Star Spangled Protest: The Verse You Missed

It’s time to Break It Down!

The challenges of living in and leveraging the dynamic opportunities of a multicultural society such as that found in the United States of America are many. There are more reasons for that than I could ever address adequately in any single blog post. Today I will take a brief look at our nation’s Anthem, and examine several “Key” related points, pun intended, including the man who penned it, the little known third verse, the antipathy toward black athletes who dare point out the inconsistencies and/or inequities related to the fundamentals of our Constitution, its Amendments, our Creed, and of course, the Anthem.

I cannot begin to recall how many times I have heard Conservatives remind us that ours is an exceptional nation. This characterization implies an unimpeachable blessing bestowed upon us by no less than the almighty God, an inherent righteousness assigned to any and all causes that America deigns to endorse, as well as an irreducible validation of our systems and values, e.g., Capitalism, Free Enterprise, and the irresistible force that is the power of the United States Military Industrial Complex.

Since this past weekend we have engaged in a national dialogue, much of it digitally, about an NFL player opting not to stand for the National Anthem. Colin Kaepernick is a member of the San Francisco 49’ers, in fact a quarterback who incidentally is currently not projected as a starter at his position. Mr. Kaepernick cited his concern about blacks dying in the streets and officers getting paid leave, which is frequently the most onerous consequence to them, resulting from their actions.

Kaepernick is an African American, the son of a white mother and a black father. He was adopted and raised by white parents. Not surprisingly, as has come to be the norm, social media has erupted over this so-called controversy. Many critics across racial lines have suggested that neither the timing, nor the venue in which he expressed his stated concerns was appropriate. As you might imagine, he drew pointed ire from Veterans and Veterans’ groups. Moreover, he attracted a spate of racial epithets from a number of white people.

It is also important to note that some Veterans supported him, and others at least supported his right to exercise his First Amendment rights; a point I will come back to later. At least one Veteran’s group also extended its support, and it must be observed, not all whites thought he was wrong to express the sentiments he did.

America is an exceedingly complex society. It has been that way since the outset, and when one looks back at our evolution and development as a nation state, it is fair to say at this juncture, our complexity increases almost daily. We used to describe our country as a melting pot. Subsequent metaphors many of us adopted for a time included a tossed salad, and a quilt. Today, we are comprised of a global consortium of interconnected communities representing every corner of the world. We are rapidly approaching that magical moment when white people will no longer represent the majority of the American population. Undoubtedly, there are those who submit that when that barrier is crossed, we will no longer be great. Sigh!

Consider that backdrop when you evaluate Kaepernick’s actions and comments. The comments and the varied responses are a reflection of a broadening chasm between people who look at America and see an Empire receding rapidly from a glorious past, and those who view a burgeoning giant ready to rise triumphantly into a brilliant future marked by immeasurable contributions from our growing diverse communities. The contrast is almost as stark as the distinction between isolationist Maoist China and the American society that boldly embraced the notion of E Pluribus Unum (Out of many, one).

Colin Kaepernick’s battle is neither his alone, nor a new one. As recently as two weeks ago during the 2016 Summer Olympics, American Gymnast Gabby Douglas was flayed because as she stood (and she did stand) on the Medal Stand with her four Olympic teammates, she did not place her hand over her heart, as her teammates did during the Anthem. She did not announce any protest, before or after her appearance, and in fact later apologized for having been a distraction. Nevertheless, her action, or lack thereof, became a huge issue. By the same token, in those same Olympics, American Wrestlers similarly did not place their hands on their hearts, and (are you surprised) there was no furor. Now if I note that Ms. Douglas was black and the Wrestlers were white, someone will ask, why does everything have to be racialized? I not only agree, I would ask, why didn’t anyone think of that before singling out the black American Gymnast…but not the white American Wrestlers? I’m just saying!

But this is bigger, much bigger than that. When Muhammad Ali declared himself a conscientious objector in 1967 and refused to serve in the Vietnam War, he was effectively pilloried. He lost his Title as the Heavyweight Boxing Champion, his boxing license, his passport, and three of what could have been the most productive years in his boxing career, spanning from ages 25 to nearly 29. If only there had been the Internet and social media in that era, I can only imagine the fallout that would have resulted.

It did not take long for the next episode. At the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, American Track and Field Team members Tommie Smith, the fastest man in the world at the time, and John Carlos each wore a black glove and black socks as they raised their arms in a salute to unity with people fighting internationally for human rights around the world when  they received their Gold and Bronze Medals, respectively. Smith actually set a World Record in the race (200 Meters) that would last for eleven years. The two were immediately sent home and faced significant fallout for the duration of their careers. While many of us know this, a lesser known footnote about that race is Silver Medalist Peter Norman, of Australia, also felt moved by the two runners support of global human rights, and also wore a badge in support for the effort. His career was also forever affected by that fateful act. Australia had it’s own issues and operated a system similar to South African Apartheid that affected the country’s Aborigines. Norman was never permitted to compete for Australia again.

Decades later, Ali, at his funeral earlier this year was honored and given a hero’s Rites. His actions from 50 years ago are viewed through a different lens these days. Even Smith and Carlos’ actions today generally receive favorable reviews by most Americans. It’s difficult to predict if Kaepernick will be looked at similarly at some point in the future.

But there’s more. The Anthem itself must be assessed in its fullness, rather than based on just the single verse that is sung at most events. Francis Scott Key, wrote the Anthem during a battle at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland, September 13-14, 1813. Like many of the notable Southern elites of his time, Key was a slave owner. He was a Marylander, and yes, Maryland is a Southern State. The infamous Mason-Dixon Line runs through the state; more accurately, it separates Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Most folks have no idea the Star Spangled Banner has four verses. The song was originally a poem, “The Defence of Fort McHenry.” The third verse rather graphically and pointedly speaks to spilling the blood of slaves and sending them to their graves. Yes, that was indeed a sign of the times, but now…is not then! When I reflect upon it, I find it surprising that many more people, especially African Americans, do not stand or cover their heart during the Anthem…and I’m reasonably sure if more people knew the history, there would be less acquiescence with the rituals. Here’s hoping this post spreads the word. See verse three below, and after verse three the Anthem in its entirety:

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore

That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,

A home and a country should leave us no more!

Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”


The Star Spangled Banner Lyrics

By Francis Scott Key 1814


Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,

O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?


On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,

Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,

What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,

As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?

Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,

In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:

‘Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!


And where is that band who so vauntingly swore

That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,

A home and a country should leave us no more!

Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!


Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand

Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!

Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land

Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

All things considered, there are many vexing issues related to this dust-up. There is of course, the disparate treatment of America’s black and white athletes when they run afoul of Anthem Rituals. It is also unfathomable how any person prone to a balanced perspective could ignore the implications of a slave owner’s theme song adopted as the country’s national standard. Finally, there is the issue of honoring those who serve.

I did not serve, but I do have a number of Veterans in my family. I love, honor and respect each and every one of them. But let’s be clear, they and every man and woman who served and fought, did so for our freedoms…all of them. Specifically, they did not fight just for the Second Amendment. Yes, we have the right to bear arms. But without question, they also fought for the First Amendment, which if you are counting, comes before the Second. This means you; I, and Colin Kaepernick all have Freedom of Speech. As such, he is not only able to sit during the National Anthem, he may do so knowing that those who serve do so in order to ensure that he can do just that. So, the next time this issue arises, be mindful of the…Star Spangled Protest: The Verse You Missed!”

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“What The Aitch Do You Have To Lose?”

It’s time to Break It Down!

Though it’s been three weeks since I’ve written about 2016 Presidential Politics, the Campaign has indeed continued apace. Both Parties have held their respective Conventions and are gearing up to do battle for the next seventy days or so.

For her part, Team Clinton continues, and I would expect will for the duration of the campaign, to absorb hits about her use of email, this time involving the Clinton Foundation. Mr. Trump has gone so far as to refer to emails that appear to connect the Foundation, Secretary Clinton, and wealthy donors seeking meetings as evidence of a Pay-to-Play scheme. He has called for a Special Prosecutor to be named to investigate the matter. Needless to say, that would be a very convenient outcome, from his perspective.

For his part, Team Trump has found itself in an interesting position. After having an eventful, though largely positive (for him) Republican National Convention, he received a significant 6-point bounce the following week that saw him surpass Hillary in the Polls going into the week of the Democratic National Convention. Then came the Democratic Convention, which brought its own 7-point bounce, which catapulted Mrs. Clinton back into a lead in most Polls.

Then things really got interesting. The Trump Campaign hit a number of sour notes, including one with a Gold Star Family. The offshoot in summary was many of the Polls were unkind to Mr. Trump. He trailed by double digits in several, including in some states where Republicans are expecting to contend, or even to have a slight advantage, such as Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

It is clear the Trump Campaign found these developments unsettling. So with roughly 80 days to go before Election Day, Team Trump undertook it’s second significant shake-up and installed it’s third new Leadership Team. This time Paul Manafort, who in the spring replaced Corey Lewandowski as Campaign Chair, was displaced on August 17th, by the duo of Kellyanne Conway, Campaign Chair, and Stephen Bannon, Campaign CEO. Conway is the head of her own Polling Firm, and Bannon is a former executive at Breitbart News.

I may be one of the few people who truly believes this is still genuinely a race. I absolutely think Donald Trump continues to have a viable shot, no pun intended Second Amendment people, at becoming the 45th POTUS. Let me be clear, I think Mrs. Clinton will win. However, today anyway, I feel given the amount of time left, and the number of unknown variables that may still impact the outcome, Donald J. Trump still has a puncher’s chance. And he’s obviously going to keep flailing away.

Today though, I want to take a moment to examine one of Mr. Trump’s most recent cavalier (in my opinion, anyway) premises. This should not take long. Last Thursday, Donald Trump came to Charlotte, NC and among other things launched his initial pitch to African Americans. The next day in Dimondale, Michigan, Trump continued to hone, refine, and embolden his pitch to the African American community. Recent polls suggest he is polling 1 to 2 percent nationally among African Americans, and actually zero in a couple of swing states, Pennsylvania and Ohio. With metrics like that, it is easy enough to understand why he would consider targeting, again, no pun intended Second Amendment people, African Americans as a group with whom he would like to expand his support.

With that disclaimer, it is important to note a couple of distinct issues:

  • The first is that Mr. Trump chose to issue his most passionate plea to date for African American support in, as I noted above, Dimondale, Michigan. Dimondale, according to the 2010 Census is 93% white, and includes 9, as in one less than 10, African Americans, which translates into .73%. To be clear, that is less than three quarters of one percent.
  • The second point I want to elevate is the language Mr. Trump chose to use to implore support among African Americans. He said, and I quote, “What the hell do you have to lose?” That is the more indelicate version of today’s title. Fine, call the title politically correct, if you must. But to be sure, the larger point here is, whether Donald Trump, his surrogates, his supporters, and his newly minted Campaign Leadership Team realize and appreciate, there are millions of African Americans who not only take great exception to the brazen temerity of the query, but who would be happy to respond…if only he would come to some location that actually presented him with an audience of living, breathing African Americans.

While I think the question is disrespectful, he upped the ante on the downright ludicrous by insisting if elected, in his 2020 reelection bid, he would actually garner more than 95% of the black vote. OK, if, as Mr. Trump eventually claimed, his insistence that President Obama founded ISIS was sarcasm, his black vote assertion, on its face, is sheer hyperbole. President Obama, in his reelection bid attracted 93% of the black vote. For Mr. Trump to fix his mouth to say he would better that is laughable. Hilarious in fact!

This has been a fairly popular discussion over the course of the past several days. In winding down this conversation, I will leave you with three responses, including one of my own, to Mr. Trump’s presumptuous sounding question. Before I get to the responses, let me expand on the meaning of “presumptuous sounding.” It is a fairly common consensus that Mr. trump is really not seeking to expand or increase his support among African Americans. Instead, he is executing a strategy to increase his level of palatability among white voters, many of whom have expressed the notion that he is not Presidential, that many of his rants are racist and or bigoted, and that his proposed Muslim ban and wall separating us from Mexico are in a word, contemptuous.

Now, here are responses from two of my friends and me regarding “what we have to lose:”

  1. JW said, ”Donald Trump paints a bleak picture of Black Americans and asks, “What the hell do you have to lose?” Join me in the self portrait of a Black man’s what’s to lose challenge: This Black man is a comfortably retired Ph. D, all five kids college educated, two with advanced degrees, living in a country club community, multi-lingual, no arrest records, a registered Democrat and veteran. What’s to lose? My standing as an intelligent individual with a full serving of political integrity. Chime in brothers…”
  2. KW said, ”Trump’s assertion requires critical analysis. Let’s start with my immediate family: I am a product of Detroit public schools. I have three college degrees including a Masters Degree in Organizational Management. My wife is a product of public schools in her hometown. She has two college degrees including a Bachelors of Science degree. One of our daughters graduated from college at the age of 17! She earned two more degrees from UCLA (a public university). Our oldest daughter has three college degrees. Our 22-year-old son has two college degrees and will earn a third degree in May 2017. Our youngest daughter earns her first college degree in May 2017 and she will be 19 years old. So: earned degrees in the Williams household: 13 to date with two more expected in May 2017. Oh, I forgot. That’s impossible because we are all Black. I also forgot to mention all 13 degrees were conferred with honors ranging from Cum Laude to Summa Cum Laude. Trump: Get away from me with that minutia. You embarrass Republicans and Americans. BTW: what college did your wife graduate from??? Feel free to share this. I wrote and approved this message.”
  3. I said, ”African American, two degrees, 34+ year career in public service, retired, blogger, with some definite ideas about what’s at stake if African Americans and America gamble on Donald Trump. I think Mr. Trump is simultaneously pandering to blacks while enflaming the white racist voting bloc, in an effort to offset the lack of support he is sure to garner from us. Such racist and bigoted appeals are certain to harden the shell that already makes life challenging for black folks trying to navigate our society. And then, there is this… Of course you already know this, but you may not have seen it here.”

In case you were contemplating whether Donald Trump is sarcastic or just full of…call it hyperbole (to keep it clean), this discussion sums it up pretty well, in my opinion. In fact, the post responds even more cogently to the inquiry, “What The Aitch Do You Have To Lose?”

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Obama Plays the Inexperience Card

It’s time to “Break It Down!”


Last week, in the spirit of the Olympics, I reprised a Gabby Douglas story from four years ago, primarily due to the fact a number of folks just couldn’t let it go, when it came to Gabby’s tresses. Today, partly due to the Olympics, which are now in full swing, and partly to acknowledge the anniversary of “Break It Down,” I am revisiting my inaugural post.

Tempus fugit (Time Flies)!  Saturday will mark another significant milestone in the life and development of “Break It Down!”  I initiated this blog August 20, 2007, on a lark…almost a dare.  That was nine years (and 476 editions) ago.  Having related the story several times over the past several years, I will not repeat the complete details today.

I will note that on that summer’s eve, I contemplated, in five paragraphs, the experience, or in reality the lack thereof, of then Senator Barack Obama, as he navigated the early stages of his historic Presidential Campaign.  The prodigious parameters of that history were not evident at the time.  To be sure, over the next 14-½ months, he bested the odds and won not only the Democratic Nomination, but also the Presidency.  In so doing, my lack of conviction, along with that of many others, in Mr. Obama’s ability to claim the nation’s biggest political prize exposed for what it was; a patently errant assessment.

I want to make one more note about the blog.  In addition to this week marking the Sixth Anniversary of Break It Down, this week’s post commemorates the Four-year Anniversary of my using WordPress as my primary Host Platform.  The link, is simpler and more straightforward than the Blogger (Blogspot) link,  The site design and presentation at Word Press is cleaner, and less busy than the one at Blogger.  Please note, while I may migrate Break It Down exclusively to WordPress, the blog remains available at both sites for the foreseeable future.

So this was the message in Post #1, five brisk paragraphs and a sign-off:

In an apparent calculated act of derring-do, Obama declares the virtue of inexperience. Gotta love it!   😉

Personal footnote of recollection: I recall Jimmy Carter running the “anti-Washington” (i.e., lack of Capitol Hill experience) campaign in ’75-76. You know what, it worked.

The problem was, once JC sent all the reigning bureaucrats & policy wonks home, he was left with an assembly of newbies who didn’t understand how to get things done in DC. The result was a very smart guy, genuine humanitarian, and erstwhile successful leader presided over a disastrous presidency, fraught with innumerable policy failures (see the Shah of Iran, double-digit inflation, & the outrageous Interest/Mortgage rate morass) and public relations gaffes (remember the killer rabbit, and the failed helicopter gambit).

Fortunately for him he was able to live long enough and subsequently do enough good deeds to distance himself from most of an unremarkable tenure as a one-term president, followed by a resounding defeat by that cowboy actor Teflon guy.

Of course none of that has anything to do with Obama…except in the unlikely even he prevails, let’s hope he doesn’t take that inexperience thing too far. As W constantly reminds us, getting to the White House is one thing (after all, he’s done it twice), providing prudent and effective leadership once there is quite another.


Posted on Mon, Aug. 20, 2007

Just for perspective, see a story the news carried on the subject that day:


Obama posits virtue of inexperience

What rivals criticize as naiveté, he presents as break from status quo


Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa –Democrat Barack Obama on Sunday tried to parlay his relative lack of national experience into a positive attribute, chiding his rivals for adhering to “conventional thinking” that led the country to war and has divided the country.

