It CAN Happen Here

flag-wire

By the start of the 1930’s, the United States of America, as well as the rest of the world, was becoming a much different place.  In the aftermath of World War I, economic sanctions to pay for it’s destruction had put Europe in turmoil.    On the other side of the Atlantic, a steep drop in stock market prices lead to a Wall Street panic in New York causing the Great Depression.  These burgeoning economic crises worldwide would give a rallying cry to enterprising politicians, building newer coalitions with the poor and working class, to use the promise of national reemergence to their advantage.  Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany and abolished the role of President, becoming the nation’s Head of State.  In the United States, Franklin Roosevelt was elected to the first of his four terms as president and also began to address fears of the working class instituting a variety of programs, collectively known as the New Deal, which increased the size and scope of the federal government.  Roosevelt was not alone.  In Louisiana, political boss and bombastic populist, Huey P. Long campaigned on a promise of wealth distribution and banking retribution.  He was poised to challenge Roosevelt for the White House in 1936 when he was assassinated a year earlier.

It was under these conditions that America’s first Nobel Prize winning author, Sinclair Lewis, wrote the satirical political thriller, It Can’t Happen Here.  In it, Lewis describes the ascension of an American politician, ostensibly based on Huey Long, named Berzelius Windrip and his path to the presidency.  During his campaign, “Buzz” Windrip uses the stagnation of the economy to stoke fears with working class Americans.  He promises sweeping economic and social reforms, restoring “traditional” American values in a campaign using the force of his personality to get elected.  Once in power, a President Windrip uses his “Corporatist” regime to dissolve the United States Congress and target political enemies in government and the press.  All the while, Americans willfully ignore or tolerate these actions, expecting them to result in the restoration of American greatness, but in denial of any long-term authoritarian actions with a faith in our democracy, reassuring themselves by saying “it can’t happen here.”

When Sinclair Lewis wrote this book, the idea of an authoritarian did not have the same connotation it does today.  The Third Reich had only begun.  The atrocities of the Nazi regime were largely unknown or still years in the future.  Even in an historical context, Imperialism seemed attractive because it the showed overall strength of a nation on the world stage, so long as there remained the idea of individual liberty and national prosperity.  But after other dictatorships began to restrict rights and eliminate political opposition, the “Corporatist” government described in It Can’t Happen Here, may have seemed somewhat familiar to audiences who read about it in 1935.  However, after the rise and fall of the Third Reich and other powerful strong men in the last 70 years like Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro, and Saddam Hussein, the path from nationalism to authoritarianism is a scene familiar to many Americans in 2016.

And in 2016, beyond most rational expectations, business tycoon Donald Trump was just elected President of the United States.  This was the culmination of a campaign that began by slandering Mexican immigrants as rapist and murderers.  It wasn’t before long that he turned his attention to Muslim refugees seeking asylum in America and proposing a ban of Muslims entering and a registry of Muslims currently within our borders.  He continued to taunt the media, court racial nationalists, all the while praying on fear and ignorance using egregious lies and blatant deception against his opponents.  This included the mother and father of slain soldier, a beauty pageant contestant and a U.S. district court judge.  And despite disgusting and garish comments that we would never tolerate from our children let alone our elected leadership, he was STILL elected.

And through it all, it did not take long for many to begin to compare Donald Trump and his campaign to the likes of a Buzz Windrip and the plutocratic reign in Lewis’ novel.  However, as ostentatious as he has been and signs pointing in the post-election to fulfill the radical agenda he spoke of, many Americans are still willing to give Donald Trump the benefit of doubt.  We collectively look at history’s examples of extremism and dismiss such brazen instances as judging too harshly.  Since his election, most political and historical commentators believe that comparing Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler is a comparison that goes too far.  We are, after all, still a republic where power is separated and shared.  But with that said, In 2016 America, like Lewis’ 1930’s America and 1920’s Germany before that, we too assume what they assumed, that what happened then and there can’t happen here…

But it did.

In the book, Lewis describes Buzz Windrip saying, “the senator was vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar, easily detected, and his “ideas” almost idiotic.”  With the way Donald Trump has talked about women and the often inarticulate vocabulary he uses, while spreading proven falsehoods and questionable policies, you would think Lewis was describing the President-Elect instead of his fictional character.  Lewis also used his novel as a way to talk about the politics of the day.  From a character’s perspective he spoke about Fascism saying, “with all the lazy bums we got panhandling relief nowadays, and living on my income tax and yours—not so worse to have a real Strong Man, like Hitler or Mussolini—like Napoleon or Bismarck in the good old days—and have ‘em really run the country and make it efficient and prosperous again.”  Similar statements have been made by Donald Trump supporters over the course of the 2016 election, particularly with the ending predicate vividly saying, in alternate wording, “Make America Great Again.”  And if that doesn’t sound frighteningly familiar, listen to what Lewis wrote about Windrip’s opponent and his party.  He said, “it represented integrity and reason, in a year when the electorate hungered for frisky emotions, for the peppery sensations associated, usually, not with monetary systems and taxation rates but with […] the primitive sensations which they thought they found in the screaming of Buzz Windrip.”  And like then, our 2016 electorate ignored the integrity and reason that Donald Trump lacked to seek solace in an emotional connections in his many baseless claims.

