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

Careless Adults Take Note: 'Children Will Listen, Children Will See'

Careful the things you say

Children will listen

Careful the things you do

Children will see

And learn.”

At his death late last month at the age of 91, composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim was praised for writing for character rather than the hit parade. Playwright Arthur Laurents, who worked with him on several productions, once said that Sondheim “writes a lyric that could only be sung by the character for which it was designed.”

However, the audience for his work is everyone.

At this moment, the words of “Children Will Listen” from Into the Woods sadly resonate in a country where children are learning the wrong lessons from adults who should know better.

In Michigan, family, friends and classmates are mourning Madisyn Baldwin, Tate Myre, Hana St. Juliana and Justin Shilling, killed in an attack in a place that should be safe — high school. A 15-year-old was charged in the murders at Oxford High School, and in a rarity, his parents were charged with involuntary manslaughter for what prosecutors said was behavior that made them complicit.

Guide them along the way

Children will glisten

Children will look to you

For which way to turn.”

According to Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald and authorities, the parents bought a gun that their son called “my new beauty.” Mom spent time testing it out with him and texted him, “LOL I’m not mad at you … you have to learn not to get caught,” when teachers found him searching online for ammunition. Perhaps realizing too late the seriousness of the tragedy her son is charged with unleashing, she allegedly texted him, “Don’t do it.”

When the shooting started, Dad called authorities to tell them it could be his missing gun — and his son.

Both parents met with school officials the morning of the shooting and were advised that his behavior warranted counseling within 48 hours. But they apparently resisted taking him home or getting him the “help” the accused asked for in a disturbing note.

The teenage Kyle Rittenhouse was judged not guilty in Wisconsin and walked free after killing two men and seriously wounding a third. His mother, Wendy, was never charged and has said she didn’t really know what he was doing the night he traveled to Kenosha to patrol the streets holding a weapon. But where was the judgment of a parent who, according to prosecutors, accompanied her teen son to a bar where he and Proud Boys drank and celebrated? Come to think of it, where were the voices chanting “What about the culture?” and “Where is the father?” — questions always posed when a youth of color does far less than shoot and kill two people?

New Normal

For years, because of pressure from the NRA, gun rights groups and lawmakers, federal money for gun research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to “advocate or promote gun control” pretty much dried up. Now, some research funding has been reinstated, just when studies are showing that the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the impact of the U.S. gun violence crisis.

Very few Americans are denying anyone’s right to own a gun — for protection, for hunting, for target practice. But is common sense too much to expect?

Where indeed was the sense or the empathy when, just days after the Oxford High shooting, Rep. Thomas Massie posted a holiday photo on Twitter, with family members of all ages smiling while displaying guns. The caption: “Merry Christmas! ps. Santa, please bring ammo.”

The Kentucky Republican’s tweet got some support but also criticism, including from Fred Guttenberg, a gun control activist whose 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was killed in the 2018 Parkland high school shooting in Florida. In response to Massie’s message, Guttenberg tweeted a photo he took of his smiling child and another image of her gravesite.

Bad Choices

One lawmaker moved to outrage by the Michigan school shooting was Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, whose speech just after he learned the news was certainly informed by his passion for stricter gun control laws and the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in his own state that killed 26 people, including 20 little children. “It happens here, in America,” he said, “because we choose to let it happen.”

Will more parents and lawmakers be as outraged over school shootings that are becoming shockingly routine as they seem to be about teaching children anything about America’s sometimes violent history and teaching Americans to do and be better?

Acknowledging facts, it is charged, could ruin a child’s innocence.

These are children for whom active shooter drills have become as much a part of the curriculum as English, math and chemistry.

At Oxford High in Michigan, as a classroom of terrified students hid, there was a knock on the door, and from the other side came a voice indicating that he was a friend, not a foe. The suspicious students did not believe him and decided to take their chances by escaping out of a window instead.

It turns out it really was law enforcement knocking. But who could blame the high schoolers for their lack of trust in people who are supposed to know best, who have promised and failed to protect them?

These children — and to me they are children — lost their innocence a long time ago, if they ever had it.

“Careful the spell you cast

Not just on children

Sometimes the spell may last

Past what you can see

And turn against you.”

