Friday, March 31, 2023
Trump and advisers caught off guard by New York indictment
"Advisers had privately counseled Trump that an indictment by a Manhattan grand jury involving hush-money payments to an adult-film star would not come for some time
More than a week after Donald Trump had angrily predicted — incorrectly and with no specific evidence — that he would be arrested, the former president had grown cautiously optimistic.
Advisers had counseled him that a possible indictment by a Manhattan grand jury involving hush-money payments to an adult-film star would not come for some time — if at all — and Trump had even begun joking about “golden handcuffs,” said one person who spoke with him in recent days.
But on Thursday, the news that Trump had simultaneously resigned himself to and believed he could wish away finally broke: A Manhattan grand jury had voted to indict him over hush-money payments to adult-film star Stormy Daniels during his 2016 presidential campaign, making him the first ex-president charged with a crime.
Trump’s team had long been preparing for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s investigation to end in a possible indictment. His top political advisers, including Chris LaCivita and Jason Miller, had begun drafting statements to blast out and lines of attack against Bragg and Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen, thought to be one of Bragg’s key witnesses.
But when the indictment came, Trump and his advisers were caught off guard.
“It was a surprise to everybody,” said David Urban, a longtime Trump adviser who is not working on his 2024 presidential campaign.
Some of his lawyers had been preparing to take a few days off, not expecting any movement for several weeks, said two people familiar with the matter who, like many in Trump’s orbit, spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly share details of private discussions. Some Trump aides — including adviser Boris Epshteyn, who is taking a leading role on Trump’s legal team — had even begun telling the former president that he would not be indicted at all, people familiar with the comments said.
In a sign of the chaotic scramble, Trump misspelled “indicted” in a post on his social media network Truth Social, writing that “Thugs and Radical Left Monsters” had just “INDICATED” him.
Trump is expected to appear Tuesday in Manhattan, one adviser said. His legal team, speaking by phone late Thursday, scrambled to figure out the logistics and coordinate with the Secret Service on the security specifics for his arraignment.
Trump, for his part, dined at his private Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., with advisers for his 2024 presidential campaign after the news broke, but his recent good spirits had soured. One adviser described him as “irritated” and “deflated.”
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said in an interview that he spoke with Trump on Thursday evening for a few minutes and that the former president was “upset and disappointed” but also “very calm.”
“They are using the law as a weapon against me,” Trump griped to Graham.
Graham said he counseled calm and that Trump seemed to agree. “He thinks most people will see it as a weaponization of the law,” Graham said. “From a political point of view, it’s going to solidify Trump’s standing with the Republican Party.”
Indeed, Trump almost immediately escalated his fundraising pitches Thursday night, asking his supporters in an email titled, “BREAKING: PRESIDENT TRUMP INDICTED,” to give at least $24 to “defend our movement from the never-ending witch hunts.”
“We are living through the darkest chapter of American history,” read the email, which claimed all contributions would be matched up to 1,500 percent, but failed to say who would match the donations.
One adviser said that while Trump would prefer not to be indicted, the former president planned to “milk it for all it’s worth politically,” using the criminal charges to rally Republicans around him and his 2024 campaign, portray himself as a victim and fundraise.
Trump allies have said his fundraising haul has increased significantly since he posted on Truth Social that he expected to be arrested, taking in more than $2 million. And the biggest fundraising day of his post-presidency so far was the day after the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago last year for classified documents.
The causeway that leads to Mar-a-Lago has long been a rally spot for Trump supporters, especially during his presidency, when they would regularly gather to cheer on his motorcade.
But as the sun set along the causeway Thursday, more people were fishing for sand perch and croaker than had shown up to the support the former president. Shortly before 8 p.m., only a half dozen Trump supporters had amassed in their usual spot.
“A travesty of justice occurred today — our hearts are broken,” said Mary Kelley, 77, of Lake Worth, Fla., who arrived waving a “Trump 2024” flag. “We are here supporting our president. We always have. We always will. And he knows we are here.”
At least one anti-Trump protester was also in attendance. Victoria Doyle, a 57-year-old attorney from Lake Worth Beach, Fla., arrived carrying a sign that included an expletive aimed at the former president.
Doyle said she had made the sign more than a week ago, when Trump first said he expected to be indicted, and agonized for days over whether she would ever be able to carry it.
