The Morning After Last Night’s Casualties

home-bar

Somewhere on the other side of 3 am, I finally decided to make last call at my home bar. There was little resistance considering I was the only one left standing. This session would yield little solace other than the civil and somewhat gracious tone of Donald Trump’s victory speech after Hillary Clinton’s telephone call acknowledging her defeat.

Unable to sleep, I would return to the television set a few short hours later to see how America was faring after the revolution. Much to my surprise, the early morning pundits had not been cancelled or beheaded. At worst, they were eating their crow with good humor as the “I told you so” side of the panel restrained their glee. And even  the stock market futures that had indicated a precipitous fall during the overnight opened on the upside. In fact, most companies trading on the Dow were enjoying healthy gains with one notable exception. Smith and Wesson had lost nearly 16% of its value.

A company that had benefited in part because of the irrational fears propagated by the NRA and right wing media may regret having a few less Democrats in power. It’s funny how sometimes you wind up losing even when you think you’ve won. Take heed Mr. Limbaugh.

As the morning progressed, leaders and politicians from both parties took to the airwaves to talk about unity, inclusion, and healing. By early afternoon, I was feeling somewhat optimistic again about our collective prospects. Our democracy had once more demonstrated its resilience and ability to peacefully pass power from one party to the other. And while I’m not a big fan of one group having all of the political marbles–recalcitrance, obstruction, and gridlock as excuses for not governing will have to be shelved until at least the 2018 midterm election.

So once again, my silver lining syndrome remains intact. And since I was born without a team gene, I’m open to the possibility of worthwhile policy being generated by either side of the political spectrum. But there remains a lingering sadness about this election, because it resembles a civil war more than a revolution. And while we didn’t sacrifice a single soul in the course of this particular domestic squabble, this nation lost some portion of its honor, dignity, and humanity along the way. And like both sides at the Battle of Gettysburg, we have to wonder if it was worth the cost?

Cannons at Gettysburg

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

 

Rigged and Ready for the Real Revolution

 

Sons of Liberty at the Green Dragon - Artist Unknown

Sons of Liberty at the Green Dragon – Artist Unknown

 

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.                                                             From Thomas Jefferson to William Smith  1787

In modern America it seems that the discontented and the demagogues have always held our third President in the highest regard. From tee shirts to bar room banter, those touting the next revolution are quick to remind us that any rotten fruit that sprouts from that sacred “Liberty Tree” should be pruned with extreme prejudice as per the periodic prescriptive measures supposedly proposed by Thomas Jefferson.

(While I remain  a staunch advocate for the cause of alliteration in literature, even I believe that some degree of poetic license may been have abused during the execution of the previous sentence)

Although Mr. Jefferson felt that a modicum of public rebellion from time to time was  a healthy way to keep an overreaching governing class in check, he much preferred the peaceful coexistence between the powers that be and the people. In what has become known as the “Tree of Liberty” letter, Jefferson expressed his concerns that the Constitution would vest too much control to a central government that was at that time already weary of further armed uprisings, similar to the tax insurrection that had occurred in Massachusetts in 1786 and 1787. Ultimately, Jefferson believed that it was a lack of knowledge that led a disgruntled public to consider taking up arms against the government. Toward the end of his letter to William Smith, he states, “The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon & pacify them.”

Whether or not it is even possible today to discover the facts about anyone or anything is a matter of debate. Political punditry and pitchfork populism are a malignancy that obscure and eventually obliterate the truth. But there is one certain truth that I believe we must make abundantly clear to a distrustful electorate. Contrary to the rants of Donald J. Trump, This election is not rigged!

As it has always been since the onset of this republic, there are those forces in the press and the media that have attempted to influence the vote by way of an institutional or personal bias. Historically, candidates for public office from both parties have had personal ties to newspapers and broadcast outlets. But in the age of the internet and social media there are more than enough sources to support and validate everyone’s version of the truth. The only thing that is truly rigged against us is that portion of the human brain that causes us to occasionally blindly follow those that affirm our own personal perceptions–even if those perceptions are totally without merit.

So before we are tempted to threaten bodily harm against any of our fellow citizens because one of our candidates for the office of President is falsely crying fire in a crowded theater, remember that Thomas Jefferson followed The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants with the words It is its natural manure. 

Hopefully Americans will reject the current line of bullshit and demagoguery in favor of that real revolution that will only come about as a result of reasonable human beings working together to address our difficulties and differences in a spirit of concern, compassion, and compromise!

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

 

 

Why…

Vigil for Pulse from Perth

As a nation, whenever we are forced to endure the painful aftermath  brought on by those who use murder as a means of expressing their extreme distaste for society, there seems to be that innate need to make some sense of the senseless– or to apply reason to the unreasonable. The irrational ruthless actions of one man sitting alone at the Pulse in Orlando, Florida, will once again stir our collective conscience to ask ourselves why. Why did this happen? Why do they hate? Why do they kill?

For much of the immediate future, there will be those countless supposed expert voices espousing answers and solutions. And unfortunately, there is nothing like a national tragedy during an election year to fuel the self-righteous indignation of that portion of the political class that tend to speak only to our fears. Those same human beings will attempt to convince us of some greater truth concerning the motivations, affiliations, and ideologies of those that engage in  violent behaviors. But in the end, there will only be a whole lot of speculation carefully woven between the sorrow and the tears.

During my own lifetime, I’ve witnessed far too many of these unconscionable  deeds, and when all was said and done, the theories and explanations always fell far short of our need to know why such reprehensible attacks occurred.

Right up until that moment when Jack Ruby fired the shot that would end the life of  John F. Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald seemed to be redefining his role and responsibility in the death of the President. And after years of inquiries and investigations, we are no closer to knowing the workings of the mind of a man whose loyalties and attachments were mercurial and contradictory to say the least. I suspect that ultimately our understanding of Omar Mateen will be no different. He will be just another name in that long litany of those that have unjustifiably bloodied our history and broken our hearts.

So we are left with only a handful of truths concerning this crime and its political ramifications:

  • Most mass killings in the United States have been carried out using legally purchased weapons. So we can probably save some lives with commonsense regulations that do not impinge upon the intent of the Second Amendment.
  • Some individuals should not have access to either airliners or assault rifles.
  • And certain politicians should definitely not have access to either Air Force One or America’s arsenal.
  • But most importantly, we need not ask why–but instead why not?

There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?     Robert Kennedy

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

 

 

 

Pay No Attention to the Curtain Behind the Man

trump_christie

“Showtime is over. We are not electing an entertainer-in-chief. Showmanship is fun, but it is not the kind of leadership that will truly change America,”  Governor Chris Christie commenting about Donald Trump at a January campaign stop in New Hampshire

Perhaps it was merely a matter of window dressing on Donald Trump’s own behalf that motivated him to include Governor Christie as part of the political backdrop at the makeshift press room at Mar-a-Lago after Tuesday night’s election returns. The Donald could tout a bit of inside the Republican establishment support while basking in the glow of those very favorable primary results courtesy of the faithful that bank on Trump’s brand of outside the Beltway salvation. But the bigger question remains–just what are Mr. Christie’s motivations for taking the stage at the potential winter White House in Palm Beach?

One might wonder could there possibly be enough room on the same playground for these two blustering, bellicose bullies. And the look in the Governor’s eyes the other night indicated either similar misgivings, or just maybe he was feeling an attack of Catholic conscience coming on. For any of us that have had a past with the Church of Rome, there is always that recollection of some priest or nun that reminded us to be weary of the sin of guilt by association.

There are those pundits and commentators that are suggesting that Governor Christie is simply continuing to set his sights on Washington. Speculation abounds about the possible appointment to attorney general under a Trump presidency. And yes, I could easily imagine Chris and Donald sipping pina coladas at the estate in Palm Beach as they review who on the president’s enemies list should be subject to federal prosecution.

As for myself, I believe Governor Christie was in Florida on the evening of Super Tuesday because he simply can’t stand the idea of having to spend any more time in the Garden State than is absolutely necessary. His travels over the past several years have made that fact abundantly clear. And for the better part of the rest of March, he will most likely not be seen anywhere near the vicinity of the New Jersey Statehouse. And I find that all to be very troubling. Because while there may be many important dates in the month of March that will require the governor to function as the commander-in-chief toady to the Trump campaign–there is no more important date than that of the 17th.

And any self-respecting, bona fide Trenton politician will be spending St. Patrick’s Day at the Tir na nog Irish Pub!  

St. Patty's Day at Tir-na-nog Irish Pub in Trenton, New Jersey

 Posted by Chris Poh for American Public House Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Birth of a Caliphate

Birth_of_a_Nation_theatrical_poster

In 1915, D. W. Griffith brought craft and controversy to the silent screen with the release of The Birth of a Nation. This cinematic adaptation of The Clansman, a novel written by Thomas Dixon, Jr., is thought to have been instrumental in bringing about the second incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan in America. The film’s glorification of those that sought to restore the political and social institutions of the antebellum South through intimidation and terror would spawn a new powerful wave of white supremacy.

The repackaged Klan would expand its ideology of intolerance to include Jews, Catholics, and non-Anglo immigrants–all the while claiming to be answering the call of some God sanctioned greater Christian ethic. By its peak in 1925, this so-called fraternal organization would boast a membership of several million Americans. The cast in celluloid semi-social medium of the early 20th century may have inadvertently become the tool to rally, recruit, and radicalize a mass audience. Fast forward 100 years, and it should be no wonder to anyone that the means of modern media can so effectively convince thousands to embrace jihad, and for some of those minions to pursue their own personal pathology in the streets of Paris, Alleppo, or San Bernardino.

Quite frankly, I suspect there is very little difference between the modern terrorist and those that in the past unleashed murder and brutality against innocent civilian populations. Our inclination to believe that the nature and behavior of some of our kind is any worse than it ever was is most likely the result of our near immediate exposure to the excessive carnage and casualties inflicted by a handful of determined individuals with access to extreme firepower.

I am only grateful that the over 700 hate groups currently estimated to be operating within the United States seem to be lacking the savvy, sophistication, and organizational skills of those like-minded factions that operate outside of our borders. Instead of needing to establish something akin to a caliphate, our own homegrown brand of end-timer religious zealots seem to be content with spewing their dissatisfaction with mankind from some backwater compound or the back corner table of some gin mill.

It is not by any means my intent to downplay the current menace that we now face as a nation, but at the same time, it would serve us well to maintain an historical perspective about the true character of our adversaries. If we fail to do this we may fall victim to an even far greater threat–that being the tendency to be taken in by those who rely solely on the art of demagoguery  to achieve power. History has always borne out that those individuals pose the greater threat to democracy and personal liberty.

Those who at present operate beneath the mantle of a distorted apocalyptic view of Islam will ultimately prove themselves to be like every other rogue enterprise that feeds on the vulnerability of those who, either imagine, or because of legitimate grievances against governments feel that they have neither a voice nor legal redress regarding their own well being. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria will eventually weaken and wither under the weight of superior military opposition from without, and by those inherent internal forces that bring about the demise of all despotic earthly jurisdictions. Even God can’t save the wolves when the sheep begin to grow a set of canines–and then develop the courage and conviction to bite back.

Hopefully, when that day is finally upon us, reason and religion will no longer be a matter of conflict–and God’s will for a few and goodwill towards all will be understood to be one and the same! 

Posted by Chris Poh for American Public House Review

       

Dealing from the Absolute Bottom of Another Trumped-up Deck

A rigged poker game. Photo by: Chris Poh

“They didn’t ask us what our immigration status was, they just said that they needed help and a lot of it…”  Mauricio Avila – a volunteer from Ecuador who assisted with rescue efforts immediately after the 9/11 attack

In the days following the attack on New York’s World Trade Center, private contractors were brought in to assist with the initial rescue and recovery, and then ultimately the cleanup of the site. This almost overwhelming task required a tremendous amount of additional manual labor. As usual, many of those who would swell those ranks were  undocumented immigrants. And as usual, a good number of those private contractors would not be inquiring as to their legal status–taking advantage once again of those who so often give more than a good day’s work for less than a good day’s wage.

Operating under the assumption that the air around “Ground Zero” was safe to breathe, as alleged by government officials, many of the illegal immigrants that worked the pile would eventually face those same life threatening health issues that were affecting their properly documented counterparts. A deadly mix of lead, cadmium, mercury, benzene, and the fine particulate from the millions of pounds of pulverized building materials would eventually hasten or cause a host of medical conditions–some of which that would prove to be fatal. But for those workers and volunteers living outside of those laws that define what constitutes an appropriate presence within our borders recompense and recognition was seldom granted.

It is ironic that most of those who carried out the attacks on September 11th had their paperwork in order, while the names of the undocumented victims of that crime will not appear on any memorial.

Fourteen years and four presidential election cycles later with virtually nothing resolved concerning comprehensive immigration reform,  a man who is still questioning the legitimate citizenship of the current President of the United States has managed to be at the forefront of the topic. While in my heart, I would like nothing more than to viciously attack and condemn Mr. Trump for his comments about Mexico and her citizens, I will refrain from doing so other than to point out that simple truth that whenever political candidates have nothing to offer–they offer up fear.

Tragically though, that particular tactic of focusing the anger and frustration of potential supporters against another group of people has in many instances led to some of mankind’s darkest days. We need not look back any further than 9/11 or the Second World War to see the results of intolerance and race-baiting. But perhaps Mr. Trump’s venomous diatribes  will serve some useful purpose. It might just cause those worthy candidates from both sides of the political spectrum to seriously address the issue of immigration.

As for my own point of view, I’ve tried to maintain a fairly welcoming disposition. But I also understand that our current immigration policies put undue burdens on the government and social services being provided by a small number of states. Overall, there seems to be some solid economic evidence that more liberal reforms would in the long run provide a substantial net economic gain for both the private and government sectors. But of course those people who favor closing our borders completely can point to their own set of statistics. As usual, any debate based solely on statistical analysis yields suspect results. There are though a few provable facts that should be clearly stated when dealing with those voices that would champion the rhetoric of Donald Trump.

  • The country of Mexico during any given business quarter ranks second or third in terms of trade with the United States. For the most part, both economies enjoy strong benefits from this relationship.
  • Many more American jobs will be lost to technology than as the result of additional immigration. There may be more to fear from Silicon Valley than from the Mexicali Valley.
  • There is no evidence to support the notion that immigrants, legal or otherwise, commit more crimes than the general U.S. population.
  • While the drug cartels have brought their own people into the United States in order to establish distribution networks, American citizens are the number 1 consumers of illegal drugs on planet earth. The solution is quite simple. If you want the bad guys to stay home or go elsewhere, stop purchasing their poison.
  • In the course of the Mexican Drug War it is estimated that as many as 100,000 people have been killed, many of them innocent civilians at the hands of  the cartel’s enforcers and foot soldiers. Those same cartels purchase a large percentage of their firearms from American gun shops.

Perhaps we should be viewing those sneaking through our southern borders more as refugees from tyranny and war and not just as criminals trying to skirt the law. Their plight in many instances is solely about safety and survival.

Then there is that Karma thing. While I do not believe that we necessarily need to apologize for the misdeeds done by those that have gone before us, we would do well to remember just how we established some of those borders that we don’t want others to cross. On more than one occasion, we violated treaties and territorial sovereignty in order to acquire land and resources. And once we had completed that sea to shining sea acquisition we had no difficulty building out that immense piece of real estate with the sweat, toil and suffering of immigrant labor.

Today, whenever I peek into the kitchen of a restaurant, walk through the corridor of a nursing home, or head down to breakfast after a comfortable night’s sleep at a hotel I see the faces of immigrants. And interestingly enough, I do not encounter anyone that looks like me on the outside of those buildings clamoring to fill those particular positions.

For the sake of all Americans and for all those who still aspire to that American dream, it is time to enact reforms that are fair, just and in keeping with our founding principles!

“The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respected Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations and Religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges…”
George Washington

“Citizenship to me is more than a piece of paper. Citizenship is also about character. I am an American. We’re just waiting for our country to recognize it.”
Jose Antonio Vargas

Posted by: Chris Poh

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