Posts Tagged ‘Abraham Lincoln’

Good Riddance to the Sickness that Is Trump

January 20, 2021


Just about anyone who has lived a while on this earth  can remember a time in their life when reality seemed so overwhelming and  out of control, when events seemed to be  spinning at such a speed and attacking from so many angles  that it was all you could do to hold on to your sanity by filtering lots of it out or just not letting some of it in. 

At such times  things are pushed away to be dealt with at a later date when it is possible to take it in.  Then, after a while, you look back and wonder:  were things really that crazy ? Did that really happen?  How did I survive ? 

One such moment came to me today when, contemplating the end of Trump, I  suddenly remembered the infamous April 23, 2020 press “bleach” briefing — and also what came after it. To recap: After hearing of a study that found that disinfectants and bleach can kill Covid  when it lingered on certain kinds of surfaces, President Trump used his Trump brain to publicly  ponder the possibility of injecting  bleach and disinfectant into the human body to address Covid 19.  

What the President of the United States said was this: “And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning, because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it’d be interesting to check that, so that you’re going to have to use medical doctors with, but it sounds interesting to me. “

Like much  of America, I watched helplessly as Trump once again spoke with both enormous confidence and astonishing ignorance about a subject of which he knew absolutely nothing.     By this point in his presidency, Trump episodes of talking out of his ass were legion: he had pontificated imbecilicly about Frederick Douglass, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, you name it.

But the bleach injection idiocy,  partly due to Sarah Cooper’s hilarious spoofs on the moment,partly due to increasing disgust at Trump’s frivolousness in the wake of a deadly pandemic and partly due to the fact that this time he was talking about something that could potentially kill someone   proved a much bigger and more embarrassing story than did Trump’s earlier idiocies. 

Trump understood this and, as is his want, he fought back with his usual weapons: lies and repetition and more lies and repetition. The talk about injecting the bleach, Trump insisted straight-faced  the next day, was sarcasm. He was asking reporters a question sarcastically, he said, “just to see their reaction.”  That the incident  was caught on video made no difference to Trump, who later repeated the line about sarcasm in one of his debates with Joe Biden.  

Like the rest of an increasingly exhausted and demoralized America, I didn’t give either statement another thought. 

Until today, that is.   Until today when I considered the fact that in the past four years  it had become perfectly normal that the President of the United States could do things like  

a) muse publicly about injecting disinfectant into the human body to cure a deadly virus ravishing the nation he was obstensibly governing 

b) lie about the musing and claim he was being sarcastic 

c) find sarcasm (even a lie about sarcasm) an appropriate mode of communication while addressing the nation about the deadly virus ravishing the nation.  

I had not really thought about all that – not the full and abject horror and danger such a reality  merits — until today when I began to realize what a ceaseless psychic assault the Trump presidency has been.   And I suppose I could begin to fully realize this  only because it finally ends tomorrow.  

You know you are living in an age of absolute spiritual and civic degeneracy when incidents that are absolutely crazy and  deeply repulsive  are barely noticed and scarcely remembered a few months  or even days later.  And for the past four years such things have happened on a daily basis.  

Such a world is exceedingly if insidiously perilous.

I have no illusions about Joe Biden and the Democratic Party.  I know who he is and what they are.  That said, I know that from tomorrow at noon  things will be better, if only because we will not have a sociopath in the White House nor a man who believes that every situation and relationship at every moment should be viewed as a transaction.   Because of those facts alone, four years from now, on the day before the next inauguration, I do not expect to be asking myself in horror: were things really that crazy ?  Did that really happen ?  How did we survive ?  

A Horrifying Continuum:Trump Encourages Police Brutality.

July 29, 2017

Another day, another deranged declaration from our diseased Commander in Chief and with it yet another effort to divide America between those who adore Trump and those who are disgusted and alarmed by him. On that level, at least, the speech to a group of Long Island law officers could be said to be a rousing success, not unlike his grotesque babbling to the Boy Scouts, his “slice and dice” oration in Ohio, and his whimsical ban of transgender personnel in the military that took place earlier in the week.

Ostensibly, the visit to Long Island and the speech to law enforcement was about Trump’s plan to “eradicate” the notoriously violent gang MS-13, who in yet another example of blowback, emerged out of America’s savage policy toward El Salvador under Ronald Reagan, and are responsible for several brutal murders in the area. But, as with everything this man speaks of, the visit and the speech were really about Trump and his base.

Thus, the purpose of the visit was largely to plant or reinforce in the mind of the American public the idea that American immigrants are made up not of the millions of hard working, decent, and law abiding peoples that have built and rebuilt the country since its founding, but horrific criminal organizations such as MS-13, and thereby build support for the Trump administration’s expansion of it’s mass detention and deportation agenda.

