Posts Tagged ‘Doug Blackmon’

Letter from Claverack 01 10 2017 One age ends, another begins… God help us everyone!

January 11, 2017

It is latish, for me.  The clock is moving toward 11 PM and, generally, by this time, I am in bed, reading, watching a video, falling asleep.  But not tonight.  I am just home from an evening with some friends.  We watched a movie on DVD, while having dinner and then watched President Obama’s farewell speech.

There were six of us, I think.  Some cried.  As I watched, I hoped I was not watching the curtain fall on a period of our democracy.  It’s my fear that I will not live long enough to see the other side of the journey we have chosen to take by electing Donald Trump our next President.

Obama extolled us to be activists and I am choosing to be.  I am one of the organizers of a local group we are calling Blue DOT, Democracy Opposing Trump.  How active we are will depend on his actions and the actions of the Republican Congress after they take office.

Obamacare is a flawed system and it is providing help to many who would not have it otherwise.  I know a few, friends who in the years following the economic slump of 2008 and beyond who were hobbled by career misfortune and personal situations and they had no health insurance until Obamacare offered a window.

It’s flawed but it is something.  We spend more on healthcare than anyone in the world and we rank something like 27 in the world for the success of our health care.  In all the time the Republicans were attempting to repeal Obamacare there never was an alternative offered.

Driving home, the exegesis of Obama’s remarks was in full swing on NPR and I heard former Republican leader Eric Cantor say there was no point in offering an alternative to Obamacare though Mr. Cantor did attempt a modification of the ACA when he was in office and the Republicans shut him down for a minor change he wanted.  They wanted nothing to do with ACA.

In the quiet of my home, the creek lit by my lights, thin sheets of ice on each its banks, I am afraid, fearing for the country I do love, for all its flaws.

If you get a chance, read Doug Blackmon’s “Slavery by Another Name.”  It is painful reading and helps me understand what awful, evil things we have done to people of color in this country and while things are much better, they are not yet good and equal.

A quarter of the way through the book, I have paused because each page makes me feel pain and shame about things I never knew but should have known.

Doug won a well-deserved Pulitzer Prize for it.  There was also an acclaimed PBS series based on the book.

We are moving into territory none of us could have imagined.  There is an unverified report which was part of a briefing to both President Elect Trump and to President Obama, that the Russians have compromising information on Trump’s personal life and financial situation.

Tomorrow, Trump will hold a news conference.  Unless he cancels it again.  There will be a lot of questions, understandably.  It is supposed to be about how he will separate himself from his business interests and it will be about his Russian connections.

Part of the unverified report states that there were ongoing conversations between the Trump campaign and Russia.

It is unverified and we need to know if it is true.

There is so much we need to know about Mr. Trump and his nominees for Cabinet positions.  I don’t like Jeff Sessions and don’t want him as Attorney General but at least he is one of the few, if not the only Cabinet nominee, who filled out the required paperwork.

It’s my fear we are about to enter an age in which everyone in government feels they are above the law.

In his speech, Obama challenged us not to allow that to happen.

God help us everyone!





Letter from Charlottesville, where I am now… learning how to civilly disagree!

December 3, 2016

It is a Friday evening.

At this moment, I am at the Omni Hotel in Charlottesville, Virginia, home of the University of Virginia, conceived by Thomas Jefferson, a lush place graced by The Rotunda, a building designed by Jefferson that has just undergone a year-long renovation, sitting magnificently on the road into the University grounds.

It is also home to The Miller Center, a unit of the University devoted to the study of the Presidency.

It was there I spent my day, moving from one meeting to the next, having conversations with staff about the mission of The Miller Center and the part played in it by “American Forum,” a program they produce which is aired on PBS Stations.

What struck me today was that the mission of The Miller Center, along with its exegesis of Presidencies, is its mission to foster civil dialogue between people of differing opinions.

And this is a time when we need to learn how to disagree civilly with each other.  Disagreement, and disagreeable discord, is the heart and soul of democracy, has been so since democracy first raised its head back in ancient Greece.

Today I came away respecting this small redoubt that is working to increase the civility of disagreement, of modeling ways that opposing views can be examined without violence.

This is a hard time for everyone in this country, I think.

Tom van der Voort, who is a Communications Director at The Miller Center, focused me on the fact it is fine we disagree and it is important HOW we disagree.

He pointed out to me that the 2nd Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms, not guns.  Nuclear weapons are arms.  Should everyone have a right to their own nuke?  That is the extension of the Second Amendment which the Founding Fathers could never have imagined.  We all have right to nuclear arms?

Even the most ardent supporters of gun rights would not agree that we should allow everyone their own nukes but the wording of the Constitution makes it perhaps possible.

We need to think.

We need to talk.  Civilly.

In a meeting with a very smart young man who is a senior figure in television it was suggested by him we have moved into a “new civilizational phase.”

For good or not, the election of Donald Trump as our President means we are moving into uncharted territory.  He is a wild card in our lives, in our life as a democratic society, which is, I think, why he was elected.

The country has decided to roll the dice and see what the unexpected will bring to us.

And in this time, it has never been more important to learn how to disagree civilly.