Re-post from online media service “Medium”

(Why) Nobody Can Help Americans Until They Learn to Help Themselves

Why America’s in a State of Social, Political, and Moral Paralysis


umair haque  umair haque .    Aug 3 ·
9 min read

I have to warn you — you won’t like this essay. You’re going to find it harsh, mean, maybe even unfair. So if you’re not in the mood for a little reality check — go read a nice book or something for a while.

I read recently that Americans were being forced to take dog insulin — because of course insulin for humans costs an astronomical amount — that’s how badly American society has broken down. Can you imagine what would happen in any other rich country if people were forced to take dog insulin? The cities would be shut down by mass protests. Life would grind to a halt. People would refuse to work. The government would fall.

But not in America. There, no matter what indignity people suffer, no matter how people are made to suffer, no matter how absurdly dystopian society becomes — life just goes on as usual.

On the same day, I read the following thing. In Hong Kong, mass protests against authoritarianism are using lasers to foil Chinese facial recognition. Do you see the irony a little bit? Here’s my point.

Nobody can help Americans until they learn to help themselves. What do I mean by that? That they should protest? Do the stuff above? Sure — but not just that.

They need to learn to see the world and themselves through a very different, far more realistic, empathic, and humane set of eyes.

They need to climb the hierarchy of social and moral action, which goes like this:

Saying the right thing, so you can do the right thing, individually, then collectively, which makes your leaders finally say the right thing, and then do the right thing.

In America, nobody seems able to this. The result of being unable to climb the moral hierarchy is a society left in a state of social and moral paralysis.

That’s America today.

Americans seem like helpless, baffled, spoiled little children these days — or maybe especially these days. They seem unable to help themselves in the most basic ways of all — even when their society’s collapsing around them. Let me explain what I mean.

Americans are unable to use the basic language or conceptual vocabulary of reality to describe what’s happening to their country. Those aren’t “detainment facilities” — those are concentration camps. That isn’t “racism”, when a head of state calls for the opposition to be deported — it’s authoritarianism.

What’s happening in America is obvious to the rest of the world — it’s a textbook fascist-authoritarian collapse, brought on by sudden, fresh middle class poverty.

But Americans are unable to see this, so they can’t say it. They can’t say any of the following words — fascism, authoritarianism, concentration camps, gulags, stasis, secret polices, gestapos, dictators.

Sure, you and I might [say this] around the dinner table. But this vocabulary is not part of the public sphere. The public sphere, public discourse, is premised on never saying these words — never encountering reality.

(You don’t have to use my words. Just use some words. Which don’t individualize the problem. It isn’t that “Trump is a racist.” It’s that America’s got profound problems with regressive, violent, and undemocratic social and political. movements and forces. Call them whatever you like — as long as history and reality approve.)

Now, at this point, the average American objects:

“what difference does it make what I call stuff?! Get real, dude!!”

Ah, my friend. It makes all the difference in the world. Remember the hierarchy of moral action? Saying the right thing frees us to do the right thing. If we don’t say the right thing — what can we do? What reason is there to do anything at all? So we end up powerless, unless, crucially, we begin by saying the right thing, and that’s why saying the right thing is the smallest way that you can ever help yourself.

Don’t believe me? Let me prove it.

What’s the result of Americans refusing to say the right thing? A bizarre, inane discourse of rhetorical questions. I can’t count the number of times I read Senators or pundits asking rhetorical questions on a daily basis.

  • “Hey, why is the President only putting BROWN kids in detainment facilities?”
  • “Hey, why does the Pres want money for MORE CAMPS?”
  • “Wait — how come the Prez loves WHITE SUPREMACISTS?!”

…. Because Americans can’t say the word fascism, speak the vocabulary of history — they’re reduced to asking these rhetorical questions.

What’s wrong with that? Everything. In case you haven’t noticed, the good guys are on the defensive, constantly, and the bad guys are on the offensive. That’s because when all the good guys can do is ask rhetorical questions — they’re impotent. …..

But the truth is they’ve disempowered themselves. They should be saying:

“America, these are fascists and authoritarians and tyrants. The kind we fought a world war against once. Is this who we’re becoming?”

That’s a real question. It galvanizes. It inspires. It horrifies and shocks. But that is the point. Reality in America today is horrific and shocking.

Why are we all dancing around the issue?


The consequence of Americans not being able to speak the vocabulary of collapse to describe what’s happened to their country is that their leaders don’t have to do it, either.

So nobody really asks:

“What the? Why are Americans taking dog insulin? What the hell is wrong with us?”

Instead, the Dems are bogged down in the minutia of healthcare policy. But that’s totally ineffectual. Nobody cares, except pundits. America’s problems are much, much bigger than that.

But because Americans refuse to speak the language of reality, they can hardly then make their leaders do it, too. But that’s exactly what Americans should be doing.

They should be on the cases of the Nancy Pelosis and the Jake Tappers and the Chris Hayeses of the world to get this right. Just get it right. Which begins with understanding what it is. They should be furiously remonstrating Nancy every day — “this is fascism! Call it what it is!


The result of Americans’ inability to pressure their leaders in even the smallest way — to even say the right thing, let alone do the right thing — is that American has become a society rife with denial, complicity, silence and impotent, useless rage.

You see, it’s true that Americans are angry. At Trump. But that anger is impotent. Ineffectual. If anything Trumpism thrives on it. Because it isn’t focused. It isn’t guided. It isn’t like a laser. It’s more like a bomb that sputters out in your very own face.

It doesn’t add up to anything because Americans won’t pressure any of their leaders to even say the right thing — so, again…who is going to bother doing the right thing? That anger leads nowhere, except more passivity, resignation, and weariness.

America’s anger is useless for a reason, and it teaches a lesson, if we are wise enough to hear it. Americans are powerless and helpless to stop the Trumps that they scorn and loathe precisely because they won’t use reality to describe what Trumpism really is. So who is going to able to stop anything? If you can’t say “this is fascism, those are concentration camps, these are authoritarians, this is a social collapse” — then why would the opposition bother fighting any of it?

The results of Americans’ inability to help themselves in the smallest way — the smallest, tiniest way, which is simply saying the right thing — are these (again, because I want to drive the point home, are these.) The political opposition is free to appease. The media is free to be in denial. The pundits are free to be enablers. The whole public sphere is largely complicit. A silent majority has emerged — which is a classic feature of collapsed societies, too.

Yet the most pernicious effect to me is this. American has become a kind of delusional country. The world looks on and sees camps, fascists, Nazis, violent men with armies and bombs, the 1930s repeating themselves.

Americans, on the other hand appear to see…nothing much at all. You might dispute that. But to see something we have to be able to conceptually label it, correct? Yet American don’t have a word for the bad guys. So what do they really see? What can they fight? What can they make their leaders oppose?

Hence, American life just keeps getting worse and worse, in more and more shocking and surreal ways. Human beings forced to have dog insulin. But they are the lucky ones. The unlucky ones are little children in cages who will never see their parents again. Is there a word for all this? Many words? A whole vocabulary of suffering that has happened before in history? .

…. says the American. “I’m special! My country can’t collapse into fascism!”

Reality winks out. The bad guys disappear. The good guys have no reason to fight what doesn’t exist.

But all this begins with Americans’ profound, bizarre, inability to help themselves.

… Just saying the right thing.

That is the smallest moral muscle there is — our voice. It is smaller than our arms and legs, which move us to protest. It is smaller than our hands, which can lift up whole worlds, when joined together. And yet American are incapable even of exercising the smallest moral muscle they have now. They can’t even say the right thing. So how can they ever do the right thing?

Hong Kong is literally using lasers to foil Chinese facial recognition. They know there will be a heavy price to pay. The tanks will roll in. The protest leaders will be tortured and jailed. But they are doing the right thing, anyways — because first they said the right thing — “you won’t take our freedom away!”

Americans, on the other hand, have little to lose. Nobody will jail them — at least the majority of them. Nobody will torture them. The stakes are low. Maybe too low. Maybe Americans don’t have enough left to lose anymore, to care. About helping themselves.

