Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Democracy on the line in the USA


l had to write this letter because I am profoundly disturbed by what is transpiring in the country right next door to mine.  From my perch here in Canada, I've been watching events unfold south of the border.  It seems to me that the American union is in greater peril than at any time since the Civil War of 1861 to 1865.  Sadly, Senator Lindsey Graham warned of "riots in the streets" if Donald Trump is prosecuted for his latest misdeed - taking boxes of classified documents to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, some designated "Top Secret."  He put the security of Americans in jeopardy.

Even if Donald Trump is finally held to account for his actions, Trumpism will remain alive.  The Trump agenda will continue to be supported by Republicans in Congress and by many Republican voters.  The former president is the most notorious bully in the world and he behaves like a mob boss. He refuses to accept responsibility.  If he finds himself in hot water, he has two plans ready and waiting.  Plan A is to blame someone else.  It's always someone else's fault  - Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden or all those left-wing Democrats.  Trump's Plan 2 is to take the spotlight off his wrongdoings and accuse others of crimes - Hunter Biden and his laptop, Hillary Clinton and her emails.

There is a moral sickness in America, a lack of civility and empathy.  Frankly, I have difficulty understanding the mentality of some of my American neighbours.  I realize that dyed-in-the-wool Trumpers don't care what Donald Trump does.  As Trump himself famously declared, he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and "not lose any voters."  They are just interested in turning the clock back to some kind of Leave it to Beaver era.  Many fear sharing any power with African Americans, Latinos, Asians-Americans, Muslims, immigrants, woman etc.  "Male America Great Again" is a a dog whistle for "Make America White Again."

These stalwart Trump supporters can't go back in time, though.  They will have to give up some of the pie, but they will be kick and scream about it constantly.  

After all Trump has done, he should not be considered a viable candidate for commander and chief of the United States of America.  At the very least, he should not be permitted to run for public office in the United States.  In another era, Trump would not be considered acceptable as a presidential candidate.  Allow me to remind you of a few other incidents in American political history.

* In 1972, Senator Edmund S. Muskie of Maine was the frontrunner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.  Muskie had been Hubert Humphrey's vice-residential running mate in a losing campaign against Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew.  During the New Hampshire primary, a letter came to light alleging that Muskie had approved and made light of the term "Canuck" for  French-speaking Canadians.  There were reports that Muskie had shed tears over the accusation.  Nixon's Committee to Re-elect the President, the aptly named CREEP, was behind the letter.  

* In 1987, Colorado Senator Gary Hart was a leading candidate for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination.  During the campaign, Hart, who had a wife and daughter, was linked to a woman named Donna Rice.  , On May 8, 1987, a week after the scandal broke, Hart suspended his campaign when the Washington Post threatened to publish a story about a woman Hart had dated while separated from his wife.

Fast forward to 2016.  On October 6th of that year, a month before the American presidential election, the Washington Post published a video and an article about a very lewd conversation about women between then-presidential candidate Donald Trump and television host Billy Bush.  They were on their way to a taping of Access Hollywood.  During the conversation, Trump described his attempt to seduce a married woman and indicated the possibility that he would start kissing a woman that he and Bush were about to meet.  "I don't even wait," Trump bragged.  "And when you're a star, they let you do it.  You can do anything . . ."  

Trump bragged about groping women, but that did not prevent him from running for president.  News about the recording was made public just two days before the second presidential debate between Trump and his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.  Trump issued a statement in which he apologized for the content of the video. but of course he remarked that Bill Clinton had "said far worse on the golf course."  He also dismissed his Access Hollywood remarks as "locker room talk."

It appears that Donald Trump is a Harry Houdini when it comes to escaping from the rule of law and from accountability for his actions.  He may be a master escape artist, but he is not invincible.  He can't and won't evade justice forever.  He will eventually meet his Waterloo.  He must be held accountable in order to demonstrate that no person is above the law, where king or commoner, prince or pauper, Donald J. Trump or John Q. Public.  It is ingrained in the American Declaration of Independence that "all men are created equal."

The belief that anyone is above the law is a dangerous and undemocratic concept.  It's something that Richard Nixon believed and it led to the Watergate scandal.  Nixon was a choir boy in comparison to Donald Trump.  He resigned rather than face an impeachment trial.  Nothing would make Trump resign.  He is shameless.  If he should win the presidency again, he will become the autocrat he has always wanted to be.  

The midterm elections are being held today.  If the polls are correct, the Republicans will most likely take both the House of Representatives and the Senate.  The sad thing is that the Republican Party is no longer a real political party.  It is a cult, controlled by the autocratic Donald Trump and is only interested in obtaining power.  It want to supress voters from exercising their franchise.  It blames the Democrats for inflation, when inflation is a world-wide problem.  Republicans have no viable solution other than to reduce Medicare and lower taxes for the rich.

The Republican Party is controlled by a man who behaves like a Mafia leader.  He refused to accept defeat in the 2020 election and sparked a volent insurrection against the turnover of power to Joe Biden.  He identifies with hard-right neo-Nazis such as the Proud Boys.  If Republicans do well today, it will be another blow for American democracy.  What next?  Trump running for president again with Marjorie Taylor Greene as his VP running mate?  



  • The Career of Brenda Lee

    In a 2014 interview with Hellenic New of America, Brenda Lee defined her success as "the realization of a dream I had when I was just a little girl.  That dream was to sing, so I had fulfilled that dream along with the fans that have allowed me to do that."

    The song "Dynamite" led tp Bremda's lifelong nickname, "Little Miss Dynamite."  At approximately 145 metres (4 ft. 9 inches) tall, the petite singer is a ball of fire and she has a powerhouse voice. She was a child prodigy who became the most successful female artist of the late 1950s and early 1960s.  Her 47 U.S. chart hits during the 1960s is only surpassed by Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Ray Charles.  She is best known for the hit single "I'm Sorry" and the perennial Yuletide favourite "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree."

    Brenda singing "Dynamite" in 1957

    Brenda Lee was born Brenda Mae Tarpley on December 11, 1944 in the charity ward of a hospital in Atlanta, Georgia.  Her birth came during World War II and she had an impoverished childhood.  Her family lived in a series of three-room houses without indoor plumbing.  According to Biography, Brenda's father, Reuben Lindsey Tarpley, was a caring dad, but he was an alcoholic and he was killed in a construction accident when Brenda was 6 (some sources, such as Rolling Stone, claim she was 8).  

    After Reuben's death, Brenda's mother, Annie Grace (née Yarbrough), was left to work long hours in a cotton mill in order to support Brenda and her siblings, a younger brother and older sister.  The family came to depend on Brenda's earnings as a singer at local events and on radio and television.  In an interview with the Women of Rock Oral History Project, Brenda explained that once she  earned her first $20, she was pleased to give it to her family.   "Even at that young age, I saw that helped our life," she said. "It put some food on the table. It helped, and I loved it."

    Annie Grace eventually remarried.  Her new husband, Jay Rainwater, was a record store owner and Brenda would sing at stepfather's store on weekends.  At the same time, a local disc jockey helped the young singer get air time.  The DJ also encouraged  her to shorten her last name from Tarpley to Lee.

    Brenda displayed her singing talent early in life.  At the age of five, she won a talent show.  In 1956, at the age of 11,, she was hired by a Missouri-based variety show called "Ozark Jubilee."   In July of that same year. she signed a contract with Decca Records.  Her first Decca single was a cover of  a Hank Williams composition called "Jambalaya (On the Bayou),"

    In December of 1956, Brenda spent her 12th birthday in Las Vegas.  She told the Lass Vegas Review-Journal that she was at the Flamingo Hotel with the Ink Spots.  "As I remember it," she said, "I was kind of weaved in and out of the show as a kind of little hostess.  And I also sang - so we co-billed."

    By 1957, Brenda's name appeared on the music charts.  Her first single, :"One Step at a Time,went as far as No, 43 on the Billboard Hot 100.  but it reached No. 15 on the country chart.  

    "I'm Sorry" is Brenda's signature song, but her biggest selling track is "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree,"  She recorded the song in July of 1958  when she was only 12 years old.  It was written by Johnny Marks, the composer of  "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "A Holly Jolly Christmas."  As Brenda told Billboard, the record was cut in the heat of the summer at the Quonset Hut, the legendary studio in Nashville, Tennessee.  When she walked into the studio, producer Owen Bradley "had it all decked out like Christmas.  I was only 12 going on 13, so that was a biggie to me.  Everybody was dressed Christmassy and the lights were low.  He had a Christmas tree.  It was wonderful.?"    

    "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" was released by Decca Records for the holiday season of 1958 and again in 1959.  It really gained popularity in 1960 when Brenda had a huge hit with "I'm Sorry."  The song reached No 14 on the Billboard Hot 100  that year and became a Christmas standard, appearing on a variety of charts for over 50 years.  According to SoundScan, it is one of the top five best-selling digital singles.

    In 1960, Brenda Lee  recorded "I'm Sorry," which hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in July of that year.,  It was Brenda's first gold single and it was nominated for a Grammy Award.  According to Fred Bronson's Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Brenda recorded "I'm Sorry" in early 1960, but Decca Records delayed its release for several months due to its concern that a 15-year-old was not mature enough to sing about unrequited love.

    Brenda in 1965

    During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Brenda enjoyed greatest success on the pop charts.  By the late 1960s. however, Brenda's popularity had waned and her career had taken a downward turn.  In the  early 1970s, she re-established herself as a country music artist with a string of country hits such as "Nobody Wins" (1973) and "Sunday Sunrise." (1973).

    Brenda in 1977

    Brenda Lee is an international star.  Early in her career, she was particularly popular in the U.K.  She has recorded in four different languages.  

    In November of 1962, Brenda Lee met Ronnie Shacklett at a Bo Didley and Jackie Wilson concert in Nashville, Tennessee.  They were married less than six months later, on April 24, 1963, when Brenda was 18 years old.  She and Ronnie have two daughters, Jolie and Julie.  Julie was named after the daughter of  country music star Patsy Cline (Patsy died in a plain crash in March of 1963),

    More recent photo of Brenda Lee


    * In December of 1957, 13-year-old Brenda made her debut at the Grand Old Opry.  A photo was taken of her and 22-year-old Elvis Presley backstage at the Ryman Auditorium.  Elvis later gifted her wit a "Tender Loving Care" necklace, which he occasionally gave to female friends.  Brenda treasures that necklace.

    * In 1962, while touring West Germany, Brenda Lee appeared at the famous Star Club in Hamburg. The opening act for her show was an up-and-coming band from Liverpool, England called the Beatles. 

    * Brenda appears in a 1961 a episode of The Danny Thomas Show, entitled "Teenage Thrush" (Season 8, Episode 31, Air Date: May 15, 1961).  Brenda's character is a talented young singer whom Danny thinks could make a big name for herself.  However, the girl's mother wants her to finish her education first.

    Below is a photo of Brenda on The Danny Thomas Show in 1961.     

    * Brenda recorded a duet with American singer-songwriter Willy DeVille in 1992 for his album Loup Garou.

    * Brenda's autobiography, Little Miss Dynamite: The Life and Times of Brenda Lee, was published in 2002 by Hyperion.

    * In 1997, Brenda Lee was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  In September of 2006, Brenda celebrated over 50 years of being a recording artist.  She received the Jo Meador-Walker Lifetime Achievement award from the Source Foundation in Nashville.  She is also a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the Hit Parade Hall of Fame.  

    In 2002, Brenda was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  She became first woman to be inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame.

    SOURCES Hellenic News of America, "Interview with Brenda Lee: 'Little Miss Dynamite','" by Markos Papadatos, January 14, 2014; Grunge, "The Untold Truth of Brenda Lee," by Debra Kelly, August 18, 2022; udiscovermusic.com, "Brenda Lee's 'Jambalaya': Little Miss Dynamite Debuts On The Bayou," by Paul Sexton, July 30, 2022; Billboard, "Brenda Lee Shares Memories of 'Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree' on 60th Anniversary," by Deborah Evans Prince, December 23, 2018; Wikipedia, Internet Movie Database (IMDb)

    - Joanne