Monday, January 23, 2017

Anyone for Tea?

Before I share, as I recently said I would, more images and commentary from Saturday's inspiring Women's March in St. Paul, I take time this evening to highlight a very different event, one that I hosted in my home (Hare House) exactly one week before the historic gathering that drew an estimated 100,000 people to the Minnesota State Capitol.

Yes, it was my fourth annual tea party – to which I invited a number of my friends from different spheres of my life. Thus some folks knew each other while others met for the first time. Yet all comprised good company which, as Anne Elliot notes in the 1995 film adaptation of Jane Austen's Persuasion, is defined as the "fellowship of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation and liberality of ideas."

Which reminds me: Did you know that I'd quite happily go through each and every day dressed in the attire of a nineteenth century gentleman? Perhaps this explains, in part, my affinity for the old world charm of a tea party.

Regardless, I've long been drawn to the appearance and manners of such figures in various films and TV shows – Dick Dewy (James Murray) in Under the Greenwood Tree, Alexander Hartdegen (Guy Pearce) in The Time Machine, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) in Les Misérables, John Keats (Ben Whishaw) in Bright Star, and, of course, Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) in Poldark. My latest such interest is Dr. Alexander Sweet (Christian Camargo, right) from Penny Dreadful, despite the fact that he turns out to have quite the dark secret!

But I digress.

Following are some images from the morning tea I hosted on Sunday, January 15. Enjoy!

Above: Friends (from left) Mary Lynn, Omar, Rita, and Pete.

Right: With my friend Brigid. And, yes, mimosas were also served.

Above: Friends (from left) Raul, Mary Lynn, Kathleen, and Florence ( with friends John, Joe, and Omar standing behind them).

Left: Rita, Mary, and Sue Ann.

Above: Jim, Raul, and Joe.

Above: With my wise women friends (from left) Mary, Kathleen, Rita, Brigid, Kate, and Sue Ann.

Right: With Pete and Omar.

Above: Mary Lynn, Mary, and Jim.

Above: With John and Joe.

Above: Omar and Raul.

Above: Colleen, Pete, and John.

Above: Tim, Kate, Sue Ann, Rita, Colleen, Pete, and John.

Right: With Alfredo.

Above: Raul, Pete, and Jim.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
In Wintry Minnesota, An Australian Afternoon Tea
Out and About – Winter 2014-2015
Out and About – Winter 2012

Opening image: Richard Armitage as John Thornton in the 2004 British mini-series, North & South.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Something to Think About . . .

Related Off-site Links:
Bernie Sanders Should Have Been America’s 45th President. Democrats Elevated Trump and Cheated Bernie – H. A. Goodman (The Huffington Post, January 20, 2017).
Bernie Sanders' Inauguration Day, Imagined: What Could've Been – Brent Budowsky (The Hill, January 20, 2017).
CIA Officer: Clinton Lost Because She Defrauded Bernie Sanders – Sean Adl-Tabatabai (, January 12, 2017).
Bernie Sanders Calls Out Trump Inauguration for "Billionaire After Billionaire" in VIP Section – Jason Cherkis (The Huffington Post, January 22, 2017).
Why I Cannot Fall in Line Behind Trump – Peter Wehner (The New York Times, January 21, 2017).
What To Tell People Who Say You Have to Accept Donald Trump's Presidency Now – Seth Millstein (Bustle, January 20, 2017).
Donald Trump Preaches Angry Nationalism, While Practicing Goldman Sachs Capitalism – Zaid Jilani (The Intercept, January 20, 2017).
5 Traits Donald Trump Shares With Nearly Every Brutal, Authoritarian Dictator – Allen Clifton (Forward Progressives, January 21, 2017).
Congratulations, America – You Did It! An Actual Fascist is Now Your Official President – Chauncey DeVega (Salon, January 21, 2017).
Trump Has Taken Orwellian Language and Fascist Tactics to a New Low – Robert Kuttner (The Huffington Post, January 22, 2017).
Bernie Sanders Draws Massive Crowds as Progressives Prepare to Fight Trump – Nika Knight (Common Dreams, November 18, 2016).