Addressing the law enforcement officers, the President of the United States said the following: “When you see these towns and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough, and I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice.’

“Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over, like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody, don’t hit their head, I said, ‘You can take the hand away, OK?’

Implicit in the words is the belief that the president has the power to simply negate protocol and the law. Implicit in these words is the message that the accused are guilty until proven innocent. Implicit in these words is a message that the President of the United States approves of police brutality.

Once again, there is no precedent for a president making such appalling statements.
Disturbingly, the statements were met with vociferous cheering from the law enforcement officers present, this at a time in which reports of police brutality, especially against people who happen not to be white, are a ceaseless national disgrace; and to be sure they were cheered just as enthusiastically by Trump’s deranged supporters across the country.
And that, I fear, is the point. In his first Inaugural Address in 1861, peering out at a nation enthusiastically set to slaughter each other wholesale, Lincoln implored and beseeched Americans to contact and embrace the “better angels of our nature. ”
Such is what great leaders do.
Conversely, like some demonic cheap rent parody of an anti-Lincoln, Trump has, from his incredible emergence as a politician, continually urged and encouraged the exact opposite of Lincoln’s sublime exhortation. To wit, he has ceaselessly, recklessly, and with absolute immunity encouraged, explicitly or implicitly, Americans to not merely embrace but valorize our basest and most brutal impulses: greed, mendacity, jingoism, violence, racism, xenophobia, vulgarity, and cruelty.

Yesterday’s remarkably repugnant statements are merely part of a continuum that has stepped up in the past week to fever pitch; merely another attempt to rile up his base and divide the nation into two irreconcilable camps: supporters of Donald Trump and The Enemy who is everyone else. There can be no middle ground because there is none meant to be. And there is no purpose, political or otherwise, other than the apotheosis of Donald J. Trump.
This is our current civil war: the dividing of Americans against the “better angels of our nature.” And, as this is all that he can understand, this is what Trump desires. This is what happens – what MUST happen—when a nation invests a toxic, malignant, astoundingly ignorant mega-narcissist with immense power. Trump does not know how to do anything other than what he is doing and is wholly, characterologically incapable of learning or even conceiving of anything that does not glorify Trump. Trump is narcissism incarnate. Trump’s war is not about Conservatives against Progressives, or Democrats against Republicans or any other recognizable political affiliation. Trump has no more loyalty to Republicans as he has to anyone or anything he has ever been connected with.
Trump rants and raves about “ loyalty,” a word in understands to mean subservience to Trump and his family and nothing more. Trump’s war is about the domination of his “movement” which consists entirely of the cult of Trump. And as he is increasingly showing, he will do and say anything to “win.”

Further, with the cowardly refusal of the members of the United States Congress to unambiguously condemn the purposefully divisive, anti- democratic, and vile statements of this ridiculous and all so dangerous figure, it may only be the beginning.

In the end, Trump will fail and fall but he will not go easily and the damage he and his will do in the process may be enormous.

Glimpses of Cincinnati

October 11, 2015

I love wandering around cities I’ve never been to before, seeing what can I see, trying to get some sense of the place, of it’s history, of it’s beauty, of it’s struggles, past and present. A few days ago, I was one of a group who flew to Cincinnati to get a first hand look at the extraordinary Oyler Community Learning Center, in the hope of replicating something of the same in our schools in New York. Like all business trips, the excursion was a whiz bang affair: arriving Wednesday evening, meeting for a long dinner with our hosts, leaving our hotel at 8:30 Thursday morning for an almost crazily crammed day, flying back to New York that evening.
The schedule left precious little wriggle room to see much of anything at all but I was determined. After dinner, as my friends M. and A. searched for a place to sample the famous Cincinnati chili, I set out to see the Ohio River, and to explore as much of down town as time allowed and as remains in an increasingly corporatized America. As it happened I walked in exactly the opposite direction of the river , but my ignorance proved fortuitous as I wandered straight into a main thoroughfare where I saw the beautiful and historic Plum Street Synagogue of Rabbi Isaac Wise, once the center of American Jewry. Near there, on a very pleasant concourse named Garfield Place, I was met by the outstretched stone arms of Ohio born President James Garfield, he who was considered brilliant but who was fated to become the second of our four assassinated presidents, just four months after taking office. Beneath Garfield’s image were perhaps twenty of the homeless men I saw and was approached by, every one of them exceedingly civil. Indeed, during the entire length of that avenue and almost the entire length of my lengthy stroll, the homeless were the only people to be seen.


