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Archive for the ‘Writings’ Category

Trust Reporters - Truth Is Their Job

Thursday, December 5th, 2019

The New York Times recently spoke out in an editorial - which was written by the paper’s opinion arm, not by those in the newsroom - decrying the awful term, “fake news,” and pleading for us to rely on journalists and journalism for truth.

At a time when unsubstantiated falsehoods are uttered, relentlessly, in Washington and in televised commentaries carried across our airwaves, we need to understand that reporters seek and print/post/broadcast facts they have gathered.

Please read this, carefully. The subject is all too serious. Our nation needs your attention. The November 30 editorial is titled, “Who Will Tell the Truth About the Free Press?” and begins,

“Concocting fake news to attract eyeballs is a habitual trick of America’s New York Times, and this newspaper suffered a crisis of credibility for its fakery,” the Chinese government declared after The Times broke the news this month of government documents detailing the internment of Uighurs, Kazaks and other Muslims in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

Who would have guessed that history had such a perverse development in store for us? As the historian Timothy Snyder has written in The Times, Adolf Hitler and the Nazis came up with the slogan “Lügenpresse” — translated as “lying press” — in order to discredit independent journalism. Now the tactic has been laundered through an American president, Donald Trump, who adopted the term “fake news” as a candidate and has used it hundreds of times in office.

See also: https://nyti.ms/2OyZxW0

Please know that the term “fake news,” is a lie in itself. News known to be false is called propaganda, which is the predominant source of information in authoritarian nations, such as Russia and China.

Please read and listen to genuine news from a variety of trusted sources. My personal broadcast favorites are National Public Radio and the PBS NewsHour; for print it’s The New York Times and The Washington Post, as well as my hometown Virginia and Illinois newspapers and public radio stations.

As a former reporter, I trust the reporters in each of these operations; further, I know their work is overseen by a series of editors, who check all facts in each reporter’s story before it is uttered or printed.

We should worry that our president and his emissaries angrily share things they know are complete lies. Without facts and truth we become just another dark dictatorship. (See: https://nyti.ms/2ptRcZS)

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News options–

National: NPR, PBS NewsHour, The New York Times, The Washington Post.
Local: The Arlington Connection, The (Illinois) State Journal-Register, WAMU-FM and WUIS-FM.

Statement on the President’s Remarks to Congress Members

Wednesday, July 17th, 2019

The office which he is privileged to occupy is normally associated with a person known as “the leader of the free world.”

The childish name calling emanating from this man’s mouth demonstrates his unfitness for this office.

His words of hatred, given his platform, will spread like a virus that has the capacity to destroy our beloved country.

And this from the leader of the party of Abraham Lincoln.

Remove “(COLORED)” From WWI Memorial

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019

Imagine you had a great grandfather who was involved in a great national cause, such as World War I, and to recognize his service, someone put his name on a memorial. But, unlike the others inscribed on that memorial, his name wasn’t listed in alphabetical or service order.

Instead, his name was put in a small grouping far below everyone else’s, as though those men in his group were somewhat less in value. And next to your great grandfather’s name, and the others, the memorial makers attached a racial descriptor, one that wasn’t necessary then, and shouldn’t be there today.

In Arlington, Virginia, there sits an old, worn memorial erected in 1931 that lists the names of the local men who died in service to their country in the Great War of 1914-1919. Thirteen men are commemorated, in total. Eleven of those names have only their branch of service listed after their names.

A few spaces below those eleven, after a blank area, are listed the names of the other two deceased Arlington servicemen, as if they were an afterthought. But they weren’t an afterthought. Because following the name of each of these remaining two men is inscribed, “(COLORED)”.

Why was that done?

In 2012 local discussion surfaced about perhaps changing that memorial, particularly because it was seen by some as offensive. But things were left alone. One commenter said the awkward wording was an example of “how life was at that time.”

You know what else “life at that time”, in 1931, consisted of? A Ku Klux Klan sign, erected on a road near County property. A sign that attacked a County Board candidate, who happened to be Jewish, with these words: “Let us show our strength. Defeat Albert H. C. for County Board. KKK.”

And when it stirred controversy, you won’t believe who promised to find the culprit, “Howard E. B., the exalted cyclops of Ballston Klan No. 4,” according to an article on page 13 of The Washington Post on Friday, October 31, 1931. The KKK cyclops said, “Any signs that have appeared have been erected by individuals and not by action of the organization.” He then promised not to remove the sign, but to offer a reward for apprehension of the culprit.

That’s how things were in Arlington, “at that time.” A Klan sign, and a Klan “cyclops” in Ballston, in our Arlington, Virginia.

Four years after that 2012 statement Arlington’s NAACP president called for a change that would show equal recognition; though again, nothing was done. The newspaper article, which noted the NAACP objection, began by suggesting that when the sign was erected, “few likely gave any notice” to how the names were arranged.

That may have been true of white people, but for those who live every day with suspicious eyes staring at them wherever they go, that order of names constantly called out again, “You don’t belong here.”

Last year the County accepted a grant to install at the memorial interpretive signs, the main goal of which would be “to provide historic context for the segregation of the names.”

Seriously? You would allow official segregation of those men to continue, and simply explain why they were thought less worthy?

Each day that sign remains (it has been reported to have been taken down in May to correct the spelling of one name), we are saying to every African American man, woman and child who walks by, “We didn’t think much of this Black family’s great grandfather then, and we still don’t today.”

Using the words Henry Louis Gates has said of Confederate monuments raised after Reconstruction, similarly, each day that “colored” plaque exists, it represents “a haunting symbol of oppression,” erected on County property that Arlington African Americans own, “that denies their humanity.” It may be small, but the hurt, the insult, is not.

However it is done, that sign must change, or it should be taken out of public display. We no longer see, nor accept, KKK signs publicly displayed, as one was in 1931; and we shouldn’t have this 1931 plaque on display either. To allow it to remain proclaims inequality. In 2019 Arlington, that is simply wrong.

We Are Not Full

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019

We are a nation of immigrants. If you are not an indigenous American Indian or the descendant of an African man or woman stolen from that continent and trafficked here in slavery, you are the son/daughter of immigrants. And this land is no more “Full” than it was when your great, or great great, or great great great or great great great great grandparents landed here.

We need to be reminded of the harm to others that our anti-immigrant president is generating: harm from bullies in schools, from verbal assaults on individuals and families in public, to the physical harm being done in small and in major acts of brutality. All because this one man, with the world as his stage, encourages rage and anger and hatred for anyone not in the white, Christian majority.

African Americans and Jews and Muslims have had their lives taken away, because of the atmosphere of non-acceptance and hate he has created.

Our nation is becoming unrecognizable, while his party’s leadership does nothing to stanch this one man’s crass and vile words of hatred toward immigrants and people of color. These officeholders dare not express even one comment against his stream of venom, making their party, whose members in Congress once trumpeted themselves as being advocates of “Family Values,” an abettor to the harm we read about and view evidence of, daily.

Please, speak up and demand accountability, because your silence allows the harm to continue.

Driving While Black … “Three Times”

Saturday, May 18th, 2019

This column has been written in loving memory of Calvin Milton Jones, who died May 25, 2011.

“Has that ever happened to you?”

His face looked at me with the most serious expression I’d seen from this gentle man.

“Three times,” he said.

My friend, the late Calvin Milton Jones, had just sent me a copy of Dick Gregory’s talk to a Tavis Smiley “State of Black Union” convention center audience. Gregory, the comedian and activist, wondered aloud, that if Bill Clinton was truly “our first black president,” would he know (at 1 min,50 sec.) how it felt to be a black man, driving down the road, and hear a police siren:

“Mr. President, do you know what it feels like to be a black person, to be a congresslady, to be a lieutenant governor with 12 doctor’s degrees, and driving down the street, and hear the police siren, and you start squeezing that steering wheel tight, and they pass by you, and you Thank God! Damn! You didn’t do nothin’ in the first place. Do you know what it is to be black?”

The primarily black audience was in howls, cheering with a standing ovation at Gregory’s presentation. And I realized then that the expression, “driving while black,” was so real and so common that an entire audience of hundreds had reacted, knowingly and in unison, with raucous laughter at Gregory’s searing remarks.

After I watched it, I walked over to Calvin’s office and asked him, “Has that ever happened to you?”

He looked me straight in the eye, “Three times” … on the way to and from Washington and his hometown in North Carolina.

So this gentle and generous man … who arrived at the office at close to five o’clock every morning — even the day before he died, sick with pneumonia — to turn on the lights, make the coffee, check the phone and computer systems, arrange the conference rooms to be sure everything was in place for the days’ meetings … told me, with those words, that he had been stopped by police officers on three separate occasions, just because they knew they could taunt another black man.

This man, Calvin Milton Jones … who wouldn’t harm a soul, who cut all the lawns in his neighborhood, because he didn’t want it to look unkempt; who, unasked, often waxed neighbors’ cars; and who would give you the shirt off his back, if you were in need … this man had been pulled over three times for no other reason than the color of his skin.

Imagine how it must feel to look up into the eyes of a uniformed man, who, you and he know, could change your life in an instant.

And now we have young Trayvon Martin, killed by a single shot from the gun of a self-appointed ‘neighborhood watchman,’ who said Trayvon was, “suspicious … looks black” and, chasing Trayvon against orders, told 911, “They always get away.” But “they” (Trayvon) did not get away; and the man who hunted him down wasn’t even arrested.

Walking while black?

Author Donna Britt, commenting on the shooting death of Trayvon, said, “I don’t know what this child could have done to be safe, except not be black.”

Being, while black.

These two men, going about their business, are stopped for being “suspicious,” for being black men living in the world’s lone superpower; which the rest of us tell ourselves is “the land of the free” … the “sweet land of liberty” … that exists, “under God … with liberty and justice for all.”

Perhaps it is … for some.

National Emergency

Thursday, February 14th, 2019

The only national emergency facing our nation is the man living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. He is the clearest threat to our democracy at this moment in our history. For anyone in authority to assent to his unilateral declaration of a bogus emergency is to commit a crime against us. Please, do your duty and release this man from his responsibilities.

America, We’ve Got to Come Together.

Saturday, November 3rd, 2018

Who wouldn’t love to be able to change something with just one action, say, snap your fingers and the red light turns green, or blink your eyes and the sun is shining, or make a wish and you’re on your way to Hawaii?

Me? I’d been hoping that writing just one column could bring our country back. You know, the country where we didn’t threaten one another, or call the other guy an idiot, or where the president didn’t make fun of people. Just one thing, I keep thinking, and it’ll all turn around.

What the heck’s going on? It seems we’re at each other’s throats with rage. What are we doing to each other?

For some time I had talked myself into believing the atmosphere of hatred and disrespect we hear so much about in D.C, only existed in this specific vicinity. It swirls around television channels, is trumpeted on bumper stickers and yard signs, emanates from the mouths of some in Congress and stains posters that are marked-over.  

Behavior stemming from the president’s brash remarks and his call to end political correctness can’t be as bad elsewhere as it seems here, surely.

But on our trips back home to Illinois I began to ask cab drivers and wheelchair assistants, usually immigrants, I’d encounter in the airports if they were experiencing disrespect, and the unfortunate answer was, “Yes.” And as my wife and I talked to teachers about incidents at school, and to family back in Illinois, I began to see it is all too real.

The national eruption of hate and mutual distrust is not just sad, it’s tearing the fabric of our society apart. Why are we doing this to one another?

Part of it stems from Russia’s evil manipulation, taking our national original sin - slavery and the vicious racism that has stemmed from it - and gouging that disabling wound to Russia’s advantage. Using Facebook and Twitter, Russia manufactured racist ‘stories,’ ‘events’ and ‘users’ out of thin air, convinced us they were real, then weaponized them to ricochet across this “social media,” churning our emotions to a boiling point. Our division at this moment in history, sad to say, is concrete evidence that Russia’s gambit has worked.

But the guy who’s the other half of this problem lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., and he’s not into the respect we were taught as kids.

Usually, the leader of our country is sort of like our national uncle, the guy who shows you how it’s done, our representative to the world, our guide in times of trial. But we’ve never had a national uncle who says it’s ok to be unkind, to say bad things about other people, to call people names, to make fun of them, to lie.

Imagine your grandson is out playing ball and somebody yells at him, “Hey four eyes, where’d you get that stupid face?” Or your Mom is taunted, “Get out of my way, grandma!” It would make you (and me) furious.

We know things like that are happening, and mostly it’s race and nationality that are the points of each personal attack.  Non-white workers and technicians tell me, yes, they’ve experienced hateful words. 

Here they are in the country that’s been the pinnacle of freedom for the world, the place they, and your own great grandparents, grandparents or parents fought hard to win passage to; and many fought hard to defend. And someone out of nowhere, insults them with hateful words, just because of who they are. Because the haters feel they can.

At school, kids are being bullied, because of their strange-sounding last names or the color or their skin.  Shoved, because the shover knows he can; after all, we have a national leader who gave him/her the example that told them, it’s ok to be unkind, disrespectful, even brutal. 

It’s become so bad that the American Association of School Administrators, which represents local school superintendents, devoted an entire issue of their magazine to focus on how school leaders can handle the lack of civility they have to contend with in their school districts.

It broke my heart to learn that, all over this vast, wonderful country, kids are being unkind to one another at what’s supposed to be a sanctuary of safety, their school, and that parents are being picked on.

Not long after our president’s “shit hole countries” remark, I was being pushed in a wheelchair to our airport departure gate in Virginia. I asked where my assistant - remember they often depend on tips - where she was from, and she told me she came from Ghana, in Africa.

I said, “I want to apologize to you for what our president said.” Tears began to fill her eyes. “Thank you,” she said.

That’s the thing about all this. People are being hurt.

I write to Speaker Paul Ryan, because he’s third in line to the presidency, and I tell him he needs to say something. Kids and families are being hurt, I tell him, “because of the words of this president, and you, sir, say nothing?”

Every day someone is harmed. This is not normal.

Hatred is wrong. Ridicule is wrong. Lying is wrong.

Killing, is wrong.

The thing is, we’re not going to survive as the “leader of the free world,” if we attack one another. Our neighborhoods and towns, schools and cities will rupture.

We have to look at ourselves in the mirror, and ask that question. Do I want to see hatred, like my expression, stare back at me? Or do you want, long for, a smile. Let’s try to get back to the Golden Rule we were taught as children - Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Come on, America, let’s start being one people again, use the Golden Rule. Because the United States is us, just as it reads on our coins - E Pluribus Unum - One, out of many. We, together, from all the nations on this Earth, make this country great.

Respect, and we can be a guiding light. Hate, and our Statue of Liberty’s light will begin to quiver and slowly fade away; her purpose, extinguished.

##

—To see what our own national hatred of “others” has spiraled into in earlier decades, look up:

  • Lynching, 1877-1950,
  • the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act,
  • 1908 white mob riot in Lincoln’s hometown,
  • Tulsa’s white mob 1921 annihilation of its Black Wall Street,
  • and the
    arrests of Italian-Americans,

    German-Americans, and

    Japanese-American internment, during WWII,

    Most horrifically, The Holocaust, the 1930s Nazi-inspired, anti-Jewish hatred in Europe allowed the murder of millions of human beings.

    Mr. Ryan, Why do you say Nothing?

    Friday, September 14th, 2018

    Speaker Paul Ryan sent me an email, telling me what he won’t forget about Sept. 11. This was my reply:

    You know what I will never forget, Mr. Speaker? I will never forget how you abandoned goodness and morality, how you stood by and watched, encouraged an amoral monster, who set American vs American and turned our country into a hellhole for non-European immigrants.

    Children are being hurt in schools, sir. Families are being shamed and harmed in public places. Yet you have done all you could to enable abhorrent, amoral presidential behavior; abet public policy based on lies.

    You abandoned us and embraced a man who is tearing our social fabric into shreds.

    Shame, Paul Ryan.

    Shame.

    Abraham Lincoln - Respect for Law Is Vital to the Nation

    Sunday, August 19th, 2018

    In one of his earliest speeches delivered - as a 28 year old lawyer in 1838 - in his and my hometown, Springfield, Illinois; Abraham Lincoln, father of the Republican Party, spoke on political unrest and its threat to our country’s existence.

    He said, in part:

    “I hope I am over wary; but if I am not, there is, even now, something of ill-omen, amongst us. I mean the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country; the growing disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions, in lieu of the sober judgment of Courts … “

    He then pleaded:

    “ … Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap–let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs;–let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.”

    http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/lyceum.htm

    Enemy of The State

    Saturday, August 18th, 2018

    “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

    – Joseph Goebbels
    http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/holoprelude/goebbels.html