June 12, 2024 / by 

 

Three Things: Brilliant Opportunities Disguised

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

At this site we tend to get caught up in the excruciatingly massive tarball that is Donald Trump – the conspiracy to unlawfully aid his 2016 election, his craptastically corrupt and fascistic tenure in the White House, and his ongoing effort to destabilize this country including the rolling insurrection punctuated by January 6.

But Trump is a tarball not only for this site and the American left. He’s a sticky mess tainting right-wing politics in so many ways having opened the door to the right-wing’s worst impulses.

You’d think the folks who identify themselves as conservatives would have clued in by now and begun to deal with the toxic waste Trump represents to the GOP’s future.

Former Chrysler CEO Lee Iococca once said, “We are continually faced by great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluable problems.”

Hello, GOP. You could fix your insoluable problems if you quit being bigots and pulled your heads out of your asses.

In the mean time we’re going to look at these as great opportunities demonstrating the Republicans’ inability to govern themselves let alone the entirety of any one community, state, or this nation.

~ 3 ~

This is what came up yesterday afternoon in Google News for Top News about the Florida GOP:

Here are the top four stories which surface in Google News this evening about the Florida GOP.

They’re not about Ron DeSantis, the state’s governor and current presidential candidate, at least not directly.

Not about any other GOP elected official or candidate.

Not related any court case related to Florida legislation.

Nope, it’s just another sex scandal this time involving a prominent member of Klanned Karenhood, I mean, Moms for Liberty and the head of the Florida GOP – a husband and wife couple who swing.

Apparently the husband and head of FL-GOP Christian Ziegler has a wee problem with consent.

The entire GOP has a problem with consent as Trump has demonstrated repeatedly, but this particular problem will likely result in criminal charges for rape and/or sexual battery in Florida.

The most galling part of this scandal is another layer of obnoxious fascist hypocrisy foisted on us by swinging spouse Bridget Ziegler was responsible in a big way for the infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill foisted on Floridians.

Both Zieglers have been influential in Florida politics, especially after disagreements during the COVID pandemic led to a wave of conservative activism in schools. Bridget Ziegler helped draft the original bill in 2019 that later became the Parental Rights in Education Act after the Sarasota School Board — wrongly, in her opinion — approved guidelines that would make it optional for school officials to tell parents of elementary school children if they requested to go by a different pronoun. Previously she had spoken out against transgender students using restrooms that matched their gender identities.

When DeSantis signed the bill, which prohibits the mention of gender identity and sexual orientation, bans discussions that aren’t “age-appropriate” without defining what that means, and allows any parent to sue a school district over teaching they don’t like with the district paying the bill, Ziegler was standing behind him. The anti-mask-and-COVID-vaccine movement, combined with what critics called the “Don’t Say Gay” law, kicked off DeSantis’ campaign to eradicate “wokeness” and seemingly any acknowledgment of gender identity, sexuality and the racial issues mistakenly called critical race theory from the state.

Her husband went to the victim’s residence uninvited and allegedly raped her after the victim had backed out of another planned sexual encounter because the victim was only it it for Bridget.

In other words, the bill was intended to prevent young people from engaging in their First Amendment rights to discuss political figures like Bridget Ziegler having gay sex.

We know that the authoritarian personalities who make up much of the GOP’s base are immune to the shaming and blind to their hypocrisy about law and order or personal freedom – in this case, the freedom of a woman to say no to sex, or young people’s freedom to talk about their sexuality.

But it’s ridiculous for the GOP to expect Americans to trust them when they break the law while caring little for the fallout. They refuse to discipline themselves or their own party.’

~ 2 ~

Speaking of discipline, the Michigan GOP is a total shit show – one like January 6, in fact.

Half of the MIGOP has broken away in an insurrection against its own party leadership, doing so in a way which denied the just-less-than-half of the party aligned with current party chair and Trumper Kristina Karamo from having a quorum to conduct business.

The breakaway faction wants to kick Karamo to the curb. It’s not clear exactly what triggered their revolt but Karamo has been a crappy manager of the state party’s fundraising and organization.

More than one meeting under Karamo’s reign has resulted in physical altercations between party members.

MIGOP is also flirting with the bottom of its bank account. This past August its state central committee voted to assess party delegates a registration fee.

Big money donors have been thin on the ground; the Trumper who ran for state attorney general, Matt DePerno, bad mouthed them calling them “sore losers” though the big money was not happy pitching money toward an organization still in Trump’s thrall.

You’ll recall DePerno, who ran unsuccessfully for state attorney general in 2022, was investigated and indicted on four charges: undue possession of a voting machine, conspiracy to commit undue possession of a voting machine, conspiracy to commit unauthorized access to a computer or computer system and willfully damaging a voting machine in rural Roscommon, Barry and Missaukee counties.

The incredibly stupid and obvious fact – I cannot emphasize this enough, STUPID and OBVIOUS – about these three counties is that they are hard core GOP. They would not have flipped for Biden and didn’t in 2020, with Missaukee voting 76% and the other two counties hitting the mid-60 percentile for Trump.

Gee, I can’t understand why big donors aren’t throwing money at the MIGOP these days when they have such geniuses representing the party.

Somebody somewhere IS throwing money at defeating a Democrat in this state — like whoever is financing the PAC America Rising. They just aren’t donating to the MIGOP and they’re looking at something other than races in 2024 when they’re funding opposition research to spy on Governor Gretchen Whitmer who is now term limited after winning re-election in 2022.

Why don’t the donors funding a spy – willing to climb a slope approaching the governor’s summer residence this year, risking arrest to obtain photos of the governor and possible guests – doing this through the MIGOP?

~ 1 ~

Lack of personal and party discipline.

Lack of smarts, leadership, and management skills.

That’s the GOP today, as the state party apparatus has demonstrated in Florida and Michigan.

Texas doesn’t want to be left out, though. The Texas GOP is unable to give the heave-ho to Nazis.

You’d think Elon Musk was the TX-GOP party chair given the welcome mat they’ve left out for white supremacist Nick Fuentes.

The TX-GOP party chair Matt Rinaldi is directly involved as he was photographed entering Pale Horse Strategies, a far-right political consulting firm on October 6, as were the consulting firm’s president and other noted far-right political figures.

And of course the party apparatus handled the situation poorly, putting the entire state party on record as being anti-Semitic:

Two months after a prominent conservative activist and fundraiser was caught hosting white supremacist Nick Fuentes, leaders of the Republican Party of Texas have voted against barring the party from associating with known Nazi sympathizers and Holocaust deniers.

In a 32-29 vote on Saturday, members of the Texas GOP’s executive committee stripped a pro-Israel resolution of a clause that would have included the ban. In a separate move that stunned some members, roughly half of the board also tried to prevent a record of their vote from being kept.

Big donors may have a problem with this situation; billionaire Tim Dunn called it a “serious blunder,” which may pan out in the form of rejiggered donations bypassing the TX-GOP and going instead to other groups or to candidates.

But you can bet some news outlet will point out how the failings of the state GOP parties in these three states — which combined represent 85 electoral votes in the 2024 election — are somehow bad news for Joe Biden, and not the brilliant opportunities they represent for Democrats.

~ 0 ~

This is an open thread. Let’s fucking go!


Breathing Room: What’s on Your Holiday Menu?

