When leaders reveal themselves, the next step is ours

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

Even if you’ve never read any of Maya Angelou’s books, even if you have no idea who the late author is, you know that quote. It’s the go-to “told you so” to admonish anyone surprised by terrible behavior from someone with a record of behaving terribly.

It’s the phrase women use to comfort the girlfriend who swore she could succeed in reforming her “bad boy” boyfriend when the relationship predictably crashes and burns.

And, in the time of Donald Trump and his march to the Republican presidential nomination and maybe back to the White House, it has been repeated so often, it’s cliché.

So why is the not-so-shocking realization that Trump means what he says about retribution and a coming dictatorship greeted with a shrug?

OK, that’s not strictly true.

A few saw the endgame from the time Trump morphed from reality TV star to politician. And now, a rash of articles and books are warning that he means exactly what he has been saying all along.

But for those just now seeing the malevolence behind the bluster, it sure took a long time and a genuine insurrection for the amusement to turn into disgust.

After Angelou’s words have proven true time and again, no sensible person should doubt her wisdom. Yet, many continue to make excuses, insisting that anyone who takes Trump’s words and record seriously is being ridiculous and that American voters need not take a closer look at the phony wizard behind the curtain.

Will an empowered President Trump yank the country out of NATO, blowing up longtime global alliances? Will he weaponize a Justice Department newly staffed with cronies like Jeffrey Clark, the attorney general-in-waiting whose desperate promotion as a means to keep Trump in office after his 2020 defeat was foiled only by threats of mass resignations? Will Trump obliterate the Constitution by imposing religious tests and demanding loyalty oaths to determine who is and is not truly “American”?

Kash Patel, a former Trump administration adviser who is likely to return if Trump does, was giddy when he announced plans to go after perceived enemies in the media with criminal and civil prosecutions. His friendly podcast interviewer was pardoned-but-hardly-chastened Steve Bannon.

Imagine what disgraced and pardoned former Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn unleashed would do. Might he reactivate his plan to send the military to run elections again — after voting machines that delivered the “wrong” result have been seized?

Jaw-dropping? Maybe only to some.

That’s the scary part.

Carter funeral, Rustin biopic show lives getting deserved reexamination

In an ideal world, those who promote peace are heralded, those who elevate nonviolence held up as examples to imitate. In real life, not so much. In recent weeks, grown-up men challenging other grown-up men to fights have shown that acting out faux manliness and toughness is the quickest way to generate all-important buzz.

That doesn’t mean those who choose to follow the golden rule are unicorns. Throughout American history, time after time, leading with kindness demonstrates the truest image of strength.

This week, the rich and poor, the powerful and not-so, the old and young, are paying tribute to Rosalynn Carter, former first lady of the United States. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff, former presidents and first ladies attended a memorial service, paying respects to Rosalynn Carter’s life and achievements.

Does Speaker Johnson realize some of his best constituents are Black?

“Some of my best friends are Black” is a phrase that has become cliché, and deservedly so, since it is essentially a dodge. Folks uttering those words are looking for a free pass, credit for knowing what it means to be Black in America without doing the work.

By now, most people know that proximity does not equal understanding.

Most, but not all.

The new speaker of the House, GOP Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, has been known to showcase the Black child in his family’s life over two decades, usually when his empathy on matters of race needs a boost. Johnson controls the narrative. He doesn’t want to infringe on the privacy of a now-grown man with a family, he says, so he won’t go into too much detail.

Just enough, though, to show he gets it.

I have nothing against any person of any race who wants to foster, mentor or teach any young person in need of guidance. I applaud the realization that all parties on both sides of such relationships have opportunities to learn and grow. At the same time, I think it’s fair that reporters question just how formal the relationship between congressman and child has been, and why this child is conspicuously missing from family biographies and photographs.

I also wonder about any story cut from the same cloth as “The Blind Side,” with its simple tale of a wealthy white family “adopting” a deprived Black child, rescuing him from an ignoble fate and smoothing his way to football glory in college and the pros. That “just like a movie” story, which has been cited by Johnson as a template, was far more complicated, as the world has come to learn.

Johnson’s tale seems to be similar in many ways, with one particular problem common to these kinds of inspirational parables. They almost always place the white benefactor front and center, instead of the person who was a person before being molded by a Good Samaritan.

Speaker mayhem: When the rules are rigged, it breeds chaos

Just think what you would do if you got the chance to rig the rules in order to win the game every time. Wouldn’t you be tempted? Well, never let it be said that a politician with a seat in Congress let that opportunity roll by. When they have the power to pick their voters instead of letting voters pick them, few can resist.

However, that presents a problem.

What you eventually get is the chaos Americans watched before a slim majority of House Republicans in a closed-door vote chose Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana as their fourth nominee for speaker in three weeks before all GOP members, no matter how reluctantly, voted in favor of his ascension Wednesday on the House floor. Yet, the drama may be only beginning on the worst reality show ever. There is a government shutdown to avert next month and aid packages ready to award to allied countries at war.

For the House members who have been gumming up the works — the works being democracy — it doesn’t matter one bit. There will be no self-reflection or consequences because safely carved districts make most House members untouchable, and actually encourage bad behavior.