Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Chilling Blurt-Blats of Trumpists
  Jeff Sessions' Hawaii Incident reminds
  us to heed Sun Tzu's The Art of War

Politics in a democracy is a war, of sorts. Or rather it is a substitute for killing each other in power struggles related to economics (wealth and property) and beliefs (religion, ideology, tribe).

The Art of War is an ancient Chinese military treatise dating from the 5th century BC attributed to the Chinese military strategist and philosopher General Sun Tzu. As noted in Wikipedia, much of the text is about how to fight wars without actually having to do battle. It gives tips on how to outsmart one's opponent so that physical battle is not necessary. As such, it has found application as a training guide for many competitive endeavors that do not involve actual combat.

As with too many things in American culture, we kinda, sorta think we know about The Art of War. That is foolish because it is a long philosophical treatise that does not lend itself to the common American understanding limit of 140 characters. For instance, many Americans are aware of "know your enemy" when in fact the wisdom as shown in the image above is:
    So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be put at risk even in a hundred battles. If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose. If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.
In the context of an "opponent" in a competition outside of a physical battle, "know your enemy" means to understand how they likely will respond to the changing circumstances within which they find themselves. To know your enemy, you must know their frame of reference, their "structure of concepts, values, customs, views, etc., by means of which an individual or group perceives or evaluates data, communicates ideas, and regulates behavior."

Everyone has a frame of reference based on a lifetime of experience which sets their standards for judging the world - their perspective, their way of looking at things. Among the elements of a lifetime that create a frame of reference in childhood and adolescence are
  1. the importance of kinship, lineage, and affinity groups and
  2. the cultural quiescence within the hometown region.
These influences can be clearly heard in the blurts and blats that emanate from the Trumpists - members of Donald Trump's team. If I as a Californian really listen to them, I find that trumpeting disturbing.

But, when Trumpists blurt and blat, I know those are an expression of their frames of reference as is my varied and many reactions. In such a case it is important to "know" them and equally important to "know" ourselves.

Last week the Trump-appointed United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions made this comment about a federal judge in the state of Hawaii:
     "I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power."
Despite the subsequent repugnant (to me) discussions and defenses offered that he was just attacking the judicial branch, his statement clearly sounds like he meant to minimize the place - an island in the pacific, maybe U.S. territory, but surely not a place entitled to membership in the exclusive country club known as These United States.

It wasn't a comment that would be outside of Trumpist Session's frame of reference. But as a fellow American whose frame of reference is Californian, I must consider Jeff Sessions' frame of reference in the context of his childhood and adolescence from the facts of
  1. the importance of kinship, lineage, and affinity groups and
  2. the cultural quiescence within the hometown region.
It isn't just that Sessions was born and raised in, and lived most of his life in, Alabama, a geographic region historically different from California, though that might give a hint. It isn't just that since the early 1700's no male in his paternal lineage ever called home a place outside the southernmost part These United States:
Click on image to see a larger version!

Rather it's all that plus the fact that his great-grandfather died at the Battle of Antietam fighting for the South in the Civil War, and that his grandfather, his father, and he are all named "Jefferson Beauregard" Sessions...
  • as in Jefferson Davis was selected as President of the Confederacy at the constitutional convention in Montgomery, Alabama. 
  • as in Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard.
Now I know those names were commonly used among white families in the South after the Civil War. And I know that Jeff Sessions didn't name himself. But most other people likely will not share a perspective, a way of looking at things, with Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III - including most any American whose lineage includes no one from the Slave States indicated in the map below:


Early 19th Century American history isn't as simple as that. Among many people where Sessions was born and raised, there is a shared belief that any state within the land area not a U.S. state before the Missouri Compromise in 1819 indicated in the map below has a somewhat-less-than-equal standing relative to Alabama...

Click on image to see a larger version!
...because in 1819 when Alabama became a state, there were 11 Free States and 11 Slave States. The open furious political/ideological debate after 1819 - regarding what would be allowed in the frame of reference in new states not on the map above - ended after about 1 million Americans were killed in the Civil War.

For many in the South, "These United States" of 1819 was the last map of the nation formed in 1789 pursuant to the 1790 Census Map. The brutal reality of that map is subconsciously embedded in the frame of reference of many who live in those pink states today

However, while the Civil War as a series of physical battles ended on April 9, 1865, when General Lee surrendered at the village of Appomattox Court House, it could be said that the last battle casualty of the Civil War occurred five days later on April 14, 1865, when President Lincoln was shot.

