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The other night I watched James Billington of the Library of Congress award 82-year-old Willie Nelson the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. I am not a fan of country music, Willie’s main talent, but he often crosses into jazz, blues, folk, rock, and Latin, is a guitar virtuoso in all those genres—and has the crackly, nasal voice of a tired cowboy or bartender. He has sold millions of records, created aid for farmers, and has a 5th degree black belt in Gongkwon Yusuf—whatever that is. At the end of the program Willie said he wanted to sing a song “Living in the Promised Land” he had written decades ago, but because of the political climate in this country, he wanted to bring it out of retirement. Here are some of the lyrics:
“Give us your tired and weak and we will make them strong/ bring us your foreign songs and we will sing along.
Leave us your broken dreams, we’ll give them time to mend/ there’s still a lota love livin’ in the promised land.
Livin in the promised land our dreams are made of steel/ the prayer of every man is to know how freedom feels.
There is a winding road across the shifting sand/ and room for everyone living in the promised land.
So we came from a distant isle nameless women, faithless child/ like a bad dream until there was no room at all,
No place to run and no place to fall.
Give us your daily bread we have no shoes to wear/ no place to call our own only this cross to bear.
We are the multitude--lend us a helping hand.” That song is pure Willie!
A White Canadian Neighbor Takes A Good Look At Us
Guardian writer Stephen Marche lives in very liberal Toronto, and has three non-white friends (Muslim, Sikh, and black) he often crosses the border with. In a recent article titled “The White Man Pathology,” he writes about the different treatment they receive when they cross into Detroit. He puts it this way: “I am white. They are not. They are vulnerable. I am not.” He summarizes us with brutal honesty: “America is not my mother. Canada is my mother. But America is an unbelievably gorgeous, surprisingly sweet rich lady who lives next door and appears to be falling apart. For people who love to dwell in contradictions, the US is the greatest country in the world: the land of the free built on slavery, the country of law and order where everyone is entitled to a gun, a place of unimpeded progress where they cling to backwardness out of sheer stubbornness. And into this glorious morass a new contradiction: the white people, the privileged Americans, the ones with the surest paths to brighter futures, one of the most fortunate groups in the history of the world, are starting to die off in shocking numbers.” Marche is currently covering the 2016 campaigns of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.
The line about Americans clinging to “backwardness out of sheer stubbornness” was particularly noticeable in the Republican debate after Obama’s “State of the Union” address. The three most enthusiastic blatant bombastic bombers who have never had a uniform on (Trump, Rubio, and Cruz) evidently have never seen a bomb dropped or studied our recent history. They need to examine the Vietnam War where we dropped 7,622,000 tons of bombs and eventually ended up pushing helicopters over the sides of our ships in our haste to escape from our embassy in Saigon. That’s twice the tonnage of bombs we dropped in the European and Pacific theaters in all of World War II. It was the Dulles brothers during the Eisenhower administration who came up with the “domino theory”: If Vietnam went to the communists all of Southeast Asia would follow. We should have learned something from the French who spent 40 years in the middle of a Vietnamese civil war. We have spent trillions of dollars and more than a decade bombing the hell out of Afghanistan and Iraq. To what end? Hosni Mubarak of Egypt said when Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld invaded Iraq they had just created another 100 Osama Bin Ladens. He was right. The three leading contenders for the Republican nomination—at the present time—have learned nothing from those two wars either. There was a great cartoon that summed up the Iraq War in one drawing: George W. dressed as Uncle Sam kicking over a huge Middle East hornet’s nest with thousands of hornets escaping--yelling “jihad.” Donald Trump, perhaps the most ignorant billionaire and presidential candidate ever, said he would quickly solve the problem of ISIS: “I would bomb the shit out of them.” Senator Ted Cruz, who admits he’s the smartest guy in the room, displayed his stupidity by proclaiming in peaceful Iowa: “We will carpet bomb ISIS into oblivion. I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we are going to find out.” Nothing like nukes to make sand glow. Senator Marco Rubio, who reminds me of an arrogant middle school student council president, promises he will destroy terrorists overseas by “authorizing whatever tools our commanders need.” “Whatever tools?” Would General Curtis LeMay of the Strategic Air Command have used nukes during the Cold War? We had bombers in the air and on the ground loaded with nukes ready to go in 15 minutes during this interesting time in our history. Maybe he should read some history about civilian control of the military and the firing of General Douglas MacArthur by President Harry Truman during the Korean War. It was about going to war with China, Marco. Harry didn’t want to do that. Rubio also says he would give all captured “suspected’ terrorists, Americans and foreigners, one-way tickets to an expanded Guantanamo. That’s our prison on Cuba Obama is trying to close. It seems all those “conservative” Republicans think that keeping 2,000 military at Gitmo to guard only 90 prisoners is a necessary expense for our ignorant, terrified taxpayers. That should be a collective insult to 320 million Americans. How many millions are we spending to guard each prisoner?
