Imagine it is Thursday, November 19, 1863. A terrible, bloody battle has been fought during a brutal civil war. Now the leader of our country has come to address the gathering on the former battlefield where many of the fallen combatants are now buried. The assembled focus attention on him, awaiting his words of inspiration and solace.
In 1776, the founders of this great country, and it is a really great country. Honestly, the greatest country in history, folks. The greatest in the world. Nobody second to us. Nobody. And this great country founded in 1776 (that was 87 years ago, friends) by our great forefathers, and they really were so great. Really the greatest. And they founded this great country 87 years ago, and so we don’t want to lose it. No way are we losing it. We’re not gonna screw this up.
So now we’re in the middle of this civil war, and we need to win it, and I mean we need to win it bigly. We can’t lose this war. Now, when it started, I really didn’t want this war. I said, “Hey, if those folks in the South want to split, I say let ‘em split. Just let ‘em go. Who needs ‘em. Just let them go, and they’ll come back to us begging. They’ll be begging to come back to us.” That’s what I said when the war started.Just let ‘em go. But we’re in this civil war now so we gotta finish it. And I’m the only one who can finish this war, folks. I’m the only one who can win it. We just gotta finish it. And when it’s finished, I’m sure those folks in the South will come back. Many people say they will be coming back, and they’ll be happy to come back, and we can get some good ideas from them. Those negro workers they got do amazing work. We should have them working for us. I can make some great deals to get those negroes working for us.
Let me tell you what an honor it is for me to be speaking to you on this battlefield today. It’s a lot easier being here today than it was a few months ago ‘cause there was a lot fighting going on then. It is so much easier to be here today than last July. And there were a lot of good soldiers here then, and a lot of them got shot. I like soldiers. I prefer the ones that don’t get shot. Seriously. You can’t do much fighting after you’ve been shot. But a bunch of soldiers got shot, and now we have to bury them. So we’ll just bury them here where they got shot. It makes things so much easier.
Some folks say nobody will remember what we did here today, but I don’t know, folks. I don’t know. I think people will remember. They’ll certainly remember me, the greatest president in the history of this greatest country.
And this will be great place for a cemetery. I hear many people say it will be a great place to visit. I may even build a few hotels here. People will have a nice place to stay when they visit.
You’re gonna be so happy when I win this war. You won’t believe how happy you’ll be after I win this war. You’ll be thanking me every day for being so happy after winning this war. Believe me. Then America will be great again. The people will be great again. And I will be great, as always.
Now imagine it is noon in Washington, DC on January 20, 2017. He has just taken his hand off the Bible after taking the oath of office. He strolls to the podium, and stands before a bank of microphones. The whole world is listening, and President Donald J. Trump is about to speak.
I have been listing as many reasons as I can why we cannot permit Donald Trump to be President of the United States. I would like to focus on the issue on climate change, which has been one of my biggest concerns as a voter. We do not have much time left to get this right, and, unfortunately, too little attention has been paid to it. When it comes to selecting our next president, the choice is clear, even if you are choosing between four candidates.
One way the issue has figuratively come home to me was just before the California primary. I came home to turn on the local TV news and found that Bernie Sanders was on my street! OK, so he was two miles away, but he was still on my street. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich was hosting him at the Center for Labor Research and Education. Afterward, Sanders came out to speak to the press. He told them of how he has observed climate change in his state of Vermont and how Lake Champlain no longer freezes over every winter. When I heard that, I was shocked. It was Christmas of 1989 that I saw the lake frozen solid. I was visiting my adoptive mother Alice Wiser in Burlington. That following summer, I stayed again at the house, where BTW Bernie Sanders had previously celebrated his 40th birthday (Alice, was not at the party which was hosted by her housemates. She was off on one of her travels around the world.) It was weird to swim in such a big body of water that did not taste of salt. In the winter, I saw the ice fishers. They drove their SUVs on the solid ice, set up their tents, built their camp fires, and drilled holes in order to drop their lines. Now Bernie was telling me that, in recent winters, the lake has not been freezing over.
As evidence builds that humans are warming the planet and time runs out to do something about it, both Trump and his running mate Mike Pence deny that global warming is even happening. Trump has promised to pull our country out of the COP21 agreement on climate made in Paris last year. Now, 375 scientists have signed a letter opposed to a Trump presidency.
