Living Large In Carson City: America Is A Shining City Upon A Hill – Not Edition


“It wasn’t until the 1950’s that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization conducted immense amounts of research, and came to the understanding that all human beings belong to the same species, and “race” is nothing but a myth. In the research that they have gathered, they found that biological “races” do not exist among our species.” Jaclyne Zetter 

It would completely lame and dishonest of me to not mention the story of the weekend which has both sides of the American political spectrum buzzing into the beginning of a new week. Yes, Trump’s unbelievable attack on four sitting first-term congresswomen, and his belief that they should shut up and go back to the countries where they came from is the talk of the nation. His disgusting and abusive Tweeter rant is the epitome of rampant racism that this administration seems dedicated to injecting into the nation’s conversation.

The “four” congresswomen, affectionately named “the Squad, are Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rashia Tlaib (D-Mich.), and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.). Of course, as all of America knows at this point, only Omar is not a native born American. She became a naturalized citizen after she and her father fled war-torn Somalia. Ocasio Cortez was born in the New York City’s the Bronx, Tlaib, a native from Detroit, and Pressley was born in Cincinnati. So of the four, three are red-blooded Americans and the fourth an achiever of the American Dream. Yet, dopey Donald chose to overlook the facts and spread, once again, fake news that suits his skewed legislative agenda of stroking his base and not letting facts get in the way of his goals.

There is little upside in rehashing Trump’s flirting with the white supremacists of his base. Ample footage and Tweets can be pulled up to support the accusation that our president is a racist fool as are the majority of his followers. As Nancy Pelosi said in her reaction to Trump’s attack on the Squad this weekend, Trump’s goal is not to make America Great Again but to make America White Again. A statement that the president responded was a racist statement itself although as The Hill pointed out,

It was unclear if Trump, currently taking criticism for telling multiple congresswomen of color to “go back” to where they came from, understood the context in which Pelosi had made the comment.

Trump’s goal is obviously two-fold. Americans have seen time and again when circumstances go wrong for the president his modus operandi is to create controversy to draw attention away from his failed endeavors. At the end of last week, Trump suffered two major setbacks which he certainly wasn’t happy about. His failure to get the citizenship question added to the 2020 census and the god awful optics of Mike Pence and Lindsey Graham touring stinking, over-crowded immigrant holding facilities at the Texas border had to be a ego slap down that even his most rabid supporters couldn’t ignore. One has to wonder who sets up these preordained “fails” on the part of the Republicans. It defies logic and common sense.

So, Trump Tweets some nasty remarks about four congresswomen to help convince the base that the Orange One is still in their corner taking the fight to the enemy, even though they are all American citizens who are well respected by their constituents. For Trump though, this line of attack has become part and parcel of how he deals with both his base and the opposition. The bad news is that it worked in the past and will more than likely work in the future. Frightened people have to be fed frightening scenarios by their manipulative leaders, and conversely, those leaders have to supply an “out” that mollifies the sensibilities of their followers.  

Oddly enough, Trump’s original slurs have morphed into something more than just falsely slamming four congresswomen. Lindsey Graham, one time patriot and friend of John McCain, who has turned into Trump’s little bitch of late, advanced the narrative to another level,

“We all know that [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] and this crowd are a bunch of communists, they hate Israel, they hate our own country, they’re calling the guards along our border—the Border Patrol agents—concentration camp guards,” Graham exclaimed. “They accuse people who support Israel as doing it for the benjamins, they are anti-Semitic, they are anti-America. Don’t get them—aim higher.” The Daily Beast

Graham in one statement elevated the Squad from progressive Social Democrats status to outright communist sympathizers. The Israel hatred possibly refers to Congresswoman Tlaib’s heritage. She is the daughter of Palestinian immigrant parents who left Palestine to settle in America to offer their children their version of the American Dream. “For the Benjamins” obviously refers to Congresswoman Omar’s Tweet earlier this year that called out the corrupt organization, The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), for the thuggish behavior they display year around, but especially during their annual convention which is little more than a fleecing of attendees to donate to AIPAC coffers. See The Nation article for more on AIPAC and the way they operate. As far as calling border guards – concentration camp guards –  the facts speak for themselves. Graham should watch the video of himself, Pence, and others as they squeamishly tour the above mentioned immigrant camp.

Today is Tuesday and the vitriol oozing from the White House has not abated. He has singled out Congresswoman Ilhan Omar claiming without evidence that she and her Squad members hate America, and she in particular, according to a Vox article (see below), claimed “how wonderful al-Qaeda is” Vox.  Yesterday, Trump set the tenor of the debate while answering questions from the reporter pool after giving a speech on the White Grounds.

While Trump was taking questions from reporters during an event that was ostensibly supposed to be a “Made in America Product Showcase,” Fox News reporter John Roberts asked him if it concerns him that “many people saw that tweet as racist and that white nationalist groups are finding common cause with you on that point?”

Trump said that he is not, in fact, worried about it.

“It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me,” he said. “And all I’m saying — they want to leave, they can leave. Now, it doesn’t say, ‘Leave forever.’ It says, ‘Leave if you want.’” Vox

One has to wonder who exactly are the “many people” who agree with him? Are they the supporters of the racist demonstrations that permeated the Charlottesville, Virginia’s “Unite the Right” debacle that occurred in 2017? Is it the GOP’s congressmen and women who refuse to take a stand against his racist comments and by their silence condone his beliefs?  Or is it simply his base of deplorables who want Trump to make America white again? Sadly, it is a combination of them all.

Even more disturbing to contemplate is the theory put forth by many Washington insiders that this is Trump rolling out his 2020 campaign strategy. His divide and frighten approach worked all too well in 2016, so why wouldn’t he want to go for an encore in 2020? One thing is for certain; Democrats need to heal their divisions and present a united front against Trump, or America will face another four years of debacle after debacle played out on the world stage.

This isn’t to say the Squad need buckle under to Nancy Pelosi. No, Pelosi needs to step up her game as well and listen to what progressives are saying to her and the party. This is the time the Democrats have the opportunity to stand up and wade out of the swamp to create a new political dynamic that is more inclusive and understanding of the ills that face the country. If they don’t, even if Joe Biden is nominated and wins, a Biden presidency will be more of the same dog and pony show. Not as bad as Trump, mind you, but still a government split by factions that want only what they can grab for their side; the average American be damned.







Living Large In Carson City: The Sins Of The Fathers Edition


A “Black Face?”/A “Black Heart?”
Choose for yourself.
Rinkle Shah

My intention this week was to wait until after the State of the Union address to see what gut cringing bullshit that Trump came up with to further humiliate himself. Like last years speech, however, this year’s  was no different . . . a yawner. He did make several references to his legal woes and the Democrats intention of looking into his criminal affairs as “ridiculous partisan investigations”. The president is such an ignorant little shit that he doesn’t understand words matter. The pundit’s takeaway on his calling for an end to the investigations was obvious. He’s scared and wants all the meanies to stop picking on him. Fat chance on that front Donnie.

So, other than making several off-the-wall comments about immigrants, the wall, and the usual crap du jour, the evening was more of a showcase for the Democratic women dressed in white in the audience and Nancy Pelosi who Trump managed to all but ignore in his decidedly rude manner. I think, however, there should be a law that presidents can’t call out members of the gallery to highlight specific atrocities to gain emotional points from their base. Granted, most of the people deserve recognition for their individual acts heroism or the misfortunes that befell them. Since Ronald Reagan started the practice, the call outs have gotten out of hand and should be prohibited. It’s about the State of the Union, not the misfortunes of others.

Because of Trump’s stagnant speaking style and  lack of glamorous presence, the speech was a wash, which is fine with me because there are hugher issues out there that need discussing.  A headline I saw earlier today stated something like What’s Going on in Virginia? Beneath the headline were three images: Governor Ralph Northam,  Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, and Attorney General Mark Herring. Fairfax is accused of sexual assault stemming back to a 2004 encounter that he calls 100 % consensual. His partner, however, didn’t see it that way. Fairfax doesn’t concern me at this point. He will have to deal with the accusation and justice will prevail. The Governor and the Attorney General, however, are another matter.

In the past I wrote about growing up in East Texas in the 1950’s and 1960’s before and during the Civil Rights movement. In our part of the Texas, blacks and whites didn’t mingle until late into 1960s when segregation was forced on public schools. I am a little older than Northam, but generally speaking, not that much older in terms of cultural maturation on the subject of race. So, in one sense, I can understand both him and Herring not giving a thought to painting their faces black to go out partying. I certainly don’t condone it, but at the time, black face simply wasn’t an issue to white Southerners. This fact does not make the act any less abhorrent.

The question in my case, and the majority of the friends I grew up with, is were we racists? I think the honest answer is yes and no. I never saw any of my friends dressing up in KKK sheets or darkening their faces with shoe polish. Indeed, acts like that would have been seen as stepping over a line, and no one wanted to go there. For the most part, we were products of our culture. One which raised us to be respectful of others and to cause no undue pain on those we came into contact with on a daily basis. Granted, as I said above, ours was an insular existence in which 99 % of the people we came in contact with were as lily white as we were. This represents the “no” part of the equation.