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

I can tell from my social media feed that many folks are both restless and preoccupied. I’m sure it’s partly because they’re trying to wrap up work before the Thanksgiving holiday, partly because some folks are already traveling, and partly because some folks are already working on holiday preparations.

I’m among the last group. I’m not having turkey at home on Thursday in observance of the day with family; it’s going to be just us empty nesters and whatever large piece of beef or venison is occupying too much room in the freezer.

This will be the first year one of my kids hosts the holiday feast, though. We’ll be celebrating on Saturday because my youngest must work on Thursday but has Saturday off.

I’m reminded of my childhood holidays which were frequently shifted around because my mother was a nurse and always worked at least one holiday. Babies don’t stop arriving, heart attacks still occur, accidents still happen, no matter the day of the year. Health care professionals still show up to serve those who need care regardless of holiday observations. Thanks to all of you in health care and other first responders who will be on the job tomorrow.

Some manufacturing industries also have no time off; they run 7/24/365 and somebody needs to be on the job to keep production running, to keep systems in a stable safe mode. Chemical and pharmaceutical plants are just a couple examples; they often can’t shut down production altogether, or they can reduce operations but still must keep machines in a steady state because it’s more challenging to bring a system back up from a down state. This may be in part because of profitability, but it’s often about safety. Thanks to all the folks who will continue to work through Thursday for these industries.

Ditto for the shipping industry – ships don’t stop dead in the ocean, trains don’t stop on the tracks, trucks may pause at rest stops but they still keep their schedules. Again, profitability may drive some of this, but safety and security are also reasons why shipping continues. Thanks to all who will continue to work tomorrow to keep things running smoothly on Friday and beyond.

So while my youngest works tomorrow in one of these can’t-stop industries, I’ll be working on cooking and baking foods for the delayed feast on Saturday.

~ ~ ~

This year I’ll be spatchcocking a fresh turkey. This has caused no small amount of amusement in the family group chat. But spatchcocking – or butterflying, if you want to avoid the time suck the other word may set in motion in your conversations with friends and family – is the fastest way I know to roast a whole turkey.

It’s also a good approach if you discover the frozen bird you bought hasn’t yet fully thawed, but you’re going to have to do some surgery with a mallet and cleaver rather than kitchen shears and a knife. Ask me how I know this…

My eldest who is hosting the feast on Saturday will be occupied until noon; this is the primary constraint dictating spatchcocking the bird. We can’t get the bird in the oven before 12:30 p.m. and their older half-brother will be bringing little ones who need to eat earlier than later. Which means I have about 2-3 hours to cook a 13-pound bird.

I’m going to remove the bird’s backbone on Friday evening along with the breast bone and cartilage, then brine it overnight. I’ll just leave it in the brine bucket while we travel, then slap it on parchment in the bottom of a broiler pan while the oven preheats after noon Saturday.

For spatchcocking see: https://www.seriouseats.com/butterfiled-roast-turkey-with-gravy-recipe

For my favorite brine see: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/good-eats-roast-turkey-recipe-1950271 (I skip the allspice berries and candied ginger, add halved garlic cloves and a sliced thumb of fresh ginger instead.)

The host is fixing mashed potatoes and green beans along with a cherry pie. My youngest has been assigned pumpkin pie duty because it’s both their favorite and their most frequently made dessert.

For Impossible Pumpkin Pie see: https://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/impossibly-easy-pumpkin-pie/ (Super easy because crustless!)

I’ll handle squash rolls, sweet potatoes, homemade cranberry sauce, and a crudites platter. Nothing super fancy, relatively safe territory since there will be children present.

There’s a couple bottles of homemade hard cider my youngest made and left in my wine cellar; I’ll probably take those along with a Riesling and a moscato to enjoy with the turkey and dessert.

What are you preparing for this Thanksgiving holiday? If you’re not cooking, what are you expecting to eat?

~ ~ ~

In all the preparation for the holiday, let’s not forget that tomorrow’s holiday arose from colonists celebrating survival of their first year in the new world. They arrived on already-occupied lands, contributing to the eventual dispossession, deaths, and erasure of indigenous peoples, their nations and cultures.

Descendants of colonists continue to erase indigenous peoples with book bans and suppression of culture, preventing education about Native Americans as part of this country’s history.

It should be no surprise that Thanksgiving Day is marked at Plymouth Rock as a day of mourning by the heirs of dispossession and erasure.

For some of us this is intensely personal and not merely an interesting factoid one can drive by, even for those of us who walk in both indigenous and colonialist worlds.

On whose lands will you be celebrating your colonial holiday?

You can identify those tribes on this interactive map at: https://native-land.ca

I, a descendant of Kānaka Maoli of the Nā moku ʻehā territory, will be observing the holiday with family on the ancestral homelands of the Council of the Three Fires — the Ojibwe (or Chippewa), Ottawa (or Odawa), and Potawatomi tribes.

If you want a little light decolonizing, it’s worth rewatching Amber Ruffin’s How Did We Get Here from last November which tackled erasure of Native Americans: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4BkHmUHR1k

~ ~ ~

This is an open thread.


Beloved By Toni Morrison

Index to posts in this series

My book club chose Beloved by Toni Morrison for our last meeting, so I was reading it along with the cases I’ve been discussing in this series. It’s a marvelous book, beautifully writtent. One piece of that craftsmanship is that although the events are not in chronological order we don’t have a problem following along because she gives a a few key words that place things in time.

This book can take different shapes for different people. I read it as stories about the people who endured the physical and psychological horrors of enslavement.

Kermit Roosevelt and Eric Foner describe the efforts of Black people to end slavery, by participating in abolition movements, by writing for themselves and for White people, and by the dangerous work of helping escapees. Some of these people appear in Beloved: John and Ella, for example, and Stamp Paid. The entire community helps newly freed people come to grips with their new status.

We know something about the cruelty of slavers from oral histories compiled by writers during the Depression and other sources. We have some first person accounts of slavery and escape. There’s some of that in the book. But for me, the power of Beloved lies in Morrison’s imagining of the reaction of newly freed people to freedom, and her instantiation of the psychic injuries inflicted by the slavers on her characters.

None of the psychological damage was discussed at the time as far as I know. And it’s certain that the voices of former slaves, their children, and their communities were never heard by the Supreme Court, which couldn’t even be bothered discussing the Colfax Massacre in US v. Cruikshank. I’ll discuss just two aspects of this powerful work.

1. Baby Suggs and Sethe react to being freed.

Baby Suggs was purchased by Mr. Garner from a slaver in North Carolina and taken with her children to Garner’s farm in Kentucky, Sweet Home. He was a decent slaver, who didn’t beat or mistreat his property. Years later he allowed Halle, Baby Suggs’ son, to buy her freedom. Garner takes her to Cincinnati. Morrison writes:

Of the two hard things—standing on her feet till she dropped or leaving her last and probably only living child—she chose the hard thing that made him happy, and never put to him the question she put to herself: What for? What does a sixty-odd-year-old slavewoman who walks like a three-legged dog need freedom for? And when she stepped foot on free ground she could not believe that Halle knew what she didn’t; that Halle, who had never drawn one free breath, knew that there was nothing like it in this world. It scared her.

Something’s the matter. What’s the matter? What’s the matter? she asked herself. She didn’t know what she looked like and was not curious. But suddenly she saw her hands and thought with a clarity as simple as it was dazzling, “These hands belong to me. These my hands.” Next she felt a knocking in her chest and discovered something else new: her own heartbeat. Had it been there all along? This pounding thing? She felt like a fool and began to laugh out loud. P. 166.