As an aside, the last Confederate General to surrender his forces was Cherokee leader Stand Watie, on June 23, 1865 - while many 21st Century Americans think the only issue of the Civil War was black slavery, members of the Cherokee nation, which was subject to the genocide policies of the United States that continued into the 20th Century, would disagree. Anyway....

So what gut response would you expect from Sessions about a judge on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean overturning a Presidential Order??? Particularly when the response is from someone like Sessions who was in elementary school in Alabama when former California Governor Chief Justice Earl Warren ordered an end to desegregation???

Think about this frame of reference.When the land that makes up most of Alabama became part of the nation under what we know first 13 States pursuant to our Constitution in 1789, slavery was legal in 8 of 13 states, including 87% of the new nation's land area and holding 63% of the population.

When you look at that 1790 map, you may not realize that of the states shown, 75 years later the strongest support in the North for going to war came from New England states and Pennsylvania. Further, consider the irony in the fact that Donald Trump's New York City historically liked to sell stuff to the Sessions and their neighbors:
    ...From Wall Street financiers, to commercial shippers, to merchants selling manufactured goods to a South that produced little of its own, the New York City economy depended heavily on southern cotton. In response to the divisive Compromise of 1850, a group of merchants formed the Union Safety Committee, which pledged “to resist every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest.” During the war years, Mayor Fernando Wood, a “Peace Democrat,” led opposition to the war in the city, which grew as the wartime economy floundered and casualties mounted.
Based on their frames of reference, it's a given that Jeff Sessions and his boss don't understand Californians with their legal pot and their immigrants and their (at least from many like me) constant doubt that the United States is anything more than a fraudulent spin when it comes to liberty and justice for all, much less when it comes to equality.

That some non-white judge from Hawaii overturned the travel ban against some non-Christian brown people must be particularly galling to Trumpists even though the Senate, including Sessions, unanimously confirmed Derrick K. Watson. Maybe when he voted then Senator Sessions didn't know that the "K" stood for the middle name Kahala reflecting Judge Watson's frame of reference differences from a Southerner whose middle name is Beauregard.

When the judge was confirmed it was noted that he became the fourth person of Native Hawaiian descent to serve as an Article III judge in American history. Also the District of Hawaii became the first federal court in U.S. history with a majority of Asian Pacific Americans, as Judge Watson joined Chief Judge Susan Oki Mollway and Judge Leslie Kobayashi on the bench. At the time of Watson’s confirmation, Hawaii Congresswoman and Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Judy Chu said:
    I am thrilled that the Senate has voted to confirm Derrick Kahala Watson’s nomination to the U.S. District Court. This decision continues a significant trend of working to ensure that our federal judiciary reflects the diversity of the American people. Judge Watson is a strong addition to the federal bench, and will surely be a great public servant for the people of Hawaii.
Watson, whose mother worked in a bank and father was a Honolulu police officer, after attending the the Kamehameha Schools became the first in his family to attend college getting his undergraduate degree at Harvard. Like Sessions in his native Alabama, Watson has deep roots in Hawaii, growing up in a multi-generational household on Oahu.  Of course, Watson's Harvard Law graduating class included Barack Obama and Neil Gorsuch.

An interesting non-Sessions perspective on Watson's ruling was offered in this article:
    There are indications, though, that Watson’s viewpoint may have been further influenced by his Hawaiian heritage and his long record of advocacy for immigrant rights and civil rights. While with a San Francisco law firm in the early 2000s, he devoted hundreds of hours to pro bono cases defending the rights of Mexican restaurant workers being held in slave-like conditions and to landlord-tenant disputes.
    The complaint filed by Hawaii’s attorney general against the Trump travel ban contained an explicit reference to some of the most painful chapters in the islands’ history – the Chinese Exclusion Acts and the imposition of martial law and internment of Japanese Americans following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. At the time, the US supreme court upheld the government’s argument – similar to Trump’s – that it had the executive authority to defend national security as it saw fit. But the court’s ruling in Korematsu v United States has since been described as a “stain on American jurisprudence” and has been widely repudiated in federal court rulings if never explicitly overturned.
    “If you have an order taking us back half a century to a time when there was discrimination on the basis of national origin or religion,” Hawaii’s attorney general, Doug Chin, told reporters after Watson’s ruling, “that’s something we have to speak up against.”
Jeff Sessions is two years younger than me. The fact is I too have a frame of reference based on the culture of my home state, California. Also I was heavily influenced by the fact that while my Irish Catholic family members were serving in WWII, when stationed in the South they suffered discrimination from Sessions family compatriots. We understood the reality of the 1881 observation written in a letter by British historian Edward Freeman on his return from America:
    This would be a grand land if only every Irishman would kill a Negro, and be hanged for it. I find this sentiment generally approved - sometimes with the qualification that they want Irish and Negroes for servants, not being able to get any other.
When I was 2 years old, then California Governor Earl Warren supported the integration of Mexican-American students in California school systems following Mendez v. Westminster. I was in elementary school when then Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Earl Warren wrote the opinion for Brown v Board of Education. Some of my California high school classmates were born in Japanese-American internment camps. A lot of my California high school classmates were Mexican-Americans.

Why anyone would care about a 19th Century American Civil War in the 21st Century is a mystery to me. The South lost. Get over it. But I also recognize the depth of feelings in Sessions frame of reference.

Most Americans today do not live in the states indicated on the 1790 map above. But wherever they live, what Americans need to learn from history is that our American progenitors screwed up, a lot. They got a lot wrong, more than they got right. We need to forgive our American ancestors, but not make mistakes based on their stupidity. That particularly goes for Trumpists who have acquired political power, such as U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

California Senate Majority Leader Kevin de León when challenging Sessions' threats against Sanctuary Cities was partly correct when he stated:
    It has become abundantly clear that Atty. Gen. [Jeff] Sessions and the Trump administration are basing their law enforcement policies on principles of white supremacy — not American values. Their constant and systematic targeting of diverse cities and states goes beyond constitutional norms and will be challenged at every level.
He is right that the policies reflect white supremacist values. What he fails to openly recognize is not that Sessions and Trump and the Deplorables are white supremacists, but that they are Americans reflecting their values as Americans - American values that consistently go back to 17th Century America. It is clear to me that Sessions' frame of reference retains in him a concept of America that is chilling.

That's a problem for 21st Century residents of Hawaii and California. When a country permits persons with this frame of reference to hold office because of a failed democratic election that gave such persons power not only with less than a majority vote but with fewer votes than the other candidate, the result may be legal but it is a literal threat to non-white Americans.

When "the other" appears on their radar, the Trumpists would be as comfortable as their 1940's predecessors carrying out a racist act under the color of law.

It would be a racist act similar to putting Japanese-Americans in concentration camps because their ancestors lived in a country with which America is at war, while not imprisoning German-Americans nor Italian-Americans.

We so spin this in our history classes that we don't recognize that this happened not because of any danger to our country but because Germans and Italians are white Europeans while the Japanese are Asians.

By spinning it in our grade school and high school classes by not noticing what we didn't do to German-Americans and Italian-Americans, we won't recognize as our core beliefs the tenants of white supremacy when we do it again, such as that Trump immigration order which is clearly a white supremacist act carried out under the guise of threat from "the other."

Not only that, but it is likely that today's Supreme Court full of white Catholic men would uphold it in the name of safety and security despite facts to the contrary.

That's the country Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump and the Deplorables want to live in and actually live in.

As a Californian I have a problem with that kind of America. It was less than 100 years ago, in 1881 when British historian Edward Freeman made his observation about America quoted above, from When Italian immigrants were 'the other' we learn:
    The largest mass lynching in U.S. history took place in New Orleans in 1891 — and it wasn’t African-Americans who were lynched, as many of us might assume. It was Italian-Americans.
    After nine Italians were tried and found not guilty of murdering New Orleans Police Chief David Hennessy, a mob dragged them from the jail, along with two other Italians being held on unrelated charges, and lynched them all. The lynchings were followed by mass arrests of Italian immigrants throughout New Orleans, and waves of attacks against Italians nationwide.
    What was the reaction of our country’s leaders to the lynchings? Teddy Roosevelt, not yet president, famously said they were “a rather good thing.” The response in The New York Times was worse. A March 16, 1891, editorial referred to the victims of the lynchings as “… sneaking and cowardly Sicilians, the descendants of bandits and assassins.” An editorial the next day argued that: “Lynch law was the only course open to the people of New Orleans. …”
    John Parker, who helped organize the lynch mob, later went on to be governor of Louisiana. In 1911, he said of Italians that they were “just a little worse than the Negro, being if anything filthier in [their] habits, lawless, and treacherous.”
If you think Sessions' and Trump's America is different, the writer of that article points out:
    ...In earlier centuries, Catholics in America were in a position similar to today's Muslims. In 1785, when Catholics proposed building St. Peter's Church in the heart of Manhattan, city officials, fearing the papacy and sinister foreign influences, forced them to relocate outside the city limits. In this incident, it's easy to hear echoes of the Murfreesboro protests where there is opposition to the building of a mosque, as well as the ongoing protests against an Islamic center proposed for 51 Park Place in contemporary Manhattan.
    On December 24, 1806, two decades after St. Peter's was built on Church Street, where it still stands, protesters surrounded the church, outraged by mysterious ceremonies going on inside, ceremonies we now commonly understand to be the celebration of Christmas. The Christmas Eve 1806 protest led to a riot in which dozens were injured and a policeman was killed.
When in 2016 San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in protest of racial oppression and inequality in the United States knelt during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner, Session's and Trump's America went on the attack in outrage. At no time did, or would, the Deplorables ever wonder why because they and Trump revel in ignorance. As I explained elsewhere, The Star-Spangled Banner is something we should know about but don't because its pro-slavery verse written by a racist slave-owner who thought the British would take away his slaves is deliberately hidden from us.

Read this post About that Star-Spangled Banner.... Remember that this occurred in 2016, not 1816 or 1916, and it was a Californian who came under attack, the same year Donald Trump was legally elected President.

My frame of reference created in me values demonstrated by the actions of Watson and Kaepernick. I know that we are in a political war with "another America" over those values. So when I hear...

...I know the effect will be chilling. meaning those blurts and blats will create a feeling of sudden fear, anxiety, or alarm. It is the threat that underlies my statement in the prior post here Regarding "When We Rise" - How history repeats itself and why we must protect "San Francisco Values":
    How much does middle America respect San Francisco Values? It appears that answer is "not at all." When one realizes that San Francisco Values include love, peace, tolerance, diversity, creativity, freedom, spirituality, prosperity, community, truth, justice, and care for the environment it is a little hard to understand why anyone would not respect San Francisco Values.
But if we understand a frame of reference that is structured around 1790 Christian Old Testament tribal values (not the teachings of Jesus) and 1990 Selfish Capitalism tribal values, we do understand the enemy as recommended by Sun Tzu.

1Any time you don't understand American politics, remember that some 75 years after the ratification of the Constitution in order to amend slavery out of the Constitution, the North under the leadership of Abraham Lincoln decided to take the risk to kill 1 million Americans, more than half from slave states including Jeff Sessions great-grandfather. And there is nothing factually untrue about that statement.

Many feel that strong evidence exists that Americans on both sides did not understand that hundreds of thousands would die. That is true. As with every truth about the general population in a democracy, the voters were basically ignorant about what was at stake, so they voted with their ignorance. The fact is, in 1860 most would not have read the poem The Charge of the Light Brigade an 1854 narrative poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson about the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War. Nor would they have seen the photograph titled Valley Of The Shadow Of Death snapped by British photographer Roger Fenton in 1855:

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
   Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell
   Rode the six hundred.

One of the truths of American history is that many leading American politicians were well aware of the Crimean War, one of the first conflicts to use modern technologies such as explosive shells, railways, telegraphs, nursing, etc. They knew the likely future reality:

    The Civil War is often to referred as the first "modern" war in history as it included the most advanced technology and innovations of warfare available at the time. Some of the innovations and advances of the Civil War included mass production of war material, rifling of gun barrels and the use of the Minié ball, the advent of repeating firearms and metallic cartridges, ironclad warships, advances in medicine, communication (especially the telegraph), and transportation (railroads), and the gradual decline of tactics from previous centuries.
Because, of course, too many Americans today choose their ignorance of history, most are not aware that in 1863, when the Russian Baltic fleet arrived in New York harbor, the Russian Far East fleet arrived in San Francisco. This was probably the most important Civil War related event to occur in California.

Late in the Civil War, the Confederate cruiser CSS Shenandoah was operating in the Bering Sea, where the unarmed, unsuspecting New Bedford whaling fleet hunted the gray whales. Over the course of a few days, 24 vessels were captured – most burned, the rest loaded with prisoners and sent into San Francisco. American whaling never recovered. Without a reliable supply of inexpensive whale oil as a smokeless lamp fuel and premium lubricant, there was now a vast new market for kerosene distilled from that nasty black stuff that oozed out of the ground in Pennsylvania: petroleum.

When an attack on San Francisco by the Shenandoah seemed to be imminent, the Russian admiral there gave orders to his ships to defend the city if necessary. There were no major Union warships on the scene, so Russia was about to fight for the United States. The attack never came as the bloodiest war in history up to that time came to a close.

The point here is American politicians and generals on both sides of the dispute in 1860 were not ignorant of the risk demonstrated by the Crimean War. In fact, John Basil Turchin, a Union army brigadier general in the American Civil War who led two critical charges that saved the day at Chickamauga and was among the first to lead soldiers up Missionary Ridge, was Ivan Vasilyevich Turchaninov. He was a Russian immigrant and former Colonel of Staff in the Russian Guards who fought in the Crimean War.

They well understood that hundreds of thousands of Americans would die in a Civil War.