What I’ve Been Reading, February 15, 2023

I finished reading (for now) David McCullough’s biography of John Adams, the second President and one of the drivers in the movement towards this country’s independence. (2001; New York, Simon & Schuster) McCullough writes about how Adams worked tirelessly towards America’s independence, advocating for Jefferson’s Declaration in the Continental Congress; nominating George Washington as Commander-In-Chief of the Continental Army; and his vast and sometimes dangerous diplomatic missions to plead the nation’s case in the courts of Great Britain, France, and the Netherlands, and to attain loans to sustain the war effort. It also deals with Adams’ relationship with his wife Abigail and their children; how Adams interacted with some of the “Founding Fathers” of the Revolution, with each of them having his own agenda and idea about the future of the new nation, particularly his troubles with Alexander Hamilton and his friendship with Thomas Jefferson.

The book also covers his time as the second President, dealing with the “Quasi-War” with France, his ordering for an army, under Washington’s command, to deal with any land invasion, and his beginning the development of the Navy; his signing of the Alien and Sedition Acts, which endangered the liberties of the new nation based on liberty; and his difficulties with his cabinet, which was more loyal to Hamilton than to Adams.

Also—Time On Two Crosses: The Collected Writings of Bayard Rustin, edited by Devon W. Carbado and Donald Weise (2003; San Francisco, Cleis Press). These are a collection of writings from one of the greatest strategists of the Civil Rights Movement, who unfortunately had to keep his gayness hidden during a homophobic era. Rustin writes about his nonviolent protests—in the tradition of Gandhi—such as his refusal to enter the military draft during the Second World War; interracial rides on interstate buses during 1947, with the Fellowship of Reconciliation, to test the effect on interstate buses of a US Supreme Court decision prohibiting racial segregation, which led to his doing twenty-two days in a North Carolina chain gang; his work alongside of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1956 against segregation in the public transit system; and the need for coalition of white and Black workers, to challenge the inequities in the social-political order, and not be satisfied with superficial concessions just to quiet things down. (Social change movements follow their course, having with their own energy, which liberals try to control but can’t, and must not try.)

Also—Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877, by Eric Foner (1988; New York, Harper Perennial). Challenging the long-held dominance of the Dunning-Burgess ideas about post-civil-war reconstruction, Foner writes about how the former slaves, far from being helpless pawns of northern “carpetbaggers” and southern “scalawags,” played active and positive roles in becoming full citizens in the regions they were  enslaved in, working for and demanding such basic things as education, suffrage, and respect as human beings, running for county offices, state legislatures, and Congress to advance their cause. Foner also deals with how the same Republican Party the freedmen allied with betrayed them at the start of the post-war Gilded Age, when corporations that prospered flourished, wealth and poverty went to extremes, class conflict was becoming more real, and workers organized for their rights; and so the federal troops who enforced Reconstruction and protected the former slaves from their former masters and the Klan were withdrawn from the South to deal with any potential workers uprising, therefore leaving the freedmen at the mercy of white-controlled state governments oppressing them in a different way.

Know America’s history, so we don’t have to repeat the mistakes and crimes of the past.

Hemperiffic LLC



Whose Law and Whose Order?

All through the ‘seventies, we were inundated with propaganda about how the law doesn’t protect innocent people, that the police can’t arrest anyone who commits a crime, that “law-abiding citizens” are fearful about being in their homes and going out. This idea permiated through the “mainstreatm news media,”-I’m thinking of a scary cover article in Time from 1975- and in cop-oriented TV shows (Dragnet, Strasky and Hutch) and movies (Dirty Harry), where through a too-lenient “liberal” legal system the most vicious and evil villains are set free to terrorize “law abiding citizens,” and a certain amount of “excessive force” is needed to eliminate them. This makes it easier for people to accept repressive measures, not necessarily upon the real criminal element, but at protestors, activists, and other fighters against the system.

This all came after the ‘sixties and the Civil Rights movement, when African-American people fought for their rights and made some progress; the Nixon administration, as evidenced in the White House tapes, sought to use the “War on Drugs” as an excuse to impose a near police state in Black communities, as a reaction to Black Civil rights achievements.

J Edgar Hoover and his FBI-his, his own personal domain, and Congress allowed it-violated all manner of laws, with sending the letter to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. telling him to commit suicide, to sending in moles and provocateurs  to harass and undermine the Civil Rights and anti-Viet-Nam-war movements, along with the rising LGBT, Feminist, and environmental movements. The FBI was simply a secret police system, not interested in defending anyone’s rights or safety.

It’s a great propaganda ploy-who DOES NOT fear crime, who DOES want their wallets stolen or their houses burglarized? But remember, this has come from the Nixon and Reagan administrations, who used the “soft on crime” label on liberals and who used such fear to get elected; but they were comfortable breaking the law when it suited them, Nixon with the Watergate scandal (he once said, “If the President does it, it’s not illegal.”) to the Reagan administration’s Iran-Contra activities.

This was all done in the name of “fighting Communism,” with the idea that all challenges to the injustices of our system in red propaganda, followed by Moscow-besotted dupes (more likely in university campuses), and not the REAL reality people face. I, on the other hand, do NOT believe that ALL law-enforcement people are bad people at all, some are very dear friends; but we must reclaim the law-enforcement agencies, and our government in general, and get them back on our side.