Could We Please Get Some Nonviolent Resistance to Bullshit Today? Happy Loyalty Day/May Day!

In his Loyalty Day proclamation for 2017, the president claimed that “the United States stands as the world’s leader in upholding the ideals of freedom, equality, and justice.”  In other news today, Trump suggested in a radio interview that Andrew Jackson could have cut a deal to prevent the Civil War.

Before I say anything, let me say I feel like the dumbfounded Aflac duck, or goose, or whatever.  The CEO of the Hermitage Museum suggested that he, Trump that is, might have been referring to Jackson’s “disunion is treason” remark during the nullification crisis of the 1830s.  I don’t think so–and even if so the Tenth Amendment fundamentalists must be having a conniption fit at the equation of disunion with treason.  Let me not be either too loyal or too disloyal to Trump here.  He went to Tennessee recently to relive his election victory, and he apparently thinks that he learned something worth sharing.  I can sympathize, but let’s not fall for the idea that Jackson might have been the “tough but fair” big man with big heart who could have cut a great deal almost as great as the ones Donald Trump would have cut had he been there.  To be fair to the president, he did use the locution “had he been” very beautifully and correctly in the interview, at least as it was transcribed.  Also, to be really really fair, the causes of the American Civil War are complex.  But for an American president to claim in 2017 that Andrew Jackson, slaveowner–and enthusiastic, unapologetic slaveowner–could have been an honest broker in the conflict between slave states and free states is way off-base and reflects willful ignorance.  Trump’s Loyalty Day proclamation reminds us how important freedom, justice, and equality are.  Loyalty to those values sometimes mean repudiating and rejecting, sad to say, the utter BS pouring out of the White House.

The United States Have Been… But Not Since Gettysburg

The authenticity of a statement released by Wikileaks today and attributed to Edward Snowden is in doubt, as several journalists doubted any American would use plural verbs for America. “Snowden” wrote that “for decades the United States have been one of the strongest”–and let’s stop the charade right there. No American, however disoriented in a faraway country, is likely to lose his or grip on our native speech pattern. The voice is supposedly the voice of Snowden, but the hands seem to be the hands of Assange–seeking a blessing obscure to me. But the telltale non-American grammar reminded me, on this 150-year anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg, of something I heard years ago about American usage before and after the Civil War. Before the war, Americans would say “the United States have been…” After the war, “the United States,” more and more, became singular–even as the “unfinished work… the great task remaining before us… a new birth of freedom” still stretches out ahead.