A thin line between tyranny and freedom

Today is the one year anniversary of the January 6th insurrection at the US Capitol building. Today, the mood on Capitol Hill is somber and quiet. President Biden and Vice President Harris gave speeches with sharp warnings to Americans, as well as to all those listening around the world. They said plainly that our democracy is fragile and without vigilance and support for the rule of law that governs America, could be lost entirely. The New York Times reported on President Biden’s speech, and gave excerpts.

“The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election,” Mr. Biden said, standing in the same National Statuary Hall invaded by throngs of Trump supporters a year ago. “He’s done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interest as more important than his country’s interest and America’s interest, and because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution. He can’t accept he lost.”

“Without using Mr. Trump’s name, the president assailed the “defeated former president” for trying to rewrite history and for casting the attackers of a year ago as patriots. “Is that what you thought when you looked at the mob ransacking the Capitol, destroying property, literally defecating in the hallways, rifling through the desks of senators and representatives, hunting down members of Congress?” Mr. Biden asked. “Patriots? Not in my view.” “Those who stormed this Capitol and those who instigated and incited and those who called on them to do so held a dagger at the throat of America and American democracy.” 

“With not a single Republican senator in the Senate chamber, Democrats took to the floor after Mr. Biden’s speech to continue assailing Mr. Trump, “the worst president in modern times,” as Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic majority leader, put it. “It was Donald Trump’s big lie that soaked our political landscape in kerosene,” Mr. Schumer said. “It was Donald Trump’s rally on the Mall that struck the match. And then came the fire.” https://www.nytimes.com/live/2022/01/06/us/jan-6-capitol-riot/biden-speech-january-6

According to journalist Peter Baker of the New York Times,

 “America has not come together to defend its democracy; it has only split further apart. Lies and disinformation spread by the former president have so permeated the political ecosphere that nearly universal outrage has reverted to separate blue and red realities. Far from shunned for what even his own vice president deemed an unconstitutional attempt to thwart the will of the voters, Mr. Trump remains the undisputed powerhouse of his party — and a viable candidate to reclaim the White House in three years… Rather than a wake-up call highlighting for all the fragility of the American experiment, the violence that besieged Washington turns out to have been one more chapter in the polarizing, partisan, ideological and cultural struggle over truth and consequences in the modern era.

“In fact, no matter how many times Mr. Trump says the 2020 election was stolen, not a shred of evidence has emerged to prove it. Not one independent authority — no judge, no prosecutor, no governor, no election agency, no news media organization — has found any credible indication of fraud on a scale that would have changed the outcome.”

“Today, it has become heresy among conservatives to question Mr. Trump’s legacy…The congressional Republicans who angrily denounced the president after their headquarters was invaded have gone silent or even made the pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago, all but pretending it never happened. “It’s a pretty sobering lesson about human nature,” said Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland, a Democrat who led the House managers prosecuting Mr. Trump in a Senate impeachment trial and now serves on the House select committee investigating Jan. 6. “Rejecting the fact that Joe Biden won the 2020 election is now the organizing principle of the G.O.P.,” Raskin said. “That is a terrifying and astonishing new reality that we have to contend with.”

“For many Republicans, even those who privately despise Mr. Trump and agree that Mr. Biden was legitimately elected, Jan. 6 is a topic to avoid. They bristle at the focus on it, seeing it not as a good-faith effort to find out what happened but a partisan weapon to tear them down and distract from the Democrats’ own failed policies.” (NYTimes, Jan 6, 2022)

Dear Readers, I share this long excerpt from the NYTimes article with you all because it is important to understand what the motives are that underpin the GOP’s about-face concerning the January 6th insurrection. Republican lawmakers who were in the chamber that day, whose lives were as equally threatened as their colleagues across the aisle, have decided that the truth of what actually occurred, the violence and loss of life and even threats to their own lives, are no longer what matters in the United States of America. Even without Trump’s Twitter account as his 24-7 bully pulpit active in the world, he is clearly still pulling the strings of his followers, both elected and the electorate.

We are living through extraordinarily pressure-filled times. The tensions in America and around the planet, are as tight as they have ever been, affecting more people than ever before on Earth. Words like truth, facts, science, logic, reason, moral obligation, democracy, no longer have a consensual meaning amongst people. The propaganda machines behind the most powerful governments on Earth have gone above and beyond to create the current extreme atmosphere of fear and mistrust between neighbors, members of communities, lawmakers, and family members. This mistrust, fear and encouragement to report one’s neighbor to the authorities is the stuff of dictatorship movements globally. For those who don’t know that, read the history of fascist regimes during the 20th century. China, Russia, Spain, Italy, Nazi Germany, the list is unfortunately long. They all use the same basic playbook.

When the most popular articles in the January 6th, 2022 New York Times have headlines like, “Does my boyfriend like me?” it proves my point. Will democracy as we have known it have to be eradicated before the people finally wake up?

As we move forward through 2022, 2023, and 2024, I highly encourage, even admonish, every person who still has the autonomy to research and think critically, to do so. The democracy that is still hanging on by a thread in the United States could be wiped out, replaced with a form of government that is truly the stuff of nightmares. Look what happened to Hong Kong over the past year. That and much worse could potentially be the USA’s future. 

Dear Readers, I have wracked my brain and searched through my own heart over the past year, to try to make sense of what has happened in my country. Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve watched as the people of the United States made huge strides toward more freedom and liberty, toward a more perfect union. But the past two decades, and the past five years in particular, have brought us to the brink of losing many of the freedoms that were so diligently fought for. We lost some of our most eloquent voices for freedom and equality of all people. Just a few of the greatest voices include Maya Angelou and bell hooks, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, John Lewis, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. There are many others who spent their lifetimes reminding humanity of the light that lives inside us all, of the value of love, equity, justice, truth and freedom. Have we collectively become so blindsided by our cell phones and social media and virtual reality games that we no longer remember the real power that resides inside us each and all?

The conversation about diversity, equity, & privilege in America

This is a tricky topic to write a blog post about, dear Readers. Even though it’s potentially asking for backlash, I want to attempt some thoughts around this politically tense issue.

Diversity, equity, and privilege are popular terms in our society these days, especially in the field of education. Being involved in this field for the past several years, I’ve seen these concepts only growing more prevalent. All facets of educating children and youth need to be run through the equity and diversity lens, and all white privilege must be checked at the door.

I like the pendulum analogy:  the pendulum is forever swinging from one extreme to the other in society, and at the moment we are in the wide arc of diversity.

What does this translate to in practical terms? Many things, including the fact that if a person happens to not be “of color” they are likely to be suspected of racism, white privilege, or else unawakened (not woke).  (Disclaimer:  I am a white person, living in the heart of the western United States.) I am in the midst of a graduate program to become a licensed special education teacher for K-12 students. I am a “mid-life career changer” as one recruiter put it to me, a polite way of saying I’m a little old for this game but am doing it, nonetheless.

Let’s face it, racism is as old as history itself. Since there have been different tribes of humans on the planet, there has been bias from one group towards others. Its manifestation as oppression, slavery, and violence is an ancient story here. In fact, I’ve been studying for a Praxis exam I must take and pass in order to obtain licensure; the dreaded Social Studies subtest. This test covers an insane amount of historical facts, from the time of European exploration of the Americas beginning in the 15th century, all the way through our current era. As I’m sure many readers are aware, the story of how America came to be the United States (and its 245 year history) is one of a little cooperation and friendship between different groups, and a lot of fighting, warring, pain and suffering. Abhorrent practices such as near extermination of indigenous tribes and slavery of Africans were common ways that certain white European-Americans got land, wealth and, yes, privilege. From the Spanish conquistadors who decimated Mexico, Central and South America, to the Dutch who brought African slaves to the Caribbean islands, (and consequently to the East Coast of the colonies) to the Spanish and English pirates who stole treasure as they traveled the high seas, to the Europeans who settled the original colonies at the expense of indigenous tribes’ lands and way of life, they eventually pushed across the entire continent and took what they wanted for their own gain in the name of “Manifest Destiny.” With so much bad blood as the foundation of settling and creating the United States of America, it is little wonder that 245 years later, this country is in a very tenuous position on many fronts. There is considerable evidence that we are on the cusp of complete societal collapse.

So here we are, in 2021. Never before have there been so many groups, individuals, famous and influential people of color speaking out, through all available platforms, about ending racism and unfair practices by the government at all levels. The truth of their message could not be any plainer:  People of color must be treated equally in every way as white people in the United States. It is incredible that over 150 years have passed since the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments were passed which made slavery illegal and gave rights of citizenship to black people. It took a hundred more years for the Civil Rights Act to be passed, guaranteeing Black people equal protection under federal law. And yet, here we are–Black and Brown skinned people are still being treated as less than white privileged people in lots of places in the United States in the year 2021.

Of course we have made a lot of progress. Barack Obama became the first Black president of the United States in 2008. People of color are at the top of their game in many fields of endeavor, such as music, the film industry, visual art, performance art– in fact all the creative industries. Obviously they are leaders in Sports. And in science, innovation, business, government, and also education. Yes, there has been a lot of progress. Still, the struggle to end policies and practices based in racism continues. The school to prison pipeline for youth of color is real in cities across America today. It is still true that in many public school districts, white women make up the majority of teachers, and white men the majority of top administrators. We still have farther to go.

Dear Readers, I’m afraid this blog post turned into a rant tonight. There is so much more to say on this subject. But I will end with a thought to ponder. We must never become complacent, and it’s important to continually check ourselves for hypocrisy. Case in point:  The Met Gala was just held in NYC this past week. It’s an annual event for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where many famous celebrities come and model the most outrageous “formal” gowns and evening wear from New York’s fashion designers. I happened to notice that New York’s Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attended the gala event, wearing a gown with the words “tax the rich” written on her backside. Although I generally like her spunk and fearlessness at calling out corruption when she sees it on Capitol Hill, I must say that there was more than a little hypocrisy involved in her choice of attending that event, and wearing that particular message. See this article for more.

https://www.businessmayor.com/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-responds-to-criticism-of-tax-the-rich-dress-worn-at-met-gala/

The heart of America is broken

https://www.npr.org/sections/trump-impeachment-trial-live-updates/2021/02/10/966588090/the-footage-is-horrific-senators-react-to-gripping-new-video-of-capitol-riotWASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 10. 2021 (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Today is the second day of the second impeachment trail against former US President Donald Trump. The charge is “Incitement of a Riot at the US Capitol building” on January 6, 2021. It was a day that will live in infamy in America’s history, when a large crowd of extremist Trump supporters stormed the Capitol and intended to harm or kill Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and any other members of Congress who they found. The rioters had been incited toward violence for months by Trump, who kept up a steady stream of lies about the results of the 2020 presidential election. Despite no evidence whatsoever, he falsely claimed that the Democratic party “stole the election” from him. Then January 6th happened, the day the election results from all the states were to be certified by the Congress.

“It was one of the roughest days of our life,” he said. “We didn’t realize how much at risk we were. You knew we were at risk, but we didn’t know it was that much. I mean, literally, we could have been all wiped out.” Senator Benjamin L. Cardin

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/10/us/politics/impeachment-violence-senate.html

The second impeachment trial is being streamed live for the public this week on national news outlets.  I listened to the Democratic team of lawmakers as they took turns describing, in graphic detail, all the events of that terrible day. They played many videos containing footage showing the mob approaching and breaking into the Capitol building and various chambers, including the Senate floor itself. They smashed windows, pillaged and terrorized not only many members of Congress, but their families, many staff members, and journalists who were inside the Capitol that day. There was also video footage that hadn’t been shown to the public before, of the Capitol police, and later also the Metropolitan Police officers as they were beaten and hurt by the rioters. 140 police officers were hurt that day, and three died because of the insurrection.

“It was really horrifying what happened. You know, I think the House team really put forth a very strong connecting of the dots. I don’t see how you can watch any of this and listen to their presentation and not conclude that Trump bears tremendous responsibility for what happened,” Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, told reporters.

https://www.npr.org/sections/trump-impeachment-trial-live-updates/2021/02/10/966588090/the-footage-is-horrific-senators-react-to-gripping-new-video-of-capitol-riot

The impeachment prosecution team presented their evidence in a direct, concise, and factual manner. I know I am not alone in saying that the evidence of Trump’s dereliction of his duty, taken under oath as Commander in Chief of the United States, is indisputable. Any sane human being, upon hearing the evidence, listening and watching the numerous videos, and reading what Trump himself actually said to his extremist supporters, would have to agree that this man is absolutely guilty of inciting a mob to violent insurrection against the United States government.

And yet, the most atrocious part of this whole story is the fact that the overwhelming majority of the Republican senators, the very people who were in that Senate chamber when the rioters were smashing in the windows and attempting to get in in order to harm and or kill them, once both sides have argued their case, will vote to NOT impeach Trump. They will NOT hold him accountable for this highest crime against the US Constitution, against all the members of the House and Senate, and against everything that being the President of the United States of America stands for. Those senators, by their very refusal to impeach Trump, are, in my opinion, accomplices to his crime. They too, must be held accountable, and justice must be served.

Since January 6 of this year, I have been alternately in states of shock, anger, and grief regarding the condition of our country. America has had a long slide from its pedestal on the world stage, for many years now. But the past four years of Trump’s presidency has pushed it from a slide to the edge of a very tall cliff. Hearing and seeing the evidence of this cliff today forced Americans who are still sane to re-live that horrific day. We are staring at our collective shadow, and it is as ugly as it gets—terrifyingly so. Some of our leaders have sold their souls to the devil, which is the collective negativity created by unbridled greed and lust for power. It is the Beast of the Book of Revelation, on display for all who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

There are those who listened or watched all the evidence presented today, and yet still deny what they heard as untrue, who are stubbornly holding to Trump’s lies of a stolen election, and who continue to feed the shadow beast of hatred, white supremacy, and ignorance. There are far too many ignorant, deeply asleep humans who call themselves Americans. I think the most perplexing question of all is: How can the ones who are still so blind, deaf and asleep, awaken? The heart of America is broken. What will it take to heal it? Is it even possible at this point? Will we continue to be literally split down the middle in an unbelievable tension of polarization? What will happen once that tension breaks completely?

It is time for the American people to become more mature. As a country, we’ve been in primary school for long enough. We must graduate and become adults now, in all ways. At a moment like this, it feels nearly impossible that we will manage to do this in time to avert complete catastrophe. And yet, becoming mature and accepting the truth, which is plainly in front of our faces, is exactly what we must do. For if we do not, our fate will be sealed and the United States will become extinct, a relic much like the Roman Empire when it fell.

References: 

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/02/10/us/impeachment-trial/stacey-plaskett-the-house-delegate-from-the-us-virgin-islands-gets-a-high-profile-role-at-the-trial

https://www.nytimes.com/video/players/offsite/index.html?videoId=100000007598512

https://www.npr.org/sections/trump-impeachment-trial-live-updates/2021/02/10/966588090/the-footage-is-horrific-senators-react-to-gripping-new-video-of-capitol-riot