Sunday, December 13, 2020

Contrast: White Despair/Hate-Black Rage/Hope


I grapple with a dichotomy.  The white despair documented in rural and small Midwestern and Appalachian towns beset with industry/work abandonment resulting in unemployment, poverty and drug addiction to blunt the pain of living in such a circumstance. In contrast, the Black anger resulting in hopeful activism to end injustice and second class citizenship such as the BLM movement or the massive voter turnout for Biden in 2020.

Prior to economic ruin in these white communities, these tragic people and their immediate ancestors were blessed with secure middle class jobs, their choice of housing, access to education to advance their lives and a culture of privilege based on their ethnicity and political clout.  Many of them lost this lifestyle as result of offshoring of employment and massive changes in industry.  Some restored their political clout through politicians who demonized ethnic others as having stolen their lives.

In urban centers,  many Black people, while enjoying similar economic security with urban manufacturing jobs to which they and their families migrated off their tenant farms in the 40's and 50's. As those jobs too out migrated to foreign shores, they too lost security and stability with their lives. Many expressed their despair with gangs, conflict and drugs.  But in their case, they had never experienced choice in housing, access to quality education or a culture of privilege as had their white counterparts.  Some restored their political clout through civil and voting rights activism resulting in politicians who advocated for them, often with stiff headwinds. 

Yet the rural, mostly white Americans seem for the most part to be wallowing in their misery and attacking Black and liberal citizens for their plight with no cause and effect evidence.  And they seem stuck in their terrible situation without exercising their voice to the greater society to address this inequity.  I see few ideas for solutions coming out of this sector of our society, not even from the mostly conservative political representation that seems to be failing them.

On the other hand, from a significantly more historically oppressed sector, the Black American community, you see courageous work to replace inadequate political representation with brilliant, motivated leaders like The Squad.  And massive street protests drawing attention to policing violence against all of us and major efforts to reshape public sector approaches to both policing violence and social services designed to provide help and support.  The Black Lives Matter movement is self help at its finest.  All of this energy from an oppressed people defies logic considering the decades of disappointment they bear coming out of our our Civil War.

I am hopeful these two sectors of our struggling society can come together with leadership to address making their lives better, which will make all our lives better.  Massive economic and political change can rectify our societal failures.  Street action, speaking truth to power and leadership from allies in their cause can produce solutions if we trust and engage our democracy. 

Monday, November 16, 2020

Catholicism, Fascism and Trumpism

 Newly Unsealed Vatican Archives Lay Out Evidence of Pope Pius XII's  Knowledge of the Holocaust | Smart News | Smithsonian MagazineThree isms, linked in infamy.  Yes, there really was a group called Catholics for Trump.  And various polls report that somewhere between 50 and 55% of Catholics in 2020 voted for Trump.  

I find parallels between 30% Catholic Germany in the late 30's and their transformation into fascism and our current U.S.A. drift into it quite fascinating.  Back then, recent Vatican documents made public reveal that Catholics in Germany were asking their priests and bishops if they could support the new fascism via A. Hitler they liked.  

The Catholic hierarchy adopted a policy with both fascist Italy and German of "neutrality", even related to the emerging anti-semitism within the populace and German political leadership. There was much documented anti-semitism within Church leadership as well. 

Pius XII's predecessor, Pius XI was quite liberal and had assigned J. LaFarge S.J., an American Jesuit who was editor of America magazine and and staunch advocate of opposing racism was tapped by Pius XI to write a Encyclical on opposing anti-semitism.  Encyclicals are the highest form of Papal teaching.

LaFarge delivered the document a year or so later, but Pius XI died before it could be published.  It was bitterly opposed by LaFarge's Jesuit superior and it is believed he exerted influence on its not being acted on prior to XI's  death.  

I learned some of this history through access to the locked section of the Santa Clara University library where I worked as a student.  I had access to books and documents stored there with my employment.  It began for me the process of working my way intellectually out of the Church and all religion. This included insights into the Church's long early history of anti-semitism, notoriously expressed, though not limited to the Inquisition. The Church in the modern era, starting in the 1960's began to excise anti-semitism from its teachings and culture.

Pius XI had acted to create Vatican City  as a separate Italian political entity apart from Rome as a move to distance the Church then from the emerging fascism regime in Italy.

Pius XII leveraged d his familiarity and respect for the Germans while serving in Germany in key Church ambassadorial positions with his neutrality policy when succeeding Pius XI.  Though some German and Polish Catholic clergy were oppressed by the emerging fascism government, Pius XII believed his neutrality policy would provide cover and protection for the Church in Germany and the rest of Europe as it was overtaken by Nazi leaders. The policy of genocide of Jews materialized and the holocaust began.  

It is clear that German, Polish and Italian Catholicism, with its highly authoritarian structure, had conditioned its faithful to respect authoritarian government in the political sphere.  The same seems to be true with American Catholicism, which has avoided democratization in spite of operating in the American form of democracy.  The Church's highly historically inconsistent policies regarding abortion, largely denied or understood by roughly half of American Catholic clergy and laity has clearly influenced Catholic support for Republican authoritarians for several decades.

I have studied deeply my former Church's policies on both support for authoritarian regimes around the world and its current position on abortion as I  worked my way out of the fold several decades back. One merely has to look at the relationship between the Church and both South American and Central American right wing regimes and its support of those country's wealthy elite keeping it financed to observe this truth.  Mexico, with its revolution and tamping down of the Church's influence stands as an exception.

So, American Catholic support for fascist Trumpism is completely understandable, though deeply troubling. This factual reality further convinces me that few Trump supporter minds will be changed on the destruction of American democracy from within.  Major portions of our electorate find authoritarianism quite acceptable. 

Sunday, November 8, 2020

America Welcomes Authoritarianism

 John Dean and Bob Altemeyer have given us a solidly scientific look at our current political crisis using both Dean's insights  and experience in political science and  Altemeyer's study of the processes involved in successful political domination and the science of personality testing.  The latter is a field of study developed over the last 50 years or so incorporating the fields of behavioral psychology and sociology.  These are study areas not frequently found in research of politics and governance. 

The field of study of authoritarian behavior began during WWII in the U.S.A. to understand what we were facing with Germany, Italy and Japan.

Altemeyer's approach has been to classify authoritarian personalities in typologies using what he calls a RWA  (right wing authoritarian) scale. His data suggests that those classified as high RWA's total 19 % of the U.S. population.  Behavioral/attitudinal characteristics include conventional behavior, making cursory identification of these types difficult.  But probing their personalities further reveals them to be often highly religious, prejudiced, opposing equal opportunity and lacking critical thinking skills. They are often not well educated.  Their views on freedom and liberty are superficial with probing revealing that what they care about is their  own freedom and liberty, not others.

He classified a second typology of authoritarian personalities as those less inclined to be leaders and more inclined to be followers.  These types number in the 30% of the population range in the U.S.   Their following is characterized as very loyal and difficult to change allegiance.

The authors also cite the work of Jason Stanley from studies starting in the 40's and 50's.  Stanley classified his typologies as Social Dominance Orientation, SDO.  He studied elected leaders and found those with high SDO's possessing what we have experienced with Donald Trump:  A desire to dominate, achieve personal power, willingness to cheat to win with amoral, bullying and vengeful behaviors.  Basically, mean people.

Recent Monmouth studies have revealed Republican leaders having high RWA behaviors and personalities. Their studies reveal that 33% of our U.S. population will follow high RWA leaders without discretion or self awareness.  

This research suggests that success in attaining compromise with these personality types is highly challenging, if not nearly impossible.  Some have conjectured that our success in in creating allies out of defeated enemies in Germany and Japan might suggest this conclusion to be overly pessimistic.  But history seems to suggest that both of these countries, with devastated economies and infrastructures were stripped of their RWA leaders with high SDO's and shamed in the world community  Their populations had no options or other choices than to submit to our rebuilding plan.  And to submit to very aggressive public education programs to diminish their authoritarian behaviors and support for authoritarians. 

And, our own Civil War experience was quite different from this more recent historical experience with Germany and Japan.  It took only a few years of a very forgiving Union to allow the destruction of Reconstruction and the replacement of slavery with abject racism and Jim Crow policies and 100 years of segregation and oppression of the offspring of former slave populations. 

