When Trump Was Afraid Of The Weather, And Other Insults To Veterans

November 11, 2018 was not an insignificant date. It was not just another Veteran’s Day. One hundred years prior “The Great War”—as World War I was referenced—was ended with a cease-fire or armistice. Thus, November 11 was known originally as “Armistice Day.”

A war that should never have happened but took place because the great powers at the time were fighting largely over colonies, ended up costing the lives of millions. The USA, which only entered the war in 1917, nevertheless suffered major losses, including well after the war as victims of poison gas suffered and slowly died. A great-uncle of mine was one such victim of World War I.

Over the November 11 weekend leaders from around the world converged on France to commemorate the end of World War I. Donald Trump was to be one of the leaders and he had the special duty of visiting the mass graves for U.S. soldiers buried at the Aisne-Marne cemetery adjacent to Belleau Wood not far from Paris.

Belleau Wood was the site of a major battle between U.S. Marines (along with their British and French allies) and the Germans in which there were more than 9700 casualties. In US Marine history, Belleau Wood holds iconic status.

President Trump chose not to visit the cemetery due to the weather. Instead, he tweeted congratulations on the birthday of the U.S. Marine Corp.

I am not a militarist, and I generally find myself in opposition to U.S. foreign policy. However, there is something that I find absolutely obscene about Trump’s attitude towards U.S. soldiers and veterans. U.S. soldiers should not have been engaged in World War I but the fact of the matter is that they were deployed and suffered horribly. They, along with soldiers on both sides of the endless “no-man lands” separating trench systems occupied by opposing fighters, experienced a living hell.

There were no hotels to which to retreat; no television or warm meals; no warm baths. There was the ever-present threat of poison gas and the zing of bullets flying by or into one’s head. And there was the sound of the whistle being blown signaling for the troops to leap out of the trenches and march forward into the machine gun fire unleashed by those in the opposing trenches.

With this bit of history in mind, President Trump could not find it in himself to get a little wet and honor the lives of men who would never return home? Instead, his actions ring of contempt for those who were not rich enough or powerful enough to avoid the conflict.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the former president of TransAfrica Forum. You may follow him on Twitter, Facebook or visit: www.billfletcherjr.com. Read his new novel The Man Who Fell From the Sky from Hardball Press.

The Significance Of ‘Sorry To Bother You’

I was excited about the prospect of seeing Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You from the moment that I saw the advertisements. Yet I was not prepared for the totality of the film because the ads emphasized only one piece: the white voice.

Without giving away the plot, the “white voice” refers to the way workers in a mythical telemarking firm are supposed to speak— over the phone— with potential clients. In order to win the favor of white clients, they are to speak with a “white voice.”

Every African American, and for that matter, every person of color in the United States, is familiar with the basic notion of a “white voice.” We are hit with that on a regular basis whereby our language, accents, etc., are viewed as somehow outside of the mainstream, and in many cases, perceived as threatening. Riley took this to another level as a way of critiquing U.S. society. He does it in an outstanding manner.

The film, however, is much more than about the white voice. It is about class struggle, racial justice struggle, gender justice struggle…in fact, it is about the very notion of collective struggle. And the setting is a near-future USA with a telemarketing firm whose workers look just like the working class of today. These workers struggle to band together to build a labor union and fight for their rights but also to challenge a mega-company that has dangerous plans afoot.

Sorry to Bother You mixes satire, near-future science fiction, an appreciation of collective struggle and a dire warning of the manner in which contemporary global capitalism is grinding us all down and destroying our humanity. It is the destruction of our humanity that Riley handles in such a superb manner.

When the film ended, I remained seated as I processed what I had just seen. But I also wanted to overhear other viewers and get a sense of their comments. Many were as excited and moved as me. But there were a few people that exited the theatre who were clearly baffled by the film. I suspect that they were not expecting a film that was anything but linear. It did not just focus on race; it did not just focus on class; it did not focus only on gender. It was truly multi-dimensional and was at the same time pushing the audience out of their comfort zones so that they were not just viewing a film; they were forced to view the USA, only through very different glasses.

If you have not seen the film, you must put the time aside to do it. My concern with films as great as this one is that they will disappear before they have fully gained traction.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the former president of TransAfrica Forum. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

Civility on Social Media is Dead

I have found myself increasingly wondering whether social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook, constitutes a vehicle for civil dialogue. The number of attacks that I have either witnessed or experienced has been astounding. It has gotten to the point that I rarely respond to comments on either Twitter or Facebook, unless I have concluded that the original writer/author was interested in a response.

