It’s un-American for the wealthy to leave fortunes to their children and grandchildren. It creates a caste system, which is what we fought a revolution to avoid. Under current tax policy anyone who dies can leave up to $5.5 million tax-free to relatives. Any excess above $5.5 million is taxed at 40%, generally speaking. It’s a bit more complicated, but taxation always is. Loopholes are important to rich people. They pay tax attorneys a lot of money to maintain their power and financial privileges.
Forty percent is not generous enough for people like our current president and his GOP associates. They want the “death tax” (as they derisively call it) eliminated. I’m arguing that the rate should be increased to 100%. Handing out hundreds of millions of dollars to spoiled brats is destroying the USA. A corrosive degeneracy is creeping into every sphere of the lives of the wealthy.
It’s not like there is no precedent. It happened in ancient Rome. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon was required reading when I was a young man in the 1960s. Modern printing companies have consolidated the history into three volumes and into an abridged version of one.
Gibbon, an English historian, published his first volume in 1776, the birth-year of the USA. His six-volume masterpiece relied exclusively on original sources and, as the remaining five volumes flowed out over the following thirteen years, heavily influenced the builders of the American republic for the next seventy years to the brink of the Civil War.
Gibbon disapproved of Catholicism and challenged its version of history and the role of martyrs. His history was controversial, which resulted in revisions that he continued to write until his death in 1794. His work remains controversial to this day for a number of reasons that aren’t going to be discussed in this essay. Gibbon understood that cruelty and insensitivity in an entitled class of rulers contributed to Rome’s decline. When the barbarians walked into Rome, they were greeted as liberators by ordinary people. Rome fell like a rotting apple. Gibbon’s History was a warning to the future.
In modern-day America creative workarounds have enabled the wealthy to hand out to crazy relatives a lot of clout they didn’t earn. Yes, it’s difficult to stand up to mob bosses, crooks, and their families. It should be obvious that it’s impossible to accumulate billions of dollars legally, but many have. Behind every fortune is a dark secret—sometimes many secrets. It’s true.
So much for freedom and equal opportunity. Freedom is easily lost to wealthy people who think that those who dare to challenge them are misguided misfits—lower and dumber than farm animals, in many cases.
Wealthy Grandpa, it turns out, had hundreds of legislators on his payroll, which bought him all the advantages of a modern-day emperor. His adult children—who haven’t done a darn thing but argue about which-of-them-should-get-what after Grandpa dies—seem to think that they deserve all the power and perks they didn’t work for and could never earn had they been born into the impoverished family whose mother got her start working in Grandpa’s sweat-shop.
I like math, so let’s do some. Divide the Gross National Product (the GNP ($17.1 trillion) by the population (309 million). Use a calculator, anyone who can’t figure it out on their fingers (just kidding!).
If incomes were equally distributed in America, a family of four would earn $221,000 per year. Yes, I agree, it’s not a lot of money—some folks would really suffer trying to raise a family on so little—but try to understand that half of black families earn less than $35,000; half of white families earn less than $70,000.
Unequal administration of legal protections and justice;
No access to health care for tens of millions (despite ObamaCare);
Discriminatory hiring, promotions, and firing based on race, political beliefs, and looks;
Defense by a mercenary military isolated from the general population—a major contributor to the collapse of the Roman Empire, according to Edward Gibbon);
Endemic corruption of politicians, church, civic, and business leaders.
Does anyone disagree with this list? Go to Florida and try to find a safe place to live. Gated communities dominate the new housing markets. The majority of Americans don’t have enough money to gain access to this private world.
As for legal protections, anyone who has suffered arrest and spent time in custody knows that indigent people rot inside our jails, because they can’t afford bail or high-priced private attorneys. It’s a no-brainer. Believe it or not, some of the incarcerated are innocent, but they are treated as guilty and forced to plea-bargain; many are unable to articulate a coherent defense. They end up with false criminal records that make staying out of future legal traps more difficult.
As for healthcare: Aided by the complicity of the Supreme Court, twenty-eight states refused to set-up health-care exchanges under ObamaCare. Twenty-one states (where five million low-income persons with no health care live) refused to expand access to the poor under Medicaid, despite it being fully funded and paid for by the federal government.
Tens of millions of poor remain outside the care of our state and national health care system of hospitals, medical specialists, and general practice doctors.Wealthy GOP donors hope to destroy health care for the poor and lower-middle class with the help of our newest president, because they don’t want to finance medical aid for indigent people—despite all the privileges and protections that they accrue by forcing a myriad of taxes on middle income folks (like social security and sales taxes), which the wealthy avoid for the most part due to their immense incomes. Also, many of the super-rich make their money in the stock market, where the capital gains tax rate places them in the lowest tier of tax-payers. It’s hard to believe, but it’s really true.
Has anyone ever wondered why so many of the racist, alt-right, neo-Nazi, white-supremacists are clean-cut, shaved, symmetrical, and well-dressed men? A visitor from the Philippines who attends a weekly Bible-study with my wife said that after watching the Charlottesville riots, clean-cut white American men now scare her.The reason these fascists look the way they do is obvious, of course. They have good jobs! Another reason is that they hide their nasty tattoos under expensive shirts, many of them.
Mega-millionaire business owners don’t hire people they feel they can’t trust. It’s that simple. Progressive, clear-headed men and women who care about fairness tend to dress and speak freely. They can be troublesome in a workplace, especially if they question unfair practices in pay, hiring, and promotions.
If you are wealthy and run a business, why would you ever hire anyone who thinks for themselves? Hire instead an ignoramus from the alt-right or the NRA. They follow their ideology like lemmings; discrimination against blacks, gays, women, and progressives doesn’t bother them.
Look at professional football, for an example. The billionaire owners of teams (many have the reputation of Neanderthals) hire players who have a PR (public relations) personality. Skill comes in second. Any high school coach in America could recruit a football team out of America’s prisons that could win a Super Bowl nine years out of ten. Yes, their players would be poor and in some cases, inarticulate.
In America, talent on the field of sport doesn’t work that way. Compliance is a player’s highest virtue, then charisma (as evaluated by billionaire owners), then talent. Hard work? Anyone can be forced to work hard, and most do who aren’t born wealthy. Any thinking fan knows it’s true.
Let’s move on. How come we don’t require people to fight for their country as a responsibility of citizenship? Everyone knows the reason. The wealthy don’t want to risk their kids in a potential combat where they might be wounded, maimed, or even killed.
And why should they? Hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged kids line up to sign-up for service “voluntarily”, because they need a job and, hopefully, an education they currently are unable to afford, even if they have a job. The military provides both, supposedly, but in recent years cut backs in benefits for non-officers have been enacted, because, once again, the wealthy don’t want to put up the money.
We hire a lot of kids from other countries to serve our military, both as “contractors” and as a “path to citizenship”. In conflict zones, like Afghanistan, the majority of soldiers on “our side” are foreign nationals. It’s the fastest route to failure according to Gibbon. Read his history, those who don’t believe it.
Many kids won’t re-enlist after their first tour. Military service, despite all the ads on TV, is a tour into hell for many of them. Living far from home and being under 24/7 control by officers who can throw anyone in the brig without trial for any reason is too much stress for most people.
The wealthy continue to degrade the benefits of service for the disadvantaged despite the fact that without a military to protect them, the wealthy could not hang onto their privileges. Common, everyday people are not as blind as the self-serving narcissists who refuse to do heavy-lifting, even as they order drones and the young alike into the killing zones of battle.
Moving to number six on the list—endemic corruption—let me ask this question. Is it honest to accept money for political favors? Just asking. Enough said. I’m not going to waste your time or mine discussing the obvious. An encyclopedia could be written about the history of corruption in the United States. At least one volume could be devoted to corruption during the twenty-first century, a short period of seventeen years.
The most honest man in the FBI, James Comey, helped the Russians wreck our last presidential election by responding to fake news reports planted by Russian agents. Comey behaved like Inspector Javert in the Victor Hugo novel, Les Miserables. He pursued the Democratic nominee relentlessly during her campaign.
He went for her jugular in the final week by reopening a closed investigation and holding a news conference to smear what little reputation and dignity she still possessed. He undercut Hillary Clinton in the final week of the 2016 presidential election. He changed the trajectory of our nation’s history in a way that won’t sit well with future generations.
Corruption disguised as virtue is vice. Any idiot can figure it out. And now our country is paying the price. We elected an unqualified buffoon to be our president. We hope against hope that someday he will change. Maybe someday he will. Who knows?
Let somebody else write about graft; about dishonesty; about slander; about lies; about corruption. I haven’t got the energy. Who wants to be killed for writing what everybody already knows is true? I don’t.
My general statement is this: the United States is hiding behind a pack of lies about its past, present, and future. It’s not so easy to tell the truth to people when large numbers of them start to read your stuff. Fortunately for me, few people see my essays. Yes, I’ve been threatened, but thus far the threats have been manageable.
I don’t know what the solution is. I do know that our current president is making a bad situation worse and less safe for average people. Character is destiny, some say, and I believe it. The president lies and slimes and slanders pretty much everyone except sycophants. He plays the bad boy on an almost daily basis. It’s not going to end well for him or us, if we refuse to do what’s right.
We are so screwed. Read my essay, RISK, those who don’t believe it.
Risk has little to do with who is president, but admittedly some presidents increase risk. The verdict is still out on our current president.
I heard Elon Musk say that our country is like an aircraft carrier with a small rudder. The president sits by the rudder—it’s about a foot wide and three feet tall—and tries to steer the carrier to the right. By the end of his term, the carrier will not have turned much. However, its forward momentum is unstoppable. Are we headed toward the correct horizon? Does anyone know for sure?
It’s not good, peeps, what’s about to come. My advice is to take things a bit more seriously and prepare as best as anyone can for whatever problems might arise from poor leadership and the neglect of minorities, the impoverished, and the disadvantaged that always seem to follow.
I lived as a teenager and young adult during the 1960s in an America where abortion was illegal in every state. Ten percent of women got abortions anyway. The technology of abortion is not complicated; many people did them for pregnant girls and women for small fees.
Birth control was something new. Many girls and young women did not yet understand how it all worked. They suffered shame and ignorance. Many got “in trouble” who never imagined it could happen to them—learning about their pregnancies, some of them, long after their boyfriends had moved on.
In junior high—it was 1961; I was thirteen—Thursday was Queers Day. Anyone who wore green was queer and could be harassed—no mercy. God help the wearer of green on QueersDay. I had no idea what being queer meant; I knew it was bad. Queer folks went to prison, some of them. They couldn’t get security clearances, not in the military, not in the Navy, dad told me.
