The Justice Chronicles, Volume 38: What Makes Someone an American?

Many years ago my cousin married a man in the Air Force and for much of his career they moved from base to base. Their son was born while the family lived in Tripoli, Libya (Northern Africa). When he was about 10 the family lived in Southern Virginia and his classmates asked him where he was from. But when he told them he was born in Africa they refused to believe him. “You can’t be from Africa. You’re not Black.” Full disclosure: they didn’t use the word “Black” but you get the point.

In 2006 Virginia Republican Senator George Allen ran for reelection. As is the custom, Mr. Allen’s opponent hired a young man to follow his campaign and report back. The man, S.R. Sidarth, was born and raised in Virginia but was dark skinned as his parents immigrated from India. When Mr. Allen learned of Mr. Sidarth at a rally he said this to the crowd: “This fellow here over here with the yellow shirt, Macaca, or whatever his name is. He’s with my opponent… Let’s give a welcome to Macaca, here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.”

Both groups assumed that your skin color was determined by where you were born and that you have to be white to be a “real” American when biology tells us that skin color is determined by our DNA. And our Constitution tells us that a person is an American (citizen) by either being born here or by becoming naturalized.

I’m writing this now because of recent violent incidents against the AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) communities over the false belief that COVID 19 is their fault. They are often told to “go back to where you belong.” Because of the shape of their eyes they are perceived to not belong.

But immigrants from China have been coming since the 1850s and their story is nearly identical to the European immigrants around the same time. They worked hard at jobs that others wouldn’t take, they raised their families, and wanted nothing more than a better life.

The next Asian person you meet may well be a 4th or 5th generation American. And even if he’s not, COVID 19 didn’t come because he was Asian, but because the virus found a host. The virus spread because of Americans who refused to take precautions (mask, distance, etc.). It may be easier and more fashionable to blame Asians, but the only way out of this pandemic is to stop the spread of the virus, not find someone to blame.

By the way, I “look like” an American but two of my four grandparents were born in Canada.

The Money Chronicles, Volume 20: Why Is Helping The Economy (And Americans) A Liberal Agenda?

Today we learned that President Biden’s COVID-19 plan passed both houses of Congress and he will sign the bill into law in the next day or so.

By any measure it’s been a hard year. In late 2019 we learned about a virus that began in China and soon made its way around the globe. This time last year the its spread and lethality alarmed us enough to shut down large parts of the economy. Restaurants and gyms shut down, schools largely switched to distance learning, and many retail stores began to offer only services only by delivery.

As expected many people, largely those at the bottom of the economy, lost their jobs. Those who could work from home did this, but they were primarily those in the middle to top of the economy.

In fairness, the previous (Republican) President signed legislation to provide direct assistance and increased unemployment benefits but they were temporary. Now that our President is a Democrat, the Republican party has suddenly decided to care about the amount of money the government is spending.

They argue that the bill provides assistance that goes beyond help for COVID-19. They claim that this bill provides a “wish list of the liberal agenda”.

Speaking as a Democrat, I plead guilty. The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t just caused the death of 500,000 Americans, it has also devastated our economy.

If this bill provides us with the ability to inoculate us against the virus, I’m on board. And if it also allows business to stay in business, if it allows the unemployed to continue to provide food and housing to themselves and their families, I’m also on board with that.

If you disagree with me and if you claim to be Christian, please give me your argument in light of Matthew, chapter 5.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 154: Hopefully This Will Be My Last Trump Chronicles Post

I write this a little over six weeks after Donald Trump left the White House. He left without acknowledging his defeat to President Joseph Biden or attending President Biden’s inauguration. Trump is determined to spend the rest of his life claiming he won the election and was cheated out of a 2nd term.

This past weekend he spoke at a conference for conservative Republicans (CPAC) and hinted that he would attempt to regain the White House in 2024.

I began the Trump Chronicles shortly after he won in 2016. His election horrified most of us and I determined to write a blog that called him to account. In those four years I wrote 153 blog posts that called out his his lies, his prejudices, and his determination to profit on the backs of all of us.

Simply put, I’m tired of writing about him. I don’t know his future but I pray that he will pay for his crimes against the American people. If his behavior places him in prison I will not rejoice but will instead feel relieved. I doubt I’ll write about him again.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 153: What If This Happened in 2017?

I’m writing this in the midst of the Senate trial to decide the future of President Trump after his second impeachment.

Those of us who support his removal claim that he broke his Presidential oath of office where he promised this: “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” On January 6, 2021 we believe he betrayed his oath when he called on his supporters to storm the Capitol and prevent the Senate from accepting the American peoples’ decision to elect Joe Biden.

Trump’s defenders claim that he is not guilty, that he didn’t incite his followers, and he didn’t call for the overthrow of the 2020 election.

Now imagine if this had happened four years earlier. In November of 2016 President Obama was prepared to leave office after two terms. He (as well as many of us) believed that Hillary Clinton would defeat Donald Trump and were horrified to learn that while Hillary won the popular vote, Trump won the electoral vote and would be our next President.

So what if President Obama, in his last few weeks in office, claimed the election was stolen and called on his supporters to storm the Capitol on January 7, 2017 to prevent the Senate from certifying the 2016 election. It doesn’t matter if his intent was to remain in office or mandate that Hillary be installed as President.

Can we imagine that Republicans in Congress would have allowed this to happen without consequences? Assuming that President Obama’s attempt to overthrow the 2016 election failed (as did Trump’s attempt to overthrow the 2020 election), does anyone seriously believe that President Obama would have been given a pass because he was no longer in office?

Of course not. The Republican Party does not believe in fairness or justice. They believe that whatever they do is permissible because they are always right and fairness doesn’t matter.

They’re wrong. Rev. Martin Luther King once said that “The Arc of the Moral Universe is Long, But it Bends Toward Justice.” History will not be kind to Trump, but history will also not be kind to his supporters.

History will recognize that Trump’s supporters in the Senate cared little for justice or fairness and cared only for their desire for job security. They will be remembered as cowards.

I pray their cowardice will, ironically, cost them their jobs.

The Four Chaplains: May We Never Forget Their Courage

I don’t remember when I first heard this story, but something incredibly brave happened on 3 February 1943. During World War II the SS Dorchester, a civilian ship pressed into service to transport American troops to Greenland, was torpedoed by a German submarine. As the ship began to sink it became clear that there were not enough life jackets for all the troops on board.

Among those on board were four chaplains: Rev. George Fox (1900-1943), Rabbi Alexander Goode (1911-1943), Rev. Clark Poling (1910-1943), and Fr. John Washington (1908-1943).

When they recognized that there were not enough life jackets they gave up their own and stayed on the sinking ship. Those who were saved because of their life jackets remember seeing these four chaplains linking arms and praying as the bow of the ship sank.

I spent twenty two years as a hospice chaplain and the title “chaplain” means a great deal to me. When I see a chaplain acting with courage I feel pride and when I see a chaplain acting cowardly I feel anger. When I think of these men I feel great love and admiration.

They did us proud and we need to know that.

Not Yosemite, But Still A Wonderful Few Days

It’s been a tradition that Nancy and I travel to Yosemite National Park in late January. Over twenty years ago we learned about Chef’s Holidays where gourmet chefs from around the country gather to provide cooking demonstrations and meals. We spend several days hiking, eating, and drinking a disproportionate share of the the world’s resources. We pray our gratitude balances enough karma for us.

But it’s no surprise that COVID-19 has once again made our plans moot. Chef’s Holidays were cancelled as were the accommodations in Yosemite Valley. By early fall we recognized that Yosemite 2021 wasn’t going to happen. In our search for an alternative we stumbled on the fact that Nancy’s cousin Annie and her family own a cabin in Lake Arrowhead. When we approached them they couldn’t have been more gracious and generous and we were able to spend a few days enjoying their hospitality.

If you’ve never been to Lake Arrowhead, which is North and East of Los Angeles, you need to check this off your bucket list. It’s beautiful, and in January it’s a nice winter break from Southern California. At 5000 feet elevation it does get snow from time to time.

We didn’t have snow but the hiking was spectacular and a fully functional kitchen allowed us to enjoy S’Mores.

We hope to return to Yosemite in 2012 but will always hold Lake Arrowhead (and our hosts) dear in our hearts.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 152: Your Report Card Comes Due

Four years ago I placed a marker for President Trump. I recorded several indications of how our nation was doing and suggested that we could compare how we did in the last four years.

Interestingly, President Trump did well in several of them. Looking at the stock market we’ve seen increases in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (19,732 to 30,930), the NASDAQ (5540 to 13,197), and Standard and Poors (2263 to 3748). Despite the volatility of employment over the last year, the unemployment average rose from 4.7% to 6.7%. And the number of Americans employed rose from 123,570,000 to 158,130,000.

On the other hand his approval rating has dropped from 38% to 34% (it never hit 50%). The federal deficit rose from $590 billion to $3.3 trillion while the federal debt rose from $20 trillion to $27 trillion. The percentage of Americans was 11% and I was not able to find the current percentage.

The failure of the Trump Administration was, in the end, not economic. Here are my thoughts on why his administration failed:

  • He wasn’t able to keep several of his promises: His 2016 campaign centered on building a wall on the Mexican border (and have Mexico pay for it). While there has been some building, the wall he promised never happened and Mexico didn’t pay a penny (or peso). He promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with something cheaper and better. He was unable to repeal it and never developed a better plan. He promised coal miners that he would “bring back coal” and that never happened. He promised to “win” a trade war with China that did nothing more than impoverish farmers who suffered from China’s retaliation to Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods.
  • Many Americans grew weary of his lies: He lied about things that were obvious. He claimed that more people attended his inauguration than did President Obama’s in 2012. He claimed that he would have won the popular vote in 2016 were it not for illegal votes. Whenever asked about white supremacists or organizations who supported him he claimed to know nothing about them (e.g. David Dukes or the Proud Boys). Lying is always dicey but having to explain to your children that it’s not OK to lie when the President does makes for difficult conversations
  • Democratic voters were too complacent in 2016 and vowed not to make that mistake again: Many of us never expected that our nation would elect Donald Trump. We scorned him during the Republican primary and expressed surprise that he won the nomination and we never expected he would beat Hilary Clinton. Enough Democrats didn’t bother to vote, falsely thinking their votes weren’t needed. Chastened by that experience they made certain it wouldn’t happen again
  • COVID-19: This probably made the most difference. President Trump made a point of ignoring the wisdom of his predecessors and that included a playbook for a possible viral infection. The Obama administration successfully battled Ebola in 2014 and learned a great deal about global pandemics. Their hope to pass their wisdom to treat the next pandemic fell on deaf ears and when COVID-19 showed up on our shores the Trump administration had no plan. He attempted to blame the Chinese (hoping this would solve it), insisted that it won’t last long, and argued that wearing face masks were not necessary. Meanwhile thousands of Americans fell ill, died, or grieved loved ones who died. President Trump’s decision to ignore COVID convinced many Americans that he was no longer trustworthy to lead our nation.

Since his defeat in November he has shown himself to be far from a gracious loser. Two weeks ago we saw him ignite an assault on the US Capitol.

We can only hope that Americans from future generations learn the lessons of history and never again elect someone who has such disregard for our nation.

COVID and the 1918 Flu: Lest we forget

Several years ago I discovered Findagrave. It came out of my interest in genealogy. Volunteers like myself tramp through cemeteries and set up memorials from the headstones to honor those who have gone before us. Sometimes we know them, oftentimes we don’t. But we don’t want their memories to disappear.

Today I came across a few headstones for the Chiappe and Carniglia families at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery here in San Diego. I’m not entirely certain how, but these two families are related to each other. What caught my were four memorials:

They ranged in age from 5 to 57 and all four died in the span of 10 days. Given their age and the proximity of their dates of death I think we can safely assume they all died in the 1918 Flu Pandemic.

Over a century later we find ourselves in the face of another pandemic. But we also find ourselves surrounded by people who believe it’s all a hoax and we don’t need to socially distance or wear a mask.

Don’t listen to them. Instead listen to the voices of those who died within 10 days of each other in 1918.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 151: Now Impeached He Needs To Be Convicted

Last Wednesday the House of Representatives voted 217-192 to impeach President Trump for the second time, and according to the Constitution it now moves to the Senate to convict. While it only takes a majority of the House to impeach it takes a 2/3 vote of the Senate to convict and remove him from office.

While Presidents Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump were impeached, none of them were convicted and removed from office. This may change soon.

I hope so.

President Trump’s allies argue that he has only a few days left in office and there is no point in removing someone from an office that he no longer holds.

On its face it does make some sense, but I argue that he still needs to be removed.

President Trump continues to claim that he won the 2020 election and has been robbed of a second term. He and his allies claim that voter fraud, uncounted ballots, and various other conspiracy theories cheated him of his reelection. While he hasn’t conceded defeat he has claimed he will run again in 2024. A conviction will ensure this won’t happen as he will be barred from running from another office.

More importantly, a conviction will send the message that nobody, even the President, is above the law. Our Founding Fathers wrote volumes (not only in the Constitution but also in the Federalist Papers) that they didn’t choose to overthrow King George III only to replace him with a homegrown tyrant. It’s often said that the mark of a true democracy isn’t the inauguration of the the first President but the inauguration of our second President. In other words the peaceful transition of power from one President to another makes us a true nation of, by, and for the people.

Since this happened for the first time in 1800 (when George Washington passed the mantle to John Adams) it hasn’t always been easy and several times a current President has been forced to watch his successor take the oath of office when he lost his bid for reelection.

But for the most part the outgoing President has shown graciousness and a respect for our nation. President Trump ended this. Not only has he refused to accept the will of the voters he has demanded that others break the law to keep him in office.

I hope we’re all aware of his threat to the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (a Republican) that if he didn’t “find” 11,780 votes he would face criminal charges. Fortunately Mr. Raffensperger didn’t take his threat seriously.

But on January 7th it became much, much more serious. On that day Congress was set to meet to accept the electoral votes and certify that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were properly elected as President and Vice President. We’re learning more about this each day but I think we can all agree that President Trump emboldened his supporters to march on the Capitol and, frankly, occupy it. Not only did they wish to stop the certification they intended to keep President Trump in office.

Four years ago the majority of us voted for Hillary Clinton to lead us. She won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote (much like President Bush in 2000). We were hurt, angry, and afraid but we accepted the results and prayed that President Trump would govern better than we feared.

He didn’t. By any standard he made us worse and I have no desire to list his failures. But nobody can argue that he was unprepared for COVID-19. He blamed China, he blamed the Democrats, he made fun of those who wore masks, and refused to listen to the smartest people in the room.

President Trump hoped to follow the fascist playbook: Find a way to power and declare that yourself president for life. He hoped to whip up the mob to prevent Congress from certifying the election. And then he planned to stay. He had no mechanism to have the vote certified for him. He also presented no evidence of voter fraud.

He wished to be Donald the First. Gratefully he didn’t succeed. Now we must ensure he can’t make another attempt.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 150: Enough is enough. Trump Needs To Go

We all knew that President Trump wouldn’t leave office easily or in a way that brings honor to our nation and traiditions. As a matter of fact I wrote about this last April.

In that post I feared that he would encourage his sycophants to surround the White House on January 20, 2021 to prevent his exit from the White House. I hadn’t thought Trump would encourage his minions to storm the U.S. Capitol on the day that they convened to accept the votes of the Electoral College.

It was a scary day and you can read a good timeline here. It began with a rally at the White House with President Trump telling the inciting the crowd to march to the Capitol. He promised to join them, but once the rally was over he returned to the White House.

We’ve seen the horrific scenes know that four people died and the Capitol was desecrated. The last time this happened was in 1814 and this was an invading force, not our own citizens.

The President’s actions are, simply put, sedition.

I doubt the President planned it, but he has taken no responsibility for it. After four years he still hasn’t learned that his words matter.

If there is a silver lining here, it’s this: we can pretty much ensure that President Trump won’t be able to call his people to action to surround the White House on January 20th.

It’s going to be a long 9 days.