Musings on the New Fascism in America

Re: This Disastrous Election and the Fall of the Constitution. Mother Liberty Cries Today.

The morning after November 8, the newest day that will live in infamy, someone texted to me “You’re disappointed. I get that,” then went on to chastise me a bit, in a kind and caring manner. Allow me to correct their initial assumption.

I’m not disappointed. Don’t even think I’m disappointed. I get disappointed when the Cardinals lose. I get disappointed and upset when Mizzou loses. And loses.  And I then make bad jokes about it.  That’s disappointment.  This election is far different from that.
I am not disappointed. I am afraid. I am afraid for my, and your, America. I am afraid for my children and their children. I am afraid for the people of the world who depend on the strength and freedom and example that is America to support and help them through their own darkness and who now fear us.
I am not disappointed. I am mad as hell. I am beyond angry. I. am. furious. I am furious at the hateful people who think that if you’re black or brown or anything other than white you are second class, that you don’t deserve the same rights as white people.
I am enraged at people who think that LGBT people don’t deserve the same rights as ‘straight’ people. I am enraged that supposedly Godly people choose to denigrate and persecute and relegate to the shadows people who are not just exactly like them. I am livid that these people try to blame God and Jesus for their hatefulness and prejudice and persecution of people who are not members of their personal club.
I am livid that these people claim it’s God’s will when a woman dies in childbirth or gets raped or a child is born with horrible defects that ensure a lifetime of misery, but don’t care to consider it’s God’s will when a pregnancy is aborted for the mother’s health or to prevent a tragedy.
I am angry and horrified to realize that I live in a country where more than half the people ascribe to beliefs and hatefulness and persecution that can only be described as those of a Christian Taliban. Tulsa, say hello to Aleppo.
When these ‘people’ who claim God and Jesus as their own personal puppets, and try to force everyone in the country to accept and obey their own personal distortions, install as our President a man who has no scruples, who has been shown to be an abuser of women and of all those who fall under his power; a hot tempered bully who has no respect for anyone or anything but himself and has been shown to be devoid of any character or morality whatsoever, I am terrified. I boil when I see my country being overcome by the practitioners of exclusion, of hate and bigotry and racism, to the cheers of the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
I shake my head and wonder if some people were out of the room when logic and reason were distributed, when I hear someone say, as they vote for a tyrant in waiting, “Well, you know, maybe a change is good.” A change from ‘love your neighbor,’ to ‘beat the hell out of your neighbor if they are not exactly like you,’ is a good change how, exactly.
And I know we are lost when I see how many people in the aftermath are willing to just sit back, flip the channel to a rerun of a ‘reality’ show, and blithely proclaim “Oh, it’s okay, I’ll just be quiet and float along with it until the next election.” 
I am in dismay for our Republic and for all of the nations in the world that depend on us for their hope, our help, and  our example. I marvel darkly at the ignorance and self-satisfaction of people who wanted this, and now say, “Oh man up.  You just lost an election. It’s not a big deal.” I know then that I’m having a conversation with someone I never want to have behind me. I know I’m talking to someone who champions the bullies and the exclusionists and thugs.
Because it is a big deal. Because it was not just another election, it was an election that put every great ideal our country rests upon at risk.  Because it was an election that instantly changed the world from one looking up to us,  to one peeking fearfully at us from behind their drapes with their lights turned off. Because it was an election that refuted freedom and equality and chimed in the believers of repression, bigotry, racism, and a single-minded,  extremist, hateful  arm of Christianity: The Christian Taliban. And because other Christians helped it to happen. Because it was an election that assured there will be a lot more room in that streets of gold in the Heaven Christians profess to believe in, because the other place suddenly looks a lot more attractive. Because huge numbers of those supposed Christians just looked Jesus in the face, and spat. Because it was an election that warned us you can just look at the photo above and change the names to Trump, and McConnell, and Ryan, and Pence and their cohorts. Good Christians all. Because now, once again, a hate and intolerance and brutal pettiness which we thought we had moved beyond, has risen again and threatens to consume us. Because millions of good Americans and immigrants now fear for their lives and their neighbors have ordained it.

Because even as you sip your beer and check the TV guide and sagely say it couldn’t happen here, it’s starting to happen here. France may want its statue back. I couldn’t blame them. But no, I’m not disappointed.

The Wildlife is Almost Gone. We Will Be Next.

