Statue Limitations

 

 

There’s a statue of a man on public display in a major American city. He was a successful white man who owned slaves. He raped one of his teen slaves repeatedly and she bore his children. He committed treason when he rebelled and  fought against the country where he grew up.

So is anyone demanding this statue be removed? Not that I’ve heard of. The man is Thomas Jefferson, founding father, author of the Declaration of Independence  and third President of the U.S.

So why is the statue of a rapist slave owner, the centerpiece of  a national  monument  in Washington, D.C. acceptable while  the statue  of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville is not?

Honestly, I don’t know if the statue should stay or go. I can understand both sides of  the issue. I understand why it is offensive to some people to see a statue of a man who fought for enslavement of their ancestors. But I also understand why people see the statue of Lee and other southern generals as a part of our history and culture, the  same way Andrew Jackson,  a brutal soldier who practiced genocide, is remembered. Have there been any calls for his portrait to be pulled from U.S.  currency or off the walls of the White House and other government buildings? Nope.

Think about your own life, about something  from your past that you  desperately regret that you did. You’d like to go back and undo it, but you can’t. You’re stuck with it, ashamed of it, don’t  like  to think  about  it. Overall,  you’re probably a good person who made a bad mistake. What you can do is learn from it and not make that mistake again. That’s the way  it is with our country too.

You’ve heard of slippery slopes? This issue is the monster mountain of all slippery slopes. Just for example, there was once a country that practiced slavery from its founding  until it was  forced to free its slaves by use of military force.  What was this evil country? No, not the CSA.  I’m talking  about Texas. But while the Confederacy is so evil, statues of its leaders are being taken down, the statues of leaders of the slave country of Texas  are revered. This makes no sense to me.

It gets worse. The United  States of America was founded  as a slave nation.  Slaves were quantified  in the U.S. Constitution as 3/5 of  a human being. Think about it. The United States was a slave nation during the 18th and 19th centuries. George Washington, the father of the country, owned slaves.

You know who else practiced slavery? Every country that’s been around a few hundred years. Slavery used to be an acceptable situation. The Bible endorses  it.  So I guess we have to condemn most of the countries on earth for their slave nation past. And  if  you can’t  fly  the Confederate flag because it was a slave  nation, you also shouldn’t fly the flag of the U.S., Texas or most of the countries on earth.

You know, I don’t much care if the statues stay or go. It’s not that important to me. I wasn’t  planning  any  statue  tours anyway. I wouldn’t  mind if they stayed, I wouldn’t miss them if they’re gone. 

But I do think we need to all calm down and realize you can’t erase our racist past. And we need to realize that nearly all countries  have a racist past, practiced slavery, bigotry, and used violence and even genocide against  people  of color. If we can balance the evil side of Jefferson,  Jackson and Sam Houston against  all the good they did, maybe the anger over the southern generals is overblown.

As a country, the problem is that our racist past is still alive. That racists, neo-Nazis, and White Supremacists are turning violent on our streets is an alarming warning that the thinking that denigrated  some people to lower status in our history is alive and kicking, and punching,  and ramming people  with a car.

Why don’t we just accept that our country has a racist history, and  try to make  that a thing of the  past?  We  can’t  change what happened, getting  rid of statues is slim comfort, and  the only thing we  can do now  is try to stop  racism and prejudice of all kinds in the present. Let’s not forget  the lessons of our slave nation past so  we can have a better future for  all our people.

 

 

America Under Trump

 

Hang on, America. It’s going to be a bumpy ride. Here’s what to expect with Donald Trump as President.

Racists Will Be Emboldened

Eight years ago when we elected the first Black President, there was reason to hope that racism was on the decline. Wrong. Sure, there were enough Americans to elect Obama, but what was hidden was that a significant portion of the population hated having a Black President and they’ve been seething with anger for eight years. When the Donald started his race-hating rhetoric, it turned them on. His continued racial slurs during the campaign, combined with his history of being the leader of the birther movement, strongly suggests Trump will set a racist agenda and the racists in the country will be encouraged to attack minorities.

Brandon Miles, Brandon Partin and Michael Miles cheer before Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump attends a campaign rally at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, Florida

Another indication that we will face a racist divide in the U.S. is the appointment of Steve Bannon, an avowed White Nationalist, to the top of Trump’s staff. Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, also came from the Alt-Right.

A spike in racial attacks happened right after Trump was elected. Apparently, his followers couldn’t contain themselves any longer.

I live about ten miles from Springdale, Arkansas, which has a large population of Latinos. The day after the election, printed  deportation notices were being handed out to Mexican-American students at the high school by white students. Latino students were also being told they were going back to Mexico, even though many of them had never been to Mexico. The significant thing is that the election of Trump has allowed racial tensions previously just under the surface to emerge in all their ugliness.

Things Will Get Even Worse For the Middle and Lower Classes

I understand why many people are angry. For the past twenty years, business profits have been hogged up by the business owners, and almost nothing was shared with the workers. The price of nearly everything has risen, but wages have not kept up. The members of the middle and lower classes have been squeezed financially, and their lifestyle has suffered. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans did anything to protect workers. No wonder they are furious.

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But maybe the saddest thing about the election is this: Voters put in charge the very people who are most likely to continue this oppression. Billionaire Trump has benefited from the funneling of cash to the wealthy. His plan to give tax cuts to the wealthiest Ameridcans  will only make the situation worse. Also, his party, the Republicans, have blocked any increase in the minimum wage,  and Trump has said he supports that position. The moral is this. If you’re a chicken, don’t choose a champion from among the foxes.

Medical Costs Will Spiral Upward

Why, because when the Affordable Care Act is repealed and tens of millions of Americans have their health care taken away, what will they do when they’re sick? Show up at the hospital emergency ward for care. These are poor people, so many of them will not pay for the care they receive. The hospital will then pass on those costs to consumers, and medical costs will soar. Same old deal we had before. Trump’s promise of a “terrific” new health care proposal will turn out to be all hot air.

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Protests In the Streets

About half of all Americans didn’t vote. They no longer believe in the system. About one-fourth of Americans voted for Trump and about one-fourth voted for Clinton. The Clinton supporters are convinced Trump is dangerous and the country is in peril. Their only recourse is to hit the streets and send a warning that disaster looms. If Trump goes ahead with the things he promised, we may be entering a new era of continued protests, much like the protests during the civil rights era and during the Vietnam War. You can dismiss the protesters as a bunch of loud, rude rabble. But remember, it was protests in the streets that finally swayed the public against the Vietnam War. It only takes a  relatively small, vocal group to stage huge protests and there is plenty of anger to fuel their cause.

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Mass Deportations

Trump is backing off his campaign pledge to deport all  illegals, but now he says he’d like to deport two to three million “criminals.”  The logistics of rounding up and transporting millions of people back to their country of origin are staggering. One has to wonder if the only way Trump could do this would be to order the military into the purge creating an American gulag. Trump’s followers are going to expect him to do what he promised during the campaign.  Meanwhile, immigrants are going to surge into the U.S. to get in before Trump builds his promised wall.

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Unnecessary Wars

Every President since Jimmy Carter has sent U.S. soldiers into some country and Jimmy Carter was a one-term President. Flexing with the power of the U.S. military has been a popular move for nearly every President. In the best cases, loss of life has been minimal, as when troops went into places like Panama and Dominica. But other military incursions have been costly, both in lives and dollars. Bush the elder ordered the Persian Gulf War and Bush the younger started major wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those wars cost an estimated one trillion dollars and combined with Republican tax cuts crashed the U.S. economy.

Donald Trump :: DUX

Trump said he will quickly wipe out ISIS. The only way that seems likely is if a large American military force is sent into Syria and Iraq. Thousands could die in such a war. But it’s hard to imagine that a “strongman” like Trump wouldn’t use the military somewhere in some unnecessary war.

Reversal On Climate Change

Trump said climate change is a hoax created by and for the Chinese. Usually, new Presidents honor the treaty agreements made by their predecessor, but Trump has said he will pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement. If the major powers fail to act soon to control climate change, it may become too late, and the planet will go into a  unstoppable death spiral. Maybe not, but is the death of human life on the planet something we should risk? Trump already has a climate change denier picked out to head the EPA. At least until Trump gets rid of the EPA altogether, if he does what he promised. In the long run, this may be Trump’s most dangerous policy, endangering not just Americans, but everyone on earth.

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Impeachment

This may seem like a long shot, but some pundits are already predicting Trump will be impeached. Given Trump’s long record of clashing with authority, his thousands of lawsuits, and the likelihood that he will continue to cross the line, this isn’t that farfetched. It’s already clear that he will be battling in courts against fraud for Trump University and a rape accusation. Given the character of this egotistical mogul, he may not last.

