Tag Archives: U.S. Civil War

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

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Coloring In

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.

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Tulsa and June 19th

Page 1 of the Emancipation Proclamation, issued January 1, 1863.

“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.

A photographic overview of Tulsa’s Greenwood area after the 1921 race riot and massacre. (Greenwood Cultural Center)

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.

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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.

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Wait? We have.

I looked at Tom* with what he later described as a scowl.  “Are you serious?” I asked.

“Um…yeah,” was his only reply.  He then looked embarrassed – almost as if he realized he’d just said the wrong thing.  Or, in this case, just pissed me off.

It was the fall of 2002, and we’d known each other for a few years and been roommates since May.  Things weren’t turning out as well as I’d hoped.  Pooling resources is supposed to help people get through tough time.  So far, the only thing that had turned out well was the new puppy he got in August, after the death of his last dog.

I like Tom – for the most part.  You never really know someone unless you either spend the night with or move in with them.  Tom and I had never spent the night.  I do have standards!  But Tom was smart and highly-educated; something of a wild man with few bounds.

He was a little like me: a native Texan of mixed ethnicity (in his case, German and Indian) who graduated high school in 1982 and attended the University of North Texas (although I didn’t arrive there until 1984).  But he was more conservative, and our political discussions on race and gender often went sideways with his right-wing logic.

This evening’s conversation was a perfect example.  I can’t remember what set it off, but I had mentioned that the modern civil rights movement “had to occur”; that it had to take place.  He refuted that claim; calmly stating that it had been completely unnecessary; that eventually society would “come around” and realize it was only fair to give all people a chance; that folks just “needed to wait”.

Thus, my…scowl.

“Wait?”  People had already waited – more than 400 years, from the arrival of the first Europeans to the 1950s, when Martin Luther Kind launched his quiet revolution.

People had waited through the American Revolution, the U.S. Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam.  People had waited through every major political and social event since the Salem Witch Trials for an equal place in American society.  People had waited through the name-calling, beatings, shootings, stabbings, lynchings and relocations.

People had waited.  Long enough.  And that’s why everything finally exploded in the 1960s.  I believe the catalyst was the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  Just a few years into the decade, the first U.S. president born in the 20th century was cut down by a delusional madman (or a cavalcade of them, depending on who you ask); thus squelching a promising future to an American that was moving irreversibly forward.  But the centennial of the Civil War – a conflict about one group of humans owning another group, not property – helped fuel the embers of dissatisfaction.  People had finally said, ‘I’ve had it.  This is it.  We’ve done everything possible to make ourselves valuable and worthy of a seat at that great American banquet table.’

And, in the midst of the mayhem, old White fools like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan stood around saying, ‘I don’t know why they’re so upset.  They live in a free country.’

Define free.

A high school English teacher once said all that happened in the 1960s was boiling in the 1950s.  The Korean War – the sadly “forgotten war” – was a blight in an otherwise great decade.  It was marked by the creation of the grandest economy at the time and included the seminal Brown v. Topeka Board of Education.

Tom didn’t know what to say to me after my rant.  It was more of a lecture.  I can get emotional with those sensitive issues, but I’d maintained my decorum – each of us standing there in boxer shorts chugging beers.  He was truly speechless – a rarity for him.  But alas… he had to concede I was right.  Or more, that he could see my point.

Wait…no longer.

*Name changed

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I Don’t Care About…

A few nights ago, amidst extensive coverage of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, a national news network abruptly mentioned that Tom Brady recently signed a contract to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  I guess it was supposed to be a bright spot in yet another tension-filled day in the U.S. and the world.  And who wouldn’t want to take a break from this madness?  But it startled me, as it came even before news about a massive storm system that had swept in from the Pacific and was approaching the middle of the country; bringing heavy rain and strong winds – some possibly tornadic – upon tens of millions of people.  I’m well aware Americans love their football and that sports usually brings people together – excluding stupidly angry parents at kids’ softball games.

In the midst of this pandemic, I could care less about Tom Brady or any other professional athlete – especially the overpaid, over-celebrated types.  Like Tom Brady.  The COVID-19 death toll is rising rapidly in the U.S.; gradually becoming more real and more frightening.  Just as a mudslide creeps down a rain-slogged hill, picking up rocks and vegetation, the virus has been gathering unsuspecting victims – slow, but unstoppable.  Here in my native northeast Texas, the Dallas / Fort Worth metropolitan area’s nearly 8 million residents have found themselves in an unexpected lockdown capsule.  Not much scares Texans, native or transplant.  But COVID-19 is more terrifying than the thought of the federal government snatching up our firearms, or bars and restaurants running out of beer and tequila.

With my elderly mother’s fragile health in even more jeopardy and my gym forced to shut down, I wonder if I’m fatally mistaking my usual spring allergy symptoms for that wicked Wuhan menace.  And, as matters intensify, there are some aspects of American society I don’t care about right now.  I don’t care …

If another wedding or funeral in either Afghanistan or Iraq is interrupted by an ISIS bomb.  U.S. troops have been embedded in Afghanistan for nearly two decades, and we still haven’t been able to tame the bearded and burqa-covered savages who occupy the nation’s rocky environs.  I’ve long championed the complete removal of American troops from Afghanistan; whether or not the energy titans who have insisted they remain like it or not.

If Israel and its venomous neighbors let yet another peace pact collapse.  There never has been peace in the Middle East and – at the current rate – there never will be.  For one thing the U.S. has been kissing Israel’s kosher ass for as long as I can remember.  We’ve bequeathed literally billions of American dollars in aid to Israel, and they’ve reciprocated with little more than self-righteous angst.

To hear more about the British royal family.  As I’ve noted previously, the American media harbors a fascination with the Windsors that the majority of American citizens do not.  To put it in more common vernacular, we mostly don’t a shit what the British royals do.  That Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, won’t adhere to some ancient, traditional Buckingham duties is about as important to the American populace as a grasshopper binging on a blade of Augustine grass.

About the plight of illegal immigrants lined up along the Mexican border.  Yes, I know many of them are desperate for a new life; free of poverty and crime.  But, right now, we can’t help them.  I’m genuinely more concerned about the health of my mother (who was born in México in 1932) and myself than some illiterate wetback who’s either too stupid or too lazy to follow established rules and laws to enter the U.S. legally.  If they can afford to pay several thousand American dollars to a coyote, or smuggler, to help them cross the Rio Grande, they can use that money to acquire the proper documentation.

About the anxiety of the transgendered.  Personally, I’m almost sick of hearing gender-confused folks clamor for equal treatment, then publicly lament that no one understands their “struggles”.  No, I don’t comprehend that you have trouble figuring out whether you should have indoor or outdoor genital plumbing and I don’t want to take the time and energy to do so.  For years the TG community demanded to be included within the overall queer community; now they want to piggyback on the rest of us and still have their own revolving closet.

About Confederate monuments.  Throughout the southeastern U.S., generations of redneck assholes have been fighting the American Civil War and – goddammit – they STILL haven’t won!  They keep hollering that the conflict that took some 800,000 lives was about states’ rights, when in fact, it was about the right of said states to keep millions of Negroes enslaved like wild animals.  The conservative morons who approve school text books have tried to dance around the issue by making such asinine claims that African slaves were “immigrant workers” or that slavery was actually “work for food and shelter.”  If anything, these are the people I’d love to see infected with COVID-19 and die.  When education and information fail to enlighten people, I view death as the only viable alternative.

About the Kardashian clan.  As with the British royal family, I’m about as concerned with the Kardashian gang as I am with a bug’s ass.  In fact, like with professional athletes, I don’t give a shit for the antics of overpaid, over-hyped celebrities; people who live in gilded mansions and consider limited bandwidth a problem.

Whether or not Oprah Winfrey can eat bread.  For more than thirty years I’ve heard the former talk show host bemoan her struggles with weight and body imagery.  Here’s some body imagery for you: I have an uncircumcised penis and hair covering my butt and my chest.  Does anyone genuinely care?  No!  And I don’t give a flying fuck if Oprah can eat an entire loaf of unleavened bread in one sitting without feeling guilty.  Her wagon loads of chicken fat (emblematic of her butt cheeks) failed to impress me; instead, just making me laugh.  I recall, during her 2009 visit to the Dallas area, Oprah waddled onto a stage at the Texas State Fair clad in jeans and a cowboy hat (trying to look so…you know, Texan).  My mother glared at the TV screen and uttered, “God, I didn’t realize how fat she is until now…seeing her in those jeans.  You know, fat gals have no business wearing jeans.”  Thus remember, despite her self-aggrandizing proclamations, Oprah doesn’t really care if you like bread, or if you can distinguish real mashed potatoes from processed cauliflower.  She just cares if you buy her magazines.  Which might not be a bad idea right now.  Toilet paper has been in short supply lately.

Now, dear readers, please tell us what you care about most (or least) in these critical times.  I fully believe in the power of the pen and the keyboard, and as bloggers and writers, we are obliged to keep the unbridled truth – and the hand sanitizer – in motion.

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One Last Angry Clarion Call

Trump looking out in anger.

“It seems clear that [Attorney General William Barr] will do or enable anything to keep Trump in office.  And Trump will do anything to stay there.  Suspension of the election, negation of the results, declaration of martial law are not simply fanciful, alarmist or crazy things to throw out there or to contemplate.  Members of Congress, governors and state legislators, leaders in civil society, lawyers, law enforcement figures and the military need to be thinking now about how they might respond.”

Norm Orenstein, Chair of American Enterprise Institute of Public Policy Research

Donald Trump has joked recently that he might not leave office after a second term, as mandated by the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  This particular amendment was ratified in response to the 12-year tenure of Franklin D. Roosevelt.  The original authors of the Constitution had never intended for any elected Chief Executive to hold the position as if it were a divinely-inspired monarchy.  They certainly didn’t anticipate Roosevelt, but they most likely designed the Constitution with concerns about scandalous characters like Trump.  Our 45th Chief Executive made his claim about an extended presidency last month at a conference of the conservative Israeli-American Council in Hollywood, Florida.  I’ve always found it oxymoronic – downright hypocritical, actually – that Trump bears such ardor for Israel and the Jewish people, while openly courting White supremacists.  But that’s a different subject.

The thought of Trump holding just one term in the White House was frightening enough three years ago.  That he could be elected to a second term is deeply unsettling.  That he could somehow forcibly remain in the office even one day longer makes the bloodiest horror films look like Hallmark greeting card commercials.

Yet Trump is delusional enough to believe that’s a real possibility, and he has plenty of supporters who would be comfortable with such a scenario.  Those of us who live in the real world understand this simply could not be allowed per that pesky 22nd Amendment.  Still, even some constitutional experts have surmised Trump might make such an attempt.  That would be reality TV at its worst!  Richard Nixon quietly left the White House, following an impassioned farewell speech to his staff, in August of 1974.  There were no guns blazing or hand grenades exploding.  Nixon and his family weren’t spirited out of the White House through a tunnel to avoid angry mobs of detractors.  The Nixons simply strolled onto the South Lawn, accompanied by newly-appointed President Gerald Ford and his wife, Betty, to Marine One.  The helicopter made the loudest sound of anything.  That’s how a peaceful transition of power occurs, even in the most dire and tense of situations.

With Trump, I can almost see him and his wife, Melania, scurrying through that tunnel in a setting reminiscent of Romania’s Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu.  I honestly don’t believe it will ever come to that sanguineous of a climax.  Yet, I wouldn’t put it past the infantile Trump to grip onto the door frame of the master bedroom.

But, while Trump’s behavior can’t be taken too lightly, another aspect of the current American experience that definitely shouldn’t be dismissed is the effect Trump’s presidency has had on his faithful minions and the sentiments that put someone like him into office.  Decades of socially progressive behavior and legislation gave us Barack Obama and others like him; individuals who didn’t meet the traditional standard of those in position of power.  In other words, Obama and others weren’t White males.  Just a half century ago it was inconceivable that someone like Obama could ascend to the highest elected office in the land.  It was unimaginable that Nancy Pelosi would be the one banging the gavel in the House of Representatives.  Only a handful of visionaries thought it possible that Hilary Clinton could be a serious contender for the presidency, or that Pete Buttigieg could live openly gay AND serve in the U.S. military AND talk about having a “husband.”  People born, say, since 1990 have no idea what a vastly different world it is today than in the few years before their time.

Now, it seems the nation has digressed with Donald Trump.  Decades ago, Ronald Reagan aspired for America to return to a time before the 1960s messed up everything.  That was a simpler time for him and others just like him.  But it meant Blacks sat at the back of the bus; women sought nothing but marriage and motherhood; queers remained in the closet; and Native Americans languished as comical figures on TV screens.  The 1960s may have messed up the world for the likes of Reagan and Nixon, but it opened up the universe for everyone else.

As I marched through my junior year in high school, I began receiving phone calls from a man with the local recruiting office of the U.S. Army.  I believe I’d spoken to him at least twice, before my father happened to answer the phone one day; whereupon he politely told the man that I had plans for college and that he and my mother were determined to ensure I get there and graduated.  Just a few years later I’d openly stated I had considered joining either the Navy or the Marines.  And each time my father talked me out of it.  In retrospect, I understand why.

As a naïve high school student in the late 1940s, my father had been convinced NOT to take a drafting course and instead go for something in the blue collar arena.  “Most Spanish boys do this,” is how he quoted the female school counselor telling him.  My father liked to draw and – much like his own father – had the desire and talent for an architectural profession.  But he’d been talked out of it.  Because that was what most “Spanish boys do”.  College was for White guys.  Trade school and the military were for everyone else.

Years of struggle – working twice as hard for half as much – and assertive civil rights action had led America to the early 1980s, when I graduated from high school.  And didn’t have to join the military.  In the spring of 1983, I was sitting in a government class at a local community college, when the instructor asked, “What do we owe minorities in this country?”

Seated in the row in front of me was a young man who had graduated with me from the same high school.  I knew his name, but I didn’t know him personally.  Without missing a beat, he muttered, “Nothing.”

Only the few of us nearby heard him.  He was White, as was most everyone else seated on either side of him.  From my vantage point directly behind him, he looked angry; as if he’d been robbed of something that was rightfully his.

I finally spoke up and informed the class that “this country” owes the same thing to minorities that it does to everyone else: equality and fairness; “the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, as prescribed in the Declaration of Independence.  I added, “Nothing more, nothing less.”

That one young man and the others nearby nodded their collective heads and looked at me, as if I’d said something unbelievably profound – which, to them, it may have been.

That level of total fairness and freedom hasn’t been easy.  But nothing so monumental as dramatic cultural changes are.  The Civil War, for example, ended more than 150 years ago.  Yet, some people in the Deep South of the United States still can’t let that go.  They still insist it was a war over states’ rights, not slavery.  They’ve been fighting that conflict all these years and they still haven’t won!

That’s a little of what Donald Trump’s presidency is all about: a bunch of old-guard folks wanting to maintain things as they were way back when.  And it’s just not going to work for them any longer.  The old White Republicans dominating the U.S. Senate disrespected Barack Obama as much as they could without making it too glaringly obvious.  They did everything they could to undermine his presidency and essentially failed at every step.  If anything, they only hurt the country and their reputations.

Social and political conservatives can’t return to an America of the 1940s and 50s any more than liberals can return to an America of the 1990s.  Memories are forever, but time marches onward.  It always has and it always will.  Trump’s presidency may be the final battle cry of the angry White male.

But we can’t go back to whenever.  Time continues.

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Worst Quote of the Week – November 15, 2019

“Get a rope.”

– Sid Miller, Texas Agriculture Commissioner, responding to the refusal by organizers of a Veterans Day parade in his hometown of Stephenville, Texas, to allow a Confederate group to participate.

Miller was upset the group wasn’t granted requested permission to march in the parade and later said he borrowed the comment from a 1992 Pace Picante sauce commercial. People were equally – and justifiably – upset Miller didn’t seem to graph the legacy of lynching in the U.S. and how the comment, ‘get a rope’, is linked to it.

Then again, Miller is a right-wing Republican conservative; so while people are upset with him, they shouldn’t be surprised. And, while I’ll never apologize for my Texas heritage, I’m always embarrassed that the majority of voters in this state continually put these Civil War relics into office.

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Worst Quote of the Week – October 25, 2019

“So some day, if a Democrat becomes President and the Republicans win the House, even by a tiny margin, they can impeach the President, without due process or fairness or any legal rights.  All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here — a lynching.  But we will WIN!”

– Faux-President Donald Trump, colorfully describing the impeachment inquiry by the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives

Still working (with surprisingly little effort) to maintain his role as ASSHOLE-in-Chief, Trump once again uses racist terminology to elicit sympathy from his brainless followers.

To put the concept of lynching back into historical perspective, the above photo was taken shortly before the lynching death of Henry Smith in Paris, Texas, in 1893 that was viewed by a crowd of 10,000 as a public spectacle.  An estimated 4,000 people have been lynched in the U.S. since the end of the Civil War, even as late as the 1960s; mostly Black, but also Native American, Hispanic and even some Whites.  Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama offers a stark view of the REAL victims of human intolerance.

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Still Free

Henry Louis Stephens, untitled watercolor (c. 1863) of a man reading a newspaper with headline “Presidential Proclamation / Slavery.”

Henry Louis Stephens, untitled watercolor (c. 1863) of a man reading a newspaper with headline “Presidential Proclamation / Slavery.”

On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln took a break from greeting guests as part of a New Year’s tradition, and slipped into his office to sign a controversial document that ultimately would become a cornerstone in America’s continuing battle for democracy: the Emancipation Proclamation.  In the midst of the bloody Civil War, where southern states fought hard to protect their right to enslave the Negro people, this lengthy item declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”

It had its limitations.  It applied only to states that had seceded from the Union, but it exempted border states and any part of the Confederacy that had fallen into northern control.  More importantly, it depended upon a Union victory.

The document didn’t actually end slavery in the United States.  No piece of paper – even one signed by the President – can obliterate decades or centuries of cultural tradition.  That only happens over time and through education.  People change and so do the societies in which they live.

But, on the sesquicentennial of this significant declaration, it’s equally critical to remember that human life is valuable.  It can’t be sold and it can’t be bought.  No country really needs a document telling them that.  But sometimes, people have to be reminded how important we all are.

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