These historic examples, in my opinion, together with the emergence of authoritarian movements in the U.S. roughly every 40 or 50 years since the Civil War, do not portend well for the eradication of authoritarians in our society.  I hope fervently that I am wrong and that President Biden's outreach to heal and form a more perfect Union is successful. 

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Republicans Live In Oz Land

Here we are America.  Living in the land of the Wizard of Oz.  Pence's debate performance against Kamala exemplifies their rusty, dull witted failure to grasp objective reality.  Our country is in Covid, economic and social distress as never before.  Yet, their rusty yet frightening adoption of Fascist solutions to the unreality they live in seems to them right, though history has proven them so terribly, destructively wrong.  

They really believe that Eurocentric, white America is threatened by different ideas and to them, very different people, especially those of color. They clearly believe that by limiting their numbers via immigration policy disfavoring these unwanted people, they can reshape an already incredibly diverse and exciting mix of races and culture into the White Nationalism they see as the solution to their power retention.

They really believe that by limiting the power of their diverse fellow American residents, via voting suppression, housing isolation, school segregation, an economic caste system and a reshaping of the American democracy experiment into a top down power structure, with their kind at the top and the diverse kind at the bottom much like the Dark Ages of Europe or Asian dynasties, they can thrive and the rest of us be damned.

There is alot of religious fundamentalism mixed into this land of Oz. Good old fashioned Protestant belief that some of us live privileged lives because we are so selected by their God as better.  Combine that with uniquely American mega-church theology embracing the concept of the mythical American Dream as possible for those who embrace the concept of American Exceptionalism. Riches is the visible reward for living a justified and self centered life.

So with these mindsets framed in racism and exceptionalism, these Republicans deny the reality of massive economic inequality, blaming the unequal for their plight on their failure to work hard enough, be smart enough and righteous enough to advance to their level of excellence.  These unequal are just losers, as Donald Trump has echoed.  He did not invent this idea.  He adopted and lived it.  The Wizard Trump is exemplary in his success, regardless of his immorality, selfishness and lack of empathy.

They justify their European immigrant occupation of the Americas as a righteous bringing of Christian religion to an ignorant population of non-believers for their own good and salvation.  This was true of both Protestant and Catholic occupiers.  Thus their theft of publicly owned lands for their private use, genocide of indigenous people and cruel subjection of them to the superior European economic model prevailed.

To advance this economic model , they who colonized the southern portions of the new colonies imported slaves not permitted in the British country of their origin. They emulated the British economy with the idea of advancing it with new industries and goods.  Slaves were necessary to execute this plan.  Ironically, the northern colonies sought to create a more religiously tolerant life, while exhibiting intolerance toward those differing with their Puritanical theology.  They created an early society of exclusion and isolation. They rejected the British economic model, while still creating a tiered social structure.  Hypocrisy infected both  America's.  But the occupants of the land of Oz deny this history in favor of a myth that America was found of the idea of freedom for all.  But the indigenous, differing believers and enslaved were not included in the all part.

So, an America that  some believed that God blessed began its journey to struggle through hypocrisy for the next 250 years. Attempts at expanding the freedoms enjoyed by the few ensued with abolition, expansion of religious sects such as Catholic Maryland, Mormonism and Christian Science broke through, in spite of significant  attempts to subvert.  Women's voting rights and ultimately, half baked attempts at integrating African Americans into the political and social structure followed.  

But the White Nationalist power structure prevailed as did the uniquely American caste system. This factual history is largely ignored by the minority of the population identifying as Republican.  They invented the concepts of the the American Dream and Exceptionalism as vehicles to suppress reality and advance American Oz.  A mythical America.  And these Fascist Nationalists truly believe their myths.  They are genuine in their believes.  This is not a charade the rest of us have to deal with.   

Thus, the challenge for the facts-driven majority to somehow continue the American journey toward democracy for all with an opposition steeped in heartfelt mythical belief.  A journey out of the land of Republican Oz, the demise of the Wizard and the empowerment of a diverse, reality driven people.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Ideas On A More Fair America

 Kurt Andersen's recent book on causes and solutions for our unequal society has some very plausible ideas I'd like to share.  They are addressed in his Evil Geniuses, The Unmaking of America.

He credits Ronald Reagan with much of the policy which began with an very socially unequal society inherent in all of our history from the beginning and which his team and the Republican Party he adopted later in his life exploited to their ends of greed and avarice.

Our unmaking has as its root, in his view, Reagan's core policy theme that the government should be mistrusted.  He had a lot to work with with people both on the left and right: Vietnam and lying about it, Watergate, inflation, abuse by law enforcement and intelligence agencies to name several very good reasons which enhanced a very American value of skepticism of authority.

Reagan policies around poorly framed amnesty for undocumented immigrants and failure to acclimate existing citizens with unfamiliar cultures fueled resentment. Economic circumstances requiring more unfamiliarity with two income households and many more women in the workplace added to resentment among our conservatives. Child care challenges because of this added fuel to the fire, including the costs to household budgets. 

Reframing of relatively new civil and voting rights with racism at the core of his belief system was like gasoline on burning embers.

The inauguration of the 24 hour hour news cycle and Reagan's elimination of equal time provisions required of networks and the convergence of news and opinion through unregulated cable programming added heat the the fire, according to Andersen.   On the heels of the shock of these changes came the chaotic and unregulated internet enabled by the new availability of P.C.'s. 

A hallmark of Reagan policy was further, dramatic deregulation of industry combined with  massive lowering of taxes for both corporations (taxes halved) and wealthy Americans led to abandonment of antitrust enforcement and a quantum increase in lobbying at both federal and state levels.  

Reagan deregulation of healthcare with elimination of state based regulation of medical services/facilities expansion leading to the chaos and poor care we experience today at obscene costs.  And the closing of mental health hospitals for chronically ill patients dumped onto the streets as homeless, neglected people.

Small businesses declined and mega-mergers emerged.  Product and service markups swelled. Business/conservative think tanks were born to sell a new myth of trickle down economic benefits with increase in corporate influence on legislation to further enhance profiteering. Shareholder value replaced community betterment in corporate mission statements. 

This all led to a laissez faire capitalism and replacement of new and better products with a reborn finance sector with Wall Street careers in a boom town environment.  While top tier incomes exploded, Reagan began to tax social security income for modest earners. Reagan introduced America to the rebirth of 1920's style of income inequality and an attack on collective bargaining and union busting. The minimum wage went into the freezer.  Contract labor became a norm for many corporations. Wages began their decline and stagnation that would sustain into the next century. 

This is the Reagan legacy we live with today including the replacement of science with the new hybrid merger of myth, religion and science in our education system . This of course, led to his climate change denial.  Today's anti-vaxxer and anti-masker and anti-health science movements which are terribly impeding our ability to address our Covid crisis.

Andersen posits that measures can and need to be taken to rectify these misdeeds of Ronald Reagan and those in the conservative think tank sphere that have imperiled both our democracy and our now very unequal and unfair capitalistic system.  He cites also the very uncertain political economy we face with two other major trends.  First, the wonders of highly perilous Artificial Intelligence and Robotics in processing and manufacturing.  These are major opportunities and challenges we must be prepared to address.  Of course, he does not ignore the economic and social threat the current Covid pandemic presents and the future altering course it represents for our economy and our lives in general.

A more fair America would meet citizen needs with 58% of us saying we want government to do more and provide more regulation. We have a history of doing more with government programs that gave us solar energy, semi-conductors, electric cars, touch screens, the internet, most pharmaceuticals and public utilities, where the private sectors profits from our funding as citizens. 2/3 of us want a wealth tax, much having been made as a result of govt R&D or funding, or both. 92% like the idea of Sweden's economy.  We favor organized labor/collective bargaining on a two to one basis.  the majority of us want the power balance to shift from commerce to consumers.

Andersen proposes some very plausible solutions to the unmet wants/needs.  He proposes reinstating anti-trust enforcement where increased competition can reduce prices and provide more responsive service.  He suggests government guaranteed healthcare without necessarily excluding some forms of private insurance options. 

