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July 14, 2019 = April 12, 1861 II: The Third Civil War Is Engaged

“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Donald Trump (Getty Images)

On April 12, 1861, South Carolina opened fire on the US garrison of Fort Sumter. The Civil War had begun. It would rage for years and hundreds of thousands of people would die. It wreaked havoc on the land especially in the South where most of the battles were fought. Most importantly, it would be remembered. In the North, many new peoples arrived subsequent to the war who had had no direct blood connection to it. By contrast, in the South, it remained predominantly Confederate and the blood connection endured.

The war itself was a long time coming. Perhaps the hostility had its roots four score and seven years earlier when a disparate group of diverse colonies first attempted to create a united political entity. Over the years and decades to follow, that unity was sorely tested. There would be compromises and political confrontations galore. The Union held but there were limits as to how long two houses could remain linked before they separated. After April 12, 1861, the question no longer was an academic one. The battle was engaged and it continues to be fought to this very day.

Move over Bastille Day, July 14 now marks the beginning of another war.  The storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, has been joined by July 14, 2019, the day an American President launched a tweet heard throughout the country if not the world. That day will be remembered as a day of infamy where the long-brewing culture wars finally spilled forth into an open (solely political so far) combat.

Back on October 9, 2018, I incorrectly predicted the onset of America’s third civil war (America’s Third Civil War: Kava-Noes versus Kava-Yeses). At that time I wrote the following about the war:

It may be said to have begun in the 1960s. At that time, baby boomer males could be drafted into a war they did not want to fight and baby boomer females could have babies they did not want to have.

It may be said to have begun on August 17, 1992, when Pat Buchanan delivered his “Culture War” speech to the Republican National Convention.

It may be said to have begun in 2008 with Sarah Palin’s rally cry “to take back the country.”

Regardless of the preliminaries, history may well record that with the contentious and close vote on October 6, 2018, of 50-48 between Kava-Yeses and Kava-Noes the battle was fully engaged. There is no turning back now. When Charles Blow writes an op-ed in the New York Times that “Liberals, This Is War,” he fails to recognize that for conservatives it has been war for decades and appointing a fifth Republican legislator to the Supreme Court is a long overdue victory.

[W] we have a president who feasts on divisiveness. There will be no “come let us reason together” in this administration. Far from it. Instead he will stoke the flames of hatred and rejoice in the dividing of America. Never have We the People had a president who is so antagonistic to the very idea of We the People. Never have We the People had a president who is so willing, eager, and ready to campaign on behalf of hatred. Never have We the People had a president who is so antagonistic to the very goal of e pluribus unum, a motto that has been abandoned by both national political parties and mocked by our president. But there should not be any surprise that our president promotes the division of the country. What else would you expect from Putin’s poodle?

I was nine months premature. Part of the reason for the change in circumstances is that we now are in a presidential election cycle where polls show the incumbent losing. If he was coasting  to another electoral landslide because of the world’s greatest economy and the greatest economy in the history of the United States, there would have been no need to play the both race card and the alien/ foreigner card. If he was an adult and had any self-control, there would have no need to play these cards either. He simply could have watched the Democrats tear themselves apart and feasted on the divided remains. But he is not an adult and he has no self-control. So as the 7th grade smart-aleck-dumb-aleck he simply blurted exactly what he knew was not supposed to be said in polite company. He said these words of hate precisely because he knew what the reaction would be both among the Democrats and the Trumpicans. He is back in the good graces of the alt-right, exactly where he wants to be.

The war will not be fought the same way as the Civil War was. There will be no armed conflicts between huge armies firing huge amounts of explosives at each other with many casualties and deaths…as least I do not think it will. At least for now, it is clear how the initial engagements of the war will be fought beside on Twitter, social media, and cable TV.

The Trumpicans will deploy two forces at its command and hold a third force in abeyance. One is ICE which was supposed launch wide scale roundups of illegal aliens the same day as the tweet that launched the war. Although that did not happen, one can expect this commander in-chief to more actively commit his forces to action in the future. Bonespur Boy missed the Vietnam War and now he is going to demonstrate that he has the faculties to command his forces against the alien foe that threatens the land.

Second, he will and already has deployed forces along the southern border. As to the situation there, he commented:

Many of these illegal aliens are living far better now than where they came from, and in far safer conditions.

This comment is eerily similar to the claim made by Confederates to this very day about the slaves from Africa. We are doing those people a favor even in slavery or prison camps or prison by providing a better way of life than they knew in their homeland.

It is worthwhile comparing the experiences of Abraham Lincoln, the first president of the Republican Party, with Donald Trump, the last nominee of the Republican Party before it became the Trumpican Party. When young Mr. Lincoln traveled down the Mississippi to New Orleans, he was sickened by what he saw at the slave auction there. By contrast, the young THE DONALD learned from his KKK father about “those” people and was fully ready to call for the execution of the Central Park Five. A Lincoln might be distraught watching a family torn asunder; now it is just another day at the office for current president.

Third, let us not forget the private militias. At the Panhandle political professional wrestling arena, THE DONALD asked the audience of deplorables how to stop the illegal aliens from crossing into the country. “Shoot’m” exclaimed a good old boy to the laughter of the Trumpicans. How difficult would it be to raise a private militia in the Panhandle if asked for? How difficult is it to imagine after the 2020 elections, the loser calling for the militias to rally in the nation’s capital to protect him from the politically-correct-elitist-socialist-Deep-State removing him from office?

So what will the Democrats do in the current Civil War?

One action will be to counter the ICE raids. People were out if not in force, then at least to some extent, on Sunday, July 14, in opposition to ICE. Over time, one can expect the number of people involved to multiply. Over time, once can expect such confrontations to escalate in intensity. Over time, one can expect such confrontations to result in deaths. Next year marks the 250th anniversary of the Boston Massacre. Although the federal commission for the 250th anniversary is focusing on a Philadelphia extravaganza in 2026, events in the present may provide a more visceral connection to the events that led up to the July 4, 1776 (The American Revolution 250th: A Time to Heal or a Time to Divide?).

The second way the Democrats will respond will be legally. This means lawsuits, Congressional resolutions denouncing the racist President, subpoenas, and, yes, impeachment. The first vote has been tallied. There will be more to come.

True being a racist bigot deliberately seeking to permanently divide the country is not obstruction or collusion. No matter how sleazy and corrupt his cabinet, no matter how incompetent the President, no matter racist he is, these conditions were not part of the Mueller report. Whether or not the deliberate effort to permanently divide the country is a high crime and impeachable offense is another matter.

In any event, the battle is now engaged. The Rubicon has been crossed. The genii has been let out of the bottle. The die has been cast. There is no turning back now.

It will intensify culminating in Election Day 2020. There will be casualties. There may be another government shutdown. There will be an ongoing mostly non-physical warfare fought in Congress, in the Courts, and sometimes in the streets.  There are two major differences between this civil war and the preceding two. The first had George Washington and the second had Abraham Lincoln. This time around there is no national leader seeking to hold the country together. Combatants, to your corners. Death to We the People!

 

HEALTH CARE PROBLEM SOLVED

Just in case you forgot, July 16 was the due date for the new healthcare plan.  Here is what I wrote on June 19 (Iran Does Not Watch Fox: The Real World and the 2020 Elections):

There are a few simple tests to monitor his grasp of the real world, his willingness to operate it, and his success if he tries. We don’t need to wait to see how he deploys his campaign resources to know if he is operating based on real polls or his fake polls. We’ll know in a month because of health care.

“You’ll see that in a month when we introduce it. We’re going to have a plan. That’s subject to winning the House, Senate, and presidency, which hopefully we’ll win all three. We’ll have phenomenal health care.”

So claims the very stable genius who is the smartest person in the room and the only one who can solve America’s problems. … Now we have the target as surely as they did for William Miller on October 22, 1844 with the Great Disappointment. We know the date. July 16.

 Did it happen? Are you disappointed?

Will the Democrats Learn from the British Ambassador and Duped-by-Russia Hannity? Probably Not

How do you handle an immature child? For a parent coping with an immature and biological child, the task is a daunting one. One must be on constant alert. It is a time-consuming task. One never knows when the immature child will erupt. One never knows when the immature child will cross a line that is not supposed to be crossed. One never knows when the immature child will wreak havoc.

The challenge is even greater when that immature child is in the body of an adult. Think of a high school or college reunion. Somewhere in the crowd there will be that one person who never outgrew college, who never out grew high school, who never outgrew junior high school. He (or sometimes, she) will still act as the 7th grade smart-aleck-dumb-aleck he was back when he was 13. He may have an adult job, be a spouse and a parent, and normally behave like an adult, but there are those moments, especially when the group dynamic kicks in, when he will be the same immature child he was back when he was 13….and now there is no one to send him to the principal’s office…until he actually breaks the law.

Fred Trump knew he had a problem with Little Donnee Wanee. When the immature child was 13, the father placed him a military school in the vain hope that he would grow up. It did not work. Then he spent good money after bad in the vain attempt that the immature child would succeed as an adult businessperson. That was the equivalent of $413 million down the drain. Instead Little Donnee Wanee became the biggest financial loser in American history.

Still, give credit where credit is due. He was always able to con someone into thinking he was really an adult. He created the character of The Donald to act in political professional wrestling arenas and in phony-baloney reality shows and he convinced many people that The Donald was a real person and not just a disguise.

However, there came a time when he had to function in the real world, in the world of adults, in the world that does not watch Fox. And there he had a problem. Pretty much every with whom he had to work on an adult level quickly realized that Little Donnee Wanee was not an adult, he was an immature child.

In this regard, he was no Tom Hanks (Tom Hanks versus Our Immature Child-President). When 13-year old Tom Hanks became big, he was a level-headed kid. He could read a book. He could explain algebra to an even younger child. He could converse with adults on some topics without coming across as a simple-minded child repeating the few words he knew in an almost airhead manner.

But what was the job Tom Hanks had when he was big? His job was to play like a child which he still was and then to report his insights to adults. He was not put in charge of anything. He did not have an administrative job. He did not have an executive job. If he had been placed in such a position, the scam of adulthood would have been exposed. He would have been revealed as a child posing as an adult.

