Veepstakes: What’s At Stake

Former Vice President and presumptive Democratic Nominee for President Joe Biden is currently in the final stages of a process he’s been through himself. Within a few days, he will be selecting his running mate and Vice Presidential nominee. And the speculation of who he will select has centered on a half dozen women to fill the role. Senators Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Duckworth, Congresswomen Val Demings and Karen Bass and former National Security Advisor Susan Rice. Each of these candidates have qualities that can enhance Biden’s nomination and make their selection a consequential choice. Each of them also have challenges that could been seen as impediments for the former Vice President and make his election a tougher proposition.

But to know, which candidate embodies the qualities that would either enhance or hinder Biden’s nomination, you have to look at the qualities that go into the selection and historically, what qualities Presidential nominees have sought in making their choices. Our current Vice President, Mike Pence, like most, was chose for several reasons, among them is his experience as a legislator and executive. However, where President Obama relied on such experience from Joe Biden as counsel, under the current administration, Vice President Pence’s role is more of a throwback to Vice Presidents in our history. For you Hamilton fans out there, you might know the first time such a selection was made, back in 1800, with our fourth election for President. Then Vice President Thomas Jefferson, who was running against his President, John Adams had Aaron Burr as his running mate. Burr, who had begun building quite the political machine in New York, was very popular(which of course did not last much longer) in a part of the country that Jefferson, a Southern from Virginia, was not. And that was the precipice behind the selection of Aaron Burr. Of course, Burr proceeded to murder a Founding Father, get arrested for treason, divorced by a wife 20 years younger than him for robbing her blind, who was represented by the son of the Founding Father he murdered that was finalized on the day of his death in an obscure boardinghouse on Staten Island, largely forgotten until a Got Milk commercial and Lin-Manuel Miranda reminded everyone of who he was(it’s called Hamilton after all and not Burr).

Anyway. I digress.

More contemporary, the reason of giving your candidacy a geographical balance has also been a quality Presidential nominees have sought after. Particular when it means those electoral votes can be on the line. Hillary Clinton selected Tim Kaine, due in part to this reason. With him, like Jefferson being from Virginia(and both Clinton and Burr were from New York… interesting). That sort of balance also helped Governor Jimmy Carter select Minnesota Senator Walter Mondale as his running mate as well as the two “Boston-Austin” candidacies of Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentson and John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

Another factor that went into Johnson’s nomination was his rather aggressive campaign for the presidency himself in 1960. The Democratic Party thought that uniting the different facets of the party under one ticket would not only send a message of unity, but assure voters that their concerns will be taken into account and excite the base. It was after tough primaries that other candidates also found running mates. reagan selected his running mate, George Bush under such conditions. Although with much less acrimony, John Kerry selected his running mate, John Edwards when he gave a strong showing in the 2004 Democratic Primaries.

However, there were other factors that caused Kerry to pick Edwards as well. Where John Edwards had strengths in foreign policy, legislative and military experience, many questioned his charisma and connection to the base of the Democratic Party, which Edwards successfully campaigned on as Senator and as candidate for president. There have been several nominees that have selected running mates with qualities they either are perceived to lack or outright might be a hindrance. Joe Biden himself was chosen because of the trepidation voters would have voting for Barack Obama with very little legislative and foreign policy experience.

Similarly, George Bush selected Dan Quayle because of the perception of his age being a possible barrier to his candidacy. He choose a candidate who not only was much younger, but Vice President Bush selected Quayle as a barometer of his party’s future. Future Republican Presidential nominees John McCain and Mitt Romney selected Sarah Palin and Paul Ryan respectively, also attempting to buoy their age with the future of the party. However, when a potential nominee is selecting a candidate with youth on their side, the immediate worry is to not simply their lack of experience in government, but concern of their ability to be President of the United States if the time comes.

There was little doubt with Barack Obama that Joe Biden could be president if something were to happen. He had twice run national campaigns and had served in the senate for well over 30 years. Governor Bush selected former White House Chief of State, Minority Whip and Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney as his running mate, someone who he also had confidence in being able to be President if he could not serve. Now, despite inexperience being their impediment, Senator Bob Dole selected Jack Kemp to be his running mate who, like Cheney was a Member of Congress and Cabinet Secretary, but trusted to be able to lead if age were to be an impediment the other way.

Of course the obvious cannot be underscored, the fact that this will only be the third time a woman will be on the ticket for a major party nomination. Sarah Palin of course being the second, but the first was when former Vice President Walter Mondale chose Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate, igniting a under represented demographic in each of those elections. However, Biden isn’t simply interested in the diversity of gender, but also the diversity of race is something he’s pledged to factor into his decision in selected a running mate and administration.

So to put it all together, these are the qualities, questions and considerations that Joe Biden is looking at when he chooses his running mate this week.

Karen Bass
Val Demings
Tammy Duckworth
Kamala Harris
Susan Rice
Elizabeth Warren

Will one of these candidates give him a geographic(or demographic) edge? How will the importance of running a national campaign and having a profile help his nomination? How important is it to unite the party and ignite the base? How important is it to find a running mate that can be a trusted advisor and someone you are comfortable with running a campaign with? Does he need a candidate to reflect the future of the party or should he have a candidate that is ready to lead in his stead? Should all of these factors be considered? Is one more consequential than all others?

Will Joe Biden pick his own Joe Biden for himself or will Joe Biden pick history’s next Aaron Burr?

Black. Pride.

I feel I owe a bit of an explanation behind the name you’re reading. I call this exercise “Your Friendly Neighborhood Black Man” as a play off the wording of catchphrase of the popular comic book character Spider-Man, who often reminds people that he’s your “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.”

More on that later. But in case you don’t know this about me, I’m a pretty huge geek about comics and their culture. One of the reasons why is I think they’re able to tell our story and our history in a way that’s actually a safe medium for people to understand without it being too serious. And one of the better books and characters to ever do this in comics is The Uncanny X-Men. You know the group of superheroes like Wolverine, Storm, Cyclops and Iceman. Now, the thing that makes these superheroes so unique is the qualities of their superpowers. Whereas someone like Spiderman got bit by a spider to mimic their abilities or Superman gains his powers from his strange alien physiology and Iron Man built things and used his mind to make him “super”, the X-Men were born with their special abilities. 

