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Can A House So Divided Continue to Stand?

Posted in Uncategorized on January 8, 2020 by playthell

Nancy Pelosi and Senate Leader “Moscow Mitch” McConnell

Thing Are Falling Apart!

“A house divided against itself cannot stand,” Abraham Lincoln declared at the 1858 Illinois state Republican Convention, “I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.” This was only four years before Lincoln was elected President and the United States of America fell apart, degenerating into Civil War – the most destructive war in history at the time.

It was the first modern war where industrialized methods were used to produce and transport men and materials, it lasted four years and exacted a price in blood and treasure that devastated the nation. Yet Lincoln could not see it coming, and therein, I believe, lies a critical warning for our times; when Americans are arguably the most divided since the Civil War, and some Trump supporters are openly and increasingly calling for “Civil War” should he be impeached; which is now a fait accompli.

To gain some perspective on the dimensions of this bloody 19th century catastrophe that nearly destroyed the United States, we have but to point out the fact that 51 thousand Americans lost their lives during three days of combat at Gettysburg Pennsylvania, while from 2001 to July 7 2018, 2,372 American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan.

Hence over sixteen times more Americans were slaughtered by Americans in three days at the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, than were killed in the Afghan war in 17 years! The battle however was a resounding victory for the Union forces, and spelled the beginning of the end for the southern Confederacy which saved the Union.

On November 19th 1863, four and a half months after the Union victory, Abraham Lincoln would stand on the blood soaked soil of Gettysburg to dedicate the opening of a new National Cemetery in remembrance of those who had fought and died there to save the Union. Although he feared his oration of 272 words did not rise to the occasion after following Edward Everette – a Massachusetts politician, preacher and famous orator that spoke for two hours – President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is remembered in history as one of the greatest speeches ever presented on a public occasion in America.

The press praised it widely and Everette even wrote to Lincoln that he felt the President’s brief speech touched the central issues of the war much more profoundly than his wordy oration. In fact, Lincoln’s view of why the war was fought can be summed up in the last words of his oration “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Alas, the question that confronts us today is whether truly representative democratic government shall perish from the USA? And I have referenced these events from our tumultuous past because I believe our understanding of current events can be greatly enhanced by the added dimension of historical perspective. Although it is axiomatic among professional historians that history does not repeat itself, that great American wit Mark Twain made a telling point when he observed “History may not repeat…but it rhymes.”

Hence if we view the fundamental cause of the Civil War as the failure of our constitutional government to peacefully resolve internal conflict, then we may be witnessing a recurrent phenomenon; a class of event that is not unique to America, but can be observed in nations embroiled in internecine conflicts across time and geography.

As hard as it is for many Americans to believe, our constitutional democracy is on very shaky ground. The election of Donald J. Trump as President has proved a grave mistake, a blunder of biblical proportions, and our democratic system of governance is imperiled. From the outset the validity of Trump’s election has been in question. Even as fair minded a man as Congressman John Lewis – an icon of the great Civil Rights Movement who is deeply committed to the democratic process, and once put his life on the line to insure that it worked for all Americans – openly refused to attend Trump’s inauguration, declaring his election “illegitimate.”

And the nation’s capitol saw one of the largest demonstrations in its history when the women marched and chanted “Not my president!” They were expressing their righteous anger, protesting what they viewed as a stolen election that prevented the first woman from becoming President. And to add insult to injury Hillary Clinton was the best qualified candidate ever to run for President, and Donald Trump was demonstrably the least qualified for the office. And that is exactly how he has conducted himself as president.

Not only has Trump been an embarrassment with his crude vulgar rhetoric, amoral behavior and disdain for the dignity of the presidency; he also poses a real and present danger to the national interests with his reckless attacks on the fundamental institutions that make our constitutional democracy work. He has repeatedly referred to highly competent dedicated professionals in the intelligence and foreign service communities as “scum,” accusing them of “treason” for doing their jobs – much of which he does not even understand – and declaring them agents of a mythical “Deep State,” that is orchestrating a “coup” against him at the behest of the “evil” Democrats.

He has called the major journalistic institutions, the newspapers of record that future historians will consult when assessing his legacy, “Enemies of the people!” Through the agency of his Twitter feed the Tweeting Twit has weaponized lies – he has been busted telling outright lies over 14 thousand times by professional fact checkers at the Toronto Star and Washington Post – Devious Donald is seriously undermining confidence in their government for millions of his acolytes.

Yet that is just part of the story. Dirty Donnie has also undermined confidence in our presidential and even senatorial elections by his refusal to admit the massive Russian interference in our last presidential election on his behalf even happened, and taking vigorous measures to prevent it’s recurrence. Indeed, he continues to refer to the Russian intervention, which all 17 US intelligence agencies agree happened, as “a hoax.”

When we consider the fact that former the National Intelligence Director James Clapper says Russian intelligence agencies, at the instruction of Vladimir Putin, posted 157 million disinformation messages attacking Hillary and promoting Fat Don tha Con on the internet, it is virtually impossible for a thoughtful person to conclude that such an effort could not influence 77 thousand votes in three states combined! Contray to the claims of that raging buffoon, Jiveass Jim Jordan, Devious Don’s shameless shill in the House of Representatives, trump did not “win the Electoral College in a landslide.” But it is undeniable that he lost the popular vote by three million votes!

Trump’s transparent lies began when he declared his inauguration was “the biggest ever” and denied the photographic evidence from the US Parks Service that clearly contradicted his bogus claim. Then he invented a bizzare conspiracy theory claiming that “millions of illegal aliens voted for Hillary.” When the extent of Russian meddling began to emerge, first from thoughtful analyst in the intelligence community such as retired spook Malcolm Nance, who wrote a book length treatise on it “The Hacking of America, and the FBI stepped up its investigation into the matter, Trump fired the FBI Director James Comey, and was later heard bragging about it to representatives of the Russian government in the Oval Office.

Alas, blabber mouth thoughtless fool that he is, Devious Donald told NBC Evening News host Lester Holt in a nationally televised interview that he fired Comey to end the investigation into Russian attempts to subvert the will of the American people through a covert cyber-attack. It was this act of stupidity and hubris that sparked the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as “Special Prosecutor,” with a mandate to thoroughly investigate the matter. After interrogating hundreds of witnesses and perusing thousands of documents, Mr. Mueller issued a 400 page report detailing extensive Russian interference in the presidential election to support Trump.

He identified the exact units and agents in the Russian intelligence apparatus that carried out the operation and issued indictments against them. Mr. Mueller explained that although he could not establish a “conspiracy” between the Russian operatives and members of the Trump campaign that would meet the standard of evidence required by the statute, the Trump campaign knew of and welcomed the Russian interference. But since “collusion” is not specifically addressed in the law, he would leave it to Congress to decide.

He also pointed to ten instances that could be construed as “Obstruction of Justice,” which he would also leave it to Congress to determine because of a Department Of Justice regulation prohibiting the indictment of a sitting President. However a thousand former Federal Prosecutors, Democrats and Republicans who served in urban and rural areas, say they would indict and convict a suspect on the evidence Mueller provided. Furthermore, Mr. Mueller clearly stated in his Report and later in testimony before Congress, that his investigation did not exonerate the President.

However, by the time the Mueller Report was released, Devious Donald had replaced Jeff Sessions – who had recused himself from all matters involving the Russian investigation, sparking outrage and charges of disloyalty from from Trump – and replaced him with Bill Barr, who proved eager to to do for Trump what the unethical lawyer Roy Cohn had done for him as a businessman in New York. Barr, who as Attorney General, had jurisdiction over Mueller and thus had access to the Report before the public saw any part of it, helped Devious Donald deceive the American people by misrepresenting the Report’s findings and witholding parts of it from the public and Congress.

Barr simply announced that the extensive investigation by Mr. Mueller “found no collusion and no obstruction of justice.” This pronouncement was quickly seized upon and repeated endlessly on Fox News, a right-wing propaganda outfit posing as a legitimate journalistic institution, and that has become the gospel truth for members of the Trump personality cult, that untutored mob they call “the Republican base.”

Since few people have either the time or inclination to actually read a dense legalistic document of 400 pages, and many Republican members of Congress openly declared that they would not read it, while Trump resorted to Twitter, partisan rallies and right wing media to declare himself “totally exonerated” in his hyperbolic style, the Mueller Report detailing the Russian cyber-attack and his crimes of obstruction has become largely irrelevant.

While the meticulous presentation of of the evidence of Russian intervention contained in the Mueller Report has not prevented Trump from labeling it “a hoax,” the new Inspector General’s investigation of the FBI, debunking Trump’s claims that the FBI “spied on his campaign” at the behest of President Barack Obama, seems destined for a similar fate. Attorney General Barr has already disputed it’s findings and has appointed a hand picked Federal Prosecutor to conduct another investigation that will yeild the results he seeks, which is to give legitimacy to Trump’s bogus claims.

Right before our eyes Barr and Trump are lying about the results of the investigation. Listening to them talk, they seem to have embraced the principle of The Big Lie, Invented by Dr. Joseph Goebbles, Minister of Propaganda for the Third Reich, it is a simple proposition that has proved to be very effective with targeted audiences subjected to controlled messages repeatedly beamed into their brains: “Tell the people a lie long enough and they will believe it!”

Dr. Goebbles had control of the national radio net work and the film industry, but Trump has the FOX network and Twitter – a more intimate means of communicating with his followers than Hitler ever had. And there is much evidence showing that the fervent acolytes in the Trump personality cult called the “Republican Base,” only believe what they hear on FOX, or right wing verbal arsonists like Rush Limbaugh on WABC radio, along with Trumps Tweets.

Hence they live in a fact free propaganda bubble that bears little resemblance to the reality that other Americans share by virtue of the reporting from objective journalistic organizations; whose reporters are bound by the ethics taught in Journalism schools, peer reviewed by colleagues and policed by professional organizations. The reporters who are winning Pulitzer Prizes for their careful reportage.

Herein lies the crux of the crisis we are now facing in defining reality: What is truth? One of the basic strategies of dictators in making reality conform to their will is to obfuscate and deny the existence of objective truth, Napoleon Bonaparte for instance, said “History is lies commonly agreed upon!” This is why in the effort to establish a dictatorship the first casualty is truth. We hear echoes of Bonaparte’s claim in Trump’s mouthpiece, Kelleyane Conway, who when confronted with unpleasant facts about Trump said: “We have alternative facts!”

This is a dangerous declaration, because Trump has been diagnosed as a “compulsive liar;” the main symptom of which is the willingness to lie even when you know that your lies can be easily disproven. We see this pathological behavior in Don tha Con all the time, it is his modus operandi. The danger we now face as a nation, is that the Republicans have proved willing to violate their oath to “defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic,” and place their personal and party interests above the national interests. This fact pattern conjures up some of the most dire warnings of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington at the founding of this nation, warnings that now have the ring of prophecy.

In his Farewell Address to the nation delivered on Sept. 19, 1796, President George Washington warned about the dangers of the factionalism promoted by the development of political parties in the new republic:

“I have already intimated to you the danger of Parties in the State… Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the Spirit of Party generally. This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human Mind. It exists under different shapes in all Governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed… The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities…The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty…It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.”

Although delivered over 200 years ago, this is a remarkably accurate description of the antics of Dirty Donald and the Republican Follies! One need only witness their attempts to disrupt the impeachment hearings with transparent lies and shameless sophistries, to recognize the willingness of partisans of the Grand Obstructionist Party to disgrace and beclown themselves to please a corrupt, wannabe autocrat, who demands a permanent lips to posterior posture from all who wish to remain in his good graces.

