THE NERVE OF SOME PEOPLE

8 08 2009

I am not a big fan of Sonya Sotomayor. I appreciate the fact that she comes  from a lower-class, ethnic background, but I don’t give her points for being a Hispanic woman–hey, Eva Peron was a Hispanic woman, y’know?  From what I can understand of her legal career, she is not going to rock the boat.  She has tended to rule in favor of corporate rights over individual rights, and, after all, George Bush Sr. was the President who first nominated her to the federal bench–albeit at the prompting of Democratic Senator Patrick Moynihan.

What has really struck me about her nomination is the bizarre behavior of those who oppose her.  I think this points up a major divide in America’s consciousness, and speaks directly to the reasons why we are having such a hard time doing the right thing–this is deeper than mere corporate malfeasance and money addiction, this gets to why people are such suckers for that bait in the first place.

What really brought this home to me was the attitude of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions.  In his own words:

I will not vote for—no senator should vote for—an individual nominated by any President who believes it is acceptable for a judge to allow their own personal background, gender, prejudices, or sympathies to sway their decision in favor of, or against, parties before the court.

In my view, such a philosophy is disqualifying.

Such an approach to judging means that the umpire calling the game is not neutral, but instead feels empowered to favor one team over the other.

Call it empathy, call it prejudice, or call it sympathy, but whatever it is, it is not law. In truth it is more akin to politics. And politics has no place in the courtroom.

Two things struck me about Sessions’ statement.  The first was his assumption that a human being could not bring their own “personal background, gender, prejudices, or sympathies” to whatever they were doing, whether it’s being a Supreme Court Justice or being a shoemaker.  Unless you happen to be enlightened, a condition almost certainly not predominant in either Ms. Sotomayor or Mr. Sessions, your “personal background, gender, prejudices, (and) sympathies” is pretty much who you are, and in the rare and wonderful event that you are enlightened, that enlightenment will still manifest itself through the unique lens of your “personal background, gender, prejudices, (and) sympathies.”  Wow, how did I get from politics to enlightenment?   That “Deep Green Perspective,” gotta love it!  But, as so often happens in these monologues, I have digressed….

The second thing that struck me about Senator Sessions’ statement was a look at his record–he  was an active participant in the approval of Supreme Court Justices Roberts, Scalia, and Alito, who have proved to be deeply under the sway of their own “personal background, gender, prejudices, (and) sympathies.”  More on that in a minute.  Here are some examples of Sessions’ own conduct that he did not consider to be the disqualifiying, undue influence of his “personal background, gender, prejudices, (and) sympathies” when he was nominated for a lower Federal court position:

…. Sessions (then a U.S. Attorney)called a white civil rights attorney who litigated voting rights cases “a disgrace to his race.” He addressed a (black) assistant U.S. attorney as “boy” and warned him, “Be careful what you say to white folks.” He admitted he thought the Ku Klux Klan was an “OK” organization until he learned that some of them smoked pot. Also, Sessions condemned the NAACP and ACLU as “un-American” and “Communist inspired,” because they “forced civil rights down the throats of people.” (thanks to Afroarticles.com for that)

He also conducted an expensive, racially tinged and racially intimidating investigation into alleged vote fraud (similar to the ACORN red herrings we still hear about) that was so thin it was thrown out by the  jury in near-record time.

Eight Senators thought that record was enough to disqualify him from a Federal judgeship.  Amazingly, six did not, but a simple majority of eight was enough to keep him off the Federal bench.  Unfortunately, it was not enough to keep him from becoming the Senator from Alabama, and his opposition to Sotomayor will probably just make him more popular with his base.  Base, indeed!

OK, back to Roberts, Scalia, and Alito,  whom Sessions feels are free of  the fault of being influenced by “personal background, gender, prejudices, (and) sympathies.”  These guys, put on the court by a crowd that alleges that it abhors “activist judges,” have repeatedly made law out of whole cloth, ignoring and overturning precedent to push a reactionary agenda that disempowers minorities, favors corporate persons over flesh and blood human beings, and removes the right of citizens to question, challenge, or even be informed about the activities of government–and big business.  Their decisions don’t make sense or have any consistency outside of solidifying and spreading the hegemony of wealthy white males, now utterly terrified by the fact that Sotomayor, a woman, with her lower-class upbringing and Hispanic roots,  is not one of them.

Of course, this panicky feeling is not limited to upper-class white men.  There are plenty of women and poor people giving their power to the aristocrats who are ruining our planet to preserve their position, and they are all growing steadily more unreasonable as their position becomes  less tenable.  We have only to look at the rambling, incoherent resignation speech of Sarah Palin, or the ignoramuses who attempted to disrupt Kathleen Sibelius’s Philadelphia town hall meeting, to see that madness is afoot in the land.  Oh, I almost forgot to mention the persistent chorus of delusionaries who insist that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and thus  is not legally qualified to be President.  When an individual gets tis out of touch with reality, we call them paranoid and disruptive and a court orders them medicated, if not outright incarcerated.  At this point, we have a whole political party behaving that way, including hundreds of judges and legislators, and the solution is not so simple.

