Posts Tagged ‘Civil War’

A One-sided Story: Trump Must Go

Friday, August 18th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

A white supremacist carries a Nazi flag into the entrance to Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Va. on Saturday, Aug. 12. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

A white supremacist carries a Nazi flag into the entrance to Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Va. on Saturday, Aug. 12. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Apparently a lot of people in this country are under the impression that the news media are obliged to present both — indeed, all — sides of a story equally, which is to suggest, fairly, and which is to imply, inevitably, that both (or all) sides have equal legitimacy.

This is nonsense. In the first place, a free and unfettered press as protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution is under no obligation to be fair, unbiased or even factual. You just can’t make stuff up with the intent to hurt someone. That’s why there are so many unreliable sources of information in this country making money while posing as responsible journalism. Take Fox News, as Henny Youngman said, please.

The idea of the press being responsible and reliable as a source of useful information has evolved over time with the most responsible sources establishing themselves with readers and listeners through dedication to one thing overall — truth. Not truth as a publisher sees it. Not truth as a big advertiser sees it. Not truth as a politician, even a president, sees it. And not necessarily truth as everyone on all sides of an issue would like it to be seen.

Just the plain and simple facts of the matter. Here’s what happened. Here’s what people did. Here’s what people said. And yes, here’s what we think based on all those facts.

The United States and its Allies fought a worldwide war to defeat Naziism, anti-semitism and the belief that certain fair-haired, light-skinned people were born superior to others and that millions of those “others” had to be murdered to protect the so-called super race. The U.S. and it Allies won that war, at great cost. Hundreds of thousands of Americans died to defeat Nazis, white supremacists, fascists, anti-Semites. Fact.

There is no “other” side. Those who sought to subjugate and slaughter others because of their religion, nationality, or race were rejected. Nazis and fascists were rejected. Those who defended or sought to appease them were rejected. Some were sent to prison.

The United States also fought a bloody Civil War to defeat white supremacists who believed they were born superior to people with dark skin and, thus, could use and treat those “other” people as property, as slaves. Many Americans, including President Abraham Lincoln, disagreed. Some people in the South tried to argue — still do — that the “other,” legitimate, side of the story was that the war was over states’ rights. That’s only if you consider that the “right” the Southern states sought to protect in seceding from the Union and starting a war (treason) was to own and treat people of color as slaves. The South lost. Fact.

Hate was rejected. White supremacy was rejected. Slavery was rejected. Nazis and fascists were rejected. Anti-semites were rejected.  Case closed. We did not agree to disagree. In words the current president of the United States might understand, Americans agreed that bigotry and racism were “bad.” That the KKK, neo-Nazis and other white supremacist groups were “evil.” That there were no “fine people” who support such groups and their hateful messages. That America stands for inclusiveness. That our differences make us stronger. That it is the primary job of the president to spread that message and to make sure it is enforced.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating — “alt-right” is a bogus word created to give a veneer of legitimacy to white supremacists, Nazi sympathizers and wannabe fascist bullies. These are hate groups parading under the absurd banner that white men have been somehow denied their due because of the color of their skin. To deny this absurdity or to remain silent about it is to give these groups a false standing. It suggests a moral legitimacy that hundreds of thousands of Americans gave their lives to deny.

This is a time of serious unrest in America, stoked by the divisive language and actions of Donald Trump and those who advise and enable him. There is no other side to that story either. He was elected on a campaign built on lies, bigotry and bullying. The Republican Party allowed it. They continue to allow him to shred the fabric of this nation. They own him even though he is not and never has been one of them. That is the price of silence in the face of fascism.

There was never any chance that Trump was going to “grow into the job” of president. He has not grown emotionally in his 71 years. Regressed, more likely. He must be removed from office, by Republicans or Robert Mueller, the special counsel. More likely the latter.

But ultimately every American has a stake in this fight against authoritarianism. Trump has disgraced the Office of the President. He has failed at every opportunity to display moral leadership. Congress, world leaders, his own staff do not respect him. At most, the white supremacists in his circle use him for their own agenda.

This is not a theoretical exercise. It is personal. The question for every American is: Do you support the statements from the president that “both sides” bear responsibility for what happened in Charlottesville, Va.? In sum, do you grant neo-Nazis, white supremacists and Klansmen moral standing to the point that you create words like “anti-Nazi” and “antifa” (anti-fascist) when all that used to be necessary was “them” and the rest of us. Evil. Good.

I have spent more than half a century in journalism, three decades writing editorials about every possible topic. This is simply by way of saying that I am programmed to look for both sides of any story and then write about it. For this, because he is uncomfortable with any straight reporting of the things he says and does — including pointing out inconsistencies and lies as well as insults — the wholly unqualified president has declared me and my colleagues to be an “enemy of the people.” That’s a line used by every fascist in history about the press.

