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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

Little beginnings to bigger thoughts

I want to congratulate and thank my colleague Joe O'Neill, who like Joe Biden, has Irish roots in Pennsylvania.  I'm also going to emulate Joe's short-sentence style today.  So:

To all those right-wingers complaining about "socialism," please return your Social Security checks.

Election photos from Massachusetts and Minnesota showed people in short sleeves – on November 7.  Because I've lived in both of those places, let me say that this is real proof of climate change.


Of all the outrageous things that Trump supporters yelled, the one that I'll remember most was from a white, middle-aged woman who shouted, "I demand that the counting stop, in Jesus name!" 


Of course, Jesus doesn't run the Republican Party.  As of now, Mitch McConnell does – and an optimistic point that needs to be pointed out is that he and Biden served in the Senate during saner times.  Released from his bondage to Trump, McConnell may join Joe for the good of the country.


We can end the rhetoric about repealing Obamacare.  I doubt that even Trump's biggest trumpeters believed that he had a great health-care plan to be revealed in a matter of days.

To me, the most significant thing about this election was that it debunked the myth of "both-sidesism."  The media finally has learned that "fair and balanced" does not mean equal time for lies and truth. 


The New York Times led this change, clearly calling out Trump's deceit and corruption.  The Tampa Bay Times, not so much.  The NYT had a big boost in subscriptions, while the TBT begs for donations.




Speaking of the New York Times, conservatives continue to object to the "1619 Project" that the newspaper began last year for the 400th anniversary of that date.  The educational project encourages people to learn the history of slavery, which usually is dated to 1619, when Africans were brought as slaves to Virginia.  The Pilgrims who began Massachusetts' Plymouth colony the next year did not bring slaves, but that was largely because they were relatively poor.  More affluent Puritans, who arrived in the next decade, not only owned slaves, but became leaders in the international business of human bondage. 


Slave trading was a major part of commerce in New York, which originally was settled by Dutch Calvinists.  Even Pennsylvania, created as a haven for religious dissents, had many slave owners, including Quakers.  We somehow hear of slavery as only in the South, but the practice continued in the North until just a few decades before the Civil War.  Indeed, the last state to legally abolish it was Delaware – in December 1865, six months after the war's end settled the question. 


So while historians reeducate poorly-taught people on the complexities of slavery, we need to talk about the North, as well as the South.  Did you know, for example, that massive numbers of New Yorkers rioted against the war in 1863?  Most were Irish Catholics who made it clear that they did not intend to fight for the freedom of a different minority.  As many as a thousand people may have died; some were blacks beaten to death or lynched, but most were the result of clashes between white mobs and policemen.


I've wandered from my intended point, though, which is about chronology and about the continued acceptance of Anglo history as the only one that matters.  American slavery really began not in 1619 Virginia, but in 1565 Florida.  The massive expedition from Spain that arrived at St. Augustine that September was very much government-sponsored, and it included everyone from nobility to slaves.  It's not an honor, but it is a fact:  the first enslaved Americans were here in Florida.


Social groups back then, though, did not follow the black-and-white lines that became rigid three centuries later.  Class was much more important than race, and under Spanish rule, early Florida had many free blacks.  It also had white women who were essentially sex slaves – concubines who often were sent by wives who stayed home (or at least that's what the guys said).  In Virginia, too, white men bought white women from English boat captains in return for the bride's fare.  The bottom line:  history is complicated, and in addition to England and 1619, we should look at Spain and 1565.




In the jubilation over the first female vice president, some TV folks mistakenly said that Joe Biden is the first to choose a woman as a running mate.  That honor instead goes to Democrat Walter Mondale and his choice, Geraldine Ferraro, in 1984; Republicans followed – slowly -- with John McCain and Sarah Palin in 2008.  I still was young when I celebrated Ferraro's nomination, and many who danced with me then are dead now.  The current feminist victory merits celebration, but it is no overnight success.


I was very happy to see, though, that the cameras on Saturday night went to the joyful scene in Wilmington and not to the sullen White House.  The media's failure to dash to DC must have been a great blow to the blowhard-in-chief.  Omissions matter, and I'm so glad that reporters – our most vital defenders of free speech – finally have figured out that they don't have to answer every Trumpster call. 


Free speech is a complicated topic, but it is clear that guns never promote the cause.  On one of the days prior to the election, I noticed a quote from Trump supporter who was joining his bullet-toting buds in calling for the creation of militias.  He pointed out, correctly, that the Constitution's Second Amendment guarantees the right to form them -- but his little-knowledge vanity then went seriously off-track.


He was anticipating a post-election civil war, and he said volunteer militias were needed because there would be too much violence before "the national government sends the National Guard."   He clearly had no understanding that units of the National Guard ARE state militias.  They are under the command of state governors, not the president nor the Pentagon.  Guard members are volunteers who work fulltime at civilian jobs and fulfill their sworn duty only during a couple of weeks of annual training and in emergencies declared by governors. 


State militias were extant long before the nation had a professional army.  Governors commanded them, and governors literally led militiamen in periodic wars, especially against American Indians.  Governors still call out the Guard to deal with hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural disasters.  This guy who thought that the National Guard is under the national government obviously didn't have a clue about history or the structure of governance or much of anything else.


That is understandable these days, when many people have no personal connection to the military, but I grew up a time when everyone (or almost everyone) would have known that the National Guard is not national.  In many areas of life, things that once were common knowledge are becoming uncommon.  Such factual underpinning needs to be restored, and apparently high-school civics is not enough.  I've pondered this problem, but have no solution to propose.  Do you?




Throwing a bone to their base and seeking the glory reflected by TV lights, Republicans dragged the CEOs of major media corporations to the Capitol a few days prior to the election.  With a lot of sound and fury, but not much thought, they accused the business innovators of wrongdoing in monitoring their platforms.  Ted Cruz, idiot of Texas, rhetorically asked Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey: "Who the hell elected you and put you in charge of what the media are allowed to hear?" 


Like his hero Donald Trump, Cruz appears to be mentally challenged much of the time -- and this was particularly obvious when he attacked the social media arm that is the favorite of the guy he echoes.   I'm no Twitter user, but had I been Dorsey, I would have said something along these lines:  "In answer to your question, Senator, I was put in charge by customers who choose my platform.  I believe that's called capitalism."



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