Columbus Day is being celebrated throughout these United States. It is a celebration that embraces ignorance of basic history. It is a celebration that honors the dishonorable, the horrific and the indelible. It is a time when collectively Americans choose to put on blinders and ignore the simple fact that this country, indeed modern “civilization” in the Western Hemisphere is built on the blood soaked soil and bones of the indigenous people along with the shattered remains of their African comrades in pain. Just like the National Football League.

One would think that it would be unnecessary in the second decade of the twenty first century to once again point out that Christopher Columbus didn’t “discover” America. There were millions of indigenous people who had inhabited the so-called New World for thousands of years. There were towns and villages and cities and empires with achievements in astronomy, mathematics and engineering that rivaled and in some cases exceeded the best that Europe had to offer.

Columbus wasn’t even the first European to set foot in the Western Hemisphere. The Vikings beat Columbus to the historical punch establishing settlements in New Foundland almost half a millennium earlier. But Columbus Day has a much greater meaning than the abandoned Viking settlements in what is now Canada.

But Christopher Columbus brought with him greed, avarice and an implacable hunger for gold and riches which, with the blessings of the Catholic Church, opened an era of rape, genocide and treachery which resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of indigenous people throughout the hemisphere. Taking the concept of white supremacy to its most awful extreme, Christopher Columbus and the Europeans who followed him, felt justified in killing men, women and children without remorse. They considered the right to enslave others to be part of their white Christian birthright and they established societies which, to this day, carry the virus of blind sanctioned racism. And we know all too well, that this virus manifests itself in daily society.

The question becomes, knowing these rather obvious facts, why does anyone choose to celebrate the legacy of a murderer who was the harbinger of genocide and the first to seize the opportunity to destroy, demolish and obliterate societies and civilizations? It must be that it is more comfortable for too many to celebrate undeniable falsehoods than come to grips with the uncomfortable truth.

Which brings to mind the National Football League which still abides by the Washington team being called the “Redskins”, an odious term that was never acceptable, and is more horrific in its usage the more that history has been revealed to us. Nevertheless, the NFL and CBS and NBC and other sports news outlets refer to “Redskins” even though it is impossible to consider sports teams like the “New York Niggers” or the “Boston Kikes” or the “Chicago Wops” being acceptable. Referring to the indigenous people as mascots is akin to building a communal toilet on what remains of their tradition and history.

There is no calculus which could reduce the concept of “reparations” to dollars and cents. But it would be helpful to stop celebrating lies and continuing horrific myths while the ghosts of the dead continue to seek recognition, if not redress.

Political discourse, particularly on the right wing of the right wing, has been untethered from reality for quite some time. Consider, for example, the search for “truth” that would “prove” that President Obama is (a) a Muslim, (b) a foreign born illegal immigrant or (c) the anti-Christ. The voyage on the irrational ocean has visited ports that legitimize the shutdown of the federal government and the degradation of this country’s international credit rating. And the ranting in the wake of the Oregon gun tragedy further highlights the Teapublican fondness for fantasy.

Demonstrating his now legendary lack of grace and class, days after the massacre in Oregon Donald Trump resurrected the action hero view of gun ownership. He stated that if the students and faculty and security guards all had guns, death would not have visited Umpqua Community College. The fact that combat veterans and war journalists are unanimous in recounting the chaos inherent in firefights that take place during war should cause even the most committed gun-lover to pause and consider the vision of armed gunmen and gunwomen with little or no military training shooting to kill.

But, doubling down on his cinema-based theory of public safety, Trump went on to say that if he were subject to attack he would, in effect, channel his inner Charles Bronson/”Death Wish” persona. And once again, even the most avid proponent of universal gun ownership may wish to reconsider their position with the vision of a near-septuagenarian plutocrat firing away and real and or imagined enemies.

And, in keeping with the Teapublican tradition of being the party that is the gift that keeps on giving, Ben Carson offered thinly veiled criticism of the victims in Oregon (and presumably the victims in Aurora, Columbine, Tucson and Sandy Hook) for “just standing there” and allowing themselves to be shot. Channeling his inner Rambo, sans the bare chest, Carson went on to say that if he were confronted with situation similar to that in Oregon, he would have exhorted his companions to charge the gunman, encouraging them with the knowledge that “he could not shoot all of us”.

Dr. Carson has by now given brain surgeons a bad name, or at least removed “brain surgeon” as a synonym for a brilliant person. Perhaps, because he is such a brilliant brain surgeon he might be excused from knowing that an AR-15 automatic rifle fires 15 rounds per minute, so clearly it is possible for a gunman in such a fashion to “shoot all of us”. More importantly, this supposedly brilliant and thoughtful man should know that the term “fog of war” is a reality based reference. No one knows what they might do if a gun was aimed at them, and only highly trained combat and law enforcement personnel actually know what to do when the bullets start flying.

But not being satisfied with pouring rhetorical salt on the real wounds of the victims and survivors of all of the many gun massacres in this country, Ben Carson has been quoted as saying that he would rather see “bullet riddled bodies” rather than see the passage of any gun control legislation. And with these statements Dr. Carson has made it clear that he is not running for President of the United States of America, rather he is running for President of the United States of Gun.

The further tragedy is that in addition to all this careless, heartless, senseless and insane talk about guns and gunfights and “bullet riddled bodies”, the Teapublican Party runs the real danger of having its leading candidates ultimately giving it the identity of the Fantasy Party. In addition to fanatical devotion to guns, no matter the cost in blood and treasure, the leading Teapublican candidates truly believe that a multibillion dollar wall (with a great big door) will curtail illegal immigration. The party is now totally wedded to the concept of repealing the Affordable Care Act “on Day One”, thereby evaporating the healthcare coverage of over 20 million American men, women and children with no alternative plan.

On the foreign policy front Teapublicans propose to project strength by “telling” the Supreme Leader of Iran what he should do and by refusing to even speak to Vladimir Putin. We hear of plans to reprise the tragic horrors caused by the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, once again accompanied by the promise that the U.S. military actions will be brief, limited, surgical and successful (this time).

The final tragedy is that instead of offering thoughtful alternatives to the agenda of the Democratic Party, the Teapublicans have shrouded themselves in a world of fantasy and denial, setting forth policies that will never work, from “Day One”. And that is too bad, as the American people deserve better.

It is said that history repeats itself. It is an overused phrase that sadly applies to these United States and its love-death relationship with guns. The following words were written exactly two years ago in September 2013:

“The Teapublicans and the right wing of the right wing are adamant in their defense of what they contend is their constitutional right to own an unlimited number of guns. And even those that serve as hand held weapons of mass destruction. And on the Planet Teapublican, that right even extends to what are in essence hand held weapons of mass destruction.

Even the most common sense proposed limitations, such as background checks for mental illness and criminal records are met with outrage and implacable opposition. The fact that gun massacres with multiple deaths upon multiple casualties have become a part of the American way of life is met with a call for more guns in the hands of more Americans.

What is peculiar about this adamant and absolute Teapublican defense of the right to bear arms is that it does not extend to the right to vote. The same right wing avatars that are incapable in compromising on any limits, controls or oversight regarding the right to possess firearms have no problem with the multiple barriers to voting that are being erected across this country. In fact, the same Teapublican legislatures that trample even modest gun control proposals into dusty fragments are the same legislatures that are passing voter suppression laws the likes of which have not been seen since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In North Carolina, for example, new voter suppression laws have been passed with the express purpose of making it more difficult for minorities, the elderly and the young to vote. The fact that representatives of these demographics are not part of the Teapublican base of support is not coincidental.

And so, we are now witness to the irony that it is easier for a black man in North Carolina to own a gun than it is for him to vote. Somehow the predominantly white Teapublicans in North Carolina and elsewhere fear black people who vote more than they fear black people who own guns.

The naked illogic of this situation should be obvious as the exercise of the right to vote is far more important to the preservation of democracy and democratic institutions than individual gun ownership. Unless you believe that there are federal black helicopters about to lift off and come and take you away, voting presents a far more effective and rational way to establish and promote policies.

Say what you will about the Teapublicans, but they have managed to turn selective hypocrisy into an art form. Somehow, in this house of malevolent mirrors, the right to bear arms is an absolute right that should not be subject to any limitation whatsoever.

However, even though the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that a woman has a constitutional right to choose an abortion, the Teapublicans in many states have taken so many steps to limit that right to choose that this right is rendered virtually meaningless.

While the right to own guns, rifles, shotguns and assault weapons is inviolate on the Planet Teapublican – the right to vote of minorities, the elderly and anyone who is not a reliable supporter of the Teapublican Commandments can be modified and limited to make their right to vote virtually meaningless.

Indeed, to an observer from another country, it would seem that the only right that is absolute in the Teapublican Constitution is the right to own a gun. And it may be only a matter of time before this country is properly renamed ‘The United States of Gun’.”

As we prepare to watch another set of somber official mourners march to the gravesides in Oregon this time, we know for certainty that this will not be the last time that mass murder stains the pages of another day in this country’s history.

We can only hope against hope that, amidst the gunfire and the relentless hail of bullets, at some point sanity and self-preservation will inform the national discourse on the subject of guns.

Clearly we have yet to reach that point. And while we wait the body count continues to rise.

The Check is in the Mail

There just may be some truth to the rumor that Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, has offered to pay CNN and Fox News to continue to broadcast Republican debates. While there is no truth to the rumor that her offers have been accepted, the rest of us can only hope that the Teapublican Show of Shows is renewed for the fall season.

Thanks to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, any billionaire can decide that virtually anyone with a pulse can be President of the United States. That may be the only way to explain the candidacies of Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal, to name just a few of the members of the right wing of the right wing food fight disguised as a presidential campaign. But during brief moments of lucidity and clarity of thought the leadership of the Republican National Committee just has to be wondering if providing a national stage every lost cousin and wild and crazy uncle in the Teapublican family is such a great idea.

Consider a thumbnail sketch of the leading candidates out of the fifteen remaining from the Spectacular Seventeen that greeted us a little over a month ago, keeping in mind that every single one of them (except John Kasich and George Pataki, propose to deny over 20 million American men, women and children healthcare on “Day One”, by repealing the Affordable Care Act:

• Donald Trump – What else can be said about the Orange Haired Wonder. While it is dangerous to dismiss the Donald, it is important to note that if you distill his message, he intends to govern by bombast, bullying and insult. This might work in the world of real estate, but it certainly won’t work in domestic politics or in foreign policy.
• Carly Fiorina – Her narrative of going from a secretary to a CEO neglects to mention that her father was a federal court judge and then dean of Duke Law School and that her degrees from Stanford, the University of Maryland and MIT might have something to do with her success. And, by the way, the secretary narrative? She worked as a Kelly Girl during her summers in school. Her personal fan dance notwithstanding, her plan to “not speak to Putin” and to “tell the Supreme Leader of Iran” what he must do is so implausible that it would be funny, except that it is not.
• Ted Cruz – He sees no problem shutting down the federal government and says that the Supreme Court acts in an “unconstitutional” manner when it issues decisions with which he does not agree.
• Mike Huckabee – He joins the Teapublican attack on the Supreme Court in the process ignoring the Constitution and over 2 centuries of case law. And he seriously wants to be President of the United States.
• Chris Christie – New Jersey has one of the worst economies of the fifty states. And then there is this pesky corruption investigation by the U.S. attorney, an investigation involving a number of his very senior appointees. And then, he wants us to believe that bullying is useful as a governance model.
• Jeb Bush – First, he is Jeb BUSH. Second, his record as governor of Florida, beginning with his presiding over the first theft of an American presidential election, is not a stunning calling card. And then again, does the RNC really want to pin its hopes for winning the White House on another BUSH considering the impossible mess created by the last BUSH?
• Ben Carson – His avuncular delivery of stunning madness and malice – denying the science behind climate change and comparing Obamacare to slavery (!!!!!!!) – proves that brain surgeons may not be the standard for brilliance in modern society.

Of course the list goes on, and it is interesting that John Kasich, governor of Ohio, usually comes across as the only sane adult in the Teapublican echo chamber. And it is interesting that virtually nobody gives John Kasich a chance of winning the Republican nomination – right along with George Pataki (another sane adult), and Bobby Jindal (not so sane and not so adult) and seemingly endless cast of characters.

It may be that there is a bizarro world scenario in which one of the highlighted candidates could win (there is a winning scenario for Kasich and Pataki, for example, but……….well, you know). Nevertheless, the RNC treats us to daily doses of Lindsey Graham wanting to wage more war and Marco Rubio fighting the Cold War twenty years too late, along with eliminating healthcare coverage for over 20 million Americans, and somehow that is supposed to be a winning strategy.

And that is why Ms. Wasserman Schultz is writing out checks to CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and any other media outlet that will give the RNC candidates a platform. To the executives of these networks – the check is in the mail.