Last May, Trump gave his formal policy address on energy to a petroleum conference in North Dakota. As I listened I was amazed at how little he was saying made sense. Now I know very little about energy, but it was clear to me that I knew more than Donald Trump, who boasted how we would save the fossil fuel industry with more mining and drilling. The problem is that the fossil fuel industry is suffering from over supply. Drilling more will only lead to lower prices and fewer jobs for oil, gas, and coal workers. In fact, coal companies are going bankrupt as fracking makes cleaner natural gas cheaper and more preferable. There were a couple of points where Trump was somewhat correct. Yes, solar and wind have environmental impacts, too, and we need to reduce bird deaths from wind generators. Trump also supports nuclear, though it would still have to compete with the cheaper fossil fuels that Trump would make even cheaper.
Hillary Clinton wants to continue the progress on climate and build on the work of President Obama. She has chosen a running mate, Tim Kaine, who shares her commitment to climate action. The Democratic Party platform advocates a price on carbon emissions. The Republican platform flatly rejects a carbon tax. For a short time, Gary Johnson suggested he would support a revenue neutral carbon tax, something I support as a member Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Unfortunately, Johnson backed down when his supporters accused him of being a liberal sellout.
I am pleased to read that Clinton has joined Obama in support of nuclear power. In 2008, she said during a debate that she was neutral (“agnostic”) about nuclear, while Obama gave his support and John Edwards said he was opposed. Bernie Sanders had campaigned on shutting down nuclear plants. Green Party candidate Jill Stein is also opposed to nuclear. Most scientists agree that we need to include nuclear in our energy mix to seriously reduce our carbon emissions.
If you want to see how the candidates stand on climate, energy, and other science issues, you can read their responses to questions posed by Scientific American. Of the four candidates, only Gary Johnson had not responded by press time. Notice how, detailed and thoughtful Clinton’s responses are. Contrast that with Trump’s short and shallow answers. Trump’s answers look like they were written in the back of the limousine, along with that clean bill of health letter from Trump’s doctor.
And if 375 scientists won’t convince you that we can’t afford a Trump presidency, maybe 150 technology executives will.
Of course, whoever is president, we won’t get any progress on climate without Congress. The chances of flipping both the House and Senate from Republican to Democrat change with each poll that is released. A Clinton White House may have the same success with a Republican Congress as Obama has had. Then again, Clinton may have better success working with Republicans, given the respect she earned from them when she was in the Senate. Even with a Democratic Congress, It won’t happen without a broad based grassroots movement on climate action. Compare that to the prospects of a Trump/Pence White House and Republican Congress. Trump is wrong on climate, and we need to keep him out of the White House.
When I listen to his supporters, a familiar theme is Trump’s status as an outsider. He is outside the system, therefore he is uncorrupted by that system. This seems to make him uniquely qualified for public office. Of course, it could also make him totally unequipped to change a system he neither understands or has any experience with how it works.
Trump boasts that his great personal wealth makes him incorruptible. His primary campaign was mostly self-financed, and he was able to get a lot of free media on the cable news networks. Trump is not the first to argue that he is too rich to bribe. Nelson Rockefeller argued the same to the Senate when he was nominated by Gerald Ford to be Vice President. Of course, Trump has a history of donating to political candidates, which contradicts the image of being an outsider to the political process. Trump boasts of his ability to make great deals, which includes political deals. Trump has boasted of receiving political favors in exchange for campaign donations. Is Trump’s contribution to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is the reason she dropped an investigation of Trump University? And was that donation paid illegally from the nonprofit Trump Foundation?
There is another question raised about self funded campaigns. Is Trump arguing that only those wealthy enough to fund their campaigns can be trusted to hold public office, uninfluenced by powerful interests? Isn’t his wealth a corrupting interest that can bias him against the needs of the poor? Trump has never been poor a day in his life. How can he argue that he shares the interests of the common man?
Bernie Sanders also argued that he was unbought by the special interests. He proved that by taking mostly small donations. He also has a voting record on issues of concern to the poor. Trump does not.
In fact, Trump has already acknowledged a debt with a powerful special interest, the religious right. Trump continually thanks evangelicals for his support. In turn, he has already made promises, including appointing conservative judges, pushing for more laws allowing discrimination against gay people, and removing restrictions on their tax exempt status. Is there any doubt that Trump will make good on his promises to the religious right? They will certainly hold him to those promises.
And who else owns Trump? Is that why he doesn’t want us to see his taxes? There is a lot of speculation about his ties to Vladimir Putin. Are his dealings with Putin in his taxes?
