american dichotomy. 

In a recent talk with a friend, the thought was presented to me that it’s not politics that divides us, it’s our humanity, or lack thereof. I don’t know that it’s necessarily a lack of humanity. It’s a different set of values. It’s not inherently wrong, bad, evil, whatever…it’s just different. Different priorities. But to me, the biggest problem is that those two sets of values and priorities seem to be diametrically opposed, with no middle-ground compromise possible. 

Take the refugee situation for example. One side would say that their opponents discriminate against persons they do not know in order to be better protected; the other side would say their opponents prioritize the protection of others over our own people. Replace the word ‘protection’ with any other — health, wealth, freedom. Two sides of a coin…never shall they meet.  Because one side’s viewpoint is the antithesis to the other side’s viewpoint. 

Sure, you can take either side to a negative extreme. But that doesn’t represent most people, who I tend to believe are inherently good. On the other hand, I’m having trouble seeing how there’s any middle ground. Each side would say that the other has fallen victim to extremist propaganda that prevents any kind of compromise. We’re not going to voluntarily move in their direction, and vice versa.  I believe we have been dragged too far in their direction, and they feel the same in reverse. So — what to do??…….

It used to be that the two sides could debate and battle and then compromise. Dave Obey talked about spirited debates with rivals in Madison, where they gave each other hell but at the end of the day settled on something together in order to benefit the people, then had beer together afterward. Those days are long gone. And I don’t think they’re coming back. The rhetoric is too heated, there’s too much at stake, and we’re too far along separate paths on each side, evolving toward what we each believe to be a perfect ideal. Any concession to the other side is seen as compromising one’s core values. 

Lincoln brought together various different factions in a coalition during the civil war — alliances that would have been unthinkable in pre-war times. This gave him hope for the eventual reunification of the entire country. He had a grand vision of unity. But I fear he only delayed the inevitable. There has and always will be two sides of the coin that is Man — individualist and humanist. And I think it would be…interesting…to see each ideology taken to its logical conclusion, in separate environments that befit each.

When we win, they fight. When they win, we fight. Why? What will fighting ultimately accomplish? We are two that can never be one. Our America is not their America. Our interpretation of freedom is not like theirs. When they feel more safe, we feel less safe. When they feel comfortable, we are uneasy. When we feel our values have been vindicated, they feel theirs have been violated. And on and on…the coin flips over and over…sometimes one side faces the sun, sometimes the other.

distress.

Lamb_of_God___Black_Flag_by_zhatka
i recently (finally) finished reading Howard Zinn’s ‘A People’s History of the United States’. i have to say that it was most depressing. it was a hard read. to find out that everything you learned about history in school, everything you think you know, is either a lie, an untruth, a misrepresentation, is incredibly disturbing. everything you think you know about how this country came to be, how it has grown, how it continues to operate…was whitewashed, glossed over, important facts and circumstances left out when it was presented to you, in order to make things seem more appealing and hide some very ugly truths. i’m glad i read it, glad i learned it…but to find out that this country was founded not on ‘freedom’ but on protecting wealthy interests, and everyone else was (and still is) strung along with some fancy language, is most alarming. to find out that this has been the modus operandi all throughout our shared national history is very distressing. i mean…we all have this notion that revolution occurred in more noble times, and was fought to save ‘the people’ from the tyranny of a faraway king…but the reality is that this is not so. i mean, think about it — everything took a shit right after the founding fathers died ? no…it was always this way. ‘the system is not broken — it was made this way’ is one of my favorite found quotes.

and there are other recurring themes throughout the last 300 years — dividing people through racism and classism in order to maintain rule, diverting restless energy from uprising into a more easily-controlled and corruptible ballot box, a view of manifest-destiny with regard to resources both human and natural, deliberately making things out to be too complex and therefore unchangeable…along with the aforementioned intertwining of wealth and power. it is incredibly sad to see the patterns of the past and realize that we have come no closer to true freedom and enlightenment.

