing women by their private parts, has belittled the handicapped, has approved the intentional separation of children from their parents at our borders, has sought to downplay the scope and effect of a deadly virus upon our people in order to enhance his own political fortunes, and has most recently referred sympathetically to Qanon, an alt-right fringe group embracing the notion that some Democrats are Satan-worshipping pedophiles — was the following, read during one of this week’s daily Masses:

Thus says the Lord GOD:  Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves!  Should not shepherds, rather, pasture sheep?  You have fed off their milk, worn their wool, and slaughtered the fatlings, but the sheep you have not pastured.  You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured.  You did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost, but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally.  So they were scattered for the lack of a shepherd, and became food for all the wild beasts. ….

As I live, says the Lord GOD, because my sheep have been given over to pillage, and because my sheep have become food for every wild beast, for lack of a shepherd; because my shepherds did not look after my sheep, but pastured themselves and did not pasture my sheep ….

I swear I am coming against these shepherds.  I will claim my sheep from them and put a stop to their shepherding my sheep so that they may no longer pasture themselves. ….”  

Ezekiel, 34: 1-5; 8; 10

Mr. Biden’s acceptance speech last night seemed to me most fundamentally that … of a caring shepherd.  Notwithstanding Mr. Trump’s references to God and the Bible, I think it’s fair to assume that the President has little familiarity with the Book of Ezekiel.  From his perspective, perhaps just as well.

Mr. Bloomberg: Where Are You?

President Trump’s repeated claims (without any evidence) that mail-in-voting creates election fraud, buttressed by his recent (and, amazingly, acknowledged) efforts to impede the United States Postal Service’s activities because he perceives that an efficient November mail-in voting process will assist the Democrats’ electoral prospects, is simply the latest evidence of his willingness to do anything to remain in power.  (Mr. Trump did backtrack a bit late last week to indicate that he would agree to a Coronavirus relief package that contained funding for the post office.  Even if money is allocated, I fear it may have little effect unless accompanied by nonpartisan oversight ensuring that the funding is promptly spent in a manner that actually facilitates nationwide balloting.)  Consider the malevolent genius of it.  Mr. Trump has picked an election element – mail-in-voting – that is particularly vital in this COVID era, and labeled it the source of election fraud.  (He could actually more credibly claim that elections held on Tuesdays have historically been subject to a certain level of fraud.)  If Mr. Trump loses to presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden, he hopes to have instilled a belief in at least a segment of his millions of followers – who seemingly believe anything he, his cohort and his propagandists at Fox News and other alt-right media trumpet – that the election was stolen from him (and them) by fraudulent mail-in voting.  What happens if he refuses to concede despite a tight but discernable loss?  Even if he departs, his claims of fraud are an attempt to create popular unrest with the potential to cripple a Biden Administration while continuing a media spotlight for Mr. Trump – the latter unquestionably his primary focus.  But even if Mr. Trump wins, the recent demonstrations in Portland and elsewhere are a clear portent that if those opposing Mr. Trump believe that the Administration’s actions have stolen the election from them, riots will ensue across the nation. Mr. Trump will use these as a pretext to impose autocratic restraints upon those who oppose him.  A close outcome in either direction accordingly seems likely to threaten the American way of life.  I would suggest that in order to reclaim our future, Mr. Biden must not only win; the Democratic ticket must determine a way to win by decisive margins in a sufficient number of the battleground Electoral College states (Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Wisconsin) to yield an impressive Electoral College margin.  I would submit that the Democrats need to wage their political war between now and Election Day on two fronts, and that at this stage, their overall success perhaps depends less upon the conventional – persuasion – and more upon the unconventional – education

The conventional is straightforward:   political professionals and pollsters of all stripes seemingly agree that although polls are starting to tighten, if all legally-eligible voters that wish to vote in November are actually able to vote and have their votes counted, Mr. Biden will defeat Mr. Trump in the Electoral College.  I would assert that deep antipathy among the electorate toward Mr. Trump is “baked in.”  Mr. Biden doesn’t need to win over any current Trump supporters to secure the presidency; he needs only a persuasion campaign to stave off material erosion in his current level of support.  Unless either Mr. Biden or presumptive Democratic vice presidential nominee and U.S. CA Sen. Kamala Harris commit a grotesque gaffe during their respective debates with their Republican counterparts, the Electoral College victory seems near at hand.  Apparently reassuring – but I fear not enough by itself to secure a stable American future.

