2 Students, 1 Teacher Hurt in South Carolina Elementary School Shooting


Members of law enforcement talk in front of Townville Elementary School, Sept. 28, 2016, in Townville, S.C.




Thank goodness this was a smaller school shooting. Much smaller than Columbine and Sandy Hook. May the angels guard the children in our world and protect them from all that would hurt hurt them. We need gun ownership to be much more regulated, at the least. I would love to see no guns but would be happy to see much tighter regulations. Thanks go out to the fireman whose bravery may have been larger than his logic, but I hope he is blessed for his bravery.




Cops As Killers

Growing up, a cop was a man that you would help you if you needed help. We had a volunteer fire department and I knew most of them and several of them were family.  In school they taught us policemen were our friends, and I had faith in that idea, faith in the police. Then  the day came when protesters to the Vietnam War at Kent State, Ohio were murdered by the National Guard (cops). I cried. I screamed. I lost my faith in cops.


Now, we have cops killing a lot of people. A frightening number of people. Often they are minorities, some of them have even been entitled whites. Almost all have been innocent and trying to explain and/or being compliant with the cop.


Now cops are killing children. The first event took place in Cleveland, Ohio. I lived there 20 years. I know the city well. A black child, Tamir Rice was playing with a toy gun at a neighborhood park. A person called 911 and reported a suspicious person having a gun. They said it might be a toy gun. Meanwhile, Tamir is just minding his own business playing on a cold winter afternoon. A police cruiser comes racing down the street and quickly pulls up a few feet from this child. The cop in the passenger gets out and shoots Tamir dead. One second he is a child playing and the next he is lying on the snowy ground as his life force ebbs out of his body. His big sister then arrives and tries to go to Tamir and the cops refuse to let her near her brother. They made sure he died alone.


Tamir is not the only child or teen to be murdered by cops and most have been black. This has made me a staunch supporter of Black Lives Matter. Tamir was black. When he arrived in heaven, he looked like everyone else because we are all the same. The blood floods through our veins and arteries the same, our kidneys work the same, our hearts beat the same, our skin is the only difference.


I have attached stories about more of the same. I want to write about happier things, but the National Rifle Association and the cops won’t let the subject be out of the news for very long at all.


The way to positive change is for as many people as possible to know what is happening. Knowledge is power to make the changes that are required. Please feel free to give me your honest feedback in civilized language. I guess I should mention, if anyone hasn’t deduced by now, I don’t trust cops anymore. I am sure there are some good cops but recent event make is seem that there are not enough, not nearly enough. The bad and/or racist cops appear to be growing in numbers too fast to ignore.









Video of police shooting that killed 6-year-old

autistic La. boy released

Last Updated Sep 28, 2016 7:10 PM EDT

MARKSVILLE, La. — The public is getting its first look at a police body camera video that shows two deputy city marshals opening fire on a car, killing a 6-year-old boy and critically wounding his father in Louisiana.

Prosecutors showed the tape in court Wednesday to support their claim that one of the deputies, Derrick Stafford, had a pattern of using excessive force — including last November’s fatal shooting of 6-year-old Jeremy Mardis in Marksville.

Police say the officer’s chased the boy’s father Christopher Few after he drove off from an argument with his girlfriend. The video captures the moment the SUV was cornered, CBS News correspondent David Begnaud reported.

Defense attorneys argue the deputies acted in self-defense and claim Few rammed into a deputy’s vehicle before they fired.


christofer-few-left-with-jeremy-mardis-right-cbs-affiliateChristopher Few (left) and his son Jeremy Mardis (right).

However, state District Court Judge William Bennett said the video doesn’t show Few using his car as a “deadly weapon” at the time of the shooting.

The court released the video to reporters after the hearing.

The shooting happened Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015 around 9:30 p.m., CBS affiliate WAFB reported. Jeremy Mardis, who had autism, died at the scene from multiple gunshot wounds. His father, Chris Few, survived.

Parish investigators initially said marshals were chasing Few because of an outstanding warrant, WAFB reported.. However, WAFB checked with the Clerk of Court, the District Attorney’s Office, Marksville Police Department and City Court and did not find any outstanding warrants.

Col. Mike Edmonson said so far, their investigation shows the same.

WAFB has posted the first minute and 35 seconds from the shooting. They are currently reviewing the rest of the body cam footage.

Part of the video can be found below. Video may be disturbing and graphic for viewers.








If the child is safe



Hi everyone,

I was gone taking care of my best friend who had surgery and my sister forgot to let you know. I apologize. I am back and full of energy. So we are off once again.





If the Child Is Safe

Marian Wright Edelman



We pray for children

who sneak popsicles before supper

who erases holes in math workbooks,

who can never find their shoes

And we pray for those

who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire,

who can’t bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers,

who never “counted potatoes,”

who are born in places we wouldn’t be caught dead,

who never go to the circus,

who live in an X-rated world.

We pray for children

who bring us sticky kisses and fists full of dandelions,

who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money.

And we pray for those

who never get dessert,

who have not a safe blanket to drag behind them,

who watch their parents watch them die,

who can’t find any bread to steal,

who don’t have any rooms to clean up,

whose pictures aren’t on anybody’s dresser,

whose monsters are real

We pray for children

who spend all their allowance before Tuesday,

who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food,

who like ghost stories,

who shove dirty clothes under the bed, and never rinse out the tub,

who get visits from the tooth fairy,

who don’t like to be kissed in front of the carpool,

whose tears we sometimes laugh at and whose smiles can make us cry.

And we pray for those

whose nightmares come in the daytime,

who will eat anything,

who have never seen a dentist,

who aren’t spoiled by anybody,

who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep,

who live and move, but have no being.

We pray for children who want to be carried

and for those who must,

for those we never give up on and for those

who don’t get a second chance.

For those we smother…and for those who would grab the hand of anybody kind enough to offer it.



