In the Run-Up to an Election, Who Does That

In the Run-Up to an Election, Who Does That

Trump obviously feels invincible. He is beyond us all now. He is at the heights he has always dreamed of, but it has not made him nice. He believes that he must use fear to stay there, he must use audacity, and that is something he is really good at. Audacity can be a positive trait that allows risk-taking and pushes a forward agenda, such as a successful business. But in Trump’s case he has the audacity to break laws, to defy even the most gentle of authorities such as his nation’s traditions which never before had to be set into laws. Staying within some of these informal boundaries was a sort of gentleman’s agreement (also respected by ladies). But Donald J Trump is no gentleman, nor does he want to be one. He is a fascist. He is always punching back even when that is not the best strategy. He can’t help himself. He sees every disagreement as an attack. He sees every decision that goes against his wishes as turning him into a victim. He plays the victim well in order to get his way, but once he wins, he is ruthless. If he loses, which he rarely does, he engages in brutal retaliation. He seems to have a cruel heart, but he really has no empathy of any kind. His reactions are all about what he is feeling and how he can soothe himself. He cannot hide his emotions. He likes that his moods are carefully observed by everyone and that people try to keep him happy so he won’t lash out.

But even so, even though we know all of this about him, it is still unusual that he is acting the way he is in the run-up to an election. Meddling in the business of the Justice Department is not usual. Transparently interfering in courts, their processes and their outcomes is just not done. Doing this to keep crooked men out of jail because you like them, or because they are your friends; because they kept the loyalty oath they swore to you (knowing you would come to their rescue), because they refused to testify in front of lawful investigations of a Special Prosecutor is something that is usually done on the down low (or not at all). Doing this so openly in an election year is really, really rare. It suggests that you are so certain that you will be reelected that you do not need to worry about what you do, even this close to an election. Is Trump unable to keep himself in check to achieve a greater goal? Is he playing to his base to show how he treats those who are loyal to him? Is the election already a done deal, is the fix in? Will the electoral college math, the Evangelical machinations, and the Republican dehumanization of the Democrats make a Republican the winner of all presidential elections for decades to come, even though this is no longer a majority party. Trump obviously believes it is all about him, that his people love him so much, and the economy is doing so well that he has a blank check for any behavior that secures his tenure in his little Oval Office fortress.

He purges sincere civil servants who work in his government for testifying against him. Actually he eventually purges almost everyone. He turns in a budget that would not go into effect until after the election that makes big cuts to social programs. He wants the Supreme Court to declare the Affordable Care Plan unconstitutional. He reverses clean water protections. What candidate for President, even an incumbent does these kinds of things this close to an election. Presidents often try to do as little as possible and make statements about ‘gifts’ that will accrue to the people if they vote to elect. Why does making such counterintuitive moves seem to make Trump even more ‘Trumpy’? He had to hold an entire party in Congress in thrall to escape being impeached. Now he is putting ‘the band’ back together to help him win this election but I bet he will not listen to any advice from these old pals, like Hope Hicks. Of course, she obviously knows her way around the Trump. I would like to think that Donald is just being overly confident, but I have a sneaking suspicion that we are screwed. And that is exactly what Trump wants me to think. We need to put our energies into making sure that Donald’s cavalier behavior in the run-up to 2020 is just hype.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Nati Harnik – AP – NBC News

999 by Heather Dune Macadam – Book

If you decide to read 999: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Transport to Auschwitz by Heather Dune Macadam, read it with a whole box of tissues handy. This is not because, as in fiction, authors know how to engage our emotions; this is a nonfiction book and the tears will be real. Despite all the times authors have written about the Holocaust, this story still has the power to horrify us, to remind us of the heroic efforts it took to survive this unimaginable cruelty and brutality, to make us wonder if we would have been a survivor, and to force us to accept that the right set of circumstances could possibly turn any one of us into a monster.

Macadam was studying the first transports to Auschwitz in 1942. She learned that a notice went out in Slovakia that spring requiring 999 young teen girls to pack a bag and report for a physical exam. The notice said that they were going to be employed somewhere just outside Slovakia and would return home in 3 months. A few parents tried to hide their daughters because they could not understand why the government was taking girls. But in the end 997 girls were collected and parted from their parents and from all they knew. Macadam made extensive use of the USC Shoah Archive and the official records in Israel to track down the girls who survived this first transport. Although rumor had it that the girls were going to a shoe factory, they actually were taken to occupy the first buildings at Auschwitz. Their small suitcases were confiscated and they were given the uniforms of dead soldiers to wear and some were given black and white striped dresses. On their feet they had homemade clumsy sandals which they called clackers.

Some of the survivors could not talk about their experiences, some could not remember the details because their minds had blocked them, but there were survivors who felt it was important to tell people what had happened in those camps. How anyone survived I cannot say. The treatment of these girls was insane and inexplicable, apparently only possible because the Nazi’s were convinced that Jewish people were less than human. But they did what they did under conditions of great secrecy, so clearly they knew well how the world would judge them. After these girls, transport after transport of young Jewish women were delivered to Auschwitz, and they, in fact, cleared the ground for the entire concentration camp by hand, without coats in winter, in those awful homemade sandals, and thousands died.