See also the related Wild Reed posts:
Quote of the Day – January 20, 2017
Quote of the Day – January 11, 2017
On International Human Rights Day, Saying "No" to Donald Trump and His Fascist Agenda
Progressive Perspectives on the Election of Donald Trump as President of the United States
Election Eve Thoughts
Carrying It On
Progressive Perspectives on the Rise of Donald Trump
Trump's Playbook
Quote of the Day – November 9, 2016
Hope, History and Bernie Sanders

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Quote of the Day

President Trump, you have made a big mistake. By trying to divide us up by race, religion, gender and nationality you have actually brought us closer together. Black, white, Latino, Native American and Asian American, gay or straight, male or female, native born or immigrant we will fight bigotry and create a government based on love and compassion, not hatred and divisiveness.

– Bernie Sanders
via Facebook
January 21, 2017

Above: Senator Bernie Sanders participating in the Women's March in Montpelier, Vermont – January 21, 2017. (Photo: Jane Bradshaw

Related Off-site Links:
Sanders on Women's March: Trump "Made a Big Mistake" – Nikita Vladimirov (The Hill, January 21, 2017).
Women’s March is the Biggest Protest in U.S. History as an Estimated 2.9 Million March – Jason Easley (PoliticusUSA, January 21, 2017).
Millions Across the Planet Unite to Rebuke Donald Trump – Kali Holloway (AlterNet, January 21, 2017).
Pictures From Women’s Marches Around the WorldThe New York Times, January 21, 2017).
Don’t Let Anybody Tell You the Marches Didn’t Matter – Jonathan Chait (New York Magazine, January 21, 2017).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Photo of the Day – January 21, 2017
Quote of the Day – November 9, 2016
Carrying It On
Hope, History and Bernie Sanders

Photo of the Day

This is the first Wild Reed "Photo of the Day" not actually taken by me, which is kinda obvious as I'm in he picture.

My good friend and housemate Tim took snapped this image of me earlier today at the Women's March in St. Paul, Minnesota, an event that drew an estimated 100,000 people to the Minnesota State Capitol grounds and is being declared one of the largest protest gatherings in Minnesota history. It was also part of a nationwide surge of massive rallies and marches aimed at both protesting President Donald Trump’s positions and statements on women, women’s rights, immigration, the environment, and climate change and offering hope and alternatives to Trump's political agenda and to what has been described as his "sordid immorality" – his bigotry, ignorance, misogyny, and vulgarity. Sister marches were held today on all seven continents, including Antarctica.

I wanted to carry a sign in today's march that shared a positive message from an inspiring woman, and so decided on words of hope and encouragement from legendary singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie. They're actually lyrics from her song "Getting Started" (from her phenomenal 1992 album Coincidence and Likely Stories), while the image is one I took of Buffy when I saw her in concert last summer in Bayfield, WI.

All these elements were beautifully and artfully put together by my boyfriend Brent pictured with me at right at Buffy's concert at The Dakota in Minneapolis last summer.) Thanks, Handsome!

During the march, my sign and its message drew lots of positive responses and comments, and a number of people took the time to pause and photograph it. It even connected people as, at one point during the rally at the Capitol, a man asked me to hold it up high as he spoke to his wife on his cell phone, letting her know where he was in the massive crowd: "Look for the guy holding the sign with a picture and quote by Buffy Sainte-Marie." How cool is that?

Anyway, stay tuned, as I'll be sharing more images and commentary on the Minnesota Women's March in a later post.

Womb-world paradigm
Understand in time
It’s a sweet investigation
We’re learning rope by rope
Climbing hope by hope
In every combination

And that’s okay
No, it’s not the way it should be
But that’s okay
It’s wild and it’s unique
And that’s okay
Yeah, love’s the magic number
And that’s okay
Come on, we’re only getting started . . .

– Buffy Sainte-Marie
Excerpted from “Getting Started”
(from the 1992 album, Coincidence and Likely Stories)

Related Off-site Links:
Women’s March is the Biggest Protest in U.S. History as an Estimated 2.9 Million March – Jason Easley (PoliticusUSA, January 21, 2017).
On President Trump's First Full Day in Office, Close to 100,000 March in St. Paul – Peter Cox (MPR News, January 22, 2017).
Around Minnesota, Women – and Men – March for Women's RightsMPR News (January 22, 2017).
90,000-plus People March in St. Paul with Message for Trump – Erin Golden and Aimee Blanchette (Star Tribune, January 21, 2017).
100,000 Minnesotans March in St. Paul to Oppose the Sex Offender-in-Chief – Susan Du (City Pages, January 21, 2017).
Pictures From Women’s Marches Around the WorldThe New York Times, January 21, 2017).
Uplifting, Heartbreaking, Enormous Crowds at Women's Marches Around The WorldMother Jones (January 21, 2017).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
"It Is All Connected"
Something to Think About – January 20, 2017
Inauguration Day in the Twin Cities
Quote of the Day – January 11, 2017
On International Human Rights Day, Saying "No" to Donald Trump and His Fascist Agenda
Progressive Perspectives on the Election of Donald Trump as President of the United States
Carrying It On

For The Wild Reed's special series of posts leading-up to the May 12, 2015 release of Buffy's most recent album, Power in the Blood, see:
Buffy Sainte-Marie and That "Human-Being Magic"
Buffy Sainte-Marie's Lesson from the Cutting Edge: "Go Where You Must to Grow"
Buffy Sainte-Marie: "Sometimes You Have to Be Content to Plant Good Seeds and Be Patient"
Buffy Sainte-Marie's Power in the Blood

Opening image: Tim Lynch.

Friday, January 20, 2017

"It Is All Connected"

This afternoon I participated in the Black Snake Resistance March, a rally and march organized by Native Lives Matters, Idle No More, #NoDAPL, #WaterIsLife, and #BlackSnakeKilla.

"Black Snake" refers to the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline and pipelines in general, many of which disproportionately threaten the land and well-being of Native communities.

This and a number of other protest events collectively comprised what was called the Twin Cities Inauguration Day Mega-March, and provided a way for thousands of people to speak out against the agenda and priorities of President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress.

Organizers of the Black Snake Resistance March, however, stressed that the event was bigger than the protesting of Trump.

We want to express that this march is against not only the newly-elected President Trump but also the system that as a whole cradles and supports the racism and bigotry that has furthered the oppression of people through the school-to-prison pipeline and the construction of oil pipelines. IT IS ALL CONNECTED. The system is one big cycle of oppression that keeps feeding us garbage. Trump is a huge supporter of oil pipelines and in the recent past has had investments in KXL and Dakota Access, to name two. . . . [W]e all must resist Trump and the system that keeps supporting the destruction of people and the environment.

The Black Snake Resistance March began in south Minneapolis at the corner of Franklin and Chicago Avenues. It was soon joined by hundreds of young people who comprised the University of Minnesota Walk-Out to Oppose Trump March. Both groups then joined the Resist from Day One March. All three groups then made their way to Minneapolis City Hall for a mass rally.

Related Off-site Links:
Thousands Protest Trump's Inauguration Throughout MinneapolisMinnesota Daily (January 20, 2017).
About 2,000 Join Minneapolis Anti-Trump March – Randy Furst and Haley Hansen (Star Tribune, January 20, 2017).
"He Has Already Let America Down": The Reaction to Trump's First Speech as President – Jill Abramson, Steven W Thrasher, Michael Paarlberg, and Jamie Weinstein (The Guardian, January 20, 2017).
Donald Trump Preaches Angry Nationalism, While Practicing Goldman Sachs Capitalism – Zaid Jilani (The Intercept, January 20, 2017).
A Most Dreadful Inauguration Address – George F. Will (The Washington Post, January 20, 2017)
Trump Breaks First Presidential Promise in Record Time: Hats at Inaugural Were Made in China – Jason Easley (PoliticusUSA, January 20, 2017).
In One of His First Acts as President, Donald Trump Put Black Lives Matter on Notice – Leon Neyfakh (Slate, January 20, 2017).
Trump’s WhiteHouse.Gov Disappears Civil Rights, Climate Change, LGBT Rights – Justin Miller (The Daily Beast, January 20, 2017).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Inauguration Day in the Twin Cities
Something to Think About – January 20, 2017
On International Human Rights Day, Saying "No" to Donald Trump and His Fascist Agenda
Progressive Perspectives on the Election of Donald Trump as President of the United States
Carrying It On
Standing in Prayer and Solidarity with the Water Protectors of Standing Rock
Standing Together
Quote of the Day – August 19, 2016

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Something to Think About . . .


