Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Our Children Inspired Our Great Movements

American children were the inspiration of some of our greatest movements that showed the goodness in American society.
The child labor laws of the early twentieth century set the stage for the empowerment of a great labor movement that dominated American life for over 50 years.  These laws showed both compassion, intelligence and heart among the American populace.file:///C:/Users/merri/Desktop/images.jpg
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The school integration movement of the 50's and 60's put our children out front again.  Look at the courage.  Look at the hate.  But these children led us once again.

The DACA children, as those to the right of this blog once again faced hate front and center and didn't flinch.  They showed us courage again in the mid-2000's.  And the truth about our bigotry.  But they choose to live among us and teach us love and compassion.  And Justice.

Now, once again, children pave the way to justice.  Look at the impact they've already had on gun safety around the country.
Look at their courage in the face of stupidity and hate. Learn from them a path forward with greater safety and security to enjoy America The Beautiful.  But in this case, the beautiful is not in the Grand Canyon.  It is in our children, right in front of us, telling us to do the right thing.

America, our history tells us to look to our youth for wisdom and courage.  Our elders?   Not so much it would seem, at least as it relates to how we should treat one another.  Our very flawed but also wise founders, many of them very youthful in their twenties, showed us a better way forward.  It remains to be seen if that is the path we take.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Anglo Americans Can Be Proud Of African Americans

Anglo and other Caucasian Americans have a big problem that overcoming likely will predict the outcome of the American Experience.  Many of us disrespect and downright consider inferior fellow Americans of African origin.  This is seriously impeding us from forward movement in perfecting our democracy.  Let me give some of you a differing perspective to consider about racial origin and history.

First, to respect and advocate for the equal citizenship of African Americans does not mean we in any way diminish the huge contributions our Euro-origin migrants and founders have made to society.  Euro civilization gave us the demise of the dark ages, the end of  autocratic rule of the Holy Roman Empire and the creation of the Reformation and Enlightenment.  Our Anglo forefathers were persecuted by the traditionalists of Europe, causing our migration to what became the Colonies and the United States of America.  This is huge and a history to take pride in.  These things have created much good in the world, especially here in the Land of the Free and the Brave.

Yes, we have a stain on our history; a huge open sore that must be closed and healed.  We brought with our fantastic history a practice in which we take no pride; Slavery.  We weren't alone in the world in the practice but we were major offenders.  We fought a terrible Civil War over this practice and many families paid a painful price, but we ended the practice.

But ending slavery did not end beliefs of many among us that those to whom we granted freedom to were of an inferior social order,  so different from those of us of Anglo and Caucasian origin  and therefore that they should live separately from those of us with our backgrounds.  But the former slaves were persistent in their belief of equality of skills and character and pushed hard to find a place in a society that was far from welcoming to them.  Fellow Anglos, this took great character and courage on their part;  they stood up to continued discrimination in uncountable forms and carved out a place for themselves  many if not most of us find admirable and amazing.

During slavery, our African American brothers and sisters literally built our agricultural economy with their hand and back breaking work; today, probably the finest on the whole planet in terms of productivity and quality to sustain human and animal life.   They also built with those same hands most of the buildings in our early cities and created an urban life that is the envy of the world, even with today's neglect of their upkeep and maintenance.   Forced labor in both cases but the quality and energy they gave to an unwelcome task is to be admired.   They are owed gratitude for enduring this indignity and physical pain.  Yes, they even built the buildings in our national and many of our state capitals which housed their oppressors and facilitated their domination.   For this they were initially offered "Forty Acres and a Mule",  though this feeble attempt at reparations was quickly rescinded.

Once freed of overt domination, our African American brothers and sisters, while continuing be experience discrimination and limitation on their freedom, nonetheless persisted in building a society replete with grace, beauty and incredible talent. Read your history about an initial surge of African American participation, only the males among them during Reconstruction.  And then the quick dissolution of their participation with the advent of poll taxes and literacy tests whites were not subjected to.  While limited in education, economic opportunity and social mobility compared to their Anglo counterparts, these proud and brave Americans gave graciously to the whole society.  They gave amazing literature.  Astounding, soul enriching music.  Brilliant humor.  Athleticism beyond any other ethnic group and intellectual, scholarly accomplishment far beyond reasonable expectation of an oppressed people.   And so much more.