There is a real challenge for us Greens in this mob scene.  If so many people are reacting so viscerally to a President and a health care plan that take great pains to kiss corporate ass, how could the kind of radical reform we Greens call for possibly be voted into power without provoking a coup, or at least an armed revolt?

There’s bad news, and there’s good news.  The bad news (that’s also good news, really) is that we are going to have to be very patient and persistent if we expect to make any progress in changing American politics.  We are not a mass media party, we are a personal party, a grassroots party, and what we believe and how we take care of business is something that therefore must be spread person to person, face to face.  Many who supported Barack Obama have become aware, as Bill Maher put it, that “The Democrats are the new Republicans,” and are looking for a vehicle for real change that genuinely springs from, and remains controlled by, the grass roots.  That would be the Green Party.  And some of those foaming-at-the mouth Republicans are like Paul on the road to Damascus, stretched taut between their prejudices, their neuroses, and their highest ideals, completely primed for some kind of lightning bolt to strike them and turn them around 180 degrees.  It happens.

Bob Barr, the former Georgia Congressman who kept Washington D.C. from implementing or even counting the votes for a hugely popular medical marijuana initiative, is a good example.  Once considered one of the most reactionary people in Congress, Barr now works for the American Civil Liberties Union and the Marijuana Policy Project, and supports complete withdrawal from Iraq and repeal of the Patriot Act.  Too bad he’s not in Congress any more!  I’m not saying he’s a saint–he’s a Libertarian, not a Green– but he’s definitely evolved both politically and personally, and I believe there are many more people like him.  We just need to start talking to each other, listening to each other, finding what we can agree on, and accepting each other as we are.  The alternative ends in gunfire.

music:  Richard Thompson, “You Can’t Win”





SARAH PALIN–BAD COP! JOE BIDEN–GOOD COP?

11 10 2008

I am getting really tired of hearing scary Sarah Palin stories.  I mean, of course she’s the wicked Christian witch of the north, of course she’s ignorant and simplistic and has a very limited worldview, and yes I think that makes her a very poor choice for a leadership position in this country, or even the state of Alaska or the town of Wasilla, where it took only 600 people out of the total population of 5,000 to make her mayor.

And, just as an aside, I’m not impressed by her ability to shoot a moose.  I have been around moose in Vermont, and, while you can’t walk up to them and pet them, they are not particularly shy of humans.  A friend of mine up there commented, long before Ms. Palin became a national figure,  that shooting a moose takes about as much hunting skill as shooting a parked car.   As for dressing a moose, I think that, if you’re going to eat meat, it’s only honest to know how to take it from live animal to what’s for dinner.  My wife can do that, with deer, anyway–we have no moose here in Tennessee–and she’d make a much better VPUS than Ms. Palin.  It is, as the New Agers say, a very grounding skill.  Maybe it should be one of the Vice Presidential prerequisites?   What if we got a vegetarian candidate? But, I digress….

There are two points I’d like to make from my “Deep Green Perspective.”  The first is that Joe Biden is just as scary, in his own way, as Ms. Palin, and the second is that what many see as Ms. Palin’s weaknesses look like strengths to her core supporters, so that when she is attacked for these qualities, it only rallies her base and makes her stronger. Many people don’t understand that we have three colliding worldviews interacting in this election.  When you see it that way, a lot of things start to make sense that seem quite baffling otherwise.  But first, let’s take a critical look at Joe Biden.

A lot of my “left Democrat” friends believe that Obama is playing the Roosevelt strategy, running a conservative campaign that will mutate into a much more radical approach to restructuring the country once he has gotten himself elected by acting more mainstream than he really is.  When I see that he has cold warrior Zbigniew Brezinski advising him on foreign policy and Wall Street insiders like Robert Rubin and his acolyte Jason Furman giving him pointers on financial policy, I have my doubts that foxes like these three will really create a safe henhouse, y’know?  And then we have Joe Biden, “the Senator from MBNA,” a heartbeat away from the Presidency–and sure, Obama’s a lot healthier than McCain, but we’ve got people at Palin rallies screaming “kill him!” when Obama’s name gets mentioned.  Bullets do not respect your healthy lifestyle, folks, and, as I’m going to discuss later, there’s every reason to take those threats seriously.

“The Senator from MBNA” is an epithet Joe has earned by his earnest support of Delaware’s largest corporation, or what was Delaware’s largest corporation until it got bought out by Bank of America, which, with that purchase and its recent acquisition of Merrill, Lynch, is well on its way to fulfilling its name.  Monopoly capitalism….Karl Marx would feel vindicated.  Joe was one of the first Democrats to support the Republican-originated bankruptcy reform bill, which has made it much harder for middle-class Americans to declare bankruptcy.  He voted for it four times over the seven years it took to get the bill passed; Obama, to his credit, voted against the bill, one of only 24 Democrats with enough spine and compassion to do so. Here’s Arianna Huffington on the consequences of this bill:

So what does the bill do? It makes it harder for average people to file for bankruptcy protection; it makes it easier for landlords to evict a bankrupt tenant; it endangers child-support payments by giving a wider array of creditors a shot at post-bankruptcy income; it allows millionaires to shield an unlimited amount of equity in homes and asset-protection trusts; it makes it more difficult for small businesses to reorganize while opening new loopholes for the Enrons of the world; it allows creditors to provide misleading information; and it does nothing to rein in lending abuses that frequently turn manageable debt into unmanageable crises. Even in failure, ordinary Americans do not get a level playing field.

All because the credit-card sharks wanted to be sure of getting their pound of flesh.  And Joe Biden is supposed to be a “friend of the working man”?

And then there’s his support for the Patriot Act.  He introduced a similar bill in the nineties, because of the Oklahoma City bombings, and boasted after 9-11 that the Patriot Act was “my bill.”  He has also been a strong supporter of US military intervention.  And there’s his offhand racism–but there’s one key issue of his that impacts me personally.  That issue is the War on Some Drugs.  Biden initiated the creation of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which one wag recently characterized as “the only federal agency with a mandate to lie to the public,” as well as being a prime mover of mandatory minimum sentencing for drug “offenses.”  He introduced and secured passage of the so-called “RAVE Act,” which turned bottled water and glow sticks into drug paraphernalia.  Joe is personally responsible not only for the Patriot Act, but for the “War on Drugs” as we know it.

Now, I’m not going to admit to any so-called criminal activity myself, but I will say that I have a lot of friends who use “illegal drugs,” and the vast majority of them are responsible, hard-working people; but in the eyes of Joe Biden and the US government, they are all unfit to hold a job, drive, or raise children, and should be stripped of their voting rights and all their assets and jailed or re-educated until they see the error of their ways.  We are supposed to vote for  Biden and Obama because they are not as frightening as McSame and imPlalin?  Can you say “Kafkaesque,” boys and girls?  Very good.  How about “Orwellian”?  When you vote for the lesser of two evils, you are still  voting for evil.  And what does that make you?

musical interlude:  Tom Neilson, “Democrats

Well, enough about the particulars…now for the deeper perspective.  Here’s how it looks to me:

For most of the time since humans became humans, we have lived in small bands of closely-related individuals whose primary commitment was to support each other, whether repelling large carnivores, hunting big game, or fending off raiders from the next valley who thought we were impinging on their hunting territory.  That, in my opinion, is where Sarah Palin, and the millions who support her, are coming from.  They are kind, considerate, and compassionate–with their own people.  The rest of us don’t count, and if we attack any one of them, we have attacked them all.  Loyalty to their pack and obedience to its leader are their supreme virtues.  Questioning consensus reality is treason; active dissent from it is even worse, because we have to hang together to survive in a hostile world.  If you want to know more about these folks read Bob Altenmeyer’s The Authoritarians.  It’s available for free, online.

I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but about three-quarters of the people in the world are still in the grip of this us-versus-them mindset, even though the saber-tooth tigers and the great herds are all long gone, and People Who Are Not Like Us live in the next apartment, not a day’s walk away through the woods.

Joe Biden and Barack Obama, I believe, have evolved beyond this primitive, anachronistic world view–but that does not constitute an endorsement!  They see that the whole human race is in it together on this planet and have a somewhat egalitarian approach, believing that debate among equals is no sin, unlike the Palin-McSame crowd.  However, the Biden-Obama worldview is so firmly committed to materialistic rationality that it incurs the hostility of those committed to the primitive religion of McCain-Palin consciousness, while it in turn is hostile to higher mysticism–hence the support for the war on some drugs and the commitment to the neoliberal, corporatist, ant hill/consumerist/growth agenda, which is as dangerous to the soul and ecology of the planet as the neoconservative, corporatist, ant hill/consumerist/growth agenda; the two differ mainly in how much they trust the ants–excuse me, I mean common people–who will populate the worlds they envision.  Palin-McSamers think humans are basically evil and will do the wrong thing unless watched constantly; the Biden-Obama crowd has seen far enough to postulate the perfectability of human nature, but will constantly be confounded by both  the prerational and postrational impulses that arise from deep within, because the possibility of post-rationality is not comprehensible to them; they, with Freud, think that religion is necessarily primitive, and they have little tolerance for it in either case.

Well, some small percentage of the population, myself included, (at least that’s what I like to think) has gone beyond the polarization games of American politics, and we are neither afraid of the bad cops (McSame/Palin) nor drawn to co-operate with the good cops (Obama/Biden).  We could get along just fine in a world without cops, thank you, and we have a feeling that our numbers are growing exponentially.  If the struggle between the good cops and the bad cops doesn’t destroy the planet’s ability to sustain human life, we will likely take over when they have cancelled each other out.  It’s just a question of time.

Meanwhile, I’m not going to be scared into voting for the good cop.  I’m going to vote for the Green Party’s Cynthia McKinney, as well as local Green candidates John Miglietta and Chris Lugo.  And if all the “left Democrats” got fed up with being left by their party’s consistent selection of center-right, neo-liberal, pro-growth, ecologically ignorant candidates and did the same, we would have quite a little movement on our hands, and maybe we could get this country moving again.  It’s just a question of time; but time, my friends, is running out.

music:  Bruce Cockburn, “Gospel of Bondage





OBAMA–WHAT WOULD MLK THINK?

13 09 2008

A vast chorus of voices has been quick to point to Barack Obama as the fruit of Martin Luther King’s “Dream.”  I have my doubts. Here are some excerpts from Reverend King’s famous, but rarely quoted, speech at Riverside Church in New York on April 4, 1967, just exactly a year before he was assassinated in Memphis (substitute “Iraq” for “Vietnam” in this speech and it’s frighteningly accurate):

It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor – both black and white – through the Poverty Program.Then came the build-up in Vietnam, and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political play thing of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the young black men who had been crippled by our society and sending them 8000 miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in Southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

My third reason grows out of my experience in the ghettos of the North over the last three years – especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through non-violent action. But, they asked, what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today, my own government.

***

The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy, and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. (We have now been doing it for two generations.–MH) We will be marching and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy.

In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years (now fifty–MH) we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military “advisors” in Venezuela. The need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counterrevolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia (still happening, 40 years later–MH) and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. With such activity in mind, the words of John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. When machines and computers, profit and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look easily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: ” This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from re-ordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war.

Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Riverside Church, NYC, April 4, 1967

Barack Obama, for all his “hopeful” rhetoric, would not dare endorse this radical analysis of American reality, which, sadly, is as true today as it was over forty years ago.  The “death wish” continues to dominate.  Obama proposes to give us guns and butter, as they say, but we know from the last forty years that it will be guns today and butter tomorrow, always tomorrow, because the sellers of guns are very skilled at keeping their noses in the trough.  Obama’s pledges to build our military will be kept, because that is how the system is set up.  He will throw a few crumbs to the poor and the middle class–who are rapidly joining the ranks of the poor–but it is clear from his speeches and the company he keeps that he is as committed to maintaining American hegemony as John McCain, both Bushes, and Bill Clinton.  He is not the heir of Rev. King’s vision.  He is just Colin Powell with charisma.  If Atlanta is looking for new sources of energy, I suggest they hook a generator up to Reverend King’s tomb, because he must be spinning in his grave.

Now, this kind of talk is going to piss off a lot of people, because to most people badmouthing Obama implies support for a McCain-Palin ticket.  Would I really rather see a PTSD-plagued, nearly senile reptile and a clueless Christian Dominionist bimbo run the country?  Wouldn’t I rather try and pull Obama left  than pull McCain towards the center?

Frankly, I have to take a deep breath and say yes, I think it IS a tossup, when you look at Obama as a slick, charismatic near-neocon partnered with an imperialist-drug warrior patsy for the financial-insurance-real estate tycoons. To those who think they will be able to pull Obama left, I say, don’t kid yourselves–bigger money than you’ll ever see is moving him where it wants him to go. I think it is a sad indication of just how unfree we are in this country when, at a time when we are facing momentous challenges and changes, these phonies are given the spotlight, and candidates like the Green Party’s Cynthia McKinney and independent Ralph Nader, who have real answers to the real questions at hand and should be dominating the race, are ignored by the tycoon-directed mainstream media and the public.

I think the country will come unglued faster if McCain wins, and slower if Obama wins.  I don’t think it will be pretty in either case, even though I believe the country needs to come unglued, so that maybe we can put it back together a little smarter than it is now.  I am not prescient enough to know whether a faster or a slower collapse would be better.  I just know that I would rather vote for what I want and not get it than vote for what I don’t want and get it.  You make up your own mind.

music:  Eliza Gilkyson, “The Party’s Over








%d bloggers like this: