Progress

When I lived in Georgia, I had an older friend, a great guy, from nearby to Athens (Greenville) unlike my other co-workers. He will be played by Billy Bob Thornton in the me biopic. We talked about politics a lot because he was the only person I knew who was as mad as me about the 2000 election/selection. One time, I said to him, about all the bullshit Jeb played with voters lists in Florida, “this is just like Mississippi in 1960.” I’d never seen him be anything but jovial before but when I said that he said “you fucking Yankee idiot, you have no idea what it was like down here before Civil Rights. Civil Rights changed everything in the south.”

It’s tough to talk about such an important event without sounding glib, but I’ll give it a try. I think it’s true that most white people, especially up here in the north, don’t appreciate just how enormously important the Civil Rights movement was. I also don’t think most people appreciate how clever a tactician Martin Luther King Jr. was. It wasn’t obvious that non-violence was the right strategy then, I’m not one of those who thinks non-violence is always the answer (and I agree that it’s ridiculous to think victims of state oppression and violence have no right to fight back), but there’s no question that King’s strategy worked brilliantly.

All the great oratory and great music and so on associated with the Civil Rights movement shouldn’t obscure the incredible skill that King and his allies displayed in getting so much ground-breaking legislation passed in just a few years. It didn’t have to happen that way, and it should be remembered a triumph of the mind as much as (or maybe even more than) a triumph of the spirit.








Friday Evening Open Thread: Shots Fired Markers Laid



“You cannot be at home with something that you feel is wrong.”

Blessings to Rep. Lewis for standing up, as he has alway stood up, for truth and justice. The Trumplodytes are going to call him every name they can think of — and the Very Serious Media People will amplify the screeching, because they have concerns about civility — but they’ve been calling him those names for more than half a century anyway.
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Apart from calling things by their rightful names, what’s on the agenda for the evening?
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And furthermore…



Uncle Joe!

Our wonderful President just pulled a fast one on the Veep he calls his brother.  Class honoring class:

If you want to cut to the chase, go here:

I’m so going to miss both these guys. Or rather, come January 21, they can each take, oh, say, two weeks. Then I’m gonna need them back, full steam ahead.



Open Thread: I’ll Miss Michelle Obama in the White House

… but I have every reason to believe she’ll still be fighting for the best of American values. Per the Washington Post:

Michelle Obama began to cry as she delivered her final public remarks from the White House on Friday morning at an event celebrating school counselors. Her message, which was directed toward young people, was one of hope and inclusion.

“It is our fundamental belief in the power of hope that has allowed us to rise above the voices of doubt and division . . . that we have faced in our own lives and in the life of this country,” Obama said as her voice cracked. “Our hope that if we work hard and believe in ourselves then we can be whatever we dream regardless of the limitations that others would place on us.

“That’s the kind of hope that every single one of us, politicians, parents, preachers, need to be providing for our kids, because that is what moves this country forward — our hope for the future.”

The first lady, who campaigned energetically for Hillary Clinton, was clearly disappointed by the recent election results; her emphasis that “hope” is what makes the country move forward appears to be a repudiation of President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, asserting that he will “Make America great again.”

The school counselor awards ceremony, which Obama began hosting in the White House in 2015, is reflective of the first lady’s focus on young people and opening the White House to groups who typically aren’t invited to the historic mansion…

Obama said that she plans to continue encouraging young people to pursue higher education and that she has been building toward life after the White House, considering opportunities to continue her advocacy.

She leaves the White House as one of the nation’s most popular political figures, her approval ratings approaching 70 percent, and her final interviews have been punctuated with questions about her future. While she is looking forward to a private life, and has said she plans to take a warm-weather vacation following the inauguration, she has already begun constructing her post-White House team and is considering her next move. She is expected to write a memoir but has not announced any firm commitments…

May she enjoy her hard-earned vacation… and win all her future battles!



A Hard Rain

I’m reading M Train right now — my way to push back on the news by diving into someone else’s struggle to live in the act of making work that cuts.  Just now, with the luck of the ‘net, my YouTube bot popped this into my recommend list:

I am much moved by Smith’s break on stage and more so by her return.

The song is obviously on point, the setting is surreal, and Smith herself is a walking, talking, ain’t-bragging-if-you-can-do-it lesson on turning a life into its own artform — as that same life spins its art into the world through all the moil and misery (and those flashes of joy!) that go into walking this earth.

It’s not all Trump and evil out there. I strain to remember that every day, and some days are harder than others. (Yesterday!  Worse than the chicken at Tresky’s.)

But it’s true, and I thank Patti Smith for the reminder.

Top of the evening open thread for all here — with a thick layer of improbable acts with oxidized farm implements to our enemies!








Moral Action in Trump’s America

I’m way deep in a big project, and rather significantly behind on it too, so my blogging for the next few months is going to be quick-hit stuff rather than anything thought through.  I’ll try to make up for that by making it as regular a practice as I can to toss good reads your way.

Todays comes from Masha Gessen, someone y’all know I greatly admire.  About a week ago she posted a piece on The New York Review of Books site.  In it, she asks if the realist stance in politics can function in the context of Trump.  To find out, she looks to her own family history — including choices she made — to answer no.  She takes no prisoners:

In Bialystok ghetto, my great-grandfather’s responsibility in the Judenrat was to ensure that the ghetto was supplied with food. He ran the trucks that brought food in and took garbage out, he ran the canteen and supervised the community gardens that a group of young socialists planted. He also discouraged the young socialists from trying to organize a resistance movement: it would be of no use and would only jeopardize the ghetto’s inhabitants. It took him almost two years to change his mind about the resistance efforts, as he slowly lost hope that the Judenrat, by generally following the rules and keeping the ghetto inhabitants in line, would be able to save at least some of them.

As in other ghettos, the Judenrat was ultimately given the task of compiling the lists of Jews to be “liquidated.” The Bialystok Judenrat accepted the job, and there is every indication that my great-grandfather took part in the process. The arguments in defense of producing the list, in Bialystok and elsewhere, were pragmatic: the killing was going to occur anyway; by cooperating, the Judenrat could try to reduce the number of people the Nazis were planning to kill (in Bialystok, this worked, though in the end the ghetto, like all other ghettos, was “liquidated”); by compiling the lists, the Judenrat could prevent random killing, instead choosing to sacrifice those who were already near death from disease or starvation. These were strong arguments. There is always a strong argument.

But what if the Jews had refused to cooperate?

640px-le_brun_charles_-_horatius_cocles_defending_the_bridge_-_google_art_project

Was Arendt right that fewer people might have died? Was Trunk right that Judenrat activities had no effect on the final outcome? Or would mass murder of Jews have occurred earlier if Jews had refused to manage their own existence in the ghetto? We cannot know for certain, any more than we can know now whether a scorched-earth strategy or the strategy of compromise would more effectively mitigate Trumpism. But that does not mean that a choice—the right choice—is impossible. It only means that we are asking the wrong question.

The right question…or better, the right stance, the right scale on which to weigh any choice of action?

We cannot know what political strategy, if any, can be effective in containing, rather than abetting, the threat that a Trump administration now poses to some of our most fundamental democratic principles. But we can know what is right. What separates Americans in 2016 from Europeans in the 1940s and 1950s is a little bit of historical time but a whole lot of historical knowledge….

Armed with that knowledge, or burdened with that legacy, we have a slight chance of making better choices. As Trump torpedoes into the presidency, we need to shift from realist to moral reasoning. That would mean, at minimum, thinking about the right thing to do, now and in the imaginable future. It is also a good idea to have a trusted friend capable of reminding you when you are about to lose your sense of right and wrong.

I’m convinced Gessen is correct.  More, I believe her demand that we make the moral choice first, and then pursue whatever particular tactic seems most likely to embody that choice, will be the most effective, as well as the right thing to do.  A Democratic response to Trump that says we can make this work a little better enshrines Trumpism, and all the vicious GOP assumptions as the ground on which such matters get decided.  One that says “No. This is wrong.  Democrats will oppose, not mitigate…” is the one that creates a real choice going forward on the ground on which we want to fight.

Read the whole thing.

Image: Charles Le Brun, Horatius Cocles Defending the Bridgec. 1642/3 (I know it’s not dead on point, but it’s close, and I always loved the story, so there.)



Blue Monday

Kay has written a lot about the Moral Mondays protest movement in North Carolina. PPP believed it made a big difference, and if it can work there, it can work anywhere.

Moral Mondays became a very rare thing- a popular protest movement. In August 2013 we found 49% of voters had a favorable opinion of the protesters to only 35% with an unfavorable opinion of them. And their message was resonating- 50% of voters in the state felt state government was causing North Carolina national embarrassment to only 34% who disagreed with that notion.

Pushing back hard on McCrory worked. The seeds of his final defeat today were very much planted in the summer of 2013. And it’s a lesson for progressives in dealing with Trump. Push back hard from day one. Be visible. Capture the public’s attention, no matter what you have to do to do it. Don’t count on the media to do it itself because the media will let you down. The protesters in North Carolina, by making news in their own right week after week after week, forced sustained coverage of what was going on in Raleigh. And even though it was certainly a long game, with plenty more frustration in between, those efforts led to change at the polls 42 months after they really started.

The reason to fight back against Trump is that’s it the right thing to do. But it’s also good politics.