Trump should not be president. Those who voted for him were wrong. Many have had the honesty to admit it. Some, for their own reasons, never will. History will remember those who allowed him to disgrace this nation. It will not be a pretty tale. There’s only one side to this story.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Ah, What Cadet Trump Could’ve Learned

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Cadet Donald Trump ... at NYMA

Cadet Donald Trump … NYMA, Class of ’64

A few days ago, in response to the narcissist-in-chief’s (NIC) third-grade dissertation on the Civil War, I posted a sarcastic comment on Facebook: “Educators at the New York Military Academy, Fordham and Penn must be so proud.”

At the time, I thought I was being clever. On further consideration, I decided that it is likely that none of the educational institutions that offered an education to Donald Trump is proud of how it is being displayed by the NIC. Also, that it was not their fault.

I’m particularly sorry that I cast what might have been aspersions on the New York Military Academy, which is located in Cornwall, not far from my home in upstate New York. We’re neighbors and I was a tad unneighborly and so I want to apologize to NYMA (Fordham and Penn can take care of themselves), especially since the school has gone through some rocky financial times in recent years, including bankruptcy, a threatened closing and a serious decline in attendance.

But I also was curious as to whether NYMA really was proud of our president and their alumnus, so I checked its website. Lukewarm is my impression. Trump is listed among notable alumni (“45th president of the United States”) and also appears on a list of the school’s published authors. The NYMA band did march in the Inaugural Parade, but I figure that was a tough one to turn down as it gave a bunch of teens an opportunity to participate in a moment in history. They certainly won’t forget it.

However, there is no special tribute to Trump at nyma.org., no special page or biography or look back at his years at NYMA. No bragging about the man who recently said, “People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”

Why indeed.

While apparently still stuck on the Civil War, he said a few days later of Abraham Lincoln, “Great president. Most people don’t even know he was a Republican, right? Does anyone know? Lot of people don’t know that.”

He said this at a Republican Party fund-raiser where a lot of people undoubtedly did know that. Then again, along with the current president, a lot of members of what has long been called The Party of Lincoln, seem to have forgotten what that means.

At any rate, having piqued my own curiosity about NYMA and Cadet Trump, I checked out the website to see what the new owners of the 128-year-old institution were offering. It sounds pretty much like what one would expect from a military academy located just up the Hudson River from West Point.

Let’s start with the academy’s statement that “at NYMA celebrating diversity is a way of life.” Hmm.

NYMA also says, “Developing good citizens requires cultivating the essential traits of trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, caring and fairness.” Hmmm.

And there’s the cadet code, the same as West Point’s: “A cadet will not lie, cheat or steal, or tolerate those who do.” I get the feeling Cadet Trump was snoozing through some of his classes at NYMA. Still, he did graduate and his five years at the academy represent his only military experience.

While perusing the website I further wondered, knowing how much the NIC likes adulation and weekend jaunts away from the White House, whether he would be participating in NYMA’s Alumni Weekend. Wouldn’t that be a kick-and-a-half for Cornwall?

The alums are gathering at an open alumni muster May 19 at a local dining establishment to kick off a weekend of activities and reminiscing. It’s the kind of thing where everyone notices how old the others look and compares resumes. The NIC could show up with maps of his Electoral College win and Melania on his arm and go into his familiar grin. “I won.”

But what if, say, Francis Ford Coppola, who won a music scholarship (tuba) to NYMA (did not graduate) decided to show up with his multiple Academy Awards (The Godfather I and II), or Johnny Mandel, a 1944 band graduate of NYMA and an Oscar-and Grammy-winning composer who wrote the theme from M*A*S*H and worked with Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee and Barbra Streisand. They’d have some bragging rights.

Maybe, just for kicks, John “Junior” Gotti, class of ‘83 (did not graduate) shows up. He and the NIC could probably swap yarns about life in Queens and Junior could take Trump aside and remind him, “Hey Donny, you know it’s the god’s honest truth that I lied to the feds, right? You can’t trust what the FBI says. There ain’t no Mafia. You know that. But they got my father and tried to get me four times. Four mistrials. Sweet, huh? That’s why they call me Teflon Jr. So you think you might have a job for me at Justice? Just askin’, you know?”

Or, for sheer bragging rights, composer Stephen Sondheim, class of 1946 (also did not graduate), could show up with his Oscar, eight Tony Awards (more than any other composer),  including a Special Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre award, eight Grammy Awards, and a Pulitzer Prize. He wrote the lyrics to “West Side Story,” which is resume-topper enough for me.