As it has been written in the comics, these heroes, who were collectively called “mutants” by the public at large that often shunned them, were born with certain qualities that made them different. Some of their abilities were rather conspicuous , like Nightcrawler’s blue skin or Angel’s feathery wings, which made them a strange oddity by appearance alone. Other characters had abilities that were more hidden that you couldn’t outwardly see. Jean Grey could move things with her mind but otherwise looked like a normal teenage girl. Rogue, who also looked normal, could kill or injure a person with just a simple touch. Obviously, the characters that looked strange or foreign to regular people were immediate outcast. But those who felt they had to “hide themselves”, their abilities and who they really are from a public that would also shun them if they knew that they were different, walked the same path. They too were “mutants”, ie. people with differences that don’t fit in among regular people.

If you haven’t figured out by now, a kid growing up reading these comic books in the 1960s could gain much more insight on the plight of minorities and marginalized people than their parents would ever assume. While they think they’re reading stories about heroic characters fight against menacing villains, they were learning what it’s like to walk in the shoes of those who society treats different and less than and what it feels like. Obviously, the characters like Nightcrawler and Angel with their appearance tell the story of Black Americans living in a America that refuses to treat them as the Americans that they are. But what about the X-Men characters like Jean Grey and and Rogue who look “normal” but they know they are different and if society found out how different they are, they too would be treated like the other X-Men? What story in the 1960s told their tale?

51 years ago this week, something happened in a bar in Greenwich Village, New York City. During the heyday of mob activity and organized crime, Mafia soldier, “Fat Tony” Lauria bought a rather small and rather dilapidated “Christopher Street Club” pretty cheap. It had no running water at the makeshift bat. No liquor license. The bathrooms hardly worked and the toilets would constantly overflow.  Fat Tony(always seems to be a “Fat Tony” in at least every Mob family) renovated the club, illegally sold alcohol, controlled the sale of cigarettes and even controlled the money made from the jukebox and he reopened the club as a exclusively gay club.  They called it the “Stonewall Inn.”

To keep the police at bay, Fat Tony would have the club managers pay off the police with a $300 weekly bribe. What they got in return was information. As typical with many gay bars in those days, they were raided quite regularly. The Stonewall Inn’s management would be able to get tipped off when raids were imminent and frankly they were done early enough that they hardly interrupted business. They had time to hide their booze, alert patrons and when the raids would happen, patrons would produce identification and police would leave(with their bribe) and the night would continue. But of course, Fat Tony and the mob got greedy and found a new racket out of the Stonewall Inn; extortion. They began to extort some of the more prominent patrons who were not out publicly or those who felt comfort in their gender identity behind the walls of the club. This new income stream quickly began to cut into the kickbacks to the police, which lead to the early morning hours of June 28, 1969.

Different than most raids, this night the Stonewall Inn was raided hours after the time raids typically happened. Not to mention, the managers received no tip off either. Moreover, the police weren’t really prepared to actually conduct the raid and many of the club-goers were practically held in the club with the police without actually being arrested or allowed to leave. Things exploded when the police, who were not only sexually assaulting the gay female patrons and physically assaulting the male patrons, none of which weren’t exactly rare occurrences for patrons at Stonewall, they finally did both to one particular female by whole heaving her forcibly into a police vehicle.  The crowd that had formed outside reacted to the police’s tactics. From there, the police barricaded themselves in the club, the Club itself was practically destroyed and soon, the riot police showed up to further inflame and assault those who were there.  After the press reported on what happened through the night, more protest continued the following days.

The aftermath of the Stonewall Riots was an awakening of yet another segment of America that realized that their rights and dignities were being neglected the mainstream and oppressed by those in power. Like Black America with the Civil Rights Movement and women in the Women’s Liberation Movement, Gay and Lesbian men and women found their cause in Stonewall and spoke up. Quite loudly.

And why shouldn’t they? They are as human as the rest of us. They live, they love, they feel and they exist like the rest of us and are exposed to a society that has and will reject them for doing ANY of that.  Of course they would have a problem with being rejected. And as a person of color, we should understand that as much as anyone.  And that’s the rub.

Over the last few months, we’ve seen this country transform with an awakening of what it’s like to be black in America and what we have to live through. I have had white friends of mine, from ALL walks of life, from the very conservative to the very liberal, personally reach out to me with concern and thoughts of appreciation and empathy.  Many black people have seen our White allies do this.  And honestly, it’s a goddamn shame and embarrassment that the Black Community has not and can not toe the line and stand with the LGBT Community as the White allies have done for us. I mean, I get it. There is an immediacy in Black Lives we’re seeing today. It’s deserving of the attention. But frankly, it shouldn’t have taken a death of a George Floyd, Breonna Taylor or Ahmaud Arbery to awaken the public consciousness of what we go through in America and our Gay brothers and sisters don’t need another Stonewall Riot for us to wake the fuck up to the constant barrage of embarrassment, slights and humiliations they are forced to accept legally or socially by a society that they every right to be a part of as all of us do.

And this is the worst part.  It is physically impossible for White America to walk our path and to know our truth. Apologies to John Howard Griffin, but can only empathize.  Many gay and Transgender men and women are every bit of Black and American as I am. If anything it shouldn’t be that hard to know what it feels like to live a life in society’s margins. Their Black lives matter as much as mine. But with the circumstances of their sexual or gender identity, as well as their racial identity being constantly at odds with the expectations of our societal standards, they EASILY walk a harder path than anything I could EVER experience on my worse day!

