Category Archives: America

The Real Underlying Cause of Mass Shootings in America

The answer lies deep in American society and culture.

Written by Natalia Packwood and published in 4/6/2022

Originally posted in An Injustice!

I want to first preface this article by saying I am not anti-gun control. In fact, I think it’s a great idea and will allow us to take one step closer to a future where mass shootings are a thing of the past. However, I also believe that the best way to solve a problem is by cutting it off at the root. And the source of mass shootings, or the reason behind them, is American culture.

No, not patties on the grill American culture, I’m talking about American masculinity, homophobia, gun culture, gendered stereotypes, and racism. These things are obviously not unique to the United States, but they are important in understanding why it is that mass shootings happen in the U.S. more than in any other country in the world.

“Since 1982, an astonishing 121 mass shootings have been carried out in the United States by male shooters. In contrast, only three mass shootings have been carried out by women”¹

Does America Have a Future?

Review of Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt’s book, How Democracies Die

Reviewed by Joseph Langen
It would be comforting to think that our American experiment in democracy can survive its current dangers as it has in the face of past threats. Yet our survival is not assured in today’s socially and politically turbulent climate.
How Democracies Die places our current challenge into the context of previous and more
current democracies which failed or at least struggled with their own crises. The authors report that in the past, democracies have collapsed in the face of violent attack.
More recently, democracies have crumbled due to insidious challenges from within. They see America as facing the second type of challenge.
They point out that the Constitution gives us basic rules to support the US democracy. Our society is further bolstered by unwritten norms, the most important being mutual toleration of rivals as a legitimate part of our society and restraint from attacking those with rival approaches to managing our society.
They note that American factions coexisted fairly well before the Civil War. Our country broke into open conflict during the Civil War and remained in conflict until the end of Reconstruction. After that we had another period of relative cooperation until the 1960’s Civil Rights Act. Cooperation has been declining since then, leaving us with racial equality on the books. Yet polarization has worsened over the years culminating in the Trump fiasco.
It appears that both sides cooperate better when racial equality is off the negotiating table, a sad state of affairs. Battles over civil rights, especially with regard to racial equality, have been joined by conflict over migration, religious beliefs and the nature and purpose of culture.
The book discusses three possible outcomes of our polarized society.
  1. First is a recovery of democracy. Trump and Trumpism fall or fade into irrelevance in the face of public disgust.
  2. Second is continuing and worsening of the divide with no tolerance or forbearance related to issues which divide us. At some point this trend would result in the death of a functioning democracy. This second possibility is on the horizon if Trumpian Republicans manage to control the presidency, Congress and the Supreme Court with anti-democratic power.
  3. Third is continuation of polarization and disregard of unwritten conventions keeping a modicum of peace, resulting in political warfare with an uncertain outcome. Whether a blend of individual freedom and egalitarianism would survive remains to be seen.
For us to survive as a nation, we must restore the endangered guardrails of tolerance and forbearance as well as overcoming polarization and fair elections. This will require compromise and softening of stances by everyone on both sides, particularly with regard to political rhetoric in both the major political parties. We must also address the needs of those neglected in our society as well as developing social policies favorable to everyone rather than just those favored by the political side in power at the moment.
Will we be able to come together as a society despite our differences? That remains to be seen. Can we set aside our partisan ideals or at least soften them while we focus on building a society supportive of all its members?  This book clearly lays out the existential problems facing us, possible outcomes and what we need to do for our democracy to survive, Our future lies in the balance. Get ready to do your part.

The Most Complete Picture Yet of America’s Changing Electorate

Republicans and Democrats have amassed divergent coalitions that will make coming elections especially competitive—and bitter.

Written  by Ronald Brownstein and published in The Atlantic 7/1/21

Once, researchers and political operatives had only a few options: some postelection academic surveys (particularly the University of Michigan’s American National Election Studies), precinct-level analyses, and, above all, the mainstay of Election Day television broadcasts—exit polls.

Now the choices for understanding the electorate’s behavior have proliferated. The ANES poll has been joined by the Cooperative Election Study (CES), a consortium of academic researchers from some 50 institutions that surveys a huge sample of more than 60,000 voters. Catalist, a Democratic targeting firm, produces its own estimates of voting behavior, based on sophisticated modeling and polling it does with its database tracking virtually all actual voters. The Associated Press and Fox News teamed up with the venerable NORC at the University of Chicago this year to produce a competitor to the traditional exit polls called VoteCast.

Yesterday, the Pew Research Center released its eagerly awaited Validated Voters survey. Pew builds its findings by surveying adults it can identify as definitely having voted in November based on voting records, a methodology many analysts favor. (The CES will soon issue revised results based on a similar process of matching poll respondents to voting records.)

Each of these methods has its fans: Catalist, for instance, has emerged as the data source most trusted by Democratic political professionals, while other politicos and academics swear by Pew or CES. “It is part art and part science,” says the UCLA political scientist Lynn Vavreck, who helped launch the massive Nationscape polling project, which will eventually release its own assessment of 2020 in an upcoming book.

But with yesterday’s release of the Pew results, one thing is now clear: The principal data sources about 2020 have converged to a striking degree in their account of what happened. “As I’ve been looking at our data and comparing it to some of those other sources, I’ve actually been struck by how similar [they] are,” says the Tufts University political scientist Brian Schaffner, a co-director of the CES study. “You get a pretty consistent picture.”

Read: Democracy is already dying in the states

That consistent picture offers both parties reason for optimism and concern in roughly equal measure. The cumulative message from these studies is that we should brace for more years of grueling trench warfare between two coalitions that are becoming more and more inimical in both their demographic composition and vision of America. And to top it off? They appear to be about evenly matched. (While the Democratic coalition is clearly numerically larger—having won the popular vote in an unprecedented seven of the past eight presidential elections—Republicans have some offsetting advantages, some structural, others manufactured, that could allow them to control Washington nonetheless.)

Here are some other big conclusions from the studies:

GOP constituencies are shrinking, but the party’s hold over them is tightening.

A consistent message in these data sources is that the GOP’s core groups—particularly white people without a college degree—are declining as a share of the electorate as the nation grows more diverse, better educated, and more secular.

The major election studies differ on the share of the vote they believe was cast by white people without a college degree, from a high of 44 percent in the Catalist data, to 42 percent in the new Pew results, to just under 40 percent in the recent registration and turnout study from the Census Bureau (the first time the group has fallen below that threshold in census data).

But whatever absolute level of the vote the studies attribute to those noncollege white people, Catalist, Pew, and the Census Bureau each found the same relative movement, with the share of the vote cast by them in 2020 dropping two percentage points from 2016. That continues a long-term pattern: Working-class white people have declined as a share of the vote between two to three percentage points in each election during this century. That may not sound like much, but it adds up: In census data, they were still a 51.5 percent majority of voters as recently as 2004, before falling just below half in 2008 (almost certainly for the first time in American history) and continuing down to their current level.