Why do they do it? Why does educated and accomplished elected officials shamelessly genuflect before this vulgar, pompous, ignorant, boisterous buffoon? The answer lies in their careerist opportunism and the ignorance of the Republican electorate who display a cult like devotion to their savior: “The Donald.” All Republican politicians live in dread of offending him and becoming a victim of the terrible tweets of this twisted twit!

For they have seen the ruin that can come to those who fall from favor with him and become the targets of his vulgar verbal assaults. And, like most elected officials, they understand their constituents and therefore well know that they are dealing with an untutored mob mesmerized by a big city bunko artists whose persona was forged on reality TV and a business career without accountability to superiors. To the “Republican Base” alas, Dirty Donald” is everything they hope to be…the stuff of their dreams.

When your head is empty you can even be convinced to go for the okey doke about Trump being “a blue collar billionaire,” a classic oxymoron. Yet this weird love affair between the plutocrat and the plebes cannot be fully understood without recognizing that they do share something fundamental in common, white trash values; Dirty Donnie is white trash with money! That’s why he can so easily con them with bullshit raps like “us against the elites,” when he is the a prominent member of the most powerful elite in America: The Plutocracy!

But perception is reality for most people alas, and when your mind is a tabla rasa incapable of critical thought, you are the perfect patsy for a bodacious bunko artist playing the long range con. This is the danger that Jefferson saw when he warned the nation: “A democracy cannot work with an ignorant electorate, because they will elect and return the worst people to power.”

The millions of Americans who see Devious Donald for the ignorant dangerous amoral lying charlatan that he is are determined to get his treasonous ass out of the Oval Office as quickly as possible. To them impeachment is the logical, legal and most efficient method of accomplishing this; it was the remedy provided by the architects of the Constitution to remove a criminal, incompetent or power crazed president from office. But the acolytes of The Donald, brainwashed by FOX and the right-wing disinformation complex, are just as convinced of his innocence and are certain that he is the victim of a “coup” directed by the “Deep State” and carried out by deluded evil “liberals” supported by “fake news” from the “Lame Stream Media.”

So here we are, one nation with two different views of reality, and a growing suspicion and mutual hostility toward each other. In a gun crazed nation with millions of firearms in private hands, including military assault weapons, where mass shootings have become commonplace, and a Malignant Narcissist in the Oval Office spouting increasingly reckless rhetoric which echos across the Twitter sphere on a daily basis and fires up the mindless Trumpanzees, anything can happen!

People often ask me how the present period compares with the turbulent 1960’s, which despite nation-wide riots and urban rebellions that set American cities ablaze from coast to coast we survived, and went on to thrive. It is a question that I have been giving serious thought lately, because it is a compass that will help us understand where we are now as the ship of state plows through troubled waters. As one who not only lived through the Sixties, but was a part of the black resistance movement that abolished southern apartheid and outlawed de jure racial discrimination all over this land, I suppose I have a unique perspective on the current state of the Union.

One obvious difference is that radical Black Activists viewed ourselves as part of the Third World Revolution, which was breaking out all over Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Islands of the seas. When I started in the movement I was an angry teenager, a 17 year old college student fighting for my constitutional rights.  Three years later, influenced by the writings of Third World Revolutionaries and news reports of their victorious movements,  spurred on by Thomas Jefferson’s talk about the right and duty to overthrow tyranny, I was an armed revolutionary advocating the overthrow of the racist capitalist American government.

However most Afro-Americans, then as now, continued to believe in the promise of equality contained in the Declaration of Independence and guaranteed by constitutional law. The biggest differences between the 1960’s and now is the absence of bi-partisanship when both parties had liberals and conservatives in their ranks. For instance, civil rights activists and southern segregationists were largely democrats. And major Civil Rights legislation of the period was all passed with Republican support despite the fact that it was authored by Democrats.

And most of all, there was no disagreement on the basic facts in our news media – which was confined to three networks ABC, NBC and CBS – whose reporters all adhered to a universal code of journalistic ethics that dictated the rules of objective reportage. Today the proliferation of propaganda outlets committed to promoting a “news” product determined by political ideology rather than fact based reportage, where the very distinction between reportage and opinion has been obscured, coupled with the internet where there are no journalistic standards at all in much of what is posted as “news,” our public discourse has been reduced to a tower of babble.

In such a confusing information environment many citizens cannot distinguish fact from fiction and thus choose the narrative of events that appeals to their prejudices or desires. This fractured view of reality promotes tribalist divisions among the populace. And when a demagogue like Devious Donald Trump tells his tribe that honest journalists, such as was envisioned by the founders who enshrined a free press in the Constitution because they considered it essential to a democratic society based on the rule of law, are their “enemies,” these divisions can threaten the stability, or survival, of our constitutional democracy.

This is what Americans are confronted with as I write, and whether a society thus divided can hang together is the paramount question that confronts us in this moment. And, deprived of the prescience of seers, or the heroic optimism of those who walk by faith, the future looks problematic to me.

***************

 

Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

1/8/20

 

 

 

On Dirty Donald’s Letter to Madam Speaker

Posted in Uncategorized on January 8, 2020 by playthell
In Speaker Pelosi The Donald has met the Woman he can’t Dismiss

All Malignant Narcissism and Paranoia

Donald J. Trump the accidental 45th President of the United States, whose candidacy was boosted by covert Russian activities, leading many astute observers to suspect that he may be a “Moscow mole,” says that he penned his letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “for history.” However, like most things outside of real estate, Devious Donald is clueless. What he does not understand is that future historians, far removed from the partisan passions of this moment and subject to rigorous peer review, will consult a wide variety of evidentiary sources.

First among these will be the great reporters at mainstream journalistic institutions who won Pulitzer Prizes for their reporting on the Trump presidency and impeachment. Ironically, the very people that Trump routinely demonizes and dismisses as “fake news” will be a primary source of evidence for historians who will delineate Donnie’s dirty deeds, define his character, and shape his image in our history books for America’s posterity.

The historians will also take into account the observations of contemporary scholars, as well the copious records and internal memoranda of the Trump Administration which, although concealed now, will then be public records. The historians will surely give great importance to the analysis of Psychiatrists and Psychologist on the state of the president’s mental health, and all of these sources will determine how they view Trump’s “Letter for History.” If ever there was a situation where the warning “be careful what you wish for” applied: This is it!

There are certain things about this poison pen letter that seems to me beyond question, none of it flattering to Trump. It is a propaganda instrument, and although it expresses Trump’s true feelings he is too illiterate to have written it. It is clearly the product of a sick mind, which speaks to its authenticity. And although the exact nature of Devious Donald’s illness has been diagnosed, the fear of litigation has restrained the nation’s great journalistic institutions from referencing the psychiatric profile developed by the 27 doctors that put together the “Duty to Warn” document, alerting the nation to the fact that we have elected a President who is afflicted with a serious psycho-pathology. The assessments of future historians however, will not be restrained by such considerations.

Donald Trump’s letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi supplies abundant evidence to support the diagnosis of the mental health professionals; it is an indispensable road map for exploring the twisted mind of the man who “wrote” it. The doctors warned that the nature of Trump’s pathology posed a clear and present danger to our nation. They diagnosed his condition as “Malignant Narcissism and Paranoia;” the same diagnosis of Adolph Hitler adopted by the US Office of Strategic Services – forerunner to the CIA – during World War II.

Hitler’s diagnosis was based on a psychiatric profile developed by the distinguished German psycho-analyst Eric Fromm, under a contract from the OSS, when Fromm was a refugee from German Fascism residing in the USA. This begs the question: If such psychiatric profiling was valid for a leader who posed a danger to our national existence during World War II, why not now when diagnostic tools and methods are a 70 years advanced?

Since the Duty to Warn analysis was published, it has been endorsed by over 70, 000 Psychiatrists and Psychologists. Among their number are some of the most distinguished scholars and clinicians in the field. However due to the “Goldwater Rule,” which was adopted by the American Psychological Association in response to a suit from Republican backers of Senator Barry Goldwater, mainstream media organizations shy away from citing the conclusions in “Duty to Warn.”

Goldwater’s supporters claimed that his bid for the presidency was quashed by Lyndon Johnson largely because of a published psychiatric profile of Goldwater by a group of Psychiatrist who warned that his cavalier attitude toward nuclear war posed a danger to the world. Their suit argued that since none of the doctors had personally examined Goldwater, it was unethical for them to offer an opinion of his mental state which cost him the presidency.

The APA bowed to the attacks of Goldwater’s supporters and ruled that it is “unethical and unprofessional” conduct for a member of their association to offer a diagnosis of someone they have not “personally examined,” and vowed to sin no more; prohibiting psychiatrists from offering such opinions in the future. This ban became popularly known as “The Goldwater Rule.”

However, the Psychiatrists who have signed the “Duty to Warn” analysis have dismissed this restriction. Their rejection rests on two main arguments: The Goldwater Rule is based upon political expedience not science, and observing Dangerous Donald’s behavior in the public arena as a political actor is far more important method of assessing his character and motivations than having him on a couch in their office. For as anybody who has ever been in therapy knows, you can lie to a therapist during interviews, but actions speak far louder than words…it is deeds that paint the truer portrait of who we are.

I would go even further and argue that the entire factual basis of the Republican claims regarding Senator Goldwater’s defeat is a fiction, conjured up by his apologists to explain away his embarrassing rejection at the polls. Any objective examination of the historical record will clearly show that Senator Goldwater was out of touch with the electorate on a variety of critical issues, and one could persuasively argue the his promise to repeal Social Security was far more important to his devastating defeat.

Lyndon Johnson won in a real landslide election – not the fake “Electoral College landslide” that Republican Congressman and shameless Trumpanzee shill Jim Jordan claims for Don tha Con. In the 1964 Presidential election Lyndon Johnson won 44 of 50 states with 61% of the popular vote and 486 Electoral College votes compared to a mere 52 votes for Senator Goldwater. It was the largest margin of victory in a presidential election since 1820, 144 years before!

By contrast, Trump lost the popular election by almost three million votes and stumbled into the presidency with a mere 77 thousand votes spread over three big Midwestern states which gave him a majority in the Electoral College of 304 to 227 over Hillary Clinton, a margin of 77 votes. When we consider that President Johnson defeated Senator Goldwater by a margin of 434 Electoral votes, it is painfully obvious how deluded Trump’s insistence that he won by a “historic” landslide is.

When we add the claim of James Clapper, who was head of National Intelligence at the time, that Russian intelligence agencies posted 157 million disinformation messages designed to help Trump and hurt Hillary on a variety of internet platforms, the legitimacy of Trump’s election is called into question. That’s why Congressman John Lewis refused to attend the inauguration of Devious Donald – which many Americans, this writer among them, considered a day of infamy for our nation when we installed a Moscow Candidate in the Oval Office – and women staged a massive demonstration in Washington.

This skepticism about his legitimacy is the paramount reason why Trump still denies the magnitude of Russian interference in our election, despite the conclusion of all 17 US intelligence agencies that it happened. He continues to deny this fact even after the exhaustive Muller Investigation, which in a rigorously detailed report of several hundred pages not only identified the exact units of Russian military intelligence that carried out the pro-Trump cyber-attack, but even issued indictments for specific individuals who directed it. In his frenzied fight for legitimacy, Devious Donald has gone to absurd lengths to explain his dramatic trouncing in the popular election – even making insane claims that “millions of illegal immigrants voted for Hillary.”

Yet in three years, with all of the investigative powers of the American government, Trump has produced no evidence for his fantastic claim. His deranged lies were not confined to this travesty; Don tha Con continues to insist that his inauguration was the most largely attended in American history; even dismissing the photographic evidence provided by the US Parks Service clearly showing that the crowds at President Barack Obama’s inaugural were far larger! It was these claims, along with Trump’s grandiose declarations that “Only I can solve the nations problems” – a claim often made by deluded autocrats like the 20th century Fascists Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler – that sounded the alarm for mental health professionals.

Alas the symptoms of their diagnosis – Malignant Narcissism and Paranoia – are clearly evident in Trump’s letter to the Speaker of the house. Grandiose delusions of self-importance; conflating the interest and destiny of the nation with his own; fact free revisionist history that support his claims of victimhood; inability to express contrition; compulsive lying to get his way; lack of empathy; hysterical feelings of paranoia; are everywhere on display in Trump’s twisted missive to the Speaker.

They are so pervasive we can clearly identify several of these pathologies in the opening passage. The pathological lying; dangerous denial of reality; paranoid sense of victimhood; lack of contrition; are prominently displayed. Yet this is the high point of the diatribe…it goes down hill from here:

“I write to express my strongest and most powerful protest against the partisan impeachment crusade being pursued by the Democrats in the House of Representatives. This impeachment represents an unprecedented and unconstitutional abuse of power by Democrat Lawmakers unequaled in nearly two and a half centuries of American legislative history. The Articles of Impeachment introduced by the House Judiciary Committee are not recognizable under any standard of Constitutional theory, interpretation, or jurisprudence. They include no crimes, no misdemeanors, and no offenses whatsoever. You have cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment!”

From the most casual reading of this tempestuous tirade two things are obvious: it is far to literate and thoughtful to have been composed by Donnie Dimwit so it was cobbled together by a committee subject to his approval. And it was written as a propaganda screed designed to becloud the real issues and create mass confusion; a smokescreen allowing the Senate to just let Trump walk away in a fog of legal Mumbo Jumbo. There is no other rational explanation for making this putrid letter public.

Banking on their ignorance, anger and irrational cult like devotion to Dirty Donald, the Republicans think they can sell their base any kind of bogus tawdry tale. Furthermore, if one does not have an understanding of what the Constitution mandates, much of the legal polemics sound like unfathomable babble. Unable to distinguish constitutional fact from fiction, they seek refuge in their tribe. The strategy of Devious Donald’s letter mirrors his approach to politics in general; an approach which prizes the “Big Lie” axiom of Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda for the Third Reich:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the state can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

************

“To attract people, to win over people to that which I have realised as being true, that is called propaganda…Success is the important thing. Propaganda…is not supposed to be lovely or theoretically correct. I do not care if I give wonderful, aesthetically elegant speeches, or speak so that women cry. The point of a political speech is to persuade people of what we think right…We do not want to be a movement of a few straw brains, but rather a movement that can conquer the broad masses. Propaganda should be popular, not intellectually pleasing. It is not the task of propaganda to discover intellectual truths. Those are found in other circumstances…”

One need not be a great thinker in order to recognize the themes laid out by Dr. Goebbels to win the allegiance of the untutored mob, prominently displayed in the in the strategy and political practice of Dirty Donald and the timid automatons in the GOP. All Republican elected officials are terrified of the control Don Tha Con exercises over the “low information” white voters that make up the “Republican Base,” whom he can inflame against them whenever they fail to rigidly adhere to the Trumpist line; no matter if his whacky pronouncements bear any resemblance to objective reality or not.

Like those who flocked to Hitler, Trump’s most passionate acolytes are disillusioned white workers, many of whom are evangelical protestants. Powerless and economically insecure, panicked over the erosion of their “white privilege,” they are convinced that their problems are caused by immigrants, non-whites, traditional elites, and non-Christian elements in the population. And these sordid sad sacks, these pitiful plebes, haven’t a clue that they are being played; that they are the storm troopers advancing the interests of the most reactionary anti-worker faction of the plutocrats!

Hence in their eyes the liberal intellectual elite, Hispanics, black folks; Muslims, Jews, homosexuals etc – their objective allies – are viewed as the enemy. That’s why blatant White Nationalism and the illusion of a return to a golden age – a delusion of grandeur common to all nationalist movements – is so effective in winning them over. To be effective all mass movements must have a power packed slogan that mirrors the hopes and dreams of the disillusioned masses and moves them to action. Trump achieves this with “MAGA: Make America Great Again!” This slogan is so broad and all embracing it can be invested with specific content that make it mean whatever the hysterical Trumpanzees who pack his rallies are told it means.

A fundamental part of Trump’s approach to truth is to quickly accuse his adversaries of the crimes he are guilty of! And sadly, listening to the impeachment debate, it seems as if the GOP – Grand Obstructionist Party – has whole heartedly adopted this Trump-Goebbles strategy of persistently obfuscating truth with blatant lies. This is why the Trump presidency is called a “post fact period,” an attempt to destroy the belief in “objective truth” for millions of Americans; a standard practice of all authoritarian dictators and wannabe autocrats.

From the outset we can see that obfuscation of objective truth is the paramount objective of this poison pen diatribe, which Dumb Donald believes is a grand historical document of state. It is as if Dirty Donald and his co-conspirators in the Grand Obstructionists Party are referencing Dr. Goebbel’s dogma the way Catholics adhere to the pronouncements of the pope! And Devious Donald’s putrid, paranoid, self-aggrandizing tirade, posing as a historical pronouncement worthy of a great statesman, is compelling evidence that that suspicion is the truth of the matter.

*************

Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

1/7/20

Impeach Treacherous Treasonous Trump Now!

Posted in Uncategorized on September 29, 2019 by playthell
Devious Donald ” The Moscow Candidate” and his Handler

Kick Dirty Donald’s Corrupt Cakes to the Curb!

Like the wise seasoned political pro and master strategist that she is, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has orchestrated the impeachment process to remove Dastardly Don from office like a grand Maestro conducting a complex symphony of many movements. Politically astute voters and pundits committed to preserving constitutional democracy in America, this writer prominently among them, have been calling for Dirty Donnie’s impeachment for a while now. We thought it was time to kick him to the curb when he repeatedly violated his oath to “defend the Constitution,” and enforce the laws of the land.

Devious Donald’s cavaleir disregard for law and established custom, when he began violating the Emoluments clause prohibiting US presidents from accepting payments from foreign governments through his various businesses; refusing to take measures to defend the US electoral system against Russian cyber attacks; obstructing justice by firing Jim Comey, and using his bully pulpit to repeatedly attack the American press as “Enemies of the people” for carrying out their constitutionally mandated duty to serve as the people’s watch dog over those we elect to positions of power.

Thomas Jefferson, arguably the most thoughtful of the Founding Fathers, warned that “a democracy cannot work with an ignorant electorate.”  Hence he viewed creating an informed citizenry to be at the heart of their project of building a functional constitutional republic of self-governing people that could stand the test of time.  Tis belief no doubt inspired Jefferson’s declaration that, if given a choice between “a free press and no government, or a government and no free press,” He would choose “A free press and no government!”    Nothing so dramatically exposes how far Dirty Donald has wandered from the spirit of governance envisioned by the architects of the American Republic as his assault on our free press.

These are times that conjure up Benjamin Fraknlin’s statement upon the drafting of the US Constitution in Philadelphia, his home town, in the hot dog’s days of August 1787: “Gentleman you have got yourselves a republic…if you can keep it.” Trump’s scurrilous and unconstitutional attack against our free press – a fundamental pillar of American democracy would have been odious in any case, but to call them enemies while repeatedly praising Vladimir Putin, whom all 17 US intelligence agencies say ordered the subversion of our election to help Dirty Don tha Con become president, is treasonous!

And Trump has been openly accused of Treason by former Governor Weld, and the other pretenders to the Republican presidency.  The simple fact that the heads of US intelligence agencies all say that they have never been tasked with either developing an assessment of the extent to which Russian interference determined the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, nor to develop a plan to counteract such Russian interference in the future, provides ample grounds for the charge of treason.

It does not require a deep knowledge of US Constitutional law to recognize treason when we see it. Treason is clearly defined in the Constitution as “giving aid and comfort to an enemy with whom the nation is at war.” All one need understand is the President is first and foremost our Commander-In-Chief, entrusted with the responsibility of defending this nation against foreign enemies, and Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States has failed to do this. The only possible refutation to the verdict of treason is to argue that Cyber-Warfare is not really war.

I would argue that such a position is the acme of absurdities! Cyber-warfare is an extension of the technological arsenal in the war making arsenal of nations.  And it is no exaggeration to say that Cyber-attacks are rapidly becoming the most powerful of our weapons; given the diverse capabilities to inflict harm on the enemy it provides. Alas, cyber-warfare can not only subvert elections, it can jam communications systems, bring down electrical grids, freeze banking functions, and threatens to break into nuclear weapons system and fire the nuclear nuclear weapons of another nation.

Indeed, Cyber-Warfare is not only real war, it is rapidly becoming the most dangerous form of war! And Devious Donald, our commander-In-Chief, has not only refused to defend the nation against Russian Cyber-War attack, but continues to deny that it even happened despite mountains of detailed evidence presented in the Mueller report, and has not only defended Putin, even publicly taking his word over his own intelligence agencies, but has met with him in private for over an hour with no American observers present in Oslo, and told Russian diplomats in the Oval Office after firing FBI Director Jame Comey, who was the chief investigator into the Russian affair, that their intrusion into our election was no biggie because the US does it too!

Despite the fact that Treasonous Trump’s statement was true: It is not the business of American president’s to give aid and comfort to an enemy who gas committed and act of war against the nation he is sworn to defend!  This Scurrilous act is part of the reason why Nancy Pelosi, leader of the House of Representatives – upon whose shoulders the Constitution places the awesome weight of removing a duly elected American President from office – finally ordered the commencement of a formal impeachment inquiry.

The Speaker’s caution had begun to seem  like inexplicbale foot dragging to those of us who feel the case for impeaching Don tha Con had long been made.   The Specame around to empowering six committees in the House to conduct investigations to provide evidence for drafting Articles of Impeachment. Although she has been slow getting there – albeit wisely proceeding with caution – it is better LATE THAN NEVER!

Nancy Pelosi: Speaker of the House

Argueably the Most Effective Speaker Ever

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Witness Nancy Pelosi’s Evolution on the Impeachment Issue

 

ABC News Coverage of Speaker Pelosi’s Announcement of
Impeachment Inquiry

 

Nancy Pelosi: “Barr Has Gone Rogue!”

See CNN

 

Republican Presidential Challengers:

ACCUSE TRUMP OF TREASON!

 

Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

9/29/ 2019

Jester and Queen!

Posted in Uncategorized on June 7, 2019 by playthell
Queen Elizabeth and The Great Pretender

Donnie Dimwit and Melanie Mannequin Visit Buckingham Palace!

It was amusing to witness the mobbed up New York real estate hustler and Moscow Candidate Donald Trump, who accidentally became US President, interacting with the Queen of England in the hallowed Halls of her palace, where the artifacts of an empire on which “the sun never set” are everywhere on display. Trump, who lived in his own version of a castle in the sky with his air head side piece Melania the Manequin, before taking up residence in the White House, harbors an imperial view of his presidency which more closely resembles the absolute rule of Nicholas II, the last of the Russian Romanov’s, than the Constitutional monarchy presided over by Queen Elizabeth II.

