The Reality of A Dream

obama-king

Two Score and nearly 10 years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who was as consequential to our story and our success as any of our greatest Founding Fathers, gave a speech about where he saw the path of this nation leading and where we have tread since.  Four years prior to that point, Dr. Martin Luther King had laid out his dream, a dream where this nation was able to leave behind the bonds of racial inequality and disparity and embrace what the promise of this nation has always been about: the equality of ALL, no matter their race, class or gender.  However by 1967, Dr. King had slowly begin to realize that the dream he had was becoming a nightmare.  We were being bogged down in foreign wars.  His struggle against intolerance with his own brand of tolerance was being ignored.  And he also begin to see that racial prejudice often went hand in glove with economic deprivation.

In the 1967 speech that Dr. King gave, he noted that if this nation is to realize the dream that he laid out 1963, America must undergo a revolution of values.  He also described what that revolution will look like when he said:

“A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

A year after he said those words, Dr. Martin Luther King was shot and killed.

However, in the 50 years since, this nation has come a long way down that road.  Our schools have desegregated.  Our workforce has diversified.  Our neighborhoods and communities have been largely amalgamated to a degree where a complete disassociation of someone outside of your background is a near impossibility.  And the hallmark of all of this was realized in 2008 when men, women, white and those of color elected the 44th President of the United States of America, Barack Obama.

Born during the very years that Dr. King’s dream of racial equality was just that, Barack Obama is nothing short of a direct product of that dream.  With a African father, an Asian stepfather, a white mother raised formatively by white grandparents, Barack Obama married an African-American woman and has been the head of a middle-class American family.  If that were the end of his journey that would be remarkable enough.  But what has aided his path to becoming our nation’s duly-elected leader was not just his uniquely American experience, but also his ability to speak to us and open our hearts and mind and to connect to our humanity in a way that has been unmatched by an other leader of this nation’s history.

What drove his his path to the presidency was the fundamental idea of hope.  A hope for a future where the dream of a Martin Luther King can be a reality.  Not just a dream of racial equality, but a dream of economic and social fairness.  And that was the motif with which he not only campaigned on but would be the precipice of his presidency.  And it is also that hope of his example that many of us outside the mainstream wanted to see revered.  The unfortunate reality of Dr. King’s dream is that the image of the Black American man has changed very little over the last 50 years.  Many of the same obstructions that has hindered our progress in 1967 still exist in 2017.  Yes, some are self-inflicted, but many others are due to the structure of society that continues to produce the societal ills that cannot be fixed by the efforts of a few.

But Barack Obama was an emergence from that image.  In a society that often sees Black males as criminal, he was a constructive force.  In a society that often hears about the miseducation of Black males, he was a Harvard-educated law professor.  In a society that often is subjected to Black males absent in their families, he has raised two daughters to be beautiful young women.  In a society that often thinks of Black males as a drag on societal resources, he gave back to his community, his state and ultimately his country.  Individually, as Black men, our lives are sorted.  Some have done better than others and collectively we show the world who we are.  Fairly or unfairly, we are judged because of it.  Barack Obama has done in life what we all could hope to accomplish.  He has not only become our example how how to lead our lives, he’s become America’s example of what we can be.  He is not only Martin Luther King’s Dream, he’s also the American Dream.

Without a shadow of doubt, Barack Obama is the best of us.  Not because of his politics, but because of what he was and what he became; Successful.  However, as much as we wanted this to be an example of who we are and what we can do, I have come to the slow realization that, while he’s been a success, one battle does not win the war.  What I have see isn’t an acceptance of the image of what we can be, but unrecognition of who we actually are.  His very words and intentions, which are completely familiar to Black America, are often misinterpreted as something more duplicitous and egotistic.  The last eight years have been a reminder of how disconnected we still are on lines of race and class. And sadly, that was the legacy many outside Black America perceived from Barack Obama. But for us, Barack Obama showed us who we always thought we were and who we wish the world would see.