Sethe is Halle’s wife. A few years after Baby Suggs is freed, Sweet Home has been taken over by a vicious overseer, Schoolteacher. Sethe is pregnant, and is sexually assaulted and whipped senseless by Schoolteacher’s nephews. Sethe escapes. Just before crossing the river into Ohio, she gives birth to a daughter, Denver, and the last part of the trip is terrible. Then she reaches the safety of the home of Baby Suggs.

Sethe had had twenty-eight days—the travel of one whole moon—of unslaved life. … Days of healing, ease and real-talk. Days of company: knowing the names of forty, fifty other Negroes, their views, habits; where they had been and what done; of feeling their fun and sorrow along with her own, which made it better. One taught her the alphabet; another a stitch. All taught her how it felt to wake up at dawn and decide what to do with the day. … Bit by bit … she had claimed herself. Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another. P. 111-2.

The freedom Baby Suggs and Sethe share is touching in its smallness and fragility. I write about the abstract idea of freedom, as here, but this is so much more meaningful. In the long run, it’s not enough, but for these people in these moments it’s everything they can imagine.

2. Beloved.

Sethe’s 28 days of freedom end when Schoolteacher and other slavecatchers and the local sheriff find her. Sethe kills her two-year old daughter and tries to kill her two boys rather than let them suffer under slavery. Schoolteacher realizes she’s of no use as a slave, and leaves her in the hands of the sheriff. It’s unclear why, perhaps because of the intervention of anti-slavery advocates, but she only serves three months in jail and then is freed. This aspect of the story is loosely based on the life of Margaret Garner.

Sethe’s house is haunted. Everybody thinks it’s the murdered child. The community thinks it’s frightening, and cuts off Baby Suggs, Sethe, the two boys and Denver. Years later a strange woman appears, calling herself Beloved, the name engraved on the headstone Sethe purhased for her dead child. Beloved seems to exist as a separate, physical entity, but she has no history. The introduction of this character suggests she’s come back from the dead.

This is from the Wikipedia discussion of this part of the book:

Because of the suffering under slavery, most people who had been enslaved tried to repress these memories in an attempt to forget the past. This repression and dissociation from the past causes a fragmentation of the self and a loss of true identity. Sethe, Paul D., and Denver all suffered a loss of self, which could only be remedied when they were able to reconcile their pasts and memories of earlier identities. Beloved serves to remind these characters of their repressed memories, eventually leading to the reintegration of their selves. Fn. omitted.

I wonder about that first sentence. Morrison seems to confirm this reading in the forward to the Kindle edition.

In trying to make the slave experience intimate, I hoped the sense of things being both under control and out of control would be persuasive throughout; that the order and quietude of everyday life would be violently disrupted by the chaos of the needy dead; that the herculean effort to forget would be threatened by memory desperate to stay alive. To render enslavement as a personal experience, language must get out of the way. P. xvii.

The community of free Black people share the experience of haunting and sense the danger around Beloved. I assume they share some of the same psychic fragmentation. The community is there for the denoument, when the fragmentation seems to heal for all of them.

Now recall the offhand comment of Joseph Bradley in The Civil Rights Cases:

When a man has emerged from slavery, and, by the aid of beneficent legislation, has shaken off the inseparable concomitants of that state, there must be some stage in the progress of his elevation when he takes the rank of a mere citizen and ceases to be the special favorite of the laws, and when his rights as a citizen or a man are to be protected in the ordinary modes by which other men’s rights are protected.

Just shake it off, like a hard hit in a soccer match. And Black people are expected to call Bradley “Mr. Justice”.
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Featured image credit.


The Thirteenth Amendment

Index to posts in this series

I’m moving on to Eric Foner’s book The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution. It’s a detailed description of the history of the adoption of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, and their aftermath.

The Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery. A large number of enslaved people lived in areas not controlled by the Union and thus unprotected. Many more lived in the Border States and Tennessee which were exempt. Abraham Lincoln and his Republican Party were concerned that the Supreme Court, led by the odious Roger Taney, would declare it unconstitutional, or rule that it terminated when the Civil War ended. By this time there was a strong belief that slavery sullied the nation’s principle of equality of all people before the law. Foner doesn’t say it, but by this point it must have been obvious that, as Lincoln puts it in his Second Inaugural Address:

These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war.

These and other considerations led to the introduction of several versions of the Thirteenth Amendment in December 1863.

The opposition party, the Democrats, offered a number of objections. One was the slippery slope argument. Give freedom to enslaved people and they’ll demand the vote, the right to own property, the right to testify in court, and and even “racial amalgamation” P. 33. This sometimes took the form of outright racism bellowed on the floor of the House and Senate.

Fernando Wood, the former mayor of New York City now a member of the House of Representatives, painted a lurid picture of the amendment’s consequences: “It involves the extermination of the white men of the southern States, and the forfeiture of all the land and other property belonging to them.” P. 33.

Others took a states rights position, that each state should make its own decision. Still others warned against the intrusion of the federal government into property rights. If the government could free slaves without compensation, what prevented it from taking the factories of the north? Some opposition Democrats even thought slavery should be permitted after the war.

The debates went on throughout 1864. The bill received fewer than the required ⅔ in the House. It was brought back in the lame duck session after the election of 1864, and passed January 12 with Lincoln in full support. The story of his change of mind is fascinating: here’s a review of a book Foner wrote about it.

The 13th Amendment does more than abolish slavery. Section 2 gives Congress unprecedented power to enforce it. Foner says this provision changed the relationship between the federal and state governments in our dual sovereignty system. For the first time, Congress was specifically empowered to legislate in the area of the rights of citizens of the states.

Ratification required the votes of ¾ of the states. That took the rest of the year, and the 13th Amendment became part of the Constitution on December 19, 1865. Foner points out that Mississippi abolished slavery in in its post-war constitution, but refused to ratify the 13th Amendment until 1995.

… [I]ts legislative Committee on Federal and State Relations explained why: the second section might in the future be interpreted to authorize Congress “to legislate in respect to freedmen in this state. [We] can hardly conceive of a more dangerous grant of power.” P. 39.

The 13th Amendment didn’t answer a basic question: what does it mean to be free. As one Democratic congressman put it, “mere exemption from servitude is a miserable idea of freedom”. P. 41. The matter was debated extensively throughout the Reconstruction Era, and the debate continues today. There was general agreement that freedom included a man’s right to control his own person, to earn his living by his labor, and to keep the proceeds of his labor to support himself and his family. But the entire agricultural system of the slave states was based on unfree labor, on slavery, and to change to a system of free labor was an enormous undertaking.

Slavers and White Supremacists seized on the punishment clause of the 13th Amendment: slavery was abolished “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted”. Foner notes that this clause was added without much attention, simply because it was part of a similar provision in the Northwest Ordnance.

Starting with Mississippi the slave states enacted Black Codes. These made it a crime for Black men not to have jobs, and the punishment was to be leased out by the State to plantation owners where they would be forced to work for free. They also grabbed Black children and forced them into unpaid apprenticeships on the ground that their parents couldn’t afford to take care of them.

Foner points out that very few people thought the 13th Amendment changed the common law of coverture: men were entitled to their wives’ unpaid home services and sexual relations. Black women probably didn’t think coverture was much af an improvement for themselves, but at least they could marry and keep their children.

It was apparent that much more would be necessary if Black people were to be truly free.

Discussion

1. This material is infuriating. It’s horrifying that I didn’t know much of this history. Surely somewhere I heard about the Black Codes? But I’m sure it wasn’t in any history class I took in my 19 years of schooling. And in the slave states (sorry, I mean Red States), politicians are trying to stamp out this history altogether, supported by slabs of money from people afraid to put their names on the checks.

2. The historical links between the Black Codes and the carceral state, are, I trust, obvious.

3. Dual sovereignty has proven itself to be a disaster for many of us. US citizenship confers few meaningful political rights. Your political rights depend almost entirely on the state you live in. Your right to vote, your right to medical treatment, your right to a decent education, your right to walk the streets without being terrorized by gun freaks, and most other rights we think of as basic to our liberty, all come from state law. If you live in a Red State you have the right to shorter life, poorer working conditions, lower wages, an indifferent education, restricted voting rights, and whatever health care you can buy. If you live in a Blue State, you live better.

That’s not true in other countries. Germany doesn’t let Bavaria decide to provide a different health care system than Saxony. Japan doesn’t let the kids in Osaka use vastly different textbooks than kids in Hiroshima. India doesn’t let Uttar Pradesh decide who can vote; in fact there are no countries that let political subdivisions create voting restrictions. That’s because being German or Indian or Japanese means you are a citizen of a nation, not of a province.

What does it mean to be a citizen of the US? We’re still arguing about that after 250 years. And SCOTUS says you are not an American, you’re a Georgian or a Californian when it comes to the important parts of your daily life. SCOTUS, of course, stands firmly on the side the the successors to the slavers.


Daylight Come, and He Got to Go Home

I woke up this morning, and as is my habit, I turned on the news. Today, I was shook by the news that Harry Belafonte had died. Throughout the day, obituaries and reminiscences have appeared, each lifting up various parts of his 96 years – his singing, his acting, his activism, his pride in his heritage, his compassion for the oppressed, and his disdain for those who oppress. So I thought I’d add my own thoughts, bringing in one piece that I haven’t seen mentioned in the coverage today.

Thirty three years ago, on May 21, 1990, a grand memorial service was held for Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppets. It took place at New York City’s mammoth Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Harry was one of the speakers that day, asked to speak because of his collaboration with Henson and the Muppets on several occasions. His remarks that day included this:

. . . But greater than [Henson’s] artistry was his humanity.

Unless you have moved among the wretched of the earth;
unless you have spent countless hours on the reservations of this country that house the Native Americans and the Indians who live out hopeless lives on their reservations;
unless you have moved among those who live in ghettos, contained by segregation and deprivation;
unless you have moved among vast peoples who sit on continents that are still struggling for their human rights and their dignity;
unless you have sat among tribes who care for children that face an existence of hopelessness;
you will never really understand Jim Henson until you have understood how he has touched the lives of those people.

Many have no hope.

Many mothers sit in many places, holding their children, desperately understanding that they will never be educated, they will never have a chance at life as it should be. And when they get a chance to see the smile of the faces of their children, as they develop the appetite to learn because they are watching Sesame Street, when they have developed the appetite to love in a loveless place because they have seen how friendly the Muppets and the creatures are to one another, when they find their own humanity in the humanity of these creations, then you have understood the real gift of Jim Henson and his colleagues.

I say this, because I have moved among those people, and I have seen in these wretched places smiles break out on faces that have never been familiar with the cause of a smile, and have come to life and have been touched in a profound way because Jim Henson said “There is hope, there is joy, there is the ability to love and to care and to find greatness in difference.”

This says a lot about Jim Henson, and a lot more about Harry Belafonte. The two of them collaborated on a number of projects, including his appearance on The Muppet Show, in which they used song and skits and “children’s stuff” to push the subversive idea that Harry spoke of at Jim’s memorial: there is hope, there is joy, there is the ability to love and to care and to find greatness in difference.

And that’s what made Harry Belafonte tick.

He knew that these things were true, because he had seen them, embraced them, and spent his life trying to spread them to the world, often at significant cost to himself. The story of a Chrysler representative trying to pull the plug on a Petula Clark special featuring Belafonte is but one example. Chrysler rep: “Could you reshoot that song with Petula Clark? She touched his arm, and we think our customers might take offense to a white woman touching a black man’s arm.” Harry’s producer: “No.” The song stayed, as recorded, but it again put Belafonte against yet another of the Powers That Be and made things harder for him down the line.

But back the Harry and the Muppets . . .

Who could not laugh at Harry having an epic drum-off with Animal? (Think of Dueling Banjos, except with percussion. And Muppets.)

Who could not smile at Harry swallowing his frustration with Fozzy Bear continually coming in late as Harry directed the cast of the Muppet Show in singing The Banana Boat Song?

Who could not be entranced with Harry and several African-styled Muppets singing the Belafonte/Henson song “Turn the World Around” and not want to dance and sing along? [This is the song that Harry sang at Henson’s memorial service after he finished his remarks quoted above.]

Harry Belafonte understood the power of song and story, especially to give voice and agency to those at the margins. In 2014, Belafonte spoke movingly at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards, when they honored the best director, Steve McQueen, whose film 12 Years a Slave had been received to great acclaim.

The power of cinema is an uncontainable thing and it’s truly remarkable, in its capacity for emotional evolution. When I was first watching the world of cinema, there was a film that stunned the world, with all its aspects and art form. They did a lot, at that time. The film was done by D.W. Griffith, and it was called The Birth of a Nation, and it talked about America’s story, its identity, and its place in the universe of nations. And that film depicted the struggles of this country with passion and power and great human abuse. Its depiction of black people was carried with great cruelty. And the power of cinema styled this nation, after the release of the film, to riot and to pillage and to burn and to murder black citizens. The power of film.

At the age of five, in 1932, I had the great thrill of going to the cinema. It was a great relief for those of us who were born into poverty, a way we tried to get away from the misery. One of the films they made for us, the first film I saw, was Tarzan of the Apes. [Ed note: The movie is called Tarzan the Ape Man.] In that film, [we] looked to see the human beauty of Johnny Weissmuller swinging through the trees, jump off, and there spring to life, while the rest were depicted as grossly subhuman, who were ignorant, who did not know their way around the elements, living in forests with wild animals. Not until Johnny Weissmuller stepped into a scene did we know who we were, according to cinema. . . .

A lot’s gone on with Hollywood. A lot could be said about it. But at this moment, I think what is redeeming, what is transformative, is the fact that a genius, an artist, is of African descent, although he’s not from America, he is of America, and he is of that America which is part of his own heritage; [he] made a film called 12 Years a Slave, which is stunning in the most emperial way. So it’s a stage that enters a charge made by The Birth of a Nation, that we were not a people, we were evil, rapists, abusers, absent of intelligence, absent of soul, heart, inside. In this film, 12 Years a Slave, Steve steps in and shows us, in an overt way, that the depth and power of cinema is there for now the world to see us in another way. I was five when I saw Tarzan of the Apes, and the one thing I never wanted to be, after seeing that film, was an African. I didn’t want to be associated with anybody that could have been depicted as so useless and meaningless. And yet, life in New York led me to other horizons, other experiences. And now I can say, in my 87th year of life, that I am joyed, I am overjoyed, that I should have lived long enough to see Steve McQueen step into this space and for the first time in the history of cinema, give us a work, a film, that touches the depths of who we are as a people, touches the depths of what America is as a country, and gives us a sense of understanding more deeply what our past has been, how glorious our future will be, and could be.

Whether he was honoring greats like Steve McQueen and Jim Henson, or singing songs with Petula Clark and Fozzy Bear, Harry Belafonte was finding hope, joy, love, and greatness in diversity as he embraced the differences in the world. He worked not only as a leader in the US civil rights movement, but also against apartheid in South Africa and returned there years after apartheid fell to encourage South Africa’s anti-AIDS efforts. He was a UNICEF ambassador and the Grand Marshall for the 2013 NYC Pride Parade. Read the various obituaries, and watch the various memorials, and you will see a man who moved among the powerless, and lived his life to give them the dignity that they deserve, the voice they lacked, and the rights that are their right.

The jam session in heaven tonight is going to be one for the ages, because daylight came and Harry got to go home.

________

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Supporting Those Who Make Good Trouble

I called it good trouble. I called it necessary trouble. And ​every so often, when you see something that is not right, not fair, not just — you have to say no, no.”

–John Lewis

In my work as a pastor, I cross paths with a lot of “Good Trouble” makers. Some are church-related and others not religious at all. Some are connected with big international groups, others work at the national or state level, and still others are involved with seat-of-the-pants local organizations with a small board and a couple of key volunteers. What they all have in common is what John Lewis talked about – they saw something that is not right, not fair, not just, and they said no. They said “no” to what is, and then rolled up their sleeves to say “yes” to what is needed.

As we approach the end of the year, I want to lift up a number of these makers of Good Trouble. If you want to enjoy their stories, read on and then go link-hopping through their websites. If you share their passion for standing up against a particular wrong, a specific injustice, or a structural unfairness, I urge you to make a little Good Trouble of your own, by finding the “Donate” buttons on their websites and help them out.

Legal Disclaimer #1: What follows are *my* comments, and do not imply any endorsement by Emptywheel.net, Marcy Wheeler, or anyone else here at EW. Information at the links (or quoted here from their websites) are, of course, the statements of those groups, and they are responsible for how they describe themselves.

One group of Good Trouble makers I interact with a lot are those involved in feeding the hungry — hungry being people without homes who have been caught in economic distress to entire communities devastated by a natural disaster. Either way, the Good Trouble makers in the groups below are people who see someone in need of a basic meal and say “this is not right, not fair, not just — we gotta get these folks some food.”

Feeding America:

Feeding America is the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States.

Our mission is to advance change in America by ensuring equitable access to nutritious food for all in partnership with food banks, policymakers, supporters, and the communities we serve.

Feeding America is an umbrella organization made up of food banks that span the country. A food bank is a wholesale operation, designed to collect donations (especially in-kind) from farmers and food companies and then making them available at little or no cost to local food pantries who do the retail work of distributing it to those in need. Feeding America has a big directory of regional food banks, and each of these food banks has its own list of food pantries they support.

Here in metro Kansas City, Harvesters is our food bank, and I’ve worked with them and a number of food pantries they support. Harvesters is a top-notch, transparent operation, and they expect nothing less from the food pantries that utilize them. To gain access to Harvesters, a food pantry has to have their location inspected and their leaders have to go through a Harvesters training program, in part to familiarize themselves with the Harvesters reporting obligations,  and in part to make sure that the gifts Harvesters has received are put to good use. No letting stuff spoil, no making clients sick, and no taking some off the top for your own organization.

Harvesters provides food and related household products to more than 760 nonprofit agencies including emergency food pantries, community kitchens, homeless shelters, children’s homes and others. We also offer education programs to increase community awareness of hunger and teach about good nutrition.

Harvesters is a certified member of Feeding America, a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks. In 2011, Harvesters was Feeding America’s Food Bank of the Year. We are a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

One big element of of Harvesters is that they require that any food pantry that uses their resources must be completely free to the people in need, and free of any religious requirements. Not only can these groups not charge any financial fees, but they cannot require their patrons to attend a bible study or other religious event. A church-run pantry can say “We operate this food pantry because of our Christian faith” but they cannot require people to attend worship before getting a couple sacks of food.

If you are interested in dealing with food insecurity in the US, whether at a national, regional, or street level, Feeding America and its affiliates offer a wealth of places that could use your support.

Other hunger-related organizations are aimed at disaster relief. Two that I long have supported are World Central Kitchen and Operation BBQ Relief (a group that our own Jim White works with). These are groups that come in after a disaster has hit, and work to get the community back on its feet with immediate support, feeding both the local residents affected by the disaster as well as the medical folks, utility crews, and others who have come to deal with the medical and logistical work of recovery.

World Central Kitchen:

WCK responds to natural disasters, man-made crises, and humanitarian emergencies around the world. We’re a team of food first responders, mobilizing with the urgency of now to get meals to the people who need them most. Deploying our model of quick action, leveraging local resources, and adapting in real time, we know that a nourishing meal in a time of crisis is so much more than a plate of food—it’s hope, it’s dignity, and it’s a sign that someone cares.

Operation BBQ Relief:

Armed with a caravan of cooks, mobile pits, kitchens and volunteers, Operation BBQ Relief delivers the healing power of BBQ in times of need, feeding first responders and communities affected by natural disasters along with year-round efforts to fight hunger through The Always Serving Project® and Camp OBR™ programs.

Another group of Good Trouble makers that I am becoming more familiar with are those who work and speak from the margins of society. Some groups work to challenge those at the center, those with the power, those whose work is causing pain at the margins. Other groups work with those at the margins to simply say “we are here,” lifting up and encouraging one another not to be content with scraps from the master’s table. Note, please, that both groups do challenging and uplifting things, just with a different emphasis and approach.

For example, consider the following groups, all associated with the Native American community.

Association on American Indian Affairs:

The Association on American Indian Affairs is the oldest non-profit serving Indian Country protecting sovereignty, preserving culture, educating youth and building capacity. The Association was formed in 1922 to change the destructive path of federal policy from assimilation, termination and allotment, to sovereignty, ​self-determination and self-sufficiency. Throughout our 100-year history, we have provided national advocacy on watershed issues that support sovereignty and culture, while working at a grassroots level with Tribes to support the implementation of programs that affect real lives on the ground.

Native American Rights Fund:

Our Mission: The Native American Rights Fund holds governments accountable. We fight to protect Native American rights, resources, and lifeways through litigation, legal advocacy, and legal expertise.

Native American Journalists Association:

NAJA serves and empowers Native journalists through programs and actions designed to enrich journalism and promote Native cultures.

NAJA recognizes Native Americans as distinct peoples based on tradition and culture. In this spirit, NAJA educates and unifies its membership through journalism programs that promote diversity and defends challenges to free press, speech and expression. NAJA is committed to increasing the representation of Native journalists in mainstream media. NAJA encourages both mainstream and tribal media to attain the highest standards of professionalism, ethics and responsibility.

Indian Country Today:

Telling the stories of indigenous communities by indigenous journalists is at the core of Indian Country Today. Since our beginnings in 1981 as a weekly newspaper, ICT has grown into the largest news organization serving Native American communities. In April 2020, we expanded into public broadcasting through a daily newscast about how the coronavirus pandemic has affected American Indians, First Nations and Alaska Natives.

With this bold new step into public television, Indian Country Today has become a spacious channel through which it distributes news across multiple platforms. Coverage includes digital, print and broadcast news outlets featuring top stories, news, lifestyle and classified job listings.

American Indian Science and Engineering Society:

The American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) is a national nonprofit organization focused on substantially increasing the representation of Indigenous peoples of North America and the Pacific Islands in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) studies and careers.

Founded in 1977, growing the AISES membership above our current 5,900 individual members is key to achieving our mission. AISES supports 230 affiliated pre-college schools, 196 chartered college and university chapters, 3 tribal chapters, and 18 professional chapters in the U.S. and Canada. We promote the highest standards of education and professional excellence to widen the STEM workforce and grow sector support. We highlight the geographic, economic, and social aspects of STEM education and careers.

In addition to awarding nearly $12 million and counting in academic scholarships, AISES offers internships, professional development and career resources, national and regional conferences, leadership development summits, and other STEM-focused programming.

I could go on like this for a long time, but let me offer just one more example of Good Trouble makers, whose passion is to stand against book banning and book burning.

In both Kansas and Missouri, public libraries and public schools are seeing more and more challenges to books written by Good Trouble makers who write to address matters of race, gender, sexual orientation, and other similar things. The folks challenging these kinds of books say “Don’t get political” but what they really mean is “Don’t trouble the waters and make us look at uncomfortable things.”

On the one hand, the fact that these folks are upset with libraries and schools is a good thing. It means that the Good Trouble maker writers, librarians, teachers, and administrators are having an effect. They are making Good Trouble, and it’s causing problematic people to feel uncomfortable. On the other hand, these writers, librarians, teachers, and administrators need support, to encourage them to keep on keeping on.

PEN America:

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

Founded in 1922, PEN America is the largest of the more than 100 centers worldwide that make up the PEN International network. PEN America works to ensure that people everywhere have the freedom to create literature, to convey information and ideas, to express their views, and to access the views, ideas, and literatures of others. Our strength is our Membership—a nationwide community of more than 7,500 novelists, journalists, nonfiction writers, editors, poets, essayists, playwrights, publishers, translators, agents, and other writing professionals, as well as devoted readers and supporters who join with them to carry out PEN America’s mission.

PEN America, a registered 501(c)(3) organization, is headquartered in New York City, with offices in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. and chapters in seven regions.

American Library Association:

Founded on October 6, 1876 during the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, the mission of ALA is “to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.”

In pursuing our mission, the Association’s core value statements define our deepest aspirations and how we approach our work together. They are:

  • Extending and expanding library services in America and around the world
  • All types of libraries – academic, public, school and special
  • All librarians, library staff, trustees and other individuals and groups working to improve library services
  • Member service
  • An open, inclusive, and collaborative environment
  • Ethics, professionalism and integrity
  • Excellence and innovation
  • Intellectual freedom
  • Social responsibility and the public good
  • Sustainability

Like I said, I could go on like this for a long time.

But what I really want to know is this: Who are the Good Trouble makers that you know about, that you support, that you work with, that the rest of us should know about? Put them in the comments, give us a link, and tell us how they go about making Good Trouble.

Legal Disclaimer #2: What follows in the comments are the comments of the person posting them, and do not imply any endorsement by Emptywheel.net, Marcy Wheeler, or anyone else here at EW. Information at the links (or quoted here from their websites) are, of course, the statements of those groups, and they are responsible for how they describe themselves.

With the great mix of commenters here, I’m sure there are plenty of Good Trouble makers you’d like to lift up. I’m also confident that this is the kind of question that might draw out some of the lurkers here. Some do not comment because they feel out of their depth with the subject of many of the posts — but on this post, YOU are the experts, because YOU know who the Good Trouble makers are in your neighborhood.

So have at it, and tell us who makes Good Trouble that deserve props and support. Oh, and if you are so inclined, you can help support the Good Trouble made here at Emptywheel too.


Trash Talk: Here for ‘The Big Game’

Okay, I promised I’d put up a Trash Talk post for The Big Game. Here it is, have at it.

What Big Game, you might ask. Yeah, I made that mistake last week.

I must be slipping a cog because a Michigander like myself should have remembered University of Michigan Wolverines plays its Big Ten rival Ohio State University Buckeyes today.

Most of the hardware stores in this state are probably rather quiet right now. Their usual denizens are likely parked in front of the tube in their favorite sports bar if not their den, if not out in the woods watching on their mobile device while choking out the final weekend of firearm deer season.

They’ve just kicked off. If you want to watch the number 3 ranked team U-M meeting the number two team OSU, you’ll find them on Fox.

Big question going into this game — at least for Michiganders: is running back Blake Corum recovered from last weekend’s injury to his left knee?

~ ~ ~

Let’s switch gears to the NFL —

— You Green Bay Packers haters must be tickled at the season-ending suspension of rookie lineman Sean Rhyan for performance enhancing drugs. Personally, I can’t understand why someone with so much going for them would fuck up like this so early into their career with a professional team. He’s played only one game for the Packers.

— Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones just happened to be watching an effort to harass Black students to prevent them from entering the North Little Rock High School they attended with Jones. A photo surfaced this week in which Jones appears within arm’s length of the harassed students. He was just 14 or 15 years old and it was just a coincidence he was there in that photo watching the harassment Jones expects us to believe. We’re also supposed to give him some credit for having been punished by his high school team for being anywhere near this conflict in which he just stood there.

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith expects to likewise cut Jones, who has profited immensely from so many Black bodies working for him for years, some slack because Jones hasn’t deserved the heat he’s received this week.

Yeah, well those six Black students didn’t deserve the harassment in that 60-odd-year-old photo, the harassment they surely received before that photo, or the discrimination they’ve endured because of structural racism since then.

Smith will continue to benefit from his access journalism and Jones, who has never hired a Black coach, will continue to enjoy his billions.

~ ~ ~

Fucking FIFA. I will be so glad when this atrocity is over.

— “Bonesaw” bin Salman gifted each of Saudi Arabia’s players a Rolls Royce Phantom after their win over Argentina this past Tuesday. Seems on brand awarding a fossil-fueled fossil to a team representing a fossil fuel-producing fossil in a fossil fuel-producer’s futbol series.

— U.S. Men’s National Team tied England 0-0 in yesterday’s Group B match. We’re supposed to be amazed by this. Should we be? I don’t know; I thought the U.S. had a better team but what do I know being a failed soccer mom (failed meaning my youngest played soccer but didn’t enjoy it enough to stay with OR I didn’t nag them enough to stay with it).

— So far World Cup hasn’t crashed the bird app — so far.

~ ~ ~

I don’t really understand Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) let alone the appeal.

Isn’t this just a use-whatever-works-to-bash-your-opponents, a kind of free-for-all ball-free contact sport?

Whatever it is, apparently women can do it, too, and this week’s big women in MMA match saw an undefeated fighter brought down for the first time in the four years the Professional Fighters’ League has been in existence.

Former judo Olympian Kayla Harrison lost to Laura Pacheco in a unanimous decision. This was the third time the pair have met with Harrison coming out on top the first two times.

I wonder how much Harrison’s insta-family has affected her training along with the pandemic having cut into the PFL’s schedule. Harrison’s stepfather died suddenly in 2020 leaving behind an 8-year-old and a 2-year-old, for both of whom Harrison took custody. It’s a lot to add to a person’s plate.