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun and The Charlotte Observer, and as national correspondent for Politics Daily. She is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project and host of the Equal Time podcast. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

The Demeaning Of ‘Woke’ -- And The Decline Of Decency In America

Endesha Ida Mae Holland smiled as she recounted the events of the Mississippi voter registration movement for the 1994 documentary Freedom on My Mind. That movement, from 1961 to 1964, was marked by the bravery of activists and the violence meted out by those who felt threatened by the very idea of Black citizens exercising their fundamental rights.

Holland's upbringing as a young African American in Mississippi, her work in the struggle and the retaliation that followed had left her unprepared for her first encounter at a Southern lunch counter following the passage of civil rights laws she fought so hard for. She said that when the clerk politely greeted her, it was so overwhelming and appreciated, she ordered everything on the menu, just to experience the balm of kind words covering her again and again.

At the close of Freedom Summer — only a few years after a Black farmer who tried to register to vote was shot and killed by a Mississippi state representative, who got away with it — respect seemed a triumph to someone whose humanity had been denied for so long.

Remember the phrase "political correctness"? It's not so in vogue these days, mostly because it has outlived its usefulness.

I remember when it was all the rage, an effort to reframe any rude and insensitive lout as a bold rule-breaker. My feelings about all the fuss? Despite protests to the contrary, there was never a prohibition against making rude remarks, no law that punished anyone who chucked racist or misogynistic or homophobic comments toward acquaintances or perfect strangers or who viewed the world through a lens of hardened stereotypes.

Not The First Time

During the heyday of outrage over "political correctness," everyone could — and did — say anything, make any joke, pass ridicule off at wit. And they could feel quite pleased with themselves.

What they couldn't do was escape pushback. The targets spoke up, demanded accountability, sometimes at great danger to themselves.

That was the problem for those who had lived a life without consequences, and wanted that status quo to continue.

I always wondered why anyone would have a desire to offend, would insist on it as a right. To me, it wasn't about being politically correct but about being a decent human being, following the Golden Rule, treating others as you would like to be treated, with consideration.I was happy when the phrase began to vanish, though unfortunately it took a while, until politicians and hucksters (sometimes one and the same) had managed to drain every drop of advantage from it.

But alas, it has been replaced with a word that has come to mean, well, whatever its users want it to mean. Unless you've been asleep, you know what word I'm talking about.

When you break down "woke," it literally means "the past tense of wake." But it also means being aware. When blues singer Lead Belly used the phrase "stay woke" in a 1938 protest song about nine African Americans, the falsely accused "Scottsboro Boys," it was advice to Black Americans who wanted to avoid a similar fate.

It has, however, been, as they say, weaponized. To mean, well, excessive sensitivity, I suppose.

How much attention to injustice is too much?

Again, I wonder about motivation, the need to, for example, join a stadium full of Atlanta Braves baseball fans performing a "tomahawk chop" when many Native American organizations have objected to appropriating rituals and using people as mascots.

In Gaston County, North Carolina, protesters at a high school have told school officials they could keep the "Red Raider" nickname if they just get rid of the red-painted "Indian head" symbol. So far, not a step in that modest direction.

A White House proclamation marking November as national Native American History Month read, in part: "Even as they shouldered a disproportionate burden throughout the pandemic, Tribal Nations have been paragons of resilience, determination, and patriotism." It went on to praise Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American to serve in a presidential Cabinet.

Where were former President Donald Trump and Melania Trump? Standing up to join Atlanta fans in "the chop."

'Own' Your Enemies

The leader of the Republican Party still sets the tone, and the tone is anything goes if it allows you to "own" your perceived enemies, and those enemies are everywhere. They could even be your colleagues.

Take Arizona GOP Rep. Paul Gosar, who faced the consequences this week for tweeting an altered anime video that showed him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and swinging two swords at the president of the United States.

The Democratic-led censure resolution that passed Wednesday read, in part, "Violence against women in politics is a global phenomenon meant to silence women and discourage them from seeking positions of authority and participating in public life, with women of color disproportionately impacted."

That may be the point for those who view Gosar as a right-wing hero and his tweet as clever and edgy. Of course, he's doubled down and most of his fellow Republicans haven't had much to say. Why would they, at a time when transgressions are praised and the Golden Rule is deemed a sucker's game.

Endesha Ida Mae Holland is the true hero. She died in 2006 as a celebrated scholar and author; she eventually had a documentary made about her. But as I sat riveted by Freedom on My Mind in a recent late-night showing on TV, it was that look on her face and her giddy smile — of someone who had been given a gift from a simple act of kindness — that stayed with me.