it is true that we have gained concessions — voting rights, labor rights, civil rights — but they were never given…we ‘little people’ have always had to wrest them from the powers that be. and we continue to see these evils manifest today — things like (but not limited to) citizens united, keystone xl, the NSA spying, guantanamo on a national scale…penokee mine, voucher schools, redistricting on the state level. and we’re destroying the earth, our only home. we could have had highly-developed solar by now…but we killed off the programs in the early 80s because the companies that suck explosive dinosaur goop out of the ground have our politicians on their payroll. our natural resources should be treated with a responsible, sustainable and conservative mindset…instead, we face losing them forever due to greed. water, earth, air, life…slipping away. we should be working toward a common good, with humanity in mind. but we aren’t…and it seems like we can’t, we won’t. we are the smartest species on the planet…and the dumbest for not living up to our full potential. the list goes on and on…i can’t bear it. Zinn offers some hope at the end of his book…but having died in 2010, he did not see our latest and worst turns of events. i wonder what he would have to say…i wonder if he would still have hopeful words.

and it is with this knowledge that i fear that i may never experience true freedom in my lifetime…and that my kids won’t either. my partner and i will never know the relative economic and societal security that people of our parents’ and grandparents’ generation had and still enjoy. many of our our parents’ generation are busy enjoying their retirement, having handed the rest of us a royal mess due to their apathy and / or inaction…you know, i shouldn’t overly generalize — some people of yesterday certainly fought for what was right, as do some people of today. but overcoming the apathy and inaction of the rest of the populace that makes up a majority is an uphill battle i fear we can never win.

and it is harder when good people are made to feel as though there is no hope, and that they are helpless to do something…that the problems are so complex, the people so divided, the establishment so corrupt, that change for the better is impossible. in terms of our individual family units, our kids rely on us to keep our jobs in order to keep them fed and sheltered. tough to go out protesting and raising hell or even vote or stay on top of all the complex issues when we’re pulling overtime to make ends meet, stretching the work week into the weekend…and getting kids to and from practice, tending to their owies, their homework, reading them a bedtime story. but do our kids on the whole not suffer for our lack of forward progress on the common good ? what good will be left of our society and our planet for them to inherit ?

i would gladly give my blood, sweat and tears to a righteous cause that stood any kind of chance. imagine a world where your occupation was to make things better, not be detrimental ! imagine having free time away from that occupation to enjoy life and to do as you wish ! but it is not possible for individuals to be successful anymore, when fewer and fewer entities consolidate resources and power for their own greedy ends, and they squeeze the little guy tighter and tighter. the ‘american dream’ is a lie for most, a nightmare for some.

i am not sure i can make any difference. this country is becoming more and more prohibitive to any kind of meaningful change, and the potential for happiness and security is slipping away. (‘change’ — not just the latest empty campaign rhetoric, but also a recurring one throughout our history, according to Zinn.) no matter how hard i work, i will never be economically secure…no matter how much i speak out, how many connections with like-minds i make, i will never know freedom from fear. the desire to close the circle and protect my own is strong. maybe i could do better somewhere else…maybe i could taste true freedom…maybe my kids and their kids would have a shot at life, liberty, happiness, love…in a place that treated people better, a place that values life over profit.

but which is more impossible — the uphill battle to make a change right here ? … or cutting our losses, selling everything off, and making the uncertain jump to some faraway place ? betting everything on an individual dream that might not even come true ? or betting everything on a collective dream that might not come true ? i just don’t know…

schism.

jesusland

i’ve come across a couple of articles recently that describe the current (gridlocked) state of politics in the US, whether between politicians themselves or those that align with them, and of course some of this translates to our daily lives and interactions as well. i struggle to reconcile the need for harmony and unity and forward progress — whether personally or in the world around me — with the desire to just retreat into my own safe world. more often that not, my thought is — if someone aligns themselves with a worldview that is directly antithetical to mine, i’m not particularly interested in what you have to say. i don’t want to live in their world. at all. ever. when this is a member of your family, this is very difficult to reconcile. and of course this includes but also transcends politics.

i struggle to understand the corporatist, ‘rugged individualist’, capitalist, fundamentalist, daddy-state worldview…i personally find so little in it that i feel is redeeming…and can’t imagine a way to approach a person who aligns with these views, much less try to understand them or what motivates them. i don’t want anything to do with the world they want. i wish they would just secede already. if their vision of the world is truly the correct one, then good for them — they have their own world, their own paradise, and can leave me and my kind alone.

i just can’t see how these completely opposing views on how society should be constructed can be reconciled without separating them into two different experiments.

if you read deeper into these things, you may find parallels in your own personal relationships with family and friends (or, estranged family and ex-friends, in some cases), and even others in your circle — like co-workers or group members. consider this —

We may define one idea or point of view as bad (black) and reject it, aligning ourselves with the good (white) perspective. Feelings of anger and self-righteousness often accompany this process, bolstering our conviction that we are in the right and the other side in the wrong. Hatred for the rejected point of view keeps ambiguity and uncomfortable complexity from re-entering the field.

Black-and-white thinking reflects the psychological process known as splitting. When we feel unable to tolerate the tension aroused by complexity, we “resolve” that complexity by splitting it into two simplified and opposing parts, usually aligning ourselves with one of them and rejecting the other. As a result, we may feel a sort of comfort in believing we know something with absolute certainty; at the same time, we’ve over-simplified a complex issue.

On the emotional front, splitting comes into play when we feel hostile toward the people we love. Holding onto feelings of love in the presence of anger and even hatred is a difficult thing for most of us to do. Sometimes hatred proves so powerful that it overwhelms and eclipses love, bringing the relationship to an end. More often we repress awareness of our hostile feelings; or we might split them off and direct them elsewhere, away from the people we care about. (from ‘The Emotional Psychology of a Two-Party System‘)

ever done this in your personal life ? i know i have. i suppose i need therapy…

on the other hand, i find it difficult to imagine a future with a person who, even if once loved, has such an opposing outlook on life that they are now incompatible with me. what are blood ties really worth when you cannot bond ? i’d sooner try to make a clean break and try to make my own way in life, or make a way forward with others of like-mind, surrounded by company i value and who value me.

so what’s the right way forward ?……

more reading : ‘Why Everything Is Politicized Even Though Most Americans Hate It

Fourteen Defining Characteristics Of Fascism


gonna post this, as i plan to tag items i come across with ‘fascism’ in order to make connections to this piece of work. it’s important. — me

Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism – Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights – Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause – The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military – Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism – The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.

6. Controlled Mass Media – Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security – Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined – Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected – The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed – Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts – Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment – Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption – Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections – Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

been away too long.

been gone from here awhile.

this blog originally started as an exploration of self…my interest in the project died quickly…

shit hit the fan, politically-speaking, in feb 2011 here in wisconsin, and this blog was revamped to collect my thoughts on those happenings, and to try to rally others…
turned out that a lot of others had those feelings too…ended up joining a newly-formed grassroots political group and directing my efforts there, so this blog died again…i was never much of a leader, anyway…

the leader of our grassroots group actually got elected to public office, so that’s cool…but that left the group without a strong, charismatic leader. still going, but not like before. but that’s ok. either way, i couldn’t really speak my mind and use my personal voice in the group’s web output, and i have stuff to say beyond the realm of the strictly political, so i decided to try to revive this blog and try to combine all of those worlds. the grassroots group was all about making bridges to the ‘middle’ — which i may still address — but sometimes i just wanna stand on the left where i belong and shout and give the finger. this blog will let me do that.

thanks for reading. stay tuned…

HOW TO DEBATE WITH TEA-PARTY MEMBERS AND OTHER FAR-RIGHT CONSERVATIVES – A Common-Sense Guide for Rational People

HOW TO DEBATE WITH TEA-PARTY MEMBERS AND OTHER FAR-RIGHT CONSERVATIVES – A Common-Sense Guide for Rational People

I’ll tell you how, right off the bat: Don’t.

Don’t even try, you can’t win.

You know how in a zombie movie, the zombies can no longer think for themselves, and turn on other human beings? You know how once people become zombies they can’t be turned back into humans? This is kind of like that.

