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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Jessica Bock, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

HAZELWOOD, Mo. — The scar on Chris Holmes’ left temple could be considered a marker of the measures he’ll take to make a lesson matter to his journalism students at Hazelwood West High School.

After the fatal shooting of Michael Brown on Aug. 9, Holmes attended what was supposed to be a peaceful vigil Aug. 10 in Ferguson. It was the Sunday night before the new school year began in Hazelwood, and he wanted to get an eyewitness perspective from the scene for his students.

His plan: Spend the first day of his intro to journalism class exploring how to accurately, responsibly, and ethically cover what would likely be a massive news event.

Instead, Holmes became part of the story.

“You never want to put yourself in a dangerous situation, but it made for a great conversation in class,” Holmes said last week. “It still does.”

Holmes, 48, had been marching on West Florissant Avenue with hundreds of others, taking notes and pictures to capture details from the scene. When night came, the peaceful tone changed to violence. Holmes had parked his car near the QuikTrip that would later be burned. As he headed back to it, he saw the looters.

“I was sad because I didn’t want this going on. Intrigued because it was incredibly newsworthy. And a little scared,” he said.

Someone yelled out that he was a detective, based on his black pants and black polo shirt, He explained he was a teacher, showing a woman his shirt with a Hazelwood West logo. The woman apologized.

A second later, someone threw a brick, cutting a deep gash on his forehead. Someone took his phone.

“If it wasn’t for several kind young women who led me to a police barricade, I’m not sure what would have happened,” Holmes said.

He spent the next five hours at the barricade, where he eventually got bandaged up while waiting to get back to his car and go home. He never got his phone back. Meanwhile, his wife and children were sleeping at home.

The next day, he went to school. Principal Dennis Newell sent him to see a doctor. He came back to school, stitched up and ready to teach, and Newell told him to go home and rest.

“That first day is so important,” Holmes said. “I hated missing it.”

He knew the kids were probably going to be talking about the teacher who got hurt in Ferguson. So he wanted to make sure they knew the truth.

You’re going to need to know this, he told his students the next day. This is what it was really like, he said. 99 percent of the people were mortified that there was violence. They didn’t come for the violence. This was not Ferguson.

“What we saw on TV, while it was news — and I get it, we’re journalists, we report the most newsworthy stuff — but most of what we saw was out of context,” he said.

Two weeks later, during a schoolwide assembly he thought was about attendance, officials announced that the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education had named Holmes as the state’s Teacher of the Year, and that he will represent Missouri in the national competition. The crowd erupted with cheers.

Newell says Holmes’ passion for teaching is unquestionable.

And while his visit to Ferguson may be an example of his dedication, it was not the reason for the honor. The award was based on much more than one night, such as the dropout prevention program he’s helped initiate at West. Then there’s the spring break trip he and a colleague took students on to the southern tip of Texas to report on immigration issues and teens along the Mexico-U.S. border.

And students say that although he may be one of the most popular teachers at West, he’s also one of the toughest.

“Mr. Holmes will push you no matter what. No matter where you are, you’re gonna improve,” said Onesty Pertillar, a senior.

Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch/MCT/Christian Gooden

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Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]