“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.”
Tag Archives: U.S. Civil War
On September 1, several new laws went into effect here in Texas – 666 to be exact; a number that surely makes evangelicals tremble. Some, like Senate Bill 968, which bans “vaccine passports”, became law immediately when Gov. Greg Abbott signed them in June. Others, such as House Bill 2730, which deals with eminent domain, go into effect January 1, 2022.
Overall, it appears that some of them are designed to oppress the basic human and constitutional rights of certain groups. The Texas State Legislature meets every two years and, in 2019, their principal goal was to loosen gun restrictions even more than they already were. Those of us who aren’t obsessed with firearms (meaning we don’t suffer from Pencil-Penis Syndrome) wondered how much more lax these rules could become. Stupidity never ceases to amaze me, and conservatives in the Texas State House always deliver.
This year’s session, though, has raised eyebrows and tempers across the nation – and mainly because of two of those 666 laws in particular. One deals with voting and the other with abortion. Abortion has always been an open wound for social and religious conservatives. To them it’s worse than the growing economic inequalities in the country, the prescription drug epidemic, or the fact that so many children in the U.S. live in poverty. Pro-life conservatives are “pro-life” – up to the time that baby is born. Once it pops out of the placental oven, it’s pretty much on its own.
Known as the “fetal heartbeat” bill, it is the most ardent assault upon reproductive freedom since the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. It bans abortions no matter the circumstance (including rape, incest and danger to the mother’s life) after the sixth week of pregnancy, which is usually before most women learn they’re pregnant. It bears that moniker because an embryonic heartbeat allegedly can be detected at the sixth week. In reality, the heart hasn’t developed by that point; only the muscles that eventually will become the heart have formed. The term is misleading. The sound of a heartbeat is generated by the opening and closing of the heart valves. Those valves haven’t formed yet at 6 weeks. When someone detects this so-called “fetal heartbeat”, it’s the sound generated by the ultrasound machine. But self-righteous conservatives in the Texas State Legislature don’t see it that way. It doesn’t conform to their narrow view of reality. In other words, a group of (mostly male) politicians have decided they know more about human development and reproductive health care than actual medical professionals.
But the “fetal heartbeat” law goes even further – allowing anyone who assists in an abortion after that sixth week to be held liable as a criminal accessory and sued for up to $10,000. This isn’t aimed strictly at those in the medical industry. Giving a woman a ride to an abortion clinic, for example, opens them to criminal charges under this law; which means cab drivers are subject. Perhaps comforting a woman after the abortion could be considered criminal. Would a plumber who repairs water pipes in a women’s health clinic be deemed a criminal? It’s not the state that would bring the charges; the $10,000 penalty is for any individual who files suit under the law. Thus, if someone is upset (gets their feelings hurt) because of an abortion, they’re entitled for up to $10,000 compensation.
I’m upset there’s so much stupidity in the world. Where’s my financial compensation?
Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a blow to abortion rights when it refused to take up the new Texas law for consideration. Previously, it’s overturned similar laws passed by other states. But for the past few years, conservatives have been pushing these draconian measures for the mere sake of having the High Court review the Roe v. Wade decision and ultimately overturn it. The Court’s refusal to examine this Texas law is a blatant nod to right-wing extremists who feel divinely appointed to control other people’s lives.
The other new law gaining notoriety is Senate Bill 1, which targets the voting process. SB 1 limits the early voting period and bans 24-hour and drive-through voting. The drive-through voting idea was proposed last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 elections. Perhaps the most alarming feature of this law is that it allows poll watchers greater access. Voter intimidation is not just rude; it’s felonious. But don’t tell that to Abbott and the rest of the Republican mafia in Texas who symbolize ongoing efforts by conservatives nationwide to undermine the right to vote – the very genesis of democratic societies. It’s something we’ve tried to instill in other countries, such as…well, Iraq and Afghanistan. But, just like the World War II generation moved Heaven and Earth to stop fascism in Europe, yet did nothing to end it here in the U.S., conservatives want people in developing nations to be able to vote in clean and fair elections – without putting the same amount of effort at home.
Like most of the nation, Texas is still in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic with a resurgence of infections and increasing hospitalizations. This past February the Texas power grid system almost completely collapsed with the onset of Winter Storm Uri. Scores of people died. Much of the rest of the state’s infrastructure – mostly roads and bridges – are in dire need of repair or replacement. And, of course, all those children in Texas and across the nation who are uninsured…doesn’t pro-life also mean taking care of them?
