What do we do when we realize that there is a horrible, hidden truth beneath what we have come to accept as our lovely life?
That is the picture that has grabbed us, that has captured all of our attention, and from which we cannot turn away.
We live, simultaneously, in two different worlds. Ultimately, we live in the World of Nature, a world that we did not create and the world upon which all life depends. Most immediately, we inhabit a "human world" that we create ourselves. Because our human world is the result of our own choices and actions, we can say, quite properly, that we live, most immediately, in a “political world.” In this blog, I hope to explore the interaction of these two worlds that we call home.
Congress has largely become a dysfunctional institution unable to meet the critical needs of our country,” says a new report, “Congress at a Crossroads,” produced by the Association of Former Members of Congress. Scheduled to be issued publicly next week, it is a damning indictment of the steady deterioration of a congressional culture that today rewards power over progress and conflict over consensus.
Bipartisanship is at the heart of a healthy Congress.
If this president makes good on his threats to undermine an election he’s likely to lose, many of us will be called to pour into the streets and face the brutality of Trump’s goons. This thought makes me feel ground down and frightened, not brave and defiant. In middle age I’ve started to envy those like Lewis who are able to believe in God.
Something I take from reading about the lives of civil rights heroes is that confidence didn’t always precede action. Sometimes it was action’s result.
Well, now time passed and now it seems
Everybody’s having them dreams
-- Bob Dylan, “Talkin’ World War III Blues"
I learned to cherish the U.S. long before I had the privilege to live and study there. History can be very personal. What Madeleine Albright called the “indispensable nation” meant the difference between life and death for my family. I was brought up in the firm knowledge that had it not been for those unimaginably brave American boys storming the beaches of Normandy, I wouldn’t have been born, and my parents and the rest of my people would have been extinguished. No doubt I’m leaving out entire libraries of nuance, but that is the quintessential truth.America today is what it has always been: a flawed society, like all others, but also a unique force for good in the world. No other multiethnic, multireligious society can credibly claim to be more democratic, more prosperous and more just than the U.S.
America can’t remain the leader of the free world if it is itself no longer free. To be the guarantor of Western security requires military and economic power, but also a sense of mission. And right now Americans are committing mass character suicide. If the country goes beyond acknowledging that racism and inequality persist and must be fought, and instead convinces itself that it’s inherently and irredeemably racist, it can’t possibly continue to believe that it has any right to lead. Such an America would reject the notion that the West is worth defending and regard Europe as also inherently oppressive. We know who will fill the vacuum left by an America in retreat and at war with itself. As they watch America’s self-immolation, leaders in Moscow, Beijing and Tehran surely can’t believe their luck.
Any functioning society must extend tribal loyalty beyond the ties of blood. Ethnicity and Christianity were the glue that helped hold the more homogenous European nation states together. America’s Founding Fathers laid the foundation of a society worthy of the motto “e pluribus unum”—out of many, one—by replacing ethnic and religious loyalties with liberal ideas and deist ideals. A shared loyalty to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution allows Americans to see each other not as strangers but as fellow citizens.Yes, the U.S. has not always lived up to its ideals. But to claim that the Founding’s “promissory note” was never anything but a scam to maintain a system of white oppression is ahistorical revisionism that will erode the country’s foundation (emphasis added).
While my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life you inspired me. You filled me with hope about the next chapter of the great American story when you used your power to make a difference in our society. Millions of people motivated simply by human compassion laid down the burdens of division. Around the country and the world you set aside race, class, age, language and nationality to demand respect for human dignity.
That is why I had to visit Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, though I was admitted to the hospital the following day. I just had to see and feel it for myself that, after many years of silent witness, the truth is still marching on.
Emmett Till was my George Floyd. He was my Rayshard Brooks, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor. He was 14 when he was killed, and I was only 15 years old at the time. I will never ever forget the moment when it became so clear that he could easily have been me. In those days, fear constrained us like an imaginary prison, and troubling thoughts of potential brutality committed for no understandable reason were the bars.
