Category: politics

Christmas in America 

 

 

I know you know 

about God‘s beloved 

shivering on the floor

Wondering how hope turned into terror 

Upon arrival in the promised land 

 

I know you know 

about swaddled babies 

ripped from their mothers 

born at the wrong time 

in the wrong place 

in the wrong skin 

 

I know you know 

about free flu shots 

waiting idle in boxes 

while the cough begins to spread

Among the Other 

Waiting idle in boxes

 

I know you know 

about the human crossing borders 

binding people into suffering

instead of protecting them from fear 

 

I know you know 

about our old lady 

Standing with the lamp 

Waiting for tired huddled masses 

yearning to be free 

needing to be White 

 

I know you know

about the stable 

Home to donkeys 

A new family 

And earthly bribes 

For a heavenly gift

 

I know you know 

about sanctuary in Egypt

A fearsome flight 

For first time parents 

hiding the light of the world

in Ill fitting clothes 

begging him to stay quiet

hoping for one more miracle 

 

I know you know 

Whether Mary would be safe 

In your care 

Or if you’d remind her 

That Jews don’t belong here 

Without looking into her eyes 

 

I know you know 

This is Christmas in America 

 

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2019

A poem by Franklin Oliver

 

 

 

Neighborhood Watch 

 

It was raining like hell

 

When they cuffed me 

I told the cops

It was simple

 

An eye for an eye 

Leaves the whole world blind 

Just like Lady Justice 

Except that I have a smile 

Not a smirk

On my face 

 

See, Trayvon carried skittles 

But I packed heat 

When I followed George

From his house 

Until he idled 

At the drive through  

 

It’s hard to leave a Krispy Kreme 

Once you’ve seen the Hot light  

And it’s even harder 

After I’ve dropped my whole clip 

Into your chest 

 

I told the cops 

It was simple

Lady Justice is blind

But I can see clearly 

 

The rain is gone 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2017

 

 

If you’d like to hear this poem performed, please check out our podcast.

http://whodeannypod.libsyn.com/may-poetry-pod

 

 

Justified Use of Force (for Botham)

 

 

Every year there are

Untold more of us

An Amadou Diallo, Botham Jean,

Eric Garner, Tamir Rice or me

 

Then a loud clamor

Our broken faces on TV

We ask so many questions

That no one’s forced to answer

 

With sympathy’s short half-life

Most just wait for the noise to stop

So the questions

Can disappear once again

 

Just like us

In our lives

And our deaths

 

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2019

 

Little Plastic Soldiers




The little plastic soldiers
Don’t wear helmets
Or fatigues anymore
Their garments are burkas
Tunics or veils as
Sandaled feet pace
In wait and sand
Those muddied boots
Thrown away


These little plastic soldiers
Have homes and lives
Until we choose
To privilege our newer
Grown ups toys
Since (as everyone knows)
Our SUVs are worth much more
Than the little plastic soldiers
Who have to die
For 30 dollars a barrel

 

A poem by Franklin Oliver

© Gayle Force Press 2003

MeatSaladSurprise, a poem

MeatSaladSurprise

 

Beto’s favorite word

is a meatsaladsurprise

Too thick for its guise

of healthfulness,

slightly indigestible

 

See, this is America

The land of the free

who refuse to be brave

 

Because comfort trumps conviction

and clarity yields

an automatic timeout

 

 

We’ll keep wading through disasters

on our raft

of thoughts and prayers

 

Convinced that if we’re

just polite enough

someone else will save us

 

 

From ourselves

 

 

 

A poem by Franklin Oliver

© Gayle Force Press 2019

 

 

 

Thank God for Ferguson

My US History classes are doing significant work on Thomas Jefferson right now. Thinking so much about Jefferson and his complexities keeps bringing Charlottesville to mind. That led me to dig into the archives for this reflection on Ferguson. We keep seeing. When do we start changing?

FDO- 9.21. 2017

 

There’s a massive difference between being seen and being invisible. That’s why I’m glad Ferguson has become not just a place but a thing. Ferguson is now qualitatively different than every other incidence of police brutality. Mike Brown’s murder was the catalyst for something bigger and potentially transformative.

 

In the past couple weeks the whole world has begun to see what Black people have experienced for decades; the use of state power to intimidate and suppress populations. The police are the clearest example but much of the infrastructure of our society has done the same thing for centuries. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ invaluable article ‘The Case for Reparations’ provides the clearest explanation of the mechanisms behind this reality.

 

Ferguson demonstrates that the police do not always work on behalf of the citizens. In fact, for many in law enforcement, people of color are presumed to be an enemy force. This reality has been astonishing to many Americans but entirely unsurprising to people of color. Very few people of color can really be shocked when we hear the story of Mike Brown or Eric Garner or Ezell Ford or Tamir Rice.

 

What separates Ferguson from previous police violence is that the public response has been handled in such an absurd fashion. Everyone should be appalled at the way the police have brutalized and intimidated citizens who have not done anything wrong. Perhaps more than anything else, it’s the scale and openness in Ferguson that has garnered such attention. However, the idea that this style of policing is new or limited to a single police force is ludicrous. There’s already been some amazing reportage on this.

 

The biggest difference between the public recognition level of Rodney King (an instantly recognizable name for most Americans older than 35) and Sean Bell (who?) ….. is not that King lived but that we saw happened to him. It’s not the outcome of these situations that creates public recognition, it’s the coverage of the situation. Even in the murder of Mike Brown, the authorities have attempted to create a counter narrative that reduces the level of blame for Darren Wilson. Since we didn’t see Brown being shot, we don’t know precisely what happened.

 

Fortunately, we do know what the response to the mostly peaceful protests in Ferguson has been. Those images will linger because they are chilling and astonishing and might well be repeated in dozens of communities across America. The overwhelming militarization of the police makes the visuals more stark and citizen fear more understandable. That clarity matters. Ferguson is likely to provide the most important visuals of 2014 in America. We are Mike Brown and we are Afghanistan and we are Iraq and we are not far enough from being Pakistan or Guantanamo.

 

America is still intensely separated when it comes to race but that often has little to do with where you live, what you like or how you spend your time. Instead, that divide is usually about understanding and experience; the lenses through which you view the world. Those lenses often aren’t chosen by any of us individually; they are usually provided for us. None of us choose what America will expect of us or how America will respond to us.

 

It’s very hard to say this and I need to be clear that I’m deeply grateful that Mike Brown is the only person to have died at the hands of the police in Ferguson. But I am very happy that White America has the chance to see more of the realities of being a person of color in the USA. Now comes the hard part.

 

 

 

25th Amendment Contingency Plan

 

 

This is the moment to begin making contingency plans for Executive Office vacancies. 

 

Either a VP or Presidential resignation or impeachment would throw the US into chaos. That's why Congressional leaders should make a concerted effort to identify multiple credible, competent replacement candidates in the increasingly likely event the 25th Amendment becomes necessary soon.

 

The President is very likely to have the shadow of impeachment growing closer. That means there are two other big things coming into play. 

 

1- Trump might decide at any given moment to resign. His unstable personality combined with his persecution complex makes that possibility a real concern. He certainly wouldn't go through an impeachment trial. As in his business life, he'd attempt to find a way to 'settle' without admitting wrongdoing. That means resigning. 

 

2- It's already apparent that the scandals enveloping Trump that might actually lead to impeachment are likely to pull Pence into the same orbit. It's not unlikely that Pence might be offered up as the sacrificial lamb if Trump believes having Pence take responsibility would provide Trump sufficient cover. 

 

This why I think it's imperative to find a viable, willing replacement VP. I'd suggest it be someone like Lindsay Graham, Bob Gates, Chuck Hagel or even Mitt Romney who a) could win near universal congressional support b) would pledge not to run for re-election and c) is not tied to Trump or Pence. That's the type of person who could help pull the country out of the Trump/Pence morass AND be politically acceptable on both sides of the aisle. 

 

This feels like a scary situation to even contemplate. Not having a game plan is scarier still.

 

 

 

-Franklin Oliver

 

 

The Cuckoo Clock Is Ticking: The 2016 Presidential Election Forecast

 

Four and eight years ago, I made public disclosures about my predictions for the Presidential elections. In both elections, I got the entire map correct. <back pat> (I was especially pleased with 2012;  virtually nobody got that one right.) The streak probably stops at two. 

 

 

This year, I have far less confidence in polling data, the American polity and my own ability to read the tea leaves. However, the conversation keeps coming up so I might as well give it a shot. What do I have to lose? Besides the rest of my sanity…

 

So here’s my map: http://www.270towin.com/maps/RJjN4 

 

Go ahead, explore it, analyze it, mock it. I’ll wait.

 

My prediction is that in a couple months, Hillary Clinton will be the first woman since Catherine the Great to be the most powerful person on Earth.

 

Yup, I have it Clinton 342- Trump 196. That includes a couple tricky oddities. 1- Omaha area district peeling off for her as it did Obama in 2008 and 2- Clinton winning Ohio  despite polling leads for Trump. I figure that between Kasich’s disdain and The King’s support, Trump has to contend with two of the three most important men in that state. (I assume Urban Meyer is a Trump voter.)


I also kept Utah, Arizona and Georgia red. Those all feel very tricky to me. Utah, because of the Evan McMullin factor, would not surprise me if Trump, Clinton or McMullin won. Trump’s disastrous misadventures in wooing Mormons are the stuff upon which a reality show might be based. If he wins there, it will be because of voter inertia. If Clinton or McMullin wins, it will be because there is a rare, genuine opportunity to send a political message. In that battle, I generally assume inertia will win out.

 

Georgia is just a mess. Ditto for North Carolina but for different reasons. We should just accept that North Carolina is now a blue state. Tar Heel blue in fact.

 

I’m also not going to be surprised if Arizona goes to Clinton. Just because McCain resurrected his campaign doesn’t mean Arizonans are actually going to support Trump.

 

The surprising takeaway from a 342 number for me is that it would push Clinton beyond Obama’s Electoral College haul in 2012. I’d never have guessed that a year ago.

 

One more day until history’s made!

 

 

FDO

 

 

 

 

Where Do You Stand?

 

Every spring, my US History classes learn about the Vietnam War. For most students, it’s a new experience to study Vietnam. Invariably, students have an important misconception about the war: they presume most Americans were opposed to fighting in Vietnam. When I share evidence that the war was incredibly popular for years and never became statistically unpopular, they often feel shock. The reason is simple. People lie about their support for the Vietnam War. It’s now the cultural norm to acknowledge it as a bad war. People want to be on the right side of history in their memory, if not in their actions.

 

We are already seeing a similar process unfold regarding the Iraq War. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has repeatedly lied about opposing the Iraq War. Why? Again, it’s culturally preferred to acknowledge that Iraq was a bad war. That means average citizens rewrite their positions in much the same way Trump does. These kinds of lies have become both ubiquitous and casual. Unless you’re a public figure, who will take the time to go back and discern where you actually stood on Iraq more than a decade ago?

 

But, do you remember? Do you remember what you thought a year after the September 11 attacks when President George W. Bush insisted Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was part of an axis of evil? Do you remember Donald Rumsfeld telling us all that Iraq was intimately connected to al-Qaida? Do you remember whether you told your family, friends and co-workers that we needed to invade Iraq or that it would be a horrible mistake? I’m guessing you do. I’m guessing that sending Americans to fight, kill and die in Iraq mattered enough that you thought about it and made a choice.

 

Well, what about now? If someone asked you about Iraq, would you tell them the truth? Would you acknowledge the wisdom or folly of your choice?  

 

You already know where I’m going with this, right?! 2016 features the clearest choice between Presidential candidates in modern times. We have major party candidates with stark differences in experience, temperament, perspective and vision. The hallowed middle ground for which presidential campaigns usually compete is a void this year. And at the ballot box, America will make a genuinely historic choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

 

Today, House Speaker Paul Ryan declared that he would not make any effort to assist Trump’s campaign and other House Republicans should feel free to withdraw their support as well. What Ryan did not do is repudiate Trump or rescind his endorsement of him. He recognizes what a debacle the Trump candidacy is but can’t bring himself to make a public stand against it. Dozens of current and former GOP officials, including President George H. W. Bush have already announced they will vote for Clinton. What about you?

 

A decade from now, there will be an established cultural norm about this election. And in the final referendum of history, every American will have a story to tell their friends and family about where they stood at this critical moment.  What story will you tell? Will that story be true?  

 

In 2016, where do you stand?

 

 

FDO

 

 

This is an update of a previous post.

 

 

Mike Pence- Trump’s Best Hand?

 

I’m looking forward to watching Tuesday night’s Vice Presidential debate between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence. Part of my intrigue is the Trump campaign’s effort to use Pence to appeal to women and moderates. After living through Pence’s term as Governor and watching his antics in the House for the previous decade, I find it telling that Trump’s team is convinced that there is a chance this strategy will work. Pence is a smart, seasoned politician with the kind of governing credentials Trump lacks. What he can’t do is build bridges.

 

There is a laundry list of examples of Pence’s firebrand divisiveness. Whether the issue is abortion, contraception, the superiority of Christianity or his efforts to legalize discrimination against LGBTQ Hoosiers, suffice it to say Pence has more than earned his rep as a FAR right attack dog.

 

The most pertinent recent example involves the thousands of Hoosier women who have participated in a group called Periods for Politicians formerly Periods for Pence. As Governor, Pence supported the kind of restrictive, intrusive anti-abortion law whose provisions sound like they were dreamed up in an Saturday Night Live writer’s meaning. Then dismissed as too unrealistic.

 

Perhaps the Trump campaign is correct in assuming that Pence’s placid demeanor and friendly mien will create the kind of sane, sympathetic image that was supposed to be the hallmark of compassionate conservatism. If so, tonight will be the most successful public event for Republicans since the dawn of autumn. (Poor Kelly Ayotte.) It will also be a shocking change of form for the people Pence governs.

 

 

FDO