The new gaggle of laws has a few other gems – good and bad. HB 1535 allows people to utilize marijuana for medicinal purposes. SB 224 simplifies access to the Supplemental Assistance Program for older and disabled citizens; individuals can forgo the normally required interviews and have a shortened application process. Now this measure is what I would deem pro-life!
On the other hand, we have HB 2497, which establishes an “1836 Project” committee produce educational materials dedicated to Texas history. In 1836, the Battle of the Alamo launched Texas’ separation from México. It’s in contrast to the “1619 Project”, which examines U.S. history from the arrival of enslaved Africans.
Moreover, HB 3979 limits teachers from discussing current events and systemic racism in class. The bill also prevents students from receiving class credit for participating in civic engagement and – wait for it – bans teaching of the aforementioned “1619 Project”.
I attribute these social studies bills as efforts by White conservatives to undermine the true history of the United States; that Native Americans were more civilized and intellectual than many realize; that the “founding fathers” weren’t devout Christians; and that the Civil War really was about keeping an entire race of people enslaved and not states’ rights. Like the presidency of Donald Trump, it’s a strike back against decades of progressive thought and ambition.
I never know what to think of these right-wing fools in elected office. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to put up that sign on my front lawn offering free rides to abortion clinics.
Filed under Essays
Best Quotes of the Week – June 19, 2021
“This day doesn’t just celebrate the past. It calls for action today.”
President Joe Biden, upon signing the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act on June 17
“You are courageous leaders and American patriots.”
Vice-President Kamala Harris, praising a group of Texas Democrats for walking out on a state legislative session in protest of a strict new voting bill
“Without a national standard for voting rights and voting reform, states are going to just chip away at the rights of voters state by state. Hopefully, this might inform minds and shape opinions when folks are in that Senate cloakroom wrestling over how they’re going to proceed with HR1 and HR4.”
Texas State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, about the Texas Democratic walk-out
Filed under News
Best Quotes of the Week – April 24, 2021
“Confederate artifacts are undeniably a representation of hate, racism and of oppression. They are an insult to the many people who visit our Capitol today in the state of Texas. The argument that these monuments preserve history somehow or symbolize America’s past is merely to reshape and rewrite the intent of the Civil War.”
Rafael Anchía, Texas State Senator, promoting House Bill 1186, which would remove all Confederate monuments from the state capital
“We can’t stop here.”
President Joe Biden, on race relations in the United States, after the conviction of Derek Chauvin
“I can’t believe I’m going to say anything good about her. You all know I’m no fan of Nepotism Barbie. But here I go. Take a deep breath…Yesterday, I commend Ivanka Trump for having used her platform to show herself getting the vaccine and promote vaccination, when she says, I hope you get the shot too. And if you see the responses from Trump-supporting Republicans against what used to be their favorite daughter, you can see how political it has become.”
Ana Navarro, co-host of The View, on former First Daughter Ivanka Trump posting a photo of herself getting a COVID-19 vaccine
Don’t You Understand? They’re Victims!
“The Devil made me do it!”
You have to understand something about the people who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6. They’re not entirely responsible for their actions. They had merely responded to the words of their newly-formed deity, Donald Trump. In the hours leading up to the siege, Trump had infused them with idea that he had been wronged by the voting process; that the 2020 elections had been manipulated by covert gangs of leftist forces determined to enforce abortions and gun confiscations upon helpless, red-blooded, bible-carrying Christian American citizens to ensure his loss. He was a victim, Trump maintained, and vicariously so were his minions.
Thus, the Trumpians had been victimized by the same queer-loving renegades and they were justified in storming the Capitol, tearing through offices, screaming like children told to come in for dinner, threatening others because they got their feelings hurt – all while dressed like ghosts of the Civil War and refugees from a Comic-Con conference gone wrong.
The Capitol Hill warriors are no more victims of enraged rhetoric than porn stars are of poor script-writing. For years conservatives have proclaimed the tenets of individual freedom and personal responsibility. They declared such values in reactive angst to a welfare society and relentless victimhood proclamations.
They loathed when non-White people bemoaned centuries of Euro-colonial oppression and systemic racism. They rolled their eyes at the thought of women hollering about sexual harassment in the workplace and on college campuses. They snickered at queer folks complaining of innate homophobia on the job and in school.
Then the U.S. Congress met on January 6, 2021 to certify Joe Biden as the winner of last year’s presidential contest, and – as Dante Alighieri once wrote – all hell broke loose.
The Trumpian crowd became maddened by the process and felt they had no other recourse but to subvert that constitutional mechanism in the most violent manner possible. Their voices and votes had been ignored and they had to stop the madness.
So, in the name of Ronald Reagan, where the hell was all that talk of personal responsibility? Where were the people to take ownership of themselves and their actions? In other words, why do the Capitol Hill rioters suddenly see themselves as victims of…well, anything?!