~ ~ ~

Okay, that’s enough from me. There’s roughly nine minutes left in The Big Game and the teams are fairly well matched. The score now is 31-20 with Michigan leading; I wouldn’t bet against Ohio coming from behind.

Tell us what other sportsing you’re watching this weekend.


Trash Talk: Get (Fourth) Down and Dirty

Golf widow here once again, enjoying the dwindling days of Michigan’s golf season.

By which I mean I am doing more fall cleaning while looking forward to a nice cold Modelo and an entertaining book once my chores are done.

Lawn furniture put away? Check.

Outdoor cushions washed and dried? Check.

Fireplace prepped for winter use? Check.

A couple more chores and I can revel in quiet quaffing. I keep a couple lounge chairs on the deck through the winter to enjoy the midday sun; soon I’m going to park in one with a book and my beer and partake in the peak autumn color here.

I’m sure it’s nice out on the fairway but I don’t have to put up with trash talk from the rest of my foursome to do so, nor do I have to spring for beers for the winner.

Golf widowhood for the motherfucking win.

~ ~ ~

If you are a regular Twitter use you already know exactly what happened last night in Major League Baseball because it flooded Twitter users’ feeds.

One friend whined for hours about the Houston Astros (at Seattle Mariners). Another dropped offline because they couldn’t take anymore stress watching the New York Yankees (at Cleveland Guardians).

Best take:

Hell, I didn’t even watch the game and I could feel that one – the Astros-Mariners’ game was over six hours long.

The Guardians didn’t win until the ninth inning, which merely made the game feel long.

In hindsight I must not follow many people in my other Twitter account in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Los Angeles, or San Diego because their presence as fans was so much less obvious in my Twitter timeline in spite of the Padres beating the Dodgers and the Phillies taking the Braves out of their series with last night’s win.

Dr. Biden caught the Phillies’ win, though.

Good for her.

~ ~ ~

I’m just not in the mood for NFL football today. I’m hanging onto the fleeting sensation of yesterday’s Big 10 conference win by Michigan State’s Spartans against Wisconsin’s Badgers.

It’s not been a good season for the Green and White up to now. Every game has been a roller coaster ride.

Hah. Funny. Manzullo doesn’t note the fourth observation by Scott Bell is that of a University of Michigan fan. U-M is still ranked in the top five in the nation.

Next week will probably be rocky around here, and a good time to go shopping because every public venue except for bars with big screen TVs will be empty while MSU meets in-state rival U-M at U-M.

MSU is expected to get the stuffing knocked out of them but the rivalry is pretty intense and not factored into the odds.

~ ~ ~

This post is called Trash Talk, not sports talk so now I’m going to take out the trash

This tweet by Maggie Haberman crystalizes what the fuck is wrong with Haberman’s journalism.

Pure regurgitation, no analysis, zero pushback on naked hate. Her subject barfed up a noxious furball she then dutifully carried from the cesspool in which he left it to the bigger pond at Twitter.

Haberman is trash, allowing herself to be used for hateful propaganda purposes.

~ ~ ~

All right, have at it, use this as an open thread. Air out your trash.

And pass me my beer.


What Family Rifts at Funerals can Teach Us About Pardoning Presidents

Watching the coverage of the death of Elizabeth II, two questions seem to be on a constant loop. The first is political: “How will Charles change the monarchy?” The second is personal: “Will the funeral heal the rift between Harry and William/Charles/the rest of the family?” The discussions that follow, between television anchors, reporters, and “royal watchers” have provided me with great amusement. “Oh look: Charles said something nice about Harry and Meghan in his first broadcast after the Queen’s death! Perhaps all is well again!!” The wishfulness of the discussion — “Surely the funeral of their beloved mother/grandmother will bring the family together, and they can heal from the past unpleasantness” — says much more about the hopes that these media folks have and much less about the reality of how a family torn apart acts as a family funeral approaches.

As a pastor for more than three decades, I’ve never done a royal funeral, but I’ve done plenty of regular funerals, including those of matriarchs who had presided over a divided family. Most of the time, what I’ve seen is that either (a) the family members manage to sit on their frustrations with one another for a week or so as the funeral goes forward, and then they return to their earlier fighting, or (b) the funeral intensifies the fighting, as they argue about the decisions made around the funeral itself. Occasionally, the funeral does help to begin a healing process, as folks who have not seen “those monsters” in years are now in the same room for the first time again, and they realize that these other folks aren’t the monsters they have seen them to be in the past. It doesn’t happen five minutes after the burial, but with a willingness to work on both sides, healing is possible. But it sure isn’t the magic “If only Harry and William can sit next to each other at the funeral, everything will be fixed!” that so many commentators are looking for.

Which brings me to the other crazy question I’ve seen popping up more and more often between anchors, reporters, and political pundits. This is the question posed by Chuck Todd that NBC chose to highlight as they tease the Meet The Press interview with VP Kamala Harris that airs in full tomorrow:

Let me try to go to 60,000 feet. What do you say to the argument that it would be too divisive to the country to prosecute a former president?

Earth to Chuck Todd, and anyone else who asks this question: the country *is* deeply divided already.

Giving Trump a pass to “avoid division” is like that scenario (a) at the family funeral, except you are betting that everyone can sit on their frustrations not for a week but forever. Turning the question around — “Would it be too divisive to the country to give a former president a pass for illegal behavior?” — ought to make it clear how silly both questions are.

Step One in dealing with divisions — either at a family funeral or in national politics — is admitting your family/nation is already divided.

As an interim pastor, I work with congregations whose previous pastor has left. Maybe that pastor retired, died, took a new call elsewhere, or was run out of town on a rail. One of the things I often have to help the congregation deal with is conflict, either between the old pastor and the members, or between the members themselves. Whenever I hear “Yes, we had divisions, but now that the old pastor is gone, everything is just fine now” I have to figure out how get them to pull their heads out of the sand. “What’s going to happen when you disagree with your next pastor?” I ask them, knowing that for the immediate future, I am that next pastor. “What do you have to say to the folks around here who loved that old pastor and blame you for running that pastor off?”

Within the House of Windsor, simply coming up with the right seating chart at the funeral for Elizabeth will not wash away the pain that led the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to withdraw from royal duties and decamp to the US. Similarly, pardoning Trump, either by choosing not to prosecute or by an act of President Biden, will not heal the nation either.

What *will* help both the House of Windsor and the United States is to admit that divisions already exist.

Step Two in dealing with divisions, then, is to explore that divided reality. What, specifically, does that painful divided reality look like? What are the presenting issues, that anyone can see at the surface? What are the underlying issues, that lie deeper down, at the heart of the trouble? What are the triggers, that bring all that buried pain out into the open again? How is everyone being hurt by these divisions?

Looking at all that is not easy. It requires a willingness to dig into a painful past, to admit to past bad behavior (your own as well as that of others), and to accept just how bad things have gotten for everyone involved. Until you do that, all you are doing is papering over division and pretending things aren’t that bad.

In the US, the arguments about race and the causes of the Civil War are a perfect illustration of this. So long as a non-trivial part of the country denies that the Civil War was about slavery (“it was the war of Northern Aggression, fought over state’s rights”), our country will never be able to fully deal with how race continues to divide our country today. If you don’t think racism divides our country today, please go back to step one and try again.

Only when the divided congregation or family or nation has done the hard work of examining its own ugly past are they ready to move to Step Three.

