Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


COPS POINT TO TRUMP'S RESPONSIBILITY IN JAN 6 CAPITOL MOB ATTACK: Politicians who claim to support the “thin blue line” of law enforcement officers, decry those who chant “defund the police” cannot then ignore or deny the abuses and violence of the Jan. 6 mob. Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges put it directly: “To my perpetual confusion, I saw the thin blue line flag, a symbol of support for law enforcement more than once being carried by the terrorists as they ignored our commands and continued to assault us.” The rioters smashed his head. “One latched onto my face and got his thumb in my right eye, attempting to gouge it out. I cried out in pain and managed to shake him off before any permanent damage was done.” He later added, “It’s a pathetic excuse for something that he (President Trump) helped create… this monstrosity. I’m still recovering from those hugs and kisses he claims the rioters were giving us that day.”

NC REPUBLICANS TRY ANOTHER POWER GRAB FROM THE GOVERNOR: As the COVID-19 pandemic surges on, North Carolina Republicans are attempting to limit the governor’s ability to address it. Again. This time, they’ve buried it nearly 300 pages into the state budget. A provision in the proposed budget would change state law to require agreement from the Council of State within 10 days of the governor issuing an executive order during a state of emergency. If approved, the order would expire 45 days later, unless the General Assembly decides to extend it. But if the Council of State doesn’t approve the order or the General Assembly doesn’t extend it, then too bad — the provision also says that the governor “shall not issue a substantially similar executive order arising from the same events that form the basis to issue the initial executive order.” The Council of State has 10 members, a majority of whom are Republican. The General Assembly, of course, also has a Republican majority. Republicans in the General Assembly have tried to limit Cooper’s powers since he was elected in 2016, sometimes in crafty ways. By putting this provision in the budget, Republicans seem to be trying to corner Democrats and Cooper, who might be reluctant to veto an otherwise important piece of legislation. Calling this tactic "disingenuous" is woefully insufficient. They are trying to force his hand, make him Veto the Budget so they can then blame him for not supporting billions in funding that is desperately needed. They do it with many other bills, but using the Budget this way is particularly irresponsible and should cost them their majority next year.

HOW COVID BECAME A RED-STATE CRISIS: As it turned out, masks and social distancing were even better ideas than we realized: They bought time until the arrival of vaccines, so that a great majority of those who managed to avoid COVID in 2020, and have since been vaccinated, may never get it. But there are regions in America where large numbers of people have refused vaccination. Those regions appear to be approaching the point we feared in the early stages of the pandemic, with hospitalizations overwhelming the health care system. And the divide between places that are in crisis and those that aren’t is starkly political. New York has five COVID patients hospitalized per 100,000 people; Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis barred businesses from requiring that their patrons show proof of vaccination, has 34. There are, however, places that really should put strong measures into effect — mask mandates for sure, and maybe even partial lockdowns — to buy time while they catch up on vaccinations. Unfortunately, these are precisely the places that will almost surely do no such thing. Republicans and right-wing pundits have a lot of blood on their hands, because they're still asking stupid questions like, "Why doesn't the media talk about the 98% who survive?" Maybe because many of those survivors are still suffering from the after-effects, permanent damage to heart and lungs, and the reduced life expectancy that represents.

FOR FUTURE'S SAKE, WE MUST DO BETTER: Every adult with a modicum of basic humanity can think of a child they know or have known (whether it’s their child, a grandchild, a niece, a nephew, a cousin, a godchild or just a friend or neighbor) who they want to have a shot at living a long, healthy and fulfilling life. And, of course, the No. 1 prerequisite for living such a life is having a place to live it. If the planet that nearly 8 billion humans currently call home were destroyed by a meteor or incinerated in a thermonuclear war, most of life as we know it would end. Even if we agree on little else, it seems we share at least a small spit of common ground by acknowledging that such an end is to be avoided and that preserving the planet as a place for future generations to inhabit (and maybe even enjoy) would be a good thing. It’s a terrifying truth to contemplate, but it’s simply undeniable that global climate change has become an existential emergency for humanity. As of today, 189 nations are in formal accord with the proposition spelled out in the Paris Agreement that: “Climate change is a global emergency that goes beyond national borders.” The science that underlies this frightening conclusion is so unassailable that it’s even widely accepted and endorsed by an array of giant fossil fuel producers like Shell Oil and Chevron. As scientific expert after scientific expert has testified repeatedly, when it comes to the climate emergency, the world is well past the point at which half measures and secret “compromises” crafted between profit-driven polluters like Duke and Dominion Energy and a handful of politicians — many of whom were elected with financial support from those same companies — can come close to adequately addressing the situation. Once again Rob Schofield demonstrates his is the voice most needed in our struggle for progress.

NARROWING THE U.S. WEALTH GAP IS IMPORTANT. NARROWING THE RACIAL WEALTH GAP IS URGENT: The Federal Housing Act. The Social Security Act. The G.I. Bill. To list these landmark 20th-century laws is to understand how important government support was to building a broad middle class, endowed with a modest but meaningful “piece of the rock,” in the United States. It is also to acknowledge that this historic effort mostly bypassed people of African descent — who were deliberately, if often implicitly, denied the benefits. Of the $120 billion worth of housing built with federal backing between 1934 and 1962, only 2 percent was available to Black people due to “redlining” and other obstacles. Because agricultural and domestic workers — disproportionately Black at the time — were not covered by Social Security in 1935, Black Americans made up 23 percent of those initially left out of the program, twice their share of the total labor force. Benefits for World War II veterans were administered on a discriminatory basis. Not until the late 1960s were these disparities corrected, at least on paper, but the damage had been done. There needs to be focused attention on such quietly devastating barriers to wealth-building as the prevalence of informal land title among rural Southern Black families, which The Post’s Hannah Dreier and Andrew Ba Tran documented in a recent report. This legacy of Jim Crow has cost many families government disaster relief, and sometimes their property itself. Meanwhile, the racial wealth gap can and should be addressed through measures that are race-neutral but foreseeably bestow disproportionate benefits on people of color — thus flipping the script on past policies that were officially colorblind but favored Whites. We have mentioned some in previous editorials: direct support for first-time home buyers and for retirement savings, in place of current tax incentives that tilt toward the upper middle class; grants for college tuition in place of loans. Note: there will always be (white) pushback to efforts like these, such as the recent challenge of targeted funding for Black farmers. But we need to do it anyway, until the scales are more balanced.


IVY JONES AND AJAMU DILLAHUNT: LOUIS DEJOY NEEDS HIS DAY IN COURT: As postal workers and Black voters we support the complaint filed by N.C. Common Cause 11 months ago alleging that Postmaster General Louis Dejoy carried out a straw-donor scheme while CEO of New Breed Logistics, a High Point-based company. Several current and former employees have come forward to claim they made large campaign contributions, especially to the ultimately successful Republican candidates for N.C. governor and U.S. senator, with the promise that they would receive company “bonuses” covering more than their personal contributions. We urge Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman to reverse her earlier decision not investigate DeJoy. With the new information in the amended complaint and the FBI investigation, there seems to be sufficient grounds to pursue this.

ISABELLA LEBRON: LET TEACHERS TEACH GENUINE HISTORY: During my time in Wake County public schools, being able to learn about history from outside standard — some say watered down — textbooks has been incredibly important to me and my role in society. I’ve learned to become a better ally to my non-white, LGBTQ, and other underrepresented peers. I’ve learned more about the struggles my own ancestors went through, and I’ve learned to become a greater asset to my community. I’ve also learned to question the racial bias some teachers and professors have about our history. If not for teachers who were willing to go out of their way to teach outside of textbooks, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Most importantly, people, specifically people of color, would not have their voices and their stories heard. When I was in middle school in the early 1970's, busing was a big issue rocking cities/suburbs, even (especially?) in the North, like Boston. I didn't understand the issue, so my teacher recommended I read "Death At An Early Age" by Jonathan Kozol. After giving my oral report, I asked for volunteers, and one by one I put 4 of my white classmates into a janitor's closet and turned out the light. I didn't lock the door and leave them there for hours, a favored tactic of several white teachers at a Boston "Negro" school. But it was an effective demonstration, nonetheless.

RICHARD DERR: EQUALITY HAS ALWAYS BEEN AN AFTERTHOUGHT IN AMERICA: How important is equality to the American people? The historical record suggests that it is of relatively little importance. The Declaration of Independence states that “all men are” equal, but it was commonly understood that “men” only referred to property-owning white males and excluded all others. The preamble to the Constitution explains that the government it has produced is designed to promote liberty and justice, but there’s no mention of equality. The goal of the Union government during the Civil War was to preserve the Union, not to abolish slavery. It took the deaths of hundreds of thousands and three constitutional amendments to free the slaves, confer on them the status of citizenship and give them the right to vote. After many generations of struggle, women finally got the right to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. The importance we attach to freedom is signified by the fact that we fought two world wars to protect it. For our oath, we pledge our allegiance to our nation with its ideals of liberty and justice. Presumably, equality is not an American ideal. Maybe, equality matters only to those who believe they lack it. Or, perhaps it matters to people, but they don’t want to share it with others.



On passion and persuasion

After attending a couple of Democratic Party social gatherings in the last couple of weeks, I've been thinking a lot about the sheer number and variety of important issues with which we are faced these days. You would think such a collection of problems would, in itself, be enough to generate concern and activism to swell the ranks of those working to fix them. But it doesn't automatically happen, does it?

There is such a thing as sensory overload, wherein important issues get somewhat lost in the noise, if you will. I will attempt to address that down the page, but first I want to talk about balance. Not left/right balance, but balance between bad and good.

It's not enough to expose the bad things to people, you have to follow up with the good. A better way of doing things, which (very often) comes in the form of public policy. If you want to climb out of a deep hole, you have to first choose a good handhold. You can't just blindly scrabble, or you never get out. Well thought-out policy proposals give you something to hold onto, to refocus your energies away from fatalism and back into the realm of free will.

But Steve, I don't have the time or capacity to absorb all these policy proposals!

You're right, you don't. Nobody does. So you have to be discrete. Yes, I spelled it correctly. You have to find the one thing (or a few, but not many) that triggers your passion. Is emotionally evocative. Not only will this sustain your interest, it will drive you to research and explore better alternatives than what currently shape that issue. But that passion will also make you better at persuading others to take that issue seriously. Here's why:

Memory can be tricky as hell, especially after you reach a certain age. Emotional influence on memory encoding and recall has been explored extensively, and while there can be some negative effects if the emotions are too strong or rooted in personal trauma, or can facilitate confirmation bias, your ability to absorb, retain, and recall important details (including statistics, which some of you may consider pointless, but we'll argue that another day) are greatly enhanced if you are emotionally attached to said issue.

But in addition to that enhanced memory, the passion you feel is also a persuasive factor. People see it, feel it, hear it. True, that can turn some people off. But passion can also be contagious. It's safe to say that if you're not excited about something, you won't excite others, either.

In closing, let me clarify: You should not pursue your passionate thing to the exclusion of all other issues facing society. You should be aware of and concerned about them, even if it's only peripherally. And you may find that's easier to do if you are genuinely excited about something else, as opposed to facing a mountain of problems with no handholds at all.