Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2020 Issue

America at a Crossroads

This is not a political statement. Many of you do not appreciate political thoughts on a rare book website, and that is understandable. This is not about politics. It is way more important. It's about America. America is at a crossroads today, and the danger is even greater than it was at the time of the Civil War. Our freedom, our democratic institutions, are at risk. Those of us who have collected Americana, including some of its founding documents, may recognize it sooner than others, but it is now readily visible to all. When your way of life, your nation itself, is in danger, everyone has to take a stand. Otherwise, we will lose it all.


There is much about the current President that is frightening to those who love America, truly love America and its ideals. There is the setting of American against American, teaching us to fear each other, embrace those who would destroy us. There is the turning of America against its traditional allies, those who fought with us against tyrannical regimes and through the long Cold War against Russian Communism. Now we demean our friends and support our enemies. Divide and conquer. Attack our free press so much that today people no longer recognize real journalism; they can't tell the difference between today's Edward R. Murrows and Walter Cronkites and some America-hating hacker in Russia posting lies on Facebook. It's an agenda so unamerican it seems to have been made in Moscow. No wonder we are so lost.


Now a threat greater than any other has arisen, a threat to our democratic electoral system. President Trump has made unfounded claims that the ballots will be a “disaster,” that ballots mailed in when Covid 19 lurks in public places like voting booths are fake, despite a long history of integrity with absentee ballots. It's an excuse to overturn the results of our democratic election, nothing else. Without a shred of evidence, he claimed 3 million votes were illegally cast in 2016, so he could turn his 2.8 million popular vote defeat into a 200,000 vote margin of victory. If there were no mailed-in ballots this time, he would make that or another claim again. Nothing is beyond his ability to find excuses to declare the election fraudulent so he can remain in power.


Now, a new method of overturning the people's vote has been revealed by the press, from party sources. Unknown to many, the Constitution did not originally guarantee an election by the people. The founders feared too much participatory democracy in a time when democracy was untried and unknown. The Constitution allowed the state legislatures to determine who will represent that state in the electoral college voting. Every state has turned that authority over to the voters since the 19th century, but a specious constitutional argument may be made that the state legislature can still make that choice. So, for example, the voters of a swing state like Pennsylvania might vote for Trump's opponent, but its Republican-controlled legislature could select electors who will vote for Trump instead. As the President seeks to ram through another Justice pliable to his wishes, the odds of a successful challenge in the Supreme Court to stop such a coup d'etat becomes more remote.


You may think these legislators would never do such a thing. That would put party above country. You need only look to statements condemning Trump in the most vehement of terms they made during the run-up to the 2016 election, followed by their fawning devotion today, to understand their greatest concern is pleasing his base, not their integrity. To expect them to place principle above self-interest now would be to assume history will not repeat itself. Isn't that the definition of “insanity?”


What will an unleashed Trump presidency look like, one no longer limited by reelection concerns? Those who expect a beneficent dictatorship better beware. He has already told us what he wants, and it is only that which benefits himself. Health care? He promised something better than “Obamacare,” but in four years, never produced even a plan worse than “Obamacare,” let alone one that was better. Nothing. Meanwhile, his lawyers fight in the Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act. They tried once before and lost on a 5-4 vote. The fifth vote was by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whom he will replace with a Justice hostile to protecting people for whom health insurance is otherwise out of reach. If you have a preexisting condition, your coverage is gone. Without legal protection, your insurance company can't wait to dump you. The same goes for young people up to age 26 still on their parents' insurance policy as jobs providing coverage are rapidly disappearing. Once he eliminates Medicaid and Obamacare, how far behind can Medicare and Social Security be?


Fairness, equal rights, peaceful race relations? Forget it. This summer, we saw a rising awareness by the white population of the unfair treatment of people of color after the George Floyd killing. Many became determined to finally rid America of its “original sin.” That enlightenment, our most recent “Era of Good Feeling,” will be gone like the Arab Spring under a President-for-Life who uses hatred and racial division to advance his selfish interests.


Protection against pandemics? We have seen his performance. The President knew how dangerous it was but covered it up, having no idea what to do and fearful voters would hold him responsible. Instead, he convinced people it was all exaggerated while tens of thousands of Americans needlessly died from want of a plan like virtually every other nation implemented. He doesn't care.


How about the economy? Trump is running on that issue. We have witnessed the greatest economic collapse and unemployment since the Great Depression under his watch, and he believes this is his strongest card. Sure, he will blame it on the virus, but other Presidents, from Franklin Roosevelt to Barack Obama, faced economic crises and took action to mitigate and cure them. Trump does nothing but remind us how good things used to be. Yes, they went well when he inherited a growing economy with decreasing unemployment from his predecessor, where he could get by on cruise control. Once faced with a crisis, like Roosevelt and Obama, he had no clue what to do. Other nations have not suffered like America, but America has become a model for failure under Trump.


There are many other terrible things emerging from this presidency. The constitutionally mandated post office is having the quality of its service degraded simply to make it difficult for people fearful of the coronavirus to vote by mail. He understands that if those who believe Covid 19 is real are discouraged from voting, those unafraid of venturing to public polls mask-free because they have been convinced Covid 19 is a fake created by Dr. Fauci and the Democrats, will control the election. What happens to these risk-takers later on is of no concern to Trump.


Coarseness of conversation has become the norm. Listen to the Billy Bush tape again to see how much Trump respects women. That could be your wife, daughter, even mother he is talking about. Try to explain why you supported this person for the highest office in the land to your daughter or granddaughter when she gets a little older. She will ask.


Remember Charlottesville? That's where Trump pronounced that many white supremacists and Nazis were “fine people.” He has brought them out of the shadows to respectability never afforded such people by any other American leader. When we were young, there was a Republican President named Dwight Eisenhower. He led Americans to victory over the Nazis in World War II and insisted on going to the concentration camps so he could see for himself what Trump's “fine people” did. President Eisenhower used many words to describe the Nazis. “Fine people” was never among them.


Meanwhile, he denigrates American service people as “losers” and “suckers.” He attacks John McCain for his service as a prisoner of war, five years under unspeakable conditions to protect ingrates like Trump. Evidently, he imagines his suffering was greater, making the painful walk to his father's office building each morning despite the horror of imaginary bone spurs.


While he denigrates those who serve, he praises his “irregular” army, self-styled militias who are anything but “well-regulated.” We have seen them with their semi-automatic rifles on city streets, in their camouflage uniforms seemingly unaware that forest camouflage doesn't provide much cover on a city street. The Kenosha shooter, who killed two civilians on the streets of that city, now portrays himself as an American patriot defending our right to protect our communities. These people are not playing defense, they are on offense. Trump, who attacked McCain and our soldiers, had no such unkind words for this killer. He was not the first so inspired or encouraged by Trump's divisive rhetoric. People in places like El Paso and Pittsburgh have experienced Trump acolytes or others encouraged by his rhetoric with powerful weapons. They won't be the last. Americans are unfamiliar with government-sanctioned paramilitaries but Europeans aren't. They have known them. They called them the “brown shirts.”


Speaking of military-grade weapons in public places, Trump has steadfastly promoted their presence. Too often, we find them being used in schools, malls, clubs, public streets, even outdoor country music concerts. He does nothing. What other nation loves its guns more than its children?


All of this only looks back and doesn't begin to address the rising issues the nation faces. Income inequality is now much greater than in the rest of the Western world and it is growing. The Land of Opportunity is a land of opportunity for fewer and fewer people. There is room for a few of the super-wealthy. There will be another $200 billion-dollar man like Jeff Bezos, maybe one worth even more. There will be a skilled middle class, but a shrinking one. Then there will be a growing struggling class, people left behind, angry with what life has dealt them. Throughout history they often turned to despots and would-be despots like Trump. It seldom ends well.


Older folks may think there are opportunities for the young if they work hard, but hard work won't help if there simply aren't enough good jobs to go around. Astonishingly, today over half of all young adults age 20-30 still live with their parents. Young people don't want to live with their parents, but they have no choice as opportunities shrink and housing costs rise. They are getting angry. Good jobs have become a game of musical chairs. There are still some chairs left, but everyday, another gets pulled off the floor. What will Trump do? Cut more taxes for the wealthy and benefits for the poor and middle class, increasing wealth disparity and decreasing opportunities for everyone else. We are sitting on a powder keg, and one day it will explode if we don't diffuse it as people turn more and more to the political fringes for salvation.


What we face today is the most important election of our and are ancestors' lifetimes. It may be our, our children's, our grandchildren's last election. Some may say we are being alarmist. This is America. We are a civilized country. It could never happen here. Yes it can. It can happen anywhere so long as good people look the other way and convince themselves it cannot happen here. Freedom is still not free. Eternal vigilance is still its price. We need to take a stand. We need to make our voices heard, even if it is difficult, even if it might hurt our friendships and businesses. This is more important. And whatever insults you may endure, you are also protecting those who attack you, the Trump supporters whom he refers to in private as “disgusting people,” and their children, as much as your own. You are an American, you are a patriot, and your misled fellow citizens need you now more than they understand. Thank you.


There is one thing we can do right now to protect our freedom. Countless brave Americans gave their lives to protect your right to vote. Appreciate their sacrifice. Vote. Don't let anyone stop you. You don't want to live in one of those countries Trump idolizes, like Putin's Russia or Kim's North Korea. If they try to take away your democracy, your heritage, your America, refuse to let them. It belongs to you.

