Tracey Olkus: As The World Turns

Illustration of grifter Donald Trump selling bibles by Thomcat23
The Grifter. Artwork by Thomcat23, Copyright 2024

Text by Tracey Olkus, Copyright 2024

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As The World Turns

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Conflict and climate change have brought about unprecedented migration from the Middle East, Africa, and Central America to Europe and the United States. The war in Ukraine , the war in Gaza, Iran , China, the overall normalization of totalitarianism, a growing distaste for western liberal ideals and mounting global antisemitism will undoubtedly have an effect on our elections in November. The global nature of today’s chaos is undeniable.

There are agents of chaos whose  relevance depends on maintaining conflict at any cost. At the top of this list (but not limited to it)are Hamas leadership , Netanyahu, Putin, and our very own Trump.  In my opinion, The Palestinians and the Israelis both have the worst leadership they have ever had. Hamas is a terrorist organization that brutalizes its own people.The leaders of Hamas have become billionaires grifting off the huge amount of foreign aid meant for their struggling people and started a brutal and unwinnable war (not that anyone wins in war). Their only post war plan is more chaos. Netanyahu’s blanket support for West Bank settlements, disregard for the  Palestinian Authority and miscalculation of the tremendous threat from Hamas caused incalculable damage. His attack on the Israeli judicial system brought on a sustained 40 week protest  which has begun again because of his disastrous handling of the war and continued detainment of Israeli hostages. He is facing fraud, bribery and breach of trust charges presently.  His iniquitous actions will see him headed to prison once the war is over. Putin, the puppet master , promises his people a return to the greatness of Imperial Russia. While he has become one of the richest men in the world, the average Russian’s standard of living has gone down. As a distraction he has to put  on a show of expanding the Empire at the grave expense of Ukraine and Russia’s own economy. Meanwhile, killing dissidents within and beyond Russia’s borders and using the Russian military as hired mercenaries in Syria and across Africa. If Trump is a clown show, it’s the John Wayne Gacy type. He has turned the Republican party into a cult of partisan hysteria that seriously threatens the legitimacy of Democratic values and norms. Never before have we had a presidential contender so hell bent on destroying western style liberal democracy with his promise to be a dictator, to jail opponents, to turn back hard won rights,and not just to abandon our European allies but also to encourage attacks from their Russian adversary. 

For these men, these agents of chaos, peace means disappearing into the dustbin of history. They rely on each other’s existence to maintain their own power. Hamas needs Bibi. Bibi needs Hamas. Putin and Trump need each other. And they all need the war in Gaza to rage on.

I  think that all of this is connected to a global rise in totalitarianism that goes beyond these players  .I am starting to believe that the Israeli and Palestinian people are simply pawns being used in an international game of chess where the goal is to extinguish the prevailing ideals of western democracy. This would explain why we are forced to focus on one tragedy and ignore others -like  the hundreds of thousands killed in ongoing wars in Syria and Yemen.The first step in this game is to create a nebulous enemy that serves as a boogieman for both the Right and the Left. The next step is stoking a deep political cynicism leading people  to disenfranchise themselves through apathy. This is where the triangulation of authoritarianism, democracy, and antisemitism comes into play.

In the US we like to break down current events into simplistic story lines where there are easy to differentiate “good actors” and  “bad actors”. The war in Ukraine seemed like an easy narrative;  An average guy (Zellensky) uses Democracy and the power of the vote  to defeat a corrupt oligarch. Then he courageously leads his country in an  existential battle  against a sinister foe who targets unarmed civilians and bombs their schools, hospitals, apartment buildings. The cherry on top is that Zellensky is jewish and the progeny of holocaust survivors.This story spoke to Americans. We love the David vs Goliath, oppressed vs oppressor story. 

 

Israel’s  predictable extreme response to the savage attacks on October 7th allowed  far right players to flip the script and present Jews worldwide not as David but rather as the monstrous Goliath, the oppressors not the oppressed. The story fits perfectly into old antisemitic tropes of  Jewish world domination and blood libel. And that fast- the Ukraine story disappears and the war in Gaza goes on a never ending news cycle fanning the flames of  ethnic and religious hatred.. . 

 Republicans have been hell bent on eroding if not completely erasing the major tenets of Liberal democracy. American Jews have been solidly aligned with these core values and strongly supportive of the Democratic Party. Republicans needed something to split the jewish vote and neutralize that powerful Democratic support system. Republicans also needed to fathom a spectre that would turn away from the Democratic Party, the very people that stand to gain from those Liberal ideals- namely Progressives, people of color, the LGBTQ community and  young voters in general. Republicans desperately need people to be so thoroughly distracted that they forget about losing their own reproductive rights, they forget about book bans and attacks on the LGBTQ community, they forget about disappearing DEI and voting rights,  they forget about the existential climate change crisis, forget about gun violence ,etc.These things would have to happen in advance of the 2024 presidential election. There are more registered Democrats than registered Republicans so a combination of gerrymandering , deflection, and the good ole’ “Divide and conquer” strategy would be  needed to allow the Republicans to snatch power. 

Left leaning Democrats are encouraged through social media and memes to turn their backs on their party. They are encouraged to believe  that all of the candidates are the same ( nothing could be further from the truth). The best scenario is a choice between the lesser of two evils so why bother voting at all . Republicans hope this group can be distracted from the important issues that affect their lives now and into the future.Their anti Israel sentiment has increasingly resembled straightforward antisemitism. And remember Jews embody the essence of Liberal democratic ideals so the left is being swayed to see the center of their own party (not the Republicans) as the enemy.  As we get closer to the election we are seeing printed sings decrying  “Genocide Joe”  -a name that seems to be sprung from the head of Donald Trump himself. 

 T.S. Elliott said , “between the idea and the reality is the shadow”. This is where American Jews are now. Former allies are now hostile – with anti war protestors becoming increasingly supportive of Hamas -even carrying signs that say “Rape Is Resistence”. There have been calls for boycotts of Jewish owned businesses, harassment of jewish students, and vandalism of jewish institutions. Republicans, are trying to capitalize on this. They point to the protestors as a sign that the Democratic party has exiled the Jews. Trump recently made a thinly veiled threat , “liberal Jews voted to destroy America.” (by supporting Democratic candidates and causes) ” Let’s hope you learned from your mistake.”.  Nick Fuentes, the untempered right wing extremist podcaster  who promotes putting the US government under authoritarian “Catholic Taliban rule” did not mince words when he  recently called for the execution of “perfidious Jews” as soon as Trump is re-elected. I never thought I would see anything like this. 

Against all odds, and to my utter surprise, Biden ,on the other hand, has been a great president. Our economy has boomeranged back. The stock market is hot. People are working. Wages have gone up. Restaurants are packed. Manufacturing is returning to the US, Infrastructure is being overhauled. And student debt relief has started to trickle in.  But this is the boring business of the Democratic  legislative process. We are not going to see memes with Pete Buttigieg singing JT’s “Cry me a river, build a bridge, and get over it”. And I worry that it’s the memes that move people to vote. 

I think that the Democrats are counting on women, black , and LGBTQ  voters to be motivated by the devastating reversal on reproductive rights and  attacks on DEI programs and LGBTQ rights and generally by a concern for the planet. That really should be enough but I don’t think it is. They also think that the average person is paying attention to the fact that things seem to be working well right now. But good news doesn’t sell as fast as bad news. I really hope that the jewish Democratic block stays strong. I really hope that women remember how essential reproductive rights are to every single aspect of their health and wellbeing and how dangerous a Trump presidency would be.  And I really hope  the anti Israel protesters do not hand over their future to an authoritarian by throwing their vote away over this issue.   Apathy could be the critical deciding factor in November. Historically speaking, increased antisemitism comes with an  uptick in conspiracy theories being taken as fact and an easier acceptance of authoritarian rule.  It seems the whole world is trending in this direction.  The entire Arab world is run by dictators. China, Russia and Belarus have brutal  dictators. Poland, Holland, Italy and Turkey now have far right wing governments. France is teetering on the edge. I’m sure I am missing many more here but this cosmic shift has my hair standing on end. And I have never wanted to be completely wrong about anything as I do now.

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Stylist Tracey Olkus photographed for The Vixens Series by Tony Ward
Tracey Olkus. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2024

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

For almost two decades, Tracey Olkus  has been transforming faces and elevating styles from her private studio in Philadelphia. Specializing in everything from everyday glam to commercial shoots to TV and film. 

 
Tracey’s artistic interests extend beyond the chair. With a passion for costuming, she crafts bespoke headdress designs available through commissioned works.  
 
As the curator of The Performance Salon, Tracey provides a platform for emerging and established artists to showcase their talents in an intimate setting. From musicians, to thespians, writers to chefs, The Performance Salon has become a hub for artistic expression with performances that leave audiences mesmerized.
 
But Tracey’s interests go beyond her professional pursuits . A dedicated patron of the arts and the finer things in life, she enjoys hosting extravagant dinner parties and whimsical camping trips…often simultaneously.
 
When it is time to escape, Tracey can be found exploring the world, talking to strangers, and collecting stories from every corner of the globe. And along the way, she is most happy to have has amassed an eclectic collection of friends that share her passion for the extraordinary.

Mikel Elam: Today is a New Day

Mixed media artwork by the great Mikel Elam for Tony Ward Studio
Artwork by Mikel Elam, Copyright 2024

Text by Mikel Elam, Copyright 2024

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Today is a New Day

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Today is a new day . This is part of my studio practice. I try to just keep going and exploring new avenues often. Don’t get me wrong; I use my best judgement as of today. However if I grow; I might even like yesterday’s actions . Although never any regrets. I am only making decisions on what I know at that time.  My core, my foundation are and will always be rooted in positive actions. However, being human is not always constant . We carry baggage and pain.  We also carry wonderful moments. I’ve learned if I am about to be negative in emotions I should stop – and take a deep breath, give thanks to The Divine for my existence and then whatever it was I was feeling will fade. I use art as a metaphor for life. Perhaps as a visual artist I recognize this as a gift and my unique connection to the universe . We all have gifts and shifting times is inevitable. Today is a new day.

About The Artist: Mikel Elam was born in Philadelphia. He attended the University of the Arts receiving his BFA in painting. He also attended the School of the Visual Arts in New York. He has been showing his paintings in numerous gallery spaces nationally and internationally for the last 25 years. Mikel recently exhibited his work at the University of Pennsylvania’s, Annenberg School of Communications.

To learn more about Mikel Elam’s art work, link herehttps://tonywardstudio.com/gallery/mikel-elam-painter/

From Palace to Circus Tent: The Trumpian Odyssey and the Turkish Proverb

AI generated image of Mar-a-Lago.
AI generated illustration of Mar-a-Lago.

Text by ChatGBT

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Illustration by Dall-E

In the annals of political history, the rise and fall of leaders often mirror the wisdom encapsulated in ancient proverbs. The Turkish proverb, “When a clown moves into a palace, the clown doesn’t become a king. The palace turns into a circus,” seems eerily prophetic in the context of the tumultuous tenure of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States. This essay aims to dissect the applicability of this age-old adage to Trump’s presidency, marked by controversy, division, and a unique blend of political showmanship.

The Clown in the Palace:

Donald Trump’s entry into the political arena was unconventional, to say the least. A businessman and reality TV star, his campaign rhetoric and demeanor stood in stark contrast to the polished and measured approach traditionally associated with presidential candidates. As the proverb suggests, Trump did not transform into a conventional “king” upon assuming office. Instead, the White House witnessed an unprecedented transformation into a political circus, replete with sensationalism, bombastic tweets, and an unapologetic disregard for established norms.

The Circus Unleashed:

From the outset, Trump’s presidency bore the hallmarks of a spectacle. His unfiltered communication style on social media became a defining feature, often overshadowing policy discussions. Tweets served as his preferred mode of communication, bypassing traditional channels and capturing the attention of both supporters and detractors alike. The White House, once a symbol of gravitas and diplomacy, transformed into a stage for a reality TV show where the leader of the free world played the role of a provocateur-in-chief.

One of the key aspects of the proverb is the idea that the clown does not become a king. In Trump’s case, his presidency was characterized by an unconventional and often chaotic leadership style. Rather than conforming to the traditional image of a presidential figure, he reveled in disruption, upending established norms in favor of a more confrontational approach. The result was a divided nation, where supporters lauded his authenticity, while critics decried his lack of decorum and diplomatic finesse.

The Palace in Disarray:

The Turkish proverb also implies that the palace, once a symbol of order and authority, descends into chaos with the entry of the clown. In the case of Trump, the chaos manifested in numerous ways. His administration witnessed high-profile resignations, internal power struggles, and a revolving door of key personnel. Policy decisions often seemed impulsive, driven more by the president’s whims than a coherent long-term strategy.

The circus atmosphere extended beyond the confines of the White House, permeating international relations and diplomatic engagements. Traditional alliances were tested, and global institutions were treated with skepticism. The palace, which once stood as a beacon of stability, found itself navigating treacherous waters as the circus of Trumpian politics unfolded on the global stage.

Impeachment and Legal Challenges:

The proverb’s reference to a clown moving into a palace not becoming a king finds resonance in the context of Trump’s impeachment proceedings. Impeached twice by the House of Representatives, Trump faced accusations of abuse of power, obstruction of Congress, and incitement of insurrection. The impeachment trials, while not resulting in conviction, underscored the tumultuous nature of his presidency and the erosion of the traditional dignity associated with the presidential office.

The legal challenges did not end with impeachment. The proverb’s allusion to a clown in the palace turning it into a circus is further exemplified by the numerous legal battles Trump faced post-presidency. From tax evasion investigations to allegations of financial misconduct, the former president found himself entangled in legal troubles, reinforcing the perception of a leader who, far from becoming a king, left a trail of legal controversies in his wake.

The Legacy of the Circus:

As the Trump era came to a close, the aftermath revealed a nation deeply divided and a political landscape forever altered. The proverb’s warning against the transformation of a palace into a circus serves as a cautionary tale for future leaders and citizens alike. The circus atmosphere introduced during Trump’s presidency left an indelible mark on American politics, raising questions about the durability of democratic institutions and the role of personality in shaping political discourse.

The Turkish proverb encapsulates the idea that the entrance of a clown into a position of power does not elevate the clown but rather transforms the once-stately palace into a circus. In the case of Donald Trump, his presidency challenged established norms, reshaped political discourse, and left a lasting impact on the American political landscape. Whether viewed through the lens of impeachment, legal challenges, or the divisive rhetoric that characterized his time in office, the Turkish proverb offers a poignant reflection on the Trumpian odyssey and its implications for the future of American democracy.

Alexei Navalny: The Silencing of a Dissident

Illustration of martyred Russian dissident Alexei Navalny by Thomcat23
Alexei Navalny. Artwork by Thomcat23. Copyright 2024

Text by Claude.ai

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Alexei Navalny: The Silencing of a Dissident

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Edited by Tony Ward

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The sudden death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny while imprisoned in a penal colony has sent shockwaves around the world. Navalny’s wife has accused the Russian government of murdering the prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin. While the details are still emerging, there are several plausible reasons why the Kremlin may have wanted Navalny dead.

First and foremost, Navalny posed a political threat to Putin’s autocratic rule. As Russia’s most prominent opposition activist, Navalny uncovered high-level corruption and mobilized mass protests against the Putin regime. His imprisonment on trumped-up charges last year was widely seen as an attempt to silence him. But even from behind bars, Navalny remained a vocal critic, accusing Putin of amassing illicit wealth and calling for free and fair elections. His very existence challenged the authoritarian status quo.

Second, Navalny’s murder eliminates a potential future challenger to Putin. Recent constitutional changes allow Putin to stay in power until 2036, but Navalny made no secret of his own presidential ambitions. As a charismatic, anti-corruption campaigner with a large youth following, Navalny was seen by many as the one figure capable of ending Putin’s decades-long dominance. Taking him off the political chessboard removes a significant obstacle to Putin clinging to power indefinitely.

Additionally, Navalny’s death sends an ominous warning to other opposition voices inside Russia. The brazen killing of the country’s top dissident in state custody demonstrates the extremes to which Putin will go to maintain control and crush dissent. Other activists may now think twice before speaking out, wary of meeting a similar fate. The silencing of Navalny is aimed at consolidating the Kremlin’s authoritarian grip on power.

While Putin denies any involvement in Navalny’s death, it fits with a long history of political murders under his watch. From high-profile defectors to investigative journalists, many of the president’s ardent critics have turned up dead under suspicious circumstances. Navalny himself was poisoned with a nerve agent in 2020 in an assassination attempt he blames on Putin. A state-sanctioned killing is certainly within the Russian security apparatus’s capabilities.

The full truth likely won’t emerge anytime soon, as the Kremlin moves swiftly to suppress an independent investigation. But the timing and circumstances of Navalny’s sudden demise raise serious questions about the Russian government’s culpability. By lethally silencing an opponent, Putin snuffs out a force for reform – and democracy itself becomes the next casualty.

 
 
 

Nefertari Williams: Tim Scott OUR Black Man – Not yours!

Illustration of Senator Tim Scott Republican of South Carolina
Senator Tim Scott. Artwork by Thomcat23 Copyright 2024

Text by Nefertari Williams, Copyright 2024

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Tim Scott OUR Black Man – Not yours!

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This is an opinion piece so I will go easy. To understand my perspective you will have to learn a few things that are just truths within the black community. Colorism exists. Since we were enslaved individuals we were told and we watched as the Plantation master would treat the lighter skinned enslaved blacks better than the darker skinned enslaved blacks (in some cases they were his own children after he would rape his enslaved girls and women). This unfortunate “benefit” has been a mental barrier within our community although it does seem in some situations that companies and even ad agencies find lighter skinned blacks more palatable.

Another truth that you must know about some black men who grew up by a single black mother – I repeat “SOME” – become resentful towards their black mothers if their lives were troublesome when they were children. These men sometimes even turn against their entire community they didn’t have pleasant experience’s growing up in due to poverty, teasing, bullying etc.

Ok this one may be a bit controversial. Some of our black men who have experienced at least one of the aforementioned situations seem to be easily indoctrinated into the thinking differently then they may have been raised to think while attending black churches or by their low income earning black mothers. This seems to ring true if the black man has witnessed people who looked differently, acted differently as high income earners equating their value to their earring potential. With this way of thinking, that would mean that a disabled wise man with strong values who had dozens of children at his feet as he taught them life lessons, as worthless unless he found a way to monetize this simple kind act. While those of us who were taught that the value of a person is based on the content of his character.

All of these words are a prerequisite for you to understand how a man like Tim Scott (A Black Republican Senator From South Carolina) can “become”.

THE MENTOR

When Tim Scott was growing up he was raised by a single mother who was a nursing aide  (under paid which is a proven and common issue within the black community) who had to work long hours So Tim was left alone often. He moved around a lot as a kid. When he was a teen he worked at a theatre. When he became hungry he would go to the local Chic- Filet and purchase fries to eat. The owner of  the restaurant took notice of Tim and asked him why he would only buy fries and Tim told him “because they are cheaper”. One day after a few encounters the man went to the theater where Tim Scott worked and gave him a chicken sandwich.

Tim appreciated the generosity shown by the man and chose to accept the life lessons that this man would teach (the man passed away from a sudden heart attack while Tim was still in his teens) 

Tim’s mentors name was John Moniz. He went on  to teach Tim about Christian conservative values strongly expressing the importance of giving.

THE INDOCTRINATION

By teaching Tim that giving leads to receiving, Tim started to question his life. Maybe the reason that the people in his life didn’t have as much as his wealthy mentor was because they didn’t give enough. The mentor never mentioned to Tim how his mother was under paid for her job as a nurses aide which was a systemic problem. He also failed to mention that the hundreds of years that Blacks gave to the country free labor was what caused the country to be the super power that is  today and most “conservatives” vote to make sure that their conservatism is mostly aimed towards restricting funds towards urban schools, unequal lending practices and so much more.

Although Tim was born to married parents who were together for the first 7 years of his life it is described that Tims parents were of the working class impoverished (Btw – there should be no such thing Tim Scott. If you work you should be able to live).

TIM SCOTT’S SOCIAL LIFE

I hate to say this is typical of a black man who has experienced the situations that I have discussed in paragraphs one and two because I hate implying that any group is a monolith- but it is walks like a duck…..

When these two factors meet up I have witnessed the black man tends to avoid dating black women. Maybe he tried and was shot down, maybe he feels “inadequate” (I’ve heard that one before). But as so many in the community have guessed, Tim Scott is now engaged to a woman who is not black. She is white like his mentor was.

So maybe a white woman will understand all that he has learned and will be a better partner because he now knows the secret to being successful in America? Well, no because just as much as I don’t like putting black men in a box I don’t like to with black women. You can find a black woman from all walks of life right here in America. To each their own I say.

Why am I writing about the ONLY black republican Senator, failed presidential candidate and seemingly a new pin cushion for Trump. I was posed the question- what does the black community think of Tim Scott.

I asked a prominent DJ of New York City his opinion on this matter and he simply said – he’s a sell out.

I’m not so sure it’s that simple. I believe there are several factors at play which I have listed.

But here is my overall opinion of Senator Tim Scott:

Come home Tim Scott – Come back to the love of your minority community. We know you may not have been treated well. We all have been bullied a little but we dusted ourselves off and “became”.  Ok so you may not have the Barack Obama swagger, or the Denzel Essence nor the Edris Finesse. That doesn’t mean you are not loved. You are no longer that little poor boy who didn’t have money for a chic filet sandwich. We watched as you stood on stage behind Trump as he called you out just to humiliate you in New Hampshire. It will never stop. You deserve better my brother. Come home. We love you!
Sent from my iPhone

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About The Author:  Nefertari Williams is a jewelry maker, activist for women with heart disease and the mother of five beautiful children.  She lives in Willingboro, New Jersey.  To access additional articles by Nefertari Williams link here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/nefertari-williams-the-epidemic-of-loneliness-part-2/