Image for post
Image for post
Washington to Mar-a-Lago Photo From Pixabay

Written without the technicality of winning an election.

I guess it’s a bit arrogant to think of your own life as a history, but, well, there it is. Maybe it helps that the narrative is largely a process of bouncing off other people, of what they taught me or the mysteries they left.

This is started the day before Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. — -“Joe” to most folks — will be inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States. The country survived the 45th, but I’m not the only one who thought that issue was in doubt several times. The outgoing president was so fond of being an autocrat he tried to make the wish the father of the fact. …

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Katarzyna Modrzejewska on Pexels. Royal Pussy.

You few, you proud, you readers of my memoir, Lighting the Fire (Miniver Press 2020), might remember how, in the mid-fifties, I discovered a trunk full of old issues of Reader’s Digest. I attacked the magazines by my usual method: front to back. Some of what I learned from the contents of that trunk sticks with me in my elder years.

I noticed for the first time that natural disasters like tornadoes, floods, or pandemics do not hunt up bad people to kill. They kill anybody they can reach.

I learned that a condensed book is to a book as condensed soup is to soup.

Relevant to today’s sermon, I caught an anecdote about Queen Elizabeth II that drags me smack into the middle Joe Biden’s inauguration. In 1952, the article claimed, Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth at age 25, and the running joke she played on her security detail got less funny.

During World War II, lots of women learned to drive who had not felt the necessity before. All of the British royals of appropriate age had military roles, and Princess Elizabeth trained as an ambulance driver. She liked driving, and when private cars were available again, she got one. …

Image for post
Image for post

In my second career, I taught criminal justice, a natural progression from a first career as a judge and the various roles I played in the justice system before taking the bench.

Sometimes people assume that all my students were future police officers. That’s not quite so, but they were a practical bunch and most were happy to describe their ambitions

More of them intended law school than were destined to get admitted, and I got more than an even share of them because I taught all the law focused courses at one time or another. I did my best to match them all with a law school where they would have a chance.

From watching my graduates, it appeared that most of them spent time as probation or parole officers. Maybe a third of them became law enforcement officers, and some of that third were getting out of debt before attempting law school. …

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by roya ann miller on Unsplash

Il Duce, “the leader,” was the preferred title of the man who led the Italian prong of the Axis in World War II, Benito Mussolini.

Before he took over the Italian government, he ran the Fasci Italiani di Combattimento. Italians have reputations for being out in front of fashion, and the political fashion about to catch on was Fascism.

Fascism was the alternative flavor of autocracy for those who did not like the flavor of communism or could not read Karl Marx. The Axis Powers — -Italy, Germany and Japan — set out to dominate the world, but there was Franco in Spain and Salazar in Portugal, lesser lights in Easter Europe, and even the powers that stood in the way of Fascism — France, Britain, and the U.S. — had Fascist parties. Even without a powerful Fascist party, there were always apologists. …

Image for post
Image for post
Jean-Pierre Houël, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

I am writing on January 7, 2021, the day after a mob stormed the Capitol at the urging of the leader of the insurrection — Donald John Trump — -with the stated purpose of stopping or at least disrupting the effect of the 2020 elections. The mob was tens of thousands strong, but was only lightly armed.

Congress was in joint session for the purpose of accepting reports originating in the states of the election results. It is a largely ceremonial process, since Congress is in line behind the Electoral College, and I cannot recall it ever being televised before. The state election results only began with the numbers generated as vote totals.

Mr. Trump publicly announced that the election was “rigged” months before election day and refused to commit to accepting the outcome — unless, of course, he was reelected. He recruited teams of lawyers and deployed them in swing states to the purpose of exposing corruption and preventing the certification of fraudulent results. …

Image for post
Image for post
New Government Complex. Photo on Unsplash by Gautam Krishnan.

Call them the “Framers” of the Constitution or the “Founding Fathers” of the nation.

To give them their historical due, worship is not necessary, and it might be more realistic to admit they benefitted from a lot of luck. It’s true that the American Revolution struck longer lasting blows for democracy than other contemporary uprisings, but why is open to debate.

Hundreds of years later, the revolutions in the name of “the people” — -always in the name of “the people” — -look cheek by jowl after the Peace of Westphalia, when it became clear that the vicar of Christ, the Roman Catholic Pope, was going to lose his grip on secular political power.

Martin Luther had blown the lid off Church corruption in 1517. Was it really that long for Westphalia to be concluded in 1648 and recognize that anybody with a sword and an army of serfs could go kinging without a license from the Pope? …

Image for post
Image for post
“No, fool, I said ‘JUST LIKE TOM THUMB’S BLUES’” Apologies and Thanks to Anton on Unsplash

The last grade I remember finishing cleanly in the public schools was the seventh. I had consciously checked out in the third grade, having applied myself in the first and second. Starting in the third grade, I showed little inclination to attend class or to stay out of trouble when I did attend.

[Author’s Note: Those puzzled by this not being my usual contribution to politics or history should read the note I put on Part I. While that part drew some very kind comments, it did not draw the sort of readership that spells success on Medium. This piece, which was already on deck, will be the last in this experiment unless the first two turn out to have long fuses and do take off. You can order the book through Miniver Press or Amazon SR]

As a result, my grandparents complained to my mother, who swooped me up from the played out oil patch in Bristow, Oklahoma and took me to the active oil patch in Odessa, Texas, a God-forsaken hellhole just outside the eastern edge of the Chihuahuan Desert. Odessa and nearby Midland owed their existence to the wealth of the Permian Basin, an oil rich formation in West Texas and Eastern New Mexico. It was in Odessa that I finished the sixth grade at Dowling Elementary and the eighth grade at Bonham Junior High, both times under substantial duress. …

Image for post
Image for post
Only Babies and Adults Get It. Teenagers are Hopeless. Photo from Pixabay

[Author’s Note: My memoir, Lighting the Fire: A Cherokee Journey from Dropout to Professor, was published in June by Miniver Press. Thanks to Covid-19, I have been unable to promote it. Drawing a crowd might sell books, but it certainly kills people. I intend to adopt pieces of it to magazine format if there is an audience. I understand this is not the kind of thing I normally publish on Medium, and I assure one and all that it won’t happen again unless people like it. SR]

Puberty hit me in the fifties, right below the Bible Belt. My kids — both the boys and the girls — would find it all hilarious.

I do, too, if I’m thinking of Peter Sellers playing me in a movie rather than how it felt at the time to be ignorant of female anatomy and not even know a great deal about my own. …

Image for post
Image for post
He’s baack? Photo from Pixabay.

On the local or national levels, democracy requires that voters pay closer attention.

I voted a straight ticket one time in my life. It was unwise and I regret it.

The reason was the second Gulf War. The first Gulf War was in support of a United Nations police action declared by the Security Council to repel Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. The dispute was over money, the kind of thing normally settled in the Permanent International Court of Justice in The Hague. Iraq’s autocrat, Saddam Hussein, sent representatives to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in July of 1990 to talk about their differences with representatives of Jaber Al-Amad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Emir of Kuwait.

Iraq demanded $10 billion; Kuwait offered $9 billion. Mr. Hussein apparently felt he did not have to sit still for being nickeled and dimed when he commanded the fourth largest army in the world. …

Image for post
Image for post
POTUS renders planet one and done graphic by Pixabay

Donald John Trump, currently residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave in Washington, seldom shows much concern for history’s judgment.

Those of us who consider history to be recreational reading started in on Donald Trump before he had presided for a year. Without the deep dive of a PhD dissertation, we denizens of the cheap seats seem to have a bias toward post WWII presidencies — -or so it would appear from the conversations that have sadly become less frequent with the pandemic raging.

[Russell Digression™ Cherrywood Coffee Shop has wi-fi the equal of Starbuck’s. It’s a block from where I lived when I was a judge and it’s the closest watering hole to the co-op radio station. It’s Austin on the half-shell, with hippie lawyers, pickers, some writers who make a living at it and some more who don’t. …


Steve Russell

Steve Russell is enrolled Cherokee, a 9th grade dropout, retired judge, associate professor emeritus of criminal justice, and (so far) a cancer survivor.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store