Basil Wilson

The Debasing of the Public Square

By Basil Wilson

Since Donald J. Trump was elected President of the United States in November, 2016, America’s political system has been mired into an un-merry-go-round. What is occurring day after day is the spectacle of a democratic society that has lost its way and the prolonged nightmare has been perplexing to an astonished world community.

Trump is indeed a basket case and political scientists, historians and psychologists will spend a great deal of time about what led to such a flawed personality winning the Electoral College in a highly sophisticated democracy. Trump’s election has brought out the worst of America and in its advent, the best of America.

It was clear from the campaign pontifications that Trump was an extraordinary demagogue. He was quite cognizant that global markets had served as a catalyst for uneven economic development. Quite similarly, when industrialization and the mechanization of agriculture threw millions off the farms, the rise of trans-national economies has displaced millions of workers and turned once vibrant towns into non-functioning wastelands. Those displaced workers saw Trump as their shining knight in armor who would resuscitate anachronistic industries like coal and return their hollowed out towns into vibrant communities as it was during the early twentieth century.

Trump skillfully used the appeal of white nationalism and the presumption that his political gospel of America First would restore America to a state of greatness. But this seemingly populist poorly thought-out ideology also had its deplorable naked appeal to the worst instincts of the American people. And that became evident in his strategy to criminalize his Democratic Party’s opponent, Hillary Clinton. The cry on the campaign trail became “Lock Her Up”. The candidate was not just a rival for the Oval Office but a criminal that should be behind bars and that once Trump took office, a special prosecutor would be appointed to achieve that objective. That kind of rhetoric was unprecedented in American Presidential elections.

Both on the campaign trail and after taking office, Trump’s character flaws were evident. The issue was not only that he had never held elective office but that he brought no historical perspective to the White House, no understanding of the pillars of American democracy. The neophyte Trump assumed that any critique of his candidacy or his administration was tantamount to being unpatriotic.

Trump might be the first American President to undermine the precepts of American democracy. At the genesis of his administration, he was at war with the established media with the exception of Fox News, Breitbart and other right wing propaganda organs. Any news organization that wrote critically of the forty-fifth President was denounced as fake news. The narcissism did not allow for introspection. If you were not enamored with Trump, you were dismissed as fake news. The President concocted his own reality and was oblivious of empirical data.

As Michael Wolf pointed out in his work on Donald Trump, this is a President who does not read, does not listen and governs based on his impulses. Even before swearing in as President, Trump declared war with his Intelligence Agencies, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department.

American democracy has wrestled with establishing a relationship between the President and the Justice Department. The President has the prerogative of appointing the Attorney General. Nonetheless, even though the Attorney General is a member of the President’s Cabinet, the Justice Department when it comes to criminal investigation, functions independently from the President and the White House. Trump as a political ignoramus has not been able to comprehend and respect that long standing practice. He presumed that the Justice Department is there to cover and hide his manifold shenanigans.

One of the quaint developments in the American Justice system is that the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is given a ten year term. Although the Director is initially appointed by the President, the Director functions independently from the President and has the autonomy to pursue investigations throughout the government and beyond. In part this is to ensure that no one, not even the President is above the law. But the ten year term of the F.B.I. Director can be easily abused if that Director begins to function as a law unto himself and not as an employee of the Justice Department.

This ongoing crisis of American democracy has been exacerbated by the falling out of Director Comey and the President of the United States. Comey in his published epistle, A Higher Loyalty, articulates rather candidly his views about the President. He gallantly sought to thwart Mr. Trump’s attempts to corrupt the agency. In his new position as ex-Director of the F.B.I. and citizen, James Comey in his book and in interviews has pronounced that Trump is morally unfit to be President of the United States. He sees Trump as a chronic liar, constantly undermining the free press and engaging in conduct that undermines the sacrosanct norms of American democracy.

Comey, unlike Trump, is a public servant with integrity. But Comey behaved exemplary during the Trump administration in ensuring that the firewall was not breached. But in the Obama administration, Comey’s arrogance became apparent when, in reporting the findings of the F.B.I. that no charges were recommended to bring against Hillary Clinton for her use of classified e-mails on a non-classified server, Comey broke the protocols of the Justice Department by going around the Attorney General, Coretta Lynch, and holding a press conference to announce the non charges but having the arrogance to scold in public the Democratic Party’s nominee for the Presidential election of 2016.

Comey further sullied the waters when he announced eleven days before the date of the election that the F.B.I. had re-opened the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails only to back track that the e-mails found on former Congressman Weiner’s laptop computer were remnants of old e-mails that Clinton’s trusted aide, Huma Abedin, who was married to Weiner, had found its way onto Weiner’s laptop computer.


Jeffrey Boney

OPINION: Go Vote! Somebody Paid the Price!

OPINION: Black People Must Vote or Reap the Consequences

By Jeffrey L. Boney (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

All you have to do is crack open a history book, or sit with one of our experienced elders, and you will learn about the many sacrifices made by people of all races in order to ensure Black people obtained the uninhibited right to vote.

No other group of people in America have benefited more from the sacrifices made by so many people who fought, bled and died fighting for our freedom and the right to vote, as Black people have.

The freedom Black Americans experience today came with a significant price tag attached to it, and that freedom has definitely not been free. So much blood has been shed, and so many lives have been lost—all for our freedom and for the precious right to vote.

In fact, if you add up the number of Americans who died in World War I, World War II, the American Revolution, the War of 1812, all of the wars with the Indians, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War and the Korean War, that number would not be as large as the total number of people who died alone in the Civil War fighting to end slavery.

After the Civil War, many Whites migrated from the North to the South in order to help Black people thrive in the new Reconstruction governments. Many of those White abolitionists ran for political office and won. Several Black men were also elected to the U.S. Congress and the South even elected some Black senators. These political gains and the progress made by Black people, as a result of the Reconstruction governments in the South, angered many Southern Whites.

Confederate Army supporters like Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest, and others, made up in their minds that if they wanted to re-establish control and dominance over Black people in this country, then they would have to stop Black men from voting by any means necessary.

Nathan Bedford Forrest and several of his colleagues helped form the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), where he served as the first Grand Wizard. The Klan wore white robes and pretended to be the ghosts of dead Confederate soldiers in order to strike fear into the hearts of anyone, they encountered. Members of the Klan did not want to be recognized, so they wore hoods to cover their faces, primarily, because many of the members of the Klan were prominent citizens and local authority figures.

At night, the Klan would hang signs warning Black people not to vote and threatened to kill any Black man who voted. To further frighten Black voters, the Klan would gather together in their costumes and place a large wooden cross in front of a Black man’s home and set it on fire. This served as a warning to any Black man who decided to vote in the next election. If a Black man defied the Klan and refused to adhere to their warning, he was lynched from a tree so everyone in the city would see him and have second thoughts about attempting to vote in future elections.

The Klan quickly grew across all Southern states and Black people were vulnerable to this heinous activity and their vicious attacks. Due to the constant harassment and brutal killings by the Klan, Blacks began to slowly dismiss voting. As a result, Black people began losing political representation, as well as the political advancements they gained during Reconstruction. As time progressed, future generations of White Americans began to slowly forget the struggles of Black people and were not as vocal or as dedicated to the plight of Black people in the South as they had been in the past.

If you fast-forward in the history books, you can see that Black voter intimidation and Black voter disenfranchisement continued well beyond the blatant actions of the Klan. State governments in the South joined the party and began passing sweeping new sets of laws called "Jim Crow" and those laws were designed to separate White people from Black people.

Blacks could not eat in the same restaurants as Whites; there were separate schools for Black and White children; Blacks could not drink water from the same fountains as Whites; Blacks had to sit in the back of the buses, whereas Whites could sit up front; and Blacks could not ride in the same carriages as Whites on the trains.

All in all, this blatant form of voting disenfranchisement has significantly impacted the well-being and livelihood of Black people for centuries.

So, why has it been so important for other people to make it difficult for Black people to vote?

The reason, to me, is quite simple. Those who seek to disenfranchise Black people from the voting process know exactly how important voting is. Those who seek to disenfranchise Black people relative to the voting process know the profound impact that it has at every level of government—local, state, and national.

More importantly, those who seek to disenfranchise Black people from the voting process know that voting is so powerful that those in political positions of power are able to direct necessary and critical resources to select areas. They are also able to ensure that select people are appointed to key positions.

Nearly everything that impacts our daily lives, in some way, is influenced by an elected official or someone who is appointed by them. These elected officials draft policy, introduce legislation, and vote on bills, that eventually become laws.

Whether voting for the judge, who has the power to sentence your loved one to a lengthy prison sentence or voting for the judge who has the power to determine child support payments and visitation rights through the family court—one or more of these elected officials will impact your life in some shape, form or fashion throughout your lifetime. Every elected official yields power and some level of influence that we as Black people should never ignore or take for granted.

It doesn’t matter whether you believe your vote matters or not—and it most certainly does—you will have to adhere to any law voted on by those who’ve been elected to represent you. There is absolutely no level of complaining or reactionary response that will change that.

There are no acceptable excuses when it comes to voting. Either you do it or you reap the consequences. Engaged citizens must seek to understand politics if they wish to better understand the impact of the laws and decisions that politics produce.

I can only wonder, however, if many of our political martyrs, who sacrificed their very lives for the right to vote that we should all appreciate today, are flipping over in their graves as they look upon much of our squandered voting potential and overwhelming collective political apathy.

Maybe this election cycle will prove to be different, however. At least I hope it will.

Jeffrey L. Boney serves as Associate Editor and is an award-winning journalist for the Houston Forward Times newspaper. Jeffrey has been a frequent contributor on “The Nancy Grace Show” and “Primetime Justice with Ashleigh Banfield.” Jeffrey is a radio personality and a dynamic, international speaker, experienced entrepreneur, business development strategist and Founder/CEO of the Texas Business Alliance. If you would like to request Jeffrey as a speaker, you can reach him at jboney1@forwardtimes.com. Follow Jeffrey on Twitter @realtalkjunkies.


US-CARIBBEAN RELATIONS

The issue of US/Caribbean relations over the years has always been a vexing one for the region – while there are general pronouncements of interest and cooperation by the US for the Caribbean, action has been taken.

The US remains the largest single trading partner for the Caribbean, the Caribbean Sea itself as the front yard of the region with special significance, but somehow getting real notice and action from the US is sometimes wanting.

There is general friendship between many US Companies, institutions and organizations and their Caribbean counterparts, and there have been mutually beneficial ad……. But the region, its position and role, is hardly fully recognized by the US; in fact, when there are common interests, the US comes off as a bit of a bully with the region and threats of punitive action of the Caribbean does not follow the US dictates.

With the US Vice-President Mike Spence at the Summit of the Americas, he has proclaimed the US remains interested in the Caribbean and Latin America. In a meeting with the CARICOM Heads of State and delegations, it was characterized as a wide-ranging discussion; several issues were raised for possible cooperation.

From the reporting on the CARICOM Meeting with the US, the discussion was primarily in the areas of migration, crime and security. The issue of correspondent banking was also raised but no definitive commitment.

It appeared to many that Vice- President Pence, who was a last -minute substitute for President Trump, did not come with much to offer. In fact, the US positions were more divisive than helpful. On their insistence, Venezuela was banned from the Summit. Caribbean countries were being encouraged to isolate President Maduro and Venezuela more.

Cuba, a strong partner in the region is facing more threats from the Trump Administration, and all the Obama policies of cooperation have been scuttled. The hardening of the economies, commercial and financial embargoes of the country by the US has created hardship on the country and its people.

Antigua and Barbados is still in a s struggle for the US to honor the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling against the US in favor of Antigua and to pay the necessary penalties.

The US is joining the drumbeat labelling many of the Caribbean Countries as Money Launderers. Not to mention the misdirected War On Drugs.

We in the Diaspora must keep up the pressure on our elected officials and must vote to have more supporters of greater engagement with the region.


In Trinidad & Tobago – Laws Against Homosexuals Declared Unconstitutional by High Court

Basic Human Rights affirmed that is how many organizations are characterizing the landmark decision of the High Court of Trinidad and Tobago who declared that criminalization of consensual adult same sex activity is unconstitutional.

Judge Devindra Rampersad ruled “The Court declares that Sections 13 and 16 of the (Sexual Offences Act) are unconstitutional, illegal, null, void, invalid and of no effect to the extent that these laws criminalize any acts constituting consensual sexual conduct between adults”.

It is about time that the Caribbean countries start acknowledging that every individual, regardless of their race, color, gender or sexual preference, has the right to human dignity in whom they love.

The lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the buggery laws of Trinidad was filed by gay rights activist Jason Jonas. Mr. Jonas filed his motion in March of 2017. Judge Rampersad ruled: This conclusion is not an assessment or denial of the religious beliefs of anyone. This court is not qualified to do so. However, this conclusion is a recognition that the beliefs of some, by definition, is not the belief of all and, in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, all are protected under the Constitution.

We have to laud the judge’s decision in the protection of the individual rights. The judge’s view is also shared by Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC), an advocate for the decriminalization of the buggery laws. In a statement, CVC aid, “It has always been the considered view of CVC that any such arrangement in law infringes on the basic principles of human rights and justice. The ruling signifies an increasing recognition by our courts in the Caribbean of the need to safeguard human dignity and the rights of everyone.”

We agree with the CVC’s assessment of the Court rulings.

For the members of the LGBTQ Community this is a major breakthrough and they took to the streets in celebration. For them, it was more than a celebration of carnival; hugging and kissing, cheering in the streets was a great emotional outlet. But, Jason Jones puts it this way “- The injustice of inequality can no longer be tolerated”.

Many of the Caribbean countries re known for their anti-gay laws and buggery laws as they are referred to. The wind of change is blowing in the region - some in the courts, others by the economic strength of the gay community. It is really unfortunate that many governments do not have the will to express and support the basic human rights of their community.

The Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP), an organization that provides a structured and unified approach to the Caribbean’s response to the HIV epidemic, has welcomed the decision in Trinidad with the hope that a more unified approach to eliminating these buggery laws would be adopted by the Caribbean Countries, and a process developed that would accelerate the challenges to these laws. PANCAP acknowledges the challenge this might be for some religious values, but the process would seek to harmonize the approach.

Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness, when questioned on this issue and asked if he would have gays in his Cabinet, replied – “whatever is in my interest to distribute politically, a person’s sexuality, sexual orientation, is not a criterion for the use of my discretion. It is not an issue that we are afraid to address”.

He further stated: “The culture is evolving. People are evolving. Even in the Church, which 10 years ago, had a unified position, the Church in Jamaica now has multiple positions on this. I think Jamaica ought to be given space to find its own position to the problems. But, you know, I think we are generally very liberal, but more so, very tolerant. And I think that the first step is that the State protect the human rights of every citizen regardless of sexual orientation of inclination”.

We can understand the Prime Minister’s position and his own non- bias toward the gay community; but Jamaica, along with other Caribbean Countries, must take a more active role in decriminalizing the activities of these communities and offer full human dignity under the law to them.

We are encouraged by this ruling and the evolution as expressed by PM Holness; we would just wish to have the pace accelerated.