Other groups important to the GOP are also shrinking. According to Pew, white Christians fell to 49 percent of total voters in 2020, down from exactly 50 percent in 2016; that’s also likely the first time in American history those voters didn’t constitute at least half of the electorate. Rural communities are also contracting as a share of the total vote (and population) in most states.

Anne Applebaum: Democracy is surprisingly easy to undermine

The countertrend is that the GOP last year continued to amass commanding margins with all of these voters. Even Joe Biden, a 78-year-old white Catholic who touts his working-class background in blue-collar Scranton, Pennsylvania, achieved only grudging gains among white voters without a college degree: Pew found that he won 33 percent of them, just slightly better than the meager 28 percent Hillary Clinton captured in Pew’s 2016 survey. (The exit polls and Catalist, which also put Biden’s share with noncollege white voters at about one-third, recorded similarly small gains.) Likewise, while Pew found that Biden narrowed Clinton’s deficits among both white Catholics and white mainline Protestants, Donald Trump still carried both groups by roughly 15-percentage-point margins. All of the major data sources found that Trump also carried about four-fifths of white evangelical Christians. Similarly, Pew and Catalist both found that Biden remained stuck at the modest one-third of the vote Clinton won in rural areas.

These findings underline the trade that Trump has imposed on the GOP: He’s bequeathed Republicans a political strategy based on squeezing bigger margins out of shrinking groups. Many GOP strategists believe that’s an utterly untenable long-term proposition. “That’s not a formula for winning majorities and winning most of the time,” says the longtime GOP pollster Glen Bolger, who notes that Trump lost the popular vote twice and “got beyond lucky” to win the Electoral College in 2016. But that doesn’t preclude the GOP from continuing to win power in the near term with that approach—given that the Electoral College and Senate magnify the influence of states where those shrinking groups remain more plentiful (more on that below), and the determination of red-state Republicans, through their wave of restrictive voting laws, to suppress the influence of the rising groups that generally favor Democrats.

Class inversion is here to stay.

The new Pew data, like the earlier 2020 assessments, underscore the durability of what I’ve called “the class inversion” in each party’s base. In the ANES studies, the longest-running of these sources, every Democratic presidential nominee from Adlai Stevenson through Jimmy Carter ran better among white voters without a college degree than among white voters with one. But as cultural issues supplant economic concerns as the principal dividing line between the parties, every Democratic nominee since Al Gore in 2000 has run better among white voters with a degree than among those without one.

The class inversion hit a new peak in 2016, with Hillary Clinton running at least 15 points better among college than noncollege white voters in most of the major data sources (including a breathtaking 27 points better in Pew’s assessment). In 2020, Catalist and the exit polls showed the gap widening, while Pew found it slightly narrowing, but the class inversion remained enormous in all three; each study also found Biden winning a majority of college-educated white voters. (Those gains were central to his strong showing in white-collar suburbs around major cities.) He was especially strong among college-educated white women: “We have the ability to make [them] a base group,” says Celinda Lake, who served as one of Biden’s lead campaign pollsters. But ominously for the GOP, all three sources also showed Biden gaining significantly over Clinton in 2016 among college-educated white men, who historically have been a much more reliable Republican constituency. And while white people without a college degree have been steadily shrinking as a share of the vote, these college-educated white people have slightly grown since 2004 (from about 28 percent to 31 percent of the electorate, per the census). Especially valuable for Democrats: They are highly reliable midterm voters.

Voters of color may be diverging.

Pew’s study found that Biden won 92 percent of Black voters last year, and the other major data sources gave him only slightly smaller shares. Democrats may need to keep an eye on Black men, among whom Trump performed slightly better in 2020 than in 2016, but their support among Black women—which reaches as high as 95 percent in some of these analyses—provides an immovable obstacle to broad GOP gains.

Asian Americans, the fastest-growing nonwhite community, also look solid for Democrats. Although Republicans have strong beachheads in some Asian communities sensitive to arguments against Democratic “socialism” (such as Vietnamese Americans and some Chinese groups), the major data sources agree that Biden still won about two-thirds or more of Asian American votes last year, even as their turnout soared.

Hispanics, though, could be emerging as a wild card. Pew put Biden’s vote among Hispanics at only 59 percent; that’s lower than any of the other major sources, but they all agree that Biden fell off measurably from Clinton (and Barack Obama before her). The decline was most visible among Central and South Americans in South Florida and rural Mexican Americans in South Texas, but it extended far beyond that, Catalist and others found. Trump may have raised the party floor with Hispanics by attracting more of the culturally conservative among them; the yellow light on that prediction, as I’ve written, is that almost every incumbent president ran better, as Trump did, with Hispanics in their reelection campaign than in their first race. The clearest conclusion is that both parties view Hispanics as more of a contested community after 2020 than they did before—and will spend their campaign dollars accordingly.

The generational cavalry is arriving for Democrats.

Both Pew and Catalist found that the racially diverse, well-educated, and highly secular Millennials (born from 1981 through 1996) and Generation Z (born from 1997 through 2014) cast almost 30 percent of the votes last year, up substantially from 23 percent in 2016. Both sources also found Democrats winning about three-fifths of the votes from those two generations combined. If Democrats can defend their lead with that group, it will pay compounding dividends: The nonpartisan States of Change project forecasts that the two generations combined will cast 37 percent of the vote in 2024 and 43 percent in 2028. “You add those two [generations] together and you are talking about permanent structural change,” Lake says. Because these generations are the most racially diverse in American history, this current of new, young voters has been key in increasing people of color from about one-fifth of the electorate in 2004 to nearly three-tenths last year, according to census data. They are also swelling the numbers of Americans unaffiliated with any religious tradition, and Pew found Biden winning more than 70 percent of such “seculars” (even as they cast one-fourth of all votes.)

Conversely, the preponderantly white Baby Boomer generation, which has aged from its 1960s roots into a Republican-leaning cohort, is receding: While Catalist and Pew agree that Boomers outvoted Millennials and Gen Z in 2020, States of Change projects that the younger groups to outvote them for the first time in 2024. (Generation X is projected to remain constant through the 2020s, at about one-fourth of the electorate.)

Two factors might dilute this potential Democratic advantage. One, Schaffner notes, is if the turnout of these two younger generations, which spiked to historic levels in 2018 and 2020, slackens with Trump off the ballot in 2022 and potentially 2024 as well. The other, cited by Vavreck, is that these generations might become more receptive to GOP arguments on issues such as taxes and crime as they move further into middle age, with families and mortgages.

But Lake, like many Democrats, is optimistic that the GOP focus on stoking their base through endless cultural conflict (on everything from undocumented immigration to critical race theory) will leave Republicans very limited opportunity for gains among the younger generations. “Young people are very turned off by the racism, by the climate deniers,” she says. “So everything they are doing to solidify their base, and everything they are doing to try to win 2022, is digging them into a deeper hole for 2024 with young voters.”