Something similar happened with the world’s worst manager. The same person who bankrupted an airline, who bankrupted a casino, who bankrupted a hotel, now became the person in the office where the buck stops. His management skills have been on display after a hurricane in Puerto Rico (is that in America?) and on the border. He is just as incapable as President as he was in business. However, in business he realized that he could make money branding himself while outsourcing all the building to others. That option does not exist for the President.  As we now commemorate the 50th anniversary of the landing on the moon, we should realize that if Little Donnee Wanee had been president then we never would have gotten there.

Sometimes the adults in the room tried to contain him as president. They would ignore his directives, remove documents from his desk, and pray that no one took him seriously. Sometimes because he is an immature child with limited attention span those efforts succeeded. Sometimes they did not.

From time to time, various reports would emerge that documented his immaturity, his ignorance, his ineptness. Books would be written about him. Anonymous articles would be published. Baby Donnee Wanee blimps would be flown.

Most recently British Ambassador Kim Darroch was exposed as having told the truth about our immature child president. He wrote the ineptitude and incompetence of the chaotic administration. The administration of Little Donnee Wanee would always be dysfunctional, unpredictable, faction-ridden, clumsy and inept.

The temper tantrums would never cease. There would always be another hissy-fit tweet. Perhaps if Britain had deployed its air forces more effectively George Washington would have been defeated and there never would have been a United States. If we had remained a British colony just a little longer until granted independence, there would have been no need for Canada to burn the White House.

The immature child responded to this exposure exactly as one would expect him to: by proving it true.  The same may be said for his reaction to the pre-publication excerpts from Paul Ryan’s new book. The same may be anticipated for every book to be written about him save for those from one of the Flying Monkeys sworn to take a bullet on behalf of the Wicked Witch of the White House.

In so doing, Little Donnee Wanee also has made it clear what ticks him off the most. When he is exposed as being an immature child trying to pass for an adult he goes ballistic. He erupts. Every time. He fixates on the charges. It consumes him. No matter where in the world he is or what he is doing, if someone challenges him on being the 5 “I” president (an inept, incompetent, immature, illegitimate, idiot), he will drop everything to unleash a hissy-fit tweet.

HELLO Democrats! Are you listening? Are you paying attention? He has broadcast what unnerves him the most. He has shown what gets under his skin. He has shown what rattles him. He hates it when people disparage and make fun of him for being an immature child trying to pass for an adult. It is his Achilles’ heel.

Meanwhile, here we are four years after he descended on the staircase and Democrats still do not have a nickname for him. How is it possible that after years of Little Donnee Wanee assigning insulting nicknames to people, the Democrats do not have a standard slew of names for Bonepsur Boy, for Swamp Builder, for the World’s Worst Manager, for America’s Biggest Financial Loser Ever, for Longtime Democrat and Clinton Supporter, for Our Immature Child President?

The Democrats need to go to the Duped-by-Russian Hannity School of Professional Political Wrestling. Put aside for the moment the individual policies he supports or actions he recommends. Focus instead on the techniques he uses to communicate those policies and actions. Recognize his skill in delivering his message. Observe his methods. Note his success. Remember, Duped-by-Russia Hannity convinced his viewers on the basis on absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Seth Rich was the murdered leaker of DNC emails in 2016. It was “the single biggest fraud, lies, perpetrated on the American people by the media and the Democrats in our history” until, of course, the Deep State conspiracy which is about to be exposed and the real colluders and obstructionists are about to reap their just punishment.

WAKE UP AND LEARN FROM THE MASTER!

Duped-by-Russia Hannity
(NICHOLAS KAMM)

Duped-by-Russia Hannity employs several tried and true techniques in the delivery of his message. He is relentlessly on message. He is persistent. He is rigorously repetitive. Sometimes it is hard to tell what day, week, month, or year it is from his monologue since he persistently uses the same words and phrases. If you had a dollar for every time he referred to the “angry Democrats” on Mueller’s team you could retire. Democratic paid for Steele dossier. Unverified Steel dossier. FISA abuses. CORRUPT. CORRUPT. CORRUPT. The biggest corruption scandal in American history. And the guilty ones are panicking now because it is all about to be exposed. Wait till the Flying Monkeys in Congress get through with life-long Republican and decorated-Marine Mueller. It is the Deep State that really is on trial now.

Need-less-to-say, the Democrats have nobody comparable to Duped-by-Russia Hannity. There is no cable host who even comes close to matching him. Lawrence O’Donnell tries but he is no Duped-by-Russia Hannity. And by the time Rachel Maddow has finished one of her essays, Duped-by-Russia Hannity has unleashed a string of assaults that if you missed them then you can tune in tomorrow because he will repeat them. And why Chris Cuomo thinks he is obligated to provide equal time to people who already have a propaganda network is a mystery.

The British Ambassador has exposed the Achilles’ heel of Little Donnee Wanee.

Duped-by-Russia Hannity has developed the weapon to be deployed in such a situation.

The Democrats have been shown what the vulnerability is. The Democrats have been shown how to wield the weapon for the kill. The only question is will the Democrats ever seize the moment. I say, “no.” It will remain a party of no imagination, no metaphors, no story to tell, and no message to thrust again and again into the weak spot of its immature narcissistic foe.

Civics and the Citizenship Test in the Time of Trump

www.heraldextra.com, June 11, 2016

Naturalized Americans unlike native Americans are obligated to demonstrate mastery of civics. To do so applicants take an exam covering American history, government, and ideals. It is a multiple choice question exam. This means that as with the SAT, it is possible for the tester to measure the results on the questions: which questions do applicants tend to get right and which ones do they answer incorrectly. Presumably the results enable the testers to better formulate questions for the next round of tests.

On July 4, 2019, the New York Times printed the article “Citizenship Test to Beat All Citizenship Tests: Thousands of Immigrants Pass a Difficult Rite to Take the Oath of Allegiance. Could You Do the Same?” It identified the ten questions most likely to be answered incorrectly from a 2011 study. This blog will address two questions and do so based on the present.

#2. Which of these is something Benjamin Franklin is known for?

A. He was the first person to sign the Constitution
B. He discovered electricity
C. He was the nation’s first postmaster general
D. He was the nation’s second president

The officially correct answer is “C.” Yes Franklin was our first postmaster general. How many people who are not students of American history or who do not live along a mile marker on the Boston Post Road as I do know this? What is Franklin best known for? Answer: Flying a kite…in a storm…that was hit by lightning…which was electric. True, that does not mean he discovered electricity. What he did discover was the lighting was electric and could be “encouraged” to strike a metal object thrust up to the heavens, hence the lighting rod. The real problem with this question is in its wording and not in the ignorance of the applicants. It needs to be revised.

The second question to be addressed poses other problems that are quite current not only today but as I am typing this blog.

#4. Which statement correctly describes the “rule of Law”?

A. The law is what the president says it is
B. The people who enforce the laws do not have to follow the law
C. No one is above the law
D. Judges can rewrite laws they disagree with

Again the officially correct answer is “C.” I imagine even as you were reading the choices you were chuckling or gasping at the options. Was one supposed to answer based on the real world or “on paper”?  Judges are routinely criticized by people on all sides for rewriting or concocting laws to fit their preferences. Congress routinely exempts itself from the laws it passes to apply to We the People. As for choice “A”, think of what is going on right now.

This article appeared on page 12 on the left side of the printed paper. On page 13 on the right side of the paper, the above-the-fold article was “After Navy SEAL’s Acquittal, Fears That War Crimes Will Go Unreported.” The article was about the acquittal of Edward Gallagher in a court martial for war crimes committed in Iraq in 2017. The charges included stabbing a wounded captive to death and shooting unarmed civilians. Gallagher was convicted and demoted on the charge of posing for inappropriate photos with the captive corpse.

What did this ruling mean for the answering of the question?

The SEALs who reported these actions chose option “C”, no one is above the law.

The President of the United States personally intervened in the case to have the accused released from pretrial detention. After the verdicts were announced, he tweeted congratulations and said “Glad I could help!”

Gallagher himself then appeared on “Fox and Friends,” no surprise there, and said:

To future Navy SEALs, loyalty is a trait that seems to be lost, and I would say bring that back. You are part of a brotherhood. You are there to watch your brother’s back, he’s there to watch your back ⸺ you just stay loyal.

By contrast, the SEALs who reported the actions felt otherwise.

Maybe I was naïve to think that justice would be served.

Based on option “C”, loyalty to the law and the Constitution trumps loyalty to the band of brothers. Here we have a live example of “A Few Good Men” where Jack Nicholson triumphs and Tom Cruise is defeated with the applause of the President of the United States. So why should an immigrant seeking to be naturalized answer “C” on the exam when obviously it is incorrect.

Want more? Turning to page 21 of the very same issue of paper on July 4, there was an article “’Bridge Scandal Posing a Threat to Legal Lanes.” According to the article legal experts were surprised by a Supreme Court decision that potentially would weaken the ability to prosecute politicians for political malfeasance. What was once considered to be illegal is increasingly regarded as normal political behavior. Actions like shutting lanes on the George Washington Bridge as retribution against a mayor who did not support the governor was just politics regardless of the disruption to the people. Given this view that what is political is not illegal, the recent gerrymandering verdict should be no surprise. Of course, since the rule of law no longer applies to politics, all political parties and politicians can now claim their double “O” license to politic without considering the rule of law.

Still think option “C” is the correct one? Let’s turn to the citizenship question and the census. That article was on page 14 of the same day, beginning as the lead article on the front page. Before turning to it, I would like to remind you of what I first wrote on September 7, 2018, about the Supreme Court and the President about his leaving the White House after 2020 elections if he loses.

There may be a preview of the 2020 crisis with his tax returns. Individual #1 will not voluntarily release his tax returns. It does not matter how the Democrats submit their requisition, he will not honor it. If his court rules in his favor, then the issue ends there. If the Supreme Court also has a traitor and the ruling is against Individual #1 he will not honor it. Instead he will claim Executive Privilege and that the Court has no authority over him. What will the Supreme Court do then? Or to update Andrew Jackson: “John Roberts has made his decision; now let him enforce it.”

I repeated it on May 6, 2019, following Michael Cohen’s testimony that Individual #1 would not voluntarily vacate the White House.

The article on July 4 reported the surprise of the Justice Department officials on the census case. They were “blindsided” by the comments that an effort was underway to put the citizenship question back in the census despite the Supreme Court ruling. Claims that the President had acceded to the ruling were tweeted as “fake news.”

The next step was the attempted removal from the case of these government lawyers who had defended the census question inclusion. The reporting referred to this action as “unprecedented” and again used the term “blindsided” to refer to how the lawyers learned about the shift in decision from acceptance to defiance. The removal appears to have occurred because the lawyers chose option “C” while the Attorney General and President chose option “A|”: the law is what the president says it is. According to the article these lawyers regarded themselves as professional or apolitical who like school debaters can vociferously advocate for whatever side they are assigned in the competition. What they cannot do is reverse themselves from what they had just argued or defend statements that they know not to be true. Therefore, as a matter of principle they declined to pursue the case after the Supreme Court ruling. The search for replacements was underway as was the issue of whether or not the judge would even allow the change in the lawyers midstream for no satisfactory reason.

Then after exhausting all options to defy or circumvent the Supreme Court, the battle ended. There actually does seem to be a line he will not cross.

In the meantime, Nancy Peolosi has threatened a vote in the House to subpoena the relevant documents. They would demonstrate that the true purpose of the census citizen question was to depress the population count in Democratic districts and thereby undermine the redistricting process. Obviously such a subpoena would be defied. Then the Department of Justice would decline to prosecute the people who had defied the court order to comply with the subpoena.

Still think option “C” “No one is above the law” is the correct answer? In your dreams. Not in this reality.

PS Since July 4 there has been Jeffrey Epstein, Alexander Acosta, and Donald Trump. Option “C” is the only wrong answer.

The American Revolution 250th: A Time to Heal or a Time to Divide?

Illegal Alien, Newspaper Reporter, Enemy of the People

Now that this year’s July 4th celebration is over, it is time to start looking ahead to the big one, July 4, 2026. That date marks the 250th anniversary of the declaring of the United States of America. It also is the bicentennial of the deaths of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the second and third presidents. They had been part of a committee to draft the Declaration and became extensive pen-pals following their presidencies. At the time of their deaths on the 50th anniversary of the birth of the country there was only one possible explanation for it: divine providence.

The Founding Fathers regarded their creation as an experiment. They knew they were undertaking something never before undertaken on such a scale. They knew it might fail. To have reached the milestone of 50 years following a second war with Great Britain when the White House had been burned was something to celebrate. The idea that their handiwork would still be around 250 years after its creation and as a global superpower would have been considered science fiction fantasy had they known those terms.

But here we are approaching the semiquincentennial, not a word I had ever used before. I learned that word from the legislation passed on July 22, 2016, ‘‘United States Semiquincentennial Commission Act of 2016.”

SEC. 2. FINDINGS; PURPOSE.

(a) FINDINGS.—Congress finds that July 4, 2026, the 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States, as marked by the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and the historic events
preceding that anniversary—
(1) are of major significance in the development of the national heritage of the United States of individual liberty, representative government, and the attainment of equal and inalienable rights; and
(2) have had a profound influence throughout the world.
(b) PURPOSE.—The purpose of this Act is to establish a Commission to provide for the observance and commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States and related events through local, State, national, and international activities planned, encouraged, developed, and coordinated by a national commission representative of appropriate public and private authorities and organizations.

One wonders about the American Revolution events subsequent to July 4, 1776, a subject to which I shall return. Still, the breadth of the mandate is breathtaking. The phrase “planned, encourage, developed, and coordinated” raises multiple questions of how this national commission will operate on the local, state, and international level.

The commission will consist of members of both Houses, private citizens appointed by both Houses, and a chair selected by the President.

SEC. 4. ESTABLISHMENT OF COMMISSION.
(a) IN GENERAL.—There is established a commission, to be known as the ‘‘United States Semiquincentennial Commission’’, to plan, encourage, develop, and coordinate the commemoration of the history of the United States leading up to the 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States.

Once again notice the drop dead date of July 4, 2026, as if nothing happened in the American Revolution afterwards. It is as if what is important are the events leading up to Philadelphia and then the story of the American Revolution stops. As it turns out, the legislative focus on Philadelphia is not by chance.

(d) MEETINGS.—All meetings of the Commission shall be convened at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to honor the historical significance of the building as the site of deliberations and adoption of both the United States Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

This clause stresses that Philadelphia is to be the one and only location for the commission. No commission meetings are to be held in any other locations that were important to the American Revolution including for events prior to July 4, 1776 or subsequent to that date.

SEC. 5. DUTIES.
(a) IN GENERAL.—The Commission shall—
            (1) prepare an overall program for commemorating the 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States and the historic events preceding that anniversary; and Pennsylvania.
            (2) plan, encourage, develop, and coordinate observances and activities commemorating the historic events that preceded, and are associated with, the United States Semiquincentennial.
(b) REQUIREMENTS.—
            (1) IN GENERAL.—In preparing plans and an overall program, the Commission—
                        (A) shall give due consideration to any related plans and programs developed by State, local, and private groups; and
                        (B) may designate special committees with representatives from groups described in subparagraph (A) to plan, develop, and coordinate specific activities.
            (2) EMPHASIS.—The Commission shall—
                        (A) emphasize the planning of events in locations of historical significance to the United States, especially in those locations that witnessed the assertion of American liberty, such as—
                                    (i) the 13 colonies; and
                                    (ii) leading cities, including Boston, Charleston, New York City, and Philadelphia;

The general duties suggest an awareness that significant events occurred prior to July 4, 1776, that they were not in Philadelphia, and that the national commission is to work in some way with others who are commemorating those events. Specifically it recognizes that state, local, and private groups may develop plans and programs on their own initiative. Furthermore, the national commission may create committees to include representatives of these organizations. Specifically, the legislation calls attention to the 13 colonies and the big four cities besides Philadelphia. One would think therefore that one such committee would consist of the 13 state semiquincentennial commissions should the 13 states create their own commissions. Could such committees meet outside of Philadelphia or are they bound by the same restrictions as the national commission? Is there any role for the other 37 states plus various territories that are part of the United States? Are they part of the celebration of the American Revolution too?

(B) give special emphasis to—
                                    (i) the role of persons and locations with significant impact on the history of the United States during the 250-year period beginning on the date of execution of the Declaration of Independence; and
                                    (ii) the ideas associated with that history, which have been so important in the development of the United States, in world affairs, and in the quest for freedom of all mankind.

Needlesstosay, this special emphasis is extremely broad. First, the American Revolution from July 4, 1776 to November 25, 1783, when the British evacuated New York City, a local holiday until World War I now revived by the Lower Manhattan Historical Association, is ignored. Second, the legislation now opens the emphasis to people, places, and ideas who were significant to the history of the United States, its place in world history, and the global quest for freedom. Somehow this national commission is charged with identifying and blessing all those over a 250-year period. In New York where I live that practically means grab the text books for 7th and 8th grade social studies American history classes and go to the index….and then fill in the gaps for everything and everyone and everywhere overlooked in the official curriculum.

(c) REPORT SUBMITTED TO THE PRESIDENT.—
(1) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of this Act, the Commission shall submit to the President a comprehensive report that includes the specific recommendations of the Commission for the commemoration of the 250th anniversary and related events.

This report was due on July 22, 2018. The commission had not even met by then (see below). One suspects the July 22, 2019, date will come and go without such a report having been prepared. As for the contents of these specific recommendations:

  (2) RECOMMENDED ACTIVITIES.—The report may include recommended
activities such as—
                        (A) the production, publication, and distribution of books, pamphlets, films, and other educational materials focusing on the history, culture, and political thought of the period of the American Revolution;
                        (B) bibliographical and documentary projects and publications;
                        (C) conferences, convocations, lectures, seminars, and other programs, especially those located in the 13 colonies, including the major cities and buildings of national historical
significance of the 13 colonies;
                        (D) the development of libraries, museums, historic sites, and exhibits, including mobile exhibits;
                         (E) ceremonies and celebrations commemorating specific events, such as—
                                    (i) the signing of the Declaration of Independence;
                                    (ii) programs and activities focusing on the national and international significance of the United States Semiquincentennial; and
                                    (iii) the implications of the Semiquincentennial for present and future generations; and
                        (F) encouraging Federal agencies to integrate the celebration of the Semiquincentennial into the regular activities and execution of the purpose of the agencies through such activities as the issuance of coins, medals, certificates of recognition, stamps, and the naming of vessels.

The report then is to include activities beyond Philadelphia. Even if state commissions had been created in the 13 former colonies, this report would be a major undertaking in itself.

There are a lot of moving parts to this endeavor.

SEC. 6. COORDINATION.
(a) IN GENERAL.—In carrying out this Act, the Commission shall consult and cooperate with, and seek advice and assistance from, appropriate Federal agencies, State and local public bodies, learned societies, and historical, patriotic, philanthropic, civic, professional, and related organizations.
(b) RESPONSIBILITY OF OTHER FEDERAL AGENCIES.—
            (1) IN GENERAL.—Federal agencies shall cooperate with the Commission in planning, encouraging, developing, and coordinating appropriate commemorative activities.

A great deal of communication will be required to make this project work.

SEC. 7. POWERS.
(a) HEARINGS.—The Commission may hold such hearings, meet and act at such times and places, take such testimony, and receive such evidence as the Commission considers advisable to carry out this Act.

Presumably they all are to be held in Philadelphia. One hopes that everyone participating in such hearings is in driving distance or Amtrak-northeast-corridor distance from Philadelphia.

There will be a time capsule.

(1) TIME CAPSULE.—A representative portion of all books, manuscripts, miscellaneous printed matter, memorabilia, relics, and other materials relating to the United States Semiquincentennial shall be deposited in a time capsule—
                        (A) to be buried in Independence Mall, Philadelphia, on July 4, 2026; and
                        (B) to be unearthed on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the United States of America on July 4, 2276.

Unfortunately the Federal Government at present cannot undertake any scientific studies to determine if that location will be underwater or not in another 250 years. (By coincidence see “A Rising Threat to History: Climate Change Is Forcing Preservationists to Get Creative in Rhode Island,” NYT July 9, 2019, print edition.)

There will be no public funding for the commission.

SEC. 9. EXPENDITURES OF COMMISSION.
(a) IN GENERAL.—All expenditures of the Commission shall be made solely from donated funds.

Some lucky non-profit will be selected to actually do the work.