But what might really annoy the NIC is Sondheim’s Presidential Medal of Freedom, presented to him by Barack Obama in 2015. That’s a tough award to top, in the Electoral College or anywhere else. In fact, if he knew about it, Trump might just try to undo it by executive order.

Maybe he should just send Kellyanne Conway with an autographed photo of him and go play golf again that weekend.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

As Promised: The Books You Picked

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Recent reading ...

Recent reading … Mine, not yours.

You meet the nicest people when you write about books.

A couple of weeks ago, I got tired of all the political angsts and anger on Facebook and wrote a column about books and synchronicity and what I was reading and asked folks what they were reading. To change the subject, you know?

The mind needs a break from corruption, greed, arrogance, duplicity, complicity, bigotry, cowardice and just plain stupidity, even, or especially,  when those are the dominant traits of the elected officials filling the seats of power in Washington.

Books can take us elsewhere. Anywhere, really. They can remind us what it is to think, not merely react. To set aside our current grievances. To relax, imagine and discover … mostly ourselves.

So I asked people what they were reading and said I would share it with others. When I write about other topics, such as politics, the feedback I get tends to be from self-satisfied pundits who want to 1) tell me I’m an idiot and 2) demonstrate how much smarter they are by making some snarky remark about my opinion. They usually don’t spend time writing anything of any length themselves. It’s hit-and-run commentary. Insult and belittle. But it’s the age in which we live and I know that going in.

Still, a guy needs a break occasionally. Wouldn’t you know, when I asked people about books they were reading or would recommend or, a la “Fahrenheit 453,” a book they would be if they could be one, people gave thoughtful, respectful responses. Imagine that.

So here, as promised, are some of the replies I got from posting my column on several sites as well as zestoforange:

  • Jo Cicale, with her new Kindle: What am I reading or what have I read? “All the Light We Cannot See” was among the best of the best. Just finished “A Gentleman in Moscow” and that is a wow! Geez, wish I could remember the name of the book about Alfred the alligator. It was such a fun read. Need laughs and fun, don’t we?
  • Patricia Campbell: I am reading the two latest James Pattersons – “I, Alex Cross” and “Kill Alex Cross.” If I could be a book it would have to be “Bastard Out of Carolina.” This is a gritty look at child abuse and neglect, I could not put it down and so I didn’t.
  • Toni Macaroni: Just finished “God Help the Child,” by Toni Morrison. I found it quite amazing. Quick read.
  • Linda D’Amato Hayes: Currently reading “Alvin York, A New Biography of the Hero of the Argonne,” by Douglas V. Mastriano, and “Angels of the Underground, the American Women who Resisted the Japanese in the Philippines in WWII,” by Theresa Kaminski.
  • Jason Harris: I’m currently reading two books. One I read to keep my mind occupied and is the height of Space Opera from the Black Press called “Mechanicum” and is part of a series called “The Horus Heresy.” The second I read in an attempt to better my soul and that’s “Living Buddha, Living Christ,” by Thich Nhat Hanh.
  • Idrea Ramaci: “The Power of Now,” Eckhart Tolle. Already have it almost memorized, as I’ve read it so many times.
  • Anita Page: “Dark Money,” by Jane Mayer. This book about the role the Koch brothers play in American politics is alarming, but worth reading. “Selected Stories,” by William Trevor — 48 stories by one of the best short story writers of our time. The collected works of Mo Willems (to be read aloud to grandkids). He’s terrific and very funny, which is helpful these days.
  • Jim Bridges: The last book I read was Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow – Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness.”  What book would I like to be – gosh, I immediately thought of one of Dostoyevsky’s novels, perhaps “The Brothers Karamazov.” Not sure why, but ever since high school I have liked his writing.
  • Ernie Miller: Here are some books. Margaret Atwood: “Oryx & Crake .” William Forstchen: “One Second After,” “One Year After,” and “The Final Day” (connections to Newt Gingrich & The Prepper Network ). Kim Stanley Robinson: “The Mars Trilogy,” “The Years of Rice & Salt* and “New York 2140.” * Big on Synchronicity!
  • Mikhail Horowitz: I am currently reading Shelby Foote’s 14-volume history of the Civil War. Mostly because a) he’s a wonderful storyteller; b) the parallels between the 1860s and the 1960s (my student activist days) are so uncanny; and c) during the recent presidential campaign it became obvious that half this country is still fighting the Civil War. Also, I thought I already WAS a book, but if I had to pick another book — actually, two books — to be, they would be a first edition copy of the “2050 Baseball Encyclopedia,” and a translation of “Finnegan’s Wake” into Mandarin.
  • Christine Marsh-Rijssenbeek: “Half a Life,” by V.S. Naipaul. His writing is sublime. And if I were a book: “The Kon Tiki Expedition,” by Thor Heyerdahl because I feel as if I’m always floating in the middle of an ocean.
  • Mary Makofske: Am reading “535 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity,” by Charles Lewis (and this BEFORE the ascension of Trump). Also some older novels, “Ishmael,” by Daniel Quinn and “Ecotopia,” by Ernest Callenbach (surprising how relevant they still are. Ecotopia is composed of Northern California, Oregon, and Washington, which seceded). “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” by Michelle Alexander. “The Harvest Gypsies,” nonfiction by John Steinbeck (led to “The Grapes of Wrath”). “Methland,” by Nick Reding, was an eye-opener. “How to Be Alive by Colin Beavan,: didn’t contain much new for me, but was a timely reminder. Wow, I’ve been reading a lot. Thanks for asking, Bob. I always like to see what others have discovered.
  • John Escher: Nice. I was going to recommend that you stop reading books and see a movie, “FAHRENHEIT 453,” but see you already did. Personally speaking, I prefer early to late Wolfe. “Hernia hernia hernia hernia hernia.” And prefer partial to full knee replacements since I play tennis when I’m not reading books.
  • Wise woman (obviously a nom de plume): Well you did ask. So here’s what I’m recommending according to the info you provided. Since you didn’t list a woman author, I suggest “Woman As Healer,” by Jeanne Achterberg. Then Deepak Chopra, “Perfect Health.” To round out some history you might not be familiar with, “Remembering Hypatia,” by Brian Trent. I met Brian years ago when he was a very young man and his book had just been published. I was highly impressed by his quiet intelligence and determination to tell a story that definitely needs to be told. These, if you should care to read them, will keep you busy for a while. Because of a protracted illness, I have been confined to my Kindle which has been a blessing since books are too heavy to read in bed. I wish you good health and success in sharing your experiences.