Our 2016 Presidential Election continued to compare with what Lewis wrote eighty years before.  Buzz Windrip won the presidency not in a simple head to head, just as Donald Trump won the presidency despite losing the popular vote.  Additionally, believe it or not, later in the book, the fictional Corporatist government tried to garner support by spreading slanderous lies against the Mexican government, again something Donald Trump used to his advantage.  And the cherry on top for the Bernie or Bust crowd, the protagonist of the novel actually was a social democrat from Vermont.

What readers saw in the 1935 novel, history has seen many times before.  Like what we see today, a rational and clear thinking electorate was able to tolerate or ignore the Nazi Party’s blatant anti-Semitism with the hopes that they would be able to follow through on their economic agenda to bring back jobs and opportunity.  That was also the aim of the fictional electorate in the book.  Other hallmarks of despotism and totalitarianism that have signaled what was read in the novel were also present in this election.  The targeting of minority groups or cultures.  Harnessing nationalism and painting an outside threat as reason to be given power to protect a vulnerable society.  Using anger and ignorance to incite fear and the acceptance of unconventional actions and beliefs.  The saying “those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it” should be a reminder that our past can very well be our prologue.

When Sinclair Lewis wrote the words “it can’t happen here”, Americans could easily identify the rise of Nazism and emphatically reject it.  Just as today, we can look at the abomination of the Third Reich and safely assume, no matter how bad Donald Trump is that, likewise, it can’t happen here.  But German citizens of the 1920’s also said the same thing.  Donald Trump may not be another Hitler.  But Hitler wasn’t the first or the last.  And no matter how great we think our republic is, like all functioning world powers before us, we can fall.  Remember, with his rhetoric, antics and behavior, he was unlikely to win the Republican Nomination to begin with.  And winning the Presidency, in an environment where his intemperance increased even with the moderation of the electorate, was thought to be even less likelier.  However, with the unlikelihood of Donald Trump’s ascension to the presidency, we simply cannot dismiss the unlikelihood that his presidency can become something we don’t recognize in America.  Because, yes, it can happen here.

Advertisements

Who Guards the G-Men?

 

uncle-sam-watching-you-feature

After the Civil War, the United States saw a rise in economic expansion that blazed the nation through the Industrial Revolution.  This expansion continued until the early 1890s, when a financial panic caused millions to withdraw money from banks forcing them to close.  The Panic of 1893 lead to the layoff of Polish immigrant, Leon Czolgosz who turned to Anarchism, a political philosophy that is anti-authority and all centralized power.  This ideology eventually lead Czolgosz to assassinate recently re-elected President, William McKinley in 1901.  Upon McKinley’s assassination, his successor, Theodore Roosevelt, felt it necessary for the government to be able to track and monitor the rise of Anarchism and other internal threats to the United States Government.  By the end of his Administration and mostly without congressional approval, Roosevelt created the Bureau of Investigation, a new wing of the Department of Justice, staffed in part by former Secret Service agents.

Within the decade, the Justice Department hired a recent grad from George Washington University Law School named John Edgar Hoover, whose first job was to investigate, arrest and jail foreign dissenters without trial during World War I.  Soon, Hoover became the Director of the Bureau’s General Intelligence Division with the goal of monitoring and harassing domestic agitators like Marcus Garvey, future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter and the very Anarchist that inspired Leon Czolgosz himself, Emma Goldman.  Not long after and because of the Teapot Dome Scandal, which is STILL the second most notable presidential scandal in history behind Watergate, Hoover was named Acting Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and soon became it’s Director and eventually renamed it the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Over the next four decades, J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI became one of the more powerful and accomplished forces within America.  Under Hoover’s leadership, the Bureau’s power was augmented by successes in combating the rise of gangs and public enemies such as “Ma” Barker, “Baby Face” Nelson, “Machine Gun” Kelly and John Dillinger.  After World War II, Hoover and the FBI turned it’s attention to matters of national security and increased it’s monitoring and investigations of elements within the United States that Hoover himself deemed a danger to America.  This began with Nazism and similar nationalist movements, but this eventually lead to Communism, Socialism and other marginalized political ideologies or those who held similar political views.  The FBI’s Counter-Intelligence Program, or as it became known as “COINTELPRO” was created to surveil, infiltrate, disrupt and ultimately discredit social and political organizations and figures at the time.  While the program was used to combat the influence of the Klu Klux Klan in the South(mostly to the chagrin of the Director), the FBI also targeted others fighting for Civil Rights and social justice as well.  This included the NAACP, SCLC, Black Panthers, Martin Luther King, Jr., and even within the White House itself.  Furthermore, what began as rather innocuous investigations and intelligence gathering would allow Hoover to obtain detailed files on many prominent Americans in all institutions including business, entertainment, politics and government.   J. Edgar Hoover used this information for his own personal gain for the duration of his life as the Director of the FBI.

Illegal searches, political intimidation, extensive blackmail and more unconstitutional activities was what the Federal Bureau of Investigation was all about since it’s inception.  And this is the same organization that has now turned it’s attention to our 2016 Presidential Election and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

With the election right around the corner, polling, logic, reality and pretty much God’s will has Hillary Clinton poised to win and become the nation’s 45th President of the United States.  However, this eventuality has been put into jeopardy with a controversy of a email server used by Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State.  Sadly most Americans really do not know the genesis of this investigation.  They can’t point to what crime was committed(Hint: none).  They largely conflate this controversy with another Wikileaks  controversy that has targeting the Democratic Party and Clinton campaign staff.  The massive gaps of information and ignorance of the public has been filled by a conservative campaign machine that has called her a criminal worthy to be jailed and for not just negligent behavior but for decisively harmful actions to Americans and national security.

Now, the FBI has added to this air of suspicion.

Not to belabor this any further, but for a quick primer of what this is for those who may not know; because of a witch hunt of hurt feelings Republicans had over finally punishing someone over a terrorist attack in Libya(as if the USS Cole, Twin Towers and Pentagon aren’t sufficient reasons for accountability), they deemed it necessary to investigate then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was completely open with them, in which they found nothing they could blame her for.  What they did find out was that she did use a private email server to conduct government business.  For those that don’t know, in certain levels of government, to protect the privacy of individuals and the government, employees are typically not authorized to conduct government business on private or commercial devices, which cannot be fully protected.  This causes employees to have to have specific devices, smartphones and computers to conduct government business.  Hillary Clinton, who is married to a former President of the United States and was the cabinet secretary of another sought the convenience of streamlining those devices to allow her more accessibility to do her job.  Well as it turns out she was not allowed to do that.

Should she not have done it?  Yes.  Was it negligent and and careless?  Probably.  Was it criminal?  No.

The FBI concluded as much earlier this year when they were tasked with investigating the use of the server by the State Department(not just Secretary Clinton).  In July of this year, the now Director of the FBI, James Comey released their findings of the investigation and concluded there was insufficient evidence and no credible reason to move forward with criminal proceedings.  Comey found just 110 of well over tens of thousand emails sent were classified and none of those 11o were even marked that way.  Moreover, there was no evidence of tampering or any attempt to hide or withhold further evidence.  That should have been the end of the story(at least for those of us who live in reality), but this never sat well with many Republicans.

Two months later, in September, while separately investigating former congressman, Anthony Wiener, it was discovered that Hillary Clinton aid Huma Abedin had used a computer owned by Wiener, which had other emails connected to Hillary Clinton.  What is still unknown is the relevance of those emails.  Republicans want proof that Hillary Clinton is Giselda Blanco.  Democrats want proof that this is the politically motivated witch hunt they assumed it is afterall.  The FBI cannot tell the public neither.  What the FBI personnel did tell the public via Hillary Clinton’s opponent, is of yet separate information involving an investigation of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s charity, the Clinton Foundation, which was reported to likely lead to an indictment.  A story, which happened to be false.  Oh and by the way, this investigation was prompted by a book written by supporters of Hillary Clinton’s opponent as well.

Is the Federal Bureau of Investigation actively playing a role to influence a political election?  Some would argue not.  But given their history and given the current wave of misinformation and bad reporting directly from the FBI, you’re going to have a hard time getting many others to believe otherwise.  They have played the part of outside agitators before and harassed those they saw as political enemies.  With the kind of history they have, the FBI deserves to be questioned for their conduct.

So here it is….

2,000 years ago, Roman poet, Juvenal posed the question, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” It was a question asking about marriage fidelity.  That very question was then used to explain Socrates’ philosophy of political power in Plato’s Republic.  The question translated asks: Who guards the guardians?  If the laws of men dictate a soverign authority to protect or watch out for those it governs, what will protect the governed from those who have the power to protect it?  Who guards the guardians when those guardians refuse their guardianship?  There’s no doubt that recent FBI revelations has given Donald Trump and his campaign a sense of levity days before the election.  It could be enough to actually help him win this election.  It would be a small miracle.  But the FBI has been one the most politically active entities in our federal government.  They were made to watch our political process.  And if the FBI is watching you, who is watching them?