So when she heard the news Thursday evening, Doyle raced to the causeway to unfurl her sign. Despite some heckling, Doyle held her ground as the lone Trump opponent, pacing and shouting, “Lock him up!” while also expressing her dismay that more had not gathered to share her enthusiasm for the grand jury’s decision.
“I expected to have some fellow celebrators here,” Doyle said. “But that is okay. I will always show up to celebrate justice and consequences. I’m a lawyer.”
Tim Craig in Palm Beach, Fla., contributed to this report."
Here’s how indictments work in the United States’ legal system.
Grand jurors hear from only one side of the case, the prosecution’s, and can indict a defendant with a simple majority.
A Manhattan grand jury has indicted Donald J. Trump for his role in paying hush money to an adult film star. That is only the first step in what is likely to be a long legal battle.
An indictment, whether it is handed up in federal or state court, is a formal accusation — not a conviction — and it is among the first moves a prosecutor can make to bring a case to trial.
When a person is indicted in a criminal court in the United States, it means that a grand jury composed of residents chosen at random believed there was enough evidence to charge that person with a crime. Such panels, generally convened by judges at the request of prosecutors, meet for weeks, and can hear evidence in a variety of cases. The judge is not present during grand jury proceedings after the jurors are chosen, and jurors are able to ask the witnesses questions.
Unlike a criminal trial, where a jury has to reach a unanimous verdict, a grand jury can issue an indictment with a simple majority. In this case, there were 23 grand jurors, meaning at least 12 had to agree on an indictment.
Grand jurors hear evidence and testimony only from prosecutors and the witnesses that they choose to present. They do not hear from the defense or usually from the person accused, unlike in a criminal trial where proceedings are adversarial. (Defendants in New York have the right to answer questions in front of the grand jury before they are indicted, but they rarely testify. Mr. Trump declined.) That one-sided arrangement often leads defense lawyers to minimize indictments and argue that prosecutors could persuade jurors to “indict a ham sandwich,” a proverbial phrase that former Vice President Mike Pence used on CNN Thursday night.
As in other criminal cases, the exact charges against Mr. Trump are under seal and will not be revealed until he is brought to Manhattan Criminal Court for a formal arraignment, which is expected to happen on Tuesday.
At that point, the indictment will be unsealed, initiating the case’s next phase. Prosecutors will share their evidence with defense attorneys, who often ask a judge to dismiss the case on various legal grounds.
A trial is not guaranteed and may not be scheduled for months, as both sides will most likely argue over the merits of the case and what evidence can be presented to a jury."
Bragg’s office criticizes top Republicans for aiding ‘Trump’s efforts to vilify’ him.
"The letter described as unfounded the three members’ allegations that the investigation was politically motivated.
A day after filing charges against Donald J. Trump, the Manhattan district attorney’s office wrote a letter criticizing three influential congressional Republicans for their efforts to interfere in the investigation into the former president.
The letter was addressed to three committee chairmen who had demanded that the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, provide them with communications, documents and testimony related to the inquiry into Mr. Trump.
The office’s letter noted that before being indicted, Mr. Trump had used his social media platform to denigrate Mr. Bragg, and had threatened “death and destruction” if he were to be charged.
“You could use the stature of your office to denounce these attacks and urge respect for the fairness of our justice system and for the work of the impartial grand jury,” Leslie Dubeck, the general counsel for the district attorney’s office, wrote.
“Instead, you and many of your colleagues have chosen to collaborate with Mr. Trump’s efforts to vilify and denigrate the integrity of elected state prosecutors and trial judges,” Ms. Dubeck wrote, describing as unfounded the three members’ allegations that the investigation was politically motivated.
The letter, addressed to Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio, chairman of the Judiciary Committee; James R. Comer of Kentucky, chairman of the Oversight and Accountability Committee; and Bryan Steil of Wisconsin, chairman of the Administration Committee, repeated portions of an earlier one Ms. Dubeck had sent them, calling the Republican request for confidential information about the investigation unprecedented.
“Like any other defendant, Mr. Trump is entitled to challenge these charges in court,” she wrote, adding, “What neither Mr. Trump nor Congress may do is interfere with the ordinary course of proceedings in New York State.”
Ms. Dubeck and the Republicans have traded two letters apiece since Mr. Trump’s arrest prediction on March 18, which prompted his political allies to rush to his side.
Responding to news of the indictment on Thursday evening, Mr. Jordan tweeted one word: “Outrageous.”
The back-and-forth highlights the politically charged nature of Mr. Trump’s indictment, which has thrown the 2024 presidential race into new territory and threatens to test national and state institutions and the rule of law.
The Republican effort to influence Mr. Bragg’s investigation mimics Mr. Trump’s own efforts, while he occupied the White House, to tar law enforcement officials as partisan actors motivated solely by politics.
Mr. Trump continued that line of attack on Thursday. In a statement, he called Mr. Bragg a “disgrace” and said “this Witch-Hunt will backfire massively on Joe Biden,” who defeated him in the 2020 presidential race, has had nothing to do with the district attorney’s investigation and has not commented on the indictment.
Concluding her letter, Ms. Dubeck urged the congressional Republicans to withdraw their demand for information about the investigation “and let the criminal justice process proceed without unlawful political interference.”
But she said that the office was willing to meet with the chairmen or their staffs, and asked for a list of questions for Mr. Bragg and a description of the types of documents they were requesting."
Republicans Face Setbacks in Push to Tighten Voting Laws on College Campuses
"Party officials across the country have sought to erect more barriers for young voters, who tilt heavily Democratic, after several cycles in which their turnout surged.
Alarmed over young people increasingly proving to be a force for Democrats at the ballot box, Republican lawmakers in a number of states have been trying to enact new obstacles to voting for college students.
In Idaho, Republicans used their power monopoly this month to ban student ID cards as a form of voter identification.
But so far this year, the new Idaho law is one of few successes for Republicans targeting young voters.
Attempts to cordon off out-of-state students from voting in their campus towns or to roll back preregistration for teenagers have failed in New Hampshire and Virginia. Even in Texas, where 2019 legislation shuttered early voting sites on many college campuses, a new proposal that would eliminate all college polling places seems to have an uncertain future.
“When these ideas are first floated, people are aghast,” said Chad Dunn, the co-founder and legal director of the UCLA Voting Rights Project. But he cautioned that the lawmakers who sponsor such bills tend to bring them back over and over again.
“Then, six, eight, 10 years later, these terrible ideas become law,” he said.
Turnout in recent cycles has surged for young voters, who were energized by issues like abortion, climate change and the Trump presidency.
They voted in rising numbers during the midterms last year in Kansas and Michigan, which both had referendums about abortion. And college students, who had long paid little attention to elections, emerged as a crucial voting bloc in the 2018 midterms.
But even with such gains, Sean Morales-Doyle, director of the voting rights program for the Brennan Center for Justice, said there was still progress to be made.
“Their turnout is still far outpaced by their older counterparts,” Mr. Morales-Doyle said.
Now, with the 2024 presidential election campaign underway, the battle over young voters has heightened significance.
Between the 2018 and 2022 elections in Idaho, registration jumped 66 percent among 18- and 19-year-old voters, the largest increase in the nation, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. The nonpartisan research organization, based at Tufts University, focuses on youth civic engagement.
Out of 17 states that generally require voter ID, Idaho will join Texas and only four others — North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee — that do not accept any student IDs, according to the Voting Rights Lab, a group that tracks legislation.
Arizona and Wisconsin have rigid rules on student IDs that colleges and universities have struggled to meet, though some Wisconsin schools have been successful.
Proponents of such restrictions often say they are needed to prevent voter fraud, even though instances of fraud are rare. Two lawsuits were filed in state and federal court shortly after Idaho’s Republican governor, Brad Little, signed the student ID prohibition into law on March 15.
“The facts aren’t particularly persuasive if you’re just trying to get through all of these voter suppression bills,” Betsy McBride, the president of the League of Women Voters of Idaho, one of the plaintiffs in the state lawsuit, said before the bill’s signing.
A fight over out-of-state students in New Hampshire
In New Hampshire, which has one of the highest percentages in the nation of college students from out of state, G.O.P. lawmakers proposed a bill this year that would have barred voting access for those students, but it died in committee after failing to muster a single vote.
Nearly 59 percent of students at traditional colleges in New Hampshire came from out of state in 2020, according to the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education at Tufts.
The University of New Hampshire had opposed the legislation, while students and other critics had raised questions about its constitutionality.
The bill, which would have required students to show their in-state tuition statements when registering to vote, would have even hampered New Hampshire residents attending private schools like Dartmouth College, which doesn’t have an in-state rate, said McKenzie St. Germain, the campaign director for the New Hampshire Campaign for Voting Rights, a nonpartisan voting rights group.
Sandra Panek, one of the sponsors of the bill that died, said she would like to bring it back if she can get bipartisan support. “We want to encourage our young people to vote,” said Ms. Panek, who regularly tweets about election conspiracy theories. But, she added, elections should be reflective of “those who reside in the New Hampshire towns and who ultimately bear the consequences of the election results.”
A Texas ban on campus polling places has made little headway
In Texas, the Republican lawmaker who introduced the bill to eliminate all polling places on college campuses this year, Carrie Isaac, cited safety concerns and worries about political violence.
Voting advocates see a different motive.
“This is just the latest in a long line of attacks on young people’s right to vote in Texas,” said Claudia Yoli Ferla, the executive director of MOVE Texas Action Fund, a nonpartisan group that seeks to empower younger voters.
Ms. Isaac has also introduced similar legislation to eliminate polling places at primary and secondary schools. In an interview, she mentioned the May 2022 school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers — an attack that was not connected to voting.
“Emotions run very high,” Ms. Isaac said. “Poll workers have complained about increased threats to their lives. It’s just not conducive, I believe, to being around children of all ages.”
The legislation has been referred to the House Elections Committee, but has yet to receive a hearing in the Legislature. Voting rights experts have expressed skepticism that the bill — one of dozens related to voting introduced for this session — would advance.
G.O.P. voting restrictions flounder in other states
In Virginia, one Republican failed in her effort to repeal a state law that lets teenagers register to vote starting at age 16 if they will turn 18 in time for a general election. Part of a broader package of proposed election restrictions, the bill had no traction in the G.O.P.-controlled House, where it died this year in committee after no discussion.
And in Wyoming, concerns about making voting harder on older people appear to have inadvertently helped younger voters. A G.O.P. bill that would have banned most college IDs from being used as voter identification was narrowly defeated in the state House because it also would have banned Medicare and Medicaid insurance cards as proof of identity at the polls, a provision that Republican lawmakers worried could be onerous for older people.
“In my mind, all we’re doing is kind of hurting students and old people,” Dan Zwonitzer, a Republican lawmaker who voted against the bill, said during a House debate in February.
But some barriers are already in place
Georgia has accepted student IDs only from public colleges and universities since 2006, so students at private institutions, including several historically Black colleges and universities, must use another form of identification.
In Ohio, which has for years not accepted student IDs for voting, Republicans in January approved a broader photo ID requirement that also bars students from using university account statements or utility bills for voting purposes, as they had in the past.
The Idaho bill will take effect in January. Scott Herndon and Tina Lambert, the bill’s sponsors in the Senate and the House, did not respond to requests for comment, but Mr. Herndon said during a Feb. 24 session that student identification cards had lower vetting standards than those issued by the government.
“It isn’t about voter fraud,” he said. “It’s just making sure that the people who show up to vote are who they say they are.”
Republicans contended that nearly 99 percent of Idahoans had used their driver’s licenses to vote, but the bill’s opponents pointed out that not all students have driver’s licenses or passports — and that there is a cost associated with both.
Mae Roos, a senior at Borah High School in Boise, testified against the bill at a Feb. 10 hearing.
“When we’re taught from the very beginning, when we first start trying to participate, that voting is an expensive process, an arduous process, a process rife with barriers, we become disillusioned with that great dream of our democracy,” Ms. Roos said. “We start to believe that our voices are not valued.”
Metro Atlanta's Population Grew In 2022 After Pandemic Exodus
"Gwinnett County was one of metro Atlanta's fastest-growing counties post-pandemic, according to U.S. Census data.
ATLANTA, GA — Counties in the metro Atlanta area slightly regained some of the population they lost during the first years of the pandemic, according to a new Census Bureau report Thursday.
Overall, population growth and decline are returning to pre-pandemic levels in the nation’s 3,144 counties, according to the Census Bureau’s 2022 population estimates.
Fulton County’s population was 1,069,370 in 2020 but declined by more than 6,500 in 2021. Fulton rose to 1,074,634 in 2022.
Fayette and Douglas counties saw increases from their pre-pandemic population by at least 2,000 in 2022.
Cobb and Henry counties saw population increases of at least 5,000 while Gwinnett swelled by more than 17,300 from 2020-22.
DeKalb County’s pre-pandemic was 764,420, 759,231 in 2021 and 762,820 in 2022.
All 10 of the top fastest-growing counties were in the South or West, and nine of the 10 were metropolitan counties. Also, according to the report, some urban counties in New York and San Francisco that saw significant declines in their populations in 2021 saw people moving back in 2022.
Counties with large universities also saw their populations rebound as students returned to on-campus learning. One example: Whitman County in Washington lost 9.6 percent of its population between 2020 and 2021 when students went home during COVID, but grew by 10.1 percent last year, the most of any county with more than 20,000 people.
Similar patterns were seen in metropolitan counties in the South and West that are fully recovering their population. For example, Dallas County, Texas, the nation’s eighth-largest county, lost 22,000 people between 2020 and 2021, but gained 13,000 people from 2021 to 2022 for a growth rate of 0.5 percent, the report said.
The report showed 52.5 percent of counties saw growth from 2021 to 2022, while 47.1 percent lost population. Eleven counties (0.3 percent) saw no changes in their populations.
Nearly all the largest counties, those with at least 100,000 people, experienced population growth, the report said. One notable exception is Los Angeles County, California, whose downward population trend continued in 2022, with a loss of 90,704 people. In 2021, the county lost about twice that number (180,394).
The greatest population losses were in counties with fewer than 10,000 people. Almost 61 percent of them lost population, compared to about 38 percent that grew."
Thursday, March 30, 2023
“LOUISVILLE — I really like Louisville and its people, culture, restaurants, schools. But I think often about whether my family and I will end up moving somewhere else in a few years.
The Republican state legislators who dominate Kentucky’s government hate Democrats, Democratic-led cities and liberal values — and are constantly trying to undermine all three. Millions of left-leaning Americans like me live in red states like this one, where the Republican officials are imposing Trump-style policies and looking to “own the libs” whenever possible.
“I’ve talked to so many people lately where the conversation is some version of, ‘Okay, so where are we moving? Where can we go?’” said Teri Carter, a Democratic-leaning writer who lives in nearby Anderson County, referring to her friends who live in red states.
I used to think the Republican legislators in Kentucky just had different policy priorities than people like me. After all, most of them represent smaller, more White and less densely populated areas than Louisville. But as I have watched them more closely, I have come to realize these Republicans revel in attacking Democrats and liberals and probably would prefer if we just left the state.
The just-completed session of the state’s legislature was full of new laws that won’t fix any of Kentucky’s problems but instead seem aimed at annoying Democratic voters. For example, Republican lawmakers eliminated dental, hearing and vision benefits under Medicaid and halted the automatic withdrawal of union dues from teachers’ paychecks, while keeping in place such withdrawals for police and firefighters’ unions. That provision’s only purpose is to weaken the state’s teacher unions, who back Democrats, while bolstering the more conservative law enforcement ones.
Perhaps the worst bill of all was one that the pro-LGBTQ rights Trevor Project called “among the most extreme anti-trans pieces of legislation in the nation.” It would bar people under age 18 from getting gender-affirming health care of any kind, prohibit discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation in public schools, and require transgender students to use bathrooms that do not align with their gender identity. Teachers could refuse to refer to students by their preferred name and gender.
This session wasn’t an unusual one. Every year, Kentucky Republicans pass provisions attacking Louisville, as well as Lexington, our other major left-leaning city, and Democratic-leaning constituencies across the state. Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, was elected in 2019 in this very red state, largely because then-Republican Gov. Matt Bevin was considered even by conservative voters here to be mean and petty. But the Republicans in the statehouse still have huge majorities in both houses of the legislature, in part because of very aggressive gerrymandering. So they override most of Beshear’s vetoes, including pushing through the anti-transgender, Medicaid and teacher unions laws this week.
Nor is Kentucky’s situation unique. Red states across the country are blocking policies adopted in Democratic-controlled cities and imposing policies on those cities that large majorities of their residents oppose.
In most of these instances, including in Kentucky, the dynamics are both racial and partisan: Republican officials, who are nearly all White and elected by an overwhelmingly White group of voters, are dominating Democratic mayors, as well as city council and school board members, who are generally elected by a coalition of voters of color and White liberals and moderates.
I moved from D.C. to Louisville in 2018. Part of that was because I grew up in the city, had fond memories of childhood, and my siblings and my mother live here.
But another reason was the political climate. Like a lot of left-leaning people, I wondered how Donald Trump got elected and what I should do about it. One consensus was that Trump’s rise was helped by the fact that so many people in prominent jobs, including in the news media, were concentrated in heavily Democratic places, particularly Washington and New York City. So we didn’t really know what was happening in the rest of the country.
I’m from a red state, I thought. I can be part of the solution — or at least understand the problems better.
Mission accomplished on the second part.
Now, I’m struggling with whether I made a mistake. What does it mean to be a Black person who is strongly supportive of LGBTQ rights, feminism, abortionrights, labor unions, anti-racism and democratic socialism in a state dominated by today’s Republican Party?
I get that Republican voters in California and New York also dislike the policies of their states’ governments. And their Democratic-controlled state governments impose policies on Republican-led cities. My concern is not about general principles of home rule or local rights, but with the specific agenda of today’s Republican officials, one that seems more about controlling people with liberal values than helping anyone: abortion bans; sweeping anti-transgender laws; strict regulations on education about race and LGBTQ issues; voting restrictions; hostility toward labor unions; cuts to social services; constant attacks against universities.
Michael Podhorzer, the former political director of the AFL-CIO, wrote in a recent essay that the Republican Party of today echoes some of the worst political movements of America’s past. “MAGA is the modern incarnation of a reactionary, nativist faction that has been with us since the nation’s founding. … The Faction has given itself different names over time — Confederates, Southern Democrats, Dixiecrats, the tea party, and now MAGA Republicans — but it hasn’t changed its basic supremacist commitments,” said Podhorzer.
Similarly, liberal writer Steve Phillips, in his 2022 book, “How We Win the Civil War,” argued, “The ideological, philosophical, and in some cases, actual descendants of the Confederates are waging an unrelenting … war to keep what was once a white nationalist country from becoming a multiracial democracy.”
You might find such language overheated. I think Phillips and Podhorzer are right. That means I’m living in a state that’s on an immoral, anti-Black, intolerant policy course.
But it’s not clear what I should do about it. Should people with progressive values move en masse to blue states, akin to the Great Migration of the 1910s to the 1970s, when more than 6 million Black people left the Jim Crow South? Should I leave?
The personal downsides to moving are obvious. My relatives live here. I have built a life in Louisville over the past 4½ years. Costs, particularly for housing, are so much lower here than in major cities in blue states. I actually do want to be part of building a better Louisville and Kentucky, though I have begun to wonder whether that’s possible.
A second Great Migration would create new problems. People in blue states might not actually be that eager to receive us. The African Americans who moved north generations ago were often treated quite poorly in their new cities. It’s unlikely that there is affordable housing and jobs in the other 26 states for the more than 25 million left-leaning Americans who live in the 24 Republican-dominated states.
And such a migration would actually exacerbate some of the worst trends in national politics. While Kentucky is very red, that’s not true of every state in Red America. Democrats have recently won U.S. Senate seats and the presidential race in Georgia and New Hampshire and U.S. Senate races in Ohio, Montana and West Virginia, even though Republicans have total control at the state level in all five of those states. Democrats regularly win U.S. House seats in red states, including one in Louisville. None of those victories would be possible if a huge mass of Democrats from, say, Atlanta, Columbus or Louisville relocated to a blue state.
That’s why some left-leaning thinkers think the real problem is that there aren’t enough people like me who have moved from a blue place to a red one. In his 2021 book, “The Devil You Know,” New York Times columnist Charles Blow called for a reverse migration of Black people back to the South, in part to flip these states to the Democrats. I respect Blow. He is Black and moved from New York City to Atlanta a few years ago, practicing what he preaches. But I am very uncomfortable suggesting people move to places where the politicians in charge hate them, in hopes of some change in power down the line.
That said, I have no plans to leave, nor do I want my friends and neighbors to depart. But I’m thinking a lot about the terrible things that are possible, even likely, in the future here in Kentucky: transgender children committing suicide; my daughter attending a school where books or teaching about racism or gay rights are limited because those topics might annoy a few conservative parents; women not getting reproductive care because they are wary of running afoul of the state’s very strict abortion regulations.
“This is my home. I’ve connected more here than I have any other place I’ve lived,” Ray Loux, a 16-year-old transgender boy in Lexington told the Kentucky Lantern in a recent interview. “I feel like I finally belonged. And it really, really hurts that Kentucky doesn’t want me here.”
Many people in Louisville, Austin, Boise, Lincoln, Columbus, Birmingham and other blue cities in red states feel the same way. We are hate objects for our state’s Republican politicians. For them, our cries are their victories.“
Wednesday, March 29, 2023
How Can We Be a Country That Does This to Our Children?
