Politics

Doing Justice by Preet Bharara: A Summary

Doing Justice by Preet Bharara

Photo Credit: Amazon

Preet Bharara’s Doing Justice (2019) offers the lessons the author has learned during his career as a former federal attorney. Bharara contends that effective investigations require investigators who have a strong work ethic and who commit to withholding judgment until the appropriate time. The author explains that a successful investigator must be willing to reassess evidence. Also, he helps the reader to understand that successful investigators often question the processes they use.

Bharara divulges that reasonable questioning of witnesses is necessary to gain the cooperation of witnesses. Doing Justice makes clear that posing the right questions is crucial to the final outcome of an investigation.

The writer warns investigators against making hasty accusations because they can severely damage their chances of success. Bharara posits that police officers and prosecutors who are not careful in their decision making are serious threats to justice. He urges them to muster the courage necessary to endure harsh criticisms from various people and maintain their focus on the proper pursuit of justice.

Doing Justice emphasizes the importance of governments and prosecutors ethically exercising discretion.

The author encourages prosecutors to prepare themselves diligently for their court dates, for surprises during trial are certainly not pleasant. The book argues that prosecutors have to be willing to challenge judges who demonstrate partiality.

Bharara has a strong interest in prison reform. For the former federal attorney, prison reform is necessary to true justice. He asserts that any just society must demonstrate a real concern for how prisoners are treated. The author acknowledges that many problems in the American prison system need to be addressed immediately, and he sees that it is going to take the American people to champion prison reform for these problems to be addressed.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison  

The Right Side of History by Ben Shapiro: A Summary

The Right Side of History by Ben Shapiro

Photo Credit: HarperCollins

Ben Shapiro’s The Right Side of History (2019) is a thorough defense of Western civilization and the religious and philosophical thought that has supported it. The author attempts to provide of an understanding of the centuries of thought that have developed and maintained the West, and he attacks threats to the dominant thought that has been central to defining the West.

For Shapiro, people desiring to be happy must pursue a life of moral purpose. The writer posits that the reason so many Americans do not have a positive outlook about the future is they are not living lives centered on moral purpose.

Ben Shapiro argues that the United States was the first nation to be grounded in philosophy. He cites Thomas Jefferson’s comments about the Declaration of Independence as an effort to ingrain the thought of Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, and other great philosophers into the fabric of America.

The Right Side of History advocates for strong opposition to efforts to weaken individual rights in America.

The author contends that the modern American political left has embraced tribal identity, which, in his view, abandons Western civilization’s philosophical traditions. Instead of supporting truth, reason, and the pursuit of virtue, Shapiro asserts that the American political left has abandoned the aforementioned for victimhood.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

How Social Media is Changing the Landscape of American Politics

President Donald Trump

What if I told you 3 years ago that our next American president would be elected primarily by using Twitter?

I think most people would reply, “Yeah, right.”

Until recently, we’ve all thought social media was useful for entertainment, showing selfies no one wants to see or posting what we ate for lunch. Donald Trump, however, saw a different potential and changed the world.

One controversial tweet in 2015 galvanized many in the country like no other:

“Billions of dollars gets brought into Mexico through the border. We get the killers, drugs & crime, they get the money”@realDonaldTrump, July 13, 2015

People were outraged from coast to coast, but suddenly everyone was talking about illegal immigration. The more the media mocked him, the more his influence soared.

Did his use of social media end when he became the leader of the free world? Nope. Consider just a few of his pronouncements in 2017:

  • The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People! (February 17)
  • Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism! (March 4)
  • Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer! (September 23)

President Trump’s use of social media has moved the world to action in historic ways. We are in the midst of an enormous cultural shift, 140 characters at a time, and from just one man.

Social media platforms offer viable ways to influence our world, but most people use them inappropriately. They take to Facebook spewing their latest rant but fail to achieve positive outcomes. In nearly every case, they only reach a few of their “friends” who think the same way.

Facebook has changed their algorithm recently to minimize political rants that do not engage social interactions that meet their criteria. These changes are intended to increase civil discourse on Facebook.

How can one use social media effectively in this politically-charged environment? Since people have passionate views on a range of issues, what are some suggestions for communicating those views in respectful ways?  

A recent article, What Can and Can’t You Do with Political Advertising on Facebook?, may provide some solutions for more responsible communication on Facebook.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Why Does a Civilian Need an AR-15?

AR-15 Gun

(Photo Credit: USA Today)

You can be a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment and not support civilians having access to an assault weapon like an AR-15. A weapon of war like an AR-15 isn’t needed for killing deer and squirrels, so don’t say assault weapons are necessary for hunting. Hunters will be successful without using assault weapons. If you’re really serious about ending mass shootings, then you will reach the responsible conclusion that federal legislation banning the sale and possession of assault weapons for civilians is required.

Err on the Side of Life

Although I’m not a member of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and not an active hunter, I’m a passionate champion of the 2nd Amendment. In fact, I agree with much of what the NRA has to say about gun rights. Also, as a pro-life individual, I believe in promoting the right to life, a culture of life. With an earnest pro-life advocacy, I, reminded of what President George W. Bush once stated in a different context, choose to “err on the side of life.” To “err on the side of life” in the current gun rights/gun control national debate means, from my perspective, to take whatever actions possible to save as many lives as possible.      

Assault Weapons Aren’t Necessary for Hunting and Personal Defense 

Since assault weapons aren’t essential to hunting and defending one’s person and property, these weapons shouldn’t be available to civilians—they should be reserved for the battlefield. Plenty of powerful guns will still be available to civilians. It’s not, therefore, a zany idea to advance federal legislation banning the sale and possession of assault weapons for civilians.

Conclusion

Democrats and Republicans need to exercise moral and political courage and face the gun lobby, the NRA head-on to foster a true culture of life in America. It’s going to be more and more difficult to attempt to articulate right to life positions while still permitting civilians to purchase and possess assault weapons.

If you’re going to be pro-life, then be pro-life regarding all issues.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

American Exceptionalism Made Possible by Exceptional Africans

President Donald Trump

(Photo Credit: USA Today)

When President Donald J. Trump favors lily-white Norwegian immigrants over those abject, wretched, in his view, black African and Haitian immigrants, he exposes his historical amnesia and attempts at black historical erasure. When white invaders arrived in America to rob Native Americans of their land, and, unfortunately, were successful in this theft, they soon captured and forced many Africans to come to America as slaves.

Most foundational phenomena crucial to the evolution of American exceptionalism were developed by these Africans, including the White House, however. Essentially, most celebrated historical buildings were built by Africans. Africans built America, and the nation flourished through a slave economy, an economy based on the free or cheap labor of exceptional African slaves. White folks didn’t build America; exceptional Africans did.

Africans Gave Real Meaning to the Declaration of Independence and Constitution

Even the cherished Declaration of Independence and Constitution, penned and conceived by white men, failed to achieve their true power, beauty, and significance while Africans were enslaved—and even while official Jim Crow existed. It was African humanity, African resistance, African rebellion that gave authentic meaning to the eloquent words expressed in those aforementioned founding national documents.

Through African “fightback,” to quote one of the greatest minds in world history and leading public intellectual Dr. Cornel West, whites were compelled to begin putting those words into action, action for all people—regardless of race, regardless of skin color, regardless of national origin—although all the content of those documents have not fully materialized for all. Without Africans, though, the descendants of these white men who authored these documents likely would have never completely understood the beloved documents’ real power, import, and possibilities.

Africanizing American Exceptionalism

Yes, America is exceptional. What really makes America exceptional, though? Despite every effort to efface blackness, to deny the value of blackness, to discredit the beauty and brilliance of blackness, blackness still reigned and reigns supreme. Blackness will not and cannot be defeated. Blackness speaks to what’s possible: anything. Anything for those willing to believe in and fight for possibilities, for the Blochian Not-Yet, for the principle of hope. This is what makes America exceptional. This is the real essence of American exceptionalism.  

Conservative Republicans love to promote American exceptionalism, but the centrality of Africans to the genesis of this exceptionalism is almost never mentioned. If American exceptionalism is to continue to have any power, any allure, any gravity, then the Africanness of it, the real (and not imagined) “Africanist presence” in it, to quote the incomparable Nobel Prize Laureate Toni Morrison, must figure prominently in any discourse involving the concept.

President Trump’s racist comments about African nations and Haiti can cause conservative Republicans to lose any political efficacy in employing American exceptionalism in the future if they fail to resist him and fail to muster the moral and political courage to categorically denounce these abominable comments.

And, just a quick note on Haiti, it was the Haitian Revolution that demonstrated for blacks in America that liberation was possible. If you are a racist, a white supremacist, though, like President Trump, a pivotal historical moment in the black freedom struggle isn’t something you desire to know and remember.   

Conclusion

Instead of focusing on “Make America Great Again,” which her constant commitment to sin, to moral, social, economic, and political depravity has never permitted her to experience unadulterated greatness, let’s work on dismantling the vicious legacies of racism, white supremacy, discrimination, and injustice that persist to plague our nation.

“Make America Great Again” is coded language expressing nostalgia for the days when racism and white supremacy ruled, which, as one of the foremost cultural theorists Fredric Jameson contends, is, ironically, “nostalgia for the present.” We’ve never witnessed a day in America where “Make America Great Again” was not the ruling order, the ruling ideology.     

In short, American exceptionalism is the story of Africans ushering in the possibility of a nation and democracy as good as their promised.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Did Trump Teach You that God is the Supreme Ruler?

Trump Black Church

(Photo Credit: The Washington Post)

With the arrival of President Donald J. Trump, a “newfound” understanding of God as the supreme ruler of all has emerged. What’s most troubling about this, however, is the “novel” recognition is more about expressions of anger, protest, and resistance than it is about the truth of our sovereign God. Being “woke” should begin with the reality that God has been the sole ruler of all long before Trump—even long before George Washington. If you want to oppose, criticize President Trump, that’s more than fine. Please, however, don’t act like God just became the King of all of humanity and phenomena. The Lord’s supremacy should always guide all of our thoughts and actions, regardless of political party or ideological persuasion.

