Blog Archive

Blog Archive – 2020

Rethinking Commander-in-Chief in American Leadership

March 20, 2020

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

https://www.globalresearch.ca/rethinking-commander-in-chief-american-leadership/5707092 

              Ask Americans who’s commander-in-chief, most will respond: our president. Citizens only think about this just before a presidential election every four years when their final, ‘supreme criteria’ of U.S. leadership is raised: “Does she or he have it:-- namely the wisdom (or courage, or resolve) to control the nuclear (war) button?”

               It’s a vague term whose specifics are not publicly explored; but I think we can agree it’s singularly associated with military conflict.

               I haven’t heard the term commander-in-chief applied to other heads of state, but some variety of it doubtless exists, where a military officer heads a government as Egypt and formerly Pakistan today. Notwithstanding Americans’ first president was a general-- one among 12 who became president https://www.theglobalist.com/generals-and-the-u-s-presidency/ (of 26 American presidents who’d served in the military).

               (Joe Biden, although never a military officer, is clearly projecting this ‘commander-in-chief image’ in debates, invoking his presence in ‘the situation room’, etc. He understands war, he assures the public.)

               Leadership was an underlying issue during recent primary debates. They’re essentially over now, eclipsed by the growing pandemic where the focus of leadership has rightly turned to management and moral vision.

               Surely our current unprecedented crisis reveals it is time to reconsider the concept. My point here is not Trump’s capacity, but the general underlying American criteria for the nation’s person-in-charge.

               Crisis strategists admit this pandemic is a ‘war’, even invoking 911 when Americans perceived they were under siege. (Although-- with the exception of immigrants who’ve fled conflicts, by-and-large generated by American bombardments and sanctions on their homelands—most really don’t grasp the realities of siege: economic, diplomatic, medical, cultural or military.)

               Now a major health, social and economic crisis—a catastrophe, not to be too alarmist—has arrived in the name of COVID-19.

               Whether or not we had doubts about the moral character and management ability of Trump, today we can testify to the gravity of his silliness, racism, ignorance, ugliness, meanness and misplaced priorities. It is far, far more serious that we could possibly have imagined. It forces us to scan the horizon for leadership.  

               A resident of New York State I’m most closely following the response to this crisis by our governor. (I fervently hope other governors are acting similarly to Andrew Cuomo.) https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/20/watch-live-ny-gov-cuomo-holds-press-conference-on-the-coronavirus.html. Because, the more I hear from Cuomo day-after-day, the more I feel (along with neighbors, family and friends overseas as well as in the U.S.), we have a profound example of the kind of leadership needed at this moment.

               In his presentations Governor Cuomo exhibits no commander-in-chief attitude, but rather that of a capable manager, also someone with –dare I say?—emotion and compassion, approaching that of a ‘father figure’. Perhaps his presence reminds us of President Roosevelt’s legendary fireside chats https://www.britannica.com/event/fireside-chats.

               Post-pandemic changes are inevitable. Friends talk about their offices and companies, their universities and hospitals rethinking long-term goals to offer different and better service; one talks about perceiving her neighborhood differently, seeking a new family dynamic, rethinking how we educate our children.

               Likewise we need to seriously rethink the concept of commander-in-chief. America’s criterion for presidency is redundant. It is neither a humane concept, nor a relevant one in times of nationwide social crisis. Also absent from this concept is emotion, compassion and morality.

               Although not hitherto a particular admirer of Andrew Cuomo, I now perceive him not only as a brilliant manager but also a person with the apparent morality required at this moment. Maybe other governors whose work I am not following are acting likewise. (And please don’t cynically rejoin that Cuomo is working with his eye on the White House in 2024. We’ll talk about that later.)

[ Rethinking Commander-in-Chief in American Leadership ]

Kaia Rolle, Handcuffed and Arrested at 6; at Her American School

March 04, 2020

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

Handcuffed and Arrested at 6—How Many More, and for How Long is This America?   

While fretting over refugee children in freezing tents along Turkey’s border, or Nargis Fazili’s family fleeing Afghanistan across Asia to Europe (https://www.theguardian.com/film/2019/sep/24/midnight-traveler-refugee-documentary-afghanistan, or lone migrant children caged in U.S. detention centers, we may barely register what happens to American children like Kaia Rolle; she’s a 6-year-old student at a not unusual neighborhood school in Florida.

            I suppose we should feel grateful for the body cameras which most American police are now required to wear to document their on-the-job encounters. Some police videos are made available to the public; some are lost. One recently released https://abcnews.go.com/wnt/video/officer-fired-video-shows-arresting-year-69213056 records an incident last September https://nypost.com/2019/09/22/florida-6-year-old-arrested-handcuffed-for-elementary-school-tantrum/ :—the handcuffing of Kaia Rolle by policemen at her school. The manacled child was led to a squad car and, unaccompanied by any school official or relative, and taken to a detention center to be finger-printed and photographed. The video was likely edited to hide the child’s face, probably in compliance with a ‘civil-rights’ law that protects minors—thank you. But it illustrates enough for us to witness an all-too-common injustice.

            It’s not the pleas of the weeping child that I find most disturbing; it’s the school staff’s passive witness to the child’s torture. None of the three women in the camera’s scope makes any attempt to protest, or to question the decision by we-don’t-known-whom, to subject the child to this unconscionable treatment.