In my view, to facilitate Mr. Biden’s victory and enhance its legitimacy, the Democrats and their allies need to mount an extensive and effective education campaign – admittedly bordering on propaganda, to counteract the Trump and related alt-right barrage – to educate the electorate in the six battleground states regarding the states’ respective mail-in voting processes.  Even where local officials are well-meaning, neither local governments nor battleground state Democratic organizations have the funding nor the expertise required to develop and broadcast sufficient effective informational spots to reassure an electorate that polls show has increasing reservations about mail-in voting.  I see literally 25 different spots:  Four for each of the battleground states, to be run in the states’ respective progressive and independent markets, which in turn address:  (1) the given state’s voter registration requirements and deadlines, how to register online (all six allow online registration), and how a voter can obtain assistance for an in-person or online registration process; (2) the period within which the given state’s registered voters can request a ballot online, how to request a ballot, and any state nuances regarding the ballot’s completion; (3) a notice of the date by which registered voters should mail in their ballots to be confident that the votes will arrive in time to be tabulated; and (4) a notice that the date by which registered voters could confidently expect that their mailed-in votes would be tabulated has passed coupled with the observation that any eligible voters wishing to vote that haven’t already sent in their ballots should plan to vote in person, together with Coronavirus safety tips and information as to how the voter can find his/her voting place.  A last spot should be run predominantly on Fox News and other conservative outlets in conservative markets nationwide and describe, primarily through Republican election officials, the incredibly low incidence of historic mail-in voting fraud and lay expectations that tabulation delays will necessarily attend anticipated massive mail-in voting.

The effort, expertise, and cost to create, produce and broadcast accurate infomercials in the appropriate outlets would be an enormously expensive proposition – generally beyond the grasp of any campaign.  At the same time, if the content is appropriately cast, such spots would seem outside the proscriptions of campaign finance law.  At one point during former New York City, NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s campaign for the presidency, the New York Times reported that Mr. Bloomberg indicated that he “wouldn’t rule out” spending as much as $1 billion to defeat Mr. Trump.  During his campaign, Mr. Bloomberg showed that he has not only the funds but the team expertise necessary to create effective campaign spots. 

Mr. Bloomberg:  Where are you?

End of July Random Thoughts

Thoughts as we head into what has traditionally been the hottest part of the Midwest summer:

I have seen reports that the Trump Campaign believes that the development of a Coronavirus vaccine by Election Day will boost the President Trump’s electoral prospects.  I don’t see why.  Even assuming one is developed within that time frame and it is entirely safe and effective (more on substantive questions about the vaccine below), I would submit that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden will still have the upper hand if he asks, “Based upon our nation’s experience over the past year, which candidate do you trust more to see that the vaccine is competently, quickly, fairly, and affordably made available to our people?”

Given Mr. Biden’s age, his choice of a running mate will clearly be assessed by voters as someone that could be President.  I have seen speculation in the last week that Mr. Biden is seriously considering picking U.S. CA Sen. Kamala Harris.  I hope he does not, for all of the substantive and political concerns I have already expressed in earlier notes. That said, I would add another risk related to a selection of Sen. Harris, visceral and potentially explosive.  Do an internet search on the term, “Willie Brown Kamala Harris.”  Although Ms. Harris’ presidential bid collapsed before any of her Democratic competitors had any incentive to raise the matter, after reviewing a few of the apparently reasonably-accurate accounts of Ms. Harris’ long-ago close personal relationship with Mr. Brown (a man 30 years’ Ms. Harris’ senior, and then Speaker of the California State Assembly) and the seeming boost that Mr. Brown provided to Ms. Harris’ early political career, it is perhaps not unreasonable to ask how the Trump Campaign, the Russians, Fox News, and the rest of the Trump cohort might seek to exploit the old Brown-Harris relationship to dampen support for the Democratic ticket among feminists and swing voters in swing states.  I would respectfully suggest to anyone who says, “It won’t matter to voters if they take that tack.  Look at Trump’s past,” that s/he needs to reconsider.  Ms. Harris isn’t Mr. Trump, and California isn’t America.  Mr. Biden can’t afford a salacious distraction, and we can’t afford to have him lose. 

