A lack of manners in the highest office diminishes us all

There are many conventions in life that smooth social interaction. Nothing hard and fast that is codified in law, you understand, yet ingrained enough that we know when they are missing.

Mothers the world around teach their children to be polite. “Please” and “thank you” were uniquely important words to your mother, who taught that these simple phrases would help smooth your way through life — from getting the attention of the little red-haired girl to making a favorable impression on your boss.

Even Virginia, with its history of slavery and Jim Crow, had its genteel conventions.

There are other social conventions designed to show character and smooth the way. In the political world, the great senators of our history always spoke about their colleagues as ”the honorable.” You don’t hear that much anymore.

In the rhythm of American politics, the equivalent of “please” and “thank you” was the self-effacing candidate making his tax returns public. A small step perhaps, certainly not required by law, but a widely-held convention that showed character and forthrightness. That has suddenly stopped.

Making a campaign claim for how extravagantly rich he was, Donald Trump has shrunk away from the “please” and “thank you” of politics and the modest convention of making his tax returns public. “No one cares,” he reportedly sniffs, about his tax returns.

Trump’s appointees are put in a difficult position.

To get through a congressional hearing there is considerable paperwork that must be filled out and submitted in a timely manner. If the boss refuses, does the appointee bluff it out so as not embarrass the boss, or comply with standard procedure and expectations?

So, the paperwork is not filed in a timely manner, thereby holding up the constitutionally required hearings of “advise and consent.”

It would be impolite to ask how Trump knows that no one cares about his tax filings, current or past (of course, hundreds of reporters are doing just that). He does not have a good record of separating fact from fiction, anyway. He insisted for years that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States and then realized sticking with that fiction wasn’t good for the campaign so he admitted, just before the election, that, well, Obama was actually an American citizen.

Recently, the White House had to apologize to the British for Trump’s tweets in which he blamed British intelligence for bugging Trump Tower; press spokesman Sean Spicer still had to say that Trump believes what he believes and that facts are simply not pertinent.

Twice now, documents have appeared which are the first two pages of Trump’s Internal Revenue Service Form 1040 filed. Who has only the first two pages of a 1040 filing? The owner. They are of no use to anyone else. The Schedules A, B and others are the forms that tell the whole story of sources of income and deductions taken. Some other person who might have had and disclosed these records certainly would have had the entire filing, including all the supplementary forms.

Speculation is that Trump’s inner circle is the source of these disclosures as a ruse to divert attention from all the years when he probably did not pay any taxes at all.

It seems 2005 may have been the one instance in which he actually did pay them. We now know that Trump, as a young entrepreneur, used to call up the tabloids using an alias, to get his name in the papers. These tax forms are probably a paper version of the same game.

Trump’s language and conduct during the campaign and after the election seem to illustrate that his mother didn’t spend much time teaching him the social conventions — the “pleases” and “thank yous” of society. If she did, there is no evidence that it “took.” There certainly is no “please” or “thank you” in his demeanor. Everyone gasps at his treatment of his wife, who must take care of herself in the rain or entering a car. Don’t we all wish our husbands and fathers treated us like that?

Perhaps where “thank you” is most evident is in Trump’s public policies.

Doling out $500 million in tax breaks to health company CEOs, and cutting 24 million people off health insurance certainly demonstrates where his sympathies lie. Zeroing out the budget that helps protect the Chesapeake Bay, or frankly, appointing the fox to watch the EPA hen house, certainly says “thank you” to major polluters. These are ways of saying “thank you” to the rich and famous, and are invitations to despoil, not restore.

We hear complaints about coarse, corrosive and condescending language in our politics. We seem to be tiring of treating each other with respect. We might want to more diligently practice those long ago instructions about the value of “please” and “thank you” and begin acting in a more socially responsible way.

Shame on us if we don’t see that someone who flaunts social convention is diminishing himself and us. “Please” and “thank you” should never go out of style.

Dave Reuther

Editor’s Note: This article is reprinted with author’s permission and originally appeared here.


Personal Justice Denied

Last month was the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, which led to the roundup, relocation and incarceration of virtually every Japanese American on the West Coast during World War II.

Three of these American citizens, Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi and Minoru Yasui, are best known for their principled resistance to the internment, because in 1943 and 1944 the Supreme Court ruled against them and sent them to jail, ruling that the government had the authority to do so while completely avoiding the issue of the incarceration of U.S. citizens without due process.

Forty years later, the cases were reopened after the discovery of Justice Department documents that showed the government purposely withheld materials that would have helped the defenses’ cases.

The papers included intelligence reports that said Japanese Americans posed no threat to the United States. As a result, the federal courts in California overturned these convictions. All three men were awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Don’t just take it from me — you can start your own fact-checking right here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internment_of_Japanese_Americans.

President Gerald Ford issued a proclamation in 1976 which called upon the American people “to affirm with me this American Promise — that we have learned from the tragedy of that long-ago experience forever to treasure liberty and justice…” The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians that was established by Congress in 1980, blamed the incarceration on “race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership” — its report, “Personal Justice Denied” was published in 1983.

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill apologizing for the internment policy and awarding more than $3.2 billion (in 2016 dollars) in reparations to the survivors of the concentration camps. In a 2014 speech in Hawaii, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia unequivocally stated that the rulings were “wrong.”

The philosopher George Santayana famously wrote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security began implementing the President’s Executive Orders 13767, entitled “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements,” and 13768, entitled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.” The rationale for these orders was that undocumented immigrants were rapists, gang members, murderers and a primary threat to public safety.

President Donald Trump has said thousands of Americans have been killed by immigrants living in the country illegally. PolitiFact has rated this claim as only “Half True,” because it is so vague and unsubstantiated that it leaves the reader to “fill in the blanks.” “It is like saying, thousands of Americans have been killed by men.”

The president underscored his oft-repeated campaign rhetoric by inviting family members of three individuals reportedly killed by these illegal immigrants to his first address to the Congress two weeks ago. The facts are that the crime rate among first-generation immigrants — those who came here from another country — is significantly lower than the overall crime rate as well as with the second-generation.

Here in Virginia, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers started their efforts by waiting outside a church warming shelter in Fairfax County and arresting six men. None of these men have been identified as rapists, murders or gangsters. ICE does not seem to be targeting people who are a danger to public safety.

An El Paso, TX woman who was in a courthouse to get a restraining order against her domestic abuser was detained and deported. A DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipient who had recently moved to Seattle to provide for his 3-year-old child was detained.

A Phoenix, AZ woman without a criminal record was suddenly detained; her deportation came so quickly that her 14-year-old daughter — an American citizen — had to pack her suitcase the next day. A Hispanic man in North Carolina who drove a friend to court as a favor so he could complete community service was asked if he “had papers,” and when he said no, he was detained.

Stories around the country have yet to identify any persons that fell into the categories that were used to justify these new, robust efforts.

ICE conduct does not enhance public safety. Anyone from these communities will now avoid contact with the police at all costs because alerting the police could get you deported. Splitting up families and demoralizing communities for these dubious reasons recalls for me images of jack-booted storm troopers.

The statue at the entrance to the National Archives is inscribed with “What is Past is Prologue.” Are more concentration camps in our future?

Like the executive orders of 75 years ago, Trump’s executive orders were born of fear, ignorance and hostility. The government’s actions are once again stripping people of their homes, their property, their jobs and their dignity. This is a stain on America’s proclamation of itself as a proud immigrant nation. America does itself no favors by repeating these historic mistakes.

Former Supreme Court Justice Tom C. Clark, who represented the U.S. Department of Justice in the wartime “relocation,” writes in the epilogue to the 1992 book Executive Order 9066: The Internment of 110,000 Japanese Americans:

The truth is—as this deplorable experience proves—that constitutions and laws are not sufficient of themselves…Despite the unequivocal language of the Constitution of the United States that the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, and despite the Fifth Amendment’s command that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, both of these constitutional safeguards were denied by military action under Executive Order 9066.

The American way of life may be more fragile than we think. I have one thing to say to this president, his henchmen in the administration and the goons from ICE: “Don’t Tread on Me.”

Mike McClary

Editor’s Note: This article is reprinted with author’s permission and originally appeared here.



A tale of two realities

Editors Note: This past Thursday, one of our members, Mark Chapman, had a letter to the editor printed in our local paper, the Central Virginian. For those of you who don’t get the CV, his letter rebutting an earlier 2-26-17 piece is below.

3-9-17 America wasn’t envisioned as a Christian nation

 As I read Mr. Jerry Reynolds’ letter to the editor in your Feb. 26th issue, I couldn’t help but wonder how much hatred and bitterness can one misinformed individual muster? His rant contains so much rubbish that I hardly know where to begin.

Do I just ignore his vulgar remarks and absurd lies and trust that The Central Virginian readers can discern fiction from truth? Mr. Reynolds is just repeating the same rubbish that the GOP has been promoting for years in order to rewrite, not only history, but our U.S. Constitution with the arrogance and self-righteousness of a religious zealot without remorse.

For folks like Mr. Reynolds, “greatness” is defined by the twin pillars of capitalism and Christianity, which over the past few decades have become twisted beliefs that promote labeling anyone with a different opinion and demonizing minorities and immigrants. Using fear and hatred to control citizens, while telling people just because they pray at meetings they are godly and patriotic.

For our Democracy to fulfill its obligation to the people and protect their rights and freedoms described in our Constitution, it requires the collective efforts of government for all the people… not just the wealthy. Our government is comprised of taxpayers, not private companies, who fund our military, our wars and the healthcare of our veterans when they return home. Taxpayer funded intelligence agencies protect our citizens and keep our country safe. Your taxpayer dollars build bridges and maintain roads across America. Our government brings you public libraries, police and fire department protection, regardless of income, and makes low-interest loans to students.

Yet the only type of socialistic action which is acceptable to the GOP are massive tax cuts and corporate subsidies (aka welfare). Since the Citizens United Supreme Court decision in 2010, corporations are using those subsidies to help elect their own politicians. Our nation’s founding fathers did not believe that America should be a Christian nation governed by the Bible. Thomas Jefferson writes “Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law.” James Madison said “The civil government…functions with complete success…by the total separation of the Church from the State.” And John Adams said “The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.

Francis Bellamy (a Baptist minister and Christian Socialist) wrote the Pledge of Allegiance in 1892 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the Americas. Bellamy believed that capitalism is idolatrous and rooted in greed, and the underlying cause of much of the world’s social inequity.

Finally, Mr. Reynolds’ comment, “President Trump is perhaps the most honest, prosperous and smartest president ever to be elected” makes one vomit. If anyone believes this absurdity, I challenge them to read the Washington Post’s “100 days of Trump claims,” available online, to learn the truth about Mr. Reynolds’ greatest president… Or continue to amuse yourself with Mr. Reynolds’ hateful rantings.

Mark S. Chapman

2-26-17 God cast the deciding vote

This election has been over now since November; however, the Democratic leftists in this country still seem to think they  are in campaign mode, as they hold their vulgar so-called resistance marches and anarchical rallies.

Donald J. Trump is now the President for the next four years, hopefully eight, and he has stated his promise “to make America safe, prosperous and make America great again.

It seems that every eight years the country has to elect a Republican president to come in and clean up after the failed policies of the liberal Democrats and leftists who seem to think it is their duty to destroy everything that made American the greatest country in the world. Leftists and Democrats contend that Americana is a racist, reprobate country that was never great, but how else could you explain the stampede of humanity from every nation in the world who seeks to enter this nation either legally or illegally- mostly illegally!

Democrats throw open the borders, raise taxes to confiscatory level, regulate business and industry with stifling, destructive, job-killing regulations, all the while flooding the welfare rolls with non-citizens and they wonder why they continue to lose elections.