            To further emphasize the egregious behavior by the police, we hear one man –likely the school resource officer --chatting with the staff members without any hint of regret or hesitation about how he regularly arrests children. Arrests are a source of pride for him, it seems. “Six thousand arrests over 28 years”, he boasts, “the youngest, 7-years-old.” When informed that the latest victim is six, he quips: “She’s six; now that’s a record.” Dennis Turner is a policeman who, like many in his position, are hired after retirement as “school resource officers”.

            These resource officers constitute a new class of law enforcement personnel employed by schools across America— they’re in my New York neighborhood schools too-- our solution to school shootings, a nationwide policy to protect our children from gun wielding maniacs. While they wait for anything that threatens the school from outside, these officers are engaged in student discipline inside. Parents and school administrators, out of fear of armed assailants, are empowering these unsupervised, armed retirees and veterans of foreign conflict --men accustomed to manhandling mostly adult male suspects-- to discipline troublesome children.

            (In addition to their school salary, a wage often higher than teachers’, many of them enjoy a generous pension from their police or military service. What a boon for the profession of law enforcement!)

            Attorney John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute’s warning https://www.rutherford.org/publications_resources/john_whiteheads_commentary/the_illusion_of_freedom_the_police_state_is_alive_and_well about our expanding police presence is so alarming that we are either too disturbed to register the details or we think he’s exaggerating. He is not.

            Viewing this single video of an on-duty school guardian entrusted to protect children, one has to question how much more goes on that we are not privy to? And this in inside U.S.A. with its celebrated freedoms! (I cannot bear to imagine the experience of countless Iraqi and Afghan families subject to abuse by American military personnel.)

            We are told Kaia was released and isn’t facing any charges. This doesn’t mollify me; nor am I gratified by the firing of that officer.)

            The video of the child’s arrest is revealing about how the child is handled too. A school staff member calmly tells Kaia to “Go with them, baby girl.” As Kaia is handcuffed, we hear one officer gently say: “Come over here honey”; then “It’s not going to hurt”.

            Later news clips of Kaia with her grandmother report that she is doing fine. That’s today. What about in the coming years?

            This experience may embolden little Kaia to become an attorney or a civic leader, perhaps a policewoman to protect others from the cruelty she would never forget. Can we fault her, though, if she chooses violence as a way to defend herself when gentle people nearby fail her or if they’re better informed about child victims of foreign aggression?

[ Kaia Rolle, Handcuffed and Arrested at 6; at Her American School ]

Being a Democrat—Ugh

February 09, 2020

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

It’s a rough time to be a Democrat.

                Notwithstanding the impotent Senate Minority. Not those ill-fated bills championed as victories by House Democrats only to be spurned by the upper chamber; not smug, elitist party fundraisers; not funding strategists and millionaire celebrity donors; not even bumbling Iowa Democratic party officials.

                I mean this forlorn orphaned democrat—me. A registered party member who every two years pens as few op-eds, who sends a check to a favorite candidate, who puts in volunteer hours to GOTV (Get Out The Vote), and wholeheartedly campaigns for any Democratic candidate whom she believes is honest and competent.

                I don’t need to add to today’s punditry and partisan analyses spinning through media, much of it self-serving. And I eschewed the wondrous humor of SLN or Stephen Colbert following last week’s dizzying post-impeachment-trial-post-State-of-the-Union-post-Iowa-caucus.

                Put aside the shortsightedness of our overrated “founding fathers” and the ugliness of America’s current president. Put aside the deepening cultural war.

                I have a simple personal question: What am I, voter and local activist, to do now? By June, county committees and ad hoc citizen groups will begin training to prepare for the canvassing and fundraising that’s precedes every November election. A lot is at stake; even at county and state levels, enthusiasm and commitment are essential.

                For the first time in decades I’m not sure I want to continue. How can I go to college events to urge our young voters to engage in American democracy by embracing this party? How can I solicit funds for a candidate? How can I try to persuade the “undecided”-- that burgeoning population of marginalized and disenchanted voters-- to commit to a Democratic candidate? These unaffiliated citizens, we are told, are critical to  an election’s outcome. One friend, who when I shared my dismay over last week’s events, replied simply: “In this era, democracy requires repose.” 

                Oh dear. If repose is the answer, democracy’s not working.  

                Forget about the disgusting, shamelessly victorious Trump and his gloating Republican party for a moment. Don't mollify us by theorizing who’ll be on history’s side. (Let history take care of that.) What are we going to do about a corrupt mealy-mouthed Democratic party? Why did Mrs. Pelosi extend her hand to Trump before his address to the nation? Would you have? And tearing up the speech after she’d applauded Trump’s statements several times? Better to walk out. Decorum be damned-- Trump’s words themselves demonstrate that.

                What about our other congressional leader, the Senate Democratic minority guy? Where was Charles Schumer’s wisdom, daring and political acumen during that flawed and pompous process of impeachment? I hear not a whisper about his ineptness. Surely his failings contribute to Mitch McConnell’s brilliance and victory.  

                While the gross incompetence of our so-called progressive (left, moderate or center) party is in the spotlight, on the sidelines we have  newly exposed corruption within the DNC:-- its attempts to delegitimize (as it did in 2016) the formidable old Socialist from Vermont; its shifting rules for who may and may not participate in the once-proud American process of public political debates; its shady business interests and ineptitude exposed in the recent Iowa caucus-election.

                America’s Democratic Party is not the place for anyone who calls herself progressive today. It was easier to blame it on Russian hackers, wasn’t it?

[ Being a Democrat—Ugh ]


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