Yet, further attempts through legislation and public policy such as school integration, civil rights to give equal access in the economic and social life of America and voting rights designed to make black participation in political life more attainable were all quickly compromised by white Americans.   A minority of Anglo racists crafted the details of policy compromise and avoidance while a majority white population remained silent and thus, complicit.  Laws changed but Anglo attitudes of bigotry and resentment of  equal rights continued unabated.

Many Anglo/Caucasian Americans still today, after over 60 years of work by policymakers, do not want to go to school with them, live next door to them or socialize with them.  I think because they fail to understand that in spite of discrimination, outright hate and public expressions of contempt more prevalent today than in our prior history, our fellow Americans of other pigmentation contributed as much to what is good in our society as we did.  And yes, they overcame more discriminatory hurdles to do it.  Clearly there is not the will to treat our fellow citizens as equal partners in building America and furthering this great democratic experiment.

More public policy has to be put into place to reverse the erosion of rights and accelerate the acceptance of African Americans into full civic and social participation.    I am convinced that the only way to make amends for the evil done by our forefathers and silently accepted by us today is for massive truth and  reconciliation initiatives in conjunction with economic reparations to help our black brothers and sisters equalize education services, rebuilding of civic places and services as well as  housing and home ownership and income.  But I am also advocating for reparations that include lower income Anglo, Hispanic and other minorities. 

Effective communications on the benefits we all will enjoy with equalization of these elements of American life can greatly enhance the likelihood of success, if not outright acceptance of reparations.  With more well educated and economically comfortable African Americans will come a burst of economic growth for the whole economy and society.  Yes, it is the economy Stupid !  When the white middle class experiences a growing economy and more consumer spending and access to economic power, resentment can diminish if not disappear.  Integrated upper and middle class communities have proven this works.  It is our working and lower class communities where much of the racism and bigotry festers today.  They need a jump start and reparations and making the economic life of America more fair for all of us is a way to do it.  Where will the money come from?   The !% and corporate America hoarding the American dream.

We can put aside our guilt and shame now and accept objective truth.  We are all in this together, not all of us by choice.  But going forward, we continue to be in this together, like it or not.    We are much better off with combining talents and building a better society where we might all flourish. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Forty Acres And A Mule Denied

Right after the end of the Civil War, freed slaves were promised Forty Acres and a Mule by General Sherman, who likely didn't have the authority to offer nor grant such a reparation.  The offer was quickly withdrawn.  Never to be resurrected.

We now are in remembrance of MLK's assassination in Memphis fifty years ago.  Many really nice gatherings around the country are being recorded for this tragic event.  Lots of speeches.  Community breakfasts.  A whole lot of lip service.   But nothing else.

We are in the throws of full blown public racism now.  Racists empowered by a crude and racist President are speaking and acting.  Some violently.  Many with verbal toxicity.  All with hate and resentment.  What to do about this?

Every few years a new reparations movement gets started by a few people.  Then quickly silenced and forgotten.  And the failure of America to maintain a just society for all remains, though seldom acknowledged.  The disparity in civil rights, employment opportunities and voting rights between Anglo and African American  people continues to widen.  The social and economic chasm between our groups enlarges.  And public hate and disrespect has become normal after many decades of suppressed expression.

It seems to me that we need a social compact to close the gap at least in the sphere of economic opportunity and social disparity.  The first order of business, when we remove overt racists from political/public leadership, must be a national initiative to remove employment discrimination, electoral suppression and civil rights denial based on ethnic (and gender) background. We must have reconciliation commissions active in every community to foster dialogue and educate ignorant racists.  Give them a chance to recant and reconcile.  If they can't or don't, ostracize them, quite frankly.

Then as a society we must redeem ourselves and our inherited history of racism by providing financial reparations to those clearly damaged by our racist system; the proof of the damage is in lousy education, substandard housing and neighborhood services and economic deprivation.    This process of identifying the damaged and providing reparations in the key areas of life must be administered by a commission of African Americans, not white people enjoying the privilege of light pigment.

The hard core racists will rebel.  Don't let them hurt any of us.  Put the rebellion down quickly with Federal force if necessary.  Then, we move on and try our best to be a decent society of all of us.  We can create the 21st century of 40 Acres and a Mule. 

