It is a failure of leadership. That, in just a few words, describes how America has descended into chaos domestically and internationally. Welcome to Sunday Morning Coffee my weekly look at the stories you've seen, or perhaps missed...all laced with my commentary. So much to cover this morning, long before the sun comes up.
The phone call came early yesterday afternoon. The caller, clearly identified on my cell phone, was my friend Max Knauer. Max and I don't do "chit-chat"; when we talk it is about substance. When I saw the name I knew it was important. He said to me, "I don't know if you heard, but just moments ago the news indicated there was a shooting at a synagogue in San Diego. I thought you should know." I did not know and I am grateful for friends like Max.
So, we are here yet again. A terrorist attack on a house of worship. A terrorist who feels compelled and emboldened because he believes he is getting messages that embraces the warped logic that White America is being marginalized. Those messages come from the highest places in the United States Government. On the very day of the killing in the Chabad Synagogue in San Diego the current occupant of the White House was in Wisconsin beating the drumbeat of hate and discontent in an off rails the event that lasted nearly ninety minutes.
Hate breeds hate and fear is a great motivator. All of this lies at the feet of a deranged president who goes out of his way to cast aside any form of respect...unless it is directed to other deranged "strong-man" dictatorships.
At the same time that Jews were being gunned down in California a group of white nationalists "stormed a bookstore" in Washington D.C. There author Jonathan Metzl, a professor of sociology and psychiatry at Vanderbilt University who released his book “Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland” was present for a reading. They faced the attendees, shouted into a megaphone and chanted "This land is our land!"
After the incident Metzl told the Washington Post the event was "symbolic". “It was very symbolic for me,” he told the paper. “In case anybody’s wondering what’s happening right now, they’re illustrating my point.” Here is a link to the story.
None of this is...normal. Or rather...it wasn't at one time. To prove my point:
According to the Anti Defamation League (ADL) the number of anti-Semitic incidents was nearly 60 percent higher in 2017 than 2016, the largest single-year increase on record and the second highest number reported since ADL started tracking incident data in the 1970s.
Rural Voters Summit
Yesterday I attended the Rural Voters Summit in Stuart, Iowa. The event was organized by my friend Al Womble, chair of the 3rd District Democrats. It was a morning where the several hundred in attendance listened to a panel talk about winning back the rural vote in 2020. The ideas and energy was captivating. My friend John Norris gave a stemwinding address at the end of the panel discussion that demanded the state party start to pay attention to rural counties rather than the failed effort fo concentrate efforts in the five or six "urban" centers of the state. It resonated and the crowd was on their feet. (Click on the image to enlarge.)
On hand to speak were 2020 presidential candidates Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and Andrew Yang. Of the three it was Rep. Swalwell that seemed to connect well with the audience. Usually subdued, Swalwell, was animated and outspoken about his mission to resurrect the "four freedoms" espoused by President Franklin Roosevelt in his State of the Union speech on January 6, 1941. They are:
- The freedom of speech and expression;
- The freedom of having the ability to worship;
- The freedom of want;
- The freedom from fear.
Swalwell added what he calls a "Fifth Freedom" or the freedom to dream which is really a message of hope.
In 2016 the State of Iowa saw more counties flip from Democratic to Republican than any other state in the nation. Counties that voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 moved by double digits to elect "45". Those were rural Iowa counties. Just last week a study from Iowa State University was released that attempts to explain what happened. Did voters switch because of economics? Did they switch because of the candidate? What "kitchen table issues" were on the minds of rural voters?
The researchers concluded that it was none of those factors but it had everything to do with buying into the fear of immigration, religion and losing a "way of life" that compelled Iowans to cast votes for "45".
From the survey, “At the gut level, people react to identities and protect those identities more than their livelihoods,. They’re worried about the use of the English language, religion or whether immigrants share our values and vision of America.”
I asked the panel on Saturday morning to react to that statement. After a stunned silence, which told me more than the words that followed, I heard "I have never asked, in the course of doing my job as a firefighter what religion or background a person is. I just do my job." Good answer...but he was talking about...him. Not addressing the real question.
Remember, fear is a powerful motivator.
He showed up at the Rural Voter Summit dressed in his Marine dress blues. A stunning figure at an event that was mostly...tan. He didn't say much but listened to the panel and the speeches. He was on a mission. His mission was to speak to the three candidates that had come to Stuart, Iowa and get them to pledge to stop the deportations of armed service veterans. Some 3,000 such former service personal who have, over the years, been deported to Latino nations.
Meet Manuel Valenzuela a veteran of the Vietnam War who now is fighting a war to bring back thousands of veterans who have been booted out of the country. His story is compelling. He told me in an on the spot interview that I'll put together later that he decided to dress in his uniform because without it, "...I'm just seen as a dirty Mexican. But, with the uniform on, people show respect."
Valenzuela says that both he and his brother Valente received deportation notices and he is actively fighting them. I asked him what had they done because we are told only "bad people that should not be in this country" are being deported. Manuel said that he, his brother and other suffer from PTSD. His brother's crime was to fire a gun. His crime was a traffic ticket.
I had no...idea. Did you?
It's over...except for the lawsuits. The Iowa Legislature finally quit on Saturday morning before they could do any more damage to the state. In some tawdry decisions the GOP controlled legislature seemed to be preoccupied by sex. No dollars for transgender surgery, even though the money is federal dollars. They cut the funding for Planned Parenthood sex education efforts seemingly because the GOP wants more children born to teen and pre-teen girls so they can kick them to the curb later. They decided that the attorney general of Iowa was just too independent and now want him to ask the governor if he can go after bad actors. They politicized the Iowa courts and decided that local control isn't such a good idea after all.
It was a mess. Voting has consequences.
Oh, in the final hours they did up the potency of CBT...guess one thing went well.
I really like Passover and that holiday ended last evening. More than any other Jewish holiday it is Passover with all it's dietary rules that speak volumes about obedience and learning and freedom and spring. While it is a bit sad the holiday is over this morning I will savor a bagel with cream cheese, onion and lox. Yeah...a bagel. It's sometimes the little things.
Thanks for reading and have a great Sunday!