Trump’s Rhetorical War on Baltimore: Trump Being Trump

It’s time to Break It Down!

The hue and cry that I frequently hear from the Right is…it can’t be disparaging, or racist, or intemperate…if it’s true. Unfortunately, while that may make for a good talking point, sound bite, or platitude, it’s simply inaccurate. Case in point; let’s take B’more and Donald Trump’s recent tweet screed against Elijah Cummings and his district, which includes parts of Baltimore.

Representative Cumming’s district encompasses some impoverished areas, but also contains some fairly well to do areas and communities, and some rural spaces. In fact, as a whole, the district has a median income above the national average. So, while Mr. Cumming’s district, like most urban centers, has areas where rats are a problem, and spaces where that’s simply not the case. Trump’s broadside stereotyping quite clearing paints a false narrative.

Is it racist? His defenders will argue that it’s not. But then again, his defenders try mightily to preempt any assertion that Trump ever crosses and winds up on the wrong side of any blurred line, be that line one of ethics, truthfulness, lying, racism, or a whole host of other miscarriages of reasonable behavior.

A number of conservatives contend that racism is simply a term Democrats/liberals use when their argument fails, or they run out of ideas. As best I can determine, they reserve characterizing behavior as racist to those Democrats who birthed the Ku Klux Klan in 1865, and to those who joined and participated in later years, such as the late Robert Byrd.

I could cite chapter and verse a laundry list of things Trump has done, dating back to 1973, when Nixon’s Justice Department (yes, he of the infamous Southern Strategy) sued Trump and his father, alleging that African-Americans and Puerto Ricans were systematically excluded from renting their apartments. While the Trumps were able to settle the suit with a consent agreement, they were required to institute a series of safeguards to ensure their apartments were rented without regard to race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

Back to Baltimore: As I have previously noted, from time to time I see a single story that incorporates virtually all the elements that I want to make my focus. Today is one of those instances. Monday, the Baltimore Sun Editorial Board published a piece that presented a litany of salient facts about the racist, yes racist history that contributed to the pathology of Baltimore’s contemporary blight. With the heading, “Cummings didn’t cause Baltimore’s woes; it was people who profited from racism. Sound familiar, Mr. Trump?,” you can probably glean the gist narrative. Aside from explaining how those folks who assign false motives to people who call out racism when it rears its ugly head, the editorial drops some serious Baltimore History (which closely parallels much of American History) for those with short memories, and/or a perverse inclination toward Trumpslaining. It also makes a not so glowing reference to Jared Kushner and his Company’s (some infested with rodents, mould, and maggots) Baltimore apartments, as well as his overarching role in the current day Baltimore problem. Read it at your leisure. ( And, as you do, remember, this is #45’s pathway to #MAGA”Trump’s Rhetorical War on Baltimore: Trump Being Trump!”

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What Time Is It? It’s Mueller Time!

It’s time to Break It Down!

Long awaited, and at least once delayed, today is D-Day for Robert Mueller’s hearings before the House of Representatives’ House Intelligence Committee and House Judiciary Committee. Millions of Americans will tune in to their favorite viewing platform to listen for the juiciest details. At the same time, millions of others will be totally oblivious to the next episode of As The Political World Turns. Perhaps, even more important, you can rest assured that of those who do watch, the vast majority of them have already made up their minds.

By one estimate, only 3% of the American people have read the Mueller Report. Of the remaining 97%, it’s fair to say, most have a fully formed, though insufficiently informed opinion. Tomorrow’s hearings is unlikely to alter the trajectory of that calculus.

The President of the United States maintains the Mueller investigation was a Democratic-led witch-hunt led by angry partisans, whose primary mission was presidential harassment. The Attorney general of the United States assures us the Report found no collusion. The President’s closing argument claims he was exonerated by the Mueller Report’s findings.

The Report, by most accounts is a dense document; 448 pages long. At this point, several months after the Report was released, not only have the vast majority of Americans not read the document, neither have most members of the U.S. Congress. As the hearing approaches this morning, it’s safe to presume most of the members on the two committees referenced above have read the report, if for no other reason, to ensure that they (both sides) can adroitly navigate the document with pointedly appropriate questions.

This post is not intended to shape opinion, and is certainly not designed to change minds. Rather it is to stake out a few facts for your consideration. What you choose to do with them is up to you.

With the rest of this missive, I will leave you with 10 instances the Mueller Report cited as evidence of Donald Trump potentially obstructing justice. They are enumerated herewith:

  1. Pressured Comey to end the probe of Michael Flynn. (“I hope you can see your way to letting this go.”)
  2. Trump’s reaction to the continuing investigation. (Trump telling White House Counsel Don McGahn to stop then Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from the Russia Investigation; Trump’s subsequent anger at Sessions, and Trump’s contacting Comey and other Intelligence agency leaders to ask them to push back publicly on the suggestion that he had any connection to the Russian election interference effort.)
  3. Firing of Comey and aftermath (Mueller’s Report says “substantial evidence” indicates Trump’s decision to fire Comey in May 2017 was the result of the FBI Director’s unwillingness to say publicly that Trump was not under investigation. On the day after Trump fired Comey, he told Russian officials that he had “faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s off now.”)
  4. Appointment of Special Counsel and efforts to remove him. (Trump reacted to news of Mueller’s appointment by telling advisers that it was “the end of his presidency.” Trump told aides that Mueller had conflicts of interest and should have to step aside. His aides told him his asserted conflicts were meritless. Following media reports that Mueller’s team was investigating whether Trump had obstructed justice; Trump called then White House Counsel McGahn at home and directed him to have Mueller removed. McGahn refused.)
  5. Further efforts to curtail the Special Counsel’s investigation. (Trump instructed former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to have Sessions publicly announce that, notwithstanding his recusal from the Russia investigation, the investigation was very unfair to Trump, that Trump had done nothing wrong, and Sessions planned to meet with Mueller to limit him to investigating election meddling for future elections.)
  6. Efforts to prevent public disclosure of evidence. (In the summer of 2017, Trump learned that the news media planned to report on the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between senior campaign officials and Russians offering derogatory information about Hillary Clinton. Trump directed aides not to publicly disclose the emails setting up the meeting. Before the emails became public, Trump also edited a press statement for Don, Jr. by deleting a line that acknowledged that the meeting was “with an individual who (Don, Jr.) was told might have information helpful to the campaign.”)
  7. Additional efforts to have Sessions take control of the investigation. (At several points between July 2017 and December 2017, Trump tried to get Sessions to declare that he was no longer recused from the Russia investigation and would assert control over it. The report says there’s evidence that one purpose of asking Sessions to step in was so that the Attorney General would restrict the investigation’s scope.)
  8. Trump orders White House Counsel to deny that he’d tried to fire Mueller. (In an Oval Office Meeting in 2018, Trump told McGahn to “correct” a New York Times story that reported that Trump had earlier instructed McGahn to fire Mueller. Trump also asked why McGahn had told Mueller’s investigators about the directive to remove Mueller. McGahn told Trump he had to tell the truth.)
  9. Trump’s actions toward Flynn, Manafort and other possible witnesses. (Mueller looked at whether Trump’s sympathetic messages to Flynn, former campaign manager Paul Manafort and others were intended to limit their cooperation with Mueller’s investigation. When Flynn began cooperating with prosecutors, Trump passed word through his lawyer that he still had warm feelings for Flynn, and asked for a “heads up” if Flynn knew of information implicating Trump. Trump praised Manafort during and after his criminal convictions, and refused to rule out a pardon for his former campaign chairman.)
  10. Trump’s actions toward Michael Cohen. (Mueller noted that Trump’s actions toward Cohen, a former Trump Organization executive, changed from praise to castigation after Cohen began cooperating with prosecutors. The evidence could “support an inference that Trump used inducements in the form of positive messages in an effort to get Cohen not to cooperate, and then turned to attacks and intimidation to deter” cooperation and undermine Cohen’s credibility, Mueller wrote.)