In their latest debate, the candidates also said they favored more federal action to address economic woes that have resulted from a housing slump and tighter credit. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson called the current financial crisis “the Katrina of the mortgage-lending industry.”

Prodded by moderator George Stephanopoulos at the outset of the debate, Obama’s rivals critiqued his recent comments on Pakistan and whether he would meet with foreign leaders — including North Korea’s head of state — without conditions.

“To prepare for this debate I rode in the bumper cars at the state fair,” the first-term senator from Illinois said to laughter and applause from the audience at Drake University.

The debate capped an intense week of politicking in Iowa, an early voting state in the process of picking a nominee. The Iowa State Fair is a magnet for White House hopefuls each presidential election.

Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., directly addressing a question about Obama’s relative inexperience, said: “You’re not going to have time in January of ’09 to get ready for this job.” Dodd has served in Congress for more than 30 years.

Former Sen. John Edwards said Obama’s opinions “add something to this debate.” But Edwards said politicians who aspire to be president should not talk about hypothetical solutions to serious problems.

“It effectively limits your options,” Edwards said.

Obama said he could handle the rigors of international diplomacy and noted that many in the race, including Dodd, Edwards and Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Joe Biden, voted to authorize the Iraq war in 2002.

“Nobody had more experience than Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney and many of the people on this stage that authorized this war,” Obama said. “And it indicates how we get into trouble when we engage in the sort of conventional thinking that has become the habit in Washington.”

The debate, hosted and broadcast nationally by ABC, took place less than five months before Iowa caucus-goers begin the process of selecting the parties’ presidential nominees.

As we reflect upon the Campaign of 2008 it really does harken the recognition of how swiftly time and events pass.  Indeed, I am reminded, especially, of how a supremely confident Senator from Illinois approached his moment.  I shall always recall that it propelled me to write the words, “Obama Plays the Inexperience Card!” Needless to say, he has gained an enormous amount of experience in the intervening years.

I’m done; holla back!

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My Name Is Gabby Douglas: I Am Not My Hair Redux

It’s time to Break It Down!

Originally posted on 8/8/12, during the Summer Olympics in London.

Four years ago, I wrote a post that ordinarily would have feted Gabby Douglas on the occasion of her having won two Gold Medals.  She exercised her considerable and magnificent skills to render stellar performances in winning both an individual Gold Medal, as well as a Gold for the all around best performance in Women’s Gymnastics.

Instead, due to a perverse spike in news coverage, I decided to write about a case of black hair shaming of Olympian Gabby Douglas. She was subjected an all out Twitter assault as a result of her appearance at the London Games. We are now a week into the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, and Gabby is back on the scene as a member of a dominant American Gymnastics team, and inexplicably, once more, on blast. Her hair is front and center, yet again. Since my thoughts on such self-debasing behavior haven’t changed one iota, I decided to re-post the August 8, 2012 Edition of “Break It Down!”

I am going to leave the 2012 story, unredacted, below. But I do want to at least address briefly this doubling down, if you will, on Gabby and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Hair Day. If the uproar in 2012 was disappointing, and it surely was, then this week’s meltdown is disappointing on steroids. That is to say, in the unlikely event, anyone under the sun did not know better in 2012, in the name of everything that is not arrested development, having gone through 2012, they should know better by now.

Today, as then, it is largely a Twitter upheaval. I am not going to link the comments this time. If you really must know, consult your favorite Search Engine, or of course, Twitter. With minimal effort, you can find all the sobering ugly details.

Lots of people have a fundamental issue with natural hair. Put a microscope on that and take a closer look, and many African Americans have an even larger problem with it. Refine the review even more narrowly, and it is a near certainty that African American women as a group, not every single one of them, of course, have an even greater problem still…with natural hair.

First and foremost, I am not picking on black women. My mother was a black woman, God rest her soul. I love black women. I even understand the notion that the issue of hair is one that black women take quite seriously. That is especially true when  the subject is themselves, or other black women. In a way, it is fair submit, black women view this through the prism of a Sovereign Sisterhood, and they enthusiastically seek to protect their brand. And yes, I put it that way largely because much, if not most of the chatter has emanated from black women. In full disclosure it is worth noting, at least this time, substantial pushback has been reported.  Of course, if you know me, you know I have an affinity for natural hair…my own.

The thing is, my beautiful Nubian Queens, Gabby is still, and always will be your sister. However, in this moment in Rio she is a 20-year old athlete, singularly focused on going for Gold. By the way, that means she was only 16 when she was subjected to this madness in London in 2012. At any rate, to wind this down, Gabby is on a business trip, and her athletic prowess and execution are the story, not her edges. Besides, Black Hair Matters! The End!

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton can thank the Gabby Hair Haters; otherwise, I’d be writing about the defection of 50 National Security experts from the ranks of Trump voters, and his controversial Wilmington, NC Rally dog whistle statement about “the 2nd Amendment people,” and how they might intervene against Hillary Clinton…or any Supreme Court Nominees she might submit, and/or how Hillary is still trying to come to terms with answering questions about her email and the fact that the father of the recent Orlando shooter was seated behind her at a recent Kissimmee, FL Rally. Not to worry; we have nearly 3 months left to explore what’s happening with the campaigns. Undoubtedly, we will return to politics.

Meanwhile, GO TEAM USA!

There is no doubt Gabrielle Christina Victoria “Gabby” Douglas is a star in the vast firmament of gymnasts!

I promise to make this short and sweet.  Ok, maybe short will have to do.

It is possible; I might have been persuaded before the start of the 2012 Summer Olympic games, to believe that I would craft a post about the games.  However, under no circumstances could I have imagined it would have been about gymnastics, Women’s Gymnastics no less.

I’d like to say Gabby Douglas’ history-making performances made the difference, and served as the catalyst for my choosing this topic.  Alas, sadly in fact, while her performances were scintillating indeed, it was not her mastery of the craft, or her superlative artistry that sold me on this topic.

No, it was not that an amazing athlete plied her skills with power, poise, and precision that caused me to choose this topic, though she was amazing and her routines were powerful, poised, and precise.  It was not the history-making nature of her performances; yet she was the first African American to win Olympic Gold Medals in both the individual and team all-around competitions.  And it was not that Gabby blended seamlessly with the other four members of the Fab 5 to turn in a series of sterling performances for Team America, despite the fact she did…in fact, she was, or did, all of the above!

I decided to write about Gabby’s Olympic exploits because so many of her “Sisters,” and I use the term guardedly, shamed themselves by deciding to make a spectacle of themselves, rather than revel in Ms. Douglas’ spectacular accomplishments.  To put it tersely, a group of “Ugly Americans,” far too many of whom were African American women, elevated Gabby’s hair to “News of the Day” status, when all she did was show her Championship mettle.  I love black women, but “Sisters,” this was, to put it mildly, “not your finest hour.”

As I thought about the conversation which trended in the Twittersphere and proliferated on other social media for several days, India.Arie’s tune, I Am Not My Hair came to mind.  Released originally, November 15, 2005, the nearly 7-year old standard should be required listening for each and everyone who got “caught-up” in Olympic Hair-gate.  Gabby’s hair, her ponytail, and/or her kitchen (and y’all know what I mean…if you don’t, see definition #3), simply should not have been a concern.

Gabby went to the London Olympics to compete with her teammates and peers from 204 countries around the world.  She was tasked with vying for medals against the world’s best in their respective gymnastic disciplines.  That she won two Gold Medals confirms that she passed her tests with flying colors (Red, White & Blue, of course).

Gabby’s combination of performance and personality has spurred analysts to predict she will cash in on a marketing bonanza once she returns stateside.  As a matter of fact, her likeness appeared on the Kellogg’s Corn Flakes box the day after her individual Gold Medal triumph.  It is anticipated that she will earn millions in endorsements, trading on her historic Olympic success.

My short-term prediction is that when we see Ms. Douglas next, in her post-Olympics life, she will be appearing on The Today Show, The Tonight Show, and the TV circuit in general.  Moreover, to the great pleasure of her recent critics, she is certain to be elegantly coiffed, splendidly dressed, and looking like a million bucks…which she’ll be worth…literally.

Can’t you just imagine Breakfast at Gabby’s?  You can be sure, in this version of the story, her “kitchen” will feature prominently, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes; along with her smiling picture, (laughing all the way to the bank, eh), adorning the box.

Oh yeah, She will definitely introduce herself, proclaiming, “My Name is Gabby Douglas; I Am Not My Hair!”

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The GOP: A Party At Odds With Its Leader

It’s time to Break It Down!

The two major Party political conventions are now in the rear view mirror. Last week, Donald Trump received a 6-point bounce from the GOP Convention, which was held in Cleveland the previous week, and he surged ahead of Hillary Clinton according to a CNN/ORC Poll.

Whether in a head-to-head matchup between the two candidates, or in a four-way matchup that included the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, and Libertarian Gary Johnson, Trump led. One-on-one with Mrs. Clinton, Trump’s lead was 48% to 45%. When the other two candidates were entered into the equation, the lead was 44% to 39% in favor of Trump, with Johnson garnering 9% and Stein 3%.

This week, following the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia, Clinton received a similar bounce, 7 points to be exact, according to a new CNN/ORC Poll. As a result, this week she surged back ahead. Just as with Trump the previous week, Clinton leads in both a head-to-head matchup with Trump, as well as in the four-way scenario, including Stein and Johnson. When looking just at Clinton and Trump, she leads 52% to 43%. In a four-way scenario, it’s Clinton leading 45% to 37%, with Johnson and Stein at 9% and 5%, respectively.

Coming out of the conventions the tempo of election season will ratchet up, possibly sharply. If anything is clear about this election year, it’s not typical. To be fair, each Presidential campaign is unique in its own right. But this year…that is true on steroids. While both candidates approach November’s election with historic negatives, only 34% view Mrs. Clinton as honest and trustworthy, while Mr. Trump tops that with a whopping 35%, I think most observers, whether supporters or detractors, see Donald Trump as the most unusual candidate in our life time. I have not even heard anyone suggest anyone as a close second.

A key aspect of this point of view is both the folks who are for him, as well as those who oppose him agree this is true. It is the underlying foundation of why this is so that results in disagreement. His surrogates argue, and his supporters seem to concur, that Trump is bringing a robust sense of self, and a limitless confidence that though we are broken as a nation, he can and will fix us. In fact, he boasted at the GOP Convention that he is the only one capable of pulling off this amazing feat. Quite naturally, the candidate endorses this characterization of himself.

Alternately, his detractors view Trump as divisive, dangerous, and delusional, and many are effusive in saying that is the case. It is far from surprising that Democrats as a group take the latter view. One would anticipate that Republicans as a group embrace the former view, and many do, especially rank and file voters. However, that explicit factoid does not cloud an obvious caveat. There is a clear and possibly widening breach within the Grand Old Party. This is not a new development. A number of Trump’s 16 vanquished competitors tried to paint him as everything from not being a conservative to in more than a few instances, not even being a Republican.

For his part, Mr. Trump has repeatedly found ways to bring discomfort to and elicit disdain from members of his own Party. He debased most of his Primary competitors, he declared Senator John McCain was not a war hero…ostensibly, because he was captured, and, after the Democratic Convention, he took on Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan. Captain Khan, an American citizen of Pakistani heritage was born in the United Arab Emirates. He moved to the United States with his parents when he was two years old, and was killed June 8, 2004 during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

By attacking honored members of the group known as American Gold Star families, Mr. Trump effectively abandoned his Build a Wall platform plank and instead channeled a version of Ronald Reagan when he uttered the phrase, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Trump crossed a line that some in the military consider sacrosanct, and that even many of his erstwhile GOP cronies consider, a bridge too far. In doing so, he tore down the wall of partisanship that usually delineates Republicans and Democrats during Presidential Campaigns. A number of Republicans issued statements supporting the Khans, and several went further and denounced Trump. My own observation is denunciation without rescinding endorsements is a vacuous endeavor, signifying they either didn’t really stand behind the verbal wrist slap they are giving Trump, and they still really fervently support him, or…they no longer support Trump, but do not find it politically tenable to say that in clear and unequivocal terms.

Gold Star families are families that have lost a loved one in a war. Mr. Khan, who spoke at the Democratic National Convention, took exception to Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States. He wondered aloud if Trump had ever read the Constitution, and offered to loan him his own copy. He opined that Trump has sacrificed nothing, nor anyone. In turn, Trump, who fancies himself a counter puncher took a day or two to respond, but Saturday he did, and he has barely stopped since then.

He questioned whether Mr. Khan wrote his own speech, or if the Clinton Campaign penned it, he argued that he has sacrificed…by creating thousands, actually tens of thousands of jobs, appearing to equate employing people with the Khan’s having lost a son. He also rhetorically asked if there was a reason Mrs. Khan didn’t speak, after which he suggested that perhaps she wasn’t allowed to do so. Most Americans outside Team Trump understood this to be a direct swipe at Mrs. Khan’s Muslim faith. Mr. Trump and everyone related to his campaign disavowed that view.

Republicans were already generally beside themselves because Democrats were able to usurp several of the GOP’s pet themes, including love of country and support for the military. Trump’s reflexive pushback against a Gold Star family escalated their concern to near hyperventilation. The depth to which key members of the Party could no longer restrain themselves was evident as Party luminaries, including John McCain, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell spoke out in support of the Khans, and some cases offered scathing rebuttals of Trump’s sentiments. By yesterday, a number of high-ranking Republicans declared they would be voting for Mrs. Clinton.

According to NPR, Senator McCain issued the most comprehensive statement, nearly 700 words, in which he drew a bright red line delineating Trump and his comments from the Republican Party. He said:

“I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers, or candidates.”

Senator McCain also called upon Trump to set a better example, warned that Arizona is watching, thanked the Khans for immigrating to America, and assured them their son’s service and sacrifice will never be forgotten.

Senator McConnell, according to Politico, offered a subtler, more tempered response. He said:

“Captain Khan was an American hero, and like all Americans, I’m grateful for the sacrifices that selfless young men like Capt. Khan and their families have made in the war on terror. All Americans should value the patriotic service of the patriots who volunteer to selflessly defend us in the armed services.”

Speaker Ryan, as reported by Reuters News Sunday, made a terse, but poignant statement on the situation. Speaking of Captain Khan, he said:

“His sacrifice – and that of Khizr and Ghazala Khan – should always be honored. Period.”

Yesterday, Mr. Trump announced that he would not be endorsing Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senator John McCain in their pending Primary Election bids. Just a day earlier he gave a shout out to Ryan’s competitor in the upcoming Wisconsin Primary, Paul Nehlen. CNN reported that in Ryan’s case Mr. Trump said:

“I like Paul, but these are horrible times for our country. We need very strong leadership. We need very, very strong leadership. And I’m just not quite there yet. I’m not quite there yet,”

The last sentence approximates a phrase Mr. Ryan used shortly after Trump had vanquished the field of 16, and was the last man standing among GOP candidates for President. He did not immediately endorse Trump. Ryan did eventually endorse the nominee.

In Senator McCain’s case, as referenced above, he and Trump have clashed dating back to early in the campaign. In explaining his position on not endorsing the Senator, Trump said:

“I’ve never been there with John McCain because I’ve always felt that he should have done a much better job for the vets.”

Fortunately for Senator McConnell, he is not up for re-election. As such, he does not have to spend any time contemplating a Trump endorsement, or lack thereof. It is worth noting, Ryan and McCain are expected to prevail in their primary races.

Yesterday, Trump created a bit of controversy as he accepted a Veteran’s Purple Heart and commented that he’d “always wanted one of those…this is much easier.” Not surprisingly, that created some pushback.

Last night one of Trump’s surrogates attempted to deflect (I think it’s called a pivot in campaign parlance) from the resultant raging firestorm by blaming the death of Captain Khan on decisions made by President Obama and Secretary Clinton. Katrina Pierson, who frequently appears on CNN to defend Candidate Trump made the following claim to Wolf Blitzer:

“It was under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton that changed the rules of engagements that probably cost his life! So I don’t understand why it’s so hard to understand why Donald Trump was confused.”

There is a lot going on with those two sentences, so it is easy to understand why she was confused. That assertion is, in and of itself, an extraordinary claim. More importantly, in the final analysis, it is a clear sign of a surrogate, who like her candidate, spoke in an overhyped, underprepared manner.

Mr. Trump, Ms. Pierson, and a host of Trump acolytes have raised conspiracy theories to a near art form. This claim would require one incredibly otherworldly conspiracy. Why is that, you may ask? I’m glad you inquired!

As cited previously, Captain Khan was killed in Iraq, June 8, 2004. On that date, history reflects the Commander-in-Chief was George W. Bush, and the Secretary of State was Colin Powell. Fact check complete; bye Felicia…I mean Katrina.

The cherry on top of all this dissension is by the end of the yesterday, reports emerged, and were reported by CNN that frustration was boiling over among Team Trump insiders, all the way up to head honcho, Paul Manafort.  As they used to say back in the day, “Keep your ears on.”  This could become a real page turner.

It has been a tough week for the Republican nominee. However, the campaign is long and new and unpredictable events impose themselves on the process frequently. To that end, this too shall pass. Until it does though, it is appropriate, if not essential, to take note of, The GOP: A Party at Odds With Its Leader!”

I’m done; holla back!

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