(Published Aug. 19, 2017)
Over the weekend, news reports allowed the nation and the world to bear witness to the despicable side of America’s soul when an oddball consortium of white nationalists, white supremacists, alt-right advocates, Confederate apologists, neo-Nazis and other like-minded racist Americans of the Caucasian persuasion (unless I happened to miss comedian Dave Chappelle’s character Clayton Bigsby amongst the rabble) descended upon the town of Charlottesville, Va., purportedly to protest the planned removal of a statue of the Civil War’s Gen. Robert E. Lee — who led the Confederate army against the Union, the side that wanted to end slavery.
Three people — all white folks, it should be noted — ended up dead: Heather Heyer, 32, who died when a car driven by a man identified as James Alex Fields Jr., 20, crashed into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heyer and injuring 19; also killed were two state troopers (H. Jay Cullen and Berke M. M. Bates), who were monitoring the situation from a helicopter that crashed.
What followed when our president, whose name I refuse to mention unless given no choice, made a sad and tragic situation worse, unbelievably, by not condemning the racist Americans by name and group, but, rather, faulting them and the counter-protesters.
Only after the pressure, including from his fellow Republicans, that resulted from this profoundly inappropriate response became too intense did our president belatedly condemn the racist Americans — only to backtrack later and again make false equivalencies, and blame all parties involved.
If it is not clear now, despite nearly two years of having this con artist — first as a presidential candidate, then as our president — make horrible and false statements, provoke, embolden and inflame dissatisfied and scared members of our society, and act capriciously and possibly treasonously, it should be clear now, even to his die-hard supporters who still have a conscience and a trace of humanity: Our president needs to leave office.
I realize this won’t happen voluntarily. I also realize that many who are committed to the charlatan-in-chief cannot be reasoned with, for this is beyond logic and reason, and that forcing him from office via existing, legal means written into our political system will only strengthen that intractable commitment to him.
It nevertheless needs to be done, sooner rather than later, because as long as he is in office, more innocent people are also going to be killed.
(And while we’re at it, can we as a nation finally do something about getting rid of the Electoral College?)
I’ve been reading a book written by Al Franken, the U.S. senator (and a Democrat) representing his home state of Minnesota.
In my June 15 column, I noted that Franken chose not to appear on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” after the host jokingly referred to himself a “house nigga,” for which he was criticized; Franken did not want to be associated, understandably, with Bill Maher while promoting his new book, “Al Franken, Giant of the Senate.”
I noted that Franken had no problem, however, using “Japs” in his 2003 book, “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.”
I was tipped off about his by playwright Perry Miyake, who back then wrote:
“I was enjoying reading it, until I got to Page 342, when he writes, in Chapter 41, ‘My Personal Search for Weapons of Mass Destruction,’ the following: ‘I was genuinely torn about the war. On the one hand, I’m not a believer in the Bush Doctrine of preemption. I think it could be used to justify wars of aggression, not just by us, but by the Japs.’
“I read more, waiting for a punchline, or some kind of acknowledgment that he had knowingly used a racist slur for at the very least a comedic reason, perhaps as another satiric dig at the right-wing bigots he’s been skewing for the entire book. But … nothing. Not even a completion of the thought. Why would he say that? Why would he use that term?
“Being given no explanation, and taking a look at the all-white Team Franken research staff and the pages of acknowledgements, I have to conclude that either he didn’t realize that the word is a slur, or no one told him because they didn’t know it either.”
OK, Franken was also guilty of using a racial slur, so it appeared to be hypocritical for him to not appear on Maher, given his use of a racial slur. But I have no doubt that if given the opportunity, Franken would probably at least realize the error of his ways and apologize for that mistake.
I have to be up-front and admit that, overall, I like Franken. He is funny and, at heart, a good guy — who in an offhand manner used “Japs,” which was, in context, wrong.
In “Al Franken, Giant of the Senate,” he addresses the situation with our president and I’d like to share his perspective, which I think are words of wisdom, on the question “What can I do now?”
Franken writes: “First: Keep showing up and keep speaking out. The Women’s March didn’t force Trump to resign. It didn’t even stop any of his Cabinet nominees from going through. But it really, really mattered. It sent a clear message to the president (and to Republicans in Congress) that the American people won’t surrender their rights or their core values without a fight – and it sends a clear message to Democrats that, when we stand up to Trump, people will have our backs.
“Second: Keep being a pain in the butt, including to me. Phone calls make a difference. Letters make a difference. Emails make a difference.
“Third: Become an advocate. By which I mean, pick an issue that means a lot to you (immigration, mental health, clean water) and look for an organization that’s going to work on that issue join. Give them your email address. Go to the meetings. Become a foot soldier. You’d be surprised how quickly foot soldiers in these organizations can become leaders – and you’d be surprised how much send a tour is like me rely on them for information, forward vice, and for support.”
I think that is good advice from Sen. Franken, on many issues, including forcing our president from office.
Until next time, keep your eyes and ears open.
George Toshio Johnston has written this column since 1992 and can be reached at [email protected] The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect policies of this newspaper or any organization or business. Copyright © 2017 by George T. Johnston. All rights reserved.