When celebrity luster gives cover to how America judges its own

OPINION — I am not one of those folks who see celebrities as larger-than-life icons to be worshipped and admired. Usually. But the recent deaths of Jessye Norman and Diahann Carroll hit me in the gut because those two amazing women were at once larger than life and so very real. The reactions to their accomplishments also illustrate an American or perhaps universal trait — the ability to compartmentalize, to place certain citizens of color or underrepresented citizens on a pedestal, at once a part of and apart from others of their race or gender or religion or orientation.

It allows negative judgment of entire groups to exist alongside denials of any racist or discriminatory intent. There are a lot of problems with that way of thinking. It places an unfair burden on the icons, a need to be less a human being than a flawless symbol. And it uses them as a rebuke to others who never managed to overcome society’s obstacles.

Most destructively, it allows behavior that punishes those not so talented, fortunate or lucky.

Amid foreign policy chaos, remembering what’s important

OPINION — Master Sgt. Luis F. DeLeon-Figueroa and Master Sgt. Jose J. Gonzalez. Those names might not be that familiar to most. But their families, friends and fellow soldiers won’t forget them. The two Americans were killed in combat in Afghanistan last week, U.S. officials said, which brings the total killed this year to 14, one more than all of last year.

This is the news that disappears quickly from the headlines, as politicians and pundits try to make sense of just what happened at the G-7 meeting in France, for instance, and the latest chaos at the top. When the Amazon is burning, and the president of the United States skips the climate change meeting, as his buddy Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro takes time to insult the wife of the host country’s leader, it’s more distracting than usual.

But it is still astonishing how little attention the 18-year American engagement in Afghanistan seems to attract in the country’s consciousness and conversation.

Ken Cuccinelli wants to be a poet. First he needs a history lesson

OPINION — It happened like clockwork. Every few weeks, especially in the winter months, when snowbirds traveled to my then-home in Tucson, Arizona, from parts north that included Michigan and Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois, a letter to the editor would turn up at the paper where I worked. With slight changes, it would go something like: “I stopped in a store and overheard some people speaking Spanish. Why don’t they speak English?”

It took a little bit of time and a lot of convincing to explain that the families of many of these folks had been on the land the new arrivals so expansively and immediately claimed for generations, in the state since before it was a state, which Arizona didn’t become until 1912. It also has the greatest percentage of its acreage designated as Indian tribal land in the United States. And would it hurt you to know a word or two of Spanish?

Those are facts I was eager to learn — often from those long-timers — when I moved from the East Coast, many miles and a world away. Better late than never.

Will America ‘go back’ to where it came from?

OPINION — It’s an inside joke I’ve told the last couple of years.

My ancestors on both sides have been in America for generations — men, women and children whose blood, sweat and grit drenched the Maryland soil they cultivated and farmed and lived on. Originally brought by force, they claimed their place proudly and served the country’s ideals admirably. In contrast, my husband, second generation to these shores, on both sides, is an American-come-lately. But because his grandfather sailed into New York harbor on a ship that set off from Kristiansand, Norway, he is our president’s dream (Scandinavian) citizen.

I’m not laughing at that punch line anymore, not when Donald Trump has shown how sincerely he believes that belonging is automatic for some and conditional for others. It has never been clearer that the president of the United States considers some Americans more worthy of respect and consideration and legitimacy than others, and how he draws that line is as simple as black and white.

Are we in this American experiment together? A July Fourth question to contemplate

OPINION — Who doesn’t love Cary Grant, the debonair British-born, American acting legend, who wooed leading ladies, including the Hepburns, Katharine and Audrey, as well as generations of moviegoers?

But he was not so charming when his submarine commander character in 1943’s “Destination Tokyo” said: “The Japs don’t understand the love we have for our women. They don’t even have a word for it in their language.”

Demonizing “the enemy” in wartime as “the other,” incapable of emotion and not quite human is not unusual. But someone always pay a hefty price. Loyal Japanese American families, rounded up and shipped to internment camps, waited until 1988 for President Ronald Reagan to issue an apology; survivors received meager compensation. Though that was expected to be that, the trauma to those Americans and the nation lingered.

And despite that World War II-era lesson, and ones before and after, America continues to make the same mistake, a notion important to contemplate during the Fourth of July festivities, when we celebrate the ideal.

This year, a Washington, D.C., military parade and fireworks display with a speech by Donald Trump that places a national holiday squarely in partisan territory will be both a distraction from and a reminder of our current plight.

Trump was trying to channel Reagan. He sounded more like Nixon

OPINION  — “The state of our union is strong.” It is the line that is prominently featured in the speech of every president when he (and so far, it’s been a he) stands before Congress for a political ritual that remains impressive. Political theater? Sure, and why not. A country without a monarch craves a little pomp now and again, no matter the partisan sniping that precedes and follows it.

But what does that statement actually mean once the booming chants of “USA, USA” — which are sounding more aggressive than affirming lately — fade?

Trump’s 2019 State of the Union Address

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The president’s State of the Union speech was delayed because of a government shutdown, which said something about the state of the union. President Trumppromised to reach out to make bipartisan deals now that Democrats control the U.S. House, under the leadership of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. So, what was the message of his SOTU speech and the Democrats’ response by rising party star Stacey Abrams. “Visionary” or “American carnage.” On script or off? Compromise or national emergency? Any “You lie” moments? (Mary C. Curtis)

A Year of Uncertainty in Charlotte and Beyond

CHARLOTTE, NC — From the partial government shutdown to North Carolina’s 9th Congressional district race, there is a lot of uncertainty as we wrap up 2018.

WCCB Political Contributor Mary C. Curtis is anticipating what’s next in Charlotte and beyond as we head into 2019.

President Trump Wants to End Birthright Citizenship

CHARLOTTE, NC — President Trump is returning to one of his presidential campaign themes; immigration. The President claims he can defy constitution and end birthright citizenship with an executive order. The move is seen as President Trump’s latest immigration talking point with less than a week until midterm elections. WCCB Political Contributor Mary C. Curtis offers more perspective.

Opinion: Even When Process Is Due, It May Not Mean Justice

I remember it so clearly, though I was just a girl when the 1960s scene unfolded: My parents returning from a church dance in good spirits and being met with bad news and a bit of hysteria from the rest of the family. My brother Tony had been arrested for wanting to be seated and served at the Double T Diner in my home state of Maryland.

My parents and members of Tony’s civil rights group were able to get Tony home; my parents had the deed to the house ready, in case they needed it for bail.

And it was all legal, all done with “due process,” following the trespass laws of the time that allowed segregation in public businesses whose owners decided which members of the public they served. Thanks to the efforts of activists like my three oldest siblings — who broke the rules they and many others believed were unjust and contrary to America’s ideals — those laws are no longer on the books.