But were we racists? Yes, I am sorry to say we were. Racists in the sense that the predominant influences in our culture were exclusive of other races simply because that is the way the south operated back then. I know that some of my friends were raised by more enlightened parents who had experienced other parts of the country and saw the race issue differently. For those of us who’s families lived in our area of East Texas for generations, we got a lethal dose of racists ideas and attitudes instilled in us from birth until the time we were able to break free and form our own more enlightened ideas about people of color. Some, unfortunately, never did and remained under the thrall of the zeitgeist of the time and region.

I am proud and fortunate that I left home shortly after high school and made friends with several influential people of color who changed my way of looking at race and the differences between people that don’t really exist in reality. As I have said often, race is a cultural phenomenon, not a genetic, religious, or based in law. It is a choice we make consciously every time we look at someone different from us. In East Texas when we were growing up, we literally had no choice.

Granted, the 1960’s and Martin Luther King, Jr. helped ease many of us into a new reality, but honestly, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Racism still exists, not just in the South, but across the nation. As long as people choose to separate themselves from others who have a different color of skin from themselves, there will be racism, ageism, and ever other kind of hatred that is based on culture, not reality. I think many people who lived through and emerged on the other side of the Civil Rights Movement chose to be enlightened. That in itself is honorable. Yet, it does not negate our youthful ignorance and the ideas our society foisted on us.

Getting back to Northam and Herring, I guess what I am driving at is that, yes, I can understand how two men from the South could think painting their faces black was not something they should worry about. It was a joke. Nobody would get hurt. Yet, we now know a lot of people can and would get hurt. As a white person, there is no way I can understand the pain, degradation, shame, and anger that a Black person endures throughout their lives simply because of their skin color. Dr. King described it best in Letter from a Birmingham Jail when he wrote;

“Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. ” Letter from a Birmingham Jail

If you never read the Letter or have not in a long time, you should. It puts Northam and Herring’s foolish acts in perspective. Should they be forced to resign? Yes, I think so. They were both grown men in a more enlightened time than when we were raised and should have known better. Additionally, they both have courted the Black vote to gain success throughout their political careers and owe a deep debt to their constituents; a debt that the cloud of racism will almost certainly taint making it impossible for them to repay.

It is sad that in the 21 st century we are still battling stigmas that have been around far too long. When will we grow up as a nation and find the clue to overcoming our less charitable natures? This is why Donald Trump has to go. If you are not part of the solution, you are most definitely a part of the problem.

Living Large In Carson City: ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’ Edition


Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s in East Texas, there was no lack of racism, bigotry, or hatred of select groups that stood out from the lily white, mostly Protestant population base in which we lived. As children, we were not so much taught hatred and bigotry as we assimilated it from our parents, ministers, school teachers, coaches, and just about everyone in a position of authority we encountered. We went to all white schools, churches, and social functions from the county fair to Friday night football games.

As hard as it is believe in our small East Texas hick town at that time, Hispanics and Jewish people were not present in our lives. I can not remember a single Hispanic family living in any neighborhood in the area. One Jewish family lived in town, but in our naive vision of the world, they seemed like ordinary people who were embraced by the majority of the population as one of our own. I say “majority”, not because I know there were those who may have felt animosity toward them, but back then,  because I never saw or knew of them does not mean they were not present.

Five miles to the east of town was a even smaller community where the vast majority of Black families lived. In the 2001 census, Blacks made up 90 percent of the population, and I suspect that ratio would apply back when I was growing up. There was little commercial infrastructure in town other than a small gasoline/grocery store that sat at the main intersection of town. For all practical purposes, they were a part of our world in a commercial, if not cultural, sense. Their school was located within our borders. The one movie theater in town segregated them to the upper balcony. They were segregated at the doctor’s offices, the hospitals, and few, if any, commercial venues like restaurants or bars allowed them on the premises.

These are my roots, and I want to say I am not proud of the fact that my family was part and parcel of this dynamic. As a child, I had no choice. My parents were so steeped in the Southern tradition of racism and bigotry, and their lives were defined by it. The notion of raising their children any other way other than the way they were raised was simply unthinkable. We were living in a toxic bubble that allowed no room for enlightened change or ideas that went counter to the zeitgeist of the times. In a very real sense, we were no different from any other small town across the deep South.