"The formal clothes of children are endearing. Take a suit or a dress and shrink it down to a size appropriate for elementary school kids and the cuteness factor is undeniable. This is because we all know that ties, button-down shirts and stately dresses are not really the province of the young. Children belong in things that can get dirty, splashed by mud or ripped by sliding into second base or tussling with a classmate.
But tiny coffins? Of course, we revolt. Death is not supposed to visit the lives of our daughters in pigtails or stalk our sons who still have gaps in their teeth.
The parents of three young children at the Covenant School in Nashville now have to choose final outfits and coffins for their children because a shooter entered a school with assault-style rifles and a handgun.
The killer, who also took the lives of three adults at the school, was another in a long line of murderers whose ideologies vary as much as the objects of their violence: Asians, African Americans, Black church attendees, members of the L.G.B.T.Q. community, former classmates, moviegoers, grocery shoppers and Christian school students and staff. The one thing that unites these killers is the easy access they had to weapons, owing to the laws that exist in our republic.
There are many ways to judge the success or failure of a country. We can look at its economy, the strength of its military or the quality of its education. We can examine the soundness of our bridges or the smoothness of our highways. But what if we used a different standard? We should judge a nation by a simple metric: the number of weeping parents it allows, the small coffins it tolerates.
The debate around gun control is not new, of course, and each tragedy brings a fresh wave of calls for common-sense gun regulation. The adversaries of reform will rebuke us for turning a tragedy, the deaths of six innocent people, into an occasion to debate politics. We will be urged to offer prayers for the victims and their families while we await the appropriate time to discuss the more difficult issues. But too often it seems that rather than waiting for the right time, politicians are simply trying to wait out the news cycle.
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I am a son of the Black church, so I am well versed in such delaying tactics. We have not had the luxury of time to mourn. When domestic terrorists bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963, murdering four of our little girls, Martin Luther King Jr. used the eulogy he delivered in the presence of the children’s coffins to challenge the church and the government to change.
He said: “These children — unoffending, innocent, and beautiful — were the victims of one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity. And yet they died nobly. They are the martyred heroines of a holy crusade for freedom and human dignity. And so this afternoon in a real sense they have something to say to each of us in their death. They have something to say to every minister of the gospel who has remained silent behind the safe security of stained-glass windows. They have something to say to every politician.”
The deaths of the children spoke to the state of anti-Blackness in America. In death, their blood cried out for justice and transformation. Similarly, every single young body riddled with bullets from guns that we could control preaches a sermon. It issues a word of condemnation, a jeremiad.
Do not misunderstand: I believe in the power of prayer. But the Christian response can’t be limited to it. That assumes that all activity on behalf of the innocent lies in the hands of the almighty when the Christian Scriptures themselves suggest that God will judge us according to how we treat the most vulnerable. We should not be accountable for only the fervency of our intercession but also for the relentlessness of our actions.
Taylor Schumann is a shooting survivor, wife, mom, Christian and advocate for gun reform. The author of the book “When Thoughts and Prayers Aren’t Enough: A Shooting Survivor’s Journey Into the Realities of Gun Violence,” she says that some people who resist gun reform do so out of fear, but they are looking at it the wrong way. “The desire for gun control does not come from a place of wanting to take away something, but rather to save something else: fellow human beings,” she told me. “We’ve tried so many things to reduce gun violence, everything except widespread gun reform. If there were another way to do it, I believe we would’ve found it by now.” Ms. Schumann is right. We have not found another answer and so we are left with a question, which is: Whom do we love more, our guns or our children?
My wife and I had occasion to visit Edinburgh, Scotland, last summer. Strolling along its cobbled roads, we wandered into one of the many old churches. Carved into the cool stone walls were names of those long dead.
All that we could know about them was the year of their birth and the day of their passing. The life that took place in the middle was lost to history. We noticed that a few lived very brief lives, dying as children. My wife and I wondered what had befallen them — illness, accident or some other tragedy? The disquiet around the death of the young echoes through the centuries.
Years from now, when those of us alive today have gone the way of all flesh, others will wander through our graveyards. They will see the waves of tombstones commemorating children with not enough years between the first number and the last. But unlike those children in Scotland, the cause of those tragedies will not be a mystery. The undeniable testimony of our actions will be that our children kept dying because some of us did not love them enough."