Mosaic of children from around the world, including, Kayapo, Indian, Native American, Inuit, Balinese, Polynesian, Yanomamo, Cuban, Tsaatan, Moroccan, Mongolian, Karo, Malagasy, and Pakistani.

Mosaic of children from around the world, including, Kayapo, Indian, Native American, Inuit, Balinese, Polynesian, Yanomamo, Cuban, Tsaatan, Moroccan, Mongolian, Karo, Malagasy, and Pakistani.






   Some children are homeless, hungry, scared, bored, sick, with no one to take care of them




A youth embraces his sibling as refugees and migrants reach the shores of the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey on November 12, 2015. EU leaders attending a summit with their African counterparts approved a 1.8-billion-euro trust fund for Africa aimed at tackling the root causes of mass migration to Europe. AFP PHOTO / BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)

A youth embraces his sibling as refugees and migrants reach the shores of the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey

From any Perspective

When justice burns within us like flaming fire, when love evokes willing sacrifice from us, when to the last full measure of selfless devotion we demonstrate our belief in the ultimate triumph of truth and righteousness, then Your goodness enters our lives and we can begin to change the world; and then You live within our hearts, and we, through righteousness behold Your presence.

We cannot merely pray to you, O God, to end war;

For we know that You have made the world in a way

That all of us must find our own path to peace.

Within ourselves and with our neighbors.

We cannot merely pray to you, O God, to end starvation;

For You have already given us the resources

With which to feed the entire world,

If we would only use them wisely.

We cannot merely pray to you, O God, to root our prejudice

For You have already given us eyes

With which to see the good in all people,

If we would only use them rightly.

We cannot merely pray to you, O God, to end despair,

For You have already given us the power

To clear away slums and to give hope,

If we would only use our power justly.

We cannot merely pray to you, O God, to end disease;

For You have already given us great minds

With which to search out cures and healing,

If we would only use them constructively.

Therefore we pray to You instead, O God,

For strength, determination and will power to do instead of just pray,

To become instead of merely to wish.


The perspective is that I am not going to tell you from which path this prayer comes. Because what is important are the words of the prayer/ like all prayers they belong to us all


Barbra Swipes at Trump With the Truth

Facts Matter

Barbra Streisand in the Huffington Post


Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump listens to a speaker during the Midwest Vision and Values Pastors and Leadership Conference at the New Spirit Revival Center in Cleveland Heights, Ohio on September 21, 2016. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump listens to a speaker during the Midwest Vision and Values Pastors and Leadership Conference at the New Spirit Revival Center in Cleveland Heights, Ohio on September 21, 2016. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

When a politician ends almost every sentence with “believe me”… don’t! He’s probably lying.

According to PolitiFact, Donald Trump’s statements are rated “false,” “mostly false,” and “pants on fire” 71 percent of the time. In other words, the majority of the time that Trump speaks, he is not telling the truth.

But do the facts matter to Donald Trump or many in the media who are too entertained to correct his lies? We saw how Matt Lauer didn’t challenge him. Chris Wallace, the Fox News personality who is hosting one of the debates, has gone on record saying that facts are not relevant to him. This should be profoundly unacceptable to the American people. Our country and its stability is on the line. Facts do matter!

When Trump throws around words like “crooked,” he’s really describing himself and he doesn’t even know it. In psychological terms, it’s called “the disowned self.” Psychiatrists have explained how a person who refuses to recognize his own flaws will often project them onto other people.

As an article in The Washington Post recently said, “Trump’s history of corruption is mind-boggling.” This is a man who has bankrupted companies, reneged on bank loans, and cheated small business owners. For someone who claims to be a champion of the people, his m.o. is actually to stiff the little guy. Trump is notorious for refusing to pay painters, carpenters, plumbers and all sorts of vendors the money he owes them. The contracts he signed mean nothing to him. After the work is done, he’ll offer pennies on the dollar and say, If you don’t like it, sue me!… knowing full well that these mom-and-pop businesses don’t have the resources to take him to court. Even so, he’s been sued nearly 1,500 times over the last 30 years.

What has Donald Trump ever done to serve others? He only cares about promoting himself.

To those supporters who believe he’s a rich businessman and think he’s going to make them rich… get the facts straight. Investors in his failed casino ventures lost 90 percent of their money between 1995-2005. When the going gets tough, Trump vanishes. He eventually filed for bankruptcy, leaving others holding the bag.

And this man has the nerve to insult Hillary, who has always cared about other people? From the time she was in college, she’s been working to improve the lives of others… women, children, minorities.

What has Donald Trump ever done to serve others?

He only cares about promoting himself.

While Trump was being investigated and then sued by the Department of Justice for refusing to rent apartments to black and Hispanic people… Hillary was in Texas helping to register black and Hispanic voters.

While Donald had to be shamed into coming up with the contribution he promised to veterans… Hillary actually got legislation passed when she was in the Senate to expand their health care and other benefits.

While Donald has vowed to appoint Supreme Court justices who will overturn the ruling on marriage equality, Hillary declared that “gay rights are human rights” when she was Secretary of State.

Trump is both spreading and reflecting bigotry and hatred. He said a judge was not capable of doing his job because of his Mexican heritage.

One in five of his supporters believe slavery should never have been abolished and61 percent believe President Obama wasn’t born in the United States. For five years, Trump has wasted our time with his crackpot birther conspiracy theory. Only now he has suddenly had a conversion, but he doesn’t even have the decency to apologize. And he has the audacity to say Hillary started it all… another outrageous lie. He sounds like a child on the playground trying to escape punishment.

Hillary Clinton was right to denounce Trump’s racism, sexism and xenophobia. … [H]e has the nerve to say he’s going to make America great again??

He’s basically a bully, but like all bullies, he’s a coward at heart. He skipped out on a debate because he didn’t like the moderator. He can’t handle the tough questions. He’s so thin-skinned that as soon as anyone challenges him, he sues them.

Hillary has been attacked right and left for decades and is still standing.

She has negotiated with leaders around the world to keep us safe from nuclear threat because it would destroy the planet… while he shockingly said, “If we have nuclear weapons, why can’t we use them?”

And he has the nerve to call her “trigger-happy”? “Unstable”?

His ignorance is astounding.

So how come Hillary is not getting credit for all her accomplishments? It goes back to something I’ve felt for many years…strong women, powerful women have always been suspect.

Some men are challenged by strong women… afraid of them… and some women are jealous of them.

Strong women have too many opinions for some people… they prefer women who are quiet. They want us to speak less and smile more. After Hillary answered questions on national security, Reince Priebus complained that she didn’t smile enough. Well, guess what… there was nothing to smile about. As she said, this is serious business.

And Trump says Hillary doesn’t look presidential? What does that mean… coming from a guy who looks like a raccoon in a tanning bed… with a flying squirrel on his head? That’s what a president is supposed to look like? A wrestler who dies his hair blonde?

Republicans play dirty and their smear tactics unfortunately work. As they say, “If you repeat a lie long enough and loud enough, people will believe it.” And that’s what’s happening and it’s terrifying.

We can’t allow ourselves to be swiftboated again. We can’t let that happen to Hillary… a woman who has the temperament and the experience to be president… unlike Donald Trump, whose idea of foreign policy was bringing the Miss Universe pageant to Russia. How can you support a man who says, “Women… you have to treat them like sh—“ and believes such hateful things about 51 percent of the American population?

We cannot allow America to fall into the hands of a narcissist who has shown no regard for anyone but himself…

These views are deplorable. Hillary Clinton was right to denounce Trump’s racism, sexism and xenophobia.

And then he has the nerve to say he’s going to make America great again??

Here are some more facts. The New York Times just reported that household incomes rose for American families by 5.2 percent last year, according to figures from the Census Bureau… the biggest one-year increase since 1967! Household incomes are now higher than when President Obama entered office. The stock market is above 18,000, which means it has more than doubled since Obama came into office.

If we want the country to continue to improve, we must continue President Obama’s incredible policy work, successful despite the worst opposition we’ve ever seen in Congress, and vote for Hillary Clinton — and down the ballot for Democratic senators and congresspersons who will not be negative and obstructionist. Instead, they will work with her to get legislation passed on gun control and campaign finance reform. My heart sinks when I read that billions of dollars have already been spent during this Presidential election cycle. Just think what that kind of money could have done for medical research… our schools… our infrastructure.

We cannot allow America to fall into the hands of a narcissist who has shown no regard for anyone but himself… a bigoted and misogynist reality-TV character with no political experience and no qualms about lying loudly and often.

There is NO equivalency between these two candidates. Only Hillary Clinton has the skills, the knowledge, the temperament and the compassion to lead this nation.


Barbra Streisand 2016

Barbra Streisand 2016

Black People Aren’t Crazy

 Trevor Noah Gets Real on Police Shootings: Black People Aren’t ‘Crazy’

‘The Daily Show’ host turns serious while discussing yet another spate of police shootings.

Matt Wilstein


09.22.16 12:15 AM ET

As protests raged in Charlotte, Trevor Noah opened The Daily Show on Wednesday night by asking the question, “How do you laugh when the news is sad?” As he did earlier this summer just hours before a sniper left five police officers dead in Dallas, Noah turned more serious than usual as he discussed the latest spate of cops shooting unarmed black men, focusing on the killing of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

After showing video of Crutcher putting his hands on his car in compliance with the officers, Noah said there is no way that he wasn’t “cooperating” with the police, as they have asserted. While we will never know all the facts of any situation, even when there is video evidence, Noah said, “What we do know is this: It seems extremely easy to get shot by police in America, which is not right.”

Naturally, the officers in these situations tend to deny that racism played a role in their actions, but Noah suggested that they “possess a bias they don’t even know they have.”

“That looks like a bad dude,” the cop in the helicopter can be heard saying of Crutcher in the video. “What exactly about that man looks bad to you from all the way up there in your helicopter?” Noah asked. “He’s not holding a weapon, his hands are up. He doesn’t even have a hoodie on, I mean, isn’t that the universal symbol for ‘bad dude’? You can’t tell anything about this man from up in the helicopter except for one thing: He’s black.”

Noah admitted that even he is guilty of “implicit bias,” sometimes seeing a black man and imagining he might get mugged. But to those who wonder why black people are rioting over these incidents, he had this question: “If the only time you encounter black people is when you’re policing crime, then your only experience of black people is that they’re criminals.”

Nothing is going to change “racial bias” overnight, but Noah said the “one thing you can do is not think black people are crazy for feeling oppressed, because every time they see a video of themselves being engaged by police, it ends with them getting shot.”

Save the Day – VOTE


There is an important time coming up for all  American citizens. You have been given the right to vote. It is your responsibility to vote. It is what makes us a democracy. We have fought to give Black people and women the vote and we must not take voting for granted.

Don’t vote out of anger or wanting to get back at your party because your candidate didn’t win. Vote because you are clear thinking and this is a very important time in history and you want a say in where the world is going.





To the Countries of the World: Say NO to War

Pope and world religious leaders vow to oppose terror in God’s name

Pope Francis arrives during the inter-religious meeting ‘Prayer for Peace’ in Assisi, Italy, September 20, 2016. Osservatore Romano/Handout via Reuters
Pope Francis (L) hugs Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I (R) during the inter-religious meeting "Prayer for Peace" in Assisi, Italy, September 20, 2016. Osservatore Romano/Handout via Reuters

Pope Francis (L) hugs Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I (R) during the inter-religious meeting “Prayer for Peace” in Assisi, Italy, September 20, 2016. Osservatore Romano/Handout via Reuters

Pope Francis arrives during the inter-religious meeting "Prayer for Peace" in Assisi, Italy, September 20, 2016. Osservatore Romano/Handout via Reuters

Pope Francis arrives during the inter-religious meeting “Prayer for Peace” in Assisi, Italy, September 20, 2016. Osservatore Romano/Handout via Reuters

By Philip Pullella | ASSISI, ITALY

Pope Francis and leaders of other world religions said “No to War!” on Tuesday, vowing to oppose terrorism in God’s name and appealing to politicians to listen to “the anguished cry of so many innocents”.

Francis flew by helicopter to the central Italian hilltop city that was home to St. Francis, the 13th century saint revered by many religions as a patron of peace and nature and a defender of the poor.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church closed a three-day meeting where about 500 representatives of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism and other faiths discussed how their members could better promote peace and reconciliation.

Francis, who delivered two addresses and shared meals with the leaders, said indifference to suffering had become “a new and deeply sad paganism” that caused some to turn away from war victims and refugees with the same ease as changing a television channel.

Near the end of the gathering, members of each religion prayed in a separate locations and then joined each other in a square outside the famous pink stone basilica where St. Francis is buried.

Prayers were said for the victims of war, including in Syria and Afghanistan, and for the refugees fleeing the conflicts. A woman refugee from Aleppo now living in Italy told the pope at final gathering “my heart is in tatters”.

“Only peace is holy, and not war,” the Argentine-born pontiff said.


Francis, leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, prayed in the basilica with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, spiritual leader of the world’s 80 million Anglicans, and Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of up to 300 million Orthodox Christians around the globe.

In a final appeal that key representatives signed and gave to children from around the world, they vowed “to oppose every form of violence and abuse of religion which seeks to justify war and terrorism.”

“No to war! May the anguished cry of the many innocents not go unheeded. Let us urge leaders of nations to defuse the causes of war: the lust for power and money, the greed of arms’ dealers, personal interests and vendettas for past wrongs,” the appeal said.

The narrow, cobblestone paths of Assisi echoed with the sound of different languages when Shinto priests in red-and-white robes crossed paths with rabbis in black and Muslims in white as each group converged outside St. Francis Basilica to join the Christians.

Speaking during the Christian service, Francis said the world could not ignore “our brothers and sisters, who live under the threat of bombs and are forced to leave their homes into the unknown, stripped of everything”.

“Who listens to them? Who bothers responding to them? Far too often they encounter the deafening silence of indifference, the selfishness of those annoyed at being pestered, the coldness of those who silence their cry for help with the same ease with which television channels are changed,” he said.

The event was held to mark the 30th anniversary of the first such encounter hosted by the late Pope John Paul in 1986.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

History tells us what may happen next with Brexit and Trump

Buchenwald survivors

Buchenwald survivors

In the four and a half years I have blogged, I have mentioned my grandfather and how, while I was a child, he taught me to never forget the past. For those who don’t know me well, he immigrated here from Croatia. He said they would be Americans now. He became a tool and dye maker and worked throughout the depression. He spoke English without any accent. I was 22 years old when he died.


He taught me to remember the past because if we didn’t it would happen again. I was nine when he first mentioned the Holocaust. I listened. He explained the camps to me. He taught me to respect other people and their customs. He bought me a book of black and white pictures of the carnage the Allies found when they freed the camps. I can still close my eyes and see those walking naked skeletons. I didn’t scar me; it made me care about others. It helped me emphasize with their pain. He gave me the desire to help make the world a better place. He taught me that evil can come in beautiful packaging.


I found this article and almost cried because he says many of the things grandpa used to say to me. So I am going to let you hear them now. Because history is lining up to repeat itself and we need to know how to prevent it or at least to fight it.







History tells us what may happen next with Brexit & Trump

 by Tobias Stone, on
La Peste di Firenze

It seems we’re entering another of those stupid seasons humans impose on themselves at fairly regular intervals. I am sketching out here opinions based on information, they may prove right, or may prove wrong, and they’re intended just to challenge and be part of a wider dialogue.

My background is archaeology, so also history and anthropology. It leads me to look at big historical patterns. My theory is that most peoples’ perspective of history is limited to the experience communicated by their parents and grandparents, so 50–100 years. To go beyond that you have to read, study, and learn to untangle the propaganda that is inevitable in all telling of history. In a nutshell, at university I would fail a paper if I didn’t compare at least two, if not three opposing views on a topic. Taking one telling of events as gospel doesn’t wash in the comparative analytical method of research that forms the core of British academia. (I can’t speak for other systems, but they’re definitely not all alike in this way).

So zooming out, we humans have a habit of going into phases of mass destruction, generally self imposed to some extent or another. This handy list shows all the wars over time. Wars are actually the norm for humans, but every now and then something big comes along. I am interested in the Black Death, which devastated Europe. The opening of Boccaccio’s Decameron describes Florence in the grips of the Plague. It is as beyond imagination as the Somme, Hiroshima, or the Holocaust. I mean, you quite literally can’t put yourself there and imagine what it was like. For those in the midst of the Plague it must have felt like the end of the world.

But a defining feature of humans is their resilience. To us now it seems obvious that we survived the Plague, but to people at the time it must have seemed incredible that their society continued afterwards. Indeed, many takes on the effects of the Black Death are that it had a positive impact in the long term. Well summed up here: “By targeting frail people of all ages, and killing them by the hundreds of thousands within an extremely short period of time, the Black Death might have represented a strong force of natural selection and removed the weakest individuals on a very broad scale within Europe,“ …In addition, the Black Death significantly changed the social structure of some European regions. Tragic depopulation created the shortage of working people. This shortage caused wages to rise. Products prices fell too. Consequently, standards of living increased. For instance, people started to consume more food of higher quality.”

But for the people living through it, as with the World Wars, Soviet Famines, Holocaust, it must have felt inconceivable that humans could rise up from it. The collapse of the Roman Empire, Black Death, Spanish Inquisition, Thirty Years War, War of the Roses, English Civil War… it’s a long list. Events of massive destruction from which humanity recovered and move on, often in better shape.

At a local level in time people think things are fine, then things rapidly spiral out of control until they become unstoppable, and we wreak massive destruction on ourselves. For the people living in the midst of this it is hard to see happening and hard to understand. To historians later it all makes sense and we see clearly how one thing led to another. During the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme I was struck that it was a direct outcome of theassassination of an Austrian Arch Duke in Bosnia. I very much doubt anyone at the time thought the killing of a European royal would lead to the death of 17 million people.

My point is that this is a cycle. It happens again and again, but as most people only have a 50–100 year historical perspective they don’t see that it’s happening again. As the events that led to the First World War unfolded, there were a few brilliant minds who started to warn that something big was wrong, that the web of treaties across Europe could lead to a war, but they were dismissed as hysterical, mad, or fools, as is always the way, and as people who worry about Putin, Brexit, and Trump are dismissed now.

Then after the War to end all Wars, we went and had another one. Again, for a historian it was quite predictable. Lead people to feel they have lost control of their country and destiny, people look for scapegoats, a charismatic leader captures the popular mood, and singles out that scapegoat. He talks in rhetoric that has no detail, and drums up anger and hatred. Soon the masses start to move as one, without any logic driving their actions, and the whole becomes unstoppable.

That was Hitler, but it was also Mussolini, Stalin, Putin, Mugabe, and so many more. Mugabe is a very good case in point. He whipped up national anger and hatred towards the land owning white minority (who happened to know how to run farms), and seized their land to redistribute to the people, in a great populist move which in the end unravelled the economy and farming industry and left the people in possession of land, but starving. See also the famines created by the Soviet Union, and the one caused by the Chinese Communists last century in which 20–40 million people died. It seems inconceivable that people could create a situation in which tens of millions of people die without reason, but we do it again and again.

But at the time people don’t realise they’re embarking on a route that will lead to a destruction period. They think they’re right, they’re cheered on by jeering angry mobs, their critics are mocked. This cycle, the one we saw for example from the Treaty of Versaille, to the rise of Hitler, to the Second World War, appears to be happening again. But as with before, most people cannot see it because:

1. They are only looking at the present, not the past or future

2. They are only looking immediately around them, not at how events connect globally

3. Most people don’t read, think, challenge, or hear opposing views

Trump is doing this in America. Those of us with some oversight from history can see it happening. Read this brilliant, long essay in the New York magazine to understand how Plato described all this, and it is happening just as he predicted. Trump says he will Make America Great Again, when in fact America is currently great, according to pretty well any statistics. He is using passion, anger, and rhetoric in the same way all his predecessors did — a charismatic narcissist who feeds on the crowd to become ever stronger, creating a cult around himself. You can blame society, politicians, the media, for America getting to the point that it’s ready for Trump, but the bigger historical picture is that history generally plays out the same way each time someone like him becomes the boss.

On a wider stage, zoom out some more, Russia is a dictatorship with a charismatic leader using fear and passion to establish a cult around himself. Turkey is now there too. Hungary, Poland, Slovakia are heading that way, and across Europe more Trumps and Putins are waiting in the wings, in fact funded by Putin, waiting for the popular tide to turn their way.

We should be asking ourselves what our Archduke Ferdinand moment will be. How will an apparently small event trigger another period of massive destruction. We see Brexit, Trump, Putin in isolation. The world does not work that way — all things are connected and affecting each other. I have pro-Brexit friends who say ‘oh, you’re going to blame that on Brexit too??’ But they don’t realise that actually, yes, historians will trace neat lines from apparently unrelated events back to major political and social shifts like Brexit.

Brexit — a group of angry people winning a fight — easily inspires other groups of angry people to start a similar fight, empowered with the idea that they may win. That alone can trigger chain reactions. A nuclear explosion is not caused by one atom splitting, but by the impact of the first atom that splits causing multiple other atoms near it to split, and they in turn causing multiple atoms to split. The exponential increase in atoms splitting, and their combined energy is the bomb. That is how World War One started and, ironically how World War Two ended.

An example of how Brexit could lead to a nuclear war could be this:

Brexit in the UK causes Italy or France to have a similar referendum. Le Pen wins an election in France. Europe now has a fractured EU. The EU, for all its many awful faults, has prevented a war in Europe for longer than ever before. The EU is also a major force in suppressing Putin’s military ambitions. European sanctions on Russia really hit the economy, and helped temper Russia’s attacks on Ukraine (there is a reason bad guys always want a weaker European Union). Trump wins in the US. Trump becomes isolationist, which weakens NATO. He has already said he would not automatically honour

NATO commitments in the face of a Russian attack on the Baltics.

With a fractured EU, and weakened NATO, Putin, facing an ongoing economic and social crisis in Russia, needs another foreign distraction around which to rally his people. He funds far right anti-EU activists in Latvia, who then create a reason for an uprising of the Russian Latvians in the East of the country (the EU border with Russia). Russia sends ‘peace keeping forces’ and ‘aid lorries’ into Latvia, as it did in Georgia, and in Ukraine. He annexes Eastern Latvia as he did Eastern Ukraine (Crimea has the same population as Latvia, by the way).

A divided Europe, with the leaders of France, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and others now pro-Russia, anti-EU, and funded by Putin, overrule calls for sanctions or a military response. NATO is slow to respond: Trump does not want America to be involved, and a large part of Europe is indifferent or blocking any action. Russia, seeing no real resistance to their actions, move further into Latvia, and then into Eastern Estonia and Lithuania. The Baltic States declare war on Russia and start to retaliate, as they have now been invaded so have no choice. Half of Europe sides with them, a few countries remain neutral, and a few side with Russia. Where does Turkey stand on this? How does ISIS respond to a new war in Europe? Who uses a nuclear weapon first?

This is just one Arch Duke Ferdinand scenario. The number of possible scenarios are infinite due to the massive complexity of the many moving parts. And of course many of them lead to nothing happening. But based on history we are due another period of destruction, and based on history all the indicators are that we are entering one.

It will come in ways we can’t see coming, and will spin out of control so fast people won’t be able to stop it. Historians will look back and make sense of it all and wonder how we could all have been so naïve. How could I sit in a nice café in London, writing this, without wanting to run away. How could people read it and make sarcastic and dismissive comments about how pro-Remain people should stop whining, and how we shouldn’t blame everything on Brexit. Others will read this and sneer at me for saying America is in great shape, that Trump is a possible future Hitler (and yes, Godwin’s Law. But my comparison is to another narcissistic, charismatic leader fanning flames of hatred until things spiral out of control). It’s easy to jump to conclusions that oppose pessimistic predictions based on the weight of history and learning. Trump won against the other Republicans in debates by countering their claims by calling them names and dismissing them. It’s an easy route but the wrong one.

Ignoring and mocking the experts , as people are doing around Brexit and Trump’s campaign, is no different to ignoring a doctor who tells you to stop smoking, and then finding later you’ve developed incurable cancer. A little thing leads to an unstoppable destruction that could have been prevented if you’d listened and thought a bit. But people smoke, and people die from it. That is the way of the human.

So I feel it’s all inevitable. I don’t know what it will be, but we are entering a bad phase. It will be unpleasant for those living through it, maybe even will unravel into being hellish and beyond imagination. Humans will come out the other side, recover, and move on. The human race will be fine, changed, maybe better. But for those at the sharp end — for the thousands of Turkish teachers who just got fired, for the Turkish journalists and lawyers in prison, for the Russian dissidents in gulags, for people lying wounded in French hospitals after terrorist attacks, for those yet to fall, this will be their Somme.

What can we do? Well, again, looking back, probably not much. The liberal intellectuals are always in the minority. See Clay Shirky’s Twitter Storm on this point. The people who see that open societies, being nice to other people, not being racist, not fighting wars, is a better way to live, they generally end up losing these fights. They don’t fight dirty. They are terrible at appealing to the populace. They are less violent, so end up in prisons, camps, and graves. We need to beware not to become divided (see: Labour party), we need to avoid getting lost in arguing through facts and logic, and counter the populist messages of passion and anger with our own similar messages. We need to understand and use social media. We need to harness a different fear. Fear of another World War nearly stopped World War 2, but didn’t. We need to avoid our own echo chambers. Trump and Putin supporters don’t read the Guardian, so writing there is just reassuring our friends. We need to find a way to bridge from our closed groups to other closed groups, try to cross the ever widening social divides.

(Perhaps I’m just writing this so I can be remembered by history as one of the people who saw it coming.)

what I pledge alliance to

What I Pledge Allegiance To

I returned home after 20 years away, and it helped me finally come to terms with our nation’s most fraught symbol.
Story by Kiese Laymon
Illustration by Jesse Harp


What I Pledge Allegiance To

What I Pledge Allegiance To

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America …
There’s a raggedy American flag hanging outside my house. I know I should take it down, but I’m afraid. For the past 15 years, I lived in various apartments in upstate New York. After accepting a new job at the University of Mississippi this summer, I moved into a university-owned house down the road from William Faulkner’s home, Rowan Oak, in Oxford. Nothing about the new house or neighborhood surprised me more than the American and old Magnolia flags hanging in front of neighboring colonials, ranches, and bungalows.
I was born and raised in Jackson, just three hours south of Oxford, but I’d never seen a Magnolia flag before. The flag, which was the state’s official banner from 1861 to 1865, has one white star in a square of blue in the left corner and one strip of red on the right. There is no prominent confederate battle emblem in the corner like there is in our current state flag, which was adopted in 1894. There is simply a magnolia tree floating like a nappy green afro in the middle of white space.
On my first day in the neighborhood, all the green afro flags made me think my white neighbors were what my family called “them good white folk.” Before I found out the Magnolia flag was actually Mississippi’s flag of secession, I imagined these particular good white folk as courageous Mississippians wholly prepared to confront the layered traditions of white power and black suffering that were violently stitched into our nation, our state, and today’s prevailing Mississippi flag.
For me, the American flag is no better. Actually, it’s far worse. It reminds me of what we black folk have survived and witnessed at the hands of white folk hiding behind the American flag for centuries. Unlike the other flags in the neighborhood, the one flying outside my house might be the dustiest, most worn out American flag I’ve seen in my life: the blue bleeds purple; the red fades pink; and the white wants desperately to be the color of bad banana pudding. There are two long rips on the top, and a more significant rip across the bottom bar. The flag rarely blows in the wind. Depending on the breeze, it leans slowly left or right, but mostly it just slumps, looking neither prideful nor ashamed.
I asked my Mama what it would mean morally for an unapologetically ungrateful black boy like me to let the flag fly. She told me it would mean bodily harm to take the flag down. But I swore against her wishes, promising to remove it the next weekend.
When the time came, I walked out on the porch, eyed the flag, smelled it, looked out at the neighborhood, but was ultimately too afraid to go through with it. Instead, I sat my big black ass on the porch, sipped sweet tea that wasn’t quite sweet enough, and watched white folk watch me watch them watch their property value plummet.
I waved, said “Hey there” and “Alright now” like all petty Mississippians with good home training should. Sitting next to that flag in my new neighborhood, and hiding behind my Mason jar of tea and my college-issued MacBook, I felt like a wannabe Mississippi radical, a bougie black sell-out, and a weak-kneed American wanderer hunting for a manageable fight to win outside. Inside, I was confused about where I’d been, where I was now, and who I could choose to be tomorrow. I was absolutely in need of someone to call my cowardice courage. I wondered if I’d chosen the wrong job, the wrong neighborhood, the wrong house, and the wrong state.
White American cowardice created black intergenerational poverty. Black intergenerational poverty, among other things, was why I accepted a job and a subsidized home in Oxford, and not one in Jackson. The job in Oxford allowed me to take care of Grandmama the way she deserved to be taken care of. I am technically home, but I never associated home with this part of Mississippi, this many white people, or with America. Up north, in New York, I became a black American. I came home to the Magnolia state, so I could be a black Mississippian again.

… and to the Republic for which it stands …
When I moved to upstate New York more than a decade ago, the aunt of one of my Lebanese American friends helped me find an apartment. It was in the city of Poughkeepsie, a place I had to go because none of the places close to Vassar College, where I worked, would rent to me.
I moved into a one-bedroom apartment a few weeks before September 11, 2001.
On September 12, I watched my Pakistani neighbors plaster their Corollas with “I Love the U.S.A.” bumper stickers and dress their newborn in a red, white, and blue outfit I’d seen at Marshalls. I didn’t understand.
Three days later, on September 15, I decided to take the Metro North down to New York City to volunteer at Ground Zero. On the way to the train, I watched white folk in broad daylight grip their purses and bags, like they always did when big black boys like me walked by.
The Poughkeepsie station was packed with slack-faced soldiers holding M-16s who stood next to ignorant-looking German Shepherds. When I got on the train, a dark-skinned South Asian family was seated in front of me. The entire family wore clothing in variations of red, white, and blue. The father placed a suitcase above their seat; on it a sticker proclaimed, “Proud to be an American.” Now I understood.
“If they reach in that bag, I know something,” a young black man wearing green wristbands said to his friend.
“What you know?” I asked.
“I know they better not try to blow up this train,” he said, loud enough so everyone in our car could hear. “That’s what I know.”
A white man whose chest hair looked like it was soaked in curl activator nodded affirmatively across the aisle from us and gave the young brother a thumbs up. “U.S.A., right?” the white man asked.
“You already know,” he shot back. “U.S.A.”
I rolled my eyes. “These white folk got you tripping,” I whispered for the family in front of me to hear, and then added more loudly, for everyone. “These people ain’t trying to blow up no train.”

For the entire hour to Grand Central Terminal, the family in front of me sat still and erect, rarely tilting their heads to speak to each other. Every time the child, who looked like he was 6 or 7, tried to move, his parents held him in place. I kept thinking of my own Mama’s directive to be excellent, disciplined, elegant, emotionally contained, clean, and perfect in the face of American white supremacy. “I gotta pee,” the boy whispered to his mother, but she wouldn’t let go of his arm.
We were hungry for black American wins regardless of how tiny those wins were, mostly because we knew that white Americans had no idea how to justly win or gently lose.
When the train pulled into Grand Central, I smelled New York City: a mix of Porta-Potty stink, Axe bodyspray, and still, dank air. The father grabbed their suitcase from the bin and the boy stood next to his parents. The mother placed her body and the suitcase in front of the child, shielding our eyes from his piss-darkened red shorts.
“Thank you,” the mother said as she walked by me.
“You’re welcome,” I said. “Y’all have a good day.”
I wondered if this heroic American feeling I had was what “good white folk” felt when we thanked them for not being as patronizing, cowardly anti-black and, ironically, American as they could.
In New York, like Mississippi, and like every place I’d ever been in the United States, American men choosing a different kind of cowardice were generally treated like heroes. As I journeyed deeper into New York City that day, I saw and heard white and black American men in a Lower East Side bodega filled with mini American flags talk about harming “the Moozlums who blew up our city” and speculate about where they would attack next. We should know better, I thought, even if I had no idea who “we” were and where “better” actually lived.
Thirty minutes later, I stood dizzy in a cathedral near Ground Zero, passing out bottled water, sandwiches, and blankets to tired firefighters still looking for survivors. I wondered what the firefighters felt when they went home, away from this spectacular American adoration we hoisted on them. How did they deal with the sadness of loss when they were alone? I had no idea what the people of this essentially American city just experienced. And, for the first time since I left home six years earlier, when I was 20 years old, I knew that Mama and Grandmama were safer back in Jackson than I was up north. Their safety had nothing to do with airplanes torpedoing skyscrapers filled with people just doing their jobs. Mama and Grandmama were safer because they were home, in another deeply Southern black country, and they knew exactly where they were in the world.
I’d been forced, since I left Mississippi, to accept that I didn’t understand much about New York, Americans, or home. Moving up north muddied my conveniently clear, deeply black Mississippi perceptions of America. The black Mississippians I knew had tons of home training and never said one bruising word about Muslim folk. But we had oh-so-many things to say about the ways of white Americans and how the United States persecuted us. We praised a lot of people, places, and things draped in the American flag, particularly during events like the Olympics, but those people, places, and things were always black, and almost always deeply Southern. We were hungry for black American wins regardless of how tiny those wins were, mostly because we knew that white Americans had no idea how to justly win or gently lose.
That day in Lower Manhattan, inside the cathedral, there was so much generosity and patience in the face of absolute fear and loss. Before leaving, we held little American flags, gripped coarse American hands, and thanked each other for bringing the best of our American selves out to help. I assumed, though, that everyone in that loving space knew what was going to happen next. I didn’t know much about New York, but I knew what white Americans demanded of America. White Americans, primarily led by their white presidents, were about to wrap themselves in flags and chant “U.S.A.!” as poor cousins, friends, sons, and daughters showed a weaker, browner, less Christian part of the world how the United States dealt with loss.
When I took the train back to Poughkeepsie that night, I remember feeling sad that there were no “Muslim-looking” folk in my car who I could feel good about silently defending. I looked out at the Hudson River and thanked God that the attacks of 9/11 hadn’t happened while a black president was in office. I wondered what destructive lengths a black president would have to go to prove themselves appropriately American and presidential in the face of such terror.
I waited in the parking lot of my apartment for a white woman walking out of the complex to get in her car so I wouldn’t scare her. On the way into my apartment, I saw and heard an airplane overhead. I remembered some of the men in a nearby bodega talking about a nuclear facility 30 miles from me called Indian Point. According to them, Muslims were going to fly four planes into Indian Point in the next few days, causing hundreds of thousands of Americans to die from acute radiation syndrome and cancer.
I scurried into my apartment, locked the door, got in bed, and listened for loud booms brought on by people who hated us because of our freedom.

… one Nation under God, indivisible …

I spent the first weekend of this August down in New Orleans for my family reunion. I hadn’t been to a big gathering with my father’s side of my family in over two decades. When I was a teenager, there was a banquet, a cookout, and hot dogs were served, with maybe a game or two of kickball and spades long into the night. Now, there were lip-sync contests, hashtags denoting our celebration, prizes, and conversations about Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton.

Near the end of the banquet the first night, my older cousin Willie, who swears he invented everything from brake lights to wave brushes, did what he does every time he sees me. He started making presumed African tribal sounds, exaggerating the syllables in my name, and talking about how my father — who was a member of the Republic of New Afrika and was working in Zaire when I was born — should have sent a more American name over, like “Keith” or “Kevin.” Willie didn’t stop joking until I asked him to show me pictures of his new dog. When Willie pulled up a picture of his 180-pound Mastiff on his phone, I asked him why he chose to keep such a huge dog inside. “You know I got felonies,” he told me. “I can’t carry guns no more.”

Willie’s words took me back to a few weeks earlier, when I interviewed my Grandmama for a new book project I’m working on called Heavy. I had asked her why she covered her face when she got nervous, and why she wore wigs all the time when her real hair was so beautiful.

“Choices,” she told me. “Ain’t nothing wrong with black people on earth having choices. And I can’t let no man, not even my grandbaby, choose my choice for me. These white folk don’t think we deserve no choices, so we got to make healthy choices everywhere we can.”

I thought about the tense and meat of stories on both sides of my family. Always past. Always present. Always looking forward. Always loving backward. Always direct. Always slant. I wondered if the same discursive force that made our lies sound true, made us punctuate our truths with, “Stop lying.” How much of how we talked, listened, loved, and lied was American? How much was African? How much of it was the Mississippi in us?

I pledge to perpetually reckon with the possibility that there will never be any liberty, peace, and justice for all unless we accept that America, like Mississippi, is not clean.

Most of us had no idea where, specifically, in Africa we were from, but we knew we were the old and young descendants of African mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters brought to Mississippi to serve the economic and moral needs of powerful white folk. We knew we were not brought here to be equally protected under the law. We knew we were brought here to be subservient, to be hardworking, and to die.

In every pocket of the banquet hall, the reunion was packed with survivors: black Mississippians who showed up to reckon, dance, laugh, lie, and talk new memories into old bodies. I understood that night that these reunions were our attempt at remembering, feeling, and reimagining American conceptions of family, freedom, and winning.

One of my father’s brothers, Uncle Billy — a Vietnam veteran who did most of the planning for the reunion — wanted to talk politics before leaving the ballroom.

I told him that rich white folk got richer under President Obama and poor white folk got their jobs back and got more access to insurance than they ever had in their lives. “Obama is the best president white Americans will ever have, and most of them still hate on him,” I said. “Black folk catch hell and get one or two speeches every year telling us to be more responsible, and we still love the man. It’s just bent.”

My uncle stood there still without blinking. “Yeah, you’re right,” he finally said. “But if Obama is still talking, that means they ain’t kill him. If they killed him, we likely to all be dead. Sound like a win to me.”

I asked Uncle Billy if he was talking about metaphorical death.

“Symbols matter, nephew,” he said. “Obama still being alive is a win for us. This America.”

… with liberty and justice for all.
A few weeks later, I watched patriotic football fans burn the jersey of Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers. During preseason games in late August and early September, Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem because of the nation’s lack of commitment to liberty and justice for black Americans. Like Kaepernick, I do not stand for the Star Spangled Banner or the Pledge of Allegiance, though our reasons differ slightly.
My first whoopping in a Mississippi public school happened in third grade because I refused to stand and recite the Pledge. The American flag in our classroom hung right next to the state flag, its confederate battle symbol always in eye’s view. I didn’t know much as a third grader, but I knew that I was from Jackson, home to thousands of black American freedom fighters who never went abroad to fight. Those wonderful soldiers strategized, organized, and battled against the most patriotic, morally monstrous Americans on the face of Earth for me to be free. I still sit during the national anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance because they dared to love me and themselves when morally monstrous patriotic white folk with American flags, Confederate flags, and Mississippi State flags showed them that loving black Americans was a murderous offense.
The same reason I choose not to stand for our pledge or anthem is strangely why I still haven’t taken down the American flag flying outside my new house. It looks, to me at least, like every American flag on Earth should look: beat down, bleeding, fading, weak, tearing apart, barely held together, absolutely stanky, and self-aware.
American symbols and American choices matter. I have no idea how long I’ll choose live in this neighborhood. I have no idea what’s going to happen to the neighborhood when or if I encourage more black folks to move in if I stay. Every day that I live here, I will choose to fly the American flag out there now or the alternative Stennis state flag. Some days I will choose to fly a red, black, and green freedom flag. Other days, I will choose to fly no flag at all. No matter what flag I choose to fly outside or inside of my house, many white Americans and white Mississippians will insist that their black folk, Mexicans, and Muslims remain passive, patriotic, and grateful for the limited choices we’ve been given.
I am a black Mississippian. I am a black American. I pledge to never be passive, patriotic, or grateful in the face of American abuse. I pledge to always thoughtfully bite the self-righteous American hand that thinks it’s feeding us. I pledge to perpetually reckon with the possibility that there will never be any liberty, peace, and justice for all unless we accept that America, like Mississippi, is not clean. Nor is it great. Nor is it innocent.
I pledge that white Mississippians and white Americans will never dictate who I choose to be or what symbols I choose imbue with meaning. I pledge to not allow American ideals of patriotism and masculinity to make me hard, abusive, generic, and brittle. I pledge to messily love our people and myself better than I did yesterday. I pledge to be the kind of free that makes justly winning and gently losing possible. I pledge to never ever confuse cowardice with courage. I pledge allegiance to the Mississippi freedom fighters who made all my pledges possible. I pledge allegiance to the baby Mississippi liberation fighters coming next.
This is a pledge of allegiance to my United States of America, to my Mississippi. Raggedy or not, this is a pledge to my home. Are y’all standing up?