As polls continue to show decent leads for Mr. Biden over Mr. Trump in most key measures, I have seen speculation that the polls are flawed because respondents won’t admit that they favor Mr. Trump.  While it seems a near certainty that some 2016 Trump supporters who now truthfully tell pollsters that they lean toward Mr. Biden will return to the President’s fold by Election Day – for example, I think the continuing unrest in Portland, OR, is starting to help Mr. Trump as the outrage that initially attended the killing of George Floyd fades in some voter segments – I would suggest that although there are presumably latent Trump voters (those who didn’t turn out for him in 2016), there are no longer many secret Trump voters.  While there is always a tendency to generalize based upon one’s own experience, the Trump supporters we know are vehemently, unabashedly, and proudly so.  Mr. Trump’s divisive conduct of the presidency  and the manner in which he has dominated the national consciousness over the last four years have arguably surfaced those of his supporters who, due to the social stigma then perceived to exist in some quarters, were reluctant to admit to their support for him in 2016.

As current accounts report that amazing progress is being made toward development of Coronavirus vaccines – it is not unusual to see declarations that processes that normally “take years” are being executed “in months” – I consider such speed a double-edged sword.  While the creation of a truly safe and effective COVID vaccine in such a compressed time frame would be one of the greatest scientific achievements of our lives, any prophylactic created within such a short period will seemingly likely come with unresolved questions regarding effective dosage amount, duration of benefit, unforeseen allergic reactions in certain patient profiles, unknown long-term side effects, etc., etc.  Speaking as one that believes in science, has had all the appropriate vaccinations for a person of my vintage, and gets a flu shot every year, I ponder:  If authorities assure us that through this incredibly compressed process they have a safe and effective vaccine by year’s end, and I am somehow given an early opportunity to receive it, will I get it, or prefer to wait a bit?

As of the time this is typed, we have passed 150,000 Coronavirus deaths in the United States.  One Hundred Fifty Thousand.  There can be a tendency to become oblivious as the numbers slowly rise – like the proverbial frog in the slowly-warming water.  It becomes terrifying when made concrete:  the deaths exceed the populations of the largest cities of at least seven states – Delaware, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming.  They approximate the combined total capacity of Michigan Stadium, the country’s largest stadium – the University of Michigan’s “Big House” – and Chicago’s Wrigley Field.  Think about that.  Think of your partner, your family, your friends.  Even if thus far you and your loved ones have been fortunate enough not to have been directly affected by the virus, imagine one or more of them … gone.  Anyone that reads these pages recognizes that I am preoccupied with the risk to our nation presented by Mr. Trump’s dictatorial tendencies, but how many of our people have been and will be lost, how badly will our economic downturn be extended and exacerbated, due to the President’s denial, self-absorption, misinformation, and sheer incompetence?  Even if we had a resurrected Franklin Roosevelt in his prime assume the presidency this minute, given where we are now, he’d tell us that times were going to get worse before they got better. 

He’d also tell us that from a safety standpoint, we can be our own best friends.  Each of us individually can only do our best.

Awaiting Opening Day … 2021

In January, 1942, a little more than a month after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt wrote to Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the Commissioner of Major League Baseball – the team sport which then dwarfed all others in terms of public support – and indicated that if the Judge wished, baseball should continue despite the war.  The President wrote:

“I honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going….  [U.S. citizens] ought to have a chance for recreation …. [Baseball players for whatever reason not able to serve the war effort] are a definite recreational asset to … [millions] of their fellow citizens – and that in my judgement is thoroughly worthwhile.”

An abbreviated MLB season opened a few days ago, to the completely understandable delight of millions.  I appreciate the point that Mr. Roosevelt was making 78 years ago, but for me, baseball’s relaxed pace and old world allure will need to wait a bit.  I don’t begrudge — indeed, I envy – those for whom the game provides a distraction in these times of political, health, and social crisis.  Perhaps, if the National Football League plays games this fall, I will be able to immerse myself in the short, intense once-a-week 3-hour distraction of the Sunday football rite ;).  As for baseball … hopefully, by next spring, the Coronavirus will no longer be raging, we will have put the blight of the Trump presidency behind us, and I can return to the languid charm of the game I love best.  So I’m hesitantly anticipating the prospect of the first pitch of Opening Day … in spring, 2021.  Hopefully, for me, it’ll then be time … to Play Ball.


