Author: Keith C. Sheeley Jr.

White People Everywhere Confuse Patriotism With Racism as African-American Football Players Demonstrate First Amendment Rights

To some, there is nothing that defines America more than the Star-Spangled Banner. Serving as our National Anthem, the tune strikes a patriotic chord with every citizen from coast-to-coast, apathetic to party lines. Whenever the opening verse is sung ever-so-softly, it’s as if the world slows its rotation. A haunting hush sweeps across all men, women and children as they all stand at attention with hands covering hearts, yearning to fill his or her ear drums with more beautiful sound. As the song reaches its conclusion, crossing a wide variety of notes both low and high, tears everywhere are shed. The trials and tribulations of a nation that has overcome copious amounts of hurdles are recognized in just two minutes of harmonic and melodic bliss. The National Anthem IS America.

But as I have previously written, this nation’s faith in symbolic gestures often goes too far. The lines between patriotism and jingoism are blurred, and we suddenly forget what it means to possess freedom; that rights to or to not participate in an action are well within the confines of said freedom. It was not until former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick remained on the bench for the duration of the National Anthem that I began realizing how conflated we have allowed our love for country to become.

While speaking on behalf of a republican candidate for an Alabama senate seat, Donald Trump did what Donald Trump does best, and opened his mouth. Taking his speech from Main Street to Middle-of-Nowheresville, the President stumbled onto the subject of football, as the state he was in is most widely-known for producing a plethora of football talent (much to the dismay of this Florida State University fan). He began presenting his opinions on the National Football League. After a short rant on how the league’s lack of hard hits is ruining the game, the freshman politician focused his tirade directly toward the players. Stated the President:

But you know what’s hurting the game more than that? When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knee when they are playing our great national anthem. The only thing you could do better is if you see it, even if it’s one player, leave the stadium, I guarantee things will stop. Things will stop. Just pick up and leave. Pick up and leave. Not the same game anymore anyway…Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!’

That the President used an expletive phrase whilst describing a group of U.S. citizens is in itself atrocious, but most disturbingly, he out-rightly suggested that a football player (this was directed at Kaepernick) be fired for taking advantage of the platform available to him to make a difference and spur change. The attack on the NFL triggered responses from every direction, as athletes of different sports, politicians, political pundits, coaches and even owners all had something to say.

Come Sunday, all eyes were focused on players of the NFL, awaiting a reaction to the President’s comments. Around the league, teammates knelt, stood together, linked arms or, in the case of the Pittsburgh Steelers (with the exception of one player), remained in the tunnel while the Anthem played.

After Trump again doubled down on his original remarks, he stated that protests are not race-related, but only bring disrespect to the country, and our “great” flag. Up until that point, however, the majority of those kneeling or sitting had been African-American. After his “good people on both sides” remark of Nazis gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, it became astoundingly clear that it was neither about the flag or the country for Trump. It is about race. Because it always has been.

These protests, which were an obvious rebuking of comments threatening the first amendment, once again sparked debate among an already-embattled nation. Gridlocked in eternal disagreement are those who agree with what took place Sunday, believing one’s first amendment rights come first, and opposite are those that feel that kneeling or not standing with one’s hand over one’s heart blatantly disrespects our flag, its meaning and what our veterans have fought and died to protect and establish.

Now, it is not too often that I struggle with writing something, as the abilities to turn a phrase or form coherent sentences out of a nebulous thought process are traits on which I pride myself. This, however, was difficult to write, as there are not two sides present to argue.

Colin Kaepernick began his quest for change in August of 2016, wanting to shift his focus toward systemic racial injustices taking place all around the country. White cops taking innocent, mostly-unarmed African-American lives and facing no punishment had become an epidemic, and Kaepernick stated he could not stand for the Anthem, as he did not agree with what the flag had then stood for. Almost immediately, his actions were met with backlash. Some called him an over-privileged millionaire, others shouted that he hated the country, and there were even the few that suggested he live somewhere else if he does not agree with what we stand for…A black man, saying nothing, and sticking up for what he believed to be morally good, infuriated white Americans everywhere. And that trend is shadowed today by the man we call President of the United States.

Our President does not care about America, he does not care about the flag, and he surely does not care for the National Anthem. And as I have learned, neither do those who oppose the efforts to bring race relations to the forefront of discussion.

White people are born with rose-colored glasses attached to their faces; for us, the United States IS the land of opportunity; the National Anthem IS beautiful. Our veterans ARE the bravest humans here. But for those not born white, bravery is waking up every day and living in a world where some of your fellow human beings see you as a subservient species for no other reason than the color of your skin. Where a failure to use your turn signal will land you in prison, ultimately putting an end to your life. This is reality, and to blame it on lack of love for one’s country is both a disservice to the progression of this country, and blatant disrespect to those who have literally sacrificed their lives to get here today.

America has become a nation of flag-waiving hypocrites, dressed to the nines in red, white and blue, too vacuous to understand that love for country does not allow for hatred of others. If showing respect towards a piece of cloth, or listening intently to a song is patriotic, but being black, having opinions and working towards a better future for those that live here are not, please, do not call yourself a patriotic American. Call yourself a racist piece of shit with an American flag.

 

 

Donald Trump’s Idiotic non-responses to Nazism, Charlottesville Cement His Legacy as a Disgrace

Saturday’s gathering of white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia, which saw a multiplicity of injuries and one fatality — Heather Heyer, 32, and a native of Charlottesville — gave America’s most powerful man the opportunity to quell chaos within the nation, which has been so obviously wrapped in its own cocoon of estrangement. On the most down-the-middle Eephus pitch ever thrown, Donald J. Trump whiffed ‘bigly.’ And then David Duke smiled. And then the Nazis won.

Giving a written speech with just a bit of that off-the-cuff zest we’ve begun to mistake as statesmanlike, Mr. Trump stood behind the Presidential Seal and delivered a statement concerning the rally. Said the President:

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides — on many sides.”

Mr. Trump, on Tuesday, again delivered another incredible response to the domestic terrorism, in which he again laid blame to the “many sides,” but this time named the “alt-left” as the co-contributor. In a response to a reporter, Trump asked the following:

What about the ‘alt-left that came charging at, as you say, the ‘alt-right,’ do they have any semblance of guilt?”

He added further, “You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say it, but I will say it right now.”

Unfortunately, the press conference kept on.

“You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down, to them, of a very, very important statue and a renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.” Later adding, “George Washington was a slave owner. So will George Washington lose his status?…How about Thomas Jefferson…”

“You had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists and the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.”

While the nation is having trouble keeping its head above water in the deep end of the pool, too busy fending off the resurgence of hateful, extremist rhetoric from white supremacists, it’s drowning because of a Nazi-apologist President that refuses to throw out a life-vest and not forthrightly state how truly disgusting these human beings are. The United States has no leader. It has no President, and no administration to guide its people in the proper, peaceful direction during a time of sickening turbulence.

This country was built on the backs of slaves; African-American, Irish-American, Asian-American and countless others (though not willingly) contributed to making America what it is today. When we are at our most diverse, able to celebrate varying cultures, creeds and colors, we are at our strongest.

Fascism never truly died when Hitler did, and racism in America never truly died when we twice elected our very first African-American president. Donald J. Trump, the man that was elected to succeed Barack Obama, continues to personify an America that I do not recognize. One that hates you because you are different. One that judges not by the contents of your character, but by the pigmentation in your skin. One that continues to make me disgusted to call myself an American citizen.

We have no President.

We have only a disgraceful, xenophobic, 71 year-old Nazi sympathizer.

Donald Trump is not my, nor is he this nation’s President.

Collins, Murkowski and John McCain’s Thumb: Television Drama Brought To Life

WASHINGTON — Perhaps the only Hollywood director capable of creating a scenario at all close to what we saw unfold at the crack of dawn Friday morning is Aaron Sorkin. The fall of an hours-old bill, which came at the hands of all forty-eight Democrats, and three unlikely Republicans, was nothing short of a true Cinderella Story. As the peak battle over health care contained everything from drama to last-minute heroism from a surprising, unlikely source, it felt less like reality, and more like an episode of the fictional Sorkin-created “West Wing.”

The Health Care Freedom Act, a bill brought to the floor at 10:02 pm by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, was the latest effort on behalf of members of the Grand Old Party to repeal the Affordable Care Act, signed into law by President Obama in 2010. After years of promising the party base the “failing” system of care would be repealed and replaced, McConnell put forth the HCFA, which had earlier been dubbed the Skinny Repeal Bill. The guts of the bill, for many about to vote on its fate, were still unknown. Barely given the time and debate the Skinny Bill needed, the ACA’s future looked increasingly bleak.

As the HCFA was only a partial repeal, it still did extensive, and likely irreparable damage. The Congressional Budget Office — a nonpartisan agency which provides both budget and economic information to Congress — scored the bill mere minutes before the vote; it found that McConnell’s bill would leave 16 million more Americans uninsured by 2026, would decrease the projected federal deficit by $142 billion in the same amount of time and would increase insurance premiums by 20%. While also including provisions to eliminate the Prevention and Public Health Fund, repeal both the Affordable Care Act’s insurance mandates, and its medical-device tax, McConnell’s third attempt in as many days to pass a repeal bill seemed to be the charm, as frustration from the right grew with every failed vote.

With the Senate set to vote at midnight, Vice President Mike Pence arrived shortly after 11:30, as he would represent the tie-breaking vote. Now after midnight on the eastern seaboard, a motion to send the bill to another Senate Committee for further debate failed. The fate of the nation now came in to question. The summation of efforts over a period of seven years for the Republican Party…would be delayed just awhile longer.

Knowing it was likely he didn’t have the fifty-one vote majority needed to pass the bill, McConnell and his fellow Republican colleagues spent the next hour attempting to sway three key members of the GOP: Alaska Senator Murkowski, Arizona Senator McCain and Maine Senator Collins.

For much of the hour-and-change the two parties spent mingling amongst themselves, Vice President Pence and Senator McCain could be seen off to the side having an intensely animated conversation. Once Pence left the chamber, McCain passed Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and high-fived the top-ranking Democrat.

When the time came for most important vote in this decade, the ‘ayes’ and ‘nos’ were neck-and-neck. Finally, John McCain, who was diagnosed with cancer not a week-and-a-half earlier, walked onto the Senate Floor, and, in front of Senator McConnell, put his hand out and gave a thumbs-down. Amid gasps and cheers from those on the left realizing what had just happened, the culmination of efforts over a seven year period went up in flames quite literally in Mitch McConnell’s face.

It was over. Republicans failed. Again. The Affordable Care Act lived on.

Senators Collins, Murkowski and McCain, for crossing party lines and voting with the interests of a nation in mind, saved President Obama’s signature piece of legislation from partial repeal, as well as the lives of countless Americans who’d fall victim to lack of coverage.

Expectations for Thursday’s vote were set incredibly high on weakening the health care system, but it was instead the Republican Party that left debilitated that night. Saving the Affordable Care Act in the most 2017 way possible, two courageous women facing unprecedented pressure from their male colleagues, and American hero John McCain revitalized the political activism of a country that’s currently caught in its own spider web of division.

Though Aaron Sorkin’s television shows were often described as a liberal’s grandiose delusions, it may prove to be an intelligent move down the road for today’s Republican Party to invest in the lessons behind the small screen successes: one’s compass should be guided by one’s own morality and not political ideology.

Old Glory: Up in Smoke

It’s a warm night in July. The seventy degree weather, complimented with a slight breeze that brushes the cheeks of your face, and ever-so-gently wisps around your hair, is made complete by the bright evening sky, lit up like a campfire with just the right amount of firewood. The beautiful blaze of fiery red-orange reflects perfectly off of the water, as it continues to ebb and flow. Off in the distance, the American Flag, which towers over all else, and seems to extend into the Heavens, waves in cadence with the heartbeat of the nation. The scene evokes emotion into even the most unfeeling of citizens, as a sense of unyielding patriotism reverberates about the country, in their minds, solidifying America’s place as the greatest in the world. Where else could one possibly find a sight euphoric as this?

The American flag, which many feel to be a sacred symbol, represents all things inherently good about life here: the Bill of Rights, the social and economic opportunities natural or naturalized citizens may have and even the idea that men, women and children are all born, equal in nature. Its stars and stripes aid us in putting life into perspective, reminding us of how far we have come, making the trek from thirteen rebellious English colonies, all the way to fifty states, now united.

To so many, Old Glory gives hope to what could be, what is and what was. That men and women have voluntarily signed away their lives in order to defend the red, white and blue is proof of how deeply America’s patriotic roots are planted. So it should be of some concern that when one rebels against the ideals of an entire group of people that care as much as Americans do, one is met with volatile behavior. As America’s flag reflects a nation which is free and tolerant, its most ardent supporters are, ironically, anything but. The practices of stomping on, burning or desecrating in any form the American Flag, while disrespectful, are not wrong, and must remain legal practices of protest if America is to continue using the moniker “Land of the Free, Home of the Brave.”

Shortly after his election win, then-President-Elect Trump suggested jailing or possibly revoking citizenship of those choosing to burn the flag, which was met with uproarious support from his most dedicated followers, as well as those who just simply found the practice distasteful. As is always the case, those opposed to the suggestion had differing views on the subject. While one side believes burning the flag to be an act of terrorism, the other side sees it as a healthy demonstration of the First Amendment.

The debate over the legality or morality of practices pertaining to treatment of the flag has never been without governmental input. Often, the Judicial and Legislative branches have intervened. After a flag-burning demonstration took place in Central Park, New York City in 1968, Congress approved the nation’s first federal flag desecration law, which, according to ushistory.org, made it illegal to “knowingly’ cast ‘contempt’ upon ‘any flag of the United States by publicly mutilating, defacing, defiling, burning or trampling upon it.'” A year later though, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of not arresting a Civil Rights protester who lit his own flag on fire. It wasn’t until 1989’s  Texas v. Johnson, however, that the Supreme Court ruled on the legality of burning the flag. The nine justices voted 5-4 in favor of Gregory Johnson, who had been arrested for burning a flag outside of the 1984 Republican National Convention.

1989 continued to be a big year for controversy surrounding the flag, as Congress would go on to amend the 1968 Federal Flag Desecration bill, and sought to make all forms of disrespect towards the flag illegal. A year later in 1990, the Supreme Court saw United States v. Eichman, and found that Congress’ flag laws restricted symbolic speech, giving a win to those who see burning the flag as an act of protest. The decision caused members Congress to consider a law which would amend the Constitution to say that both Congress and states would have the abilities to prohibit desecrating the flag. The notion was later rejected, as it did not have the votes necessary to proceed.

Perhaps the largest problem with this country’s freedom of speech is the very thin line between what is right and what is wrong. If a flag is truly a representation of all things historic and meaningful, flying the Confederate Flag, for example, is not free speech; it’s hateful speech. Showing pride in a symbol representing the part of the nation so deeply divided, so immersed in its own ability to discriminate against people of color that it separated itself from the northern half of the country is not an action that makes one patriotic, but a racist. The same can be said for those who adore the American flag. Why burning a flag — which is truly just a piece of cloth — is something worth revoking citizenship over, but replicating the flag into novelty items: cups, plates, tablecloths, napkins, bathing suits, pens, pencils and ball caps is nothing worth becoming angry over is the perfect example of the hypocrisy which surrounds the entirety of this argument. If one feels that one’s flag is indeed so sacred that it must not be in any way disrespected, shouldn’t one too be angry at the man spilling barbecue sauce onto his American flag t-shirt?

This country can be described using a plethora adjectives, but, sadly, tolerant is not one of them. While I understand and appreciate the history of this country, I feel that, at the end of the day, the flag is but a manufactured, replicated piece of cloth. Its meaning and everything enticing about America is held not within the flag itself, but in the spirits of those who love the country enough to make it a more inclusive place for those with views both similar and different to their own.

As the courts have consistently sided with those in agreement on the practices of flag-burning, it should be (but isn’t) abundantly clear to any opposition that the freedom of speech entails the right to voice differing opinions on a subject without punishment from governing bodies. That being said, if one cannot show disgust in one’s government with symbolic gestures, if the battle is lost to those that fail to understand both sides of freedom, and if one has not the right to speak or think freely, what left is there to take pride in?

Opinion: America is Donald Trump’s Latest Failed Business

During his inauguration speech, Donald Trump elaborated on the “American carnage” he thought to have been taking place, eventually citing President Obama’s supposed dereliction of presidential duties over the last eight years as cause. He went on to promise those in attendance and watching at home that his primary focus as President would be to put America first. Now, having only ever been a businessman, Trump has never had to care for the needs of many, but only those of his own. It looks as though his history of incompetence will continue into his presidency. Just eleven days into his four-year term, Trump has given a minute demonstration to America and the rest of the anxious world looking on as to what that could really mean moving forward. For a man with a demeanor so abhorrent as it pertains to immigrants, he seems to have no reservations with the migration of tyranny and governmental overreach into Washington, D.C.

On what is now being dubbed the Monday Night Massacre, – an allusion to the Saturday Night Massacre, (a Nixon-era slashing of an official who disagreed with the then-President) – news last night of acting Attorney General Sally Yates’ unexpected-but-immediate termination broke across the country, followed by a much expected opposition.

The decision to relieve her of her duties came immediately after Miss Yates openly defied the sitting president, stating that whilst under her leadership, the Department of Justice and all of its lawyers would not defend Trump’s executive order on immigration (explained better in-depth here). She would go on to explain, “At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities, nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful.”

As Sally Yates was later fired for standing bravely opposed to a man who understands neither basic compassion, nor the duties of his job as President, those in America railing against a racially charged immigration ban cheered her on. The administration, however, did not share mutual feelings about the dissent. It hadn’t yet been five minutes after that a statement from the desk of Press Secretary Sean Spicer was released:

“The acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States…Ms. Yates is an Obama Administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.”

The expedient response to what had happened seemed to have been written with intentional tones of condescension and malice. Given that there is no evidence to suggest Yates as being “weak on borders,” or even “very weak on illegal immigration,” the explanation was not only a way for the administration to have the last word, but it sounded similar to every other adolescent-like tirade Trump has on Twitter.

Yates herself did not betray the Department of Justice, or the American people. By refusing to defend an incredibly unjust law, which lacks credible evidence needed to explain why it’s even necessary to enforce, she protected the laws written within the Constitution from being infringed upon, which, for the record, is the job of the President of the United States.

While Mr. Trump is well within presidential limits in terminating the acting Attorney General, he has stepped far out of line when it comes to the method he used to terminate and replace her, as well as the reasoning behind the termination.

Dissent within government is not uncommon, and is not without precedence, especially as it pertains to Presidents and various other governing officials. The ability to openly disagree with members of opposing political parties is an idea which helped lay the groundwork of what America would become. However, firing someone who disagrees with what you believe is neither American, nor is it part of the democratic process we have operated under for 240 years. It is, however, tyrannical in nature.

Donald Trump was elected for a multiplicity of dizzying reasons which make little-to-no sense, but perhaps the most perplexing of which was the assertion that his business practices were, largely speaking, successful. Essentially, he was elected to run the country as he would one of his many unsucessful businesses, which is perhaps the only area of his presidency in which he has yet to disappoint the public.

By dismissing Sally Yates for refusing to comply and act as he had wished, and for overreaching the powers granted to him as President, Donald Trump has reminded us that, no matter how much money you have, no matter how successful you may appear to be, and no matter how many people believe in what you say, terrible businessmen will always run terrible busineses.

Muslims of Seven Countries Banned From United States

Beginning Friday, all Muslims seeking refuge from Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen will be banned from entering America for 120 days, while Muslims from Syria will be banned indefinitely.

During his campaign for the presidency in late December of 2015, Donald Trump first spoke of putting a “temporary ban” on Muslim immigrants and refugees seeking entry into the United States. Wanting to quell what he refers to as “radical Islamic terrorism,” Trump believed then and continues to believe now that barring those seeking asylum within the states would bring an abrupt end to terrorism within our country.

Ignorance and irrationality won Friday, as Donald Trump followed through with the campaign promise he had made two Decembers ago. The President signed an executive order which will not only include an aforementioned ban on Muslims from several middle eastern countries, but also “extreme vetting,” which he believes will “keep the terrorists out.”

In a speech given to the Department of Defense the same day, Trump stated, “We are establishing new vetting measures, to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America.” He continued, “We don’t want them here.” As he signed into action the order, he played directly into the hands of ISIL, submitting to fear of what is not understood, instead of siding with the overwhelming factual evidence that suggests exactly the contrary.

While Trump believes Islam is the be-all-end-all of society, there is little-to-no fact to back the reasoning behind this executive order, making it abundantly clear: Muslims are not terrorizing the U.S.

In an article titled “You’re more likely to be fatally crushed by furniture than killed by a terrorist” published in “Washington Post” on 23 November, 2015 (shortly after the ISIL attack on Paris, France) by author Andrew Shaver – a former Pentagon analyst and foreign affairs fellow with the U.S. Senate –  it is explained in-depth just how rare it is for an American to be killed by a terrorist versus various other common ways to die. States Shaver:

“…in the time it has taken you to read until this point, at least one American has died from a heart attack. Within the hour, a fellow citizen will have died from skin cancer. Roughly five minutes after that, a military veteran will commit suicide. And by the time you turn the lights off to sleep this evening, somewhere around 100 Americans will have died throughout the day in vehicular accidents

He ends the article with, “We can refuse to give [terrorists] the fear they so desperately want from us.”

Consider the last five major attacks on U.S. soil: Fort Lauderdale, Pulse Nightclub, Charleston, South Carolina, San Bernardino, California and Newtown, Connecticut. The nationalities of the perpetrators of said attacks were, respectively: American, American, American, American and, you guessed it: American. Not a single one migrated here from one of the seven countries present on Trump’s “banned” list. They were all born here.

And September 11, 2001? Of the nineteen hijackers, fifteen were from Saudi Arabia, two were from the United Arab Emirates, one from Egypt and one from Lebanon.

And if you didn’t happen to notice, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon are all absent on the list of barred countries.

None of this is to suggest the seven banned parts of the middle east are currently in states of peace, because they are not by far. They are, however, areas filled with innocent citizens who are attempting to flee from the very same thing we believe we’ve been fighting. For no apparent reason other than fear, those hoping to find shelter in the United States were just denied ingress from the most powerful person in the world.

In June of 2015, “Time” published a study from the New America Foundation, which stated:

“Since 9/11, white right-wing terrorists have killed almost twice as many Americans in homegrown attacks than radical Islamists have, according to research by the New America Foundation.”

According to the study, “48 people were killed by white terrorists, while 26 were killed by radical Islamists, since Sept. 11.” “Time” author Joanna Plucinska went on to state that the criminal justice system clearly presented cases of racial bias, usually punishing jihadists harsher than their radical non-Muslim counterparts.

It pains me to see a country so deeply divided on this issue, particularly because there should not be two sides. When human lives – innocent human lives – are put in danger, it becomes the duty of other human beings to lift them up out of harm’s way, not to continue pressing them down, allowing them to be slaughtered. As Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “For what are we born if not to aid one another?”

Today, we saw our President. We saw what motivates and drives him to make a decision. It was not inspiration, not humanity, not compassion and not factual evidence.

We saw fear.