This is the most authentic book I have read so far about Auschwitz and the ‘Final Solution’ given that Macadam spoke with people who had lived there and experienced that nightmare. The slightest small misstep, a bout of illness, an injury could result in death. Eventually the girls with the lowest numbers were given indoor work in Canada, which was the name given to the buildings where confiscated Jewish belongings were sorted. This decision may have been the only reason some of these girls survived. The thing that saved their lives put them right next to the crematoriums which had now been built and operated day and night when transports arrived, eventually leaving people off almost at the entrance to the ovens. The girls could see their relatives and neighbors lined up to be killed. The ashes of other Jews filled the air they breathed. Even the comfort of an indoor job held horror.

When I read The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris, I was skeptical of the things the author recounted. I also tended to see Jewish people in the camps who had light duty as possible collaborators. The girls who survived have a lot of guilt about things they did in the camps, but most of them offered a kindness when they could without putting their own life or their own survival in jeopardy. There were girls who were given power as a building supervisor, and some of these girls were dangerous and mean, but the things the girls on this first transport out of Slovakia felt guilty about were unavoidable. Now I believe that Heather Morris was just recounting a story that a survivor told her and that it was most likely as trustworthy as memories of such trauma can be. I read books about the Holocaust because it is the least I can do to honor those who lived through those inhuman camps. But also, so I will always remember that if one deranged human could decide to commit mass murder based on hate or jealousy, or some pathological construct, then it could happen again.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search –

My Despair: Who’s Using Who?

Trump’s party, his cohort, those who are supposed to ‘have his back’, have actually done Trump a great disservice. Republicans, you know this man. You know you have now unleashed him so he can continue to be used by you so you can hold on to your tenuous grasp on power. I can hear you laughing because you feel very secure in your power right now, but you have chosen a dark road and in the end people choose the light. Trump thinks he is using you, but he is also being used. He knows this – why do you think he uses threats rather than genuine camaraderie to relate to you, the Congressional Republicans.

You have all scored body blows against your opponents, humiliated us, shocked us, took pleasure in your twisted “wins”, and then turned around to do it all over again. Did you really refuse to impeach Trump in order to back Trump, or did you do this because you have begun to thrive on destruction? You gain a sick pleasure at the pain of those who do not agree with you. You have learned the trick of “dehumanization,” used whenever one group of people wants to discount another group of people. But animating a puppet president because he has a mental disorder that allows him to get your dirty work done, because his egomania, his narcissism drives him, is wicked, it’s wrong, it’s gross.

The actions of Congressional Republicans are shameful. You could have ended this macabre dance and you didn’t. We watched you sitting in those ballroom seats like pod people in empty suits (and dresses) clapping and laughing as your master/puppet spewed hate and vengeance. You may even win the next election but you will win nothing worth having. You will be governing an entity that no one can recognize as the United States of America. History won’t just condemn the record of Donald J. Trump. You will always be right there with him. You could have freed Trump, sent him off the Mar-a-Lago to live out his days enjoying chocolate cake and golf, and maybe even his family; or to put his brand on Trump Moscow. You could have saved the Republic at the same time, but you refused.

Obviously, the Republican Party no longer cares for our republican form of government and will use this unloved and unlovable media monster of a man to help turn our government into something else – an oligarchy, a corporate state, a dictatorship, a monarchy, a theocracy. And not one of these forms of government will be benign, having been birthed in calculation, greed, selfishness, and false pride. And although you think you control this man, he also thinks he controls you, and he may, one day soon, find you unnecessary. What use does he have for a Congress? The body will be there as stage dressing. You have given this destroyer absolute power. Nothing good can come from that. You just gave up any control you might have had. The depths to which you are willing to sink determine that what you will create will inspire no one, will lack any pretension to idealism. Good may arise out of evil but not because it was the original intent, only as a response to something repulsive. It is still shocking to think that you have taken our nation to this place. Readers of this may find it too extreme, but I believe that what happens now will bear me out. I hope I am wrong.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Washington Post

Trump and Our Water

Lonely plant in the parched earth submerged in the ocean Some graphics in this image is provided by NASA and can be found at http:/; To create a file was the program used Photoshop CS5. The image created by 31.08.2013

Trump’s SOTU address was designed to humiliate Democrats and lift up his sycophants and he certainly accomplished that. Trump is extra, special good at humiliation. Perhaps this is a new trait we look for in our Presidents now. He chooses minions who are equally good at dehumanizing their enemies, who just happen to be anyone sneeringly referred to as a “liberal.” Soul-sucking may be a dominant feeling we will need to steel ourselves against over the next four years if Democrats don’t win in 2020. But bouts of abject depression are not our worst worry. An article in The Daily Beast this morning talked about what Trump has been up to while we were tuned into his impeachment.