Date: 10-30-2016

 

 

Goodbye to Wildlife and Soon Thereafter to Humans

This is not something anyone will want to hear. I may get blasted for this post more than any other I have made. But the conversation has to begin. We cannot avoid it just because it makes us feel bad.

To the Millennials of the world, it is my very sincere belief that if you have not already had children, you should consider not having any. And certainly, any children still below child-rearing age should think very seriously about avoiding child birth. I make this suggestion because I don’t think you will want your children, or their children, to face life in the world we, as in ourselves, as in human beings, are about to leave them.

A new report from the World Wildlife Fund via CNN tells the story better than I could. By 2020, they tell us, two-thirds of the planet’s wildlife will be gone. This should not come as a surprise. If it does, then you just have not been paying attention. The full import of this is that human beings are in the process of destroying all other forms of life on the earth, except perhaps bacteria, viruses and amoeba. Instead of turning back or even stalling the process, we have accelerated it with every generation and continue to do so. And that means that we will drive ourselves to extinction within the foreseeable future.

The assault on the environment also continues We undermine and poison our land and our rivers and our air with massive amounts of pollution.  (Thanks to Republicans and sheer greed, the United States sponsors the attack and contributes to it massively.) Scientists tell us that the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is now at levels not seen since dinosaurs roamed the earth. In our own nation, profit motive and greed prohibits any meaningful movement toward restoring or even delaying the denigration of the environment and the assault on other species. It’s the same in other countries to only slightly lesser degrees.

The world’s nations, led by the United States and Russia, continue to expand ever deadlier nuclear arsenals and force all life on the planet to teeter daily on the very edge of a radioactive apocalypse that would not only kill all of us (take your choice, quickly from the blasts or slowly from radiation poisoning).

Animal murderers all over the world, from poachers in African nations to so-called “sport” hunters in America, continue to kill wildlife for fun and profit. I use the word murderer because there is no other name for people who enjoy killing animals because they would go to jail for killing humans.

Our Government, and virtually all others, allows the killing and polluting and assault on the planet, and ultimately ourselves, to continue unabated, because they are owned by the profiteers, the richest and greediest among them. The largest, most organized civic groups capable of raising their voices with sufficient strength to possibly make a difference, the religions, stay quiet. Christians in America who believe their religion is so special, stay quiet. They say things like, “Well it’s God’s will,” a convenient way of blaming the Almighty for their own catastrophic lack of responsible behavior.

Worst of all, by far, today’s adults, like the adults of all previous generations, make big, grand, and empty talk of preserving the world, from the water and the skies to the wildlife with which we share it. We pronounce that we must save it for our children and their children. We declare it with our mouth, and prove we don’t mean it with our actions.

In short, homo sapiens, which I have for a long time referred to as an extinction level event on a worldwide scale, are destroying virtually all other life forms, and will invariably pronounce extinction upon itself in the process. You don’t want to hear it. It may ruin your day. You’d rather have your fun and your comfort, your license to kill and pollute, today, and those children you speak of so grandly and sanctimoniously can damn well worry about themselves.

I believe the latter half of the 21st century will further speed this process because the human species is incapable of behaving in any other way than it does. We are speeding the destruction of the world’s life forms as never before. I think we will be seeing the beginning of the final agonizing slide of our end during the last half of this century. Any children produced between now and then, your children, my children, and certainly their children, will know little but suffering. So much for preserving the world for them, eh?

Mankind was placed here on a marvelous world full of teeming, magnificent life. A world of incredible beauty and variety. A world capable of supporting almost infinite life. I believe we were to be, could have been, caretakers and benefactors of all that is here. Christians like to brag that God gave mankind dominion over this wonderland. And we take that word, ‘dominion,’ to mean license instead of responsibility, freedom to abuse and destroy rather than responsibility to nurture. We keep insisting, so many of us, that we have the only such amazing world as this in the universe, even as we continue to do everything we can to destroy it. Yay, us. We have done nothing but abuse this world and eliminate its other life forms, not to mention our fellow man, since our first breath of life as a species. We do it for profit, and for fun. Even as we see clear and undeniable evidence that we are destroying all that is around us, everything including the very things we need to live ourselves, we continue to do it. Our motto, the real one, not the good sound bite version, is ‘live for today and the hell with tomorrow.’ So much for our children and their children. We claim intelligence. We prove daily that we are the most ignorant and selfish and unintelligent and detestable life form on the planet.

