Monday, July 27, 2020

Crashing and Burning

Currently the state of the world now seems as if it is crashing and burning into a wall of Covid. There are few havens of safety and in turn places that seem to have handled this crisis well.  Well, not true as many countries have been successful in stomping Covid transmissions but this walk in the woods is not over yet and the sun is setting and its not getting brighter anytime sooner.

A great deal of success seems to center on Women leaderships and how they approached their response to this in both political and social ways.  Those two issues are essential for a buy in to gain the cooperation and more importantly the collaboration of those in communities to uphold the demands placed upon them.   We can look at each approach and realize that to compare New Zealand to Taiwan is a relative easy one as they are small in size and have a smaller populations to manage.  Then we have Sweden the outlier in the idea they did nothing but ask those to be careful with the idea of herd immunity as the ultimate goal. It did not work as planned, and they faced serious deaths but in the process I have never heard from one single person in Sweden with regards to how they felt about it.  We here in America have never stopped opining on that. Well funny there was a survey on that and it was the cohort more at risk and older who responded favorably to the Government's plan.   And if you recall when Texas's Lt. Governor said that old people would be willing to be sacrificed to get the economy going he may have well been right with regards to Swedish people but  I am 60 and no, no I'm not.  But in turn Sweden's populace has greater respect and trust in Government which few Americans do and given the dopey Grandpa in office that is not surprising.

But in reality that is why he was elected, to drain the swamp and of course he was the greatest swamp dweller of them all in his private life so why would that change in the present.  The Federal Government became a divisive mess of partisan politics with the arrival of the swamp king from Louisiana, Newt Gingrich.  Now given that Newt was from Pennsylvania originally, it seems fitting that he found his tribe in the place where marshes and swamps dwell.  He is the one man who turned Congress into a blood sport and that is being carried on with another Southerner, Mitch McConnell.  Between those two enablers of Trump (for the record Newt in the early days was Trumps back up surrogate) it explains much of the bizarre contradictory behavior.  I have often thought Trump was from the South, given his idiocy, his pretentiousness and his overwhelming raging temper and racist leanings.   Again, I cannot stress enough that racism is not a Southern "thing" but the arrogance, the moral superiority, is built in the DNA and in turn racism is just a part of that but it is not mutually inclusive.  Racism is fear of the outsider and with the current state of America that has now been turned towards the Immigrant.  This is largely directed to those of Latin origins but this includes anyone not white.  And yes this means Africans, Indians, Middle Easterners and anyone not Christian.  The South really loathes those not Christian, so Jews, Russians or Greek Orthodox, Hindus, etc.  are not going to be any more welcome.  However they may be more tolerated as they are again not of a color that that is black or brown.  For the record folks from India, the founders of Caste system are often respected as they are ultra conservative in politics and attitudes.  Funny how that works out. I have said had anyone talked to any Latinx family they too would be surprised, they are conservative and religious but it is Catholic and again I have met many Evangelicals who suspect Catholicism as a faux religion. Again religion and money rule in that region over race.

Right now in Tennessee they are a hot mess, they are in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Texas and the rest of the alignment that defines the South. It appears that for all show and tell, Tennessee is expecting a rash of financial failures.  For all the lists they loved to claim they were on, the failed to mention the most in debt.   And look at the bankruptcy filings by State and reconcile them as per capita as New York makes sense given the size and scale of businesses/people here, but that top ten list is regarding Commercial lending. What is interesting is that States much smaller in scope and size,   the amount of debt on the personal level and the South is right up there in both. Surprised? No. I have never lived anywhere where I have seen means and ends not meet and denial is the river that runs smack through Nashville its just called the Cumberland.

As for Southern men, they  are a unique breed. I have repeatedly given the women the moniker of cum dumpsters, and that is largely a way they are raised as worth comes from the vagina, to attract the right kind of man an in turn breed.  But again, here is the conundrum,  men are not raised by men, they are usually raised by their Grandmother, the Matriarch in the family.  It is she who instills in them the whole notion of heritage and manliness all while not facing the truth that their own children have dumped them with another generation to raise, so they toughen their children to match their skin, rough, worn and scarred from the abuse, physical and mental, they endured themselves over their years.  It is a cycle that is very much the beauty parlor philosophy - lather, rinse, repeat.

And when you look at the leadership of this area, all white, and all male they are children in search of a  Mother and of course the resentment that in fact that is what they want - Mama.  One's Grandmother is not the same as a Mother and it instills the Misogyny and distrust of women that dominates the Southern mentality.  Obsessed with sex they fear Homosexuality as that is the ultimate in male power,  the ability to fuck without recourse or that women can be happy without men.  As for Transgender folks that just is too much, it simply confuses them and frightens them more. If you can be a man then how can they be their own man?  Competition is the rule and the honor code is the game.  Almost all violence centers on sex and money. That is the twinset of Southern rules. And it explains that for the last decade the same states have gravitated to the businessman as leader or retaining it in family dynasties, which is another Southern thing.  We have that here right now with Cuomo,  but the cities and states across the country are largely helmed by professional legislators/career politicians or as Trump calls them "swamp dwellers."  Ask Ohio about Mike DeWine.

Again folks I don't hate the South, I just get it.  It wants to be someone else, anyone else but it also wants to be loved as it is.   Think of a 10 year old child who just wants you to love them as they are but they are angry, stubborn and selfish and just won't play nice. That is the South.   Who else does it sound like?   That is the only difference between Trump and some of the other Southern elite, he was raised WASP and spoiled by a Scottish mother and abused by a Teutonic father.  But the end results were the same, childish, abusive, spoiled, stubborn and retaliatory.  Welcome to the South!

As I watch what happens in Tennessee it makes sense as you see it throughout the rest of the region, a businessman elected Governor (a Trumpolyte) , a lack of communication, an agenda, blurred lines about personal and professional obligations, an obsession with the Church (real or imagined), focus on money while eschewing the reality that most of the state and its constituents are laden with debt while professing fiscal responsibility.  The best part is the overwhelming cases in Alabama with a woman Governor whom Trump has not vilified despite her own issues and failures but hey its the South and they want women to fail too!  You can see the constant contradictions that I call the reality of the South, the wishing to be one thing while being that which you hate.  And all the Covid idiocy has been from the Governors of the region, its a dumb off down there clearly.  Ah the conundrum that plagues all of the area and that crosses color lines. I read today about the meltdown of Andrew Gillum of Florida and thought, "Where have I heard and seen this before?"  Oh yes Ray Nagin, the former Mayor of Orleans who was complicit in some of the most horrific racist bullshit during Katrina and well documented in the book with the same name.  Ah the white power brokers never stop marginalizing the black man and that time in that place in history is an utter atrocity that shows how money can do more damage than even a hurricane could.

And while South Carolina and Louisiana have both elected Governors of Indian heritage, Nikki  Haley has tried desperately to remain relevant even after leaving a job in the Administration of which she was vastly under qualified for and Bobby Jindal, is well nowhere to be found after his own idiocy was  revealed, only continues to prove to me that when you are a face of color in the South you are a convenient shield from which to hide behind. For it is the faces behind the door who are controlling it all  and they are anything but of color, and of any gender other than male.

I have seen this repeated throughout history, by putting faces of color in jobs that are high profile, Clarence Thomas comes to mind, and enabling them to do little more than simply protect that job and using boring tropes and myths to somehow justify how they earned their way with the whole bootstraps bullshit.   I have not seen nor heard of Thomas helping young faces of color excel nor move forward in the legal field or mentor anyone of import.  I am aware the Obama's are doing so but at this time I can  understand why that is not as active as it should be, but Thomas has been in his gig a long time.   And his wife is another Trumpian who has no interest in mentoring anyone nor doing anything but putting forward policy that is to say racist and elitist.  I would also mention Ben Carson, who for a brain surgeon neglects to have a functioning one. Again the caste system is alive and well in America.

And there is no irony that in the most liberal bastions of Seattle and Portland that black vans and unmarked cars, conveniently rented from Enterprise Car Rental are sweeping young and largely white protestors up and dumped later with little information as to where they were taken and held during that time.  Are these the same facilities used by ICE? I suspect so.  And again this is not new behavior but like the Moms who marched, they too have a role in history over Civil Rights. But when white folks do it its as if its a new shiny toy in which to play with.

As for my new home State, New Jersey, well its New Jersey, and we swing in more directions that a Trump golf club, from Christie the fatty swampiest one to the business elite Murphy, we just have no clue and this is a State where  we are even more corrupt and sexist than the South and no one seems to care.  And with that I suspect Murphy is history come next election as many in most States will find themselves at the end of the line.  Irony that it appears New York State is going to be the most liberal political state in America.  Once again proving that I was right to come here when I did and not one day goes by where I thank myself for that decision. God, not so much, as I have never thought he was real other than being a good invisible friend to talk to.  As for Jersey,  we seem to be outliers and I love it here for that very reason, no one gives a flying fuck about anything here.  We may do it first, we may do it worse, we may do it better, but hey it's New Jersey so fuck it.    But one thing is that none of our streets burned during all of this and those that did were quickly put out.  No black vans, no massive press coverage, just handled without histrionics.

 Just one PATH stop away is Newark, the other Manhattan, and both saw protests and unrest. It was non existent in Newark as their Mayor was front and center, while in Manhattan it was a week of unrest but the protests have been ongoing.  However right now is the summer of violence and  we have a new plan, as the Cops who have decided to give us a preview of what it will be like when the Police are defunded.  Apparently they will not be there when children are gunned down in the streets in broad daylight, or are shot crossin the street, at a  BBQ, or in a playground.  But a murder of a wealthy tech entrepreneur is solved within a week. Well money talks.  And to add more mystery to irony the tech dude was Indian, the alleged killer, a young black male who used to work for him.  Or did he? Again there will be a story as all crimes have history and a past. We live in the past now in the present.

As for us here on the East Coast the reason why there are no black vans here - MONEY. We are the financial center of the world and Trump's family still have interests here.  The adage goes, follow the money and so I do. That and Fox news is in Manhattan and they can't be having shit in front of their studio so guess where they target? The West Coast.

And that is why in the South, the riots in Kentucky continue but without interference as that is home to Mitch McConnell.  Where Covid is running rampant there is no Governor screaming on TV daily as ours did to demand accountability and in turn try to do something versus nothing.  And the Governors of Washington and Oregon are of course not as vocal and posturing in their demeanor as Cuomo is and that has a lot to do with also what is happening.   Cuomo is a bully and that is well known among anyone in the area and I suspect that throw down would do nothing for Trump so pick on the easy targets, as Oregon's Governor is a woman and Inslee of Washington State is well, Inslee.  Seattle's Mayor a woman and Portland's Mayor who tried to join protests, Trump gleefully proclaimed he "got his ass beat."  This is Trump, he is the Southern President right down to racism, elitism, sexism, and of course the bullying tied to the honor code.  And yet perhaps one of the most dignified and beautiful memorials occurred this weekend, with the late John Lewis, making the last trip home.  Again if this was about those whose faces are Black, the issue is not about color but about race and again about poverty.  It is always about money first in the South and when you have fame, success, and recognition then color is not an issue unless it serves to be one.  It is a complicated dynamic.

The critical element here is allowing if not forgiving the South for slowly realizing Confederate flags, Statues and other memorabilia dedicated to the Civil War is less about heritage and more about racism and suppression than recognition of what amounts to loss and ostensibly war crimes but hey one thing at a time!  The New York Times did this piece on a town that centers almost solely on Civil War icons and how does and can it change? The idea that you can erase this history and who these people are is perhaps the worst idea ever.  If that was the case why do we teach about Hitler? Stalin or any other despot or individual capable of hideous acts?  To perhaps not repeat history?  I do think that there should be a Civil War Museum dedicated to the Confederacy, to contain the statutes, the letters and other items that enable a teaching moment to put context and understanding to the complicated issues that surround the Civil War.  In the same vein that Tom Cotton is in histrionics about the 1619 Project, it is just another tool in which to use to offer perspective. Again I recall the People's History of the United States being controversial at some point, and today I wonder if anyone has ever heard of it or if it is still used?   If all curriculum was left to the ed reformers it will strictly be STEM and that would remove any of the icky sticky shit like English, History and PE that nerds never did wellin anyway. Right Bill Gates?  And that is why subjects like Music and Philosophy and Civics are barely taught if at all as they cannot be tested to a metric that takes away the objective versus the subjective. Yes I can ask you names and dates but the nuance, the actual long term affects and effects of an act or deed that went beyond the moment in time is in fact interpretational.  We can say Columbus was a man who destroyed a peoples but in turn he is a respected individual in history and a man of respect in the Italian community.  Who wants to wrestle with that one? Not me.  Just keep it basic, simple and allow those to take from it a full and realized portrait, warts and all.   You can sill look at a Picasso and see the beauty beyond the artist and yet there is no beauty without the artist.  It's never going to be easy and that is why we don't want to teach it or do we? Or more importantly how?  No one will like it regardless and yes someone will be offended and that is how life is. But not today, we cannot have that today. Grow the fuck up, we are not perfect, not ever will be and that is what makes us all better for it.  We crash and burn and we get up and heal. And yes you do heal, you are not the same but maybe that is the point.  Times change and we can be persuaded to do the right thing in the right way.