[This is the second time in recent weeks that an action by President Trump or his Administration has warranted deferring publication of the remainder of a note (in this case, impressions regarding the Biden candidacy) for which the first part has already appeared; I suspect that it won’t be the last time.]

By this time, virtually all who care are aware that at President Trump’s order, federal officers from a number of federal agencies – among them at least the U.S. Marshals Service, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – have been patrolling the streets of Portland, OR, for part of July, seeking to quell ongoing protests related to the killing of George Floyd.  Apparently tensions between authorities and protestors have actually escalated since the federal officials’ arrival.  There are reports that federal agents, dressed in military fatigues and traveling in unmarked cars, have grabbed a number peaceful protestors off the streets. The Marshalls Service has shot a peaceful protestor in the head, severely injuring him.  Federal agents have used tear gas on protestors – notwithstanding a state law that only authorizes the use of such agents by local authorities after a riot has been declared and those gathered given a chance to depart.

The federal authorities involved here are not the United States military.  Without delving into the full extent of its jurisdiction, DHS is obviously primarily responsible for protecting us against foreign attacks; even accepting that it has a role in safeguarding federal property, it appears undisputed that DHS agents have conducted operations well beyond the perimeter of the federal courthouse.  There likewise seems to be little in the Portland situation that would invoke the jurisdictions of ICE and CBP, federal authorities sharing responsibility for immigration, border enforcement, and customs.   

U.S. OR Sen. Jeff Merkley has stated, “These shadowy forces have been escalating, not preventing, violence.”

U.S. OR Sen. Ron Wyden has tweeted, “… Trump and [DHS Director] Chad Wolf are weaponizing the DHS as their own occupying army to provoke violence on the streets of my hometown because they think it plays well with right-wing media.”

OR Gov. Kate Brown has stated that she told Mr. Wolf that the federal government should remove federal officers from the Portland streets.  Ms. Brown indicated that Mr. Wolf has refused the request.  She has called the federal deployment “a blatant abuse of federal power.”

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has indicated that he has told the Trump Administration to take the federal officials out of Portland.  He has added:  “[W]hat I want to do is raise awareness nationally. This could happen in your city. And what we’re seeing is a blatant abuse of police tactics by the federal government, by a Trump administration that’s falling in the polls. And this is a direct threat to our democracy.”  (Mayor Wheeler’s assertion seems strikingly similar to U.S. UT Mitt Romney’s recent description of Mr. Trump’s unwarranted dismissal of four federal Inspectors General as “a threat to accountable democracy.”)

It is cruelly ironic that the Trump Administration – all too eager to cast responsibility for a Coronavirus response on state and local officials so as to shirk accountability for its own inability to deal with the crisis – is unwilling to accede to state and local officials’ request to let them establish and maintain order in Portland, although policing has traditionally been a local charge within our federal system.

Close friends and I recently exchanged emails on the Trump Administration’s deployment of federal policing agencies to the streets of Portland; the same thought had independently struck us:  Brownshirts. 

“In the summer of 1920 … Hitler organized a bunch of rough-neck war veterans into “strong-arm” squads … [T]hey were officially named the Sturmabteilung [the “S.A.”] …. [O]utfitted in brown uniforms … [t]hese uniformed rowdies …soon took to breaking up [meetings] of other [political parties.”

“[T]he S.A. was reorganized … to generally terrorize those who opposed Hitler.”

“From the earliest days of the Nazi movement Hitler had insisted that the [S.A. was] … to furnish the physical violence, the terror, by which the party could bludgeon its way to political power.”

William L. Shirer:  The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

“[The S.A. wanted] to protect the prophets of the spiritual goal …. And in this they understood that they were not obligated to undertake the protection of a state which offers the nation no protection, but that, on the contrary, they had to assume the protection of a nation against those who threatened to destroy the people and the state.”