There should be no be debate regarding whether black lives matter. But in these United States it is a matter of life and death to assert this truth so that black lives do not run the risk of lethal consequences arising out of contact with law enforcement. But there is another side of the Black Lives Matter movement – it is also a matter of life and death to assert this truth so that black lives do not run the risk of being extinguished at the hands of black people – just ask the family of Carey Gabay.

Caray Gabay was a bright and rising star in the New York black community. A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, Mr. Gabay was a senior member of the executive team of the Governor of the State of New York. And Mr. Gabay died on September 16, 2015, succumbing to a gunshot wound to the head from a gun which was wielded by a member of a black gang fighting with another black gang.

The tragedy of Mr. Gabay’s death is not just that he was a talented, educated and aspiring young man, by all accounts a great person, a great husband and due to be a father for the first time in the next few months. The real tragedy is that his death is part of the black body count in this country, a body count that rises by the guns and knives and assorted weaponry in the hands of black Americans.

The real tragedy is that Mr. Gabay is now a part of the black body count that far exceeds the number of black men and women slain by law enforcement officers. And the real tragedy is that the black body count remains behind a gossamer veil of partial acceptance and perceived inevitability. While the murder of Eric Garner by the New York City Police Department has elicited marches and protests and rallies, we simply do not see the same outrage when a black person dies at the hands of another black person. Whether the black victim is a Harvard graduate or a high school dropout, the tragedy is unspeakable and the pain for survivors is actually eternal.

Insofar as the grieving survivors of black people killing black people are concerned, a bullet from a gang gun or a thug gun is no different than the bullet from a police gun. For the survivors in communities that too closely resemble charnel houses and abattoirs, the dead are dead and resurrection can only come in the hereafter. But for those who live in the here and now, there can only be inconsolable sadness knowing that for some bizarre breakdown in logic, death by cop elicits outrage and protest, but black on black crime is rationalized and explained in a torrent of socioeconomic and historic contortions, none of which provide answers or solace.
It should come as no surprise that most black people are killed by the acts of other black people. Most people are typically killed by their neighbors, family members and the residents of their community. Indeed 93% of murder victims are killed by people with whom they have a racial or ethnic commonality.

But black people kill other black people in greater numbers than any other racial or ethnic community in this country. In 2011 homicide was the leading cause of death of black males between the ages of 15 and 34. Consider that forty percent of African-American males 15-34 who died were murdered, according to the Center for Disease Control, compared to just 3.8 percent of white males who died. But statistics do not reveal the pain and the terror and the heartbreak that lies behind the black body count.

To contend that these enormous death disparities are solely caused by poverty and unemployment and lack of education is to engage in incomplete analysis. It must be recognized that there is a culture of killing, and condoning of homicide (see “no snitches”) and an accommodation of terror that must be overcome.

Lighting candles on the sidewalk after yet another murder is simply not enough. Indeed, marching through the streets with a few banners and posters is not enough. Changing the culture that glorifies gangsters and murder and mayhem in videos, music lyrics, fashion and language will provide the only relief to the shattered and shredded spirits of the widows and orphans and parents.

Changing the culture is a huge task. But it is where we must start if we wish to stop burying our own forever.

Lies and Consequences

The nuclear power agreement between Iran and five allied countries, including the United States, has been unanimously endorsed by the Security Council of the United Nations. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, over thirty senior U.S. generals and numerous former officials of Mossad, the Israeli security agency, have also endorsed it. These endorsements mean nothing on the Planet Teapublican, and as a result every effort has been made to derail this agreement. And now that those efforts have failed, it is fair to ask, now what?

Historians will one day look back at this near debacle and wonder how presumably rational men and women could lock themselves into an alternate universe where anything that President Obama proposes is wrong, and anything that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says is correct. How is it that the reality of the limits of U.S. power is not crystal clear, even after Vietnam, Baghdad, Iraq, Afghanistan and 9/11. And most importantly, historians will wonder what was the real Plan B that opponents of the Iran nuclear deal had in mind?

When the arguments against the Iran deal are distilled, the result is a single phrase – “a better deal”. Of course, the desire for a “better deal” presumes that over the several years of negotiation a “better deal” was not the goal of the Obama administration. The desire for a “better deal” presumes that the United States can simply impose its will, not only on Iran, but also on Russia, China, Britain and France. The desire for “a better deal” is rational only with the assumption that it is the sole province of these United States to determine what reality is – and is not.

The proposed agreement with Iran has been called “the worst deal in the history of the world”, which upon brief reflection has to be an exaggeration that clouds the American mind but does not change the reality that a negotiated agreement, by definition, does not represent perfection for any of the parties to the agreement. But the Teapublican leadership in Congress and the Republican candidates for president seem to think that the discussions with Iran represented an opportunity to dictate the terms of surrender to a defeated country. Of course, that is not true. But facts and truth never seem to get in the way of a good Teapublican myth.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and his supporters in Congress seem to think that the negotiations with Iran, possessed of one of the most powerful military forces on earth, should simply capitulate to the will of America. Since that was never the case, it was absolutely impossible for any rational agreement to get the support of the Israeli prime minister (despite the very clear support for the agreement by Israeli military and intelligence experts) or that of the leadership of the Congress which is mired in the mud of permanent opposition to anything and everything that is associated with the presidency of Barack Obama.

Regarding that Plan B, historians will also have to wonder if the “military option” to the agreement really meant sending thousands upon thousands of American sons and daughters to certain death and mayhem without even giving a negotiated agreement a chance. Is the right wing of the right wing so wedded to the American tradition of defining the world by sheer force that it would be willing to risk yet another blood soaked conflagration in a region already destabilized for the foreseeable future due to misguided military incursions in Iraq and Afghanistan?

There are questions that will never really be answered. But in reflecting on the value of the divergent paths of peaceful negotiation and war, why would anyone choose war?

For those Americans who believe that America has changed from its historical origins – origins that have included racially-based slavery, genocide and theft – recent news must have come as something of a disappointment. When President Obama announced that Mt. McKinley in Alaska would be renamed with its original, indigenous name, Mt. Denali, the hue and cry of opposition was at its birther worst.

First some history – the Iñupiat, Yupik, Aleut, Eyak, Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian have lived in the area that is known as Alaska for thousands of year. At some point the largest mountain in the northern hemisphere was named “Denali”, a word meaning “tall” in the Koyukon language. And then came the Europeans.

Then came the Russians who in their infinite wisdom and ignorance of the indigenous people named the mountain Bolshaya Gora, the Russian translation of Denali or “tall”. And then came the Americans, no stranger to ignoring indigenous people. An American gold prospector decided to name Mount Denali Mount McKinley, since he supported a presidential candidate named William McKinley. Keep in mind that the naming of Mount McKinley would be akin to naming some geographical monument “Mount Santorum” or “Mount Bernie Sanders” – presidential candidates, not even a president.

But there is more, of course. The opponents of the righteous and rightful renaming of Mount Denali are the cultural and spiritual descendants of the Europeans who came to the Western Hemisphere and destroyed the culture and civilization of the people who had lived on these lands for thousands of years.

We hear the wails and moans of the archeologists after the destruction of undeniably historic sites by ISIS in Palmyra, Syria. The question is asked, what kind of people who engage in such wanton destruction of civilization?
The answer would be the same kind of people who destroyed all significant aspects of the Aztec civilization in Tenochtitlan, now known as Mexico City. The answer would be the same kind of people who destroyed the civilization of the Cherokee, the Apache, and the Iroquois, the Sioux and so many more peoples who have either been obliterated or relegated to being sports mascots and caricatures.

The mindset of those who would oppose the renaming of Mount Denali is the same mindset which has proudly and loudly proclaimed the predominance of white western civilization over all other civilizations. There is no way to justify the creation of the United States on the bones and bodies and civilizations of indigenous peoples. And while the clock cannot be turned back, there is no reason why this country should go forward with such a backward point of view.

One can only hope that after the tide of white ethnic indignation recedes that rational thought and fairness will make themselves known in the national discourse. It does no dishonor to William McKinley or the American presidency to restore the name of Mount Denali. Indeed, the renaming of Mount Denali is an honorable act and we can hope that it precedes other honorable acts of moral reparations – such as finally dispensing with the ethnic slur that is the name of the Washington NFL team along with the names of the Cleveland and Atlanta major league baseball teams along with the numerous college “mascots” that still demean the descendants of the indigenous people of this land.

It is time to say enough. It is enough that the founders and builders of this country killed the indigenous people. It is enough that they destroyed their civilizations and ways of life. It is not too much to ask that the desecration and mockery of their culture stop.



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