Crippling the post office for Wall Street The Delegitimization of the Federal Government

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Why White Liberals Misread Lincoln and Trump’s Gettysburg Address 

Why White Liberals Misread Lincoln and Trump’s Gettysburg Address 

Today in the North if you mention “the war,” you need to be specific. Revolutionary, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, or the war on terrorism. Whatever the war, from the Revolutionary war and the Declaration of Independence to the present, if you talk to a Northerner, in 2020, you need to be specific. To the conservative Southerner there is only one war that matters, and it is the Civil War. In fact you need to be clear that when speaking to a conservative Southerner, if you are referencing another conflict you need to be specific and call it by the name of the conflict or the assumption is you are talking about the big one, the Civil War. For the Christian, their entire religion dates from the birth, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. To the Southerner according to Mark Twain, “In the South the war is what A.D. is elsewhere; they date from it.” It too is their modern American religion. 

The Northerners do not get this. They still do not get it. In large part because the reconciliation at the end of the Civil war gave legitimacy to the idea of treason as part of the nation’s reconciliation. The Southerners are not bad people, “the disagreement” can be civil. We can welcome home the prodigal men and women and the ideology that sought to dissolve our union into the halls of our nation federal and state legislatures and resolve our problems not on a battlefield but in political parties that have for more than 160 years of national memory legitimized the losing sides point of view. Henry Charles Carey was the leading 19th century economist of the American School of Capitalism and Chief economic advisor to President Abraham Lincoln had this to say, “ from that date the abandonment of the older state proceeded with a rapidity never before known, and with it grew the domestic slave trade and the pro-slavery feeling.” 

Let me be clear slavery was wrong morally and politically and those who sought to defend it and continue to defend it are still wrong. So, it should come as no surprise that Trump wants to accept the Republican nomination for president in 2020 at Gettysburg. For liberals in the media, it’s just a stunt, for Trump’s hard core base, they appreciate Bannon and Steve Millers efforts to continue this national discord for several more centuries. 

The battle at Gettysburg made places such as Cemetery Hill, Cemetery Ridge, Little Round Top, Big Round Top, and Devil’s Den famous, along with the northern names of Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain and the Twentieth Maine, the First Minnesota and General Governor K. Warren. For the South, the name of a thirty-eight-year-old general, George Pickett, was forever made infamous when Lee ordered him to conduct “Pickett’s Charge,” an almost suicidal foray against Union troops. It was a great northern victory, but a total of more than fifty thousand men had given of their blood or lives—as many as twenty-three thousand Union casualties and twenty-eight thousand southern men killed, wounded or missing, more than a third of Lee’s army. The combination of victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg turned out to be the all-important turning point in the war. 

The burial of the Gettysburg dead was originally planned for October 23 but rescheduled to November 19 because the principal orator, Edward Everett of Massachusetts, could not be ready before then. Lincoln, by comparison, was casually invited to attend and make a few remarks. “No insult was intended. Federal responsibility or participation was not assumed, then, in state activities. And Lincoln took no offense. Though specifically invited to deliver only ‘a few appropriate remarks’ to open the cemetery, he meant to use this opportunity. The partly mythical victory of Gettysburg was important to his 

administration’s war propaganda,” according to Garry Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg. There are mythical accounts that Lincoln wrote his Gettysburg Address on the back of an envelope. Even though the 272-word speech probably took less than three minutes to deliver—interrupted with applause five times by the twenty thousand in attendance—such cavalier preparation would have been totally uncharacteristic of Lincoln, who took such opportunities very seriously. 

Lincoln intended to use this occasion and speech to lift the nation’s eyes above the death and carnage at Gettysburg “to a level of abstraction that purges it of grosser matter…. Lincoln did for the whole Civil War what he accomplished for the single battlefield,” said Wills. He transformed its meaning and in so doing transformed what it meant to be an American. 

Lincoln mentioned neither slavery nor Gettysburg. He drained his speech of all particulars in order to lift up an ideal. Lincoln intended to create something good and new out of this tragic and bloody episode. Both North and South strove to interpret Gettysburg to further their own war interests. Lincoln was after an even bigger victory—winning the ideological as well as the military war. And he succeeded. “The Civil War is, to most Americans, what Lincoln wanted it to mean. Words had to complete the work of the guns,” Wills continued. When we wave the flag and celebrate on July 4, Independence Day, we are not so much celebrating our American-ness in terms of our independence from England. We are celebrating the meaning of the flag and America as Lincoln interpreted them in his Gettysburg Address. At Gettysburg, Lincoln reinterpreted the Constitution. Looking past slavery in the Constitution, he appealed to the Declaration of Independence and its claim that “all men are created equal.” Conservative political “heirs to this outrage still attack Lincoln for subverting the Constitution at Gettysburg.” Wills admonished. 

Lincoln is here not only to sweeten the air at Gettysburg, but to clear the infected atmosphere of American history itself, tainted with official sins and inherited guilt. He would cleanse the Constitution—not, as William Lloyd Garrison had, by burning an instrument that countenanced slavery. He altered the document from within, by appeal from its letter to the spirit, subtly changing the recalcitrant stuff of that legal compromise, bringing it to its own indictment. By implicitly doing this, he performed one of the most daring acts of open-air sleight-of-hand ever witnessed by the unsuspecting. Everyone in that vast throng of thousands was having his or her intellectual pocket picked. The crowd departed with a new thing in its ideological luggage, that new Constitution Lincoln had substituted for the one they brought there with them. They walked off, from those curving graves on the hillside, under a changed sky, into a different America. Lincoln had revolutionized the Revolution, giving people a new past to live with that would change their future indefinitely.43 

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was transforming the United States from a plural to a singular noun—from the United States are into the United States is a free government. According to Garry Wills, Lincoln, by his words and actions, converted the Union from a mystical hope into a constitutional reality. 