Adolf Hitler:  Mein Kampf

There is no gentler way to put it:  Since Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley made it clear in June that the United States military is not willing to follow Mr. Trump’s orders to act against peacefully protesting American citizens, the Trump Administration has found other federal units more amenable to his political agenda to serve as its private enforcers.  While one can point out that unlike the S.A. – a nongovernmental Nazi militia — the officers deployed to Portland are indeed federal employees, I would submit that such is a distinction without a difference.   Consider: while securing the federal courthouse in Portland is a valid federal objective, it should be relatively straightforward for elite law enforcement agents. The local authorities have asked Mr. Trump’s force to limit its activity to that valid objective, and Mr. Trump’s force has refused. Although I have cautioned in other notes against being distracted from efforts to win the presidential election by the President’s random illiberal acts, I agree with Mayor Wheeler that the Administration’s actions in Portland are a threat to our democracy that can be brought to bear in any city.  Our best defense is to cast a spotlight on such overtly authoritarian activities.  This concludes with a link to those who it is clear are our best soldiers in any struggle to maintain the American way of life.


The Only Strategy

President Trump’s incendiary (comparing the “radical left” to Communists during the 4th of July weekend), arbitrary (insisting schools reopen in the face of another Coronavirus surge), and overtly racist (pick your favorite) themes in the last several weeks make it clear that his overarching campaign strategy is to distract Americans from the many instances of his incompetence, most principally his complete failure to effectively manage the COVID crisis.  The latest state re-closures due to the Coronavirus surge arguably make it increasingly unlikely that American business will sufficiently revive by November to enable him to rely on the economy.  His apparent strategy seems a “Hail Mary Pass”:  that inciting a race and culture war will solidify his support among the voting and the heretofore nonvoting members of his base and gain the allegiance of those white Americans who, despite misgivings about him, will heed his call if they believe that “their” America is under attack.  In starkly political terms, it appears he really has no other option at this point.  Despite his attempt to pin the responsibility for America’s tens of thousands of COVID deaths and millions of virus cases on China, the World Health Organization, Democratic national, state, and local officials, and your Uncle Fred, it has sunk into the American psyche that we’re in this perilous health crisis — now raging in Florida and Arizona, two swing states that the Electoral College math essentially indicates (at least in the case of Florida) that he must win to retain the presidency — because of his denial, inaction, narcissism, and gross mismanagement.

(A COVID aside:  While the President and Vice President Mike Pence may now have little choice as to political strategy, they could at least refrain from gratuitously insulting our intelligence.  Mr. Pence’s happy talk this week about the status of our response to the virus — against the backdrop of spiking case numbers and state re-closures — struck me as akin to the Captain of the Titanic, after the first half of the ship had already sunk into the Atlantic, assuring the passengers in the back half of the ship that all was well; the President’s demand at the same time that schools reopen this fall seemed akin to the Titanic head chef announcing over the loudspeaker what dinner entrees would be served in the dining room the next evening.)

Although the strategy seemingly smacks of desperation, Mr. Trump has at times effectively used bluster to prod his opponents into unforced errors.  I would submit that the manner in which different segments of our people react to his blatant demagoguery could have a pivotal effect on the outcome of the presidential election.  A few impressions:

Will 2016 Trump voters who polls indicate have shifted their support to presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden be comfortable associating themselves with a candidate who now makes no bones about his racism?  Will they recognize that Mr. Trump is seeking to scare and distract them?

Will members of the Black Lives Matter and attendant movements be savvy enough to realize that the President is trying to bait them?  Mr. Trump has clearly recognized that he needs to widen the culture war in order to win it.  If the monuments controversy he has stirred with relish remains centered on removing Confederate memorials, he presumably loses more support than he gains (although I have not seen state polls as to how the citizens of the two swing states that seceded, Florida [again ;)] and North Carolina, feel about Confederate monuments).  On the other hand, if Mr. Trump can bait protestors to expand their assault on the Founding Fathers and monuments like Mount Rushmore, he gains.  Can protestors ignore the bait? 

