THE CAPITOL CONNECTION: Assassinations take huge toll

ASSASSINATION IS A FEARFUL WORD. Our world is filled with so much hatred and anger that it’s not a giant leap for an unbalanced person to reach for murder as their brand of politics. If you disagree with the politics of an individual and you are not in your right mind, killing that person might actually make sense to you. It really doesn’t matter that your actions will pretty much end your own life as you know it.

The assassination of a country’s leader can have a profound effect on virtually everything within the scope of that political subdivision. The two most significant assassinations in this country, to be sure, were those of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. If asked to prioritize, the death of Lincoln would probably come first because of the Civil War. That murder is fascinating for many reasons, not the least of which is that Booth, like so many other assassins, thought that he could get away with his crime.

Booth was clearly responsible for Lincoln’s death. People saw him do it. In the case of Kennedy, however, there has been seemingly endless debate about who committed that terrible deed. I’ve always believed that the great debate came about because the event was so cataclysmic, there had to be more to it than Oswald and Ruby. This was not just one deranged guy with a gun. The JFK assassination has always been perplexing. We have heard theories that the Mafia and a particular union did it. I had a union leader tell me that they killed JFK and that they would kill his brother. Maybe, but we’ll probably never know for sure. Read more…

ANOTHER VOICE: Meeting Reggie Harris

I REMEMBER MORE THAN 30 YEARS AGO when I first heard Reggie Harris in concert. I arranged for Reggie and his wife, Kim, to appear at Siena College in conjunction with my course on the civil rights movement. That evening Kim and Reggie gave a spirited performance capturing the aims and fervor of the African American freedom struggle. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Years later, I invited Reggie to accompany me on a tour of the South for students from Siena College and Albany High School. We retraced the route taken by the Freedom Riders in 1961 and concluded at the 50th anniversary celebration of their historic journey. On that trip, I observed how the young people eagerly learned the songs he taught while they absorbed the history of the veteran Freedom Riders they met. Three years later, Reggie and I escorted a second student group on a study tour connected to Mississippi Freedom Summer. They engaged with movement veterans and discovered that these heroes were once idealistic young people much like themselves. When Reggie accepted the role of leader for the Living Legacy project taking tours of southern places where civil rights history was made, I knew he was the ideal person for the job. Read more…

THE CAPITOL CONNECTION: Could NY turn from blue to red?

THIS COUNTRY IS LEANING more and more to the right of the political spectrum. Don’t you agree? On the one hand, we can elect a Donald Trump president and, in fact, consider doing that a second time. On the other, we embrace certain liberal thought through our contemporary Democrats. Right now, it looks like the Democrats are in firm control in New York, but don’t bet the ranch on things staying that way.

We know that there was a time when the USA was considered a liberal democracy. We boasted the likes of Hubert Humphrey and, at least for a while, Adlai Stevenson who never really caught on. The truth is, socialists we ain’t. I have always believed that much of what this country has become derives directly from the great Civil War between the North and South. If you want to understand the difference between Republicans and Democrats, you might read up on the end of the Civil War, fought in large part over the institution of slavery in the United States. Interestingly, of course, it was the southern Democrats who defended the tradition of slavery and the Lincoln Republicans who were the anti-slavery people.

Of course, things changed down the road. While the southern Democrats remained more conservative than their northern brothers for many years, the party eventually turned around and became the liberal wing of the contemporary political party structure. When Lyndon Johnson was president, we witnessed a sea change in the party. In addition to the War on Poverty, Johnson will be remembered for signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Civil Rights Act of 1968 while the Republican Party morphed into the conservative wing of our politics—that was quite a fall! Today, while neither contemporary party believes in slavery, a good part of this country remains, well, reactionary and it seems the Republican party would put many Americans into economic slavery of a sort. Read more…

THE CAPITOL CONNECTION: Justice Thomas ought to know better

MY GRANDDAUGHTER, HANA, just celebrated her fifth birthday. Can you remember when you were five?

This turned out to be a great birthday party. Lots of people came and we all went swimming and it was wonderful to see parents and children of all ages speaking and interacting with one another after such a long stretch of isolation.

The parents of Hana’s friends and our other guests know I’m a political scientist and they had a lot to say about the state of the country and its politics. Much of the talk concerned the Supreme Court of the United States which, as we know, has been issuing rulings that directly affect each of us.

We all know by now that a Supreme Court judge named Clarence Thomas has been making rulings that affect over 51 percent of the country, namely women. Thomas is exactly what our contemporary political ideology is all about. He is a Black man, but he represents the conservative ideology in this country. I worry about that and specifically, I worry about our little Hana and her future in this country and world. Women have always been treated as second class citizens and despite some progress, they are not where they ought to be. We have a long way to go and much work to do before things even out. Read more…