Friday, August 9, 2019

Beyond the United States of Fear

The fomented hate (emanating from the highest level of government) that was so viciously manifested in the recent acts of mass murder in El Paso, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; and Gilroy, California serve as a grim reminder and persistence of the element of fear that pervades the current psyche of America. Perhaps the underlying basis of this fear is to be found in the continual pandering to a loss of cultural and ethnic hegemony historically belonging to a white-dominated power structure. Of course, this appeal to the fear of losing a hold on power is based on the actual fact of the changing demographics in this country whereby, within a decade or so, the white population will no longer be in the majority in these tenuously United States. While many of us celebrate and welcome this change as the inevitable evolution of a society in search of its true identity and expression of its authentic self, so many other citizens are being terrorized by visions of invading hoards from without (i.e.immigrants) seeking to usurp the 'true' identity of the nation (i.e. white) and replace it with the 'horror' of a truly multi-cultural and ethnically diverse electorate. While many of us regard this turn of events as the long awaited fulfillment of the American dream of inclusive participatory democracy, so many others are frozen in the fearful grip of identity loss and cultural abandonment. These fears are fanned and enflamed by a political structure dedicated to serving a narrow segment of the society based on the fear of 'the other'. The 'leaders' of this movement are only too aware of the inevitability of the demographic change in the country, their dwindling popularity (e.g. only one Republican presidential candidate has won the popular vote since 1988), and, and, as a consequence, have worked worked tirelessly to gerrymander an electoral advantage and conduct outright voter suppression (i.e. Kansas, North Carolina, and Georgia) in a desperate attempt to hold onto political power from a distinctly minority position. Meanwhile, long dormant voices, previously muffled or made silent by neglect, continue to seek expression as the arc of history slowly proceeds toward justice. These same voices might also be heard to assure their pale brethren that there really is nothing to fear as we move ever closer to the fulfillment of America's promise to include all of its people in the functioning of its government. They may also whisper that those exiting power will still have a seat at the table albeit perhaps not at its head.

One would be remiss to suggest that the politics of fear are confined to the Republican Party. As the progressive movement of the Democratic Party seeks to give expression to an emerging majority of existing and previously excluded (or disenfranchised) members of its electorate, a fearful and entrenched establishment of leaders (e.g. Biden, Axelrod, McAuliffe, Perez, Pelosi, et al), steadfastly attempt to stem the progressive tide within the very same political organization that has loudly claimed its identity as the voice change for so long. Instead of embracing the clarion call of 'the squad' and other more senior representatives to reach out to a wellspring of potential activists ready to adopt the policies of real change, we see the erstwhile leaders of the Democratic Party assiduously endeavor to stifle, suppress, and resist the voices of change in their midst who might otherwise lead the way toward a more hopeful future where millions of willing citizens stand ready to be engaged in a truly democratic system of participation and inclusion. Lest one be mislead by thinking that this vision of the Democratic Party is somehow unrealistic or even illusory, please be reminded that the progressive policies so courageously championed by Bernie Sanders in 2016 and are now being refined by Elizabeth Warren, accepted by more moderate candidates, and are widely popular with a broad range of voters across a wide swath of geographic and demographic territory throughout the country. These include but are not limited to free public higher education, a call for the wealthiest Americans to assume more of the tax burden, universal health care as a right; not a privilege, guaranteed childcare for young families, elimination/reduction of student debt, a non-intervention policy in the affairs of sovereign nations, and the value of including all people in the fabric of a culturally and ethnically diverse society. Their appeal is to a broad range of citizens and carries with it the promise of growing a base of sustainable support by virtue of its responsiveness to real needs, aspirations, and ideas. This is approach stands in sharp contrast with the establishment's ongoing fear of being labeled too far to the left or, God help us, socialistic (in spite of the real popularity of such ideas). This entrenched group allows the opposition to dictate the terms of the debate and plans their political strategy based upon a fear of how any given statement will be interpreted by the other side instead of having the courage of their own convictions as they develop and implement their vision for the future of the country. As a consequence, they continue to pursue a narrow block of voters (i.e. the crossover vote from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016) instead of acknowledging and responding to the millions of emerging and willing Americans eager to join in a political process that for far too long had ignored, dismissed, or otherwise excluded them from meaningful participation.