Friday, March 23, 2018

Yes, These Are Genuine American Patriots

Don't be fooled by the hair.  Pink over a nose ring.  And shaved respectively.  Under the hair are brains and hearts we should be grateful for.  This is genuinely our next generation of real American patriots.  We've had more than a year of really bad hair in the White House.  Remember, this whole experiment in democracy started with a bunch of patriot guys wearing powdered wigs.  Hair that might make you uncomfortable isn't the point.  The point is these young people are showing us what it takes to keep a democracy going.  Guts.  Conviction.  Risk.  Thank you Emma Gonzales.  Thank you Christopher Wylie. We owe you a huge debt. 


Saturday, March 10, 2018

America Has Gone Through The Looking Glass

So, here we are.  In a new, fantastical world unlike any we've previously seen.  Everything is reversed.  A government run by the Mad Hatter.  Executive Departments, if positions filled at all, are led by doconstructors, each and every one dismantling the EPA, the State Department, HUD, VA, Justice Department.  The list is endless.  Right wing nuts replacing moderates and liberals and even a few traditional conservatives.

Here's the huge irony.  The conservative stereotype we imagined before were tightly wrapped, buttoned up, strategic people.  But look Through The Looking Glass and what have we?  Hip shooters, go with the moment, intuitive managers, inventing facts and lying about them, I guess just for the fun of it.  The liberal stereotype, go with the flow, lets try something new, think out of the box crowd, join the crowd in the Woodstock mud pit types bringing us the enlightenment, but not sure where it will take us.  Out but not gone, because the conservatives/alt-right crowd have totally reversed their M.O. and opted for the ready, fire, aim approach.   It is a Topsy Turvy America many of us barely recognize.

We've gone from Kansas to Syria almost overnight.  I guess America just got tired of thoughtful, deliberative,  pretty predictable, cautious governance, maybe even bored. From  not much drama to waking up every morning to the totally unexpected.  From the left hand knowing what the right hand was doing to "look ma, no hands".  Crash, bang.  From no corruption and no conflict of interest to hands and feet in the cookie jar.  And everyone buying first class tickets to avoid the riff raff holding us accountable.

I heard a great show on NPR today.  Seems we really don't know what really drives success.We really don't know what management theory gets the best results.  There seems to be no single winning approach.  So, I'm trying to keep an open mind here.  Chaos management?  Authoritarian management?  We seem at the moment to have both concurrently , which seems, well, quite Mad.  I'd be much more comfortable if I knew which works better.  We've generally associated democracy with messy, complicated negotiations and relationships.   And autocratic, despotic rule as predicable, linear and much less complicated.  America, in its founding, opted for the uncertainties of democracy.  I guess we just got tired of the uncertainty, opting for the despotic.    People ruled by despots know the way things work in the system and there are really many more of these around the planet  than messy democracies.  I think this is what the Trumphians thought they were getting.    But that is not exactly what we have here.  I guess we'd just have to describe it as Chaotic Despotism.

What I do know, though, is that Alice, once she finished her trek through the looking glass, was really happy to get back to Kansas.  It was a grand adventure, but too unsettling and way too unpredictable to have a life of some calm and order which she greatly preferred.  I am hoping our story goes similar to Alice's.  And the sooner home, back to Kansas, the better.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Texas, Enigma and Contradiction

  Inspired by my Julie's writing today about her family history in Texas and her journey, like her ancestors, to a new place, I am reminded of my own native San Franciscan journey to over half my life in Texas.

My first encounter with real Texans on moving there was being taken by a couple of work mates to the restaurant in Richmond, Texas with the world's best enchiladas, really just a road house.  Then, following dinner, to a dance hall to learn how to two step.  Northern California is not known for enchiladas or two stepping.  We thought of ourselves as entirely too hip.  But what a joy.  And our friendship with these great people led us to trips with them and their UT loyalists to Mexico and the discovery of cabrito and Ramus Gin Fizzes.

We found Texas, and particularly Houston to be people country.  You couldn't go to a restaurant, church or a bar without having strangers come up to you and say "Hey, y'all, how are you?"  And of course, they went onto to discover who we were and from where we had come to settle in Texas.  Just like them.

The friendly factor is undisputed.  I had by then lived in Maryland, DC, northern Virginia, southwest Virginia, Chicago and Minnesota as well as my native land, California.  Lots of friendliness most everywhere, varying by degrees but simply nothing like Texas.

And local culture of such diversity I cannot begin to describe the variety.  Texas redneck culture,  Cajun culture, black Gulf Coast culture, Mexican American culture and lots of middle eastern culture from the oil industry in southeast Texas.  Touches of southern hospitality and openness blended with pioneer southwestern individuality.  And plenty of midwestern and northeast ethnic cultural traditions.  And a thriving, respected Jewish community in Houston going way back in local history.

Incredible natural beauty from Big Bend, the Hill Country to the Piney Woods. The gulf coast? Did I mention food?  Tex-Mex, BBQ beyond compare, Gulf seafood, Chicken Fried Steak and Cajun delights. Did I mention unique Texas music?  Bob Wills and Pappy Selph and Texas swing?  So much going for it.  So much to experience.

I am so grateful for this melting pot experience in my life.  After a two year promotion and transfer to very blond and white Salt Lake City, we could not wait to move back to Texas, with our first border crossing meal moving home being BBQ from an amazing roadside stand.  We felt incomplete without the ethnic diversity of Houston and celebrated our return.  This was home and this was the America we cherished.

But now the enigma part.  Soon we discovered  deeply imbedded racism among a diverse population.  Some of it from rural bred Texans and some of it from transplants from highly urbanized white Philadelphia.  A strange mix but much of it had its source in these two groups for us. It manifested in demeaning racial references in conversations only matched by the racism I found while living in southwest Virginia and which I had never experienced in northern California. Back in suburban Houston, it manifested in demeaning references to "n-word loving liberals" in our neighborhood from parents and their children alike.  For some of these racists, this is who we were in our neighborhood as our racial and political views became known.  And our family was not shy about revealing who we were.

The most virulent  racism revealed itself to us when we engaged in the public school integration movement.  It was offset by the amazing cohesion we experienced with fellow integrationists of every ethnic background when we overthrew a segregationist school board.  Liberals around us were fierce, brilliant and undaunted by the task of dismantling segregation so our kids would grow up knowing the joys of ethnic diversity and mutual support.

But as our Texas experience progressed and we experienced success with others in moving the Texas Democratic Party to the left and expelling the racists to find a home in the Bush Republican Party, we did not envision the future backlash would foist upon us.

For a wonderful period in Texas politics, in the 70''s we had a liberal renaissance era.  A highly diverse coalition of Black, Hispanic, Anglo liberal and feminist politicians led our State with amazing skill and idealism.  Roe v. Wade was made possible by a feminist Democratic lawyer/legislator.  Robin Hood funding of impoverished public schools happened with this coalition.  Environmental protections against oil industry abuses emerged.  A rainbow of political leaders stood side by side and created policy and an atmosphere of mutual respect, tolerance and lots of love.  Think Texas and you think Sam Rayburn, Jim Wright, LBJ, Barbara Jordan, Mickey Leland and of course Molly Ivins and politics and amazing governance.

The Reagan backlash and a rebuilt, racist Bush Republican party ended this era.  Liberals became anathema.   Civic engagement was replaced with rugged individualism and an I got mine, go screw yourself conservatism.  Ann Richards managed to reverse the tide, but the forces of regressive policies marshaled their power and money to end the reign of enlightenment.

Enlightenment was replaced by mean spirited political leadership in Texas bent on neutering progressive policies and looting the public treasury.   Contrast mean spirited Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick with the Texas political leaders listed earlier.   Laissez faire capitalism and the rule by wealth prevails today in Texas.   Texas starting in the 80's was very much  the laboratory testing for the Oligarchic Fascism which reigns in the nation's capital today.

So, it was not hard to leave the Texian culture as a result.  The tepid, weak knee liberalism of Delaware has been an adjustment compared to the fierce, warrior liberalism fighting its way back in Texas but it is an improvement for me.  I have a fem-warrior spouse to inspire me daily in my new life.

And I carry with me the memories of the cultural Texas I much prefer over the political Texas.
And the satisfaction that I was able to fiercely fight for justice and equity along with some amazing Texas liberal warriors.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

2017: The Worst Year Of My 81 Years Here

Don't get me wrong.  I cherish the love that I live with and that inhabits my life.  I have a great home, neighborhood, family, spouse  and friends.  Pretty good health.  I feel good about the life I've had that fate and whatever talents I have used have given me.  I'm one of the lucky ones.

But looking beyond my own experiences, what I've seen in 2017 deeply disturbs me.  I tried to be an engaged citizen, looking beyond my own doorstep to do what good I could do after performing my responsibilities for my family.  I engaged in the fight for racial and social justice with the time and tools I had.  I joined others and led others in trying to avert or end wars that did no one any good.  I tried to elect and support leaders who could uplift my fellow citizens, especially those supporting children in education, disabled with needs and older citizens as well as healthcare for all of us.

I thought as the mid-2000's approached I saw some progress.  But then as 2016 arrived, I began to see reasonable voices being muted by angry, ugly sounds.  The sounds of bigotry, intolerance and outright hate began to dominate.  Very quickly, my vision and that of fellow liberals for an American life of some security, some prosperity, some enlightenment through education and a sense of community on the commons became blurred.  The angry voices, voices of resentment of the presence of people different from them dominated.  My certainty that we had overcome the greed is good 80's era became unsettled.  Even with the unsettlement I was sure America's rational side would prevail against untruth, exaggeration and facts-free diatribes. 

My certainty and optimism was overwhelmed in November 2016.  I awoke after election night to a new world I thought impossible.  Sure, we had faltered and made huge mistakes in the decades I had experienced before.  But more often than not, falsehood was replaced with truth, injustice with at least some justice and errors at least accounted for if not rectified.   America's better angels mostly reigned again after dark periods. Yes, assassins took the lives of JFK, MLK, Malcolm X and RFK.  But some redemption came with the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts and the ending of the Vietnam horror.  Again we tragically stumbled with another horror, Iraq.  Some redemption arrived with the election of our first Black President who helped us save our economy from another great depression and gave healthcare to millions more of our fellow citizens without it.  Few understood how close we came to total economic collapse.

Yes, the economy emerged weak and faltering.  This not being a planned economy like in socialist systems, we relied on the commercial sector to rectify wrongs  and correct deficiencies.  Monetary policy changes, currency stabilization and other financial measures, including a fairly large stimulus package helped, but didn't do the job that industry needed to do to assure themselves a stable, secure and capable workforce.  Industry had other ideas.....globalization, outsourcing, downsizing, robotics and earnings hoarding and improved shareholder value were among those ideas.  A sense of community and civic responsibility values were abandoned for the most part.  The company as good citizen disappeared.  Those days were gone.

When James Carville coined the axiom It's the economy, stupid, maybe he had an insight we missed.
When jobs and retirement became uncertain, when incomes failed to match increases in housing, education and family budgets, who got blamed?   Liberals for their solutions......ask wealthy and corporations to pay their share in taxes, which they had not for 40 years.  Minorities, especially Blacks and Latinos were blamed  for wanting their share of the economic pie they'd been denied. But they were perceived to have taken more than they actually deserved, being minorities.

So, ugly emerged.  Hate emerged, untruth became an alternative truth, not objective, proven truth.  And rather than the wealthy being the takers and hoarders,  poor people and minorities became the perceived takers and government the facilitator of the taking.  Republicans turned this into public policy via their Tax Policy adopted on 12/20/2017.  The cruelest irony?  Republicans gave the worst prepared candidate for the Presidency in American history the Presidency to further discredit government, knowing he'd appoint anti-government ideologues to every executive office under his control.  This is the libertarian wet dream.  And to further discredit government, they gave us a corrupt, multi-bankruptcy industry titan with some kind of brain disorder and an inability to string together a coherent sentence using actual words.  But, through him they have managed to finally pull off the looting of our collective treasure, and transfer it to the wealthiest 5%.

I do not know if America as we had hoped it might be can survive this.  For sure, at 81 I won't live long enough to find out the outcome.  All I can do at this point is advise anyone listening, including grandchildren that if you're 40 or under, seriously consider immigrating to a country that can give you some certainty for a happy future.

To my young readers, google fascism.  Read my blog on that topic if you want to take the time.  To my middle age and elder readers, you know what has been sealed on December 20, 2017.  The inauguration of fascism  in America.  The system we fought our most honorable war to end with our allies in Europe when we defeated Germany.  We have become what we hated.