Some commentators have declared that the President is “flailing”; while seemingly so to a certain extent, I would submit that in large measure he retains a very good grasp of what he’s doing.  He certainly recognizes that the ship has long since sailed on any hope of converting those who voted against him in 2016.  Based upon many past Presidential races, it is not unreasonable for him to anticipate that Mr. Biden’s reportedly wide current electoral advantage will narrow in the coming months, and to calculate that if he is successful in squeezing greater turnout from his base (although I’ve seen no commentator that believes that there are sufficient heretofore nonvoting Trump followers to compensate for the support he has apparently lost through his COVID mishandling and incitement of racial tensions) and scaring enough wavering former supporters in the swing states back into his fold, he may – as I (and many others) have ventured was inadvertently the case in 2016 – back into the presidency.  But even if he loses, his current divisive approach will serve to solidify a mighty impressive following for a Trump media empire, and perhaps cause a sufficient furor that a Biden Administration seeking to soften our divisions will be disinclined to pursue him for various crimes when such a prosecution will further inflame the country.

In these notes, I dislike simply joining a chorus of others – in this case, those that suggest the possibility that at this point, Mr. Trump’s primary objective may be to use his remaining time in office to build the foundation of a media empire.  Here, I see no alternative.  Given the country’s current prevailing sentiments, any other explanation for the President’s overtly alienating rhetoric renders him a fool.  In matters of his own interest and self-preservation, Donald Trump is no fool.  That said, my focus remains on the existential threat that his dictatorial instincts present for our republic if he wins.  Democrats cannot afford to get complacent.  We’re a long way from Election Day.  As the greatest of American philosophers, Lawrence P. Berra, advised us, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

Gone with the Wind … and Beaver Cleaver

A number of President Trump’s recent tweets — respectively retweeting a video of an apparent supporter yelling for “White Power,” describing a  proposed “Black Lives Matter” sign on New York City’s 5th Avenue as a “symbol of hate,” threatening to veto a defense authorization bill because it provides for renaming federal installations currently named for Confederate Generals, and declaring an intent to review an Obama-era Fair Housing regulation – have caused me to recall Mr. Trump’s comments at a Colorado rally in February, when he noted that the South Korean film, Parasite, had just won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and stated in part:  “What the hell was that all about? … You know I’m looking for, like – let’s get Gone with the Wind.  Can we get, like, Gone with the Wind back, please?”

At the time, given Parasite’s South Korean origin, the thought that first struck me when hearing him was:  Now, he’s starting after Asians.  Perhaps an accurate assessment; that said, his latest tweets have made clear that he believes that inflaming all racial divides is a key to his re-election.  I suspect that most Americans have seen Gone with the Wind and can recall the film’s brief written introduction, which provides, in part:

“There was a land of Cavaliers and Cotton Fields

Called the Old South …

Here in this pretty world …

… was the last ever to be seen …

Of Master and of Slave …

… it is no more than a dream remembered.

A Civilization gone with the wind ….”

After watching a YouTube clip of the GWTW introduction, the following verses of the world Mr. Trump obviously yearns for came to mind; I forthrightly acknowledge the obvious:  I’m as atrocious a poet as Mr. Trump is a president.

There was a land of Leafy Streets and Baseball Fields

Called ‘50s America …

Here in this pretty world

Elvis was King.

Cadillac to harmonica —

Made in America.

Of faiths, two:

Christian; a rare Jew.

White was right.

Black was set back.

Sex was clear …

No room for the Queer.

Suits were gray and skirts chaste;

Every woman knew her place.

Shame for the wimpy;

Shadows for the gimpy.

Ike was liked; Lucy, loved.

Jackie tolerated; Mick, lionized.

The Duke was boss … 

The Injuns lost.

Commies, “Pinkos,” and the Bomb we feared —

But not tobacco, carbon exhaust, or the steak well seared.

Here was the last ever to be seen of

Black and White TV,

Bald Presidential Candidates,

A Rebel without a Cause.

It is, for those that still pine, no more than a dream imagined …

Like Beaver Cleaver, a memory … gone with the wind …

George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  I would offer a pedestrian supplement:  Those that cling to the past … are condemned to forfeit the future.  As this weekend we as a people celebrate a cherished part of our past, may we prove to have the virtue and valor necessary to make ourselves better by moving forward from it.

Where is the Line? Part II

[If one intends to review this post, but has not yet read Part I (which is immediately below), I would start there.  I’ve realized that in Part I, I overlooked arguably the most offensive existing Confederate memorial:  the flag of the State of Mississippi, which includes within its design the Confederate battle flag.  The Mississippi legislature has now voted to have this Confederate remnant removed.]  