Now, I cannot accuse anyone in particular of blatant discrimination, but as clear as I’ve see White Americans step up to the plate for Black Lives, we have to accept the truth in our community, that in our own lives, we have not returned the favor to a community we definitely can and should empathize with. And frankly, it shouldn’t take a shared struggle for us to realize this. And it shouldn’t even have to take us knowing someone who is gay or transgender and wanting them to be happy and safe like you would want for ANYONE who you love and respect. Even that is a disgracefully low bar. Yes, I have gay friends. But damnit, they’re human. That is the standard for which we all should demand dignity and rights. I shouldn’t have to know you to know your life matters.

So, despite the outward appearance of the X-Men’s Nightcrawler and Angel, who can hardly hide who they are, they are still on the same team of Jean Grey and Rogue who are just an action away from being outed as a societal outcast.  They obviously have their differences, but they are still one team. They fight the same fight against ignorance and hate from people who can never understand their path.  Just same, we share some of the very same stressors and microaggressions as the LGBT community. They understand the code-switching and moderating how you sound and act to be more socially accepted. They know what it feels like to not feel welcomed in certain places and with certain people because despite however much they try subjects and behaviors makes it hard to fit in.  They definitely can understand negative and dangerous assumptions of sexuality and state of mind that are way too often thrusted upon us as well.  They can’t help being gay no more than I can help being Black. It’s a part of who I am, as it’s who they are. So why can’t we join them in the fight for the same respect and dignity that they have fought for themselves? How dare we expect White America to join us and our struggle, but we refuse to join the LGBT Community for theirs? Yes, being black in America is hard enough alone. But damnit, we’re not expecting White folks to fight our fight. We just want them to give a shit and respect our lives as much as their own.

That is not a lot to ask. And I, for one, have the capacity to do the same for people I know have the pain of acceptance as I have had in my own life.

We know what they experience is wrong. We know we don’t accept it for ourselves. But we insist on treating them and their lives with the same regard we reject in our own. And that has to stop. Yes we fight different villains. But they all have the same superpower of hate and ignorance. We know how to defend and fight against it. Fight for their team too. Because they are already on ours.

Party Like It’s 1889

Let’s play a quick game of Guess Who. Do you know who this man is?

If you do not, he might sound familiar to anyone paying attention to our modern political landscape. Starting off as a Congressman from a rural state, he launched multiple candidacies for President with an aggressive populist message. A Democrat, who was far from the “establishment” wing of his party that was often at odds with the rest of his party as well as the Democratic President, due to his stance on using the government to raise taxes on the rich, expand the scope of government and to doggedly attack the super rich practically campaigning to redistribute corporate wealth to workers. He held rallies where thousands would attend to hear him give speeches about the common man and how they were being victimized by wealthy corporations who hated him.

Now if read the above platform and you are a conservative, you’d readily recognize this as something you’d associate with most(if not all) Democrats. An over-eagerness to rely on the government and punishing the rich. And of course, if you are a progressive, the platform looks like a solid start, using the strength of the federal government to aid working families because you’re probably a Democrat like him.

But if you thought this was a picture of a younger Bernie Sanders… you’d be wrong. Though it does sound remarkably like what a Bernie Sanders would sound like today in 2020.

This is William Jennings Bryan.

William Jennings Bryan isn’t a Democrat from the modern Democratic Party. He isn’t even a Democrat from the formative years of Bernie Sanders’ youth of the 1960s. He really isn’t even a Democrat from anytime in the last 100 years. William Jennings Bryan rose to prominence in the Gilded Age of the 1880s campaigning for then President Grover Cleveland. Now, the politics of the 1880s and the 1890s when Bryan entered in politics is definitely not the politics of 2020, but the the similarities between the Democratic Party of now and the Democratic Party then are unmistakable.

And there is a very specific reason for this. To understand this reason, you have to go back to the very beginning and understand the philosophical difference with any Two-Party Dominant system like ours and that’s with the size and role of government. One side likes the role of government to be small and the other prefers for its presence to be more ubiquitous. The foundations of the Democratic Party was found with those that believed in a small government that allowed for individuals to know what’s best for them and their farming or agrarian interest than a centralized authority. This was the philosophy held by Founding Fathers like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, farmers from Virginia who were known as “Democratic-Republicans” then. On the other side of the coin, Founding Fathers like John Adams and Alexander Hamilton belong to the “Federalist Party”, who believed in a stronger centralized government that could best protect the rights of individuals. However, before too long, John Adams lost re-election to Thomas Jefferson and Hamilton, of course, lost his life to Aaron Burr, Jefferson’s Vice President. And the Federalist Party soon followed both. (SPOILER ALERT for anyone who has either not seen Hamilton yet or opened a history book.)

Eventually, the Democratic-Republicans fractured and the Democratic Party emerged as the same party of Jefferson, that was the party of small government and agrarian interest and of course some of the largest holders of agrarian interest was the slave owners of the Antebellum South. They were eventually opposed by the Whig Party that believed in stronger government. They did not, however, believe in taking a strong stance against slavery, but a newer party did and took their place in our system; The Republican Party. Their first champion was Congressman and eventual President, Abraham Lincoln. And it is with his election that the question of slavery, the fall of agrarian politics and the rise of industry that gave birth to politicians like William Jennings Bryan.

When Lincoln was elected, Southern politicians saw the writing on the wall that the end of slavery was coming and they of course rebelled. The Civil War was fought and was won by the Union that won not simply by better tactics or strategy. The Confederacy, being mostly of the agrarian politics of farming and plantations did not have the powerful industries and factories of the Northern states. Lincoln was able to use that industrial strength to America’s advantage to produce more bullets, more cannons, textiles for more uniforms and bandages, iron for railways and wood to create cars to move soldiers. It was not the government making these resources, but it was the government buying these resources. It was Republicans like Lincoln that lead the party to be the pro-business party that it has become because they were dedicated to continuing the policies that generated their unparalleled wealth and agrarian workers of the Democratic Party were left behind.

And this is where William Jennings Bryan found his legacy. He was known as “The Great Commoner” because he was the face of the then-agrarian Democratic Party fighting for their interest against the Corporate Trust that backed Republican Presidents like William McKinley. The very William McKinley that would defeat Bryan in consecutive elections in 1896 and 1900. Unfortunately for the super rich, some Republicans still supported workers and saw the threat of a powerful Corporate lobby. And when President McKinley was assassinated, his Vice President, Theodore Roosevelt took up right where William Jennings Bryan left off and did as President what Bryan could not do as candidate.

I write all of this for those who do not know or who continue to dismiss political history. Many tracing the history of our Political Parties will draw the line at the likes of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, who were instrumental in bringing Black Americans to the Democratic Party over the last 50 or 60 years. Prior to that, Black Americans were not able to vote in large enough numbers to have political capital. That was actually succinctly done with the election of Republican President Rutherford Hayes when he ended Reconstruction. Yes, the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments were supposed to give us equal rights and voting rights, but those were laws of a central government authority. As was the politics of Theodore Roosevelt’s cousin Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal, an agenda that used the resources of central government to aid workers. However, small government figures in the South where the majority of Black Americans lived controlled voting rights and privileges. And when the the big government Republicans became focused on generating wealth, BOTH parties lost interest in Black America as a priority. This, of course, changed with the Kennedy-Johnson Administration. However, those same small government factions, Democrats AND Republicans in the South opposed Johnson’s priorities. And those same Small government factions are the ones who run the Republican Party today.

Am I blaming anyone for their party in being Anti-CIvil Rights? No. Afterall it was overwhelming majorities in both parties that passed the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act in the 1960s. But I am also tired of those who pretend history never happened. It did. Regardless of whether you ever heard of William Jennings Bryan or not.

I have an idea. Let’s make him a statue. To some, that goes for learning these days.

“All Deliberate Speed”

Today is an American Holiday.

Not a holiday for black people only. Not a holiday for former slaves. Today is a day that has been chosen to celebrate the end of the most destructive and detestable institution America has ever seen. As is such, it is a day that ALL Americans can and should celebrate.

But all of us are not doing that. Some of us even question the need.

So let’s circle back and examine what we’re actually talking about. Four hundred and one years ago, black men and women were brought to this continent and placed in a condition of servitude and slavery that would last nearly 250 years. However, we didn’t just realize slavery was all of sudden bad and we should stop doing it in 1865. They knew it was bad. The first prohibitions began within a few decades of it’s genesis. The first states began abolishing the practice before the end of the Revolutionary War. But for a hundred years after, the practice continued in some of the most harshest conditions. It was not easy. It was not just working without pay. It was organized torture. It was a constant rape of women. It was a constant brutalization and mutilation of men. It was kidnapping children from the only family they knew. It was a certain death. Sometimes a slow death. Many times an agonizing death. Only the fortunate ones achieved a long but undignified death. But it’s important to put in the context of what this was because we need to recognize where we are.

Today is Juneteenth. The unofficial recognition of the end of slavery in the United States. Of course we all know the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863. We also know the Confederacy was defeated and officially dissolved by May of 1865. But slavery continued. There was no apparatus to, not only tell slaves that they were free, but there was nothing to hold them captive. There was no “Black Twitter”. There was no internet back then. There weren’t even telephones. So slave masters in the furthest parts of the United States just forgot to tell their slaves what they knew by other means. It took until Major General George Granger’s arrival in Galveston, Texas and broadly announcing “General Order No. 3” that emancipated slaves.

However, if you think this fixed 250 years of inequality, then I have another story to tell you. A few stories actually. First, in February of 2020, 25-year old Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed by two white men that accused him of committing a crime. A few weeks later, Louisville Metro Police entered the home of Kenneth Walker and Breonna Taylor with a no-knock warrant and no announcement of who they were. Mr. Walker took his firearm to defend himself and his girlfriend and in the ensuing exchange, Breonna Taylor was killed. America would not learn of either of these instances until months later in May, a few weeks prior to the time when officers in Minneapolis responded to a report of a counterfeit bill and during the response Derek Chauvin placed his knee on the neck of George Floyd, killing him.

150 years after the end of slavery, we STILL face death for being black.

So what exactly are we celebrating? What have we achieved? Slavery has technically ended. Yes. Over time, Black Americans have been given legal rights. But we still have to fight for our dignity and humanity. We are still fighting to remove vestiges of an order that fought to have that humanity and dignity stripped from us. Every time, the light is shined on our journey of pain, we in turn shine the light on what causes this pain. Whether it’s aggressive law enforcement, inequitable health outcomes, disparages in employment and education or even as simple as removal of icons of the Confederacy. And along the way we are still met with resistance.

It’s an oddity, that those who question why we need to celebrate the end of slavery also question why we need to end the celebration of slave masters.

That is what this is about.

This is why we need to celebrate Juneteenth. And it could not have come any sooner. We are at yet another intersection on an endless road of recovery, racing to play catch-up. We have obstacles and miles to go. Nothing is accomplished, particularly when it comes to race, when we think it should be done. It has taken centuries for us to be free. It has taken decades for us to be equal. And despite all that we are still fighting to even matter in the eyes of those that refuse to see our humanity. The ensuing protest to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Rayshard Brooks did not solves racism, no more than the announcement of “General Order No. 3”. And frankly, slavery didn’t even end on that day in June 150 years ago. The last slave wasn’t freed until a few weeks before Christmas of that year. But hey, Jesus wasn’t actually born on December 25th, the Declaration of Independence wasn’t passed or signed on July 4th and Columbus didn’t discover America on October 12th. He didn’t really discover it at all, but that’s another conversation.

So please, celebrate Juneteenth. Celebrate it today. Celebrate it tomorrow. Celebrate it every year. It’s your holiday America. It’s time we all appreciate the end of a terrible institution and embrace what that end really means. Way past time actually.

Make America Pleasant Again

pleasantville

So yeah, if you know anything at all about me, then you know I’m a pretty gigantic Star Wars fan. Yeah, I’m one of those passionate, passionate fans(geeks, nerds, etc.) that reads a bunch of books, comics and games Star Wars related. It’s a lot of fun and entertaining on the surface, but there are deeper themes and meanings that I pay attention and insist others do as well. Themes of religion, history, human nature, and society that make what’s essentially a couple of “popcorn movies” stick in the cultural zeigeist of America.

Well, another one of my favorite movies(without Star Wars in the title) does the same thing. Pleasantville is a movie that came out in the late 1990s, starring Tobey Maguire, Reece Witherspoon, Jeff Daniels and a couple of other faces you might have noticed from the 1990s and 2000s. The movie itself entertains one of those childhood wish fulfillment fantasies where we’ve all dreamed of being in our favorite TV show or movie interacting with the characters we see and go the places they go.

Well, in this story, it had Tobey Maguire and Reece Witherspoon playing teenaged siblings, growing up in present-day America, however the two had two divergent personalities, which reflected in their television interest. Witherspoon’s Jennifer was the popular girl, very… umm.. “social” and was very much a product of the “MTV Generation” that she watched when she would watch TV and not out at a party. Maguire’s David was the total opposite. He was shy, reserved, extremely unpopular and was much more comfortable at home on a Friday night than at a party. And he would spend those Friday nights watching reruns of his favorite show, a 1950s era sitcom called “Pleasantville”. This show, is a fictional version of other shows at the time like the “Dick Van Dyke Show”, “Leave It To Beaver” or “The Donna Reed Show”. Those picturesque families of the time in single family homes with white picket fences, well-manicured grass in a suburbia heaven, also called Pleasantville. The show, like others like it, was in black and white and starred a middle-class family, mother, father and two teen-aged kids, a boy and a girl.

As the movie progressed through the first act, you see David is preparing for a Friday night at home with a “Pleasantville” marathon. Meanwhile Jennifer had a hot date with the popular jock and they planned to watch the MTV Music Awards. So as the two siblings get ready for their night, not aware of each others plans they converage over the TV remote and a fight ensues, which results in the remote being busted against the wall. All of sudden Don Knots, a hallmark from that era of television, shows up and after being impressed with David’s knowledge of TV trivia gives him a “special” remote, which after more arguing, causes both David and Jennifer to be zapped from their real present-day lives of the movie to the idyllic life of the two kids in the show Pleasantville. They were literally trapped in their television, completely in black and white, with all the trappings of life, not just in that age but with the warped reality of television that defined life at that time. And the reality rules of “Pleasantville” were quite different than the normal reality we know or that David and Jennifer knew. Everything in Pleasantville wasn’t just in black and white, but everything was the idealized “Pleasant”. The weather was always “pleasant”. The food was always “pleasant”. Neighbors were “pleasant”. Everything everyone said and did was what was defined as “pleasant”. Husbands came home after work ready to eat dinner made by content housewives. The end of one road out of Pleasantville inevitably lead back beginning of that same road. The high school basketball team always won(because they never missed shots). Books and bathrooms were for show and did not enlighten or give comfort. The only purpose of the fire department was to rescue cats stuck in trees.

However as the movie progressed, you see the veneer of “pleasant” being pierced with the more David and Jennifer forced or accidently made the people of Pleasantville feel anything that was not deemed “pleasant”. The first time this happened was when the basketball team captain, Skip(played by a pre-Fast and Furious Paul Walker) was supposed to ask out Jennifer, or who he thought Jennifer was from the “Pleasantville” show. David, who knew each episode, knew that they were in the episode where he ask her out and they have a date. But David also knew that as happy as he was living his perfect fantasy world, Jennifer was struggling having to live by the 1950s era rules and morals. So he suggested to Skip that perhaps he can ask her out another time when she’s more accustom to how things were, which caused him to feel despondent and out of frustration, Skip threw the basketball to the hoop and it rolled out surprising everyone in the gym that made every shot they attempted. Of course, the changes did not stop there. The more noticeable change outside of changes feelings and actions were the changes in color that came with it. Later in the movie, Skip did get his date and instead of showing his interest by giving Jennifer his school pin, Jennifer took the opportunity to show her interest and have sex with him in the backseat of his car, which is something that wasn’t done in the 1950s era “Pleasantville”. And as he dropped her off, still in ecstasy over being with Jennifer, he sees a single flower in a void of black and white that’s a vibrant pink. And as the movie goes on, whenever a character feels or does or acts in a way that’s different than who they are, the world around them will go from black and white to color. If they felt or acted silly or excited, rageful, sensual or even content, the world around them would change. First it started with flowers or wallpaper and soon it goes to whole people. We later start to see noticeable reactions from those who are “pleasant” and still in black and white versus those who are, as they would term it “colored”. The Citizens Council of Pleasantville instituted new rules to keep things “pleasant” by banning colors of paint, closing down places where people would meet to enjoy themselves as well as other prohibitions. The movie eventually devolves to an allegory of the Jim Crow era of America and the nation’s embrace of the modern age with all the constructs of a diverse population, the good and the bad. We learn that sometimes humanity is not always the perfect vision of what was considered “pleasant”.

Three months ago, 25 year old Ahmaud Arbrey went for a jog in a neighborhood in Brusnwick, Georgia. After making a brief stop at a house that was under contrustion to took take a look around, verified by video evidence, the owners word and the fact that he was wearing jogging clothes in broad daylight, Arbrey was approached by three individuals. One in a single vehicles and the other two, father and son, Gregory and Travis McMichael. They were armed with firearms. Arbrey was not. After a confrontation with Arbrey, Travis McMichael exited his vehicle, approached Arbrey with his firearm in hand and as Arbrey resisted McMichael’s efforts to retrain and detain him for nothing he did wrong, he was shot and killed.

Two full months would pass by. And the only action that was taken in response to this shooting was to justify the actions of the murderers by saying that Arbrey was suspected in a burglery(he was not), in an area with a recent rash of burglaries(which there were none) and that he, an unarmed man, attacked three armed men, which was cause enough for them to shoot him to death, thereby blaming Arbrey for his own death. Nevermind the fact that if he were to flee, in their eyes he would be resisting, just same as if he were to attempt to wrestle away a firearm prepared to kill him would also be resisting in their eyes. Pretty much leaving Arbrey with no alternative other than to either be dead or be a criminal, neither of which should have been the case. For months after and likely for a multitude of years prior, the people of Brunswick, Georgia knew nothing and did even less. They were practically living in the same Pleasantville from the movie. And for that matter, given this case most of this country has been living in Pleasantville. Everything is wonderful. There are no societal ills. Any problems in a community are solved within 30 minutes. These same people who either have no awareness of the threat black men and women are under as we live our everyday lives or like to pretend that the world is still as pleasant as it was when it was in black and white. They will literally and willingly tell you that “they don’t see color.” Which is precisely what afflicted the people of Pleasantville. They didn’t just not see color. It is this process of thought that assumes things are pleasant by ignoring color, literally and figuratively. But in doing so, it shows a willingness to ignore an entire facet of our identity. That “color”, it’s a part of who we are. To ignore it, is to ignore us.  It is to have no awareness or grasp of entire truths and experiences living outside of a make-believe bubble. There’s a desire for their worlds to be devoid of such conflict and strife. They are content with the oblivion of a perfectly pleasant but absolutely unrealistic world.

In Pleasantville, things might be black and white in a literal sense, but with those that refuse to see the shade of America that exist whether they know it or not are living in a figurative black and white world. This country was built on the back of those with challenges to an idyllic order. Frankly, we wouldn’t have a country without them. It’s a part of the human experience. Our own humanity has challenged us to always seek to be a better country. Better than what we were before. But when you have those who desire to go back to a America that was defined by a place like Pleasantville, they desire to live in a America that no longer exist and quite frankly, never really did. Their America is as fictional as Pleasantville’s. They just didn’t know it. That’s the America Ahmaud Arbrey literally ran into. That’s the America some politicians promise to legislate us back to. An America that is devoid of color. An America that is not challenged by the humanity of others. An America that is pleasant again.

17 to the Power of 20

Joe Biden Rallies Union Members for Conor Lamb

20 Days Ago…

I’ve continued the Power Ranking of 20 Democratic Candidates for the 2020 Democratic Primary to be concluded on its 20th iteration the day of the 2020 Iowa Caucus.

Since the last list… Major candidates like Beto O’Rourke have exited the race… While other candidates like Deval Patrick have officially entered the race. Other candidates like Michael Bloomberg has made strong indications that he plans to enter… Pete Buttigeig have made strong pushes in polling in Iowa, tightening the distance between the top tier of candidates…

Reminder, this is a “power ranking” and not a list of my favorites in the order I’d like them. But taking in the news cycle over the last 20 days and other pertinent data, this ranking is just a snapshot of where I think the candidates are and where the voters are in their likelihood to select them as the Democratic Nominee for the 2020 Presidential Race.

So don’t be mad at me. Tell your candidate to get better.

So without further adieu…

20.  Nancy Pelosi – Speaker of the House, California– 47 (Last 20: #20)

19.  Joe Sestak – Former Congressman, Pennsylvania– 67 (Last 20: #17)

18.  John Delaney – Former Congressman, Maryland – 56 (Last 20: #16)

17.  Marianne Williamson– Entrepreneur/Author , California– 67 (Last 20: 15)

16.  Hillary Clinton – Former Secretary of State, New York – 72 (Last 20: #18)

15.  Deval Patrick – Former Governor, Massachusetts – 63(Last 20: Unranked)

14.  Michael Bennet – Senator, Colorado– 54 (Last 20: #14)

13.  Michael Bloomberg – Former Mayor, New York– 77 (Last 20: Unranked)

12.  Tulsi Gabbard – Congresswoman, Hawaii – 38 (Last 20: #11)

11.  Steve Bullock – Governor, Montana – 53 (Last 20: #13)

10.  Tom Steyer – Businessman, California – 62 (Last 20: #12)

9.   Julian Castro – Former HUD Secretary, Texas – 45 (Last 20: #10)

8.   Cory Booker – Senator, New Jersey – 50 (Last 20: #6)

7.   Andrew Yang – Entrepreneur, New York – 44 (Last 20: #9)

6.   Amy Klobuchar – Senator, Minnesota – 59 (Last 20: #8)

5.   Kamala Harris – Senator, California – 55 (Last 20: #5)

4.   Pete Buttigieg – Mayor, Indiana – 37 (Last 20: #4)

3.   Bernie Sanders – Senator, Vermont – 78 (Last 20: #3)

2.   Joe Biden – Former Vice President, Delaware – 76 (Last 20: #2)

1.   Elizabeth Warren – Senator, Massachusetts – 70 (Last 20: #1)

“Remember, Remember the Fifth of November!”

2019 Dems

“Remember, Remember the fifth of November, the Gunpowder Treason plot. I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot.”

The quote delivered by the title character in Alan Moore’s “V For Vendetta” referencing the failed assassination attempt on King James I.  It was quite a different fifth of November last night in Virginia. The Democrats held 48 seats in the House of Delegates and 20 seats in the State Senate. By the end of the night Virginia Democrats had won 55 seats in the House of Delegates and 21 seats in the State Senate. With both houses of the General Assembly, both Junior and Senior Senators, the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General and six of the 11 members of Virginia’s Congressional delegation, the Democrats have gained control of all sectors of government in the Commonwealth of Virginia. And along the way, while Democrats have won across the state on all levels, they might have lost the perspective on what was actually won.

