Author Archives: deanwebb

Idols and Anger

In 1 Nephi 3, Lehi tells his sons to return to Jerusalem to get scriptures and religious records. In a pre-literate society, these would be rare and valuable things. In Lehi’s view, the information on them is worth more than the monetary value to be had from them – these are the words of God, after all. Lehi knows that his family is going away, far away, and that having such records with them will be what they need to retain their covenant relationship with God.

Lehi’s sons oblige their father and return to the city. There, Laman first asks the owner of the records, a man called Laban, if he might have them. Laban accuses Laman of being a robber and drives him out of his house. One should note that Laban is a very rich man – one of the types Jeremiah warned us about. At any rate, Laman having made his attempt wishes to chalk up a loss and then move on.

Nephi disagrees: he proposes to offer up the family fortune to acquire the records from Laban. Upon seeing the fortune, Laban chooses to keep his possessions and rob the sons of Lehi of all that they have. The sons of Lehi are driven from Laban’s house, and find shelter in a cave.

It is in this cave that Laman and Lemuel, Nephi’s older brothers, become enraged to the point where they begin to beat their younger brothers – Nephi and Sam – with a rod, until an angel halts the beatings and reprimands Laman and Lemuel. But what was it that made Laman and Lemuel so outraged?

Look at the treasures of Lehi for the answer. As long as the gold and silver and other fineries remained in the family home, a return to Jerusalem and the riches was always an option. The family, with or without Lehi, could always go back to the way things were after this unusual interlude in the desert.

But without the riches, the path back is destroyed. Without the riches, the family is completely committed to the path of being destitute wanderers in the desert. With or without God, the fact is that wandering in the desert is always harder to do than enjoying comforts in the city. And with the path back to the city destroyed, Laman and Lemuel become violent.

Laman and Lemuel do not see that returning to the riches is to be the adulterers in Jeremiah’s allegory. They do not see that returning to the riches is to forsake the meaning of their covenants with God, that it hollows out their religious purpose. Culturally, they still exhibit the external modes of righteousness. Internally, they are chasing after other gods: the gold, silver, and other fineries that are the idols of their desire.

We must remember that even if a thing is not associated with a Canaanite or Phoenician or Babylonian or any other god, it can still be an idol when our attentions to that thing cause us to forget that God asks us to be mindful of the poor and to have no divisions amongst us. And when those idols are threatened by God, the idolaters lash out with violence.

My Father Dwelt in a Tent

When Lehi abandons Jerusalem in 1 Nephi Chapter 2, the scripture is explicit in stating that he abandons his gold, silver, land, and possessions in the process. He takes only his family, provisions, and tents. That’s it.

That makes sense: when leaving behind wicked people, leave behind as well the objects of wickedness’ desire. Verse 15 underlines Lehi’s abandonment of the comforts of the city for the sparseness of the wilderness by stating, “And my father dwelt in a tent.”

We also see the first indications of trouble with Laman and Lemuel. What is identified as the source of their troubles? A desire to return to those comforts of home, the gold and the silver. They are with their family in the wilderness, but a stronger desire in their hearts is to leave the family behind and partake of the riches they knew. This is what Jeremiah identified as wickedness and abomination, as leaving behind God for to worship the works of their hands.

Laman and Lemuel are not drunkards, neither are they fornicators, adulterers, or robbers. Their sins stem from attitudes that there’s nothing wrong with enjoying luxuries and that what’s theirs is theirs. They see themselves as property owners, not as property stewards. The gold and silver is for them to enjoy, not to be spent in doing the work of God.

Lehi, by contrast, knows that time is, ultimately, short, and that it is better spent in doing the will of God than in idle enjoyments. He flees to the wilderness with nearly nothing. He could have fled to Egypt or on to Carthage. While Egypt fell under the rule of the Babylonians, Carthage remained independent. So why not go to those places? Even without riches, an astute man such as Lehi, with four enterprising sons, would be able to make a comfortable living in such places. There would also be the option to get ahead of the curve and go into Babylon itself, thereby avoiding becoming casualties in a siege and sack of Jerusalem. But, no, Lehi’s flight abandons not just Jerusalem, but all the cities and their riches – and the sins that go with those riches, as well.