The first chink in the racism armor came in 1964-65 when my hometown was forced to integrate the public schools. In their skewed wisdom, the city fathers decided to take a end around approach to desegregation. While whites had separate elementary, middle and high schools, the Black community had only one school housing all students until the early 1960s when a Black elementary school opened. A few black students opted to attend the various white schools in town, but it was not until 1969 when the last Black class graduated and the school was closed.

Of the Blacks who chose to attend the white high school the first year, three athletes were among them. These three young men became the first Black people I (and my football teammates) got to know personally. They worked hard to gain our acceptance, which could not have been easy for them. Yet, they became our friends and taught us that skin color was not a barometer of a person’s worth, or something to judge others on because they were different from the majority. We were after all young men with a world of experience ahead of us. For the first time in our short lives, I began to question the negative stereotypes our parents and environment had foisted on us without our permission.

That was 50 years ago. For a good part of my adult life, I had to fight back the powerful pull of racist thinking from my past. It was not easy in the beginning, but I was lucky and left home as soon as I could and moved on, leaving behind the ever-present pall of racism my hometown and family still lived under. It was difficult, but eventually, thorough education and a series of enlightened friends and acquaintances, I grew past the teachings of my youth and learned to accept people for who they are, not who they are based on fear and negativity. Honestly, I had hoped America had, on the whole, done the same.

Then, along came Donald.

In the run up to the midterm elections, Trump has, and continues pulling out all the stops to fire up his band of deplorables. His sidling up to white supremacist and the dark racists side of his base through his embracing of “nationalism” is both disheartening and a little frightening. The thing about racism is that it is insidious, and at the same time, it debases, not just the target of the racist act, but the perpetrators as well. While I believe as a child I had no choice about the racial undertones under which I was raised, once grown and old enough to think on my own, it became evident that racism is not genetic, but a choice that a person has to make by disregarding common sense and the humanity of both themselves and those it is directed at in the end.

The one overriding component of a racist’s mentality is fear. Fear of the other. Fear of those people not like themselves. In the case of many of Trump’s older, white base, the fear of being displaced by brown or black people, especially brown people, and losing their time honored position at the top of the racial food chain is paramount. Of course, fear fuels hatred, which ultimately, is expressed by anger, and eventually with enough goading and baiting as Trump is wont to do, acting out on that anger.

Americans saw the end result of Trump’s irresponsible rhetoric last week when the FBI took bombing suspect Cesar Sayoc Jr. into custody for mailing 13 packages containing pipe bombs to Democratic politicians, donors and CNN. While none of the intended recipients were hurt, later in the week things turned ugly and deadly when Robert D. Bowers entered a Pittsburgh Jewish synagogue, The Tree of Life Congregation, with an AR-15 and three handguns and opened fire. Eleven people were killed and six others were wounded including four police officers.

The link between Sayoc and Trump is easily traceable. He attended Trump rallies in the past and had plastered his van with images of Trump and related hot button topics. Bowers’ relationship was more muted. A neo-Nazi, Bowers spent time on the website, Gab which, as you would expect, is a place for people like him to go and vent with like minded people. Supposedly, Bowers hated Trump, but not for obvious reasons. He felt Trump was not anti-Semitic enough for his tastes. Regardless, Trump’s rhetoric and constant blowing dog whistles certainly a deadly climate for both men to become emboldened enough to act out theirs evil deeds.

Trump’s modus opernadi is to play on the weaknesses of his followers. Racism, hatred, nationalistic tendencies are all fair game when it comes to Trump getting his way. The coming midterm election has caused him to ramp up his rhetoric, and his actions are becoming increasingly draconian. The caravan of ragtag men, women, and children traversing Mexico from Honduras headed for the United States’ southern border are suddenly an invasion. His attacks on the media as enemy of the people continue and will surely end in someone getting hurt or killed.

Yet, this is the America that we live in today. The gap between Trump’s deplorables and the rest of us is huge and will not be spanned easily or soon. As long as there is inequality in wealth, social mores, ideological differences, and of course, racism, fear, and hate, this is our fate. We can not afford to give in to these forces, but we can not afford not to confront them either. As Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.  Trump’s deplorables are not our enemy. They are our fellow Americans. It is up to all of us to remember that and find a way to span the gulf separating us as a nation. If we do not, no one is going to come out of this a winner.

Living Large In Carson City: The Sins Of Our Fathers Edition

Image result for E pluribus unum free graphics

Out of Many, One

Were he alive today, my dad would have been a Trump supporter. While he was not a political animal, indeed, as far as I know, he never voted or cared for the political arena in any part of his life. He was, however, a lifelong Southern Baptist,  a deacon, somewhat of an evangelical and simply a hard-working man who was raised in the South and reflected all the good and bad things that go along with that equation for a man of his age. His support of Trump would not have been ideological, but rather, an emotional choice that would have come from frustration and the lure of a charlatan able to manipulate people through their fears, ignorance and distrust of the status quo.