Psalm 82: God the Supreme Ruler

Psalm 82 states, “God presides in the heavenly council; in the assembly of the gods he gives his decision: ‘You must stop judging unjustly; you must no longer be partial to the wicked! Defend the rights of the poor and the orphans; be fair to the needy and the helpless. Rescue them from the power of evil people. ‘How ignorant you are! How stupid! You are completely corrupt, and justice has disappeared from the world. ‘You are gods,’ I said; ‘all of you are children of the Most High.’ But you will die like mortals; your life will end like that of any prince.’ Come, O God, and rule the world; all the nations are yours.”

Justice and Political Action and Discourse in the Era of Trump

Presidents come and go, politicians come and go, kings and queens come and go, but God is eternal. His kingship is eternal and it’s not based on human votes or anything else of the material world: He serves by the divine authority of “the heavenly council; in the assembly of the gods.”

Yes, as Psalm 82 makes clear, we’re to resist injustice and wickedness and champion the rights of the powerless, the voiceless (“the poor and the orphans…the needy and the helpless”). Without a true understanding and commitment to the already eternal supremacy of God, the poor, the vulnerable, the oppressed, the marginalized will never find liberty from “the power of evil people.” If you, therefore, consider President Trump among “the power of evil people,” then a real sincerity toward God must govern your discourse, your approach, your resistance.

In short, God didn’t just show up on the scene when you surrendered your equanimity to the truth that President Donald J. Trump is your legitimate president of the United States—not simply to be called “45,”—but He’s always been the supreme ruler of all, for “all nations are yours,” even before any human was created.

Ground your protesting and resistance in the truth of God’s eternal supremacy, a supremacy that has always existed.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Travis Greene’s and Chrisette Michele’s Trump Inauguration Decisions: Victims of Misplaced Anger

Travis Greene and Chrisette Michele Perform at 2017 Presidential Inauguration

(Photo Credit: The Washington Post)

A decision to perform yesterday, January 20, 2017, at President Donald J. Trump’s Presidential Inauguration doesn’t constitute an endorsement. Although the thought of a Trump presidency is difficult for most on the Left to fathom, and unsettling for some on the Right, accepting an invitation to perform on Inauguration Day has never historically been viewed as a political act—certainly not an overt political act. Those who have had the distinct privilege to present their talent on this day do it not simply for the new president, but also the nation and world. Travis Greene, nominated in 2016 for a Grammy award for the gospel hit single “Intentional,” exhibited his great talent at one of Trump’s inaugural balls. He, lamentably, received crass attacks from many acrimonious black folks for his decision to sing at this event. Given that Greene prefaced his decision by expressing he seriously contemplated how Jesus would respond to this invitation, it’s reasonable to deduce that the artist isn’t a Trump supporter. For Greene, singing at the inaugural ball presents a prodigious opportunity to promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Travis Greene, in a joint performance with Chrisette Michele, who was also viciously lambasted for her decision to sing at Trump’s inaugural event, ministered in song with high-energy and brilliance. Regrettably, for Chrisette Michele, Spike Lee upbraided her for choosing to perform at the event: he discontinued considering her music for his upcoming soundtrack to the Netflix television series adaptation of his 1986 film She’s Gotta Have It. Michele revealed how “heartbroken” she is by the numerous harsh, disparaging responses to her decision.

Both Greene and Michele are young national recording artists. Situated in a postmodern, late capitalist society, both artists must constantly seek imaginative ways to market themselves and their music. What better way to market their music and increase their reach than at a presidential inauguration while the world is watching? If most—if not all—of their disingenuous critics would have been in their situations and had an opportunity for a global audience to witness their talent, they wouldn’t have experienced a moment of reticence; they would’ve seized the extraordinary moment, the remarkable opportunity. Greene and Michele did. They deserve laudatory remarks—not childish invective.

For those believing President Trump is an evil man with nefarious intentions for blacks and other minorities, Greene’s desire to inoculate the Gospel of Jesus Christ into the inaugural ball would seem to be a ray of hope in a dark place. The Gospel calls all of us to seek peace, justice, and love. Wouldn’t this inaugural event be a fine place to proffer a message of peace, justice, and love? A Christian truly following the example of Christ has no problem meeting with and performing for a president he or she disagrees with on many issues.

These unfounded, precarious, censoriously abusive attacks on Greene and Michele exemplify misplaced anger. If one has a problem with Trump, then let Trump truly be the focus of his or her scorn—not two young black national recording artists elated to have enough talent and acclaim to sing for the president, the nation, and the world. As Bernice King, the daughter of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., posited at the 2017 Martin Luther King, Jr. Annual Commemorative Service held at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, “We still have to find a way to create…the beloved community,” the beloved community her father passionately championed until his odious assassination. Adopting a policy, a strategy of estrangement toward Trump will prove immature and ineffective.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison