We continue a great tradition of voices speaking out

Whose Constitution is it?

Much is still made in any internet forum of our Constitution, what is in it, what it means, what it was meant to mean and most of all how it is not followed, ignored or changed to suit… Oddities and ironies abound, like those who claim it is always only the party they oppose who is ignoring or not following it. Or those who claim to revere it, follow it, and believe in it, but also think it gave them the Amendment II to fight the government it created.

Let’s think about this for a moment. Amendment I has a boat load of freedoms spelled out. And it seems clear. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” yet many seem to think that means their Christianity trumps all (including the Constitution) and that there is no “freedom from religion”. They mock and deny other religions, atheists and agnostics but don’t you dare not say “Merry Christmas”! Then there is “or abridging the freedom of speech,” which is so widely misunderstood that many think it means no one can tell you when you are wrong or that you are wrong. When it comes to “or of the press;” many decry any press that does not feed their bias. Lastly is “or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” And we all know how well that one works out. Protests are not respected, they are also mocked and derided and getting harder and harder to even do. And try to speak to your Congressional representatives? Good one. Well that is just not how that works. But still we believe in the First Amendment, except when we don’t.

Amendment II is likely the most hotly argued and deeply divisive right in the Bill of Rights and no amount of facts, background, history, jurisprudence, mass shootings or rhetoric is going to change any minds. I wish I knew why I ever even bother trying. But I will always note that “A well regulated militia” is in there for a reason and “shall not be infringed” has just never really been true.

Amendment III about quartering soldiers has not been necessary in over a hundred years so it is there but seldom argued or discussed for that obvious reason.

Next comes Amendment IV “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” Well that one is surely not practiced as intended with (NSA and even local) law enforcement actions and judicial activism to root out criminals, drug lords, terrorists, anarchists and other assorted really bad guys, but the point remains it has not been stable and iron-clad as “rights” should be.

Amendment V “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” When a prosecutor can get an “indictment on a ham sandwich” as they say, we clearly have a problem and the piling on of charges makes a docket look like Hell’s Angels, the mob and the Crips are in town. And “Eminent Domain”? Don’t get me started.

Amendment VI “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.” Well except when the media and rumors might make that impossible…so again, not an iron-clad right.

Amendment VII “In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.” Which might explain why so many write in mediation agreements and try to settle out of court…can we trust a jury? Should we trust a jury?

Amendment VIII “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” Over two hundred years in and we still do not agree on what is “excessive” or what is “cruel and unusual. Iron-clad?
Amendment IX “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” But since these were not enumerated, we just should “know” what they are and when they have been violated? How is that working for us?

Amendment X “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” Do we even know what they meant by “the people”? And have we followed this one much? Iron-clad?

Do you see my point? People get apoplectic about the Second Amendment and scream about the First Amendment but there is little that has been free from interference, and not a whole lot of freedom delivered by these guaranteed rights when you look close enough. And it is also why all ends of the political spectrum offer their own interpretation of the Constitution.

This is such an excellent commentary. If you do not follow “Weekly Sift”, you should:

“The relative value of freedom vs rights depends in large part on how much power you have. If you are wealthy, well-connected, or otherwise privileged, then there are all kinds of things you could do, if government would just stay out of your way. But if you are poor, then the barriers you face have more to do with your lack of resources than with government regulations.”


John Wilkes Booth

It’s  hard to be compassionate about even a long dead, albeit historically significant, man whose single momentous decision carried consequences that damaged many people.

One thinks the rest of the world feels the same. They don’t. It’s a shock to come upon modern-day Americans in love with John Wilkes Booth, cause of  some of our country’s deepest anguish.


They say John Booth was fun.

Well, except for the rage, narcissism, intractability, and drunkenness, he was fun. Did I mention political naiveté (aka stupidity)?

There are people out there, right now, alive today, who love John Wilkes Booth. They wax poetical about him on the Internet.

They say John Booth and his league of conspirators were NOT criminals. No. These people were “political zealots” – sort of independent-contractors, plain-clothes soldiers. (Loose cannons? — no no no.)

John Booth, 26, had a great body. Muscles. Vigor. Hair, dark and thick and wavy. Dreamy eyes. At death, John Booth presented one bedraggled but freakin’ gorgeous corpse.

And everybody liked him – even no-nonsense historians agree on this point.

Toward the end, John Booth’s behavior often seemed strange. He quit the theatre, drank a lot, and was morose. Still, one made excuses for him. It was, after all, wartime and John Booth’s side was going down.


Family, friends, and theatrical stage fans were shocked when John Booth upped and killed President Lincoln. Next, they heard he, himself, was killed. Amazing!

One may surmise this was the end of news from John Booth.

But, actually, no.

The U.S. and Lincoln family aside, John Booth’s crime was very bad for his own family, friends, and co-workers.

They never say anyone was angry with John Booth. They say everyone grieved.

Sure. Loved ones regretted John Booth’s death —– because they wanted to wring his neck themselves! Well, maybe not his Mom.

What did his people get for love and friendship of John Booth?

Here’s a list. Several  got to double dip.

  • Arrest. Imprisonment. Interrogation.
  • Repeated arrest, imprisonment, interrogation.
  • Fear of arrest, imprisonment, interrogation, and of being hanged.
  • Being hanged.
  • Years of imprisonment.
  • Job loss.
  • Financial hardship and/or catastrophe.
  • Angst.
  • Shame. Indignity.
  • Questions without answers.
  • Questions. Questions.
  • Never-healed marital strife for a sister and outraged brother-in-law.
  • Post traumatic stress.
  • Sorrow.


What manner of man wrought all this?


John Booth had a fiancée and supposedly a favorite prostitute. For sure he had pics of five women in his pocket when he killed the President. One was of the fiancée, Lucy. Don’t know about the prostitute.

Whatever. President Lincoln’s murder prevented the marriage and this was the only good thing that came from the awful thing.

Lucy lucked out.

(Historical research sources available upon request)

I don’t always say a lot about Labor Day but it is the one day everyone who works for a living should think about, celebrate and most of all appreciate. Unless you were born into wealth that I cannot fathom, you have a job or a career that lets you earn the life you live, support your family and enjoy events, vacations and life’s milestones.  Some of us work a lot harder than others, some have work that is a passion, some barely make ends meet, some struggle mightily, some seem to lead charmed lives, some throw it all away, some appreciate all they have.  In other words there are all sorts of us.

I do a lot of research about working people because the “working class” is who I identify with and consider myself proud to be among.  I know my politics wear thin for some but I am who I am and I do not come from a place of ignorance on any subject (mainly because I do not speak on a subject if I am ignorant –that’s the trick).

Working people are underpaid and often overworked.  School teachers, police officers, fire fighters, EMT’s, and the soldiers who fight to protect us all over the world are all not paid near their worth.  So then, what chance does a restaurant, hospitality, janitorial, or unskilled worker have for better wages and benefits?  It is the age old struggle I know, but I also know that ditch-diggers and janitors used to be able to support their families and now that struggle is much harder than just a generation ago.

As we move toward equality and diversity which is progress, we move away from valuing workers and striving together, which is regression.  How is that? What have workers done?  Our work ethic, productivity, loyalty and ability have not crashed and burned, they are intact.  Our needs have not outpaced society. The only thing that has really changed is the ratio of wages to that work ethic, productivity, loyalty or ability.  We have lost ground because the system is skewed to send profits and benefits to the top.   How we change that is easy, vote out those who skewed that system and screwed us over.  How we do that will require voters to look past the ‘guns, God and gays’ memes and see what has been done while they thought they were “values” voters.  Vote your pocketbook, because trust me, you have been, just not the way you think.

“Labor Day pays tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers”


Happy Labor Day Monday, use it to think!

Today I’m A Virginian

—-An honorary one.

It is a bright August 24th summer morning, 8:25 o’clock, in the year of our Lord 2015 here in Ohio. Yes, you read right: Ohio. The sun is shining over the housetops across the suburban street where I live and into my home-office window. It is 60 degrees right now — don’t be jealous. The humidity is 93 percent.

I’m here at the gracious invitation of Sandi to whom, you know, this blog belongs. Like-minded thinking and feeling about human rights and a fascination with the American Civil War brought us together. We met on the blog called Crossroads operated by Civil War scholar Brooks Simpson. We also post sometimes on Civil War Memory, Civil War scholar Kevin Levin’s blog. But I’d have to say we bonded on the Lincoln Discussion Symposium where we ran afoul of Civil War pro-heritage’sh folks. We are outta there. Sandi left. I got booted.

Apart from Internet acquaintances, I do not personally know any Virginians face-to-face. I’ve been to Virginia. Obviously, it is for lovers. Nice people in Virginia.

My favorite Virginian is Ed Ayers, president emeritus of the University of Richmond. (Sorry, Sandi.) How come? We grow people with brains and good hearts in Ohio, too! We don’t have an Ed Ayers, of course. Still. It is okay that Virginia has him. In the Civil War anniversary years just completed and the Reconstruction anniversary years just underway, Dr. Ayers is where Americans need him to be.

Why do I say that? Here’s an example. Linked below is a 1:19-long talk Dr. Ayers presented titled Monuments and Memorials: The South in American History. It was sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute.

The unCivil War drags on

Racist 1Here in Virginia the battle over the Confederate Battle Flag, the Sons of Confederate Veterans license plates and events rages on. I find myself compelled to join the threads and refute the revisionist history being used to justify them and it feels so eerily similar to right-wingers when they get a meme in their parrot teeth that they must all be the same people. How many can this nation handle before we implode? Looks like we may find out.

From the posts mentioning Sharpton, Farrakan, EBT, and blacks (but they’re not racists!), liberals, PC, and Democrats, it is clear who their enemy is…anyone who dares not to think as they do. There is no nuance, no attempt to consider any point but their own and no consideration for the actual events of the Civil War.

People like me, politically active and aware, as well as truly inquisitive, have studied and researched the Civil War. I have read books, follow historian blogs, and having Confederate ancestors, wrestled with the overarching issues of the greatest American tragedy that is now 150 years old.

How did my ancestors feel? Did they choose to fight to keep and perpetuate slavery? I know that white supremacy was a given, slavery was centuries old and the entire Southern economy was dependent on slave labor remaining available but did they feel it was wrong? Did they feel it was right? Did they fight for that or did they believe the North was somehow going to take their piece of land? I know many soldiers deserted, some folks refused to fight at all and all were scarred by the war and hopefully by fighting their own nation but I do not know how my ancestors felt.

I do have some sympathy for the soldier on the fields at Gettysburg and Antietam of the 50 major, and the “10,500 battles, engagements, and other military actions” in all. I can see honoring them, wanting to recognize their bravery at a time when battle was so close, vicious and bloody and again, with your fellow Americans. With casualties over 620 thousand how do you do it?

How do you “celebrate” what for most sane people is a true and horrific American tragedy? With solemnity, dignity, reverence and decorum? Or with party like rallies, miles long flag parades whooping it up on stops and re-enactments with “wanted” posters of Lincoln? With sites naming the soldiers and telling about their families and history, videos of the battlefields and discussions of their letters, or with “in your face” confrontation and dismissal of any view except “the South gonna rise again”?

And how, for the sake of decency and integrity do you just dismiss the racist use of that battle flag almost from the moment the war ended? How do you discard why the white supremacy groups to this day use that flag as their symbol too? When did it go from the banner of the fallen soldier to the banner of redneck bullies churning up the grass in a field or screeching in a parking lot? How does it go from a Civil War cemetery to the side of the road with a gun on one hip and the flag on the other? How do we ever reconcile the uses? How do you tell a racist with the flag from a “good-ole boy” with the flag and does it matter?

Clearly and beyond any doubt, these folks are their own worst enemies. They cannot go long without proving the ugly southern stereotypes we have long been plagued with. They cannot go long without their innate racism and bigotry showing even as they declare they are neither. And they are quick to anger and speak of fighting “them”.

I am willing to agree there is a context and a reason to see that flag displayed, I just have yet to see a flagger use it with reverence, solemnity, dignity and decorum. I think I will be waiting a long time and so will the soldiers.

Heaven Help Us!

We are the same!

We are the same!

It is December and Christmas is in the air.  It is supposed to be the happy, family oriented holiday time. For Christians it is also the journey to remember the birth of Jesus Christ and the promise of our eternal salvation through our belief in God and living the teachings of Christ.  But this year, my heart is too heavy to feel anything more than sadness, shame and fear.

While the news and social media never lack a human interest story to stir the heart, challenge the humility or reinforce the activist instinct in me, I have been more sensitive to the racial animus in this nation since the election of President Obama and the kicks to my conscience just keep coming.  To say that even being a Virginian who grew up with racism and the “South’s gonna rise again” mentality should have prepared me for what ‘came out of the woodwork’ might be accurate, but it did not.  I was one of those foolish, foolish people who thought we were getting “past all that”.  I have been wounded on a level a 56 year old woman should not feel over the racism inherent in so much of the complaint, lies and distortions of the Obama presidency that is just hard to reconcile and still believe people are decent.

And then comes Ferguson.  The case of Officer Darren Wilson and the death of an unarmed suspect in a robbery was news but also and sadly, par for the course.   Next comes the death of Tamir Rice, a 12-year old with a toy gun in a deserted park gunned down by police responding.  And just this week, no indictment for the choke-hold, crushing death of Eric Garner in NYC over a misdemeanor non-violent alleged crime.

With this and ALL of the cases that are making the news, the common theme is police overreaction with disproportional response and as decent human beings we recoil. Yes, all of these events involved people breaking the law or behaving in a suspicious or easily misinterpreted manner, no need to deny that.  But there are similar situations with white perpetrators that are handled very differently and with very different outcomes.  As Leonard Pitts suggests, “two clicks” can help clarify the problem. Yes, the police see some of the worst mankind has to offer and yes, they are in a relatively hazardous profession but the key here is that it is supposed to be a profession.

A profession has standards, procedures, protocols and judgment. Is such a take-down warranted when a summons would have sufficed? Was tackling him necessary when a drawn taser might have changed the dynamic? Did they try to calm the situation? Did they even attempt to consider the consequences of so many tackling such an obese man (common sense says don’t…)? When you are tackled, it is also human nature to fight back.

The cops who literally rolled up on Tamir and shot him within less than 2 seconds, Darren Wilson’s dehumanizing, self-serving and frankly ludicrous version of events in Ferguson, and this case of death by cop are all examples of a profession that is not in control, not in compliance with humanity and not “serving” or “protecting”. The racial element cannot be ignored and the comments from their defenders only reinforce the racism and institutional deafness to it. Police are NOT to be judge, jury and executioner. That is not who we are.

It is not possible to read the comments of people who refuse to see the racist element, who defend the police no matter how outrageous, unprofessional and dangerous their behavior is, without realizing that we are still a nation determined to label “the other” and diminish their legitimacy and rights in every realm it is possible in.  Even in sports, you are only as good as keeping your mouth shut and entertaining,  show support for the “wrong” side and you are too dumb to be allowed to protest anything.  The continued sharing of photo-shopped or mislabeled pictures that malign the black community, the white people who share the ‘black videos’ to bolster their clownish, ignorant and most important self-caricatures of themselves to prove they are ‘less than’ and then the black people who have turned on their own race by adding fuel to the fire of supporting the racism by agreeing with them as if that will make it better…it won’t.  They need to realize the severity of this divide and I think maybe they have given up even trying to speak to something that is so prevalent and yet so denied that they have to feel like they are in a “Twilight Zone” episode.

I feel we have failed as a people, there is no superior race, there is no superior religion, there is no superior person and perhaps that inner knowledge, though denied, explains the visceral need some people have to label, blame and belittle rather than try to understand, empathize or bridge the divide.  I know I get weary trying to help people see our role in the division.

flag of racism


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