Trump put our access to fresh water in even more jeopardy than it was already in, Margaret Carlson tells us.

“He moved to poison the country’s water and pollute its air, allowing emissions even greater than the auto industry had asked for, and lifting the ban on toxic chemicals like PFAS. You might have missed the change to runoff rules that over time will turn every city into Flint, where the water is so toxic its residents had to bathe in Evian. The Environmental Protection Agency, so-called, has reopened negotiations with cities, including the nation’s capital, to allow them to dump raw sewage into its rivers until they can afford to upgrade their sewers.

Last Thursday, the same agency finalized a rule to strip protection for streams, wetlands and groundwater, to the pleasure of real estate developers and fossil-fuel producers. It’s all part of Trump’s crusade to remove all traces of Obama and to repeal or weaken nearly 100 environmental rules and laws on climate change, clean air, chemical pollution, coal mining (the head of the EPA is a former coal-mining lobbyist), and oil drilling—soon to be happening in a national forest near you. His support for the Trillion Trees Initiative, proposed by the World Economic Forum in Davos, will hardly compensate.”

Trump is dangerous because he poses a threat to our republic/democracy. We know this and we are trying to fight it, however unsuccessfully. But the threat to our water supply is far more existential. We cannot survive without fresh water. Some places in the world have always been deserts, where water was so scarce that life was only able to keep a tenuous hold on the land, people had to move from oasis to oasis in order to be able to trade for goods they could not make or grow. These problems have been somewhat ameliorated by cities that have better transport options and can even supply locations in the hinterlands. However, the news still brings us pictures of places where unstable water supplies, or impure fresh water make life a hardscrabble proposition. Recently there was an article about a town in India that had completely run out of fresh water.

Obviously freshwater resources are not equally distributed in America. In our own desert places water runs when it rains and dries up when rain is scarce. Some of our rivers have been tamed by damming until they are mere shadows of what they once were. We are surrounded by oceans full of water, but it is all salty; we can’t drink it. Given that people now understand that when their water runs out there are still people on the planet who have enough water, we will either have to share our water (which people will be unlikely to do), or we will have water migrants roaming the planet to find a place to live with plentiful fresh water, or we will have water wars. Think about how aggressive America might become if our own water became undrinkable.

Water is a closed system. We do not manufacture water. The planet has a water cycle so that water moves around, is picked up in one place and put down in another, but the water cycle does not distribute water equally. The water cycle does seem to be able to take water out of oceans without taking the salt. Too bad this trick is beyond our means. There is no extra water being created in space and hosed down on the planet. If we make our freshwater toxic, we rob the system of water that cannot be replaced and, most likely cannot be cleaned. Every time we put an oil or gas pipeline over a freshwater aquifer or reserve there is a chance we could contaminate water that serves thousands or even millions. We should not be taking these kinds of chances with our fresh water. Our president is a wrecking ball.

Let’s talk about water in the campaign against Trump. Let’s make ads that show what could happen if we lose our fresh water or if water gets scarce somewhere else while Trump’s immigration bans forces more people to migrate, always to Europe, never to America. Things could go catawampus pretty quickly. Besides, we need a message to counter Trump’s new ‘victims of socialism’ ads which were also announced in today’s papers.




Republicans Attacks on Election Validity

Undermining American Elections

In the last decade Republicans began to claim that all kinds of people were voting who were not registered, who were undocumented, who were deceased, in other words that there was massive voter fraud. They claimed that elections were skewed by huge numbers of disenfranchised voters who were casting votes and that these voters were Democrats. Studies proved these claims to be unfounded.

I had always trusted our elections and felt our system of registering voters and counting votes worked pretty well. At least until the Gore-Bush contest and the hanging chads and the decision by the Supremes in favor of Bush I continued to feel smugly that this was one area in which America excelled – free and fair elections.

Many black Americans would feel that my naiveté arises from my position of entitlement, given the struggles with voting that still challenge voters of color even today, voters who remember very well that their fairly recent ancestors could be killed for trying to exercise their right to vote. We do tend to generalize that the entire nation conforms to whatever behavior we see locally, which offers us a very unscientific sample from which to pull our more general assumptions about America.

Over the past decade, since I began paying closer attention to national politics, I have noticed that whatever the Republicans say Democrats are doing; that is actually what the Republicans are doing. So when they implied that Democrats were using unqualified voters to win at the polls, the GOP made Americans paranoid about the validity of our elections, so that Republicans could mess with elections without anyone raising an alarm.  They gerrymandered districts to make some key districts reliably Republican. But we were reminded that both parties have used this process to skew the vote in given key districts for years. (Nothing to see here.)

The Voting Rights Act had long required that states that changed their election rules to disenfranchise black voters must get “preclearance” before they changed election laws in the future. On the fiftieth birthday of the Voting Rights Act this “preclearance” section of the Voting Rights Act was declared unnecessary and it was dropped. Actions in the states by Republicans soon proved how very necessary this preclearance process really is even now. Republican-controlled state governments soon began their campaign to block minority votes, once again, even though their target this time was the Democratic Party, because not all minorities are black these days and minorities tended to vote Democratic. Polling places were eliminated making getting to the polls more difficult. Polling days and times were rolled back. Some states wanted to require IDs to vote.

Republicans began reviewing and removing (purging) voters from the rolls in the states whenever state voting officials would comply with their wishes. Republicans won Citizen United v the FEC giving corporations unlimited influence in voting. Then they made it clear that Republicans did not believe in regulating corporations or the environment so they were the most corporate-friendly party. They allied with Evangelicals when they became aware of the machine these religious organizations had assembled to turn out Republican votes, right down to household level.

We may have believed it could not get any worse and that just by copying Republican and Evangelical get-out-the-vote methodologies we could set things right. But now, in this twisted impeachment trial we find that our elections have been opened up to any and all foreign intervention. Our elections just went global (so much for the great isolationist). America First really means Trump first and the Republicans are now simply along for the ride.

Evangelicals hold nonprofit status. They file 501c4’s with the IRS claiming this status. They are allowed to educate the public, but they are not supposed to be political, especially not partisan. As the Republicans try to get political speech approved for churches in the courts, in practice these nonprofit religious groups already contribute big dollars to political speech in the form of ads, pamphlets, canvassing, and even preaching from the pulpit that God favors a certain candidate (a Republican candidate). I’m sure this will all turn out to be perfectly fine with the courts (now stuffed with conservatives) and 501c4’s will get to speak for free and also sway elections. These groups have been known to pay for political ads, now they are paying voters, in the name of charity of course.

Democrats can’t follow Republicans into these methodologies, nor would we want to. Dems consider soliciting foreign help in an election to be unconstitutional and now that they impeached a president for this behavior they certainly cannot turn around and condone it, even if they wanted to. All Dems can do is try to block foreign intervention and call it out whenever they see it.

There are perhaps Democratic 501c4’s who violate their nonprofit status by electioneering, but the Democratic Party does not have a populous movement like the Evangelicals/Fundamentalists to use God to compel votes as the Republicans do. Evangelicals consider themselves guardians of conservative values. Republicans did not have nearly the rural Talk Radio presence that Evangelicals have, but Evangelicals were happy to put it to use on their behalf, thus tipping the scales in the Electoral College towards rural voters. By constantly demonizing “coastal elites” they created a divide between Americans based on population and geographical location, as if people choose their location based on their politics. What Republicans exploited was the real difference in political preferences that have evolved in America. In other words, the divide was real, but Republicans escalated the differences, turned them into a culture war.

The lesson here is to remember that whenever Republicans say that Democrats are up to something they are the ones that are busy. They always telegraph what they are up to. They also are actually the paranoid ones, worried that Democrats might come up with the same jaded or outright illegal tactics, and that once a party that has become a minority party loses control, the party (the Republican Party) will be unable to get it back, even by crooked means.

Can all their crooked, corrupt election strategies keep this minority party in power? So far it has worked like a charm. Can it continue to work without turning our elections into complete travesties? Well that question has been answered. How much more blatant will their strategies get? We the people are the only ones who can decide.

Regardless of how Republicans engineer our elections to produce reliable wins for a party that is actually a minority party (meaning that most Americans do not wish to pursue the Republican Way), we have to keep voting. We need to vote in large enough numbers to overcome the effects of all this corrupt election meddling.

At some point the internet was going to change American elections anyway, the Republicans just speeded it up by inviting foreign actors in (Russia, China, and who knows how many others). The Republicans are also not subtle. We are finding it quite easy to see what they are up to and to bring it to the attention of “we the people”. But they are persistent, if one tactic gets exposed they come up with another. Be aware, but don’t let these attempts to invalidate our elections stop you from voting. These tactics mainly effect who votes. They do not seem to undermine the election process itself except in isolated cases. So vote because 2020 may be the most consequential year to vote ever.

Anthony Brindisi: The Attack of the Nonprofit

Anthony Brindisi (Democrat) pictured next to Claudia Tenney (Republican). Claudia Tenney lost in 2018. Now she wants her seat back and she has a big war chest.

Each night when I switch over from cable TV to local TV I am assaulted again and again by an ad against a Democratic candidate from a neighboring district. This ad has a suburban mom with long blonde hair admonishing Anthony Brindisi for not accomplishing anything in Congress. Obviously this woman is lying because almost 400 bills have been passed in the House of Representatives and Anthony Brindisi has voted his little heart out, but all of these bills are sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk, or in his closet, or in his circular file. This means that the reason Mr. Brindisi has not accomplished anything is because the Republicans won’t let him. Then Mrs. Suburban American throws in that fine old chestnut admonishing Brindisi to “secure the border.” How 2016…OK, you say all is fair in love and politics but I say “you get what you pay for.”