The citizens who have to fund/pay for all these disastrous practices have said, enough! Another eight years of Obama/Clinton control would have been the end of America as the most prosperous, safe, generous – and yes – decent country in the world. How anyone could hurl these hate-filled accusation designed to denigrate the only country capable of saving the world from destruction is unfathomable.

Democratic politicians have hitched their futures to an ideology of systematic destruction and loathing of this great
Republic and now wonder why voters have sent them packing by the hundreds in the last two elections.

Even with an overwhelming vote of approval for the policies he has promised to fulfill, President Trump finds himself under assault from Democrats and even “Never Trumpers” from his own party who are trying to thwart his every effort to keep his promises and get this country back on track again after eight years of destructive practices and policies of the Democratic Obama administration.

President Trump is, perhaps the most honest, prosperous, smartest President ever to be elected. However, he faces challenges that most other presidents never faced. President Trump, with his experience and extensive education, faces an uphill battle in turning this country around, but he has one asset to win that is available to every president, but few use.

In the Florida rally Saturday, the First Lady opened with the Lords Prayer. What a refreshing change. God is the author of this wonderful country and only with His help through prayer and supplication can we ever hope to succeed as a nation. He so desires for the world.

President Donald Trump and his family are seeking the help of the creator of the universe and that will assure the success of the next eight years of the Trump administration.

Jerry Reynolds

Editors Note: These two letters appeared in the 3-9-17 and 2-26-17 printed editions of the CV and are only available on-line to paid subscribers.



Women get in Brat’s grill at Town Hall Meeting

Several Louisa County residents attended a live town hall event hosted for Rep. Dave Brat in Blackstone on Feb. 21.

According to Blackstone police, about 500 people attended, but not all of them were able to get a seat inside. The venue—a banquet room belonging to the small, but hospitable, Blackstone Herb Cottage—held around 150 people. The rest of those who attended were outside looking in.

A few Louisa residents were among those who made it inside. Audio speakers provided by the town ensured everyone heard the questions and answers, sometimes over the enthusiastic chanting of those outside.

About 25 percent of the crowd consisted of Brat supporters carrying “Brat Pack” and “We support Dave Brat” signs. Hundreds of others carried signs indicating their displeasure with the congressman, the congressional agenda and President Donald Trump.

Blackstone Mayor William Coleburn chose questions at random for Brat to address. Questions were not taken from the floor, but were submitted on index cards, and covered a range of issues including healthcare and the Affordable Care Act, alleged Russian involvement in the election, Second Amendment issues, the environment and social security.

Jeanne Wolf, of Louisa, said she made the nearly two-hour drive to the event because she believes it is important to “vote with our ballots, but also with our presence.” Now confined to a wheelchair, she said she remembers the money that was taken out of her paycheck every week to pay for the services that she now needs to use. She is concerned about proposals to possibly phase out the Social Security and Disabilities program and replace it with a private sector plan. Wolf fears this will lead to cutting benefits to pay for profits for a privately run system.

Retired College of William and Mary professor Juanita Jo Matkins has a newfound sense of engagement since the election. “I had been quiet too long, letting others speak for me. Now I want to make sure my voice is heard,” the Louisa resident said.

As a breast cancer survivor, she is concerned about the increased costs of medical care. She questioned Brat’s counting on free market plans to provide accessible, affordable and high quality health care to the American public.

Brat responded often to questions about issues with “free market solutions” during the question and answer session. When asked a question about climate change, he responded, “The climate changes all the time,” and said the market could resolve the issue better than government.

Aleta Strickland, also a resident of Louisa, has contacted Brat through phone calls, letters and emails.

I just never got a satisfactory response from him.” Strickland said, explaining why she rearranged her schedule to make the long drive to Blackstone.

Whitney Coleman, who lives in Bumpass, also attended the meeting. She said that after the town hall, Brat “is now fully aware that accountability matters to the voters in the 7th.

Joanna Hickman

Editors Note: This article originally appeared in the March 2nd, 2017 edition of the CV and is only available in hard copy, or on-line to paid subscribers.