Current scholars and politicians call the Gettysburg Address just as authoritative a statement of the American spirit as the Declaration of Independence, perhaps more so because it determines how we read the latter. Because the Gettysburg address is “the lens” by which we read the Declaration of Independence, Trump’s acceptance seeks to re-interpret for many Americans who lack this understanding a new definition of freedom going forward. Wills argues that for most people, the 

Declaration means what Lincoln told us it means, correcting the Constitution in the process without overthrowing it. This spiritual correction and intellectual revolution make attempts to go back beyond Lincoln virtually impossible. “The proponents of states’ rights may have arguments, but they have lost their force, in courts as well as in the popular mind. By accepting the Gettysburg Address, its concept of a single people dedicated to a proposition, we have been changed. Because of it, we live in a different America,” concluded Wills. 

Aside from the illegality of using federal land and property for a campaign event, from his appointment of more than 200 federal jurists many of whom are unqualified, Trump seeks to provide for them a new foundation, a foundation and view of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution so that they too might find legitimacy in spreading Trumpism for centuries. From Mount Rushmore to Gettysburg, Trump at the direction of Steve Bannon and Steven Miller want to be remembered not for building a More Perfect Union, at mask less biker rallies in SD and as sources of legitimacy for armed resistance movements at state capitals and legislatures, for an exceptionally long time. After all, President Trump legitimized their behavior and the liberals from the North did nothing about it.

The images below are former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. with Harold Holtzer , Abraham Lincoln historian, celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg where Congressman Jackson was the guest speaker.

How to Live and How to Die:  A Reflection on the Decent and Eternal Life of Representative John Lewis  by Jesse Jackson Jr.

How to live and How to die 

A reflection on the decent and eternal life of Representative John Lewis 

by Jesse Jackson Jr.

John Lewis lived a life of courage and decency that we have not seen in modern man. I decided to write this article based on a lifetime of observation. I was born March 11, 1965 in the middle of the three Selma to Montgomery marches, held in 1965, along the 54 mile highway from Selma Alabama to the state capital in Montgomery Alabama. On Sunday, March 7, a nonviolent peaceful march led by Lewis was met by state troopers, who had everything but non-violence on their minds as they sought to enforce the Alabama policy of “Law and Order,”  at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. My father was a student at Chicago Theological Seminary when he joined the second March. He called Greenville South Carolina and found out that I had just been born, and he was so overwhelmed by the history of the moment that he wanted to name me Selma. My mothers better judgment prevailed, my father and my oldest sister to this day still call me Selma. My classmate Cameron Moody from college still calls me Selma. When I served in Congress with John Lewis for 17 years he too called me Selma.

Between my birth and my election to Congress I saw Representative Lewis who I affectionately call “Uncle John” at various conventions, Congressional Black Caucus weekends, protests, social events with my father, always with a reverence and respect of a young respectable man who was not only in the presence of greatness, but in the presence of divinity, a holy figure complete with halo.

My election to Congress in 1995 only added the term colleague and friend, a line only crossed by profession, for he was divinity. He wasn’t a minister, but he was. He wasn’t a preacher, but he could, he wasn’t a politician but he served. The English language doesn’t have a term that can describe the spirit of John Lewis.  I think ultimately the American people will erect statues, monuments, name buildings, rooms and programs after him. For we the living want to multiply and expand his spirit energy to future generations.  Jim Clyburn, the majority whip from South Carolina, said it best “John Lewis lived the life of a sermon.” I agree. The living are going to write his gospel and testament. So I want to offer my thoughts in the deification of his spirit. 

First John, ( I like that term First John),  had a sense of himself in history. He was unique in his “knowing of the role he played” in changing the course of human events. President Lyndon Baines Johnson in his special message to Congress in 1965 titled, “And We Shall Overcome,” said, “At times history and fate meet at a single time, in a single place, to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma Alabama.”

The former senator and segregationist and then President of the United States was referring to the event of John Lewis and the marchers non-violent confrontation with Alabama State Police on the other side of the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The consciousness of mankind had been challenged by the fact that the protestors did not return hate for hate but returned the hate of the officers with love and compassion, an authentic christian moment. It was a strange moment, in  that we had not seen, nor heard, nor witnessed the incomplete ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, tragically interrupted by crucifixion, taken to its logical  conclusion, but we could only imagine that this was his intention. It was an experiment in faith and we all observed it. The brutality was such that the public opinion of planet earth was formed against the behemoth, the goliath,  of American hatred toward people of color and it required a global reassessment and an identification with David. John Lewis changed Johnson. Johnson had earlier signed the Civil Rights act of 1964, would sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965, due to Lewis efforts, and would sign Fair Housing Legislation in 1968, the crux of the Civil rights era and its accomplishment in law.  From segregationist to advocate for human and civil rights, Jesse Jackson would later call Johnson the greatest President of the 20th century. Lewis changed Johnson!

Secondly, Lewis’ legislative accomplishments, in addition to the words that he spoke, and entered into the Congressional Record, will stand the test of the nation’s most comprehensive and complete documenting of the events that moved his spirit to action. There is no record more eternal in the life of this nation than the Congressional Record and John Lewis was a master of it. His spirit is contained in his words and action. A perfect say:do ratio. He bragged about being arrested for “Good Trouble” more than 40 times before his election to congress, and 4 more times once elected. He intended to get our attention.

Thirdly, Lewis’ graphic novel written and illustrated for K through 12 and beyond tells the story of civil and human rights available for the youngest to the oldest of our citizens. For Lewis it was really more than struggle, or commitment to the moment, Lewis was committed to the narrative and the movement of the spirit of his life. There was no higher priority than the establishment of a beloved community, “on earth as it is in heaven.” The beloved community that he and Martin Luther King Jr. gave the last full measure of their devotion too. In the graphic novel he wrote  so that all Americans, indeed all of us could recognize our role and responsibility to the “World House ” we all live in. Lewis insured that we would be present at the events that led to “a new American Founding,” forever.  A new reality for all of us.

Fourth, his lying in state at the Alabama State Capitol, the Georgia State Capitol, the United States Capitol speaks to the nation’s highest honor and the nation’s debt of gratitude to Lewis for he had lived a life of “Good Trouble” and conducted his life as a sermon of justice and mercy and hope. Good trouble, a trouble that troubled the waters of conscience and brought about results by changing the minds of his political opposition and ultimately an opposition that joined him in passing legislation to improve the “Soul of America.” He believed that deeply within every person existed the capacity to change, for Lewis, even the most staunch segregationist could enter a community of love and mutual respect. Lewis understood that generations of Southern white Americans and many liberal northerners had been told a lie and they needed to confront their truth and that they would act out until they came to terms with a new truth. What Lewis controlled was the response to the reaction, it would be loving and nonviolent. His capacity to endure suffering made him great.

Fifth, John Lewis was a Founding Father of this Democracy. It is hard to imagine that James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and the other architects, had not added the fundamental affirmative right to vote to the Constitution of the United States. The task before Lewis wasn’t just consistently renewing and extending  the Voting Rights of 1965, but the elevation of the affirmative right to vote to the Constitution itself, an oversight at the Founding. How can we be a democracy when the right to vote is protected by 50 different states and so called separate and unequal states rights in voting and not the constitution? Such an amendment would be more important to Lewis and the future of a free people in a representative government than any statue or memorial.

And lastly his courage surpassed our understanding. He even confronted his own mortality and decided to seize the moment by writing and immortalizing his final thoughts to us in a New York Times op Ed read by the voice of God, Morgan Freeman and he insured, even in death, John Lewis planned to be with us forever in spirit and he will be just that.

I think because of John Lewis and Martin Luther King Jr.,  and yes Jesus of Nazareth to whom they followed, love is going to have the final word of our existence. It is painful to get there.  There are competing philosophies and theologies on this point but King and Lewis were from a primitive authentic Christian understanding. Robert E Lee High School in Virginia is now the John Robert Lewis High School. Edmund Pettus Bridge named after a Ku Klux Klan man will be renamed John Robert Lewis. Fisk University is naming it’s social justice institute after John Robert Lewis. Streets will be named after John Robert Lewis, from Sea to Shining Sea. John Robert Lewis and his spirit will have the final say on defeating treason and the confederacy, because of the way he lived.

John Lewis showed us how to live, he showed us with dignity how to die, and he showed us the power of the resurrection of the human spirit and the divine entitlement of freedom.

Book Review Begin Again James Baldwin’s America and its urgent lessons for our own by Dr. Eddie Glaude

“Glaude sets out upon a journey to excavate from the rubble, the spirit and the mission of James Baldwin and he does just that. In Begin Again, I could close my eyes and enter into a commune with Baldwin’s spirit. Upon their opening, I asked myself the question do the theoretical ideals of Freedom and liberty articulated by Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Adams and Franklin live up to the reality that Baldwin lived through and saw? History has yielded a different result from the eyes and vantage point of Baldwin. After reading “Begin Again,” I said to myself, Baldwin, King, Malcolm, Carmichael, Lewis, and many others should have been there, there at the founding, with a vote. Would there be a different future, our present? Maybe. But we would be assured that dissenting points of view were not dismissed and may have even gained support as “original intent.” From the rubble of Baldwin’s life, emerges a different series of essays than the theories advanced in the federalist papers. Baldwin was not ahead of his time, he was in his time, his star. Baldwin counted on someone to dig through the rubble and ruin of his contribution and find something valuable to the future. Glaude did that, and he spared the present no quarter from shirking her responsibility in bringing forward a new earth, for it is in the new earth that a new vision of heaven is possible.

Glaude’s conclusion was so moving that I can only encourage the reader to experience it for themselves.”

Words Spirit & Statues

Every word that we can muster is the embodiment of the Spirit endowed to each of us by our Creator. For deep within every breath that we breathe, mindfully or not, is a spiritual journey. In my body, there is respiration, aspiration, inspiration, perspiration, expiration all embody and contain spirit and spirit energy. Dr. James Forbes, one of the most prolific and profound preachers in the United States, shared with me recently that in the words respiration, aspiration, inspiration, perspiration, expiration is the word spirit, in each human breath is a person’s spirit. Spirit is not completely definable, for it defies definition, but we use words and symbols, as best we can, in multiple languages, and different forms to define, “indescribable spirit.” 

When in Italy I looked and stared at David by Michelangelo Buonarroti for hours. I had been in Italy for a meeting with the Pope. Michelangelo said, “I had a vision of David and I carved away everything in my mind that was not David.” “First I saw the Angel then I carved away everything that was not the Angel and set him free.” Even the work of the great masters cannot deny or completely define spirit, but they try to capture it.

Between 1996 and 2001, I took 3 tours with members of my staff, and I visited more than 2 dozen Civil War Battlefields and sites, from Pennsylvania to Texas more than a dozen states. Each moving and memorable, but the time I spent in Andersonville was among the most. Between Camp Douglass, in the North, and Andersonville in the South, it is difficult to determine which side inflicted the greatest cruelty on their fellow countrymen who were prisoners of civil war. Modern Civil War enthusiasts have debated these issues for longer than the conflict itself lasted. But while in Andersonville, I was particularly moved. The Park Service Ranger took me to a headstone at the National Cemetery, and he asked me to read a letter. The Letter was from Cpl. James Henry Gooding, USCT. 54th Massachusetts. It was addressed to Abraham Lincoln.

Camp of the 54th Mass. Colored Regiment. Morris Island, S.C.

September 28, 1863

Your Excellency, Abraham Lincoln:

Your Excellency will pardon the presumption of a humble individual like myself, in addressing you, but the earnest solicitation of my comrades in arms beside the genuine interest felt by myself in the matter is my excuse, for placing before the Executive head of the Nation our Common Grievance.

On the 6th of the last Month, the Paymaster of the Department informed us, that if we would decide to receive the sum of $10 (ten dollars) per month, he would come and pay us that sum, but that, on the sitting of Congress, the Regt. [regiment] would, in his opinion, be allowed the other 3 (three). He did not give us any guarantee that this would be, as he hoped; certainly, he had no authority for making any such guarantee, and we cannot suppose him acting in any way interested.

Now the main question is, are we Soldiers, or are we Laborers? We are fully armed and equipped, have done all the various duties pertaining to a Soldier’s life, have conducted ourselves to the complete satisfaction of General Officers, who were, if anything, prejudiced against us, but who now accord us all the encouragement and honors due us; have shared the perils and labor of reducing the first stronghold that flaunted a Traitor Flag; and more, Mr. President, today the Anglo Saxon Mother, Wife, or Sister are not alone in tears for departed Sons, Husbands, and Brothers. The patient, trusting descendants of Africa’s Clime have dyed the ground with blood, in defense of the Union, and Democracy. Men, too, your Excellency, who know in a measure the cruelties of the iron heel of oppression, which in years gone by, the very power their blood is now being spilled to maintain, ever ground them in the dust.

But when the war trumpet sounded o’er the land when men knew not the Friend from the Traitor, the black man laid his life at the altar of the Nation, —and he was refused. When the arms of the Union were beaten, in the first year of the war, and the Executive called for more food for its ravenous maw, again the black man begged the privilege of aiding his country in her need, to be again refused.

And now he is in the War, and how has he conducted himself? Let their dusky forms rise up, out [of] the mires of James Island, and give the answer. Let the rich muddle around Wagner’s parapet be upturned, and there will be found an eloquent answer. Obedient and patient and solid as a wall are they. All we lack is a paler hue and a better acquaintance with the alphabet.

Now, your Excellency, we have done a Soldier’s duty. Why can’t we have a Soldier’s pay? You caution the Rebel Chieftain, that the United States knows no distinction in her soldiers. She insists on having all her soldiers of whatever creed or color, to be treated according to the usages of War. Now if the United States exacts uniformity of treatment of her soldiers from the insurgents, would it not be well and consistent to set the example herself by paying all her soldiers alike?

We of this Regt. were not enlisted under any “contraband” act. But we do not wish to be understood as rating our service of more value to the Government than the service of the ex-slave. Their service is undoubtedly worth much to the Nation, but Congress made express provision touching their case, as slaves freed by military necessity, and assuming the Government to be their temporary Guardian. Not so with us. Freemen by birth and consequently having the advantage of thinking and acting for ourselves so far as the Laws would allow us, we do not consider ourselves fit subjects for the Contraband act.

We appeal to you, Sir, as the Executive of the Nation, to have us justly dealt with. The Regt. do pray that they are assured their service will be fairly appreciated by paying them as American Soldiers, not as menial hirelings. Black men, you may well know, are poor; three dollars per month, for a year, will supply their needy wives and little ones with fuel. If you, as Chief Magistrate of the Nation, will assure us of our whole pay, we are content. Our Patriotism, our enthusiasm will have a new impetus, to exert our energy more and more to aid our Country. Not that our hearts ever flagged in devotion, spite the evident apathy displayed on our behalf, but we feel as though our country spurned us, now we are sworn to serve her. Please give this a moment’s attention.

Corporal James Henry Gooding. USCT

The Park Ranger had not shared with me that I was standing at the tombstone of Cpl. Gooding. I broke down in tears. The Stone, that marked the head of his mortal remains, and his final resting place, contained spirit and I was moved. As a sitting United States Congressman, how could I not go back to Washington and not fight for equal pay for equal work and health benefits for all including those who served and had served?