Another possible reason why Trump is not showing his taxes is that he may not be as rich as he wants us to believe. That would negate the argument that he is too rich to be corrupted. How much of his wealth comes from being on someone else’s payroll? We won’t know for sure until we see his taxes.
How The Trump Organization’s Foreign Business Ties Could Upend U.S. National Security
by Kurt Eichenwald on 9/14/16 at 5:30 AM
Politifact comparison of Clinton and Trump Foundations
I have so many reasons why Donald Trump should never be President of the United States that I long ago lost count. For now I am listing as many as I can before the election on why Donald Trump should not be president. This one is on Trump and LGBT rights.
A few mainstream papers have published stories of Trump’s past support for gay rights. It was considered a big deal that Trump even said “LGBTQ” in his acceptance speech at the Republican Convention. He even added the “Q” to the released prepared text, though a number of commentators said he sounded like he was reading an eye chart. Why, he even had Peter Thiel come on before him and announce that he is an openly gay man and that Republicans should get off this kick about “bathroom bills” and other distractions from real issues.
Yes, the convention cheered when Trump called the Orlando victims good people, and Trump duly acknowledged their cheers. However, did Trump really challenge his audience position on gay rights? He said he wanted to protect LGBTQ people from foreigners who wanted to kill them. Of course, he not say he wanted to protect us from Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr., the American Family Association, or the other religious conservatives who want to take away the rights LGBTQ people have earned in the last couple of decades. He even let them write their bigotry into the party platform to make it the most anti-gay in the party’s history. On the victims of the Orlando shooting, Trump didn’t talk about those in the closet because they were afraid of being rejected by their Catholic families; families who would not know their children’s gayness until being notified of their deaths. He didn’t talk about the victims who may have been undocumented and subject to his deportation policies, but that is getting into a different issue. He just said that it was wrong to kill them. I guess that makes Trump a liberal.
If you had asked most people on that convention floor if they hate gays, they would answer no. In fact they would tell you they love gay people. It is called “Hate the sin. Love the sinner.” So it is OK to love and protect gay people as long as they don’t do any gay stuff. Then, in that case, they are going to hell. But that’s God’s business, not ours. Using that logic, it is OK to love LGBT people, while still denying them the right to marry, use the correct bathroom, etc.
Trump could have seconded Thiel condemnation of the culture wars, but he didn’t. Instead, Trump went on assure Republicans and the religious right that he would appointed more judges like Antonin Scalia. Then he spoke about the Johnson Amendment.
It wasn’t the first time Trump mentioned the Johnson Amendment, nor would it be the last. The fist time I heard him address it was during his introduction of his running mate Mike Pence. You remember that long, rambling speech that hardly mentioned Pence. It was during that speech that Trump went off track to a story of a meeting in his office with evangelical leaders. As typical with Trump’s stories, when credit is to be taken for the solution to a problem Trump takes it for himself and shares it with no one else. So Trump talks of this meeting where these leaders are telling him how frustrated they are that they can’t speak out in their churches about all of these important issues and are being forced to keep their mouths shut. Curious Trump, of course, starts thinking about this and finally gets to the bottom of their problem— the Johnson Amendment!
It was Senator Lyndon Johnson who, in 1954, added a rule in the federal tax code that affects charities and religious and organizations. It prevents them from using their nonprofit status from engaging in partisan politics. Simply, if you are a tax exempt organization, you can’t support or oppose a political candidate or political party. Do that and you lose your tax exemption.
During this meeting, Trump said he went to the window and pointed to the people walking on the sidewalks below. Those people have more power than you do, he told the ministers, and the ministers all agreed. The comparison is silly. The people on the sidewalk pay the taxes that created that sidewalk. They are not demanding a tax exemption in exchange for use of their first amendment rights as individuals. Nor do they have a pulpit to amplify their messages.
Of course, those church leaders were not being truthful when they told Trump that they are victims of government censorship. I suspect that Trump was not being truthful about his role in that meeting. It seems more plausible, that those church leaders came to Trump with a deal to win their political support. Part of that deal was removing any roadblocks to their tax exemptions. After the convention, Trump traveled to Orlando, the city where those good LGBTQ people got killed, and addressed 700 religious right leaders, again promising them to end the Johnson Amendment. He has taken his promise to the Tony Perkins’ Voter Values Summit in Washington, DC. (Perkins’ Family Research Council is an anti-gay organization identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/family-research-council)
While the tax rule has been rarely enforced, its removal could open up a floodgate of money to Republican candidates. Yes, the changes would apply to both liberal and conservative churches. However, I doubt my small Quaker congregation could match the resources of the mega churches, which are dominated by religious conservatism. Taken, for instance, those churches which preach the “prosperity gospel.” These con artists, masquerading as pastors, prey on vulnerable people with promises of great wealth. “Jesus wants you to be rich. Just give your money to me and my church. In turn, Jesus will be happy and make you rich.” With no fear of losing their tax status, I can imagine them telling their congregants, “Jesus wants you to vote for Donald Trump because Trump will make you rich, Jesus wants you to be rich. So now ,give generously as we pass the collection plate and re-elect Donald Trump.” Ending the Johnson Amendment is basically a Citizens United for the mega churches.
