Trump’s Formulaic Endorsements

Have you noticed that all of Donald Trump’s political endorsements are more or less the same? They always include the same phrase: “He” – it’s almost always a he – “is a fighter who will be tough on Crime and the Border, fight hard for our Second Amendment and loves our Military and our Vets. He has my full and complete Endorsement!”

The above was from his endorsement of Texas Congressman Pete Sessions. Here’s Trumpet’s endorsement of Danny Tarkanian: “[He] of Nevada is a great friend who supports the Trump Agenda. He is Strong on Crime, the Border and our under siege 2nd Amendment. Danny Loves our Military and our Vets. He has my total and complete Endorsement!”

And this: “Congressman Keith Rothfus continues to do a great job for the people of Pennsylvania. Keith is strong on Crime, the Border, and our Second Amendment. Loves our Military and our Vets. He has my total Endorsement!”

The examples go on – and they’re always the same: crime and border; second amendment; military and vets.

Clearly these endorsement’s aren’t from the heart; that space is too full of his own self-interest.

HBD: Mary Renault and Richard Wright

 

Today marks birthdays for Mary Renault (b. 1905) and Richard Wright (b. 1908), two authors who used their tremendous talents to tackle social injustice and institutional discrimination.

Renault’s novels, including 1953’s The Charioteer and 1956’s The Last of the Wine, challenged homophobia: the first directly, the second, like most of her works, indirectly, through the lens of historical fiction. Meanwhile Wright’s works, most notably 1941’s Native Son and his 1945 memoir, Black Boy, explored and exploded racism in America and its deleterious impact on the nation and its people.*

In another similarity between these Virgos, both authors left their homelands to live their truest lives: Renault and partner Julie Mullard escaped England’s mainstream homophobia by relocating in 1948 to comparatively nonchalant South Africa (they would also become vocal opponents of that nation’s racist apartheid government); and Wright and his wife Ellen Poplar relocated to Paris in 1946 to enjoy an existence free of American racism, especially because they were an interracial couple in a time when that was uber taboo.

It’s ironic, isn’t it, that post-WWII America and England, symbolic stars at the time for the west’s superior liberalism, lost two of their brightest  stars because of their restrictive, moralistic social norms?

Both authors died in their adopted lands, Renault in 1983, and Wright in 1960, in Paris.

(*Note: James Baldwin, the gay black author recently discussed here and who escaped American homophobia and racism by also moving to Paris, later took aim at Wright’s depiction of black people, in Notes of a Native Son).

“Join, or Die:” America’s First Meme

Benjamin Franklin’s 1754 version of the iconic reptile.

The “Join, or Die” snake is one of America’s most recognizable, beloved and replicated icons. Emblazoned on flags and t-shirts, pillow cases and iPhone cases, and even on tv show title cards and in comic books, the image is upheld today as a both specifically as an emblem of American independence, and generally as bid for unity against a common oppression. But the world’s most adored reptile didn’t start this way.

Created by Benjamin Franklin in 1754, the “Join, or Die” snake originally signified loyalty to the English empire. It wasn’t a call to action, but an order to fall into line. It was only later that “Join, or Die” evolved into a revolutionary rallying cry — and when it did, it became America’s first meme, too.

Continue reading

The Incredible Arthur Ellerman

The Ellerman crew circa 1917. Based on his football background, I think Arthur’s standing second from right.

 

A history book’s minor character becomes the author’s editorial sidepiece, resulting in an essay that includes log cabins, net neutrality, research methods, Twin Peaks, romance, politics and one very good dog.

Continue reading

Meghan Markle Tops Donald Trump

An estimated 29 million Americans tuned in early Saturday morning to watch Meghan Markle marry Prince Harry. That’s about 5 million more than in England itself, and about six million more Americans than who watched Will and Kate Middleton marry seven years ago.

Why did so many more viewers tune in to this wedding versus the last? Are there more televisions now than there were then? Is it that we love Harry more than Will; because we’re all fans of Suits, the show on which Markle starred; or is it because Meghan’s biracial and her entry into the British royal family is a watershed historical moment?