But the truth is that nobody will care about Americans until they learn to help themselves. And that means climbing the simple moral hierarchy of saying the right to doing the right thing, first individually, then collectively so that making your leaders say the right thing and then finally do the right thing.

None of that is happening in America. It’s somewhere between surreal, hilarious, disgusting, and bizarre — American ended up being the country that couldn’t even help itself. The result was — as ever — was social, moral, and political paralysis, in the face of ruin and collapse.

July 2019

By Elizabeth Warren, as originally published by the on-line media outlet “MEDIUM”

I’m calling for something truly transformational: Universal free public college and cancellation of student loan debt

By Elizabeth Warren

Growing up, my dream was to become a teacher. And I knew that if I wanted to teach, I had to get a college degree.

I managed to get a college scholarship, but then things turned upside down. The first boy I ever dated swooped back into my life and said he wanted to marry me. So I did what any sensible, mature 19-year-old would do: I said yes and dropped out of college.

I thought my dream of teaching was over. But then a friend told me about the University of Houston, a public four-year college about 40 minutes away. We were a young couple, watching every nickel. I figured I couldn’t afford it.

But it turned out that tuition was just $50 a semester. This was a quality, public education — and I could afford it on a part-time waitressing salary. This time, I had the good sense to grab my chance at college with both hands. I got my degree and I got to live my dream: I became a teacher for students with special needs.

Higher education opened a million doors for me. It’s how the daughter of a janitor in a small town in Oklahoma got to become a teacher, a law school professor, a U.S. Senator, and eventually, a candidate for President of the United States.

Today, it’s virtually impossible for a young person to find that kind of opportunity. As states have invested less per-student at community colleges and public four-year colleges, the schools themselves have raised tuition and fees to make up the gap. And rather than stepping in to hold states accountable, or to pick up more of the tab and keep costs reasonable, the federal government went with a third option: pushing families that can’t afford to pay the outrageous costs of higher education towards taking out loans.

The result is a huge student loan debt burden that’s crushing millions of families and acting as an anchor on our economy. It’s reducing home ownership rates. It’s leading fewer people to start businesses. It’s forcing students to drop out of school before getting a degree. It’s a problem for all of us.

We got into this crisis because state governments and the federal government decided that instead of treating higher education like our public school system — free and accessible to all Americans — they’d rather cut taxes for billionaires and giant corporations and offload the cost of higher education onto students and their families. The student debt crisis is the direct result of this failed experiment.

It’s time to end that experiment, to clean up the mess it’s caused, and to do better — better for people who want to go (or go back) to college, better for current students, better for graduates, better for their families, and better for our entire economy.

The first step in addressing this crisis is to deal head-on with the outstanding debt that is weighing down millions of families and should never have been required in the first place. That’s why I’m calling for something truly transformational — the cancellation of up to $50,000 in student loan debt for 42 million Americans.

My plan for broad student debt cancellation will:

  • Cancel debt for more than 95% of the nearly 45 million Americans with student loan debt;
  • Wipe out student loan debt entirely for more than 75% of the Americans with that debt;
  • Substantially increase wealth for Black and Latinx families and reduce both the Black-White and Latinx-White wealth gaps; and
  • Provide an enormous middle-class stimulus that will boost economic growth, increase home purchases, and fuel a new wave of small business formation.

Once we’ve cleared out the debt that’s holding down an entire generation of Americans, we must ensure that we never have another student debt crisis again. We can do that by recognizing that a public college education is like a public K-12 education — a basic public good that should be available to everyone with free tuition and zero debt at graduation. My plan for universal free college will:

  • Give every American the opportunity to attend a two-year or four-year public college without paying a dime in tuition or fees;
  • Make free college truly universal — not just in theory, but in practice — by making higher education of all kinds more inclusive and available to every single American, especially lower-income, Black, and Latinx students, without the need to take on debt to cover costs.

Some people will say we can’t afford this plan. That’s nonsense. The entire cost of my broad debt cancellation plan and universal free college is more than covered by my Ultra-Millionaire Tax — a 2% annual tax on the 75,000 families with $50 million or more in wealth. For decades, we’ve allowed the wealthy to pay less while burying tens of millions of working Americans in education debt. It’s time to make different choices.

A Real Solution to the Student Debt Crisis: Broad Debt Cancellation

The enormous student debt burden weighing down our economy isn’t the result of laziness or irresponsibility. It’s the result of a government that has consistently put the interests of the wealthy and well-connected over the interests of working families.

Policymakers stood by as state after state pulled back on investments in public higher education and sent tuition soaring. They stood by as for-profit colleges exploded, luring in students with false promises and loading them up with debt as their executives and investors raked in billions in taxpayer dollars. They stood by as employers demanded higher credentials while offloading the cost of getting those credentials onto workers. And they stood by as corporations made huge profits off of the new skills graduates gained through higher education while giving workers almost nothing in the way of wage increases — increases policymakers falsely promised would make graduates’ debt worth it.

Student loan debt hits America’s teachers particularly hard. Here are just a few of their stories:

Saundra Mobley

Susan Vincent

Todd Ratica

Rebecca Davis, Serena Grigsby, Christine Baer, and Theresa Gilbert

Tatum Tirado

I’ve been sounding the alarm on this crisis for years. The very first bill I introduced as a Senator was to provide relief to student borrowers. I fought to let people refinance their loans and lower their monthly payments. I successfully pushed the Department of Education to cancel the fraudulent loans of more than 80,000 students cheated by Corinthian Colleges. And when I learned that tens of thousands of Americans who had devoted their careers to public service might be denied the student loan relief they were promised, I made sure we got a new $700 million student loan forgiveness fund.

But despite these and other efforts, the student loan debt problem has continued to get worse. It’s time for bold action to actually fix the debt crisis. Here’s what my new plan would do:

  • It cancels $50,000 in student loan debt for every person with household income under $100,000.
  • It provides substantial debt cancellation for every person with household income between $100,000 and $250,000. The $50,000 cancellation amount phases out by $1 for every $3 in income above $100,000, so, for example, a person with household income of $130,000 gets $40,000 in cancellation, while a person with household income of $160,000 gets $30,000 in cancellation.
  • It offers no debt cancellation to people with household income above $250,000 (the top 5%).
  • For most Americans, cancellation will take place automatically using data already available to the federal government about income and outstanding student loan debt.
  • Private student loan debt is also eligible for cancellation, and the federal government will work with borrowers and the holders of this debt to provide relief.
  • Canceled debt will not be taxed as income.

An economic analysis from leading experts on student loan debt finds that my plan would provide at least some debt cancellation for 95% of people with student loan debt (and complete and total student debt cancellation for more than 75%), provide targeted cancellation for the families that need it most, substantially increase Black and Latinx wealth, and help close the racial wealth gap.

Percentage of Borrowing Households Receiving Full Student Loan Cancellation

The experts also conclude that my plan will likely provide a boost to the economy through “consumer-driven economic stimulus, improved credit scores, greater home-buying rates and housing stability, higher college completion rates, and greater business formation.”

The time for half-measures is over. My broad cancellation plan is a real solution to our student debt crisis. It helps millions of families and removes a weight that’s holding back our economy.

That’s step one.

Investing in Higher Education So Americans Can Graduate Debt-Free

Step two is making sure nothing like this ever happens again. We need to fundamentally change the broken system that created the crisis in the first place.

Our public schools for K-12 students are free for everyone. That’s because we understand that a high school-level education is a basic need for our society and our economy — and it should be available to all.

But we expect everyone but the wealthy to take on mountains of debt if they want to get a post-secondary education. This is closing off opportunities for generations of Americans and widening this country’s racial wealth gap. The cost of college deters people from attending college. And it forces people to drop out before completing their degrees. Only about two-thirds of students complete a four-year public college degree in six years and only about a thirdof students complete a two-year public college degree in six years. The financial strain of attending college — the need to work many hours to cover costs — is a top reason so many people drop out.

College shouldn’t just be a privilege for those who can afford to take on the significant expenses associated with higher education. Like K-12 education, college is a basic need that should be available for free to everyone who wants to go. That’s why I’m proposing a historic new federal investment in public higher education that will eliminate the cost of tuition and fees at every public two-year and four-year college in America. The federal government will partner with states to split the costs of tuition and fees and ensure that states maintain their current levels of funding on need-based financial aid and academic instruction.

But we need to go beyond just covering the cost of tuition and fees. Non-tuition costs of college like room and board and books have been going way up too. Between 1975 and 2015, cost-of-living expenses grew by nearly 80% at public colleges even after accounting for inflation. Non-tuition costs now account for 80% of the cost of attendance at community colleges and 61% of the cost of attendance at public four-year colleges.

To allow students to graduate debt-free — especially students from lower-income families — we must expand the funding available to cover non-tuition expenses. In addition to the existing federal higher education funding that can be redirected to cover non-tuition expenses, we should invest an additional $100 billion over the next ten years in Pell Grants — and expand who is eligible for a Grant — to make sure lower-income and middle-class students have a better chance of graduating without debt. Research shows that more funding for non-tuition costs helps improve graduation rates, which must be our goal.

Addressing Inequities in Our Higher Education System

It’s not enough to make sure every American can graduate from a public college debt-free. We also need to start fixing our higher education system so it better serves lower-income families and communities of color.

For decades, Black Americans were kept out of higher education by virtue of overtly discriminatory policies. Even as the civil rights movement rolled back racially discriminatory admissions policies, the stratification of our higher education system kept students of color concentrated in under-resourced institutions and left them vulnerable to predatory actors. Black and Latinx students are underrepresented in four-year public colleges and overrepresented in community colleges and for-profit colleges.

Nearly half of for-profit college undergraduate students are students of color. 95 percent of Black students attending a for-profit college took out student loans, and a staggering 75 percent of Black students who did not complete their program at a for-profit college defaulted. Many for-profit colleges have built a business model around sucking down taxpayer dollars while delivering a poor education primarily to students of color.

Across all colleges, Black students were on average nearly 20 percentage points more likely to need federal student loans. And because of factors like the size of these loans and discrimination in employment opportunities, Black students who finished a bachelor’s degree on average owed more than their original student loan balance after 12 years.

We must do more to correct these historical injustices and to ensure that opportunities are fairly available to everyone. My plan will:

  • Create a fund for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs). The fund will have a minimum of $50 billion, but the Secretary of Education will have the authority to increase the amount of money in the fund as needed to ensure that spending per-student at those schools is comparable to colleges in the area. Private HBCUs and MSIs would also be able to opt into the federal free-tuition program available to public colleges.
  • Make additional federal funding available to states that demonstrate substantial improvement in enrollment and graduation rates for lower-income students and students of color.
  • After an appropriate transition period, ban for-profit colleges from receiving any federal dollars (including military benefits and federal student loans), so they can no longer use taxpayer dollars to enrich themselves while targeting lower-income students, servicemembers, and students of color and leaving them saddled with debt.
  • Require public colleges to complete an annual audit that identifies issues creating shortfalls in enrollment and graduation rates for lower-income students and students of color and that proposes steps to improve those rates.
  • Prohibit public colleges from considering citizenship status or criminal history in admissions decisions.

An Investment in Our Future

Experts estimate my debt cancellation plan creates a one-time cost to the government of $640 billion. The Universal Free College program brings the total cost of the program to roughly $1.25 trillion over ten years.

The actual costs of these new ideas are likely to be even less than that. Experts find that my debt cancellation plan will create an economic stimulus, and study after study shows that investments in higher education provide huge returns for every dollar. But even setting aside the eventual returns to these investments, we can fully cover the cost of these ideas with revenue from my Ultra-Millionaire Tax on the wealthiest 75,000 families in the country — those with fortunes of $50 million or more.

We can address the student loan crisis and cancel debt for families that are struggling. We can provide truly universal free college. We can fix some of the structural problems that are preventing our higher education system from fairly serving lower-income students and students of color. We can make big structural change and create new opportunities for all Americans.

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Original 4-part Post:  Bad Ideas ~ Gov. Northam and a troubling 35-year old college yearbook picture dug up right-wing anti-abortion group

Lessons from History and a first-person account of 101-year-old Maggie Nichols, whose father was born into slavery and lived to see his people emancipated and to tell the tale 

When I was 15, my parents decided to move 
from the Detroit area of Michigan to the sunny South, in an effort to get away from the brutally cold and icy winters.  My dad drove the whole family – me, my mom and my 3 younger siblings — to Orlando in early September of 1957 in an old Plymouth sedan. 

During the 5-day trip, I vividly remember driving through South Carolina late one afternoon and seeing a prison “chain gangs”. I was shock to see a string of 8 or 10 men in black and white striped prison garb was chain to together by one ankle. They were all black and being forced to cut down weeds at the side of the road while two white shariffs with guns on each hip and holding shotguns stood guard over them. That was only the first of many experiences ahead of me that revealed just how mean and cruel the human species can be to other human beings.  

While we traveling, my mother, who had been born in Texas, tried to prepare me for the poverty that was ubiquitous on the ‘wrong’ side town. She simply described this issue as “colored housing”.

But in my youthful naivety, I expected to see houses painted in pastel shades of sky blue, rose pink and daisy yellow. Imagine my surprise to instead see rows of unpainted rundown shacks owned by slum landlords and all the other indignities that abound in racially-segregated ghettos on the ‘bad part of town’

That fall I started high school in an all-white segregated public school (William Boone) and shopped in segregated stores with signs pointing to “White” and Colored” drinking fountains and bathrooms. 

After graduating from high school I enrolled in an all-white nursing school, which also was the only one in the county. It provided clinical training to its students in Orange Memorial Hospital, which at the time was also strictly segregated.

OMH is now known Orlando Regional Medical Center and is just 4 blocks from the Pulse nightclub;  ORMC’s emergency department is where all the victims of the shooting were brought. I can’t imagine what would have happened if it still was a segregated institution and some or all of the wounded had been black.   

But I was a student before desegregation, and one particular “color” related experience has stuck in my mind all these many years. I had been assigned to One South, which was the all-black ward on the hospital’s ground floor, right next to the institutional laundry, kitchen and morgue. The ward had a census of 40 patients – a mix of all ages, all genders and all ailments — men, women, infants and older children that were really sick, badly injured, recovering from surgery or in labor. 

I was working nights on a long busy shift with one charge nurse and one nurse’s aid, both of whom were also black. Sometime around five in the morning, all three of us — the RN, nurse’s aid and me  — were helping to change the gown and put dry sheets on the bed of very ill and elderly male patient. I so vividly remember the mix of all our arms as we were trying to move the man, whose own arm soon became part of the mix of limbs.

At that moment, I was startled by a kind of out-of-time experience, as I noted all those soft smooth brown arms and one pair of pasty white sickly arms in the middle of the mix and wondered what terrible thing had befallen that person to make his or her arms so pale and weird. Then I realised that the ‘weird arms’ in question were actually my own.

To say that experience was an “eye opener” is a masterful understatement, but it was only one of many.  I saw up close, and personal and on a daily basis the institutionalized and systemized cruelty that was a fact of life in the South. There was nothing I could personally do to change this system except go the extra mile when every circumstances allowed me to ‘cross’ the color line, one hopes in moments of compassions.

Racism is now and has always been immoral. The tacit  acceptance of it by our constitutional system of government resulted in terrible public policies that were and still are ultimately bad for everyone. They continue to reverberate in our country today, in small hiddens acts of discrimination and in the White Nationalist hate groups and their acts of domestic terrorism, accompanied by corruption in state and local governments. 

And yes, the now infamous photo of Gov. Northam in black face and his buddy in a KKK costume obviously stands for historic events that are particularly galling to black Americans who must live forever with the realities of slavery and racism. Virtually all their ancestors and distant relative bore the bitter yoke of being legally classified as “property”, and the indignity of being counted as only 3/5ths of a ‘person’. 

Regrettably the Civil War, which was suppose to ‘free the slaves’, merely replaced private ownership of black slaves with public policies of social enslavement enforced by brutal Jim Crow laws.  The result was a century of institutionalized bigotry, brutality, and lynchings at the hand of the KKK and other systemized atrocities! 

The Reality of Racism ~ A Personal Experience

In 1976 I became a VISTA volunteer (domestic Peace Corps program); I was assigned to community development project in a tiny town of 400 in a strictly segregated cotton and tobacco farming region of North Carolina. At one time in the distant past, the entire town had been one very large cotton plantation. 

I choose to spend my time in the segregated half, which was literally on the ‘wrong side of the tracks’. It was beyond shocking, but also a valuable learning experience. Mcommunity development efforts included starting a farmer’s market and opening the town’s first and only laundromat

Maggie Nichols ~ One Hundred years old in 1976

But one particular story changed my life and will be with me forever more. One of many families that I worked with was Maggie Nichols, a wheelchair-bound elderly black woman who was 100-yr-old in 1976.  She and her 70-year old daughter lived in what I would charitable describe as a hovel with no running water or indoor bathroom. Since there was no running water, the kitchen was a little shack separated from the house by 15 feet, a necessary precautions prevent a kitchen fire from also burning the house down, since there was no running water to douse the flames.


The living room was a dark ugly green that made it hard to see in spite of the single light bulb strung from the ceiling on long electrical wire. All the windows were covered inside with cardboard to keep out the cold. When it rained the roof leaked, which required buckets in several parts of the living room and sleeping quarters to catch the constant drips.

For reasons I can no longer remember, I visited Maggie and her elderly daugher 2 or 3 times every week. Very slowly a friendly relationship of trust developed. Soon they started talking about things that I’m sure they did usually did not say to “while ladies”.

On one my weekly sojourns, just days before my assignment ended, Maggie’s described a conversation that she had with her dad. According to her best recollection, she was about 10 years old at the time (1886-ish) and her dad was about 40. She thought her father was born in 1845 but wasn’t sure. But despite the vagaries of her memory on these minor points, she said she’d never forgot that conversation. 

As told by her, he started by saying:

“Maggie, I want to tell you something important and want you to never forget it.

When I was born, we was all slaves, but when you come along, …. we was FREE PEOPLE!

Of course, print words can never do justice to this historic conversation, as the tone, cadence and emotional energy that changed mere words into such an elegant statement: “but when you come along, we was FREE PEOPLE !”, with emphasis on the words “we was free people!” 

This gift made me into a time-traveler, one of few people living today that has had the privilege of hearing the exact words as they were spoken by Maggie’s father more than 90 years before, his inflection, his emotions as a man born into slavery in 1845, lived as a slave and eventually was emancipated in 1864.

I shall be forever grateful to Maggie for trusting me enough to tell me this story, one that I will never forget, nor never tire of telling to anyone who is the least bit interested.  



Bad Ideas: Conclusion ~ Unpacking Gov. Northam story point-by-point and putting it to bed

February 14, 2019

How to Ruin a Democracy for Fun and Profit: An Intergenerational Passion Play in Three Acts The Cast of Characters:   The GOP’s politically-based anti-abortion strategy used as a partisan wedge issue The anti-abortion, right-wing newspaper First In Freedom Daily and its official policy to solicit “hot tips” from its readers A 35-year-old yearbook photo from Eastern Virginia […]

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Bad Ideas: Part II-B ~ Topics 4 and 5 — The Ruthless Reality of Abortion, the Ultimate Nightmare & Endless Gender Wars

February 14, 2019

Easy to share shortcut ~ Topic 4. Ruthless Reality ~ Making Abortion Illegal or Unattainable as a political strategy to Win Elections: Wealthy Women Win, Poor Women (their families and all the rest of us) Lose  I cannot continue this part of the story without truthfully describing the actual reality of illegal abortions, facts that I […]

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Bad Ideas ~ Part II-A, Topics 1, 2, & 3 ~ Gov. Northam, right-wing newspaper ‘First-In-Freedom Daily’ & political strategies to make abortions illegal and unsafe

February 11, 2019

Easy-to-share shortcut → Note: I divided this material into two parts to make it more readable, so topics 4 & 5 are a seperate post. The link to it is at the bottom. Part ii-B has its own TinyURL, should you want to share the link with someone else. Topic 1. (of 5) 99 years of surprising facts […]

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