A few blocks down the same street stood an image of yet another child of Ohio and barely remembered president, William Henry Harrison, astride a stone horse. One of the wonderful things about travel is that it can make the abstract concrete. Until I saw their statues, I had no idea what part of the country these two presidents, obscure though they may be, were from.
When at length I finally figured out the way to the river, I came across the site of the Burnet House, once a prominent hotel. On a plaque marking the site of the hotel, I came across a revealing reminder of the inner journey taken by the greatest American president, facing the greatest of American sins, which led to the most horrific of American wars. The plaque read, in part, as follows:
When it opened May 30, 1850, the 340-room hotel located on this site
was considered one of the finest hotels in the world. Abraham Lincoln
stayed here on September 17-18, 1859, while campaigning for the Ohio
Republican Party. Lincoln also stayed at this hotel on February 12, 1861,
during his inaugural journey to Washington, D.C. to be sworn in as
the 16th president. His speech from the hotel balcony expressed his
desire to abide by the Constitution on the issue of slavery.


It was the last line that, even as I was aware of Lincoln’s initial position on slavery, sent a chill down my spine. It was nonetheless still jarring to read it, as it served as a reminder of both the gross contradictions in the original constitution as well as the spiritual degeneracy and slaughter that, in 1861, directly resulted from those contradictions. It was a reminder too of the political starting point of the inner journey of our most complex and transformative president, of whom Frederick Douglass wrote:
“Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined… taking him for all in all, measuring the tremendous magnitude of the work before him, considering the necessary means to ends, and surveying the end from the beginning, infinite wisdom has seldom sent any man into the world better fitted for his mission than Abraham Lincoln.”

From the site of the Burnet House I could at last see the Ohio River and as I came closer I encountered a sight that surprised as much as it delighted me: the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge.

To my mind there is no more iconic symbol of New York City and no more majestic a structure in the city than the Brooklyn Bridge. It was therefore startling to come across a bridge in Cincinnati that, for all the world, appeared to be the Brooklyn Bridge’s smaller if older brother. And no wonder. John A. Roebling created them both, the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge in 1866 and the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883.


I sat beneath Roebling’s Cincinnati creation for a while, taking it in as riverboats sailed by. I knew that on the other side of that river lay Kentucky was once a slave state while Ohio was a free state. And I knew that for “travelers” on the Underground Railroad the earth on which I sat held a meaning that was beyond my powers of empathy to truly appreciate. I knew that for them the water that flowed before me might as well have been the River Jordan, and the grass on which I sat might as well have been the Promised Land. I tried my best to take that in as well.

I awoke early the following morning and lit out again to look at the river and the bridge at dawn and both were just as beautiful as they were at night. I would have loved to stroll over that bridge and look down on that water that carried so much of American history but alas, alas, it was time to go. Still, I felt grateful for those little glimpses of the vast canvas that is America.

A Tribute to Education Commissioner John King

December 12, 2014

As my previous posts on the man were somewhat critical of Commissioner King, in the interest of fairness and presenting an alternative point of view, I offer here this wonderful piece of writing by NYC based testing expert Fred Smith.

John King who taught for three entire years.

John King who taught for three entire years.

A Tribute to Education Commissioner John King

By guest blogger Fred Smith

I had actually forgotten about Commissioner John King’s background—an African-American and Puerto Rican, who lost both parents at an early age. He went on to earn degrees from Harvard, Yale and Columbia. It is a story that precedes and follows and precedes his remarkable ascending trajectory as an educational leader.

To my shame, until he announced his resignation this week, I hadn’t much thought back on King’s stirring account of a young life nurtured by the teachers he had and the public schools he attended. He has often spoken about them, how they saved him and lifted him—an example to inspire others.

What has gone untold, in part because of John King’s self-effacing nature, are historical details of other important influences that molded him into the courageous, emancipating, philosophical shining light he has increasingly become. Despite his humility, DNA evidence confirms the following facts that offer further insight into Dr. King’s legendary career and destiny, if you will.

There is proof that King and Abraham Lincoln are related. No doubt this has motivated his visionary policies, which seek equity for all God’s children. The blood of Davy Crockett also courses in King’s veins (although he jokes that he never kilt him a b’ar when he was only three) Perhaps, this explains why the Commissioner feels so strongly that commitment to the Common Core is a patriotic duty.

I’m somewhat skeptical about the veracity of two other DNA-based claims but find them fascinating to ponder. It appears that John King and Socrates have profiles that match—this according to 2,400-year old samples taken from the original critical thinker’s toga. And going further into antiquity there are findings that trace the Commissioner’s lineage back to King Tut, a kind of scientific symmetry linking the two boy Kings.

So, I bow down to and salute John King as he moves on to the U.S. Department of Education and goes from strength to strength.