For the Queen reigns but dose not rule over the realm, the executive power of government resides in the hands of Theresa May, the Prime Minister. Despotic Donald, on the other hand, wishes to reign and rule over the American people without opposition, when in fact he is our servant. In our democratic republic the Constitution invests all power in the citizenry, we the people, and those who govern can do so only with our consent; as was so eloquently stated in the Declaration of Independence, a foundational document composed by Thomas Jefferson -arguably the most enlightened of the “Founders” – that precedes the Constitution and lays out the philosophical ideals upon which the American republic is founded. Trump, an incompetent ignoramus whose training and temperament totally unsuits him for the US presidency, constantly attacks the very pillars of American democracy. He has attacked the Courts, the opposition party in Congress, and denounced the free press as “the enemy of the people!”

Hatred of the press is a normal reaction for a shameless charlatan and compulsive liar, whom fact checkers at the Washington Post and Toronto Star have cataloged more than 10, 000 lies which have issued from his lips. His lies and self-aggrandizing rhetoric so alarmed the psychiatric community they felt a “duty to warn” the nation that our president, the most powerful man in the world who possess the launch codes to America’s Doomsday nuclear arsenal, is mentally ill and poses a grave danger to the fate of the world!

An astonishing 70, 000 psychiatrists and psychologist have signed a diagnosis of “Malignant Narcissism and Paranoia” based on his behavior in the public arena. Alas, the symptoms of these illnesses are everywhere apparent in Devious Donald’s grandiose claims for his questionable achievements as a businessman and President, his hyper-sensitivity to any criticism, and his constant claims that phantom conspirators in “the Deep State” are out to get him.

Given the diligence of British intelligence services it is a sure bet that the Queen was thoroughly briefed on every aspect of “The Donald’s” character flaws. After all, she has the highest confidence in her intelligence agencies and is not plagued by paranoid delusions that they are engaged in an effort to “sabotage” and “bring her down.” Hence the queen devised a strategy of schooling the American president without triggering his insecurities.

In a fascinating display of the diplomatic skill for which the British are world famous she used the occasion of her formal speech, and a gift of the historic “Atlantic Charter,” a joint declaration issued by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin Delanor Roosevelt from the deck of a battleship out in the Atlantic Ocean 1n 1941, amid the chaos of World War II, which set forth a vision for the Post War world that would serve to prevent a repeat of the tragic global conflagrations that had devastated the lives of millions twice within a generation.

Churchill and Roosevelt Issue Atlantic Charter

Putting Forth a Racist Vision of the Post War World

In her Banquet speech the Queen reminded Donnie Dimwit that defeating the German Nazi’s and their fascist allies in Italy and Japan required close cooperation between the nations who opposed them. Speaking of British US cooperation in the complex operation on D-Day, directed by the American general Dwight David Eisenhower, which would be celebrated in a couple of days, she recalled:

“As Supreme Allied Commander, he had ultimate responsibility for the execution of the Normandy landings. In his headquarters in St James’s Square – not far from Buckingham Palace – British and American officers worked closely together to plan the freedom of a continent, and it would be no exaggeration to say that millions of lives depended on their common endeavour.”

Then she turned her attention to the importance of the international institutions that were established in the post World War II period to prevent another World War issuing from Europe, an arrangement that has prevented a global war for 70 years:

“As we face the new challenges of the Twenty First Century, the anniversary of D-Day reminds us of all that our countries have achieved together. After the shared sacrifices of the Second World War, Britain and the United States worked with other allies to build an assembly of international institutions, to ensure that the horrors of conflict would never be repeated. While the world has changed, we are forever mindful of the original purpose of these structures: nations working together to safeguard a hard won peace.”

To reinforce the theme of Anglo-American cooperation the Queen emphasized the familial ties between Brits and Americans:
“Of course, it is not only our security which unites us; but our strong cultural links and shared heritage. Every year, there are almost four million visits by Americans to the United Kingdom, with a great number claiming British descent. And with your own Scottish ancestry, Mr President, you too have a particular connection to this country.”
Then she gave The Donald a copy of the Atlantic Charter to study.

The Queen Schools The Donald

Droppin Science  at Buckingham Palace

However, after pondering the Queen’s emphasis on their blood ties, and perusing the document, I am struck by how Eurocentric it’s perspective is, which is another way of saying the world as white folks in the West saw it. Viewed from a Third World perspective – Africa, Asia and Latin America – much of Churchill’s and Roosevelt’s declaration’s grand gluttonous phrases are hypocritical blather!

This underscores the extent to which even many highly educated white folks have failed to come to grips with their actual history, and thus have a distorted view of reality. Indeed, much of the conflict in the world today derives from a failure of white folks to learn the lessons of their history, despite all the time, effort and money they have expended on writing and teaching it. There is a simple explanation for this failure: In order to learn from history you must tell the truth!

Alas, the Atlantic Charter is pregnant with absurdities based upon racist assumptions. A telling case in point is the following assertion. Article three of the declaration says of the British and American leaders: “they respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them.” Given the fact that virtually all the countries in Africa and Asia, the majority of mankind, was living under the colonial domination of the very European nations that made up “the grand western alliance” that had helped to defeat the Nazi’s.

Not only is the role of the Western Alliance in the victory over fascist Germany greatly exaggerated, as Soviet Russia played the major role in the victory over German fascism with the US suffering 400,000 deaths and the Russians 27 million, but millions of non-white peoples in their colonies were denied by force of arms the very rights and freedoms celebrated in the Atlantic Charter. This inconvenient fact makes their claims prima faice absurd! This hypocrisy was heightened by the fact that the British were the largest colonial oppressors on earth, and the United States of America was born in a bloody anti-colonial revolt against the British imperialist!

Furthermore, by his own admission, Adolph Hitler had adopted his master race theories from the American Eugenicist Madison Grant, Devious Donald’s fellow New Yorker and Columbia University graduate, after reading Grant’s influential racist tome “The Passing of the Great Race.” And Hitler patterned his racist immigration policies on the US National Origins Act, which was largely inspired by the Eugenicists arguments of Grant and created the border patrol on the Mexican border; allotted 86.5% of the slots to immigrants from western and northern Europe; 2.5% from all of Africa, the Middle East and Pacific islands; Chinese and Japanese were excluded, and the rest came from the Americas.

Hitler roundly praised this racist policy in his personal manifesto Mein Kemp. And Afro-Americans were still living under laws based on the Master Race thesis that served as the blueprint for Nazi laws governing the treatment of German Jews. Only in a world where white supremacy was viewed as the norm could the pious preachments of the Atlantic Charter make sense. Yet it is a pretty sure bet that even if Dumb Donald actually read the Charter, he would never arrive at this understanding of it. He is far too ignorant of history and world politics to recognize the contradictions. If most of the enlightened thought leaders in the western world fail to recognize this paradox, there is no chance that Donnie Dimwit will get it.

In any case Dumb Donald’s delusions of grandeur prevented him from from recognizing some things that should be obvious. For instance his misconception of the Trump family as American royalty led him to the pretentious suggestion that his children, who were not even invited to the ball but crashed it at American taxpayer’s expense, formally meet with the Children of the British royals for a “Next Generation” palaver, presumably to plot the future world order. However the royals – who were forced by political circumstance to be nice to the Trumps – probably share my view of them as white American trash with money; the vulgar “noveau riche.”

One need only study the body language and facial expression in a photo of Prince Harry escorting Princess wannabe Ivanka, to recognize that he resembles a carnival performer who was forced to hold his nose while he kissed a pig because it was part of the act. And the fact that the Trump family portrait from Buckingham Palace was posed in front of a sign that conspicuously prohibited “taking pictures” represents the acme of clueless absurdities.

Prince Harry and Ivanka

An Unpleasant Function of State
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Trump’s Children Posing in No Photo Zone

Bumbling in Buckingham

However, we may be thankful that the scripts provided Donald the Clown were written on a level that he could comfortably handle, and he managed to muster up sufficient self-discipline to stay on script and not go off on an embarrassing ab lib. Yet it is hard to imagine that given his churlish remarks about the Mayor of London, and his impromptu rants about the American singer/actress Bett Midler, that punctuated The Donald’s sojourn on her Sceptered Isle, the Queen could see this jester as anything but a pretentious fool, a doophus dickhead who possessed none of the earthy wisdom exhibited by Court Jesters of yore.

Suffering a Pretentious Fool Gladly

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Watch the Queen’s Speech

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
June 7, 2019

The Afro/Modernist Art of Ademola

Posted in Ademola at Gallery, Uncategorized with tags , on April 25, 2019 by playthell

Ademola: The Master with his Creation

Neo-African Aesthetic Alchemy from the Black Atlantic World

Ademola Olugbefola is a major Afro-American artist who was a leading figure in the evolution of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960’s, which means that he has been about the business of defining a black aesthetic in the visual arts for the past half century. The BAM grew out of the black liberation struggle that blossomed during the mid-twentieth century, just as the African liberation movements began to triumph, overthrowing the system of European colonialism on the continent.

The Afro-American freedom Movement was inspired by events in Africa, which we supported. It was a revelation to see brilliant Africans on television speaking at the United nations, after having been programmed for generations by a racist white supremacist education system and mass communication apparatus, especially the Tarzan movies, to loathe Africans as an embarrassment. By virtue of the emergence of independent African nations on the world stage, courted by the US government in order to persuade them to join the western capitalist bloc in the cold war against the communist nations, Africa had now become a source of great pride.

While the great Civil rights movement was solely focused on gaining full equality for Afro-Americans under constitutional law, a fundamental requirement for blacks to have any chance of dramatic progress after centuries of forced inequality by government policies, others branched out and tackled complex cultural questions regarding literature, music and the visual arts. The paramount concerns of these cultural warriors was who are we? Where did we come from? What were we before we were forced to become Americans by capture and enslavement? And how can we recapture some of what we once were?

The result of these explorations led to an explosion of Afrocentric dress and hair styles among “culturally conscious” Afro-Americans and inspired a tsunami of activity on the part of intellectuals and artists. Black poets sang panegyrics to the beauty of blackness, black Jazz musicians wrote compositions such as Art Blakey’s “Message From Kenya,” and John Coltrane’s “Africa Brass.” And we heard Dizzy Gellespie’s “Night in Tunisia” through different ears. The great drummer and composer Max Roach, along with his beautiful Afro crowned wife Abbey Lincoln – a singer/actress – had joined with Ronnie and Cecil Braithwaite to organize the African Jazz Art Society, which launched the Black Arts Movement in 1958 that came to full bloom during the 1960’s.

Max and Abby, the first family of the “Black Cultural Revolution” were everywhere, making politically conscious music like the album:”We Insist! Freedom Now,”which became, for radical political activists, the sound track of “The Revolution.” The idea of a real armed revolution in the US may sound far out to contemporary readers, but back then in the fires of struggle, it seemed all too real. It was real enough for some people to give up their freedom and others their lives. Hence it was in this turbulent cauldron of struggle and hope, that the art of Ademola was born. A quintessential New Yorker, he was right in the midst of this cultural and political turmoil.

Having a deep interest in fashion and theater set design, Ademola was among the first of the visual artists to heed the call to create a modern art based on a Black aesthetic philosophy derived from their study of traditional African art.  Thus they were mining the same tradition that  had inspired the major creative figures in the rise of modern western art: Picasso, Georges Braque, Salvador Dali, et al.  (for a deeper discussion of this see the discussion with Ademola and this writer on the video below this essay)   It was this deep and abiding interest that led him to join with a band of fellow black artists and create the Weusi Academy.

Among these artistic visionaries was the Master Sculptor Painter Otto Neals, Thomas “Taiwo” Duval, a painter and master African drummer; Abdul Aiziz, Master Print Maker and painter; Abdul Rachman, an innovative painter who produced works of such original conception, complexity of design and bold use of colors that Ademola coined a term for it: “Epic Symbolism.” Recently Otto Neals had a retrospective exhibition of his sculpture mounted in the beautiful galleries of Kenkelba House. It was a sensation! It set new standards of achievement for future sculptors to strive for. There were other gifted artists who joined, or were greatly influenced by the innovative works of the Weusi Academy artist, that are too numerous to account for here.

On Saturday April 14th, Ademola opened a solo show at the X Gallery in Harlem titled “Past and Present Mixed Media.” Located on Malcolm X Boulevard at 118th Street, and named in his honor, the gallery has presented a series of unique exhibitions under the able direction of its Founder and Curator Lisa DuBois. An outstanding photographic artist in her own right – many of her works are fine art – Lisa’s camera lens is an all-seeing eye that has captured some of the most poignant images of our time in the US and abroad. Hence she is an excellent person to curate a show such as this, for a great part of her mission is the bring the works of under-represented artist of talent to the public.

Lisa DuBois

Artist, Visionary and Curator Of  X Gallery

However, this concern does not include the present artist, as Ademola’s oeuvre has been reviewed, celebrated and critiqued in a wide variety of books, catalogs, periodicals, videos, and broadcast media. The pieces in the Gallery’s exhibit were selected from Ademola’s many works over more than half a century. They include objects de art that have appeared in many museums and galleries across the US and abroad, as well as a new selection of minature abstract landscapes.

A great fan of dance, the exhibition also includes some of Ademola’s abstract renderings of dance movements, which one viewer who identified herself as a professor of dance said inspired her to dance! The Exhibition will remain on display until April 28.

Ademola Receives an Award from X Gallery

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The Alchemist In His Studio

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Mask of the Poro Society

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Confrontation!

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In the Realm of Ancestral Spirits

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Musicians Making the Harvest Grow

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Cosmic Graffiti

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Ile Ife!  Home of the Gods

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The Mystery of Ifa 

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The Heliocentric Worlds Of Sun Ra

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Astral Travelling

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Spirit Dance

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Ocha! The Evidence of Things Unseen

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The Grand Opening at X Galleries

Lisa Directing the Show

Artist and Curator a Fine collaboration

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It Was A Diverse New York Artsy Crowd

Like this Dancer/Artist

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It Was a Lively Crowd!

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Freedom Day!

Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln

 

To watch Ademola discuss his Art with Playthell Click on Link

This is a multi-part discourse follow the lables

 

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Text and Photographs by: Playthell G. Benjamin
Video by: The inimitable Kwame Barthwaite
Harlem, New York
April 25, 2019

Politics Make Strange Bedfellows!

Posted in Uncategorized on February 25, 2018 by playthell

J. Edgar Hoover, Founding Director of the FBI

On Trump, the FBI and Me

Andrew McCabe, the Deputy Director of the FBI, has been fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, after after quitting his post at the agency.  A seasoned law enforcement professional who has honorably served the nation for over 20 years, McCabe was drummed out of office by the reckless and vulgar attacks of Donald Trump, the wanna-be dictator who presently occupies the Oval Office.

On the face of it, there is a rotting in the body politic when a megalomaniacal compulsive liar, who has spent his life dealing with mobbed up companies in the New York construction racket, and laundering dirty Russian money, can drive a dedicated lawman who has led the fight against dangerous criminals and terrorists out of his post.

There is no greater indication that we are living in fantastical times than the fact that I feel compelled to defend the FBI against the attacks of the President. Furthermore, I am willing to go about this work in concert with odious characters who in normal times I would have nothing to do with.  Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows.  Alas, I approach this alliance like a carnival performer who is compelled to hold his nose and kiss a skunk because the act must go on.

My views on the Federal Bureau of Investigation has varied radically over the years. As a boy I listened to thrilling stories about the brave FBI who protected us from the evil Communist that denounced God and were trying to enslave us.  My admiration and respect increased as I was brainwashed by propagandistic movies like “I Was a Communist for the FBI,” where Frank Lovejoy played an earnest, incorruptible, undercover FBI agent who suffered the scorn of his family and friends that thought he had joined the evil Communist Party.  Then came Elliot Ness and The Untouchables, the fearless G-Men shooting it out with machine guns against the bad guys.  But that was the 1950’s, during the Red Scare of the McCarthy Era, the height of the Cold War when Communist conspiracies were believed to be unfolding everywhere.

However, during the tumultuous Sixties I developed a very different view of the FBI, when I became a victim of the FBI’s Counter-Intelligence Program; the notorious Co-In-Tel-Pro.  After having witnessed contempt for the law by racist white judges in Florida, and the lingering racist etiquette in the military despite efforts to stamp it out, observing the American nuclear strike force inside Central Security Control where the decision to launch nuclear weapons is made, and confronting the terrible plight of the plains Indians who lived on a reservation located near the base like a fort in the old west, I became radicalized.

These experiences made me a confused angry young man who wanted to bring about radical change in American society quickly.  It was during this period that I fell in league with a group of young Marxist revolutionaries who convinced me they had the blueprint for building a revolution that would bring justice to the poor and oppressed in America. Most of our elder tutors in radical politics were former communist who had joined the party because they were the only political party in the US that supported them in militant opposition against institutionalized white supremacy in the US -something the Democrats nor the Republicans had the inclination to do.   And they quit the CP when they abandoned their position on supporting the birth of a “Negro Nation” in the southern black belt.  These veterans of the militant anti-racist movement had suffered the anti-democratic attacks of the McCarthy era, and they presented a very different portrait of the FBI.

As I went on to engage in many militant struggles against race and class oppression as a founding member of the Revolutionary Action Movement aka RAM, I became a subject of interest to the FBI and their Co-IN-Tel-Pro files on RAM fill several volumes.  We assumed that we were being spied on by the FBI, but it was only after the Church Committee Hearings, the release of Co-In-Tel-Pro files under the Freedom of Information Act, and the publication of the pathbreaking study “Racial Matters: The FBI Secret File on Black America,” by historian Kenneth O’Reilly that I recognized the extent of FBI surveillance and covert action dirty tricks employed to disrupt our struggle against racist oppression, which we believed was justified by “any means necessary” as Malcolm X had declared. A principle which we knew white Americans passionately adhered to when their own freedom was involved.

The fact that J. Edgar Hoover, who had been the FBI Director from its creation by Congress in 1935 – after his appointment by President Calvin Coolidge in 1924 to head the Bureau of Investigation, which preceded the FBI – was an avowed racist, meant that in his eyes all anti-racist struggles by Afro-Americans was subversive.  Hoover saw Dr. Martin Luther King, a brilliant and saintly apostle of non-violent “passive resistance,” as much a danger to National Security as armed revolutionary Maoist like RAM.

When I discovered that Hoover’s first covert action campaign was against Marcus Garvey – leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, a mass black nationalist movement in the 1920’s that advocated Black Pride, collective economics and repatriation to Africa – I decided the FBI was the avowed enemy of Black Liberation.  And I view Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ orders to the FBI to investigate “Extreme Black Identity Activist” aka “Black Lives Matter” today, as a resurrection of Hoover’s discredited strategy.

For all these reasons, and more, I am one of the least likely candidates to mount a defense of the FBI.   However, as is often the case in politics: There are no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests.  Hence, ever since I became conscious of the political forces arrayed against the progress of non-white and working-class Americans, the rise of a right-wing oligarchy that would nullify all the progressive laws that benefit disadvantaged Americans going back to the New Deal, I have fought to oppose it.

I believe the election of Donald Trump is paving the way for just such a development, aided by the unlimited corporate spending made possible by the Citizen’s United Decision, which is turning our popular democracy into a plutocracy where the rich can buy politicians that are shills who place their private interests above the public interest.  The recently passed tax bill is a dramatic instance of the Republicans rewarding their donors.

Furthermore, being the amoral avaricious narcissist that he is, I believe Trump would willingly collude with the Russians to achieve the pinnacle of power.  And he would think nothing of obstructing justice to hide his dirty deeds because he believes the end will justify the means.  And so, apparently, does the Republicans in Congress, who see in the Trump presidency a rare opportunity to finally get their backward agenda enacted into law.

This explains why the Republican Congress, whom the Founding Fathers invested with the power to check the abuse of executive authority, are conspiring with the President to obstruct justice. Hence the fate of our democracy may well rest upon the shoulders of Robert Mueller, the Special Prosecutor, who has the will and the power to force the Congress to act based upon the results of his investigation…or failing to act the Republicans will be swept from power by the Democrats in the next election.   This would be the beginning of the end of the Trump Presidency and their radical right-wing Republican agenda.

The FBI, our premiere investigative agency, is central to the success of Mueller’s mission. That’s why Trump is itching to fire Mueller, and has mounted a vigorous campaign to besmirch the reputation and thus discredit the FBI.    Since politics is the art of the possible, which often means choosing the lesser evil, I am compelled to take an uncompromising stand in defense of the FBI; despite the presence of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.  Sessions – who always strikes me as an unrepentant old school southern redneck right out of central casting – wishes to deploy FBI agents against “Extreme Black Identity Activist.  Yet, despite shades of Co-In-Tel- Pro the FBI remains, by far, the lesser evil when compared to a Trump autocracy.

 

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
February 10, 2018

Is Omorosa Trump’s Olivia Pope?

Posted in Uncategorized on December 24, 2017 by playthell

The Way they Were

Notes on Power, Privil ege, Sex and Race

The saga of Fat Donnie and Omorosa has burst upon the world stage with a bang.  Although We have seen this glamorous black woman hanging out with Donnie since his reality show days on The Apprentice, a hugely popular television show on NBC, where Omorosa became the star attraction among the contestants, her role in the Trump presidency propelled her to new heights in the real world.

Given the many pictures of them together all over the internet that suggest a secret intimacy, something more than meets the eye, it is unsurprising that many people wonder if we are not witnessing a real-life version of the hit ABC evening soap opera “Scandal,” in which Olivia Pope, a beautiful cunning Afro-American woman played by the ravishing Kerry Washington, captivates the white male US president, alienating his affections for his clueless white wife. Is life imitating art?

Well, maybe, but even if Devious Donnie and his chocolate sweetie are rubbin bellies, there are some sharp differences between the character, competence and experience of Omorosa Manigault and Olivia Pope.  Aside from the suggestion of a sexual scandal in their relationship with the President; the aura of sex and glamour that surrounds them; and their ruthless amoral approach to wielding power; Olivia and Omorosa have little in common.  A friend of mine, who is a successful show business entrepreneur that is a huge fan of Olivia Pope, and has interacted with Omorosa in a business setting, offers this assessment.  “These two women are light years apart in character and competence. Olivia is Queen of the Hill; she is running the whole show. Omorosa is a light-weight opportunistic bitch…just like her boss!”

