On Friday, November 20, 2015 leading Republican Presidential candidate, billionaire Donald Trump, . . . → Read More: Trump Has Taken His Seat in the Pantheon of American Racists
On Friday, November 20, 2015 leading Republican Presidential candidate, billionaire Donald Trump, . . . → Read More: Trump Has Taken His Seat in the Pantheon of American Racists
Their ideas (Republican ideas) on race had slightly more leverage in the last two elections than their conservative views. The example of Obamacare consistently revealed the Krugman-cited “epistemic . . . → Read More: The Private Annual Public Pipeline
History allows its observers to put ideas into motion, to see patterns; to discover and track how ideas adapt and change for different purposes and new environments. You cannot . . . → Read More: History: The Spyglass of Politics
As President Obama demonstrates world class skills at building solid coalitions, from his Africa Summit, to financial embargoes against a variety of aggressor states to a far reaching trade agreement with 11 Asian countries, . . . → Read More: Single Incident Politics
In philosophy, where the ideas and logic that are mental models for appropriate acts and policy reside, a single person and a single idea have driven American elections since 2008—President Barack Obama and race. These two factors have influenced policy, changed political ethics, and revealed a new American challenge: a fight for truth and a new future opposed by bedfellows of special interests, wealth and hate. Conservative voters and candidates speak of freedom but really fight for power: to weaken the Presidency, the executive agenda, and seek to affirm the wrong and rich as the strong.
Votes are justified and driven by anger and fear. Every GOP official trumpets or complains the President’s agenda is driven by race, expense and incompetence. At state and national levels, elected officials claim every idea President Obama proposes is a threat to America and American lives (whether death panels, debt, immigration, Ebola, ISIL, food stamps). Every judgment and pronouncement is distorted by a lens colored with racial prejudice (labels of “buckwheat-in-chief,” posters of bones through Obama’s nose, nasty “nigger” jokes, lynched chairs swinging from nooses strung over tree limbs). The Democratic rearguard retreat in the last election reinforced these jaded reasons by not revealing their ridiculousness.
So political stupidity grew exponentially. In South Carolina, a retired school teacher loudly, publicly accused—in fact was assured and certain—the President attempted to explode Charleston with a nuclear strike during a military training exercise. Because of Obama’s orders, she claimed two generals retired. Rick Santorum stood stoically, listening, when he knew it was all a lie.
The oppositional conditioning is so pervasive that the opposition no longer cites the kinds of examples of myths and mistakes that Ronald Reagan famously employed. Now, officials declare the power of winning as the power to turn back, turn over, turn in, turn out, citing the actions and examples of progress that their change seeks to reverse.
Gay marriage. Out. Affirmative action. Ended. Rape. Harder to persecute. Taxes. Lower (for the rich!). Higher education. Cut. Education, K-12. Privatized, underfunded. Government services payments. Billions given away (ask Rahm about Chicago’s parking meters). Abortion. Denied. War. Endorsed. Air and water. Unregulated. Income. Stifled. Immigration. Unaddressed. Safety nets. Cuts lurking. Healthcare. Barack Obama. The source of all evil. Race. The source of all waste. Denial: “I am innocent of all blame.”
I recently realized a valuable lesson watching Jimmy Stewart westerns. The more the Native Americans defeated the cavalry and settlers who precipitated the attacks against them, the more they were hated, mistreated and dehumanized. With each victory, the natives were condemned for lacking honor and virtue, even when their efforts were in self-defense or intended to promote peace. As the Indians won, hate reached a fever pace and objectivity and morality were abandoned. Think: the Iran agreement being negotiated to halt its development of nuclear arms, hasn’t it attracted a rising swell of voices whose accusing judgment is based on a desire for power rather than justice?
Haven’t those same voices, in the name of security, created the outlines for a global and local alliance, well funded internationally by Sheldon Adelson, the modern counterpart of Augsburg’s Jakob Fugger or England’s Baring brothers for funding geocentric, xenophobic ruling alliances. Adelson’s work in building a supra-alliance that tacitly benefits the Chinese and that is a loose but well connected ideological cult of eugenics is deeply (and darkly!) rooted, a part of the history and world view of the family policies of the Koch brothers and their father, who marginalized and expressed stereotypes for global ethnic groups, and propped up ideas of ethnic superiority for European genes by pointing to individual gaps and the failures of social programs fighting sophisticated neo-colonial structures and directed wealth flow.