Step Three is to look at what you’d like the future to be. What would a healthy House of Windsor look like? How would members treat one another, in ways that are different than what caused the fractures in the past? What would a healthy United States of America look like? How would those with different political views treat one another, in ways that are different from what caused the fractures in the past?

Step Four, then, is to figure out how to get to that future. That’s a conversation about rules, roles, and responsibilities, with unstated assumptions put out in the open and mixed expectations clarified. It’s about crafting behavior that rebuild trust, dignity, and belonging for everyone involved.

The big lesson in all of this is that THERE IS NO SHORTCUT.

You can’t just jump to step four, without doing all the work of the other three steps. You can try, but you’re just sticking your fingers in your ears and singing “La la la – I can’t hear you.” You don’t need to take my word for this. Just look at the House of Windsor.

When the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced they were leaving their royal roles behind, that was Step One behavior. “Our family is painfully divided.” No more smiling masks, no more pretending all is well, and no more trying to ignore the pain.

When they sat down for their interview with Oprah, that was Step Two behavior. “Here’s what happened, at least from our point of view.”

Ever since then, the royal family had various private conversations to sort things out further, including such things as whether Harry and Meghan would be part of the Platinum Jubilee celebration last summer. (The answers at that time were that they were included in small family gatherings, but not the big public ones.) Now they are having similar conversations around the Queen’s funeral and the coming coronation ceremony that will follow in a few months. This is all Step Three and Step Four behavior.

To the extent that things are getting better for the House of Windsor, it’s because they’ve been working hard at Steps One through Three, not that they simply came together magically at a funeral and jumped to Step Four.

The US political press and political actors could learn a lot from the House of Windsor. Those who worry about prosecuting a past president need to recognize that this doesn’t cause division, but is a step along the way to healing – part of the hard work of Step Two that explores the divided reality in all its painful, ugly depth. The work of the January 6 Committee in the House of Representatives is Step Two behavior, and so is the work of the DOJ to investigate possible criminal behavior of the former president and his minions.

Until we as a nation are willing to honestly look at our ugly reality, we will never heal.

 


The L-Word Not Used [UPDATE-1]

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. Update at the bottom of this post. /~Rayne]

I wish MSNBC did a better job of getting their content up on YouTube; I really need a link to Nicolle Wallace’s interview of Morgan State University’s Dr. Jason Johnson and his reaction to testimony by Fulton County GA election worker Shaye Moss. (temporary link: https://youtu.be/fEHkOzfa9Zs)

Before answering Wallace’s request for reaction, Johnson expressed concern about ‘performative Blackness’ — behaving as whites might expect of a Black American — but his fury was absolutely righteous.

Johnson acknowledged Shaye and her family should not have been subjected to the harassment unleashed on them by Donald Trump, but he went a bit further. He could identify with Moss’s grandmother as his own. This assault on the conduct of elections was personal.

Many of us are shocked, angry, dismayed by the harrying intimidation Moss and her mother and grandmother endured simply because Moss and her mother were election workers. Some of us have been moved to tears.

But what we’re missing is what Dr. Johnson avoided saying in his care to avoid offending white Americans with ‘performative Blackness’.

What was described by the testimony today was the mobilization of a lynch mob.

When watching or reading news coverage of today’s hearing, written, produced, and delivered by predominantly white Americans, listen closely for the generalization of terror. Election workers in multiple states were all subjected to harassment by angry protesters incited by Trump.

But Shaye Moss and her family endured another layer of terror — that of recognizing the horror aimed at Black Americans since the Civil War for having the temerity of exercising their rights as citizens, for supporting others’ right to vote.

As Johnson explained it, election officials — all of them white — were able to avail themselves of some security provided by the state due to their governmental roles.

But Moss and her mother and grandmother were only election workers, not officials.

They were on their own to work out how to protect themselves from the threat of mob violence over months’ time.

The white election officials will go on about their lives, perhaps facing the occasional in-your-face annoyance from Trumpers, but they won’t have to worry they’ll continue to be targets of violence.

Moss and her family know how lynch mobs work. Her visually obvious stress today may reflect this deep cultural knowledge unfamiliar to white Americans.

This is not to minimize the experience of officials like Rusty Bowers, whose daughter was not only seriously ill but likely mortally so as she passed away 22 days after January 6. It must have been horrifying to know his wife and daughter were subjected to harassment at such a critical time in their lives.

It must have horrifying to know one’s young teen was alone at home in the case of another election official, unable to predict how the protesters would act as time went on.

Neither, though, were targeted simply for being election workers who were Black in a white-minority county, doing their jobs while not having any authority to change anything about the election.

Hunted down and harassed by a mob because mother Ruby passed her daughter Shaye a mint. Fearful going forward, always looking over their shoulder, because they know these kinds of mobs and how they operate.

White pundits and reporters have and will discuss the terror Trump inflicted on election officials, but they’ve not yet mentioned the specific kind of terror Moss and her family experienced and continue to experience.

~ ~ ~

There’s another facet which surfaced as Moss testified and her mother’s testimony was streamed. Moss explained how she enjoyed serving her community’s exercise of the vote, in keeping with her grandmother’s teaching that the vote was critically important.

This was an expression of secular communion — ministering to the community especially those most in need of aid to participate.

Where Arizona’s Rusty Bowers explained his belief in a spiritual link between the nation’s founders and the drafting of the Constitution as well as his deep respect for that relationship, Moss expressed a link which was similar to that bond between members of faith communities. It is a vital thing which brings the community together regularly and unifies them in the act of perpetuating democracy.

The lynch mob Trump dispatched broke that link, severing Moss from that which her forebear impressed upon her.

This was a psychic and spiritual injury inflicted by Trump, his minions and mob, upon a Black American family and community.

Those of us who have been moved to tears at the loss Moss and her family experienced may not be able to articulate what this damage was because we have not been taught to value this social act of unification. For white Americans in particular this damage may not be perceived as lasting.

But it’s real and it was shredded by that racist entitled monster Trump.

~ ~ ~

This post may disturb community members here, most of whom are white. They may feel discomfort at the idea of a lynch mob incited by an American president when white election officials were also targeted by angry protesters (waiting for the hashtag NotAllElectionOfficials).

Don’t give into this discomfort. Do not be blind to role race plays when the GOP congressional caucus has obstructed voter rights protections, when states with GOP-led legislatures have failed to ensure voter suppression targeting BIPOC voters has ended.

Lynching isn’t always violent physical death or terror which diminishes Black Americans’ lives. Sometimes it’s the slow whittling away of their citizenship, one squelched civil rights bill at a time.

You want to make it up to Moss and her family and her community? Figure out how to fix this and ensure their full civil rights including the right to vote. The filibuster, for example, should never impede civil rights to which all Americans are entitled.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-1 — 2:50 PM ET 22-JUN-2022 —

Susan A. Kitchens captured the entire segment on MSNBC’s Deadline with Nicolle Wallace, posting it in a Twitter thread. Dr. Jason Johnson’s remarks are a must-watch.


The attempt to overturn the 2020 election for the corrupt benefit of Donald J. Trump wasn’t just seditious conspiracy or obstruction of government proceedings, or conspiracy to defraud the United States.

It was a massive attack on civil rights by intimidation of election workers and officials in an effort to deny Americans their voting rights. This cannot go undeterred and unpunished; failure to do so represents a collapse of American democracy.

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Originally Posted @ https://www.emptywheel.net/racism/