Monday, January 18, 2021

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2021

Today we set aside to recognize the contributions of a man to the cause of equality.  A recognition of the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his contributions to non-violent protest, equality, and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

An ordained Baptist minister, you can see the inspiration he drew from the commands to love the Lord your God above all, to love your neighbor as yourself, and to love your enemies.  His call for non-violence from Jesus' instruction to turn the other cheek.

He serves as a reminder to us that we are all derived from one creator; that there is "neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."  We could add to that list that there is neither black nor white.  

And he reminds us that our founding documents declare that "all men are created equal" and it is our job to hold our country to that truth.  

"All we say to America is, "Be true to what you said on paper." If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand some of these illegal injunctions. Maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn't committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right. And so just as I say, we aren't going to let dogs or water hoses turn us around, we aren't going to let any injunction turn us around. We are going on."

Since 1994, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day has been recognized as a day for service.  The only federal holiday to be a day on, not a day off, reflecting our responsibility to each other.  May we remember the call to action.  And refuse to be silent about the things that matter.


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Trump Impeached Once Again

In a historic move, the House of Representatives has voted to impeach President Trump for a second time.  The vote was 232 for impeachment, 197 against, and largely along party lines.  Though there is a spot of hope - 10 Republican Representatives voted FOR impeachment, including high ranking leadership like Liz Cheney.

This is unprecedented.  This makes Trump the first president to be impeached twice.  It makes Trump's impeachment count equal with all prior presidential impeachments.  Trump's impeachment included just one article, incitement of insurrection, making him the first president to be impeached for ties to insurrection.

We remain in dark days in this country.  While this move is necessary, it is not something to be celebrated.  The fact that we are here reflected on how fragile our democracy is, how easily portions of us can be swayed by mis- and dis-information, and just how much damage has been done over the past five years.

We do have bright spots, though.  While once again, this may not result in any kind of action in the Senate, it reflects an attempt to provide consequences for the president's actions leading up to last Wednesday.  We also see Republicans willing to step up and be patriots.  To put country above party and to endanger their seat by refusing to capitulate to Trump and his cult like base.  Their willingness to vote for impeachment signals the beginning of the end for Trump in the Republican party.  Whether that is through a complete fracture or through a disassociation remains to be seen.

Either way, it will certainly be an interesting seven days ahead

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Inevitability and Identity

I’ve been struggling a lot the latter part of this week to put my thoughts regarding Wednesday’s attempted coup into words. And so much keeps happening, so much keeps being revealed this week that its been dizzying to try and keep up. In this process, I hit on two words that have kept repeating throughout the discourse I’ve witnessed over these past four days and ringing through my own head. 

Inevitability and Identity. 

Each relate to unique sentiments expressed in virtually all discussion I observed regarding the events. First, that the events themselves were not a surprise. And second, that they do not represent us. 

The first statement being an acknowledgment of the series of events that led to the insurrection on Wednesday. The second an attempt to assure ourselves that America is better than this. 

One is a truth we must acknowledge, the other a lie, or at least a half-truth, that must be dismantled. 

I’d like to discuss them both in turn. 

Inevitability

If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.

Abraham Lincoln, January 1838

First, inevitability. That the events of Wednesday, January 6, 2021 should not come as a surprise to anyone. They shock the conscience for sure. They are galling. They are horrifying in their implications. And we have valid reasons to be worried about the next several days because of them. But they do not come as a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention over the past five years. 

The events of the insurrection were the natural result of the narrative that Donald J. Trump spent the last five years finely crafting. The victimhood and persecution of the conservative. His narcissistic personality disorder refusing to acknowledge any situation in which he could fairly lose. Before the 2016 election, he had already started the narrative that any election he lost would have to be rigged against him. Before he was even a proven candidate. 

It’s something we’ve also seen before. Page after page, Trump followed the playbook of the authoritarian and dictatorial regimes that he so often praised. You know, the ones that have led to actual, successful coups.  So, once again, it’s not surprising to see a electoral loss followed by persuasion to strong arm tactics to maintain power, just like those political influences. 

Further, Trump held sway over a fanatical base that was and remains willing to die for him.  He amped up a base that hung on his every word, with the fervor reserved for the most charismatic cult leaders (more on that tomorrow).  And like most cults, this one seems destined to end in a horrible spectacle. 

We don’t even have to look that far back to see the greatest seeds of the sacking of the capital. Just go back to November 2020, following Trump’s projected loss. His calls to fight this to the very end. A refusal to concede or acknowledge defeat. Repeated lies regarding election fraud. Giuliani’s calls for “violence in the streets” and “trial by combat.”  Trump’s day of speech directing his soldiers to march on the capital. To keep the fight going. 

Yes, the seditious attack on the capital was many things, but it was not a surprise. 

Identity. 

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!

Langston Hughes

Which brings us to the second sentiment. That those who perpetrated this heinous act do not represent us. That they are not America. That America is better than this. 

Sorry, but no. That’s not true. Those who perpetrated this act absolutely are America. They are us. 

At least a part of us. America is absolutely the great hope represented by the historic victories in the Georgia senate runoffs. The first African-American senator elected from Georgia.  Astounding that it has taken this long when you realize that Georgia has the third largest African-American population by count and by percentage. 

But we are also the racist, Semitic, xenophobic, white nationalistic, anti-intellectual regression represented by storming of the capital. We are in this situation because we continue to try and ignore this part of our National identity instead of dealing with it once and for all.  We’re the infected patient treating the symptom but not the virus. The addict replacing one addiction for another instead of finally kicking the habit. 

What we saw Wednesday is the result of never really dealing with the National sin of slavery. The result of prematurely ending Reconstruction to appease the Southern States directly enabling into Jim Crow laws to be enacted and turning a bling eye to them. The result of the one successful coup in American history, in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1898, the replacement of a biracial governing body with a white supremacist one.  The result of following the landmark Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s with Redlining  

The result of years of terrible history education in the South based on material that the United Daughters of the Confederacy approved as not harmful to the South, propping up years of belief in the Lost Cause.  This leads to the uncovering of of actual history being labeled as revisionism or fabrication.  All because too many people can’t let go of the myth.  Can’t let go do the lie created by a bunch of racists Southern white women.

The result of a country where largely minority peaceful protestors are tear gassed, shot with rubber bullets, and arrested in droves so the President can take a photo op, while largely white rioters storming the Capital seem to be let in the front door and have a handful arrested in response. 

It’s a result of the perverse mix of religion and politics in America. Particularly within the Evangelical community. A unholy marriage that preys on the Evangelical persecution  complex to make gains for political power. That voice that tells us there is a War on Christmas or that still feels forced prayer in schools is somehow the key to saving America. The voice that tells Christians any minor inconvenience they experience in this country is persecution. The Religious Right accomplishing all the wrong things. 

It’s the result of our cowboy mythology that tells us we don’t need anyone else. That we’re rugged individualists whose ultimate goal is to be free to do what we want. A perversion of the American dream that says that freedom is not being told what to do. And that any voice contrary is an assault on our fundamental freedoms. 

It’s the inherent rebel nature of our country. Constantly in search of a rebellion worth fighting for. We started as scrappy rebels and still see ourselves as such. When we can’t find a just cause, we’ll settle for any cause. 

It’s the result of identity politics that has convinced us that those across the political aisle are the vilest evil scum of the earth.  That thread that believes no Christian can be a Democrat.  That thought that Obama and Hillary were actual demons that smelled like sulfur.  That had bought into the idea that all our political leaders (or more specifically, the ones I don’t agree with) are in a elite pedophilia ring that controls the world.  Maybe it’s time to remember that they are just people, fellow citizens who happen to have different views about how best to improve the country. 

This failed coup represents and will continue to represent America as much as those historic successes do. We are that combination of our millstones and our milestones. Our progressive leaps forward and our many regressive steps backward.

We are what we have always been, a country with the greatest ideals in the world, who most often utterly fails to live up to them. 

Our choice now, is how we proceed. Do we finally address the scabs that Wednesday reveals?  The deep scars and healing that needs to occur?  Do we decide to live up to what America can be? Or do we continue to live in that paradoxical state in between?

That is what will be revealed over these next few days. It’s why there are certain actions that must be taken over the next few days to cement our path forward. 

Republicans and conservatives must own up to the fact that this wasn’t Antifa, but it was a part of their base. The Antifa story was another outright lie and proven fabrication meant to once again mislead millions of Americans.  It was meant to once again provide that shield that this wasn’t us, it can’t be us, it’s someone else. No, it’s time to own up to it and to disavow it. Most have, but there remain several that are still trying to appease and appeal to the worst demons of our nature so they can jockey for position in 2022 and 2024. Enough. 