But seriously, you should not even attempt to engage in ‘discussions’ with these kinds of people. They revel in being negative and combative. They’re not going to be swayed. They’re not interested in ‘debating’ with you; they want to insult you, because they think they’re better than you. They believe that helping your neighbor is akin to giving someone something they don’t deserve. Their moral compass points inward rather than outward. And just like those zombies, they’ve been infected with a mindless, lethal desire to destroy, with no hope for cure. The virus infecting these Tea-Party zombies is the fact-deficient, ideological poison coming from places like right-wing talk radio and Fox News, a message funded by those wealthy and powerful who will stop at nothing to hold on to and amass more and more of that wealth and power. Just like zombies, these poor souls can no longer think for themselves, and their every thought and action is directed towards infecting others with the same affliction. And, to top it all off, they are a lost cause…they can never be changed back into rational human beings.

During the Civil War, on the battlefield, Army doctors had to act swiftly and decisively to save lives, and sometimes the measure seemed drastic. In cases of infection, a diseased limb needed to be cut away rather than treated in order to save the body as a whole. Now, I’m not advocating a ‘removal’ of the Tea Party in any way, shape or form, and I will never condone any type of violence toward them on any level. They are human beings and they are our fellow citizens, after all, even if we do not get along or agree on things. But the facts remain – their false rhetoric is very powerful, very poisonous and needs to be removed from the frame of discussion in order for rational people to be able to focus on and discuss the real facts and issues.

We need to remove their loud, rude, partisan rants, which pollute and distort the discussion and the issues, in order to begin to make progress on the things that affect us all, and the way to do that is to simply leave them out of the discussion. Just stay cool and ignore these extremist hotheads. Don’t hesitate to remove their inflammatory comments from your Facebook page – after all, it’s your page. Remove their rude garbage from the discussion. Yes, they have a right to free speech, but the great thing about this country is that we’re also free to not have to listen to them or talk to them. So, just stop listening to them and stop talking to them! The truth is, they don’t want to talk things over, they don’t want to work together to find common ground…they want to cram their exclusionary ideology down your throat, and make you feel like a traitor to your country while they do it.

Their belief system has been ingrained in them by over 45 years of Conservative ideology…a dark, twisted fun-house mirror of an ideology that has nevertheless somehow successfully managed to paint anyone who cares about others as the enablers of lazy freeloaders instead of Good Samaritans. They cannot and will not see you as anything less, and so it is pointless to try to convince them that you are a peer, an ally, a friend, and not the enemy. In their minds, they are the only true Patriots and you are, at best, a Communist, or at worst, a terrorist. And that if you or anyone else wanted a piece of the pie, you should have got off your lazy ass and worked for it.

Now, you and I know that this is not true. We love our country as much as anybody. We’ve worked damn hard for what we have. And we know that, with the top ten percent of earners in this country in control of over two-thirds of America’s net worth (source), that it’s not a case of not having worked hard to earn more but rather that the small minority in power have been stealing hand-over-fist from the majority.

The price of gasoline goes up and up and up due to ‘unrest in the middle-east’, where, ironically, greedy ‘leaders’ of our country are an aggressive force that plunders those people’s land and resources, and backs and rewards brutal dictators who are complicit in those foul deeds, instead of being a uniting force that fosters democracy and helps their country heal. Here at home, we’ve paid more for basic goods and services while actually receiving less. Groceries and household supplies, now with less product in the same packaging, cost us more, while our wages shrink. We’re told to cut back while those at the top are allowed breaks. And while the top one-percent of households have seen their average pre-tax income increase by over 350%, from over a half a million dollars in 1979 to $1.8 million in 2007, the average household income for 80% of American households has not increased by more than a few hundred dollars since 1979. A few hundred dollars. Now you tell me, is that our fault?

The top one-hundredth of one percent of Americans, or .01%, averages a yearly income of over $27 million, while 90% of Americans bring in an average of only $31,244. Back in 1980 that average income (in current dollars) was $30,941, from then to today a difference of only $303. Now you tell me, is that our fault? From the mid 1970s to the mid 2000s, average wages for the bottom 50% of Americans have only increased by estimates of 5 to 10%, while the top 10% saw increases of 30% or more. Now you tell me, is that our fault? Wall Street profits skyrocketed by 720% in 2007-2009, while Americans’ home equity dropped by 35% in that same period. Now you tell me, is that our fault?

