A Distinction Without A Difference: So Not King-like!

It’s time to Break It Down!

This is another holiday week. While many may have moved on, I have chosen not to do so. Instead, I am opting to carve out a moment of reflection on a few of the ideals so appropriately notated as millions across the United States, and around the world memorialize Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. over the course of his birthday/Holiday weekend and beyond.

In reflecting on the many works of Dr. King, I decided to revisit a post I wrote and posted Wednesday, January 19, 2011, and that I reprised last year, January 18, 2017, examining the advent of the King Holiday. It’s been 32 years since the initial observance of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday (MLK DAY), and 35 years since President Reagan signed the MLK, Jr. Holiday bill into law. Now seems an apt time to take a look into the rear view mirror of time.

After over three decades of inculcation into the very fabric of our society, it may be largely forgotten that the conceptualization, submission and continual resubmission of the idea, the enactment, and the gradual national observance, was not the product of universal acceptance of a grand and enlightened concept, but rather, was emblematic of the civil rights struggle itself; steeped in controversy, and the eventual victory of a relentless movement to achieve richly deserved, and long overdue social justice.

Several members of Congress, and a number of states, and even a President, using a host of creative means, sought to undermine, outmaneuver, sabotage, subvert, and otherwise derail the efforts of the measure’s proponents. Ultimately, the movement was consolidated, snowballed, and would simply not be denied.

The effort to create a King Holiday was started by U.S. Representative John Conyers, Michigan, shortly after Dr. King’s death, in the spring of 1968. It was first introduced in the House of Representatives in 1979, but fell 5 votes short of the number for passage in the Lower Chamber.

High profile opponents to the measure included Senator Jesse Helms, NCSenator John McCain, AZ, and President Ronald Reagan. Both Senators voted against the bill, and Senator McCain publicly supported Arizona Governor Evan Mecham for his rescission of MLK Day as a State Holiday in Arizona. The campaign however, reached a critical mass in the early 1980’s. Spurred on by Stevie Wonder penning a song in King’s honor called, “Happy Birthday,” a petition drive to support the campaign would attract over 6 million signatures. It has been called the largest petition in favor of an issue in U.S. History.

Buttressed by what had become a wildly successful public campaign, Congress soon followed suit. The proposal passed in the House by a vote of 338-90, and in the Upper Chamber by a vote of 78-22. Given the dimensions of this overwhelming support, in the form of bicameral veto-proof votes, President Reagan signed the provision November 2, 1983, and it became Federal Law. The first observance under the new law took place January 20, 1986, rather than on January 15th, Dr. King’s birthday. A compromise in the legislation specified that the observance take place on the Third Monday in January, consistent with prior legislation (Uniform Monday Holiday Act).

Of course, that was not the end of the story. It would actually take more than 30 years after Dr. King’s death before the Holiday was fully adopted and observed in all 50 states. Illinois holds the distinction of being the first State to adopt MLK Day as a State Holiday, having done so in 1973. Twenty years later, in 1993, for the first time, some form of MLK Day was held in each of the 50 States. It was not until 2000 that South Carolina Governor Jim Hodges signed a bill to make MLK Day a paid holiday for State employees; giving the Palmetto State the dubious distinction of being the last of the 50 States to do so. However, Mississippi also sets itself apart by designating the Third Monday in January as a shared Holiday that honors the memory of Robert E. Lee and Dr. King…two fine southern gentlemen.

So with that extensive preamble, let’s move to the issue of the day. As you must surely know, on November 8, 2016, Americans voted, and based on Electoral College results, elected Donald J. Trump President of the United States. Three days shy of the observance of the first anniversary of his historic inauguration, one he claims to be the largest ever witnessed (despite the fact it was not), his unverified claims, outrageous tweets, and dubious comments continue to frame him in stark contrast to his recent predecessors. I will not leave that last comment hanging, without noting that while many Americans believe that is a peculiar, and often unfortunate situation, there is a certain element of our country that believes Mr. Trump is not just a good thing, but exactly what they had hoped for, and precisely what our country needs. Suffice it to say, those are individuals with whim I disagree. Vigorously!

Last week, President Trump met with at least eight other people including several Republican and one Democratic Senator, to discuss reaching a deal between Republicans and Democrats to advance legislation on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). In what sounds like a classic case of Trump being Trump, the President is alleged to have used hateful and vulgar language to describe Haiti and the 54 countries on the continent of Africa.

According to Senator Dick Durbin, D-IL, President Trump repeatedly referred to “shitholes” or “shithole countries.” After several reports that after allegedly making the comments, the President spent the evening calling friends and supporters to revel in the media response generated by the comments. The following day, after seeing how it was playing on Fox and Friends, he was prompted to revise his approach, and responded that he had said nothing derogatory about Haiti. No mention of African nations, for the record.

Two Republican Senators, Cotton and Perdue, initially said they had no recollection of the President making any such comments. A couple of days later, by the Sunday new shows, they both experienced miraculous memory recall, and amended their stories to insist they were confident the President said no such thing. Lest we view this and conclude this was just a partisan (Durbin-only) attack on the President, Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the Republicans in the room, also confirmed that Trump made the comments. He said on Monday (unlike Cotton and Perdue) his memory has not evolved.

To add another layer to the lunacy of this entire discussion, a White House official suggested the president said “shithouse” rather than “shithole.” There is a fair amount of speculation that this parsing permits the senators (Cotton and Perdue) to deny use of one word without denying the broader context.

If you thought the banter couldn’t get any wackier, you obviously lost sight of the fact this matter includes Trump. So yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned the Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen. During the course of the interview, Democratic committee member Patrick Leahy asked Secretary Neilsen about her attendance at the aforementioned meeting. Before going any further, let’s stipulate Neilsen was under oath. In addition to the alleged “shithole/shithouse” comments, Trump also said (which has not been debated) we should instead be bringing in more people from Norway.

To that end, Senator Leahy asked Secretary Nielsen whether Norway was a predominantly white country. The question, of course, ties into the narrative that in addition to hateful and vulgar, this President employs a racist modus operandi. Her response, for lack of a better word, was stunning. She said:

“I actually do not know that, sir. But I imagine that is the case.”

Really! Are you serious? Yesterday in general was not Neilsen’s finest moment. She also took incoming from Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris about her claimed amnesia regarding Trump’s offensive remarks. Here’s the bottom line. That we were force-fed this ridiculousness throughout the course of the MLK Holiday Observance is a hugely sad commentary. Dr. King left us many deep and wise things to contemplate. At this moment he GOP, collectively, is elevating one above all others in my mind. It is this:

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

I suffer no illusion that Donald Trump is a friend to the cause of equality, diversity, or inclusion. Whether you label his words and actions racist (they often are) is inconsequential to me. But if you insist that you are not, but cannot find the courage to speak out when he spouts off like he did last week, you display cowardice as best, and quite possibly reveal a picture window into your own racism. I fully and completely understand the R-word is a lightening rod to which many folks instinctively default to describe as “playing the race card” when African Americans are forced to tag specific words or actions with that appellation.

In the final analysis, regardless of whether your President said “shithole,” or “shithouse,” it is but “A Distinction Without A Difference: So Not King-like!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the links: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com or http://thesphinxofcharlotte.blogspot.com. A new post is published each Wednesday. For more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post, consult the links below:

























NC General Assembly Back to the Drawing Board: Déjà Vu All Over Again

It’s time to Break It Down!

Yesterday, a Federal 3-Judge Panel struck down NC’s 13 Congressional districts because they found the map to be unconstitutionally partisan in their application. The Judges said the map violates the Equal Protection Clause, the First Amendment, and Article 1 of the Constitution.

After determining the unconstitutionality of the district map, the panel gave North Carolina roughly 3 weeks (or until January 29th) to redraw the map and file a new plan with the court so that it will be in place before the 2018-midterm elections.

Judge James A. Wynn, of the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals, authored the majority opinion. In it he wrote, “Partisan gerrymandering runs contrary to numerous fundamental democratic principles and individual rights.

North Carolina’s state Senate redistricting chairman, Ralph Hise, told Reutere News that the GOP would appeal.

Meanwhile, Dallas Woodhouse, Executive Director of the NC GOP, focused his ire at Wynn, an appointee of President Obama. As he put it:

“This is a hostile takeover of the #NCGA and legislative bodies across the US. It is incredibly disappointing that activist Judge Jim Wynn is waging a personal, partisan, war on North Carolina Republicans.”

It comes as no surprise that NC Democrats view the ruling with a different lens. To wit, the state’s Democratic Party applauded the decision. Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin issued the following statement:

“Today’s ruling is a major victory for North Carolina and people across the state whose voices were silenced by Republicans’ unconstitutional attempts to rig the system to their partisan advantage.” In addition, he called upon the legislature to draw “fair, nonpartisan maps that give North Carolina voters a voice.”

The NC General Assembly is the bicameral legislative body in the state, consisting of a House and Senate. GOP legislators hold the majority in both houses, and have enough votes to override any vetoes by the state’s Democratic Governor, Roy Cooper.

Voting in the state has been split along Party lines in recent statewide elections, such as for Governor or President. However, Republicans control 10 of the state’s 13 House seats, versus 3 for Democrats. North Carolina is currently home to the 10th largest delegation in Congress.

This is the second time in 18 months that the districts have been found unconstitutional. The panel found that while the current version got rid of racial gerrymandering (the basis for while the map was found lacking in 2016), this iteration gives Republicans decided advantages for most seats. The latest lawsuit – filed by election advocacy groups and Democrats – said the replacement for the racial gerrymander contained unlawful partisan gerrymanders. The litigants argued that GOP legislators went too far when they followed criteria designed to retain the Party’s 10-3 majority.

During the debate, according to the order, House redistricting Chief, GOP Representative David Lewis attempted to justify the criteria by saying, “I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats. So I drew the map to help foster what I think is better for the country.” WTH?

Pursuant to questionable nature of Mr. Lewis’ reasoning, the court rendered the following response in it’s ruling:

“We find that the General Assembly drew and enacted the 2016 plan with intent to subordinate the interests of non-Republican voters and entrench Republican control of North Carolina’s Congressional delegation. Judge Wynn, who wrote that, added, the evidence shows “the plan achieved the General Assembly’s discriminatory partisan objective.”