Posted On: 2020-10-01 10:10
User Name: psps

As a Brit, I find your plight tragic. You put your finger on it when you talked about 'good people looking the other way': that has been happening in America for decades now. It is why you have Trump today. Rising inequality, racism, violence, guns, drugs, deep poverty - and all the 'good people', the right-thinking, decent Americans who pride themselves on their values, and who ARE good people, have looked the other way.
May God help you all.

Posted On: 2020-10-01 12:00
User Name: heas8994

Truly enjoyed and extremely soundly written. Most Americans are not a ware of the "big lie"
spewed by Hitler do you see a similar pattern being spewed today? Democracy is truly
Bruce can I copy your comments ti share with non book people.? Mike H.

Posted On: 2020-10-01 12:12
User Name: Janddgray

Bruce and Michael,
Thank you both for taking the time to write this. Having just re-read H.P. Krauss' Rare Book Saga
and spending most of my time reading History, I too know the unthinkable is now (always) Possible. Challenging the legitimacy of the process of voting, IS THE DISMANTLING of Democracy . Our current president does not want to represent ALL of the people of this country, rather he wants to disenfranchise ALL those he does not need . WE Have no other recourse than to vote him out and those who support him.
James Gray

Posted On: 2020-10-01 14:01
User Name: greengyrene199

Florida Veterans for Common Sense (FLVCS) has produced a series of road signs beginning with urging people to register to vote, then to vote by mail, then increasing the direct assault on the Trumperor and his Trumpanzees--the latest one says "Trump Put Down Veterans Calling Us Losers and Suckers--Let's Put Him Out of Office." Here's advice from FOR on dealing with a coup, if and when it happens: https://wagingnonviolence.org/2020/09/10-things-you-need-to-know-to-stop-a-coup/

Posted On: 2020-10-01 14:32
User Name: eav

Here in Europe we are concerned about what's happening in America, wondering whether you are on the brink of a new civil war. After WWII when the nazi's and the Italian fascists were defeated thanks to Franklin D. Roosevelt and thanks to many American soldiers who gave their lifes for our freedom, we realised that new wars only could be avoided if the European countries would cooperate, if the people of this continent would respect and accept each other and that hatred only could lead to a new war.
All men are created equal but, unfortunately, not all persidential candidates are when it comes how to serve the country best. I hope the American people will be united again one day in the near future.

Posted On: 2020-10-01 18:50
User Name: arcticana

EXACTLY! Vote for the government we need, not the government we have! It's the only solution . . .

Geoff B.

Posted On: 2020-10-04 17:53
User Name: Bkwoman

Hi Bruce and Mike; Excellent article.
If tRump wins again (though he didn't really win the first time), I see a very dark time coming for America. It is tempting to threaten to leave, but we are too old. We live in a small town in California which is pretty liberal, but we have our Trump-eters and they scare the hell out of me. If tRump wins, it could mean the end of free elections. The most important thing we can do, as you said, is for us to stop looking the other way, open our eyes! get off our backsides, and vote. Every eligible voter should use his/her given right to vote in every election, most especially in this one. Make sure your ballot gets to the right place. Even if you are a Republican, surely you can see what is going on in the tRump White House. Stand up to the man and vote against him. You can go back to being a GOOD Republican when he's out of office. We don't want another Civil War here, we should have learned that, and we should have learned what Nazi tactics will do to a civilization, and those are the things we are facing if we don't get the White House under control for the people and by the people again. Best Regard, Karen

Posted On: 2020-10-05 11:20
User Name: mbook

Hi you state; This is not a political statement. & Vote. Don't let anyone stop you. You don't want to live in one of those countries Trump idolizes, like Putin's Russia or Kim's North Korea.
From a Brit in the UK, everything about Trump during this election is political, 2nd Trump idolizes, Putin's Russia or Kim's North Korea. Because they are dictatorships, and thats what Trump wants for himself. Voting does help, but like the UK, the leaders of the main parties are mostly not fit to do the job. The main difference as i see it. Trump is not interesting in facts, they do not help him, and he is only interested in himself and his family. God help us all, (even though i do not believe in god).

Posted On: 2020-10-06 09:53
User Name: jdatkins

Thank you for this cogently true and thus frightening summary. As with other commentators from Europe, I/we see here also the growth of ultra-right/fascist leaning forces. They get their oxygen from people like Trump, Farage in the UK, Orban in Hungary, and many more – including passive conservatives who are prepared walk away from their roots in democracy. As well as defending democracy we have to redefine and advance the idea of services by the people for the people – health, education, transport, and welfare support for those in need. So many now suffering the consequences of COVID and wider economic decline have been and are consistent tax payers not seeing the benefit of their contributions to society. As often historically these are ripe conditions for populism and worse. The centre-left when coming to government in Europe in the past decades have squandered opportunities to lay new foundations for greater equity and justice. We have our own elections to seek to remedy this but are watching with apprehension the situation you now face.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Jeschke Jadi
    Auction 151
    Saturday, April 27, 2024
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 546. Christoph Jacob Trew. Plantae selectae, 1750-1773.
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 70. Thomas Murner. Die Narren beschwerung. 1558.
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 621. Michael Bernhard Valentini. Museum Museorum, 1714.
    Jeschke Jadi
    Auction 151
    Saturday, April 27, 2024
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 545. Sander Reichenbachia. Orchids illustrated and described, 1888-1894.
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 1018. Marinetti, Boccioni, Pratella Futurism - Comprehensive collection of 35 Futurist manifestos, some of them exceptionally rare. 1909-1933.
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 634. August Johann Rösel von Rosenhof. 3 Original Drawings, around 1740.
    Jeschke Jadi
    Auction 151
    Saturday, April 27, 2024
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 671. Jacob / Picasso. Chronique des Temps, 1956.
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 1260. Mary Webb. Sarn. 1948. Lucie Weill Art Deco Binding.
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 508. Felix Bonfils. 108 large-format photographs of Syria and Palestine.
    Jeschke Jadi
    Auction 151
    Saturday, April 27, 2024
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 967. Dante Aligheri and Salvador Dali. Divina Commedia, 1963.
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 1316. Tolouse-Lautrec. Dessinateur. Duhayon binding, 1948.
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 1303. Regards sur Paris. Braque, Picasso, Masson, 1962.
  • Fonsie Mealy’s
    Rare Book & Collectors Sale
    24th April 2024
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: McCarthy (Cormac). Cities of the Plain, N.Y., 1998, First Edn., signed on hf. title; together with Uncorrected Proof and Uncorrected Advance Reading Copies, both signed by the Author. €800 to €1,000.
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: Stanihurst (Richard). De Rebus in Hibernia Gestis, Libri Quattuor, sm. 4to Antwerp (Christi. Plantium) 1584. First Edn. €525 to €750.
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: Fleischer (Nat.) Jack Dempsey The Idol of Fistiana, An Intimate Narrative, N.Y., 1929, First Edn. Signed on f.e.p. by Rocky Marciano. €400 to €600.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Rare Book & Collectors Sale
    24th April 2024
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: Smith - Classical Atlas, Lond., 1820. Bound with, Smiths New General Atlas .. Principal Empires, Kingdoms, & States throughout the World, Lond. 1822. €350 to €500.
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: Rare Auction Catalogues – 1856: Bindon Blood, of Ennis, Co. Clare: Sotheby & Wilkinson. €320 to €450.
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: [Mavor (Wm.)] A General Collection of Voyages and Travels from the Discovery of America to the Commencement of the Nineteenth Century, 28 vols. (complete) Lond., 1810. €300 to €400.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Rare Book & Collectors Sale
    24th April 2024
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: Mc Carthy (Cormac). Outer Dark, N.Y. (Random House)1968, Signed by Mc Carthy. €250 to €300.
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: Three signed works by Ted Huges - Wodwo, 1967; Crow from the Life and Songs of the Crow, 1970; and Tales from Ovid, 1997. €200 to €300.
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: The Garden. An Illustrated Weekly Journal of Horticulture in all its Branches, 7 vols. lg. 4to Lond. 1877-1880. With 127 colored plates. €200 to €300.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Rare Book & Collectors Sale
    24th April 2024
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: Procter (Richard A.) Saturn and its System: Containing Discussions of The Motion (Real and Apparent)…, Lond. 1865. First Edn. €160 to €220.
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: [Ashe] St. George, Lord Bishop of Clogher, A Sermon Preached to the Protestants of Ireland, now in London,... Oct. 23, 1712, London 1712. Second Edn. €130 to €180.
  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD
  • Leland Little, Apr. 26: First Edition of Piccolomini's De La Sfera del Mondo (The Sphere of the World), 1540.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: First Edition of Vellutello's Commentary on Petrarch, With Map, 1525.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: Finely Bound Definitive, Illustrated Edition of I Promessi Sposi, 1840.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: Rare First Edition of John Milton's Latin Correspondence, 1674.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: Giolito's Edition of Boccaccio's The Decamerone, with Bedford Binding, 1542.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: First Edition of the First Biography of Marie of the Incarnation, with Rare Portrait, 1677.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: First Aldine Edition of Volume One of Cicero's Orationes, 1540.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: First Edition of Bonanni's Illustrated Costume Catalogue, with Complete Plates, 1711.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: An Important Incunable, the First Italian Edition of Josephus's De Bello Judaico, 1480.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: First Edition of Jacques Philippe d'Orville's Illustrated Book of the Ruins of Sicily, 1764.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: An Incunable from 1487, The Contemplative Life, with Early Manuscript.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: Ignatius of Loyola's Exercitia Spiritualia, 1563.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions