Monday, June 13, 2016

Ken Burns' Must Watch Speech, The Speech Of The Week-- And It's Only Monday


Film maker Ken Burns, who chronicles American history and culture, called out Trump, Trumpism and his enablers during a commencement speech at Stanford Sunday, referring to the Republican presidential nominee as "a charlatan, a naked emperor, a bullying, infantile man" without once uttering Trump's ugly name.
For 216 years, our elections, though bitterly contested, had featured the philosophies and characters of candidates who were clearly qualified.

That is not the case this year.

One is glaringly not qualified. So before you do anything with your well-earned degree, you must do everything you can to defeat the retrograde forces that have invaded our democratic process, divided our house. To fight against, no matter your political persuasion, the dictatorial tendencies of the candidate with zero experience in the much maligned, but subtle art of governance.

Who is against lots of things, but doesn’t seem to be for anything-- offering only bombastic and contradictory promises and terrifying Orwellian statesman, a person who easily lies, creating an environment where the truth doesn’t seem to matter, who has never demonstrated any interest in anyone or anything, but himself and his own enrichment. Who insults veterans, threatens the free press, mocks the handicapped, denigrates women, immigrants, and all Muslims; a man who took more than a day to remember to disavow a supporter who advocates white supremacy and the Ku Klux Klan.

An infantile, bullying man, who depending on his mood is willing to discard old and established alliances, treaties, and long-standing relationships.

I feel genuine sorrow for the understandably scared and they feel powerless-- people who have flocked to his campaign in the mistaken belief that as often happens on TV, a wand can be waved and every complicated problem can be solved with the simplest of solutions. They can’t; it is a political Ponzi scheme. And asking this man to assume the highest office in the land would be like asking a newly minted car driver to fly a 747.

As a student of history, I recognize this type. He emerges everywhere and in all eras. We see nurtured in his campaign an incipient proto-fascism, a nativist anti-immigrant know-nothingism, a disrespect for the judiciary, the prospect of women losing authority over their own bodies, African Americans again asked to go to the back of the line, voter suppression gleefully promoted, jingoistic saber rattling, a total lack of historical awareness, a political paranoia that predictably points fingers, always making the other wrong.

These are all virulent strains that have at times infected us in the past, but they now loom in front of us again, all happening at once. We know from our history books that these are the diseases of ancient and now fallen empires.

We know from our history books that these are the diseases of ancient and now fallen empires. The sense of commonwealth, of shared sacrifice, of trust-- so much a part of American life is eroding fast, spurred along and amplified by an amoral Internet that permits a lie to circle the globe three times before the truth can get started.

We longer have the luxury of neutrality or balance or even bemused disdain. Many of our media institutions have largely failed to expose this charlatan, torn between a nagging responsibility to good journalism and the big ratings a media circus always delivers. In fact, they have given him the abundant airtime he so desperately craves, so much so that it has actually worn down our natural human revulsion to this kind of behavior. Hey, he’s rich; he must be doing something right. He’s not.

Edward R. Murrow would have exposed this naked emperor months ago. He is an insult to our history. And do not be deceived by his momentary good behavior; it’s only a spoiled misbehaving child hoping somehow to still have dessert.

And do not think that the tragedy in Orlando underscores his points; it does not. We must disenthrall ourselves as Abraham Lincoln said from the culture of violence and guns and then we shall save our country. This ladies and gentlemen is not a liberal or conservative issue, a red state, blue state divide; this is an American issue. Many honorable people, including the last two Republican presidents-- members of the party of Abraham Lincoln-- have declined to support him.

And I implore those Vichy Republicans who have endorsed him to please, please reconsider. We must remain committed to the kindness and community that are the hallmarks of civilization and reject the troubling unfiltered Tourette’s of his tribalism.

The next few months of your commencement, that is to say, your future will be critical to the survival of the Republic. The occasion is piled high with difficulty. Let us pledge here today that we will not let this happen to the exquisite, yet deeply flawed land we all love and cherish, and hope to leave intact to our posterity.

Let us nobly save, not meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.
Nothing to add to that-- except that I wish Hillary Clinton had watched Burns' speech carefully, thought about it and taken it to heart-- instead of emulating Trump. Bernie, of course, didn't need to listen to Burns' speech to understand the appropriate response to the Orlando tragedy. Speaking to a crowd in Burlington today, he said,"We know that one hateful person committed this terrible crime-- not an entire people or an entire religion. To blame an entire religion for the acts of a single individual is bigotry, pure and simple. It is not what this country is about, and not what this city is about... Our job is not to allow politicians, Mr. Trump or anyone else, to divide us up by where our family came from, the color of our skin, our religion or our sexual orientation."

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