All indications are during the course of today’s hearing, Democrats will endeavor to engineer responses to questions of Mueller that deepen the public’s knowledge and understanding of the extent to which Trump may have obstructed justice, while Republicans will make every effort to paint Mueller, and his entire investigative team as tainted, while also attempting to inject a host of other narratives that embellish Trump, and diminish Mueller.

If you take nothing else from the Report, which Trump touted as exonerating a few months ago, but now disparages, take time to allow the 10 items above to simmer and percolate. As you watch the hearings, if you watch the hearings, recall that the Report, contrary to Trump’s boisterous and frequently made claim, simply does not validate his assertion of exoneration. “What Time Is It? It’s Mueller Time!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the linkhttp://thesphinxofcharlotte.comFind a new post each Wednesday.

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The Evolution of the Trump Alphabet: Moving From the L-Word to the R-Word

It’s time to Break It Down!

More times than I care to enumerate, I have written about Donald Trump and his propensity to align himself with narratives devoid of truth, facts, and propriety. In shorthand, terms many characterize what he does so frequently, and I suppose you might say, so effectively, as lying. As I’ve noted before, he’s prolific. Bess Levin wrote, in an article that appeared in Vanity Fair April 29, 2019, entitled, “Trump Has Told More Than 10,000 Lies Since Being Inaugurated:”

“In a truly superhuman feat, The Washington Post has tallied all the “falsehoods” that have spewed from Trump’s mouth and fingers since January 20, 2017, to April 27, 2019. Per the Post, that’s a whopping 10,111 in 828 days. And the situation vis-à-vis the president being a pathological liar is getting markedly worse. After telling a mere 5,000 false and misleading statements during his first 601 days in office, the pace and frequency of the lies has accelerated such that he doubled his bullshit in just a third of the time, telling almost 23 lies a day in the seven-month period beginning in late October, during midterm elections.”

I wrote a fairly extensive post (nearly 1400 words) on the subject 5 weeks ago (June 12th), entitled, “It Has Taken Far Too Long: Alas, The Media Is Coming Around!” In that essay, I examined the avalanche of untruthiness that is the phenomenon better known as Donald John Trump. In that post, I cited Paul Farhi’s Washington Post article, “Lies: The News Media is Starting to Describe Trump’s Falsehoods That Way,”in which he provided several recent examples of various media entities finding their (for too long silent) voice, including:

–CNN: “The Mueller report: A catalog of 77 Trump team lies and falsehoods.”

Minneapolis Star Tribune: “President Trump lies to troops about pay raise.”

Financial Times: “The real reason Donald Trump lies.”

Los Angeles Times: “Mueller report exposes all the president’s liars.”

Chicago Tribune: “Why are Trump’s lies not ruinous to him? Because truth can be in the eye of the beholder.”

The New Yorker: “It’s True: Trump Is Lying More, and He’s Doing It on Purpose.”

Foreign Policy: “Does It Matter That Trump Is a Liar?”

Wouldn’t you know it? Just when elements of the media start what was a long, slow process of coming to terms with the Prevaricator-in-Chief, boom goes the dynamite, and the Donald switches gears, and takes on another well-documented persona, that of being the most powerful racist in the world. And yes, there is documentation for that too. There may not be 10K examples, but there are certainly enough to make the case. Here are a few salient examples taken from an August 14, 2018 story by Christal Hayes in USA Today:

  • He tweeted, “Lebron (sic) James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron (sic) look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike.”
  • He tweeted, “Congressman Maxine Waters, an extraordinarily low IQ person, has become, together with Nancy Pelosi, the Face of the Democratic Party. She has just called for harm to supporters, of which there are many, of the Make America Great Again movement. Be careful what you wish for Max.”
  • Speaking of the Charlottesville incident, he said, “Both sides” were to blame for the violence. This, despite the fact that a woman protesting against the white nationalists was killed when a car rammed into a group marching down the street.
  • Of NFL players who kneel during the National Anthem, a constitutionally protected right, he said, “Wouldn’t you just love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son-of-a-bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired.’”
  • About Judge Gonzalo Curiel, “I have horrible rulings, I have been treated unfairly by this judge. Now this judge is of Mexican heritage, I’m building a wall.” Turns out, Judge Curiel is American. I guest that was a double-bonus, a lie, and racist.
  • Speaking of Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries, he said, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries?
  • He claimed Obama wasn’t born in America, insisted he sent investigators to Hawaii to prove it, and when he finally had to admit Obama was born in America, he blamed Hillary Clinton for the smear.
  • Claimed that Gold Star parent Khizr Khan’s wife did not speak as Mr. Khan assailed Trump, because she was forbidden to do so.
  • In his June 2015 Campaign Announcement, Trump lamented Mexico was “Bringing their worst people to the U.S. They’re bring drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists.
  • About MS-13, he said, “We have people coming into this country, or trying to come in – and we’re stopping a lot of them – but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals. And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before.”

Wow, that’s 10, and I didn’t even cite the Central Park 5. But as Trumpites are fond of arguing about anything that didn’t happen “today,” that’s so-called “old news.”  Fast forward to this past weekend, when President Donald Trump used racist language on Sunday to attack four progressive Democratic Congresswomen, falsely implying they were not American citizens. In fact, all four of them are, three of them born here, and the fourth, naturalized as a teen. In a series of tweets, widely viewed as racist, Trump wrote (typed):

“So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly……”

….and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how….

….it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!

The four Congresswomen, collectively known as The Squad, include, Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes, NY, Rashida Tlaib, MI, Ilhan Omar, MN, and Ayanna Pressley, MA. All women of color; AOC, Tlaib, and Pressley were born in in the United States. Omar was born in Somalia, immigrated to the U.S. as a youth, and became a U.S. citizen in 2000 at age 17.

In Trump’s tweet storm, he implied that the four Congresswomen weren’t born in America and sarcastically suggested, “they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Yet again, racist…and untrue.

Ostensibly, all this started as Trump tried to insinuate himself into a budding feud between The Squad and Speaker Pelosi. Ocasio-Cortez had suggested she and her 3 colleagues were singled out, in part, due to being women of color, and that it was part of a pattern. Immediately the media jumped on the tension and injected the term racism. Trump, never one to miss an opportunity to jab his opponents, first chimed in and dismissed the notion that Pelosi is racist. As you might imagine, this wasn’t perceived as helpful, either by Democrats in general, or by Team Pelosi in particular.

While the level of interference was notable to most political observers, it wasn’t nearly enough for Trump. Anything less than total chaos is so not acceptable. Therefore, on Sunday, the serial tweets ensued. From that point, the imbroglio exploded as if propelled by Star Wars era hyperdrive.

First, Pelosi turned on a dime and came to The Squad’s defense. Trump doubled down on Monday, denying that the comments were racist, and inviting anyone who doesn’t like the country to leave. That’s pretty rich, when you consider how much Trump and the GOP complained about the country when Barack Obama was President. But I digress.

By yesterday evening, after much wrangling, the House of Representatives voted to pass a resolution condemning Trump’s racist comments. The process was delayed by several hours when the GOP attempted to neuter the declaration by striking the part of Speaker Pelosi’s comments, in which she asserted, “Every single member of this institution, Democratic and Republican, should join us in condemning the president’s racist tweets. To do anything less would be a shocking rejection of our values and a shameful abdication of our oath of office to protect the American people. I urge a unanimous vote.”

At the end of the kerfuffle, and several Party line votes, the provision passed with 240 votes, with 1 Independent, and only 4 Republicans joining the 235 Democrats. For the nays, 187 Republicans voted no. Those Republican Representatives voting for the measure were Will Hurd, TX (the only Black Republican in the Republican Caucus), Fred Upton, MI, Susan Brooks, IN, and Brian Fitzpatrick, PA. Congressman Justin Amash, who just recently left the GOP to become an Independent, also voted for the resolution.

Before the vote, Trump urged the GOP to remain strong and not join the Dems. Clearly, his influence among his fellow Party members is substantial. In fact, few Republicans in either House have had much to say about Trump’s tweets and comments. Most who did said neither Trump, nor his tweets/comments were racist. Today’s (Trump) tweets should be amazing!

Meanwhile, stay tuned to “The Evolution of the Alphabet: Moving From the L-Word to the R-Word!” I mean really, the X-Word (Xenophobic) can’t be far behind.

I’m done; holla back!

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When Is The Past Not The Past? When It Didn’t Happen!

It’s time to Break It Down!

Much is made of the gaggle of Trump falsehoods, fallacies, and fake news. I’ve been known to broach the subject myself. Today’s post is not about Trump, at least not directly. Instead, my focus is on the right wing incubator of false and misleading information that the Prevaricator-in-Chief has spawned.

I am going to use the KISS principle and (K)eep (I)t (S)hort and (S)weet. In doing so, I will cite just one example of the desperate measures Trump supporters, surrogates, and sycophants go to, to blame Obama for any and everything under the sun that can be viewed in the shadowy light of negative connotations.

This week’s news has been littered with references to the sentencing fiasco that was the so-called Epstein-Acosta plea deal. Without getting too deep in the weeds on the details, the story, in summary, is a tale about a rich and powerful man, Jeffrey Epstein, who is alleged to have engaged in sexual misconduct with underage girls, up to and including trafficking.

Epstein is the epitome of a high roller. By many accounts, he is a billionaire. His historical connections include Donald Trump and Bill Clinton. Needless to say, the aforementioned Trumpsters have emphasized his connections to Clinton, and have been largely silent on those Trump ties. Trump, who has distanced himself from Epstein since the latter was arrested over the weekend, claimed the two fell out 15 or so years ago. It’s worth noting that Trump’s posture was different at an earlier time. Speaking for a 2002 profile of Epstein, Trump said:

“I’ve know Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it – Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”

Epstein gained notoriety for a 2008 non-prosecution deal that allowed him to plead guilty to lesser charges while maintaining a lavish lifestyle. A deal brokered under the auspices former Miami U.S. Attorney…and current Trump Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, enabled Epstein to serve 13 months in jail, settle with a number of the victims, and register as a sex offender, while avoiding a possible life sentence. The deal was reached with no prior consultation of victims, and allowed Epstein to be picked up by a driver, and to spend most of his days at his office.

An extensive story by the Miami Herald has blown the cover off Epstein’s sweetheart deal. Now, that Epstein has resurfaced as the subject of a juicy news item, the finger pointing has begun. And to date, no finger has been more pointed than that of Fox Contributor Lawrence Jones. In an appearance on Fox News yesterday, Jones patently asserted that it was Barack Obama’s fault that Epstein got such a joke (relative to the charges) of a sentence. Jones appeared on Outnumbered, ostensibly in support of Acosta, but as always, in obeisance to Trump. In response to a question about why people are suddenly taking such a close look at the Epstein case, Jones said:

“Well, I don’t think people are taking a total look at this. Because there’s a lot of things that go into these decisions. A, when it’s someone like this involved, this does not skip Washington. That means that AG knew about it, that means the investigative agency, the FBI, Bob Mueller.

(Host) Harris Faulkner: “Well as Christine Pelosi said, some of the faves in the Democratic Party may be on a list here somewhere.” Notice the effort to deflect to Democrats.

Jones: “Exactly. Well, this was 2008, under a Democratic administration.” (Wrong! Actually, Obama wasn’t inaugurated until 2009, but when you’re trying to make a point on Fox News, what’s a little misinformation between friends?)

Faulkner: Right. (Right? Is there an adult in the room? Surely she knows better.)

Jones: So it’s not just [Alex] Acosta making decisions like this. Other factors go – and if there was corruption, then every investigative agency that was involved with it, including the Attorney General’s office, knew something about it. (That may very well be true, Mr. Jones. But just so we’re clear, Bush’s last AG, Michael Mukasy, was U.S. Attorney General from 2007-2009. I’m reasonably confident that includes all of 2008.

While the clearest result of the brouhaha emanating from the Epstein fallout is renewed, and rightfully so, heat and light focused on Jeffrey Epstein. Another aspect garnering attention, unwanted, I’m sure, is that there have been numerous calls for Mr. Acosta to resign. I don’t expect him to do so willingly, of course. Moreover, not surprisingly, when Trump spoke on the issue yesterday, one of the few things he said was to offer praise of Acosta. Oh well.

I really am not that guy who believes all Democrats are angels and all Republicans are demons. Each party has its fair share of miscreants. But allow me to be perfectly clear about this one thing. The Fox fixation, and the Trump trend of trying to hang every ill-conceived act by any American on Democrats in general, and on Barack Obama in particular is asinine, and until more Republicans stand up, speak up, and own up to the facile ignorance that undergirds that strategy, their claim to the legacy of Lincoln, and to anything approximating stature as a major political party thought leader is in a word bogus. Jones’ assertion is, on its face (as Republicans like to howl), fake news. As asked and answered in the Title, “When Is The Past Not The Past? When It Didn’t Happen!”

I’m done; holla back!

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Independence Day: Free At Last Redux ’19

It’s time to Break It Down!

Today’s post is a revised reprint of a blog I originally published July 9, 2008, and then subsequently in the July 4, 2012, July 5, 2017, and July 4, 2018 Editions of “Break It Down!” Since tomorrow will be the 4th of July, this redux version is timely. I hope you have a wonderful (243rd) American Independence Day, 2019, and that if you get around to reading it, that you will enjoy this week’s blog.

So as I approached this Fourth of July, as always, I did so with complicated panoply of thoughts, a few of which I will share here. Our great country, and yes, by many measures it is great, strives to be all it can be, at home and abroad. It’s appropriate to note we have been successful on many fronts. On others, we still have work to do. It’s fair to embrace our successes, and necessary to accept our challenges. Doing both is the only way we can reach our true potential.

As an African American, I know that we as a group often find ourselves pulled in divergent directions over how to address this day; perhaps everyday. A hundred sixteen years ago, W.E.B. Du Bois framed it thusly in “The Souls of Black Folk:”

It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.  One ever feels his twoness, –an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”

I endorse Dr. Du Bois’ views on the subject.

But lest anyone rush to judge Du Bois, he is not alone; he is not even the first to cast a disparaging eye at the relationship between African Americans and the Fourth of July. On July 5, 1852, fifty-one years earlier, Frederick Douglass gave a speech at Corinth Hall, in Rochester, NY, his home. In a passage of that speech, Douglass said:

“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

Suffice it to say neither Douglass, nor Du Bois was sold on the notion of the Fourth of July as a pure as the driven snow family friendly holiday. But that is not the sole point of this post.

No, history has given us the gift of some intriguing coincidences, as well as some compelling ironies. In observing both, there are times when, even though I hold him/her in great awe, and with the highest regard, I am convinced God is, if not a confirmed jokester, at the very least, the owner of a genuinely robust sense of humor.

During a number of past holidays, I have addressed ad nauseam, the “principle of incompatibility” that divides holidays from structured endeavors such as reading, studying, and heaven forbid, working. To that end I usually try to ratchet it down a notch or two, or several, during holidays. The fact that today is July 4thAmerica’s official Independence Daymakes that messaging exceedingly apropos. However, the topic is just too vast and complex to give it short shrift. My apologies.

Looking back at Independence Days past, 1826 probably held one of the more noteworthy coincidences.  July 4th, 1826, marked not only the 50th Anniversary of American Independence, but was also the day two of our nation’s Founding FathersJohn Adams and Thomas Jefferson, died. Yes, they died the same day in the same year. Such an occurrence today would almost certainly serve as a catalyst for rumors of a death pact, or worse a homocidal conspiracy.

Adams and Jefferson shared more than joint status as two of the fifty-six co-signers of the Declaration of Independence; they also went on to become the 2nd and 3rd Presidents of the United States, respectively. It is reported that Adams’ last words were, “Jefferson still survives.”

However, unbeknownst to Adams, Jefferson had died earlier that day.

Adams and Jefferson had quite a concurrent history.  Adams was the first to serve as America’s Vice President, he was the first President to live in the executive mansion (known today as the White House), and he was also the first President to be defeated in a re-election bid…by Jefferson, who had served as his Vice President.

Thomas Jefferson went on to become President after defeating Adams, but not without a bit of what we would think of today, as drama. Aaron Burr tied Jefferson with 73 electoral votes.  As a result, the election was sent to the House of Representatives to determine the winner. After 36 ballots (that’s right 36), Jefferson prevailed. In later developments, Burr, who served for a time as Jefferson’s Vice President, killed Alexander Hamilton, who was also a Founding Father, in a duel. Not surprisingly, Burr’s career in politics took a precipitous decline afterward, although he was never convicted of a crime for his role in the incident.

 Burr’s leaving the office meant Jefferson had to secure another Vice President for his second term as President. After 203 years, P-Funk fans still tip their hat to Jefferson, as he selected George Clinton to hold the second chair. (Funk-a-teers and P-Funk Mythology devotees will know what I mean…see George Clinton, musician, and his anthem Atomic Dog, as a point of reference).  I digress!

The virtually concurrent deaths of Adams and Jefferson marked an intriguing Independence Day coincidence of considerable magnitude. July 4, 2008, Independence Day again collaborated with the death of a prominent political figure, this time in what many consider a compellingly ironic twist. Former NorthCarolina Senator Jesse Helms, popularly known as Senator No, a nickname he appeared to relish, died leaving a legacy that will be debated, by supporters and detractors for many years to come.

It is a fact that there are those who consider Helms a patriot. Others have cited his “courage” to stand against the forces of change, on issues ranging from gay rights to trade agreements, to foreign aid. Many of his most notable tirades focused on issues of civil rights and affirmative action, and funding for AIDS research. He was also a leading Senate opponent of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, and he authored and/or approved the infamous, in North Carolina anyway (but highly effective), “white hands” commercial, aired during the first of two Senate campaign battles against former Charlotte Mayor, Harvey Gantt (1990).  For that moment in time at least, Senator No drove the concept of negative campaign advertising to a new and ugly low.

The Honorable Senator No appeared to take great pride in his predictable opposition to progressive ideals, and often needled the media when he felt he had bested their desired interests. He earned the distinction of being North Carolina’s longest serving Senator. That is a noteworthy accomplishment, and cannot be diminished.

However, it must be noted that many of the tributes and editorials that began streaming forth FridayJuly 4, 2008, sanitized the bigotry and raw mean-spiritedness that marked so many of Helms’ political encounters; especially his triumphs. His was a divisive, zero-sum brand of politics that often targeted the historically disenfranchised for more abuse, insult, and exclusion. In that light, it is impossible to deny the essence of irony in the events of Independence Day, 2008. He was a bona fide Tea Party hero, before his time. One can almost envision the spirit of King, after having scaled the mountaintop, uttering that famous three-word phraseFree at Last!

In my solitary reference to him during this post, I cannot wind down this blog without stating the obvious. Helms and some of his tactics were eerily reminiscent of some of those employed by a certain contemporary politician who holds one of the most powerful positions in the world, and whose 5-letter name rhymes with grump. In an effort to embrace the liberating theme of Independence Day, I opted not to promote “name that rhymes with grump” fatigue, or what his sycophants insistently deem, “name that rhymes with grump” Derangement Syndrome, by making this post about him. Indeed, it’s “Independence Day: Free at Last Redux ’19!”

I’m done; holla back!

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