Abominations and Wickedness

In 1 Nephi, Chapter 1, Nephi makes reference to the wickedness and abominations of the people of Jerusalem. What, exactly, was the composition of the activities defined as such? I could assume certain things, but that would be an assumption based upon my experience and frame of reference. What were the abominations and wickedness that Nephi was talking about?

Jeremiah, a contemporary, mentions people worshipping the works of their own hands and following after other gods, likening such to committing adultery. But is that all?

Chapter 5 of Jeremiah indicates a social aspect to the abandonment of worshipping God: As a cage is full of birds, so are their houses full of deceit: therefore they are become great and waxen rich. They are waxen fat, they shine: yea, they overpass the deeds of the wicked: they judge not the cause, the cause of the fatherless, yet they prosper; and the right of the needy do they not judge. Shall I not visit for these things? saith the Lord: shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?

It’s clear: neglect of the poor and increasing social inequality is linked with abandoning worship of the one true God. In Chapter 7 of Jeremiah, the prophet declares that the people are not saved just because they attend temple services: the wrong that they do remains a wrong. When the uncharitable enter the temple, it is “a den of robbers.”

That there is child sacrifice associated with abandoning God makes it all the worse – but that goes along with the lack of charity and care for the poor. Jeremiah 9 adds lying to the list of abominations – not just a lie here or there, but constant lying to support and justify the actions of the wicked. Jeremiah 10 refers to luxury items and fine clothing as the trappings of the wicked. Jeremiah 17 again refers to those who pursue wealth as those who depart from God. Jeremiah 22 expands on that idea, condemning those who do not pay their workers properly, but hoard their wealth rather than pay justly for the labor they employ.

Note that this is not saying that the rich are not paying the going rate for labor – they very well may be doing so, but that rate itself may be unjust recompense for the labor rendered. Simply paying a wage does not mean that one is not exploiting one’s workers. Again, it is in being unjust and covetous of wealth that one serves a different god, a false god – this is what is meant by abominations and wickedness.

In later chapters of the Book of Mormon, the righteous are counseled to avoid wearing fine apparel or amassing wealth – the wicked, likewise, are condemned for it. I would say that the same rules would apply for people of this day, and that the people who promote the benefits of the wealthy at the expense of the poor have gone on to worship mammon and have forsaken God. There is nothing sacred or holy about an economic system that creates opportunities for the wealthy to exploit their fellow human brothers and sisters. It is, in fact, an abomination and a great wickedness.

A Search for a Better Purpose

I thought this morning, “I’m thankful for this day.” I say I thought that, but it was really a thoughtless moment, a sort of reflex action of gratitude I say to myself on any given day. I determined to think more carefully about my thankfulness for the day.

Was I thankful that I have work, a family, and time to enjoy leisure? Nice those things may be, but are those the purpose of my life? I have time to ponder the words of God in scripture, but is that all I am here to do, ponder when the mood strikes me? Preach those words, perhaps, but what is the best way to preach?

It is said that the word of God brings peace and comfort. But I know too many people who are complacent in thinking that peace and comfort is enough. They make no effort to better themselves. They do not examine their lives – ironically, an activity that does not bring peace and comfort, yet which is consistent with the word of God.

God asks that we repent. The word means literally to rethink. It is not enough for me to do the good that I know to do. I need to rethink what I am doing, to scrutinize my assumptions and ask myself what mental baggage do I need to set aside. The word of God brings peace and comfort only after the storm and struggle. Ibsen is right – I must war with trolls if I am to live, and the trolls exist within my heart and mind.

That’s easy enough to say: I declare that I’m working on my inner issues and everyone can assume that I’m succeeding in that effort. If I don’t pressure others, there’s no “what about you?” accusation that could come back to force my own self-judgment into the consideration, somehow exempting the target of that pressure from a similar activity. And if I say I’m not successful, I get pity or sympathy from a potential audience, not a hoped-for self-examination of their own efforts.

It’s just too easy, when trying to preach the word of God, to be told to mind one’s own business if the words are harsh or to face complacent smiles if the words are too easy. There are those who want to hear a message of self-examination, but their numbers are miniscule compared to those who have no intention of changing who they are in order to become a better person. How do I reach such people with a message of Godly wisdom and enlightenment?

And if I do not reach another with that message, what have I to be thankful for in that day? And the answer here is not in reassuring me or telling me that I had good words to say, but in pondering about one’s own life, in searching for that deeper meaning to existence.

A Bargain with Hatred

If the Republican Party is unable to impeach Trump and to sever its connections with the mob violence he and his supporters encourage, then it is only sealing its bond with white supremacists, antisemites, and misogynists. It is a political movement that has made common cause with hatred, intolerance, and lawlessness.

There is no “whataboutism” that will work here – the Democratic Party condemns violent protests, sends sexual abusers to the political exits, and has made known its stance on supporting diversity to the point that the racists that once made up the Southern Democrats’ faction are now all registered Republicans.

The Republican Party is home to hatred. When I hear protests originating from its leadership, they are muted and refuse to go so far as to bring consequences to bear against party members who engage in insurrection, violence, and who make openly racist or sexist statements. I see Republicans either as people who actively support hatred or who lack the moral fortitude to do the right thing and cut their ties with evil. I am no perfect man, myself. I have my flaws. But I do not allow my flaws to extend into the places where the Republican Party finds its strongest base of supporters. I have my flaws, but I do not make a bargain with hatred in order to gain power.

A 2021 New Year’s Thought

To think that 2021 could not be worse than 2020 is a failure of the imagination. It is not what I want to be pondering right now, but I must nevertheless consider it. Now, no matter what goes on, I must still work out my own salvation with fear and trembling. Nowhere does the chaos in the world give me permission to be unrepentant, or prideful, or depressed.

Even though it seems like 3 out of 4 of my coreligionists supported a political movement not only naked and unashamed of its embrace of racially-discriminatory policies and agendas, but also one that denies the validity of our elections, I must remain true to a faith that I evaluated solely upon the truth it offered, not the members within that faith.

What confounds me further in my thinking is that in more than one portion of my coreligionists’ scriptures, there are direct equivalencies drawn between those who do not support the validity of elections and those who do, ultimately, support only themselves in prideful constructs. In other words, that which they do support now is clearly called out in scripture as evil. Yet, they join with it and call evil good. And, perhaps, more than one will say a prayer for me specifically or in general that I might come to my senses and join with them in their fantasy to “stop the steal”.

And if I do not join with them in their push to overturn what has been a free and fair election, such as they go, then I presume they will be troubled that I am become a hell-bound soul.

To quote Curtis Mayfield, “If there’s a hell below, we’re all gonna go.”

I would have had the same experience of unease during the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s or the rise of Nazism in the 1930s. My coreligionists joined in with those movements and expressed sympathies for them. And while the top leadership of my church condemned the KKK, it did not condemn the Nazi party. There are even articles written by that leadership that attempt to illustrate where Nazism and my church have commonalities. There is even a case of one of those top leaders denying immigration assistance to converts with Jewish ancestry as they plead for his help in escaping Nazi-occupied Austria.

I feel deep pain as I contemplate such things, but nowhere does that release me from my own obligations to work out my salvation with fear and trembling. Rather, it reinforces the idea that, while I can look to a fellow man here and there as someone worthy of emulating, ultimately I must not trust in the arm of flesh for anything of an Eternal nature.

I see hell as a state of being perfectly aware of one’s flaws as a person. Just as we only get glimpses of heaven as we walk this earth, we only get similar sparse revelations of the hell that awaits should we periodically take stock of our regrets and evils. Once we exit those moments, we are back in the mundane world.

Judgment is called “great and dreadful” for a reason. It is something best approached with contrition, humility, and sorrow for one’s sins. Yes, we have a hope for joy in Jesus Christ the Savior, but that is a hope meant to sustain us through the trials and hardships of repentance, which must reach deeper and wider than we imagine in order for them to fully cleanse us and make us whole. The man who walks boldly to the final judgment will be left miserable when, for the first time, his full accounting of sins is revealed unto him.

Now, that misery also awaits the person who is fully aware of his own personal catalog of evil, but the difference is that person is already enduring some hell and is now broken and contrite, ready to accept a change in himself in order to be done with the evils of mortality. I would presume that the bold man made suddenly miserable has a similar capability to become broken and contrite and to thereby desire the path of the penitent one. But I presume also that such a path is more difficult to follow, the soul being unfamiliar with that terrain on account of a lack of repentance in mortality.

Unquestionably, there are things we all do not yet consider as requiring repentance that will demand it in the judgement that awaits. Likewise, I do not consider that there are men who are brazen about some sins without being considerate of others. It’s a matter of percentages, ultimately. But each one of those unconsidered sins is potentially that which we cling to in our pride, and which keeps us from returning to the presence of God. I would say that the more we take stock of our evils and repent of the, the less likely we are to cling to that pride which justifies the sin in our own mind and makes us ready to wage war against God in our defense of sin.

I would draw a conclusion that those who are worried most about hell that they are constantly turning to prayer and fasting and acts of contrition are the ones most prepared to return to God’s presence. Those who wonder if there is any sin upon them as they pass through mortality are unprepared for that meeting at the judgment bar.

And though I do not support a faction that is the clear parallel of that which has been condemned in my holy scriptures, I do not presuppose that I am given a free pass into heaven that does not require of me that I face my other sins and infirmities of the spirit. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did great works in advancing the causes of peace and justice: he must still answer for his adulteries. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi did much that which was wonderful and good as he campaigned for justice and equality, but he must answer for the cruelties he dealt out to his family members.

Now, I believe that they will have an easier time working through those troubles than someone who may have been generous to his servants and staff, but who also participated actively in constructing and carrying out Hitler’s genocides. Doing good prepares us for cleansing ourselves of sin. Doing evils hinders that cleansing process, possibly bringing it to a complete halt. We must be cautious.

This is why I say that, no matter what sad folly has misled the souls of 3 out of 4 of my coreligionists, I am nevertheless not excused from my personal responsibilities to work out my own salvation with fear and trembling. It is not as if knowing the truth is supposed to guarantee a sinless existence: the very scriptures that condemn following after an antidemocratic personality also note that many members of the church did follow after such a person, to the woe and consternation of those who did not fall after such a person. Those same scriptures feature a Christ come to visit them, who then laments how often he would have gathered them as a hen gathers her chicks if they would but listen to his words and then obey them. People failing to do what is right in spite of the truth taught to them is a theme throughout my scriptures: why should I be surprised that this day is peopled with the same humans as of old?

Even if they harden their hearts, I must keep mine tender. Even if they espouse lies, I must not abandon my seeking of truth. Even if they persecute me within the walls of our common church, I must forgive them, for they know not what they do.

Even if 2020 turns out to have been the year in which a general consensus formed around a fascist movement in the USA that eventually leads to the deaths of millions, even tens of millions or more, I must be hopeful in 2021 about what I can do to improve my own soul as I remember that no one can repent for my wrongs but myself.

Just as 1860 was a truly horrible year in US history, it did not prevent the years that followed from being any worse. So it is today. Bad as things are, they can get worse. But I always have myself in the here and now and I will always be responsible for the maintenance of my soul, that I might approach the judgment bar of God with fear and trembling, hopeful that the atonement of Christ can stretch enough to pay for my sins, and also hopeful that my covenants were honored enough that I might be ready for my final repentance, preparatory to returning to God. I would hope that for one and for all, but it’s my own existence that I have to work most on.

And so, I am resolved for this year.

Christmas Day 2020

I am a Christian, and this is a day given us for remembering Christ, and my comments will be on that wise. No offense taken by me if you want to pass over them, I wish everyone well on this day.

As I ponder my faith in Jesus Christ and my hope of a resurrection, I consider that in spite of conditions on earth – and, be warned, things in general are going to get much worse before things in general start getting better – I always have a covenant with my Heavenly Father that can be of good use to me because of the atonement of Jesus Christ, the only begotten son of our Heavenly Father. Without that atonement, I am lost. With it, I am claimed and can work out my salvation with fear and trembling, but work it out all the same.

Christmas day is not just a day to consider the birth of the Savior, it is a day also for contemplating his atonement, death, and resurrection, which resurrection is promised to all as a precursor to judgment. And it will be Jesus Christ who will be my advocate with the Father: if I am worthy, and repentant, and one who has done good in remembering the poor, the sick, the homeless, the afflicted, all my brothers and sisters… if I have been able to lay aside my sins and return to them no more, I will have done what I can to honor my covenants, and that gives me hope of returning to the presence of my Heavenly Father.

Life is hard and will get harder, especially the older I become. Winter approaches, I can feel it in my muscles and bones. But there is a Spring to follow that Winter. Even if I have been too sinful to see the earliest days of that Spring, I can nevertheless repent, strive to do good, and humble myself so that I have a hope of seeing those Spring days yet to come. That hope arises out of my faith in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

So today is a day given unto me to think on that matter, and these are my thoughts. I wish everyone well on this day.

What the SolarWinds Breach Teaches Us

First off, the Russian hacking of SolarWinds to get its cyber eyes and ears inside of sensitive US installations is not an act of war. It’s an extremely successful spy operation, not an attack meant to force the USA to do something against its will.

Next off, if not SolarWinds, then it would have been some other piece of software. The Russians were determined to compromise a tool that was commonly used, and that was the one they found a way in on. Had SolarWinds been too difficult to crack, then the Russians would have shifted efforts to an easier target. That’s how it goes in security.

So the lessons learned are stark and confronting:

  1. We can no longer take for granted that software publishers are presenting us with clean code. In my line of work, I’ve already seen other apps from software vendors with malware baked into them, but which are also whitelisted as permissible apps. SolarWinds is the biggest such vendor thus far, but there are others out there that contain evil in them. We have to put layers around our systems to ensure that they don’t start talking to endpoints that they have no business talking to, or that they don’t start chains of communication that eventually send sensitive data outside.
  2. The firewall is not enough. Neither is the IPS. Or the proxy server. The malware in SolarWinds included code to randomize the intervals used for sending data and the data was sent to IP addresses in-country, so all those geolocation filters did not have an impact in this case. We need to look at internal communications and flag on whenever a user account is being used to access a resource it really shouldn’t be accessing, like an account from HR trying to reach a payroll server.
  3. Software development needs to reduce its speed and drive forward more safely than it is currently. I know how malware gets into some packages: a developer needs to meet a deadline, so instead of writing the code from scratch, a code snippet posted somewhere finds its way into the software. Well, that code snippet should have been looked at more carefully, because that’s what the malware developers put out there so that time-crunched in-house developers would grab it and use it and make the job of spreading malware that much easier.

    Malware can also get in through bad code that allows external hooks, but there’s nothing to compare with a rushed – or lazy – developer actually putting the malware into the app that’s going to be signed, sealed, and whitelisted at customer sites.
  4. That extended development cycle to give breathing space for in-house developers needs to be further telescoped to do better penetration testing of the application so that we can be sure that not only do we not have malware baked in, we also don’t have vulnerable code baked in, either.

Those last two are what will start to eat into revenue and profits for development teams. But it’s something we must do in order to survive – constant focus on short-term gains is a guarantee to remaining insecure. We may need to take another look at how we do accounting so that we can have a financial system that allows us the room we need in order to be more secure from the onset. Because, right now, security is a cost and current accounting practices give incentives to eliminate costs. We can’t afford to make profits that way.

1860 and 2020

In 1860, something in the USA had broken. When a contentious, 4-way election produced Abraham Lincoln as the president, states began to make good on their threats to leave the nation. Even more ominously, the states that had once done everything possible to cater to the whims of those departing states were now resolved to wage war, if needed, to re-establish the Union, no longer on the terms demanded by those departing states. What led to that situation and are those conditions leading to a similar situation in 2020?

In her work, The Field of Blood, Joanne B. Freeman explores that very topic. I strongly recommend it as a book for any historian or person interested in current events. And I equally strongly recommend close attention to the story of miscalculation on the part of the Southern Congressmen who trusted in threats of violence and secession to get their way while still preserving the benefits of the political union.

Is 2020 the same as 1860? No. We are not again at that most final of crossroads in history. But we are close. While the divisions are not truly regional in this current period of tension, we are nevertheless watching as resistance to threats of violence stiffens and attitudes towards a domineering minority change from attempted accommodation to exhausted, active animosity.

Before 1860, supporters of slavery would threaten beatings, duels, and street fights against their opponents. Their opponents would refuse to engage, which played well to both sides of the slavery conflict. Anti-slavery supporters applauded how their champions refused to stoop to the level of the slavery supporters. Slavery supporters mocked the lack of manhood and dignity among the anti-slavery faction, seen as too weak-willed to stand up and fight for what they believed in.

In 1838, Congressman Cilley of New Hampshire finally accepted a duel challenge from Congressman Graves of Kentucky. Graves killed Cilley in that duel. After that, things changed. Anti-slavery attitudes hardened against that act of violence: Cilley was seen as a martyr for the cause. Slavery supporters could not claim anymore that their opponents lacked valor, which had the result of forcing their own position to take an even harder line on the issue.

When Brooks of South Carolina nearly killed Sumner of Massachusetts in an attack in the Senate in 1856, it pretty much killed off any hope of reconciliation between the two sides of the slavery debate. The slavery proponents claimed that they had no recourse but to defend their honor with violence. The slavery opponents no longer called for the preservation of the Union at any cost as a slogan of appeasement, but of eventual military conflict. Those who wanted a peaceful resolution no longer saw a path of resolution together, but as a matter of “our side is better off without the other side.” Slave state politicians threatened secession: their counterparts were ready to let them go and be done with it.

Starting with the election of Ronald Reagan, the Republican position publicly hardened around the issues of a strong anti-abortion position and an equally unyielding, highly permissive interpretation of the Second Amendment. Other issues were associated with the Republican Party, but those were the most salient. Less well-pronounced was the full meaning of their “law and order” platform, which didn’t directly state a hostility towards minorities, but which did serve to further policies that had race-negative outcomes in terms of higher rates of arrest, conviction, and incarceration of minorities vs whites for similar offenses. In time, the conflation of racist imagery with Republican Party political ads became more and more overt, leading up to the events during the Trump presidency in which party leadership failed to offer up meaningful criticism of racially-motivated violence, even as perpetrators of that violence evoked Republican leaders and talking points as justification for their violent acts.

Meanwhile, Republican Party opposition to Democratic policy initiatives and appointments hardened to the point of refusal to cooperate at all. This was perhaps most starkly illustrated in their refusal to entertain the nomination of a Supreme Court justice in 2016, claiming that such a nomination must be made to wait until after the election and then turning fully around in 2020 to rush through a Supreme Court nomination in the days just prior to the election that year.

Domestically, this inability of Republicans to offer up meaningful compromises with the Democratic Party itself led to questions within the Democratic Party on whether or not they should continue to attempt to compromise. Progressives within the Democratic Party drew more political support, particularly in the wake of the MeToo movement and a string of cases involving police brutality or other abuses in the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Monterrosa, Rayshard Brooks, Andres Guardado, Dijon Kizzee, Daniel Prude, Deon Kay, Ricardo Munoz, Deja Stallings, Jonathan Price, Alvin Cole, Marcellis Stinnette, Walter Wallace Jr, and Kevin Peterson Jr, among others. As Republican leadership rallied around defending its own members involved in sexual harassment cases or who had made racist statements, questions of compromise evaporated further.

At the same time, hardening attitudes in Democratic Party were also accompanied by a rise in anti-fascist violence. While such antifa violence was only a fraction of fascist and racist violence, Republicans seized upon the very fact of antifa violence as a sign of the existential nature of the conflict they now found themselves in. Democratic Party leaders did condemn antifa violence, but Republican leadership rejected such condemnations or denied that they had happened outright. Ironically, voices within the Republican Party that called for a second civil war to “cleanse” the nation were not condemned within the party.

While 2016 still saw most of the Democratic Party leadership calling for unity and compromise, the events of the 2020 election in which Trump refused to acknowledge the election of Biden left the Democratic president-elect in the uncomfortable position of finding Republican leadership unwilling to participate in the normal bipartisan cooperation that follows a change of party in an election.

Such refusal from the Republican Party has left many Democratic commentators asking openly if the nation would simply be better off without the Republicans. While not advocating openly for civil war as radicals within the Republican Party advocate, they are also not refusing to consider such a scenario. While not yet a scenario like in 1860, or even 1856, current tensions do lie on a path that leads to a similar situation.

In this, the Republicans are exercising a similar miscalculation as did the pro-slavery faction. They have spoken loudly and bullied their way around the political landscape, but are outnumbered. Now that their opposition has itself hardened its position, they are at a point in their existence that demands reconciliation and backing down from their hardline position before they are destroyed in a violent conflict that they have no hope of winning.

The Republic of South Africa faced a similar watershed in its history, when the whites-only apartheid government came to a realization that it could not maintain its control. Faced with the options of peacefully coming to terms with the African National Congress or the possibility of war in which they would detonate the nuclear weapons within their cities and key economic areas as part of a Samson act to deny their opponents what they could not themselves keep, the National Party chose to take the peaceful path, resulting in massive constitutional and organizational reform. Humanity has an example of stepping away from the brink: is the Republican Party leadership able to make the same moves as its right-wing counterpart in South Africa, or will it choose to maintain its hard line and autogolpe methods to subvert democratic institutions in America and take the nation down a path of bloodshed?

Freeman’s book shows us the parallels between the antebellum period and our own day. Our nation needs a Republican Party leadership to come to terms with reality and to come back to the table of compromise before they go too far and find that they have placed the nation into a period that parallels the years from 1860-1865.

Ohio 2012, 2016, and Today

Fun Voting Fact: in 2012, Karl Rove had a meltdown during election coverage on Fox News when Ohio was called for Obama. Rove demanded that Fox revisit the results of the early voting. He knew that current Republican Lt. Governor, then Ohio Sec’y of State Husted had ordered a ballot switch for early voters, which were predominantly Democratic and Black. They were not going to vote on machines, but *absentee* ballots.

This was done because Black voters had started a “souls to the polls” movement after Kerry narrowly lost Ohio in 2004. Why did Kerry lose? Because most of the Black community was voting on the day of the election, and had to stand upwards of 7 hours in the rain, with the polling place doors shut in their faces at 7:30 PM, even though they were still in line to vote.

In 2012, the Black voters on “souls to the polls” day, the Sunday before Election Day, were greeted with a five-hour line in Dayton. In Cleveland, the wait was seven hours. The White voters in their neighborhoods, the next county over, had no lines. When the Black voters finally got their turn to vote, they were handed absentee ballots. The machines in those locations were under wraps.

Husted was a moving force behind the deliberately long lines in Black neighborhoods in 2004, and was responsible for cutting early voting hours in Ohio. A court order prevented him from shutting down voting on the Sunday before Election Day. Husted also made sure that there was only one polling place per county, so that rural voters could be in and out in a jiffy and urban voters faced nightmare lines.

But those absentee ballots – those were NOT the same as machine ballots. Once cast on a machine, the vote is automatically tallied and recorded. Absentee ballots can be rejected for all kinds of ticky-tack reasons. So even if the person has correct ID and a valid address for the voting location, that absentee ballot can still be rejected because of a lack of initials here or the signature going outside the box there. If about 20% of the absentee ballots issued to Black voters were disqualified, the Republicans would have won Ohio in 2012. What prevented it? A revelation in the media of the absentee ballots situation, most likely.

Because in 2016, the absentee ballots returned for the Black voters and there was too much of a media circus going on around Trump to notice the reporters crying foul over those ballots.

Did that happen in 2020? I don’t yet have the data to tell me, but Husted is still in Ohio. I know that in my own state of Texas, early voting was halted the weekend prior to election day and the Republican government here cut county ballot drop-off locations to a single site… thanks, Republicans, but thanks especially to John Husted, one of the Republicans bringing Jim Crow 2.0 to the USA.