Barack Obama is their evidence of what happens when one slips through the cracks and refuses their bidding, and wins despite their sustained plans for his defeat and collapse, their desire for his being driven out of office and humiliated, his character and intellectual virtues destroyed, his humanity stripped without apology or defense. Continue reading Race As National Policy Potpourri
Let us not forget: the year will end with the Republican Speaker of the House giving his full support to a closet racist in the House leadership, who will hold the number three position, as Majority Whip. The Speaker issued a preemptive statement, intended to tamp down the growing furor over a speech the yet-to-be sworn Whip made ten years ago to a white supremacist organization’s convention, the group founded by his buddy and fellow politician, the former KKK Grand Wizard from Louisiana, David Duke.
Now, one speech doesn’t make you a racist. But one lie will. The new Whip has exceeded his quota. His lying about his ties to Duke and his speech make him a repeat offender. His lies include pretending not to know what the organization stood for. Does any politician at any level accept an invitation to speak without reviewing the goals, mission and agenda of the group before which he will appear? But more, Duke says the man soon to be the third highest ranking member of the House leadership knew exactly what the group stood for and knew of his own ties to its founding. So who is lying? The former Grand Wizard or the soon-to-be sworn Majority Whip?
Having renounced ten years late the goals and mission of the organization he voluntarily appeared before, the incoming Whip claimed higher ground, as a father, Catholic and leader. Then he supports voting rights, equal pay, Obamacare and raising the minimum wage? Well, no—but as a good Louisiana politician from a small, solid red district, not for racial reasons, but to preserve cost benefits for businesses, public fiscal integrity and personal liberty.
It’s hard to see the defense of liberty as offensive, or to abhor fiscal integrity and concern for small business. Surely, these positive goals are common to the American Promise and have little to do with race or racism, the ugliness of denying equal opportunity, restricting persons by color and ethnicity, and using the law for the economic advantage of a specific group.
There is the greatness of the Republican party: it has honed the most shameful of political practices into a narrative that omits race as it confesses its love of American’s greatest traditions: liberty, integrity, prosperity! Boehner often uses this narrative even as he adds an element of blame; but not this week: the Whip was absolved of all sins left unconfessed for ten years and felt the fresh splash of the Speaker’s absolution.
Those who heard the Speaker’s words witnessed what the writer Karoli (read her at Crooks and Liars.com) calls “flag-wrapped racism,” racism concealed by being buried in patriotic promises in which the actual implementation of ideas limits and restricts opportunities by race. Patriotic racism ignores cause and effect and overweighs the balance of gain and loss to the benefit of one race or group. It narrows participation rather than broadening the paths of opportunity.
By wrapping the presumptive Whip’s speech in the flag, issuing a proclamation of forgiveness, and extending the stiff right hand of political fellowship, Boehner is also saying race is no longer a game-changer; it is a forgivable indiscretion even when associations “accidentally” involve speaking to white supremacists, or when the indiscretions are discovered when they are ten years old—or whenever they are discovered—they can be overlooked if denied, and blame shifts to the whistle-blowers, media and political opponents for raising old news, moot issues, and the unfair practice of citing racial views and associations as a litmus test of character. Continue reading Race and the New Year
Witness Thoreau’s idea of civil disobedience at its unimagined worst: a Congress in rebellion against itself and its oath, whose continual looting has brought inattention and cynicism to the treasures carefully hidden and being lifted out of its ruins. The powerful have long been known for the benefits that can be reclaimed from the trough of moral morass. Pull out freedom; its leverage becomes an element of theft.
Before any great political theft, the ground must be made ready. Money must be put in in order for money to be taken out. Politics must reach beyond logic and ignore facts and details to ignite passion, a passion tied to fear and prejudice that becomes push-pull factors that block and bend the attractions of voters and drive their preferences. A push-pull factor that combines fear and prejudice into a powerful package is death.
Death is a common bedfellow of politics. Death is the political spear of politicians. Its push-pull offers the satisfactions of blood lust to followers and offers a palate of fear that dismantles opponents. Other than martyrs, death defines losers.
Socrates’ sentence of suicide is a part of the politics of the ancient Greeks. Crowds in the 1800s gathered in festive moods outside of London’s Newgate Prison for hangings as vendors set up shop for food and sold relics of the hangman’s ropes. In Charleston, during this period, the heads of convicted slaves were mounted on wood columns at the foot of the city’s entry bridges as a warning and assurance to all who passed. These few examples are among the many ways civilizations dealt death as punishment and tried to prime the social environment for political theft.
The use of African-American deaths in politics begins with the journey of the Middle Passage from Africa to America; bodies were jettisoned during the Atlantic crossings, and these deaths incited rebellion and despair—and a raft of insurance claims. Later, the enslaved were hunted and murdered at night by special horseback patrols. The Civil War brought the Fort Pillow massacre; the blood spilled by black Union troops turned the Mississippi red. At Ebenezer Creek, in December 1864, 30 miles from Savannah, the bodies from a refugee train killed by Wheeler’s Cavalry dammed the creek.
After the Civil War came the organized, methodical killing of KKK units across the South; then came the mob violence of lynchings in which bodies were hanged and burned. The violence caused black schoolteacher and former Civil War nurse Susan King Taylor to write in her reminiscences:
In 1923, a riot resulted in six blacks and two whites killed and destroyed the self-sufficient black town of Rosewood, Florida.
And then the Civil Rights movement came. It brought a new wave of white violence that targeted blacks: the deaths mounted, from the violent beating with a cotton weight that bashed in the skull and tore out the eye of visiting teenager Emmett Till, to the shooting on his porch of Mississippi NAACP President Medgar Evers, to the explosion that killed Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, four young girls attending Sunday school in a Birmingham Baptist church on September 15, 1963, to the three civil rights workers, James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Henry Schwerner, killed less than a year later in June 1964, to three college students in South Carolina, killed on campus by state police at South Carolina State in February 1968. The name of the college’s basketball arena memorializes Samuel Ephesians Hammond Jr., Delano Herman Middleton and Henry Ezekial Smith.
From 1882 to 1968, over 3,400 blacks were lynched, killed in anger and hate, without due process, murdered by mobs and individuals that got away scot-free. And last week, in a rally across from the White House, caught on an open microphone, the cry to hang Obama was seconded by a voice that said, “He wouldn’t be the first.”
Death and theft are not separate in politics, but in America, death has been the throwaway; it launches a political payload and drops away. Texas executions, school massacre (there has been a school shooting every five day, on average, since Newton), street violence; in recent days, the misuse of police authority has brought hundreds of thousands to the streets from New York and Chicago to Berkeley and San Francisco to the stadiums of pro sports, where outraged police officials have demanded apologies but have sent none of their own to the families grieving from police killings. Not a single card of sorrow for their loss, not an expression (except for Ferguson and New York) of compassion or sympathy.
Death is a muscle memory in black communities. Every local town has an incident etched in memory.
Yet the effect of the grief and the lost of the dead themselves are denied. The dead are blamed for being killed while unarmed, blamed for being choked to death, shot to death, lied about, blamed for disobedience, until the primal taste of the lynch mob fills the mouths of those who cannot find a way to say, “I’m sorry.”
What guides the killings, expanded now to a global stage (this week: Pakistan, Australia), is a culture that revels in its hidden impulses. This era has seen the world’s largest sustained impulse for wealth. The heads of state of African countries (Angola, Nigeria) are billionaires. Fines for illegal conduct by big banks in the US run into the billions. Russia, once the world’s great communist regime, has billionaires sitting in its parliament. China, a socialist nation, has the world’s second largest number of billionaires, after the US. The world’s richest person is a Mexican business mogul who controls much of Latin America’s telecommunications and cell phone business. The sovereignty of Argentina is being threatened by US Federal Court judgments made on behalf of hedge funds that own large bundles of Argentina’s defaulted debt; the country’s President flies commercial when she leaves the country; an Argentine navy ship was seized but returned when it docked in Africa.