Blacks couldn’t vote until 1964. I was sixteen. Until the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 (I was twenty), businesses like hotels, drugstores, theaters, and realtors could choose not to sell their products to anyone they hated—usually Negroes.
Yes, a few companies sold to black people, but not many. After King was murdered, 125 cities erupted into racial violence. Some say more. Congress, fearing the unraveling of America, passed the Fair Housing Act and other legislation to make racial discrimination by business owners illegal.
I never saw a black face on television until 1965. Black musicians and singers entertained on the radio and in night clubs in most large cities. On the radio it was not possible to know always if the singer was black. The link at the top of this paragraph is to an Otis Redding song released during Christmas of 1964. When Otis died in 1967, I did not know what he looked like. I’d never seen a picture of him—one of the most popular singers of all time.
By the time I graduated from college I did know what all the different brands of cigarettes looked like. TV forced me to watch thousands of cigarette commercials. Viewers back then couldn’t pause or mute programs. Remotes didn’t exist. Of course I smoked. Who can resist sophisticated advertising? I couldn’t.
On television news shows, I watched the USA fight a genocidal war in Vietnam. I signed up to serve—as an infantry officer, no less. I learned that war is bad; much worse than I imagined. I protested and the army stripped me of my pending commission. I got arrested at a demonstration and even spent a few hours in jail before some good lawyers set me free.
Some modern historians have argued that 1952 (I was four) was the year when the USA dropped anthrax munitions on Chinese troops stationed in northern Korea—an act of bio-terrorism. In 1976 (I was twenty-eight), a “rogue” CIA employee blew up a plane carrying the Cuban Olympic fencing team. The bombing was the world’s very first act of aviation terrorism—a form of terror our enemies would one day turn against us.
I lived in America under President Nixon, the closest thing to a Nazi we ever elected to the White House. I was twenty-six when Congress started the impeachment process against him and he resigned. As a high-schooler I lived in Virginia, where white people went “coon” hunting to find and execute random black people. I lived a half mile from the headquarters of the American Nazi Party, which was led by a retired Navy Commander.
Can things get worse? Of course. Government leaders lie. Many are hypocrites. It’s often not possible to know what’s true. A lot of people who wear suits and ties are haters and power-trippers. It’s true.
We are a slave state. Slavery was a hundred years old in America when our nation established itself under a constitution in 1776; it’s a hundred-and-fifty years, if indentured servants (who were white and made up two-thirds of the population) are included.
Slavery is the fertile soil out of which the thorn bush of capitalism spread its vile branches of greed and exclusion. The institution of slavery makes getting rich easy for those who own slaves.
I love the roses of capitalism. But its spines can grow long enough to wound and even kill the unwary. Unlimited incomes and estate sizes turn capitalism into a predatory exercise; without limits people get hurt; democracy is devalued; economies stall; recession and depression follow.
The disadvantaged poor are as often as not sent to war by the rich and powerful to further maximize their enormous advantages. Threatening another war to take the oil of Iraq is an example—recently advocated by our new president. Since the beginning of time, every thinking person has known that greed—unchecked and unrestrained—destroys civilizations. The Bible says that the love of money is the root of every kind of evil. It’s true.
Almost everyone in the world today lives under authoritarian governments run by men, usually, who don’t give a care about freedom. It’s always been this way. Even in America with its Statue of Liberty, its Bill of Rights, its wide open spaces and fast cars, most people find themselves trapped in jobs they hate and working for rich folks who can ruin their lives with two words: You’re fired.
To put things into perspective: unless our new president decides to arrest and execute dissenters, or drops nuclear bombs, we will get through what seems to some like a living nightmare. It is not. Not really. Not yet.
We’ve been down this nasty road before. It leads to upheaval, yes, but if my generation survived and prevailed, then our kids and grandkids—some of whom I suspect think old people are stupid—will as well.
My advice is to be smart; dignity and love demand that each person resist evil as best they can. My experience is that the brave people who resist will lose every battle. We can’t close our eyes to the reality that the USA targeted and killed resisters in both Asia and the United States during the Vietnam debacle, to use just one example out of many.
We war resisters lost every fight; every argument; every skirmish; every battle. People still ridicule the baby boomers who said no to war. I saw an ad on TV news that claimed that many boomers suffer from hepatitis C. Imagine—the generation that said no to war is the newest leper colony—according to the pharma pigs who are always pushing imaginary cures.
Like everything else billionaires tell us, it’s fantasy. I don’t know a single person from my generation who has hepatitis C. Yes, some boomers have hepatitis C; that much has to be true; it’s simple statistics; and, yes, some voters cheated during our recent presidential election. Anything is possible. Everything is possible.
Powerful people can paint the people they despise in any colors they want. Crooked Hillary. Lying Ted.
Slander is not new. The ninth of the Commandments of the Bible forbids slander. Powerful people increase their power by violating this commandment regularly. It’s the way they roll. It always will be.
It’s why Jesus said—except in the case of a miracle by Almighty God—the rich have as much chance of getting into heaven as a camel has to squeeze itself through the eye of a sewing needle.
Despite the harm that billionaires do, they can’t change the reality that Martin Luther King Jr. described eloquently and frequently during his short life of suffering for the cause of freedom and equality: The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.
Statement: The Billy Lee Pontificator Editorial Board
This essay is a collection of Facebook rants that Billy Lee wrote and later deleted, because he is a coward and feared readers might turn on him; even stone him to death. Billy Lee deleted his tantrums from Facebook, yes, but he copied and pasted them into what he thought was a secret file on his blog site.
Billy Lee has no secret files; not any he can hide from us, anyway—his EditorialBoard. Nuh uh…No way…. We got to reading his “secret” files the other day, and guess what? His Trump file was pretty good.
We decided to tell Billy Lee to stand up; to act like a lion, not the mouse he so often seems to be. Publish this stuff, we told him. Even Billy Lee Junior and Fannie Jeane agreed. They talked him into it. They really did. It was them two, not us.
So here goes: Billy Lee said we could publish his warnings about the orange-man, who he fears will destroy the country we love—if he doesn’t make some changes to his deplorable personality. Billy Lee insisted that we encrypt the name of “orange-man” to protect our site from harassment by Trump trolls and bots. No problem.
The Editorial Board
Note: On September 18, 2016 Billy Lee removed the encryption we used to hide his essay from web search-engine spiders. He told us that he wants to stand (or maybe crash and burn) on the words he wrote. NO FEAR! he choked between bouts of episodic projectile vomiting. NO FEAR!
Note: On November 9 (11-9) news outlets declared Trump the winner of the 2016 presidential election. We wish our new president our very best. We pray that he will reassure all Americans that he loves us and will serve us with the humility and respect for human rights and freedoms that his high calling demands. One way to start is to apologize to the civilians (non-politicians) he insulted and falsely accused of crimes and human failings during his campaign.The Editorial Board
Ted Cruz took many evangelicals away from Trump. For this, we must thank him for his courage. His sacrificial act at the Republican National Convention brought wrath from the Trump goons, but he was trying to save America from making the worst mistake in our history. God is good. [Editors Note:(November 19, 2016)Exit polls now show thatTrump received the largest percentage of evangelical votes, ever. 81% voted for him; Hillary Clinton received 16%.]
A top Trump super Pac leader called Senator Ted Cruz a Zika virus. The GOP doesn’t want him. Good riddance to the Zika virus. The rhetoric reminds me of Hitler; the way he painted his detractors.
Editors Note: on Friday, September 23, Cruz tweeted that he would vote for Trump to honor a promise he made before the GOP convention to support the nominee; Hillary Clinton was too liberal. His “non-endorsement” lasted two months; it ended two days before the first presidential debate.The Pontificator endorsed Hillary Clintonon February 10, 2016.
I’m feeling good vibes about America tonight. Our neighborhood sounds like the happiest war zone anyone could ever imagine. [This paragraph is from a July 4th FB entry.The Editorial Board] God is healing our country, even if we can’t see it, some of us.
All we have to do is love and forgive. The rest is easy. Be confident and do what’s right. That’s the goal for summer and fall and into the elections. All else is up to God, whose angels protect us all, twenty-four seven.
Ted Cruz, you are a beautiful man. Thank you for what you said and did at the GOP cross-burning. They called it a convention, but you knew better. 2,500 delegates showed up; 18 were black—less than one percent. Nobody in leadership attended; not the Bush family; not the McCain’s; nor the Romney’s; not anyone of integrity, good will, and national stature. It took bravery, Mr. Cruz, and you showed it. May God bless and protect you.
My take away is this: these are very sad days for Trump and his family. He loves America, he says, but he’s lived inside a bubble of privilege his entire life. He doesn’t understand which way the wind is blowing, and he seems dangerously close to having a heart attack every time he speaks. (He’s seventy years old.) Despite his words, which some take to be patriotic, he and his friends may very well wreck America (much like Bush W. almost did) by making the country a hostile, unfriendly place for people who want to use the freedom granted by our Constitution to warn us of our follies.
The people who support Trump, many of them, behave on the internet like vicious animals (apologies to my furry friends in the animal kingdom); they seem to carry a lot of race-hate in their hearts as well as hatred for my gal, Hillary, who I love. Log onto the Internet and go to their twitter feeds, anyone who doesn’t believe it. Hillary Clinton is Mother Teresa compared to many of them.
Editor’s note:on January 6, 2017, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a report (click this link), which concluded that agents of Russian intelligence created bots on social media to intimidate and suppress Hillary Clinton supporters. Billy Lee received threats on Twitter from a few of them.
Despite all this hate, many Christian pastors and opinion leaders have jumped on board the Trump train—if you ask them privately, which I have. It disturbs me to hear pastors defend Trump; who tell me that he “accepted Christ” a few months (or years) ago; that although he behaves badly, we have to give him the benefit of all doubts—he’s a “baby Christian”, after all; he needs time to grow.
It reminds me of the excuses some religious leaders gave Hitler, who not only claimed to be a Christian tasked to carry out God’s Holy Will, but encouraged his minions to stamp the words, “Gott mit uns” on their military-issued belt-buckles.
God is with us, they chanted as pastors and congregants alike took the world to war and caused the deaths of nearly a hundred million people in a futile and absurd quest to exterminate the progeny of “those people” they blamed for the Crucifixion of Christ Jesus Himself. To add context, this crucifixion was a state-execution of a rogue rabbi by the Roman Empire, which was carried out two-thousand years ago.
Today the Christ-haters are Muslims, they tell us. We are supposed to elect a candidate who says he wants to exterminate them—the really bad ones plus their families—at least for now. Later…well…we’ll see about that—after we figure out just what the hell is going on.
What is going on—what’s wrong with America—is this: our elites aren’t carrying their weight; they aren’t supporting the people in the countries that protect them. They are—many of them—decadent, immoral, insensitive, and entitled.
Trump is a billionaire. No matter how well-intentioned, he is the last person we should pick to lead our country.
On the RNC twitter feed, a trumper challenged me for posting the following: A few minutes ago on Fox News Congressman Darrell Issa said Hillary was 72 years old. She is 68; Trump is 70. Turn FOX NEWS off.
The emotions of the haters are high right now. It’s probably a good time to get off the Internet and let these lunatics implode on their own. I’m a coward, anyway. Until today, I didn’t have the guts to challenge them. I was too scared.
I must have blocked at least 100 tweeters, so I could follow the Democratic convention on Twitter without seeing grotesque images and reading threats in the feeds. [As of the day of this posting, Billy Lee has blocked over 3,000 Trump lunatics. The Editorial Board] The amazing part for me was to learn that Twitter was also blocking crazies. What I blocked were trumper-nazis who were somehow getting by the censors.
What I learned is that it doesn’t matter if Trump is good or bad. Who knows?—he might be a Christ follower—some Christian leaders say he is. What matters is that he and his movement are unleashing the dogs of war on the American people. These dogs stalk the Internet; they worship guns; some have tens-of-thousands of followers.
They say vicious things; they make veiled threats and not so veiled threats. They post disgusting images. They rally around Trump with their confederate and American flags; their guns; their hogs and choppers. They’ve got it all figured out.
The cure for what’s wrong is violence, they believe. They embrace the cure. They worship cruelty. They behave like bullies. They take no prisoners. They show no mercy. At least on Twitter.
In the real world outside Twitter, they might all be little old ladies in combat boots texting away on their iPads inside nursing homes, for all I know, but I block them anyway and pray that their hero never makes it to the White House.
After the GOP convention, I felt more confident he won’t. Lock her up! Lock her up! hisdelegates chanted. It sounded to me like, Crucify her! Crucify her!
Only haters scream words like these. Sometimes they get their way. Haters locked up Jesus and killed him. Some people said, he did nothing wrong. Some said, he loved others. He healed people. He lived a perfect life.
To paraphrase Hillary Clinton: What difference did it make? Right now, I’m not sure about the results of the approaching election. Some polls say Trump will be president.
The Russian mafia is working with the GOP to take down Hillary, some people in the intelligence community are saying. It’s a nightmare scenario.
During a debate last year, Trump explicitly said that he’d met Putin, while the two of them sat backstage waiting to appear on 60 Minutes. I got to know him very well because we were both on 60 Minutes; we were stablemates, said Trump at the time.
Trump said this summer that he doesn’t know Putin. He’s never met him.
Trump married two women from communist countries—his first wife, Ivana and his current wife, Melania. The one non-communist he married, Marla Maples, bore him a child out of wed-lock. He later married her. They divorced five years after, before a sunset-clause on his prenuptial agreement expired. Marla got nothing—a reported 2 million dollars out of the many thousands-of-millions Trump had accumulated.
Has anyone visited Trump twitter feeds to see who his acolytes are? I did. I saw thousands of bots with 5 followers and 25 tweets flooding twitter-feeds with pro-Trump anti-Hillary nonsense. It was annoying and scary. I also found Trump worshippers, sometimes with tens-of-thousands of followers. I blocked the worst of them; the ones with pornographic images of Hillary, or assault weapons, or threatening messages in their bios.
People are afraid of Trump and his cult of rabid followers; he says he will enable our police to become even more aggressive than they already are. Is it any wonder that he has zero-percent support among black citizens who must endure the militarized police state our nation has engineered to suppress and control their righteous rage?
People are afraid to speak up for what they know in their hearts is right, because GOP thugs scare them. Most white Americans who are not members of minority groups are not accustomed to being scared; to experiencing fear; they aren’t in the habit of self-censorship to protect the people they love (except at work, where political disagreements with owners can cost people their livelihoods).
We can’t let fear stop us from speaking out. We can’t let the Trump train terrorize us into silence—not while we still have a chance, no matter how slim, to derail it.
Here’ something to remember: After the Russians captured Hitler (to be historically accurate, no one has ever claimed responsibility for finding him), and the allies conquered Germany the common people said they knew nothing about the concentration camps; they were shocked when the allies forced them to walk through the many slave-labor camps where six million people toiled and died, many by poison gas and immolation.
After Trump is elected, we won’t hear about the bad things that are happening in our country. It isn’t going to be on television. People are going to disappear, and we won’t know why or how.
His people will muzzle the press (some people are saying they already have), but we won’t know. A nation that can’t figure out FOX NEWS is not going to figure out sophisticated attacks against democratic values by people who are truly evil.
That’s why we have to speak up and vote. We have a chance to stop the rise of fascism in America. We have to take the chance we still have.
Tony Schwartz wrote Trump’s Art of the Deal. He spent eighteen months at Trump’s side following him around and listening to his conversations, phone calls, and so on. He wrote the book, and Trump signed it. Trump and Schwartz split the money it made 50/50.
Like Trump, Schwartz is a “tweeter”, who I started following recently.
Schwartz now says: I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.
Schwartz says he wishes he titled his book, The Sociopath.
What bothers me is that people who have read Art of the Deal believe they know Trump. The writer says no—they read a book designed to sell a lot of copies and make money, which a ghost writer penned. (The writer was Schwartz himself.) Tony Schwartz never dreamed in a million years that Trump would run for president someday. He now regrets what he believes was the bad thing he did for money.
It’s too late. But it’s good that he is sorry.
Can I spend a few moments discussing the race riots that occurred in Milwaukee, Wisconsin this summer?It has relevance to this essay. I spent four weeks living inside the city of Milwaukee in 1974. Being a Navy kid, I’ve lived in many places, both inside the United States and outside; in Europe and the Far East. I remember thinking in 1974 that Milwaukee was the most racist place I’d ever been. I couldn’t understand why people didn’t stand up to it.
Here are some reasons: In 1974 Milwaukee was run by socialist Germans who hated minorities, period. They would have loved their fellow German, Donald Trump, if they knew him, which they probably did, since he was the son of his highly regarded father, Fred Trump, the German billionaire developer and military contractor who built 27,000 segregated rental units in Queens. His son, in his late twenties at the time, was already wealthy and making a name for himself in Manhattan.
The people I worked for in Milwaukee told me that the police were able to prevent blacks from coming into the white areas by using traffic stops. I never saw a black person while I was there. But I heard a lot of racist talk from whites. Nearly half the city was black. I heard people talk about how bad they (the blacks) were, but I never saw any in the month I lived and worked there. And remember: 1974 was six years after a white racist assassinated Martin Luther King; it was ten years after Congress passed the Civil Rights Act. Segregation was illegal.
Even today, forty-three years later, only one city in America has more poor or more homeless than Milwaukee.It doesn’t surprise me that the city experienced race-war this summer. It doesn’t surprise me that the city crushed the insurrection, and we no longer remember it, most of us.
I am afraid for the black people in Milwaukee, because as bad as they’ve been treated, the national-socialists who have historically run that town are capable of so much more. Like I said earlier, I’ve been on Twitter. I’ve read the feeds. Under the right leadership, a genocide is completely possible. Some would say we have a slow-burning genocide going on right now.
Trump is unleashing the dogs of war; the dogs who destroy civilizations. With almost three months to go, I don’t know how we patch the breaches in the dams that hold back the barbarians, who are armed to the teeth, by the way, with weapons of war.
Wake up. Everyone. Take a stand now. It will be impossible to make a difference, once we are standing behind razor wire waiting for our turn in the microwave ovens. These monsters are not going to stop with blacks. They will move on to the journalists and people they think are radicals. Eventually, they’ll burn the unfit, the retarded, the disadvantaged and of course, the Muslims. Then they’ll go after the Jews; people with birth defects; autism; bad breath; body odor; torn jeans; the list of defects that bother them will get longer, not shorter.
Somewhere along the line, the attacks on Christians will begin. Some say the attacks have already started; that the successful take-downs of Ted Cruz and John Kasich were the first of many to come; operatives will sprinkle the suppression of Christians into the mix like salt; no one will notice—not until it’s too late to do anything about it.
We’ve seen this movie before. It is the natural course of empires like Germany, Japan, Russia, ancient Egypt, Persia; and of course, ancient Rome—the list is long. We in America will be living in it, soon, if we don’t vote to stop it.
Freak candidates with paranoid billionaires on staff to advise them don’t need GOP money; they don’t need anyone’s approval; they don’t need to buy television time. They have communication networks involving AM radio, mailings, internet and e-mails to spread whatever conspiratorial excrement they choose to dispel—to discredit and defame reasonable people who might dare to defend our country and the shared values enshrined by our constitution.
Fox News, OAN, and Rush Limbaugh, among others, have driven their stupid listeners into a psychosis of evil. It’s disturbing; I would say it’s terrifying. Even our CIA worries.
Evan McMullin, the former CIA officer who is running for president, told Thomas Roberts of MSNBC that providing security briefings to Trump …is a threat to [national security], because he has been co-opted by Vladimir Putin, he is aligned with Vladimir Putin; he would not be able to secure a security clearance at even the lowest levels…he doesn’t know the first thing about fighting terrorism…
David Preiss, former longtime CIA briefer to the presidential candidates, told Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC that after the 2000 election, the CIA continued briefings to Al Gore, who they believed won, and suspended briefings to George W. Bush until a few weeks later when the Supreme Court stopped the state’s election-law mandated recount of votes in Florida and gave the presidency to Bush, who CIA analysts believed was the loser.
If the CIA was correct about the election, it must have irritated some of their directors, when Bush falsely claimed that the CIA told his staffers that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction—a lie that some believe began the unraveling of our country. The Great Recession that followed the stolen election and illegal war wiped out one-third of the accumulated wealth of our middle-class; you know, the folks like me and my life-partner and wife, Beverly Mae.
I hope our readers will have enough common sense to vote against Republicans at every level of government, so we can set things right.
This summer in Dimondale, Michigan, Trump told white confederate militias from nearby Charlotte about black people. Speaking directly to blacks, none in the audience, he said: You live in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs. What the hell do you have to lose?
The answer is: everything. The New York Times reported a few weeks later that Trump is 650 million dollars in debt. Could they be right? If true, it means that every black person in the USA has a higher net worth than the Donald.
Aren’t folks tired of predators running everything, ruining everything, wrecking everything, taking everything, and playing everyone?
The limits can be very high and do no harm. My suggestion has been to link the minimum wage to a maximum income and estate size; my recommendation is 1,000 to one for income and 20,000 to one for estate size; we’re talking about an estimated $20 million per year income limit; $400 million maximum estate sizes; inheritances might be limited to $5 million per inheritor.
Limits like these will encourage entrepreneurs, but discourage unreasonable looting, like the kind we see going on in our financial sector. During the Bush administration we had a director of one of our stock exchanges whose annual salary was $150 million. That’s crazy wicked.
Limits will prevent isolated individuals who lack supporters from unduly influencing our elections process. Wealthy men, like Trump, won’t be able to get off the ground their drive-for-ultimate-power, unless many other (hopefully reasonable) people get behind them at the start. Healthy democracies don’t need a Lone Ranger to rescue them.
The process we are witnessing now—where fawners and sycophants leap on board the choo-choo train after it has already left the station—shouldn’t happen in a democracy like ours. The stakes are too high. It demeans and insults the brave and free people of the most exciting country on Earth; the one country where ordinary people govern themselves; where the wealthy and the powerful don’t rule over us, unless they are thoroughly vetted and earn our consent. Otherwise, it’s not right. We all know it.
Possession of wealth beyond certain agreed-upon, international limits should be a felony enforced by national and international courts. People who exceed the limits could be given one (or possibly two) grace-years to turn over the excessive portion of their wealth to charities or the government to avoid a year or more in prison. No one runs for public office after a lifetime of plundering and taking, unless they divest themselves.
How can anyone trust someone to hold high office who says they have accumulated fourteen-thousand piles of a million dollars each? The person is either a liar, or they aren’t. If they are telling the truth, someone should be asking, how does a person accumulate that much money without cheating people; without hoarding; without recognizing the needs of the poor and downtrodden all around and doing something real and self-sacrificing to help them?
The truth is—for anyone who has the courage to face it—behind every great fortune is a dark secret; sometimes many dark secrets. It’s true. Folks can believe it, or not.
How can anyone who understands the difference between right and wrong even consider casting a vote for the current GOP candidate? How evil are some Americans? Very, according to some polls. Yes, more than a few people are uninformed. So what? Ignorance is not an excuse. For those who don’t have time to investigate the candidates, I do. Take my word for it.
We are on the precipice of terrible things. Unimaginable things. Men like Trump get worse after victory, not better. People are going to die. Seriously. Many of the people who support this sick man are gun nuts who are still fighting the Civil War. Consider the movement behind this candidate when making the decision to participate, to vote, and who to vote for.
This is serious business. This election is no joke. People who don’t vote will share the blame, if we get a bad result. We can’t elect men who cheat on their wives; who hate minorities; trash the environment; hunt endangered animals; lie compulsively; build casinos; fleece contractors; steal and cheat and take revenge on those who refuse to worship them and the very ground they walk on.
We can’t elect men who are unable to tell truth from fiction; who can’t apologize to people they’ve hurt; who believe preposterous conspiracy theories; who have a history of destroying people who they think are disloyal to their self-centered vision. We just can’t.
The candidate’s children stand to inherit windfalls, if they stay on message; if they hang on to their seats on his train. We are not going to hear dire warnings from them, even though they know better than anyone what a hairball he is.
Note:Those who have followed the events of the past month will be relieved to learn that Billy Lee and his illegitimate son, Billy Lee Junior, have reconciled. (Can we all just accept it and move on?)
Billy Lee encouraged Junior to write this newest essay, Segregation Tax, to reassure the little b****** of his unconditional love and trust. The matter of Junior defacing our offices and almost destroying our web-site is behind us. No hard feelings, says Billy Lee, no matter what the haters say.
The Editorial Board
We need a segregation tax.
Schools, businesses and home owners in America should be taxed every year that they continue to operate in all-white, non-black settings.
The segregation tax would double each year until these schools, universities, businesses, corporations, and neighborhoods either integrate or go into default. The revenues from the segregation tax could be ear-marked to reduce our national debt and fund programs for the poor.
The number of black people needed by businesses, schools, and neighborhoods to trigger avoidance of the segregation tax should be tied to some agreed-upon fraction of the population of black people in the states where they live.
For practical reasons related to the difficulties of implementation, my recommendation is to set the fraction to one-fourth. If blacks are 12% of the population in the particular state where they live, then at least one-fourth of 12% (that is, 3%) of our neighbors, school-mates, and co-workers must be black to permit any of us who are not African American to dodge the tax penalty.
A good example is the recent Republican National Convention. 2,500 delegates attended; 18 delegates were African American. Under the formula, the RNC would be required to pay the segregation tax, because, at minimum, 83 of the delegates should have been black. If the number of blacks had represented their full proportion of the population, 330 black delegates would have participated.
Everyone knows the GOP is racist; especially its new standard bearer. Under my proposal, the GOP could remain so, if its members insisted on staying foolish and cruel and agreed to fork over the money.
If my proposal (described in detail below) had gone into effect this year, the GOP would have paid a $50 dollar tax for its pig-headedness. But consider this: if the segregation tax had been enacted the day President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, the GOP would owe (due to the tax law’s yearly doubling feature) $22,500 TRILLION dollars. The tax penalty would pay-off our national debt one-thousand times over.
If we can get it right with the people we have abused the most, maybe other minority groups can follow, and everyone will be treated fairly, once we get used to the idea that we don’t have a choice.
We have to start with black people, because they were brought to America in chains; they’ve been abused by slavery, segregation, state-terrorism and a system of regulations both written and unwritten known collectively as systemic-racism. They are the only minority we have where the vast majority cannot hide their ethnicity by dress, hairstyle, or make-up. They can’t hide, like many members of other minorities sometimes do.
Freedom to discriminate against others based on the circumstances of their birth is not freedom; it is a vile attack on freedom, and not only freedom, but the dignity of every human being who, according to the sages of old, is created in the image of God—that cosmic force of truth and love that is alleged by some to have ignited the Big Bang.
Shunning and abusing an entire race or group of people is national suicide. No country that has practiced it has ever survived. It has to stop sometime. Why not now? Why not right now, while we still have some time left to save ourselves?
Maybe we start with a tax of $50 dollars the first year. It won’t stop discrimination, but it will get people’s attention, because everyone will be put on notice that the tax exists and is certain to double to $100 the following year; and keep doubling year after year. By year ten, the tax will rise to over $25,000 per year per household, business, and school. By year fifteen, the tax will affect even the wealthy; it will by then have risen to almost one-million dollars.
By year twenty, the tax on businesses that operate with the help of less than, say, 3% black people; or the tax on a family who chooses to live in gated-community with less than 3% black people; or the tax on private and public schools with less than 3% in their faculty and student bodies will rise to thirty-million dollars.
If America continues to remain as segregated in year twenty as it is now, our national debt can be paid-off by the collection of the segregation tax, and our government will make a substantial profit; we will have surpluses that will enable us to fund social-programs-on-steroids.
A segregation tax whose revenue is spent on reducing debt and funding programs for the poor is a win-win idea in every way I can think of. If we integrate and diversify our neighborhoods, businesses, and schools we become a more righteous nation.
The benefit of righteous living is that we avoid revolution; we avoid chaos in our streets from people we’ve humiliated, and who have nothing left to lose. Of course, some haters may choose to live with this risk. They may continue to choose segregation. They might choose to pay the segregation tax, which by year twenty-six will be 1.7 billion dollars per year per family, per school, per corporation, per business, per university, per club, per political party, per whatever institution or organization citizen-haters choose to join.
If people refuse to integrate and diversify, the segregated poor will have showered upon them all the wealth of our nation’s haters. They will no longer need them. The world will witness the biggest transfer of wealth in the history of humankind.
One more thing: a segregation tax has to benefit African Americans only; otherwise other discriminated-against minorities will muscle their way in, and blacks will find themselves standing at the end of the line one more time, as they have in so many other programs like the infamous “affirmative action” programs of old.
Some may remember how unfairly applied these ancient programs became. Everyone but blacks ended up benefitting. People substituted white foreign-nationals to get an advantage. Blacks were pushed to the side.
The process of discrimination against blacks under affirmative action became so institutionalized and ingrained that the Supreme Court of Michigan, for example, banned affirmative action programs altogether in their state colleges and universities last year. Statistics proved them right. Blacks were being admitted to colleges at the lowest rate of any minority group based on their population. (Read my daddy’s article on the Speedos page, if you don’t believe it.)
Every other so-called minority group was benefitting from affirmative action except black people, who the designers intended to be the beneficiary of the programs in the first place, when the programs were first implemented.
I can hear some readers jumping off their sofas, throwing their laptops and iPhones across the room, and wagging their fingers in what they imagine is my gutless-liberal face. Are you out of your mind? they scream; foam spewing from their mouths.Black people won’t live in our neighborhoods. They can’t afford it!
Maybe a few neighborhoods might have to chip-in to set aside a few houses where black families can live for free. They might have to pay some families to live in these homes; maybe even pay large sums, if the neighborhood is a disagreeable place with a lot of hillbillies hoisting pitchforks running around. But if people will stop and really think about it, I believe they will find that it’s going to be way cheaper to hire people to be their neighbors than to pay the segregation tax.
I think folks can see where I’m going with this. No imagined obstacle is going to be as difficult as paying the segregation tax. People who can’t or won’t pay the tax will go bankrupt; even have their houses and businesses seized.
And that is how it should be. People who malign and exclude African Americans—after all they’ve suffered—are no better than farm animals. Put racists in a pen and let them rot in their own manure. They are fit for nothing. They certainly aren’t fit to live in a modern civilized country, which the United States of America aspires to be.
Under my proposal, nice homes in integrated neighborhoods everywhere in America (not just in a few hundred or so enlightened districts) could become available to our black citizens within a few years of its passage. Good jobs and quality education might become available to a people long denied in every state, and severely denied in some places, like southern Florida.
Some people may have noticed that I haven’t said a thing about churches. Wikipedia claims that 37% of Americans attend church every week. Everyone seems to be saying that churches are the most segregated places in America.
I don’t go to church, so I wouldn’t know, but I asked my daddy, Billy Lee, about it, because he goes to church almost every week; true, it’s mostly because his wife makes him, but still…
Daddy said that my proposal won’t work with churches that ostracize minorities, because we don’t tax churches in the United States. Churches belong to God. People who persist in sin and resist God’s Will go to Hell, where they are nailed to two-by-fours and hung to bleed until the end of time.
Churches are safe places for raging sinners to hang out, until they discover how really evil they are and change voluntarily. My plan, daddy said, is coercive. It forces people to be good.
God doesn’t work that way. He gives people plenty of time to set things right—an entire lifetime for most. Eventually, either they or Jesus himself ends up paying for the bad things they’ve done. It’s a choice, and most folks get a lifetime to make it. That’s my daddy’s explanation, anyway. To me it sounds crazy.
Anyway, maybe we could write-in a clause that gives preferential treatment to black veterans and their families—you know, the people who risk their lives, so we can live like plantation owners compared to billions of impoverished people in other parts of the world, not to mention the tens-of-millions of anonymous poor who rot inside our nation’s inner cities; our ghettos.
Another good idea, which my daddy, Billy Lee, said I could not write about, at least for now: why don’t we charge police one-hundred-million dollars for each black citizen they kill? During the past few years we could have raised billions for the poor.
Another forbidden idea: any police person who kills someone, even if it’s completely justified, loses their right to carry a firearm outside their own home for five years, on and off-duty. It might cut down on unnecessary executions.
Another idea: anyone who has any contact whatsoever with a prisoner who dies while in custody, regardless of reason, loses their right to carry—on and off duty—for one year. Think about it. It might encourage law enforcement to take better care of human beings in their custody, who are presumed innocent until found guilty by a court of law.
B L Junior
P.S. Thank you, Daddy, for letting me write this essay. I’m sorry I fired your editors and messed-up your offices during your vacation. I won’t ever do it again. I promise.
It’s too bad that the “fine-looking” Christian activist, “Minty” Ross (Harriet Tubman), will not be appearing on the twenty-dollar bill until 2026 (ten years from now) at the earliest. Some say it might be as late as 2030.
It’s certain that Minty was beautiful, because “fine-looking” is how her owners described her on a Wanted Poster after she escaped at age twenty-seven.
The Mint people say it takes a long time to retool the currency. In the case of Minty Ross, it will take at least ten years; maybe fifteen. I’m not sure I believe them.
With Ms.Tubman, it seems like one injustice followed another; she suffered abuse like no other heroine I’ve read about. A slave-owner crushed her skull with a hunk of iron he threw at another slave she was trying to protect. While traveling on a train, passengers broke her arms when she refused to move to another car. All her suffering came from haters, pure and simple. She will never get the credit she deserves.
Does anyone really think the USA will be around ten or fifteen years from now? It is likely to be divided into four countries, presumably under the control of the Russians or an international coalition of foreign powers, if leaked Russian intelligence assessments can be believed.
Sorry, but that’s what seems to be coming, according to Russian analysts. The world has had its fill; the earth’s power brokers are planning to take us down; they seem to be gathering the family of nations to make a grand, international intervention on our behalf—for our own good and for the well-being of the planet and its impoverished peoples.
The Russian military is filling the oceans with drone subs armed with nuclear material; possibly missiles. Some sit in the sand at the bottom of the oceans on both coasts of the USA.
Hundreds of thousands of Russians live on the island of Cuba. They have submarine and air bases on the island.
The Chinese are building artificial islands in the Pacific and constructing military bases. During the past twenty years the Chinese have built the most modern Navy the world has ever seen.
The Koreans and several other hostile countries are building first strike nuclear capabilities. It’s not that they dislike the United States. It’s a matter of trust. They think our leaders are crazy, selfish, arrogant, and too powerful. It’s not good for other countries when one becomes disproportionately powerful.
It’s not enough for the USA to stop doing bad things. It must do good things. We don’t seem able to save ourselves, because the USA has a legacy of a country that has hated too many people; too many people have been hurt and killed.
The USA hasburned alive millions of people with diabolical weapons like napalm, Hellfire missiles, and atomic bombs. Most of the world outside the United States believes we dropped anthrax bombs on Chinese troops in North Korea in 1954.
The USA has inflicted too much injustice; ignored the cries of too many disadvantaged people; humiliated the weak and impoverished; and waged war against a quarter of all the countries on the earth.
We have crossed moral boundaries into the dark space of torture and drone-kills. A country that tortures and assassinates thousands of people by remote control is not worth defending or protecting, some say.
The billionaires are having their parties; for them the world has never been better. In fact, many Americans, rich and poor, are ingesting daily cocktails of drugs, legal and illegal, to keep going; they are oblivious, uninformed, and asleep.
In our drug-induced stupor we are about to elect a mega-billionaire and his cronies to administer what is arguably the most militarized and corrupt nation on earth. Like everything else we’ve done lately, it won’t go over well. The nations of the world are already preparing for this catastrophe; the outcome isn’t going to be good for any of us; no way.
The refusal of our military officers, our intelligence administrators, foreign service officials, and especially our elected political leaders to follow with enthusiasm the vision of our current president has not been lost on other nations.
Our president’s capitulation to the world view of our bureaucratic cartels; his inability to get the simplest things done (like closing the Guantanamo torture chambers and returning the military base in Cuba to its rightful owner); his surrender to Wall Street thugs with Ivy League educations; his quiet suffering of disrespect by media and petty demagogues has convinced the powerful people abroad who both do and don’t like us that the United States won’t change; indeed, it cannot change.
Meanwhile, our citizens are tired of war. They don’t acknowledge basic facts; the Chinese Navy is the best in the world. Russian drone technology is the world’s best in the air, beneath the seas, and on land. And so on and on.
Yes, our government is spending two trillion dollars to upgrade our nuclear first-strike capabilities. We are spending our national treasure on a doomsday matrix designed to destroy planet Earth, should we get backed into a corner and face certain defeat.
We are so blind. The irony is that we are always looking deep into the heavens searching for an advanced civilization. We believe millions of hi-tech worlds should be out there. Yet we have found not a single one. Maybe the story of civilization is familiar; maybe it plays out across the universe on every inhabited planet in the same tragic way.
In every corner of our Milky Way galaxy, and in the billions of other galaxies that populate our unimaginably huge universe, intelligent life-forms fight to survive and prevail. They unlock the secrets of nature. Somehow the technology gets control of them. The unnatural plutonium they create and store, even when it is not strewn in a fit of suicidal anger, leaches into their soils and poisons their planets, irreversibly.
A slow death by poisoning might well be the future of every planet that has buried beneath its surface tens-of-thousands of thermo-nuclear bombs as well as biological and chemical weapons in every shade of depravity that super-intelligent life-forms can dream-up and build.
These weapons cannot be maintained forever. How many thousands of years can we go on pouring our treasure into poisons, until we have no more treasure, and the bombs begin to rot; the toxins soak into soil like turpentine into a sponge; the viruses and bacteria escape to breed and blow in the wind like dust and fall to the ground like drops of rain?
Armageddon is on its way. It may come fast; it may go slow. What every informed person knows is that Harriet Tubman’s face will never grace our currency. Time is too short, and making things right is not our nation’s highest priority. Not even close.
I believe, like my dad before me, that right makes might. Civilizations who dare to reverse the order—who use might to force others to believe that their abusers are right—play a fool’s game.
One important thing we can do as a country right now is to place Harriet Tubman’s portrait (and other freedom fighters like her) on our money, sooner rather than later. The plan, incredibly, is to put a slave-owner’s picture (Andrew Jackson, of all people) on the reverse side of the twenty-dollar bill opposite Ms. Tubman—to kind of balance out the message, I suppose.
No. That’s wrong. No way. Andrew Jackson owned the Hermitage Plantation of Tennessee and another plantation in Mississippi where, during his tenure, 150 slaves produced the cotton that made him wealthy.
As a General in the US army, Jackson fought genocidal wars against the Shawnee and Creek Indians of Georgia and Alabama; he warred against the Seminole Tribes of Florida. He had a reputation for ruthlessness. Native Americans referred to him as “Sharp Knife.”
No slave holder, no human being who forced other human beings to work long hours for no pay under the threat of lash and beating; under the threat of death and loss of family should ever again have their likeness placed on any financial instrument, coin, or bill of the United States of America. What kind of people are we, anyway?
We are a people who stand for freedom and equality before the law, our schools teach us. Let’s behave like we believe it’s true. Crimes against people affect the generations of children who come after. Genocides against African slaves and native Americans can traumatize for centuries; ask any descendant of a victim of Hitler’sholocaust, if there is anyone who doesn’t believe it. The USA has not even begun to make things right, some argue.
Actions speak louder than words. The world watches, much of it in disgust and horror as we venerate the wicked and suppress our saints, like Araminta Ross Tubman. Time is running out. We have to make that change, as Michael Jackson once sung; sooner rather than later.
Loving others is a way to save our beloved America. Love will rescue us. Love is important; it’s powerful. It can sustain our civilization; it can preserve our freedoms; it can extinguish Armageddon.
In 1949, a few months after I was born, the latest edition of the 30 volume Encyclopedia Americana hit the streets of America. The collection of big books was the first multi-volume encyclopedia sold in the United States, starting way back in 1829. Each year it grew in size, sometimes adding new volumes to cover more subjects. By 1949, it was truly comprehensive.
I own a complete set of the 1949 edition, which my wife’s dad passed on to me after his death a few years ago. By all accounts, the volumes were a sensation when first published. Not only were they successfully sold door to door throughout the United States, but libraries everywhere stocked them on their shelves for scholars and the general public alike to explore and absorb.
1949 was only a few short years after the end of World War II. Colleges overflowed with legions of returning GIs who studied for free courtesy of the recently passed GI Bill. The Encyclopedia Americanabecame a beacon of knowledge and enlightenment for hundreds of thousands of optimistic Americans who were ramping up their skills to conquer the ignorance and backwardness of a world they knew all too well from their recent exposure to the wars overseas.
After perusing these volumes during the past few years, I have been struck by how much we knew in 1949, and by how much we thought we knew but really didn’t. I was dumbfounded by racist patterns of thinking, which seemed to permeate the collection. It came as a complete surprise. Modern people could be excused for thinking that Hitler himself wrote some of the articles, I have sometimes thought to myself.
People have said that racism is the original sin of America; that we have never come to terms with the bad things we did (and continue to do), because some of our European forefathers, scientists even, actually believed that Africans were medically degenerate. Our country enslaved blacks, because ostensibly responsible people told our ancestors that Negroes were animals, like lions or tigers. Of course it was OK to work them like pack-animals, some thought. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all. Besides, slavery was in the Bible.
After slavery ended, we continued to segregate the races. And we still do.
Look at Florida if you don’t believe it. In the State of Florida, segregation is a way of life. We Americans, some of us, seem to be oblivious to the evil of our actions and unaware of the demonic origin of many of our ideas about what is true and what is right.
We tend to repeat lies that hurt whole classes of people; lies that help no one, but drive to despair and even suicide folks like South American immigrants, gays and, yes, Middle Eastern refugees who struggle to get by in a society that seems to value only excellence and perfection, money and power, symmetry and form, orthodoxy and moral rectitude.
We look down on, shun, and isolate authentic human beings who typically possess attributes we don’t admire like humility, lowliness, incompetence, average intelligence, awkward manners, social inadequacy, clumsiness, unreliable physical ability, psychological disabilities, ugliness, poor hygiene, ravaged skin, lack of hair, too much hair, unpleasant smells, thinness, fatness, and on and on.
We condemn millions to long prison terms who have done nothing more than act like fools; who have made mistakes, which with a little maturity and wisdom gained in the fresh air of freedom they might not ever make again. Many readers can probably think of many undesirable attributes of human beings, which they find repulsive and would like to repress with long prison terms, if only they could. It’s a desire best left unfulfilled.
Our inability to accept and live next to people who have less money, less education, different physical traits; who may be less attractive and less polished; who may not understand the world as we do; who are different in some way we find compelling—think about it— it’s destroying our humanity and ability to love and accept others. We wreck any chance for happiness; any sense of well-being for tens of millions of ordinary people—probably hundreds of millions—who, it turns out, have very few advantages in this life of dog-eat-dog competition; it’s a fight which some lack the temperament to endure. It is demoralizing for them and, I believe, destroying our country and our world.
We seem unable to even look at people with physical disabilities and handicaps; the blind; the deaf; the burned; the paraplegic; the paralyzed, the mentally incapacitated, the depressed, the hyperactive and the socially fearful. Many Americans are hiding themselves behind gates, guard shacks and walls to avoid facing the simple truth that people are diverse; that God demands we accept and respect everyone, because each person, even ones who are unattractive and ungrateful (in our own morally-damaged sight), are made from the stuff of God Himself and are, in the reality we seem so unwilling to view, beautiful and deserving of respect and simple deference.
Jesus said that God loves even the wicked. He loves people who are weak and powerless and undesirable. How can we do less?
Anyway, I thought that these two entries from the 1949 Encyclopedia Americana, reprinted below in their brutal original version, might help open the eyes of folks who are blind to the cesspool of ideas which have corrupted our souls as a people and a country; which have driven some people to shun, ostracize, exclude, and even kill those who they think don’t deserve to enjoy the advantages and privileges they demand for themselves.
These tombs of hate from our past sat on bookshelves and in libraries where they were read for many decades after their publication. Hatred poured forth not only from encyclopedias like the Americana, but from all forms of media and public discourse, it turns out. The nasty rhetoric of race, exclusion, and the exaggerated elevation of our elites into a pantheon of god-like celebrities has poisoned our minds and our souls and continues to poison our churches and schools; the military and our public institutions. It’s all painfully evident in the rabid venom-spewing aspirants we find in our politics today, who I won’t name. Why demean a good essay?
People claim they mean well and are doing God’s will, but golly-gee, someone has to say it (it might as well be me): the movement to transfer children from public schools into homeschooling; the stampede to place civilians armed with concealed weapons into churches and schools; the attempts to scare women out of exercising their constitutionally protected freedom to make health care choices, even to the point of fire bombing healthcare clinics for the poor; the intimidation of writers like myself who publish views unpopular with morons are all symptomatic of a country which is becoming less free, more facist, and less brave—certainly less accepting, less tolerant, less nurturing, and less forgiving.
America is a mean-spirited place for many people. Even upscale people in high places are afraid to speak their minds plainly, out of fear for the faceless billionaires who pull their strings and determine their futures. Look at all the safe-talk on television. Some people call it political correctness. What does that term mean?
It means people’s careers get ruined if they speak about certain subjects in a frank and unconventional way. When was the last time you heard a celebrity advocate for something as innocuous as a progressive income tax? Shorter prison sentences? Maximum incomes? Limits on estate sizes? Limits on inherited wealth? It’s not right.
Our celebrities are held back by tight leashes. And it isn’t the public holding the leashes. To remain in the spotlight, celebrities must wear muzzles. Does anyone really think they are going complain about it? Of course not.
Try to remember the names of celebrities who said something controversial and were never heard from again. You might remember their faces, maybe even some of the shows they were on. You won’t remember their names, more likely than not. They’ve dropped off the face of the earth. They disappeared. The list is long, it really is.
I write about forbidden subjects all the time, but I’m not a celebrity. No one controls me, not since I resigned my memberships in certain organizations. But the public doesn’t read my blog, either. And, yes, some subjects are off-limits, even for writers like me.
I don’t write about Israel, or North Korea, or drug cartels; I don’t bad-mouth artists; I don’t condemn creative people, because people with unusual points of view who have talent are fragile and easily frightened into silence; money and fame don’t change that. And I don’t publish articles about my own sexuality. I tried that once; it didn’t turn out well.
But let’s get back on message.
I don’t feel like I’m overstating it. Below are two examples of a viciously evil way of thinking, which was mainstream in the decades following 1949. Today, in 2015, many folks continue to embrace this brand of crazy reasoning. We need a national exorcism of these evil winds that are freeze-drying the hearts of people, many of them, in a grip of cold vice, which, deluded, they believe to be virtue.
Tolerance is not the answer. It is too cold, too indifferent. Embracing outcasts in love is the answer.
We can’t embrace the marginalized with true love, if we segregate ourselves by income, class and race. We can’t do it, if we push aside and shun people who don’t think like us or look like us or act like us. We can’t do it, if we think diversity is a plague to be avoided.
Think about it. Seriously. We can’t save our children and grand-children, if we lack the courage to confront the billionaires who built this gilded cell-block we call America. They built this prison to protect themselves from us.
Here’s the problem. Most of us don’t know the names of the billionaires who rule us. We can’t reason with them. We can’t find them. The truth is, they find us, usually when they need someone like a soldier to fight to protect their property or a worker who will add value to their estates by performing tasks for low wages.
The problem is: they don’t love us. Otherwise they would live in the world where we live, but they don’t. Then again, they might allow us to live in their world, where the water in their pools is blue and clean and the sun is warm. But they won’t do that either.
Maybe someday. Someday, maybe, if they ever change, they will. They will unlock the gates. They will throw away the keys. They will let us in.
On that day we will become one people, one nation, indivisible, under God. While we wait, we must change ourselves.
[The following are excerpts from the 1949 edition of The Encyclopedia Americana. Billy Lee does not endorse any of it. The Editorial Board.]
DEGENERACY. Unfavorable environment is now generally recognized as the chief cause of the failure of individuals to attain the physical, mental, and moral norm of the race. In certain individuals, however, a defective constitution may predispose them toward an inadequate development of mental, and especially moral, qualities. Such individuals are known as degenerates.
In many such cases the basis of degeneracy is a lesion of the nervous system or of the sense organs. Congenital blindness and deafness can result in idiocy unless early measures are taken. However, the fundamental defects may be obscure and inaccessible to the pathological anatomist of the present day. The neuro-sensory defects are often, but not always, accompanied by malformations of a more conspicuous character, known as stigmata.
These include various distortions of the external ear, facial asymmetry, very early or very late closure of the cranial sutures, polydactylism and other digital anomalies and various signs of imperfect or abnormal development. Individual stigmata may be present in a person of normal mental and moral make-up, but the concurrence of a considerable number of stigmata is a fairly good sign of degeneracy.
The forms assumed by degeneracy are very various. The mental defect varies from utter idiocy, where the patient is unable to protect himself from immediate physical danger, through imbecility, where he is still incapable of carrying out the daily processes of dressing and undressing, washing, etc., to the various grades of feeble-mindedness, in which he is able to satisfy all his immediate personal needs, but cannot earn an independent livelihood nor associate with his fellows on equal terms.
The causes of degeneracy are manifold. The racial poisons of alcohol, drugs and venereal diseases are responsible for a large proportion of the cases, though in many cases alcoholism and drug habits may be symptoms rather than causes of degeneracy. Any factor which enfeebles the mother—poverty, illness or the like—may injure the mental and moral constitution of the child as well as its physical constitution. However, the most important cause of degeneracy is in all probability the inherent inferiority of the stock.
That certain forms of degeneracy exhibit a pedigree conforming to the Mendelian law is now an established fact. This hereditary quality of degeneracy, together with the fact that degenerates are often likely to have many children, owing to their immorality, makes the problem of degeneracy a most serious one.
The so-called Jukes family cost the taxpayers of New York State millions of dollars in the course of the 19th century. For this reason many States have enacted laws making it legal in certain cases to perform on degenerates operations designed to prevent their propagating their kind.
See ALCOHOLISM; CRIMINOLOGY; DEGENERATION; EUGENICS; FEEBLE-MINDEDNESS; IDIOCY; INSANITY; PAUPERISM. Bibliography. —Gillin, J.L., Poverty and Delinquency (New York 1926) ; Slawson, J., Delinquent Boy (Boston 1926) ; Glueck, S. S. and E., Five Hundred Delinquent Women (New York 1934) ; Chassell, C. R., Relation Between Morality and Intellect (New York 1935) ; Lunden, W. A., Juvenile Delinquency (Pittsburg 1936) ; Burt, C. L., Subnormal Mind (New York 1937) ; Karpman, B., Case Studies in the Psychopathology of Crime (Washington 1944).
DEGENERATION, a work of Max Nordau (1895), which aimed at a scientific criticism of those degenerates not upon the acknowledged lists of the criminal classes. Degenerates, asserted Nordau, are not always criminals, prostitutes, anarchists, and pronounced lunatics; they are often authors and artists.
These, however, manifest the same mental characteristics, and for the most part the same somatic features, as the members of the above-mentioned anthropological family, who satisfy their unhealthy impulses with the knife of the assassin or the bomb of the dynamiter, instead of with pen and pencil….
Now I have undertaken the work of investigating the tendencies of the fashions in art and literature; of proving that they have their source in the degeneracy of their authors, and that the enthusiasm of their admirers is for manifestations of more or less pronounced moral insanity and dementia.
One word best describes my reaction to the above entries from the 1949 Encyclopedia Americana: Yikes!
Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, more than any other two people, were responsible for throwing the Mafia out of Cuba in 1959. White (i.e.non-black) gangsters ran Cuba, you may recall. Watch the second Godfather movie, if you don’t believe it.
Race relations were terrible. One-third of Cuba’s six-million people were non-white, poor, and disenfranchised. Beaches were whites-only. Restaurants, clubs, casinos, hotels, and other businesses were off-limits to black families.
Castro racially integrated the Revolution by asking blacks to play prominent roles, which some did, like the military commanders Juan Almeida Bosque and Calixto Garcia. Non-whites made up one-half of the volunteer-soldiers in the Revolutionary Army. Cuba became the first predominately non-black country in the Western Hemisphere to include black people in leadership.
In the United States, the civil-rights movement lagged Cuba’s by many years. It was five years after the Cuban Revolution before black Americans got legislation to guarantee their right to move freely in public spaces and to vote. Some think our elites pushed the USA toward racial-integration to undercut propaganda advantages the issue provided the new Cuban government within the international community.
The move toward integration in the USA stalled after James Earl Ray assassinated Martin Luther King on April 4, 1968. One hundred and twenty-five cities erupted into racial violence during that summer. Today, forty-seven years later, large swaths of the United States of America remain largely segregated—Florida being the most egregious example. Florida owns the distinction for being home to the largest number of white Cuban refugees. It also protects the largest number of racially gated communities in the USA.
But Che had a different attitude than the present-day leaders of the state of Florida. According to historian Jon Lee Anderson, Che Guevara surrounded himself with uneducated peasants and black people. He embraced racial, social and intellectual diversity and never let go of this fundamental principle of equality, which undergirded the Cuban Revolution.
Che Guevara, the Cuban doctor-poet, is the one person besides Fidel Castro himself whose leadership made the Cuban victory possible. An argument can be made that, were it not for Che, the Mafia would still run things in Cuba and be stronger internationally than it is now. It’s possible that without Che and the Cuban Revolution, our elites would not have felt the same urgency to address the problem of racial segregation in the USA, and we would be even more divided today than we still are. And it’s possible that the feudal-system in the Americas during the past century would still be in place.
Anyway, the Cuban Revolution succeeded and the rest, as they say, is history.
Who was Che Guevara? Most Americans have no clue, because they don’t read about Che, and television doesn’t do shows on him.
People point out that Che is better known and understood outside the United States. The reason is this: Che thought that the answer to why the people of Cuba, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America were destitute was because powerful people (many of them, citizens of the USA) impoverished poor people on purpose to enrich themselves. It was a simple idea, unacceptable to our elites.
Greed is an easy concept to understand and compelling to anyone who thinks about it for very long. It’s an idea our leaders don’t want ordinary people in the USA to think about too much. The memory of Che Guevara will never be celebrated inside the United States, as it is in some other places in the world. In fact, our media has successfully trained most people to forget all about him.
Billionaires, like some members of the Kennedy family, sensed that Che was right (and said so), but they also knew from the inside what it took to create wealth. They understood both the technical-side and the political-side of wealth-creation. Generating and accumulating vast wealth is a complicated, fragile, and sacred process. Revolution, they were sure, would screw things up big time.
It took energy, planning and cunning to protect fortunes from governments, but it could be done, because governments can be bought for a price. On the other hand, it seemed to the wealthy that protecting their empires from communists, if they ever took over, might be impossible.
Communists believed wealth should be created cooperatively and then shared. It was a point of view opposite that of our elites, who believed wealth was best created by individuals motivated by profit. Riches were to be accumulated to purchase privileges, advantages, and the material pleasures of life for individuals, not society as a whole.
The hatred some rich-folks felt for men and women who thought like Che Guevara was visceral. Ted Kennedy described in his book, True Compass, how his dad, Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. —who made his fortune in movies, then liquor imports—hated communists with a passion that seemed, at times, unreasonable bordering on insane.
Many wealthy individuals feared that someone who possessed the trustworthiness of a doctor—a physician, for example, who had healthy hair, white teeth and the sparkle of truth in his eyes—might persuade ignorant people to believe pretty much anything.
Che Guevara was that kind of person—a gorgeous communist who believed that any economic system that prevailed because rich people dominated and hurt poor people was an abomination;an evil, which led to a kind of hell-on-earth for just-plain-folks.
Che was dangerous, they decided; truly dangerous.
It’s probably correct to suggest that folks in the USA know very little about Ernesto Guevara Lynch de la Serna, because no one in leadership wants to feed Americans information about Che that can be easily understood and digested. Our billionaires would rather we forget all about Ernesto Guevara. I get that.
But a lot of time has passed. Yes, some old people are still left who knew Che. But most who knew him are now dead. Che has passed into the lore of ancient history, he really has.
The United States and Cuba established full diplomatic relations on July 1, 2015. The war between them and us is over. Yes, there are the details of making peace, like the embargo, yet to be unwound. But the war is over, it really is.
Are there hard feelings about how things turned out? Yes, of course there are; on both sides. Some wounds may never heal. War is like that. It’s cruel. It’s sad that so many got hurt on both sides. But it’s time, we all know it, to allow ourselves to understand better this historical figure, this man, Che Guevara; who he was, what he did, what he stood for, and what he believed.
What follows is a bullet-list of facts we collected about “Che.” Some facts, encountered for the first time, might surprise some people. Let’s hang onto our hats and keep an open mind. We are all adults here. We can handle the truth, if we just take the time to breathe deeply and not give in to fear or hate.
[For readers who may want to learn more about modern day Cuba from someone who travels there, click on this link. The Editorial Board]
Che was a human being, like everyone else. The difference is, he was a rare version of a human being; unusual and unique. His mother and his father, his wives and his children, have all insisted, Che was special. Aleida, his widow, said he was a perfect man. The people who eventually murdered him hoped to make sure the world would never see another like him, perhaps to the end of time.
So let’s get started. These glimpses into the personality and skill-set that was “Che” Ernesto Guevara Lynch de la Serna are in no particular order.
— Ernesto Guevara’s close friend—known to many as the happy Cuban, “Nico” Antonio Lopez—gave Ernesto his nickname, because he thought it was funny that Ernesto always asked for people’s attention by calling out, che!—a Paraquayan Guarani word—which means something like hey you! or, better translated perhaps, hey, bro!
It should be mentioned that Nico—ebullient and larger than life—made the initial landing with Che and eighty other fighters near Cabo Cruz lighthouse, which marked the beginning of the military phase of the Cuban Revolution. During the following week, Batista’s army hunted down and killed sixty members of the landing party. Che, who was shot in the neck, found refuge in a cave. Nico did not survive. Two years later, Che led the survivors and the peasant army he helped build into Havana. The revolution was won.
— Che once worked as a professional photographer. He covered the Second Pan American games in Mexico City, 1955, for Agencia Latina, the Argentine international news agency (now defunct).
— Che, during his med-school years, flew glider-planes to relax with his uncle, Jorge de la Serna.
— Che was an accomplished mountain climber. He climbed Mexico’s mountain, Popocatepetl (17,900 feet), three times. He planted the Argentinian national flag at its summit in 1956. He was twenty-eight years old.
— Che, it seems, could walk a tight-rope. He wasn’t afraid of heights, anyway, or of taking risks. A photo exists of him crossing high above a river-chasm spanned only by a connected series of drainage-pipes.
— Che traveled extensively. He took three trips on different routes from south to north through the Americas by horse, motorized-bicycle, motorcycle, truck, bus, train, boat, raft, commercial tanker, cargo-ship, and airplane before his twenty-fifth birthday. He even hitch-hiked when necessary. The hopeless poverty of the common people he met shocked him. Eventually, he would vow to do something to try to change the unfair way things were administered by the wealthy people of South America, who he also met and spent time with during his journeys.
— Che’s first traveling adventure was during the winter of 1951 at age 22, when he took a job as ship’s nurse and traveled 5,000 miles by tanker along the east-coast (the Atlantic side) of South America, making stops along the way, from a port in Patagonia in the south to the tiny island nation of Curacao in the north, off the coast of Venezuela.
— Che, during extended trips in 1952 and again in 1953, explored the Amazon, Inca and Mayan ruins, and Machu Picchu. He toured copper and titanium mines, and visited remote and hard to find leper-colonies, where he sometimes stayed for weeks to provide sufferers with needed medical attention.
— Che wrote daily in his diaries and journals for many years. He left behind an extensive and introspective record of his internal world as he developed his point of view and his place in history.
— Che published his first magazine article before age 23. Later, he published research in medical journals.
—Che, after graduating from medical school at the University of Buenos-Aires in Argentina, did his internship in Mexico at the Mexico City General Hospital, where he worked in the Department of Immunology. He also worked as a researcher at the nearby Pediatric Hospital.
— Che’s second love after medicine was archaeology; he was an expert in the Mayan and Incan civilizations. He visited Palenque and scoured sites at Chichen Itza and Uxmal, about which he wrote extensively. He published articles about what he learned at the many dig-sites he visited.
— Che vacationed in Miami for three weeks during his twenties.
— Che was a talented writer and poet. He published several best-selling books during his lifetime. He also authored several unpublished works, which some think might be published after Fidel Castro and his brother Raul retire from politics.
— Che visited Guatemala in 1954 and witnessed first-hand the CIA overthrow of its popularly-elected government. CIA seizure of media enabled it to create an Orwellian aura of inevitability in Guatemala, which disturbed Che and depressed him. CIA contractors, in a final humiliation, forced the popular President, Jacob Arbenz, to strip naked in front of reporters before they expelled him from the country. Sickened by this incident, Che wrote: The United States is the enemy of humanity.
— Che’s mom and dad were both members of Argentinian “royal” families.
— According to released CIA documents, Che was unusually well-read, especially in politics, history, philosophy, geography, medicine and psychology. A favorite book was the epic Argentine masterpiece “El Gaucho Martin Fierro” by Jose Hernandez, published in 1872.
— After high school, Che read the entire 25 volume Contemporary History of the Modern World.
— Che spoke French and Spanish. He had an easy familiarity with English, though he refused to be interviewed using it. He also picked up a limited ability in Swahili, the lingua franca of Africa’s Great Lakes region, when he spent time there on assignment for Cuba. And the Soviet Union provided Che with his own personal tutor, who helped him become proficient in the Russian language.
— Che was a skilled rugby player and coach. He was founder and editor of the short-lived (eleven issues) rugby magazine, Tackle.
— Che was a tournament-playing chess enthusiast.
— Che spent his high school years in Cordoba, Argentina, where his family belonged to the exclusive Lawn Tennis Club, where Che learned to swim and play tennis.
— Che was a good golfer.
— Che passed a certification exam in civil engineering during high school. His first job after graduating was as a “soils specialist.” He analyzed soils for road building companies.
— Che’s asthma enabled him to avoid Argentina’s military draft.
— In 1956, Fidel Castro—the well-connected Cuban attorney who belonged to a wealthy land-owning family—and Che Guevara shared a month in the cell of a Mexican prison. Fidel and Che—close acquaintances before—now bonded; they suffered together as political prisoners.