See what I mean? Nice people. Thank you. And if you want to keep commenting and suggesting, that’s fine with me. It adds to my reading list.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

The Incivility of Any Civil War

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

By Gretchen Gibbs

A brutal civil war is being fought in Ukraine.

A brutal civil war is being fought in Ukraine.

The Ukraine people look haunted in the newspaper photos. Some want to stay with their country, some want to separate and join Russia. We tend to think of them as non-overlapping groups. My experience this past weekend on a trip to Washington, D.C., led me to think about the matter differently.

Our own Civil War divided our country in ways hard to fathom. I know little about the Civil War beyond the Ken Burns series and what I gleaned in high school and college. I have heard that books about Lincoln sell better than anything else, and given that, I am hesitant to put forward any views at all to readers who may be much more knowledgeable than I. But there must be some who don’t know all the things I learned this weekend.

First, I went to hear a concert at the Church of the Epiphany in downtown Washington. An attractive church with great stained glass and excellent acoustics, it is pre-Civil War and housed wounded Union soldiers during the fighting. According to the historical poster outside, Washington as a whole was essentially a southern, secessionist city, and that was especially true for the area of the city around the church. Most of the members were for secession. Jefferson Davis was a member with his own pew until conflict with the minister, who was strongly pro-Union, led to his departure. The poster mentioned that Mary Todd Lincoln had a brother and three half-brothers who fought for the Confederacy. Two of them were killed and one was wounded.

The next day we (I, my brother and sister-in-law) went to Arlington National Cemetery. I’d been before, but the lines after lines of white gravestones, stretching off in all directions, still made me gasp. These dead are from all our wars, of course, not just the Civil War, but there were three quarters of a million deaths in that war, the most costly of our history.

We climbed a steep hill to the former home of Robert E. Lee. Arlington Cemetery was built on his property just over the line in Virginia. It was  confiscated by the Union early in the war as a sort of statement: “See what you’ve done.” When you look out from the front porch, you see a bridge crossing the Potomac and right at the end of the bridge, the Lincoln Memorial. The two men seem enmeshed, or at least their differences bridged. I knew from Ken Burns that Lincoln had asked Lee to head the Union Army, and with great difficulty Lee had refused.

I didn’t know that Lee had released all his own slaves five years before the Emancipation Proclamation. I didn’t know that his wife returned to the house after the war ended and died five days later, apparently of a heart attack brought on by the level of destruction. Few of the articles in the house today are original, except for furniture or dishes or pictures that have been returned by some descendant of a Union soldier who stole them. Now the site is a National Monument, and rightly so, for Lee was a remarkable man. After the war, he became president of Washington and Lee College, and tried to help heal the divisions in the country.

Another thing I learned, not this weekend but when doing research on the 1692 witch trials for The Book of Maggie Bradstreet, was that my ancestors in Massachusetts had slaves. They were called servants, but they were slaves. Tituba, who set off the whole Salem witch hysteria, was a slave from the West Indies. Northerners didn’t need slave labor the way the plantations needed it, but that didn’t prevent them from using it when they could.

It’s a kind of cliché, “brother against brother,” but the ways the Union and Confederacy were linked and divided were so complicated, they can’t possibly be reduced to “good vs. bad” or “right vs. wrong,” the way we learn in high school to think about it.

When we see the division in Ukraine, or in Syria, or earlier, in North and South Korea, and North and South Vietnam, we could reflect more on our own experience. People suffer, for such a long time and in such complicated ways, from a Civil War.

 

A Monument to Hatred and Ignorance

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest

By Bob Gaydos

A good friend of mine recently had a WTF???!!! moment on Facebook and it had nothing to do with Mitt Romney. For a writer who is thoroughly disgusted with the American political system, this is the best gift of all.

The posting concerned an effort in Selma, Ala., to renovate, reconstruct, replace and in general spiffy up a monument to Civil War Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest. Now, for starters, I have had it up to my red, white and blue boxers with Southerners who continue to fight the Civil War. It was over almost 150 years ago. It was a brutal war, killing hundreds of thousands of Americans. It was, if you will, a treasonous war for all the states who chose to leave the union and attack the government of the United States of America. It was a war fought to defend an indefensible principle — slavery. And the South lost.

What is there to celebrate with all the flags and monuments? A failure to destroy the country to which you now pay very public and presumably proud allegiance?

This is annoying and, just my opinion, stupid. But that is not the WTF???!!! element of this story. It turns out that Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest (last time I use all three names), who is revered in his home state of Tennessee, as well as Alabama, was also the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

I’ll wait while that sinks in.

It’s true. In Selma, no less, where Martin Luther King Jr. began his march to Montgomery for racial equality, there has been a statue honoring a founder of the Ku Klux Klan and a group known as Friends of Forrest wants to repair and replace what has been damaged or stolen (the head) from it over the years. The City Council is debating the issue.

A little history on Forrest. He was by most accounts, one of the South’s brightest generals. Also one of its most ruthless. With no military training, he quickly rose in the ranks to serve as, what is widely regarded, the best cavalry general in the war. A brilliant tactician, who emphasized having a fast, mobile force, his motto was, “Get there first with the most men.”

His unofficial motto might well have been take no prisoners, since he is blamed by most historian for several violent assaults, including the Massacre at Fort Pillow in 1864. A large force headed by Forrest attacked a small Union force that sought to surrender. Forrest’s troops killed more than 200 black Union soldiers and a like number of white troops who were fighting side by side with them.

That reputation for violence, especially against blacks, went with him after the war and the founding of the Klan in Tennessee. There, the violence continued. Ironically, Forrest is said to have given the order to disband the KKK after five years because it became even too violent for him. That order was probably so much 19th century spin, however, since he couldn’t really control the Klan groups outside of Tennessee and everyone knew, with increased attention from government forces, the group was taking its activity underground.

Now for the hopeful part of the story. Even in Selma, common sense and decency exist and technology has taken root. Malika Fortier, a citizen of Selma, heard about the plans to buff up Forrest’s image and began a campaign to stop it. A community leader proud of her city’s contribution to the civil rights movement, and aware of the KKK outrages committed against Selma’s citizens — many whose families still live there — she started a petition to the mayor and city council to stop the monument renovation.

Fortier posted the petition (which has about 300,000 signatures) on social media outlets on the internet, which could be viewed as a 21st century version of getting there first with the most troops. The petition is posted at ForceChange.com. Here is the link: Stop the Renovation of Ku Klux Klan Leader Monument – ForceChangeSign it if you agree.

To be thorough and legally accurate, this is an effort at moral persuasion. The city council probably has no legal grounds to prevent this renovation since the monument was moved off public land years ago to a private cemetery after public outcry. And people have a legal right to be racists in this country, so long as they obey the law. And, some argue that Forrest was a great general.

But really, Selma, is this what you want to teach your children? Is there to be no end to the war fought 150 years ago? Cannot healing and conciliation finally replace hate and fear? Do Selma’s residents need to be reminded of the atrocities committed there by one of the most hateful groups in this country?

Forrest (yes, Gump was named after him) was a brilliant general and a horrid human being. Surely, the people of Selma can find someone more deserving to honor with a monument.

 bob@zestoforange.com