Time is up for Democrats to step up, overcome the temptation to allow fear to determine their actions, and courageously assert their clear identity in the face of a sinister force that seeks silence the will of the people and bring to a halt the natural evolution of a society seeking to realize its better self and, in the process, give long awaited expression to its original promise.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Gift Of Perspective

For those of you who know me as, shall we say, a single minded runner (alright, obsessed) also know that its extremely unlikely that I would stop when in full flight. Well, today was the exception that proves the rule as I had the honor of once again crossing paths with my friend Albert while we both were out enjoying a sun drenched day on the promenade at Ocean Beach. We exchanged greetings and inquired about each other's health. With a beaming countenance, Albert told me that he was well in spite of experiencing another arduous round of chemotherapy. I then noticed that he had lost a considerable amount of weight since our last encounter suggesting a possible downturn in his physical circumstance. One would never otherwise know that Albert was experiencing difficulty as his smile was constant and his wish for my continued good health genuine and heartfelt. We sealed the encounter with a bow and a palm to palm exchange of positive energy again filling me with a broader perspective regarding life lived in the moment.
Sometimes a pause in one's routine is not only indicated but also necessary to expand one's point of view!

A Saint In Our Midst

In early June, we were blessed by the arrival of a statue of St Francis to our backyard. The birds, flowers, trees, grass, and crawling creatures all are welcoming his presence with open hearts. They all seem to resonate perfectly with Francis’ message of universal love and the unity of all living things. Apparently, it’s those pesky humans who might need to stop speaking, drop to their knees, sit at his feet, and listen deeply into silence of his song.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Racism Laid Bare and Democratic Myopia

Just as the Republicans were beginning to celebrate the riff within the the Democratic Party as a result of the establishment's effort to identify and marginalize what is being labeled 'the squad' (AOC, Pressley, Omar, and Tlaib), Trump once again brazenly asserted himself into the mix with the overtly racist suggestion that these duly elected public servants 'go back to their country of origin.' In so doing, DJT upped the ante in terms of race baiting in an effort to solidify the extreme elements within the Republican Party while giving voice to what many only will espouse behind closed doors. Instead of wide spread condemnation for these remarks within the Republican 'leadership', Trump's declaration has been met with, at best, a tepid response or, as usual, complete radio silence.

It's a sad commentary on our dysfunctional state of national discourse that such virulently hateful pronunciations do not trigger a larger discussion regarding the still unaddressed spectra of racism as it is laid bare by this president and his most ardent followers. The real shame is that the millions of citizens who are in dire need to engage in a real catharsis regarding America's original sin are once again denied entry into a potentially healing process by which we might all confront the demons of the past with the goal of genuine reconciliation firmly in mind.

Meanwhile, a form of good old fashioned fear masquerading as leadership and 'pragmatism' are on full display within the Democratic Party. There has been an orchestrated effort taking place to marginalized the very same people (the aforementioned 'squad') who represent the potential future of an expanded and ever more inclusive electorate. Listen closely to Biden and other establishment figures repeatedly use the phrase 'circular firing squad' to describe what otherwise would be regarded as a healthy debate/discussion within a democratic process but, instead, is being characterized as a kind of fatal disunity destined to destroy any chance of beating Trump in 2020. The MSM has consistently echoed the phrase in what must be seen as a concerted and organized effort to silence progressive voices within the Democratic Party. This fear-based strategy threatens to alienate the same people so very much needed to enhance the chances of Democratic success next year...a stunning form of self-sabotage.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Mainstreaming Socialism

It is a testament to the effect progressive influence has had on the current Democratic Party to hear longtime establishment apologist and regular MSNBC commentator Lawerence O'Donnell sing the praises of the contribution American socialists have made to the quality of life in this country. In response to the latest vilification of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, O'Donnell reminded his viewers that the eight hour work day along with the 40 hour work week were products of the efforts of thousands of early American socialists (Eugene Debs being a notable 20th century example although not specifically mentioned by O'Donnell). He went on to make note of the formation and popularity of such socialist programs as Social Security and Medicare and the specific contribution of FDR's Secretary of Labor, Francis Perkins, in the enactment of the former while noting the historical roots of the latter.

