Reconstructing the Great Speeches – Frederic Douglass: “If There is No Struggle, there is No Progress”

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Actually, the name of this speech is the “West India Emancipation Speech.” However, the line from Douglass’s speech that “If there is no struggle, there is no progress” is one of the most memorable lines in the history of speech.  I first read about the life of Frederic Douglass sometime around the end of the sixties.  As you may know, this was a time of social unrest and many assaults on the systems that governed the USA.  I had become involved with a number of leftist groups and was reading Marx, Marcuse, Anarchist, Socialist and other writings belonging to what might be called a genre of “radical” literature.  I became interested in anyone who championed change in our government, and this of course led me to a number of black authors.

I first read about the life of Douglass (1818–1895) in his autobiography (“Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass”, 1845).  When I finally decided to go to college at the age of 25, I was required to take a speech class.  The year was 1971 and I was 25 years old.  The school offered me the opportunity to test out of the class.  I was required to do a speech in front of a professor who then would decide if I could bypass the class.  I decided to do an excerpt from Douglass’s “West India Emancipation Speech.”  I was enamored of this speech years ago and today it is still one of the most memorable speeches that I have ever heard.  Evidently, I did a good enough job on the speech since I was given credit for the class and I did not have to take it.

Context:

Frederic Douglas gave this speech on August 3, 1857 at Canandaigua, New York.  It was an address concerning the history of the West Indian slaves in their own struggle for freedom.  After years of slave revolts and civil disorder, England had abolished slavery in the British West Indies in 1834.  Douglass used the anniversary of this event as leverage for speaking out against slavery in the United States.  It epitomized his views concerning the role of struggle in the battle against slavery.  The slaves in the West Indies achieved their freedom only after many years of struggles and reprisals against the British slave owners.

81IYcBLyoILTwenty-three years later, when Douglass gave his speech, the turmoil in the United States over the issue of slavery was growing.  It had always been a major source of dissension in the United States, but things were coming to a boiling point.  The Dred Scott decision had recently been rendered by the US Supreme Court.  This decision held that black people were not citizens and that slaves could not sue for freedom.  In March of 1857, James Buchanan was sworn in as the 15th President of the USA.  Buchanan was no friend of the abolitionists and he joined the Southern leaders in attempting to admit Kansas as a slave state.  He strongly supported the Dred Scott decision and today he would be considered an ardent racist.  The contrast between Lincoln who was elected four years later and Buchanan in terms of their policies towards slavery was the final straw that led to the Civil War.

Frederic Douglass was born a slave but escaped from Maryland to the north in 1838.  Douglass was 20 years old at the time.  He had taught himself to read and write.  He had natural skills for oratory and writing and it did not take him long to establish himself in the Abolitionist Movement as a leader and speaker against slavery.  Frederic was a man of deep compassion and empathy for others.  Douglas not only supported the rights of all minorities including Native Americans and Chinese immigrants to freedom and equality, but he also championed the rights of women to vote and to have full participation in government and civic affairs.

West India Emancipation Speech:

“The general sentiment of mankind is that a man who will not fight for himself, when he has the means of doing so, is not worth being fought for by others, and this sentiment is just. For a man who does not value freedom for himself will never value it for others, or put himself to any inconvenience to gain it for others.”

Reading this speech again after many years reminds me of how much I still adore the words and thoughts that Douglass has voiced.  I would not want a man as a friend who will not stand up for himself or others.  I loathe sycophants such as those who surround Trump.  I hate (yes hate) people who will abuse, denigrate, or attack other people.  I have fought physically and verbally to defend people who were helpless or were being bullied.  I would do so now and tomorrow.  The meek may inherit the earth but they will need the angry antagonistic people like me to acquire their inheritance.  I am glad that I do not profess to be a Christian because I do not believe in turning the other cheek.  Not once, not ever.  If there is a hell, I will go proudly to it knowing that I have fought to defend the rights of others.

“Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow.”

No nation or people in history were ever given their freedom by others.  Those who want freedom must take it for themselves.  Douglass was well aware of the struggles of other nations to achieve their independence.  He noted the struggles of the Turks and the Hungarians and the Irish to achieve their independence.

“I know, my friends, that in some quarters the efforts of colored people meet with very little encouragement. We may fight, but we must fight like the Sepoys of India, under white officers. This class of Abolitionists don’t like colored celebrations, they don’t like colored conventions, they don’t like colored antislavery fairs for the support of colored newspapers.”

The sentiments that Douglass voiced here are hard for many white people to understand or accept.  When Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) the 4th Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee wanted black people as the leadership of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the sixties many white people were indignant.  How could they want to kick us out?  “We have marched, we have rallied, we have sat side by side with black people to help overcome racism and now they are turning on us?”

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When Ture supported the concept of “Black Power” many former white supporters were threatened.  In a “Black Power” speech in 1966 Ture said: “It is a call for black people in this country to unite, to recognize their heritage, to build a sense of community. It is a call for black people to define their own goals, to lead their own organizations.” Black Power reflected the anger and pent-up disappointment with a system of white power that was forever promising blacks’ freedom and equality but never delivering on the promise.  Many white liberals thought that black folks were now going to far.

White leaders in the Civil Rights Movement did not and could not understand the needs of black people to lead their own struggle and fight for freedom and liberty.  Black people knew and understood that freedom achieved by others or given by others was no real freedom.  The fight against racism meant that blacks must lead the fight and white supporters must follow.  Frederic Douglass understood this concept one hundred year before the term Black Power was first used.

“Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle…. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.

His words have never been truer.  Greece fought the Persians.  Rome fought the Carthaginians.  England fought the Spanish.  The US fought the British.  The Chinese fought the Europeans.  Throughout history, countries have only achieved their independence by a struggle that as Douglass noted:  “This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle.” 

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Today we see protests against racism that are led under the banner of the Black Lives Matter movement.  Some of these protests and rallies remain peaceful while at times others have become violent.  Many decry the violence, looting and physical attacks on the police that sometimes break out during these rallies.  I don’t defend the violence as necessary not do I defend the attacks on police as warranted unless they are in self-defense.  However, I do understand the difference between cause and effect.  When you are in a shell game, they tell you to “Keep your eye on the ball.”  This is almost impossible to do.  It is also impossible during the middle of the racism and prejudice that surrounds us to remember who the enemies and oppressors really are.

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The police that are supposedly there to “Serve and Protect” seem more likely to be there to “Preserve and Protect” the status quo and the interests of big business.  Too often, the mere presence of police in SWOT uniforms and riot gear at rallies serves to antagonize and provoke more violence.  The very nature of SWOT uniforms and riot gear is both threatening and violent in and of itself.  To stand there peacefully holding a sign while surrounded by people with batons, mace, tasers, automatic rifles and handguns takes a fortitude that not many people have.  If you want to criticize a Black Lives Matter rally, you should first come out from your gated community and join a rally.  See how you feel when law enforcement is present and looking over your shoulder with a rifle.

Should the rallies result in physical harm to others or to property?  The answer is obvious, and it is no.  But when I hear the outcries against such violence, I think back on Douglass’s words that:

“Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.”

I repeat these words from above since I think they bear reflection.  Douglass knew that many abolitionists thought that slave revolts were “prejudicial to their cause.”  The same is often heard today when rallies turn violent.  But I want to ask, who is making this claim?  It is easy to stand on the sidelines and applaud but not so easy to stand up to violence being inflected physically on those who are protesting peacefully as has happened during Trumps recent Bible photo op outside the White House.

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.

downloadToday we are witnessing a descent into tyranny and demagoguery the likes of which have never before been seen in America.  We have a President who lies whenever he speaks.  We have a Republican party that abhors social justice and will do everything they can to suppress the rights of Americans to vote.  We have a base of supporters for Trump that are racist, fascist, and anti-democratic.  Lured by whatever sirens they listen to; they support the right of Trump to do whatever he wants to do.  They call him their Messiah and voice unconditional support for his attacks on the press, minorities, immigrants, women, blacks, Latinos, disabled, foreign countries and even the disabled.  A President who is willing to sacrifice thousands of lives to support his quest for a second term.

On a recent trip, I passed a sign in front of a house that read “Apathy is not an option.”  I am sure I know what the person meant who posted this sign.  Douglass would know what it meant and would fully understand that anyone professing a desire to stand on the sidelines would soon find themselves ruled by a tyrant.  There is no option today except to fight.  To paraphrase Patrick Henry, the chains of Americans are being forged in the White House.  They are being forged in the Senate.  They are being forged in the Supreme Court.  They are being forged wherever the Republican Party has attained a majority.  Quietly submit and you will attain the full measure of tyranny and injustice that your acquiescence has earned.

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The United States of Trump – Part 1

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My name is Michael Donald Trump.  I am eleven years old today.  It is the year 2100 YOL.  My father is getting ready for church services.  We are going to have a birthday party for me after church today.  My father, sister and I go to church every week from 7 AM until 12 PM.  My mother must get there early as she helps with the baking for the lunch after church and also sings in the choir.  Every Wednesday night, I go to Bible school for three hours.  My older sister is 13 but on Wednesday nights she goes to homemakers’ school where she learns things like cooking, cleaning and how to take care of a baby.  She has reached the age where the District Executive will select a husband for her and in the next year she will be married and leave home.

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My school is run by the Evangelical Church of Trump.  Our Evangelical Church Leader is a Senior Executive in the Local Republican Party.  At school, we learn a great deal about Trump History, taxes, Republicanism, Americanism and other subjects.  The teachers are very strict and any messing around will get you a night in the stocks.  After school, I am bused to the local mining operation to help the workers with some of their chores.  Every student in the UST (United States of Trump) must contribute back to the community.  If the local Work Commander thinks we have done a good job, we are allowed to play sports on the weekend.  We can choose from baseball, football, hockey or golf.  No other sports are allowed.

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My father works at the mines.  He went to the same school and church that we now go to.  Every community is allowed only one church and one school.  My mother stays home.  She is a good mom, but the Local Work Commander says that she is not pulling her weight in the community.  He says that she has only had two children and it is expected that every mother will have at least five children.  My mom says that she is trying but it is not her fault.  One of my siblings died at childbirth or so I was told.  There is a rumor that she was sent to the Default Clinic because she was born with a genetic birth defect.  My mom has been warned to keep trying and that there are penalties for non-compliance.

I have a grandfather and grandmother on my Father’s side who are local representatives for the Republican Party.  There is only one party in the UST.  Our Supreme Chief Executive Officer abolished all other parties many years ago.  He argued that it is too confusing for people to have more than one party and that all we really need is one party to see that people keep order and do what they are supposed to do.

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I am not allowed to talk to my grandfather or grandmother on my mother’s side because they have been labeled as descendants of heretics and state enemies.  The story I have been told is that many years ago when then President D. J. Trump was in the process of becoming Supreme Chief Executive Officer, my great grandfather on my mother’s side joined an opposition group of liars and cheats who were called Democrats.  They did everything they could to block President Trump from becoming Supreme Chief Executive Officer for life.  But President Trump labeled the Democrats as terrorists and they were ruthlessly sought out and either executed or deported to Siberia.

Our Evangelical Church Leader has taught us that things really started to become great in the United States of Trump once the Trump family was installed for life.  In order to become a Supreme CEO, you must belong to the Trump family by birth.  Leadership in our country is based on a strict sequence of hereditary seniority.

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Once President Trump became Supreme Leader, he started to remove all the rapists and criminals from our country.  First, all people of African descent were exported back to Africa.  Then he sent all Asian people back to their homes in China, Vietnam, Korea and Japan.  After he finished the Great Border Wall, he sent all the rapists and thieves back to Mexico.  During this time, he also had to deal with the radical terrorists who were called Democrats.  With the help of the Army and Marines he was finally able to eliminate this terrorist group.

President Trump then had his title changed to Supreme CEO.  In his honor, the Republican Party changed the name of the United States of America to the United States of Trump.  His birthday is now a national holiday.  He eliminated several other holidays like Martin Luther King Day, Presidents Day and Washington’s Birthday.  We have had many other changes in the country.

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The Equal Rights Amendment was abolished, and women were able to regain their rightful place in the home as mothers and home makers.  Abortion was banned and all women were to be married to a man.  Every woman was expected to contribute at least five children to the UST.  Some women were against this, but they were deported to Siberia and eventually the opposition fell in line.  Gays and other sexual deviants were outlawed and any lascivious behavior on the part of sexual deviants was deemed a crime against the state and subject to strict prison sentences and public whippings.

All libraries, radio stations, tv stations, and schools underwent what Supreme CEO Trump called a radical reorganization.  Millions of books were eliminated.  Now all book authors must be approved by the Republican Party to ensure that they will comply with the facts and truth as known.  PBS, SNL and NPR were closed down.  The Washington Post and Time Magazine were sold to the Central Republican Party.  All local schools were taken over by Republican Evangelicals who oversaw a major revision of curriculum and textbooks.  We were told that all false facts and lies would be eliminated from the school system and that we would be educated only in the truth.

All non-Christian religions were banned, and an Executive Order was issued that stated all religions must teach strict Evangelical Republicanism as defined by the central Party headquarters.  The Ten Commandments were installed in every court in the UST and the calendar was changed from CE or Common Era to YOL which stands for in the Year of Our Lord.  Only men could be ministers and churches must adhere to the truth as defined by the Central Republican Party.  A minister or church leader must also be ordained by the Local Republican Party.

Oh, you may wonder if I am related to the Trump family, but genetically the answer is no.  However, several years ago, an executive order was released that all families would carry the last name of Trump and all male children must have the middle name of Donald.  My father could pick any first name for his male children, but the middle and last names were to be in honor of the Greatest Leader in the History of the United States of Trump.

There is more to this story so come back next week and find out what happens to young Michael Donald Trump.

“The one indisputable reality of dictatorship is that dissent, insult, and malevolent language do not go unpunished if it is allowed at all.” — Ferdinand Marcos

New Revelations from a Senior Trump Aide: The Man has no Morality!

This is an op-ed piece from the NY Times written by an anonymous senior aide inside the White House.  Never before has anyone written anything about a President like this.  This clearly shows the incompetence of the man who is President of the United States of America. 

Please share, post, retweet this to everyone you can.  We need to show the world that there are millions of us who do not support this man or his policies.  We need to either impeach him or indict him.  He can and has done real damage to the United States of America.  The longer he remains in office, the more damage he will do.

I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration

I work for the president, but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.

President Trump is facing a test to his presidency unlike any faced by a modern American leader.

It’s not just that the special counsel looms large. Or that the country is bitterly divided over Mr. Trump’s leadership. Or even that his party might well lose the House to an opposition hellbent on his downfall.

The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.

I would know. I am one of them.

To be clear, ours is not the popular “resistance” of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.

But we believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.

That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.

The root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.

Although he was elected as a Republican, the president shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives: free minds, free markets and free people. At best, he has invoked these ideals in scripted settings. At worst, he has attacked them outright.

In addition to his mass-marketing of the notion that the press is the “enemy of the people,” President Trump’s impulses are generally anti-trade and anti-democratic.

Don’t get me wrong. There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture: effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.

But these successes have come despite — not because of — the president’s leadership style, which is impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective.

From the White House to executive branch departments and agencies, senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander in chief’s comments and actions. Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims.

Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back.

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“There is literally no telling whether he might change his mind from one minute to the next,” a top official complained to me recently, exasperated by an Oval Office meeting at which the president flip-flopped on a major policy decision he’d made only a week earlier.

The erratic behavior would be more concerning if it weren’t for unsung heroes in and around the White House. Some of his aides have been cast as villains by the media. But in private, they have gone to great lengths to keep bad decisions contained to the West Wing, though they are clearly not always successful.

It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.

The result is a two-track presidency.

Take foreign policy: In public and in private, President Trump shows a preference for autocrats and dictators, such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and displays little genuine appreciation for the ties that bind us to allied, like-minded nations.

Astute observers have noted, though, that the rest of the administration is operating on another track, one where countries like Russia are called out for meddling and punished accordingly, and where allies around the world are engaged as peers rather than ridiculed as rivals.

On Russia, for instance, the president was reluctant to expel so many of Mr. Putin’s spies as punishment for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. He complained for weeks about senior staff members letting him get boxed into further confrontation with Russia, and he expressed frustration that the United States continued to impose sanctions on the country for its malign behavior. But his national security team knew better — such actions had to be taken, to hold Moscow accountable.

This isn’t the work of the so-called deep state. It’s the work of the steady state.

Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it’s over.

The bigger concern is not what Mr. Trump has done to the presidency but rather what we as a nation have allowed him to do to us. We have sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility.

Senator John McCain put it best in his farewell letter. All Americans should heed his words and break free of the tribalism trap, with the high aim of uniting through our shared values and love of this great nation.

We may no longer have Senator McCain. But we will always have his example — a lodestar for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue. Mr. Trump may fear such honorable men, but we should revere them.

There is a quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first. But the real difference will be made by everyday citizens rising above politics, reaching across the aisle and resolving to shed the labels in favor of a single one: Americans.

The writer is a senior official in the Trump administration.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTopinion).

 

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