Though I was surrounded by two loving parents, plenty of brothers, sisters and cousins, their love could not protect me from the unholy oppression waiting just outside that family circle. Unchecked, unrestrained violence and government-sanctioned terror had the power to turn a simple stroll to the store for some Skittles or an innocent morning jog down a lonesome country road into a nightmare. If we are to survive as one unified nation, we must discover what so readily takes root in our hearts that could rob Mother Emanuel Church in South Carolina of her brightest and best, shoot unwitting concertgoers in Las Vegas and choke to death the hopes and dreams of a gifted violinist like Elijah McClain.
Like so many young people today, I was searching for a way out, or some might say a way in, and then I heard the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on an old radio. He was talking about the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence. He said we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice. He said it is not enough to say it will get better by and by. He said each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out. When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.
Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.
You must also study and learn the lessons of history because humanity has been involved in this soul-wrenching, existential struggle for a very long time. People on every continent have stood in your shoes, through decades and centuries before you. The truth does not change, and that is why the answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time. Continue to build union between movements stretching across the globe because we must put away our willingness to profit from the exploitation of others.
Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.
When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.
Fifteen Signs Of Authoritarianism
WASHINGTON — You probably are asking yourself, about now, “What are 15 signs my country is sliding into authoritarianism?”
1. The president refuses to commit to abiding by how Americans vote in the November election until he sees what happens. Check. Donald Trump in a Fox News interview would not say he will be bound by voters’ wishes.
2. Soldiers in unmarked uniforms and no identifying insignia swoop in as the president’s personal militia to arrest peacefully protesting pedestrians in the middle of the night, throw them into unmarked vans and streak away. Check. (Happening in Portland, Oregon, and Trump promises it will happen in other cities. Trump is of German descent but apparently never heard about the feared secret police and the Gestapo.)
3. People are denied the right to vote until they pay all costs any courts say they owe, whether or not they are allowed to dispute them. Check. Happening in Florida.
4. Data about a pandemic are hidden from the public so that the president can control who sees such information as the number of available hospital beds. Check. Trump ordered that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention no longer gets the data, hence the public can’t see it.
5. The president is recognized around the world as someone who does not keep his word, acts capriciously and does not tell the truth. Check. Leaders of other democracies will no longer deal with Trump. Multiple organizations have clocked Trump at telling more than 20,000 lies or misstatements in 3 1/2 years.
6. The president courts dictators known for violating human rights. Check. Trump openly admires Russia’s Vladimir Putin, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and others.
7. The president seeks to divert spending on public health in favor of public monuments, such as a new FBI building. Check. Trump is fighting the most conservative Republicans as he tries to cut funding for fighting COVID-19.
8. Children are separated from parents and imprisoned without adequate medical attention or basic compassion. Check. Thousands may never see their parents again, and hundreds still languish in COVID-19-infested camps.
9. Borders are sealed, and people are not permitted in or out. Check. Even before COVID-19 struck, Trump enacted bans on people coming and going, including scientists considered vital to American research.
10. Racism and sexism are openly encouraged and fostered by the leader. Check. Trump is stressing division and racial anger as he campaigns for reelection.
11. The public display of evil symbols is enthusiastically endorsed. Check. Trump says Confederate battle flags, which were carried by traitors to the U.S., should fly when supported by white supremacists because it’s free speech, although he says protesters do not have the same right to protest racism. Would he say the same about Nazi swastikas over a public building in the U.S.?
12. Enemies are punished and friends are rewarded. Check. Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen is in jail not just for doing Trump’s bidding but for telling Congress and law enforcement about it. Roger Stone was convicted of felony offenses by a jury and is free because he lied to Congress and the FBI to benefit Trump.