Sadly, it also struck me that recognizing the power of kindness — for the giver and receiver — is fading as surely as "woke" will, when another word rises to divide us.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

In Confronting Hate, A Short Memory Is Dangerous

Reprinted with permission from RollCall

June 17, 2015.

Though it wasn't that long ago, far too many Americans only dimly recall what happened on that date, when a racist murderer sat down to pray with parishioners at the historically Black Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., then pulled out a .45-caliber handgun and started shooting.

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When Leaders Do Justice, America Should Celebrate

Reprinted with permission from RollCall

It was an example of leadership and justice. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, fresh off surviving a recall vote, was not laying low but standing in front of cameras, signing a bill that would return prime property in Manhattan Beach — known as Bruce's Beach — to descendants of the Black couple who had been run off the land they owned close to a century ago.

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Why So-Called Tough Guys Are Always Punching Down

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call

The late great stand-up, actor and occasional philosopher George Carlin was known to cross the lines of what polite society would call good taste, but he himself drew a few lines when it came to his theory of funny.

Asked by Larry King in 1990 about popular bad-boy comedian Andrew Dice Clay, Carlin, while defending Clay's right to say whatever, said, "His targets are underdogs. And comedy has traditionally picked on people in power, people who abuse their power." Clay's core audience, Carlin said, were "young white males" threatened by Clay's targets, assertive women and immigrants among them.

Rule-breaker Eddie Murphy came to look back on his younger self, the brash young man dressed in leather, and cringe, especially at his jokes about women and relationships, he told The New York Times in 2019. "I was a young guy processing a broken heart, you know, kind of an …" — well, you get the idea.

In today's cruel world, it's not just comedians punching down, reaching for the "easy" joke, setting new and low standards, though a few still revel in their ability to shock (see Michael Che and his approving nods to vile remarks about the sexual abuse of young female athletes).

Many who should know better have given up seeking a more perfect union, one that welcomes all. They see advantage in aggression and, unlike Murphy, don't feel one bit embarrassed when reflecting on their words and actions.

In fact, the "punching" is the point, and it's always aimed squarely at those perceived as less powerful, from poor and disabled Americans who want to vote without jumping through unnecessary hoops and facing intimidation from poll watchers to transgender children eager to play sports to Black and brown students who would like their role in the country's history to be taught without accommodation for those too fragile to hear the truth.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's recent, threatening words involved actual hitting, in this case the speaker of the House and third in line for the presidency, Nancy Pelosi. At a Republican fundraiser in Nashville, Tennessee over the weekend, when presented with an oversize gavel, McCarthy said: "I want you to watch Nancy Pelosi hand me that gavel. It will be hard not to hit her with it." According to audio, the crowd of about 1,400 laughed.

McCarthy can almost taste the speakership, with voting restrictions in the states and new gerrymandered districts being teed up, and the Supreme Court and a Senate stalled on voting legislation helping to clear the way. He's already referring to Pelosi as a lame duck. For him and his followers, the angry rhetoric isn't something to be ashamed of; it's dessert, a way to rile up the base and rake in the cash.

While not approving of the violent January 6 insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol, McCarthy tried to block an investigation of the attack and said he ignored the testimony of brutalized police officers before the select committee that's proceeding without him. McCarthy seems to have forgotten his reported initial pleas to then-President Donald Trump to rein in his supporters that day.

Does he remember or care, as he's piling on, that the rioters particularly targeted Pelosi, defiled her office and called out "Where's Nancy?" in their best impression of Jack Nicholson's demented howl in The Shining?

The trickle-down effect that Republican politicians are so fond of when it comes to justifying tax cuts for the wealthy is certainly true when it comes to this style of "tough guy" posturing, as January 6 proved, though you can bet those rioters would not have been so free employing their weaponized flagpoles and bear spray if they were confronting each officer one-on-one.

The same goes for the bullies who don't need masks, but want to fight businesses trying to safely staff and operate their shops and restaurants, or the anti-vaxxers who show little concern for children too young to get vaccinated or neighbors who because of age or medical complications are at risk.

It's predictable that the tough guys and gals, so anxious to pick a fight — verbal and otherwise — offer a tsunami of excuses when called to account. That's usually the case with bullies.

The January 6 lawbreakers are blaming Trump, QAnon and the heat of the moment; some Republicans unbelievably blame Pelosi herself for the violence that targeted her. Professional comic Che says he was hacked, and amateur comic McCarthy claims he was "obviously joking" when he taunted the speaker.

I'd respect them all a lot more if they'd just own their perfidy. Instead, they do their damage with a wink before backing off, managing to look both mean and weak.

When I spoke with House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn last week on my Equal Time podcast, he didn't have the time or desire to insult anyone. As someone who in the 1960s was in the middle of the fight for the Voting Rights Act, he would rather talk about the current battle to protect the rights promised in that landmark legislation — and to save democracy itself.

Convincing those who don't believe it's their fight won't be easy. But Clyburn has the optimism of someone who, in the face of real danger, helped take on the segregated South. In "punching up" at a system designed to hold "powerless" Americans down, he and all those who changed history showed a toughness that a gavel-toting McCarthy and company can only dream about.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun and The Charlotte Observer, and was national correspondent for Politics Daily. She is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

Senate’s Report On Jan. 6 Is Only The Beginning


Reprinted with permission from Roll Call

The details are scary, but not surprising to some of us.

Capitol Police intelligence officers had warnings as early as December 21 of what was going to happen on January 6 at the Capitol: Pro-Trump protesters were planning to "bring guns" and other weapons to confront the police — the "blue" that conservatives swear they "back." Lawmakers were in danger of being trapped and harmed while doing the job they were elected to do, certifying the election of President Joseph R. Biden Jr. (though quite a few Republicans shamefully failed even that routine task post-insurrection). Conspirators giddily shared maps and discussed entry points.

And nothing.

A few Capitol Police command officers did get some information, which they failed to share widely. According to the department's statement: "Neither the USCP, nor the FBI, U.S. Secret Service, Metropolitan Police or our other law enforcement partners knew thousands of rioters were planning to attack the U.S. Capitol. The known intelligence simply didn't support that conclusion."

Known intelligence? Anyone paying attention to the social media bragging of self-styled "militia" members, Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, red-state secession groupies, white supremacists and their ilk could have figured it out. Those swept up in QAnon delusions and Donald Trump's "big lie" of a stolen election excitedly posted travel plans and loving photos of weaponry, all shiny and ready for action. The dry run of a Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., where a woman was killed, happened in 2017 — and that was over a statue. And just last year, armed Michigan militia members swarmed a state capital and plotted to kidnap a governor.

In preparation for the insurrection, Trump himself issued a pretty vivid invitation, one of several: "Big protest in D.C. on January 6th," he tweeted on December 19. "Be there, will be wild!"

No wonder rank-and-file officers felt betrayed.

An Appalling Failure

Any patriotic American, one who believes in democracy and sane leadership and the U.S. Constitution, should read the joint report from the Senate Rules and Administration and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees and be appalled at the intelligence and communications failures that led to loss of life, more than a hundred serious injuries and lasting trauma, and at the Confederate flags and racial slurs hurled at law enforcement putting their own lives on the line.

For an American who happens to be a minority, too much looks familiar — the lack of serious accountability for too many perpetrators, the encouragement by irresponsible leaders who see political advantage in stoking resentment, the effort to say, "Nothing to see here," which means a repeat as sure as night follows day.

Sadly predictable was the planning revealed in a January 5 internal document obtained by CQ Roll Call. Despite all the evidence that members of a mob would be, at Trump's urging, marching on the Capitol to prevent electoral votes from being counted, despite a January 3 warning that "Congress itself is the target," the Civil Disturbance Unit of the Capitol Police viewed counterprotesters as the major threat.

It recalls the civil rights protests of the 1960s, when peaceful protesters were considered the "agitators" and were treated accordingly and brutally, while the jeering and violent white crowds got a pass from law enforcement. Heck, my brother was arrested — twice — for sitting in at whites-only diners. Back then, J. Edgar Hoover's FBI was the protesters' enemy. Today's FBI director, Christopher Wray, testified this year that his agency had not seen "any evidence of anarchist violent extremists or people subscribing to antifa in connection with the 6th" and has warned that white supremacist violence is the top domestic terror threat.

But old habits die hard. Envisioning and preparing for the dangers of a predominantly white crowd carrying weapons while seeking to "cancel" Black and brown voters from Detroit, Atlanta, Milwaukee and Philadelphia by any means necessary is still a reach for a lot of people in power, especially those who agree with the rioters' cause.

We know what the mob can do.

And still, not much. Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the leaders of the Rules Committee, are expected to propose legislation to give Capitol Police the power to summon the National Guard and to increase the department's funding.

But Republicans in Congress have blocked a bipartisan commission to answer the questions that remain, paralyzed by the fact that Trump, and more than a few of their own members, might be implicated on paper. The word "insurrection" is nowhere to be seen in the report, which showed little interest in the role of white supremacist groups, many of whose members see Jan. 6 not as a loss but as an opening salvo.

Doing The Mob's Work

Using the "big lie" to do in state legislatures what the pro-Trump mob could not, Republicans are using their clout to make it harder for certain Americans to vote — minorities, the poor, students, the disabled, those who work long shifts and can't wait for hours in line, those who depend on same-day registration and drop boxes. And when those American voters do manage to overcome every obstacle, a partisan observer can harass them, and an appointed official can declare their ballots null and void.

For those arrested for taking part in an insurrection, let's just say the loudest proponents of taking personal responsibility are spewing excuses that make "the dog ate my homework" look credible. They were either in the wrong place at the wrong time or brainwashed by internet conspiracies. Or they were just following the orders of "Dear Leader."

Jacob Chansley, the so-called QAnon Shaman, prominently pictured roaming the Capitol on January 6, had his mommy defending him and repeating election fraud lies. Does she also cut up the organic food he insisted on being served in jail into little pieces before feeding him by hand?

They feel protected, and why not? They have American history and a political party on their side, ready to put a treasonous insurrection in the rearview mirror. So many don't think what happened on Jan. 6 will touch them. Worse, many sympathize with those who see a more inclusive America as a threat.

With Trump on his vengeance tour spreading that message, aided and abetted by GOP politicians willing to look the other way, expect the worst.

Minorities and their civil rights may be the first in jeopardy. But don't be fooled. Those bent on violently undermining democracy won't stop there. They never do.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

A Presidential Loser Can Still Win — But Will Trump?

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call

When you lose something precious, something valuable — the big prize — you don't have to get stuck with the "loser" label forever. Life and politics are full of examples of broken hearts and smashed dreams, and also examples of those who managed to rewrite their legacies in meaningful ways that benefited themselves and society.

Donald Trump has proved that he is not the kind of person given to reflection or remorse and would seem the last character capable of earning redemption. He slinked out of the White House on Wednesday, burdened with grievances, two impeachments and "what-ifs," beating an early retreat before Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn in. But it's not too late for him to learn something he has not so far in his 74 years.

Though he predicted four years ago that an America without his leadership would crumble, it was Trump who brought a vision of "American carnage" to life. The lasting image is of his supporters storming the U.S. Capitol, attacking democracy itself, and of a COVID-19 death toll passing 400,000, Americans mourned not by him but by Biden and Harris on inauguration eve with a solemn and soulful service the country needed.

But Trump's Wikipedia entry doesn't have to start with the word "disaster," not if he looks away from his red-carpet exit to pay attention, even with his notoriously short attention span, to how others have conducted themselves when confronted with power and influence slipping through their fingers.

Second Acts

The person Trump often mocked for choking "like a dog" in his defeat by President Barack Obama in 2012 now has the upper hand as the leader of the Senate's "I told you so" caucus. Though he still may get hounded at airports or on planes by rowdy louts, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney stands as the only Republican to vote to convict on one article at Trump's first impeachment.

That, and his simple acknowledgment in November that Biden won, almost makes the memory of his sought-after endorsement by citizen Trump in 2012 and his early attempt to gain a spot in the Trump Cabinet fade. Now that Romney's presidential hopes are in the rear-view mirror, he clearly sees burnishing his legacy on the road ahead. And, perhaps, he simply believes in the Constitution.

Al Gore certainly has built a legacy that is so much more than being the candidate on the losing end of the 2000 presidential election decided by the state of Florida and a Supreme Court decision that is still argued over.

After Gore, as vice president, presided over the tallying of the electoral count that declared George W. Bush the new president, brushing off the objections of some allies, no one would have blamed him for going off the grid forever. But anyone who had listened to his eloquent speech of concession, urging the country to move forward, would have known that was not to be his last act.

Gore turned to his passion: climate change, the environment and the effects of global warming. The film "An Inconvenient Truth" turned his wonky slideshow into a riveting documentary that spread his ideas to millions and won two Academy Awards in the process. He was honored, along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, with the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change."

That Nobel honor was also awarded to former President Jimmy Carter in 2002for "for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development."

After a crushing landslide loss to the Ronald Reagan juggernaut in 1980, Carter returned to Georgia, but his global influence continued as he traveled the world to spread the gospel of democracy, monitor elections and play key roles in diplomatic negotiations.

The work of the Carter Center in Atlanta, founded to advance human rights and alleviate human suffering, is credited with important global health achievements, including assisting in the near elimination of Guinea worm disease, a painful and debilitating scourge that once plagued millions.

Remember how many folks wanted to dismiss another Georgian, Stacey Abrams, as a "loser" after her 2018 defeat for governor against Brian Kemp, an election he also conveniently oversaw as Georgia's secretary of state? When Abrams dared say she was more than qualified to be picked as Biden's running mate, many called her everything but "uppity" for daring to put her hat in the ring.

Nobody's snickering now. We were reminded of how Abrams lives rent-free in Trump's head when he used her name as a taunt in attempting to force Georgia officials to change the presidential results — by finding or tossing votes — in those infamous phone calls that may come back to legally haunt him.

After Abrams came some 55,000 votes shy of becoming the nation's first Black female governor, she continued to organize and strategize, seeking to expand the franchise to all Georgians. She had already launched the New Georgia Project, now ably run by Nsé Ufot, after the Supreme Court gutted key provisions of the Voting Rights Act. After her defeat, she founded Fair Fight to counter voter suppression efforts and mobilize voter participation.

That involvement by Abrams and so many other grassroots organizers, many of them African American women, helped deliver the former Confederate state of Georgia to Biden and sent two Democratic senators to Washington.

Now other states and the Democratic Party want to clone her.

Turning A Page

Like Carter and so many of the country's leaders, Biden has relied on his faith to see him through unimaginable losses, both political and personal. Expect to hear quotes from Scriptures and hymns in the next four years.

Many in an exhausted and ailing country and around the world soaked in Biden's declaration in his inauguration speech that "democracy has prevailed." With the help of all Americans, the new president promised to write "the next great chapter" in the American story, one of "hope, not fear."

Trump has set the bar for acceptable behavior so low he would not have to do much for people to give him a little bit of credit for helping write a new chapter, perhaps by joining others in that exclusive club of former presidents who find more in common when they are no longer rivals and can do so much good.

Though Trump has reportedly floated the idea of a third party, dragging QAnon cultists, dead-enders, white supremacists and others raging against America along with him, even he has to know — and his dispirited farewell gave a hint — that's a losers' game. Heck, even Mitch McConnell knows it.

But one glaring and important lesson, lived out in examples that are plain to see, would be the hardest for the Trump everybody knows to absorb — winning doesn't always have to be about "you."

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

CQ Roll Call's newest podcast, "Equal Time with Mary C Curtis," examines policy and politics through the lens of social justice. Please subscribe on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

A Trump Christmas Brings Tidings Of Resentment And Revenge

Behaving badly, in a way contrary to anyone's idea of norms or traditions, has become a badge of honor for far too many of our nation's leaders and citizens, for which they feel neither shame nor a need to apologize.

Do unto others? Not quite. All those questions that should give pause — "Would you want someone to call your mother that name?" "What kind of example are you setting for your child?" — don't work.

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Trump’s Re-Election Is Confederacy's New ‘Lost Cause’

You can tell a lot about people by studying their priorities.

President Donald Trump is not spending too much time worrying about coronavirus surges and more than 270,000 Americans dead, as Dr. Anthony Fauci offers warnings about being vigilant while waiting for vaccine distribution. You did not hear the president express sympathy for those waiting in long lines for food over the holidays.

Instead, he has played a lot of golf and wailed on Twitter and television, refusing to accept his loss last month to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. Oh, yes, and the Justice Department found time to amend protocols to allow firing squads and electrocutions as a means to execute as many federal prisoners as possible before a new administration takes over.

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The Power Of Jill Biden — And The Women Her Husband Trusts

When Barack Obama won the presidency, many tipped a hat to Michelle Obama, his wife and partner, including Barack Obama himself. It was true in 2008 that the candidate was a smart man, a gifted orator and an exceptional politician as he broke through to become the first Black president of the United States. But he could not have done it without Michelle Obama.

That's my take, anyway.

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What’s In Kamala's Name? Identity, Pride, And Love

Every person's name is special. It demands respect.

I learned how seriously I felt about that at a pre-coronavirus conference, when a speaker who fancied himself Don Rickles but came off more like the rude uncle at a holiday party, prefaced his remarks with a self-styled roast. It supposedly poked "fun" at the attendees, including, apparently, those he barely knew. (And frankly, except for an occasional greeting at conferences past, I did not know this man from a can of paint.)

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Trump’s Reckless Conduct Endangers White House Workers

Despite the late nights and long hours that took my father away more than this daddy's girl would have liked, he never stopped being my hero. I knew that when he finished his day job, changed clothes and headed to his extra shifts tending bar or waiting tables for local caterers, he was doing it for a reason. Lots of them, actually —my mom, two sisters, two brothers and me.

For someone as proud as he was, it was a sacrifice because of what he had to put up with from people with a lot more money and a lot less character. They treated him like he was "invisible," or worse, and he put up with it, for us.

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Shut Up And Act? Tell That To Donald Trump

After refusing to weigh in on previous presidential contests, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has endorsed Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the 2020 race, lending his star power — while looking quite buff after a coronavirus scare — to a video with the Democratic ticket.

Cue the naysayers with the familiar refrain of "who cares" and "stick to acting," conveniently ignoring the reality show-starring, tabloid-exploiting résumé of the man in the White House. Donald Trump's Tuesday night debate performance was light on policy, but heavy on drama and fireworks, which is how he and his supporters like it. Though when the president encouraged the far-right Proud Boys to "stand back" and "stand by," the act became all too real for anyone who cares about the "United" States.

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Trump’s ‘Good Genes’ Remark Is A Harbinger Of Unending Struggle

It was one of lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg's cases before she took her place on the Supreme Court or in pop culture memes. It is only occasionally mentioned, perhaps because the details illuminated a truth people prefer to look away from, so they can pretend that sort of thing could never happen here.

But something terrible did happen, to a teenager, sterilized in 1965 without fully consenting or understanding the consequences in a program that continued into the 1970s in the state of North Carolina. The girl became a woman whose marriage and life crashed before her story became the basis of a lawsuit Ginsburg filed in federal court that helped expose the state's eugenics program. While North Carolina's was particularly aggressive, other states implemented their own versions, long ago given a thumbs up by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 1927 decision written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

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How To Keep The Faith When Religion And Politics Divide Us

In a recent phone conversation — a catch-up during COVID isolation — a longtime friend talked of a memory that seemed especially relevant these days. A fellow cradle Catholic, whom I met at a Catholic university, she recalled how startled she was on entering my childhood parish for my decades-ago wedding and finding herself surrounded by statues of the saints and Christ on the cross, familiar to her but so very different. The faces and hands and pierced feet were painted black, so unlike anything she had experienced growing up.

It stopped her, until she realized how appropriate the scene was. Of course, these representations would be reimagined in the image of those who gathered and worshipped in this particular holy place, located in the heart of West Baltimore.

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Returning To His Roots, Trump Promotes Racial Discrimination In Housing

As polls show his base stagnant and his poll numbers dropping, Donald Trump has decided to replay an old favorite. While trying to strike fear of the invading "other" is right out of the 1968 playbook of both Richard Nixon and George Wallace, it's also a tactic Trump honed at his father's knee. It makes perfect sense for Trump in trouble to return to what he knows — and he knows all about shutting the literal and figurative door on Black folks moving into white neighborhoods.

In the 1970s, Trump and his father, Fred Trump — president and chairman, respectively, of Trump Management — were named as defendants in lawsuits brought by the Justice Department, accusing them of turning away African Americans who applied to rent apartments in some of the company's buildings. That would be breaking the letter and spirit of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, something that was by no means the exception among property owners of the time.

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Democrats Offered An Inclusive Vision For America — It’s Your Turn, Republicans

It turns out the crowds, the balloons and confetti were merely froufrou, just window dressing. Stripped down, it was even easier for the themes of this week's Democratic National Convention — and the party's vision for the future — to break through.

The Democrats' unity on display could be a bit ripe for parody, for sure, a little like seeing Sylvester and Tweety Bird declaring a temporary truce before the inevitable chase continues. The scenes of comity — Republicans crossing over to extol the character of Joe Biden, progressives vowing to work with moderates — would most certainly be replaced by the usual infighting and struggles for policy influence even, or especially, if Democrats win big in November. That's the Democratic and (small "d" democratic) way.

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