On the edge of history in the USA .. as Manhattan DA confronts former president’s Crimes and Misdemeanors

Apr 3rd, 2023 | By | Category: USA Today
Michael Seward, “The Torment of Wm. Blake,” March 2023.

NORTH AMERICAN NOTEBOOK. RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO, SUNDAY, APRIL 2, 2023. My first encounter with US TV this Sunday morning (with Donald Trump to be arraigned Tuesday in New York) was all about this year’s unusual March Madness — the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s annual quest “to determine the … Division I men’s college basketball national champion.”

I clicked on CNN just as Victor Blackwell and Amara Walker were showing great amazement and amusement at clips of yesterday’s stunning end to the San Diego State vs Florida Atlantic semi-final game, when : “San Diego State needed a furious second-half comeback and an incredible buzzer-beater from Lamont Butler to hold off FAU and advance to its first National Championship game in program history.”

The (only half) illusion of American business-as-usual good humour in March Madness

San Diego State teammates congratulate Lamont Butler on his incredible buzzer-beater basket that put his team past Florida Atlantic University 72-71 on April 1, 2023.

That clips of the final moments of a college basketball game could unleash such merriment and good feeling among two (admittedly congenial) US TV co-anchors (and no doubt that they also were the African American Mr. Blackwell and the Korean American Ms. Walker) somehow made it seem that things were still fundamentally upbeat business-as-usual in the USA today.

Former president Mr. Trump’s experience turning himself in to the authorities in Manhattan on Tuesday 4 April 2023 will be historically unprecedented. But this is also a country that has lived through one quite real civil war — in which as many as 750,000 human lives were lost according to one recent estimate. (As opposed to the only 620,000 of earlier accountings : see eg “New Estimate Raises Civil War Death Toll” by Guy Gugliotta, NY Times, April 2, 2012.)

Michael Seward, ‘Still life. 2023. 16” x 20”.’

And, to pick just one of many grim sides of real American (or any other) history, the haunting strains of Billie Holiday’s recording of the Great American Songbook classic “Strange Fruit … hangin’ from the poplar trees” is just further testimony to how everyone’s human past has tragic flaws, that we all must struggle to turn our backs on and rise above.

In any case, if the TV ratings are to be believed, more than twice as many Americans watch March Madness basketball as watch all of FOX News, MSNBC, and CNN combined. And the good humour of this largely apolitical universe, as evinced by Blackwell and Walker on CNN this morning, might suggest that the USA today, when all is said and done, is still some distance from the kind of real Civil War that Democracy in America has already lived through — between the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861 and Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.

Fintan O’Toole on the (potential?) flaws (and worse) of a “Stormy Daniels Indictment”

Michael Seward, ‘Grit. 2023. 24” sq.’

Meanwhile, I have been gradually collecting further information on the new legal case(s) for and against the Donald John Trump who “was born on June 14, 1946 … in the borough of Queens in New York City.”

My serious collection began with Fintan O’Toole’s March 28, 2023 piece on The New York Review of Books website : “Bump and Grind … That our former president is likely to be indicted for paying hush money to a porn star and lying about it shows the Trumpification of our politics” (to be published in print “in our upcoming May 11 issue”).

A few quotations from this latest article by Mr. O’Toole (who is “a columnist for the Irish Times and a professor at Princeton University” who “lives in Princeton, New Jersey, and Dublin, Ireland”) suggest the main thrust of his argument : “We are in a very Trumpian world where the relationship between real events and the narratives they generate has gone wild.”

“Political Witchhunt” was also used by Richard Nixon in July 1973, back in the days of Watergate, not too long before he finally resigned as president on August 8, 1974.

Similarly : “Trump is a criminal — but not because he screwed a porn star and paid her hush money. It is not just that using Stormy Daniels as the way to hold him to account plays dizzying tricks with perspective, zeroing in on a molehill of sleaze when the mountain of Trump’s criminal sedition continues to loom so large against the horizon of American democracy. It’s that all of this drags us back into Trump’s territory ….”

And finally : “Trump spread his own big top over American democracy. Daniels was a one-woman circus … That is the nexus in which this whole story lives and breathes. An indictment of Trump over the Stormy Daniels affair would not threaten to end the show — it would be a revival.”

Which side are you on boys (and girls etc) ????

This might seem to suggest that, even or especially from an aggressively progressive viewpoint, the indictment to be brought down this coming Tuesday, April 4 is not finally a seriously good thing (a view also apparently finally shared by Bill Maher on his TV show this past Friday night??).

And, pending exactly what charges will finally be made public, I’d agree that the “Stormy Daniels indictment” looks a lot better as the first of several further cases against Mr. Trump than it looks all by itself.

This leads directly to the second piece in my serious real information collection — Katharina Buchholz’s March 31, 2023 online statista chart on “The Investigations and Lawsuits Against Trump” — which lists five “Criminal Investigations” (with Stormy Daniels and the Manhattan District Attorney only the first) and nine “Civil Suits.”

At the same time, I have finally been won over by the recent counterweights arguments of Citizen X from Buckhorn, ON, in “Is a second American Civil War now just inevitable?

I remain concerned to pay all due democratic respect to the 74.2 million votes the former President Trump won in the 2020 US presidential election. But in the current real world of politics I am finally taking a leaf from the Kevin McCarthy-Mike Pence Republican playbook (tho from an opposite Democratic standpoint of course).

And (to quote the Citizen) : “Even if the case against Donald Trump is imperfect, if some legal authority is going to charge him I am going to support this charge.”

Michael Seward, ‘Sutra for Allen Ginsberg II. 2023. 28” x 30”.’

And so, whatever, I’m supporting Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (who was born and raised on Striver’s Row in Harlem in New York City), because he’s at least trying to do something that probably (er almost certainly) does very much need to be done! And that’s a rare and valuable thing in the world today.

Whatever else again, Mr. Bragg is acting In the crucial interests of democracy and the rule of law in America, and many other places in the global village of the 2020s — and out of loyalty to what George Brown of The Globe in Toronto called, back on the eve of the real American Civil War 1861–1865, “the noble trust of shielding free institutions.”

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