Within the global culture that desires and celebrates wealth is an out-of-control ideal expressed as greed. Greed argues for shortcuts to wealth: not work hard and climb the ladder, but kill and steal. Greed flourishes where there is destabilization. Killing weakens the bonds of the society’s structure. Insurgencies are getting rich. ISIL is the creation of this paradox.
Faith lost, and greed spreads. More die. It repeats again. Ancillary breakdowns of society occur. The irrational widespread fear of Ebola, and crowds of adults blocking buses of immigrant children who had reached our borders to stop their entry into facilities in their communities foretell a loss of inner strength and inner truth.
Through seemingly unconnected, death is one of the elements that sets the ground for greed and leads to theft. The connection is the way their interior values attract and repeal, push and pull.
The worst form of civil disobedience is robbery, the taking of what belongs to others by law or natural right. The law is broken when Congress or the crowd goes against government measures and protections and when the law itself becomes a tool to steal and rob, as it supposedly comforts our loss. Murder can occur only once in a life, but robbery can be repeated. When done under law, it is protected by force, and justified as stopping intrusion.
For example, out goes the cry: the Affordable Care Act robs us of the right of choice. But those insured clients dropped after the purchase of insurance were robbed of the right of choice in a time of need; at precisely the point where insurance took on greater importance and would provide security against health catastrophes and the cost of catastrophic illness, it vanished, without appeal or recourse.
The point here is political theft is often committed in the name of freedom, and this flag-wrapped theft often stands on bloody ground. But rarely are these connections direct. In modern cultures, blood money will have two phases, seemingly unconnected. The first destabilizes, the second resets the rules.
Witness the budget bill swiftly approved by the two chambers of Congress last week. After six years of destabilization, its resets included riders on potatoes, whole grains and salt in school lunches, on clean water, on truck drivers’ working hours, on farmers with livestock killed by wolves, and on campaign gifts, all passed without debate, swept forward, tucked in neatly with the $1.1 billion in spending that in some places was as much vendetta as budget.
Despite its size, the central issue of this mundane list of special interest riders is an overarching fact: its business-as-usual is destroying democracy. It places special interests beyond the reach of public accountability. It replaces Congress’ fear of discovery with the cold glare of indifference, and while it claims to condemn government as the enemy of business, it deliberately hides the use of government for gifts to business friends. The doors of democracy are unlocked to the rich. Those same doors are closed and sealed shut to the poor.
If government is the enemy, look again to find out who its friends are. Too often, it is those who criticize it as being the enemy. This blame and embrace is an old favorite of corruption. Cast the blame elsewhere; haul in the spoils. Continue reading Murder and Theft
Turkey’s actions, however it thinks itself justified by its internal and regional politics, have been outrageous on the international front and strike the wrong balance for a country concerned about its security.
Turkey should have promised aid long ago when the international coalition against ISIL formed. Aid helps promote peace and opens new channels. Aiding the Kurds in the fight against ISIL might further the peace talks with its Kurdish opposition and win support for coexistence within Turkey among its Kurds, 20% of its population and long oppressed. One thing is sure: the act of denying support and access only hardened old tensions and angered the international community and the Kurds at home. Turkey is missing a unique opportunity to forge a new era of cooperation by failing to focus on a dangerous regional enemy and turn a new page.
That missed opportunity—which Turkey is now trying to regain—may prove to be a greater threat to Turkey’s future than the narrow concerns that drove it to launch air attacks early last week on the Kurdish rebels, taking advantage of the Kurdish forces’ engagement with ISIL.
After hitting the Kurds with F-16s, Turkey accused the Kurds of using Kobani support as a “blackmail” tactic for the peace process. In reality, Turkey is using Kobani to further its wrongheaded military aims and as blackmail to compel the US coalition to attack and engage the Assad regime in Syria.
Turkey’s change of direction may help in the fight over Kobani. But it may come too late to win brownie points internationally or further peace internally.