“Remember, Remember the third of November…”

In 2009, the night Democrats across Virginia lost races for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General and a net of six seats in the General Assembly. With majorities in the House and the Senate and with a seated governor, the Republicans were able to control the Redistricting of electoral district maps. And as a result, Democrats that held seats in the 2nd, 5th and the 9th Congressional Districts all lost the following year. House and Senate districts across the state were changed to secure the majority Republicans had won, making electoral challenges so unlikely that in just a few years Incumbents in both parties were for all intent and purposes politically invulnerable. But the stacking of the deck and packing of black voters that the Republicans did caused cracks, first in the 4th Congressional Districts and then others districts across the state. The checks we put on the Legislative Branch was balanced by the Judicial Branch. And now, in an inherently political process, the Democrats can now control Redistricting, which could only cause the Democratic majority won on the fifth of November to strengthen for years to come…

“Remember, Remember the the 25th of September…”

In 1921. The year after the the passage of the 19th Amendment, that gave women the right to vote, it was believed that that Amendment, was simply not enough to guarantee the equal rights of women. Just as the 14th Amendment was not believed to be enough to guarantee African Americans the right to vote, another Amendment was needed. Plans were announced to amend the U.S. Constitution to guarantee women the same right as men. However support for this amendment was fractured almost from the beginning. But by the 1960s, when Americans began to exercise their freedoms more, it was realized the growing support for the Equal Rights Amendment was now on the table. And nearly 50 years after it was initially proposed, the ERA was passed by an overwhelming majority in Congress. And as dictated by the Constitution, it was now left to three-fourths of the states to individually approve it for it to be ratified. Almost immediately, nearly half of the states in the union voted to ratify. By the deadline given by congress, the total was up to 35, still three states short to ratify. And where the National Organization of Women backed an initial resurgence, the #MeToo movemnt has undo given way to tacit approval to additional legislatures bringing the total number of that’s to have ratified the ERA to 37, one short of the three-fourths needed for it’s ratification. The Equal Rights Amendment can now be Ratified.

“Remember, Remember the 31st of May…”

This year. A disturbed city worker came to work at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center armed and with the intent to murder. Before the end of the day, before the beginning of a Memorial Day weekend, he shot 16 people in a shootout with the police that lasted over 30 minutes before being shot himself, representing the deadliest instance of gun violence in the state since 33 were killed on the campus of Virginia Tech in 2007.  Horrified by the continuation of these tragedies, the Governor called for a Special Session to address the epidemic of  all gun violence that is responsible for the death of hundreds of Virginians. The shooting at the Virginia Beach Municipal center, being the precipice for action, the Virginia General Assembly was to convene to consider several actions to universalizing background checks, penalizing straw purchases and notably reviving Virginia’s One Gun A Month law, which was initially passed in 1993 to address the “Iron Pipeline” of guns being trafficked up Interstate 95 to New York that allowed for Virginia to be they city’s number one provider for crime guns.  In the years after it was passed, Virginia dropped to eighth, but the law was repealed in 2012 and to no surprise, Virginia went back to being New York’s main supplier. These are challenges the Governor sought to address when the General Assembly convened at noon on July 9th. A hour and a half later, the Republican controlled House and Senate voted to adjourn until November without considering a single piece of legislation at all, despite promises to do so.

Well here we are.  November. And Virginia voters have voted to permanently adjourn those legislators. And in their place, Virginia now has the opportunity to pass meaningful legislation to address gun violence that as killed kids, women and everyday Virginians on a daily basis. Gun violence. Equal Rights for Women. Redistricting of our legislative districts to end partisan gerrymandering. It is now all well within our grasp.

Moore’s V challenged his readers to remember the 5th of November and to make it a day that shall never be forgotten. However in 2019, Virginia, we have given ourselves a new remembrance. Not for a plot to assassinate a monarch. But a tide to right wrongs, save lives and secure the rights of all Virginians. So, for this year alone, in this state, I propose a change to that quote and make it more fitting…

“Remember, Remember the fifth of November, the night the Democrats won all the top spots. I know of no reason why the 2019 Democratic Wave should ever be forgot.”

16 to the Power of 20

Hillary Bernie Tulsi

20 Days Ago…

I’ve continued the Power Ranking of 20 Democratic Candidates for the 2020 Democratic Primary to be concluded on its 20th iteration the day of the 2020 Iowa Caucus.

Since the last list… The Democrats held their 4th debate of the cycle… Bernie Sanders announced endorsements from Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhlan Omar and Rashida Tliab… Congressman Tim Ryan dropped out of the race… Former Secretary of State and 2016 Nominee Hillary Clinton suggested  that Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard might be a Russian asset, which caused her to aim her campaign efforts at her…

Reminder, this is a “power ranking” and not a list of my favorites in the order I’d like them. But taking in the news cycle over the last 20 days and other pertinent data, this ranking is just a snapshot of where I think the candidates are and where the voters are in their likelihood to select them as the Democratic Nominee for the 2020 Presidential Race.

So don’t be mad at me. Tell your candidate to get better.

So without further adieu…

 

20.  Nancy Pelosi – Speaker of the House, California – 79 (Last 20: 20)

19.  Wayne Messam – Mayor, Florida – 45 (Last 20: #19)

18.  Hillary Clinton – Former Secretary of State, New York – 72 (Last 20: Unranked)

17.  Joe Sestak – Former Congressman, Pennsylvania– 67 (Last 20: #18)

16.  John Delaney – Former Congressman, Maryland – 56 (Last 20: #17)

15.  Marianne Williamson– Entrepreneur/Author , California– 67 (Last 20: 14)

14.  Michael Bennet – Senator, Colorado– 54 (Last 20: #15)

13.  Steve Bullock – Governor, Montana – 53 (Last 20: #13)

12.  Tom Steyer – Businessman, California – 62 (Last 20: #11)

11.  Tulsi Gabbard – Congresswoman, Hawaii – 38 (Last 20: #12)

10.  Julian Castro – Former HUD Secretary, Texas – 45 (Last 20: #10)

9.   Andrew Yang – Entrepreneur, New York – 44 (Last 20: #9)

8.   Amy Klobuchar – Senator, Minnesota – 59 (Last 20: #8)

7.   Beto O’Rourke – Former Congressman, Texas – 47 (Last 20: #7)

6.   Cory Booker – Senator, New Jersey – 50 (Last 20: #6)

5.   Kamala Harris – Senator, California – 55 (Last 20: #4)

4.   Pete Buttigieg – Mayor, Indiana – 37 (Last 20: #5)

3.   Bernie Sanders – Senator, Vermont – 78 (Last 20: #3)

2.   Joe Biden – Former Vice President, Delaware – 76 (Last 20: #2)

1.   Elizabeth Warren – Senator, Massachusetts – 70 (Last 20: #1)

15 to the Power of 20

Ryan Buttigieg Bennet

20 Days Ago…

I’ve continued the Power Ranking of 20 Democratic Candidates for the 2020 Democratic Primary to be concluded on its 20th iteration the day of the 2020 Iowa Caucus.

Since the last list… Bill De Blasio has withdrawn his candidacy, bringing the total of declared and running candidates to 19… Elizabeth Warren’s polling and fundraising number has pushed her solidly ahead in the primary and is now considered a front-runner by many… Bernie Sanders had to suspend campaigning due to what was later revealed to be a heart attack… Two additionally candidates, Tulsi Gabbard and Tom Steyer, have qualified for the October 15th Debate… the President asked the Presidents of China and Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, causing Democrats to launch an Impeachment Inquiry, which has implications for the President and Vice President.

Reminder, this is a “power ranking” and not a list of my favorites in the order I’d like them. But taking in the news cycle over the last 20 days and other pertinent data, this ranking is just a snapshot of where I think the candidates are and where the voters are in their likelihood to select them as the Democratic Nominee for the 2020 Presidential Race.

So don’t be mad at me. Tell your candidate to get better.

So without further adieu…

20.  Nancy Pelosi – Speaker of the House, California – 79 (Last 20: Unranked)

19.  Wayne Messam – Mayor, Florida – 45 (Last 20: #20)

18.  Joe Sestak – Former Congressman, Pennsylvania– 67 (Last 20: #19)

17.  John Delaney – Former Congressman, Maryland – 56 (Last 20: #18)

16.  Tim Ryan – Congressman, Ohio – 46 (Last 20: #15)

15.  Michael Bennet – Senator, Colorado– 54 (Last 20: #14)

14.  Marianne Williamson– Entrepreneur/Author , California– 67 (Last 20: 16)

13.  Steve Bullock – Governor, Montana – 53 (Last 20: #13)

12.  Tulsi Gabbard – Congresswoman, Hawaii – 38 (Last 20: #12)

11.  Tom Steyer – Businessman, California – 62 (Last 20: #11)

10.  Julian Castro – Former HUD Secretary, Texas – 45 (Last 20: #9)

9.   Andrew Yang – Entrepreneur, New York – 44 (Last 20: #8)

8.   Amy Klobuchar – Senator, Minnesota – 59 (Last 20: #10)

7.   Beto O’Rourke – Former Congressman, Texas – 47 (Last 20: #7)

6.   Cory Booker – Senator, New Jersey – 50 (Last 20: #6)

5.   Pete Buttigieg – Mayor, Indiana – 37 (Last 20: #5)

4.   Kamala Harris – Senator, California – 54 (Last 20: #4)

3.   Bernie Sanders – Senator, Vermont – 78 (Last 20: #3)

2.   Joe Biden – Former Vice President, Delaware – 76 (Last 20: #1)

1.   Elizabeth Warren – Senator, Massachusetts – 70 (Last 20: #2)

 

14 to the Power of 20

deblasio sestak sanders

20 Days Ago…

I’ve continued the Power Ranking of the 20 Democratic Candidates for the 2020 Democratic Primary to be concluded on its 20th iteration the day of the 2020 Iowa Caucus.

Since the last list… Another candidate has withdrawn, Kirsten Gillibrand… The ten candidates that qualified had their 3rd debate of the 2020 cycle. It was notable by the rather solid performances from most candidates, with the exception of Julian Castro, who received negative criticism for a comment about Vice President Biden’s memory…

Reminder, this is a “power ranking” and not a list of my favorites in the order I’d like them. But taking in the news cycle over the last 20 days and other pertinent data, this ranking is just a snapshot of where I think the candidates are and where the voters are in their likelihood to select them as the Democratic Nominee for the 2020 Presidential Race.

So don’t be mad at me. Tell your candidate to get better.

So without further adieu…

20.  Wayne Messam – Mayor, Florida – 45 (Last 20: Unranked)

19.  Joe Sestak – Former Congressman, Pennsylvania– 67 (Last 20: #20)

18.  John Delaney – Former Congressman, Maryland – 56 (Last 20: #19)

17.  Bill De Blasio – Mayor, New York – 58 (Last 20: #18)

16.  Marianne Williamson– Entrepreneur/Author , California– 67 (Last 20: 17)

15.  Tim Ryan – Congressman, Ohio – 46 (Last 20: #15)

14.  Michael Bennet – Senator, Colorado– 54 (Last 20: #16)

13.  Steve Bullock – Governor, Montana – 53 (Last 20: #14)

12.  Tulsi Gabbard – Congresswoman, Hawaii – 38 (Last 20: #13)

11.  Tom Steyer – Businessman, California – 62 (Last 20: #12)

10.  Amy Klobuchar – Senator, Minnesota – 59 (Last 20: #10)

9.   Julian Castro – Former HUD Secretary, Texas – 45 (Last 20: #8)

8.   Andrew Yang – Entrepreneur, New York – 44 (Last 20: #7)

7.   Beto O’Rourke – Former Congressman, Texas – 46 (Last 20: #9)

6.   Cory Booker – Senator, New Jersey – 50 (Last 20: #6)

5.   Pete Buttigieg – Mayor, Indiana – 37 (Last 20: #5)

4.   Kamala Harris – Senator, California – 54 (Last 20: #4)

3.   Bernie Sanders – Senator, Vermont – 78 (Last 20: #3)

2.   Elizabeth Warren – Senator, Massachusetts – 70 (Last 20: #2)

1.   Joe Biden – Former Vice President, Delaware – 76 (Last 20: #1)