The Soul of America

Whether you are familiar with Jon Meacham, you may be familiar with his work. The Pulitzer Prize winner is one of America’s “explainers” of our history offering a needed context given what was going on at the time. He has written several biographies of presidents, including his most recent one on George H.W. Bush, as well as ones on Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and the relationship between FDR and Winston Churchill. He even spoke at Bush’s funeral at the behest of his wife, Barbara Bush. If I had to sum up who Meacham is – he is an astute student of history. And, he has many admirers including noted historians Walter Isaacson and Michael Beschloss.

I recently read his excellent book called “The Soul of America,” where he is his usual informative self. The subtitle is “The Battle for our Better Angels.” He notes we have had battles of trying to do the right thing throughout our history, yet sometimes it has been hard to work our way there. Here are a few examples:

During the 1920 and early 1930s, over 25% of the US Senate and over 100 members of Congress had an affinity for the KKK. This stunned me, as looking back we would hope that leaders would have seen the KKK for what it was. Yet, even today, we are seeing a rise of White supremacy with some comments being parroted by a couple of elected Congressional representatives. And, after the popularity of “Birth of a Nation,” a very racist movie, and the example of the Tulsa massacre and many lynching’s in the south, it should be less surprising. In fact, it took a couple of KKK leaders openly espousing violence toward Jews, that caused an upset stomach for some of the sympathetic legislators, and they started to distance themselves from the KKK.

He also noted that President Dwight Eisenhower was not too keen on Senator Joe McCarthy of communist witch hunt fame during the early 1950s. But, the president recognized that McCarthy had too big a following to be ignored. So, he tolerated McCarthy without actively supporting him. What was surprising to me is attorney Roy Cohn, who advised McCarthy, knew his boss tended to make things up and was reckless not doing much homework, which would eventually become a problem. By the time Joseph Welch, the US Army’s Chief Counsel famously asked McCarthy, “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?” McCarthy was already beginning to fade. In fact, an earlier quote of Welch’s was also condemning of McCarthy’s clumsy efforts. “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.”*

Let me close with a quote from Eisenhower on leadership that is telling. Apparently, one too many folks was offering the WWII European Allied Commander advice. “Now, look, I happen to know a little about leadership. I’ve had to work with a lot of nations, for that matter, at odds with each other. And, I tell you this…you do not lead people by hitting them over the head. Any damn fool can do that, but it is usually called ‘assault’ – not ‘leadership.’ I’ll tell you what leadership is. It’s persuasion – and conciliation – and education – and patience. It’s long, slow tough work. That is the only kind of leadership I know – or believe in – or will practice.”

The book is a good read. I only mention these three examples, as I don’t want to give too much away. America’s history, with all of its warts must be understood. If we do not learn lessons from our history, we are destined to repeat our failures. Already, we are seeing a rise in White supremacy along with the untruthfulness of a demagogue who rose to the presidency before he was not reelected. Trying to convince people he was reelected is akin to the recklessness that is used to define Senator McCarthy. We must guard against such untruthfulness as people get hurt when they believe such.

*Note: Trusted newscaster Edward R. Murrow would prove to be McCarthy’s most ardent critic. One of his many quotes is “We must remember always that accusation is not proof and conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law.”

Note from Nebraska GOP State Senator

Last month, I sent an email to a Republican State Senator in Nebraska complimenting him on his political courage to be critical of his own party. For his courage, he received a letter from the Nebraska Republican Party inviting him to leave the party. Today, I received this email.

“Dear Keith,
It’s State Senator John McCollister here. I’m the Nebraska legislator who called out the complicity of the Republican Party in enabling white supremacy 3 weeks ago.

If you are receiving this message, you are one of the kind people who sent me a personal email. There have been literally thousands of messages and with so much going on, I haven’t been able to respond to everyone individually. I want you to know I’ve read your notes and they have touched my heart. I wanted to send you all a message here to keep you informed about what has been going on and future plans. To recap:

Three weeks ago I had enough. After yet another mass shooting linked to a white supremacist, I tweeted out the following thread:

The Republican Party is enabling white supremacists in our country. As a lifelong Republican, it pains me to say this, but it’s true. 

I of course am not suggesting that all Republicans are white supremacists, nor am I saying that the average Republican is even racist.’

Almost immediately, the post started gaining national attention. Prominent news anchors, celebrities and political figures all seemed to be talking about it and reposting. The night after, I was on CNN. A few days later, I was on Morning Joe:

None of this was planned, in fact it caught me quite off guard. State senators typically don’t attract much attention or controversy.

But I had to say something. The activities of this president are BEYOND the pale. Hate crimes are on the rise. Racism and discrimination have been mainstreamed. Just yesterday there was another mass shooting. I may be a registered Republican but I’m a human being first and clearly see what’s going on. Many want me to stay quiet. I will not be doing that.

In my remaining time in the Nebraska legislature, I will tell the truth about this president and about the viability of the two-party system. The GOP wasn’t always this way. We used to believe in fiscal responsibility and sustainability. We used to believe in environmentalism. We once stood up for civil rights.

I have a VISION for what our party can and should be and I want to keep spreading this vision. I want to use my new platform to have honest conversations about what is happening no matter how inconvenient it may be. I want to promote a more inclusive GOP.

If you want to join me on this quest, there are a few ways you can help. 🙂

#1. In my experience, convincing voters who’ve already made up their mind is a hard sell. Our efforts are better spent talking to non-voters or undecided voters. In the 2016 election, close to 40% of the voting-age population didn’t vote. Let’s change that in 2020. Let’s have conversations with friends, neighbors and go-workers so we can get out the vote.

#2. If you’re not already following my pages on Facebook and/or Twitter, please do so and help me SHARE posts when I release them. The larger our reach, the louder our message.

#3. If you want to make a contribution on my website, the proceeds will go to spreading this message in the biggest way we can. We will create more content. We’ll make graphics. We’ll be able to hire some smart folks who are savvy with the internet. The bigger our team is, the louder our megaphone will be and I intend to keep talking.

And that about summarizes everything. Thank you so much for your compassion. I wouldn’t be sending this message were it not for your letters of support. You give me strength.

-John McCollister

Nebraska State Senator

Copyright © 2019 McCollister for Legislature, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you sent us a message.”

We need more elected officials to speak the important truths, especially when their party needs to do better. I applaud Senator McCollister for his courage and truthfulness. We all should.

Sunday salutations

Quiet mornings to read and reflect are a treasured interlude, particularly on Sunday. The larger newspaper permits a more elongated review of the news equipped with two large cups of coffee.

Focusing away from “he who shall not be named,” there are plenty of newsworthy items. Here are a few to digest this morning.

The new President Khan in Pakistan has won on an anti-corruption platform. He is not the first to run and win on such, yet corruption is so engrained, previous efforts have failed. Let us wish him well in his endeavors.

In England, Northhamptonshire has run out of money and the citizens are none to happy. Funding from parliament has fallen by 60% to various municipalities since 2010, so many towns are in a heap of hurt. Brexit, soft or hard, will not help matters as economic projections post-Brexit are not favorable. As is the case in the US, a country cannot shrink to greatness.

It was noted that the US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis is sending a Naval hospital ship to South America. The purpose is to help the vast overflow of medical needs in Venezuela. This is good news, but puzzles me why Mattis is the the one making the announcement. Is it being done on the down-low to avoid a certain person’s base from finding out, so Mattis could take any heat or is Mattis just acting at odds from the man in the White House and doing the right thing?

One of my sons and I saw “Black Klansman” yesterday. It was an excellent movie about a true story of a Black undercover cop who infiltrated the KKK back in the 1970s. He worked with a White Jewish cop who attended the meetings. The movie includes an actor playing Grand Wizard David Duke, who makes a real life appearance as the movie concludes with what is happening today.

Have a great Sunday. Salutations.