Today, clashes between anti-government protesters and state forces in Kazakhstan have forced Central Asia into an unexpected crisis. Kazakhstan has about 19 million people and is the ninth largest country in the world. After years of smaller protests, this week’s protests began on January 2, sparked by a rise in fuel prices, but spread rapidly across the oil-rich country, where an authoritarian government has enriched cronies, ignored the economic needs of the people, and rigged elections so that only pro-government candidates can win.
A Personal Note about January 6, 2021
Back in January, I was working a nighttime schedule. Overnight from January 5 to 6 I was listening in the truck to news reports on the radio, switching between MSNBC and CNN on SiriusXM radio. Fully expecting one or both Democratic challengers in Georgia to lose, I was left stunned and amazed when both challengers, a Jew and a black man from MLK’s church, won those Georgia Senate seats. Shocked and stunned. I could not believe it.
Before daybreak, upon arriving home, I couldn’t sleep. I was here in Heather’s forum jabbering excitedly with all of you about the miracle that had just transpired: two underdog challengers knocked off the white Republican incumbents. I still think it’s an off-the-charts miracle.
While trying to digest and absorb what had just happened, the Senate unbelievably turning blue by a razor-thin margin, making both houses of Congress blue along with the WH, that morning I was here on Heather’s LFAA when I found out about the riot. Someone here posted an all-caps alert, and that’s why I went upstairs to the living room to turn on the TV. I was here along with Cynthia, TPJ, TC, Lynell, Marcy Meldahl, Linda Bailey and Linda Mitchell and Daria, and many many others when I learned of the attack. Please include yourself in that list if you were present.
The word “whiplash“ barely does it justice.
I could continue, but you get the idea. My experience of the January 6 attack will forever be inextricably linked with this community. Frankly there’s no place else I would rather be when that pivotal moment in U.S. history was going down.
Thank you, one and all.
"What is at stake today in America is the nature of our government. Will we accept an authoritarian government like that currently under attack in Kazakhstan, in which an autocratic leader funnels money to his cronies while ordinary people struggle, unable to fix the system that is rigged against them until finally they lay down their lives to change it? Or will we restore the principles on which the Founders based this nation: 'that all men are created equal' and that governments derive 'their just powers from the consent of the governed...'?"
I did not take an oath over 24 years ago to be faithful to this country, its Constitution, and its democratic government in order to allow it to be overtaken by totalitarianism without a fight. I will standup to every injustice, every act of bigotry, every suppression of voters' rights, every autocratic insurrection, every authoritarian wannabe with every fiber of my being.
My oath and allegiance were not taken lightly, not given thoughtlessly. I was not born into a democracy, I was given the honor to belong to one and I will dignify it with esteem and reverence until my last breath.
Should we readers of Letters from an American nominate Prof Richardson for a Pulitzer Prize? https://www.pulitzer.org/page/how-enter
The deadline for entry this year is in less than three weeks. She certainly is eligible, but she may be too busy keeping us informed about the crisis in our government to consider doing this herself. Not only does her work honor the highest traditions of American journalism, she also has led the way in combatting the ferocious threat to freedom of expression posed by Facebook and the marauding intellectual thugs, real and robotic, who dominate its pages. In doing so, she has allowed all of us to expand our freedom to express ourselves.
Her work may fit into more than one of the 15 categories in which a prize is awarded. It certainly would be appropriate in commentary. It might also be considered in the Public Service category, what may be regarded as the highest honor the Pulitzer board awards.
The entry requires that no more than 15 pieces of work be submitted, along with the entry form. Should we as readers pick our favorite to suggest? Keep in mind that engagement with readers is one important aspect considered by a Pulitzer jury, as is sourcing, so letters that generated much comment and that showed a range of sourcing would strengthen the entry.
That she soldiered along every day of 2021 was astounding. She even gave us a photograph of that tranquil harbor or peaceful sky on the Maine coast on the days she was too exhausted to share additional insights. That gives us 365 samples to choose from.
I am late to join. I am not a joiner. But today, this day, it seems fitting. I feel called. I must. I must try. I must stand up and share my words along side your words Heather. Words? Our words are tools, a start, a starting place, inspiration? A call to action? Earlier this week, in agonizing anticipation of this anniversary, I wrote this - a self assignment. I needed to do it and I need to share with all of you. ******** Homework Assignment - Democracy - in my own words, my thoughts:
Democracy is The Golden Rule assembled and exercised inside a geographic place, four walls, a floor and a ceiling, inside a place that we call a country (a nation).
Democracy is an idea, a governing idea, a SELF (collective self) governing idea.
The bold idea - DEMOCRACY, it sits upon a foundation, another idea, a Declaration, that ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL. All Men, created equal, a solid block set on stable ground, a foundation to hold, that must hold, the walls of a democracy.
The Golden Rule, maybe that is the ceiling, a dome... do unto others - as you would have done - unto you. Without that, a Golden Rule dome, the whole house leaks. It gets wet from the top down. It all falls apart.
Democracy is a group effort, a collective exercise, a nation's effort to treat men, all men, equally, fairly, to deal honestly and in good faith, to do unto others as we would have done unto us.
Democracy is the Rule of Law, a nation, indivisible, standing up against Darwin’s Law of the Jungle. In this place, we agree, as one, that men - are ruled - not by might - in this place, only if we agree, men are ruled by laws.
Democracy lives, it’s an idea that must be fed and nourished in order to live. This idea, like all good ideas, it requires maintenance. Ideas live, if they are fed and maintained. Ideas neglected, they die.
What (if any) truths do we hold to be self-evident? Who are we? Who do we want to be? What ideas do we want to keep alive?
We are the United States of America.
Three Hundred, Thirty Two Million of US(A).
Are we still an American dream, a Golden Rule, Democracy from Sea to shining Sea, a beacon - on a hill?
Or are we something else? Who are we? Who do we want to be? What defines us?
What is genuinely frightening is the fact that the things that were done in the White House and its "war rooms", as outline by Peter Navarro, may not be illegal. It turns out, there is nothing - NOT ONE WORD - in the Constitution that requires free and democratic elections. The closest anything comes is the Constitution giving the state legislatures the power to "devise systems", with no requirement what that system should be. It turns out that the use of "democracy" has merely been a collectively-agreed "tradition" that has no teeth to enforce it.
So, the DOJ could do everything Garland said, and not get Trump et al, because there is no statute or constitutional requirement that makes their acts criminal. About the most that's there is "election tampering" like Trump's phone call to Raffensperger or the Kanye West publicist's attempt to get the woman accused of "voter fraud" to "confess."
It turns out we've been living in a nailed-together, jury-rigged system that promises more than it requires.
There is a monument on the Mall in Washington that rarely gets attention, tho it is directly in front of the Capital. The Ulysses S. Grant Memorial depicts him on his horse, slouched and still, while flanking him are a life-size Cavalry Group on the north and an Artillery Group on the south. They appear to be defending the Capital building, as they did in life. I’m thinking on them today, their sacrifice to hold our country together, and Grant’s defeat of the first KKK thru the newly created Justice Department (1870), and the Ku Klux Klan Act (1871), devised to defend the 14th Amendment. We must not let their sacrifice be trampled by modern seditionists. We must support those in Congress who are fighting to defend voting rights, like Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) who participated in meetings from his car while trapped on I95 on Tuesday. We must use all lawful means to restore our democracy.
For those of you so inclined, today is also the Feast of the Epiphany; lightness and dark, very much entwined....
Heather, you are a freaking gem. Thank you for covering democracy the world over, not just here. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
This unexpected development may cause Putin to rethink his position on Ukraine. The fact that he has not acted with force suggests that no one in Moscow anticipated the extent of anger in Kazakhstan.
Letters like this is why I start my morning with HCR and avoid the punditry on morning TV. I love the energized feeling I get from them. I loved how she started out about the Kazakhstan unrest with that great segue "So, we are watching people in Kazakhstan try to recover the right to have a say in their own government on the anniversary of the day that Americans came perilously close to losing that right." Being a Michigander, I am extremely happy with the new electoral map released last week. Hopefully, over time the rest of the country can follow suit and along with voting rights legislation being passed. That is how you get things done. Slowly and steady.
"Members of the country’s wealthy political class who could, appear to have fled the country in private jets before protesters took over the airport."
What countries they fled to would be telling about these destinations' governments. I have no doubt that ruling class oligarchs in other countries were taking note of this and already have contingency plans of their own.
President Biden said exactly the right thing this morning:
“We saw it with our own eyes. Rioters menaced these halls, threatening the life of the Speaker of the House, literally erecting gallows to hang the Vice President of the United States of America.
“But what did we not see?
“We didn’t see a former president, who had just rallied the mob to attack — sitting in the private dining room off the Oval Office in the White House, watching it all on television and doing nothing for hours as police were assaulted, lives at risk, and the nation’s capital under siege.
“This wasn’t a group of tourists. This was an armed insurrection.
“They weren’t looking to uphold the will of the people. They were looking to deny the will of the people.
“They were looking to uphold — they weren’t looking to uphold a free and fair election. They were looking to overturn one.
“They weren’t looking to save the cause of America. They were looking to subvert the Constitution.
“This isn’t about being bogged down in the past. This is about making sure the past isn’t buried.
“That’s the only way forward. That’s what great nations do. They don’t bury the truth, they face up to it. Sounds like hyperbole, but that’s the truth: They face up to it.
“We are a great nation.
“My fellow Americans, in life, there’s truth and, tragically, there are lies — lies conceived and spread for profit and power.
“We must be absolutely clear about what is true and what is a lie.
