Stuff Is Hard


scott shelson teddy boysI didn’t have the best week, to be honest. On Tuesday, I learned that a very dear friend had passed away after a series of health setbacks. Scott Shelson was a good man; look up ‘mensch’ in the dictionary – his photo should be there.

Scott was not only a fabulous musician, he was movie star handsome, smart, funny, athletic, a great husband, and an amazing dad. He ran a courier company for years, and many a musician found a temporary or long term job there when they needed it.

scott shelson sexy shirtAt the family’s ‘Celebration of Life,” the scores of those who had come to honour Scott praised his commitment to his family and friends, saying that he was a man who had never been heard to raise his voice in anger, or have a bad word to say about anyone – even those who might have sinned against him in the past.

A good man – a big loss for those of us who loved and respected him.

Two days later, the world mourned the loss of another irreplaceable human being, when Aretha Franklin succumbed to pancreatic cancer. I can’t remember a world in which she was not a force to be reckoned with, not only in music, but in civil rights, and in her position as senior female spokesperson. R.E.S.P.E.C.T. baby…

aretha franklin youngEvery musical entity on the planet .. and many non-musical entities … have written glowing tributes to the Queen of Soul. So, of course, the Orange Mango waved away the importance of her life and works when he dismissively referred to her as someone who once worked for him. Sigh. Money can’t buy class.

I do know that she was asked to perform at Dead Clown Walking’s inauguration, and vehemently refused to do so. Maybe in the fantasy carnival ride of his mind, he thinks she accepted. Who knows? Or cares?

“Though she largely refrained from publicly criticizing Trump during or after the 2016 campaign, two individuals with direct knowledge of her political opinions said she was repelled by the Republican standard-bearer, his policy prescriptions, and his rhetoric. One source close to Franklin told The Daily Beast that after the election, she confided to associates that “no amount of money” could convince her to perform at the inauguration.”

Orange Condom represents the worst America has to offer, but Miss Franklin showed the world the heights an American could achieve with a real love of her art and her country.

Rest in well deserved peace, Queen … we are richer for having had you in our lives.

While I’m not all that into astrology, August 16 is a very interesting and auspicious day for comings and goings. We lost Elvis Presley, the King of Rock n Roll, on that day, as well as Aretha, seminal blues guitarist, Robert Johnson, and baseball giant, Babe Ruth, while Madonna, Steve Carell, James Cameron, Angela Bassett and Kathie Lee Gifford were born on that day. And … August 16 is also National Bratwurst Day, National Roller Coaster Day, National Rum Day, and National Tell A Joke Day.

Things that make you go .. hmmm … and then pour a large rum and coke to go with your bratwurst, while you tell a joke about roller coasters.

In other news – the world just keeps getting more chaotic, and honest to pete, guys … can we just stop with the getting all up in our own selves, cherry picking facts, and doing a lemming-like march to every available cliff?

Being ‘woke’ is great when we’re in progressive mode. But when a huge slice of the electorate is obsessed with real and made up reasons to be frightened and angry, it’s time to get back to the middle-right, not the Middle Ages. People care a great deal about jobs, the economy, health care, education … and why their kids can’t make enough money to move the hell out of their basement.

Trying to get them to be more interested in deep states, conspiracy theories, and fiery deaths from either an apocalypse or a nuclear war is just asking too much from us on an every day basis. Especially in the summer. Especially this summer.

titanic sinkingIn a time when populist leaders like Trump and Ford are being voted in with self-proclaimed mandates to do whatever evil their warped little cerebral cortices coax them to do, we’ve got to pull way back from the sinking side of the Titanic.

There are days when I wonder if the ascent of these fools was engineered to wipe out the last of the intelligent baby boomers by having them stroke out, thus diminishing the costs of elder health care costs. But then I remember .. thee and me are still here.

There are other days when I look at America’s underbelly supporting the 72 Year Old Toddler, with their cries of “lock her up!” replacing, “She’s a witch!” and wonder just how very different things are today from how they were in the Dark Ages.

After all – it was the time between the fall of one Empire and the beginning of a renaissance. It was also another time of rejecting science and truth, and of painting bothersome women as witches or animals, with no rights.

Fake News? Oh.. the medieval scribes had an excuse for that!

TitivillusTitivillus the Error Demon: Some in the Dark Ages believed that the blame for any scribe’s error—big or small—fell squarely on the shoulders of this Muppet-lookin’ monster. The Titivillus ran with a bad crowd (aka Satan), so it made sense he’d do such devilish work.