Related Off-site Links:
The Trump Era is a Leap in the Dark – Eugene Robinson (The Washington Post, January 19, 2017).
Welcome to the United States of Emergency – Dan Froomkin (The Intercept, January 20, 2017).
The Trump Resistance Plan: Day One – Steven Harper (, January 18, 2017).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
On International Human Rights Day, Saying "No" to Donald Trump and His Fascist Agenda
Progressive Perspectives on the Election of Donald Trump as President of the United States
Carrying It On

Inauguration Day in the Twin Cities

Notes MPR News:

Thousands of people are expected to protest the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump at events throughout the Twin Cities on Friday.

The largest of nearly 10 protests in the works is scheduled to take place through downtown Minneapolis. The "Resist from Day One Coalition" has organized a march that begins on Lake Street at 2 p.m. and follows a route along Nicollet Mall to City Hall at 5 p.m.

Organizer Alex Boxer said the group represents more than 70 Twin Cities organizations.

"We're working moms, immigrant Americans, people of color, LGBTQI folks, young people, students, people of faith doing our best to improve our communities," Boxer said.

Boxer said the coalition does not have official plans to block highways or disrupt businesses.

Minneapolis police spokesperson Corey Schmidt said the department has no planned road closures, but will make them on an as-needed basis. He said officers are assigned to Friday's protest events and the department can "get additional staffing from around the city if needed."

The Women's March Minnesota is scheduled for Saturday morning at the State Capitol. Organizers say they expect 20,000 people to attend.



CTUL (Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha) Janitors Strike Against Trump
5:30 to 8 a.m. | The Home Depot, 1520 New Brighton Blvd., Minneapolis | More information

Students for a Democratic Society at UMN, Campus Walkout
1 to 1:30 p.m. | Humphrey School of Public Affairs, 301 19th Ave. S., Minneapolis | More information

Resist from Day One MN Mega-March Kickoff
2 to 6 p.m. | Kmart, 10 W. Lake St., Minneapolis | More information

Native Lives Matter Blake Snake Resistance March
2:30 to 5 p.m. | Peavey Field Park, 730 E. 22nd St., Minneapolis | More information

Water is Life - Resist Cultural Genocide - Native Lives Matter
3 to 5:30 p.m. | 1900 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis | More information

U.M.A.H.H. (The Universal Movement for Advancing Hip-Hop) Presents Ice Cube's Good Day 25th Anniversary Party
7 p.m. to 2 a.m. | Nomad World Pub, 501 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis | More information


Related Off-site Links
US: Dawn of Dangerous New Era – Human Rights Watch, January 20, 2017).
10 Acts of Resistance on Inauguration Day – John Pavlovitz (, January 12, 2017).
What's Next After All The Marches? Organize – Brittany T. Oliver (, January 12, 2017).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
On International Human Rights Day, Saying "No" to Donald Trump and His Fascist Agenda
Progressive Perspectives on the Election of Donald Trump as President of the United States
Election Eve Thoughts
Carrying It On
Progressive Perspectives on the Rise of Donald Trump
Trump's Playbook

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Progressives and Obama (Part 7)

Earlier today Barack Obama gave his last press conference as president.

In less than 40 hours he and his family will vacant the White House . . . and Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States.

This evening I've been looking back over the things I've written and shared about Obama at The Wild Reed.

There's this piece, for example, which contains my friend Mary Lynn's account of the June 2008 night when Obama clinched the presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention in downtown St. Paul, not that far from where I was living at the time.

And this piece, in which I share my "thoughts on tomorrow's presidential election." And then this, wherein I document the events of the next night when, in celebrating the election of Barack Obama, the first black president, millions celebrated the belief and hope that "change has come to America." (And of course included in these millions were many young people, including my friend Joey who penned this shortly after the November 2008 election of Obama.)

And then there's The Wild Reed's "Progressives and Obama" series, a series which in the lead-up to and in immediate days after the election of Barack Obama, highlighted critical perspectives on Obama from progressive thinkers such as Norman Solomon, Leslie Cagan and Antonia Juhasz, Timothy Patrick McCarthy, Howard Zinn, Manning Marable, Colleen Kochivar-Baker, and a number of others. (To start at the beginning of this series, click here.)

There was great hope, to be sure, in those days of late 2008 and early 2009. Yet from those first days of the what I guess will be refer to now as "the Obama era" (2009-2016), there was also disappointment and concern. Patrick Martin, for instance, wrote the following in January 2009.