This ad is sponsored by a group with lots of money, obviously, because the ad plays over and over again, sometimes ten times a night. Yet the ad time was purchased by American Action Network, a nonprofit with a 501c4 tax exempt status (religious). These groups only get to keep this status if they don’t put their thumb on the political scales in an election. These groups are not being held to the rules of nonprofit status because the Republicans fought a battle of intimidation with the IRS in which they accused the IRS of being partisan. Surprisingly the IRS backed off and the Republicans won, so now religious groups break the rules of nonprofits with impunity. I’m thinking that poor Anthony Brindisi doesn’t stand a chance of being reelected in 2020.

Once again Republicans make a disingenuous argument. Nonprofits are allowed to educate so they pretend that their very partisan ads are intended to educate. This is what happens to language these days. Words are slippery. They mean different things to different people. Nonsense, but dangerous nonsense.


Losing Our Republic

Democracy will die slowly. We still feel relatively free and that illusion will persist day after day until one day the illusion will evaporate into a dismal reality. Our Republic is dying and it will one day dawn on Americans that they have lost something very great. They have lost a limb, a lung, a heart, a leg.

We are losing our freedom to speak everyday but in such a freaky way, such a 1984-doublespeak way, that it continues to seem that we can still say what we wish. But the truth is that regardless of what truth we think we are expressing, someone holds a different truth ‘to be self-evident’. If all speech is cancelled out by another’s speech, there actually is no free speech, just babbling. Government doesn’t have to use muscle to shut down a newspaper.  It doesn’t have to turn off news channels that defy it. We will kill our own media by starving it. One of the cornerstones of a dictatorship (or a monarchy) will have been accomplished without giving those who have lost something any one key event to point to as the exact moment when the freedom to speak was trumped by the fact that there is no longer any such thing as a lie. Twisting our brains into thought pretzels, gaslighting, playing games with logic, these are the tricks that nullify free speech.

Speech is so key to a democracy that losing this right will basically mean that our founders tried but did not protect us well enough. Even as the ability to make a cogent argument that will resonate disappears our Second Amendment rights to carry a gun expand. It is fairly easy to see that the cocksure and primed-for-violence GOP base might have difficulty sticking to using words, however killer their name-calling might be, and decide that a few people need their brains blown out. Trump’s base are far better at activism than the rest of us are. They are absolutely loyal and cannot be swayed by any logic at all. The rest of us are wrong and that is that. These people feel that they have always been the straightest and truest Americans and they have been shafted (although most of them are quite comfortably middle class) and Donald is their deliverer. They fight so viciously for their absolute right to own any and every gun they wish to own and there is a frightening edge to their insistence. If anyone could be pushed over the edge it is those who Trump has empowered, however unreal that power actually is. They are empowered to herd the rest of us into camps or split the nation into factions and those of us who are not Trumpers, it seems, will just look on in astonishment because we are not yet radical enough to feel like an avenging army – and setting our government back to rights will be misinterpreted as a liberal takeover of America.

Trump’s base, by enabling an all-powerful Chief Executive, are actually destroying the very freedoms they think they are defending. They accuse those of us who cannot pledge our loyalty to Trump of being the ones who are corrupt and they honestly believe that all people are so tainted that our government is irredeemable. They do not realize that they have been turned into instruments of the corporations and the wealthy. They were betrayed by their corporatist overlords and yet they defend Capitalism as the all-American institution that saves them from (horror of horrors) socialism or communism. Since socialism and communism have now been defined as using any tax dollars on social programs or benefits, the capitalists have achieved their main end of turning Americans loose to sink or swim in a transitional age, which many are unequipped to stay afloat in. Small government means that the corporations have totally won; we will subsidize businesses that no longer feel they hold any stake in America because their families live elsewhere. Trumpers believe they are treasured by their tainted leader; they are actually the tools of their own destruction.

When we emerged (were ejected) from the Industrial Age we lost our footing. The world became less predictable, less comprehensible. The belief that if you took care of your employer they would take care of you disappeared, poof, when manufacturing moved South and then basically out of America. The information age is too abstract to offer stability for the entire nation. Stuff happens in clouds, for heaven’s sake. Most of us are not prepared to see what happens in the digital world as real. It is all toys, games, virtual reality. Most of us cannot make a living in this digital world. We are set adrift. Education becomes the key to holding a good job. And yet educated people are denigrated. If you don’t know and understand a technology that requires certain engineering types of skills you are limited to service jobs – long hours with low pay, or having to have several ‘gigs’ to make ends meet. Since you are not a billionaire you have no importance in the world that you find yourself in. Jobs in alternative energies could provide the kinds of jobs people used to seek, jobs that offer stability, but those corporations do not see a way to make their profits without continuing to use fossil fuels. So our Trumpers fight for fossil fuels and they do not accept that alternative energies might give them back their footing, take them out of the clouds and ground them again. Oddly enough, speaking of being grounded, if space travel were to become a viable field for business, good jobs along the whole spectrum from physical to mental would multiply and “ground” us once again.

It just does not look like our American democracy/republic will survive this unsettling transitional age as we flounder about to save our planet from overpopulation, from climate change, from social and political uncertainty. We are in the midst of a massive anxiety attack which may turn out to be overblown, but could also be totally justified by what is going on around us. Some of us want a father figure, a tough-love father figure, who insists that he will use economic prosperity and geographic isolation, the importation of geniuses, and the end of social support systems to keep America, if not the American people, afloat. Our Trumpers, our beloved sisters, brothers, neighbors do not realize that idolizing one man, turning him into your savior, is the way you lose everything. Now we will not only have lost our lifestyle security, we will have lost our national security. We will be subjects, serfs, and I can even foresee a day that anyone who cannot be productive will be expendable. But I cannot convince those who disagree that this is where we are headed.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Take Back Our Republic

Frederick Douglass by David Blight – Book

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David Blight has had me in thrall since December of last year. The author’s style is not to blame for the length of time I spent with Douglass. His style is not obscure, linguistically dense, or pedantic. Frederick Douglass’s life, however, was lived with a passionate density and a dedication to freedom and equality for all Americans of African Descent. It was a life richly lived and in no way ordinary.

How did Douglass make his way from slavery to national fame, treasured by many and hated by some. He believed in the value of hard work and telling an important story, at even the cost of his own health sometimes. In the days before there were radios, getting out a message took more effort, more arduous travel, often by rail, in all kinds of weather, than we can even imagine. How did Frederick Douglass learn to read and speak to crowds? It was illegal to teach slaves to read. It was said that once a slave could read he became useless as a slave. These masters, who liked to argue that the Negro race was inferior in intelligence, were afraid to teach a slave to read and write, to make a hash of their white supremacy claims, which, as Blight admits, linger stubbornly to this day.

Douglass, with some help from his master’s son’s wife, Sophie Auld in Baltimore, the Bible, some friendly white boys in Baltimore, and a book he poured over called The Columbian Orator, taught himself to read and speak, as an orator speaks, with power and effective rhetoric while he was still a slave. Eventually Douglass (born Fred Bailey) escaped north and fell into the helpful hands of some very active abolitionists, who dedicated themselves to speaking and writing against using any humans as slaves. He renamed himself after Clan Douglas from Walter Scott’s poem Lady of the Lake, because he liked their strength, and added an ‘s’ to make the name his own, says Blight. Late in the slave days of Douglass his master died and his estate was broken up. Since slaves were considered property all the master’s slaves were put on display and examined by other slave owners, purchased and hauled away like furniture, or tillers. While Douglass already understood that slavery was wrong, this atrocity imprinted graphically on his mind, along with a memory of being allowed in to visit his mother before she died. Frederick Douglass never knew his birth day and when slavery was done he went to see the Aulds who remained, but no one could enlighten him.

I will not tell you all the names of every abolitionist Douglass met because he knew all of his contemporaries. He was in demand as an orator who used Biblical cadences and even humor to insist that no man should be owned by any other man, that only freedom for all would suit the idealism of the American republic. There were often disputes among abolitionists about whether to advocate peaceful protest or a more robust activism so friends were made and lost and even Douglass changed his views on this, but, even so, Douglass’s focus on freedom and equality for all of the people being held as slaves propelled him through the next 6o years, with time out for a few jobs in the government after the Civil War. Douglass traveled and spoke constantly, first widely in the North and Midwest sections of America, passed from church to church and abolitionist to abolitionist for his own safety, in England, and Ireland, and Scotland (where slavery was already illegal), and again in America.

He spoke up before the Civil War, all throughout the Civil War when he also fought to have black soldiers who would fight for their own emancipation, and he could not rest in the disheartening aftermath of emancipation. He became owner/publisher/writer of a newspaper which included articles from most of the other activists in the anti-slavery movement. He wrote books, autobiographical in content, still in print today and still popular. He struggled constantly to support himself and his family. His wife Anna (Murray), who was born free, and his young children kept a home base that Douglass rarely got to enjoy. He was propelled by his mission and could not sit and rusticate.

Many wealthy abolitionists contributed to keeping Douglass’s newspaper alive and in that way helped support his family. Eventually he moved his family to Rochester, NY. Anna’s garden in Rochester was extensive, productive, and apparently lovely. Some of Douglass’s best friends in the cause and financial supporters were female activists. At least two of these women spent time staying at the Douglass home in Rochester. Ottilie Assing a well-educated German woman, seemed to have been enamored of Douglass and spent summers at the Douglass homes in both Rochester and later in the family home near Washington, DC. Blight found no descriptions of any untoward intimacies that survived, although it is possible to imagine that there may have been some, perhaps when Douglass went to stay at times with Ottilie and her circle. Anna Douglass left no clues about how she felt about these visitors, but Ottilie sometimes complained about Anna.

There is such a wealth of detail in Blight’s biography that if you really want to know Frederick Douglass you need to read Blight’s well-documented book. I will say that I became very nervous about what would happen when Reconstruction was undermined by the assassination of Lincoln (who Douglass knew personally and who he was able to influence and educate about the true conditions of slavery) and the rapid acceptance of former slave states back into the Union. I knew what atrocities ensued and I dreaded watching Douglass’s heart break when emancipation became violent racism. But Douglass was a man of his times and more pragmatic than me. He hated the violence, but he tried to keep the nation on a path to granting equality to freed slaves. He celebrated the 15 th Amendment with a Jubilee even as he grieved the bloodshed, the terrorism, and the lynching that turned the South into a death trap for black folks who tried to exercise their new right to vote. So many battles still to be fought.

But in his final years, even as Frederick Douglass traveled and spoke as often as his health would allow, even as he faced the disapproval from both citizens and family when he married (after the death of Anna) a younger white woman, Helen Pitts, who he had worked with in Washington, even as he represented the federal government in Haiti, – he won the fame and reverence that he had earned in a lifetime of dedication to fighting for the freedom he did not have, for both himself and every black man. Douglass knew women who fought for the rights of women. He knew Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but he was not distracted. The needs of slaves were more pressing in his mind and I don’t think most of us would argue with this focus. When Douglass died in 1895, “the Hutchinson Family Singers, who had many times appeared with Douglass, sang ‘Dirge for a Soldier’: ‘Lay him low, lay him low/Under the grasses or under the snow: /What cares he? He cannot know./Lay him low, lay him low.” – page 753.

I will say that I did not actually read this book; I studied it. The author’s words were so compelling and so impelling that I could not think of rephrasing them. The way the story is told is just as essential to understanding Frederick Douglass as the facts themselves are. It was a pleasure to spend these many hours with Mr. Douglass and the travails and joys of his life. I was told he was a great man, now I know why he was considered a great man. Frederick Douglass would possibly understand the refresher course we are experiencing in racism in America because it has never really been put to rest. But he was enough of an optimist to hope that this might be the last hurrah for white supremacy.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – The Federalist

Rep. Katko, Facebook, Impeachment and Me

On my Facebook page, Thursday 1.23.2020, appears an entry with a picture of John Katko, the elected representative in the House in Washington, DC from NY 24, my district. Above the image it says, “Rep. Katko worries that the ‘sloppy’ impeachment process will mean more impeachments in the future.” Below the picture it says, “Rep. John Katko calls impeachment process ‘sloppy’ as trial begins.” Well, of course I just had to say something, and then something more. I had to take the temperature of the nation and see if Republicans still had ‘the fever’. (They do.)

Every time I get into one of these comment wars on Facebook I swear that I will never do that again, then I do. I remind myself of Sally Fields in Soap going to malls to take in the remnants of her fame (except I am putting myself out there to be linguistically annihilated). Or perhaps it’s like Trump going to a rally of his cult whenever the reality of his unpopularity gets too obvious. His rallies restore him; my forays on Facebook remind me that my reality is not everyone’s reality. Did I give good answers? Probably not. But the interchanges are certainly informative and I always lose; there may be no way to win.

And so it begins…

Me: You are saying the Dems were sloppy and I am saying the Senate trial is fake. Your reasoning is twisted by your ambition, Mr. Katko.

Josh to Me: your opinions are not facts….  (1 like emoji)

Me to Josh: Didn’t you know? There are no facts anymore. (1 angry emoji)

Josh to me: hence the impeachment (skull emoji) (1 like)

Dawn to me: It was the houses job to get the guilt in their inquiries/investigation they failed and cannot prove their case with what they have (1 angry)

Me to Dawn: I thought the evidence was very convincing. He did it. The evidence would have been better if Trump did not think that he is a king and block them from talking to many of the witnesses they wanted to call or documents they should have been able to see. Trump sent his minions in to traipse around a sovereign nation, Ukraine, and he used bribery on a brand new president who was just taking office. But Trump knows how to use the courts to delay and delay, by appealing and appealing. He laughs at our courts and then he uses them. He is a criminal with tons of practice covering his tracks. And he cheats. (1 like)

Dawn to me: What are they covering up??  The house did not get the job done. It’s not the Senate’s job. (1 like) (2 angry)

Me to Dawn: If you won’t allow any witnesses in a trial you are covering up something. This is not how our republic does things. It’s not our government. I don’t know what this is. (1 like) (2 angry)

Debbie to me: Do you want socialism? Is that what you’re saying because that’s what you’re going to get if a democrat becomes President. Nothing is free, nothing and they’re peddling this bullcrap on a daily basis. What’s yours is theirs and what’s theirs is theirs. I work too hard to share my paycheck with anyone who is not working just as hard.

Me to Debbie: I am getting very tired of saying this but I will say it again. Democrats are not socialists. Spending our tax dollars on ourselves through the regular budget process is not socialism. It is the way our Republic works. Stop watching Fox. (2 hahas)

Paul to Debbie: she’s a teacher. Teachers are unionized and all for socialism, little do they know the recourse (1like)

Me to Paul: You found out our secret, all teachers must sign the ‘socialist pledge’ (not)

Dallie to Me: video of Nancy Pelosi – she has been working on impeaching trump since she came into office. LOL what about those gift pens (pen emoji) for such a serious time.

Me to Dallie: He’s a terrible President and turn about is fair play if she is doing that. Mitch McConnell swore to make Obama a one term President and he tried every trick in the book to make it so.

Debbie to me: yes, he’s horrible, unemployment lowest in 50 years, lowest ever for Hispanics and minorities, over 266,000 job created in November and December, booming economy. You can hate the man but you can’t possibly hate what he’s doing for America in spite of democrats blocking him at every corner. As far as you saying ‘stop watching Fox’ I don’t watch any news and haven’t for a very long time, the media loves to cause division I’d rather watch the Senate hearings Now on to socialism, every democrat running is screaming FREE, FREE, FREE. Again, NOTHING IS FREE and Bernie is more of a communist than he is a socialist. Every democrat talks about how great socialism is, are you living under a rock? Stop watching CNN, MSNBC, CBS,ABC, NBC? Smh (1 like)

Me to Debbie: Almost all of that job momentum comes directly out of the Obama administration. Check your facts. Money isn’t everything. Deregulation, guzzling oil and gas, not believing in climate change, overturning climate protections. I know you believe these are good things but I don’t. If we elect Trump for four more years there will be repercussions as we watch the world melt and burn. There is no way you can convince me that having a terrible businessman like Trump as our President will turn our well.

Debbie to Me: Just because Pelosi went on every station she possibly could and said “he will be impeached forever” doesn’t mean diddly to the SANE people who know what a farce this was and what they’ve done to future Presidents. They’ve been wanting to impeach him since the day he was elected, what does that tell you. He won’t be removed, believe me; this hurts the democratic party big time (1 like) (8 loves)

Me to Debbie Well I’m just as angry as you because so many people can see that this person wants absolute power and that is not democracy. I can see that this trial is a sham, Trump will not be removed and he will claim to be exonerated. But it won’t be true. (1 haha)

Dawn to Me: They are also deciding on acquittal (2 likes)

Me to Dawn: It’s a done deal (1 haha)

Me: Boycott the Senate trial. It’s bogus. Trump is already impeached forever. Watch the food channel, go to a movie. Let them talk to no one.

Jann to Me: Go back to Civics class, that’s not the way it works. Flag, Flag, Trump 2020 Flag Flag (1 like) (4 loves)

Me to Jann: It is exactly how it works. The Senate is deciding whether Trump should be removed.

(When taking notes after the fact it is sometimes difficult because Facebook does not post comments in strict order. There were more exchanges but the order got difficult to follow.)

Me to Facebook people: Am I all alone in the universe? Aren’t there any other people out there in Central NY who find this president lawless and are worried that he is swelling the powers of the executive branch to proportions that make the President either a king or a dictator. Aren’t there any other people who think this guy is very wrong for our republic and that he abuses his powers all the time?

Peg to Me: You definitely are not alone. Millions of us feel the same. (5 likes)

Michael: Nancy you certainly don’t speak for me?

Me to Michael: Surprise, surprise, apparently the millions who agree with me don’t use Facebook.

Later this same day, Katko was on local news declaring that he will back Trump in 2020.



Boycott Bogus Senate Impeachment Trial

Let’s boycott the impeachment proceedings. The Democrats deserve our close attention because they are following regular order in this impeachment process, but the trial in the Senate does not. We might as well be tuning in to two different universes, the actual government of the United States. of America, and an alternative universe, which is Trump’s America. I cannot be expected to listen all day and night to liars, who are pretending to be lawyers, repeat the same nonsense over and over. I cannot be expected to watch the Republicans run the Democrats out of town with their verbal tar and feather routine. The Senate impeachment trial is just a massacre all done for show. If it’s a show, no one should watch it until it is done properly. Trump is already impeached. As for this disgustingly biased display in the Senate – this has nothing to do with governance. This shows that the Trump/Fundamentalist/Republican coup is almost finished and the only ones who don’t know about it are the Democrats.

We can all see that this is not a real “process” at all. This is a bogus construct of an immoral political cabal that will sell their souls to protect a man who is totally unworthy and who has weaseled his way into a position where he does not belong. This man has committed many acts that abuse his office, but so far we have only enough evidence to find him guilty of two articles of impeachment. Does he think we cannot see how he covers his tracks, how he gets henchmen to do his dirty work, and then how he disavows any relationship with them? I guess he thinks he has a string of those spies-without-portfolio whose governments will be unable to protect the men they send out into the clandestine world should they be caught. Except these men are not sent out on government business, they are sent out on cheap, bully-boy Trump election-fixing business. Our government has been corrupted by money and influence for some time. Now we are corrupted by thuggery and bribery and cover-ups.

Boycott the Senate Impeachment proceedings. Do not serve as any part of an audience for this ‘trash’. Find other ways to show support for Democrats. The 2020 election is looming and it couldn’t be more important to fill every seat possible with a Democrat.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – NBCNews