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

How Social Change Comes In Twos, And History Rhymes

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Go down, Harvey Weinstein, down to Alabama and campaign for cowboy Roy Moore, the Republican rocking Washington the way you roiled Hollywood. The dirty river of sexual harassment finally rose to claim and name each of you — and more. Comedian Louis C.K., you can go, too.

Masters of the universe are shattered at how swiftly the rules of the game changed. How unfair; how unfortunate. They’re gobsmacked that the world takes women seriously now. They’re just women, after all. Or girls, as the case may be.

You wonder why the change came in a twinkling, with sexual harassment victims speaking out, tales tumbling like dice. Weinstein may be charged with rape by the New York police department. The sheer numbers of powerful men brought down became a breaking point in a short time. From Bill O’Reilly of Fox News to Washington literary lion Leon Wieseltier, the list is long.

The answer is clear. The Black Lives Matter protest movement was strengthened in Baltimore on an April Sunday in 2015, when several police officers chased after a young man, Freddie Gray, and broke his spine while taking him into custody. Revolutions often come in twos to the ark of moral justice.

Gray died of trauma injuries, setting off riots in Baltimore and sympathetic stirrings around the nation. City after city — including Ferguson, Missouri. and Cleveland, Ohio — had witnessed police brutality against black men — and boys.

Outrage grew when the dots connected, when white people finally saw the ugly pattern of police abuse of power. Black men and youths do get harmed for doing nothing. Gray was doing nothing that Sunday morning in his neighborhood. He was no violent criminal.

The militarization of city police forces since the Sept.11 terrorist attacks — along with Pentagon tanks and weapons — has made policing even more hostile. The ACLU found that Baltimore police made hundreds of thousands of arrests in a city of 640,000 in one year. Across the nation, even with a black president, black men bore the brunt of police violence. Author Ta-Nehisi Coates, a Baltimore native, hit nerves in the reading public’s consciousness of the state of race.

Progress happens in fits and starts, not a straight line. But one can observe the influence of one movement on another. The sexual harassment wave is kin to Black Lives Matter, like a sister/brother tie. In both gathering storms, violence and abuse unseen by the public eye finally surfaced and came to light. Exposing the abuse and anguish inflicted by alpha men (armed with guns or power) on blacks and women was nothing short of shocking.

The Freedom Riders and civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, similarly, was the forerunner of the women’s movement of the early 1970s. For participants, one social movement led naturally to the other. “Women’s lib” emerged to take stands on Ms., Title IX and sex discrimination. Gloria Steinem and Billie Jean King were standard-bearers. Ivy League doors opened to women.

The original brother/sister human rights model is the American anti-slavery society, started in Philadelphia in 1833. Many abolitionist women decided to work for their own emancipation as citizens, too. The women’s rights movement was launched in 1848 by leading Quaker abolitionist Lucretia Mott, present at the creation of the anti-slavery society. It doesn’t take that many brave people to crack the world.

Cracked, but we’re not going back. I must say, now that misogyny is a household word, a few glib men are now experts. Women will speak for themselves in this national conversation.

But hey now. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has undergone a reformation. “I believe the women,” he said of Moore’s accusers. That wasn’t his stance on Anita Hill’s testimony, on how Clarence Thomas viciously harassed her, at his Supreme Court confirmation hearing.

Fruits of privilege are never surrendered without a fight or a scene. But the fact such confrontations and scenes are happening is a good thing. And then we move on from victimhood.

The Irish poet Seamus Heaney wrote, “hope and history rhyme.” That’s absolutely true when it comes to African-American and women’s rights.

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit


Virginia, A Ray Of Light On A Rainy Day

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Washington — Cold, dark and autumnal at five o’clock — and that’s not just the weather. It was a year ago to the day that Hillary Clinton lost her historic bid to become president, though she won the people’s vote decisively.

Forgive my blue gloom. Clinton was for all seasons — first lady, senator, secretary of state. She deserved better: a fair chance, not to be run down in the mud of her opponent’s misogyny.

Her defeat was a defeat for every woman and girl who avidly supported her. My sister and her girl campaigned door to door in Las Vegas. This is what the election told us: Put your dreams on hold. History’s going backward.

The man who won the Electoral College, President Donald Trump, now has record low approval ratings. His associates are under investigation for campaign contacts with the Russians to sway a close race. It still seems surreal, that Facebook let itself be played in a massive Russian meddling conspiracy, even getting paid in rubles. Vladimir Putin, the Russian president and a former KGB spymaster, harbored a vendetta against Clinton since her diplomatic days. In a way, he won the election.