Sure, all of that makes sense, but it seems to me that so many Americans are enthusiastic about Meghan Markle becoming the Duchess of Sussex because we like seeing a polished and seemingly empathetic American representing us on the international stage. With the buffoon president’s steady stream of racist, hateful rhetoric, general dishonesty and pungent nastiness sullying our national name, it’s nice to have an American standing with/for dignity and grace —and not just an American, but a biracial woman whose path — and the once-stodgy royal family’s embrace of — is the emotional and sociopolitical opposite of all President Trump represents.

Meghan Markle is the face of America’s future; Donald Trump and his reactionary racism are its past.

(PS: I was going to have a photo of Trump next to fresh-faced Markle for juxtaposition purposes, but it just didn’t feel right having his ugly mug next to such beauty.)

‘Ultra Rich’ In America, 1883-Today

Hundreds of the planet’s richest and glitziest will gather today to kick off the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. That said, this week’s etymological adventure revolves around the term “ultra-rich.”

Continue reading

Make FDR’s Four Freedoms a Reality

While weekend postings are rare around these parts, today’s the 77th anniversary of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms Speech, the president’s 1941 State of the Union speech that gave hope to millions living in the shadow of World War II, inspired generations of civil rights leaders in the decades ahead and which spurred painter Norman Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” quadriptych, each of the four images illustrating life filled with free speech, free worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

With our country’s most sanctified institutions and beliefs under assault, with inequality running rampant and national stress levels through the roof, I’ve included the relevant text of that landmark speech after the jump. May Roosevelt’s word come true some day soon.

Continue reading

4 Timeless Notes From an 1837 U.S. History

Something of a follow-up to that last post, research for book 2 recently led me to Samuel Goodrich’s 1837 title, Peter Parley’s Universal History on the Basis of Geography, a world history that includes some general but timeless thoughts on sustaining the integrity and wherewithal of the U.S. Government.

They seem particularly pertinent to today’s unprecedented times.

  1. We live in a fine country, we have a good form of government, but these will not insure happiness. If the people become indolent, or if they become wicked, ruin and desolation will visit this land. Government may be compared to a house; those who live in it must take good care of it.

 

  1. …In short, the whole establishment must be taken care of by people who are worthy of being trusted, people who are skillful, and who cannot be tempted to neglect their duty.

 

  1. If the house is entrusted to careless, ignorant or faithless people, it may take fire, and the inhabitants be burned up. Or it may decay and fall down upon the heads of those who dwell in it…. It may thus become a miserable and comfortless habitation….

 

  1. It is so with government. If careless, ignorant or faithless rulers are chosen to take care of the country, wars and commotions may follow; poverty and vice may spread over the land; ignorance and misery may take the place of knowledge and prosperity. Thus, the government, which, like a house, is designed to protect us, when ill managed, like a house on fire, or borne down by the tempest, may be the cause of our ruin.

 

‘Hypocrisy’ is Acting Badly

Now that we’re nearly one year into the Trump presidency, you’ve probably seen a few hundred Tweets, Facebooks, Instagrams, Snapchats, or Whatchamacallits noting how hypocritical it is for Donald Trump to decry “fake news.” After all, this is the man who concocts self-aggrandizing Time magazine covers, the charlatan who claimed for years that Barack Obama was from Kenya, and the ego-maniac who decries chimerical voter fraud to justify losing the popular vote.

But what is hypocrisy? Of course most of us know it roughly means “doing or saying some thing you criticize others for doing or saying,” but the true definition is, as always, more nuanced.

Hypocrisy” as we know it comes from the Latin word of the same spelling, meaning “an imitation of a person’s speech and gestures” and derived from from the ancient Greek word “hypokrisis,” “acting on stage.” You see, hypocrisy was originally a drama term, one initially and specifically relegated to the stage, but which eventually evolved to the more general, pedestrian “pretense.”

This latter lexeme trickled through languages over the centuries, landing in French as the h-less word “ypocrisie,” and then seeping into Middle English around the year 1200 as “ipocrisie,” a term defined in clearly moralistic terms: “the sin of pretending virtue or goodness.” I’ll leave judgement of sin to more qualified entities, but that “pretending virtue” bit is pretty spot-on to what we’re seeing out of the Oval Office.

For more Fun with Words, click HERE.