First of all, Olivia is a brilliant and highly competent woman who is at the center of events in the White House, a big-time player.  Omorosa is an ornament, the black mascot whose role is to lure Afro-Americans to root for the Trump team.  The fact that 90% of Afro-American women voted for the Democrats in recent elections that were critical to Republicans, highlighted Omorosa’s irrelevance to Trump and the Republican Party’s black recruitment project.  And that’s because most black people regard her as little more than a slick ghetto hustler from hardscrabble Youngstown Ohio, looking out for numero uno.

Olivia Pope

Livin Large and in Charge

In this sense Omorosa has much more in common with Melania, a Euro-trash hustler and soft porn model from the impoverished Eastern European country of Slovenia, who may have been working as an illegal immigrant before she hooked the trick of a life time.  Neither of them are taken seriously by serious people – Melania is such a ditz she actually plagiarized Michelle Obama’s speeches twice!

Melania Strump

Euro-Trash as America’s First Lady

From all appearances the end came when the Republican princes and powers who counsel wanna-be King Donald convinced him that Omorosa is all blow and no go.   They presented unimpeachable evidence that she has not been effective in delivering the black vote, winning over black leadership, nor stimulating mass black love for the Great Leader who, by his own repeated declarations, is alone wise enough to save the nation.  In fact, just the opposite has happened. Fat Donald is despised in black communities in every section of the nation, and an energized Afro-American vote supplied the margin of victory in dramatic Democratic wins in Virginia and Alabama.  Once it became clear that Omorosa was useless, she got the same treatment that used toilet paper gets.

O Where is Her White Knight Now?

Trump’s Strumpet: Kicked to the Curb

Those with sources in the White House like Urban Radio White House reporter April Ryan, say Omorosa’s colleagues universally regard as ignorant and arrogant, with a permanent imperious attitude to boot. And beyond that nobody knew what her job description was; “Sister Girl” was all over the place.  So, there was much rejoicing amongst the white folks in the White House upon word of here unceremonious and abrupt departure.  Now she is playing the wronged, wounded, black woman who is pained over the way the Republicans are treating “My people…”

Well, from all the reactions I’ve witnessed from Afro-Americans, and I’ve seen a few – they are prominently displayed all over the internet – Omorosa fares no better than with her white co-workers in the White House.  Many long time Black Republicans have publicly accused her of being a “gatekeeper,” who used her position to block out more competent Afro-Americans -and they are legion – from Trump’s inner circle. She is widely regarded in the wider black community as a quisling and vulgar opportunist whose allegiance is dictated by expedience.  I’m reminded of a verse from “No Hiding Place,” an old hymn that was popular in the black community when I was a boy: “I went to the rock to hide my face / but the rock cried out no hiding place / O sinner man, there’s no hiding place down here.”

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Perusing photographs of Donald Trump and Omorosa Manigault together conjures up bitter memories from a shameful American past, where access to beautiful black women was regarded as the right of rich and powerful white men; a prerogative practiced by some of the most distinguished white men in American history, virtually all of them unabashed white supremacist.

We witnessed this practice after it accidentally spilled out into the open a couple of years ago when MS. V. Stiviano – a beautiful half black half Mexican lady – who was the clandestine concubine of Donald Sterling, owner the San Diego Clippers basketball franchise, put his racist hatred and penis envy of his black players on blast.  When she put his business in the streets he lost the franchise and his clueless white wife.

Beauty and the Beast

Donald Sterling and his Dusky Concubine

I have written an in-depth essay exploring the issues of race, class and ethnicity surrounding this affair (see: “Beauty and the Beast” at https://commentariesonthetimes.me/2014/05/16/on-racism-privilege-and-power/ )

Historically, racist white males were the most ardent at bedding beautiful black women, because it was a status symbol among their peers, the “good ol boys.”   It was part and parcel of the etiquette of white male supremacy.   However, like most of America’s barbaric history of white supremacy, this practice was banished from the public eye and relegated to the dustbin of US history.  I am aware of this tawdry tradition, which encompasses most of our national history, because I witnessed it growing up in Florida and I studied about it in scholarly texts.

Powerful white men of the political class who had black female lovers include George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Thaddeus Stevens and Strom Thurman.   Hence if Trump and Omorosa have ever been undercover lovers it would be nothing unusual in American history. The relentless, fevered, promotion of the white female as the most feminine, beautiful and sexually desirable woman on earth makes it hard for some whites to believe that a rich powerful white man would choose a black woman.

Prince Harry gets a pass – except from the White Nationalist crowd terrified of genetic annihilation – because his fiancée Megan Markel is not visibly black, although her mother is a dreadlock wearing Soul Sista and Queen Elizabeth described her future daughter-in-law as “exotic.”  But Megan would have been simply classified as “Negro” for most of my lifetime, and if she lived in the south during segregation as I did, she would have been subjected to every legal restraint that the blackest African Americans were subjected to because the Supreme Court refused to make a distinction between the legal status of “pure Negroes” and people of “mixed blood” when the issue was clearly raised in the 1896 Plessy v Ferguson decision.

I had neighbors when I was growing up in Florida that were whiter than Megan but were legally classified as “Negroes,” and so were some members of my family who moved to New York and Pennsylvania where they “passed” for white, which was illegal. In fact, Afro-Americans have a term to describe our folks who look like them: “Light, bright damned near white!’

Congressman Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania – the architect of Radical Reconstruction policies that secured the status of former slaves as free  people – is the only one of the powerful white men I listed above who was willing to marry his Afro-American lover, Lydia Hamilton Smith, who was of mixed blood but was considered a “colored woman.”  A divorcee with two sons by a previous marriage to a free black man, she was formally identified as his “housekeeper” during the 21 years they lived together 1847-1868.  But she was known to all their neighbors and friends as Steven’s “common law wife.”

In the biopic “Lincoln” we see Steven’s proposing marriage, but like Olivia Pope Lydia refused his proposal of marriage because she felt it would hurt the important work she wanted to see him accomplish. Lydia told him that she would rather have the passage of the 13th Amendment permanently abolishing slavery than a marriage certificate.  However, for the others their black concubines dare not hope to be honored by marriage. And this racial prohibition remained true even after they had children together.  Sally Hemmings had seven children for Thomas Jefferson, but she remained his slave, and her children became the property of Jefferson’s children by his white wife upon his death.

Strom Thurman, a Senator from South Carolina, who was the longest serving member upon his death, impregnated a black teenage maid that worked for his family.  They had a child with whom Thurman maintained a secret relationship even while he was leading the racist “Dixiecrat” movement to deny his daughter and her mother basic human rights.   Yet they never outed the old hypocrite, although many people in South Carolina knew. I first heard of her from a friend who was her classmate at South Carolina State, an all- black college, where a special room was set aside for Thurman’s secret visits to his daughter.   And his daughter, Essie Mae, published her account of their relationship after Thurman’s death.

Essie Mae

Strom’s Secret Black Daughter

Although Thurman spent his early political career as a Democrat, like virtually all the hardcore white racists in the Democratic Party, he switched to the Republican Party after Democratic President Lyndon navigated through Congress and signed the 1964 Omnibus Civil rights act and 1965, and he was much celebrated during his final days in Congress.  Largely as a result of the radical changes in American race relations brought about by this bill, white men in powerful political office can marry their chocolate lady loves.  Bill di Blasio, the Mayor of New York, Americans premiere city, the financial and cultural capitol of the world, has married his Black First Lady Chirlane.  Not so long ago this would have cost di Blasio the election, but he just won a second term.

The Mayor and First Lady Of New York
A Sunday Kind of Love

However, regarding the question that is the raison d’etre for this essay, the answer is no!  Even if Omorosa was sleeping with Fat Donnie, she is not his Olivia Pope, she has little in common with Pope. The nature of her overall relationship with Trump would cast her in the mold of Sally Hemmings or  Strom Thurman’s mistress.  Now, if rumors about a clandestine liaison between George W. Bush and the brilliant, glamorous, Condoleezza Rice are true, Condi would be George’s Olivia Pope.  In any case Omorosa has promised to write a book about her experiences in the Trump White House…I hope she tells all.

 

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Playthell G. Benjamin
December 2017

On Breaking the Tyranny of Sin

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 3, 2017 by playthell
Marching Against White Supremacy in Charlottesville Virginia

A White Priest Preaches to Whites about Racial Justice

Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Send everyone away from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest.

“God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have.

I will provide for you there—since there are five more years of famine to come—so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.’ And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father how greatly I am honored in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.” NRSV Genesis 45:1-15

Jesus went to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.” NRSV Matthew 15:21-28
“Breaking the Tyranny of Sin”

Almighty God, you have broken the tyranny of sin and sent into our hearts the Spirit of your Son. Give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service that all people may know the glorious liberty of the children of God; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Today’s prayers teach us something profound about being a Christian. They tell us that God has broken the tyranny of sin, and we ask for grace to live in that freedom from tyranny, as faithful inheritors of the Kingdom that’s been promised to us. What does it mean, what does it take, to break the tyranny of sin? And how do we live our lives in a way that shows that we are free from the ruthless hold that sin can have on us?
This morning we heard the end of the Joseph story. Joseph was betrayed by his own brothers. They sold him as a slave, and he could have been dead for all they knew. Yet he forgave them, embraced them and saved their whole tribe from starvation. Joseph broke the tyranny of sin. This story is a pivotal change in the whole thrust of the Old Testament. It was normal in that society, to be competitive. It was normal to put yourself and your own family first. It was normal to get revenge, and they even had lists of rules about how much revenge you were allowed to take on another family or tribe. But Joseph was close to God’s heart and he took a completely different path.

Love, forgiveness and grace shattered the cruel, tyrannical hold sin had on that family. And then in today’s gospel, we follow Jesus up the coast, from familiar territory up into Tyre and Sidon – foreign lands. And a woman from a different race, from a foreign religion with strange customs, insinuates herself in Jesus’ path and demands attention. We’re not used to Jesus being snippy with people, but he gives her a hard time, suggesting that his healing is exclusive – it’s only for the chosen people of God.

What a slap in the face! Was Jesus having a bad day? Did he mean to push her away like that? But she persisted…even the dogs get the children’s crumbs, she said. And look what happens here – look how quickly Jesus heals her daughter. Instantly. That very moment. So, did her retort change his mind, or was Matthew up to something clever in how he shaped this story?

Perhaps the exchange was about teaching the disciples back then, and you and me now – teaching us to recognize our own tendency to ignore people we think of as outsiders. The disciples felt no responsibility for this woman’s problem. She’s not one of us, she worships foreign gods and strange idols, so we won’t waste God’s grace here. We owe her nothing so let’s move on.

To see what the author is up to here, let’s step back and look at Jesus’ whole ministry. All throughout the gospels, Jesus consistently crashed through the boundaries and barriers humans put up against one another…..bringing the ‘sinful’ blind man into the Synagogue and then we found out that he wasn’t the sinful one – it was the religious leaders who had excluded him; then Jesus chose the shamed women at the well to bring God’s truth to the whole town; he had dinner with people that the religious leaders thought were unworthy – hookers and charlatans; and the most interesting part – in a society where the only people lower on the social scale than the shepherds were the fishermen, and Jesus chose a bunch of them as his disciples.

The list goes on and on – whoever was excluded, Jesus pulled right into the centre of the community. This looks like a very intentional story, designed to show Jesus, once again, crashing through the tyranny of sin by including someone the disciples wanted to exclude. So, how do we live this out? Today we’re taught to stretch our understanding of who’s in, who belongs, who is worthy, who God includes…a message the world is crying out for, right now.

Today both Joseph and Jesus say no to hateful exclusion – Joseph won’t exclude his treacherous brothers. Jesus won’t exclude the foreigner who worships strange idols. I so appreciated Judy’s entry in this week’s Happenings. Judy sent us a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who said, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” Judy was accurately taking the pulse of our times.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Washington March
A 20th Century Prophet Speaking Truth to Power

When there’s trouble in the world, it takes commitment to stand up and speak out, and to bring change. And Judy’s not the only one responding to the chaos of Charlottesville. In fact, most of the world, including Christian leaders from many countries, are responding to what happened – not only because Heather Heyer died, but because the vilest form of hate – represented by the swastika and the white robes of the KKK – has risen up to claim a voice in the streets of that powerful country that sets itself up as the moral leader of the world – a form of hate which many veterans gave their lives to resist in the war – a form of hate that led to the slaughter of millions – a form of hate that would string a man up, torture, mutilate and kill him because of the colour of his skin. These things happened – we humans did this to one another – and not so long ago.

Heather Heyer
Murdered by Nazi’s in America standing up for Justice
American Exceptionalism…
Torch Bearing Nazis March in the Night in 2017!

My friends, this has nothing to do with politics, because we know that there’s good and bad in every political platform. This has to do with right and wrong! This has to do with a rising ethos of white supremacy that decent human beings thought had been at least quieted decades ago. This has to do with decent people saying it’s not okay that our Jewish or Asian or Brown or Black brothers and sisters are pushed aside. And for you and me, this has to do with Christians taking a stand against something that is in complete opposition to everything Jesus taught.

It’s hard for me, for white people, to see the severity of this threat of white supremacy, because it doesn’t threaten me – it doesn’t personally or directly threaten me. Those of us with white privilege can live our lives blindly and happily completely unaware of what’s happening to other people. It’s so easy for us to say “Everything looks just fine to me – what’s all the fuss about?”
We must take a hard lesson from history here, and remember early Nazi Germany, when the Christian Church turned a blind eye as the government slowly and insidiously started segregating the Jewish people. First, they made it mandatory that they be marked with patches of the Star of David, and arm bands, taking away their autonomy by denying them the right to individual anonymity.

Then you’d find that your Jewish neighbors no longer lived in their house next door because they were pulled out of their homes, away from their possessions, and gradually isolated, pushed out to the fringes of the cities. Their rights were compromised one by one, until they had lost their freedom. There was a slow and steady normalization of placing the Aryan race above, and Jews and others beneath. But why should the church be concerned? It wasn’t affecting them. Can we hear that?

The Signs of those Terrible Times were EVERYWHERE!
But the Church Turned it’s Head!

Just like the rise of White Supremacists and the re-emerging KKK doesn’t affect us white people right now. Back then, the church was left alone by the powers in charge, and so they bought the deal. And to this day, they bear the shame and the guilt of that choice. Dietrich Bonhoeffer didn’t buy it, though. He was a humble German pastor who spoke out against the evil of Hitler because he saw where it was heading – to the ruthless torture, degradation and slaughter of millions of innocent human beings. He stood up and said, “Christians! Wake up! This is as far away from the gospel as one can get!” He was executed in prison for speaking out.

Reverend Dr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

A Righteous German Churchman who Gave his Life Opposing Hitler

I’m not going to talk about how or why these hate groups have felt empowered to rise up again – that would take hours – but every expert out there is telling us that they are rising up again, threatening to become much bigger than Charlottesville. As of yesterday, there were at least 9 more rallies planned by white supremacists across the States. And here in Canada, there are similar rallies planned in Vancouver and Montreal, and the Canadian white supremacy websites are lighting up like a carnival.

Similar things are happening in England and elsewhere, so I’m afraid, my friends, that this is a thing. It’s happening. To be indifferent at this time in history when the whole world is challenging what’s happening just south of us – to be indifferent is just as dangerous to our moral integrity as it was for those Christians in Nazi Germany. But don’t take my word for it…here’s what Christian leaders and others are saying….
Debra Kolb says the opposite of love is not hate, its indifference. To be silent is to take a side.

One of the most respected Christian leaders and theologians of our time, Brian McLaren, says, clergy, church leaders, it’s time. It’s actually past time. It would have been good if Christians had seen throughout history that loving their Indigenous and African American neighbors would not mean genocide or enslavement or white supremacy or lynching. But we failed to understand the most basic message of Christ’s teaching … love for everyone – no exceptions. So white supremacy became systematically embedded in our systems and structures and we see the results today. It’s long past time for Christians to resist.
Long-respected news anchor Dan Rather says he covered the civil rights movement in the 60’s and he says tragically, what happened in Charlottesville demonstrates that history might be repeated. He remembers that Dr. Martin Luther King felt that if people who are unaffected by racism could see the true depth of the hatred, could see what it looked like, they would recoil. But he says, we are once again peering into an abyss. Perhaps we needed to see how easily our moral order can break down. This is a moment for moral clarity – a time for everyone to line up and be counted. Are you on the side of love or hate? The world is watching. History is watching. I hope we’re up to the challenge, he says, and I think we are.

A huge gathering of North American Christian clergy made this statement: All humans are created in the image of God, and yet in Charlottesville, white hatred, anti-Semitism and violence were on bold display. This hateful rally of white supremacists seeks to destroy the very soul of the country. White supremacist beliefs, the KKK, Neo-Nazis, the alt-right, are antithetical to our scriptures. One cannot serve God and embrace hate and inequality. Most importantly, one cannot be silent.
Our own Anglican Primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz says: The events in Charlottesville, Virginia and the very real threat of more activities on the part of white supremacy movements, have been a painful reminder that racialized violence is a sad reality of our time, not only in the United States, but in our own country too. The escalation of racial tension causes great anxiety. Let us pray for the Church’s witness in the midst of this growing crisis. May we be united, courageous and unwavering, in denouncing racism and in proclaiming the God-given dignity all people deserve.

My regular theologians, Dr’s. Lewis, Skinner and Jacobsen said this: This is a moment when the church has to speak up. We cannot be vague and careful about this; we can’t be afraid because some people want church to be comfortable and safe. We must be faithful to the gospel we are paid to preach. White supremacy is a sin in all its forms, rooted in the worst, most erroneous theology imaginable. If the church does not speak up against Neo Nazism, the KKK, white supremacy and anti-Semitism, we will be complicit in our silence.

And finally, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” When evil rises up, Christians are called to respond from the core of our teaching. This is why the church exists – to name what is broken in the world and to stand up for justice.

Friends, this is about more than one or two little protests gone wrong. This is about the re-emergence of an evil that, if ignored by indifference, if allowed to become normalized in small steps, can take the whole world down an amoral pathway to the purest evil. But now we return to our earlier question…..how do we break the tyranny of sin? How do we remain faithful heirs of God’s kind of justice? How do we respond to this encroaching craziness?

• By opening our eyes to see that, even if a movement doesn’t hurt you, if it hurts your fellow man, it is your problem too.
• By teaching your children and your grandchildren what Jesus taught – that everyone belongs in God’s kingdom, without exception. By talking to them about Charlottesville, white supremacy, the truth about the KKK, what the Nazi flag actually represents. These lessons will spread out into the future and affect the world through those you influence with your words of truth.
• By speaking up at work or in your neighbourhood or amongst friends and colleagues when you hear talk of any religion, race or culture being excluded, isolated or oppressed.
• By praying for wisdom and guidance to respond to hate with God’s powerful love.
• By letting leaders know that we will not stand for the intolerance or oppression of any group of human beings; that we will not vote for leaders who do.
• By working hard to become a community right here, where people don’t even have to think about whether or not they’ll be fully welcomed…they just feel the love from the moment they walk in.
Joseph broke the tyranny of sin by forgiving in love instead of seeking vengeance in hate.

Jesus broke the tyranny of sin by embracing someone that everyone else wanted to exclude. The church cannot be a place that ignores the pain of the world. We cannot escape the suffering of our brothers and sisters, no matter how comfortable things might be for us personally. The church must speak out when the tyranny of sin from the past threatens to become the tyranny of sin in the present.

But our God is a great God, who always brings good news. And the good news for us today is this. Love will always prevail in the long run, because hate eats people up from the inside, and exhausts them. Love is far more powerful and enduring. Love fulfills us and transforms us and brings peace to us and to those around us. That holy love can even touch the hearts of the haters and bring them peace, because in the end Love Trumps hate! It is God’s love, my dear friends, working in us and through us, that will break the tyranny of sin.
Thanks be to God. Amen

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Sermon TSP ELEVENTH Sunday After Pentecost Year A 20 August 2017
By: Reverend Susanne
Priest in the Anglican Communion of Canada.

 

IN REMEMBRANCE OF MY BABY SISTER….

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on July 7, 2017 by playthell

Finally She is done with the Troubles of This World. Now she dwells in that mysterious realm…where righteous spirits rest

A couple of days ago my baby sis, Claudia Morton, whom I loved more than any words I know can express, danced and joined the ancestors. Being an atheist, I cannot claim to know the name of “that mysterious realm where each shall take his chamber in the silent halls of death,” as the poet William Cullen Bryant put it in his epic contemplation of death “Thanatopsis.” Yet what I can say for certain is that if there is a paradise beyond this world, where good folks go when they leave us for an afterlife, Baby Sis is there.

I know this because I have never met a finer person in my life. Yet I have met people from all over the world, got to know many of them, and sometimes feel that I have greeted everybody twice. Hence, I have observed a representative sample of what the homo Sapien species has to offer. And Claudia represented the crème de la crème. She was smart, courageous, strong, generous, competent, loving and loyal. Plus she was a chocolate beauty who was elegant of style and manner like her gorgeous pecan tan mom – who shaped and cultivated her and my older sister Melba as if they were rare orchids.

Both of them grew up to be leaders in the educational professions because they deeply believed in the power of education to help all people make full and productive lives. It is a family value, passed on by two generations of female educators that preceded them. Yet beyond all these things Claudia was something different and something more, alas it must go unnamed because I can conjure up no suitable superlatives to accurately describe it – even tho I have command of the language that has nourished many the world’s greatest poets, novelists and dramatist – Shakespeare, Tony Morrison and the King James Bible.

Aside from Claudia’s magnificence as a person, there was the love and admiration she always showered on me; no big brother was ever more richly rewarded with an adoring little sister. About seven years my junior, I was twelve when Claudia was five and she would just tag along behind me all over the house and yard – we lived in Florida at the time and enjoyed spacious front and back yards. And she thought I could do anything!

When I have had some time to reflect, I will have more to say about my baby sister, for there is much worth recounting of her story. She spent her life helping others gain a better life, and there are many success stories that have resulted from her efforts. But at the moment, I must confess that I am puzzled. I am at a lost to explain by what cosmic accident I have outlived her; it seems the natural order of things is out of order…as if the sun suddenly began to revolve around the earth.

Claudia came into this world at the height of the hurricane season in Florida, and departed amidst the fireworks of the 4th of July.  It is no wonder that she was a bundle of energy that was prone to shake things up wherever she went. To make a difference.  Claudia’s memory will live forever in my heart and mind; my unbridled love and admiration for her will never die; and her departure leaves a hole in my soul that can never be filled. And I am certain that if there is any truth to the Bible, when the Saints come marching in…. Claudia will be in their number.

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Playthell G. Benjamin
July 7, 2017
Carliase Pa

April Fools?

Posted in On Donald Trump, On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East!, Uncategorized with tags , on April 7, 2017 by playthell

Dumb and Dumber

Trump Strikes Syria!

“All Motion is Not Progress” observed Mao Tse Tung, a revolutionary philosopher and leader of the great Chinese Revolution.  Americans who are applauding the strike on Syria with 59 Cruise missiles, at a cost of nearly 30 million dollars for the missiles alone, should take a pause and consider the implications of this action by our government.  The paramount questions that begs an answer is: what is the strategic objective of US policy in Syria, and what role does this strike play in achieving that goal?

Based upon the public pronouncements of Donald Trump, who ordered the strike, and his surrogates the answers to these questions are elusive.  This is because we have a President for whom the complexities of international relations are at best a mystery, as is the art and science of governing in general.  Hence for years he has been an ardent opponent of the US taking any action against the Assad government.  The comments of this tweeting twit on Twitter are prolific on this question.

Yet when a chemical weapon was dropped on a group of Syrian civilians, some reports claim in was the deadly Sarin gas, Trump was quick to blame it on President Obama’s weakness in failing to act in 2013, when somebody launched a gas attack in Syria. The criticism of President Obama’s failure to take military action is based on the fact that he had drawn a “Red Line” in the sand that would prompt an American military response if Assad crossed it.

However, President Obama’s reluctance to act militarily in this case was based on several factors: Uncertainty as to who employed the gas; the fact that he had pledged to voters that he would end America’s protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and keep us out of new wars in the Middle-East, and failure of the US Congress to authorize a military attack on Syria which he requested.  Many people who voted for Obama did so based upon his promise of pursuing peace, I know I did.

Hence in my view, President Obama’s management of the Syrian situation displayed Solomonic wisdom. Furthermore, I would argue that this was characteristic of his approach to foreign policy in a turbulent time that witnessed the revolutionary outburst of mass movements collectively called the “Arab Spring,” the conflict in the Ukraine which could have thrown us into a military conflict with a nuclear armed Russia, and the rise of the militant Islamic Caliphate called ISIS, which arose from the ashes of the misbegotten US attack on Iraq.  How fortunate we would be if only Trump were only half as wise.

All objective observers of US foreign policy during the Obama administration agree that his actions were well thought out and based on a strategic vision of international relations; he sought to build effective alliances with concerned parties in troubled areas of the world, and acted deliberately not impulsively.   None of this is true of Donald Trump.  He has no strategic vision because he does not appear to have ever thought deeply about anything beyond his next real estate or branding deal.  His abdominal ignorance of the problems that he must now address is exemplified by his recent observation “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated,” and his sudden discovery that there are atrocities being committed against children in Syria.

Trump’s ignorance and indifference to the enormity and complexity of the Syrian conflict was exemplified in the policy statement by his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson: “The fate of President Assad will be determined by the Syrian people.”  To begin with, this was a repudiation of the Obama doctrine that the pre-condition for a permanent settlement which could bring peace to Syria was the removal of Assad from office. Tillerson’s announcement was no fluke; it was a restatement of a long-held belief of his boss, whose views on the matter are widely documented in the public record.

Hence Trump’s attempt to blame President Obama for the recent gas attack is the acme of hypocrisy! It is the pronouncement of a shameless charlatan and pathological liar. At the time, while others condemned Obama for his restraint in Syria, “The Donald” praised it!   His attempt to cast blame on Obama now is a transparent attempt to shift the blame from his ill-conceived policy of support for Assad expressed by Tillerson: Which is the real cause of the chemical attack. Since both Trump and Tillerson are novices at politics and foreign affairs, they failed to recognize that their statement was viewed by Assad as a green light to do whatever he wanted!

Viewed from this perspective, Trump’s attack on Syria must be seen as a smoke screen designed to deflect his responsibility for the horrendous gas attack on Syrian civilians; which the whole world viewed with stunned horror.  Hence, like the clueless scatter brain that he is, Trump acted on impulse and attacked Syria.  This is not part of any strategic plan because he has none.  This is verified by the fact that just a few days ago he had no problem with Assad’s leadership – as Tillerson’s policy statement nad Trump’s long record of support for the Syrian butcher will testify.

All observable evidence suggest that Trump gave no more thought to this assault on a sovereign country – with no attempt to get the support of the United Nations, the Arab League, the US Congress, or any of the regional powers – than his pre-dawn Twitter attacks.  It is an erratic, irrational, temper tantrum with no thought about its consequences.  And as the dawn of a new day approaches – Alas, I am writing this in the wee hours because the gravitas of the questions raised by this latest American military assault invades my dreams and destroys any attempt to sleep – we can only wonder what new dramas it will bring.

Just as when George W. Bush invaded Iraq with the spectacular bombing spree labeled “Shock and Awe,” millions of Americans are applauding this attack on Syria by American military forces.  I titled my essay on Bush’s attack “March Madness,” and I warned of its unintended consequences;which verily came to pass pretty much as I predicted.  I am titling this essay “April Fools?”  The title reflects my contention that this strike is not well thought out and the unintended consequences could prove disastrous.

Aside from the fact that we might have injured or killed some Russian military personnel, which would throw us into a crisis with a nuclear armed Russia that can reduce every city in the United States to a pile of radio-active rubble in a half hour from now, this attack on Syria is as illegal under international law as was the invasion of Iraq.  Yet after all is said and done, the most alarming thing about this attack is the real possibility that Trump launched it to improve his popularity in the opinion polls, where his approval rating is at a historic low.

As cynical as this sounds, when we consider the fact that Trump closed America’s doors to the children of war torn Syria seeking refuge in America, despite pictures every bit as horrible as those from the gassing, a thoughtful person cannot help but view his present concern for their welfare with a jaundiced eye, a cynical attempt to benefit from their tragedy.  As depraved as this seems, it is typical behavior for a “con man” with “no moral center;” which is how Donald J. Trump was routinely described by his fellow Republicans…..before he won the election, moved into the Oval Office, and promised to make all their right-wing dreams come true.

One of the most troubling questions raised by this attack is, if Trump can so quickly turn on a Head of State whom he has supported for years, what effect will this have on other nations at whom Trump has directed a steady stream of threats and invective such as North Korea, Iran and even China.

As I write the Chinese leader is visiting with Trump at his palatial estate in Florida, where he spends almost as much time as he spends in Washington, at great expense to American tax payers.  Although his home town, New York City, is much closer: he dare not come here.   In fact, Trump is so dispised in this city he may never be able to come home again!  It will be interesting to hear what Chinese President, Xi Jinpin, has to say about the attack on Syria.  Being a disciplined political actor skilled at the art of diplomacy I suspect his remarks will be restrained, respectful of the norms that mediate relations between nations.

Xi Jinping is here on a mission to improve relations with the US, China’s main trading partner.  As the leader of a nation with 20% of the world’s population, the Chinese are very careful to avoid military conflicts despite their formidable armed forces.  It is a policy that serves them well; it has allowed them to modernize at a rapid pace and grow the second largest economy in the world, which is predicted to surpass the US in GDP by 2050.

The paramount principle that guides Chinese foreign policy is non-interference in the affairs of other sovereign countries.  And they stick to this policy without significant deviation.  They have the largest army in the world but no foreign bases or troop deployments.  On the other hand, the US, with a fraction of China’s population have bases and soldiers all over the world and are fighting in multiple wars that seem unending.

The amount of blood and treasure we expend on foreign military adventures – along with the failure of the plutocrats to pay their fair share of taxes – is the principal reason why we cannot afford to rebuild our aging crumbling infrastructure, which is essential to our prosperity.  The Chinese see this all to clearly, and they are determined not to follow our example of meddling in everyone’s affairs as if the Gods gave America a mandate to rule the world.

This is why I am convinced that the Chinese will not play the role of disciplining North Korea for developing a nuclear weapons program that the US has assigned them. And given the US attack on Syria, the North Koreans are probably going on a war footing for real, imperiling the future of South Korea, which would be devastated if a war broke out on the Korean peninsula.

However listening to the pundits and the politicians on both sides of the aisle, as they raise their voices in something resembling victory cheers, I dispair for the prospects of peace.  The danger of perpetual war is real and is reflected in the comment of that old warmongering chameleon John McCain: “This is not the beginning of the end….but the end of the beginning.”  

History will judge Trump and his belicose confederates with unrelenting candor…and their deadly devious deeds will be duly noted.  But, alas, dealing with the unintended consequences of the Twittering Twit’s impulsive bombing of Syria, remains the burden of all Americans at this moment.

It’s On!

The US War on Syria has begun!
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Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard Dissents

Tellin it like it is!

There is an avalanche of opinions now being expressed on Trump’s attack on Syria, but none is more compelling than that of Congresswonam Tulsi Gabbard, a Democratic Representative from Hawaii.   Congresswoman Gabbard’s remarks are especially important because she is a former combat officer from the Afghan war,  Her experience in combat there has made he a passionate non-interventionists who is hostile to “Chicken Hawks” who promote wars for other’s to fight.  Like Donnie Trump . a notorious Vietnam era draft dodger, who avoided the war not for principled philosophical or religious reasons. but because he was a rich, entitled, cowardly party boy.  The great columnist and native New Yorker, who also hailed from Queens like Donnie, had this to say of his Homie: “Trump is a fake tough guy who couldn’t fight his way out of an empty lot!!!”
Athough celebrated corporate pudits such as Thomas Friedman, the three time Pulitzer Prize winning Foreign Affairs columnist at the New York Times, Joined by David Ignacious and Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, are gushing over the reckless bravado of Donald Trump,  I remain highly skeptical about the mission’s motive, utility and consequences.
Yet because he is such a pompous know-it-all the contrarian in my soul cannot resist pointing out that Tommy Friedman was grieveously mistaken about the Iraq War; he went so far off the beam in supporting Bush’s war of choice with spurious ahistorical arguments that he was forced to write a column apologizng to his readers for having led them astray  by “not asking the right questions.”  On the other hand my essay, written on the eve of the invasion, has withstood the test of time and been confirmed by history.   Titled “The Iraq Attack: Bush’s March of Folly,” it reads as if it were written by Nostradamus, and can be read on this site under the heading “The Prophetic Commentary on Iraq.”
What Friedman and other “major” corporate  mooks of both of both political pursuasions had to say on that subject is analyzed in my essay “How the Iraq War Was Hatched in a Think Tank.”   The fun part of this essay is when their views about the Iraq War is compared to mine!   Alas, what these same pundits had  to say on Trump’s bombing of Syria last night sounds like pompous American exceptionalist bullshit when compared to what  Tulsi Gabbad had this to say about the fake President’s military adventure:
 “It angers and saddens me that President Trump has taken the advice of war hawks and escalated our illegal regime change war to overthrow the Syrian government. This escalation is short-sighted and will lead to more dead civilians, more refugees, the strengthening of al-Qaeda and other terrorists, and a possible nuclear war between the United States and Russia.
This Administration has acted recklessly without care or consideration of the dire consequences of the United States’ attack on Syria without waiting for the collection of evidence from the scene of the chemical poisoning. If President Assad is indeed guilty of this horrible chemical attack on innocent civilians, I will be the first to call for his prosecution and execution by the International Criminal Court. However, because of our attack on Syria, this investigation may now not even be possible. And without such evidence, a successful prosecution will be much harder.”
A Decorated Combat Officer

For more on this remarkable woman search her name on this site.
Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
April 7, 2017