Epilog: Peace and Horror

by Akim Reinhardt

Two profound horrors have plagued the world in recent times: the Covid-19 pandemic and the Trump presidency. And after years of dread, their recent decline has brought me a brief respite of peace.

Not that my peace was ever disturbed as much as many others’. One reason is that unlike the ICU patient or the undocumented immigrant child, neither horror has ever afflicted or assailed me directly. Another is that I have long been comfortable with impermanence, the reality that nothing lasts forever. Not the United States. Not me. Should the one be toppled by a dictatorial demagog or the other felled by a microscopic, multiplying coronavirus, so be it. All must end eventually.

Yet here we are, steps closer to but still somewhere short of the Great Undoing that the pathogen and the politician relentlessly dragged us towards. And only now, as their grips finally begin to release a bit, can I recognize more fully how each, in its own way, had previously commanded my attention, either undermining my peace or at least forcing me to redefine it.

First, the blinding orange glow.

Just the other day it dawned on me that not only hadn’t I thought about Donald Trump for a couple of weeks, but I also had not spent much energy charting the republic’s precipitous decline and decay. That is not to say I see Joe Biden as some kind of savior, or even have high expectations for his administration. I don’t. Nor am I convinced that the world is better off with the United States than without it. There are strong arguments either way. But regardless, to live in the United States during the Trump presidency, and to recognize the very real threat it posed to American culture and to U.S. constitutional systems and democratic and institutions, meant that you had to, at the very least, pay close attention to their ongoing perversion and erosion. Because it’s one thing to be intellectually okay with the United States’ eventual demise. It’s another to live through various stages of it while facing down the very real prospect of increased oligarchy, theocracy, nativism, and racism. Read more »

The Third Transition: Trump to Biden and the Return of Politics

by Michael Liss

Some may belittle politics, but we know, who are engaged in it, that it is where people stand tall. And although I know it has its many harsh contentions, it is still the arena that sets the heart beating a little faster. And if it is on occasions the place of low skullduggery, it is more often the place for the pursuit of noble causes, and I wish everyone, friend or foe, well, and that is that, the end. Tony Blair, ending his last PMQ, June 27, 2007

Mask From UVA Center For Politics

Yes, that was Tony Blair, the man everyone loves to hate, but in those few short words, he managed to capture the highs and lows of a democratic system. Politics can be rough and tawdry, but debates can be substantive, goals high, and accomplishments, perhaps not as high, but still advancing the good of the many. In the end, you fight like cats and dogs, but you shake hands, accept the verdict, and prepare yourself for the next battle.

This belief, that there is always next time, is predicated on three key assumptions—that, in our system, there is, in fact, always a next time, that even winning coalitions will screw up enough to ensure that the next time may be viable, and that the loser (if the incumbent) will cooperate in the orderly transition of power.

That is the theory, and, for most of our history, that has also been the reality. Winning coalitions stay winning because they deliver policies that a majority support. They fray when internal discipline breaks down (usually because of unsatisfied desires or ambitions), and/or when they become so sclerotic, doctrinaire, or just wrong that enough of the public rejects them. Lincoln’s election in 1860 reflected a reality that the disparate needs of North and South could no longer be reconciled within the status quo. FDR’s trouncing of Hoover was the rational judgment of the voters that Hoover had simply failed, and would continue to fail. Trump’s victory in 2016 was a reminder of not only Hillary Clinton’s flaws as a candidate, but also Barack Obama’s shortcomings as a President. As much as I admired Obama, he didn’t do enough for enough people to earn transferable loyalty during a time when, as my friend Bill Benzon notes, the tectonic plates were moving. The voters really do choose. Read more »

White America Needs to Clean House

by Akim Reinhardt

10 Ways to Get Rid of Your Old Junk | LoadUpWhite Americans get a lot of things wrong about race. And not just the relatively small number of blatant white supremacists, or the many millions (mostly over 50, conservative, and/or Republican) bitter about the supposedly undue attention, sympathy, and “breaks” that minorities receive; who insist actual racism was a problem only in the past, because Civil Rights “fixed” it; who believe anyone complaining about racism is just looking for an unfair edge in America’s level, color-blind playing field; who decry so-called “reverse racism”; who actually believe it is harder to be white in America than to be black or brown; or who simply minimize and downplay the existence racism.

Not just them. Even the small majority of whites who recognize that race remains a big problem in America often get it wrong. For example, many (most?) of them think that race is primarily about black and brown people. It’s not. Racism is primarily about white people.

Minorities suffer the effects of racism, and we must acknowledge and work to end that; however, you cannot cure an infection by simply placing a band-aid over the sore. You must clean out the wound thoroughly, surgically if need be, disinfect it, and then attack the infection at its root with antibiotics. In the old days it might have meant cutting off an appendage or limb. Similarly, racism won’t end or even be substantially reduced by strictly focusing on the suffering of its victims and making amends. Those are important and necessary first steps, but they don’t get at the core of the problem. Minority suffering is racism’s result, but racism is caused by what white people think and do.

White people empathizing with black and brown people is important, and it is vitally important that whites listen to minority voices. However, ending or substantially reducing racism will not come about until white people talk to each other and sort themselves out. Because racism is a white problem. Read more »

Fuck It, I’m Staying Here

by Akim Reinhardt

Sunset America New York Statue - Free photo on PixabayMy Jewish maternal grandparents came to America just ahead of WWII. Nearly all of my grandmother’s extended family were wiped out in the Holocaust. Much of my grandfather’s extended family had previously emigrated to Palestine.

My maternal family history illustrates why many modern American Jews continue to view Israel as their ultimate safety net. After two millennia of vicious anti-Judaism, many Jews believe they can eventually be run out of any country, even Untied States. American Jews’ sometimes uncritical support for Israel is underpinned by a wistful glance and a knowing nod; if it does happen here, we can escape to there.

Even though I am only half-Jewish, my familial immigration history is more recent than most American Jews.  Their ancestors typically arrived here a full generation or two earlier than mine, and most of them did not lose a slew of close family members in the Holocaust like my grandmother did.

But unlike most American Jews, I can counter the fear of “It can happen here” with a sense of American belonging that stems from deeply rooted Southern WASP family history. Depending on which of my paternal branches you follow, we’ve been here upwards of about three centuries.

Or so they tell me.

Exactly how long ago the Reinhardts, Lowrances, Younts, Dunkles, and Hollers I’m descended from first arrived here is besides the point. In fact, not having an exact date actually helps; it was long enough ago that no one really knows. And that feeds into the one common thread binding deeply-rooted white Protestant Americans, despite their many differences in class, education, geographic region, and religious denomination. It’s the unassailable sense that you belong here because you’re from here. That you’re not really the sons and daughters of immigrants. Rather, you’re descended from the people who took this land from Native Americans, and who fought to gain independence from the British. That you’re part of the group who really “earned” it. America’s your inheritance. You own it.

This is also the core of Trumpism: believing you have a better claim to being here than other people do. Read more »

Bloc Thinking

by Chris Horner

Not long ago there was an article circulating on Facebook about ‘Hating the English’, originally published in a large circulation newspaper. The Irish author says something to the effect that once she thought it was just a few bad ones etc., but now she hates the lot of them. It’s been stimulated, I think, by the repulsive English nationalism that has been raising its head since Brexit, plus the usual ignorance about Ireland, Irish history and Irish interests on the part of your typical ‘Brit’. It’s not a very good piece of writing, and it has a rather slight idea in it. I’d ignore it but for the ‘likes’ and positive comments it’s received, particularly from ‘leftists’. It’s an example of what we could call ‘bloc thinking’ – the emotionally satisfying but futile consignment of entire masses of people into categories of nice and nasty.