He suggests that with 28% of of our lands held by the Federal government, we could create an Alaska style universal income with licensing fees from private users of those lands such as gas/oil in the short term, solar and wind  and geothermal installations as well as ranching and agricultural and foresting enterprises.  Add to that income source carbon taxes as well as internet taxes on commercial uses such as Google and Facebook. Additionally , the government could secure funding from payback for tech grants and  R&D investments we've made.  Add to this income derived from climate crisis green jobs programs employing millions with incentives to move  xome off shored industries back to our shores, especially in cases of goods and services, such as crisis medical products better produced here at home for national security reasons.

Finally, here is some of his stunning data. If we evenly divided all U.S. A. income and wealth among the entire population, it would generate  annual income of $140,000 for each household and provide each with a net worth of between $800,000 and $1 million.  This of course is a not to be realized fantasy, but a fair tax system not tampered with by a corporate lobby could move us to a more fair income/wealth redistribution without deny the 1% their yachts, at least several mansions and their private jet.  They would be denied control of the stock market, better put in the hands of small investors through regulatory reform .

Really, with a will to succeed that is uniquely American, America could do this. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

2020 Republican Party Platform

 This is the Republican Party Platform for 2020.  This is what they stand for.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Left & Right Rebellions Are Not Alike

 My 83 years have seen a number of major uprisings in the U.S.A.  I've participated in some, studied others.  I observe that they look similar on the surface but digging a bit reveals vast difference.  Here are a few named and later, explored. On the left, Anti-McCarthy political expression, civil rights movement,  feminist movement, anti-Vietnam war, anti-war protest spying termination, LGBTQ oppression, Iraq/Afg.anti-war protest, BLM/police brutality protest.  On the right, anti-Communist movement, Hard Hat cultural uprising, Silent Majority movement, Sex,drugs & Rock and Roll Hippie movement,Anti-government uprising, Tea Party Rebellion, anti-masker uprising.  Let's explore their roots, apparent similarities and vast differences. The point?  Maybe to better understand legitimate vs. contrived, manipulated protest.  After all, America is rooted in rebellion from our very beginning, including a healthy distrust of government overreach.

On the left, the anti-government protests listed above were all initiated by a few or a few dozen initiators who met at a kitchen table, church or bar somewhere and aired their grievances and began organizing protest, such as Hollywood writers/creatives being called out for leftist politics, Black religious leaders tiring of discrimination, a group of female intellectuals who grew weary of institutional miscegeny, college students being subjected to a military draft for a war in a land unknown to anyone here, anti-war organizers being illegally spied upon, LBBTQ persons infuriated by public scorn/ridicule, anti-war activists seeing a repeat of U.S. foreign intervention. Black reformers joined by allies expressing outrage of government brutality in their communities and racism encouraged by a President.

Having participated in several of these left uprisings and read extensively about their origins, creators and results, I am compelled to observe that they all had a common characteristic.  They were born from grassroots communities and amateur, unpaid organizers.  In a number of instances, these movements later acquired funding, in some cases substantial, from sympathetic contributors of financial means and even sustaining support from private institutions supportive of their missions. But their latter support came years after the movement's legitimacy and success was a near certainty. Like the Colonial rebellion, their roots were of the people and by the people, not initiated by a special interest organization with an agenda served by that movement.  Later, these movements became in many cases, formalized organizations with mission statements and experienced leaders to take them further into the public sphere. But also significantly these left movements were driven by a value system of common good....addressing making life better for all in the community.  A communal value.

In contrast, a close look at the right rebellions yields the conclusion that they were rooted in the value of rugged individualism and libertarian principles of individual fulfillment. Further, a close look yields the observation that these movements were initiated by organized groups with an agenda rooted in protecting capitalism and the existing social order incorporating racism, miscegeny and individualism in their core values.  Organized groups behind these movements on the right include the Chamber of Commerce, the John Birch Society,  Heritage Society, American Enterprise Institute, the Federalist Society, NRA, Koch Brothers foundations and the many right wing lobbyist/advocacy groups dedicated to shaping government policy. You may find the Hippie movement strangely catalogued here on the right as it is often characterized as a movement born of liberalism.  A closer look reveals nihilism, narcissism  and "do your thing" libertarianism in its roots. During this era, left leaning people were engaged in the civil rights or anti-war movements. 

I have tried to find common ground between these movements of rebellion on the left and right. For example, the anti-maskers rhetoric seems rooted in civil libertarian ideology.  But a closer look suggests a much stronger influence from libertarian ideology putting one's individual rights above social responsibility.  

So, my search for similarities in various American rebellion movements lead me to a dead end.  So, I continue my fruitless search for common ground for left and right America.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Our Oppressed Show Us How To Be Americans

I just finished watching President Obama's eulogy of American Hero John Lewis.  Yes, I was moved to tears by the message, the messenger and the moment.
I hope you were too.

What struck me about this eulogy and all the others I heard was the dignity, control, intelligence and power of these messengers telling us Lewis' story.  A 20 year old kid from nowhere USA starting a lifetime of bravery, love and perseverance on the streets of a hostile South, his place of birth, not of choice.
No bitterness, no overt displays of anger, an absolute commitment to non-violent protest and messaging. He embraced his tormentors and brutalizers with love and patience.  That was way more than I've ever been capable of.  My parents tried to  teach me how to live with dignity, but somehow his family and community were way better teachers.  Or maybe, more likely, he was a way better person than me. 

The message from our former President Obama and all those giving testimony to Lewis' life was this:  you have oppressed us, but time and time again we give you the space to redeem yourselves, privileged white America.  We do not hate you for what you've done to us, our parents or our ancestors.  Some of you white people wrote both a Declaration of Independence and Constitution that we, Black Americans, admire and take as a blueprint for a better life for you.....not so much us, excluded from that document, including Native Americans, all women and us Black Americans. You were hypocrites at the time, excluding all of the rest of us but likely more than a handful of your founders would come to realize the words of A More Perfect Union meant we all would keep working on this democracy idea until we got it at least close to right.

Sure enough, once again, Americans of good will have taken to the streets, this time a much more diverse crowd, to remind us there is a huge task at hand.  It's in diminishing if not eliminating oppression of Black Americans.  This, in the face of the worst health epidemic in a hundred years and in the face of a cruel, selfish and authoritarian fascist government duly elected under our rules and doing everything they can to demoralize, demean and diminish all Americans of color in favor of a nationalist white majority who have ruled since the beginning of this nation. 

This deplorable minority of white Americans among us came to realize they are not alone in the land....there are others Black and others of color and differing religious and ethnic background who want to share in the glorious idea of equality and freedom for everyone here sharing that ideal. And that reality is threatening to their self image, self-esteem and privilege.

That is what the founders did: gave us an ideal toward which to work to create a More Perfect Union.  That is what Black America and the BLM movement is repeating; giving us an ideal, decidedly attainable if all of us treat one another as equals and put our shoulders to this task.  It doesn't mean that some of us in our lives will, through innate talent, intelligence or just plain grit won't attain more for themselves than some of our equals. But that doesn't empower this group to oppress those who attain less in a material sense.  That was not the idea of America in ideal and shouldn't be if we value fairness and all people as equals.

Just look at the lineup of those speaking on July 30 at John Lewis' funeral.  They were up there because of achievement, yes, connections, status and wealth. But all spoke of shared equality of opportunity and shared equality in participation in our democracy as advocated by John Lewis.  And a commitment to all of us working through the vehicles available to us to make life better and more free for all of us, without one group oppressing the other.

That is the difference they pointed out between Trump style Americans and Lewis style Americans. The Lewis people have an equal passion for equal opportunity for all of us, not just their own bubble, family or circle of support.  And they have gone to the streets repeatedly to voice that demand of a more just America.  And they have endured broken promises of equality, broken commitments to equal participation in our civil, economic and social order called America.  Yet, they, the overwhelming majority of them are peaceful, non-destructive and welcome allies of other ethnic and social backgrounds to join them in the task of making life better for us all.

Trump style Americans want skin pigment to be a deciding factor in winners and losers in striving for enrichment; they want power and domination over people of color and differing backgrounds from their own.  And they want to control the economic wealth and status for their own families and chosen circle without a commitment to advancing the status of others not like them. This is a long rejected social order of the dark ages in European history our founders, inspired by the Enlightenment, aimed to create in the new world.

I continue to want to call myself a Lewis style American.  The alternative for me is unthinkable.  I refuse to be an oppressor or keep company with those who in their silence and inaction, enable the oppressors to oppress.

I am a Lewis American committed to advancing a More Perfect Union.