In advance of his inauguration, President-elect Barack Obama has assembled a cabinet drawn from the upper echelons of American society and the right-wing of the Democratic Party. Despite his invocations of “change,” his appeals to anti-war sentiment and to young people in the course of nearly two years of campaigning, there is not a single figure in the leading personnel of the Obama administration drawn from the more liberal elements of the Democratic Party, let alone anyone representative of the broad masses of working people and youth. The right-wing character of Obama’s nominees is described by the media under the approving labels of “centrist,” “moderate,” and — most of all — “pragmatic.” This terminology signifies that the incoming Obama team consists entirely of individuals who pass muster with the corporate-financial elite. There is not a whiff of genuine oppositional sentiment, let alone political radicalism, among the lot of them.

Like many progressives, I had tremendous hope for an Obama presidency, and in one area in particular, he exceeded beyond everyone's expectations, including his own. Obama would, after all, turn out to be the most pro-LGBTQ president of all time, and as German Lopez documents, he leaves "an incredible legacy on LGBTQ rights."

And yet even as I celebrate this and acknowledge without hesitation that Obama is 100 times preferable to the incoming President Trump, I nevertheless find myself agreeing with the following comment made by a Facebook friend in response to the meme at left.

[Obama's drone warfare] is one of the reasons I can't engage with the "Obama was a great president" discourse. Without doubt he was treated abominably by Republicans in Congress, who so racistly and corruptly blocked many of his initiatives. But he also presided over the massive growth of the surveillance state. And bailed out Wall Street leaving underwater homeowners and people who had saved for retirement with nothing. He represented the 1% far more than the ordinary American. And he is responsible for thousands of innocent deaths.

My friend's mentioning of Republican obstructionism reminds me of the recent remarks of Cornell Belcher (right) in a segment of the January 16 broadcast of The Takeaway. Belcher is the author of A Black Man in the White House, and he had the following to say about Obama and the triggering of America's "racial-aversion crisis."

I'd argue that Barack Obama's presidency and the diverse coalition that put him in that office was a triggering effect that allowed a very racially polarizing figure like Donald Trump to rise to prominence.

Barack Obama didn't do anything from a policy standpoint or a governing standpoint to increase racial tensions. Most people of color would argue that he did everything he could to lessen that tension. What did he do, in fact, that would make white conservatives hate him, other than being black? Let's be real: the day before his election Republicans did something that, quite frankly, they had never done before. They gathered together in a steakhouse in Washington, D.C. and decided that they were going to block every thing he did so as to make him a failed president. The level of disrespect and the level of "outside the norm" stuff that we've seen over the past eight years is because a black man is in the White House. We've had a Congress that has worked through natural disasters, through wars, through whatever you can throw at it. But the moment we have a black man in the White House it becomes a completely dysfunctional body in a way it has never been before.

And so with the Obama era rapidly coming to a close, I thought I'd conclude my "Progressives and Obama" series by sharing not only the above thoughts and insights but also the following perspectives from three progressive thinkers and activists I greatly respect – Medea Benjamin, Gary Younge, and Cornel West. All three have had op-eds published recently in The Guardian, and it's from these three pieces that the following three passages are excerpted respectively.

Medea Benjamin

Most Americans would probably be astounded to realize that the president who has been painted by Washington pundits as a reluctant warrior has actually been a hawk. The Iran nuclear deal, a herculean achievement, and the opening of diplomatic relations with Cuba unfortunately stand alone as President Obama’s successful uses of diplomacy over hostility.

While candidate Obama came to office pledging to end George W Bush’s wars, he leaves office having been at war longer than any president in US history. He is also the only president to serve two complete terms with the nation at war.

President Obama did reduce the number of US soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, but he dramatically expanded the air wars and the use of special operations forces around the globe. In 2016, US special operators could be found in 70% of the world’s nations, 138 countries – a staggering jump of 130% since the days of the Bush administration.

Looking back at President Obama’s legacy, the Council on Foreign Relation’s Micah Zenko added up the defense department’s data on airstrikes and made a startling revelation: in 2016 alone, the Obama administration dropped at least 26,171 bombs. This means that every day last year, the US military blasted combatants or civilians overseas with 72 bombs; that’s three bombs every hour, 24 hours a day.

While most of these air attacks were in Syria and Iraq, US bombs also rained down on people in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. That’s seven majority-Muslim countries.

One bombing technique that President Obama championed is drone strikes. As drone-warrior-in-chief, he spread the use of drones outside the declared battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, mainly to Pakistan and Yemen. Obama authorized over 10 times more drone strikes than George W Bush, and automatically painted all males of military age in these regions as combatants, making them fair game for remote controlled killing.

President Obama has claimed that his overseas military adventures are legal under the 2001 and 2003 authorizations for the use of military force passed by Congress to go after al-Qaida. But today’s wars have little or nothing to do with those who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001.

. . . Pushed to release information about civilian deaths in drone strikes, in July 2016 the US government made the absurd claim it had killed, at most, 116 civilians in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya between 2009 and 2015. Journalists and human rights advocates said the numbers were ridiculously low and unverifiable, given that no names, dates, locations or others details were released. The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which has tracked drone strikes for years, said the true figure was six times higher.

Given that drones account for only a small portion of the munitions dropped in the past eight years, the numbers of civilians killed by Obama’s bombs could be in the thousands. But we can’t know for sure as the administration, and the mainstream media, has been virtually silent about the civilian toll of the administration’s failed interventions.

Medea Benjamin
Excerpted from "America Dropped 26,171 Bombs in 2016.
What a Bloody End to Obama's Reign
The Guardian
January 9, 2016

Gary Younge

For the past eight years American liberals have gorged themselves on symbolism. A significant section of the population, including those most likely to support Barack Obama, have felt better about their country even as they have fared worse in it. The young, good-looking, intact, scandal-free black family in the White House embodied a hopeful future for America and beyond. Photogenic, with an understated chic, here were people of colour who looked even better in black and white. With personal stories of progress without privilege, they provided Camelot without the castle: evoking a sense of possibility in a period of economic stagnation, social immobility and political uncertainty.

As Obama passes the keys and the codes to Donald Trump at the end of this week, so many liberals mourn the passing of what has been, remain in a state of disbelief for what has happened, and express deep anxiety about what is to come. It is a steep cliff – politically, rhetorically and aesthetically – from the mocha-complexioned consensual intellectual to the permatanned, “pussy-grabbing” vulgarian.

But there is a connection between the “new normal” and the old that must be understood if resistance in the Trump era is going to amount to more than Twitter memes driven by impotent rage and fuelled by flawed nostalgia. This transition is not simply a matter of sequence – one bad president following a good one – but consequence: one horrendous agenda made possible by the failure of its predecessor.

It is easy for liberals to despise Trump. He is a thin-skinned charlatan, a self-proclaimed sexual harasser, a blusterer and a bigot. One need not exhaust any moral energy in making the case against his agenda. That is precisely what makes it so difficult to understand his appeal. Similarly, it is easy for liberals to love Obama. He’s measured, thoughtful, smart and eloquent – and did some good things despite strong opposition from Republicans. That is precisely what makes it so difficult for liberals to provide a principled and plausible critique of his presidency.

One cannot blame Obama for Trump. It was the Republicans – craven to the mob within their base, which they have always courted but ultimately could not control – that nominated and, for now, indulges him. And yet it would be disingenuous to claim Trump rose from a vacuum that bore no relationship to the previous eight years.

Some of that relationship is undeniably tied up in who Obama is: a black man, with a lapsed Muslim father from Kenya. That particular constellation of identities was like catnip to an increasingly strident wing of the Republican party in a time of war, migration and racial tumult. Trump did not invent racism. Indeed, race-baiting has been a staple of Republican party strategy for more than 50 years. But as he refused to observe the electoral etiquette of the Nixon strategy (“You have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks,” Richard Nixon told his chief-of-staff, HR Haldeman. “The key is to devise a system that recognises that while not appearing to”), his campaign descended into a litany of brazen racist taunts.

Racism’s role should not be underplayed, but its impact can arguably be overstated. While Trump evidently emboldened existing racists, it’s not obvious that he created new ones. He received the same proportion of the white vote as Mitt Romney in 2012 and George W Bush in 2004. It does not follow that because Trump’s racism was central to his meaning for liberals, it was necessarily central to his appeal for Republicans.

There is a deeper connection, however, between Trump’s rise and what Obama did – or rather didn’t do – economically. He entered the White House at a moment of economic crisis, with Democratic majorities in both Houses and bankers on the back foot. Faced with the choice of preserving the financial industry as it was or embracing far-reaching reforms that would have served the interests of those who voted for him, he chose the former.

Just a couple of months into his first term he called a meeting of banking executives. “The president had us at a moment of real vulnerability,” one of them told Ron Suskind in his book Confidence Men. “At that point, he could have ordered us to do just about anything and we would have rolled over. But he didn’t – he mostly wanted to help us out, to quell the mob.” People lost their homes while bankers kept their bonuses and banks kept their profits.

Gary Younge
Excerpted from "How Barack Obama
Paved the Way for Donald Trump
The Guardian
January 16, 2016

Cornel West

The age of Barack Obama may have been our last chance to break from our neoliberal soulcraft. We are rooted in market-driven brands that shun integrity and profit-driven policies that trump public goods. Our “post-integrity” and “post-truth” world is suffocated by entertaining brands and money-making activities that have little or nothing to do with truth, integrity or the long-term survival of the planet. We are witnessing the postmodern version of the full-scale gangsterization of the world.

The reign of Obama did not produce the nightmare of Donald Trump – but it did contribute to it. And those Obama cheerleaders who refused to make him accountable bear some responsibility.

A few of us begged and pleaded with Obama to break with the Wall Street priorities and bail out Main Street. But he followed the advice of his “smart” neoliberal advisers to bail out Wall Street. In March 2009, Obama met with Wall Street leaders. He proclaimed: I stand between you and the pitchforks. I am on your side and I will protect you, he promised them. And not one Wall Street criminal executive went to jail.

We called for the accountability of US torturers of innocent Muslims and the transparency of US drone strikes killing innocent civilians. Obama’s administration told us no civilians had been killed. And then we were told a few had been killed. And then told maybe 65 or so had been killed. Yet when an American civilian, Warren Weinstein, was killed in 2015 there was an immediate press conference with deep apologies and financial compensation. And today we still don’t know how many have had their lives taken away.

We hit the streets again with Black Lives Matter and other groups and went to jail for protesting against police killing black youth. We protested when the Israeli Defense Forces killed more than 2,000 Palestinians (including 550 children) in 50 days. Yet Obama replied with words about the difficult plight of police officers, department investigations (with no police going to jail) and the additional $225m in financial support of the Israeli army. Obama said not a mumbling word about the dead Palestinian children but he did call Baltimore black youth “criminals and thugs.”

In addition, Obama’s education policy unleashed more market forces that closed hundreds of public schools for charter ones. The top 1% got nearly two-thirds of the income growth in eight years even as child poverty, especially black child poverty, remained astronomical. Labor insurgencies in Wisconsin, Seattle and Chicago (vigorously opposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a close confidant of Obama) were passed over in silence.

In 2009, Obama called New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg an “outstanding mayor.” Yet he overlooked the fact that more than 4 million people were stopped-and-frisked under Bloomberg’s watch. Along with Carl Dix and others, I sat in a jail two years later for protesting these very same policies that Obama ignored when praising Bloomberg.

Yet the mainstream media and academia failed to highlight these painful truths linked to Obama. Instead, most well-paid pundits on TV and radio celebrated the Obama brand. And most black spokespeople shamelessly defended Obama’s silences and crimes in the name of racial symbolism and their own careerism. How hypocritical to see them now speak truth to white power when most went mute in the face of black power. Their moral authority is weak and their newfound militancy is shallow.

. . . The president’s greatest legislative achievement was to provide healthcare for over 25 million citizens, even as another 20 million are still uncovered. But it remained a market-based policy, created by the conservative Heritage Foundation and first pioneered by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts.

Obama’s lack of courage to confront Wall Street criminals and his lapse of character in ordering drone strikes unintentionally led to rightwing populist revolts at home and ugly Islamic fascist rebellions in the Middle East. And as deporter-in-chief – nearly 2.5 million immigrants were deported under his watch – Obama policies prefigure Trump’s barbaric plans.

Bernie Sanders gallantly tried to generate a leftwing populism but he was crushed by Clinton and Obama in the unfair Democratic party primaries. So now we find ourselves entering a neofascist era: a neoliberal economy on steroids, a reactionary repressive attitude toward domestic “aliens”, a militaristic cabinet eager for war and in denial of global warming. All the while, we are seeing a wholesale eclipse of truth and integrity in the name of the Trump brand, facilitated by the profit-hungry corporate media.

What a sad legacy for our hope and change candidate.

Cornel West
Excerpted from "Pity the Sad Legacy of Barack Obama"
The Guardian
January 9, 2016

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Progressives and Obama (Part 1)
Progressives and Obama (Part 2)
Progressives and Obama (Part 3)
Progressives and Obama (Part 4)
Progressives and Obama (Part 5)
Progressives and Obama (Part 6)
Historic (and Wild)!
Reality Check
One of Those Moments
Obama, Ayers, the “S” Word, and the “Most Politically Backward Layers in America”
Obama a Socialist? Hardly
Thoughts on Tomorrow’s Presidential Election (2008)
“Change Has Come to America”
A Night of Celebration
The Challenge for Progressives with an Obama Presidency

Related Off-site Links:
Why Obama Nostalgia Matters – Neal Gabler (, January 18, 2017).
Why We Shouldn’t Mourn the Obamas’ Departure from the White House – Zeba Blay (The Huffington Post, January 19, 2017).
How America's Thinking Changed Under Obama – Reuben Fischer-Baum and Dhrumil Mehta (FiveThirtyEight, January 18, 2017).
“We Were Heard for the First Time”: President Obama Leaves an Incredible Legacy on LGBTQ Rights – German Lopez (Vox, January 17, 2017).
Democrats Can’t Win Until They Recognize How Bad Obama’s Financial Policies Were – Matt Stoller (The Washington Post, January 12, 2017).
How President Obama Solidified the Transition to Perpetual WarThe Takeaway (January 18, 2016).
From Torture to Drone Strikes: The Disturbing Legal Legacy Obama is Leaving for Trump – Jennifer Williams (Vox, January 10, 2017).
The Issue is Not Trump, It's Us – John Pilger (teleSUR, January 16, 2017).

Monday, January 16, 2017

Quote of the Day

I have decided to stick with love.
Hate is too great a burden to bear.

Related Off-site Links
Remembering the Real Martin Luther King Jr. – Peter Z. Scheer (TruthDig, January 16, 2017).
The Evolution of Dr. King – Lee Sustar (Jacobin, January 16, 2017).
Restoring King – Thomas J. Sugrue (Jacobin, January 16, 2017).
Historian Explains the Many Reasons Martin Luther King Jr. Would Be Appalled by Donald Trump – Daniel Thomas Fleming (History News Network via Raw Story, January 16, 2017).
Celebrating Dr. King with the Departure of Barack Obama – Ajamu Baraka (CounterPunch, January 18, 2017).
On Martin Luther King Day: A Parish’s Work for LGBT and Racial Justice – Francis DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0, January 15, 2017).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Martin Luther King, Jr. and Democratic Socialism
The Triumph of Love
The Choice (and Risk) That is Love
In the Garden of Spirituality – James B. Nelson
In the Garden of Spirituality – Elizabeth Johnson

Sunday, January 15, 2017

To Dance . . .

. . . is to become a living stream
of sensory, kinetic energy

The following is excerpted from dancer, philosopher, and scholar of religion Kimerer LaMothe's fascinating book, Why We Dance: A Philosophy of Bodily Becoming.

To dance is to cultivate a sensory awareness of ourselves as movement-in-the-making. To dance is to yield to this development as it happens in us and to us by virtue of the movements we are making. To dance, whether one is on a brightly lit stage in a modern dance performance or alone in the desert on a dark night, is to allow oneself to become a living stream of sensory, kinetic creativity – a continuous flow of erupting impulses – banked by the movement patterns one is making.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Soul of a Dancer
The Art of Dancing as the Supreme Symbol of the Spiritual Life
"Move Us to Action, Loving God"
"Then I Shall Leap into Love . . ."
The Premise of All Forms of Dance
And as We Dance . . .
Unique . . . Yes, You!
The Naked Truth . . . in Dance and in Life
Balance: The Key to Serenity and Clarity
Memet Bilgin and the Art of Restoring Balance
Dance and Photography: Two Entwined Histories
The Body: As Sacred and Knowing as a Temple Oracle

Images: Brazilian dancer and model Mario Beckman in "Body Language," a photographic project by Gastohn Barrios.

One of the things I appreciate about these images is that Beckman is photographed on a rock platform of a coastal tidal zone, that special in-between places that can be both land and sea. (One such place in Australia is a very sacred place for me, as I've previous talked about here, here and here.) The imagery and symbolism of such a place also served as an inspiration for my 2006 homily, "Somewhere in Between."