And how very different are the most rabid anti-abortionists beliefs from preformationism; the belief that “sperm carried homunculi, tiny versions of a fully-grown human. It had organs, eyes, a brain—everything a baby had when it was born. In the womb, this little thing just grew from microscopic to baby-sized.” (boredomtherapy.com)

You wanna know what brought about the end of the Dark Ages? It was the black plague, the development of the printing press and the decline of the Catholic church.

So … I guess we’re just waiting on that plague now?

History doesn’t repeat itself .. but sometimes it rhymes … or ..

gbs quote on history reepeating

 

Watching The Dream Die


lbj lowest black man

If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.
— Lyndon Johnson, 36th President of the United States of America

Martin Luther King Jr had a dream. And he died for it, along with the many others, of all colours, who fought to bring the civil rights movement to America.

Norman Rockwell Murder in MississippiIt took many years, and many lives, but the leaders of the civil rights movement persevered with the goal of securing legal rights for African Americans, rights that other Americans had already held. The movement resulted in large legislative impacts, including the installment of the first black U.S. Supreme Court justice. Mountains were moved to accomplish their goals of ending legal racial segregation and discrimination. Using non-violent campaigns, they achieved new recognitions in the legal, federal protection of ALL Americans.

 

Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) was a U.S. Supreme Court justice and civil rights advocate. Marshall earned an important place in American history on the basis of two accomplishments. First, as legal counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), he guided the litigation that destroyed the legal underpinnings of Jim Crow segregation. Second, as an associate justice of the Supreme Court–the nation’s first black justice–he crafted a distinctive jurisprudence marked by uncompromising liberalism, unusual attentiveness to practical considerations beyond the formalities of law, and an indefatigable willingness to dissent.” 

Norman Rockwell Right to Know

Donald Trump is the nightmare that people of colour have wrestled with all of their lives, the creature that haunts their dreams and makes them hold their babies closer. And his minions, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and most especially that evil gnome Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, have waited patiently for decades for just this moment in time to arrive, and vindicate their most malevolent, bigoted thoughts. At first, he was just the fool who egged on racists throughout Barack Obama‘s presidency with his ridiculous birtherism theory, but now Trump’s tweets and rants have galvanized fear and ignorance, like a lit match dropped into the gasoline of repressed racism. To his base’s clear delight, they are relaxing into an overt racism in which they can lawfully and openly show their hatred of people of colour, supported by their horrific master.

trump supports hate facesTrump’s tweeting is beyond a dog whistle to his racist supporters – it’s even beyond a bull horn. It’s an IV of disgusting, depraved poison, that is constant and inescapable and that excites the part of his follower’s brain that delights in cruelty and chaos.

By contrast, consider the struggle for civil rights in America. I’m old enough to remember how violently so many struggled to prevent integration. There were threats, there were beatings, there were murders. We in Canada watched from afar as the country battled it’s way to a new view on human rights and human dignity.

rosa parks on busEverything that Trump does and says is another giant step towards obliterating that essential moment in American history.

Now, even if you are someone that believes that free speech, even hate speech, is your right, what has to be remembered is that this division of the population is not just unsettling – it’s fundamentally a national security issue. The nation is weaker when the people are fighting against each other.

This weekend is the one year anniversary of the murder of an innocent woman who had been counter-protesting racists marching on Charlottesville. A group of white supremacists, screaming racist, ethnic and misogynistic slogans and carrying tiki torches, rallied to “Unite The Right“. During that protest, one person was killed and 19 others were injured when a car sped into a group of counter-protesters.

charlottesville nazisThe original reason for the 2017 march centered around, amongst other things, protesting the removal of statues of Confederate leaders. Unless you are a pigeon with no other options, the removal of a statue should not really be either cause for alarm, or a reason to hurt another person.

And here’s the most interesting thing about those statues. The Confederacy was a treasonous attack on the United States of America. It was only because of Lincoln’s decision not to ’embarrass’ the people who’d supported the Confederate Army that the leaders escaped being hung for treason.

Northerners took a pragmatic approach to the war’s end. They realized the impracticality of trying thousands of Southerners for disloyalty in states where juries were unlikely to deliver guilty verdicts, and that continued cries of treason would interfere with the more important task of nation-building.