They all sound like a bunch of – oh, God! A bunch of minorities, women and queers! Pass the rifle and heaven forbid! Now these “victims” have placed themselves in the same category as tree-loving, pot-smoking, Muslim-loving liberals!
What’s going to happen next? The magnetic poles will switch sides – like communist traitors – and life as we know will extinguish itself?
Again – please!
I personally don’t care to hear the anguished state of mind of these mentally- challenged pencil-dick and cavern-cunt imps. What happened with last year’s presidential elections is something known as democracy. It’s the sustenance upon which civilized societies survive. We cannot exist without it. The goons who stormed the Capitol three weeks ago didn’t fall victim to the verbiage of Donald Trump; they were victims of their own damned stupidity. If they truly were swayed by Trumpian oratory, they are as gullible as a child believing in Santa Claus. They roared into that building because what was left of their brain cells had perished in the swamp of their own hysteria.
It’s just so incredibly interesting that these right-wing extremists who wrap themselves in the American flag and cry freedom – while waving the loser traitorous Confederate flag – are suddenly helpless and violated. They couldn’t help themselves. Their faux president told them to do it.
The reality is quite simple: they’re violent and they’re stupid. But they aren’t victims.
Filed under Essays
Worst Quotes of the Week – December 12, 2020
“This is what they do to Trump. It’s not going to work with me. I won’t back down because I am very religious and I know God is watching over me. This started with COVID. The Obamas funded that Wuhan lab to make COVID. Then the impeachment process. They’ve used every avenue possible to cheat, they used Dominion. Dominion software was created to cheat. I have a binder from Dominion that proves this. There’s so much more that will be exposed.”
– Mellissa Carone, former IT contractor for Dominion Voting Systems in Michigan, on SarahPalin.com
Carone worked on Election Night last month in Detroit and claims the amount of fraud at that one vote-counting center alone should be enough to overturn the election in President Trump’s favor.
“The Supreme Court, in tossing the Texas lawsuit that was joined by seventeen states and 106 US congressman, has decreed that a state can take unconstitutional actions and violate its own election law. Resulting in damaging effects on other states that abide by the law, while the guilty state suffers no consequences. This decision establishes a precedent that says states can violate the US constitution and not be held accountable. This decision will have far-reaching ramifications for the future of our constitutional republic. Perhaps law-abiding states should bond together and form a Union of states that will abide by the constitution.”
– Allen West, Chairman of the Texas Republican Party, responding to the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to hear a lawsuit brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton
To non-Americans, the term “Union” is basically a reference to the 19th century U.S. Civil War, which long-time conservatives still describe as a states’ rights issue, when in reality, it was about the right of southern states to keep human beings enslaved.
Best Quote of the Week – July 4, 2020
“In defense of the Confederacy, the word ‘heritage’ is romanticized. But its literal definition is property that is or may be inherited. Even if the property you inherit is your little brother.”
– Cary Clack, writer, journalist, and descendant of a Confederacy veteran
We’ve heard it so many times before. History has always been written by the victors. It’s a sad reality, yet very true. It means that much of the history of Africa and the Western Hemisphere has been recounted with a decidedly European viewpoint. As someone of mixed European and Indigenous American extraction, I always felt conflicted about this disparity. While trying to find information about Native American Texans in an encyclopedia during my grade school years, for example, I noticed that references to pre-Columbian peoples were treated dismissively. It wasn’t just archaic history in standard academic circles. It was irrelevant. Even mention of the state’s Spanish colonizers – the first permanent European settlers – was dubbed “pre-history.” It seemed Texas history didn’t actually begin until the likes of Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston arrived. And it didn’t matter that these men weren’t even born and raised in the state.
Only within the past half-century has the truth about various indigenous societies been revealed with advances in archaeological research and detailed forensic analysis. Lidar, for example, has taken the concept of neon lighting from the banal presence of liquor store signs to the jungles of Central America where long-abandoned Mayan structures remain shrouded by the foliage. As a devotee of Archeology magazine, I’m constantly amazed by discoveries of ancient settlements across the globe. Areas once thought to be occupied by nomadic hunter-gatherer types at best are revealing the ghosts of thriving population centers.
Yes, history has always been dictated and composed by those who somehow managed to overcome the locals – usually through the casualties of disease and pestilence or the sanguineous nature of war and violence. But the blood of history’s victims seeps into the ground and eventually fertilizes the crops that feed the newly-minted empires. That blood eventually metabolizes into the truth of what really happened – albeit many centuries or millennia later. Still at that point, it can no longer be ignored.
Here in the U.S. we’re now seeing statues and other emblems of the American Civil War come down by government decree. Supporters of that conflict have maintained its genesis was the battle for states’ rights, while truth-tellers insist it was a battle over slavery. They’re both correct, in some ways. It was a battle over the right of some states to keep an entire race of people enslaved. I certainly feel removal of these statues is appropriate. Those who fought for the Confederacy wanted to rip the nation in half over that slavery issue and therefore, should not be venerated as military heroes. They’re traitors.
The debate has now shifted to renaming many U.S. military bases. In my native Texas, one military base is named after John Bell Hood, a Confederate general who – like so many other Texas “heroes” – wasn’t even born and raised in the state. Hood also wasn’t an especially adept military commander; having lost a number of individual conflicts. And yet, a military base is named after this treasonous fool?
The U.S. Pentagon has expressed some willingness to rename military bases that reference those ill-fated Civil War characters. Naturally, it’s upset many White southerners who annually reenact various Civil War conflicts; not realizing how ridiculous they look in their antebellum garb. I can’t help but laugh at them. They’ve been fighting the war for over 150 years and STILL haven’t won!
In his usual brusque and toddler-esque manner, President Trump announced last month he would veto a USD 740 billion defense bill if it included an amendment that would rename many of those military bases. He declared, “These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom.”
Remember, the Confederacy lost that war. A million reenactments won’t change that reality.
Some 30 years ago my father discovered that Spain’s Queen Isabella (who funded Christopher Columbus’ voyage) was an ancestor of his mother. According to documentation my father found, Isabella learned of the atrocities Spain’s military officials were committing against the indigenous peoples of the “New World” and ordered them to stop. That’s one reason why Latin America has a stronger connection to its native peoples than the United States and even Canada.
It should be worth noting that, while Italians celebrate Columbus as a national hero, he probably wasn’t even a native son. For centuries he was considered a Genoese sailor with grand visions of finding a westward route to India and subsequently gain an edge in the then-contentious spice trade. Contemporary research, however, has declared he was actually the son of Polish King Władysław III; often dubbed the twelve-toed king because allegedly had 6 toes on each foot. And I have to emphasize that Columbus couldn’t get Italian leaders to finance his ventures, so he turned to Spain. In the 15th century C.E., Italy was actually a conglomeration of city-states.
In one of my earliest essays on this blog, I lamented the term “redskin”; a derogatory moniker for Native Americans that has figured prominently into the names of many sports teams, from grade school to professional. Just this week the Washington Redskins football team announced what many previously considered unthinkable: they might change their name. Team owner Daniel Snyder conceded he’s bowing to pressure from its largest corporate sponsors (big money always has the loudest voice in the corporate world), as well a growing cacophony of socially-conscious voices demanding change. Snyder said the team has begun a “review” of both the name and the team’s mascot. Detractors, of course, moan this is political correctness at its worst. But, just like Civil War reenactors still haven’t won, Eurocentrics still won’t admit they didn’t obliterate North America’s indigenous populations.
Change on such a grand scale is always slow and painful. But, as with time itself, change will happen; it can’t be stopped.
We can never correct or fix what happened in the past. Nothing can ever atone for the loss of millions of people and the destruction of the societies they built. But we can acknowledge the truth that is buried. It’s not rewriting history; it’s writing the actual history that remained entombed in that bloodied soil for so long. It’s adding the needed and long-absent color to reality.
Filed under Essays
Tulsa and June 19th
“And so when this terrible thing happened, it really destroyed my faith in humanity. And it took a good long while for me to get over it.”
– Olivia Hooker, survivor of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riots
It’s a typical story: White woman claims Black man assaulted her; mob of White men become enraged and launch a hunt for said perpetrator; any Negro male is automatically presumed guilty; exact details supposed incident are unknown. This was the scenario in May of 1921, when a young White female, Sarah Page, in Tulsa allegedly screamed after a young Black man, Dick Rowland, entered the elevator she operated. Even today the circumstances of the exchange between Page and Rowland remain unclear. But, in 1921, scores of hate-filled White men didn’t need to know such minutia. The White woman’s words were the only details they needed.
And thus, commenced what is now known to be the worst race-based riot in U.S. history. Police found Rowland and charged him sexual assault. The sheriff had refused to hand Rowland over to bands of outraged Whites. The throngs of self-proclaimed vigilantes stormed through Tulsa’s Black-dominated Greenwood neighborhood to exact further revenge. Greenwood featured a district known as “Black Wall Street;” where businesses owned and operated by African-American residents had become an incredibly independent and thriving economy within a city of some 100,000.