O'Donnell's declarations represent an abrupt change of attitude from at least this sector of the Democratic mainstream. It was only a few short months ago that O'Donnell was attempting to minimalize AOC's historic defeat of 20 year incumbent and party kingpin, Joseph Crowley, and, in so doing, hope to marginalize her accomplishment. In the ensuing months, O'Donnell has apparently come to realize the very real depth of appeal that current socialist ideas and programs enjoy among an ever growing majority of Americans. As alluded to by O'Donnell, socialism, its ideas and benefits, have been an essential part of the American societal fabric throughout much of our history although not always identified by name. We might add to this list the very publicly financed and proudly American institutions of the National Park Service; the vast and largely well functioning system of highways, roads, and bridges; the much lauded and often revered US military; our police and fire service; a network of public libraries; a public educational system at once filled with promise and in need of even greater attention and the promise of the restoration of fully finance higher education to compete on the world stage with other industrialized nations of the world. In the light of these existing socialistic realities, the introduction of the Green New Deal as proposed by Bernie Sanders, Ms Ocasio-Cortez and scores of other members of Congress appear not as outlying concepts but rather ideas consistent with ongoing and successful programs with which we are all well accustomed and familiar. These ideas echo a rich and vibrant heritage forged throughout our history by the efforts, sacrifices, and vision of the likes of Mr. Debs, Samuel Gompers, social activist Dorothy Day, the great Paul Robson, our would-be Vice President Henry Wallace, and the legendary vision of Martin Luther King. They and thousands of other American socialist forefathers must look upon the current iteration of those who strive for the full and authentic expression of democracy with pride and hope for the fulfillment of a dream once conceived and still yet to be fully realized.

Of course, there exists now, as then, a formidable opposition to this movement...a very well organized and financed effort to maintain the status quo of wealth disparity and the preservation of a system that protects the 1% of elites...American oligarchs dedicated not to the common good but rather to the perpetuation and continuance of their narrow, myopic, and destructive vision based upon greed and self aggrandizement. They are currently represented by the familiar Koch Brothers, the Waltons, Robert Mercer, and Leo Leonard and the Federalist Society just to cite a few notable examples. They will do their best to demonize the harbingers of change in the upcoming election cycle now already upon us with vile insult, misinformation, and outright defamation in an attempt preserve a hold on an unjust system increasingly viewed with disfavor. When mainstream representatives like Lawrence O'Donnell begin to accept the need for real change and link this need with reference to the heritage of past struggle and the existence of ongoing successful programs that benefit the many, we may look forward to a future where a consensus will be achieved to turn the tide and enjoy a day when, in the words of Mr. Dylan, 'the sun will respect every face on the deck; the hour when the ship comes in!' The ship is indeed on the horizon.

A Matter Of Constitutional Duty

The Mueller report and today's statement indicate a clear referral to Congress to fulfill its constitutional duty in lieu of Mueller's inability (given DOJ's constraints) to prosecute a sitting president. As Elizabeth Warren has been advocating, it's time to act upon principle rather than political expediency and proceed according to the dictates of the law. That said, it will also be a powerfully useful thing to have Mueller give detailed public testimony to the relevant findings as they relate to Russia influence/interference in the election of '16 and the 10 instances of obstruction of justice by Trump as outlined in Part Two of his report.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Memorial Day

A solemn day of remembrance on behalf of all human beings, military and civilian alike, who have been victimized by the obscenity of war.