And speaking of the prosperity gospel, Trump also brought to the convention stage Pastor Mark Burns, proving that the religious right is not timid about delivering their politics, even with a Johnson Amendment.
Trump frequently credits his success with the support of evangelicals, and now is looking for support of anti-gay Catholics like Rick Santorum. He is promising to sign the “First Amendment Defense Act” and repeal Obama’s executive orders that extend rights to LGBT people.
If he wins the presidency, the religious right will expect him to deliver on what he has promised. Which brings us to another reason he should not be President, the myth of “unbought Trump.”
More on Johnson Amendment:
Is Donald Trump a racist? Honestly, I don’t know. I can’t read what’s in his heart any better than others. I would ask in turn, was Lee Atwater a racist? Atwater created the Willie Horton ad for George H. W. Bush’s campaign. Meanwhile, Atwater enjoyed hanging out with black musicians and playing blues music. The Horton ad is one of example of how racism has been used by cynical politicians to get elected. Ian Haney Lopez’s Dog Whistle Politics examines how politicians can exploit voter bias without being blatant enough to get caught. It is called plausible deniability. In the case of Willie Horton, at no time is he identified as black. The ads don’t have to. His picture says it all; big, scary black man who looks means and angry. Flash the words “rape” and “murder” with his face and the picture is complete. If you call out Dog Whistlers on their race baiting, they will not only deny it, but accuse you of racism. Obviously, you are the one seeing something that they can pretend wasn’t intended.
The Trump Dog Whistle is no different or original. His appeals for “Law and Order” are taken directly from Richard Nixon and George Wallace. He even took “Make America Great Again” from Ronald Reagan. To Trump, America was great when it was controlled by white, heterosexual men.
Then there is Trump’s Birtherism. The goal of the Birthers is delegitimize Obama’s presidency by accusing him of being born in Africa. He is not a real American. He is an outsider, not one of us. He isn’t white. When Tea Party demonstrators say, “We want our country back,” they mean from the black man who does not have the legitimacy to run it. (BTW, Trump now blames the origins of the Birther movement on Hillary Clinton, when it as actually started by the right wingers.)
The use of the word “our” is interesting in this graphic from a Trump email. It is a photo of the Clinton’s embracing in the Oval office with the narrative “Don’t let Hillary move back into OUR White House.” The “our” is in all caps, bringing attention to the next word, which is “White.” This house is for whites. The Clintons, who associate with the black man Obama, lost their legitimacy to be there.
I blogged earlier this summer about Michelle Alexander’s book “The New Jim Crow.” Again, I urge everyone to read it to understand how structural racism works in modern American society. Alexander and Lopez use the term “colorblindness” as the way Dog Whistlers shut down the discussion of racism and deny that their tactics are racist. With their bizarre logic, the Black Lives Matter movement is racist.
Trump has had trouble with disavowing support from white supremacists and has even shared their social media posts. When asked directly, he pleads ignorance. “I don’t know.” Historians have found how immigrant bashing is similar to the Know-Nothings just before the civil war.
When Trump gave his Wisconsin speech to a primarily white audience, he wanted us to believe he was appealing to black voters. In reality, he wants his prejudiced white supporters feel more comfortable with their prejudice.
Trump’s History Undermines New Outreach to Black Voters
Trump West Bend, Wisconsin speech
While dying of brain cancer, Atwater came to regret his use of race to win an election. Let’s hope that something that drastic doesn’t happen to Trump before he realizes that his campaign for the presidency is a part of the problem, not the solution.
There are so many reasons why Trump should not be elected President, I have lost count. I am listing as many reasons as I can on why a Trump presidency will be a disaster. It will definitely be a setback for race relations in this country. That is why we need to defeat Donald Trump by double digits and prove that race baiting has no place in American politics.
Like many people early in the election season, I underestimated the support for Donald Trump’s presidential bid. Then Trump began to rack up delegates and force more mainstream candidates out of the race. I realized his isolationist, anti-immigrant message was striking a chord with many more people that I had been willing to accept.
Trump’s campaign has been compared to the rise of fascism in Europe before World War II, bolstered by Trump’s retweets of Neo-Nazis and Benito Mussolini himself. Much of Trump’s onstage demeanor is comparable to Mussolini. The crowds at his rallies chant “Trump! Trump! Trump!” in unison, evoking the atmosphere of a Hitler rally.
Comparing Trump to Hitler can be problematic. Trump has no plans for world domination and prefers economic isolationism. Nor would he get away with building concentration camps, even if he wanted to. He’d be too busy deporting immigrants and building a wall on the Mexican border. I doubt he will even be able to get those done.
It turns out, we don’t need to look to early Twentieth Century Europe to find a comparable time in history. We can find it here in the US in the decade before the civil war. I heard historian Kathleen Frydl explain it in a radio interview. She was talking about the the Know-Nothings. Officially, they were called the American Party that rose after the dissolution of the Whigs. Know-Nothings were notable for scapegoating immigrants, then mostly Irish and Catholic. Meanwhile, the country drifted to civil war, unable to resolve the issue of slavery.
I really enjoyed Frydl’s analysis and read her article in the Huffington Post. I was familiar with the Know-Nothings. My late housemate was a history buff who had a special interest in the Whigs. He joked that William Henry Harrison was our greatest president because, by dying of pneumonia one month into his term, he was not able to do anything terrible.
Not long after reading Frydl’s article, I read the news of Trump’s appearance on CNN’s State of the Union. He was being questioned about the endorsements he was getting from David Duke and white supremacists. Trump’s response was “I don’t know anything about David Duke, okay? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists.” I realized how correct Frydl turned out to be. Donald Trump is a Know-Nothing. I occasionally use the hashtag #KnowNothingDonald when I see more examples of Trump’s Know-Nothing-ism. Some examples:
Trump appeared to connect Ted Cruz’s father with Lee Harvey Oswald. When confronted, he again deflected by saying he didn’t know anything about Cruz’s father.
At a rally, he told the audience that they would not be able to do anything once President Hillary Clinton begins appointing justices. He adds that “second amendment people” might find a way to do something about it, quickly followed with “I don’t know.”
When Clinton came down with a case of pneumonia, which is a lot more curable now than in Harrison’s time, Trump responded on Fox News. ”I hope she gets well soon. I don’t know what’s going on,” Trump said. “The coughing fit was a week ago — I assume that was pneumonia also.”
Today, Trump bashes immigrants, especially Mexicans, and Muslims. Ask him about global warming, and he replies it is a hoax. Just as the Know-Nothings did in the Nineteenth Century, Trump bashes immigrants, while not dealing with the serious issues that we confront in the Twenty-first Century. Let’s hope the story doesn’t have the same tragic ending.
Know Nothing politicians won’t take responsibility for the actions of the people they provoke. That for me, is the most disturbing part. They send coded messages to their supporters, called the Dog Whistle. I will write more about that later. Before that, I would like to address Trump and civil rights. Stay tuned.
See Kathleen Frydl’s article in the Huffington Post:
Also, 2016 Republicans: A “Know Nothing” party for the 21st Century by Mark DeLucia in Salon:
Honestly, I have lost count of all the reasons why I don’t want to see Donald Trump elected as President of the United States. I can’t think of a worse candidate nominated by a major party in my lifetime. Last January, I was among the many who believed there was no way Trump would last through the early primaries. I expected a more mainstream Republican, such as Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, or Jeb Bush to eventually win the nomination. Surely Republicans will come to their senses, I thought. That didn’t happen. To me, that is the most troublesome part of this election; that many people actually think Donald Trump is a good idea. How bad would a Trump presidency be? Let me count the ways.
When Paul Simon performed at the Democratic convention, I think it is safe to say his contribution was among the lesser moments of that convention. He sang Bridge Over Troubled Water, which is a great song. In fact Simon and Garfunkel sang it at the Democratic convention in 1972. The trouble is that Garfunkel was the lead singer on that song, and, although Simon is not a bad singer, he certainly is not as good as Garfunkel. So, we connect that song with Garfunkel’s voice. Simon would have been better off singing one of the songs he wrote for his solo career. I started thinking of songs that would work. Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover comes to mind. With a few changes, it could become Fifty Ways to Leave Your Nominee, and he could sing it to the Republicans.
I don’t know if I can list 50 reasons to not elect Trump, but I thought I would give it a try. I would like to start with Trump’s candidacy against the “rigged system.”
Trump is warning his followers that he won’t win because the electoral process itself is rigged. It plays very well into his conspiracy theory thinking. The real forces in control will determine the outcome. They will orchestrate wide spread voter fraud that allows people to vote multiple times and stack the results against Trump. As a person who has worked as an election officer at my local polls over the years, I have one question for Trump. Has he even participated in the electoral process or paid much attention to how that process works? If he did, he would know that first time voters need to show some form of ID in federal elections. That has been happening since the passage of HAVA (Help America Vote Act) when George W. Bush was president. Every person needs to sign her or his name on the roster before receiving a ballot. The idea of someone coming in five or ten times on one day to vote is ludicrous. Even if someone wanted to register at different precincts under different names, she or he would have to get fake ID’s for each name before registering. And how much would that influence the final vote? Not enough to make it worth that much effort. In fact, if it was so easy, Trump could simply get his supporters to register multiple times to vote for him.
As President Obama has pointed out, each state runs its own elections and creates its own rules, as long as they don’t conflict with federal law. A number of states have enacted even stricter ID laws that are now being overturned by the federal courts for being too restrictive. Instead of ensuring fairness, they work to disenfranchise the minorities and the poor. If the system is rigged in anyone’s favor, it is in favor Trump’s supporters, who are upper income and more stable in their housing. They have no problem jumping through the hoops of restrictive Voter ID laws. The addresses on their driver licenses are more likely to match the addresses on the voting rosters.
So how can that system be rigged against Trump? Is he saying that election workers like me are rigging the system? OK, I admit it. I supported Hillary Clinton in the primary where I served as judge in my precinct. I didn’t say whom I was voting for to the other officers working with me, and they didn’t tell me who their candidates were either. To all of the people who came in to vote, none of us told them who our candidates were or whom to vote for. We couldn’t because it is against the law to campaign at a polling place. It looks like I didn’t have much influence anyway. While Clinton won Alameda County, Sanders beat her by over 100 votes in my precinct. Not surprisingly, our heavily Democratic precinct gave Trump only 3 votes.
Trump wants to send observers to polling locations to ensure the vote is fair. That’s fine and legal, just as long as they don’t interfere with the voting process or campaign while they are there. That means no signs, buttons, or shirts with the candidate’s name on them. They can’t interrupt election officials as they assist voters or intrude on voters’ privacy in the voting booths. Otherwise, there would be trouble. Would Trump followers cause trouble at the polls? Trump’s answer will probably be “I don’t know.” That brings me to a second reason why he should not be president. More to come.
I just followed up on a resolution I made for the New Year 2016, and the timing turned out to be very important. It was a resolution that Mark Zuckerberg made for 2015 that strongly influenced my decision. I have wanted to read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow for a number of years now. The book has been out since 2012. There has been a lot of talk about it in my Quaker community. Then I read about Zuckerberg’s resolution after he visited San Quentin prison last October . His visit was the result of his resolution to read the book earlier in the year. Reading it has led him to the issue of prison reform and the mass incarceration.
Like Zuckerberg, I had a number of books on my “to read” list and wanted to obtain as many as I could from the public library. The other books were easily obtainable, but the waiting list to check out Alexander’s book was months’ long. I could have put a reservation in and waited, but I decided to just keep checking back until a copy was available on the shelf. In June, I was at Pacific Yearly Meeting, a Quaker gathering in Marin County. As at every gathering, my friends Sandy and Tom Farley ran a bookstore they call Earthlight Books. I was actually there to buy another book and decided to include the New Jim Crow in my purchase. I decided I could pass it along to someone else after finishing it.
At the time, I was still recovering from the shock of the horrendous shootings in Orlando that month. I was able to find healing at yearly meeting, as well as at the baseball game I previously blogged about and by attending SF Pride on the last Sunday of the month. On the evening of July 4th, I passed on the opportunity to watch fireworks. Instead, I opened Alexander’s book and started to read. Within a few days, the lives of two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castille,would be cut short by their encounters with police. I joined a peaceful protest in downtown Oakland on Thursday, sharing pictures on Twitter. It was on Twitter that I read the news coming out of Dallas. Coming away from the protest, I committed myself to finishing that book as soon as possible. I finished reading on Sunday night.
The purpose of this blog entry is to strongly urge everyone to get a copy of The New Jim Crow and read it right away. Whether you find it on the shelf of your local library or bookstore, find it and read it. You will not regret it. In fact, it is imperative that you read it before the November election.
As a white male, I must admit I was a bit skeptical as I read the beginning chapter. I was looking for holes in Alexander’s theory. “Yes, but what about…?” I would keep thinking to myself. Fortunately, Alexander gave a lot of thought to the same concerns. By the end of the book, all of the pieces of the puzzle came together for me. So, if you experience the same skepticism, just keep an open mind and keep reading.
The main focus of the book is the war on drugs and how that war has been selectively fought in the black ghettos. Racism against African Americans did not end with the outlawing of segregation, anymore than it didn’t end with the outlawing of slavery. Instead, it has evolved so not appear so blatant. It hides behind a mask of deniability and preys on our racial biases. While denying explicit bias, it is our implicit bias that subconsciously influences our behavior. An example is the story the late Robert Maynard told when he was the publisher of the Oakland Tribune. Walking the streets of downtown Oakland at night, he noticed that when he encountered groups of white women walking toward him, they would always cross the street and walk on the opposite side. They were fearful of coming in close contact with a black man, even one dressed in a business suit and tie.
Alexander’s most convincing argument is found in the subtitle, “Mass Incarceration in the Age of colorblindness.” It is this illusion of colorblindness that allows the New Jim Crow to perpetuate while appearing to be non-racist. It is this plausible deniability that manifests in very ugly politics. Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin want to convince us that the Black Lives Matter activists are the racists. Donald Trump calls for “Law and Order” just as Nixon did in 1968.
I hope that you will answer this call to make that resolution to yourself. After reading it, I invite you to comment to this blog. I would be happy to start a respectful conversation.
I didn’t want to let the week go by without reflecting on the tragedy in Orlando. I was able to participate in a couple of events since then and tweeted out some photos. The most recent was a baseball game. I am not a big sports fan and neither was my family. In fact, this is only the third professional baseball game I have attended in my life.
On Tuesday, the Oakland Athletics hosted their second annual LGBT Pride game. I really wanted to go this year, as I had attended last year’s game against the San Diego Padres. That was the second game I have attended. I will get to the first one in a bit.
I was invited to the second game by a friend who was celebrating her birthday. A number of us joined her in celebration. For me, it was another example of how far our community had come, and yet how far we have to go; to be celebrated by a conservative institution that is major league baseball; to see people in the stands celebrating our diversity and finding love and acceptance; to find our place in sports history, remembering that one of the first openly gay athletes was Glenn Burke, who played for the A’s. Still, the game was not without controversy. A number of season ticket holders protested that they would not attend the game that night. In response, relief pitcher Sean Doolittle and his girlfriend Eireann Dolan bought tickets to donate to LGBT youth. That did not change the fact that there were a lot of empty seats that June 17 night. Still, this was another example of how the sports world was changing when heterosexual players become proud allies.
Oh, and we beat the Padres that night. I told my friends that, as a former San Diegan, I wouldn’t have been bothered by the outcome either way. It was nice that the A’s won. They weren’t so fortunate this year against the Texas Rangers.
With my experience at last year’s game, I really wanted to attend again this year and worked to find others to go with me. After I found out that some other friends was already bought their tickets and offered to allow me to join them, I went ahead a bought one ticket for myself. That was before the Orlando shooting.
The signs of love and support for Orlando, the tributes, and the moment of silence; these were all deeply moving. For me the most memorable was the singing of the national anthem by the Oakland-East Bay Gay Men’s Chorus. We all stood and sung along.
Which brings me to the first baseball game I ever attended. I was living in San Diego and attended a Padres game with my some friends. As young radicals, we took it all quite casually, smoking joints in the upper stands and sitting through the prerecorded national anthem being played by some generic orchestra. We laughed at the crowds below us, standing robotically to honor a country we believed did not deserve such honor. This was the country that gave us Jim Crow laws, Watergate, and the debacle of the Vietnam war. We did not care if we were seen as spoiled, selfist brats who refused to serve in the military. We did not see the United States of America as a country worth standing up for.
Michelle Obama received a fair amount of heat in the 2008 campaign when she said, “For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country…” She was immediately attacked as unpatriotic, for not loving this country enough, for not joining in the chorus of those who robotically stand up for the national anthem, not placing a hand on the heart the right way during the pledge of allegiance, etc.
