Black History Month Lessons for ‘Trump World’

Every year, when February rolls around, you hear the same questions: Why do we need a Black History Month? When is White History Month? (The answer to that second question is January through December, by the way.)

For the answer to the first, look no further than the movie that just picked up the top award from the Screen Actors Guild. “Hidden Figures” is about the African-American female mathematicians who helped propel the U.S. space program, and who were mostly left out of the history books and previous film accounts of NASA and the talents who made it soar. (John Glenn wouldn’t leave home without their trajectory equations.)

When people of color and women play more than token roles in the telling of this nation’s history, there will no longer be a need to remedy omissions with a designated month here and there.

In 2017, we are far from that moment.

 

Common Ground in the Trump Era Is Doubtful

The parallels aren’t perfect, but close enough to see and hear hypocrisy from all sides.

Observing some of the more dismissive reactions against last weekend’s women’s marches that exceeded expectations in Washington, across the country and around the world, you would think that gathering for a cause and against an American president was somehow unpatriotic.

New President Donald Trump’s initial statement that he was “under the impression that we just had an election” eventually gave way to a defense of a constitutional right to protest, though his senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said, “I frankly didn’t see the point.”

Various Republican elected officials around the country mocked protesters before offering half-hearted apologies. In North Carolina, GOP state Sen. Joyce Krawiec tweeted: “Message to crazies @ Women’s March — If brains were lard, you couldn’t grease a small skillet. You know who you are.” She won her seat without opposition in November, so she probably felt pretty safe.

Déjà vu

I had a flashback to a revved-up crowd at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, where I was covering what was called the first national tea party convention in early February 2010. Participants who came to rail against health care and other policies of then-President Barack Obama claimed patriotism as their motivation for righteous dissent.

 

Message from Charlotte: Revolution Starts at Home

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In this very blue city, in a state that went red for Donald Trump while sending a Democratic governor to the statehouse, a crowd estimated at more than 10,000 filled the streets at Saturday’s Women’s March. It was one of many across the country, sending a message that the story of Election 2016, far from being over, is just beginning.

The winding route took marchers — more than double in number than expected — past signposts of a region that has seen its share of divisions, but has made steady if shaky progress.

 

Obama and Trump: Two Presidents, Same God

If Franklin Graham did not actually endorse Donald Trump’s bid for the presidency, he stepped right up to the line — the one separating church and state. Graham was absolutely giddy post-election, when he gave credit to a force greater than the electorate. The evangelist and president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse credited the “God factor” for Trump’s poll-defying win.

You might be seeing a lot of Graham, starting at Friday’s inauguration where he is one of the faith leaders invited to offer a prayer for America’s new president. It marks a resurgence of a familiar name when it comes to mingling politics and religion, and a continuation of a tradition in a country that doesn’t have an official faith but celebrates a National Day of Prayer and seems most comfortable with leaders who praise a higher power.

 

What Would Martin Luther King Jr. Think of Obama, Followed by Trump?

President Barack Obama and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. have both been praised for their sweeping rhetorical skills, an ability to seize the moment and provide the comfort and inspiration needed. Even their detractors — and they have plenty — would admit this. To live up to his own history, President Obama had a nearly impossible task in his farewell speech on Tuesday night from his adopted hometown of Chicago.

There was also the irony of the week to come, bookended by a celebration of the life and works of King and the inauguration of the next president, Donald Trump. After all, few would place “I have a dream” and “She should be in prison” in the same universe of lofty oratory.

 

Washington Politics: A Hint of Compromise or North Carolina-Style Dysfunction?

Though the year has just begun, there are already signs that the partisan power struggle in Washington will not benefit from a fresh start or optimistic resolutions of renewal.

“I want to say to the American people: We hear you. We will do right by you. And we will deliver,” said re-elected House Speaker Paul Ryan, as he no doubt relished uniting with President-elect Donald Trump and a Republican-controlled Washington to celebrate the consolidation of power by undoing President Barack Obama’s actions of the last eight years.

But is he listening to all of the American people when his party is deciding what exactly it will deliver? Does a president elected by an electoral- but not popular-vote majority present the best evidence of a mandate to completely change course?

The Republican majority in Washington might look south as a warning of what could happen when you believe you’re not only right, but good, and those who disagree don’t matter. It’s a charge that was lobbed at Democrats and President Obama during their years in power, but irony is in short supply when the tables are turned. It certainly did not matter in North Carolina, a state almost evenly split in party and political sentiment, where one party, nonetheless, is more interested in ruling than governing.

 

Despite the Trappings, Holiday Spirit 2016 Looks Iffy

Since they usually jump-start around Thanksgiving, we are well into the time of Frosty and Rudolph and Tiny Tim fronting animated specials, annual favorites and tinsel-soaked movies of the week that end with the battling protagonists making up under the mistletoe.

Do we believe in Santa? I have to get back to you on that one. But I do have my favorites, all with the theme of redemption: Charlie Brown’s taunting gang recognizing the beauty of his scrawny tree; old Ebenezer Scrooge (Alastair Sim in the best version) waking up on Christmas morning, amazed that he indeed has time to be a good man, and, of course, the Grinch with his Grinchy small heart growing three sizes.

Most know these shows by heart, yet eyes moisten each time the Grinch, courtesy of Dr. Seuss, realizes “something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” These moments teach love and forgiveness and the meaning of the holiday, lessons that hit home because of their simplicity.

In any year, with retail and toy stores — both at the mall and online — becoming battlegrounds, a little reflection would be welcome. In 2016, with the results of Election Day still raging, and competing political operatives raising the stakes and their voices everywhere, including the halls of Harvard, only the Grinch, at his worst, could make sense of it.

 

Will Big Lies Insinuate Themselves Into Trump Policies?

There is the big lie, the ‘Elvis is alive and kidnapped my baby and they were all sucked up into a spaceship’ kind of lie so beloved by supermarket tabloids and fringe websites. “Pizzagate” falls into that category. When you hear a conspiracy theory about underground tunnels and a child-abuse ring involving government officials and a pizza parlor in Washington, D.C., all you can do is shake your head — that is, unless you’re a guy with a rifle who decides to “self-investigate,” and ends up terrorizing a neighborhood.

Then there’s another kind of statement that sounds a little more reasonable than Elvis and aliens, but has a similar relation to the truth — the tales of millions of illegal and fraudulent voters who usurped my popular vote win or cost me that governorship, or of inner cities as unrelieved cauldrons of criminals, minorities and hopelessness. These stories are whispered by those who should know better, then repeated by more and more people in power. Uttered with a straight face, furrowed brow and a wheelbarrow full of fake concern, they insinuate themselves into policy that can change the character of our country.

I don’t know which is scarier.

Still No N.C. Governor-Elect as Voting Charges Echo Trump’s Claims

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Nov. 8 was weeks ago, and yet the election’s aftermath continues. On the national stage and in the headlines, the winners, losers and those who barely made a dent are unhappy and are doing something about it, from recounts to tweets to repeating debunked conspiracy theories of hordes of illegal voters.

In North Carolina, folks are saying, “Welcome to the club!”

 

Nikki Haley, Once a Trump Foe, Moves to the Front of the Line

When South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, all smiles, made a strategic visit to New York last week to meet with President-elect Donald Trump, it was a different vision than most of those parading in and out to see the soon-to-be top guy. She was one of the first potential candidates who was not a white guy in a suit.

And now that the Indian-American Haley has been picked by Trump to be the country’s ambassador to the United Nations, we know why she was smiling. Chosen as the first woman and first minority chosen for a Cabinet-level position, the 44-year-old leader just may be the future of the Republican Party. Those who doubt that definitely have not been following the conservative Republican governor who has charted her own path, satisfying her base yet knowing when to seize the moment even if it means taking a chance.