John Lewis, 1940 – 2020


ajc.com

I only met John Lewis a few times, starting back in 1963 during preparations for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. His style of quiet leadership, thoughtfulness about the broadest possible range of ideas and achievement possible in political action is what impressed me most.

Reflection is becoming my greatest enemy. Not because of diminished goals, issues won or lost; but, other folks I would have consulted, discussed and debated tactics and standards – and would love to do so, today – are gone. Like John Lewis.

I’ve not only outlived some of the worst enemies of progress – but, many of those I joined, side by side, in battle against bigots and bigotry, class warfare, imperial armies deployed to war against colonial freedom-fighters – many of those are gone, now, as well.

Still, these battles continue to be fought by folks of all ages, many ideologies. Fightback derives from knowledge and inspiration as much as from repression. Resentful and backwards politicians inevitably feed the bravery of those who rise up to oppose their criminal path.

For now, we will mourn John. Tomorrow, we rejoin the battle, as he would wish.

70-year-old Joyce Beatty had never been pepper-sprayed before!

…The pepper spray was new to her. It “shuts you down,” she told me in an interview this morning. “It gets into your lungs. You’re coughing profusely. You can’t see.”


Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch

It happened yesterday afternoon, when Beatty joined a group of demonstrators in downtown Columbus protesting police violence following the killing of George Floyd, a black man who died Monday after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes. In videos of the protest now circulating on Twitter, Beatty, with her gray hair, red mask, and hot-pink sweatshirt tied around her small waist, is easy to spot…

In that moment, Beatty told me, she wasn’t a member of Congress. She was just another black American attacked while protesting injustice—one of innumerable others across the long expanse of history. The events of the past week, she said, represent “a collection of historic anger.”

Truly readable interview. If we had more like her in Congress instead of the “same as it ever was”-crowd, we’d be getting more done on behalf of the overwhelming majority of working folks and families in this country…

Sheltering-in-place

Thanks, gocomics.org

For millions of Americans, venturing from home is the most dangerous thing they can do. Going to your job, grocery shopping, anything Mr.Charlie and The Man finds offensive if a Black person does it.

The NRA was all for gun control when Black people were carrying the weapons


Bobby Seale and Huey Newton

…Although the National Rifle Association currently leads the charge for the rights of citizens to carry guns of all types with little to no interference from the government, the original gun rights advocates to take that stance were the Black Panthers.

Throughout the late 1960s, the militant black nationalist group used their understanding of the finer details of California’s gun laws to underscore their political statements about the subjugation of African-Americans. In 1967, 30 members of the Black Panthers protested on the steps of the California statehouse armed with .357 Magnums, 12-gauge shotguns and .45-caliber pistols and announced, “The time has come for black people to arm themselves.”

The display so frightened politicians—including California governor Ronald Reagan—that it helped to pass the Mulford Act, a state bill prohibiting the open carry of loaded firearms, along with an addendum prohibiting loaded firearms in the state Capitol. The 1967 bill took California down the path to having some of the strictest gun laws in America and helped jumpstart a surge of national gun control restrictions.

I was the first in my family – of my generation – NOT to work in the gun industry. Growing up in Connecticut, the historic arsenal of America, it was just one of several industries you considered working in as a factory hand.

Nowadays, I’d give serious consideration to any legislation fairly designed to keep weapons from status as a political instrument. Yes, that’s a challenge in a society that treasures political power as generally more important than human life.

Move to pardon Bayard Rustin will display more than apologies

The nation can count on the veil drawn aside from the discrete racism, homophobia, all the private bigotries of American conservatives and today’s Republican Party.

Ten years before the March on Washington in 1963, Bayard Rustin was arrested…Rustin — who would later go on to become one of the most prolific organizers of the civil rights movement, including as the mastermind behind the March on Washington — wasn’t booked for his activist work, however. He was arrested over his sexuality.

That January night in 1953, Rustin was having sex with another man in a parked car in Pasadena, California. He was jailed on a “morals charge,” and served about two months in jail. The offense landed him on the sex offender list.

The charge cost him jobs, and though Rustin didn’t necessarily hide his sexuality, it was used against him. Former Sen. Strom Thurmond, a segregationist, read Rustin’s arrest record on the Senate floor and used it to delegitimize the civil rights movement, calling him a “pervert.

“If that wasn’t enough, the record was reportedly supplied to Thurmond by J. Edgar Hoover, who at the time was the director of the FBI.

Now, California lawmakers are attempting to right the wrong.

RTFA for a sense of what needs to be done.

What the article doesn’t confront is the range of opposition this simple act will encounter. Please, don’t be naive and think that pulling at the thread of bigotry tied to American conservatism will only release a modicum of honesty and justice for Bayard Rustin. The stink of racism and homophobia within the minds and lives of America’s rightwing heart is only disguised, diminished in its perception – not its roots and persistence.

Racism is as American as apple pie

A number of competent economists have written of the origins of racism as a “successful” defense of slavery. In the days of slavery being one of the supports of the economy of this new nation fighting to survive disengagement from status as a British colony – a believable rationale was needed to defend the white, rural, wealthy supporters of our revolution who relied on an economic system centuries out of date that worked “well enough” to keep and maintain their political power.

It worked well enough to survive the Civil War. It worked well enough to keep Democrats in power in the Deep South for decades after that war. It worked well enough to supplant the Democrats with Republicans when the strength of the new civil rights movement challenged the core of American racism.

So, now, Trump and his followers wheedle their support for “very fine people on both sides” – a tagline that worked well enough to satisfy a majority of electors in the 2016 election, the leaders of the Republican Party ever since.


Photograph by Mark Peterson

” New York’s December 23, 2019–January 5, 2020 issue confronts America’s growing white supremacy movement through a photo-documentary portfolio by Mark Peterson and an essay by poet and National Book Award–nominated author Claudia Rankine. “It is our inheritance,” Rankine writes. “Institutionalized since the Civil War by a government that only recently, and tentatively, began to address domestic terrorism for what it is…”

” James Walsh, a writer at New York, contributed additional research and reporting in order to bring readers more context to the phenomenon. He spoke with Nate Snyder, a former counterterrorism official in the Department of Homeland Security, who notes that Trump’s rhetoric has had an impact on the movement’s rebirth. After Trump’s comments about Charlottesville, his infamous words about “very fine people on both sides,” Snyder says: “You saw activity on [neo-nazi site Stormfront] exponentially spike. “It was a validation point. You started seeing posts like ‘We now have an ally in the White House…'”

RTFA. The time to speak up on a national scale, from pages and pulpits that thrive on moderation, is overdue. Nice folks can no longer turn their back on the most vicious, reactionary stream polluting American culture.