Attitudes in response to the Sayreville hazing range from cavalier to laissez-faire to open anger and hostility—all which point to evidence that we have a larger problem: we are becoming a nation of bullies and victims who are to minimize their degradation and find the humor in their shame. It matters less the details of who did what; the crime here is the attitudes that are shaping the response of both the children and adults. It seems that few can see or realize the moral failing put on display by the hazing. Whether as a potential threat or a real one, physical restraint is not “bonding,” it is intimidation. It takes away a fundamental right to feel safe and secure physically among peers. It’s a social form of attack that violates every moral and legal practice, but few seem to get it. All have dismissed the homoerotica in the nature of the hazing which was planned and executed; the lights out symbolic of denial.
Evidence the young female student quoted in the New York Times as saying, “We sure as hell hate them now,” about the victims. She feels her righteous indignation is justified by her sacrifice—not being able to attend football games. She has not a single thought of empathy for those hazed and expressed no ambivalence about the misconduct. She simply wants to pile on. She does not see in her own anger cause for remorse.
In a sport in which individual behavior affects and penalizes the team, many seem to be denying this fundamental relationship and consequence of bad behavior. Too many are focusing on sport and competitive success. If not the hazing, it’s really about a massive failure of character and the community climate which enables, supports and justifies the debacle.
Neither party nor policy is responsible for the shredding of the President’s leadership by Democratic candidates: with job growth unprecedented, GDP growth up, troops at home, uninsured numbers reduced, US oil production globally number one, the Dow doubled, consumer confidence tripled, and higher wages on his plate and several successful fixes for the bureaucracy in progress, his opposition is in name only. Largely without support or cause. Continue reading Turkey, Sayreville, and Some Democrats Get It Wrong
What is racism? Is it a universal idea? A judgment about biological identity? A group of dysfunctional behaviors in a culture? Persistent myths about a community’s strength and weaknesses? Does it belong equally to white and black, and yellow and tan?
Is racism a political idea? A wedge for advantage? Does it exist? Is it an excuse? Do statistics verify its presence? What role does it play in society? How does it change individual lives?
Racism does exist; it always reflects the role race plays in society. For instance, the structures and forms of racism during slavery have virtually no role in society today. The laws, punishments, limits and ideas that governed race then were very different and many have been erased.
Since these ideas have lost their viability, does that mean racism has ended? In modern society with its pledge to equality, has racism been eliminated? No. But it has changed forms. Remember, each era produces its version of racism. Remember, the construct of racism is based on the role race plays in the social milieu.
Before looking at modern racism, let’s ask: How does race fit into today’s society?
In America today, race has become the major standard and measure for equality and equal opportunity. Collectively, through numbers and statistics; individually, through incidents and events, race provides the details and the rough measure of fair play and justice. Race sets the bar for social and economic improvement, the standard for civil liberties, but is also the target of anger for those in and out of power, and a source of constant confusion. This positivist function of race is rarely mentioned; race is most often framed as a problem or a source of friction, or as a factor of mistreatment.
But race has noble virtues. It is the source used to reflect how far America has come in resolving internal tyranny and it measures America’s social progress. It is also a measure of how far apart Americans stand on many social issues. It has been the bubble at the center of the builder’s level.
Race, in part, is the weight of a group response, for both blacks and whites. The shooting of whites by police, while tragic, doesn’t alert the nation to the attack of police violence and misconduct aimed at the American Promise; race is a sentinel for the entire country—not just for blacks. Race puts blacks in the vanguard of social change, yet also makes blacks one of society’s most vulnerable groups. The paradox leads to scepticism and ignorance about the fix for social problems as race as a change agent is caught in a fluid whirlwind of individual and indirect forces.
That is why whites were always visible and angry in the Ferguson protests, every night, in every frame, side by side with blacks. Race is America’s active metaphor for character and justice, for liberty and criminality, for alarm and good riddance. It is not a discussion about blacks or whites, but about the vision and substance of America and the content of the American character, not just of the individuals whose roles shape the discussion.
In the same way, America’s educational success is measured by race. The differences in student test scores reflect race as a means of distributed wealth.
Race as an American idea is always in motion; different than last year, changed by new experiences, redefined by the culture it represents. Unfortunately it is often tied to omissions, deficiencies and neglect more than success, and its noble side is missed.
From this view, I propose racism plays three key roles in today’s America, all three tied to politics and culture:
The three are easy to understand with examples.