Some Thought Obama’s Election Proved We Were Tolerant
We still aren’t. The minute Obama was elected, Republicans were in the back rooms plotting their major political goal of the next four years—making the black Obama a one-term president. The South considered him all black, although his mother was white. His election actually tore the scabs off the wounds of history and leaked the pus of a festering, gangrenous social wound--racism. The Republican governor of Arizona shook her finger in Obama’s face, reminding him he was a second-class citizen even if he was president of the United States. In the debate of the seven dwarfs the other night Christie said Obama was a “petulant child” and that he couldn’t wait to kick his ass out of the White House. Cruz said Obama acted like a child in office when dealing with foreign policy. Why “child?” For 250 years of slavery black men were always called “Boy” even if they were 80 years-old. Black men were never to be called “men” as equal to white “men.” Christie and Cruz either proved they were ignorant of racial language and customs or they are classical assholes. I just report. You decide. Under the one-drop-of-blood rule practiced for centuries and the fact our ancestors came out of Africa everyone on earth has black blood—and more than one drop used in the South to declare race.
Last week Obama said “the state of the union is strong.” Although he didn’t convince Republicans he was no longer a “boy,” he made quite a number of dramatic policy changes. The passage of ObamaCare brought health insurance to 29 million more Americans—and it would have been millions more if the Supreme Court had not given Republican governors the option of denying Medicaid to their pooreacitizens. He took student loans away from greedy bankers who had forced high interest rates and excessive fees on college students. He dumped Leave No Child Behind which would have named every public school a failure in another year. He has emphasized new academic standards. He led the coalition of 200 countries in doing something about climate change. He emphasized renewables in the energy field—solar and wind. Solar is up 2,000%. His administration fought Wall Street over rules governing the financial industry. He supported gays in the military and same-sex marriage. He saved the auto industry from Mitt Romney-type bankruptcy by judicious loans that have all been paid back. The industry has sold 17.5 million units in 2015—a record. He has handled the recovery from the Dubya recession with patience and skill. The Dobbs-Frank law hopefully has convinced Wall Street that there are no banks too big to fail. And he probably has the Middle East mess figured out a lot better than the seven main Republican candidates. Even Ron Paul congratulated Obama on the nuke deal with Iran. Of course, it’s a wait-and-see proposition—but it’s certainly better than bomb-bomb-bomb-see.
There Are Many Loose Cannons Tearing Up The Political Decks
In the days of the Spanish Armada navy ships had their cannons on wheels so they could be rolled out and fired and then rolled back so they could be loaded again. Sometimes they broke loose from their moorings after they absorbed the “kick” and raised havoc on the decks, killing gunners and loaders. That’s how we got the term “loose cannon.” There were quite a number of loose cannon on the decks of the Republican Titanic the other night.
Trump: “Our military is a disaster. Our healthcare is a horror show. We have no borders. Our vets are being treated horribly. Illegal immigration is beyond belief. Our country is being run by incompetent people. “Migrants…could be people that do great, great destruction.”
Cruz: “China is running over President Obama like he is a child. Obama acts as an apologist for radical Islamic terrorism.” Again, the ultimate insult for a black man.
Rubio: “The damage Obama has done to America is extraordinary. If we don’t get this election right, there may be no turning back for America. Obama does not believe that America is a great global power. Obama believes America is an arrogant global power that needs to be cut down to size. Obama has deliberately weakened America.”
Bush: “The world has been torn asunder. In this administration, every weapon system has been gutted. Hillary Clinton would be a national security disaster.”
We live in strange times. In his State of the Union Obama pledged we were still in Willie’s “Promised Land,” but Republicans described the country as going over a cliff, the president a traitor, the military a $600 billion paper tiger, the economy a complete disaster, families in grave danger from terrorists, and it will be a whimpering end of our promised land if Democrats win in 2016. It must be terrible to be totally frightened by hundreds of white ISIS Toyota pickups roaming the Middle East desert with one machine gun anchored in the cargo bed.