Place matters.

A big challenge for Democrats is that the broad demographic changes favoring them—growing racial diversity, rising education levels, increasing numbers of secular adults not affiliated with organized religion—are unevenly distributed throughout the country. Adding to that challenge: The two-senators-per-state rule and Electoral College magnify the political influence of smaller interior states least affected by these trends (particularly the increase in racial diversity). Red-state Republicans are moving to systemically reinforce those advantages with the most aggressive wave of laws restricting access to the ballot since before the Voting Rights Act in 1965, and they are gearing up for equally aggressive gerrymanders of state legislative and congressional districts in states they control.

As I’ve written, the unequal distribution of racial and cultural change leaves Democrats facing something of a conundrum. The minority population is growing fastest across the Sun Belt, but the party generally doesn’t win as large a share of the vote among white people in those states as they do in the Rust Belt states, where minority growth has been much slower. Until Democrats can consistently win Senate seats and Electoral College votes in the diversifying Sun Belt states, that means they still need to win some of the Rust Belt states (particularly Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania) where noncollege white people compose a much larger share of the vote than they do nationally. Democrats lately have made progress in the Sun Belt: Biden won both Georgia and Arizona, and the party now holds all four of their Senate seats. But Democrats’ Sun Belt gains aren’t yet expansive or secure enough to eliminate their need to hold the key Rust Belt battlegrounds—and for that they need to win a competitive share of working-class white voters.

The grooves are deeply cut.

The major data sources do show some noteworthy shifts in voter preferences from 2016, such as Trump’s gains with Hispanics and Biden’s with college-educated white voters. But given all that happened during Trump’s tumultuous presidency, including a deadly pandemic, most analysts are struck by the extraordinary similarity in how voters behaved across the two elections. “Continuity is the big story, consistency,” says Alan Abramowitz, an Emory University political scientist. Not only did the 2020 result “highly correlate” with the 2016 outcome both demographically and geographically, he notes, but presidential preferences also predicted how people voted in House and Senate races more closely than ever before.

Biden and his advisers clearly have a vision of how to break this stalemate: They hope that by delivering kitchen-table benefits, such as stimulus checks, infrastructure jobs, and expanded child-tax-credit payments, while muting his personal engagement with hot-button cultural issues, they can improve his standing among working-class voters of all races, including white voters. But that strategy faces unstinting GOP efforts to highlight the cultural issues that alienate those voters (especially white voters but also some Hispanics and Black men) from the Democrats. Ruy Teixeira, a veteran Democratic analyst, argues that even if Biden delivers material benefits for blue-collar families, downplaying cultural issues such as crime and immigration won’t be enough. “You are going to have to draw the line a little bit more sharply against parts of the party and policies that are anathema to these voters,” Teixeira says.

Still, almost all of the analysts I spoke with believe that however the parties position themselves through 2024, change in these durable voter alignments is likely to come only around the margins.

Big outside events could shatter that assumption, of course, but the striking message from all the data sources studying 2020 is that America remains deeply but closely divided. Wide partisan fissures by race, generation, education, and religion are combining to produce two coalitions that are matched almost equally, with a Democratic edge in overall numbers offset by a geographic advantage (potentially reinforced by restrictive voting laws) for Republicans. “It is going to be super, super close again in 2024, I can tell you this right now,” Vavreck said firmly. “And I don’t even need to know who the candidates are going to be.”

Ronald Brownstein is a senior editor at The Atlantic.

Fascism in America

The GOP’s Ultimatum to America: Fascism, or Else, The GOP is More Dangerous Than Ever

Written by Umair Haque and published in 5/28/2021

Every sensible person knows by now that the GOP has become America’s greatest threat to itself. Even Republicans with common sense — like my father-in-law, the farmer — shake their head at what’s become of their party: a hotbed of fanatics, extremists, loons, and cranks, all of whom share a single aim. And that aim is now becoming more and more explicit.

The GOP now presents America mericawith a simple, stark choice: fascism, or else. That’s the choice of authoritarianism. The GOP is hardening, in other words — into a true extremist organization, every bit the equal of far-right parties in Eastern Europe, or in a much more disturbing parallel, the Taliban, or ISIS. They, too, presented their societies — who were failed states — with a stark choice: fascism, or else.

The GOP is giving America an ultimatum. Will America reject it?

The hardening of the GOP into an organization of extremists that give the world’s most fanatical a run for their money is frightening, disturbing, and most of all, incredibly dangerous. I want to take a moment to point out precisely how and why — by way of how fast and deep the GOP’s hardening into genuine, off the charts, failed state levels of fanaticism is happening.

One of the GOP’s rising stars is Marjorie Taylor Greene. Extremists like her have replaced “moderates” like Liz Cheney. Nobody should cry tears for Liz Cheney — she voted for Trump, after all, proving her gullibility, if not complicity. And yet MJT is another creature entirely. Recently, she spelled out the choice the GOP is demanding of America — its ultimatum.

Fascism — or secession. She highlighted secession efforts in Oregon that are gaining momentum. Then she justified them and argued for them, since the “disconnected swamp” is…insert crazy conspiracy theory. The Pacific Northwest, of course, is America’s stronghold of white supremacy, and it’s no surprise therefore that secessionist movements have gathered steam there. And yet to see a member of Congress arguing for them is a serious step over the line. After all, it’s a clear violation of everything from the oath of office to basic standards to the idea of believing in a country itself.

Now, to really make sense of this idea, we have to hold a number of seemingly paradoxical facts in our head. Yes, elites have failed America — especially working class America, and especially elites in DC, who propounded idiotic theories of “trickle down economics” and “small government” and so forth (while successful societies like Canada and Europe were offering everyone things like healthcare and retirement and education precisely because they were expanding the role of public institutions and governance.) But the theories elites offered were eagerly swallowed by none other than the working class itself, because they gave it a way to continue old attitudes of racism, bigotry, and prejudice. The average working class white American wouldn’t have to invest in Black people, Latinos, Jews, Muslims — even if it meant not having basics like social insurance and social systems and forms of collective action themselves.

None of that justifies supremacy, and it certainly doesn’t justify violent secession for the purpose of white supremacy. The answer to “we’re a failing state” is not “let’s go build our apartheid utopia fascist society.” At least unless you’re a fascist.

Marjorie Taylor Greene is performing at least one service of dubious value to the rest of us. She’s so fanatical and simple minded that she doesn’t even bother couching the GOP’s ultimatum in the polite evasions and double speak the rest of them do. In her, we see it totally clearly: fascism, or else.

Or else what, you might ask? Well, she’s given you the answer. Trouble. Intimidation. Violence. Threats. Harm. Right down to a violent civil war — which is usually what this anodyne term “secession” involves — itself. Fascism, or else.

But if we look just a little more clearly, we can see exactly the same ultimatum now at work throughout the GOP, from top to bottom — only maybe given in slightly less stark and brutal and stupid terms.

Consider how the GOP House Leader has “blocked” an investigation into the “events of January 6th.” I put all that in quotes because in situations as dangerous as these, nobody should play he game of double speak pundits do. So let me put it more clearly. One of the leaders of the party who launched a violent coup aimed at stopping the peaceful transfer of power — incited by the President himself — doesn’t want any kind of formal process of investigation, much less justice, about that coup. When it put it to you that way, you should shudder, because this is the kind of thing that happens in the places impolitely once called “banana republics” — only now America is the republic, and the bananas are white supremacy itself, the things that fanatics are willing to destabilise society wholesale for.

What is Kevin McCarthy really saying? He’s giving America an ultimatum, too. The very same one: fascism, or else. He’s saying that he’s not willing to investigate the coup attempt of Jan 6th, because, of course, he doesn’t want any ugly truths to come to light. His party only offers America two choices. Fascism, or else. Or else what? They’ll block up the gears of government, they’ll obstruct, they’ll bully, harass, intimidate. They’ll go back on their word — remember, Kevin McCarthy supported such an investigation not too long ago. But when the rubber meets the road, and the actual choice has to be offered — all that’s forgotten, and it boils down to: fascism, or else.

Or else what? McCarthy’s line — like a lot of GOP politicians — is a little more sophisticated than the obvious brutal Iran, Iraq, or North Korea-style appeals to authoritarianism MJT makes.

Their “or else” is: you don’t get a working government at all. We’ll do everything in our power to just crash the system, procedurally, formally, using whatever means we have at our hands, whatever rules and codes and systems we can abuse. We’ll stop you from doing the most basic things, like investigating a coup, even if we said we’d get behind it. Fascism, or else: or else you don’t get a working government at all.

McCarthy’s aided in this effort by the third way the GOP’s delivering their ultimatum of fascism or else to America. What’s going in the party at a cultural level, as a social movement? Something truly peculiar. A psychologist would call it mass psychotic delusion. The GOP is rewriting history.

The coup never happened — those were just tourists! They didn’t mean any harm! Never mind the gallows they built, the death threats they chanted, or the numerous people who died. That never happened. The election was stolen from us, and we’re the ones with the grievance here. How can that be? Because the promised land has always belonged to the pure blooded and the true of faith. The rest of you are just subhumans — who deserve to be treated like them, kids put in cages, hunted in the streets, violently attacked at the Capitol.

This Orwellian process of rewriting history is so notable and remarkable because it’s happening in a weirdly spontaneous fashion. Yes, leaders in the party tell the Big Lies — but the base eagerly laps them up. They’re hungry for collective delusions, psychotic breaks from reality. This entire side of politics has quite literally lost its grip, its mind. It is not thinking at all anymore.

Why is that? Because it is too busy delivering an ultimatum. What are all those snarling Trumpists really saying to the rest of us? Fascism, or else. They don’t offer any compromise, any negotiation, any room for or remotely any interest in anything else. They’re hardly sitting around weighing the merits of different policies. They are just reacting instinctively now, their animal passions triggered, their lizard brains on fire. Fascism, or else.

Or else what? In MJT’s case — the new generation of fanatical GOP politicians — the answer was: the total rupture of society, civil war. In Kevin McCarthy’s case — the old guard of politicians wary enough to couch the ultimatum in politesse — the “or else” was: you don’t get a working government. But in the Republican base’s case, in working class America’s case, the answer is even more chilling than that: mass violence, based on the total rejection of reality, because the only kind of society they will accept is a fascist one. The base’s “or else” is: another coup, another Jan 6th, more paramilitaries, “open carry,” outright contempt for the “libtards,” vitriolic hate, all of that fuelled by psychotic delusions that justify it.

Surivors and scholars of authoritarianism like me see something truly disturbing now when we look at the GOP: an American ISIS or Taliban. White Americans, I think, often still feel that’s got to be hyperbole. I wish it was. They’re not experienced with authortiarianism or fascism — and right now, they need to rely on and listen to those of us who are.

What is authoritarianism, in its most essential, distilled, purest form? When one political side gives another an ultimatum. An “or else.” And the “or else” is the threat of violence, harm, hurt, on a mass social scale, from coup to civil war to large-scale sociocultural conflict. When that side refuses to even brook the idea that consent is a norm everyone should value, and it’s inherently abusive in a democracy to say: “it’s going to be this way, or else we’re going to hurt you as hard and deep and much as we can, seriously and really harm you, from taking away your rights, to violating your bodily integrity and safety and personhood.”

Authoritarianism is “or else,” backed up by the threat of violence. We see that now at every level of the GOP — from the establishment at the top, like Kevin McCarthy, to its new generation of fanatical leaders, like MJT, right down to the base, 70% of whom think the election was stolen, and the coup which never happened was nonetheless perfectly justified.

That’s bad enough, but the GOP is now one step even beyond that. It’s not saying, “Social democracy or else,” or “A working healthcare system or else.” It’s saying something far, far more sinister than that.

It’s saying “We want a society based on power, violence, domination, control, and dehumanization, or else. We’re the ubermen — the ones of pure blood and true faith — and the rest of you are the underman. We get to exploit and hate and demonise and scapegoat you. You live as second class citizens — if that — in our country, at our mercy, the way we tell you to live. And you die that way, too. Or else. Or else what? It’s open season. We hurt you.”

In other word’s, the GOP is saying “fascism, or else.” It’s authoritarian ultimatum to America is the worst kind there isThat’s the same one that ISIS gave, that the Taliban demanded. It’s the stuff of ultra dystopian scenarios. That is why survivors and scholars like me will use the term “authoritarian fascism”: there are two parts to it, the authoritarian ultimatum, given in the service of a fascist society of the pure and true, subjugating the impure, weak, and hated.

So. The GOP’s giving America an ultimatum. The danger is that America accepts it. This is why intelligent people say: “you can’t negotiate with extremists.” Because even accepting the terms of an ultimatum, especially one given in the name of violence, hate, right down to civil war, coup, mass delusion, fanatical extremism, my friend, is to have lost your power and centre and core and purpose at all. The only thing to do with an ultimatum — ever — is to reject it.

The Perversion of Myth in America Part 5

Dealing with the Myth of Trumpism

In past articles of this series, we have considered the meaning of myth, constructive myths, destructive myths and a perverse myth- Trumpism. In this article, we will consider how to respond to Trumpism before it destroys our democracy. We are already close to another civil war at least in our minds. In the Republican party, a faction of people including legislators have accepted the myth of Trumpism as their “guiding fiction.” Many other Republicans including legislators at all levels tolerate Trumpism whether they subscribe to it or not.

The psychiatrist Alfred Adler coined the term guiding fiction. This is a way of thinking about life which guides a person’s actions. This fiction can be constructive and helpful in making decisions and managing the course of one’s life. It can also be destructive and complicate your life to say the least.

For some people, the Trumpian myth we discussed in the last post has created a path which requires that they sell their souls to Trump and allow him to become the central focus of their lives. We talked before of the implications of the Trumpian myth including:

  1. White supremacy and associated racism.
  2. Belief that Trump really won the 2020 presidential election despite all evidence being to the contrary.
  3. Acceptance of Trump as the only person who can lead us to the promised land, despite the destruction of democracy implied in his approach
  4. Accepting Trumpism as the only truth and Trump as the Chosen One as he has described himself.

For those of us who do not ascribe to the Trumpian myth, it is time to consider how to save our country from the self-serving path Trump would like us to follow. First let us consider approaches which are unlikely to succeed.

  1. Rational debate- Have you ever tried having a debate with a Trump devotee about politics? Based on my experience and that of others I know who have tried, such a debate leads nowhere. A constructive debate is based on facts and rational conversation about related topics. Most Trumpian beliefs turn out to be based on fantasy or outright lies like those Trump has been pedaling for years.  Arguing about them is fruitless.
  2. Attacking the Trumpian guiding fiction.- Their principle is that Trump is always right and knows what is best for everyone. He will lead them out of darkness and chaos into the society he will create for our country. This fiction is not open for debate.
  3. Invitation to partnership- Compromise in the form of political bipartisanship or individual meeting of the minds is not an option for those devoted to the Trumpian myth. Trump is right and that is all there is to it.

The bluster of the Wizard of Oz and the intellectual nakedness of the Emperor’s New Clothes are stories that give us some insight into what we face in Trump and his devotees. As for answers and alternatives to Trumpism there are several possibilities which might well make a difference. Here are the ones which came to my mind:

  1. Allowing Trump devotees to see that their needs can be met by paths other than adhering to his empty promises. This is already taking place on several fronts. We are in the midst of a coordinated effort to manage the COVID pandemic which is showing good results. Bailout through cash payments has started our society on the path to recovery. Some Republican legislators are even taking credit for the benefits to their constituents which they voted against. Current proposals before Congress also include taking responsibility for protection of the environment, our home. In addition, police reform is also a legislative proposal leading us toward more protection and less brutality.
  2. Recognizing the lack of practical proposals. In Trump’s quest for the presidency in both elections, he had no concrete proposals other than the New Order he promised. Details of this plan never appeared, not to mention getting anything done- only the overthrow of the status quo which was well underway during Trump’s tenure as president.
  3. Realizing that the only stated goal of the Republicans is to defeat Democrats and block anything they propose. Other than that, the Republicans have nothing concrete to offer even in light of the many needs of our country and citizens.
  4. Recognition that unreformed police tactics are a danger to all of our citizens.  
  5. Recognition of the benefits of the rule of law other than operating on the whims of leaders such as Trump and retribution for not supporting him unconditionally in their attempt to build a society around their own needs rather than those of society as a whole.
  6. Recognition of the contributions of immigrants over the lifespan of our society as opposed to societal inbreeding.
  7. Recognition that all individuals, despite their political leanings, can make a contribution to rebuilding our society together.
  8. Recognition that healthcare, education and job opportunities will create a safer society by greatly reducing the number of citizens angry and frustrated by their lack of progress.
  9. Learning to recognize the contributions of new cultures toward enriching the American experience as we have done with past immigrant groups throughout American history.
  10. Welcoming Republicans who are willing to compromise as partners in working toward our national progress.

In my opinion, none of these possibilities will result in resolution of our difficulties and disagreements. Yet together and with other possible factors  beyond our current awareness, they can help us build a society in which we can all prosper and where we can all live together in peace. 

When Exactly Did America Stop Being Racist?

Written by Scott Woods and published in, 5/1/2021

By refusing to cop to ingrained oppression in the U.S., political leaders are living in denial

Scott Woods

Scott WoodsMay 1·6 min read

Photo: Bonnie Cash-Pool/Getty Images

Many Americans have been mulling over Republican of South Carolina, Senator Tim Scott’s wildly fantastic rebuttal to President Biden’s address to Congress earlier this week.

These remarks, delivered Wednesday night, found Scott offering jaw-dropping observations about the Republican party that the last four years of American life have proven patently false: that the GOP had a Covid-19 relief plan; that GOP changes to Georgia voting laws will somehow make it easier for more people to vote; that the GOP opposes Supreme Court-packing. It was a fun house mirror of appraisals.

Being a Black person in America, there was one line from the bizarre oration that stuck out. “Hear me clearly,” Scott said, “America is not a racist country.” Mind you, this is after Scott recounted a litany of racist acts that he’s experienced over the course of his life, presumably to show that he understands what racism is.

If Scott were the only high-ranking politician to make such a claim, I wouldn’t care. There’s nothing that Scott can say on the matter of racism that would surprise me, given his voting record and who writes his scripts. But when Vice President Kamala Harris responded to Scott’s claim (“I don’t think America is a racist country but we also do have to speak truth about the history of racism in our country and its existence today”), I took note. Not because I agree, but because she and Scott actually agree on something.

President Biden offered his two cents on the matter, as well: “I don’t think America is racist, but I think the overhang from all of the Jim Crow and before that, slavery, have had a cost and we have to deal with it.”

What’s confounding about their collective conclusion is that they don’t deny that racism exists so much as it isn’t nearly as broad or ingrained as to be considered a way of life. Scott doesn’t provide any evidence that this is true (and, in fact, provides evidence that it isn’t), but Harris, at least, references White supremacists as domestic terrorists, which is a reasonable enough platform. That said, I’m left to assume she might come down differently than most people who believe racism in this country is systemic and not just comprised of tiki torch-wielding mobs.

The question I have for Scott, Harris, Biden, and anyone else who thinks America isn’t racist is: When did that stop being the case?

I think we can all agree that America has been a racist country at some point. Slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation were all orders of the day in American life. These were laws whose outcomes helped build this country from its inception. Without slavery, you don’t have America as you know it — and I don’t just mean in some butterfly effect kind of way. I mean you have no Washington, D.C. or White House. Without segregation, you have no traffic light or pacemaker. And while those may appear at first glance to be nifty dividends, these are blues inventions; things that exist because Black people had to make do in the face of unrelenting racial assault on every level. In short, at some point in the past, America was genuinely and legally racist.

I’d like to know when that stopped. What magical moment in the past baptized America and washed away its bigotry? Which rights were activated on behalf of Black people that absolved America of its original sin?

Tim Scott and Kamala Harris should both, especially as Black Americans, have been able to say that America still struggles with its racism problem. It’s not something America used to be or fixed or voted out of office.

Perhaps the answer is a legal one. When legislation like Brown v. Board of Education (1954) or the Civil Rights Act (1964) were passed, America was obligated to adjust its reality. It could no longer legally discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, and several other personal identities that, oddly, people are still contending with today. Except that America didn’t meet that obligation so much as pivot into more subtle and efficient ways of discrimination. Schools attended by predominantly Black students were and remain routinely under-resourced. You can still see the crimson ink where housing discrimination hasn’t changed since redlining was legal. Disparities in health care, law enforcement, political representation, and living wages persist almost unabated by civil intervention across the board.

All of which begs several questions. If the net result of living in America while Black exposes the same disparities and injustices as it did several generations ago, how is racism not a strain of America’s DNA? How does drawing out daily examples of inarguable and systemic bias not serve as evidence of racism’s existence in American life? How is it that certain Americans can continue to benefit from the ancient and White-facing machine of privilege born of hundreds of years of free Black labor — privilege that Black people consistently cannot access — and the country not be racist by default?

There’s a difference between not being a racist society and being a society that at least tries to get it right most of the time. Despite what most citizens (who, as it turns out, are predominantly White) think of themselves, America is neither of these countries. It turns out that America’s favorite pastime is in fact not baseball but denial. It’s a pervasive and insidious strain of identity that refuses to not see itself as great, even in the face of profound horrors.

The January 6 storming of the Capitol earlier this year was shocking to much of America, but not enough to claim its hands are clean. That tsunami of animus came from somewhere, and it certainly hasn’t felt like the representation of a minority opinion since then. Scott essentially came out as every conservative’s best Black friend and told them they’re not wrong — that somehow, all of the people still accessing America’s privilege conveyor belt are the underdogs here — even though the insurrection lies at the feet of Republican flame-fanning.

What most of America doesn’t get about racism is that ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. That faux-philosophical chestnut has never been true a single day in the history of America (or anywhere else for that matter). Consider a hypothetical in which a White employee is iffy on the prospect of the new Black hire. In such a scenario, said White person has lunch with their new colleague and realizes they’re an okay person after all. This wouldn’t be an example of race becoming invisible or transcending race or any other diversity fable; this is a person recognizing that there’s more to Blackness than skin color.

The White person never forgets that the Black person is Black, they simply realize that there’s more to the person than what they see. And just like a person can never get to that lunchtime promised land by ignoring someone’s race, a society can never reckon with or resolve that which it cannot admit.

Tim Scott and Kamala Harris should both, especially as Black Americans, have been able to say that America still struggles with its racism problem. It’s not something America used to be or fixed or voted out of office. It is something that plagues us, much like the pandemic with which we’re now wrestling. It’s a condition of the American existence, and conversely a weed its citizens have to keep pulling out of the ground. But we’ll never get hold of it unless we grab it by the root.

Why Freedom Became Free-Dumb in America


What Americans Don’t Understand About Freedom — That Europeans and Canadians Do

Written by Umair Haque and published in Eudaimonia 11/24/2020

umair haque

By now, you might have heard North Dakota is the world’s worst Covid hotspot. The world’s worst, with South Dakota not far behind. Things aren’t just desperate there — they’re bizarre, at least to the rest of the world. Nurses talk about patients in the Covid ICU lashing out at them because…they don’t believe Covid exists…while they’re dying of it. Meanwhile, the governor refuses to make mask-wearing mandatory, because she thinks that masks and lockdowns don’t work. You might think all that would infuriate Dakotans, but quite the opposite is true: they’re firmly behind her, as they are Donald Trump, the President who let Covid spin out of control, and make North Dakota the world’s worst Covid hotspot.

What the?

The rest of the world is staggered by all that, because it is staggering. How many twisted levels of illogic are even in there? Too many to count. People in the world’s worst Covid hotspot dying of Covid who don’t believe Covid exists so they won’t fight Covid and back a President and Governor who’ve just let it explode. It’s so awesomely weird that you can’t really find this level of backwardness and folly anywhere else in the world, which is exactly why Dakota is the world’s worst Covid hotspot. But it’s not just North Dakota. Nine of the ten world’s worst Covid hotspots are American states.

And that is because something went badly, badly wrong in America.

In these states, which are mostly red states, Americans have become effectively martyrs for a certain idea of freedom. They are willing to sacrifice anything — and I mean anything — including themselves, their families, their health and wealth, their futures, their towns and cities, and their democracy. But what good is freedom if it’s just the right to…self-destruct?

America became obsessed with free-dumb: the idea of freedom as the removal of all restraint, the right to harm others, the ability to do anything you please, no matter how destructive, toxic, foolish, or inane. Covid’s a jaw-dropping example of it. Think about the example above: it involves at least three levels of free-dumb. The right to “believe” Covid doesn’t exist, the right not to have to wear a mask, the right not to have to lock down. All these effectively add up to the idea that Americans should be free to infect anyone they please with a lethal disease. What on earth?

Where does this amazingly, jaw-droopingly stupid idea of free-dumb come from? Covid’s hardly some kind of anomaly. It’s part of a larger pattern. Americans — in the vast, vast majority — think of freedom in a way that by now the rest of the rich world and much of the poor one regards as dangerously backwards. Freedom is the right not to ever have to cooperate, to invest, to act for the common wealth or common good.

Why is America the only rich society in the world that doesn’t have effectively any public goods? No functioning healthcare, retirement, higher education, and so forth? Because of free-dumb. “I won’t pay for their healthcare, education, retirement!!” Why not? “They’re weak! They’re liabilities and burdens!! They cost me money!!” But wait, don’t you understand that means you won’t have those very same things yourself — because such social institutions are for everyone? “I don’t care! I won’t reward weakness and laziness! Such people need to be punished! And I should be free not to have support the weak!”

So goes the logic of the average American. The idea of free-dumb is something like this. Freedom means a gun, a beer, a Bible, and no rights for women and minorities. But textbooks and medicine and good food and water — those take away your freedom.

What the? How did Americans end up believing this incredible level of self-evident nonsense? How can a gun and a Bible give you freedom, while a book and medicine take it away? What on earth happened to this society to make it actually accept this insanely depressing and foolish kind of backwardsness?

I’ll come to that in a moment. First, you might think I overstate the case. Do I? After all, something like 70% of Americans say they want all the things above. The problem is that they never vote for them. Nope, not even this time around. Democratic voters made Biden rise to power, not Liz Warren or Bernie Sanders, who were the ones championing Americans having basic public goods. Yet again, Americans chose free-dumb. And it’s crucial to note that choice cuts across the left-right divide. Sure, the right only supports free-dumb. But on the centre and the left, free-dumb is dominant, too. Free-dumb so dominates American thinking, society, ideas, culture, life, that Americans have never not chosen it.

To make it clearer just how bizarre and twisted this notion of freedom really is, think about what happens when you cross a border — an imaginary line — into Canada, or take a short flight to Europe. There, freedom has a completely different definition — one that’s diametrically opposed to American free-dumb. Canada and Europe are famous for the world’s most expansive, sophisticated social contracts. Citizens enjoy everything from healthcare to education to retirement to childcare and more.

Why? Americans don’t understand — even the ones who consider themselves intelligent, even the educated ones — just why social democracies like Canada and Europe cherish these things so much that they provide them to everyone, no questions asked. They don’t understand the logic at all, because nobody has ever explained it to them, even attempted to usually, and so free-dumb goes right on having an iron grip over American life, making it as stupid as humanly possible.

The logic of why Canada and Europe provide basics to all goes like — it’s about freedom, but in a much, much deeper, more elegant, thoughtful, sophisticated, and beautiful way than Americans understand. If I am fighting for the basics — bitterly battling everyone else for the food, water, money, medicine, to survive, what does that make of me? I become embittered, hostile, angry, resentful. I grow callous and cruel. I become suspicious and distrustful and isolated and alone. I don’t grow as a person — I shrink and wither into my worst self. The Greeks would have said: I grow weak, morally, intellectually, socially, culturally. And people weak like that are not capable of sustaining a democracy.

What happens, on the other hand, if I do have the basics? Then I’m free. Not just free in the superficial, narrow American way: free to have stuff. I’m free in an existential, social, emotional, cultural, human way. I’m free to cultivate, develop, nurture higher values and virtues. I can be trusting, kind, generous, empathic. I can be thoughtful, critical, reflective. I can be humble and warm and appreciate beauty and truth. I am free to be a genuinely good person. Human goodness has been freed in me.

You might think all that sounds dramatic and overblown, but let me assure you, as someone who’s lived in America, Canada, and Europe — it’s not. Think about how Canadians are renowned for their gentleness and kindness. Or about how Europeans are known for their thoughtfulness and expansiveness and decency and closeness as societies. These things I’m speaking of aren’t abstractions, and they’re not my opinion. They are lived human realities that happen in these societies every single day.

Now think of how the world regards Americans, by contrast. It thinks of them, mostly, as idiots. As cruel, abusive, selfish, exploitative. As narcissists obsessed with the superficial aspects themselves. As violent dummies — people more likely to have a a gun than a book. As bigoted and superstitious — people who think they can pray the gay and the Covid away. I know that sounds harsh, if you’re American.

But is it untrue?

Go ahead and take a hard look at Americans’ behaviour during Covid. It’s been, in a word, shocking and abysmal. Sure, “not all Americans” as the saying goes. But America, as a society, hasn’t exactly done itself proud. Quite the opposite. As a society, Americans acted just the way the world imagined them to be: selfishly, ignorantly, violently, cruelly. Like spoiled, overgrown children throwing the world’s biggest tantrum. How else did America end up with the world’s worst Covid numbers? Precisely because people wouldn’t cooperate with lockdowns and masks, or demand them.

Covid showed that social norms and values of basic decency, kindness, thoughtfulness, care, concern, consideration don’t exist in America. You might think I’m just name-calling — but I’m trying to actually point out a deeper truth.

Norms of basic decency and humanity and gentleness and empathy and care and so on don’t exist in America precisely because Americans aren’t free to be and do those things.

Do you see my point? It’s not about insults — it’s an analysis of freedom. Americans have built a society focused on a certain backwards notion of freedom, free-dumb, the hyper-individualist belief in one’s own right to do anything one pleases, no matter how foolish, destructive, or harmful. But that has cost Americans a truly free society.

Why are Americans so violent, cruel, ignorant, destructive, thoughtless, selfish, careless? Because Americans are not free to be the kinds of people Europeans and Canadians are. Europeans and Canadians are free to be thoughtful, kind, gentle, wise, loving, concerned, considerate people because they enjoy the basics of life. Therefore, they are not consumed with the desperate battle for survival.

But American do not enjoy the basics. For them, life is a constant, perpetual battle for self-preservation and survival. Not just for the poor, but for more or less everyone now, because America is effectively a poor society, made of one giant underclass. Yes, really — 80% of Americans live hand-to-mouth, 75% struggle to pay the bills, 70% can’t raise a few hundred dollars for an emergency, and that’s because they don’t have it — the average American now dies in $62,000 of debt, which means he’s been trying to survive, but hasn’t. He or she hasn’t earned or saved or owned anything his or her his whole life long. Just having the basics has proven impossible — it has left the average American in debt that they die in.

What do we expect to happen to people that don’t have the basics? Exactly what happened to Americans. They grow angry and afraid, unable to think critically or carefully. They can’t care for anyone else, because life is a bitter battle just for self-preservation. Enmity and suspicion and hostility become social norms, not kindness and gentleness and empathy. Cruelty and aggression become a way of life, not cooperation and warmth.

In short, we’d expect people to become violent, stupid, selfish, as they grow poor — not because they are such things, but because that is what poverty does and is. Intellectual poverty is ignorance and superstition. Social poverty is mistrust and hostility. Cultural poverty is cruelty and aggression. Americans are poor in all these ways now, and when the world shakes its head at them, and condemn them, saying, “My God! Has the world ever seen such backwards, stupid people?” what it, in turn, doesn’t understand is that this is what a society becoming poor is. America becoming a place of stunning cruelty and stupidity and callousness and selfishness, so much so that mass death swept it, and more or less, it shrugged. That’s what poverty really is.

Let me put that another way. Europeans and Canadians are wealthy in a profound, an existential and human way — they are wealthy in happiness, trust, meaning, purpose, care, kindness, consideration, decency. But Americans are poor in all those things. That is why Americans cannot really express those values or virtues very much. What made America poor in those things, though, those basic human values — while Europe and Canada grew rich in them?

Freedom — the real thing — versus free-dumb. Now let’s connect the dots. The European and Canadian idea was that giving everyone the basics would free them. Not just to have medicine and money and so on — but to be intelligent, kind, loving, decent human beings.

The American idea, meanwhile — descended from slavery — was just the opposite: only the strong should survive, and the weak should perish. Therefore, nobody deserved anything at all — even the basics — because human life had no inherent or intrinsic worth. Only the strong deserved such things — and they were the ones who could dominate and exploit and control everyone else.

This was a Nietzschean view of power and society — the ones who rose to the top should be the ubermensch: those only concerned with their own “will-to-power,” that is, with making their own selfish desires manifest, who could subjugate as many others as possible, and make servants or slaves of them. But what happens to a society trying to be Nietzschean ubermen? Everyone soon enough begins trying to exploit and abuse everyone else — while depriving them of the basics. You can see how such a place ends up like America: renowned for cruelty, aggression, hostility, thoughtlessness, violence, not the human values and virtues of kindness and care and concern and so on.

Americans don’t understand any of this, really. They get that Europeans and Canadians have basics that they don’t, but mostly, they swallow the stupid, stupid American logic that that comes at the price of freedom, and Europeans and Canadians have less “choices” and so forth. Americans have no idea whatsoever that European. and Canadian society is built on the existential-humanist understanding that came from Camus and Sartre and de Beauvoir and many others that giving everyone the basics frees them to be fully and wholly human.

Americans, probably, have no idea what that phrase even means. So let me put it concisely. Anyone can be foolish, destructive, selfish, greedy, hostile, cruel. To be fully human, though, is to cultivate the higher values of empathy, grace, truth, beauty love. When I have to struggle for food, money, medicine, what room do I have to cultivate those things? I curdle inside, instead, and wither. It’s only when I have the basics that I can really engage with the higher struggle of being human. How do I love? Care? Know? Emote? Empathize? Understand? Share? Grow?

These two notions of freedom couldn’t be more different. Freedom in America, free-dumb, is about not having to ever engage with the struggle of being human — just go out and be as selfish as you please. Carry a gun to Starbucks. Don’t wear a mask. Don’t let anyone have healthcare, including yourself. The vicious cycle goes on. Freedom in Canada and Europe, though, is totally opposite to this: it’s about having the basics, so you can engage with the higher struggles, the struggles for love, self-definition, truth, beauty, purpose — and therefore reach a much, much higher plateau as a human being.

Of happiness, of meaning, of grace and fulfillment. That is why those societies are far, far richer than America in all these things.

I don’t know if America will ever really change. What I do know is this. I’ve never felt more alive than when I was in Canada and Europe — precisely because I wasn’t surrounded by idiots that thought guns, pecs, boobs, and religion mattered more than love, truth, beauty, grace, death, time, dust, and goodness. I was freest there, to grow, to develop, mature, to love, care, know, understand, think — because they are the places that human beings built for being human.

Most Americans, sadly, may never have that experience — and will be all the poorer for never knowing what real freedom is.

How did things get so twisted?

Review of American Dialogue by Joseph Ellis

I have been looking for some perspective on the current issues facing our country. By chance, I happened across Ellis’s very recent book.  I approached it with great anticipation and was not disappointed.

Ellis discusses four major issues and four of the founders of our country who wrestled with them. They include race and Thomas Jefferson, economic equality and John Adams, constitutional law and James Madison as well as foreign affairs and George Washington.

He discusses historical considerations which guided each man in his approach to influencing the foundation of our government. He also explores the moral considerations, personal convictions, political pressures and competing values facing each of them. He also discusses the implications for our infant republic as well as for our current one.

Ellis also documents how the struggles of these founders still hold a prominent place in our present day efforts to maintain our democracy. Particularly difficult for us is how to find and maintain a balance of capitalism and equality of opportunity for all of our citizens. Equally challenging is how to balance our own needs as a country while maintaining our balance with other nations.

The author also considers the focus of our current administration on withdrawal from participation in world citizenship. In its place is the choice to use our military and economic power to get what we want rather than relying on diplomacy.  As a result we are fast losing our place in the world as an example of how democracy might work for all of our citizens and perhaps for those of other countries.

We face serious challenges as did our country’s founders. In order to survive, we must find a way to meet our current challenges together rather than allowing ourselves to be pitted against one another. We found a way to do this in the early days of our republic. It is time for us to step up to the challenge once again. Reading this book will provide you with a perspective on our current challenges in historical perspective. 

We have made progress through the course of the centuries since the establishment of our country. Slavery is gone. People of color have gained a voice in our current affairs. Women have also found their voice. In that sense, our country has become more representative than it was initially. Yet we still have a factions seeking the supremacy of white men. We have work to do and it is time to keep going.   

The American War between Freedom and Equality

It is a strange fact that freedom and equality, the two basic ideas of democracy, are to some extent contradictory. Logically considered, freedom and equality are mutually exclusive, just as society and the individual are mutually exclusive.

~Thomas Mann~

I found it hard to digest the above statement. I was raised to believe that liberty and equality were both cornerstones of the American adventure. Yet looking back at the history of America and the experience of living here today, it is clear that we have  a conflict between these two ideals.

The American Revolution took place with the goal of freedom from the tyranny and colonial control by the British Empire. Leaders of the revolution fought for the right to make their own decisions by casting aside the British yoke. Equality was not much of an issue. Although our founding fathers maintained that all men were created equal. Yet this equality did not include women, the natives we pushed aside or other people of non-European extraction. In particular, slaves imported from Africa were seen at best as three-fifths of a person for legislative reasons.

The issue of equality came into prominence in the mid nineteen hundreds. It boiled over in the Civil War with northerners fighting for equality of all people and southerners fighting for freedom to exercise their right to control others, namely slaves whom they viewed as possessions rather than people.

Freedom and equality have remained issues up until the present. Liberals struggle for the equal rights of all in terms of medical care, education and judicial fairness to name a few. Conservatives struggle to maintain their power and control leaving others to manage their own affairs. That may be oversimplified but I think it includes the main issues.

In recent years both sides have retreated to their corners insisting they are right and those in other camps are wrong. Once we were able to discuss our differences as individuals. Our representatives in government were also able to listen to each other and work toward agreements which would be at least tolerable to both sides. Now the struggle is seen as us versus them from both perspectives.

We have allowed the current power structure to erode our ability to listen to each other and seek ways to compromise. We have also allowed our country to be seen as abandoning our role as a world leader and focusing only on our self-centered interests.

As we face off with each other and with the rest of the world we run the risk of becoming marginalized in the conversation about how to move forward. We have the choice of continuing down this path or opening our ears to hear each other. What we choose will have serious consequences, good or bad, for the future of our society.

Action steps:  

  • Learn to listen to those with whom we disagree.
  • Look for areas of agreement upon which we can build.
  • Seek areas in which we can negotiate.
  • Acknowledge those who help us.
  • Thanks Bob for inspiring me to write this article.

.In a Divided Era, One Thing Seems to Unite: Political Anger


Ken Storey was in a pique, the kind that often seizes and overwhelms the better judgment of people who follow politics closely these days.

Hurricane Harvey was about to douse Texas with deadly flooding, and Mr. Storey had identified the culprit: Republicans. “I don’t believe in instant Karma but this kind of feels like it for Texas,” he tapped out on Twitter, between bites of a taco over lunch. “Hopefully this will make them realize the GOP doesn’t care about them.”

Those 145 characters, which soon bounced around among conservative activists online and became the subject of several Fox News segments, would cost him his job as an adjunct sociology professor at the University of Tampa, incite death threats, strain his relationship with his parents and, nearly a year later, leave him living on two part-time jobs that pay less than a third of what he used to earn. His rent, car payments and electric bills are all past due, he said in a recent interview.

(Excerpt from Jeremy Peters’ article in the New York Times- read more)