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A New Low

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I don’t think I could forgive myself if I didn’t  speak up about this nasty presidential election that is unlike any I’ve seen. And I’ve seen a few. Harry Truman had just become president when I was born. Yeah, I’m old. The first time I voted for president was in 1968,  the year of the riots at the Democratic Convention in Chicago. It was Hubert Humphrey vs. Richard Nixon. I voted for Humphrey, and for the past half century, I’ve voted in every presidential election.

But I’ve never seen a campaign like this. I’ve liked and disliked different presidential contenders, but  until this election I’ve never feared that someone would be elected. But please God, I pray, if you exist, don’t let Donald Trump become the leader of the most powerful nation on the planet.

Donald Trump is a racist, a liar, an egomaniac. He’s a pompous boor, a con man, a vanity queen. I’m not sure he can tell the difference between reality and his own bullshit. He’s unfit to be a dogcatcher. He’s filled with hate, derision and bigotry for everything about America that isn’t white.

Here’s what’s even worse, that racism is still widespread enough in our country to propel him to the nomination of a major party. No, not all his supporters are racists, but they are a big bloc and without the support of racists, he wouldn’t be in this race. I mean, less than eight years ago when Americans elected the first African-American president, we had cause to believe that we had progressed against the forces of racism. Guess not.

The big ugly truth of this election is that racism is alive and well in America. When Trump started putting out his racist clarion calls directed  against Latinos, African-Americans, Women, Gays and even the handicapped, the racists came running. They’d been seething and fomenting for eight years over the indignity of having a Black president. They’re locked, loaded and white. Trump’s base is lily  white. None of America’s minorities support him.

Just hating Hillary is not a good enough excuse to vote for this monster Trump. You  have to be a full-on  bigot to back this blowhard.  I know Hillary isn’t the most appealing person to seek high office. Frankly, I wish the first woman president  (please, God, please)  wouldn’t have gained name recognition by being the wife of a president. But she’s smart, experienced and qualified. Three things that can’t be said for Trump. If Hillary lapsed into a coma tomorrow, I’d still vote for her, because the very idea of Trump being president is unthinkable. I’d vote for slime mold before I’d vote for Trump. His being a candidate is embarrassing. A Trump presidency would be disaster.

I’m truly disappointed we’re at this point in America. The rest of the world thinks Trump is a ridiculous clown. Sure, Putin and the Russians would love to see an idiot in the Oval Office. So would the Chinese, the North Koreans, and the Iranians. All our country’s enemies are hoping Trump gets elected. But that doesn’t bother his base, which is fueled by hate and conspiracy theories.

I think this is a crossroads in American history. We are now a multi-cultural society but a large portion of white people cannot accept the fact that they’re no longer in charge of everything. They want to take America back, like a hundred years back. In this election, we will either move forward by electing our first woman president, or we will return to the dark days of white supremacy by putting a racist in the White House.

 

A Change Is Gonna Come

Not the lynching I was told about, but probably similar.

Not the lynching I was told about, but probably similar.

I was sitting in my car in the Walmart parking lot watching people walk toward the store. Sometimes when Ann and I go shopping together, and I’ve been in the store too long, I get this claustrophobic otherworldly feeling and I have to just get out of there. It’s silly, I know, to fell claustrophobic when you’re in a giant barn of a building, but that’s how I feel.

But I’m fine when I get outside and I really enjoy watching the shoppers coming and going while I wait for Ann to finish shopping. It gives me hope. You see, I’ve lived long enough to witness some major changes in things. My oldest memories go back to the fifties, a time when the American rural South was largely white bread. Many small towns had signs warning minorities not to let the sun go down on them in their town. Many counties in the state where I live had for more than a century successfully kept minorities out and none of this really began to change until the 1950s.

The people I see in the Walmart parking lot these days are a diverse mix. I watch a group of young college guys heading into the store, some white some black, hanging together. A big Mexican family is getting out of a mini-van. A couple of gay guys walk for their car, one white one black. Another black guy is walking by holding hands with a young white woman. An older Asian lady walks slowly toward the door.

When I’m sitting in my car watching this parade of all kinds of people, it usually dredges up a memory from a yard sale I went to a few years ago. The sale was at the end of a rutted dirt track and when we pulled in, it was obviously a former farming operation. Some of the stuff being sold was old farm equipment, the kind that was pulled by horses or mules. There was lots of old stuff to look at and I remember buying something, but I can’t remember now what it was.

Like the stuff being sold, the woman I bought it from was very old. I ended up talking to her for a while. Older people are repositories of stories and history you often can’t find anywhere else, so when I have a chance, I try to get them to talk about what things used to be like. On that day, the old woman told me a story I’ll never forget.

It turned out she came from a little town called Pettigrew, Arkansas, a little country village to this day, about fifty miles off in the sticks from the bright lights. She started talking about when the railroad first came to Pettigrew. I wish I could remember the exact year, because she still remembered it, but I don’t, but it was sometime early in the twentieth century, maybe around 1910 or 1920.

One day, she said, not long after the trains started running, a young black man decided to ride the train down to Pettigrew just for fun. He got off and walked around the town, just looking around, sightseeing.

“They hung him,” she said. I understood immediately from living with the dark heritage of the South that “they” were the citizens of Pettigrew.

I was shocked. I guess I shouldn’t have been. The Tuskegee Institute recorded 4,473 lynchings, most frequently in the South, between 1882 and 1968.

I knew lynchings took place back then in Arkansas, but I’d never actually talked to someone who’d witnessed one. I could tell from the tone of the woman’s voice that she was haunted by it and probably had been for all the years since.

That pretty much ended our conversation that day. I didn’t know how to respond to her story. I didn’t have any words that would relieve her of that memory or ease its pain.

Now, when I sit in my car and watch the mix of ethnicities and types happily entering and exiting Walmart, I can’t help but think how much things have changed in the last hundred years.

Don’t get me wrong, I know racism and bigotry are still around. I know the South and the rest of the country have a way to go yet. I know intolerance and discrimination are still in some hearts.

But things are better than they used to be. There has been movement in a positive direction. You can walk the streets, no matter what you are, and not worry about being murdered by an angry mob. You can go to college, eat at restaurants, have a job and a career, love who you want, have a good life and not have to live in fear, and I take some comfort in that.

Racism Alive in Arkansas

Racism is alive and well, at least among some legislators in Arkansas. This week the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette exposed three Republicans, two who currently serve as state representatives and one former representative who is seeking to return to office, for blatantly racist and radical statements.

One is Rep. Jon Hubbard of Jonesboro. In a 2009 book, he wrote “no one can argue that  the institution of slavery was not cruel in most every respect; however, knowing what we know now about life on the African continent, would an existence spent in slavery have been any crueler than a life spent in sub-Saharan Africa?’

Really? Better to be a slave in the American South, than a free person in your native land? Duh!

In the same book, Hubbard wrote, “The black community has been reluctant to understand that government entitlement programs were only intended to help move them out of poverty and toward self-reliance and not to become their livelihood.”

Really? Do you think black people are turning down all those high paying jobs they’re being offered?

Another sitting state representative, Loy Mausch of Bismarck, also commenting on slavery, writing in a 2003 letter to the editor, “Nowhere in the Holy Bible have a found a word of condemnation for the operation of slavery, Old and New Testament. If slavery was so bad, why didn’t Jesus, Paul or the prophets say something?”

Really Mr. Mausch? Jesus didn’t say anything about dandruff, child molestation, beastiality, cancer, or light beer. Are those OK too?

Charles Fuqua of Batesville is seeking election to the legislature in which he formerly served.

Writing just last year about the millions of Muslim-Americans, he stated, “the Muslim religion is incompatible with the U.S. Constitution” and “I see no solution to the Muslim problem short of expelling all followers of the religion from the United States. We will either expell them or be killed by them.”

Really Charles? Have you ever heard of freedom of religion?

Even more shocking, in the same book, Fuqua advocates killing disobedient children.

“A child who disrespects his parents must be permanently removed from society in a way that gives  an example to all other children of the importance of respect for parents.” Fuqua cited a Bible verse from Deuteronomy which calls for the stoning of disobedient children.

Really Mr. Fuqua? Were you stoned when you said this?

What’s really troubling is that these aren’t drunk rednecks saying these things. These are our elected leaders, people who are at the top of the state pecking order. These are people who are supposed to represent the views of the rest of us in Arkansas.

This is exactly the sort of thing that makes our region look stupid, backward, and bigoted. But maybe that’s because too many people in the South are stupid, backward and bigoted.

The Republican party chairman in Arkansas has made a point of saying that these three Republicans do not represent the views of the state party. But the state party did contribute $2,500 to each of their campaigns.

This isn’t just one crazed extremist, it’s three of them. And if these three are willing  to go on the record with their outdated and fanatical views, one has to wonder how many legislators and Arkansas citizens sympathize with these ideas, and are just smart enough in these politically correct times not to air them.

Another question is whether these views will have an impact in next month’s election. It will be interesting to see if Arkansas voters are willing to return these bozos to the legislature.