To be clear, my dad was not a bad man. He was a beloved member of his community; a community that reflected his mindset, beliefs and an almost pathological compulsion not to make waves or call attention to himself. He minded his own business and expected others to do the same. His generation fought WWII and came home to a prosperous America that he loved and cared for deeply. That he held objectionable beliefs is an unfortunate whim of fate that affected most of the people from the south of his generation.

I mention this only to point out that many, if not a majority, of Trump supporters are very similar to my dad.  White, Christian, hard working and dedicated to  family and accepting of their station in life. My dad, like many Trump supporters, was also a racist, a bigot and frightened by the speed in which the world was changing around him. Those who were not raised in the south cannot understand the the social, economic and racial tension that is imparted to children from their parents. It was and is pervasive taking over one’s mental faculties and general outlook on how one lives their life.

The sixties blind sided my parents like it did so many others of their age and social background. To see his progeny flee the nest he so patiently and rigorously constructed over the years was both baffling and hurtful in ways I will never understand. I don’t think he  resented these turn of events, but rather, it shook him to his core, and in the end, confused him like nothing else had in his lifetime. He saw the country he fought for in World War II changing into a multi-cultured, radical world that was dismissive of so many things he held dear to his heart. The experience changed him like it did me. I have to say that it was not a change he would have chosen.

For all his faults, he followed his heart and his God, but being a white man raised and living all his life in rural East Texas, he was a segregationist at heart. With the Civil Rights Movement, he like others of his age felt the sting of change as an imposition on his right to carry on as he always had without the government telling him what to believe. Our first major confrontation of many was over race and the treatment of people of color with contempt and dismissal of their rights as Americans. He would have had no problem transferring that disdain to brown people, Asians or non-Christians.

Trump has figured this out and has made it his modus opernadi. Most of his supporters are good people albeit with leanings towards racism, bigotry, and a healthy dose of white privilege that is both corrosive and destructive to the American democratic way of life. Ultimately, they have become the worst kind of patsy. They have partaken of the snake oil and believe the man who is spoon feeding it to them. This feeds directly into Trump’s narcissistic personality and has become the drug that he too has now become addicted to like his followers. They have developed a symbiotic relationship based on fear of the “other” which colors their worlds in an us versus them mentality.

This is the crux of what I find so confusing and disheartening. Seeing people like my dad make choices that are not meant to solve the pressing issues facing America today, and contrary to their own best outcome, following a man who seems hell bent on destroying this great nation at the expense of those whom he cares little about in reality. Trump supporters see only the empty promise of reverting back to a time that has long ago become unworkable.

I loved my dad, but not his beliefs, and I am not writing to condone his or others’ anti-social ideas. When I see Trump supporters at his rallies, I see thousands of the proverbial, loud-mouthed uncles and aunts who are prone to making caustic and uncomfortable pronouncements at the family dinner table to the chagrin of their more enlightened relatives. My dad had a seat at that table, and at this point, I think it is hypocritical for me not to acknowledge this fact.

Unfortunately, there are also hard-core white supremacists, bigots and racists of another ilk  at Trump’s rallies. They are the ones America has to be concerned about in the end. Their beliefs about how America should be run are much more caustic and based in evil. Americans saw this at Charlottesville, VA last year and at other Unite the Right rallies across the country. This pandering to neo-Nazism, overt nationalism, white supremacy and just old fashion hatred for the world changing around them is at the center of what is most dangerous for America today.

My concerns inhabit many levels. First and foremost, we are headed for a reckoning that has been long in coming. As the demographics of the United States changes, people whose voices have long been suppressed on both sides of the equation are fed up and expect change to come in their favor. However, both sides cannot fully win in this controversy. In these over-heated times where an ego-driven enabler holds the most powerful seat in the country, it’s hard not to see dark times ahead. Yet, democracy demands an airing of grievances . . . to a point. The bottom line is the preservation of our republic.

How far either side takes offense over the loss that will surely come will determine how much the America my dad loved and fought for continues into the future. However, this is my country, too. For me, there is no going back to “better times”. In reality, this is possibly the best America we can hope for or deserve. I choose not to believe that is true.

In the end, our national motto, E pluribus unum, Out of many, one, defines who we are as a people. It has never had more relevance or appeal; nor has it ever been more in jeopardy as it is in America today.