The current situation in this country is the very definition of a ‘plutocracy’ and not a democracy. A plutocracy is defined as rule by the wealthy, or power provided by wealth. And we’ve never before in the history of the world seen so few control so much wealth and power at the expense of the majority. Even though people like you and I (and even the average tea-partier, no doubt) make up 90% of the people in this country, we’re making less even though we’re working harder and longer, we’re paying more and getting less when it comes to our basic goods, and we’re being asked to give more and cut back more. On the other hand, the top 10% sees a dramatic increase in income every year…and they’re reaping the rewards of an unequal power balance that allows that increase to be exponential, at our expense. How is this fair? Not to mention that the current economic crisis is a direct result of their mad money schemes, their manipulation and monopoly of the banking sector, and now we’re supposed to pay for the mistakes. Try to tell me that $3.50 a gallon for gasoline hurts their pocketbook – it doesn’t. But it’s strangling the rest of us.

You’re not going to convince a far-right conservative, from any income bracket, from any walk of life, that this inequality is the result of corruption, however. To them, the top 10% are being rewarded honestly for their ‘hard work.’ But as you can see, the percentages of gains over the last 30 years don’t match up. We’re being squeezed ever tighter and the fat guys at the top get ever fatter while they do the squeezing on us. Far-right conservatives don’t see it this way and they never will. You will give yourself high blood pressure trying to reason with them, and you will destroy your morale and your resolve to make things better for yourself, your future, your children, your family, your friends, your co-workers, your community, and your country.

Where you can make a difference is with people who are uninformed and unsure. The mainstream media, from which many people get their ‘news’, is a mouthpiece of wealthy corporate power, and as such it glosses over the issues and leaves out the devils in the details. This lack of depth when presenting the issues only makes them more confusing and less debatable; we need to clarify the issues and the potential consequences with facts and rational, in-depth discussion. Moderates, centrists, and independents (of which I am one) are all common-sense people with whom you can reasonably discuss the issues.

Back up your talking points with credible facts and sources, be honest, keep to the high road, show others how the issues affect them and you will have made an ally of the common-sense majority, and hopefully an informed, vocal ally that will in turn do the same for someone else. We’re all in the same boat here – we need to get together, start talking and start acting so that we can be heard. The vast majority of the ‘bottom’ 90% of people in this country is made up of honest, good, reasonable, common-sense people of many income levels, from all walks of life, and while the rank-and-file Tea Party faithful makes up only a small percentage of this ‘bottom’ 90%, they’re currently framing the discourse and shaping the direction by making 90% of the noise. As the common-sense majority, we need to change that. We need to start talking, and keep talking, and then start acting…which will send a loud, clear message to decision-makers that we’re watching, we’re informed, we’re organizing, we’re acting and we’re demanding results.

We, and the politicians we elected to represent us, have allowed this inequality to go on for far too long. Our apathy, inaction and inability to deal with the temper-tantrums of the Tea Party have resulted in our worst fears becoming true. With no voices opposing the far-right fringe, newly-elected hard-right Republican politicians – directed by the wealthy puppets behind them – now use that reality as justification to enact unjust initiatives that further widen the already existing inequality. They tell us that this is what ‘we the people’ voted for because all they heard was the voice of the Tea Party. It has allowed, and in fact emboldened, the wealthy and powerful to now take huge, coordinated, far-overreaching steps in many states, to attempt to keep themselves filthy rich and on top, and to keep on squeezing the rest of us, systematically taking away our rights, eroding our quality of life and eventually destroying our modest way of life. They are creating their own reality, and we’re going to have to live in it unless we stand up for ourselves.

We need to flat-out ignore the falsehoods perpetrated by the far right fringe, and drown out their fact-deficient rants by presenting and discussing informative, fact-based realities with each other and with those who are on the fence or uninformed. Only in this way will we elevate the discourse and start to get things moving in a positive direction. And then we need to get up and start acting. Let’s prove to everyone what we already know: that we are NOT a small group of violent, extremist, selfish thugs, but rather that we are a majority that is peaceful, smart, and ready to go to work to defend what is rightfully ours. Remember, WE ARE the majority, we surround them, we have the potential to be heard the loudest, and we have the power!