John Kelly: Lack Of Compromise Caused Irish Potato Famine. Or The Civil War. History’s What I Say It Is.

Greg Sargent is right that the whole point of what Trump and now John Kelly say about Mueller and the Confederate statues and black Congresswomen is the power to define truth aside from or over against any and all verifiable fact or reality.  

https://mobile.twitter.com/ThePlumLineGS/status/925341656785801216

Trump says he cannot be tied down to “political correctness” because he is on a mission to MAGA.  But sometimes, just sometimes, there’s no daylight between political correctness and simple politeness and decency.

If I said lack of compromise is what caused the Irish potato famine, John Kelly might (rightly take) offense.  He might feel I was disrespecting his ancestors and making apologies for the genocidal actions of powerful English overlords.  He would probably be right.  But Kelly shows little understanding of or care for how or why his assaults on historical reality vis-a-vis the Civil War might outrage anybody who matters. (BTW Mr. Kelly there were more than “two sides,” there were also freed slaves–did you forget about them?)  Kelly did not display much conservative virtue on Fox TV last night.  Neither is he the adult in the Oval Office, unfortunately.  Conservatism in the USA, real conservatism worthy of the name, is about protecting liberty and keeping government within limits, not about enabling authoritarianism.  Real conservatives are suspicious of sweeping change, but not addicted to sentimentalizing past injustices.  (Kelly made apologies last night for Chinese authoritarian rule, too.)  John Kelly is not a conservative in my book, he is just an abusive reactionary.

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Just A Teeny Tiny Collusion, Believe Me, And It Feels Like It Was Years Ago (But Wasn’t)

Really, sir, no collusion?  I believe you don’t recall much at all about it, last year was busy busy for all of us, but did you read the charging document for flippin’ Papadopoulos?  And how about “the Professor?” (Nice touch of classiness there, bet he might have gone to an Ivy League college too, even if Russian).

It’s all very complicated, of course.  Am hoping Putin will make bail for Manafort and Gates, and then explain everything to us with a press conference right quick.  Or if he would just tell us what his Twitter bot number really is, I would be satisfied with that.  Teeny tiny collusion, believe me.

We Might Or Might Not Need More Special Counsels, We Certainly Don’t Need Fewer

The mighty rightwing Wurlitzer is cranked up on high.  Presidential twitter is even more snowflake/hysterical than usual.   Hillary needs to be locked up; the only debate on Fox is how punishment should be administered.

I do not know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Hillary Clinton is innocent of every crime in the U.S. Code.  I do know that Donald Trump and his associates are panicking.  I do know that when a president tweets “DO SOMETHING!” on a weekend morning he is trying to incite civil unrest.  Whether or not we the people elected a president who combines the worst traits of crime family head and mean girl–OK, it’s not “not,” that is what we did–now what?

We might need more investigations.  Some Democrats, maybe some Hollywood wrongdoers too, may need to suffer some consequences.  But Hillary’s not our real problem because she doesn’t have the nuclear codes.  She has no power to pardon people to cover her tracks and obstruct justice.  That is, she’s not president, in spite of Corey Lewandowski’s critique of the “Clinton administration.”

We do not need fewer investigators.  Of course Trump and his goodfellas would love to see Robert Mueller out of the picture.  It’s probably going to be up to the Republican Congress and maybe the federal courts to restrain Trump.  If they don’t, it will be up to the people to repel threats to our constitutional republic.

P.S. Alexander Hamilton wrote in 1792: “the only path to a subversion of the republican system of the Country is, by flattering the prejudices of the people, and exciting their prejudices and apprehensions, to throw affairs into confusion, and bring on civil commotion.”  In 2017 the enablers of the president are in danger of becoming what Hamilton called “Artificers of monarchy.” (H/T to Benjamin Wittes of Lawfare)

https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-12-02-0184-0002

Here’s Hoping Upcoming Protests Are Pro-things-worth-supporting: Freedom And Constitution, For Starters

A president, even a very unpopular one like #45, always possesses a great deal of power to initiate events.  He is already trying hard to distract us from the indictments coming his way.  Trump is not cool, calm, and collected; nor does he have any respect for our constitutional republic, or for liberty, or for limited government, or for checks and balances.  He may have the complicity of Republican politicians and big-money donors, and I am not counting on Trump to show any restraint this week as he reacts to Mueller.  But his power of initiative should not and won’t go unanswered.  I do expect protests in the streets of Washington if he starts firing people in the Justice Department to get at Mueller.  Protests need to remain pro-, not just anti-, and that can happen if we all remember what is worth defending: the freedoms promised by the Bill of Rights.  They need defending again.  That’s pro-liberty.  Liberty has been a big talking point of the political and religious right wing, but it needs to be the focus of those who cannot abide what this government is doing now.  Facts and science matter; freedom is the precondition that matters even more.  The fight against what many now see as Trump’s thuggish agitprop is a fight for liberty and freedom.  There are many non-liberal, non-progressive people who are offended by Trump and who may be willing to protest for freedom and liberty.  This is not the time for progressive, liberal-minded people to pick fights with them unless there is a compelling reason.  I am not expecting to see Jeff Sessions or Mitt Romney or Chris Christie marching against the president, but let’s keep the door open for people like them, take a positive approach, and persuade people with positive arguments.

Very Smart Man Trump Delaying Release Of JFK Files…Did Trump Collude With #&@$%?

Julian Assange blames US deep state for delay.  Of course he would say that.  Ted Cruz’s father is no longer with us, unfortunately.  Trump is the master of distraction.  Some people say King Xi of China pulling strings.  Putin called Xi “odin boyets,” i.e. “lone warrior.”  Is Trump really going to Asia next week?  Many people say he is going to settle up with whoever is holding his markers–who could that possibly be?  Is Russia in Asia?  Meanwhile don’t sign any mandatory arbitration clauses for anything no matter how much the sales people bamboozle you.  Obamacare is not dead yet, it’s just pining for the fjords.

Shame On Me For Not Realizing That Donald Trump Cannot Possibly Be A Flaming Ass Because He Went To An Ivy League School

I feel so very ignorant and trifling.  Little did I realize that people who went to Ivy League schools (even U. of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Finance? Is that Ivy League really and truly?) are automatically not-flaming-jackasses.  I must have misunderstood and misunderestimated the many such flaming individuals I encountered in eastern and western Massachusetts over the last forty-some years.  Silly me.

I Did Not “Specifically Authorize” Donald Trump To Be My Commander-In-Chief, And Yet…

So Trump says he did not “specifically authorize” the mission in Niger in which four U.S. soldiers were recently killed.

That’s swell.  Our dear leader will not be questioned, or blamed, for anything.  He will receive a standing ovation, and a perfect 10 out of 10.  In case something goes wrong, in case of SNAFU, the buck stops somewhere else.  Our new situation normal not normal at all.

And as a civilian U.S. citizen, I do not have a commander-in-chief.  I do not have a commanding general.  I retain the right–so far–and have the duty to question and evaluate and criticize or praise what they say and do.

Republicans’ Bad Faith Vote To Mandate Arbitration Clauses “Smothers The Ability To Challenge Inequality”

Sherrilyn Ifill nailed what Senate Republicans voted for yesterday: “blocking class actions disaggregates the demands of the marginalized & smothers the ability to challenge inequality.”  By a vote of 51-50, including yes votes from McCain, Flake, Corker, Collins, and Murkowski, they voted to overturn a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rule that would have prevented Wells Fargo and Equifax, among other corporations who are not my friends, from imposing mandatory arbitration clauses on us.  We, the actual people, have been forgotten by the parliament of whores who just made it almost impossible to get justice when we are scammed and screwed by banks, credit card issuers, credit report companies, among other evildoers.  Some companies are willing to provide good service, reliable value, and negotiate in good faith with customers who have legitimate complaints.  Others are not.  But in the real world, how many of us, acting one by one, are going to spend the time, energy, and money to go after corporate wrongdoers?  We are going to make do and try to move on.  Senator Flake and Senator Corker may have uttered noble sentiments recently, but what have they done lately to help the forgotten men and women deal with Equifax and Wells Fargo?  Worse than nothing.  As Charlie Pierce says about Flake and Corker, faith without works is dead faith.

GOP Says, “How Dare Democrats Pay Anybody To Investigate Our Stars, Putin And Trump?”

The “pee tape” is back in the news.  I’m being asked to believe that opposition research against Trump is a scandal?  Opposition research first paid for by Republicans?  Not sure why CNN and MSNBC and the NYT think it’s big news that Democrats would pay for opposition research targeting Donald Trump last year.  Trump and Breitbart and Fox are counting on their audience’s confirmation bias to gin up outrage once again.  But David Corn of Mother Jones reported the basic facts of the Steele dossier-Fusion GPS story twelve months ago, around Halloween 2016, and the FBI found Christopher Steele believable enough to follow up on his leads (if Trump has evidence that the FBI paid Steele, a) bring it forth–Trump is head of the executive branch of the U.S. government; he oversees and is responsible for the FBI, and b) so what? Steele was not acting as the agent of a foreign government, let alone a hostile or adversarial foreign government).  Fusion GPS has apparently worked for both political parties, and may have Kremlin connections too.  I wonder which wealthy GOP donor or candidate first employed Fusion to do opposition research on Trump.

If Trump really wants us to look into the “fake dossier,” I’m with him.  It’s available online.    https://themoscowproject.org/

Meanwhile, what’s this about Trump’s data people trying to collude with Julian Assange?   That’s one more piece of evidence, along with Manafort’s ties to Russian oligarchs and the eagerness of Trump Jr. to meet with Russians, that Donald Trump’s campaign was more than willing to accept any help it could get from Vladimir Putin’s Russia.  Trump himself, on live TV in the summer of 2016, begged Putin to release stolen emails.

I don’t know how much of the Steele dossier is real news, and how much is fake.  I hope Robert Mueller and the Congress are willing and able to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, because our constitutional republic seems to me to be  hanging in the balance.

 

Fake Spartacus John Kelly Ends Up In Same Empty Barrel As Trump

John Kelly called Congresswoman Frederica Wilson an “empty barrel” and I was almost willing to believe that his memory of 2015 was accurate even as I rejected much of what he said as bitter nostalgia for a golden age of “sacredness” that excluded women and black and brown people from equal opportunity in pursuit of America’s bounty.  We now have video of Congresswoman Wilson at the ribbon-cutting event in 2015.  And who is the emptiest barrel now?  The Congresswoman may wear flashy flamboyant hats, but her memory looks more truthful than Kelly’s.  I am waiting for Kelly himself to come forward, man up, and apologize for his mistaken accusation.  (I am not expecting Sarah Sanders to apologize for envisioning the United States as a banana republic in which public questioning of the generals is verboten.)  I am not saying Kelly lied intentionally, but he is a grown man, responsible for his misstatements.  This is a separate issue from whether Trump was respectful or disrespectful toward La David Johnson’s widow and family.  That I don’t know for sure one way or the other and don’t need to know.  This is about John Kelly, White House Chief of Staff, retired general, and his pseudo-Spartan attitude.  He served, his son died, and now he is a civilian and a political appointee of a civilian president.  All of us have a right and a duty to ask questions of Kelly and of Trump, and if we ask them sincerely we deserve respectful answers.  No member of the press–whose job is represent citizens by asking questions that hold government accountable–should accept Kelly’s dangerous limit on who can question him.  The press cannot control Kelly’s behavior much less Trump’s, but they might skip the “semper fi”  shout-out when Kelly refuses to take questions from anyone not personally connected with Gold Star families.  Kelly did nothing to bridge the very real gap between the military’s world and the civilian’s world.  He served, honorably so far as I know, but the last thing our country needs is any White House employee playing fake Spartacus in order to avoid answering questions.  A real Spartacus would not play such a dishonest game.

Kelly Said “I Appeal To America”; I Appeal To Chief Of Staff John Kelly

Mr. Kelly, if you want to keep the sacrifices of American soldiers “sacred,” you could reflect on who first made a public spectacle out of your own son’s death.  It wasn’t a Democratic Congresswoman listening to a speakerphone, it was our president and your boss.  He wasn’t counterpunching, he made this into a contentious issue all by himself.  Others, including media and politicians, may have all kinds of motives, and maybe some people are “empty barrels,” but if you think Trump was not gratuitously trashing President Obama to deflect blame from himself, you are deluding yourself.  If you think Trump ever allows the buck to stop with him, you are not paying close attention, and the country needs you to pay closer attention if you are going to stay in your job.  If the mother of Sgt. Johnson backed up Congresswoman Wilson’s account, which she did, what exactly stunned you?  She was traveling with the Johnson family when the call came; that’s between them, none of your concern.  If it is the violation of sacred sacrifices that stuns or offends you (and you do have a real point there, sadly) that ship sailed when Trump chose of his own free will to make an issue of Presidents Obama and Bush and how they responded to soldiers’ deaths.  Not to forget Trump’s unpardonable attack on John McCain for getting himself captured in Vietnam.

Soldiers on active duty may or may not the finest 1% of our country, but you are no longer among them.  You are a retired general, and you are now serving your country in a political role.  I cannot as a citizen let myself be swayed by deference to your past military service, because everything you do affects politics and policy.  Precisely because you are a civilian, it is vulgar and vicious of you to pull rank on the rest of us by claiming that non-military just don’t get what soldiers go through.  There are all kinds of ways to suffer, and you ought to know that at your age (which is about the same as mine).  You said today “there’s no reason to enlist.”  I’m not sure what you meant, unless it’s that there’s no draft and military service is entirely voluntary.  If you have such bitterness about the way our society is organized, and believe that there should be a military draft or some compulsory service, go on and say so.  Don’t be brittle, be constructive.  You lament the loss of sacredness: women aren’t held sacred anymore, you say, nor is religion.   Is that so?  The Constitution does not mention the word “God.”  That was not an accident or oversight by the Founders, and I do not need to hear you, a civil servant, tell me and my fellow citizens how or what or how much we should believe or practice our faith or not.  As for women, they know better than I the cost in lost opportunity of being held “sacred,” and have you watched any tapes of your boss talking about Megyn Kelly, or beauty pageants, or–really, sir, you might give the critiques of our culture’s coarseness a rest so long as you serve Trump.

I appeal to you as “Mr. Kelly” because you in 2017 are a political appointee of a (relentlessly political) president.  That president is not my commander-in-chief, not because of his own shirking of service, but because I am a civilian.  I have a president, I have representatives in Congress, I live in the midst of police officers and firefighters, but I do not live under the authority of any military commanders.  Your military identity is clearly central to you, and you showed today how grieved you are that the sacrifices of soldiers are not, in your eyes, held sacred.  You are on to something very real.  I would feel you were keeping perspective if you also acknowledged the dangerous ways that we have also become a society in which (as Rosa Brooks writes) “everything is war and the military is everything.”  You showed so much grievance and bitterness today that I wonder if you can even remember that you are serving in a political role in the White House–and it is not cool, not kosher at all for you in your current job to pull rank on and disparage civilian American life.  You are a civilian too now, and along with every other American, I have the right and in fact duty to exercise my best political judgment about you and your boss without being obstructed by the bad faith of your Spartanism.  I mean a bad faith that draws sharp lines between civilian and military when it suits one purpose but blurs the lines when that suits another purpose.   When you said today you would take questions only from those who are personally connected to a Gold Star family you lost touch with the greatness of our free press tradition.  Does your personal suffering insulate you from questioning from those you deem unworthy?  It takes all kinds to ask and to answer questions in a democratic nation, Mr. Kelly, and you head down a dangerous path when you forget that.

Finally, you chose to not answer the question, “what are doing in Niger anyway?”  You are not the only one to evade that question lately, but if our public officials can’t or won’t explain what our “warfighters” are fighting for, what kind of democratic constitutional republic do we have left?  I am sad to hear of American military deaths anywhere, but I also wonder, what the heck is going on?

Obamacare Is Not Dead–It’s Just “Resting” And “Pining For The Fjords”

Trump and the Republicans, bless their hearts, have not passed a single law repealing or replacing or even modifying Obamacare, that is the Affordable Care Act (for anyone who still has been tricked into believing there’s daylight between the two).  And yet President Trump today said: Obamacare is dead; It’s an ex-health care law;  I stomped all over it, I may have even peed on it, you’ll know the details in a very short period of time, believe me.

I am counting on the law still applying two weeks from now when the signup period starts.  It’s much shorter than last year, unless you live in one of twelve or so states that run their own state exchanges.  Even so, I do not believe the Affordable Care Act is dead.  I do not even believe I will need to go to court, even small claims court, to ensure that I get covered.

But I do not expect President Trump to tell me any of that.  I would like to respect the “office of the Presidency,” but I cannot afford to fool around with my health care insurance, so I am just going to have to reconcile myself to the huge credibility gap between what my president says and what the law says.  Hat tip to Monty Python, they could have and kinda sorta did predict it all.  Pining for the fjords, indeed.

“Memory Abusively Summoned” Once Again By President

Our president falsely claimed today that his predecessor Barack Obama “and other presidents” failed to call the families of U.S. soldiers killed in action.  Trump has apparently not yet called family members of the Green Berets killed in Niger.  Perhaps that is why he deflected and lied.  By the way, I don’t believe he has a record of military service that I could thank him for, does he?  So maybe he ought to lay low when it comes to who might or might not have shown disrespect for the military.  It takes some kind of nerve for him to claim that football players are disrespecting the flag when they protest against patterns of police violence against blacks by kneeling peacefully–and then make jokes about the flag and about prayer (according to reports about the so-called Values Voters Summit this past weekend, and a New Yorker article by Jane Mayer about Pence).  I’m not quite sure what it means when Jerry Jones takes a knee, or what NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s message is, or what exactly the motives of Colin Kaepernick or other football players really are, but I do know that Trump is up to no good and is mainly rubbing salt on wounds to get people spun up and distracted from the damage he is doing to our whole health care system, not just the folks on Obamacare (which I believe is not dead, nor is it just “resting,” nor is it “pining for the fjords,” but I digress).

Trump has an acute feel for wounds and sore points in American memory.  He says that he wants nothing so much as American unity, but the catch is that the unity must involve subservience to and glorification of Trump.  He summons Americans to remember the past in a way that he says will make America great again, but he says little about “freedom” or “liberty,” and that’s no accident.  He has a sharp feeling for what divides us, and an acute sense for when and how to stir up feelings of grievance and victimhood.  But he has little feel for how to bind up wounds, how to encourage pluralism and a healthy diversity of opinion, and how to promote real social and political and economic reconciliation.

Paul Ricoeur (1913-2005), World War II POW, philosopher in France and at the University of Chicago, wrote in Memory, History, Forgetting how memories can be manipulated, blocked, and abused, as well as how commemoration is used by political elites to impose a particular version of collective memory so as to consolidate their power.  Trump’s version of “memory abusively summoned” (p. 57 in Ricoeur, MHF) is not new (and certainly not new for him!), but it is too insidious and pernicious to let pass.  Trump has low approval ratings and very low trust ratings right now, but even so it seems to take much effort of will for many in the media to report what is right in front of them: Trump is lying about Obama when he accuses Obama of disrespectful amnesia about dead soldiers.  Trump is summoning a First Amendment-free zone of anti-consitutional patriotism when he attacks football players and others who question police shootings.  Trump is summoning a false unity based on his authoritarian claim that “I alone,” (Trump the “charismatic chief sent from above,” in Max Weber’s terms) can solve America’s problems.  We as a country have a chance to put Trump in the rear-view mirror, so long as we don’t let him suppress our memories of what really made America as good and great as it is.  Every day with Trump is a day that will live in infamy, the infamy of memory manipulated and abused in service of one man’s narrowly bounded desires, not our country’s needs.

 

From Paul Ricoeur, Memory, History, Forgetting, Chicago, 2004: “the abuses of natural memory….will be divided into three levels: on the pathological, therapeutic level, the disturbances of blocked memory will emerge; on the properly practical level, those of manipulated memory; and on the ethico-political level, those of a memory abusively summoned, where commemoration rhymes with rememoration.  These multiple forms of abuse expose the fundamental vulnerability of memory (57)….What we celebrate under the title of founding events are, essentially, acts of violence legitimated after the fact by a precarious state of right.  What was glory for some was humiliation for others….In this way, symbolic wounds calling for healing are stored in the archives of the collective memory (79)….It is…the selective function of the narrative that opens to manipulation the opportunity and the means of a clever strategy, consisting from the outset in a strategy of forgetting as much as in a strategy of remembering….where ideology operates as a discourse justifying power [and] domination…the resources of manipulation provided by narrative are mobilized….Even the tyrant needs a rhetorician, a sophist, to broadcast his enterprise of seduction and intimidation in the form of words….stories of founding events, of glory and humiliation, feed the discourse of flattery or of fear….imposed memory is armed with a history that is itself ‘authorized,’ the official history, the history publicly learned and celebrated….The circumscription of the narrative is thus placed in the service of the circumscription of the identity defining the community….To this forced memorization are added the customary commemorations.  A formidable pact is concluded in this way between remembrance, memorization, and commemoration (85)….It is useful, as it was in the time of the Greeks and the Romans, to reaffirm national unity by a liturgy of language, extended by the ceremonies of hymns and public celebrations.  But is it not a defect in this imaginary unity that it erases from the official memory the examples of crimes likely to protect the future from the errors of the past and, by depriving public opinion of the benefits of dissensus, of condemning competing memories to an unhealthy underground existence? (455).”

 

http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/M/bo3613761.html

 

Americans To Thug President Trump: Drop Dead, We Don’t Negotiate With Terrorists Like You

Even if we are in pretty good health and have some money saved up, Trump acts as if he can take our friends, cousins, and our children hostage to his whims, and then we’ll give him what he wants.  What he wants is always the same: we bow down to his royal self and praise his wisdom and benevolence.

We really can’t afford to do what he wants, or treat him as if he is a serious person, let alone an honorable and authoritative figure.  I don’t expect him to be an expert on health care policy, but is it too much to ask that a president not act first and foremost out of obvious malice?  I don’t expect him to know that there is no president of the Virgin Islands other than him, but it would be great if he didn’t treat American citizens as disposable losers less than a month after they got flattened by two hurricanes.  But it looks like anything that gets in the way of Trump indulging himself in the pleasures of the thug life is going to fall by the wayside.

I Can Handle A Moron President, It’s The Psychopathic Vengeance Part That Gets Me “Concerned”

“Moron” isn’t the first word I would use to describe Trump.  It’s the vindictive, destructive, sociopathic, me-first, divide-to-conquer, scorched-earth narcissism that gets me.  I read that Trump is capable of listening to and in fact encourages diverse viewpoints and opinions.  (In other words, maybe Trump would win an IQ face-off with Tillerson; Corker’s critique of Trump are closer to the mark.)  He has acute sensitivity to the sore spots in our culture.  It’s what he does with his acuity that really worries me.

Could We Agree That Senator Corker Is “Simul Justus Et Peccator”: Justified And Sinner At The Same Time

Senator Bob Corker spoke obvious but taboo (for most Republican politicians) truths yesterday about President Trump.  If Trump is not a clear and present danger to our country and the world, I don’t know who or what would be.  This is not the time for progressives or liberals or “leftists” to dwell on Corker’s past sins, which I believe are multiple.  But all of us are, as Martin Luther said almost five hundred years ago, simultaneously sinners and justified.  I am not a Lutheran, but I have to agree that Luther’s formula captures a reality about people, even if I don’t want to accept the Smalcald Articles, or the Synod of Dort, or other confessions and creeds.  Corker did the United States a service by saying what he did, and it is up to the Republican majority in Congress, and the Cabinet secretaries, and the rest of us, to do what we can to preserve and protect our constitutional republic and make our country as great as it can possibly be.  Corker, for the moment, has done his part.

Is Fox Sports President Eric Shanks An Ungrateful Unpatriotic Ingrate?

According to reports today, Eric Shanks says “the standard procedure is not to show [the national anthem being sung] because of the way the commercial format works and the timing of the anthem to get to the kickoff.”  Translation: who cares about the national anthem, it’s all about the football and the thrill of the bone-cracking and the brain trauma and the amazing athleticism etc.  Shanks said the Fox Sports Network planned to revert to the usual practice of selling the anthem time to advertisers, except for the Thursday night game and the Super Bowl.

So is Eric Shanks being ungrateful-while-white and unpatriotic to boot?  Maybe, but if we want to look at the real enemy, we should just look in the mirror.  We the American sports-watching public have been disrespecting the flag.  If we really respected the flag and the anthem as much as the President keeps tweeting that we should, Fox would televise the anthem all the time.  We prefer ads, or we put up with them.  Have we been protesting against Fox for depriving us of televised anthems?  I don’t think so.  So let’s ease up on blaming the colored people for being uppity and ungrateful.