1. At the diner where I often eat, we wondered during the 2012 election how long it would be before Mitt Romney screamed, “I’m white!” to pander for votes. The opposite nearly occurred. Romney’s campaign adviser John Sununu approached that edge, claiming someone needed to teach the President “how to be an American.” Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich skirted the same precipice: he cited Obama’s “Kenyan, anti-colonial world view” “as the the most accurate, predictive model for his [Obama’s] behavior,” calling it “a profound insight.” “The food stamp President” was another of Gingrich’s contributions.
Rick Santorum came within a syllable of an offensive racial slur before he caught himself. Recently, a New Hampshire police chief uttered the word publicly (saying the President “met and exceeded” his criteria). He refused to back down, resigning but never apologizing.
My oft-cited example is the empty chairs that appeared after the 2012 Republican National Convention, tied to tree limbs on private property, often with roped nooses hung over chair backs—performance art that starkly expressed the dark dread of justice as lynching. These spontaneous racial installations were a reminder that the media never reported in 2008 the high degree of fear in the black community for Barack Obama’s life; people were frantic and the hysteria went unnoticed.
Racism is tasteless and invisible—until the first tug of attitude pushes one of its many structures into place to block progress—and to strangle black success. Members of Congress have said Barack Obama was only elected because he is black. Others say he won due to white guilt.
These conversations and actions call white people to band together under a banner of skin: a favorite principle of racism is to unite to defend and defeat the idea of the other. The other is different—and also more dangerous, more deadly, more deficient. The most important other in America is race. Its group tensions involve a history of violence, lynching, lawlessness, blame, poverty and social control.
I think that race as a social measure should change. Women and children are suffering greater attacks than African-Americans in this historical moment; women and children need a movement worthy of the anti-war and Civil Rights movements, yet they remain on the edge of America’s conscience. Thankfully, ending domestic violence has become a noble virtue. So should ending the murders of children by their peers.
2. Examples of social barriers abound. The most prominent and dangerous, as US House member John Lewis rightly recognizes, are the state-level bills that are redefining the right to vote. The new tactic recognizes it is not necessary to disenfranchise minority voters en masse (the old, pre-1960s tactic). Trimming voter turnout by 3 to 10 percent will often be enough to swing close national elections.
Remember, racism fits the role of race in society. In politics, that’s votes. After the Civil War, bills sought to disenfranchise the entire Negro vote, which ended with the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Now, in this era, with this Supreme Court, the same outcome can be achieved with a more limited, targeted effort to restrict early voting, raising the bar to voter access by requiring more paperwork and reducing polling hours. Continue reading Racism and Noble Virtues
The most sobering thing I’ve read in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri didn’t focus on Brown, his uniformed killer, or Ferguson at all. It was a news item from last December about an incident in Iceland.
On December 2, police shot a man to death in Reykjavik, the first such shooting in Iceland’s history as far as anyone knows. He was reportedly firing a shotgun in his home for reasons not disclosed, and fired at police as they entered the building after an unsuccessful attempt to subdue him with teargas. The chief of police held a press conference the same day, describing the shooting as “without precedent” and noting “police are deeply saddened by this tragic event and would like to extend their condolences to the family of the individual in question.”
As the Guardian article linked above points out, Iceland is by no means a gun-free society. GunPolicy.org estimates its citizen gun ownership to be 30.3 per 100 people, ranking Iceland 15th in the world on a per-capita basis (the United States tops the list with a rate roughly three times higher). They also estimate that Icelandic police have an arsenal of 1,039 guns, though police officers on “routine patrol” do not carry firearms.
Iceland’s population of about 326,000 is very close to that of St. Louis, with about 318,000. Yet in 2011 alone, police in St. Louis shot 11 people, three of them fatally, according to statistics compiled by crime writer and former FBI agent Jim Fisher. (Ferguson, eight miles away, is part of the Greater St. Louis area, but has its own police force, however dysfunctional.)
In 2010, gun deaths per 100,000 people in the United States stood at 10.1, while Iceland’s 2009 rate per 100,000 was 1.25 and never went above 2.85 in any year between 1996 and 2009. Continue reading ‘Police are deeply saddened by this tragic event’