Trump has governed against the great American middle, from the hard right. Politics was the art of compromise, once upon a time. It’s sad to see the White House press corps scrambling after his Archie Bunkeresque tweets. The snide White House spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, dredges up President Nixon’s press secretary, Ron Ziegler. It’s that bad.

But wait, there’s a ray of light inside the Capitol Dome. The two Virginia senators walked in the press gallery for a “pen and pad” session. The election of a folksy Army doctor as the new Democratic governor was a real rebuke to Trump in a battleground state.

Democratic Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner looked giddy with relief. Their man, Dr. Ralph Northam, was a low-key candidate running against a Republican lobbyist, Ed Gillepsie, who employed Trump tactics, such as defending Confederate statues after the deadly race riot in Charlottesville.

“I was worried about the rain,” Warner cheerfully admitted, “and the traffic.”

The rural vs. urban divide is cleft in “Old Virginny” vs. new Northern Virginia, a thriving urbane mosaic of well-educated white-collar workers.

“When a Democrat wins by 9 points in Virginia,” Kaine enthused, “that’s a landslide.” He was on the ticket “with Hillary” Clinton. They carried Virginia — but not by much.

But the doctor said it best in his Eastern Shore drawl.

“Virginia has told us to end the divisiveness, that we will not condone hatred and bigotry,” Northam said. “It’s going to take a doctor to heal our differences. And I’m here to tell you, the doctor is in!”

In a strong signal to other Democrats, Northam’s liberal primary opponent, Tom Perriello, campaigned with vigor for the man who defeated him.

Virginia led the nation in a victorious night for Democrats, including first-time city and state officeholders. Abrasive Chris Christie, Republican governor of New Jersey, will be succeeded by a Democrat. With a 14 percent approval rating, he won’t be missed.

The 2016 election also tested outgoing President Barack Obama’s chops as his party leader. Trump began his outsider’s crusade for office by challenging Obama’s legitimacy as a citizen. Obama never confronted him.

Strangely, Obama also failed to tell the American people about ongoing Russian interference till late in the game — for he thought Clinton was going to win the election and didn’t want to rock the boat, so he said. We the people should have been told, regardless of his political read.

Obama’s a solo artist, but not a team player for the party. He did not even energize his base to come out for Clinton. Of course, she chased the little red-haired girl for Democrats, the unattainable red state of Ohio, instead of spending time in places like Green Bay, Wisconsin. Trump said one true thing about the election: Democrats should have won it.

Rubbing it in, this week was the 25th anniversary of President Bill Clinton’s win in 1992. Better days beckoned.

The cold, dark autumn night fell fast.

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage

Kelly’s White House Tirade Snuffed A Candle Of Hope

Reprinted with permission from Creators.


WASHINGTON — White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was an officer, but he’s not a gentleman.

So much for the deft touch his job demands and the high hope we held he’d be a voice of reason, the innkeeper for the inmates of the Trump presidency.

As the days passed this bleak week, Kelly kept a silence, hardened into ice. He failed to apologize to a Democratic congresswoman of color for speaking poorly and falsely of her in a national media moment. Nor did he have a kind word for a pregnant Gold Star widow whose husband died in Niger. Even while saying women were “sacred.”

Mind you, Kelly was a four-star Marine Corps general, so he was slumming by speaking to civilian dweebs in the White House press corps. In the world we live in now, his stars give him a pass to speak strange untruths with no consequences.

Take it from Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “If you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that’s highly inappropriate.” The White House spokeswoman delivered her chilling line straight, snide, with a scowl.

Praising the warrior class, Kelly made clear “the best 1 percent this country produces” are superior to the rest of us in a band of brothers, we happy few, Shakespearean way. That’s bad news in democracy, which depends upon civilian control of the military.

It’s un-American to exalt the military, sir. But Marines are a breed apart, even in the military. Their fierce intensity inculcates a faith they are tougher than the rest: Army, Navy, Air Force. Huzzah.

Kelly was called out by a few pundits after a morbid solo in the pressroom, where he described how casualties are wrapped in shrouds and packed in ice. His son Robert was a Marine Corps casualty seven years ago in Afghanistan. It felt like yesterday as he recounted hearing the news from fellow Marine Corps commander, Joseph “Fighting Joe” Dunford, now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Clearly, the chief’s raw grief and anger on display created a potent political brew. His smear of Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., however, salted a grieving family’s wound and exposed a grim thinker with no sympathy for 99 percent of the populace.