I understood what Ms. Obama meant. She grew up in a different world than those those who called her unpatriotic. She has seen the America of Jim Crow, first hand. She grew up in that America of Watergate and Vietnam. Now she was seeing a new America and the work that was paying off. This is the America of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. This is the America of annual LGBT Pride parades created in response to the Stonewall riots. This is the America that comes together and supports each other after tragedies in places like Orlando, Boston, Tucson, Atlanta, and Sandy Hook. That was what I was feeling when I stood and sang the national anthem at the Oakland Coliseum. I have found that pride in my country.
We are still a country with a history of Jim Crow, Watergate, and Vietnam. We are also a country intent on fulfilling the ideals and goals we set for ourselves with our constitution. Our pride comes through the work we do to make our country one we can be proud of.
Some other thoughts
On Sunday night, I joined those gathered at Harvey Milk Plaza in San Francisco for a candlelight vigil and march to City Hall. Being at Milk Plaza reminded me that Orlando was not the first time that hatred of gay people ended with a life being taken by a gun. Nor will it be the last. The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus was off to the side, rehearsing “We Shall Overcome”. I started to cry. I cried again as the chorus performed at the vigil. Again, we stood and sang along. We sang Holly Near’s “Singing for Our Lives”, reminded that the song comes to us from the first march after the murder of Harvey Milk and George Moscone.
My thoughts turned to a word I have been thinking a lot about this year. That word is gratitude. In this tragedy, our community was coming together and sharing its gifts with each other. The Gay Men’s chorus was sharing the best gifts it could offer, their voices and their songs. Sharing these gifts helps our community to get through these tragedies and find strength to continue.
My last thought is about one victim from last weekend in Orlando. As far as I know, she wasn’t gay or Latina. She wasn’t even shot and killed on the morning of June 12. Her death occurred the morning before. Christina Grimmie was a singer, described as a Christian on her Wikipedia page. I did not know her. I was saddened to read the news that this rising, 22 year old singer was brutally killed by someone who drove from St. Petersburg with the intent of ending her life. She had been signing autographs for fans after a concert. We will never know what really motivated her killer. Like the shooter at the Pulse nightclub, the killer is dead, his thoughts and motivations dying with him.
Within 24 hours, her tragic story was replaced by another. That is not new. Each horrendous killing happens, one after another. We quickly forget the previous tragedy as the new one attracts our attention. It should remind us that the thread that connects all of these events is the easy access to guns. It is time to reject the notion that we can’t do anything about it. We can, and we must. People who have a history of violence should not have access guns, especially ones designed for war, not self defense. We need a change of laws and a change of attitudes. If we see something, we need to say something.
How many times have we read that a shooter had shown violent behavior in the past? How many have revealed their rage and hatred on social media? The shooter of Gabby Giffords had frightened his college classmates. None spoke to police about his potential access to guns. The Santa Barbara shooter openly showed his hatred of women who rejected him. His parents even called the police to check up on him. If the responding officers had taken a few more steps into his apartment, they would have found his arsenal. It is time to end the silence. Speaking up will save lives.
On Sunday, May 22, a group of Quakers of Strawberry Creek Meeting in Berkeley celebrated Bike Month by bicycling to our meeting room. The week of May 22 to 29 was also celebrated as Bike to Worship Week by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.
We started at North Berkeley BART Station, pedaling a short distance along the Ohlone Greenway to where it connects to California Street. We then rode California to Channing Way, Channing to Milvia, then Milvia to Derby, where we completed our travel to 2701 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. California, Channing, and Milvia are three of Berkeley’s bicycle boulevards.
Leaving North Berkeley BART, from left: Henri Ducharme, Laura Magnani, Jay Cash, Marian Yu, Beth Rodman, Paul McCold, and Tom Yamaguchi
Arriving at Strawberry Creek Meeting, we were joined by Josh Gallup and Deborah Marks.
The following Sunday, May 29, we walked to meeting. This time we started at the downtown Berkeley BART station. Again, we walked down Milvia Street and right onto Derby. The last two blocks we walked in silence.
Leaving downtown Berkeley BART station. From left: Phyllis Malandra, Beth Rodman, Jay Cash, Paul McCold, and Charlie Lenk. On route, we were joined by Lisa Hubbell (on scooter) and Barbara Birch, who walked up from Emeryville. I took the picture with my iPhone and walked with my bicycle.
Thanks to Jay Cash for helping to organize, as well as bringing bagels, donuts, bike bags, bike stickers, maps, other printed material, and other biking and walking goodies; all given away after meeting.