May 20, 2014
Some of us remember having to sign loyalty oaths. In the language of the U.S. Supreme Court, one had to swear that he or she had not “advocate[d] the overthrow of government by force, violence, or any unlawful means.” That included the overthrow of “the Government of the United States or of any political subdivisions.” In the 1950s everyone from barbers to professors had to sign those things and even cafeteria workers got fired on mere suspicion of disloyalty, the absence of proof notwithstanding.
Of course it was political. Senator McCarthy famously attacked President Truman and many of the people in the cabinet as disloyal. Republicans attacked Democrats and liberals as if they supported a Communist invasion. It was a campaign of character assassination. Charges were brought without facts that prosecutors were willing to reveal until the Supreme Court pointed out that it had the obligation to insist on fundamental due process like the right to see the charges and confront witnesses. But at least, at some level, however misguided, it was about patriotism.
Now, a group of armed self-styled militiamen blocked the federal government from charging Cliven Bundy the fee for grazing his cattle on federal land. Then they took their weapons to a closed federal canyon, to open it by force for use by ATVs. They bluntly deny the authority of the federal government. To make it worse, prominent Republicans called Bundy’s refusal to pay for grazing his cattle on federal land, and the armed intervention of his militia supporters, “patriotic.” Read the rest of this entry »
September 3, 2013
My wife and I went to see The Butler Saturday evening. There were important differences between the lives of the actual Butler, Eugene Allen, who served eight presidents, and Cecil Gaines, the butler in the film. But those differences actually got to larger truths it is worth thinking about.
In the film Cecil learns from the rape of his mother and the murder of his father what he has to do to survive in the white world. He creates a safe place for his family and is distraught when his son puts body and soul at risk in the Civil Rights Movement. That didn’t happen to Eugene Allen but it did happen to hordes of African-Americans in the South and many elsewhere. The demonstrators, trained to be peaceful and nonviolent, to take it without giving it back, were met with bombings, beatings, murders and jail. And their families were in anguish. Read the rest of this entry »
May 14, 2013
What’s the NRA’s big attachment to assault weapons? Why do we have to suffer the weapons of mass murder?
One NRA member from Texas told an NPR reporter, “As far as I’m concerned, if you can afford to buy a tank, you should be able to buy a tank.” He explained: “the Second Amendment was put in not to hunt, not to go plink at cans, not to shoot at targets. If and when tyranny tries to take over our country, we can fight it.” NRA President Porter, too, wants people to be “ready to fight tyranny.” Porter, told an audience last June, when he was NRA vice-president, that “We got the pads put on, we got our helmets strapped on, we’re cinched up, we’re ready to fight, we’re out there fighting every day.” Read the rest of this entry »
March 5, 2013
Did you hear the demonstrators against New York’s new gun law chanting in unison “We will not comply!”
That’s the problem. Guns allow some of their owners to think that they can define right and wrong and everybody else has to comply. In the hands of some of their owners, guns puff up their sense of self-importance, their sense that laws are written for everybody else but that they are above the law. Read the rest of this entry »
July 24, 2012
I just got back from a trip abroad. We were treated everywhere with the greatest respect while visiting our former exchange student and her family in Serbia and Montenegro, and then in Spain for a meeting, People were happy to help us. We had no Serbian (though I learned how to say “thank you”) and little Spanish (though I studied in high school it’s virtually gone), but they were happy to use whatever English they had. When we couldn’t communicate it was still all smiles. Somehow, only in this country do people believe that English is under fire and all traces of foreign languages should be eliminated, despite the foreign policy disaster if some Americans weren’t conversant with other national languages. Of course there is one place where English really is under fire and has been for decades – Quebec. But I’ve never heard any suggestion that we ban the Quebecois.
That’s what I intended to talk about. But the news here on my return has been overwhelming. Another senseless mass killing of people the murderer didn’t know, had no grudge against, one a six year old child. Read the rest of this entry »
January 18, 2011
If winning is the only thing, there is no democracy. If winning is by murder and intimidation, there is only Darfur, Iraq, the Congo, what was once Yugoslavia, and scores of other killing fields around the globe. Read the rest of this entry »
January 11, 2011
I’m angry and I’m not going to mince words. I fear for our republic.
Most Americans have little awareness of the violence in our past. But murder has been a feature of American politics since the Civil War, often making elections meaningless. Mass slaughter of Republicans after the Civil War allowed Southern Democrats to retake the South, by eliminating and terrorizing the opposition. Even the U.S. Supreme Court chose to look aside and let the South have its new “peculiar institution,”: substituting a reign of terror for legal slavery. Read the rest of this entry »
June 29, 2010
Yesterday, the Supreme Court handed down its opinion that the Second Amendment applies to the states and protects individuals’ rights to own guns for self-defense. That decided, the Court sent the case back to the lower courts to work out the implications of that basic holding. As those “details” are worked out, however, the stakes are enormous. Read the rest of this entry »
June 22, 2010
The world, and some of our friends in the peace movement, has an enormous double standard directed against Israel. Palestinians attack and their attacks are coordinated and serve as the avatars of foreign governments. For more than half a century they have inflicted seemingly random and unpredictable death and destruction on Israeli civilians. Most of the world ignores the damage. The Israelis strike back and suddenly everything is wrong. As George Orwell pointed out the world would choose sides based on perceptions of race.
But history cares not at all about justice. History marches to the beat of the stronger. And if people’s perceptions of justice figure in who will be stronger, history ratifies their judgment, And by that standard, it is all over. Read the rest of this entry »
April 5, 2010
Following the vote on health care, Sarah Palin put 20 congressmen in gun sights on her Facebook page. And she followed that up with “Don’t Retreat, Instead RELOAD!” She is unapologetic. According to Palin, violent language is just a fact of American life, part and parcel of our sports talk. Just how should we take that? Read the rest of this entry »