When I sat for hours looking at monuments and statues in our Nation’s Capital, and in our state legislatures, that I visited, I was looking for more than craftsmanship. I was looking for spirit, meaning, and the message that they conveyed of the past, to present, and to the future. I sat out on a unique journey. Shortly after Rosa Parks death, I offered legislation to put Rosa Parks Statue in Statuary hall right next to Robert E. Lee, Confederate general, and Alexander Hamilton Stevens the Vice President of the Confederacy. I could not remove nor did I have the authority to do so, but I could change the narrative and “the spirit of Statuary Hall” by her inclusion. Rosa Parks’ addition to the collection, meant that the tour guides of Capitol Hill could no longer ignore the presence, 150 years after the civil war, of her unique “spirit” and contribution and the “nonviolent spirit” movement that it started. Along with Congressman Zach Wamp of Tennessee, we fought as a “bipartisan team, Democrat and Republican, black and white” to name the newest largest Hall, the visitors center, Emancipation Hall. The beginning of all tours of Capitol Hill begins with the story of Spirit Emancipation and human freedom as a result.

The most important part of the discovery I had made was not just the presence of the Statues, and or their existence, but the existence of Spirit. The stone and statues represent the permanent embodiment of the politic (spirit), that has compromised the principles of equality and fairness for the American people at every phase of the legislative process, since the nation’s inception and equally and even more devastating and tragic, is the advent of the modern Democratic and Republican parties and their roles after the civil war (BIPARTISANSHIP). Both parties represent two sides of a tragic statutory discourse that has “compromised” its way out of addressing equality for all its citizens, from admitting slave states and free states to the union, 1 free state 1 slave state (Missouri Compromise), like animals in Noah’s ark, to every appropriations bill, to every budget bill, to education, healthcare, and housing, as well as the environment and voting. Since the American Civil War not a single piece of legislation has escaped this “compromise” including the admission of the statues to the halls of the Congress itself. In fact, this is the beginning of the most notable use of the legislative term “COMPROMISE.” Whenever Democrats and Republicans celebrate a “compromise or a legislative milestone,” you might as well ask yourself the question, who did you all leave out this time? I already know.

In the Congress of the United States, racism is not just tolerable in the “symbolism” it is also tolerable in congresses’ “substance.” The primary focus of the congress is compromised by this behavior. And rarely do we get to the conversation of why certain congressional districts get everything and other congressional districts get nothing and even more tragically some members of Congress from the neediest districts are so used to the behavior, they “ask” for nothing.

Not a single statue came down, nor did the politics change even with the election and 8-year service of the first African American president. In fact, his supporters spent more time trying to have his image carved on Mount Rushmore, than addressing institutional racism.  Joe Biden served in the United States Senate for several decades and as Vice President for 8 years, not a single statue was removed anywhere in the United States!  He walked by them every day. Even more tragically than their failure to remove the “symbol of the statues,” together, they did nothing to remove the spirit within the words, stone, bronze, marble, and few changes within the law” and unfortunately, it strengthened the argument for birther-ism (a spirit). After living nearly 8 decades, Biden is “new to fighting institutional injustice” in the very workplace that he served, and he will still get my vote. Of course, that is the paradox. The politics (spirit) leaves African Americans and many progressives with not only the lesser of two evils but the ever-present spirit of two evils, a real, not imaginary, demon.

After the Civil War, the confederacy was diminished by treason but elevated to legitimacy by redemption and inclusion. Lincoln, Johnson, and Grant chose reconciliation with the enemy over the rights and protection of the newly freedmen. And in that elevation, equality through “compromise and bipartisanship,” that ignores all interests central to African American progress and underserved poor white communities, racial, social, and economic progress, too. 

And the compromises continue. Charles Schumer for example has allowed Mitch McConnell to advance conservative judicial appointments, as a compromise for budget deals, and other requests that Democrats deemed more important or even worse out of expediency to recess the Senate so that his members can campaign for re-election. Of course, the very judicial appointments that Mitch McConnell has been successful in advancing are devastating to the interests of Black and poor white people. From the prison industrial complex, too desperate sentencing, the ending of the second reconstruction, this is the agenda of these federal jurists advanced by McConnell. For Democrats it is just “politics” until black and brown, poor people, people who have inadequate assistance of counsel, end up facing one of these judges. The flag of the confederacy conveys a troubling legislative spirit, with no white flag hoisted for surrender.

Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden are not present when this part of their benign and sublime, “racially unconscious decision making” and “bipartisan compromises and deals” go down.

Still, other Democrats in Congress who are a permanent part of the fixture and centuries-old behavior of Congress, today will not object to removing statues, but it is their behavior, and support of “moderate legislation” and the obsession with recruiting “moderate candidates for office” (Blue Dogs) that has a deleterious effect on communities of color, that they still do not fundamentally understand. The legitimization of the statues is more reflective of the legitimization of their behavior statutorily, that is most problematic and is an even more enduring, injurious, and dangerous legacy and threatens the survival of the union.

In Defense of the Emancipation Memorial Moral Authority vs Military Authority

In defense of the Emancipation Memorial paid for and dedicated by newly freed slaves with pennies that they gathered amongst themselves for the remembrance of the Emancipator. The only book my ancestors ever were allowed to read on occasion was the Bible. They paralleled the story of freedom to the story of Moses. They saw Abraham Lincoln as Moses

In A More Perfect Union, I write on page 158 and 159: 

“In the meantime, Grants Army had forced itself on Richmond on Sunday, April 1, as President Davis rushed from a church service to escape.  The Confederate government evacuated it on April 2. 

Lincoln visited Richmond on April 4, went to the Confederate White House, and sat in the president’s chair. As he walked the streets of Richmond crowds gathered around, including former slaves, who proclaimed him, among other things, “the great Messiah.“ Overwhelmed by rare emotions, Lincoln said to one Black man who fell on his knees in front of him: “Don’t kneel to me. That’s not right. You must kneel to God only, and thank Him for the liberty you will enjoy hereafter. “ “Describing these events in Richmond from a desk in the Confederate capital was the Philadelphia Press reporter T Morris Chester, a Black man.”

Enthusiastic for police reform and overly fervent for political correctness regarding statues – but ignorant of the importance of a statue in the District of Columbia and Civil War history – mostly white liberal protesters went to Lincoln Park in the nation’s Capitol where a statue of Abraham Lincoln and Mary McCloud Bethune bookmark the park and demanded that the Lincoln Statue be torn down.  They found offensive the image of a black man on his knees looking up at Lincoln.  The protestors argued that such an image was humiliating to black people.  But they apparently didn’t know the history and meaning of the statue.  In gratitude for what Lincoln had done in ending slavery, the statue was the result of black people literally contributing their pennies so the statue could be constructed.  It seems likely that they were unaware of the history and meaning of this statue.  Would they have found a statue depicting the event that T. Morris Chester recorded in Richmond, Virginia offensive?  Without the historical context they might have.

You see we were not there. But the newly freed men had lived through 15 Presidents. They had prayed to a God that they had never seen, and they imagined through the story of Moses an emancipator and a liberator would come and set them free. 

Martin Luther King’s father, Affectionately known as “Daddy King” was a “Lincoln Republican” out of respect for this event.

We can morally defend the Emancipation memorial. Our confederate sympathizers can only militarily defend the behavior of treason. I inserted language in an interior appropriations bill for broader interpretation at all of the historic sites in an effort to preserve all of the histories with its broadest interpretation to protect ALL historical remembrances.

Trump, States’ Rights & The Coronavirus

Trump, States’ Rights & The Coronavirus

The Coronavirus is a Direct Attack on States’ Rights

The U.S. health care system is actually comprised of 50-states (plus DC), 3,169 counties and many local health care systems, all separate and unequal.

States’ rights are why 14 states – disproportionately located in the neediest region of the country, the South, with its anti-federal government ideology – are still rejecting the Medicaid portion of the Affordable Care Act, leaving millions of poor people without health insurance.

Every state, county and local health care system is different, with few national standards. So during this coronavirus pandemic, how it plays out in every state, county and locality will depend on: the prevalence of the virus; who has it; how many have it; where they’re located; are tests available locally; how quickly can they get the test results back; and how quickly can we identify those who tested positive with others they’ve been in contact.

Each health care system will also depend on its funding; the capacity and capability of the over-all local system; the number and quality of its workers; the availability of equipment; the density and age of the surrounding population; its poverty and racial composition, as many racial minorities and poor people will reflect different health care needs and require different priorities; and more.

Since the rebellion against King George and the American Revolution, there has always been some degree of resistance to a centralized or federal government – and anti-government generally is a close second cousin.  The defense of slavery, using the Tenth Amendment, baked in the ideology of states’ rights. More recently, President Ronald Reagan emphasized this anti-government ideology in his 1981 Inaugural Address when he said, “Government is not the solution.  Government is the problem.”  Former Speaker Tip O’Neill underlined it with his, “All politics is local.”

So, this anti-government and anti-democratic-political spirit has worked against the Constitution’s Preamble and its initial and continuing assignment, mandate and mission – i.e., to build a more perfect Union.  It’s impossible to build a more perfect Union using a states’ rights ideology – each state being sovereign and primarily looking out for itself.  President Trump is using the ideology of states’ rights domestically – e.g., each governor is primarily responsible for fighting the coronavirus; but then he turns the states’ rights ideology inside out and applies it to the international community as “America First.”

It’s a slap in the face to the United Nations and all other national, regional and international bodies whose missions are to save the planet, end world poverty, achieve international peace, work for international justice, regulate world finance and commerce, or take steps to create a more healthy world – e.g., the mission of the World Health Organization (WHO).

A central issue in this country from its beginning has been the relationship between the federal government and the states. It’s a question that has been with us since before the writing of our Constitution in Philadelphia in 1787 – the Articles of Confederation (1777) left state sovereignty too much in place – through the Supreme Court’s first major decision in 1793 (Chisholm v. Georgia), during the antebellum period of 1800 through 1860, clearly during the Civil War (1861-1865) and following the post-Civil War periods. It remains an active issue today – witness Donald Trump, states’ rights and the coronavirus!

Slavery was sustained by the twin ideologies of capitalism and states’ rights – that is, the sacredness of private property, protected by the states.  Out of that capitalist ideology come the worship of the private sector and the disparaging of the public sector – i.e., private ice is colder than public ice.  Donald Trump’s television show, The Apprentice, was a capitalist model – contestants competing against one another in a game of “survival of the fittest,” with the winner being the lone survivor.

President Trump has said he “loves pitting people against each other,” remarking that, “his whole life is based on that.”  “It brings out the best and worst in people; and if the worst comes out, you don’t want them working for you.”

It turns out President Trump is both the ultimate states’ righter and the devoted and proclaimed evangelical savior of the capitalist ideology!  State governors are screaming at him they don’t have the financial resources to handle what’s coming at them, begging Trump for help, but he refuses to grant them what they need; instead, telling them the primaryresponsibility for solving the coronavirus lies in a competition between them for needed scarce tests, masks, ventilators and medical supplies – i.e., states’ rights.  (The ideology underlies his petty politics of rewarding his political “friends” who praise him and punishing his gubernatorial enemies who are not appreciative of what he’s doing for them.)

Trump says our country wasn’t built to be idle and businesses are “raring to go” (meaning capitalism).  His deception has been so great that the American people have continued with a “business as usual” response.  On Easter Trump wanted to see “packed churches all over our country,” confounding the best advice from the world’s top health professionals and their recommendation of “physical distancing.” Unfortunately, if that happens, the President won’t be leading Americans to church on Easter Sunday; he’ll be leading his supporters directly to the coronavirus.

Vice President Pence argues that Trump’s formula for dealing with the coronavirus is local execution, state management and federal support.  With his business orientation Trump absurdly proposes that the federal government re-start the economy and re-open businesses one county at a time.  The U.S. has 3,169 counties.

Such an approach would only make a little sense if we had contact tracing for every county and state and knew: who has the virus; where is it located; how many have it; and with whom have they had contact?  But that would require tests and testing, and we don’t have those because the Trump administration engaged in months of denial and delay regarding the gravity of the pandemic and hasn’t been able to produce or coordinate enough tests, send them to where they’re needed, conduct the tests, do an analysis and or get the result back in a timely fashion. In a recent poll, 90 percent of mayors said they don’t have the tests.  We’re flying blind.

During this coronavirus pandemic the Federal Government’s role should have been to comprehensively see where the greatest emergencies were, and coordinate getting the tests, masks, gowns, ventilators and whatever else was needed to the places of greatest need!

Trump delayed signing the Defense Production Act (DPA) and refuses to effectively use it, citing all the companies that have volunteered to help. This disjointed effort by the private sector, foundations, charity and volunteers is admirable, but it won’t adequately address a national and international coronavirus pandemic.  The production of private companies, the efforts of state and local governments, donations by foundations, acts of charity and the labors of voluntarism must be orchestrated into a symphony of health coordination by the Federal Government and President Donald Trump is either refusing or is incapable of doing.

Under the DPA Trump can require companies to fulfill the needs of the hospitals for tests, masks, gowns and ventilators and prohibit hoarding and price gouging.  Without federal coordination Governors are complaining they’re competing against one another for necessary life protecting and lifesaving items.  Kansas Governor Laura Kelly said masks normally costing $.80 are selling for $4.00.  Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker said he’s bidding against FEMA for ventilators.  Such competition is driving up costs when fiscal restraint should be primary.

The Obama administration left behind a book with a plan informing the next president about what to do if a virus struck. Trump did away with the book along with the White House’s National Security Council positions responsible for preparing for such a virus. Our intelligence agencies wrote briefing papers in January 2020 about the coming coronavirus – Trump didn’t read them.  White House aides also tried to inform and warn him – he ignored them.  Trump only shared a positive vision with Americans, suppressed all bad news, lied and misinformed the American people about the facts.  He had to be corrected, and we had to be informed and warned, by Dr. Anthony Faueci about the coming pandemic.  America’s becoming number one with those testing positive for the coronavirus is the result.

Trump’s an extremist with his states’ rights, but he’s in the linage of the modern row of states’ righters – Goldwater (e.g., anti-civil rights), Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan (e.g., Philadelphia, Mississippi), H.W.-Bush, Clinton (e.g., the era of big government is over), W-Bush (the good people of South Carolina will figure out what to do with the Confederate Flag), and Obama (e.g., the Affordable Care Act) – who have all abandoned the more perfect Union legacy of Lincoln, FDR and LBJ.  Even Eisenhower can claim a piece of the “more perfect Union” label with his Interstate Highway System.

Trump claims he’s a nationalist and “a war time president,” but he’s fighting the coronavirus war as a states’ rights commander; and when this crisis is over, Trump, the Republicans, Joe Biden, if he’s elected president, and most Democrats will go back to fighting for things that should be “universal” – health care, affordable housing, public education and voting rights – as states’ righters.

So if you can’t figure out why Trump is failing the coronavirus test – and why we can’t incarnate the Constitution’s mandate to build “A More Perfect (democratic) Union” absent the coronavirus – look beyond Trump’s personal incompetence to the Republican Party’s current and to the linage of the Democratic Party’s historical loyalty to the ideology of capitalism and states’ rights as it manifested itself in slavery.

In Celebration and Commemoration of the 91st Birthday Martin Luther King Jr

As you know I am preparing for my remarks tomorrow to celebrate and commemorate the 91st birthday Martin Luther King Jr. As I continue my research I stumbled upon a few weeks ago a rare article from James Baldwin and a series of interviews that he did with Martin Luther King. https://harpers.org/archive/1961/02/the-dangerous-road-before-martin-luther-king/ I have three quotes from the article, that I want to elevate this morning because I will not be using them tomorrow, but I thought them noteworthy. They are from the pen of James Baldwin.

“The Reverend King is not like any preacher I’ve ever met before. For one thing, to state it baldly, I liked him.”

That quote from Baldwin says a lot. He was likable and approachable. Dr. King was different than other preachers. Take away his title which he earned and their titles and when you look at the man, King stood head and shoulders above anyone in American history, maybe even the entire history of the profession of ministry. There are many people who have “style” and no “substance.” There are others who have “substance” and “no style.” Dr. King was the “style of substance.” I thought that quote noteworthy.

Secondly and even more importantly in the same article James Baldwin says.

“What he says to Negroes he will say to Whites; and what he says to Whites he will say to Negroes. He is the first Negro leader in my experience, or the first of many generations, of whom this can be said; most of his predecessors were in the extraordinary position of saying to white men, hurry, while saying to black men, wait.”

This quote raises the question of intellectual, spiritual and moral integrity. There is no substitute for that. A leader devoid of this basic characteristic isn’t a leader at all, but the foot shuffling, head bobbing, ham boning, tool of the establishment. I’ve wasted alot of time with people who got this model of leadership down pat. I must admit my gullibility, during a phase of style admiration. I did not recognize the character trait, until I was in both cultural settings. In the black setting, they speak in a dialect that includes the streets and familiarity. In other cultural settings they speak in a dialect that respects the kings language and lacks the authenticity of the reality of our circumstance.

When a person speaks with this kind of integrity, he or she will take heat from both sides. Because it is this integrity the challenges the conscience. For example you can’t blame everything on the white man, and ignore our moral degeneracy. Some of the things the white man does he does because he thinks we are not moral. On the other hand, the Negro lives across this country on an island of material poverty amongst a sea of material wealth and prosperity. The stock market doesn’t mean anything to us including its fluctuations. And yes I believe the economic conditions of health-carelessness, homelessness, joblessness, mass incarceration contribute to moral degeneracy. With that said we must speak with integrity to both sides of the dilemma.

I found a third and compelling comparative analysis that Baldwin made to distinguish profoundly our King from Booker T. Washington.

“He is not, for example, to be confused with Booker T. Washington, whom we gratefully allowed to solve the racial problem single-handedly. It was Washington who assured us, in 1895, one year before it became the law of the land, that the education of Negroes would not give them any desire to become equals; they would Be content to remain-or, rather, after living for generations in the greatest intimacy with whites, to become -separate. It is a measure of the irreality to which the presence of the Negro had already reduce the nation that this utterly fantastic idea, which thoroughly controverts the purpose of education, which has no historical or psychological validity, and which denies all the principles on which the country imagine itself to have been found, was not only excepted with tears but became the cornerstone of an entire way of life. And this did not come about, by the way, merely because of the venom or villainy of the south. It could never have come about at all Without the tacit consent of the north; and this consent robs the north, historically and actually, of any clean tomorrow superiority. The failure of the government to make any realistic provisions for the education of tens of thousands of illiterate former slaves had the effect of dumping this problem squarely into the lap of one man – Who knew, whatever else he may not have known, that the Education of the Negroes had somehow to be accomplished. Whether or not Washington believe what he said is certainly an interesting question. But he did know that he could not accomplish his objective by telling white man what they wanted to hear. and it has never been very difficult for a Negro in this country to figure out what white men want to hear: he takes his condition as an echo of their desires.

There will be no more Booker T. Washington‘s. And whether we like it or not, and no matter how hard or how long we oppose it, there will be no more segregated schools, there will be no more segregated anything. King is entirely right when he says that segregation is dead.”

And I would personally add
“Martin Luther King Junior killed it.” Now for all who have read what James Baldwin has said and what I have concluded, understand that I have very little room in my thinking for Booker T. Washington and his modern disciples. I see and hear their ideas on Facebook and other places all the time. I listen patiently, but I know regurgitated thought when I hear it. They don’t know I know. In the back of your mind must be equal high-quality. If it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for us, and there’s no need to build anything separate and apart from the other.

We die in every war from the revolutionary to the present, we built this nation, I believe in the death of second class citizenship. I believe in first class citizenship for everybody.

Later in the article Baldwin says “the problem of Negro leadership in this country has always been extremely delicate, dangerous, and complex. The term itself becomes remarkably Difficult to define, the moment one realizes that the real role Of the Negro leader, in the eyes of the American Republic, was not to make the Negro a first class citizen but to keep him content as a second class one. This sounds extremely harsh, but the record Bears me out and this problem, which it was the responsibility of the entire country to face, was dumped into the lapse of a few men. Some of them were real leaders and some of them were false. Many of the greatest have scarcely ever been heard of.”

Enough said for that now.

In the image below is Dr King with James Baldwin over Dr. kings left shoulder is my late great friend Rev. Dr. Bernard Lee. There is the rare photo that you can find where Bernard Lee is not in it with Martin Luther King Jr. He was faithful and there was no one closer. He was the keeper of Dr. King’s most private confidences. He passed in 1991 at age 55. https://www.nytimes.com/1991/02/14/obituaries/rev-bernard-lee-55-civil-rights-advocate.html Reverend Lee used to kick it in Washington DC Southwest, with Doris Crenshaw and my mother, who I presently see regularly when I visit Montgomery Alabama.