Take a very hard look without your rose colored glasses. The writing on the wall is telling us we will have reached the endgame by the end of this century. At the rate we are going, we humans, our motto by the time the next century arrives will have changed to “try to get through today for tomorrow will be worse.’

I’m not spouting biblical predictions. I’m talking about scientific reality that scientists have warned us about for decades. God, whichever one you believe in, is not coming for us, and will not bother to save us. We have earned the finality we are bringing upon ourselves. We have no one to blame but ourselves. We are the villains. Pray to God if you want. I think you’ll get an answering machine message. We like to boast that we were made in God’s own image. If you were God, would you bother to answer a phone call from people like us in the twenty-first century?

And so I’m suggesting you do not pass on the terminal stages of our existence to children, for them to live and suffer through the death throes of the species. I would not choose to subject the children of the future to the world that will be theirs as our species spirals into oblivion.

Oh, I know the adage, the one that says hope springs eternal, hope for some miraculous redeeming actions or discoveries. But that can only happen if our species, as an entirety, can suddenly, and I mean within the next decade, become something that we have never been, and that is a responsible and conscientious people.

And you say, oh, but what can I do?  The answer is to revolt. I don’t mean grab your gun. I mean revolt with your presence. The only thing that has a chance of saving our species for our children and grandchildren is a chorus of raised voices. A gathering, growing, staggering collection of voices, a coming together of people and religions joining the activist voices that are already out there. I’m talking about the raising of a chorus of voices to stand against the destruction of wildlife and the environment for fun and profit, a wall of voices with the will of all the people behind it, saying ENOUGH!

ENOUGH willful killing. ENOUGH willful assault on the air and the oceans and the rivers. ENOUGH with  fuels and conveniences and entertainments and easy comforts at the expense of the very air and water that sustains us.  ENOUGH destruction.

We can accomplish amazing things, we homo sapiens, when we really want to. We are  capable of discoveries, and some have been made recently, that go a long way to treating, if not fully curing, the environment. We are capable of technologies that can clean our waters, our air. We have it within us. But it can only happen under one condition.  We have to really want to, for our children and their children. We have face the fact that if we don’t follow through, the future is bleak, for our children and their children. We have to accept, to truly UNDERSTAND, that this is the most important thing in our lives more important than our next gas guzzling car or land destroying all terrain vehicle or ocean cruise oil pipeline, if this wondrous Earth is to remain one that will nurture humans, and other species, in the future, for our children and their children. We have to get it through our thick, selfish, grasshopper heads that ‘dominion’ is a responsibility, not a license.

And if we can’t….or won’t….do that, then we have to quit pretending that we give a damn about the future of our children, and their children, and just not have any, because the earth of the near future won’t be a fit place for them.

 

 

An Open Letter to Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin

An Open Letter to Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin
With Copies to the Leaders of All Nuclear Nations

Curses on the bunch of you. Who do you think you are? After thirty years or so of mostly easing nuclear tensions, you now start escalating again? How dare you. When did you decide to abandon basic human decency?
You peck and rail against one another. President Putin, you invade the sovereign territory of the Ukraine. Oh, I’m sure you have your reasons, and you feel they are very important. And President Obama, you condemn President Putin and belittle Russia, while you, and we all, know that for decades our own country has invaded others at will, and frequently with very thin reason, from Grenada to Libya to Iraq. You scorn the Russian President and yet you know that the United States is no better, has been no better. We have no high ground from which to throw stones.
And now, President Putin, you start making nuclear war noises again, as if you have forgotten that such a war has no winners, especially in this day of hydrogen bombs. You have bunkers for many millions that America does not have, but you know that there will be nothing but desolation and death by radiation awaiting the occupants of those bunkers when they exit. If they exit.
I’m a simple citizen. I am far from perfect. I’m not a terribly important person. I’m not a great world leader. I never felt the need to chase that kind of ambition. I was a teacher. I still teach on occasion. I love my children and my cats. But I know this. Neither of you is worth the mantle of leader, nor even a claim to the title of decent human being, if you lead this world into an unspeakable nuclear conflict. And in your hearts, you must know that.
I am not omniscient, but I trust and hope that if God is truly just, every individual, in every country, who worked on the creation of nuclear weapons suffers eternal torment in the deepest corners of Hell. If the two of you lead the world into the actual horror of a nuclear war, you will deserve to plummet even lower. Never mind who did or does what first at this stage. Both of you, and the leaders of the two countries, and England, and France, and every other country that has built these Godless weapons, have created the playing field and prepared the game plan. You are equally at fault. There is no innocence.
If you are truly worthy of the positions you hold, if you have any real claim to the leadership of millions of people, there is only one recourse for you. Stop this escalation of nuclear confrontation now. Right. Now. Then get together and agree to one thing at the beginning. There is no conflict that is worth the destruction of human life on this planet to a scale that is virtually inconceivable. Then agree to get rid of the damnation of nuclear weapons once and for all. Start now. Use the mutual strength of both nations to force other nations to do the same. Bring China into the fold. England, France, all of the nuclear nations. As each new nation joins the mission to end nuclear weapons, the strength to convince others becomes greater. Find common ground, and I don’t give a damn how difficult that may be. If you are leaders, your job is to make it happen, not continue to put the people of the world at ever increasing risk of the unspeakable.
Mankind has a terrible enough history of violence as it is. Centuries of killing and maiming and stealing and torturing each other. It’s time to put an end to it, not take it to even higher levels. Mankind cannot survive a nuclear war. Russians will be gone, Americans will be gone, Brits and Chinese and French and all the other peoples of the planet will be gone, because once this Pandora’s Box is broken open by the two of you, there will be no closing it.
President Obama. President Putin. It’s time to be real leaders. It’s time to quit acting like petulant children toward each other and holding the whole world hostage. It’s time to be who you like to think you are.
And Hillary Clinton. I expect you will be the President of the United States in a few months. Everything I have just said will then fall on you, as well. Then I will be saying to you, if we are all still around at that point, it is up to you to be that person you think you are.
How have we reached this point? How have we moved to the edge of a nuclear abyss, with the survival of the race, not to mention the survival of all the other species living on this planet, at risk, and all the billions of us who breathe this air and drink this water and love our children, can do nothing except hope and pray that a handful of ambitious people like yourselves, whom we call our leaders, do not betray us to the ultimate degree because they have petty disputes with each other?
Enough! For decades you have played lip service to the need to rid the world of these abominations! It is time, right now, for those of you who claim to lead, to start by leading us once and for all away from the nightmare of nuclear war. Make your peace. Get rid of the damned weapons. Stop playing with annihilation as if you were Gods. If you set these things off, you are monsters, every single one of you. You yourselves are the abominations.

Barry Wallace

Welcome to the Extreme Right’s Version of an American Reich

Well, it’s out there now, the Republican Party Platform. Actually, I agree with parts of it, and am on the fence about others. The following parts range from merely extreme to truly frightening.

‪#‎s‬ 1 through 5 are all about cutting taxes for the rich. There is no mention of reducing taxes for anyone else anywhere in the 50 proposals.

#7 would prevent any rise in the Federal minimum wage.
#8 would actually lower the pay of government employees.
#10 would eliminate progressive / liberal Supreme Court Justices.
#11 is lovely. It would legalize discrimination against LGBT.
#12 Aims to make Christianity the official national religion.
#13 Pointedly promises to legalize dark money in elections.
#14 would establish open carry nationwide & eliminate gun control.
#23 would keep GMO’s legally secret.
‪#‎s25‬-29 declare to hell with the environment.
#’s30-32 Would privatize Medicare and freeze Social Security
#33 would repeal Obamacare.
#34 would eliminate fairness in Internet access & speed.
#37 is “the wall.”
#41 is makes “traditional families” the only acceptable families.
#42 privatizes government services that fight poverty
#43 REQUIRES bible study in schools
#44 REPLACES public schools with private ones
#45 REPLACES sex education with abstinence-only approaches.
#46 privatizes student loans instead of lowering rates.
#48 drastically increases the military budget.
#49 cancels the Iran nuclear treaty and calls for EXPANDING THE NUCLEAR ARSENAL.

Anyone who votes in support of this ticket is in serious need of a psyche examination, because you have lost any measure of logic, reason, and intelligence.

It doesn’t matter in the least how much anyone dislikes Obama or Clinton or liberals in general. Anybody who votes Republican in this election is voting AGAINST Social Security; AGAINST Medicare; AGAINST the middle class; AGAINST unions; AGAINST any religion that isn’t Christianity; AGAINST lgbt rights; AGAINST the environment; AGAINST any form of gun control; AGAINST transparency in the use of GMO’s; AGAINST their own access to the Internet; AGAINST immigration; AGAINST the separation of state and church; AGAINST public education; AND FOR nuclear escalation.
If you are so mad about your right to exercise your prejudices against those of whom you don’t approve that you are willing to destroy your own future (unless you are rich); If you hate progress so much that you are willing to bring back the cold war; If you really hate change so much that you are willing to give the country to the rich and the religious zealots, and risk your children, and their children; if you hate Hillary Clinton so much that you are willing to make this election about striking out at her and preparing to send your children and grandchildren to war; oh the hell with it. Go ahead and vote for the Man Who Would Be King. Go ahead and put the religious zealots in charge of the nuclear codes. Go ahead and light the flares of war and torches of intolerance. Set the course of this country toward whatever cesspool makes you happy. If you don’t think LGBTs, or black people, or the poor or those of a different race or religion, should have the same rights as you, go ahead and vote against them. Just do one thing, just one thing, if you have a shard of reason left. Tell your children, when it comes your turn, tell them as they prepare to go to war, “This is what I wanted for you. I did it all for you. Be happy.”
“First They Came for the Jews”
By Pastor Niemoller
First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.

NO COMPANY AMERICA

I just read an article in Forbes (posted on Yahoo). The article is by Panos Mourdoukoutas, a big time market reporter, and you can find it here.
http://www.forbes.com/…/by-the-time-minimum-wage-reaches-…/…

Mr. Mourdoukoutas tells us that employers like Walmart, Target, McDonalds, etc. will simply fire workers and replace them with machines rather than pay them a fair mandated minimum wage. He uses different words, but that is the core of his message.

His article tells us what is really happening in America. We are being taken over, not by Islamic extremists or communists, or big government. We are being taken over by the 1% and 3% who really own, or intend to own, this country. This isn’t new. It’s simply an escalation of a movement that began during Ronald Reagan’s administration. But it’s a strong restatement of the big business agenda.
Raising the minimum wage to give people a living wage, you see, isn’t on that agenda. It would eat into their profits a little.
Oh, places like Walmart, Target, McDonalds, in fact virtually all businesses, can cover this fair wage increase easily, by simply raising prices a very small percentage, a few cents per item for the above and similar businesses, and a few dollars per item for larger items. Sales would continue, even grow, because workers would still be much better off, more able to buy things. Everyone wins.
But that’s not what it’s really about. It’s really about guaranteeing their maximum (note that I said maximum, not fair, profit), today, tomorrow, and into the future. Machines, you see, never ask for a raise, never ask for medical benefits, much less those unacceptable retirement benefits.
This is about wiping out almost a century of gains by workers and unions in getting American workers a fair shake. This is about control.
I don’t know how many of you are old enough or have read enough history to know what a ‘company town’ is. It’s a town established, sometimes literally built from the ground up, by a large company. Its employees live in the company town, buy everything from the company store (or stores), and when necessary, (which it always is) borrow from the company bank.
When you work, and live, and buy, and borrow, in a company town, it operates very simply. You accept what the company gives you. You buy what the company sells, at company prices. And you borrow money from company banks at company rates.
What we are seeing develop in America has been building steadily ever since Ronald Reagan became President. It’s nothing less than an effort to turn the United States, all of it, into a virtual company town. The ultra rich own the banks, the large companies, much of the government through payoffs (what do you think a campaign donation from Citizens United is, folks?), and the vast majority of the goods.
Call it an oligarchy. That’s what it is, and if you bother to look even halfway hard, it’s obvious. And what’s another term for oligarchy? On a small level, a synonym would be…company town. On a larger level, try this one…Company Country.
The actions described in this article represent nothing less than another move forward in achieving this Company America.
And you know what, we help dig our own economic grave, give up our own voice in our future. We go along.
I’m sure many of you use the “self service’ registers at stores. I have, until my eyes got opened. I never will again. And you shouldn’t, either. Every time you use that self service register, you help take away someone’s job just so you can check out a little faster. Every time you order from a self service kiosk, you help take away someone’s job. Or did you think about that? I had, but I got careless about it until I read this article. I will never do either of those things again. Not at a fast food place, not at a store, not at a movie theater or a restaurant, not ANYPLACE. You shouldn’t, either. Remember, your job could be next.
Uncle 1%, the official governing group of Company America, wants us to go willingly into their company town. I do not intend to do that.
Let us have a slogan in this country of ours, from shore to shore and border to border. Let that slogan be: NO COMPANY AMERICA.
DON’T use the ‘self serve’ lane. DON’T use the easy order kiosk. Make it clear that you will only transact with people. And yes, I’m leaving ATM’s off the list, because that one is already so well established it would be fruitless to try to put it back in Pandora’s Box. But we have to stop, right now, the turning over of jobs to automation unless a safety element is involved.
The article I included here is clear. Big business will hit back at any significant raise in the minimum wage by attacking jobs, and automation/machines is one of the ways they will do it. But they have been doing that anyway. The goal of big business always has been and always will be, to maximize profit by giving workers as little as possible in return for their labor. Why in the hell do you think unions began in the first place?
For the last thirty-six years, American workers have been going backward. Reagan started it by selling the trickle down theory and busting unions. The momentum has grown ever since. Don’t believe me, look it up for yourself. It’s far past time to start fighting back, workers of America, and refusing to stand still for this “We have to automate if you raise pay” lie is a good place to start.
And good or bad, we’d damn well better find someplace to start while there is still a chance.
Want to help fuel the beginning of resistance? Start each of your Facebook or Instagram or Twitter posts with the slogan. NO COMPANY AMERICA. No matter what you talk about in your post, start with NO COMPANY AMERICA. Before there can be any movement, there has to be a voice, and a voice can start as simply as that.
Ps. If you read this and think I’m crazy, fair enough. But think about it. Think about it every time you look at your insufficient paycheck. Think about it every time you worry about your job and your future. Think about it every time you go to bed. But if someone else tells you I’m crazy, the first question you should ask yourself is, who is telling you that, and who told them that?
BW

My Great America – It Might Be Different From Yours

Date: 7-4-2016

I’m surrounded by the sounds of Independence Day as I sit down to write this. The skies are clear. The daylight heat has graciously acquiesced to the pleasant temperatures of evening. My windows are open. Pleasant breezes steal through the screens, carrying with them the full collection of bangs, sizzles, whistles, pops, whoops, and occasional big booms of July fourth.  I welcome them, revel in them. I have contributed a fair share of them during my seventy-three years. Well, seventy-two if you hold me to absolute accuracy. My birthday won’t be official until about three a.m. tomorrow morning. But we are accorded a certain leeway on such things as this when we reach a certain age, and I certainly have.

As I listen to the celebrations, and glance occasionally at the multicolored displays large enough to rise above the houses, I find myself reflecting on phrases that are of such particular import on this day, more than any other. Phrases, and the passionate beliefs behind them, that drove and formed the foundation of this ‘great experiment’ in Democracy of ours. I let them dance through my mind like a Cohan tune, with a hint of Gershwin as counterpoint. “When in the course of human events…We, the people…a  more perfect union…establish justice…promote the general welfare…all men are created equal…” They ring with as strong a resonance today as they did two hundred and fifty years ago in Philadelphia’s sweltering and tumultuous Independence Hall.

This year, I cannot help but think also of a more contemporary phrase that demands prominence during these clearly troubled times. Troubled times. If we but stop and think, I mean really think, we must face the fact of the matter, namely that most times in the history of man have been troubled. Man is a creature whose specialty, more perhaps than any other, seems to be predicated on creating trouble, then laboring mightily and bloodily in an effort to get out of it. Truth be told, man’s ‘good times’ are good primarily in the sense of being only somewhat less troubled than others. But I digress.

The other phrase that comes to mind is one we hear tossed about almost constantly in print and on the airwaves during this election year. Make America great again. As a sound bite, it’s a passionate call to patriotism. As a slogan, it’s irresistible. Undeniable. How can you, or I, or anyone who loves our country, argue against it? It dares you to disagree. If you question it, it slimes you with a coating of questionable patriotism. Any true American, any genuine patriot, any citizen who loves the U.S.A., wants our country, our America, to be great. Again.

The fly in the buttermilk here, as Sam Houston was wont to say, is the question of which great America we’re talking about?  The America of our founding fathers was certainly great. How could it not be? It achieved our independence from a non-resident and callous King who showed little concern for the rights and issues of his colony in the Americas, except when it came time to tax them. Even though our founders left intact the awful and despicable practice of slavery in the south, and the economies in the north which profited from it, out of a certainty that otherwise there would be no new America at all, they made their bargain with the Devil with all good intentions of addressing that problem at a more manageable later time. That issue would take almost a hundred years to reach a boiling point, but it was on the agenda. And overall, the American Revolution was indeed, a great and notable time for America.

What of those generations in between, then? Generations in which the country was settled, east to west and north to south. The immigrants and their children who built the country during that time faced hardships of weather and geography, and made enormous sacrifices as they expanded the country out of its little pocket on the Atlantic coast. The British attempted to put us back in our place, that being the King’s pocket, and the War of Eighteen-Twelve called upon our new country to raise its resolve once again, which it did, and again it prevailed, with a bit of help from the French. Native Americans, initially welcoming in most instances and later, unfortunately, a bit in the way, didn’t fare so well, but progress was, as it is today, a powerful force, sort of like making an omelet. And we know how that works.

One of our greatest Presidents, though reviled in his own time, like another President who would appear a hundred and fifty years or so later, finally resolved that slavery had to end. It was simply wrong and could no longer be tolerated. It’s difficult to think of anything as atrocious and violent and murderous as our Civil War, as being a great time in our history, but it did officially end slavery. The sacrifices made by hundreds of thousands of white, and black men, prevailed over hundreds of thousands of other white men, and did finally fulfill the phrase, “…all men are created equal.”  To be sure, it didn’t end racism against the black man and woman, and it certainly did little to alleviate the bigotry and hatred with which we seem to greet each new generation of immigrants not among the original bunch, or our own bunch. The Irish can tell you that, and the Chinese, and the Mexicans, and the Asians, and well, you get the idea.  But the buckets and box cars of blood and carcasses that defined the War between the States did establish, at last, that it was immoral and illegal to own another person, and that the government of this country would not tolerate it.

If we are looking for that ‘great’ America, the era from the end of the Civil War to the early twentieth century would surely be a good time to look. From the late eighteenth century to the turn of the twentieth, settlers swept forward in all directions. From the cities of the east to the Pacific Ocean and from the Canadian border to the Rio Grande,  across the fertile plains, the arid deserts, the broad rivers and towering mountains, the frontier was tamed, the west was won, commerce expanded, law and order was slowly established. Millions of hard working, long suffering people, good people mostly, looking for nothing grander than a better life, turned the vastness of America into a true country. It’s almost impossible not to look upon the westward expansion as a great era. Of course, Native Americans were the recipients of a bit of collateral damage called genocide, and much of the greatness of America was built upon land that had previously belonged to Mexico. But those were small things when looked at alongside the overall accomplishments and accumulating greatness. It was grand. Therefore it had to be great.

It’s probably safe to say that most Americans, when they speak of “…that time when America was great,” are most likely thinking of the era stretching from the burgeoning of the Industrial Revolution, or latter nineteenth century, through the two world wars, the time when the United States established itself as a formidable, respected, and feared international power. These decades also saw the growth of the American middle class and improvement of working and living conditions for the majority of its citizens.  The poor continued to be poor, of course, and those guilty of inadequate ambition moved mostly downward, but overall the twentieth century was a time when America was considered by the world, and therefore Americans, as a truly great country.  The Statue of Liberty attested to the fact, and immigrants looking for better lives flowed to our shores, where the ones who had arrived immediately before them whispered in their ears “Watch your back.”

Of course the twentieth century did give us those two world wars, and the Korean war, and the Vietnam war, though neither of the latter two were given the dignity of being called wars. Bigotry and racism still ruled, unofficially of course, in much of the country, especially in the deep south. Whites used one water fountain, the cleaner and better one, while blacks used the other, dirtier and not so good one. White folks ate and strolled wherever they wished, black folks wherever they were allowed. That was all finally forced to an end during the civil rights movement that raised itself up in the nineteen-sixties, and officially sanctioned racism was finally, again, rooted out of the south. Like all such things do, it merely went underground where the hate and bigotry festered, and continues to do so to this day. So when we look at the twentieth century, it’s more accurate to describe America’s greatness primarily as its performance in the two world wars, and the fearsomeness it built for itself. Here’s a point to consider. Out of all of the nuclear warheads existing in different countries since the mid-nineteen forties, out of all the thousands of them, only one nation has ever actually used the abominable weapon. America, twice. The bill for Pearl Harbor, paid in full.

We are barely into the twenty-first century, and we have spent virtually the whole of it at war, in one place and another. We live in fear of terrorists and our own neighbors. We still practice racism and bigotry across the land. Anyone who doesn’t realize it is not paying attention. We stand at a crossroads of whether this country can force its way back to a nation of government, or allow ourselves to make the final slide into a financial and corporate oligarchy. The poor are poorer than perhaps any time other than the Great Depression. The middle class teeters on the edge of bankruptcy, unable to afford a house, in some places unable to afford even an apartment.  Religious zealots are trying furiously to make the United States a version of the Middle East, where religion rules over reason. The country is facing some of its direst threats in history, and no, I’m not talking about ISIS.

So we come back to my original question, which of the ‘great’ Americas do we want to be, again?

I can’t speak for anyone but myself, of course, no matter how much I might want to. Mel Brooks told us “It’s good to be the King.” But I’m not one.  I’m just a mere commoner. My needs and wants are those of a commoner. The great America I want to see is no more, and no less, than the phrases in my head describe. An America where all men, and women, are equal; an America where justice is served for all; an America where your gender, your sexuality, the color of your skin and the shade of your religion, are no one’s business but your own. I want an America governed by reason, not by your religion or mine or anybody else’s. I crave an America where it’s not a crime to be an employee or a blue collar worker, punishable by poverty even if you work forty hard hours a week. I dream of an America where we are ready to fight to the death against terrorists and demigods and threats to our freedom , but understand that commonality of borders, or ancestry, or some book is not within itself proof of criminality. And I want an America great enough to lead, not follow, in the quest for environmental responsibility and humane treatment of all animals, including those destined to sacrifice their lives for us. I ask for a Lincoln’s America, “…of the people, by the people, for  the people…;” but I want add something to Abe’s quote. I want us to read it as I think he meant it,”…of all the people, by all the people, for all the people. And I dream of a nation that understands the people are inextricably linked to the land, the sky, the waters, and our fellow species.  Now that nation could change the world. That nation would be a truly great America.

 

Something Important called RACE

A quote from Charles Barkley has garnered attention recently. This is the quote:
  We as black people, we are never going to be successful, not because of you white people, but because of other black people. It’s a dirty dark secret. You know when there are young black kids doing well in school, the loser kids tell ’em, “Oh, you’re acting white.”
For some reason we are brainwashed to think if you’re not a thug or an idiot you are not black enough.
-Charles Barkley
It was posted on Facebook and immediately picked up by some right wingers who jumped on it is the be-all/end-all statement on the subject. They eagerly commented on it and used it as ammunition for an attack on left wingers and of course, yet another attack on President Obama. They were piling on like ants on a pile of sugar.  Of course they were off base in much of their vitriol, just as the left is frequently wrong in much of its generalized venom against the right. My thoughts, as they appeared in that comment threat, follow.
There is so much truth to what Charles says. I am also one that has long appreciated that he speaks his mind. I am VERY DISAPPOINTED, however, that so many of the extreme right wingers here have taken this as an opportunity to bash Democrats and particularly our President. You folks don’t know what you are talking about for one very large reason, and it’s the same reason so many of my Democratic friends don’t know what they are talking about either. The reason is this. It’s not a simple case of all this way or all the other way, people. There is ample blame to go around. And this is an issue that will NOT be resolved until BOTH sides of the political spectrum realize that the only true reason they want to lay ALL of the blame on the OTHER side is so they can avoid taking any responsibility at all for their OWN side’s contributions to the problem. It’s about three or four generations past time for people on BOTH sides to commit to COMING TOGETHER to find, if I may paraphrase the words of JFK, not the Democratic solution, and not the Republican solution, and not the white solution or the black solution, but the RIGHT solution. People who genuinely need help, need help, and those who are physically able need to also be offered, and expected to accept, education and training to help them improve their life. The radical white class needs to realize that they really have NO understanding of the genuine race-related problems black people face, nor any real knowledge or appreciation of the white race’s contribution to the black problem, while the radical black class needs to realize that all white people don’t hate them, stop crying foul every time it is suggested that they, and especially the black radical youth, have to start accepting their own responsibility to lift themselves up. This isn’t just a white problem, people, nor is it just a black problem. It’s not a Democrat problem or a Republican problem. It is ALL of that, and it is, first, foremost, and always, an AMERICAN problem. It will be addressed and solved as an AMERICAN problem or it will not be solved at all.