(b) ADMINISTRATIVE SECRETARIAT.—The Secretary of the Interior shall, through a competitive process, seek to enter into an arrangement with a nonprofit organization, the mission of which is consistent with the purpose of this Act. Under such arrangement, such nonprofit organization shall—
            (1) serve as the secretariat of the Commission, including by serving as the point of contact under section 5(e);
            (2) house the administrative offices of the Commission;
            (3) assume responsibility for funds of the Commission; and
            (4) provide to the Commission financial and administrative services, including services related to budgeting, accounting, financial reporting, personnel, and procurement.

And then everything will end.

SEC. 10. TERMINATION OF COMMISSION.
The Commission shall terminate on December 31, 2027.

As one might expect, Philadelphia was a driving force in the adoption of this legislation.

In 2014, the Philadelphia City Council ordered a public hearing of the Committee on Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs to investigate “the impact and feasibility of Philadelphia” hosting the United States Semiquincentennial in 2026, among other events.[5] The following year a non-profit organization, USA250, was established in Philadelphia to lobby for federal government support of the United States semiquincentennial and establish Philadelphia as the host city for events surrounding the semiquincentennial observances.[6]  (Wikipedia)

The American Battlefield Trust has been named the commission’s non-profit partner to serve as Administrative Secretariat, tasked with preparing reports for Congress and helping raise funds for the anniversary observances.

Daniel DiLella, CEO and President of Equus, a leading private equity real estate fund, was appointed Chairperson of the Semiquincentennial Commission in April 2018. In May 2018, DiLella named Frank Giordano as the commission’s executive director. Giordano, who heads Atlantic Trailer Leasing in Philadelphia, led the rejuvenation of two formerly struggling Philadelphia institutions, the Philly Pops Orchestra and Union League club. (Wikipedia)

In the meantime, some activity has occurred at the state level.

Pennsylvania became the first state to formally begin planning for the anniversary in June 2018 when the commonwealth established the Pennsylvania Semiquincentennial Commission. Four months later, on October 17, Gov. Tom Wolf named Fresh Grocer supermarket magnate and philanthropist Patrick Burns to chair the state commission. (Wikipedia)

In 2018 and 2019, I attended the Massachusetts History Alliance conferences held at Holy Cross. While there I met Jonathan Lane, Massachusetts Historical Society. His job is the 250th in the state. Note he works for a non-profit and there is no state commission there. The Massachusetts dilemma is it cannot wait for 2026. The Boston Massacre (1770), the Boston Tea Party (1773), Lexington and Concord (1775), and Bunker Hill (1775) to name some prominent events all occurred prior to July 4, 1776. How will the national commission assist in the planning and development of these commemorations starting next year? What will the state of Massachusetts do?

In August 2018, the State of New Jersey launched its effort when Gov. Phil Murphy signed a measure that called on the New Jersey Historical Commission to create a program focused on the 250th anniversary of the independence of the United States as well as the creation of the state’s first Constitution. The law appropriated $500,000 to fund the historical commission’s planning for the 250th anniversary festivities. (Wikipedia)

Jonathan did tell me he attended a meeting in Philadelphia with about 30 people. According to a press release from American Battlefield Trust there was a meeting with the 33 members of the commission on November 16, 2018, in Philadelphia. I did not notice any additional meetings or events on its website about the commission.

In New York where I live, there is no state commission. Devin Lander, the New York State historian has held two meetings about the 250th. The first was in Saratoga, location of the battle in 1777 that has been called one of the critical battles of the 18th century. But it occurred after July 4, 1776. So did the iconic toppling of the statue of George III in lower Manhattan (July 9, 1776), the hanging of Nathan Hale (September 22, 1776), the Sullivan Campaign (1779), Benedict Arnold (1780), the Newburg Conspiracy (1783), Evacuation Day (November 25, 1783). The second meeting he called was hosted by the Institute for Thomas Paine Studies at Iona College named after a significant figure in the American Revolution. Additional meetings are expected.

In Westchester County, New York, where I live, the RW250 was formed in 2018. It is applying for 501(c)3 status. It has been holding lectures throughout the county about the American Revolution in the county. To the best of my knowledge, it is the only such organization in the state.

What does all this mean?

1. There will be a big event in Philadelphia on July 4, 2026. Of course, the city already celebrates July so it is not comparable to the Jamestown Quadricentennial which was a one-time event.
2. There will be some international events. Perhaps in London on the same day. Perhaps in Canada which we invaded. Perhaps in Paris which came to our aid after the Battle of Saratoga in 1777. Perhaps in China where the Statue of Liberty is a revered figure or maybe in Hong Kong.
3. What about multi-state events? How about the capture of Fort Ticonderoga in New York in 1775 by Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold with the Connecticut and Massachusetts militias followed by the transport of the fort’s canons under Henry Knox to Boston? Or the Rochambeau Trail from Rhode Island to Virginia which already operates as a below-the-radar National Park Service Project?
4. What about multi-country events? How about the invasion of Canada, the evacuation to Canada, the evacuation to the Caribbean?
5. What about the rest of continental United States beyond the 13 colonies? What about the Spanish colonies? What about the Indian Nations?

At this point it is too early to know as the national commission is in its infancy even though the report was due last year with specific recommendations.

But there are larger issues of concern beyond simply commemorating events, places, and ideas of 250 years ago. How do we connect people today to them? How do we get all Americans to recognize July 4 as the birth of their country regardless of when they or their family first arrived here? The musical “Hamilton” shows that it can be done. To paraphrase, it famously asks of its audience “who will tell our story?” What America needs is not fireworks, tanks, and big extravaganzas. What we need are the stories of our birth as a country that can reknit the social fabric, that can bind us together from “California to the New York island,” and that can make us We the People. That is not the mandate of the United States Semiquincentennial Commission for the American Revolution. Where is our Lincoln to remind us of what happened twelve score and ten years ago?

Deplorables Cheer Submissiveness of Putin’s Pence: Can Democrats Take Advantage of It?

"Square Go" - a 13-year old boy turns to a professional wrestling fantasy to compensate (Photo: Mihaela Budlovic)

Who is your hero? Recently the New York Times surveyed 21 Democratic presidential candidates about their hero. The winner was Republican and Mount Rushmore President Abraham Lincoln with 5 votes. Tied for second with two votes each with Democrats John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Martin Luther King was another Republican and Mount Rushmore President, Teddy Roosevelt. Combined the Republican presidents garnered 7 of 21 votes or one-third of the Democratic total.

No survey was taken of the Republican Party since it no longer exists at the national level. In the Trumpican Party which replaced it, neither Lincoln nor Roosevelt are admired.  In the Trumpican Party the founder rules. Since the present Trumpican president has had the greatest two and one-half years of any American president ever and should be president for 16 years as one other president was, the choice was obvious.

Trumpicans bring a different set of values to their attitudes towards and expectations of the President. Trumpicans do not care that their lord and savior is submissive to Putin. They do not care that he cannot tell the truth.  They do not care that he squandered a $413 million inheritance. They do not care that he is the biggest financial loser in American history. They do not care that he was a failure as a manager of an airline, a casino, and a hotel. They do not care about his tax returns. They do not care about Mueller’s testimony. They do not care that he is an adulterer and perhaps a rapist. They do not care that he is a stupid ignorant moron. They do not care that he is devoid of sympathy and empathy. They do not care that he is a narcissist. They do not care that he is dedicated to helping to the rich get richer. Therefore any attempt to connect with or sway Trumpicans based on any of these considerations is a waste of time. What then do they care about?

Consider what Individual #1 said during the big Republican Presidential debate on August 6, 2015 (at 9:18 ET in case you are curious):

I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. I’ve been challenged by so many people and I don’t, frankly, have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time, either.

The following month he repeated the call to arms against the politically correct this time in South Carolina:

I’m so tired of this politically correct crap.

True, he was the not the first to raise the flag against the threat of the Politically Correct. President George H.W. Bush lambasted the politically correct culture in a commencement speech at the University of Michigan in 1991:

The notion of political correctness has ignited controversy across the land. And although the movement arises from the laudable desire to sweep away the debris of racism and sexism and hatred, it replaces old prejudice with new ones. It declares certain topics off limits, certain expression off limits, even certain gestures off limits. What began as a crusade for civility has soured into a cause of conflict and even censorship … Throughout history, attempts to micromanage casual conversation have only incited distrust. They have invited people to look for an insult in every word, gesture, action. And in their own Orwellian way, crusades that demand correct behavior crush diversity in the name of diversity.

Flash forwarded 25 years and that “laudable” desire has become an assault on America by university-based elitist zealots ready, willing, eager, and able to dispatch the Thought Police on anyone who does not speak the correct terms, think the correct ideas, and act the correct way. Trumpicans care when condescending arrogant self-righteous elitists tell them how to speak, how to think, and how to act. Trumpicans want a leader who will fight for them against the Politically Correct. That desire trumps all other considerations.

As an example of how far removed from reality the analysis of the impact of the politically correct in American politics is consider this obviously incorrect article from August 11, 2016 on the presidential election by Peter Weber, senior editor The Week. Its title is

Donald Trump is losing his war on political correctness

The details of the article are irrelevant given the election results, the situation today, and that he did not lose the war. If anything the battle lines now are even more sharply drawn. We are back to the trench warfare of the War to End all Wars. Far from losing the battle against the politically correct as the article suggests, he can claim total victory within the former Republican Party. It has been transformed into the Trumpican Party where heroes and Mount Rushmore Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt have no home. The party of “malice towards none” is dead. The party of “the last best hope of earth” is dead. The party of “speak softly and carry a big stick” is dead. Republicans don’t battle for the Lord, Trumpicans battle for THE DONALD.

Consider this current battlefront in Minnesota. The headline in the New York Times was “Resettled Refugees Unsettle a Mostly White City: Anti-Muslim Backlash Against Influx of Somalis” (printed June 21, 2019). As one participant in the battle said:

If we start changing our way of life to accommodate where they came from, guess what happens to our country? If our country becomes like Somalia, there is nowhere for us to go.

Now imagine the impact if the Trumpican Party starts playing Black Hawk Down on the Fox channels there as a campaign tactic.

The New York Times reporter interviewed people on the ground there and summarized the results as follows:

[M]any repeatedly outlined more fundamental fears, including the belief that an influx of people who were nonwhite and non-Christian posed a cultural threat.

            Several of the group’s members and their allies said their stand against immigration was a small part of a broader national conflict, in which the rising tide of a multicultural, multiracial Democratic Party must be opposed.

See how successful the Politically Correct have been in delivering the message that the multicultural multiracial people are not real Americans, they are hyphens. Native-born white Americans understand that the message of the Politically Correct is an attack on them. These people “’see themselves in a fight for survival’” where the problem is discrimination against white Americans. After all isn’t that what elitists and colleges teach: from Columbus to the present, all problems today are due to the heterosexual white man.

Now suppose you are a Democrat and have had it with these deplorables. You are not going to back down before these bigoted racist troglodytes. Instead you counterattack with “WHITE PRIVILEGE, “REPARATIONS,” and DOWN WITH COLUMBUS DAY, UP WITH INDIGENOUS PEOPLE’S DAY. And even when you do not say that, Fox will every day all day claim that you did. Not just in Minnesota but throughout the nation. Plus if you have a private health insurer you are going to lose it and we are going to end up like Venezuela. How is that for a winning political strategy!

Let us put aside for the moment the issue of whether school busing helped desegregate or segregate schools. Let us ignore how elitist white people countered by sending their children to private schools or by living in wealthy white communities. Let us ignore how elitist white people exploited vulnerable children by removing them from their own neighborhoods to bus them into communities that did not want them. Instead, keep in mind that while the Democratic presidential debate continues, the nation’s #1 7th grade smart-aleck-dumb-aleck is watching and waiting to unleash his brutally cruel vicious junior high school tantrums to save his deplorables from the Politically Correct.

So who is your hero today? For Trumpicans the answer is easy: their lord and savior, the very stable genius, the smartest person in the room at the morgue or in a nursery school class with no teacher. For Democrats the answer is all over the place and may remain so for a while. The loser is We the People. The losers are the American people who love their country, who are proud to be American, and who believe in America’s role in human history. We have no candidate and neither party cares about us. As we approach the celebration of the birth of our country, we should think about what it means that none of the Mount Rushmore Presidents could even be nominated today yet alone elected.

Slavery in New York: An Angolan Case Study

Stone Town Slave Market, Zanzibar

Angolans are in the news. Recently there has been a surge in migrants from Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. After a decade of hardly any migration from these countries, suddenly the numbers have increased specifically to Portland, Maine and to San Antonio, Texas. The surge has overwhelmed the communities. Unlike the Central American migrants, the Central African migrants are less likely to have relatives already in the country to whom they can turn for assistance.

The Angolan/Congolese story in America dates back to the 1600s including to the very Town of Rye where I live. It is a story I recently have been investigating. With all the attention on the figure of Christopher Columbus, it is easy to overlook Prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1460) of Portugal. He initiated voyages along the coast of Africa. Although the Portuguese did not reach Angola during his lifetime, by the end of 16th century, they had and had begun the slave trade there. The primary exchange was with the Portuguese colony of Brazil. There were no British colonies in the future United States yet.

It should also be noted that Catholic Portugal converted the Angolans and Congolese to Catholicism. Exactly what Catholicism meant to them is another matter but we need to recognize that Africans had been exposed to European culture prior to their arrival here. Of course, to the British Protestants, Catholicism was practically a heathen religion anyway. To understand this period, we should keep in mind the religious wars that dominated Europe: the Thirty-Years War (1618-1648) and the English Civil Wars of the 1640s and 1650s which witnessed the rise of Cromwell and the execution of Charles I. These events are part of the reason why scholars use the term Atlantic Studies now. It encompasses a greater area than a more limited focus on the 13 colonies themselves.

The intersection of this African world and New York is covered in the chapter “Encounters: Slavery and the Philipse Family, 1680-1751” by Dennis J. Maika, The New Netherlands Institute, in Dutch New York: The Roots of Hudson Valley Culture, ed. Roger Panetta. Dennis prefers to use the designation “Kongolese” stating that a majority of Angolans were Kongolese. Since the legal documents I will cite calls the people “Angolans,” I will use that term.

During the 1600s, these people lived primarily in agricultural societies. Those who lived along the Kongo River became river traders and were in contact with other peoples. Even without the arrival of the Europeans, these African peoples fought with each other and took captives. These captives can be considered slaves although it was not slavery in the American or Brazilian sense. Beginning in 1640s, the coastal town of Soyo became the point of departure from Africa for these captives to the newcomers who had arrived on the scene. The Dutch and English traders vied for this trade. The result was an accelerated effort by the locals [indigenous people] to procure an ever increasing number of captives to meet the demand.

In describing this situation, Maika writes:

Kongolese captives were held in high regard by European slave traders and buyers because of specific cultural traits that were valued by slaveowners.

In a footnote, he elaborates on this point. The specific traits the Angolans were perceived to have were that they were docile, comely, not strong, predisposed towards mechanics, but prone to run away. These characteristics made them attractive for working the sugar plantations in Barbados…after all, where were they going to run away to?

Frederick Philipse of New York City and the Hudson Valley decided to join this network. His first foray into the slave trade occurred in 1685. The New York connection was not part of the original plan. His ship the Charles was supposed to discharge its full complement of human cargo in Barbados. The initial number of captives at Soyo of 146 had decreased to 105 by the time the Charles arrived in Barbados. They were not all suited for plantation work and nine of them remained on board for the voyage to New York as “refuse cargo,” no one wanted. Instead the captain of ship brought them to New York where they landed around Rye. Of the nine, eight were marched across Westchester and helped build the Upper Mills in what is now Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow. These Angolans were there at the beginning of construction. Maika considers them ethnically coherent core of the community perhaps including a female later named Old Susan. One might add that perhaps the perceived skill in mechanics contributed to their becoming mill operators, a skilled position at the manor.

One might ask how is that there is any information about this voyage. It’s not as if such detailed records were maintained comparable to what we consider routine today. A person geographically knowledgeable might inquire why did the Charles dock in Rye on the Long Island Sound on the east side of Westchester County instead of sailing to the Upper Mills on the Hudson River on the west side of Westchester County. Why the forced march across the county at its widest point?

Researching this question took a little doing. I became interested in this question through my participation in a working group of the Westchester County African Advisory Board tasked with recognizing the 400 year anniversary of slavery in the British colonies, the subject of a previous blog (Slavery Quadricentennial: The 400 Years of African-American History Commission). My focus in the committee has been on the New York story and not the Virginia or Texas stories. Our story of the ending of slavery was July 4, 1827. But what about its beginning at least in Westchester?

Slavery in New York City seems to have begun immediately after the Dutch purchase of the island in 1626. The connection with Angola and the Congo originates at that time based on the names of people sold. New York was beginning the process of becoming the second-largest slave trading market in the British colonies. Now there is a history marker on Wall Street to acknowledge that fact. These sales tended to involve individuals and whether any of them ended up in Westchester is difficult to determine.

The big event in Westchester was the Charles in 1685. I began to research the event with the assistance of Patrick Raferty, Westchester county Historical Society, Sheri Jordan, Rye Historical Society, Michael Lord, Philipsburg Manor, and Dennis Maika, New Netherlands Institute. My readings involved tertiary, secondary, and primary sources. It took a while to go from people citing each other to drill down to the original data.

The data makes clear why the Charles was in Rye and why it was remembered. There were not supposed to be any people for sale on the ship in the first place. The Upper Mills was not yet built in the second place. And New York City resident Frederick Philipse did not want his cargo ship to dock in the city in the third place. If it had, he would have had to PAY TAXES. His subterfuge did not work. He was charged with smuggling “8 Negro slaves, 80 lbs. of pepper, 40 yards of cloth, 12 pewter dishes, 1 sheet cable, I hawser, 2 great guns, 2 new sails, and other goods” according to the court records. [To get this information I had to rescue a book from the loading dock at Columbia Law School before it was shipped to New Jersey!] The court record lists the 11 jurors and the verdict rendered was not guilty, August 4, 1685. Apparently it pays to be rich.

The details about the Charles come from a deposition taken on July 21, 1685 and filed separately from the court record of the verdict.

Now what? Efforts to locate exactly where the Charles docked were fruitless. It was a surreptitious act not repeated. I wanted to know where so I could recommend that a history marker be placed there – from 1685 to the confiscation of Loyalist Philipse land in the 1780s marked a century of slavery of Philipsburg Manor.

Since the exact location cannot be determined, I chose a site: the boardwalk at Playland Beach where Tom Hanks became Big. Instead of placing a sign at some inlet that no one can access and may not be the actual site why not place it where it will be seen by many. The Rye Historical Society and the Westchester County Executive agreed so that is what I am trying to do.

But a New York State facsimile history marker such as the Pomeroy Foundation funds is a pretty simple, sign. Maybe more could be done. Maybe there should be an image of some kind depicting the moment. Vinnie Bagwell, a member of our committee, is a sculptor working on the “Enslaved Africans Rain Garden” project to be unveiled in Yonkers this fall depicting manumitted slaves from Philipsburg Manor. When she commented on doing something more artistic, it triggered a thought in me: why not create a sculpture of the 8 Angolans coming ashore in chains in Rye possibly including Old Susan, a name known from the Philipse’s records. While I was basking in the glow of having this idea to create a visually powerful expression of slavery that could serve as an educational resource and tourist destination site, I learned that Zanzibar already had done something similar. The image at the beginning of this post shows five people about to depart their homeland; the proposed Rye sculpture would portray their arrival in their new homeland.

So that is my new goal. To get a history marker of the event in 1685. To get a sculpture of the event of the 8 Angolans. To invite the Angolan and Congo ambassadors to the dedication. To get 16 high schools in the area to each march one mile from Rye to Sleepy Hollow. To have someone write a play about Old Susan. Can all that be done? I do not know but it’s worth the effort.

 

P.S. I am not a Philipse. I am not Angolan. I am not Dutch. I am not African. I am a resident of the Town of Rye. That means the stories of my community are now part of my heritage just as you do not need to be a son or daughter of the American Revolution to celebrate July 4 as the birthday of your country.

Iran Does Not Watch Fox: The Real World and the 2020 Elections

Wile e Coyote running off a cliff

There is a longstanding cartoon routine of someone running off a cliff. The figure may be human or an animal and it is almost always male. The figure runs straight off a cliff and then appears to be running on air. The laws of gravity are suspended and the figure remains aloft, legs churning. Finally comes the moment of truth. He realizes his predicament and looks down. There below him, far, far below him, is the hard ground. Suddenly reality takes over. The result is SPLAT! Actually, since the fall does not kill him, it’s not too real.

So far that moment of truth has not yet arrived for the current cartoon character running on air. He has managed to maintain his illusions for far longer than I would have anticipated. There has been no Cuban Missile Crisis. No 9/11. And his hurricane failure occurred in Puerto Rico and not Louisiana. Thanks to John McCain and a few others he was not able to strip Trumpicans of their healthcare otherwise the Trump really would have hit the fan.  Is it really possible to sustain his delusions for an entire four-year term?

Take Kellyanne Conway. She is an easy figure to ridicule. Even her husband constantly belittles her judgment (which makes you wonder since they still apparently are together if she does not secretly share his views and feeds him information). At the public level, she imprinted the new president right from the start of his administration as someone living in an alternate reality. At the time, the fuss over the crowd size might have seem a minor diversion. Who knew such distortion was standard operating procedure later exemplified by the Huckabee Huckster?

Then Conway had a little moment of truth. She was charged with violation of the Hatch Act, in fact, repeated violations of the Hatch Act. The Office of Special Council recommended termination. She responded with the same cavalier dismissal of the rule of law as the Secretary of the Treasury and the Attorney General had before her.

Blah, blah blah. If you’re trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it’s not going to work. Let me know when the jail sentence starts.

Answer: it starts when there is a Democratic president and the rule of law returns to the White House.

But once upon a time, Conway did live in real world. She made her living as a political operative. You cannot succeed as a political consultant if you require your client to live in an alternate reality. Sooner or later there is an election. If your political advice is based solely on wishful thinking or a desire to please the client, you will not last long as a bogus prognosticator with little understanding of the real world.

We just witnessed an example of an alternate reality trumping the real world. The activity was poll results produced by real pollsters who operate in the real world. That does not mean their polls were correct. It does mean that based on the professional standards of the field the polls taken were reflective of the real political world at the time they were taken. They did not bode well for the client. You would have to be dumb beyond belief not to know that response would be “You’re fired.”

The results are worth noting. The polls show a slew of Democratic candidates who would win a national election based on the popular vote. The polls range from a high of 57% for Joe Biden to in the 40s% for a variety of figures. One key to interpreting the meaning the polls is the relative constancy of the vote for the incumbent. He consistently polled at 41-42% of the vote.  These numbers put him 5-6% below the 2016 vote and suggest that no matter who the Democratic candidate is, that is the best he will do. The range for the Democratic candidates probably reflects how well known these candidates are. My prediction would be that as they become better known, the undecided in the polls will swing Democratic and the 50s to 41/42% will become the norm…unless more revelations from the investigations drive them even lower or events in the real world expose him as a con artist even to Trumpcans.

Naturally, these poll results were unacceptable. Therefore they are wrong. Therefore they are fake polls. He is not losing bigtime in Wisconsin, Michigan, Virginia, Maine, Minnesota and Pennsylvania. He Is not losing by significant amounts in Florida, Georgia, Iowa, and North Carolina. He is not just losing slightly in Ohio. He is not just barely holding on in Texas. Instead he is winning everywhere. Bigtime.

There is another red wave coming to match the predicted one in 2016.

Well, the polls I see we’re doing great in Pennsylvania. We’re doing really good in North Carolina. Florida, I’m winning by a lot. Ohio, I’m winning by a lot. I just left Iowa. We’re winning that by a lot. And every poll that we have, I’m winning by ⸺ we’re doing well.

You can bank on it! There is no need for the world’s worst manager who lost more money than any American in American history to spend any money in the states where he is winning by so much. In the no-adult-supervision White House, he is free to deploy the campaign resources where they are most needed like in Oregon, New Mexico, and Minnesota. Why squander his money on states that he already has locked up? Better to expand the base and flip even more states than he did in 2016.

Keep in mind that the national polls in 2016 did a good job; it was at the state level where the discrepancies occurred. If the real polls remain consistent throughout the campaign, there will come a time when Trumpicans in the Senate and House will have a moment of truth. They already saw the red wave in 2016 wipe out dozens of colleagues at the federal level. They saw Democratic advances at the state level. They may realize that gerrymandering is being contained and the post-2020 census prospects are dismal.  It is possible that at some point the survival mechanism will kick in and these politicians who know real polls from fake polls will want to avoid another red wave like 2016. There is no way to know when or even if such a moment of truth will occur but it could happen next year when the truth of the 2020 elections becomes clearer.

The rest of the world is already ahead of the Trumpicans. They learned that THE DONALD is merely a character in the professional wrestling arena and not a real person. They know when Bonespur Boy is forced to go into the arena in the real world that he will back down.

“If we were to believe everything Trump has said for the past three years, there would have been war with China, North Korea and Mexico,” said Joseph Fahim, an Egyptian film critic. “The guy’s a joke, he’s not serious. We don’t know if these threats are something to believe in, or just another of his many stunts.”

Unfortunately, the immature child commands a great deal of institutional power as President of the United States. Who knows what he might do if forced to confront the real world. Deport millions to prove to Trumpicans that he is fighting for them? Imagine if he actually had the organizational and managerial skills to do it.

There are a few simple tests to monitor his grasp of the real world, his willingness to operate it, and his success if he tries. We don’t need to wait to see how he deploys his campaign resources to know if he is operating based on real polls or his fake polls. We’ll know in a month because of health care.

“You’ll see that in a month when we introduce it. We’re going to have a plan. That’s subject to winning the House, Senate, and presidency, which hopefully we’ll win all three. We’ll have phenomenal health care.” 

 So claims the very stable genius who is the smartest person in the room and the only one who can solve America’s problems. Remember how he produced the evidence from Hawaii on Obama SOON SOON. Remember how he sued all the women who have accused him of harassment as soon as the election was over. Now we have the target as surely as they did for William Miller on October 22, 1844 with the Great Disappointment. We know the date. July 16. We know the action. Bull-Trump Care. We know the red wave is coming. Don’t believe the fake polls, He doesn’t. SPLAT.

Hudson Yards versus Hudson Valley: Where Is Your Field of Dreams?

Hudson Yards (Max Touhey, Curbed NewYork)

Earlier this spring the Manhattan skyline changed rather dramatically. As the front page of the New York Times put it: “A Gleaming Behemoth Rises, for Better or Worse”(print edition March 15, 2019; online title Hudson Yards Is Manhattan’s Biggest, Newest, Slickest Gated Community. Is This the Neighborhood New York Deserves?).   It’s called Hudson Yards. Do you think there will ever be an historical society there? What kind of place is it?

Michael Kimmelman, architecture critic for the paper, was fairly critical of this addition. To the publicity that the Hudson Yards was inspired by ancient Indian stepwells, Kimmelman asserted, it is about as much like them as Skull Mountain at Six Flags Great adventure is like Chichen Itza. Space does not permit a full expression of his criticisms so I will present only some summary comments that go the heart and lack of soul of the complex.

Over all, Hudson Yards epitomizes a skin-deep view of architecture as luxury branding. Each building exists to act as a logo for itself. The assortment suggests so many crowded perfume bottles vying for attention in a department store window display….

It is, at heart, a supersized suburban-style office park, with a shopping mall and a quasi-gated condo community targeted at the 0.1 per cent. A relic of dated 2000s thinking, nearly devoid of urban design, it declines to blend into the city grid….

Hudson Yards glorifies a kind of surface spectacle ⸺as of the peak ambitions of city life were consuming luxury goods and enjoying a smooth, seductive, mindless materialism.

The best feature of the complex is the 1100 feet high observation deck. It will have bleachers next year raising the height of one’s view even more. And that view is spectacular. You can practically see all creation. From there one can gaze upon the most magnificent vistas of New York imaginable…because from there you cannot see the Hudson Yards!

Kimmelman compares Hudson Yards to the beloved Rockefeller Center of Christmas tree fame and the new edifices are found wanting in almost every way imaginable. It’s not a place where Jane Jacobs would live, where organic communities will be nurtured, or where a community historical society will take root.

In the New Yorker, Hudson Yards is the Hotel California of New York, Alexandra Schwartz lambasts “unremitting artificiality” of the place. This supposed “neighborhood of the future” is a high-end corporate park enclave sustained by $6 billion in tax breaks, more than Amazon sought for its failed attempt to locate in Queens.  Schwartz even mocks the seeming triumph of urban reimagination as the “embodiment of this narcotic nowhere-ness” the nearby High Line exemplifies: a beautiful highway that has sliced through a living neighborhood, Robert Moses style, leaving luxury buildings in its wake.” Hell’s Kitchen has character, Hudson Yards has superficial slick size.

A subsequent article Hudson Yards: A City Within a City: New York’s newest neighborhood drew inspiration from Battery Park City, but is filled with 21st-century twists by C. J. Hughes in the New York Times, specifically notes this dichotomy using the 20th-century Battery Park City in lower Manhattan also along the Hudson River for comparison.

While Battery Park City may embody the lessons of urbanist Jane Jacobs, who favored short blocks [as in her beloved Greenwich Village], Hudson Yards can feel derived from her opposite, the master builder Robert Moses, whose approach was often big and muscular.

Hudson Yards is located in New York but is it really part of New York? Where does it belong?

Consider the view of Sebastian Modak, a New York Times reporter assigned to visit every place on the “52 Places to Go in 2019” list (New, Strange and Familiar, It’s Still New York, print edition April 7, 2019; I Walked the Length of Manhattan. Here Is What I Found.

My parents live in Dubai and the only way I’ve learned to like that superlative-obsessed, chrome-and- steel glass city is by gravitating toward the polyglot migrant communities that built the city and the scant traces of the pearl-diving beginnings that haven’t been swallowed up by the drive to build, build, build. To me, Hudson Yards is New York City trying to be the Dubai I’ve always avoided….

Getting back to the Hudson River Greenway was a relief, and entering Central Park made me ecstatic.

In another article (It’s Really Two Malls in One, print edition April 11, 2019; At Hudson Yards, One Mall for the Rich, and One for Everyone Else in New York Times, reporter Jon Caramanica takes to task all those people who have been comparing Hudson Yards to Dubai: “That’s a grave insult to Dubai [!]”

Two different lifestyles are being contrasted here. One is high above the river and for the very rich people; the other is at the street level where the real people live. As the superstar cities from Manhattan to San Francisco increasingly cater to the rich, the stratification increases. Sometimes it reaches a point where normal people cannot even afford to live in the city anymore.

In science fiction, the dichotomy takes on extreme forms. H. G. Wells wrote The Time Machine (1895) about time travel to the future but reflective of his present. The future division of beings into Morlocks and Eloi were a projection of the two classes he encountered: the one who struggled with ceaseless physical labor often underground while the other surface-dwelling leisured class was capable of producing nothing. In the Star Trek episode “The Cloud Minders,” once again there two classes of people. The Troglites mine the earth doing the physical labor while the intellectuals reside above it all in Stratos, a luxurious metropolis which literally floats in the sky. New York did extend the subway to reach Hudson Yards, but I cannot help but wonder if that is more for the people who work there then who live there. How did Gene Rodenberry know? In effect, these Hudson Yard residents are part of a global community like Spectre and not a local or national community.

At the same time that Hudson Yards was garnering unfavorable publicity, Hudson Valley was reaping more positive press. The article “An Instant Community in the Catskills” is about how people created an instant community in the Catskills. It’s about a group of people from the city who all bought homes in a tiny Catskill hamlet. According to the reporter, almost everyone in the group said they have richer social lives and deeper bonds as a result of having bought homes in Sullivan County. Critical to that result was having a sense of community in a place where none of them had lived before. In this case, they brought a community with them and then became part of the larger local [native or indigenous] people who lived there.

A similar pattern occurred in Hudson, NY, according to “Is the Hudson Valley Turning Into the Hamptons?” In this example it was a case of Brooklyn moving north to an Amtrak stop on the Hudson. However, the article serves as a cautionary tale about what the Hudson Valley maybe losing if it replicates West Manhattan aka the Hamptons.

As it turns out even the commuting suburb of Westchester where I live has become part of the story. Once upon a time, post-World War II and Korean War veterans and families moved north in great numbers from the city to find a piece of the American Dream. When they did so, they cut their home ownership or rental ties to the city. A new trend is for people to maintain their city residence while acquiring a second home in Westchester or Connecticut. In a “Close Escape from New York,” a broker exults:

There is the assumption that you have to go far away for it to be wild and natural. But we have areas where, thanks to rocky outcroppings, lakes and streams, you swear you are in New Hampshire.

One such person waxed poetic in her love of her new dwelling in Connecticut:

It was the stone walls that got me. You pass over the Saugatuck River, and there is this little house in Wilton where the road turns from two lanes to one, and when I see it, all of the tension from my neck and back falls away. We see woodpeckers; we see hawks; we see deer. But we don’t see people, and we don’t hear them. It’s a true escape. For us it’s a refuge.

Just as Central Park is for the city dwellers in the example cited above.

Another person making the move to Pound Ridge in Westchester shared similar views.

With young kids, it can get harder to travel. So we created our own Shangri-La up here. The benefit of the location is unbeatable.

The reporter observed of a third couple: “They longed to wake up in nature, by the water, for longer than a weekend.

Or as the couple said:

I feel much healthier out here. It feels good just to breathe fresh air.

Perhaps it is James Earl Jones, resident of Pawling in Dutchess County and supporter of the Friends of the Great Swamp in Putnam and Dutchess Counties who said it best:

For it is money they have and peace they lack.

And all these locations have historical societies too. We need to belong in time as well as space.

Hudson Yards is glitzy, glamorous, and soulless. It appeals to the 1% who want to be above it all living lives of conspicuous consumption. Meanwhile, the real people seek a connection with nature and community. Keep these thoughts and observations in mind when seeking to understand the true issues at stake in the culture wars between Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Tikkun Olam. Repair the World.

Davenport, Iowa: Once Again a Battleground between the Forces of Light and Darkness

Field of Dreams in flooded Davenport, Iowa (Brian Powers/The Register)

Davenport, Iowa, does not make the front pages often. Except for the flooding of the Mississippi, Davenport is normally part of the flyover country. It never attained the status of Peoria. But every now and then like Brigadoon it reappears on schedule. These sightings occur not once every century but once every four-years along with its sister communities in the state. It does so because of the Iowa caucuses for the nomination to be president of the United States.

It is in Iowa where a former Vice President accused the current President of being an existential threat to the character of the nation. It is in Iowa where Individual #1 returned to his favorite venue: the professional wrestling arena where he performs in the role of THE DONALD. He feeds of that energy the way normal human beings need oxygen. If Jon Meacham is correct and he is a professional wrestler 24/7, then there is no there there, he always is reality TV character. But as Hugh White, emeritus professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University said on the appeal of China over America: “Trump looks weak and unreliable, despite the tough talk.”  The rest of the world has caught on that the DONALD is not real, Trumpicans have not. It’s showtime in Iowa.

Davenport Iowa WWE Champion Seth Rollins (Kelsey Kremer/The Register)

Unbeknownst to many, the quadrennial return of the political circus to Iowa is part of a longstanding tradition in the state. The idea of outsiders traveling throughout the state to entertain the people and bring news from back east is part and parcel of the Iowa DNA. The people of the small communities have been looking forward to such entertainment juggernauts for more than a century.

I am referring to the now-forgotten but once major phenomenon of the Circuit Chautauquas. These traveling shows brought to the local communities the “talent” they lacked. These communities fervently anticipated THE SHOW. It was big news when the advance team arrived in town to erect the tents that would be home to the show soon to arrive. It reminds me a little of the scenes in Showboat when it first appears at the towns along the river to the sounds of whistles announcing the big show was coming.

Circuit Chautauquas were extremely properly in their time before World War, the radio, the movie screen, the TV, and, of course, the internet. They were the link to the larger world with real people from that world now standing right before them to explain that world to them and to entertain them. At the center of the Circuit Chautauquas was Iowa where for a while it was headquartered. For Teddy Roosevelt the Circuit Chautauquas were the most American thing in America.

But the times, they were a changing even as the Circuit Chautauquas were in their prime. The Iowa world was experiencing a change just as it thought it had everything just the way they wanted it to be. From the 1850s onward, Iowa had become the fulfillment of the American Dream.

Let’s turn to the words of the Methodists of the Upper Iowa Conference. The term “conference” does not refer to a sports league. It is a Methodist term somewhat like diocese or parish. These conferences would be created as Methodists moved across the country as the United States expanded. At one point a conference might be quite extensive like the Louisiana territories. Over time as people settled, smaller and smaller conferences would be carved out just as states were. One such conference was the Upper Iowa Conference. These rural conferences were serviced by circuit riders, the heroic itinerant warriors of light, who traveled throughout their assigned circuit bringing religion to people scattered in in the forests and on the plains. Then there were the annual camp meetings to bring people together. Then the Circuit Chautauquas. Then the State Fairs. And now the Presidential Caucuses…which do not do as good a job of bring people together as the earlier shows but do attract more national attention.

The Upper Iowa Conference reports in the last decades of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century tell the story of a people confronting what they perceived as a new threat to their way of life. The world had changed quickly. One moment the Iowa Methodists were celebrating the victory of the Union (1865), the centennial of Methodism in America (1866), a part-time Methodist who had become president of the United States after having led the Union armies to victory (1868-1876), and the centennial of America (1876), and then suddenly they were fighting an old threat which they didn’t expect to see on their doorsteps.

The apocalyptic description of the state vote on prohibition by the Iowa State Register on June 25, 1882, reflects the new field of battle:

The two armies on the contest over the amendment move into the field to-morrow for the contest on Tuesday. To-day the two legions are passing by; to-morrow they will be camped on the threshold of the day of conflict, each under its own colors . . . . No fairer army ever moved under fairer banners than that which is going now into the field of open context to battle for the amendment . . . . Here is the other army—the army of occupation, silent, sullen and dark. It puts no song on the air, and has no flag to give to the breeze, and no voice in all the earth praying for it . . . .

Demographic trends of post-Civil War America affected the Midwest. The report of an Upper Iowa district at the 1883 Conference contained the following concern about local events: “Upon the river borders Catholicism and German rationalism press upon us. Rum and Rome and Rationalism practically coalesce while Protestantism, pressed into the minority, instinctively ‘rises and retires.’”

In the Upper Iowa Conference, the battle against foreign elements resumed with gusto in 1885. It resolved that Romanism had to be stopped. They were going to take back their country from these foreigners with their alien religion, different ethnicity, and loyalty to foreign leaders. It was as if the Upper Iowa Conference Methodists were watching all their hard work in fulfilling the American Dream had come to naught. Everything they had built and struggled to achieve was being undone by an alien presence of those who did not live what they perceived to be the American way of life.

The missionary activity stressed by the Upper Iowa Conference in 1887 was domestic not foreign:

Throughout a wide area on either side of the Mississippi river, a foreign immigration has been steadily driving out our native population and has so weakened our Churches as to make it impossible in some cases and difficult in many, to maintain our existence.

The battle raged on against the foreign element. It can be tracked in the annual report of the districts. For example, in 1892, Decorah reported an heroic effort against the depletion of its eastern borders: it was fighting the good fight to hold the territory for Protestant Christianity. Dubuque Methodists declared than even in the midst of a Roman Catholic population, it was not dead. This conflict was no idle matter to the people who had settled the prairies only a few decades before only now to find themselves fighting for their cultural and religious life in the land they regarded as home.

The 1899 Conference report from the DAVENPORT district asked the question: “Am I in the United States of America, or Scandinavia, or the Emerald Isle, or Germany?” In doing so it echoed the words Benjamin Franklin wrote in 1751 in response to German immigration in Pennsylvania. Now these alien immigrants from Scandinavia and Germany among elsewhere continued to overrun the land threatening the Methodist and therefore American way of life. Looks like Norway was a Trump-hole country to these Iowa Methodists!

The Decorah district in 1902 reported a disturbing trend in the once-Methodist lands:

. . . [T]he stranger has got possession of the gates, and the native American Methodist farmer seems, and feels himself to be, a stranger in the new surroundings. Germans, Scandinavians, Bohemians and Irish are buying the farms all the more easily, because the American early settlers have reached years when they wish the rest they have earned and the advantages of town life and have the means to gratify the desire. The new occupants bring with them Romanism, Lutheranism, or hatred of all churches, and whatever the form it is in the antagonism to Methodism. Notwithstanding, we are still optimistic, because we believe in God, the gospel go-ahead-itiveness, which last is a synonym for Methodism.

These people even thought of themselves as native Americans! Obviously they were not woke!

The situation only seemed to get worse. In 1904, DAVENPORT reported only three Methodist pastors in a county of 45,000 people as the “old stock . . . sold out and moved to the city or died off, and the foreigner [came] in to take the[ir] place . . . . In many places the old church buildings still stand like the Druidic pillars of old England, to mark the glory of the past.” Decorah continued to report the dominance of foreigners and Dubuque joined the parade of bewailing the transformation of the land from one of Protestants to Roman Catholics.

In 1905, DAVENPORT sought to focus on the young new arrivals as the most likely candidates for saving through education: “The spirit of our fathers, who two generations ago reclaimed this territory from frontier barbarism, and the methods of our missionaries in the fatherlands of some of these same foreigners will work out great results for the Master.” The evangelization of the world required the Christianization of America which was now a battlefront. Decorah reported that the Pope “evidently has designs on fair Iowa.”

Then things began to change. The 1912 Conference was upbeat about the prospects for the community, the state, and the country. Perhaps the long-term plan of educating immigrants to be Americans was finally paying off:

The time is come, or about to come, when the loss of membership on account of the inroad of the foreigner, and the departure of the American is being stayed. In some localities the foreigner is disappearing, and the American is returning to his own. In many other communities the foreigner is becoming so American as to demand English preaching. This is specially true of those of the second generation of the alien . . . . [M]any are finding out that the same reason for coming to America at all is the same reason for coming to the Methodist Episcopal Church.

The following year the Conference report proudly declared that those born in the country have learned English and have demonstrated a strong proclivity for American institutions. Perhaps America was a melting pot for people who seek to be free after all. Maybe Iowa could even become a Field of Dreams for all Americans and not just presidential candidates.

At the 1918 conference, the Dubuque district which had been struggling with the impact of immigration reported that the polyglot community now spoke English thanks to the public schools and the great world war. The Conference expressed great optimism about the world to come given the pending Allied victory:

When this war shall come at last to its final end with a peace that shall have in it no compromise with evil, but an end that shall mean an end to all wars, when autocracy shall everywhere be superseded by a world-wide democracy . . . . [W]hen there shall come to us, whose sons are now in this gigantic struggle, the time of the “sunset and evening star,” we can look upon the great and eternal gains, that have been secured, and we can say with proud satisfaction, “My children were in that war.”

Methodists had given their blood to make God’s Kingdom safe for democracy. Bleeding alongside of them on the European battlefields over there were the newcomers to the Upper Iowa Conference lands. They also had become Americans by choice. As the celebration of the Methodist Centenary approached, Upper Iowa Methodists eagerly anticipated the century to come. Now that a century has passed since then, I wonder what they think of the new culture war and the current crop of presidential entertainers.

 

For additional information see Peter Feinman, “The Methodist Upper Iowa Conference: From Wilderness to Melting Pot,” Methodist History 47 2009:226-241.

 

Slavery Quadricentennial: The 400 Years of African-American History Commission

The Commission's logo symbolizes 400 years of African-American history: the drum stands for global communications and healing; segmented chains represent breaking the cycle of slavery and the perpetual struggle for equality; two stars depict balance between inspiration and aspiration. https://www.nps.gov/orgs/1892/africanamericanhistorycommission.htm

You may have missed this federal legislation so I am providing a streamlined version of it. The commission expires in 2020 with the scheduled production of a final report.

H.R.1242 – 400 Years of African-American History Commission Act
115th Congress (2017-2018)
Public Law No: 115-102 (01/08/2018)

To establish the 400 Years of African-American History Commission, and for other purposes.

(1) Commemoration.–The term “commemoration” means the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Africans in the English colonies, at Point Comfort, Virginia, in 1619.

(2) Commission.–The term “Commission” means the 400 Years of African-American History Commission [of 15 people].

The Commission shall–

(1) plan, develop, and carry out programs and activities throughout the United States

– to recognize and highlight the resilience and contributions of African-Americans since 1619;
– to acknowledge the impact that slavery and laws that enforced racial discrimination had on the United States;
– to educate the public about–(i) the arrival of Africans in the United States; and (ii) the contributions of African-Americans to the United States.

(2) encourage civic, patriotic, historical, educational, artistic, religious, economic, and other organizations throughout the United States to organize and participate in         anniversary activities to expand understanding and appreciation of—(A) the significance of the arrival of Africans in the United States; and (B) the contributions of African-Americans to the United States;

(3) provide technical assistance to States, localities, and nonprofit organizations to further the commemoration; [FUNDING UP TO $20,000 per application!!!!!]

(4) Coordination. coordinate and facilitate for the public scholarly research on, publication about, and interpretation of–(A) the arrival of Africans in the United States; and (B) the contributions of African-Americans to the United States

(5) ensure that the commemoration provides a lasting legacy and long-term public benefit by assisting in the development of appropriate programs; and

(6) help ensure that the observances of the commemoration are inclusive and appropriately recognize the experiences and heritage of all individuals present at the arrival of Africans in the United States.

The strategic plan for the Commission can be accessed through the National Park Service website. It provides the following timeline.

TIMELINE: (First quarter of 2019): SHOULD BE DONE BY NOW

Develop a framework for ways in which civic, patriotic, historical, educational, artistic, religious, economic, research-based individuals and institutions may partner with the Commission to ensure a successful 2019 across the Nation and collaborate accordingly.

Establish a clearinghouse for 2019 African American commemorative events.

–  Work with museums and other key organizations to calendar significant events.
– Create an online master calendar of events.

Secure adequate funds to support the Commission in achieving its goals

Utilize social media and African American community information sharing networks to share information about Commission-sanctioned programs, events, and activities.

– Hire a web designer.
– Recruit volunteers to maintain a robust social media presence.

TIMELINE: (Second quarter of 2019): SHOULD BE DONE SOON

Develop, disseminate, and provide technical assistance for requests for proposals (“RFPs”) in support of the Commission’s mission work.

– Define relevant proposal criteria.
– Widely publish the criteria.
– Assist those who wish to submit proposals.

Issue grants in an amount not to exceed $20,000 based on approved RFP guidelines.

Secure grant-making funding.

– Develop grant-making criteria.
– Disseminate grant opportunities.
– Develop team to review grant proposals.
– Develop grant award timelines and procedures.

The total project budget is $6M. Key budget items include:

Operating expenses $900,000
Website and online presence $10,000
Marketing (e.g., promotion and advertising) $2,450,000
Commissioner outreach (e.g., travel, lodging) $140,000
Grant-making; scholarships $2,500,000

The most recent item on the NPS website for the Commission is a press release on a meeting held on Wednesday, February 13, 2019, at the National Museum of African American History in Washington.

I became aware of this legislation and strategic plan because of my participation in the African American 400 Year Diaspora committee through the Westchester County African American Advisory Board. Somewhere around April, I decided to look up the legislation that was the impetus for the creation of this group. At that point I found the law itself and subsequently the NPS Strategic Plan.

As you might expect, my interest was peaked when I saw that organizations could apply for up to $20,000 in funding for related activities. Naturally I began to look for the application procedures and guidelines so we could apply. I found none.

I thereupon contacted my local Congressional representative to inquire about funding. It was while waiting for the return call later that afternoon that I did some additional research on my own and found the Strategic Plan. When I notice the first quarter time frame and that we were now in the second quarter, my hopes for funding diminished significantly. There was then and continues to be no vibrant web presence. There was then and apparently still are not funding guideline and procedures as we head into the final two-plus weeks of the second quarter.

When my Congressional representative office called, she confirmed my worst fears. Do not expect much. There has been no kickoff event yet. No website, No procedures. If you expect to do anything on or around August 19, 2019, do it on your own. Do not wait for or expect federal funding though the Commission. In fact the Commission will have to raise the funding privately itself.

At this point, it seems like the primary event will be by the NPS at the “Plymouth Rock” of slavery in the English colonies. [Note that Spanish-controlled lands are not included in this anniversary. It is limited strictly to the 13 British colonies that became the United States.]  There will be a new visitor center at Point Comfort, VA, at what is now Fort Monroe National Monument, in a partnership between the Fort Monroe Authority and the National Park Service.

Depiction of August 1619 arrival of first Africans to Point Comfort, Virginia (present day Fort Monroe). Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
https://www.nps.gov/orgs/1207/commission400.htm

If you want to more about the actual event in history, may I suggest a recent article in the Washington PostShe Was Captured and Enslaved 400 Years Ago: Now Angela Symbolizes a Brutal History” by DeNeen L. Brown.

In some ways it may be just as well that the national commission ends up being a mainly local event. After all, the story of slavery varies from state to state. The libraries, historical societies and museums in only one state are likely to have materials related to the 1619 event. In the other states, many such organizations may already have displayed slavery-related items during Black History Month. These organizations also may have events and exhibitions planned for August, a month that is more of a vacation time than visit your local museum time – you visit the museums of the places you travel to then!

Here in Westchester, we are thinking about what happened in Westchester and not Virginia…although Texas still garners attention due to Juneteenth. By contrast July 4, 1827, when slavery ended in New York remains unremembered. What we need here is a Bicentennial End of Slavery Commission.

There are four points to this rumination:

1. Each state has its own story to tell of the start and end of slavery in that state.
2. Each state has its own story to tell about the contribution of black Africans to their state from those brought here against their will to those who emigrated here just like white Europeans from Plymouth Rock to Castle Garden to Ellis Island.
3. The shortcomings in the African American Heritage Commission may be replicated in the American Revolution 250th Anniversary. If that Commission similarly focuses on 1776/2026 it will ignore or downplay all the events leading up the Declaration and afterwards until the British evacuation on November 25, 1783/2033.
4. History museums, libraries, and colleges provide great venues for facilitated discussions and conversations on the role of slavery in their community and the free black experience both during and after slavery. (The same actually applies for both Columbus and the American Revolution although I have not written those blogs yet.)

I mention the American Revolution because some efforts are underway here in Westchester and in New York regarding that event. I want to attend the Massachusetts History Alliance conference on June 24 and learn about what that state is doing before writing a blog about it.

In the meantime, we will keep moving forward on the 400th but will be thinking more and more what to do on an ongoing basis to tell the story of the black contribution to our county.