The situation has gotten way out of control. The insults that are thrown around; the demeaning language; the condescension; I could go on and on. About a year ago, I awakened to a Twitter storm attacking me for my support of the Palestinian people. It was not just one tweet; it was one tweet after another, accusing me of being everything, but a child of God. There seemed to be no way to stop it.

Just recently, a good friend of mine came under a vicious Twitter attack by someone whose sanity I have been forced to question. My friend could not figure out a way to stop it, so it continued until the attacker ran out of steam.

Social media makes it easy to be obnoxious. Among other things, there are few, if any, penalties. In the old days, if you read something with which you were in disagreement in the paper; magazine; or even saw something on television, you would write a letter to the editor. To write such a letter you had to do some thinking prior to composing it. You then had to mail the letter. This entire process gave you at least a moment to contemplate your reaction and whether it was worth responding to something and, if so, how to respond.

In today’s social media world, filters seemed to be reserved for photos and videos. When it comes to dialogue, people read something online and react! You can react immediately by sending an email, tweeting, posting on Facebook, or Instagram, etc. You don’t have to really stop and think. You just hit “Send.”

And if you are really angry and want to be nasty, there are no penalties! You can, in effect, curse someone out, because what are they going to do? You can literally say whatever you want to anyone and the worst that they can do is “block” you from future exchanges. But that need not stop you, because you can post around them or even create another account and continue the verbal onslaught.

The result is that, rather than a medium for rational exchanges and debates, social media is more about “trolling” or making assertions. In a Facebook, exchange I had with someone a few months ago, after I refuted their argument they simply dismissed me by saying: Well, that’s what I believe and I have a right to believe what I believe.

Really? So, when it comes to social media, should we really just say to hell with the facts?

Each day, when I turn to social media I feel that I must dress in psychological battle armor, preparing for yet one more poison dart to come flying.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a talk show host, writer and activist. Follow him on Twitter @BillFletcherJr, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

Why are so many of us hiding behind our smartphones?

— It hit me the other day that there is a new protocol involved in walking down the street. I never really thought about it before, but I suddenly realized that people who text while walking, expect that those of us not texting while walking will simply get out of their way.

Forgive my naiveté, but I grew up with the strong instruction that when you walk, you look where you are going. When you cross the street, you look both ways to ensure that you are not run over. You know, little things like that. However, something has happened and these rules are being thrown up in the air.

There are two related, though different, examples of this new protocol. One involves texting and the other involves, well I am not sure what else to call it but being oblivious. In the case of texting, I have actually tested out my theory. Individuals will be walking towards me texting completely ignoring their surroundings or that they are approaching me. I will then say, fairly loudly, “Watch yourself!” The response that I have received is intriguing. The individual tends to look completely discombobulated and act as if it was somehow inappropriate for me to notify them that they were on a collision course.

This absent-minded, unconsciousness seems to be very widespread. People walking down the street are either talking on their cellphones, texting on their cellphones or listening to music with their ear buds, completely out of touch with their surroundings. Such individuals cross the street in the face of on-coming traffic, apparently making the assumption that the traffic will avoid them. While they may get out of the way of oncoming pedestrian traffic, they also seem to take their time walking, ignoring that there might be a line of people behind them a half block in length.

What are we to make of this? The easy part is that it is a form of self-centeredness. Individuals are acting as if the world exists to serve them and frankly, the hell with the rest of us.

Yet, the deeper problem seems to reflect the way that increasing numbers of us are retreating into various self-generated bubbles. These are the same bubbles that lead us to narrow what we read to only things with which we agree; to believe that our “friends” on Facebook and Twitter are an actual sampling of global opinion; these bubbles lead us to not wanting to be bothered with social interaction with many others, including our ACTUAL friends; and for some, to live in guarded and gated communities cut off from much of the rest of the world.

Yes, texting while walking and thinking that the rest of us will get out of the way is rude; and being oblivious to your surroundings while walking is stupid, but the problem is deeper and seems to reflect the retreat of so many of us from the reality of a thriving global village.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a talk show host, writer and activist. Follow him on Twitter @BillFletcherJr, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

A Trump win in November could tear this nation apart

— Alright, we are getting close to the finish line: Election Day November 8, 2016.

We have witnessed the first debate, between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and while I would argue that Clinton won, Trump made enough arguments to reinforce some level of confidence among his supporters.

After having a comfortable lead over her Republican opponent, current poll numbers suggest that Clinton’s lead has almost vanished in key states; reasons why the race has tightened are still up for debate.

There are four presidential candidates on the ballot: Hillary Clinton (Democrat), Donald Trump (Republican), Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party) and Dr. Jill Stein (Green Party). The reality is that the presidential choice comes down to either Clinton or Trump. Johnson has about an eight percent showing in the polls and Stein about three percent.

What voters have to decide is not only where will they come down, but also the importance of other races that will be decided November 8. Thus, my first plea is that everyone votes. Each vote, as we saw in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004, can be potentially critical.

A second issue is that races, in addition to the presidential race, are critical. The United States Senate, as of this moment, is a toss-up between the Republicans and Democrats. We could find ourselves with a small Republican majority, a small Democratic majority, or a literal tie. So, even if you find yourself dissatisfied with the Presidential choices, there are other races that will make a real-world difference.

The third issue, however, is one that hit me, yet again, in watching the debate. Trump and his supporters are dangerous. It is frightening that a presidential candidate can continue to deliver outright lies and has not been run out of town on a rail. But it is actually more than that. Leading the birther movement against Obama, threatening to put Muslims under surveillance, proposing a wall along the border with Mexico and an escalation of deportations, allegedly, as a means of cutting crime, tells us that Trump understands nothing about the experiences of those of us of color. Worse, he is quite prepared, in the face of the history of the United States, to play with matches in a field of unstable dynamite. Trump isn’t stupid; he knows precisely what he is doing and he knows how he is motivating racists and xenophobes to come out of the closet. Yet, he keeps doing it.

So, it really comes down to this: No matter who is elected, people of conscience will need to put and keep pressure on the next administration. At the same time, don’t deceive yourself. Ultra-right-wing forces will play on Trump’s victory in order to push us further over the edge into a racial dystopia.

Black America went through a racial dystopia after the defeat of Reconstruction and found itself in the hell of Jim Crow. Asian America went through the persecution of the Chinese and Japanese, the annexation of Hawaii, and a genocidal war against the Filipinos. Latino America went through the seizure of the northern third of Mexico and the later seizure of Puerto Rico, along with the constant demonization of their people and their heritage. Native Americans have faced constant efforts aimed at the violation of their sovereignty and, indeed, their extermination. We do not need a President who takes us anywhere close to that world again.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a talk show host, writer and activist. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

We have to end the war on women in cyberspace

— I don’t know whether you have been following this, but there is a very disturbing trend that has been underway. Women in cyberspace are under attack. These attacks are very much focused on programmers and video game designers. These attacks are nothing short of vicious.

Yet, the attacks have expanded. Just recently Leslie Jones, a co-star in the reboot of the film “Ghostbusters,” came under such a vicious online assault that she took a breather from Twitter while Twitter management decided to purge some of her worst attackers. What Leslie Jones experienced, i.e., vicious online assaults, is something that an increasing number of women who work in cyberspace and technology careers have been living through for years. Subterranean assaults carried out in the dark of night making life miserable for their targets have become a current feature of our times. This has expanded so much so that it has even become part of popular culture, such as a plotline of one of the “Law & Order” franchises.

What is motivating these attacks? These attacks are acts of misogyny, pure and simple and are being carried out— quite blatantly— by men who believe there are certain fields that should be the exclusive territory of men. As a result, they want to carry out what can only be described as the “gender cleansing” of different fields, with technology being one of them. Yet, as is the case with Leslie Jones, these cyber assaults are not limited to women who work in technology.

In the late 1990s, I noticed something which I coined “The Wizard of Oz Phenomenon.” In essence this took the form of people developing one personality when they were behind a keyboard and another in real life. I encountered people who were rude, arrogant and intolerant over the Internet, yet when you would meet them in person, they would be nothing short of a cuddly teddy bear.

I believe “The Wizard of Oz Phenomenon” has expanded and has become the means by which some very mean-spirited, arrogant men have decided to conduct a war against women. Hiding behind the “curtain” of the Internet, they harass women to the point that some have decided to abandon their field of interest entirely, simply because they have concluded that the harassment is not worth it.

So, here is my proposal. There are some good hackers out there. I think that there is a need to develop a battalion of such hackers who are interested in bringing a halt to this online misogyny. Their assignment, should they choose to accept it, would be to search out, identify and publicize the existence of these harassers and, as they say, return the favor— any volunteers?

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a talk show host, writer and activist. You can follow him on

Twitter, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

The many delusions of Donald Trump

— What do you say about someone who apparently sees things that do not exist? I have been asking myself that question while I have watched Donald Trump’s presidential campaign unfold. And, as taunts name-calling, and the lack of substance continue to define the tone of Trump’s campaign, I have wondered whether we need to think about Trump in a different way.

Let’s review three items.

First, Trump has argued for a wall between the United States and Mexico to prevent Mexican migrants, who he contends are the major source of crime in the U.S., from entering this country. Interesting. In reality, the migration flow in recent years has reversed between the U.S. and Mexico, i.e., people are returning to Mexico. Second, if Mexicans are the major source of crime, what does Trump have to say about Russian immigrants and the Russian mafia? What about previous generations of criminal organizations, which have been associated with immigrant communities, such as the Cosa Nostra (Sicilian and Italian), as well as Irish and Jewish mobs? Why not expel all of them? Well, the Donald is silent on this. Beside racist, what does one call such a mischaracterization of reality?

A second example: Trump asserted— and repeated— that on 11 September 2001, masses of Muslims in the United States applauded the terrorist attacks. No evidence— and I repeat NO EVIDENCE— has ever been found to back up his claim. Yet, Trump and many of his supporters continue to argue that they saw it. How is that possible?

The third example, and I simply have to bring this up. Trump seized upon the so-called “birther” allegations against President Obama, suggesting that he is not a true citizen of the U.S. and, therefore, has been ineligible to be President of the U.S. Again, in addition to racism, what do you call someone who, despite all legitimate evidence, continues to assert something which is so obviously false?

This all reminded me of the “Flat Earth Society.” I have no idea whether they still exist but during the 1960s this group, which believed that the earth was flat, sent a congratulatory note to an orbiting U.S. space vehicle saying to them that while the Earth might look round, it was actually an optical illusion. Hmm…

So, the next time that you hear someone say that they support Trump because he calls it as it is, ask them about Mexican immigration to the U.S., Muslims celebrating 9-11, and his false citizenship allegations against President Obama and watch their response. If they tell you that it doesn’t matter, all that I can only suggest one thing…run.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a talk show host, writer and activist. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

I saw these “stunning” news anchors and my jaw didn’t drop

— If you are like me, you sometimes find yourself surfing the Web when you are supposed to be doing something more important. You may notice “click bait” that poses questions like, “What has happened to these childhood stars?” or offers, “Secrets of the Mayans revealed.” Well, the other day I noticed one that concerned a list with dozens of allegedly, gorgeous news anchors called “News Anchors Who Will Make Your Jaw Drop.” Out of curiosity, I decided to take a look. Let me tell you what I found.

The list was all women. I mention that because my wife’s first comment was that there are many male news anchors and that some of them are good looking. For some reason I did not assume that there would be any men, but that may be my own blindness.

The second thing was that they were reasonably attractive, they tended to be on the younger side, and there was not one identifiable Black woman among them. The story does not stop there. The list included Europeans, Euro-Americans (Whites), Latinas and Asians. Yet the characteristics of all of the women were European. The Latinas were all light-skinned, not one looking Afro-Latina or, for that matter, indigenous. The Asians were all quite light, with Western looks, and with not one of them looking like the browner Asians one might find in Guam, the Philippines, Cambodia, Malaysia or Indonesia, not to mention, South Asia.

I kept assuming that I would come across at least one identifiable Black news anchor. There were a couple that looked like they might have a little African in them somewhere, but I felt that I was reaching.

Despite periodic initiatives towards Black pride and defeating efforts to erase Blackness from the mainstream, the White supremacist bias always finds a way to raise its ugly head. Beauty remains a category defined largely in European terms with a dismissal of the very notion that beauty can take myriad forms.

This situation is not remedied by the selection of one identifiably Black person to fill a quota. It really goes to the very basic question of how one defines beauty and breaking with the assumption that the closer we are to the purer European—whatever that means—the more beautiful we become.

I will leave it at that.

Don’t get too excited when Trump attacks George W. Bush over Iraq

Something weird happened on February 13, 2016, at the Republican debate in South Carolina. Donald Trump went after Jeb Bush over the record of his brother, former President George W. Bush.

Trump attacked George W. Bush for the invasion of Iraq and for providing insufficient security for the U.S.A., as represented by the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

There are many liberals and progressives who were dumbfounded by his words, apparently never expecting commentary such as that to be mouthed by a Republican candidate for President. Many people at the debate were also surprised, because Trump was booed.

There are a few things to consider about this incident. The first is that, despite all of the evidence to the effect that the administration of George W. Bush lied us into a war with Iraq, there are still people, particularly in the Republican Party, who insist on believing that there was sufficient justification for an invasion that violated international law and precedent. In other words, they will not let the facts get in the way of their opinions. Such delusional thinking is always unsettling.

Second, within the Republican camp, and frequently out of the view of many liberals and progressives, there are those who are what might be described as “neo-isolationists.” These neo-isolationists tend to believe that the USA should wall itself off from the rest of the world, in some cases literally— such as Trump’s call for a wall on the border with Mexico— but in most cases figuratively. This element believes that the USA should not engage the international community, but instead should leave everyone to their own devices.

Right-wing isolationists want “their U.S.A.” to be protected, and one must be clear as to what that means. When one listens to the rhetoric of candidates, such as Trump, “their U.S.A.” is a white, non-immigrant U.S.A., that is, the “white republic” of old. They see this White republic under threat by demographic changes, economic changes, and a changing world. For them, the U.S.A. —defined as a white-dominated U.S.A. —must withdraw from world affairs.

We were hearing elements of this in Trump’s rhetoric at the debate. It can be misleading because it sometimes sounds like what we, progressives, have said. However, the reality is that Trump wants to retreat into a mythical past. He wants the U.S.A. to be able to dominate the world when it sees fit, but to otherwise disengage with the rest of the planet in resolving common, planetary challenges. Yes, he is

correct that the Iraq invasion was based on a lie, and the neo-conservatives in the Republican Party disagree vehemently with him. Yet his vision assumes that the U.S.A. can have its cake and eat it too. That it can obtain resources from the rest

of the world, but act not as a partner but as a periodic bully when it does not get its way.

While we may agree with Trump’s criticism of George W. Bush, none of us should ever assume that he has seen the light.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a talk-show host, writer and activist. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

Need customer service from Facebook? Good Luck!

— It happened very suddenly over the summer. I have been using Facebook for several years. A friend convinced me that once my Facebook “friends” had hit the 5000 mark (the maximum permitted) that I should replace my existing page with a “Fan Page” or “Celebrity Page.” It sounds more important than it actually is. It permits you to get an unlimited number of “Likes” to your page; you can post whatever you choose; you can get private messages from anyone who likes your page. But you cannot “like” other pages and you cannot have “Facebook Friends.” Let’s leave aside, for a moment, whether or not it was a good idea for me to create this page.

In any case, this summer, overnight, the ability to reply to “Comments” that were made on my page disappeared. In other words, anyone “liking” my page was still able to offer a comment on anything that I posted, but I no longer could respond to their comments. I assumed that all I needed to do was to reboot my computer. I did that, yet nothing changed. I tried opening up Facebook via Internet Explorer rather than Chrome. Nothing changed. I tried opening Facebook via my iPhone; again nothing changed. I sent a “Help” message to Facebook about the problem. No answer. I started asking around, but no one knew what to do. A computer expert friend of mine started looking into the problem and discovered that many other people were having exactly the same problem, yet no one was getting an answer from Facebook. I sent two or three more messages to Facebook asking them for help, but heard nothing. Finally, my computer expert friend discovered a way around the problem so that I have regained the ability to respond to “Comments.” To this day, Facebook has yet to reply to my inquiries.

Why do you need to know any of this? The experience has been very unsettling. Instead of being addressed by Facebook, I felt blown off. To add to this problem, there was no other way to get Facebook to respond to my concerns. In other words, there was no accountability and, simply put, I was stuck. There is no phone number to call, nor any monitoring agency from which I could gain assistance.

We are in an era of incredible dependence on electronic technology, the so-called Information Age. We seem to speak with other human beings less frequently in business, commerce, and even social interactions. Instead we either interact with machines or we are told that we need to get answers from other ‘customers’ rather than being addressed by the company, organization, etc., where the problem lies. We are then left to accept our situation, whether the problem has been resolved or not.

The situation we have found ourselves facing is one with the growth of robotic technology, the massive accumulation of wealth by a small number of people who control this technology, the dismissal of human labor in the supposed interest of increasing productivity, and the burden for resolving problems— or even the burden of carrying out the work of the company or organization— placed on the “customers.”

Welcome to 2016!

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the host of The Global African on Telesur-English. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.org.