Author Archives: CharlieClaywell

About CharlieClaywell

I have been a writer for years, mainly as a reporter, but I have always enjoyed history, especially non-mainstream stories buried inside old documents. My blog mostly centers around those stories. On occasion, though, I deviate and talk about my dog, vintage toys and what it's like to be middle-aged.

Memo To GOP: Never Forget — Ignorance And Fear Generates Votes

One local Facebook user said there were 300 currently available jobs in Preble County. The user based the claim on a Indeed job search, but the user did not take the time to look at the listed jobs — or their location. An October 7 Indeed search revealed there are 101 jobs currently advertised in Eaton (the county seat), 96 of those jobs had an annual salary estimate of $15,000. But even the 101 number is incorrect because included in that list are Border Patrol jobs for the federal government, a Chief of Police job for Sylvania Township, Ohio and a flight attendant for Delta Airlines, to name just a few inaccuracies. Also, some of the listing are repeated (for example the same Water Meter Installer ad appears on the first three pages of listings and three positions at Henny Penny are duplicated).

Framing Issues Just Like In The 80s

I’m amazed at the slanted information that filters onto social media.

Although Sanctuary Cities aren’t much of an issue in Ohio’s 8th Congressional District they were Warren Davidson’s pressing concern this week. His Tweet, with its xenophobic and racist undertones, implies the need to protect our (white) girls from darker-skinned gang members.

Davidson is correct in one aspect, though, Ohio has a rape problem.

He’s just framing it immorally.

Selling Fear

The day before Davidson’s Tweet, in my hometown newspaper, a rape was reported with a story line that is significantly more common in Ohio. Victims are raped by someone they know.

The suspect, who was convicted and is scheduled to be sentenced next month, was a resident of a small, rural town on the southern end of Preble County — a county that is 97 percent white. The 49-year-old man was convicted of raping his daughter’s friend — a 20-something who, after a night of drinking, decided to ‘crash on the couch’ at the friend’s house where the father also lived.

No gangs. Just a 49-year-old man with predatory behavior — a demographic and behavior that is much harder to politicize.

Just a few weeks earlier, in Eaton, another man — about the same age — tied up a 90-something-year-old female relative, stealing her vehicle, just a few blocks from my home. After being apprehended by the Eaton Police Department, the suspect escaped the cruiser while handcuffed — and within 24 hours was accused in the stabbing of another Preble County resident.

Again, no gangs — just a white American male.

What Would Ted Nugent Do?

The Tweet — with its nod to the infamous Willie Horton ad from the 80s — is troubling on many levels, but it comes in a week where the GOP has attacked women’s reproductive rights while intentionally ignoring action on gun violence. After the horrific incident in Las Vegas where roughly 600 people were shot by a high-powered assault rifle from the 32nd floor of a hotel — negating the possibility of a CCW-armed individual neutralizing the situation — the GOP proved its political approach is woefully out of whack with the leadership the country needs.

But some of their fans are egging them on.

I see this on Facebook since I live in a Red Zone. We love our guns more than liberty, and Facebook lit up with people justifying their 2nd Amendment right to arm themselves. They quoted Teddy Nugent and Pat Robertson to justify their position — all the while ignoring the context that the 3rd Amendment brings to the debate.

God Help Us

Part of our inability to stave off nefarious Tweets or solve problems like gun violence is an exploitation of social conservative beliefs. Many good, church-attending people in my community are convinced that only God can solve our problems — effectively removing human accountability. One Preble County resident, commenting on the Las Vegas shooter, said,

‘There is no way to figure out who these people are until it’s too late.”

Besides shutting down public discourse (since there ‘are no solutions’), as Redneck Liberal Trea Crowder points out, there is a level of hypocrisy in the statement. Crowder says, this is not the response white people have when a person of color fires the weapon. It is not the response they have when non-Christians fire the weapons. And, as Crowder also points out, other countries have found workable solutions.

For some, though, none of this matters. It’s easier to do nothing. It’s the reason ‘thoughts and prayers’ resonates with many here and throughout the country — a naïve belief that God’s will usurps authority over intellect — and we just need to trust Him to solve our problems.


Passive Americans

Preble County church.

After mentioning a local church’s response to Colin Kaepernick’s protest in a recent post, I listened to the minister’s argument. It boils down to: how would it look to children if we disrespect the flag/anthem? It’s a weak argument coming from an organization (Southern Baptist) that supported a man who bragged about sexual assault and called Kaepernick a son of a bitch. Besides, Southern Baptists may not be a moral authority on race relations since they owe their inception to slavery.

But, more importantly, Kaepernick’s protest could teach children that people have an obligation to denounce systemic racism or that the First Amendment was penned for situations like police accountability.

It is the story of Elijah the minister references, though, in his ‘kneel or stand’ sermon that offers a stronger clue to why communities like mine lack the skills to problem solve.

In the story, a destitute and hungry prophet Elijah, survives because God instructs birds to daily deliver food to him. This is accepted as a literal act of God — not a Aesop-type fable — but real birds delivering real food to a real man.  Elijah does not solve his hunger problem, the solution exists outside of him.

Advertisements
Categories: 8th congressional district, Life In A Red State, My America, Politics, Preble County | Leave a comment

America’s Political Dysfunction Called A Security Concern

Preble County church sign appears less than a week after Trump inflames country by calling attention to Colin Kaepernick peaceful protest, calling the former NFL quarterback a son of a bitch. Trump attacked Kaepernick’s First Amendment rights during Constitution Week. Although I will not be able to hear the sermon, the minister blogged about the situation. You can read it here.

Because of my evangelical and Appalachian background, when Trump escalated his battle with the NFL, my Facebook Wall lit up with memes supporting Trump’s revision of Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protest. Kaepernick began his protest to draw attention to police accountability after numerous unarmed black men were killed by white police officers.

But in our era of ‘politics is war by other means’ Trump danced past Kaepernick’s intent and reframed the protest to appease his base. As the president was campaigning for losing candidate Luther Strange in Alabama, he told a mostly white crowd on Friday, Sept. 22,

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”

In typical Trump fashion he doubled down on the rhetoric with a NFL-centric Tweet Storm — successfully diverting attention away from Roger Stone’s testimony and the White House’s cobbled approach to the Puerto Rico crisis.

Kneel Or Stand?

As memes with Trump’s new narrative, including I ‘kneel for the cross and stand for the flag’ populated my Wall, allegations surfaced that the Draft-Dodging president was hypocritically mocking veteran, and war hero, John McCain’s physical disability (caused when McCain was tortured by the Viet Cong). Missing from my Wall were posts of the soldiers that approved of Kaepernick’s act. Just like the country, soldiers are divided on the issue. Veteran, and former CIA director Michael Hayden, who admits he is not a fan of Kaepernick, wrote this in an op-ed piece for The Hill,

As a 39-year military veteran, I think I know something about the flag, the anthem, patriotism, and I think I know why we fight. It’s not to allow the president to divide us by wrapping himself in the national banner. I never imagined myself saying this before Friday, but if now forced to choose in this dispute, put me down with Kaepernick.

Understanding This Presidency

During Trump’s Tweet Storm, I attended a presentation by Katty Kay, Lead News Anchor for BBC. I was interested in her views as an ‘outsider.’ (The program was billed as The View From the Outside: Insights on American Politics.)

Kay has covered the White House since 1996, an era she described as more optimistic — a honeymoon stage since the United States was still seen as the winner of the Cold War. During her presentation, Kay described a conversation she had with former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

According to Kay, Gates explained the four security risks the United States currently faces. As a student of history and politics, the first three did not surprise me: China, a declining Russia and the Middle East. The fourth one did. According to Kay, Gates explained

…the fourth national security issue is America’s political dysfunction. The fact that this country has become virtually ungovernable. There is so much division between the left and the right and so little ability to compromise — it’s hard to get things done.

Kay also said,

America is a system that was built on — and for — compromise, but compromise has become a dirty word. You’re a presidential system acting like a parliamentary system with the result that nothing can get done.

A day or so after the her speech, I learned that the Freedom Caucus was continuing its participation in the dysfunction. Warren Davidson, Congressman for Ohio’s 8th Congressional District where I live, introduced legislation attacking the Congressional Budget Office. The Freedom Caucus began its attack on the institution in a July op-ed piece after a GOP majority failed, for the umpteenth time, to ‘Repeal and Replace’ the Affordable Care Act.

Dismantling Is Rough On Low-Income Counties

The beginning of the end for Small Town USA?

Before the presentation, I finished reading a 80-page 1994 Heritage Foundation publication. It gave me additional clues to when this modern ungovernable debacle was conceived.

The Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank, issued a booklet titled Congress and Civil Society: How Legislators Can Champion Civic Renewal in Their Districts. It was written at the height of the Republican Revolution — after the Party won a majority in Congress for the first time in 40 years. The book champions the ideas of then House Speaker Newt Gingrich — the man who ushered in the No Compromise approach to politics.

This approach was pushed further to the Right by The Tea Party and The Freedom Caucus.

The booklet is a blueprint for dismantling the federal government by pushing governing responsibility down into local communities. The book cherry-picks successful community and faith-based organizations, mostly in large metropolitan areas, holding them up as proof that ‘what works here can work there’. The featured solutions suggest that most, if not all, problems are best solved at the local level.

However, the publication does caution the Party not to impose this on low-income communities that cannot rise to the challenge of self-efficiency. Apparently not everyone got the memo, because the dismantling began and low-income communities, like mine, paid the price.

Losing At The Local Level

As I research my county’s history, by the late 90s — five years or so after the booklet was published — meth was a significant problem in Preble County. We were, and are, ill-equipped to handle it. The drug entered our community despite a growing national economy — and locally strong unemployment rates. Eventually, as automation and not immigration, stole about 70 percent of manufacturing jobs, including many where Preble County residents worked, area wages fell and the job vacuum was filled with low-wage retail jobs.

By the 2000s, we lost the drug war.

Today, as in 2000 — and like many communities in the nation — we arrest users at a higher rate than drug manufacturers and distributors. The addicted are easier to snag. Of the 25 indictments handed down this month in my county, 20 were drug related. Out of those 20 cases, two cases were allegations of distribution or trafficking, 18 were indictments for drug use.

I’m old enough to remember when 10 indictments a month in Preble County was a lot.

Social Media And Our Loss Of Connectivity

We lost the drug war for the same reason social media blew up the NFL story. We have lost a connection with our community and each other. Social media has amplified the problem of talk radio by removing the discussion and reducing everything down to a one-liner — and generally an offensive one.

This year I attended four drug and/or heroin educational events, and at one of them a recovering addict, who credits Jesus with curing her addiction, stated the reason she was able to get clean was because someone treated her humanely. She said a woman helping her inside a clothing establishment connected with her and,

… for the first time, in a long time, the woman talked to me like I wasn’t a monster. And I wasn’t the lowest of the low. She treated me like anyone else.

In the ‘war on drugs’, Portugal, unlike us, found out more than a decade ago, that the key to solving an epidemic is to help people reconnect with their community — just like the Preble County woman did with the recovery addict.  What does not work is treating the chemically-addicted like criminals — prey to be caught and trapped.

(Trapping political opponents in a snare on social media doesn’t work either as we are learning in the current chaos. Political parties, and their base, must reach across the aisle and talk.)

Left Behind

As the movement blaming the federal government for the country’s woes grew, our ability to govern declined. And, by turning the federal government into a dragon to be killed, communities like mine — ones that lacked the economic and political savvy to solve mounting problems — were left behind, unable to attract much-needed human and capital resources.

Categories: 8th congressional district, Life In A Red State, My America, Preble County, Small Town Politics, Understanding Trump Counties

Is Ohio A Cesspool Of Hate, Fear And Ignorance?

Steve Newman, a Clermont County native, gained fame for walking the globe between 1983 and 1987. He details the trek in Worldwalker. Newman picked a good time to walk, Ohio’s unemployment rate in 1983 was 12 percent. Ronald Reagan was two years into his first term as president.

Roughly a week after Charlottesville happened, resulting in the death of Heather Heyer, my wife, dog (Versa) and I spent the weekend hiking in a Ohio state park in Clermont County. As we traipsed through the woods we were not disappointed, spotting deer — including a large buck that ran across the trail five yards in front of us — a gaggle of turkeys and two water fowl I’ve never seen (possibly King Rails).

On Saturday evening as we read inside our tent before falling asleep — the calm and quiet of the evening was interrupted by a loud truck barreling down the main entrance with its occupants yelling ‘white power.’

As the rebel yell pierced the night, it was a sign of where we are as a nation. Current polls suggest 65 percent of Americans believe hate and prejudice have increased since the November, 2016 election.

Childhood Friends, Family

We have 35 hate groups in Ohio — ninth in the nation. The man accused in Heyer’s death (James Fields) is, of course, from Ohio as is Daniel Borden, accused in the racially motivated beating of DeAndre Harris.

When I browse Facebook it’s easy to understand how we arrived at this place. In my part of the world, and Borden lives about 30 minutes south of me, fear and ignorance are the foundation too many build their worldview on. For example, a childhood friend, who attended the same church I did, posted a meme from an organization that views liberals, like myself, with disdain. The site revels in dividing the country into red versus blue — with the reds being the ‘good guys.’

One of their memes, promoting a odd-looking wrist decoration, says:

Send the liberals running for the hills with our handmade Six Shooter Leather bullet bracelet.

I’m not sure what ‘fearful’ liberals they are targeting with the text because I would be more apt to mock an individual childish enough to wear such a ridiculous looking bracelet — a leather bracelet designed to hold six bullets. But, I do wonder how someone taught the same brand of Christianity as me arrived at a place in midlife where they view the rhetoric as healthy or sensible.

How did they get to the point that threatening — or implying violence — toward a fellow citizen feels natural, Christian, American or humane? Do they live in a constant state of fear, convinced that someone, like myself, is hell bent on destroying them or the country? What information does one have to consume — and how long must they consume it — before they feel this type of statement is normal (let alone ‘Christlike’).

Another individual posted a ‘I’m proud to be white,’ meme apparently oblivious to the atrocities committed by our race. This particular individual also posts a lot of Native American ‘wisdom’ memes making me wonder if they have read any American history.

History Is Not Holy

My first realization that the past is a toolbox and not a pedestal came while I was researching my paternal line. I was looking into the life of Jesse Claywell, a War of 1812 veteran, who also served in the Black Hawk War (Illinois). As I researched the Black Hawk War, I came to understand three things about the white settlers that fought in it (including Jesse Claywell).

  1. They were thieves. They willfully stole the property of Native Americans.
  2. They were cowards. In the first ‘act of war’ the white settlers, significantly outnumbering the Indians, retreated.
  3. They were murderers. After successfully driving the Indians out of the region, they trapped a handful of escaping women, children and elderly crossing the Mississippi River. The white soldiers engaged in a ‘turkey shoot’ shooting the retreating Indians in the back.

Not much to revel in if you’re proud of simply ‘bein’ white.’

Let Freedom Ring

A ‘persecution complex’ meme loses some of its momentum when Christian is misspelled. But one local gatekeeper is convinced that the struggle is real.

Just a couple blocks from my home, the Confederate flag flies in front of two houses. This is in Ohio, a state that was in the Union, a state that lost more than 35,000 men to the war. It is the state that produced Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman.

I’m doubting the owners of the Confederate flags know their state’s role in the Civil War. They are undoubtedly more interested in ‘their right’ to fly the flag, than in Ohio’s history. Preble County has a significant population with ties to Kentucky and Tennessee, so I’ll let Tennessee comedian Trae Crowder set the record straight on the flag. In his book, Liberal Rednecks — written with fellow comedians Corey Ryan Forrester and Drew Morgan — Crowder says,

The flag issue (unlike the flag’s defenders) is a little more nuanced than you might think at first, but, regardless, the flag is done. There’s no getting it back. There’s no repairing its image. It’s irredeemable. Any possibility of the flag ever being seen as a benign symbol of regional pride vanished forever on June 17, 2015, the day of the hate-fueled massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina.

Political Hate

Some of the hate, though, is being pushed down into our society. Members of the Trump team have definitely validated it. Recently, political operative Roger Stone, a Trump confidante and champion, went after Senator John McCain on Twitter after McCain denounced Trump’s decision to pardon sheriff Joe Arpaio. Stone said,

Karma about to get you, John McCain, and you will burn in hell for all eternity.

Stone who, like Jim Bakker, said a civil war would occur — and implied that members of Congress lives would be at risk — if Trump was impeached, has a long history of unsavory tactics.

But it is the words of support from evangelicals I grew up with that I find even more troubling. I expect Stone to be an evil POS, but Christians are applauding Trump’s decision to pardon a man who oversaw ‘Tent Camps.’ One hundred and sixty people died in those camps.

One evangelical, commenting on Arpaio’s pardon (and not the deaths), wrote:

Illegals aren’t American citizens. I am very happy about this!

The comment makes me wonder if I was given a alternative version of the Bible to read when we attended church together. The statement, at the very least, puts an ill-conceived national interest over a humanitarian one. My inner cynic finds the statement completely understandable had a politician said it. I understand why Trump pardoned ‘Sheriff Joe’ — it’s cronyism 101. They are fellow ‘birthers.’

But, it’s an unfathomable position for a person who follows ‘the Prince of Peace.’

Afterthought

After browsing Facebook the past couple of weeks, I do understand Gandhi’s viewpoint on Christianity. He said,

I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

Categories: Life In A Red State, maga, My America, Politics, Preble County, Understanding Trump Counties