But what we have left is the society that has produced a Barack Obama.  Have we been able to achieve the dream with which Martin Luther King informed us about?  Again, while we have been able to produce a Barack Obama, what has it amounted to?  He has still been reviled, maligned and disparaged, no matter how accomplished he is.  The many aspersions he’s experienced have only prevented him from being able to restructure the edifice that continues to plague our society.  American exceptionalism would indeed be exceptional if it weren’t for the exceptions we have continued to accept.  We have indeed come a long way in 50 years.  But if we are to judge the reaction to the realization of what one of our greatest Americans could only dream of, we have not come nearly far enough.  What good has it been to achieve a dream when the reality is still a nightmare for so many others?

Advertisements

Active SHOOTERS

unknown-gunman

It is now 2017.  We are 17 years in to the 21st Century.  Ten centuries prior, almost an entire millennia ago, we saw the first recorded use of gunpowder to deliver a projectile with the specific intent to kill.  Ostensibly, before being used to propel what was known as “fire arrows”, gunpowder was also called “fire medicine” due to it’s medicinal use by the Chinese trying to achieve immortality.  Yes, the gun was invented during the search for eternal life, which has now granted humanity the gift of instant death.

We are not even a full week into 2017 where the breaking news has reported a gunman, traveling from Alaska to Fort Lauderdale, who retrieved his legally obtained and checked weapon from baggage claim and commenced an assault on travelers at Hollywood International Airport, killing five and wounding eight others.   Sadly, while many will remember this attack is in the same state that we saw 2016’s massacre of 49 at Orlando’s Pulse night club, this actually is the same metropolitan area that sees gun violence on a nightly basis.  Just a quick search of the local news in the Fort Lauderdale area over the last week will show over a dozen cases where someone has been victimized by gun violence, including the elderly, a pregnant woman and a child under the age of 10.  While tragic, Esteban Santiago’s rampage in Fort Lauderdale is just the latest of a long line of very public and prolific shootings in a country that has become prone to ignore what is now routine.

Broward County is not alone.  Gun violence affects practically every major metropolitan area in the country.  As I live and breath, I can guarantee you that the very night you read this or the night prior, someone within your daily driving commute has come face-to-barrel with a gun and has had their lives or their families lives changed forever.  In the time it takes you to read this, another American will have been shot by a gun.  By the end of the hour, an American child will be shot by a gun.  Combined with the one shot at the beginning of the hour, 17,000 children are shot on a yearly basis in America.  If an American woman dies unnaturally, it is more likely than not that she was shot to death by a man she knew, and that’s more likely than not to be by an intimate or domestic partner.

Make no mistake about it:  America has a gun problem.

It is a plague on American life no different than cancer or influenza, but only more efficient.  And while gun violence is as cherished of an American tradition as popping fireworks on Independence Day, our unwillingness to deal with the problem is not.  Very early in our nation’s history, America has prohibited certain individuals from owning firearms, African Americans, Native Americans and women among them.  Throughout the 1800’s when American life was thought to be at it’s gravest threat in the “Wild West”, frontier towns experiencing rashes of gun violence typically passed laws to ban any firearm within town borders.  As a matter of fact, the most notorious shootout in the Old West and probably in American history, the “Gun Fight at the O.K. Corral” happened because Wyatt Earp and his brother tried to enforce Tombstone’s ordinance prohibiting the carrying of firearms within city limits.

As the west tamed, gun violence would again become a plague on American life, this time in urban cities in the early 1900’s with the rise of organized crime and machine gun carrying gangsters like Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson.  It took a deadly and brazen massacre by crime boss Al Capone for the nation to take notice and pass the National Firearms Act of 1934, which put limits on the types of weaponry that could be sold in America.  A few decades later, after the public assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the Gun Control Act of 1968 was passed, limiting who could sell firearms.  And a few decades after that, when a gunman shot President reagan and Press Secretary James Brady, this spurred the Brady Bill in 1993, which mandated background checks for individuals purchasing firearms.

Every time in America history gun violence has impacted American life, our lawmakers have reacted.  Until now.  The last update to our firearm laws was an amendment that banned individuals convicted of domestic violence from buying or owning firearms.  That was twenty years ago.  Since then, the debate over Gun Control has only intensified, most notably due to the mass murder of 23 children in Connecticut and the aforementioned murder of 49 Americans in Orlando among dozens of other high-profile massacres committed with firearms.  The Fort Lauderdale Airport shooting is only the latest salvo.  Sadly it will not be the last.

What gives our nation the most resistance is the profound and intense ignorance of our gun laws that give cover to a congress more concerned with political ramifications than they are with common sense, human decency and the will of the American people.  Gun rights advocates are willing to believe that criminals will obtain guns no matter the restrictions, so passing any restrictions would only hurt “law abiding” citizens.  Although this logic ignores several facts like these laws are not simply for prevention, but for punishment as well, but they also ignore the fact that guns do not appear out of nowhere.  This isn’t a video game where a criminal just punches in a cheat code to get any gun he wants.  Nor is it the Matrix where they just dial a number and an aisle of guns show up for their choosing.  They get their gun from private sellers without a background check or stolen from irresponsible “law abiding” citizens with very little consequential redress.

The unfortunate perception that has become a political reality being fed to gun advocates by an agenda driven lobby is that the government is trying to universally disarm all Americans leaving them vulnerable to criminals and the government alike.  Nevermind the fact there is nothing a .38 Special can do to stop what the U.S. military has at it’s disposal, there is no rational basis for this belief.  Even if it were practical, which it isn’t.  However, this has lead us to an environment where the very perception of “Gun Control” is interpreted as absolute disarmament.  It is this ignorance, that there isn’t EVERY reason and very real and historical precedent to prevent certain individuals from obtaining firearms, it is impractical and impossible to cure this plague upon our nation until we’re able to recognize we are indeed at risk and have every reason to do something about it.  And all it takes is the political will that has gripped our federal government in standstill.

Even the most stringent gun advocate, who may think every American should be issued a side arm at birth will probably tell you that it’s probably not a good idea to let unrepentant murderers obtain guns.  They would also be comfortable with extending such restrictions to terrorist, non-citizens and those considered mentally ill or mentally dependent.  The latter of which often bears the brunt of the blame of gun violence in America.  However, while that might be a reason for mass murderers, it does nothing to address what happens on a nightly basis in American cities.  Of course you would not only have to believe America has more mentally ill than any other 1st world nation, but you would also have to wonder why those same advocates continuously try to cut social services, health services and repeal healthcare laws that assist those individuals, but that’s another story.

In any normal pretense, if you are ill, you take medicine to make yourself better.  However if you are ill and are unwilling to even admit to there being an illness, you cause yourself more pain.  As a nation, we are causing ourselves more pain by not addressing this illness.  If Chinese alchemist from a thousand years ago thought to use gunpowder for purification purposes, in 2017, we have to begin to purify our society.  We must recognize that we are ill and work towards getting better.  The sad truth of the matter is our attention is easily diverted elsewhere.  We see as the weeks and months past, terrorist attacks in Iraq, Syria, Turkey and recently Germany and France, have plagued these nation.  And each time we see these attacks, our resolve to combat terror and extremism grows stronger.  But yet, our lawmakers refuse to lift a finger to combat gun violence, which effectively turns certain American cities to comparable warzones.  If we can recognize what plagues their nations and act accordingly, why do we refuse to see what has infected our own?

 

 

2020 Vision

candidate-silhouette

We are a month clear from when America decided to take the Thelma and Louise tour of the Grand Canyon and effectively elect Lex Luthor with a worse head of hair as our president.  And no matter how many times I tell myself we are in a parallel Earth, this world will keep on spinning.  Especially in the world of U.S. politics and elections.  Where we have not even completed our favorite post-electoral past time of counting votes in Florida before the Democratic Party has engaged in their own post-electoral analysis of their party, their candidate and their future.  We’ve barely taken the last yard sign out of the last yard of the 2016 election before we’ve turned our attention to the 2020 election and who the Democratic Nominee should be.

But before we can do that, we have to take a quick look at what went wrong.  Hillary Clinton’s loss can be and has been attributed to a variety of reasons.  Most analysis have pointed to a lack of effort to shore up the support of the “white working class” vote, particularly in the three states that were the “Democratic Firewall” of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.  Others have blamed a lack of excitement of her candidacy that couldn’t drive out voters to sustain her loses in swing states like Florida, North Carolina and Ohio.

The reality is there were a number of factors that were completely out of her control.  Ranging from Low-information voters, who were inclined to believe the worse about her when given a particular narrative or being the “Experience Candidate” in a “Change Election” which also hurt as well.

That said, I’ve looked at what the Democratic Party and their candidates can control to optimize their chances in 2020.  There are five main qualities, which contributed to the 2016 outcome that also has to be in the forefront of Democratic voters’ attention over the next four years:  1) Age.  Hillary Clinton was a throwback to a past generation in a party that continues to embrace the politics of the next generation.  2)  Communication.  Hillary Clinton will tell you that she is not the kind of communicator that Bill Clinton or Barack Obama is.  Being a good and effective communicator will not only generate excitement, but will also allow you to connect with a diverse electorate, which is absolutely CRITICAL. 3)  Progressive.  The Democratic Party has embraced along with a new generation of voters, a new politics that is reflective of that generation.  This is why candidates like Bernie Sanders, Barack Obama and even Howard Dean were as popular as they were.  4) Outsider.  Hillary Clinton was as much of an insider and “establishment” as there could be.  Clearly losing to someone with ZERO elected experience shows experience wasn’t the be all we thought it would be or should.  5) Trust.  This was her biggest hurdle.  If there was one reason voters reneged on their common sense and voted for a bottomless pit of ignorance that’s the President-Elect wasn’t because he was a better candidate.  It was because she was seen as “corrupt” or shady, if not just simply criminal.  Almost none of it was at all true, but perception is often reality and that was her reality.

The candidates I have listed exude these qualities and some are on the fast track to national politics, if they are not there already.  But there are some names not on this list.  You won’t see Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, (the recently announced) Joe Biden or Tim Kaine.  As talked about as they have been, it’s hard for me to imagine the Democratic Party turning to someone in their 70s to carry the party to 2028 and beyond.  Moreover, the Democratic Party will definitely need someone to reflect not just the politics of the party, but the face of the party as well and that face is becoming more younger and more diverse.  But without further adieu, using those metrics, these five individuals have best chances for winning the Democratic Nomination in 2020.

5. Martin O’Malley

martin-omalley

The former Governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley will be 57 years old on November 3, 2020.  Outside of being the two-term governor of Maryland, O’Malley also served as the two-term Mayor of Baltimore and chaired the Democratic Governors Association as well.  O’Malley often toted(correctly) that everything Democrats like, he was able to accomplish as Governor.  And quite frankly, being a white Mayor elected in a heavily African-American city, not only should say he’s solidly progressive, but can communicate to those not thought to be his base.  Sadly, it is that fact that might be his largest detriment as well.  His mayorial election could have been seen much like this current presidential election, as a last gasp of an electorate losing it’s power.  And given how rather tone-deaf he has been about Black issues and culture, despite being the mayor of Baltimore, that could also hurt as well.

4. Julian Castro

julian-castro

The current Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and former Mayor of San Antonio will be 46 on November 3, 2020.  Prior to serving as Mayor, Castro served in San Antonio’s City Council, which was the height of his experience.  Sadly, being in the middle of a large red state, he has been rather limited with how much further he could go to increase his national profile.  Senate or Governor would be unlikely.  His prominent role at the 2012 Democratic Convention and appointment to HUD was mostly due to these reasons, to give him greater prominence and a greater base of experience, which he also lacked.  That said, as a Latino male, he will have an audience and being a Democrat in a deep red state, you have to know how to talk to voters outside of your base.  That is a quality that could do him well.

3. Tulsi Gabbard

tulsi-gabbard

The current Representative of Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District, Tulsi Gabbard has an extremely impressive resume.  Born in Samoa, she became Hawaii’s youngest state elected official before volunteering to serve in Iraq in 2004.  After returning from her second tour, she served in Honolulu’s City Council until 2014 when she ran and won her House seat in a major upset.  At just 35 years old(39 in 2020), thoroughly accomplished, and(keeping it honest) epicly beautiful, she was clearly a rising star in the Democratic Party, being named as a Vice Chair in 2015.  Most notable is the recent attention she received resigning her post and endorsing Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic Primary.  In doing such, she has earned the support from the Bernie Sanders base of the Democratic Party, which could also hurt her due to her lukewarm support of Hillary Clinton in the General Election.  Also not to mention, as a Congresswoman, if she is to run for President, she would run the risk of losing her seat as an elected official completely.

2. Cory Booker

cory-booker

Turning 51 in 2020, the Junior Senator from New Jersey has been one of the most high profile senators in U.S. Senate since his election in 2014 and even before that point.  Profiled in the Oscar-nominated Documentary “Street Fight”, Cory Booker rose up through Newark’s political machine and became the city’s Mayor.  A young black elected official that was easily as magnetic as the then State Senator, Barack Obama, Cory Booker was on a path just as large.  A gifted speaker that could naturally connect to anyone, it was only a matter of time before he was on the national stage.  However, being the type that campaigned in Newark and the state as a reformer, he rustled some feathers with teacher unions and with comments he made critical of the President’s 2012 campaign.  He’s also been seen as a “neoliberal” or more fiscally conservative and more business friendly, which might bother some on the hard left.  Not to mention, like Gabbard, his term in the Senate ends in 2020 and he’ll have to decide whether running for President is worth not being in office at all.

1. Gavin Newsom

gavin-newsom

Of all the potential candidates being given the earliest of early considerations for being a possible Democratic Nominee few are talking about Gavin Newsom.  Turning 53 three weeks before November 3, 2020, Gavin Newsom is in his second term as the Lieutenant Governor of California, the nation’s largest state and largest economy.  The former two-term Mayor of San Francisco, Newsom has garnered as much media attention as any local or state level politician has, particularly from the liberal media.  Deeply progressive and boldly supportive of issues like marijuana legalization, LGBT rights and immigration reform that define his hometown of San Francisco, Newsom might have avoided notice as a potential candidate being just the Lieutenant Governor, but early last year he opened a campaign account to succeed Jerry Brown as the next Governor of the state in 2018.  Of course being someone of his profile is not without controversy.  He was once married to Fox News’ Kimberly Guilfoyle and was also revealed to have had an affair with the wife of his then campaign manager, which lead to his treatment of alcoholism as well.  Though it did impact his reputation, he has since recovered and has continued on a path that many are beginning to recognize might be bigger than just California.  He was successful in business, unapologetically liberal, never lost an election and soon to be the most powerful man in the largest state in America.  It will be hard to deny that Gavin Newsom can very possibly be the next Democratic Nominee for President of the United States in 2020.

So there you have it.  An early “Power Ranking” of possible candidates who could win in 2020 and restore balance to humanity.  Naturally, second-guessers will come along with additional names like Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Andrew Cuomo, John Bel Edwards and a few others.  While I might have given a few such names consideration, for the reasons stated above, those top five stand the BEST chance.  So with 2017 coming up and three full years of campaigning to go along with it, let’s see which of these names will breakout and be ready to lead and have the best vision for the Democratic Party in 2020.

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.

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

October… Surprise! Surprise, Surprise… Surprise…

surprise-loading

This month has been the ULTIMATE microcosm of the 2016 Presidential Election.  And I am as tired of it as I am of this entire ridiculous election.  Ridiculous not because I’m tired of hearing about an election between two bad candidates or a bullshit argument of this being the lesser of two evils(hint: it isn’t).  I’m tired because of the exact opposite.  I am tired of people thinking this election is anything close to two equals of anything.  I’m tired of seeing an overly qualified female compete with a shitty male for a job he is uniquely under qualified to do.  I’m also tired of the media putting the things Hillary Clinton might have done on the same level as all the ignorant, egotistically, morally and politically corrupt crap Donald Trump has said and done.  This is NOT a real comparison.

But this month is especially stupid.  Last Friday, the Director of the FBI, James Comey informed congress of a new cache of emails linked to Hillary Clinton.  These emails(which they found out about a month ago BTW but waited until a week before the election to say something) were found on a computer belonging to former Congressman Anthony Weiner.  Weiner, who is being investigated because of a child sexting scandal, is married to Clinton aid, Huma Abedin.  So because of this, Donald Trump, who had literally the day before claimed the FBI(like the election, every primary state he lost, U.S. District judges, Emmy Awards and everything else that doesn’t benefit him) is rigged.  The very next day he changes his mind and says maybe it wasn’t rigged.  All because the FBI found emails that may or may not be relevant to an investigation that was closed months ago.

And over the last few days, the media has gone a batshit crazy over this, talking about this being the “October Surprise” that could ruin the electoral chances of Hillary Clinton.  For those that aren’t familiar, an “October Surprise” in politics is a news story that breaks a few weeks before an election that has a chance to affect voter perceptions enough to sway said election.  Like an aid of President Johnson getting arrested for “disorderly conduct” in a restroom with another man or Mitt Romney’s 47% comment in 2012.  So here we sit, just barely a week until the election and this story breaks and it’s like Mana from Heaven for Donald Trump’s trainwreck of a candidacy and a media that’s needing something else to feast on other than Donald Trump’s trainwreck of a candidacy.

And the news is calling this the October Surprise… the October Surprise of 2016.  Except it ain’t.

Of course if this were any other presidential election, Hillary Clinton, who may or may not be as typical of any presidential candidate we’ve seen, might be waylaid by this “surprising” find.  But she is running against, of all people, Donald Trump.  And before anyone should dare give a stank eye to ANYTHING Hillary Clinton did in the last days of October for her surprise, there is LITERALLY an entire MONTH of surprises that Donald Trump surprised voters with from the very first day!

It’s been a long month. So… In case you forgot…

SURPRISE!  The month could hardly begin with Trump in a Twitter War(of his own making) with a former pageant contestant.  Yeah, but…

SUPRISE!  The month actually starts with the New York Times releasing a story stating that Donald Trump, who has dogged people not paying taxes, has not paid federal income taxes in 20 years, which he would actually confirm.  Not sexy enough?  Well…

SURPRISE!  A week later Access Hollywood releases a video of Donald Trump BRAGGING about sexually assaulting women.  And to no one’s surprise…

SURPRISE!  Since Donald Trump’s on-camera admission no less than TWELVE women have come forward to corroborate Donald Trump’s own story about him grabbing them, shoving his tongue down their throats, cornering them and bursting in on them while undressed.  Oh by the way…

SURPRISE!  One of those women was a 13-year old girl who has a claim that Donald Trump and another former associate and convicted child molester raped her for which he was given a court date for.  Also, let’s not forget…

SURPRISE!  Donald Trump is stoking the Birtherism fever he kept alive for five years by questioning the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s Presidency yet again.  But wait, there’s more…

SURPRISE!  Donald Trump has set his own reality where not only did he state that if he loses the election it was because someone cheated by claiming it’s rigged or if he wins he has vowed to pursue a criminal investigation to jail his opponent, Hillary Clinton, thereby threatening the entire fabric of what the United States of America is built on.  Democracy.

All of this is just one month, folks! Any ONE of those would have wrecked your typical campaign.  But Donald Trump and his candidacy has been so ludicrous and abysmally wretched that we’ve become irritatingly desensitized to the detestable shitshow we see on t.v. every night.  And I’m supposed to be worried about some emails that Hillary Clinton DIDN’T send being found on someone else’s computer!?!

That isn’t an October Surprise.

Donald Trump IS the October Surprise!