A Liberal Town Built Around Confederate Generals Rethinks Its Identity

In Lexington, Va., where Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson are buried, people are reassessing the town’s ties to a legacy that symbolizes slavery and oppression.

By Reid J. Epstein
The New York Times
July 26, 2020

LEXINGTON, Va. — It’s a short drive in Lexington from a home on Confederate Circle past the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery and over to the Robert E. Lee Hotel, where locals like to stop for a drink.

There may be tourists there looking for directions to the Lee Chapel, or one of the two Stonewall Jackson statues in town. They might see a Washington and Lee University student paddling a canoe down the Maury River, named for the Confederate oceanographer Matthew Fontaine Maury.

If medical treatment is needed, residents can head to the Stonewall Jackson Hospital. For groceries, there’s a Food Lion at Stonewall Square, which isn’t far from Rebel Ridge Road, just up the way from Stonewall Street and Jackson Avenue.

For 150 years Lexington, a picturesque city nestled in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, has been known to the outside world as the final resting place of Lee, the Confederacy’s commanding general during the Civil War, and Jackson, whom Lee referred to as his “right arm.” They form the basis of a daily existence here that has long been tethered to the iconography of the Civil War and its two most famous Confederate generals, whose legacy has seeped into the town’s culture like the July humidity.

But Lexington is no longer a bastion of conservatism. It is a liberal college town of about 7,000 people that voted 60 percent for Hillary Clinton four years ago, and in 2018 gave 70 percent of its vote to the Democratic Senate candidate, Tim Kaine. Black Lives Matter signs dot the windows of downtown stores, and residents haven’t backed a Republican for president since Ronald Reagan.

These dueling sensibilities place Lexington at particularly delicate intersection of the national debate over Confederate monuments and emblems. As Americans protesting racial injustice have torn down statues and memorials to Confederates, the town finds itself reassessing its identity, divided between the growing imperative to eradicate symbols of slavery and decades of cultural and economic ties to the Confederates who fought to preserve it.

“When you’re surrounded by all of the symbols, it just is a way of life,” said Marilyn Alexander, 67, the lone Black member of the City Council. “It was not until recently that there was a realization for me that there was such an outcry from the community, that felt these symbols and signs needed to come down or be changed.”

City Council meetings in July have been almost entirely devoted to the question of the city-owned cemetery named for Jackson; one session lasted five hours, ending with a unanimous after-midnight vote to remove signs bearing Jackson’s name. A second meeting began with pleas from residents to put the signs back up. The council plans a session on Friday to discuss new names, with a vote possible in September.

“I long for the days of people complaining about potholes and not heritage,” said Lexington’s mayor, Frank Friedman.

Ms. Alexander said it had never occurred to her to propose taking Jackson’s name off the cemetery, believing that it would have no support from white Lexingtonians. “Most of my life I have come to realize that these are things that have just been, this is the way it is and this is the way it’s always going to be,” she said.

For decades, the names of Lexington’s Confederate forebears have mostly gone unchallenged. A 2011 City Council vote to forbid flying the Confederate flag on municipal flagpoles drew a lawsuit, eventually dismissed by a federal appeals court, from the local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans; until this spring no one had proposed removing Jackson’s name from the cemetery, where a towering statue of the general rises above his family plot.

At Washington and Lee, students’ degrees still come with portraits of its two namesakes, and at the Virginia Military Institute, where Jackson taught before the war, first-year students are required to re-enact the 1864 Battle of New Market as Confederate soldiers.

Still, attitudes have started to change in recent years. Grace Episcopal Church downtown dropped Robert E. Lee from its name in 2017, and last year the local Boy Scout council changed its name from the Stonewall Jackson Area Council to the Virginia Headwaters Council.

Bigger changes are now afoot in town, which has a Black population of just under 9 percent. Carilion, the Roanoke, Va.-based health care conglomerate that owns the Stonewall Jackson Hospital, said Thursday that it would change the name to Rockbridge Community Hospital. Francesco Benincasa, whose family owns the Robert E. Lee Hotel, said Friday that it would be renamed “The Gin” starting next month.

“It’s a little hard to brand hospitality after generals,” Mr. Benincasa said in an interview.

Adama Kamara grew up in Lexington, attending preschool in a church named for Stonewall Jackson. A 2020 graduate of Emory University, in Atlanta, she had never protested the city’s Confederate memorials, but when the City Council met on July 2 to debate the cemetery’s name she called in via video conference.

“It’s not just the history that’s shameful, it’s the way the people are so committed to preserving it in this town,” she told city officials. “This preservation has caused me deep pain.”

Almost instantly, Ms. Kamara, 22, began receiving supportive text messages and emails from former classmates, teachers and longtime friends in town, people with whom she’d never before discussed the city’s Confederate forefathers. She and other young people, Lexington natives who’d gone away to college but returned during the coronavirus pandemic, began organizing to protest the city’s street names, statues and the local public school curriculum, which they said focused too much on lionizing local Confederate history at the expense of America’s Black experience.

“I don’t think we have ever been given the space to say we as Black people feel very uncomfortable about this,” Ms. Kamara said. “We have been silently thinking these things and silently compartmentalized this, but until we started hearing each other we had no idea that we all felt this way.”

It did not take long for resistance to removing Jackson’s name from the cemetery to grow.

Representative Ben Cline, a Republican who represents Lexington in Congress, wrote on Facebook: “I suppose they’ll rename it something like ‘Lexington Cemetery: Now with Surprise Inside!’ Or if they want to be more accurate, something like ‘Future Democrat Voter Quarry.’” His office did not respond to phone calls, emails or text messages seeking an interview.

Heather Hopkins Barone, a local marketer, wrote to the City Council that she had more than 2,000 names on a petition opposing the change.

“You cannot erase history because a few people are offended,” she wrote in the letter that she also shared on a Facebook page devoted to local affairs. “The affect that it will also have on the tourism industry and the Alumni will destroy this town.”

Tourism is the biggest component of the city’s revenues after property taxes, and the biggest economic drivers are the two universities, which are inextricably linked to Lee and Jackson.

In a house two blocks from a downtown shopping strip that includes the Red Hen — a restaurant briefly famous for refusing to serve then-White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in 2018 — Ellen Darlene Bane, 64, flies three flags: The Confederate battle flag, a flag that combines the Confederate emblem with the Virginia state seal and the yellow Gadsden flag that’s become associated with the Tea Party.

Ms. Bane, who lives across the street from a Black church, the Gospel Way Church of God in Christ, said she began flying the flags six years ago and has never received a complaint. She called the movement to remove Lee and Jackson’s names “crap” and predicted escalating racial tensions in Lexington.

“Everybody’s getting racist,” she said. “It’s going to be the Blacks against the whites.”

Lexington’s universities are facing their own reckoning. At Washington and Lee, 79 percent of the faculty voted on July 6 to strip Lee’s name from the school, prompting the board of trustees to announce “a thoughtful and deliberative process” to examine Lee’s legacy.

One of the leading proponents of keeping the Lee name is Lucas E. Morel, an Abraham Lincoln scholar who is chairman of the politics department. He argued that the name honors Lee’s contributions to the school — he led its revival after the war — without making a judgment about his leadership of the Confederate army.

“We can separate Lee’s generalship of the Confederacy and his symbolism as patron saint of the Lost Cause from his laudable contribution to the university,” Professor Morel said. “To remove Lee’s name is to say, ‘Thank you for the gift of saving this college, but we don’t appreciate that contribution to such an extent that we think we should continue to honor you.’’’

At the Virginia Military Institute, until 2015 all students were required to salute the statue of Jackson when passing it. A public university, the school has retained its conservative politics, well after the Supreme Court ordered it to admit women in 1996.

But Virginia’s state politics, which govern the school, have changed. Democrats control the state legislature. Gov. Ralph Northam, a 1981 V.M.I. graduate who is working to take down state-owned Confederate monuments, “has confidence that V.M.I.’s Board of Visitors will do the right thing,” said his spokesman, Grant Neely.

Jennifer Carroll Foy, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates who in 2003 was among the first group of Black women to graduate from V.M.I., said the Jackson statue should be moved to a museum.

“We can’t say in Virginia that we’re open for business but we’re closed to diversity and inclusion,” said Ms. Foy, who is now running for governor. “No child looks at a Confederate monument and feels inspired.”

David Sigler, a City Council member who graduated from Washington and Lee and works as the financial aid director at V.M.I., said renaming the Stonewall Jackson Cemetery ought to be the first move to pivot the town’s identity away from its Confederate past.

“Our small business owners, they have products to sell, meals to prepare, they want their tables filled in their restaurants,” he said. “I will feel bad if they lose one customer because we renamed the cemetery. But I think we might gain two customers for every one we might lose in the long run if we’re not so one-dimensional.”

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