It has a number of obvious problems. It is deeply unwise to brand entire national groups good or bad, to declare love or hate for whole ethnic or national communities. Too many English people have branded the Irish in just that way throughout their shared and troubled history; just repeating it the other way is hardly progress. This kind of thing is the habit of the worst kinds of right wing chauvinists, and we should steer well clear of it. We get the same kind of thing about, for instance, from ‘anti-imperialists’ despising the ‘Americans’ (meaning usually: ’citizens of the USA’).  This is particularly obtuse when it comes from people who have never visited the USA and don’t know anyone who lives there. Just think: 328 million people, rich and poor, white, black or brown, anglo and latino, from coast to coast. All dismissed, because policies emanating from ‘America’s’ ruling 1%. It is true that many – not all by any means – US citizens will have supported those policies, but that ought to be the beginning of a problem to think about, not the invitation to simple minded moralising. Fatuous generalisations are so obviously foolish that it might not detain us long, if it were not for the tendency of this kind of approach to encompass whole swathes of people, demographics and even generations as Good or Bad. So we get Greedy ‘boomers’ versus ‘millennials’, or whatever crass label is currently in use. And so on. Read more »

Fair Is Foul, Foul Is Fair: Trump’s Final Soliloquy

by Thomas Larson

According to Donald Trump, in a statement made to MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” April 11, 2011, about the fake “birther controversy” of President Barack Obama—the opening salvo in Trump’s campaign of political disinformation—Obama’s “grandmother in Kenya said, ‘Oh, no, he was born in Kenya and I was there and I witnessed the birth.’ She’s on tape,” Trump went on. “I think that tape’s going to be produced fairly soon. Somebody is coming out with a book in two weeks, it will be very interesting.”

And, according to Vox News, President Trump, two weeks after losing the 2020 November 3rd election, tweeted, “I won the election!” He had warned many times prior to the vote that the only way he would lose the election would be if it was rigged, and the only way he would win was if the election was fair, a remarkably trenchant conjuration of the Three Witches’ spell on Macbeth, “Fair is foul, and foul is fair.”

And, according to Chanel Dion of One America News and Trump legal team lawyer, Sydney Powell, software engineers in Michigan and Georgia (and in parts of 26 other states) contracted with Dominion Voting Systems, which has financial ties to Nancy Pelosi, Dianne Feinstein, George Soros, the Clinton Foundation, and the seven-years-dead Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, to make ballot-counting machines switch votes from Republican to Democrat presidential candidates or to leave out a prescribed number of votes for President Trump in Joe Biden’s favor. Read more »

Lowered Expectations

by Akim Reinhardt

Most People are Good | SLC6A1 ConnectPeople are basically good.

God, what a tiresome trope.

It is a desperate and naive sentiment, often advanced by those who can’t bear the truth. I say this as a historian who has studied genocide, ethnic cleansing, slavery, vast, violent, exploitative colonial systems, and more mundane expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, and classism. But if you’ve neither the time nor the inclination to brush up on 10,000 years of human history as a background for this discussion, then allow me to point you towards the present.

More than 70,000,000 people just voted for Donald Trump. Again.

After four years of observing, on a near daily basis, his presidential grotesquerie. The racism, the sexism, the vindictiveness, the endless vitriol, the knee-jerk authoritarianism and ceaseless attacks on and erosion of American constitutional mechanisms and democratic norms.

The number plagues us like a cancerous tumor unfazed by chemotherapy or radiation, and too large for a scalpel to carve away without disfiguring the corpus: 70,000,000. Read more »

Some vignettes in the wake of a historic election [16 tons, where are we now?]

by Bill Benzon

At close to 71 million votes, Donald Trump beat Barack Obama’s 2008 total of 69.5 million, which had been the highest number of votes ever cast for a presidential candidate (Wikipedia). But Joseph Biden got over 75 million votes to win. Those numbers alone make this a landmark election.

The nature of the opposition, the candidates, the voters, the issues, the general state of the nation, that too is important. But I don’t know how to think about that. Though others may have one, I lack an analytic framework. The best I can do is to offer some things I’ve been thinking about.

Be of Good Cheer

Let us start with Episode 223 of the In Lieu of Fun podcast, or whatever it is, from the day after, Nov. 4. It is hosted by Ben Wittes, of the Brookings Institution and Lawfare, and Kate Klonick, who teaches at St. Johns University School of Law. They’ve been hosting this conversation since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.

While the whole conversation is worthwhile, especially some relatively early remarks taking note of the fact that Trump still has a great deal of support, I’m interested in some remarks that Wittes offered at the very end, starting at roughly 55:49 (you have to view it on Youtube). Read more »

Move to Canada If Donald Trump Wins? How About Break Up the United States Instead

by Akim Reinhardt

KEEP CALM AND MOVE TO CANADA | Moving to canada, Keep calm, Canada quotesIs there anything more clichéd than some spoiled, petulant celebrity publicly threatening to move to Canada if the candidate they most despise wins an election? These tantrums have at least four problems:

1. As if Canada wants you. Please.
2. Mexico has way better weather and food than Canada. Why didn’t you threaten to move there? Is it because of all the brown people? No, you insist. Is it the language? Well then if you do make it to Canada, here’s hoping they stick you in Quebec.
3. New Zealand seems to be the hip new Canada. I’ve recently heard several people threaten to move there. News flash, Americans: New Zealand wants you even less than Canada does.
4. Fuck right off then if you don’t want to be here.

As we stare down the possible re-election of Donald Trump, I’ve got a much better alternative: Stay put and begin a serious, adult conversation about disuniting the states.

If, through the vagaries of the Electoral College, 45% of U.S. voters really do run this nation into an authoritarian kleptocratic, dystopian ditch, then instead of fleeing with your gilded tail between your legs, stay and help us reconfigure the nation. It might be the sanest alternative to living in Trump’s tyranny of the minority, in which racism and sexism are overtly embraced, the economy is in shambles, the pandemic rages unabated, and abortion may soon be illegal in most states as an ever more conservative Supreme Court genuflects to corporate interests and religious extremists.

And of course it cuts both ways. Should current polls hold and Joe Biden manage to win the election with just over half the popular vote, those on the losing side will be every bit as upset. So upset that they too would likely open to a conversation about remaking an America. Read more »

The Bitter End and the Forever Now

by Akim Reinhardt

Richard Nixon: The Rise And Fall Of An American President - HistoryExtraThere is a minor American myth about shame and regret. It goes like this.

In the years following Richard Nixon’s 1974 resignation amid scandal and disgrace, polls found that fewer Americans admitted to having voted for him than actually did. Apparently many former Nixon voters now realized the error of their ways and were embarrassed to admit ever having pulled the lever for him.

Everything about this story is false, and the truth of it is worse. Nixon’s loyal supporters stood by him the entire way, despite his crimes. His popularity did not retreat behind a wave of shame; it was merely muted by the national embarrassment of his resignation.

What does this tell us about today’s Trump supporters? Partisan divisions are much worse now than they were during the mid-1970s, so Trump voters’ fierce loyalty to this sexist, racist charlatan is unsurprising. But in explaining why, we tend to focus on the Cult of Trump, as if he has special qualities that give him some magical hold over his supporters. True, in many ways Trump is a unique politician in American history. Yet given our history, it seems likelier that his supporters’ undying devotion is less about the spells Trump casts, and more about the constancy of American political partisanship.

Indeed, the difference between Trump’s and Nixon’s loyal supporters might be more about decibel count than sentiment. And so by looking back at the steadfast support Richard Nixon maintained right through his resignation, we can better understand the misguided loyalty keeping Trump’s reelection campaign afloat. Read more »

“What could the world hold for a maimed, crippled man?” —The Heartbreaking Story of Artificial Limbs

by Godfrey Onime

A WWI-era prosthetic arm via Wikimedia Commons

Consider the case of James Edward Hanger, who was only 18 when the American civil war erupted. A promising engineering student, he left his studies at Washington College (now Washington & Lee University) to enlist in the military. The date was June 1, 1861.

Fate had other plans for the young man other than remaining a fighting soldier. On June 3rd, only two days after enlisting, Hanger was engaged at the Battle of Philippi (then in Virginia, and now West Virginia) when a cannonball ripped through his leg.  To save his life, Hanger underwent a painful amputation of the limb, earning him the distinction of becoming the war’s first amputee. Returning to his family by August, the young man retreated into a solitude in his room, to the worry of his parents. Hanger was quoted as saying,

“No one can know what such a loss means unless he has suffered a similar catastrophe. In the twinkling of an eye, life’s fondest hopes seemed dead. What could the world hold for a maimed, crippled man?”

***

It is not difficult to understand how the young Hanger could have felt that way. Throughout history, many have shown contempt for the crippled — and even those who found themselves injured or captured in war. And in recent years, no less a powerful man than the president of the United States have publicly decried those who were killed in battle, maimed, or captured. For instance, while running for the Republican nomination for president of the United States in 2015, Donald J Trump famously lambasted the late John McCain who had spent more than five years as prisoner of war of the North Vietnamese. “He’s not a war hero,” Trump had said of the then  U.S Senator and former republican presidential nominee.  “I like people who weren’t captured.” And just last week,  The Atlantic reported that the president had said that Americans who died in war are “losers” and “suckers.” Read more »

The Mythological President

by Akim Reinhardt

Why not try an analogy? | The Floor is YoursViolence : War :: Lies : Mythology

This analogy holds. Violence is central to war, and lies are central to mythology. At the same time, violence and lies often stem from one or a few people, whereas war and mythology exist and function on a social level. One person can be violent to another, but warfare, by definition, involves entire societies. Likewise, one person can lie to another, but mythology, by definition, involves an entire society.

Donald Trump lies. A lot. Clearly more than most people, and probably more than any other president. Arguably professional journalism’s greatest failing of the last several years has been its reticence to label him a liar or to even identify his lies as such. Instead, they almost always play it safe, on the grounds that they cannot read his mind, and settle for euphemisms. He is incorrect. His statements are inaccurate. Respected, professional news outlets almost never state the obvious and the real. He is a liar. He lies. What he said is a lie.  Not all of it, of course.  Some if it is just gross stupidity.  But also intentionally lies.  A lot.

This is very important. Because Donald Trump’s many individual lies allow and the vast army of right wing media to perpetuate the mythology of Donald Trump.

A myth is full of statements that are “inaccurate” or “incorrect.” Sometimes these are expressed as supernatural impossibilities. Sometimes they are false statements purporting to be fact. Either way, a society can bundle up these individual lies and transform them into a mythological truth. Take for example story of Pocahontas. Read more »

An Utterly Biased Guide To Impeachment

by Michael Liss

I have an awful confession to make. I haven’t made up my mind about whether President Trump should be convicted and removed from office.

I know that sounds deranged. I am “troubled” by what Trump apparently did. “Disturbed” by the scorched-earth defense strategy put together by the Trump team. “Deeply concerned” about the continuous violations of norms and the virtual certainty they will continue.

All of these things are true, and I’m not even a moderate Republican trying to show my independence to the folks back home before voting to acquit. I’m a Democrat, and every day of the Trump Regime is an excruciating day. Nothing would make me happier than a landslide repudiation of Trump by a thoroughly repulsed electorate. I want him out, and I believe that, applying a probable cause standard, the House voted appropriately to Impeach and send it to the Senate. Nonetheless, I’m not sure that, if I were a Senator, I would vote to convict.

I need evidence. Old fashioned, I admit, but I need it anyway. I need a credible process with witnesses being called and a case being presented in a formal way. I need a sense that the system actually works, as opposed to just being a two-party rumble where few seem to care about facts, and fewer about process.

Three simple questions: What did the President do? Did he have the authority to do it? And, if so, did he abuse that authority beyond the breaking point? Read more »

Memorial Day: Forever War

by Akim Reinhardt

In 1974, noted science fiction author Joe Haldeman published a novel called The Forever War, which won several awards and spawned sequels, a comic version, and even a board game. The Forever War tells the story of William Mandella, a young physics student drafted into a war that humans are waging against an alien race called the Taurans. The Taurans are thousands of light years away, and traveling there and back at light speed leads Mandella and other soldiers to experience time differently. During two years of battle, decades pass by on Earth. Consequently, the world Mandella returns to each time is increasingly different and foreign to him. He eventually finds his home planet’s culture unrecognizable; even English has changed to the point that he can no longer understand it.

Born in 1943, Joe Haldeman is a Vietnam War veteran. He was drafted in 1967, served two years as a combat engineer, and earned a Purple Heart. Many have speculated that the disaffection William Mandella experiences upon returning home from war reflects Haldeman’s own alienation after Vietnam. But there is another element of The Forever War that has recently proven timely 45 years after its initial publication: its title.

The Donald Trump administration appears to be ramping up for a possible war with Iran even as the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan enter their sixteenth year, and the United States maintains a more indirect but important role in wars in Somalia, Syria, Yemen, and Lybia. Indeed, just yesterday, Vice President Mike Pence informed members of the West Point Military Academy graduating class that “it is a virtual certainty that you will fight on a battlefield for America at some point in your life.” Read more »

The Season of Savagery and Hope

by Ali Minai

April 2018: ‘Tis the Season of Giddiness in Democratlandia. Republicans are saddled with a widely despised President and riven by internal dissension. The Republican leadership in Congress is lurching from fiasco to fiasco – interrupted briefly by one great “success” on tax cuts. The zombie candidates of the Tea Party are still stalking establishment Republicans across the land. And, somewhere in his formidable fastness, the Great Dragon Mueller is winding up for the fiery breath that will consume the world of Trumpism like a paper lantern. And a Blue Wave – nay, a Tsunami – is headed towards the Republicans in Congress, looking to engulf them in November.

Time passes, and it is October. Anguish is all around. After snatching children from their parents and imprisoning them in cages, after giving a wet kiss to Kim Jong Un and worse to Putin, after having his former campaign manager convicted of crimes and his fixer plead guilty, after a virtual torrent of lies, after reports of a still devastated Puerto Rico and newly devastated Carolinas and Florida – after all this and more, Trump is more popular than ever in his presidency, Brett Kavanaugh is on the Supreme Court, and the Blue Wave is beginning to look more like an eddy. To be sure, Trump is still spectacularly unpopular compared to past presidents, with disapproval numbers at 50% of higher, but he seems to be rising. Rising! The very word is like a knell of doom. As Trump himself might say, “What the hell is going on?”

First of all, probably an over-reaction. A large part of US electoral outcomes can be ascribed to structural factors, such as the fact that 26 of the 50 states have conservative majority populations. Yes, these 26 states may add up to only 47% of the US population, but they elect 54% of the US Senate, and that cannot change. The number of reliably liberal states is much smaller – only 16 – and, though they account for 42% of the population, they only elect 32% of the Senate. The remaining 8 states – comprising 11% of the population – swing with the season, but supply 16% of the Senate. Thus, Democrats start off with a huge disadvantage in the Senate even in the best of times. Demographic forces will gradually change this situation, but slowly. Meanwhile, Democrats, as the liberal party, will always be facing the bitter choice of either accepting conservative senators in their own ranks or remaining a permanent minority in the Senate. Four decades of asymmetric political warfare has also left Republicans in control of most state houses, which they have used to gerrymander districts and pass laws to disenfranchise Democratic voters. That too is hard to change because these factors are custom-designed to perpetuate Republican majorities. But all is not lost for Democrats here. Read more »

The Country Mouse and the City Mouse: A Brief History of American Identity, 1790-Present

by Akim Reinhardt

In 1790, shortly after the 13 states ratified the U.S. Constitution, the new federal government conducted its first population census. Its tabulations revealed an astonishingly rural nation. No less than 95% of all Americans lived in rural areas, either on a fairly isolated homestead (typically a farm) or in a very small town. How small? Fewer than 2,500 people. Meanwhile, just 1/20 of Americans lived in a town with more than 2,500 people. All told there were only 26 such towns, only half of which had so many as 5,000 people

In a nation of nearly 4,000,000 people, the ten largest cities had a combined population of only 152,000. And half of those top ten cities did not even have 10,000 people.

Yet, even then, tensions between rural and urban interests were already evident. Urbanites, particularly elite merchants, had drawn on their power, wealth, and influence to promoting constitutional ratification. At the forefront of opposition had been small farmers.

A general theme among opponents to ratification were concerns that the new constitution aimed to create a much stronger central government. Some worried it would erode the sovereignty of the individual states. Some thought it created something too much like the despotic British government they’d just rebelled against. And some fretted about the possible loss of personal liberties; the much vaunted Bill of Rights was not part of the original document.

Debate was fierce. Historians believe it’s possible that a majority of Americans actually opposed the new Constitution. Yet it passed it eventually. During an era when voting rights were tied to personal wealth, small farmers held little political sway in most states despite their numbers. Their concerns did lead to the first 10 Amendments being added, but in the end the Federalists, particularly active in larger cities such as New York and Boston, won the day. Yet the vengeance of anti-urbanites was close at hand. Read more »

A Straight Line

by Akim Reinhardt

“It’s a long, long way from the Trump administration to an actual fascist dictatorship,” I said, “but it’s a straight line.”

Although generally reserved, Julius (I’ll call him) belly laughed a good while at that, his outburst fueled by personal experience. He’d spent his childhood in General Francisco Franco’s fascist Spain. Specifically in Catalonia, that provincial hotbed of resistance during the Spanish Civil War, and target of fierce repression for nearly nearly four decades following. Franco’s authoritarian rule was ruthless: censorship; banning opposition parties; prisons full of Catalan political dissidents; some four-thousand Catalans executed from 1938-53; thousands more in exile.

Julius deeply loathes Donald Trump. But he also has no patience for hyperbolic claims that El Trumpo is a dictator. Because he knows better. Read more »

Heather Heyer & Charlottesville: White America’s Thirst for White Martyrs of Racial Violence

Emmett Tillby Akim Reinhardt

It began with Emmett Till.

He was a fourteen year old black boy from Chicago visiting relatives in Mississippi in 1954 when two white men lynched him to death for whistling at a white woman. That in itself, sadly, wasn’t so unusual. Thousands of African Americans were lynched to death during the first half of the 20th century. What was different about this particular lynching was his mother’s response.

Till’s mother demanded her son’s body be returned to Chicago instead of getting a quick burial in Mississippi. She then insisted upon an open-casket funeral so the world could see what they had done to her boy. The black press covered the funeral as upwards of 50,000 black mourners passed by the coffin. Jet magazine and The Chicago Defender newspaper published photos of his body, mutilated almost beyond recognition. Afterwards, mainstream (white) national publications also ran the pictures and covered the story in depth, and Emmett Till entered the larger white consciousness as a martyr of racial violence.

Needless to say, there have been countless black (and Latinx and Indigenous and Asian) victims of racial violence in America over the last four centuries. How many black people have been killed or maimed by whites for, essentially, being black? The number is impossible to know. As an American historian, I suspect that tens of thousands would be an underestimate. When considering the ravages of slavery and decades of subsequent lynch violence, the number could easily be in the hundreds of thousands.

Yet prior to Emmett Till, almost none of them ever entered white consciousness as martyrs. Till became the first, the token black, the only one from among the countless thousands who most white people ever learned about in school or could cite by name. That slavery and Jim Crow repression wrought horrible violence was no secret. But upon whom, specifically?

In the 1960s, Till was joined in this sad canon only by Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers (briefly), and Malcolm X (only to a minority of whites). However, with the death of King in 1968, white consciousness considered the civil rights era over, largely went into hiding on the issue of race, and stopped acknowledging new black martyrs of white racial violence.

Why?

Read more »

This Populist Moment

by Akim Reinhardt

Beetle Baily by Mort WalkerLast week, Barack Obama got beaten up on social media and called out by the press for accepting a $400,000 speaking fee from a Wall Street investment firm. It was the day's major kerfuffle, the non-Trump story of the week, and reactions to it by many of my smart, well reasoned friends surprised me somewhat.

They began with the stance that this isn't an issue. Obama's a private citizen now, so who cares? But lots of people did care. When the story picked up steam despite their protestations, my friends then blamed the loony left for fabricating the issue, launching a general assault on fringe elements of the Democratic party and a firm defense of sensible centrist outlooks. Yet it wasn't just the left. The right predictably piled on as well, without any prompting from the left. The story also transcended the partisan divide as the centrist press ran with it. Christ, even the BBC, the vanilla pudding of international news, covered it.

In the end, the defense of Obama that gained the most traction among my friends, and to some degree in the national media, was a racial analysis. Some claimed that this brouhaha was another example of white people shaming a black man for earning a paycheck, the imposition of a racial double standard since white politicians and ex-politicians do this kind of thing all time.

This needs to be reckoned with. Obama was always held to a higher standard, precisely because he was black; he was always subjected to intense racism, and the racist backlash to his presidency as much as anything helps explain Trump's victory. Was this just another example of that racial double standard? It's an important question to ask.

Read more »

April Fools

by Akim Reinhardt

LollipopDonald Trump's first hundred days as president are nearly tallied. Enough time has passed that we can now divide people who voted for him into two groups:

1. Those who: never liked Trump (but made a calculated decision to vote for him); have more recently developed doubts; or will soon become disillusioned when Trump not only fails to deliver on his promises but actually does the opposite in many respects (eg., loses good paying blue collar jobs instead of creating them; contributes to a national healthcare scenario that's worse than ObamaCare; doesn't build a wall or at least doesn't get Mexico to pay for it, etc.)

2. Suckers

Ahh, the sucker.

Most of us like to pretend we're immune to crass charlatanism. I'm not that gullible, you tell yourself, refusing to believe you could be seriously suckered. Surely, someone as smart as you sees through the vulgar farces dangling before us.

The embarrassing truth, however, is that we all get taken for the proverbial ride now and again. It's not easy to admit, but really, there is no shame in it. Everyone has vulnerabilities and prejudices. Even the most skeptical and jaded among us are occasionally susceptible to a snazzy sales pitch. Sharp logicians and clever rhetoricians can still be manipulated by a well aimed guilt trip or melodic seduction. No one is perfect, and a good con artist can size you up, get you to look away, and then go right for your soft spot when you're not paying attention.

It can happen to anyone. All the people, as the old adage states, can get fooled some of the time. That will never change. The important thing is that we recognize and learn from our mistakes.

All of us are wrong on occasion. We can stumble over trivialities, or choose incorrectly on matters of grave import. To err, after all, is human. And if forgiveness is indeed divine, then it is precisely because we all require a pardon now and again. Salvation is a truly universal need.

Genuflect, admit your sins, work to better yourself, and be absolved.

But the gravest sin against the gods of redemption? To deny your guilt. To double down on your errors. To stubbornly roar with hubris, feign righteousness, and insist upon your rectitude. To set yourself up as a false god and never admit the wrongness of your ways.

There is no helping such miscreants. The perverse degenerate who cannot confess sin must be cast out of the temple and banished from the community!
So sayeth this atheist.

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