Trump must be impeached and removed from office. It’s time to show that actions and words have consequences, beyond just being kicked off social media. This step is important to bar him from further office, to prevent his attempt to pardon himself and other co-conspirators, and to deny him the future privileges of his office. When you invite insurrection against the country your are in charge of, you shouldn’t get to continue to benefit from it. 

It’s time to put aside identity politics.  To remember that we are all Americans. That there isn’t one right way to do this. That compromise isn’t always a dirty word, it’s most often how things actually get done. That we need each other to sharpen one another. 

You know, to remember how it’s supposed to work. Who we are supposed to be.  

To remember our ideals and actually strive to live up to them.  Then, maybe then, we can start to heal. It would be inevitable. 

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Once Again, This Isn't How The First Amendment Works

Looks like 2021 is shaping up to be much like 2020.  Too much happening, delaying what I want to write about for what I need to write about.  And since it seems everyone has become a Constitutional scholar once again, I feel we need to have a discussion about how the First Amendment (and in fact, all of our Constitutional protections actually work).

For those who mercifully don't know, discussions of censorship and the First Amendment protection of free speech are popping up again because social media companies like Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter banned President Trump from their platforms as a result of Wednesday's insurrection at the Capital.  Tech companies like Apple and Google have gone further and removed or threatened to remove the social media site Parler from their app stores, unless the "unregulated" platforms put in some kind of content moderation.

This move has of course led to cries of censorship and a violation of the First Amendment Protection of Free Speech from those on the right.  There have been both calls to leave Twitter and to launch a Spartacus-like #WeAreTrump hashtag.  Hard to both leave and trend at the same time.

You can tell the Twitter ban particularly hurt Trump, especially when you view the timeline of his epic addict-like downward spiral yesterday.

It began when Twitter and Facebook immediately banned Trump on Thursday following his incitement of the protestors leading to the sacking of the Capital and the failed insurrection attempt.  Facebook's ban was almost immediately announced to be permanent.  Twitter's was initially a temporary suspension - a twelve-hour ban or cooling off period if you will.  

Once his twitter was reactivated, Trump sent out two since deleted tweets.  The first looked to the future, the second addressed the inauguration.

"The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future.  They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!" - January 8, 2021, 9:46 am

"To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th." - January 8, 2021, 10:44am

Emphasis mine.

Twitter decided in light of those two tweets and in light of Trump's half-hearted "concession" speech, to ban Trump indefinitely.


As part of Twitter's analysis, it feared Trump's most recent tweets were being interpreted as supporting the rioters and that plans for future armed protests had already been proliferating both on and off the platform, including a proposed attack on the U.S. Capitol and state capitol buildings on January 17.  They also feared that Trump's announcement of his intent not to attend the Inauguration could be seen as free rein to attempt a second uprising at the Inaugural event.

Trump took the banning as well as any toddler who has been told no does.  Which is to say, it led to a desperate meltdown.

Trump first tried to tweet via the official President of The United States Twitter handle @POTUS.


Twitter quickly deleted those tweets as a violation

Trump was undeterred and moved to the TeamTrump twitter handle.


It too quickly joined the ban.


Trump then got Gary Coby, his Digital Director, to hand over his account and to rename it to Donald J. Trump, though the @GaryCoby still remained.  Through that account, Trump made it very clear who was tweeting, trying to reach out to Dan Scavino, the White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications and Director of Social Media.


Coby was then banned for a violation of their Enablement Policy.  Essentially a clause that prevents others from helping someone around a ban.


Trump's latest was to create a new handle @ThisIsPOTUS45, on which he tweeted "BIG CENSORSHIP FROM TWITTER! IT'S NOT OVER YET!" and including screen grabs of his previous attempts.


That didn't work either.



It would be comical if it wasn't so sad.  It reeks of an addict jonesing for his fix, desperate to send out another 140 character bon mot.  A cult leader who needs to be in constant touch with his followers to ensure that he maintains his grip on their reality.

And this is our president.  At least for a few days more.

This brings us to the cries of censorship and a violation of Free Speech and a necessary reminder as to why there is no actionable violation in all of this.  

First, yes, this is censorship, but that really doesn't matter.  Censorship isn't actionable unless it affects a protected class based on that class identification or is perpetuated by a governmental action.  Neither are present in this case.  Political affiliation is only a protected class in only a few states.  It's not protected on a federal level.  So you can be dropped from a platform for being a conservative and it still wouldn't be actionable.  It would be highly problematic, it would be financial suicide for companies, but it wouldn't be legally actionable.

It's also not what happened here.  Trump wasn't dropped because he is a "conservative."  (I can't even write in good conscience that he is a conservative without the air quotes.  Trump is Trump and a party unto itself.)  He wasn't dropped for spouting conservative talking points.  He was dropped because he's proven himself to at least negligently and at most deliberately incite a riot because he lost.  And he's still refused to acknowledge his involvement in the event, to shame those involved, and to fully admit defeat.  His statements since the insurrection attempt continue to perpetuate an image of him continuing to fight for a victory "stolen" from him and to encourage his followers to keep up the faith.

He was dropped because he continues to peddle in lies and at some point, if we want to put an end to misinformation, to disinformation, and to "fake news," we have to recognize that those that peddle it cannot be given platforms to continue to speak it.  Facebook, Twitter, Apple, and Google are private companies that have no obligation to provide the president a platform to voice his every thought.  He already has a press department, can call a press conference at the drop of a hat, and could be aired on every network if he needed.  They've even activated that forced message to all cellular phones technology.  He hasn't been silenced; he's just been inconvenienced from using his favorite rant delivery mechanism.

Which brings us to Free Speech.  Again, Free Speech isn't implicated because these are all private actors.  Private companies and individuals can censor all they like, within very few restrictions.  They can refuse service to anyone, so long as it is not a person in a protected class.  Facebook could decide to only let on people with red hair, green eyes, and who love the band Bowling for Soup.  Twitter could block all vegetarians if they so decided.  They could, it wouldn't be smart and the market would bear that out, but they absolutely could legally do so.  

What we are seeing is a free market action deciding what is permissible in its space.  You know, the kind of thing conservatives used to champion.  It's the same argument conservatives were making when it was a Christian baker and a cake for a gay wedding.  It's just getting a different response when the shoe is on the other foot.

I have to admit enjoying a bit of schadenfreude last night.  Watching a president who has repeatedly and continually used Twitter as a weapon to appeal to the lowest demons of our nature be locked out from his favorite past time was a bit of beautiful serendipity in the midst of all this chaos.  This same person who unleashed a 44 tweet monstrosity in October last year following his hospitalization for COVID, revealing how deep his addiction goes.

It's another reminder of why what we do, what the Congress does over the next eleven days is so vitally important.  It matters, the precedent it sets matters, and his actions have to have consequences.

This one, at least, was somewhat funny to watch.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Trump’s America

AKA American Carnage

I tried to write today and had planned to discuss the events that happened yesterday.  What it says about us.  But I can't.  It's too raw.  Too soon.  Hopefully will be up tomorrow, as I'm still processing and gathering my thoughts on the events of the day.

Instead, I offer 8,000 words and other media, that should leave us all speechless.


If we are wrong we will be made fools of, but if we are right, a lot of them will go to jail!  So let’s have trial by combat! I’m willing to stake, I’m willing to stake my reputation, the president is willing to stake his reputation on the fact that we’re going to find criminality there!”  Rudy Giuliani, speaking at the so called "March to Save America", 10:00 am


"And after this, we're going to walk down there, and I'll be there with you, we're going to walk down ... to the Capitol and we are going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women.  And we're probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them. Because you'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong."  President Trump at the so called "March to Save America," 12:00 pm







The words of a president matter, no matter how good or bad that president is. At their best, the words of a president can inspire. At their worst, they can incite. Therefore, I call on President Trump to go on national television now to fulfill his oath and defend the constitution and demand an end to this siege.
President-Elect Joe Biden, 3:30 pm



This was a fraudulent election but we can’t play into the hands of these people, we have to have peace.  So go home, we love you, you’re very special.”  President Trump's video calling the seditionists to stand down, released on Twitter, 4:17 pm


"Senator Tuberville? Or I should say Coach Tuberville. This is Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer. I’m calling you because I want to discuss with you how they’re trying to rush this hearing and how we need you, our Republican friends, to try to just slow it down so we can get these legislatures to get more information to you. And I know they’re reconvening at 8 tonight, but it … the only strategy we can follow is to object to numerous states and raise issues so that we get ourselves into tomorrow—ideally until the end of tomorrow.

I know McConnell is doing everything he can to rush it, which is kind of a kick in the head because it’s one thing to oppose us, it’s another thing not to give us a fair opportunity to contest it. And he wants to try to get it down to only three states that we contest. But there are 10 states that we contest, not three. So if you could object to every state and, along with a congressman, get a hearing for every state, I know we would delay you a lot, but it would give us the opportunity to get the legislators who are very, very close to pulling their vote, particularly after what McConnell did today. It angered them, because they have written letters asking that you guys adjourn and send them back the questionable ones and they’ll fix them up.

So, this phone number, I’m available on all night, and it would be an honor to talk to you. Thank you.
"
Rudy Giuliani in mis-dialed call intended for Senator Tuberville, voicemail left between the insurrection and the reseating of Congress, revealing the President's priorities at the time


"These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!"
President Trump in tweet deleted by Twitter, 11:01 pm, repeating his lies about the 2020 election

Welcome to Trump's America.  Had enough yet?

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Epiphany

Epiphany

"A manifestation of a divine or supernatural being; a moment of sudden revelation or insight."

Today marks Epiphany, or Three Kings Day.  Twelfth Night has ended, and the magi have arrived.  A celebration of the visit of the Magi to the Christ child, and the physical manifestation of Christ to the gentiles.

After today, the twelve days of Christmas are over and we enter Carnival.  King Cake season.  A celebration in preparation of the coming fast.

I think the Biblical account of the Magi provides us a blueprint for how to approach this new year with the appropriate viewpoint.

"After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, 'Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?  We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.'

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.  When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.  'In Bethlehem in Judea,' they replied, 'for this is what the prophet has written:

'"But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel."'

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.  He sent them to Bethlehem and said, 'Go and search carefully for the child.  As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.'

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they were overjoyed (They rejoiced with exceeding great joy).  On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.  Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route."

What would it look like if we started the year with exceeding great joy, celebrating our encounter with the Messiah?  If we brought Him the best gifts we can, that reflect His character.  Gold celebrated His kingship, frankincense celebrated His deity, and myrrh celebrated His death.  What would we bring, what aspect of His character would we celebrate?

That's our call in this season, in this new year.  To rejoice with exceeding great joy.

There is also a warning in this passage.  When the Magi question the leadership of Israel, it's clear that all the priests and scribes know what to look for, where the Messiah will be born.  They have all the knowledge necessary to go and find him.  But the Magi are the only ones who do.  You would think some of those scribes would be curious enough to go and see if this is finally it, if the Messiah has arrived.  But none leave their routine.  None leave their pattern or comfort.  

Don't get so stuck in your routine that you miss the miraculous around you.

Go forth, celebrate the season.  Let's start the year with joy.  And may we carry that spirit forward throughout the year.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

The Twelfth Day of Christmas

Twelfth Night

Tonight marks the end of Christmastide. The Ghost of Christmas Present lives through midnight this evening, so may the spirit of the season still be with you.  Tonight we feast.  The decorations have all been left up, the lights are all on.  We gather together to spread merriment and cheer.  

It's a time to eat king cakes and rum cakes, and to drink wassail.  It's also a time for the upending of the normal.  Where the Lord of Misrule enjoys one last night of his reign, calling for songs, entertainment, and plays.  Servants often dressed up as their masters, men as women and so forth.

It's this atmosphere Shakespeare captured in Twelfth Night, or What You Will.  A comedy of errors and misunderstanding.  Of mistaken identities.  It's a celebration of love and joy and a fitting end to this holiday season. 

"If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall:
O, it came o'er my ear like the sweet south,
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour! Enough; no more:
'Tis not so sweet now as it was before.
O spirit of love! how quick and fresh art thou,
That, notwithstanding thy capacity 10
Receiveth as the sea, nought enters there,
Of what validity and pitch soe'er,
But falls into abatement and low price,
Even in a minute: so full of shapes is fancy
That it alone is high fantastical.
"

I pray this Christmastide has been a joyous season for you, that these Twelve Days of Christmas has been full of love and laughter, of exceeding great joy, and this new year has started well for you.  May it continue in the days ahead.  

"Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year
And God send you a Happy New Year."