In recent days, vandals in Portland, OR, have pulled down statues of Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, others in Washington, D.C., have attempted to pull down a statue of General (later President) Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square, and yet others in San Francisco pulled down a statue of President Ulysses Grant — presumably because Messrs. Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, and Grant were among the twelve of our first 18 Presidents who were slave owners.  (Mr. Grant owned one slave in Missouri in the late 1850s, “given” him by his slaveholder father-in-law, whom Mr. Grant freed before the Civil War.)

I consider such actions despicable destruction, at best (if one assumes honorable intentions by the actors to avenge past atrocities against African Americans) aberrant overreaction.  These Presidents were not paragons of virtue, but I – again, a white man unburdened by the deep pain of our African American citizens — would submit that this deep stain upon their legacies must nonetheless be viewed within the entire respective mosaics of their lives’ efforts.  If Mr. Washington had not served as our first president, the fledgling nation might well have dissolved in bickering among the states.  No such dissolution would have bettered the lot of black slaves.  Mr. Jefferson famously penned the phrase, “All men are created equal”; although freedoms accorded to white Americans were malevolently denied to our African citizens for generations, they could have hope for the future specifically because of the sentiments Mr. Jefferson expressed.  Mr. Grant was obviously more responsible than any single American save Abraham Lincoln for the final abolition of slavery.  Mr. Jackson has of the four men perhaps the most questionable legacy, but as President quelled a nascent attempt by South Carolina to secede from the Union, calling it “treason.”  Each of these Presidents and a number of their slaveholder presidential peers had primary roles in laying the foundation for the nation that has provided the greatest freedom to all of its citizens of any nation in the history of the world.  Their transgressions should certainly not be glossed over, but neither should they be magnified out of proportion to the entire body of their achievements.

How saintly must a person be before his or her deeds are worthy of commemoration?  President Theodore Roosevelt never owned slaves, but called black people “backward” and native Americans “savages.”  Do we rip down his Monuments, despite all he did to strengthen America – including effecting progressive standards such as big business regulation and environmental protection? 

Or … Mr. Lincoln.  Mr. Lincoln obviously never owned slaves, but when inaugurated would have tolerated slavery in the Southern States had they not chosen to secede.  His Emancipation Proclamation was arguably primarily a battle tactic designed to help win the Civil War.  During his debates with Stephen Douglas in 1858, Mr. Lincoln is reported to have said:

“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races … I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied everything.”

Hardly a ringing affirmation for black rights or equality.  Should we, despite all that Mr. Lincoln thereafter did to protect our nation and free its slaves, tear down the Lincoln Memorial and the countless other memorials to him across the nation?

Given its honorees, such thinking, if taken to its logical conclusion, would seemingly call for the destruction of Mount Rushmore.

From a different perspective:  The strong support of President Lyndon Johnson resulted in the enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which banned discrimination on the basis of (among other things) race, unequal voter registration requirements, and segregation in schools, employment, and public accommodations. That notwithstanding, audiotapes now make clear that early in his presidency Mr. Johnson recognized that Vietnamese communism was not a strategic threat to the United States; he nonetheless continued and widened the war because he saw no politically palatable way to withdraw.  Monuments to Mr. Johnson exist.  If we deem it necessary to find our Presidents historically spotless, should the families of the 58,000 Americans who were killed in Vietnam during and/or arguably as a result Mr. Johnson’s presidency have the right to tear down his Monuments – despite his undisputedly pivotal role in helping to secure equal rights for black Americans?

For well-meaning protestors appropriately outraged by the monstrous nature of Mr. Floyd’s killing – as distinguished from actors merely using the cloak of protest to lay waste, such as the vandals that recently destroyed statues near the Capitol Square of Madison, WI, which could in no way be construed as glorifying racism – I would suggest that our nation was founded and nurtured in its early days by human beings – awesomely talented and farsighted, but nonetheless in other ways deeply flawed.  While their failings should be noted, their honorable achievements deserve to – indeed, need to — be commemorated and cherished if we are to move forward as a nation.  If well-intended protestors insist on saints, I submit that they should avoid mirrors and look in heaven; but if they do, it seems likely that they will soon confront St. Paul, arguably the most effective proselytizer of Christianity in history aside from the Lord himself – also known as Saul of Tarsus — who got his start … killing Christians.