Here’s Thomas Friedman of The New York Times: “Kelly squandered his moral authority.” Richard Cohen in The Washington Post: “Did Kelly lie or did he misremember? I prefer the second choice, but either way, the stars he once wore on his shoulder do not immunize him.”

Back in the briefing room, Kelly accused Wilson of grandstanding at the 2015 dedication of an FBI building, which was proved wrong. In Boston slang, he spoke harshly of her as an “empty barrel.”

Too bad he wildly missed the reason Wilson was with the widow when the president called her to say, “(Y)our guy … knew what he signed up for,” in his inimitable way.

Trump’s call came in on speakerphone in a parked vehicle.

At that moment, Wilson kept a vigil with the family of the slain soldier, La David Johnson, while waiting for his remains with an Army team. The congresswoman saw the sergeant grow up and mentored him as a youth. She was a family friend.

“When (Kelly) lied on me, he lied to them,” Wilson said, meaning the American people. She’s a spirited 74.

“The only thing I could do to collect my thoughts,” Kelly concluded, was to go to Arlington National Cemetery across the river that day.

Perhaps the battle-hardened Marine, 67, knows Montgomery Meigs, the Civil War quartermaster general, was the genius who suggested to President Lincoln: Let’s turn Robert E. Lee’s rolling plantation acres, Arlington, into a “field of honor” for Union soldiers.

The symbol was not so subtle: Their blood was on Lee’s hands. Meigs hated Lee, whom he knew, as a traitor. Like Kelly, he buried there his own son John, a West Point-educated soldier who died young in Virginia in 1864.

Kelly sure knows this: We have an all-volunteer military because the Pentagon and presidents like it that way. They can go to war easier. A draft requires a social consensus.

As for civilians, the last candle of hope at the court was extinguished with Kelly’s tirade.

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



It Happens All The Time: Hollywood, Washington, The Old South

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Hollywood was shocked (shocked!) at the story pyramid revealing Harvey Weinstein’s violent passes at younger women.

(Why wait 20 years, superstars Angelina, Gwyneth and boyfriend Brad?)

Hear the echoes of Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas and, telescoping time, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. Did the champion of liberty coerce his subjugated slave mistress? You tell me. But there’s a twist to that tale.

The free-fall from movie pharaoh to industry pariah brought a breeze of vindication. Weinstein’s life crumbled in such cinematic style that a plot point was born: a flood named #MeToo. The hashtag sprang up for legions of women who vividly reported sexual assault and harassment. They voiced their experiences online, breaking silences on social media.

This is not new, and white Hollywood stars are far from the only victims.

Speaking out is freeing. The volume from Everywoman showed sexual harassment happens all the time. Hollywood came clean on its dirty open secret, just how sordid Weinstein was with women.

Social movements cannot live on ether alone. Gathering force, women can hew new lines for their safety. Since the president has bragged about sexual assault, women should plan to protect each other in the workplace — and that includes the White House. The energy need not stop there; it can seize on other outrages in the age of Trump.

Back in 1991, Anita Hill’s sworn testimony was not believed by 52 senators, 26 Octobers ago. The Senate hearings riveted the nation. Hill’s specific allegations of Clarence Thomas’s sexual harassment when he was her boss were so graphic and embarrassing that Thomas fled the room — he couldn’t take the heat. Senators Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., and Arlen Specter, R-Pa., acted like witches. Thunder, lightning and rain, I called them from my San Francisco fog.

A Supreme Court seat was at stake. There were two women senators. Senator Robert C. Byrd, D-W. Va., stood and declared Hill told the truth. The vote was a sea of ties: 52 to 48 to confirm arch-conservative Thomas. Had the drama gone the other way, I’m sure society would be in a different place. The vote sent a chilling message to a woman’s word against a powerful man.

In Jefferson’s Virginia, enslaved women were at the mercy of their master. Their bodies were legally his property. That was the way of the plantation world. “Planters” had slave mistresses all the time. Everybody knew, few talked. That’s how slavery grew so fast, by natural increase.

Women and girl slaves were always in the workplace — morning, noon and night. A master’s move to claim them was inescapable. And they had no way to voice their victimization. They couldn’t read, write or tweet. They are lost to history, mostly, save one.

Sally Hemings’ life has come to light since 1999. There are shades of gray in the Hemings-Jefferson bond of 38 years. Jefferson’s wife, Martha, died young, leaving him devastated with two daughters. He took Sally to France, where he was the American ambassador, to take care of the girls.

And there the thing began. Sally was in her teens, Jefferson in his 40s. As the French say, droit de seigneur. The master’s right. Jefferson historians took forever and a day to handle the bombshell truth.

Here goes: Sally and Martha were half-sisters. They had the same white father, whose slave concubine was Sally’s mother. You see, Sally was Martha’s slave, her own flesh and blood.

Hemings had a rare choice: Stay a free woman in Paris or return to Virginia a slave. Jefferson pleaded that she’d have a good life in the great house, Monticello. He promised to free their children at 21. (He did.)

Sally Hemings had four children by Jefferson. DNA results told us so. One strikingly resembled his father, visitors noted. Madison Hemings was so named because Dolley Madison pressed a pregnant Sally to name a son after her husband, James.

Madison, a carpenter, wrote a memoir of Monticello and his “stately” father in an Ohio newspaper. His brother Eston played the violin, like his father, and went west to Wisconsin. Some light-skinned Hemings-Jefferson descendants crossed the color line.

Let’s keep working to change the tragic chorus: It happens all the time.

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at


Democracy Is Not A Spectator Sport

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Take me to the protest. Let’s meet out on the streets: at a National Football League game, a law school, the Pentagon or a March on Washington. Since I was 6, after I tied my shoelaces, I was good to go.

Teach your children. Nonviolent resistance opens a way out of the dark. The legions of kneeling NFL players, whom President Trump tongue-lashed like a plantation overseer, should be congratulated, not condemned. They created a public stage of protest to be seen and witnessed. They moved the ball of progress forward.

Democracy is not a spectator sport.

Taking a knee is a new variation on our old political tradition, with folk songs. The football field protests are not about the national anthem and flag, as Trump declares to deflect the real meaning.

The NFL players “taking a knee” are taking a stand against ingrained inequality and the culture of police brutality against African-American men.

Is it any accident that the president is berating a social statement by players who are men of color? It couldn’t be clearer that he’s launched another cannon of hate, dressed in red, white and blue. Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, they say.

Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights icon and Baptist preacher, championed nonviolence until his dying day in 1968. Creative nonviolence was his forte: visible marches like the famous one from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Peaceful marchers were beaten bloody by Deep South law enforcement. And the nation’s eyes were shocked.

Now the lost Vietnam War is again visiting us in our living rooms, through the finely crafted lens of PBS filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. It lands as a bluebird in the garden and reminds us of the turmoil of the ’60s at home: the anti-war movement. In a brave stand often overlooked, King opposed the Vietnam War.

Rising public opposition to the war, first in the campus movement, was what finally ended it.Too late for the 58,000 names engraved on the Vietnam War Memorial wall.

The anti-war movement started in my Midwestern hometown: Madison, Wisconsin. The University of Wisconsin campus demonstrations — and teargas arrests — in 1967 sparked other movements in Berkeley, Michigan, Columbia. We lived in a faculty community and I was raised on anti-war protests when I was young. A professor who lived near us was a fiery leader in “The War at Home.”

I loved the exhilaration in the air, even if I knew the president (Lyndon Johnson) lied to the people. I could handle the truth. I knew where all the flowers had gone. The war was all the grown-ups talked about at dinnertime at 6 p.m., before Walter Cronkite. Then they talked some more about the war.

My mother never said so, but the lesson learned was that citizens had to speak or act when they saw the government doing the wrong thing. Democracy was depending upon us; it was patriotic to dissent. But nonviolent resistance, as I was soon to see, was not for the faint of heart.

In 1968, I shed tears for a world beyond Madison: King the dreamer was murdered in April; Robert F. Kennedy was slain in June.

Looking further back in time, I place King and Kennedy in the historical company of Mary Dyer in 1660, hanged by the Boston Puritans for being a Quaker who broke the ban in Boston. (Puritans hated Quakers.)

They are also in good company with Elijah Lovejoy, the abolitionist newspaper publisher who got murdered by a mob in a Southern Illinois town in 1837.

Dyer is seen as the first American martyr for religious freedom; Lovejoy the first to die for freedom of the press.

The NFL player movement might take heart that Quakers still embraced nonviolence for social change. On the front lines of the abolitionist movement, they pressured Abraham Lincoln to free the slaves. The Underground Railroad was brilliant citizen resistance. The woman suffrage movement leader Alice Paul, a Quaker, went out to the streets to confront President Woodrow Wilson.

Way ahead of their time, they won the day. Resistance may yet save the republic.

As if they heard me writing, I saw two senators hugging on the floor: John McCain, R-Ariz., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. The NFL brotherly spirit is spreading to the Capitol.

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at