US Capitol

June 17 In American History

Today is Father’s Day and the birthday, also, of my oldest son, David, who was born on Father’s Day, a coinciding event that occurs rarely.

But it is also a major historic day in American history in a number of ways.

1775–Battle of Bunker Hill in Boston, actually at Breed’s Hill location nearby, second battle of developing American Revolution against Great Britain.

1856–Republican Party opens its first National Convention in Philadelphia.

1885–Statue of Liberty, a gift from France, arrives in New York Harbor, will be installed in 1886.

1932–“Bonus Army” veterans of World War I march on the US Capitol, demanding veterans benefits in midst of Great Depression under President Herbert Hoover.

1954–The end of the Army-McCarthy hearings, which leads to the Senate censure of Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin for his misbehavior.

1972–The Watergate Break In occurs, the beginning of the downfall of Richard Nixon, the most corrupt President until Donald Trump.

2015–Nine African American worshipers at Emmanuel AME Baptist Church in Charleston, South Carolina, are murdered by a 21 year old white racist gunman.

All of these events are tied together–the promotion of freedom, liberty, principle, social justice, civil rights, and the rule of law.

All of these principles are under attack in 2018!

January 20 Presidential Inauguration Days

Since 1937, as a result of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, we have had the President of the United States inaugurated every fourth year, so there have been 21 such inaugurations from 1937 to 2017.

Every President since Franklin D. Roosevelt, with the exception of Gerald Ford, has been inaugurated on January 20 since 1937. So 13 Presidents have had the excitement of inauguration at the US Capitol before crowds of varying sizes.

The greatest inauguration crowd was in 2009, when Barack Obama took the oath of office for the first time, and this author and blogger was fortunate enough to have been at his inauguration with his older son, and a video of that experience is on the right side of this blog.

The electricity in the crowd in 2009 was special, as it was in 1961, when the youngest elected President, John F. Kennedy, was inaugurated, and gave one of the top three inaugural addresses in American history, after Abraham Lincoln in 1865 and Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933, both on the original Inauguration Day of March 4.

In 1941, FDR was sworn in to an unprecedented third term in the Presidency, and in 1949, Harry Truman was sworn in after shocking America with his surprise victory over Thomas E. Dewey, something no one other than Truman himself, expected to occur.

In 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in after the greatest popular vote percentage victory in all of American history.

In 1973, Richard Nixon was sworn in for his second term, with no former President present, as Lyndon B. Johnson was not feeling well enough to attend, and then his passing two days later, at age 64.

And in 1977, Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale were sworn in as President and Vice President, with no one able to know that 41 years later, today, that they were both alive and in their 90s, and flourishing.

And in 1981, former movie actor and California Governor Ronald Reagan was sworn in, and at the same time, 52 Americans who had been held hostage in Iran were freed.

So January 20 has had its historic moments, including Donald Trump taking the oath exactly a year ago, after a much smaller crowd to witness, and followed by a Woman’s March the next day.

The Wartime Presidency: From James Madison To Barack Obama

Now that it seems evident that America is to be engaged in a long drawn-out war against ISIL (ISIS), it means that we can expect the war to last possibly a generation, 20 years, and affect every Presidential election from 2016 through at least 2032.  It will also transform the Congress, and change the direction of American history, and it comes at a terrible time, as we have greater inequities economically now than even in the Gilded Age of the late 19th century.

But national security and defense always trump anything else, inevitably and necessarily!

So Barack Obama, who came into office determined to end the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars started by George W. Bush, is to be the promoter of a new war, against his desire.

So this is a good time to reflect on how many Presidents have chosen or been forced  to wage war!

James Madison reluctantly took America through the War of 1812, often depicted as “The Sorry Little War”, which led to the burning of the US Capitol and the White House by the invading British forces.

James K. Polk willingly took us through the Mexican War, leading to the acquisition of the American Southwest and California.

Abraham Lincoln took us into the Civil War, believing there was no alternative to “preserve the Union”.

William McKinley was convinced that the Spanish American War was a moral cause, and it led to the development of the “American Empire” in an age of expansionism and imperialism.  He also waged war to force the Philippines to accept American overlordship, after being “liberated” by the United States from Spanish control.

Theodore Roosevelt continued the fight against the Filipino revolutionaries, in what was well hidden for years and not taught in schools below the college level,, but was known to history as the Filipino Insurrection.

Woodrow Wilson took us into the First World War, after trying to avoid direct involvement for more than two years.

Franklin D. Roosevelt took us into the Second World War against Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan,  after isolationists bitterly opposed  such entrance, but forced by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor,  Hawaii.

Harry Truman continued our engagement in the Second World War, and used the atomic bomb against Japan, but also took us into the Korean War.

Dwight D. Eisenhower continued US involvement in the Korean War for the fist six month of his Presidency.

John F. Kennedy escalated our involvement in Vietnam, from 2,000 “advisers”under Eisenhower,  to over 16,500 Green Beret Special Forces by the time he was assassinated.

Lyndon B. Johnson massively escalated our involvement in Vietnam, reaching a grand total of 549.500 troops in 1968.