When the initial chaos was over, upwards of 300 Greenwood-area residents were dead and thousands left homeless. Some Black veterans of World War I (then called the “Great War”) had taken up arms in defense of their community, which surely incentivized the angry White men to continue their violent retribution.
The same madness would occur in Rosewood, Florida two years later. A White woman reported that a Black man had entered her home and attacked her. The woman’s husband gathered a group of about 500 Ku Klux Klan members and began a hunt through the area for any Black man they could find. They learned that a Black member of a prison chain gang had escaped and believed Black residents of Rosewood were helping him hide. The mobs then systematically tore through town, killing whoever they could (mostly Black men) and driving out most of the survivors. The entire community of Rosewood was decimated. The story of what happened remained largely unknown until at least the 1980s.
The story of Tulsa still remains largely unknown. I’d heard of the horror some 30 years ago and wondered why such a calamity would be so obscure. I now know why. Like much of Native American history, true aspects of the African-American experience are often overwhelmed by the cult of American greatness; the “Manifest Destiny” myths stained heavily with Eurocentric viewpoints. The Tulsa Massacre has received greater attention in recent months because of the tragic deaths of several African-Americans. Its significance has grown even more within the past couple of weeks, as Donald Trump was set to stage a campaign rally in Tulsa today. But that’s been postponed to tomorrow.
COVID-19 concerns aside, the event would have been held on one of the most historic dates in American history. On June 19, 1865, news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached the state of Texas – more than two years after then-President Abraham Lincoln had signed it. The decree established “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”
Known as Juneteenth, the event is now celebrated as a turning point in the U.S. Civil War; bringing an end to one of the bloodiest conflicts on American soil. The Emancipation Proclamation forcibly freed millions of people from the carnage of slavery; granting them the dignity of their humanity; something that had been stolen from their ancestors ensnared in the traps of slave traders on the beaches of West Africa.
That Donald Trump – one of the most cognitively-challenged and covertly racist presidents the U.S. has ever had – would hold a reelection rally on this date and 99 years after one of the single worst racial holocausts in modern American history speaks to an incredible level of ignorance among the historical elite and certainly of its arrogance. Knowing Trump, this shouldn’t be surprising. But the partiality of U.S. history also shouldn’t be surprising.
Many factors of our history – some dating back thousands of years – have been absent from the historical account. For decades, myths persisted that Native Americans willingly bowed down to Christianity and that Blacks lived happily within an enslaved existence. Even now, for example, many Americans believe most Hispanics are Latin American immigrants; when, in fact, the history of Hispanics in the U.S. goes back further than that of other Europeans and is tied inexorably with Native American history. In other words, it IS American history.
Anger over Trump’s June 19 convocation forced organizers to reschedule it for the 20th. But that won’t solve the dilemma of deliberate ignorance – just like civil rights legislation didn’t make all racial transgressions moot. The 1965 Voting Rights Act eliminated many of the barriers to voting obstruction. But, since the election of Barack Obama in 2008, we’ve seen Republican-dominated state legislatures try to roll back some of those protections under the guise of preventing voter fraud.
Much of the anger among Whites in 1921 was that Tulsa’s Greenwood section was prosperous and independent. The same happened with the Tigua community 18 years ago, when the state of Texas shut down their casino under the ruse of combating illegal gambling. The Tiguas had become wealthy and independent with proceeds from the casino; thus, lifting most out of poverty and off of welfare. But they hadn’t gotten permission from the conservative, predominantly White state legislature; an affront of unimaginable proportions the latter. Therefore, then-Governor Rick Perry and then-State Attorney General John Cornyn forced the casino to close. Many of the Tigua have now slipped back into poverty and back onto state assistance. Even as of last year, Texas is still trying to stop the Tiguas from becoming self-sufficient.
Again, anyone with a clear mind shouldn’t be surprised. Economic independence and wealth translates into political power. The voices and experiences of those communities are no longer silenced. That, in turn, upsets the self-appointed power elite – and the oppression begins. It used to come at the end of firearms and sticks. Now it comes with legislation.
It’s too easy to dismiss the ignorance of people like Donald Trump. But it’s also dangerous. And it does a disservice to the American conscious.
We can never truly make amends for incidents like Tulsa. We can, however, honor such brutal transgressions by remembering them; remembering exactly what happened and not deleting any feature of those accounts because some are uncomfortable with it. Again, that’s a disservice to the American conscious.
Filed under Essays
Tweet of the Week – June 12, 2020
Donald Trump on renaming U.S. military bases originally named for Confederate military figures.
There’s something inherently un-American about a U.S. military base named after someone who moved Heaven and Earth to fight against the United States.