“And here is the truth: The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election. He’s done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interests as more important than his country’s interests and America’s interests, and because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution.
“He can’t accept he lost, even though that’s what 93 United States senators, his own Attorney General, his own Vice President, governors and state officials in every battleground state have all said: He lost.
“That’s what 81 million of you did as you voted for a new way forward.
“He has done what no president in American history — the history of this country — has ever, ever done: He refused to accept the results of an election and the will of the American people.”
Here's something to think about today. January 6, 1961:
Nixon believed that Kennedy’s allies had stolen the election through systematic fraud. He had far more evidence in his court than Donald Trump, and his margin of loss was much smaller than Trump’s. He didn’t concede right away, and gave serious consideration to fighting the results. But ultimately Nixon accepted them—and so did the Republican Party as well as the American public.
Despite the razor-thin margin, Nixon publicly conceded defeat very early the morning after the election, shortly before Kennedy declared victory. Nixon did not encourage Republicans to regard the country as locked in a permanent civil war, or to treat the incoming president as a usurper. To the contrary, on January 6, 1961, he discharged his responsibily as president of the Senate and presided over the congressional tally of the electoral college vote. “In our campaigns, no matter how hard they may be, no matter how close the election may turn out to be, those who lose accept the verdict and support those who win.” Nixon noted that he was the first vice president since 1860 to declare his opponent the winner and called it "a striking example of the stability of our constitutional system.”
Richard. Fucking. Nixon.
This morning, one year to the day after the 1/6 Insurrection attempted to subvert a free and fair election, I read the article to which I have linked below. I admit to being a pessimist about this country's future, as when we can't even agree on history, how can we move forward together into the future? However, this Op-Ed neatly lays out how deep and dire the the threat is. Our democracy may have survived 1/6, but as we have come to find out, it was barely, and it is now in a far weaker condition. Next time--and rest assured, there WILL be a "next time"--it very well may not.
I can see American citizens having to physically take out the corrupt trash of our own worsening kleptocracy. None of these people will stop themselves, you know.
The Trump Presidency told us that the corruption within government along with its wealthy/corporate cohorts have grown too large to maintain the polite illusion of democracy anymore. They clearly want to stop the inconvenience of holding elections.
Our educational & political systems are rigged to keep most of us in a particular socio-economic place and ignorant of civics and of true history such as what we did to Indigenous Peoples, to humans stolen from Africa and forced into slavery, and to Chinese laborers.
In other words, America began with corruption. It is the core of who we are, and until we understand this and decide as a people to acknowledge and change, we will continue to be increasingly consumed by this monster - not just BlPOC communities, LGBTQ+ communities, poor & low income communities (women in particular), etc, but it will escalate until it’s affect on White middle & upper middle class communities becomes intolerable as well.
Remember the Martin Niemöller piece, “First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew”?
Most of the very wealthy can do what their counterparts in Kazakhstan did, wring the blood out of us and flee.
We either unite as a people who are fairly and equally treated under all laws regardless of income level, appearance, etc., or we will continue to fall apart, piece by piece.
"EU warns US and Russia against new ‘Yalta’ deal to divide Europe" (Financial Times, Jan 6th 2022).
One can ask the people of Kazakhstan, Georgia, Ukraine and Byelorussia what they think of living next door to the "Bear" and get the same answers around their fears and uncertainties. The possibility of conflict for the Russians on several borders at once is a great deal too heavy for its small economy to support, regardless of the military force that it can deploy. History provides ample evidence that Russia was always part of "Europe" untill the Bolsheviks went their own way and gave us the Stalin/Brezhnev "nuclear deep freeze". Ways must be found now to bring Russia back into Europe rather than to re-divide Europe by "secutrity walls which we thought we had demolished in 1989 and therebye avoid future battles of Stalingrad and Oder-Neiss lines. Russia is a leading military power but only middling in the Economic stakes. It's choice now is whether to ally themselves to China in a subordinate role, to engulf Europe in a "Third Block" that it will attempt to dominate but for which they don't have the wherewithal or to join with the Europe on an basis of equality with its other European Nation partners.
Only the latter offers much hope for the people on any of Russia's borders and beyond. Russia must be brought back into the fold but the difficulties abound:
-Nato is essentially an American dominated anti-Russian alliance which loses its essential "raison d'être" should Russia come home
-Europe currently can't defend itself, with only 2 real military forces in France and UK while most of the countries are quite happy to see the US spend the money and provide the umbrella than having to bear the political consequences of doing it themselves.
-The US would find its role and influence reduced as the world moved into a game of 3 politico-military blocks and economic powerhouses.
Much as one appreciates that a stool with 3 legs is more stable than with 2, the possibility then always exists of 2 ganging up on the 3rd rather than the 3 agreeing peaceably for the good of their people. Lots of room therefore in the future for autocratic power structures ruling through "fear of the external enemy".