Richard Nixon continued the Vietnam War for four long years, causing a massive split in the nation, not seen since the Civil War.

George H. W. Bush took us into the Persian Gulf War, to force Iraq’s Saddam Hussein from keeping control of Kuwait, and being a threat to Saudi Arabia.

George W. Bush took us into war in Iraq and also in Afghanistan, and they became the longest wars in American history.

Barack Obama inherited both the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, and ended our involvement in Iraq, and is soon to end involvement in Afghanistan.  But now the war against ISIL (ISIS) is forecast to last a generation!

So 15 Presidents were commanders in chief in wartime, and this does not include invasions or bombings,  or undeclared naval wars, or wars against Native Americans!

The Ugly Month Of August This Year And In History

August is known as the month of the usually greatest heat, and this month is no exception, with the tremendous drought affecting the western half of the nation, especially California.

August is also the month of disastrous hurricanes, as with Andrew in 1992 and Katrina in 2005, as examples.

August is also the month of many wars and provocations, as with:

The British burning of the US Capitol and the White House during the War of 1812.

The outbreak of the First World War in Europe in 1914.

The signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact which led to the beginning of the Second World War in 1939.

The dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, ending World War II in Asia in 1945.

The falsely reported Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964, which led to the escalation of the war in Vietnam under Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

The invasion of Kuwait by Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in 1990, leading to the Persian Gulf War and the introduction of American troops on a permanent basis in a number of Muslim countries over the next quarter century, provoking a greater level of Islamic terrorism against America and Western Europe.

This August, we have seen racial tensions and division grow over recent killings by law enforcement authorities in St. Louis, Missouri and elsewhere, making us aware that the election of Barack Obama has NOT lessened the race issue in America, and has made us aware of the militarization of the police forces, with equipment returned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And we have become fully aware, finally realizing the threat from ISIL (ISIS), after the death of journalist James Foley, and it forecasts an escalation of involvement in the Middle East, adding to the fuel already created by the Gaza War between Israel and the Hamas Palestinian terrorist group which controls the Gaza Strip.

So again, August keeps its horrible reputation as a month full of tragedy and disaster, although clearly, every month has its share of these, but August does seem to have more than its fair share!

200th Anniversary Of British Attack On Washington DC During War Of 1812!

Today is the 200th Anniversary of the British attack on Washington DC during the War of 1812, one of the three times that our homeland has been directly attacked!

The second was the Japanese attack on the US naval base on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, and the third was the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, leading to the war in Afghanistan against Al Qaeda, and the full development of the War on Terror!

The attack on the nation’s capital led to the burning of the White House and the US Capitol, and the fleeing of Congress to Baltimore, and the saving of the George Washington portrait in the White House by servants of President James Madison. The Library of Congress lost its 3,000 volume collection, and later bought the Thomas Jefferson private collection to replace it.

This was a low moment in the War of 1812, but thankfully, the British left DC after 26 hours, and within months, a truce and peace treaty (Treaty of Ghent) was signed, and the war was over. Also, fortunately, a heavy summer thunderstorm helped to put out the fire in the Capital and the White House, and therefore, less damage was done than might have been otherwise!

The thought that our government center had been attacked was hard to accept, and since the terrorists on September 11 intended to attack the Capitol and/or the White House, and only were stopped by the courageous passengers of United Airlines Flight 93, who brought down a plane in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, that horrible situation was prevented, but the attack on the Pentagon, right over the DC line in Virginia was a strong enough warning of the threats that still existed then, and still do today with the growing danger of ISIL (ISIS)!

As Rosa Parks Statue Is Unveiled In The US Capitol, Voting Rights Act Comes Under Review By Supreme Court!

This morning, a 9 foot statue of Rosa Parks, the “Mother” of the Civil Rights Movement, for her heroism in allowing herself to become the center of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955-1956, was unveiled in Statuary Hall in the US Capitol Building.

This is a wonderful event to commemorate the greatest human rights movement in American history, and the excitement over how far we have come, with President Barack Obama leading in commemorating the event, and the feeling of satisfaction that we have gone far enough in the half century since 1955, that we have an African American President in his second term in office!

But at the same time, ironically, a challenge by the state of Alabama, which arrested Rosa Parks for refusing to change her seat on a bus in Montgomery, is arguing a case before the Supreme Court today, which if successful, will negate Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which requires nine Southern states and portions of seven other states, which have been shown to be discriminatory in voting regulations in their past, to have to submit any voting law changes to the Justice Department before they can be put into effect.

The argument is that the law is outmoded and no longer necessary, but that is not the case, as last year, there were attempts in many states to make it more difficult for African Americans, Hispanics and Latinos, young people, the elderly, and the poor to be able to register and or vote, plus restrictive days and hours of voting, designed to help Republicans and Mitt Romney gain an unfair advantage in the elections.

Just because Alabama claims the law is no longer needed is belied by history and recent events, and the Congress has renewed the Voting Rights Act multiple times, and it should not be the right of the Supreme Court to repeal a law in effect for nearly a half century!

But this conservative Court just might do that, which would be a miscarriage of justice, and another example of how the Court has started to get out of control of promotion of true justice! Their decision on this case, along with the move to make Citizens United just the beginning of special interest investments to fix elections, and the gay marriage case, will make the Court’s decisions in the next few months extremely significant, and worrisome for those who believe the John Roberts Court is reckless and dangerous, with its conservative majority put on it by Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush!

Eleven Years Since September 11: What It Has Done To America

Eleven years ago, on a bright, sunny New York morning, just as today it is in New York, and on the same day of the week, Tuesday, America was struck by Al Qaeda and forces backed by Osama Bin Laden, causing the deaths of about 3,000 people at the World Trade Center, along with those slaughtered at the Pentagon in suburban Virginia, and those on the plane bound for the US Capitol or the White House, and forced into a crash by its courageous passengers in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

This is a day of commemoration and mourning for the loss of life, plus the deaths of over 6,000 Americans in unsuccessful wars in Afghanistan and Iraq since then, and the nearly 50,000 young men and women wounded, many of them severely, as a result of those wars.

We also mourn the loss of innocence that we had, that somehow, as the super power of the world, we were immune from such a shocking attack, and the sense of insecurity that it brought upon all of us.

Our lives have been transformed in so many ways that we can never reverse, and we can say that we have become ever more divided in the years since, politically, economically, and socially, and that we have a divided America more so now than ever since the Civil War and Reconstruction period in the middle to late 19th century.

We are a more stratified society economically, and we have become, more than ever, a nation of the coastlines versus the massive interior, a nation of blue versus red in political terms, and our country is rapidly changing in a way that worries us about the future, as to whether there is the potential for internal violence in the future, that might make the terrorism of September 11 seem like something minor, as compared to what could happen between the sections of the nation, the religious groups, the racial groups, the age groups, the gender groups, and the cultural groups that make America a complex nation in the 21st century.

Imagine going back to the year 2000, before the divisive Presidential Election of 2000, at a time when most Americans had never heard of Osama Bin Laden; when the World Trade Center dominated the Manhattan skyline; when there was no Facebook, Twitter, or Steve Jobs technology; when unemployment was only 3.9 percent; when the national debt was only $5.7 trillion; when gasoline was only $1.79 a gallon; and when the previous year, the biggest controversy was Bill Clinton’s sex life and his impeachment trial.

As America was entering the new century, we were extremely naive, worrying more about the effects of “Y2K” on computers, than the reality of what we were going to face in the first decade of the 21st century, which has worsened the outlook for America’s future in a dramatic way.

Oh, for the “good old days!”

September 11 Ten Years Later: Its Long Range Impact!

Tomorrow will mark ten years since the greatest tragedy in American history–the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City; the Pentagon in suburban Virginia outside Washington, DC; and the heroism of the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 who prevented that plane’s hijackers from attacking the US Capitol Building or the White House by rebelling, and forcing the plane into a crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania!

Over 3,000 people died as a result of September 11, most in the Trade Center, but some in the Pentagon, and also on the the four planes involved in the terrorist plot.

Additionally, about 5,000 soldiers have been killed in the wars In Iraq and Afghanistan, and about 45,000 wounded, including a few thousand severely wounded, making more than 50,000 killed or wounded as a result of September 11.

It has been very difficult to conceptualize and cope with the tragedy of that day, and ever since in the never ending involvement in the wars against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Words cannot describe the torment that most Americans feel about this greatest of all human tragedies in American history, other than the tragic battles of Antietam and Gettysburg in the Civil War, along with the losses of our troops at Pearl Harbor which led us into World War II.

September 11 changed the American Presidency forever, making it that all Presidents in the future will have to be prepared to deal with a terrorist attack that could come at any time, no matter how much preparation and alertness Americans have. This is a never ending war that will cost us plenty in national treasure, and already has put us into economic straits worse than any time since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Socially, September 11 has made the country fearful of the religion of Islam, and made Americans suspicious of immigrants in general, an ugly revival of religious intolerance and of nativism, which is a massive problem for the long term, and could subject us to more danger because of hate mongers who can incite reactions by people who have no connection to September 11, and yet feel victimized.

September 11 united us briefly, but now it has led to political divisions that endanger the future of the country both domestically and in foreign policy dealings.

September 11 has also made us realize, like at the time of Pearl Harbor but then forgotten, that we are vulnerable to attack, and have been too self assured and cocky about the greatness of our nation, leading to the wrong headed attitude that we are superior and cannot be touched or threatened internally. We have learned the hard way the folly of our self proclaimed “exceptionalism”, a super nationalism which endangers our relations with other nations and makes us feel that we are best in every way, which is far from the truth!

September 11 has also endangered our Bill of Rights and civil liberties, some of it understandable, but much of it dangerous and unacceptable violations in the name of security. It has created an intrusive government which can spy on us with cameras, phones, internet and other forms of technology, and has caused the growth of so many intelligence and spy agencies that the Washington Post has published about secret governments and expenditures that we have no concept of, or ability to gain awareness of in detail!

In many ways, while we have fought the terrorism successfully, we have also become the victims, in the sense of losing our freedoms, security, contentment in being Americans, and sense of well being.

So September 11 has done great harm to us, and its impact will never dissipate, sadly!