— After Castro’s release, Che and Calixto Garcia (a black freedom-fighter who would rise to the rank of Brigadier General in the Cuban defense forces) remained in prison for another month. Che’s uncle, the Argentine ambassador to Cuba, would have used his influence to free his nephew, but Che refused his uncle’s help until Mexico agreed to release his friend. In a case of truth-is-stranger-than-fiction, FidelCastro ended up paying for the two men’s release with funds he unwittingly received from the CIA.
— Fidel soon realized that Guevara could be far more than the physician-poet he had hired to care for his men. On July 12, 1957, Fidel asked Ernesto to command the army he was building. His decision to promote Che created the momentum necessary to secure victory for the Cuban Revolution.
— Che was directly responsible for the success of the Cuban Revolution in this way: on December 29, 1958, his battle-group (the Eighth Column) ambushed and de-railed a key armored supply train loaded with weapons, munitions and troop reinforcements belonging to General Fulgencio Batista’s national army. Che and his guerilla fighters then took the city of Santa Clara, which was defended by a force more than ten times the size of their own.
This unexpected loss scared the Cuban dictator who fled the country two days later on New Years Eve (taking an entourage of over two-hundred people and the entire Cuban treasury with him). On January 2, 1959, Che and his soldiers walked into Havana with their captured weapons and took control of government buildings and military bases without firing a shot. They took charge of a government that was 1.2 billion dollars in debt and running a huge yearly deficit due, in large part, to looting by Batista’s cartel.
— Che published a classic best-selling book, Guerrilla Warfare, in 1961. John Kennedy immediately read it and created the Green Berets a few weeks later, which he formed from units of the 77th Special Forces Group and renamed the 7th Special Forces Group.
— Che married twice. He fathered one child by his first wife, four by his second.
— After the revolution, Che became the object of a CIA manhunt. Che continued to travel freely, because he designed a disguise which fooled even Fidel Castro and his closest advisors.
— Che felt that Cuba’s relationship with the Soviet Union was one-sided. The Soviets didn’t provide the support in personnel and financial aid needed to off-set the international embargo coordinated against Cuba by the United States. Che said so, and it created a flap between the two governments.
— After the Revolution, the new government lowered the age requirement for ministerial service from thirty-five to thirty and granted Cuban citizenship to Che (who was thirty and Argentinian), so he could legally hold a number of administrative posts. One of the most important was Minister of the Cuban banking system—a position he earned by his reputation for integrity and complete honesty. Fidel once said that Che Guevara was honest to a fault. True to his reputation, the first thing Mr.Guevara did as Central Bank Administrator was halt the scheduled construction of a new Central Bank complex and use the money saved to build a badly-needed hospital.
— Che, after visiting the Soviet Union, expressed outrage to confidants about the lavish lifestyles of the Russian leaders. When Cuba went to rationing after the United States impeded its right to buy food, Che made sure his family received the same food-coupons as every other family in Cuba. Despite his best efforts, Russian officials later admitted that they sometimes smuggled food to his wife, Aleida, behind his back, when he was traveling or out of country.
—Che wrote privately to the Cuban minister of sugar, Orlando Borrego, that he believed—based on his observations of Russian society while visiting there—that the Soviet Union would fall back into Capitalism one day.
— Che returned all gifts showered on him and his family by foreign leaders while serving in Cuba’s ministries. Although the Cuban government provided him with a car, he used it for official duties only. He insisted his family use public transportation.
— When Che entered Havana for the first time, he wore a cast on one of his elbows; he broke it ten days earlier after falling off a wall in the city of Cabaiguan, one of the many towns that fell to his forces before the decisive battle of Santa Clara, which ended the military phase of the revolution.
—Although Che is often portrayed as a cigar-smoker, and sometimes posed with cigars, he suffered from chronic and severe asthma. He rarely smoked, or drank alcohol, because his health would not permit it. During the most dangerous phase of the fighting, when Che wasn’t sure each day whether he would live or die, he did smoke, according to at least one credible historian. When victory came, he had to be hospitalized for pulmonary distress and spent several months recuperating.
— Che was allergic to seafood.
— Che’s favorite beverage was yerba mate, a caffeinated drink brewed from the leaves and twigs of a rainforest tree in the holly family. Popular in Argentina, it was thought to have medicinal properties at the time. Che may have used it to treat his asthma.
— Che was a good swimmer. He used vigorous swimming to help strengthen his lungs.
— The Cuban government gave Che an airplane and a personal pilot to use for government business. He often flew the plane himself, because he loved to fly.
— Che taught French to the current president of Cuba, Raul Castro, during their time in the Sierra Maestra, before the Revolution was won.
— Alberto Korda took the iconic photo of Che (by which the world now identifies him) on March 5, 1960. It followed the state memorial service for the one-hundred people who died in the terrorist attack on the French freighter, La Coubre, in Havana Harbor the previous day. (Over two-hundred people were severely injured.)
Because Americans were napalming sugar-cane fields and sugar refineries to wreck the Cuban economy (one plane had been shot down and the pilot, an American, captured), Fidel Castro, in his address to the mourners, blamed the CIA for the attack on the French ship, while Che Guevara stood next to him wearing the iconic expression on his face that became his brand. Neither man knew at the time that in just thirteen months the United States would escalate the conflict by conducting a full-scale military assault on the island at the Bay of Pigs.
The CIA continued to attack Cuban shipping through 1964, before international outrage over the killing of the captain and two crew members of a misidentified Spanish freighter—it was also set on fire and almost sunk—brought pressure on the agency to change its policies.
— In 1967, a fifteen-hundred man Bolivian Ranger Force (trained in Guatemala by the United States) hunted down Che in Bolivia and captured him. A small unit from this force tortured him by firing a half-dozen rounds into his legs, then executed him.
Those who murdered Che reported that he measured five-foot-eight and weighed 155 pounds. These numbers are widely repeated on the Internet. The killers cut off his hands and sent them to Fidel Castro, then hid his body among six of his fighters in an unmarked grave. Some have wondered if truth was one of their core-values.
According to them, Che would have been seven inches shorter than Fidel, which, for some observers, doesn’t match-up with the many photos of the two men together, including the lead-off photo in this article. Based on photos I’ve reviewed, Che appears to be four to five inches shorter than Fidel, who was six-three. My opinion, after looking at a lot of photographs, is that Che was just a tad shy of five-ten.
Why Che’s executioners would misrepresent his height is anybody’s guess.
— The woman who fed Che a bowl of soup before his execution, Julia Cortez, said this about his appearance: He was an extraordinarily handsome man. He wasn’t the man depicted to us: black, ugly, evil. His eyebrows, his nose, his mouth—all of his features were perfect.
— Captain Gary Prado of Bolivia asked Che: Why didn’t you give up? Why didn’t you disband your unit and go home when you had the chance? Che answered: Where would I go? According to Prado, that was Che’s dilemma in Bolivia. He was isolated, shunned by the international community of nations, and trapped. He had no place else to go.
— Fidel Castro hired a number of American Korean War veterans—among them Neill W. MacCaulay and Miguel Sanchez—to train his expeditionary force. In 1956, MacCaulay evaluated Che, writing that he was an “excellent ” marksman with “excellent” discipline, leadership abilities and physical endurance. The only negative: Che was sometimes seen with a smile on his face; inappropriate, this veteran felt, for a guerrilla warrior.
— Neill W. MacCauley—who would enter Havana at Che’s side in victory, and years later teach as a professor-emeritus of Latin-American history at the University of Florida—said, before he passed-away in 2007, Che’s troops knew what they were doing. They knew they had a good commander. They had Che, who was top of the line. They trusted him. As for the victory parade into Havana, Neill said, We were received as liberators; celebrated; I mean people ran out with bottles of rum. People went wild.
— Six years and ten months after the Revolution, on October 3, 1965, Che Guevara resigned his post as Minister, his rank of Commander, and his Cuban citizenship. He severed all legal ties to Castro and the country of Cuba. In this respect, he followed the lead of every country in the Western Hemisphere, except Mexico, which was the only one to resist pressure from the United States to sever relations. Che turned his back on the protection offered by Castro and the Soviet Union.
No one, to my knowledge, knows for sure why Che made this break. What we do know for sure is that Castro read Che’s confidential resignation letter on Cuban radio and television, apparently without Che’s consent, and that two years later, almost to the day—October 9, 1967—Che lay dead in a Bolivian school house.
— Before the Revolution, Che’s fellow “boot-camp” trainees, in a peer-review conducted by MacCaulay, agreed unanimously that Che possessed the skills and talents required to lead effectively at the highest level. His subsequent performance in the Cuban Revolution confirmed their judgment and propelled Che Guevara into the ranks of legendary warriors like Spartacus and Geronimo, who lost their lives fighting for hopeless causes and changed the world.
Post Script:Che Guevara was buried with full military honors on 17 October 1997 after his remains, and the remains of six of his fighters, were discovered in Bolivia and eventually returned to Santa Clara, the site of the battle he conducted to win the Cuban Revolution. Che’s wife, Aleida, and his children—alongside Raul and Fidel Castro—grieved in a more private ceremony three month’s earlier, in July.
Although the CIA had an agent present and had trained and equipped (in Guatemala, of all places) the Bolivian Special Forces unit that killed Guevara, the agency has always insisted it tried to save Che’s life. The President of Bolivia at the time, Rene Barrientos, demanded Che’s execution; it was Bolivia’s war, the CIA has argued, and not their call.
They were powerless to save him.
On April 27, 1969, Rene Barrientos died in a helicopter crash. The Editorial Board
— Some say that Sean Connery parodied Che’s personality and adopted one of his “looks” to create the movie character, James Bond, in the 1960s movie-series.*
No one ever suggested that Ronald Reagan used plastic surgery to make himself appear more Che-like. But look at Ronald’s before and after pictures. You decide.
* We investigated the assertion that Sean Connery’s James Bond is a caricature of Che Guevara. It turns outBilly Lee said this, and maybe a couple of his imaginary friends. The Editorial Board
Billy Lee’s Acknowledgement:the most important source of information for this article was Jon Lee Anderson’s Che Guevara, a Revolutionary Life, published in 1997. The New York Times called it, the complete and definitive biography of Che Guevara. I cut the disturbing cover off the book in order to read it (it scared me), and willed myself to peer through the negative colors its author used to paint Che’s portrait on its 780 pages.
** October 24, 1963 I believe that there is no country in the world…where economic colonization, humiliation and exploitation were worse than in Cuba, in part owing to my country’s policies…. In the matter of the Batista regime, I am in agreement with the first Cuban revolutionaries. That is perfectly clear. … In any case, the nations of Latin America are not going to attain justice and progress…through communist subversion. They won’t get there by…a Marxist dictatorship. U.S. President John F. Kennedy
35th President of the United States Assassinated November 22, 1963