Ironically, the lenient approach allowed Robert E. Lee and other Confederate leaders to become heroic figures to later generations of Americans of all sections, says Blair, citing words written by Union Gen. George Thomas in 1868: “The crime of treason might be covered with a counterfeit varnish of patriotism, so that the precipitators of the rebellion might go down in history hand-in-hand with the defenders of the (US) Government.”  (see: www.futurity.org.)

After the Charlottesville riots, Trump refused to call out the militant right marching under a Nazi banner. Instead, the President of the United States said :

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides.”

david duke kkk tweetAs CNN explained in an editorial in August 2017, “ Both sides don’t scream racist and anti-Semitic things at people with whom they disagree. They don’t base a belief system on the superiority of one race over others. They don’t get into fistfights with people who don’t see things their way. They don’t create chaos and leave a trail of injured behind them.

 Arguing that “both sides do it” deeply misunderstands the hate and intolerance at the core of this “Unite the Right” rally. These people are bigots. They are hate-filled. This is not just a protest where things, unfortunately, got violent. Violence sits at the heart of their warped belief system.

 Trying to fit these hate-mongers into the political/ideological spectrum — which appears to be what Trump is doing — speaks to his failure to grasp what’s at play here. This is not a “conservatives say this, liberals say that” sort of situation. We all should stand against this sort of violent intolerance and work to eradicate it from our society — whether Democrat, Republican, Independent or not political in the least.”

And as actor/director Spike Lee told an interviewer just this week,  “The President of the United States had a chance to denounce hate. The whole world saw what happened and he didn’t do it.”

There is no “other side” to racism if you live in a democracy. There is no “right” to be racist. There is no ‘racist amendment’ that would allow racists to be tolerated in any situation. There is NO validity to their arguments of white superiority, only anti-social activity that tears apart society.

Norman Rockwell 1964 young girl

However, the climate fomented and nurtured by Trump’s administration not only encourages overt racism, it is tacitly welcomed and rarely held accountable for the pain and discomfort of those upon whom this abuse is waged.

This new fad of calling 911 on people living their life while being black will most certainly, inevitably, eventually, get someone killed. People of colour know that siccing the cops on a person of colour can and will often devolve into a life or death situation.

Just ask actor Ving Rhames, who was a target of racial profiling earlier this year. A neighbour called the LAPD  after a neighbour claimed to have seen a ‘large black man breaking into a house.”

Rhames, who had been watching television in his Santa Monica home with his two English bulldogs, answered the door.

“I get up, I open the door, there’s a red dot pointed at my face from a 9 millimeter,” Rhames. “And they say, ‘Put up your hands.'”

Last year, NBA All-Star Lebron James’ Los Angeles home was vandalized with N-word graffitti, and in March of this year, Milwaukee Bucks player Sterling Brown was seen in a video being tackled to the ground for a parking infraction.

bbqing while blackJust being AWBAlive While Black – has lead to a fad of white people calling 911 to report their fear of black people golfing too slowly, eating waffles, waiting for a client in a Starbucks, handing out campaign literature, napping at lunch, barbecuing at a public park, asking to use a valid coupon, eating their lunch, being a real estate agent, swimming in their public community pool, checking out of an AirBnB without acknowledging a wave, or seeing an 8 year old child selling cold bottled water on a warm day.

And in response to these frantic calls from white people, most of these innocent people had to deal with the police showing up, with flashing sirens and guns blazing. After all, the steadfast perspective of white callers seems to always be far more trustworthy than the potentially criminal actions of law-abiding, tax- paying, black citizens.

I’ve yet to hear of any accountability being demanded of the people who are wasting precious police resources by calling the police on innocent parties. Nor have I heard of any of those who’ve had their lives put into danger, successfully suing the callers or their employers. But I hope that becomes a fad, and soon.

From his first speech on the campaign trail, Trump has been overtly, aggressively, racist, condemning and dismissing people of colour. Although an elected president is supposed to be the president of all of the people, he is selective about whom he chooses to favour or flay.  As if his spoken and tweeted attacks on (black) football players for their non-violent protest of taking a knee during the National Anthem, despite their repeated explanations of what the protest means, weren’t annoying enough, his continued attacks actually break two laws.

law on kneeling for flag

A federal law, enacted in 1943, says that no citizen can be forced to participate in rituals that are used with the flag or any other symbol of the United States.

And 18 U.S. Code 227 is a law that could be used against Trump in response to his various statements about private businesses, including the NFL. This law prohibits “the President, as well as members of Congress and other federal officials, from “wrongfully influencing a private entity’s employment decisions.” Persons convicted under this statute face up to 15 years in prison and disqualification from public office.

Trump continuously recommending, even commanding, that protesting players be fired or punished seems to fit 18 U.S. Code § 227’s basic definition.”

Racism, white supremacy, and white nationalism; when the president and his administration tell the country to turn against a huge segment of their own people, that country is ripe for exploitation by those that will use that division for their own purposes and gain. When the president demonizes certain segments of the working population as somehow being less fit, less trustworthy or less capable, the enemies of the United States have their toehold into an internal, fractured, weakness that can be used against the country.

But I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for anyone in this administration to call him on either of these crimes. They are all too busy dismantling America and democracy.

And killing that beautiful dream….

 

 

 

 

Martin Luther King Day


what are you doing for othersInjustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea.”   (Martin Luther King Jr. ) 

Today, Americans observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It’s a federal holiday, so many people will enjoy a long weekend, with schools, banks, courts and all federal offices closed.

King was the inspiration of millions, being integral to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ‘60s. During the 1963 March on Washington, he gave hope to all who felt less than free in America with his uplifting “I Have a Dream,” speech which earned him a reputation as one of the greatest orators in American history.

rosa parks quoteIn 1964, then President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the landmark Civil Rights Act that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. That same year, King received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolence.

King was planning a national occupation of Washington, D.C., to be called the Poor People’s Campaign, when he was assassinated by James Earl Ray, in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968.

“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” (MLKjr)

After his death, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Soon after, labour unions in contract negotiations began to campaign for a holiday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day , in his honour. In 1971, the day was established as a holiday in numerous cities and states

reagan signs MLK dayPresident Ronald Reagan signed a bill designating the third Monday in January to honour King in 1983, but it was not observed until three years later. It is a floating holiday, in that it is celebrated around the time of King’s birthday, January 15. In 1986, the day became a U.S. federal holiday.

Interestingly, Reagan originally opposed the holiday, citing cost concerns.

jesse_helmsSenators Jesse Helms and John Porter East (both North Carolina Republicans) led opposition to the bill and questioned whether King was important enough to receive such an honor. Helms criticized King’s opposition to the Vietnam War and accused him of espousing “action-oriented Marxism” Helms led a filibuster against the bill and on October 3, 1983, submitted a 300-page document to the Senate alleging that King had associations with communists. New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan declared the document a “packet of filth”, threw it on the Senate floor and stomped on it “ Wikipedia.com)

In 1994, Congress designated the King Holiday as a national day of service. But some states resisted observing the holiday, an action that would seem directly opposed to King’s ‘dream.” It was not until 2000 that the day was officially observed in all 50 states.

Many politicians still active in government today voted against the holiday. In October 1983, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah, former GOP presidential nominee John McCain of Arizona, and Richard Shelby of Alabama, were amongst the 22 opposing votes against 78 Senators in favour, along with the current House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers of Kentucky, and current top Republican advocate in defense of the Voting Rights Act, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin.

steve scaliseMajority Whip Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana, voted twice against a state version of the holiday. Which is not surprising, considering that it has recently become known that Scalise delivered a previously unreported speech at a 2002 conference sponsored by a white-supremacist group. He was one of three Louisiana statehouse members who voted against the proposal in 1999, and then one of three nay-sayers in 2004.

supreme court“The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in June 2013 that a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act designed to prevent racial discrimination in certain voting laws was no longer necessary. The majority opinion, authored by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, stated that “things have changed dramatically” in the South and that the “country has changed” since the Voting Rights Act was passed. The court argued the law had successfully defended against discrimination, but was no longer needed. Racism, the court majority appeared to suggest, was over, and laws created during a time when such hatred was in its heyday served now to place unjust “burdens” on certain states and jurisdictions that wished to pass new voting laws — laws, of course, that had nothing to do with trying to suppress minority votes. “ (Huffington Post)

“An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law.” (MLKjr)

And so today, Americans celebrate a holiday honouring a man instrumental in the creation of the Civil Rights Act that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, while SCOTUS – which consists of a non-elected Chief Justice of the United States and eight associate justices who are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate for life tenure “unless they resign, retire, take senior status, or are removed after impeachment (though no justice has ever been removed)” (Wikipedia.org) – dismantle that act to protect the very states that impelled it’s necessity.

“How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.” (MLKjr)

martin-luther-king-jr-quotes-silenceKing’s words ring as true today as they did in this 1967 speech he gave at Stanford University. The “Other America” still exists, and will continue to do so until more people, universally, demand social equality and human rights for all.