 

Black Tuesday

hrc-black-girl

Dear Black People,

A word.

We need to have a little talk about what’s going to happen on Tuesday, November 8th.  In a few days, millions of people across this country will go to their local school, church or community center and each of us will vote for the person who will replace President Barack Obama as the 45th President of the United States of America.  And let’s be honest, we don’t want that to happen, do we?

Barack Obama has been our President for the last eight years.  As President, he has lead our nation out of a recession, ended two foreign wars, cut gas prices in half, saved a housing and auto industry and not to mentioned helped millions gain access to once unaffordable health insurance.  President Obama has done a lot for this country, but what we admire the most is the man himself.  He’s the first Black man in a country elected to the highest office in a country that has quite the odious history with Black folks.  This is something we’ve taken tremendous pride in.

And to be honest, Barack Obama has got to be one of the coolest politicians ever.  And he was our president.  The way he walked.  The way he talked.  He understood our culture, our language and is authentic as hell.  When I first met Barack Obama back in 2007, he didn’t shake my hand.  He gave me dap like he was a friend of mine from around the way.  And it was natural.  You can’t fake that.

But that’s just it, people.  That’s Barack Obama.  There is only ONE Barack Obama.  We don’t have any more.  There might be some really good and natural politicians.  But not Barack Obama anymore.  And yes, Hillary Clinton is definitely NOT Barack Obama.  She’s older.  She might be out of touch with you and our lives.  She rehearsed.  She’s rich.  She’s boring and stuffy.  She’s NOTHING like you.

But guess what… Neither is any other politician in history.

And that’s perfectly okay.

Black people.  I know how you feel.  You may not particularly like or care for Hillary Clinton.  And that sort of apathy has encouraged you to have a perceptive ear to the rhetoric that has been preached about her.  Is she corrupt?  Is she dishonest?  Does she really care about you and your life?  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.  You don’t like her?  Fine.  But other than Barack Obama, which other politician have you actually liked?  And has that ever stopped you from voting for them?  And if it has, how has that worked out for you?

What you have to realize that this election, like many other elections, is hardly about the candidates.  This isn’t about Hillary Clinton.  And yeah, despite the reckless, wretched and petulant temperament of Donald Trump being a drag on our daily news, it definitely ain’t about him either. What this election is about is the direction of this country.  This election is about the progress we’ve made.  This election is about the security of our own lives and those of our families.

Look at what we have before us.  Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  Neither of these individuals are Barack Obama.  We have to come to terms with this.  Barack Obama will never be on your ballot ever again.  But what is on your ballot is every reason why you wanted to see Barack Obama elected in the first place.  You did it for your future.  Your children’s future.  You did it again to protect healthcare accessibility, housing affordability, the rights of minorities who’ve struggled the same path as you.

That is why you voted for Barack Obama then.  That is why you have to vote for Hillary Clinton now!

Let’s be clear.  Your vote is not about these candidates, but it is about what they have done and what they can do.  Hillary Clinton may bore you.  She may not care about your day to day  life.  But you are not doing this for her.  You are doing this for YOU.  You are doing this to make sure everything you work for, everything you’ve seen and wanted to see this country become moves down the right path.  And there is only one candidate down that path:  Hillary Clinton.

On the other side, you have Donald Trump.  This is the guy who has gone before the Justice Department for housing discrimination against black folks.  This is the same guy who insisted five black and latino kids were savage rapist after they were completely exonerated in the 1980s, not three decades ago, three WEEKS ago.  This is the same guy that has spent YEARS accusing your President, the first black President, of being a foreigner that hijacked the United States.  This is a guy that has said he wants to overturn the 14th Amendment.  Yes, the one amendment that made YOU and your children citizens.

But you know all of this.  You know this man is despicable.  You know he has no business being anywhere near the White House.  And what you may not realize is the ONLY way to make sure that happens is to make sure Hillary Clinton is the President of the United States.  And you also have to know that not only will you be disrespecting the legacy, history and accomplishment made when we elected Barack Obama by staying silent, but to protect his progress, our progress, you have to make your voice heard and make sure Hillary Clinton is elected President of the United States.

Again, I get it.  You don’t like her.  You fell for the banana in the tailpipe and believed what the Trump campaign has fed you about Hillary Clinton.  But again, this is not about her.  This is about you.  This is about Barack Obama’s legacy.  This is about our legacy.  This is about us.

Don’t believe the guy that spread birtherism when he tells you something about Hillary Clinton.  We are better than that.  Block out all the noise.  Block out the rhetoric.  Do what must be done.  Stop  Donald Trump.  Elect Hillary Clinton.

Regards,

 

Your Friendly Neighborhood Black Man