13. Millions of people are declared non-persons. Check. Trump has ordered that more than 11 million undocumented people not be counted when congressional district lines are redrawn even if they have been in the U.S. for decades. This hurts cities or states with large immigrant populations because they won’t be federally compensated fairly and such districts will get less voting representation.
14. Science is routinely denied. Check. A thousand people die every day because the lessons of science and history were ignored and months passed with no national planned response to the novel coronavirus even as Trump demanded schools be opened this fall or lose federal funding.
15. The power of the presidency is used for personal gain. Check. Foreign diplomats curry favor by enriching Trump’s hotels and golf courses. Large campaign donations are given and rewarded by White House endorsement of commercial products. Trump tried to get the British Open held at his golf resort in Scotland and then fired the nonpartisan inspector general who wrote a report about it and had the report marked classified.
But you be the judge. In November.
What might we learn and how might our behaviour change if we discarded the model of agency founded on mobility, autonomy and sovereignty, and adopted the model that trees offer us: rootedness, relationality, dialogue and responsiveness?
The cancel culture — the phenomenon of removing or canceling people, brands or shows from the public domain because of offensive statements or ideologies — is not a threat to the ruling class. Hundreds of corporations, nearly all in the hands of white executives and white board members, enthusiastically pumped out messages on social media condemning racism and demanding justice after George Floyd was choked to death by police in Minneapolis. Police, which along with the prison system are one of the primary instruments of social control over the poor, have taken the knee, along with Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of the serially criminal JPMorgan Chase, where only 4 percent of the top executives are black. Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world whose corporation, Amazon, paid no federal income taxes last year and who fires workers that attempt to unionize and tracks warehouse laborers as if they were prisoners, put a “Black Lives Matter” banner on Amazon’s home page..
The rush by the ruling elites to profess solidarity with the protestors and denounce racist rhetoric and racist symbols, supporting the toppling of Confederate statues and banning the Confederate flag, are symbolic assaults on white supremacy. Alone, these gestures will do nothing to reverse the institutional racism that is baked into the DNA of American society. The elites will discuss race. They will not discuss class....
Corporations have seized control of the news industry and turned it into burlesque. They have corrupted academic scholarship. They make war on science and the rule of law. They have used their wealth to destroy our democracy and replace it with a system of legalized bribery. They have created a world of masters and serfs who struggle at subsistence level and endure crippling debt peonage. The commodification of the natural world by corporations has triggered an ecocide that is pushing the human species closer and closer towards extinction. Anyone who attempts to state these truths and fight back was long ago driven from the mainstream and relegated to the margins of the internet by Silicon Valley algorithms. As cancel culture goes, corporate power makes the Israel lobby look like amateurs.
The current obsession with moral purity, devoid of a political vision and incubated by self-referential academics and educated elites, is easily co-opted by the ruling class who will say anything, as long as the mechanisms of corporate control remain untouched. We have enemies. They run Silicon Valley and sit on corporate boards. They make up the two ruling political parties. They manage the war industry. They chatter endlessly on corporate-owned airwaves about trivia and celebrity gossip. Our enemies are now showering us with politically correct messages. But until they are overthrown, until we wrest power back from our corporate masters, the most insidious forms of racism in America will continue to flourish.
President Donald Trump is relying on an outlier interpretation of a recent Supreme Court decision to assert broad new powers as he prepares to sign a series of executive orders in the coming weeks.
The expansive view of presidential authority has been promoted by John Yoo, a Berkeley Law professor known for writing the so-called “torture memos” that the George W. Bush administration used to justify using “enhanced interrogation” techniques after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
The past and present wilt—I have fill'd them, emptied them.And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute longer.)Do I contradict myself?Very well then I contradict myself,(I am large, I contain multitudes.)I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab.Who has done his day's work? who will soonest be through with his supper?Who wishes to walk with me?Will you speak before I am gone? will you prove already too late?
I sing the songs of experience like William BlakeI have no apologies to makeEverything’s flowin’ all at the same timeI live on the boulevard of crimeI drive fast cars and I eat fast foods . . . I contain multitudes
If we are trying to base a self-evaluation on a self-created hypothetical about what we were "supposed" to do, we are almost always going to come up short. That is because "possibility," my favorite category, is literally infinite, and our personal capacities, of course, are not. Within the world we most immediately inhabit, everything is "possible," though not simultaneously, and if our freedom to choose has led us to do and accomplish some things, and not others, we have not "failed" to do the things we have not done, we have just not done those things, and have done other things, instead. I don't much like the expression, but it does have some applicability in this context: "It's all good."
To me, at least, an inclination to be grateful for the life we have lived is a very potent antidote to the "angst" about all the things we haven't done, or didn't do. That antidote to a sense of personal angst and crisis works for both men and women, and it works in late and middle age, and it even works for young people, too.
DiAngelo ... first [defined] “white fragility” in an academic article in 2011: the propensity of white people to fend off suggestions of racism, whether by absurd denials (“I don’t see color”) or by overly emotional displays of defensiveness or solidarity.
Frank Dobbin, a Harvard sociology professor, has published research on attempts, over three decades, to combat bias in over 800 U.S. companies, including a 2016 study with Alexandra Kalev in The Harvard Business Review. (As far back as the early ’60s, he recounts in his book “Inventing Equal Opportunity,” Western Electric, responding to a Kennedy-administration initiative to enhance equity, presented lectures by Kenneth Clark and James Baldwin to company managers.) Dobbin’s research shows that the numbers of women or people of color in management do not increase with most anti-bias education. “There just isn’t much evidence that you can do anything to change either explicit or implicit bias in a half-day session,” Dobbin warns. “Stereotypes are too ingrained.”
When we first talked, and I described DiAngelo’s approach, he said, “I certainly agree with what she’s saying” about our white-supremacist society. But he noted that new research that he’s revising for publication suggests that anti-bias training can backfire, with adverse effects especially on Black people, perhaps, he speculated, because training, whether consciously or subconsciously, “activates stereotypes.” When we spoke again in June, he emphasized an additional finding from his data: the likelihood of backlash “if people feel that they’re being forced to go to diversity training to conform with social norms or laws.”
In 2020—as opposed to 1920—I neither need nor want anyone to muse on how whiteness privileges them over me. Nor do I need wider society to undergo teachings in how to be exquisitely sensitive about my feelings. I see no connection between DiAngelo’s brand of reeducation and vigorous, constructive activism in the real world on issues of import to the Black community. And I cannot imagine that any Black readers could willingly submit themselves to DiAngelo’s ideas while considering themselves adults of ordinary self-regard and strength. Few books about race have more openly infantilized Black people than this supposedly authoritative tome.Or simply dehumanized us. DiAngelo preaches that Black History Month errs in that it “takes whites out of the equation”—which means that it doesn’t focus enough on racism. Claims like this get a rise out of a certain kind of room, but apparently DiAngelo wants Black History Month to consist of glum recitations of white perfidy. This would surely help assuage DiAngelo’s sense of complicity in our problems, but does she consider what a slog this gloomy, knit-browed Festivus of a holiday would be for actual Black people? Too much of White Fragility has the problem of elevating rhetorical texture over common sense.White Fragility is, in the end, a book about how to make certain educated white readers feel better about themselves. DiAngelo’s outlook rests upon a depiction of Black people as endlessly delicate poster children within this self-gratifying fantasy about how white America needs to think—or, better, stop thinking. Her answer to white fragility, in other words, entails an elaborate and pitilessly dehumanizing condescension toward Black people. The sad truth is that anyone falling under the sway of this blinkered, self-satisfied, punitive stunt of a primer has been taught, by a well-intentioned but tragically misguided pastor, how to be racist in a whole new way.
Vigorous, constructive activism in the real world on issues of import to the Black community.