According to Michael Li, a redistricting expert at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, yesterday’s ruling is the first time a federal court blocked a Congressional map because of partisan gerrymandering. However, that is not a choice the Constitution allows, the court said, in its 191-page ruling. Li went on to say that if the NC case were upheld upon appeal, it would have far-reaching implications, noting:

“The court will have signaled that there are, in fact, limits of how far you can go with partisan gerrymandering.”

It is all but a foregone conclusion that this case will eventually wend its way to the SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States). In America, the nature of things political has always been arranged in a partisan order. However, since the election of President Barack Obama, the tension and intensity have been ratcheted up by the nth power. That in itself is an odd thing, given the narrative frequently spun after the November 2008 election is that we had entered something referred to as a post-racial era. Let me make this perfectly clear, we did not transform, mutate, or otherwise change to post-racial. Furthermore, it is not on the horizon. I laud “Me Too,” and the “Time’s Up” addendum that augments the movement. Both are long overdue. May the force be with them.

As for NC and our Congressional district maps, it’s a work in progress. Similar to post-racial, we are not yet there. One day, perhaps! But for now, we are here”NC General Assembly Back to the Drawing Board: Déjà Vu All Over Again!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

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Happy New Year: Here’s to Auld Lang Syne Redux – 2017 Edition

It’s time to Break It Down!

During this holiday week, here’s a reprised edition of “Break It Down!”

This Issue has been revised from the Break It Down post I originally conceived, created, and published December 29, 2010, and subsequently re-posted in amended formats December 28, 2011, December 31, 2014, December 30, 2015, and December 28, 1016. This is my first post of 2018, and the 549th Edition of Break It Down, which debuted August 20, 2007 on the BlogSpot platform. I migrated the principal site to WordPress August 3, 2012, approximately three weeks before the Fifth Anniversary of the blog.  You may find this and most other posts at either site.

With this post I wish you a blessed and bountiful Happy New Year.

Now, enjoy today’s blog.

The one-half fortnight between Christmas and New Year’s Day is a unique occurrence in the unfolding of the American version of the Gregorian Calendar.  It is the only instance in which the space of a mere seven days separates two major holidays. Unquestionably, the timing is propitious.  Millions of holiday travelers return home from their Christmas commemoration and revelry, just in time to get a day off to “celebrate” the New Year…and recuperate from the old, most notably their extracurricular activities, including the exploits of New Year’s Eve.

In last week’s post, I presented a re-formatted airing of my personally crafted Christmas Concert (https://thesphinxofcharlotte.com/2017/12/27/twelve-days-of-christmas-the-e-concert-2017-edition/) from past Noels.  This week, I doubled down and reverted to my trusty time capsule. Once again, this tack permits new readers to catch-up by seeing the piece, it allows long-time readers to reflect upon both the passing year as well as the theme lifted in the post, and finally, it ensures that those busy readers, with no time to invest in checking out a new blog during the holidays, will not have to miss anything. It’s a win, win…win!

With that loosely framed preamble behind us, here’s the déjà vu all over again:

Since we are still in the Sweet Spot of the holidays, I shall practice minimalism. For your purposes, that means the blog should be available, but not intrusive. To that end, I am taking a page from the Christmas e-concert, but going a step further. Instead of a concert, I give you a song…of reflection.

Robert Burns, a Scot, wrote a poem (Auld Lang Syne) in 1788 that has come to symbolize the spirit of mass contemplation that people around the world invoke as the clock strikes midnight, signaling not just the dawn of a new day, but of a new year. Undoubtedly, you have been somewhere, at sometime, when you joined those assembled to sing Auld Lang Syne, which loosely translated means, Times gone by.

Once again, that time is upon us. After thoughtful reflection on my 2017, I have had no choice but to conclude, my travails have been few and small, especially when compared to my blessings, which have been both abundant and vast! All praises to the one true, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient God; a mighty fortress is He.

No need to thank me for my inherent thoughtfulness. But, by all means, “Drink a cup of kindness,” or eggnog, or Champagne, or “name your favorite adult beverage,” for me. And, if you are a teetotaler, water will do nicely, thank-you!

As I complete my first post of 2018, and, prayerfully and faithfully reflect upon 2017, I leave with you this familiar Irish Toast:

May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind always be at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

And rains fall soft upon your fields.

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

I invite you to click on the links directly below, which lead to an A cappella and a Jazz interpretation of Auld Lang Syne, arranged and performed by the late Lou Rawls (and listen to the remainder of this week’s edition of Break It Down):



It has been my unique honor and privilege to visit with you briefly for each of the 52 weeks this year. I hope you have derived a fraction of the pleasure reading the blog posts that I have experienced from preparing and providing them to you. May 2018 bring you the fulfillment of all your fondest desires. Happy New Year: Here’s to Auld Lang Syne Redux – 2017 Edition!

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

For more detailed information on a variety of aspects related to this post, consult the links below: