Beyond Good and Evil

Dr. Ronnie J. Hastings

Archive for the tag “conservative political philosophy”

Why Some White Evangelical Christians Voted for and/or Still Support Donald Trump

White evangelical Christians who apparently were “one issue” voters willing to sell their morality and soul by supporting Trump over an issue like abortion, prayer in schools, secularization of society, too liberal SCOTUS, demonization of liberals like the Clintons and Obama, etc. are in my experience not as dense as their stance might portend; there had to be some “sacred” reason(s) they would knowingly be supportive and culpable of the bigotry, immorality, and intellectual bankruptcy of Don of the present White House. Finally, I have discovered at least one such reason.

 
Up until recently all the clues I had from evangelical Christian friends and family, always reluctant to talk politics and/or religion with me, were comments like “God moves in mysterious ways!” (from the hymn “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” by William Cowper (1774), based upon Romans 11:33) or “Hillary is evil!” Then my friend and former student Dr. John Andrews sent me a link entitled “The Political Theology of Trump” by Adam Kotsko, which begins with the question “Why do evangelical Christians support Trump?” Kotsko, who is apparently white and an evangelical Christian, pointed out something concerning the Old Testament that “clicked” with my life-long experience with white evangelical Christians. Turns out, for some white evangelicals, to support Trump is to support God’s will; to not support Trump is to work against God’s plan!

 
First, let’s be clear about whom I’m writing. I am not talking about all Christians; I am not talking about all evangelicals; I am not talking about all white Christians. I am talking about a minority within a minority within a minority…, like the innermost figure in a Russian matryoshka doll, or nesting doll, or stacking doll. This minority group is mightily qualified and nuanced. White, Protestant, evangelical, biblical literalist, apocalyptic, and often holier-than-anyone-else describes this group well. I need an acronym to cover efficiently all these qualifications — White, Evangelical, Protestant, Christian, biblical LiteralistS, or WEPCLS, pronounced “wep-cils.” (I’ve not included the nuance of politically conservative, which I assume is obvious.) WEPCLS vote for and support Trump with hypocrisy so “huge” and blatant they seem unaware of it, like not seeing the forest for the trees.

 
Here in the “Bible belt” part of Texas, it may not be apparent that the WEPCLS constitute a minority. After all, the large First Baptist Church of Dallas with Dr. Robert Jeffress, well-known Trump supporter, as pastor, is seen as a beacon of WEPCLS values. But even this congregation is not 100% WEPCLS. When all Christians nationwide and worldwide are taken into consideration, then even we Protestant Texans can see WEPCLS as a minority.

 
Second, the reason something “clicked” about the Old Testament with me is that, for those of you who don’t already know, I’ve lived my whole life among WEPCLS; many of my friends and family are WEPCLS and, therefore, voted for Trump. (Personally, I “got” the “W” in the acronym down pat! 23 and me showed me to be Scots-Irish, English, French, German, and Scandinavian; I’m so white I squeak!) The denomination in which I grew up, Southern Baptist, was and is replete with WEPCLS; not all Southern Baptists are WEPCLS, but every congregation in which I have been a member contained and contains not a few WEPCLS. Why did I not over the years join the WEPCLS? Because, briefly, I early on asked questions answers to which were NOT “Because the Bible said so,” “Because the Church, Sunday School teacher, pastor, your parents, etc. say so,” “Just because,” “Because God made it that way,” “You shouldn’t ask such things,” etc. These woefully inadequate and empty answers made me take a closer look at the Bible, and by the time I went to college I had read both testaments and began to see why so much of Scripture was not the subject of sermons or Sunday School lessons. (See Sorting Out the Apostle Paul [April, 2012] on my website www.ronniejhastings.com) In short, I did not become a member of WEPCLS in large part because I did not become a Biblical literalist, and over time the idea of evangelizing others based upon faith that had few if any answers added to the social divisiveness around me — added to the “us vs. them” syndrome, the bane of all religions.

 
In addition to WEPCLS’s Biblical literalism, which is the clue to their support of Trump, it is my opinion the WEPCLS have sold their birthright from the Reformation with their emphasis on conversion and conformity. The Reformation gave birth, it seems to me, to a Protestantism wherein congregations are not groups of sheep (pew warmers) led by shepherds (the clergy), but, rather, are groups of meritocratic believers, each one of which has his/her own pathway and relationship to God. Moreover, WEPCLS have turned their backs on the great gift of the Enlightenment to everyone, including all believers — that everything is open to question, including this statement; there are no intellectual taboos. The human mind is free to question any- and everything, in the fine traditions of Job and doubting Thomas. It has not been that long ago a WEPCLS friend of mine referenced Martin Luther negatively because the Reformer was not godly enough and blamed the Enlightenment for the blatant secularism of today. To ignore both the Reformation and the Enlightenment categorizes the WEPCLS as woefully anachronistic — downright medieval even.

 
Incidentally, the mixing of politics and religion by so many WEPCLS (an attack on separation of church and state) is very unsettling because it is so un-American. As Jon Meacham, renowned American historian, said in his book American Gospel (2006, Random House pbk., ISBN 978-0-8129-7666-3) regarding the Founders’ view of the relationship between the new nation and Christianity, “The preponderance of historical evidence….suggests that the nation was not ‘Christian’ but rather a place of people whose experience with religious violence and the burdens of established churches led them to view religious liberty as one of humankind’s natural rights — a right as natural and as significant as those of thought and expression.” (p. 84) (See also my The United States of America — A Christian Nation? [June 2012] at www.ronniejhastings.com.)

 
Back to the clue of why WEPCLS support Trump. If one is a Biblical literalist, chances are you have to hold the Bible as your sole source of truth — the source of true science (creationism and intelligent design) and of true history (Moses wrote the Pentateuch, Adam and Eve were actual historical beings, Joshua actually commanded the sun to stop in the sky, Mary of Nazareth was impregnated through some form of parthenogenesis, Jesus was resurrected back to life after crucifixion, etc., etc.). As time went on it was to me like adult Biblical literalists actually believe Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, Satan, the Easter bunny, ghosts, Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, and Uncle Sam all exist just like the live friends and family that surround them instead of as concepts in their heads. As I studied epistemology in college, it became obvious one could justify and believe in literally anything through faith. Evidence-based truth is non-applicable to a Biblical literalist, and therefore is not applicable to WEPCLS.
Eventually, I became a physicist who likes to teach, instead of a WEPCLS. This post represents how the teacher in me compels me to pass on knowledge as best we know it at the present; to not be skeptical as all good scientists should be, and to not pass on what evidence-based skepticism cannot “shoot down” as all good teachers should do, is for me to fail my family, my friends, and all my fellow homo sapiens.

 
Recalling my days as a Sunday School teacher who relished the rare lessons from the “histories” of the Old Testament (like I & II Kings and I & II Chronicles), let me give you in brief outline the Biblical history that animates the WEPCLS (especially if Old Testament history is not your cup of tea):

 
1.) After the reigns of kings David and Solomon, the Israelite kingdom (consisting of the 12 tribes associated with the 12 sons of Jacob) split in twain, 10 tribes in the north known as Israel and 2 tribes in the south (close to Jerusalem) known as Judah. Each new kingdom had its own line of kings. The split occurred around 930 BCE (Before Common Era) or B.C. (Before Christ).

 
2.) Beginning about 740 BCE, the Assyrian Empire, which replaced the “Old” Babylonian Empire, invaded and overran the northern kingdom of 10-tribe Israel over some 20 years under the Assyrian kings Tiglath-Pileser III (Pul), Shalmaneser V, Sargon II, and Sennacherib. The 10 tribes were scattered in an Israelite diaspora and became known as the “lost tribes” of Israel. Assyria replaced the displaced Israelites with other peoples from the wider Mesopotamian region who became known by New Testament times as Samaritans. Sennacherib tried unsuccessfully to conquer 2-tribe Judah in the south, being killed by his sons. These events are covered in II Kings, Chaps. 15, 17, & 18, in I Chronicles Chap. 5, and in II Chronicles Chaps. 15, 30, & 31. The prophet known as “early Isaiah” from the 1st of three sections of the book of Isaiah is the major “prophet of record.”

 
3.) The Assyrian Empire was replaced by the “New” Babylonian Empire under King Nebuchadnezzar II and by 605 BCE the kingdom of Judah was succumbing to Babylon in the form of three deportations of Jews to Babylon in the years 605-598 BCE, 598-597 BCE, and 588-587 BCE, the third resulting in the Babylonian Captivity from 586-538 BCE following the siege and fall of Jerusalem in July and August of 587 BCE, during which Solomon’s Temple was destroyed. The end of II Kings and II Chronicles record the fall of Judah, and the Book of Jeremiah, Chaps. 39-43 offers the prophetic perspective (along with the book of Ezekiel), with the addition of the books of Ezra and the first six chapters of the book of Daniel.

 
4.) After Cyrus the Great of Persia captured Babylon, ending the Babylonian Empire and beginning the Persian Empire in 539 BCE, the Jews in exile in Babylon were allowed by Cyrus to return to Jerusalem in 538 BCE and eventually rebuild the Temple (II Chronicles 36:22-23 and “later” Isaiah). The book of Daniel records Cyrus’ (and, later, Darius I’s) role in the return and the book of Ezra reports the construction of the second Temple in Jerusalem begun around 537 BCE. Construction, toward which contributions by Nehemiah were incorporated with Ezra, lasted at least until 516 BCE.

 
The Biblical histories and books of the prophets concerning the historical events described in 2.) through 4.) above show a “divine pattern” which WEPCLS have seized upon. The great cataclysms brought upon the ancient Hebrews after Solomon were orchestrated by God as punishment for the sins (turning from God) of His Chosen People, and, moreover, God used pagan, heathen kings like Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar to punish His people and a pagan heathen king like Cyrus for the restoration of His people. For instance, Nebuchadnezzar is called God’s servant in Jeremiah 25:9 and is promised that the Babylonian’s land will be wasted only two verses later (Jeremiah 25:11). Later Isaiah calls Cyrus God’s “anointed” (Isaiah 45:1) and promises Cyrus God’s divine favor (Isaiah 44:28 & 45:13), while nonetheless declaring that Cyrus “does not know” God (Isaiah 45:4).
In other words, the WEPCLS have been swept up in the “divine revelation” or “special knowledge” that whatever happened to the ancient Hebrews (all the death, destruction, and utter humiliation), God was always in control of both punishment and reward, using unGodly evil empires as his tools to chastise His wayward “children.” Being Biblical literal-ists, the WEPCLS “naturally” transfer these Old Testament revelations to the present day, seeing “evil” Trump as God’s tool to punish the secular world for resisting God’s plan according to the interpretations of the WEPCLS. Trump as God’s tool is WEPCLS’s “special knowledge” through which all their issues like abortion will be “taken care of” without regard to the pagan, heathen, and evil attributes of that tool — just like the pagan, heathen, and evil actions of the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian rulers were disregarded by the prophets.

 
Trump is a tool all right, but not God’s tool.

 
Before applying “higher” Biblical criticism (or just biblical criticism) to WEPCLS’s interpretation of scripture, look at the conundrum the WEPCLS have created for themselves. Trump is so unGodly the absurdity that evil can be a tool of good is somehow proof that this must be, in the end, of God; Trump must be God’s President. And the more unGodly the tool, the greater proof that the tool must be of God! It reminds me of the Christian existentialist Soren Kierkegaard’s assertion that the absurdity of accepting Jesus as God on nothing but pure, blind faith is all the more reason for taking the leap of faith and accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and personal Savior. Or, on a more mundane level, it reminds me of the creationist scientist on the banks of the Paluxy River announcing that the absence of human prints in the Cretaceous limestone alongside those of dinosaurs must INCREASE the probability that human prints ARE to be found; in other words, absence of evidence means presence of evidence! One can’t help but think of an Orwellian “double-speak” mantra “Bad is good!” and “Good is bad!”

 
Faith, like falling in love, is irrational, but falling in love is not bat-shit crazy!

 
The epistemological problem with faith-based religion is that any one religious belief cannot be shown to be better or worse than any other. By faith the WEPCLS believe the Bible is the Word of God established as everlasting truth about 1600 years ago (when the biblical canon was finally hammered out by acceptance of some books and rejection of others). For them truth is “set in concrete,” never to be altered by facts thereafter. despite the uncomfortable truth that God’s “concrete” of Jesus being God in the Trinity was not established as truth until about 400 years after Jesus’ crucifixion. What became amazing to me is that such canonization into unmoving, unchanging truth can only be defended by ignoring hundreds of years of new facts. If I were living in Europe around 1500, the fact that the Bible does not record the existence of a whole New World of two huge continents would make me revisit the rigidity of my faith and my beliefs. Nor does scripture mention all the scientific facts that evolve with ever-increasing evidence year after year, because the Bible is pre-scientific and written way before widespread literacy.

 
Because Christianity is “set” in history for biblical literalists, and because history has become a forensic science, Christians such as the WEPCLS do not have history on their side, just as all other believers who believe solely on faith. The forensic science of biblical criticism shows that literalists such as the WEPCLS do not have to become atheists or agnostics if they seek the most reasonable and probable view of what must have happened in the past for the Bible as we know it today to be in our hands. They must accept more historical facts than they presently do — facts that are compatible with as objective a view of the past as possible, facts that conjure the broadest agreement across Christendom, facts that place Christians in a majority armed with modern techniques of forensic history and forensic science, like archaeology and the history of Judaeo-Christian scripture (See the Dec. 2018 issue of National Geographic).

 
What then does biblical criticism have to say about WEPCLS’s interpretation of the Old Testament stories involving Assyria, Babylon, and Persia? Note the span of years covered by the events 1.) through 4.) above — essentially 930 BCE to 516 BCE. If you look at faith-based, conservative listings of the books of the Bible covering this span (I & II Kings, I & II Chronicles, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah) and when they were written, you would be told the books were written contemporaneously with or soon after the events with which they deal. But biblical criticism, which we have had since the 19th century or earlier, is, through archaeology and study of the origin of scripture (Dec. 2018 National Geographic), finding that they were all written well after the events as rationalizations or apologetics for the tribulations of what are supposed to be God’s Chosen People who He loves. (To say God employed “tough love” dealing with the ancient Israelites is a gross understatement indeed!) For a fairly well-established example, the book of Daniel was not written during or soon after the Babylonian Captivity or exile (586-538 BCE), but rather was written in the 2nd century BCE, circa 165 BCE. Further, it appears the author of the book of Daniel was writing about the 2nd century persecution of the Jews under the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes using the prior persecution of the exile as a cover. The same dating fraud is committed concerning the books of the New Testament, especially the Gospels. Faith-based conservatives such as the WEPCLS want the Gospels written well before the Jewish Revolt against the Romans in 62-70 CE (Common Era or A.D. , anno Domini), as close to the life of Jesus as say, Paul’s letters. But biblical criticism based upon historical research shows the Gospels to be written during or after the Revolt (See Sorting Out the Apostle Paul [April, 2012]).

 
As we enter the 21st century, we know much, much more about the origins of the Bible than ever. What is needed in Christian scholarship of the scriptures is more polemics, not more apologetics. For WEPCLS to ignore this new wealth of historical findings for the sake of their medieval-like literalism is intellectually anachronistic and irresponsible. Consequently, the WEPCLS give non-Christians a bad name, as many non-Christians erroneously think WEPCLS represents all Christians.

 
Epistemologically, the WEPCLS commit the intellectual fraud of decontextualization, the practice of plucking a source out of its context so that its plucked state of being ripped from historical references makes it applicable to any time whatsoever, even a time bearing no relationship to its original intended applicability. The WEPCLS have decontextualized much of the histories and major prophets of the Old Testament so that they can be used for their conservative, Trinitarian, evangelistic purposes. Higher Biblical criticism has exposed their attempts to relate Old Testament references to Old Testament historical individuals as being references to the coming of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. To relate God’s use of Godless leaders in the Old Testament to today’s situation is not the WEPCLS’s first “fraudulent rodeo.”

 
I urge everyone in Christendom to apply biblical criticism to expose WEPCLS as a corrosive influence to Christian evangelism. I urge believers of all religions to use the same techniques of biblical criticism to their own faith-based creeds and/or practices. I urge non-believers to apply these same techniques to combat the politicization of theologies of organized religions.

 
My own experience in biblical criticism suggests it does not necessarily mean the WEPCLS retreat further from intellectual inquiry nor mean that it drives one away from Biblical consideration forever. The Bible itself often is all that is needed for its foibles to be exposed; often the Bible is its own best critic. For instance, I found that by comparing pre-exile-written II Samuel 24:1 with post-exile-written I Chronicles 21:1, one discovers how the concept of Satan, a parallel to the Zoroastrian (Persian) evil co-god Ahriman (counterpart to the good god Ahura Mazda), was introduced into Judaism by the exile (and later into Christianity). Calling upon other sources from archaeology, the Christian scrolls found at Nag Hammadi in Egypt show that there were at least 21 possible Gospels, not 4. These scrolls also show how the early Church bishops strove mightily to suppress and destroy these “lost” Gospels and also perpetuated the besmirching of Mary Magdalene’s character. To my surprise, when I placed Genesis 1 in its literary context, I saw it was not a history of the beginning of the world at all, but, rather, a comparison of the “superior” Hebrew Creator god with the “inferior” gods of neighboring peoples; my respect for Genesis 1 has risen considerably. Biblical criticism opens your mind to broader horizons not suggested by the Church, and helps to understand the archaeological findings relating to ancient religions.

 
Biblical criticism and its related readings applied to consensus world history has led me to work through a “most probable” scenario of how to me Christianity came into human history (Read in order on my website www.ronniejhastings.com Sorting Out the Apostle Paul [April, 2012], Sorting Out Constantine I The Great and His Momma Feb., 2015], Sorting Out Jesus [July, 2015],  At Last, A Probable Jesus [August, 2015], and Jesus — A Keeper [Sept., 2015]). Any person so “armed” and inclined can come up with their own scenario as well or better than I.

 

 

Regarding this matter of Biblical or biblical proportions and votes for Trump, I hope I have not failed my family, my friends, or my entire species in passing on what I see as the best of a growing majority consensus.

 

RJH

 

American Conservatism Belies History

[Waxing philosophically right now, so……CONSERVATIVE DISCRETION ADVISED!]
Seen as a parade of good and bad (and in-between) ideas instead of a parade of good and bad (and in-between) people’s lives, history reveals definite directions of advancement over, say, the centuries since the “discovery” of the American continents. These directions are easy to detect following the rise and fall of ideas along time’s arrow using a broad time scale (The Big Picture, [Sept., 2011]). Also easily detected are peoples’ ideas discarded along the way, ideas that didn’t “make it,” that didn’t “stand the test of time,” that history “left behind in its wake.”

For instance, the two world wars of the 20th century left in their wake discarded ideas such as monarchism and fascism (and certain forms of government they imply, like theocracy and oligarchy). Another resulting discarded idea was that of empires like the Roman, the Mogul, the Mongol, the Ottoman, the Spanish, and the British. The final “victory” of WWII was the end of the Cold War in 1989 when the idea of Soviet communism collapsed. These wars sent history toward liberal democracies (or democratic liberalism) in the form of republics (Reference former Republican Steve Schmidt for this terminology.). The economy of the victors was capitalism (witness how China today is employing a form of capitalism). But non-liberals (especially American conservatives) strive against the liberal capitalism that emerged victorious by practicing a perverted capitalism (They should read their Adam Smith.), wherein not enough profits are plowed back into business as capital and too much of the profit is selfishly stagnated as personal wealth — all of which opens the doors for oligarchy (striven for by Donald Trump) and its ancillary kleptocracy (striven for and practiced by Vladimir Putin). Autocracies of many forms, including “banana republics,” however, have yet to disappear.

(If you think democratic republics are “safe,” having been given the “nod” of 20th-century history, think again. Who was the only democratically elected President of Russia after the Soviet Union? Boris Yeltsin and Russian democracy are now gone. And just in the second decade of the 21st century, Turkey has collapsed into a form of fascism Mussolini, Hitler, and Hirohito would easily recognize.)

Also left behind by history are the ideas of the Luddites and those of American Tories at the end of the American Revolution (also called loyalists). Yet these are the same ideas animating the Republican Party led by Trump. (21st Century Luddites?, [March, 2017], and 21st Century Tories?, [March, 2017]) Despite history’s harsh lessons, “Trumpies” today fail to grasp workers adapting to new ongoing technology and even to what it means to be a citizen (“citizen” being well-defined by the blood spilled in the American and French Revolutions (Egalite: A Qualified Virtue, [Feb., 2018])).

Generally speaking, American conservatism has clung to antiquated, outdated, and anachronistic ideas history has “shaken off” like water off a dog’s back, such as isolationism, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny, nationalism, sacred political states, tariffs, elitism, class hierarchy, nepotism, non-universal health coverage, and non-universal suffrage. (Citizens (I) Call For the Destruction of the Political Professional Class, [Nov., 2012], Citizens (II) The Redistribution of Wealth, [Jan., 2013], Citizens (III) Call for Election Reform, [Jan., 2013], An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 1, [Dec., 2012], An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 2, [Dec., 2012], An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 3, [Dec., 2012], Some Thoughts on Trump’s Election, [Nov., 2016], and Dealing with Donald, or, A Citizen’s Survival Guide for Trump’s Apparent Presidency, [Dec., 2016])

The xenophobic “circling-the-wagons” mentality of so many American conservatives is based upon the human tendency to take on the “us-versus-them syndrome,” which served us well when we were all hunter-gatherers (about 70,000 to 12,000 years ago). That is, “They over there don’t look like us, so there must be something wrong and possibly dangerous about them.” The “sacred” “us-versus-them syndrome” serves all religions, ancient and modern, including Christianity, well: “They don’t believe the same things we do, so we must convince them to believe as we do or rid ourselves of them.” Here in the 21st century, I think there is no longer any need of the “us-versus-them syndrome,” nor of its attendant bad ideas of nationalism and evangelism; history has passed them by. (Going Global, [March, 2018], At Last, a Probable Jesus, [August, 2015], and Towards an Imagined Order of Everything, Using AVAPS, [June, 2018])

Speaking more specifically, it even seems Trump’s administration, in the name of historically despicable and bigoted immigration laws, is now using our tax money for systematic child abuse. (I have visions of him going down to the detention centers and throwing scraps of food and rolls of paper napkins over the edge of the cages and into the flaps of the tents — similar to his condescending actions in Puerto Rico.) The June 30, 2018 protests across the nation speak loud and clear: the crying two-year old trumps Trump and all his zero tolerance.

Some of the Trump supporters who have not repudiated him and would vote for him still, despite his despicable words, actions, and inaction, such as “evangelical ‘single issue’ Christians” who turn a blind eye to his plethora of “sins” so they can have their conservative SCOTUS in the name of anti-abortion or pro-life (or immigration, or campaign finance, or some such). Pro-life is such a historically unsustainable position, much like creationism and intelligent design. These positions place their proponents at loggerheads with nature, and just like “history bats last,” “nature bats last.” As opposition to evolution is without evidence and completely useless, so is risking future babies to the horrors of genetic defects, when such risk is so unnecessary. I’m angry that sex education courses in schools and sex education at home and in places of worship do not inform future parents that already we have the medical skills in place to assure every pregnant mother she has the right to have a genetically healthy baby. Yet the pro-lifers, by denying mothers the basic right to control their reproductive cycles, force the possibility of tragedy upon families — tragedy that can with certainty be avoided. (It is like inequality of wealth forcing poverty upon countless people of minimal means, which also can be avoided.) The modern technology of human birth and “natural abortions” — miscarriages — compel history to give pro-choice the “nod.” If expectant mothers want to go ahead and take to term a baby with genetic defects, detected early in gestation, that is their choice; there is a chance in future such defects can be rectified either in womb or just after birth. But such a choice is risky, especially based upon a religious belief. (The “A” Word — Don’t Get Angry, Calm Down, and Let Us Talk, [April, 2013], and The “A” Word Revisited (Because of Gov. Rick Perry of Texas), or A Word on Bad Eggs, [July, 2013]) To cling to pro-life is like clinging to slide rules and horse collars; it is out-of-date.

And moreover, such Christians as described above risk, by clinging to pro-life, walking into the theological quicksand of redefining Christianity (“You can’t be a Christian and be pro-choice.”), just as the creationists and intelligent designers have done (“You can’t be a Christian and ‘believe’ in evolution.”). (Creationism and Intelligent Design — On the Road to Extinction, [July, 2012]) You do not have to be anachronistic to be a Christian (Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015]) Nor do you have to be historically clueless to be a Christian. (The United States of America — A Christian Nation?, [June, 2012])

Historically, American conservatives has lost their way. History is not on their side. And it is their own fault. They let their own credulity get the best of them, and then somehow become too lazy and/or too busy to vet any and all political statements. And today with the sources we have at our fingertips, thanks to the social network, it often takes only seconds to vet almost anything. Liars like Trump thrive because not enough people, regardless of political leanings, vet what he says. What do you think history will do with the “birthers?” Like the flat-earthers, history, I think, will fling them into the dustbin of bad ideas, worth only a laugh or chuckle if ever remembered.

American conservatives, unless they start reading some history instead listening to Fox News exclusively, risk, in the long run, going the path of the Luddites, the American Tories, the flat-earthers, the creationists, the intelligent designers, the pro-lifers, and the birthers. Unless they start reading some history they risk becoming pawns of revivalist fascism, organized crime, communism, nationalism, isolationism, imperialism, and/or colonialism; they risk “warping” in their heads back into 1950’s America.

RJH

Going Global

In addition to being possible 21st century Luddites and possible 21st century Tories, early 21st century American ultra-conservatives, such as those brought “out of the woodwork” by the Donald Trump administration, display other facets worthy of condemnation (21st Century Luddites?, [March, 2017] and 21st Century Tories?, [March, 2017]).  A common thread running through American ultra-conservatives very different from, say, lifting up the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as a sacred call to own as many powerful weapons as possible {Guns, “Gun Control,” and School Massacres (Part The First), [March, 2013]; Guns, “Gun Control,” and School Massacres (Part The Second), [March, 2013]; Guns, “Gun Control,” and School Massacres (Part The Third), [April, 2013]; Guns, “Gun Control,” and School Massacres (Part The Fourth) — the “Smoking Gun,” [May, 2013]; Guns, “Gun Control,” and School Massacres (Part The Fifth) — “Four Dead in O-HI-O,” [June, 2013]}, is categorically demonizing globalization.  Why?

First, I had to find out what is the consensus definition of “globalization,” when did it begin, and what is its history.  Two paired books helped me do just that:  1) 1491, New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, Charles C. Mann, Vintage Books, 2nd edition, New York, 2011, ISBN 978-1-4000-3205-1, and 2)  1493, Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, Charles C. Mann, Vintage Books, 1st edition, New York, 2012, ISBN 978-0-307-27824-1.  The two titles tell the reader a lot.  They sandwich the year before and the year after Columbus “discovered” America.  (Of course this language we learned in school discredits historical characters like Lief Erikson, and, worse, an entire people who migrated across the Bering Strait into the two continents of the New World thousands of years ago.)  Clearly they compare the “before” and “after” of the European discovery of the New World; the pair present a measure of the impact of that discovery, an impact that echoes across centuries to the present.  Mann’s major theme is that globalization as we know it today began with Columbus’ first voyage.

The year 1492 ushered in a world-wide exchange of cultures, knowledge, foods, diseases, wars, and forced labor in the form of slaves.  As technologies of transportation improved, worldwide trade and colonial exploitation integrated the planet Earth into a global market.  Projecting this sweeping historical view into the 21st century, Mann, in my opinion, suggests that the lesson of globalization is that trading with each other is better than exploiting and killing each other.  A rather obvious good lesson, I’d say.  So, why would anyone be against globalization as defined by these books?

Look again above at the grossly over-simplified list of what was and is being exchanged in globalization; not all of them can individually be labeled as “good.”  Sure, to take one many foods from South America that “saved” Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment Europe, the potato, the “spud,” became the basis of the diet of the poor, and, later, the middle class.  Yet also from the New World came venereal disease and to the New World came European diseases to which native Americans had little or no resistance.  European diseases were even more devastating to the New World people than the Black Death was to Europeans about 150 years before Columbus sailed westward. However, economies based upon world-wide trading were spawned, economies like which are expanding to this day.  For example, the gold and silver mined by the Spanish with native American slave labor in Mexico and the Andes went not only east to Europe, fueling many national economies, but also went west across the Pacific to the Philippines, where Chinese traders traded Chinese goods like silk for the precious metals; this westward movement fueled the economies of China and the Philippines, as well as that of colonial Spain.  Foodstuffs like the potato and corn (maize) also went west.  Black markets and pirate economies sprung up in the Caribbean and in the waters off China as a result.  Another example was the flow of furs and timber to Europe from colonized North America.

But human beings, especially those from Africa, became commodities of trade to work the sugar cane and tobacco industries in the New World, later followed by the cotton industry.  Tropical diseases, such as malaria, killed off European overseers so badly, sometimes slave populations literally disappeared off the plantations into the interior to form new, independent, and undocumented societies often of blended heritage from native Americans — societies of mulattoes and maroons for example.  Because of sickle cell anemia from Africa, more slaves survived the ravages of disease than did the Europeans.

These examples are but “the tip of the iceberg” found in Mann’s books, but they are enough to clearly show that globalization is a mixed blessing; its contributions to our species often came at a considerable price of human suffering.

The more I knew about the history of globalization, the gift of hindsight compelled me to say the price mankind paid was more than worth it, given how global trade of resources back and forth across the oceans made possible the worldwide improvement of life compared with that hundreds of years ago.  Much of this improvement, like the establishment of democratic republics and the march toward universal suffrage and social justice, the rejection of monarchies, and the rejection of slavery, centers around making sure the price paid for globalization is more humane than ever before.  Yet, ultra-conservatives speak of globalization as if they wished it had never happened, even while speaking in an environment filled with comforts and advantages made possible by globalization.

Could it be that conservatives don’t know enough history to appreciate what globalization has done for us?  Possibly, but there are lots of ultra-conservatives, like Steve Bannon of Trump administration infamy, who appear very smart and well-educated.  So, the question begs itself — why, when you know the effects of globalization throughout modern history, would you despise it so?  Why are so-called liberals pro-globalization while so-called conservatives seem anti-globalization?  Those conservatives who still prefer war over trade are getting fewer and far between, as they are symptomatic of vestigial colonialism and imperialism, which began disappearing after WWI and WWII.  So it is possible a conservative might be both anti-war and anti-globalization.

I suspect the answer to the questions in the previous paragraph is found in the phrase above containing the words “mulattoes and maroons.”  Ultra-conservatives equate globalization with the mixing of races, and, as a result, become usually political isolationists.  In a word, they are racists at the core; they are xenophobic toward persons not like them.  It is true, much mixing of races came with globalization; Spaniards and Portuguese with American Indians became Mexicans, Central Americans, and South Americans; Europeans with Africans became mulattoes; Chinese with Filipinos became Sangleys, or Chinese Filipinos.  It is no accident that even in “progressive” societies like the U.S., many family trees were produced by brides and grooms marrying “one of their own.” Not that all who want to maintain a strong connection to the “mother country” are racists.  Rather, that the attachment to the “mother country” is psychologically based upon a racist xenophobia for some of them.  Ultra-conservatives have politicized this racism and politically express their racist bias by opposing globalization.  Their economics resemble that of a long-past colonialist, imperialist overseer.

RJH

P.S.  Lest you, the reader, think my linking anti-globalization with racism is but fanciful whimsy or giddy rationalization, consider how a growing number of historians and anthropologists are agreeing that the concept of “racism” was not a concern in Western civilization until it was clearly possible European and non-Europeans would be living together in an ongoing situation; that is, until different races lived together to make interracial mixing possible.  In other words, racism was not a considerable problem in Western culture until very different groups were shuffled across oceans; racism became synonymous with globalization when globalization began such shuffling, when the New World was “discovered” by Columbus.

Egalite: A Qualified Virtue

For years I’ve pondered why the French Revolution devolved into the Terror despite the fact its values (liberte, egalite, and fraternite) paralleled nicely those of the American Revolution (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness). The answer came slowly to me with further reading (Sticks and Stones May Break Our Bones, But Words We Don’t Know Can Also Hurt Us, or, Jesus Was a Liberalist [March, 2012]).  In a nutshell, the Terror destroyed the idealism of the French Revolution over the “middle” virtue, egalite, or egalitarianism.  Robespierre’s regime began labeling anyone who was different, who stood out from the crowd for any reason (greater skill at something, for instance), as being counter-revolutionary, and, as such, he/she became a potential victim of “Madam” guillotine.  In order to avoid the possibility of the “middle” virtue being elevated at the expense of the other two a la Robespierre and have such a tragic event be associated with the term “liberal,” I suggested in the post cited above the political position of “liberalist,” wherein all three virtues must be held co-equal; one or two cannot dominate at the expense of two or one.

Another horrific example of mutilating the intended meaning of egalite is the history of the Killing Fields of Cambodia, outlined from “the inside,” from personal observation, by Chenda Tom in her book He Knows The Plan, Lulu Printing, 2018, ISBN 978-1-387-47663-3.  In the 1970’s the radical left-wing Khmer Rouge group, led by the despot Pol Pot, suddenly took over Cambodia and destroyed the country’s society in the name of forcing everyone to be “equal.”  The entire population was stripped of professional and occupational designation and forced to live and work in rural camps reminiscent of the Japanese determent camps of WWII.  Khmer Rouge “soldier/overlords” allowed the sick and starving to die, as well as killing indiscriminately at any provocation they imagined, resulting in the filling of mass graves wherein countless skulls began to accumulate; over two million died, one quarter of the entire Cambodian population.  One died in the Killing Fields if one was not judged “equal.”

Over my teaching career of 40 years, both in public and private school, I was fascinated how parents expected their student children to emerge as intellectual equals, as if the high school diploma made a given student equally as smart as the next.  Many schools resisted ranking students academically, though not successfully, as colleges and universities wanted to know how applicants compared with their peers in the classroom.  Though not as egregious as the Terror or the Khmer Rouge, this resistance is also indicative of a misunderstanding of equality in the education of young minds.

So terribly can equality be distorted, George Orwell wrote the book Animal Farm as a satire of egalite and equality well before the advent of the Killing Fields.  This classic is summarized in the phrase “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Clearly, the ideal of egalite or egalitarianism needs to be qualified.

 

Our Declaration of Independence proclaims:

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are

endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life,

Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness…..”

Note the Declaration does NOT say that all Men will turn out equal, just that we all START OUT equal.  Thus our society and its sub-units, like schools, are obliged to give all of us equal opportunities and rights AT THE BEGINNING of our citizenship or school, NOT at the end.  How we end up is up to us, and our government will not, presumably, behave to give certain citizens advantages over others in the pursuit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; in other words, in terms of the French Revolution, liberte, egalite, and fraternite.  Exceptions to both American and French egalitarianism for all citizens are instances when the citizens forfeit their opportunities and rights given them at the beginning by violating the law — committing a crime, say.

It is like a race where everyone lines up at the same, fair starting line understanding there is no assurance that everyone will win; breaking the rules of running etiquette during the race will disqualify a runner or runners from winning the race.  The parents of school students I mentioned above are like spectators of the race expecting all runners or most of the runners to cross the finish line at the same time.  The Terror or the Khmer Rouge is like forcing the entire entourage of racers to step across the finish line simultaneously.  If the race is a metaphor of life, the Terror or the Khmer Rouge prevents the racers from “living.”

So, the United States’ Declaration of Independence and France’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen give the citizen a QUALIFIED equality — the right not to be handicapped at the start of citizenship and the right to achieve as much as possible without violating the rights of fellow citizens.  Chances are our crossing the finish line — making the most of our citizenship — will be a solitary one, with many ahead of us and with many behind.

Just like liberty or freedom is not absolute (We cannot do anything unlawful and/or at the expense of the liberties of our fellow citizens.), egalite is not absolute (We are equal only in opportunity and rights.).  Take advantage of your egalite if you are a citizen of the United States or France; your rights and opportunities at the start are indeed the same; how and when you cross the finish line is up to you; if you do your best, you can celebrate the finish line regardless of how your finish compares with others’.

 

As we physicists like to say, “That is the theory.”  Often theory and experiment, or theory and practice are far from being the same.  Ideally, the movement of establishing equality in the newly formed United States would begin as soon as the American Revolution ended.  Just look at the history of women and of African-American former slaves in the United States to see how far from ideal was the progress of egalite in our country.  Slavery was not abolished until 1863; women were not able to vote until 1920, after WWI; widespread acceptance of the LGBTQ community did not enjoy the protection of law until the 21st century; reparation to Native American communities did not begin until well into the 20th century; women still do not enjoy equality with men in the work force; xenophobia seems to trump xenophilia still as the reaction to immigration into the US.  The road to equality in the USA is still filled with roadblocks of misogyny, racism, sexism, xenophobia, traditional unjust entitlements, and irrational, a-historical nationalism.

As inertia-filled the movement toward equality is, the good news is that there has been reformist progress — the liberal spread of rights and privileges despite conservative resistance — in our country over the last 242 years.  I do not know enough modern French history to know how liberal reform and progress in the brain-child of the French Revolution compares, but I think France can make similar claims.  I am sure that in the long run both countries have avoided the horrors of Robespierre and Pol Pot — avoided the distortions of an unqualified egalite.  Just remember, you two countries, keep all three, liberte, egalite, and fraternite, equally important and equally strong.

RJH

 

21st Century Tories?

With American conservatives in power in the wake of the 2016 US Presidential election, the sharp dichotomy of political divisiveness from this election makes comparison of who makes up the two sides very easy.  21st-century American conservationism is bound to the post-both-Bushes Republican Party and to the populist “know-nothing-like” Tea Party (i.e. Freedom Caucus) movement largely populated, embarrassingly, by members of my own generation, the generation of Baby Boomers, born during and just after WWII.  Older modern-day Republicans and modern-day old populists, on the average, are made of those relatively unaffected by the three-pronged social revolution in America during the 1960’s:  Prong 1, the civil rights movement, Prong 2, the women’s movement, and Prong 3, the anti-war, anti-govt. movement.  In my opinion, President DJT, a member of my generation, embodies the oligarchical and plutocratic branch of modern American conservatism giving big business a very bad name.  Mix together these ingredients, and you have the definitive recipe of early 21st century American conservatism.  In this post I would like to make the historical comparison of this conservatism with a group we studied in American history known as the Tories of the 18th century.  (I could use “right/left” to describe the American political dichotomy, but herein I have obviously chosen “conservative/liberal.”)

The American Revolution was a close affair, whose outcome was in doubt for many years.  As I have said elsewhere (The United States of America — A Christian Nation?, [June, 2012]), American colonists rebelling against the British crown and Parliament won by two decisive factors (besides tactical and strategic opportunism and plain old luck):  a) the fledgling upstart nation made itself a secular, not a sacred, cause, and b) the French crown furnished the colonist cause with vital military and financial aid.  What contributed more than anything to the Revolution being so nip-and-tuck and up-in-the-air was the large population of colonists who did not support the rebellion, those who remained loyal to Parliament and King George III — those who became known as Tories or Loyalists.  There were not only patriot militias in the Revolution, there were Tory militias.  At Revolution’s end, at least three fates awaited these Americans who opposed the rebellion.  1)  Those who could afford passage made their way back to England, joining the likes of Benedict Arnold, 2) those of more modest means made their way to Canada (Today, many residents in the lower peninsula of the Province of Ontario between Lakes Ontario, Erie, and Huron are descendants of Tory families who crossed either the lakes or the Niagara River.), or 3) many Tories went “underground” with their “true” patriotism and gradually became indistinguishable within the new society of the United States.  Almost all identified Tories faced violence and/or threat of violence as the Revolution concluded; many never tasted liberty and justice until they left the USA; “the spirit of ’76” could not tolerate anyone deemed “traitorous.”  Even the bastard son of Benjamin Franklin was a Tory New Jersey governor, incarcerated during the Revolution, and he eventually moved to England in 1782, away from his father.

Clearly, 18th-century American Tories fit the “original” definition of conservatives — those who in principle oppose change in their lives, usually because they live more comfortable lives than others around them.  This is why conservatives often are the rich and powerful.  The original definition of liberals identified those who, like the conservatives, wanted for themselves and their families, money, power, property, and happiness; but liberals were not against change in their lives if that change meant others could also have the money, power, property, and happiness both liberals and conservatives enjoyed.  This is why liberals are often connected with the idea of “spreading the wealth,” which, contrary to conservative political mythology, does not mean “robbing Peter to pay Paul;” liberals know that enough new wealth can be created, in principle, to allow all who work to live as comfortably as they.  Succinctly, conservatives have always tended to exclude others, while liberals have always tended to included others.

The Tory position toward the American Revolution was obviously conservative; the Patriot position toward the American Revolution was obviously liberal.  Only subtle differences in these “original” definitions are still around here in the 21st century.  Today conservatives fear change will be at their expense, with complete disregard to today’s inequality of wealth, which causes the inequality in wealth of the 18th century to pale in comparison.  Liberals have struggled to learn change must not be at the expense of any one of the three principles from the French Revolution (another liberal rebellion), liberty, equality, and brotherhood (liberte, egalite, and fraternite, or LEF for short). [The French Revolution, despite virtually the same ideals as its American counterpart, devolved into the Terror when equality was emphasized above those of liberty and brotherhood.  Because of this liberal “black eye” concerning the Terror, I’ve proposed those who sustain all three ideals of LEF in perpetual equal importance be called “liberalists” instead of “liberals,” but, so far I’ve not gotten many “takers.”]

I therefore argue that in 21st-century America, conservatives are modern-day Tories.

This “Tory” argument is another approach in my earlier critique of American conservatism:  An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 1, [Dec., 2012], An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 2, [Dec., 2012], and An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 3, [Dec., 2012].  Ancillary to these three posts are suggested changes in the modern American political system aimed at both conservatives and liberals:  Citizens! (I) Call For the Destruction of the Political Professional Class, [Nov., 2012], Citizens! (II) The Redistribution of Wealth [Jan., 2013], and Citizens! (III) Call for Election Reform, [Jan., 2013].

One of many parallels one can draw from this approach is how in America attitudes of the rich and powerful toward the poor and disenfranchised has remained remarkably unchanged for about 240 years.  In the colonies, British aristocrats in the form of colonial governors, many of the rich “landed gentry,” and rich British and American merchants tended more often than not to “look down” upon the poor peasant class of small farmers and workers, and especially down upon African-American slaves.  Concern for the bettering of the lives of those struggling to live was not a priority of Tory-like conservatives.  Today, oligarchs and plutocrats of many ilks have a similar lack-of-concern; or, as I like to crudely and rudely (some would say unnecessarily) say, conservatives, on the average, don’t give a shit about others beyond their own; liberals do give a shit about others.

I personally witnessed conservative disdain toward those not considered “of their own” in the small west-central town of Cisco, Texas, in which I grew up; this disdain by conservatives was like a pervasive xenophobia — uncomfortable with, dismissive of, and mistrusting of those who were “different” than they.  The rich and powerful, usually town folk and large land owners, tended to “look down upon” poor town folk, small land owners, poor to middle-class farmers and ranchers, and generally anyone who lived in the country outside town; conservatives tended to classify people according to the size of their bank account, the amount of property they owned, and on which side of the city limit line they lived.  There were very philanthropic, well-to-do people in my home town, but to me they seemed “few and far between,” although I grew to recognize them as part of the “Cisco liberals.”  I saw conservative disdain by the rich “from both directions” or “straddling” this social judgement because I lived in a lower-middle to middle-class neighborhood in town and, simultaneously, “lived” on the farms and ranches of both sets of my grandparents outside town.  I was fortunate that this unique perspective of my growing up never ingrained into me to “look down” upon anybody.  But I sure sensed others “looking down” and sensed being “looked down upon.”  All I had to do to be so sensed was to wear my “country” working cloths downtown.  It was fun to project myself as a city boy sometimes and as a country boy at other times, but I soon grew to understand that what would not be fun is to become as those who “looked down upon,” or, who were, as I know now, modern American conservatives — who were, in words of this post, modern American Tories.  I rejected the social bigotry that was obviously germane to the conservatism I knew; it took me a long time to figure out what that rejection meant I had become, but eventually (with the help of the social revolutions of the 1960’s and the political definitions above) I realized I was a liberal.

The attitude I’ve developed toward American conservatives as described above was encapsulated years ago when my wife’s maternal grandmother said, as she was encouraged to be impressed by the gubernatorial mansion in Austin, Texas, “Well, that doesn’t make him any better than we are!”  At that moment I knew I had politically married into the “right” family for me.

I think I see why conservatives, modern-day Tories, fall prey to the social bigotries of their society.  They simply parrot the bigotry of their parents and grandparents so doggedly they fail to see that what they politically preach is racist, inhumane, xenophobic, anti-Christian, greedy, sexist, misogynistic, selfish, and/or “blue-bloodied.”  As I’ve told many of my generation who voted for and support Trump, they themselves may not be social bigots, but by their vote and support, they have “hitched their wagon” to the basest of these forms of social bigotry, because of Trump; they are guilty by association.  While it is certainly true that both conservatives and liberals can be bigots, my experience has seen more social bigotry in the former than in the latter.

Lest I be accused of being too “black/white,” compartmentalized, or simplistic regarding the conservative/liberal duality, I fully acknowledge that instead of two separate parts of the political spectrum, the spectrum is a blend of the duality.  And all along the spectrum individuals can be as free from social bigotry as possible, as Jesus taught.  Just like men can have female attributes and women can have masculine attributes, there are liberal conservatives and conservative liberals, both groups hopefully being bigotry-free.  For a long while I have considered myself to be a social liberal and a fiscal conservative, and I’ve met others who feel the same way.

Nonetheless, it seems logical that  since the rich and powerful are few in number, a new-comer to the earth might, looking at the American political situation, predict that conservatives would never be put into office by the voting electorate.  But, since we have approached closer than ever to universal suffrage during the 20th century in America, conservatives are in office as much or more than liberals.  Part of that can be explained by corruption, as conservative oligarchs, like the Koch brothers and Cisco’s Wilkes brothers, can attempt to “buy” elections by having more campaign money than some liberals, but that is not the full story.  Conservatives have co-opted the political tactics of aristocracies, monarchies, and church leaders to convince the poor and disenfranchised-from-the-“American dream” that they too can become rich and powerful like the conservative rich and powerful.  And certainly that is possible, but it is like telling all junior high football players they will be able to play in the NFL; odds are they will not play in the NFL; likewise odds are most Americans will not become rich and powerful.  The odds are better to go from poor and destitute to rich and powerful in the United States than anywhere else in the world, I agree, but to suggest that is common is to be cruelly misleading.  The ease of that transition from poor to rich is the myth of conservatism, as it gets the demographically non-conservative to vote for the conservative, to vote against their own best interests; voting for liberals is to vote for those who are interested in the demographically non-conservative climbing to the same demographic as the well-to-do liberals and conservatives; liberals tend to see the “American dream” as potentially attainable, as difficult as it is to realize, for all who work to develop fully their personal attributes.  When in office, conservatives usually work to see that it will be even more difficult for the poor-through-middle class to climb the socio-economic “ladder,” by funneling wealth so that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, like in pre-Revolutionary France.  Thus, conservative politicians and their supporters are often culpable of using the myth of conservatism like propaganda to which every fascist could relate.  A corrupt, bigoted American conservative, as the Trump era has shown, can sink to the autocratic depths of fascism and communism.

Hamstringing even slow, healing change among the modern American Tories is their almost reverent deference to authority, authority of any sort.  It is like the divine right of kings turned into 21st-century jargon.  The election of Trump among his supporters brought phrases like “We should respect the office of President always, and therefore, anyone in that office.”  I think the framers of the Constitution were so “gun shy” of kings, queens, kingdoms, theocracies, and aristocracies of all ilks, for very good reasons, they knew that any office created by the Constitution is never at any given time any better than the individual occupying it.  So the expulsion of Nixon in the wake of Watergate should not be viewed with tragic sorrow, but with great pride, as the system set up by the Constitution providing the peaceful transfer of power, even in times of crisis like Watergate, allowed the American people’s elected officials to preserve the dignity of the office of President for future Presidents.  In that spirit, Thomas Jefferson taught that one of the most patriotic things a citizen can do is to be critical of all elected officials.  Those of us howling about what Trump is doing to the dignity of the office of President are doing so out of the spirit of patriotism, the “spirit of ’76,” the bane of Tories past and present.  Bottom line, patriots:  elected officials must earn our respect, not be given it!

Germane to this myopic, almost blind, deference to authority practiced by modern-day Tories is the conservative tendency to not only defer to authority, but to believe everything authority tells them.  The insanity and danger of this tendency was what the third prong of the social revolution of the 1960’s cited above was all about — don’t just believe what the government tells you; vet and check out what they are telling you for yourself.  Today this is so much easier to do with cyberspace media (internet, etc.) than it was back in the 1960’s.  In other words, grow a “metaphorical pair,” a spine, a courageous, confident skepticism!  Parts of this conservative tendency to believe are intellectual laziness and ease of distraction.  Formally educated or not, every American citizen can become an informed voter, but it takes effort, and in my experience, it also takes time, like enough time to read and reflect on a novel like War and Peace.  Vital to an informed electorate is the ability not only to distinguish between fact and opinion, but also to recognize distraction from evidence.  From the time of the original Tories and even much, much earlier, conservative and liberal authorities have “gotten away” with corruption and scandal because ill-informed voters cannot follow the “scent of the trail.”  Once a voter learns such guidelines as “what evidence supports this,” “follow the money,” “what did he/she know and when did he/she know it,” and “where have we seen this before in history,” the trail will get hotter and hotter if there is actual corruption and scandal.  Therefore, my fellow American citizens, don’t be like a Tory, be like a hound on a hot trail or a shark in bloodied water.  Hold all politicians’ (conservatives’ or liberals’) “feet to the fire.”

One final warning concerning a thankfully few number of “ultra” conservatives — the horrible state of mind to which irrationally committed conservatives can stoop, in which they are un-phased by facts; the ideology in their heads “trumps” (pun intended) the evidence “staring them in the face.”  These are conservatives who seem to have the attitude, “Don’t confuse me with the facts.”  — a complete refusal to consider evidence.  At the close of the Watergate scandal, many conservatives still believed Nixon was innocent and/or he was framed!  This example reminds me of a story I used to tell my students in class to warn them of the “insanity” of irrationality and abandonment of “common sense.”  Briefly, the possibly apocryphal story (to me “apocryphal” means “if it’s not true, it ought to be”) went like this:   In Belton, Texas, years and years ago, a con man collecting money from his “marks” supporting the development of his “perpetual motion” machine, using a prototype with which he was publically “wowing” his credulous audience, was eventually exposed by skeptics who found a hidden battery/wire boost of energy to keep the prototype moving.  The money was recovered and returned to those who had been conned, but a few refused their money because they still believed in the con man!  Whether from fear of embarrassment or lack of the ability to understand the significance of the battery, those who refused to take back their money chose their faith in a crook over the facts before them.  I personally experienced the same phenomenon years ago when I got a Biblical literalist, creationist friend of mine to admit that, no matter how much evidence I placed before him, he could NOT admit that he possibly could be wrong!

It is not hyperbole to state that it is possible that modern-day American Tories, today’s American conservatives, can sink to this depth of mental bankruptcy and intellectual indecency; this depth is like “credulity on steroids!”  I’ve not yet met anyone of liberal tendencies who seems in danger of such depth.  I am relieved to say that the overwhelming majority of my conservative friends also seem not to be in such danger, so I want by this to warn them not to be associated with such danger.  In fact, let me exhort the entire political spectrum, conservative or liberal, to “call out” anyone on that spectrum who has sunk to this depth, anyone who, in terms of the “farm/ranch lingo” of my upbringing, has gone, politically speaking, “bat-shit crazy.”

 

I think history is on the liberals’ side.  Post WWII’s emergence of progressive political ideals in Western Europe, North America, Australia, Japan, and other nations has marked the transfer of more political power into the hands of the electorate than into the hands of the elected; this despite conservatives’ everywhere “dragging their feet” against this transfer; remarkably and thankfully, our vote is mightier than the sword or the dollar.  Consequently, history’s political compass points in a direction constituting anathema to 18th-century Tories, and, therefore, anathema to 21st-century Tories.  It is the “good sort of anathema” towards which to steer the future.

RJH

21st Century Luddites?

After the 2016 Presidential election, participants in and supporters of the US coal mining industry were asked why they voted against the industry being phased out, despite the widespread agreement it is a “dirty” source of energy contributing mightily to atmospheric pollution and climate change, and despite the promise that participants could easily be retrained for far more healthy employment in the future.  One particular answer from a participant spoke volumes to me — something to the effect that not only had his family been coal miners for generations, he categorically rejected the notion of being retrained in anything other than what he had been doing!  It was sort of a “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” answer.

I thought of the Luddites.  Luddites were primarily textile factory workers in England during the Napoleonic Wars years who created a movement of destruction and violence from 1811-1816, which was crushed by heavy-handed government reprisal supported by the factory owners.  The Luddites were most famous for breaking into factories and destroying the new looms and other machines that were doing the Luddite labor at less cost, more efficiently, and more productively.  It probably is a misconception they destroyed the machines out of fear of the machines themselves replacing them, as some research suggests they actually feared that time spent learning new skills (retraining) germane to the new machines would be wasted.  This suggests that perhaps a lot of destruction, maiming, and death could have been avoided had the factory owners at the time offered to retrain the dissident workers at full pay.  Nonetheless, the term “Luddites” came to mean those in opposition to industrialization, automation, and, today, computerization.  What has not changed from the early 19th century to today is that factory mechanization clearly allows faster and cheaper labor and allows operation to be done by fewer laborers, who can even be less-skilled — meaning working for lower wages than the workers-before-machines who were replaced by the machines.  This is not to overlook the present-day need for highly skilled and high-wage workers to maintain and repair the machines; the point is that the number of skilled and well-paid workers needed today is less than in the days when far fewer products were manufactured by workers.

The Luddites seemed placed in a historical spectrum of labor whose roots go back to the medieval guilds, which gave way in the emergence of modern Europe (16th and 17th centuries) to organizations such as village and town support groups for traveling journeymen, which pointed toward labor unions following the era of the Luddites.  As you watch at length programs such as How It’s Made on the Science Channel, fostering the notion that machines “make everything” nowadays, the social and political influence of modern labor unions seems less germane to industrial economies in the last couple or three decades or so, simply because the unions did their job protecting workers so well in the past.  I suspect this spectrum is laced throughout with a workers’ stubborn refusal to change with the times, as per the Luddites.

I have witnessed in the past 30 years or so a “change of economic times” affecting farms and farm workers in the agricultural region south of Cisco, Texas — the town in which I grew up.  So much of southern Eastland County used to be “peanut country.”  My paternal grandfather was a peanut farmer, and my father grew peanuts on the family farms near the end of and during his retirement.  The paternal side of my family traditionally had two “cash crops,” peanuts and beef cattle raised on pasture land not devoted to planting peanuts.  Before my father died, the peanut economy south of Cisco was irrevocably transformed into today’s disappearance.  First came the mechanization of peanut farming and of cattle feed farming (hay), so rapid that with tractors and all the accompanying attachments and implements, my father could do more by himself than what 3 or 4 of us could do only 15 or so years before.  Then came the expansion of irrigated peanut farming elsewhere in Texas, making the small acreage peanut farms of Eastland County pressed to compete with volume of production and the ability of larger farms to sell at lower prices; the small scale peanut farmer of Texas was being phased out.  Despite attempts to irrigate peanuts also in the county, the main peanut mill in Gorman, Texas, dwindled into non-existence; peanut farmers could not economically survive even one bad season.  Farms did survive by turning the peanut fields into hay fields, mostly nowadays growing coastal bermuda grass; peanut-growing implements became scrap iron or decorative antiques.  Southern Eastland County is today a hay/pasture/cattle agricultural economy.

What if the peanut growers of Eastland County had taken the attitude of the Luddites, the attitude of modern coal miners, and refused to change, citing family traditions of peanut farming as I have just done?  They would have gone to their graves owning fallow, unused ground, assuming they had not been forced to sell in order to pay the land’s taxes.  They would have lost everything, for they were never unionized like the coal miners; they had no economic “safety net.”  Instead they changed (begrudgingly, I admit) by seeing their land as something different — producing hay underwriting the cattle industry pervasive all over the county, not just in the southern part.  They are still farming today, needing fewer workers than ever before, thanks to machines, and producing hay (some irrigating, some dry-land), pasture land, and cattle.  Their fathers and grandfathers would not recognize the family land today!

 I am not saying that modern US coal miners will turn violent if they are not allowed to continue coal mining in the tradition of their forefathers, but I am saying the peanut farmers of Eastland County, Texas, should give these miners and their supporters pause.  The miners run the risk of being 21st century Luddites (without the violence) and dooming their traditional economy to an ignoble end, causing further, unnecessary environmental pollution along the way.  Circumstances forced the peanut farmers to change, just like circumstances are forcing coal mining to change; I think that the miners, just like the farmers, have no choice but to change.  So focused are the miners and their supporters on tradition, nostalgia, and reverence for the values of their ancestors, they only look to the past, not to the future; they are, in a word, anachronistic.  They are so anachronistic, they even vote against their own best interests, and thereby vote against the best interests of their children and grandchildren!  They as a group remind one of the irrational, tradition-bound “secret societies” many medieval guilds became.  Using the peanut farmer analogy, it would be like the farmers giving their heirs no choice but to continue growing peanuts, despite the regional support structure for growing “goobers” having long since dwindled away!  “Good luck, son and daughter, because I know you are going to have a harder time than I had!”  Again, downright medieval, if you ask me.

Nor am I saying worker organizations like unions are a cause of the “insanity” of “Luddite-ism.”  If the coal miner unions get behind the backward-looking position of the miners-who-refuse-to-change, then the very concept of unions is being abused.  Protection of jobs does not entail battling progress; unions should always be in step with what is best for the future of workers, not with irrational loyalty to family tradition.  Unions are the reason for child labor laws, safe and humane working conditions, and the exercise of workers’ basic rights; they are not perpetrators of the ancient, archaic idea of guilds based upon family tradition.

Also, to not change with the changing economic times is myopic and selfish.  When farmers in Eastland County gave up raising peanuts, they did not see that as betraying their family traditions; they did not cease to revere, love, and take pride in their peanut-farming heritage!  Farmers knew their ancestors would have done the same thing in their place, given the same circumstances; the way one makes a living is not sacred — it is an individual choice.  Do the coal miners actually think their ancestors would be proud of their continuing doing the same unhealthy things as their grandfathers did?  I have a hard time believing that.  Instead, I think it comes down to the fact it is easier not to change than to change one’s employment.  In a word, they are, ironically, lazy.  Those who do one of the most physical, dangerous jobs still around may well be too lazy to change to an easier, safer job.  It takes effort on the part of the worker to be retrained, an effort the Luddites were not willing to exert.  So it is with today’s coal miners.  They need to be reminded, as they comfortably and longingly gaze into their past, that this is the 21st century of accelerated change, and that coal mining does not “revolve” around them, just as peanut farming did not “revolve” around denizens of southern Eastland County.  Coal mining must look to the future, and will evolve according to environmental circumstances and changing means of obtaining clean energy, not according to the traditions of coal miners.

RJH

 

Dealing with Donald, or, A Citizen’s Survival Guide for Trump’s Apparent Presidency

As promised, here’s some suggestions that have popped up to use the next four years or so, and, amazingly, the man in these suggestions has not been inaugurated yet. For starters, some preliminary comments:

a) Lest we citizens not exactly thrilled with the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election be accused of being closed-minded, we must perpetually allow for the possibility, no matter how minuscule it may appear, we will need to show support for any actions by the new administration that meet our approval. None such have appeared thus far, in my opinion, but, then, for us eternal optimists, hope springs eternal.

b) Any specific causes or organizations I cite herein are merely personal suggestions that work for me. The reader should substitute and/or add the name or names of his/her preferences for mine, if desired.

c) We must banish thoughts of doing everything we can to discredit Trump, else we become no better than the grid-locking Republicans in Congress and elsewhere who held our nation hostage for petty political purposes during Obama’s two terms. Again, if Trump does well, let’s be supportive. For the good of our country, we must hope he does well.

But the sad reality is, he’s been our President-elect a little over a month now at the time of this writing, and there is little or no encouragement for us to be optimistic. Logically, we need to play it safe and assume the worst, else we are guilty of not being prepared for whatever may come. This is a suggestive guide for being so prepared from my point of view.

The philosophical modus operandi when dealing with Donald is to think of history as a parade of great ideas, not a parade of great men/women. Since none of us, living or dead, was or is perfect, thinking of history this way saves us frustration and disappointment whenever an individual’s imperfections become apparent. As Presidential candidates go, Trump is one of the most imperfect in a long, long time. I’ve not seen one like him since Nixon.

Wielding history in this way, American history is on “our” side. Donald is not only a narcissistic, grown-up, and greedy playground bully, he can be compared to the likes of mega-maniacal Nixon, to past fascist dictators like Hitler and Mussolini, and to present fascist-like dictators like Putin (Apparently now Putin is the richest individual on the planet.). If he (Trump) actually tries out some of his ideas (e.g. the wall) while in office, Dr. Rick Covington’s suggestion that they could be compared to some of Mao’s idiotic and tragic policies would be well taken. Obviously, to use history in this way, we must know our history; we cannot “brush up” on American and world history too much in the days to come.

Nixon was forced to resign when threatened with impeachment for his part in the Watergate break-in; “Tricky Dick” was a criminal and clearly in violation of his oath of office. Trump is already setting himself up to become in violation of his oath of office, in my opinion, by essentially taking the same position as the Russians on the hacking scandal (Can you say “treason,” boys and girls?), and by deliberately clinging to conflicts of interest (refusal to publicly release his taxes, violation of the emoluments clause) once he is in office, in clear violation of Constitutional requirements of the President. If the possibility of impeachment grows after he takes office, we must be patient, for, if I remember my Watergate history correctly, it took months for the pressure on Nixon to build up to where he found himself “painted into a corner.”

“Gird your loins” with the history of elections of Presidents who did not receive a majority of the popular vote. Personally, I think comparing Trump with Rutherford B. Hayes is quiet rewarding. In the election of 1876, Republican Hayes received 47.9% of the vote compared to Democrat Samuel Tilden’s 50.9% (Compare these numbers with Trump’s and Clinton’s percentages, taking into account the third-party percentages.), yet in the shameful “Compromise of 1877” a deal was cut between the two parties wherein Hayes could be President in exchange for the Republicans removing federal troops from the South, thereby ending Reconstruction and ushering in the systematic disenfranchisement of former slaves, the infamous “Jim Crow” laws. Incidentally, as I’ve discussed with Dr. Jon Reese and others, we can assure that the President-elect is always the one who receives the majority popular vote nationwide (without having to amend the Constitution): As several States have already done, have the State’s Electoral College (EC) set of voters pledged to vote for the candidate receiving the national majority vote, a result that can be reliably known today by the time polls close in Alaska and Hawaii. The EC vote would then be a redundant affirmation of the whole country’s choice. Clearly, this would have elected Al Gore in 2000 and Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Hayes’ administration followed upon the heels of U.S. Grant’s corrupt administration, helping to perpetuate the infamous “robber barons” of the late 19th century (You know, the villains in the newest Lone Ranger movie starring Johnny Depp as Tonto.). These characters notoriously rode tax breaks toward destruction and rape of the environment, all in the name of profit. Sound familiar? Trump appears to be a modern-day version of a robber baron, giving big business in particular and business in general a bad name. He is “in bed” with the huge oil and gas industry (e.g. Exxon-Mobil) so snugly, he clearly is anti-environment. In other words, he not only doesn’t care about our rights, he doesn’t give a crap about our planet. Those who worship at the shrine of money, mammon, and capitalism need to be reminded there are lots of “filthy rich”examples much better than Donald, like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and Oprah Winfrey.

I’ll always be amazed at the rabble who insist we need a business person in the White House. History doesn’t bear the weight of that argument, in my opinion; greedy capitalists tend to morph into Scrooges. The robber baron lesson means in a Trump administration we must support those from whom the robber barons steal — the poor, the hungry, refugees fleeing one or more of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and the infirm. Give to humanitarian and charitable organizations like UNICEF, the Red Cross, the Red Crescent, the Clinton Foundation, St. Jude, Shriner’s hospitals, Make-a-Wish Foundation, and Jimmy Carter’s Habitat for Humanity, to name but a few. As individuals, we usually can’t afford to give to all, but at least we can give to one.

Trump is of my generation, so we all need to know how to assess members of my generation, the so-called “Baby-Boomers.” Only part of my generation “took” to the “3-pronged” social revolutions of the 1960’s — 1) the Civil Rights Movement, 2) the Women’s Movement, and 3) the Anti-war Movement. I graduated high school a “male chauvinist pig” in 1964 and emerged from undergraduate school at A&M in 1968 “inoculated” by all three prongs. Another member of my generation, Hillary Clinton, over about the same period of time, morphed from a “Goldwater Girl” to working for voters’ rights for the disenfranchised in far south Texas. But I’m afraid too many of our generation did not “take” to the revolutions, and Donald Trump was certainly one of those. I’m guessing over half of my generation merely replaced their parents and/or grandparents, emerging from the revolutions unchanged and longing for the “good old days” of the 1950’s. We know Trump’s dad dealt with housing for blacks in New York City following Jim Crow laws. Moreover, Trump’s financial successes appear to be the result of “daddy bailing him out,” rather than the result of Trump’s business acumen. In other words, Trump in the 21st century still apparently believes the world is still “ruled” by rich white men, as it practically was back in the 1950’s before the revolutions. So, when dealing with my generation, individually find out if he/she “took.”

As a person “stuck” politically, morally, and socially in the 1950’s, Trump cares for no one’s rights but his own. Consequently, he seems capable of bigotry based solely on xenophobia, in my opinion. Our support of organizations directly defending the rights of us all, especially if we are not white, male, rich, and Protestant, is now of greatest importance. I plan to join and support the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). For women’s right to make their own choices about their lives, I want to support Planned Parenthood. I also want to lend my support to Sanctuary Cities who give succor to desperate immigrants looking to America for their salvation. In all situations wherein anyone’s civil rights are being denied, we must speak up, not tolerating such denial ever. Just the fear of losing one’s basic rights can devastate lives; recently a student I was tutoring spoke of a friend of the LGBT community sobbing in fear over the 2016 election’s outcome.

What about the younger generations than mine, which I will call the generations of my children and my grandchildren? Why would they vote in 2016 against their own best interests, or not vote at all? Many seemed to squander their vote on a hopeless third party (Look where that sort of thing landed Iceland recently in a many-partied election!), or they believed Trump actually cared about the working class. I think these voting patterns showed the inability to recognize propaganda — the inability to not only think critically, but to think skeptically. Even young children can learn to recognize truth not from authority, but from evidence. Basic education should universally include course work demanding critical and skeptical thinking skills, like well-taught science and math classes. I support good strong civics curricula which emphasize the principles upon which our Constitution was based, and I support high school philosophy courses wherein students are taught to question everything they are taught. This is why I feel compelled to support science education groups like the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). Students should not only be able to distinguish between propaganda and political reality, they should also need to distinguish on their own science from pseudo-science.

Moreover, we need to keep hammering home the idea of free higher education for successful students in state colleges and universities, just like public education is “free” to the “customer” in the classroom. If lottery, gaming, and horse racing revenues were plowed into higher education, plans such as the one put forth by Bernie Sanders and embraced by HRC could easily be paid for. The idea is admirably based on merit, rewarding successful academic work; whether a student gets funded for the next semester depends upon meeting the standards of success in all courses in the previous semester.

Then there were those “one-issue” voters who voted against Hillary or for Donald as if their “favorite” issue was the only plank in the party’s platform, or the only concern of the party’s policy makers. Many of these myopic voters seemed to me to be evangelical Christians whose one issue was abortion, or the make-up of the future Supreme Court. These voters need some sort of rationality therapy wherein a party’s total platform is scrutinized to produce a “political spectrum average.” This “plank average” comparison, I think, would show any open-minded citizen that for decades the Democratic party’s average is by far more humane, uplifting, Christian, tolerant, safe, and supportive than the Republican party’s. It is part of our job to provide this therapy in elections to come.

To keep, in a Trump administration, our country from being too much under Russian influence, yet not restart the Cold War, we need to foster broader understanding of Russia and of our allies and adversaries overseas. Thanks to the glaze with which the greed of business can coat clear thinking, Trump is rightly already called, in Lenin’s words, “a useful idiot” for Putin’s Russia. It is Russia’s young populace we need to be concerned with. Read in the December 2016 issue of National Geographic about today’s young Russians and how suppressive of young minds Putin is, not only in the best tradition of Stalin, but also of Hitler and Mussolini. If Trump and his cronies continue to act like “Putin’s puppets,” Putin might well get away with his crimes in the Crimea, Ukraine, and Syria. We have to rally citizens to work to strengthen NATO, not undermine it. Germany’s economic and social leadership in Europe today should be a blueprint worthy of our consideration.

In dealing with Russia, we must remember this is a country that did not have a Renaissance, a Reformation, or an Enlightenment, as we had in the West (and which explain our rise toward democratic and universal suffrage). It is too late for Russia to have a Renaissance or a Reformation, but, just like Islam could use a Reformation, Russia could surely use a vigorous, modern version of the Enlightenment. And we cannot be the agents of these necessary changes; Russians have generate their own Enlightenment, just as Muslims have to generate their own Reformation.
We need to make sure our fellow citizens are familiar with the words “kakistocracy” and “kleptocracy.” (Look them up, and thanks to Karolina King for pointing the first out to me.) The gloomiest statement we can make right now about Trump is that he is busy assembling a kakistocracy (of which he is the head) toward a government functioning as a kleptocracy — all to the demise of what most Americans hold most dear. Talk about our Founding Fathers spinning in their graves!

Yet to dwell on this gloom to the point of fear, desperation, and/or resignation is too myopic of us. As I like to remind myself, “We’ve come a long way, baby!” to get where we’ve got to today! Remember things like when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 1908, women could not vote and African-Americans as well as Latinos could not play major league baseball. If you don’t have one yet, develop a perspective both broad and deep; such can be both personally and perpetually enlightening and encouraging.

As Delores Covington has rightly pointed out, we must always remain vigilant. Thomas Jefferson is usually given credit for statements like “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.” Moreover, Jefferson also reminded us that one of the most patriotic things we can do is be critical and skeptical of our government, which sounds oxymoronic. But TJ is right on point. WE are the government, a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Self-criticism, both individual and public, is vital. One could say the particulars of this “survival guide” are suggestions on how to be critically vigilant, and, therefore, patriotic.

Clearly, the “vigilance point” above applies to ANY Presidential administration. To be vigilant would be just as important if HRC (or anyone else) had won the election.

Speaking of Thomas Jefferson, not only was he one of the first advocates in our country for public education, he was one of the pioneers taking the first steps toward universal suffrage, in the form of being an advocate for the “common man vote,” where a male got to vote regardless of how rich he was and/or how much property he owned. His concern responding to criticism of the common man vote was that an uninformed electorate might vote in an incompetent, dangerous person into public office; hence, his strong advocacy for public education. The 2016 election possibly might be seen as the election of Trump by an uninformed electorate — Jefferson’s fear might have been born out. Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America expressed concern that the United States could be ruled by the “tyranny of the majority,” which is of little concern, in my opinion, if the majority is wise enough to respect the rights of the minority. Given that Trump was elected, however, by a minority of the electorate, uninformed or not, his particular election could also be seen as portending the “tyranny of the minority,” de Tocqueville turned upside down.

Over the years of too many Republican administrations, I have been energized by political protest music, like that of our new Nobel Laureate, Bob Dylan, and by songs like “Cult of Personality,” by Living Colour and “The ‘Fish Cheer’/I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag” by Country Joe and the Fish, as well as the instrumental National Anthem by Jimi Hendrix. All of you, I’m sure, can add your own inspiring music examples.

And don’t forget to be grateful for the great humor that will undoubtedly evolve from the Trump administration, as wonderfully illustrated by SNL. All political comedians and all us wanna-be-comedians are going to have a field day! To quote the Lennon/McCartney lyric from “Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite, ”A splendid time is guaranteed for all!” Example: Who does Donald Trump think was the greatest job creator ever? Adolf Hitler! Hitler not only gave us the Volkswagen, he eliminated unemployment in Europe for years!

RJH

Some Thoughts on Trump’s Election

As I join all those who want our President-elect Donald J. Trump to successfully represent all Americans, regardless whether or not we voted for him, I would be disingenuous were I not forthcoming with some observations suggesting themselves in the wake of his election.

I hope my remarks here will supplement those made on Facebook already by fine contributors such as Dr. Rick Covington, Kyle Kent, and Ronnie Applewhite.
First, some particulars:

1) Polls in this election seemed out-of-sync with the population supposedly represented by the sampled. It was as if Trump supporters either avoided being part of the sample or gave false information to the sampler.

2) I think there was a false equivalency developed between the liabilities of the two top candidates fueled by misogyny. Paraphrasing Joy Behar of ABC TV’s The View, “This election shows men can get away with anything, while women can get away with nothing.” Seemed like a double standard to me. In other words, being reckless with e-mails pales in comparison with talking about grabbing a woman’s you-know-what.

3) Trump’s many liabilities were scandalously overlooked if even only one of his positions was zealously supported. A great example was his pro-life position. Pro-life, evangelical, “one-issue” Christians actually supported him, overlooking his tendencies of demeaning women to the point of sexual assault. These Christians, in my opinion, prostituted themselves — “sold their soul” if you please — because “the Devil” said he was against abortion. In this manner, they also “sold out their American citizenship” by siding with the intolerant pro-life position that denies women the right to make their own decisions about their bodies; pro-choice does not force an action or inaction on a woman concerning abortion; it is up to the woman; pro-choice protects women’s Constitutional rights. (See The “A” Word — Don’t Get Angry, Calm Down, and Let Us Talk, [April, 2013] & The “A” Word Revisited (Because of Gov. Rick Perry of Texas), or A Word on Bad Eggs, [July, 2013])

4) It seems to me that anyone who listened to Trump’s speeches and who took any history in school would see clear parallels between his campaign and that of a fascist dictator. His disdain of our time-honored peaceful transfer of power (if he lost) was incredibly and unprecedentedly disrespectful to our remarkable democratic traditions. Many of his poses behind the podium reminded me of Mussolini. I would encourage any of you who have not done so to read about Hitler’s rise to power in William L. Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (Incidentally, it seems that Trump is not as bright an intellect as Mussolini or Hitler, as shown by Trump’s uncanny susceptibility to Putin’s pandering to Trump’s ego.)

5) Just like Al Gore in 2000, Hillary Clinton won the overall popular vote in 2016, but lost the election. Has American universal suffrage progressed enough to here in the 21st century for us to consider doing away with the archaic Electoral College and replace it with a nation-wide final tally?

6) The “racial vote” of white votes against Clinton in 2016 reminded me of the “racial vote” of African-Americans for Obama in 2008 and in 2012, and, curiously, to the white votes, “racial votes,” for segregation in the 1960’s, in the attempt to thwart the Civil Rights movement.

6) above is a nice transition to my final, more general and philosophical point:

One way of looking at our country’s history is to see it as a slow progression toward universal suffrage for everyone above voting age. As we were all reminded recently, when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 1908, neither women could vote nor were black players or players from Latin American countries allowed in the major leagues.

The 2016 Presidential Election reminds us that it possible to step backwards in this progression, even in the 21st century. I say we went back to parallels with the 1950’s, when white men ruled in the United States. I am embarrassed to say that I am now in the same demographic as the political “rulers” of the ‘50’s — an old white fart! However, I am proud to say that I am a Baby Boomer for whom the three social revolutions of the 1960’s, 1) the women’s movement, 2) the Civil Rights movement, and 3) the anti-war movement, “took.” (Historically 1) was the most successful of the three, in my opinion.) As I’ve said elsewhere, I can consider myself a reformed high school male chauvinist pig, who “saw the light” on a university campus.

In case you haven’t noticed, “We’ve come a long way, baby!” White men don’t rule anymore; nor do all whites or skins of any other hue. We have become the vision of our progressive Founding Fathers: a social melting pot of many, many diverse and different origins, colors, cultures, creeds, views, affiliations, bank accounts, and opinions — each group with exactly the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities as any other group.

Hillary Clinton failed to “break the glass ceiling” for women in our country, I am sad to say. The opportunities for my granddaughters may not arrive for them as soon as I had hoped, I’m also sad to say. We now have to work our way out of the “new 50’s” back to the true equality for women in our country the election of a woman President will portend. May this “breaking” election come for the generation of my granddaughters, if not sooner.  (See You Go Girl! (II), [March, 2012])

For the sake of our country, Mr. President-to-be-inaugurated-in-Jan-2017, please try and be the President of us all, and may we all unite to help you be so. Given the media and the plethora of hacked e-mails in our midst, we will know if you are trying or not.

RJH

 

Presidential Election 2016 — NOT Choosing the Lesser of Two Evils

I am trying to project myself forward to Election Day in November emerging from the voting booth having voted for Donald Trump.  I can only imagine emerging in that scenario in an extreme state of self-loathing.  How could I live with myself after that?  Certainly not with a clean conscience!  I understand the President of Mexico comparing Trump with behavior reminiscent of Mussolini or Hitler; El Presidente is not alone.  I am no expert on fascism, but I do know enough (See Mrs. Lois Adling, Mrs. Edward Lee, and the Big Afternoon [June, 2012] &  The Flag Escapade — Phase I [August, 2013]) to recognize demagoguery, cult of personality, propaganda, the police state, flip-flopping on issues to accommodate the immediate audience, and pandering to the vulgar, violent, and uninformed.  And like Mussolini and Hitler, Trump is like a “whiny little bitch” (to use Bill Maher’s words), spreading fear, insecurity, and intimidation wherever he goes.  (He had to be a playground bully when he was in grade school.)  Moreover, Trump admires the heavy-handed despotic governments of Russia and North Korea; Putin knows all he has to do is flatter Trump and Donald will roll over like a puppy to get his tummy scratched; DJT is like “Putin’s Puppy.” And, as if this is not enough, Trump would have a religious test for entry into the country, and, perhaps, and ideological one as well, using, presumably, something he calls “extreme vetting.” (My granddaughters know what that means — torture.) I join Mr. Khan at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia in asking Donald Trump, “Have you ever read the US Constitution?”  Trump must have been asleep in his American history, world history, civics, and government classes and had someone else take his exams for him!

Trump’s base of support is sadly all too familiar to me — all I have to do is look in the mirror.  His base is what used to be called the Tea Party, mostly made up of old white farts like me.  Trump’s base is made up primarily of my generation with whom the three-pronged social revolution of the 1960’s — 1) the anti-war movement, 2) the civil rights movement, & 3) the women’s movement — did not “take.”  That all three “took” with me marks me as one of the fortunate of we “Baby Boomers,” we “children of the ’60’s.”  I’m truly sorry more of my generation did not become politically informed, enlightened, and “savvy.”  We should know better than paying attention to a whiny little bitch.

My mirror also reminds me Hillary Clinton is also a “child of the ’60’s.”  But all three prongs of the revolution “took” with her also; she is also one of the fortunate.  I would have voted for her just on the basis she declared herself a Beatles fan.

Those for whom the 3-pronged revolution did not “take,” like Trump, are anachronistic — living in the past, longing for the “good old days” of the 1950’s in which we Baby Boomers grew up.  Ah, yes, the 1950’s, when white males “ruled,” Jim Crow laws were the norm, and you couldn’t even own your household telephone; people like Trump, in my opinion, long for the days depicted in the annual movie classic A Christmas Story.

Hillary Clinton and I know the world can never return to the 1950’s.  White males are not the majority in power today, as our national demographics indicate it should be.  She began as a “Goldwater girl,” and was smart enough to “see the light” early on.  Her record parallels the optimism of JFK’s Camelot years, LBJ’s vision of a war on poverty, Jimmy Carter’s faith in American ideals, her husband Bill’s golden touch with the economy, and Obama’s ability to transform society toward a just universal suffrage on the wings of a surging stock market.  She is the same person today as she was so many years ago before she married Bill and was registering Latino voters in far south Texas.  Witnessing from the other side of her marriage the inner workings of the White House, serving as a US Senator, and serving as Secretary of State, no living politician has had more preparation to lead than she.  I agree with those who say that never in the history of the US has there been a person more qualified to be our President than Hillary Clinton.  On top of all this, she is a grandmother.  We’ve needed the wise hand of a bright, gifted grandmother in the Oval Office for centuries.

Yet, the election is cited as the choice between two terrible alternatives, two evils, if you will.  Clinton is demonized (Trump calls her “crooked,” a “liar,” and even a “devil.”) as if she is as culpable in awful social prejudices as Trump.  But Trump appears racist and misogynous, while she appears tolerant and inclusive.  Why is this?  My generation, Trump’s base, is full of what we called back in 1960’s “male chauvinist pigs.”  And my generation is famous for passing down anti-women bigotry to its sons and grandsons.  A few years ago, when Hillary was running for the Senate, I was standing in line waiting to be transported to my seats at a Texas A&M University football game, when I overheard a couple of men in their late 20’s or 30’s trying to outdo each other in accusing Hillary for sins that seemed to exceed those blamed on her husband when he was President.  The only reason I could see these two sinking into such fanciful hyperbole is that they were scared, scared of a smart and powerful woman.

The liabilities of Trump to me are personally and politically unethical, and detractors of Hillary want her to have the same kind of liabilities.  That simply doesn’t wash, in my opinion.  Hillary’s liabilities, from the days of Whitewater to today’s accusations around servers and foundations seem strained and “spun” to sound much worse than they turn out to be under adjudication.  Millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent (in my opinion, wasted) on Whitewater and on Benghazi and on her e-mails as Secretary of State, trying to find “dirt” on her — all to no avail.  Yet, her political enemies assume she HAS to be guilty, as if she is held to some other standard than the rest of us.  Hillary’s only “sin” is that she is a smart, powerful woman.  She intimidates so many men, so many “male chauvinist pigs,” just as Margaret Thatcher and Angela Merkel did and does.

On the other hand, a failed businessman like Trump (check into his bankruptcies) only needs to be gently “spun” and out will fly dirt on his outsourcing business to foreign countries, his hiring of alien workers on his projects, and his refusal to pay contracted companies for work claimed unsatisfactory to the point the companies are forced out of business.  He is a bad example of a businessman; imagine how bad a President he would make!  So many of my generation think we need a businessman as President.  That is almost insane to me; we need a statesman and a leader of fellow elected officials, not a businessman.  Our Constitution is about a unique social experiment of democratic government operating as a representative republic, not about business.  Hillary is that statesman (stateswoman?) and leader we need.

Hillary is her own person; she would be intimidated or manipulated by no one, so powerful and smart is she.  She will never be fooled by flattery, like you-know-who, like “Putin’s Puppet.”  I remind you just how far-sighted and wise she is.  Had she not forgiven him and divorced Bill over the Monica scandal (nothing impeachable about all that; Bill Clinton did not violate his oath of office), she would never have been able to run for President.  This country has not progressed enough to accept a divorced woman as President like we’ve accepted a divorced man (e.g. Ronald Reagan) as our leader.  She has always known that and has risen above such double standards.  Her personal example, as well as her career, is a beacon of hope, inspiration, and encouragement to young girls and women worldwide, not least of which are my two granddaughters.  It is my hope that Hillary is the harbinger of a day when in the US we have universal suffrage and equal rights for all.  I want my duo of precious young women to have every reason to expect equal pay for equal work, to see in their lives the same opportunities as their male peers.

 

I think I agree with Dr. Rachel Maddow with her historical analysis on MSNBC about the “rise” of Trump.  His emphasis on the immigration issue is a dead give-away.  When in our political history the two-party system falls apart or is severely weakened, what arises is an alternative party or movement, usually from fringe or “secret” societies, riding into influence via xenophobia, via “blaming our troubles” on aliens and foreigners in our midst — on immigrants.  In the 1850’s the Whig Party collapsed, giving rise eventually to the modern Republican Party (the party of Lincoln, a former Whig).  From the ashes of the Whig Party rose for a short time the “Know-Nothing” party (arising from secret ultra-patriotic societies, who became named for their common response to political questions — “I know nothing!”).  The Know-Nothing Party scapegoated in Massachusetts immigrant Catholics (mostly Irish), while in California the Know-Nothings scapegoated Chinese immigrants.  In the wake of World War I (the 1920’s), when Republicans ruled the road to Prohibition and the Great Depression (Harding, Coolidge, & Hoover), the racist KKK movement scapegoated African-Americans as well as newly arrived immigrants from Europe and Asia, accumulating for a while an alarming amount of political acumen.

Post “W” Bush Republicans weakened themselves via their conservative policies so severely, anti-government societies such as the Tea Party pushed the Republican party so far to the right, their champion, a narcissistic demagogic businessman, was able to steal the Republican Presidential nomination from “establishment” Republicans, including from a Bush brother named Jeb.  Remarkable, sure, but remarkably bad for the country, as was the case in the 1850’s and in the 1920’s.  Note how Trump was reluctant to immediately repudiate the endorsement of former KKK Imperial Wizard David Duke.  The source of the endorsement and Trump’s reluctance to repudiate both make sense in light of Dr. Maddow’s historical reminders, for — who are Trump’s scapegoats?  You got it — immigrants, this time illegal immigrants primarily from Mexico and Central America.  When it comes to xenophobia in American politics, it seems, what goes around comes around again.  If so many lives were not lost or ruined due to racial and national xenophobia, it would be almost laughably ludicrous, given the fact that, outside Native Americans, we all in the US, if you go back far enough, come from immigrants of some sort (If you go back enough millennia, even the Native Americans were immigrants!)  Right-wing bigoted scapegoating of immigrants is laid bare as Americans turning on proto-Americans (new arrivals becoming American citizens).  Saturn eating his children, as depicted in Goya’s painting, comes to mind.

[I would feel remiss not mentioning here that European anti-Semitism and Nazi race theory were based upon similar racial and national xenophobia as described above, even though they were not a direct part of American xenophobia.  Nonetheless, it would seem too naive to assume some seeds of scapegoating from the legacy of Nazi Germany did not find fertile US soil in the 1930’s and 1940’s, contributing (as examples of radical political methodology) to the rise of McCarthyism and Neo-Nazism in the latter half of the 20th century.  Without sounding too conspiratorial, these seeds could, therefore, be possibly culpable in the remarkable theft of the Republican nomination by Donald Trump here in the early 21st century.]

 

As a scientist, seeing Trump being anti-science (on issues like global warming), like the Republican Party platform, is, sadly, expected and not surprising.  Hillary Clinton is certainly not anti-science.  No elaboration here, in my opinion, is needed.

 

This Presidential election is more a “no brainer” than in 2008 and in 2012.  Like we did eight years ago, let’s make history!  Vote Hillary Clinton!  I’m with her!

RJH

 

For Your Consideration, I Give You…….Tom Paine

The U.S. Presidential election of 2012 was believed to be won by the candidate receiving the greater amount of money, not by the candidate better qualified to be the next President. A price has been placed upon public office. One political party blatantly tries to reduce the number of voters, not expand it. Part of that same group has usurped the good title of the Boston Tea Party and besmirched that good name by behaving like the British political merchants against whom the historical Party was held; instead of champions of freedom and liberty, they are champions of limited citizenry and of disfranchisement, especially of those of differing skin color and/or culture.

Most of our Founding Fathers must be “spinning in their graves.” One such “spinner” is not commonly recognized in the illustrious group that includes George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams. This is a call to add the name of Thomas Paine to the list of Founding Fathers in our common discourse.  He has been needed as an addition since the beginning of our marvelous republic.

Tom Paine is the author of Common Sense, the pamphlet whose reading, according to Washington “worked a powerful change in the minds of many men” during the dark days for the colonists in the American Revolution.  During America’s struggle for independence, he was a volunteer aide-de-camp for Gen. Nathanael Greene.  From The Crisis, a series of inspiring tracts by Paine, came the immortal words, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”  For his service in the American Revolution he was awarded a 300-acre farm in New Rochelle, New York.  He was one of the first to call for a national convention to remedy the ineffectual Articles of Confederation.  Unlike his friend Thomas Jefferson, Paine leaned in his later political philosophy toward a strong union rather than the primacy of states’ rights.  But he was no Alexander Hamilton; his views evolved from advocating minimal government to government mandated as a beneficent agent to the people executing a program of positive humanitarianism.  He helped pioneer political ideas such as a progressive income tax and provisions for the helpless and the aged.

His human foibles were no worse than those of the other Founding Fathers, in fact to me more forgivable than the indiscretions of Ben Franklin, George Washington, or Alexander Hamilton.  Paine’s ideals were as lofty as those of Franklin’s and Jefferson’s, but he was not as patient as he probably should have been dealing these ideals to his fellow human beings; he spoke and wrote out when Franklin and Jefferson held their tongues and pens in discretion.  He was not willing to “fight another day.”

He was a missionary in the best tradition of the Apostle Paul.  In 1787 he went to England, and then to France, to work toward both places becoming a United States-like republic!  He was an apostle of liberty, freedom, human dignity, and humanitarianism — a true child of the Enlightenment.  His “missionary journey” is the stuff of legend; it transcends the legendary stories of the other Founding Fathers, in that it is one of lethal adventure as well as of penning great words, and, apparently, all true.  At the very least, it is “right up there” with Founding Father stories such as chopping down the cherry tree, throwing a dollar across the Potomac, or flying a kite-with-key during a thunderstorm.

In England he wrote Rights of Man, a hard-hitting rebuttal of Edmund Burke’s critique of the French Revolution, Reflections on the Revolution in France.  Paine not only defended the early events of the French Revolution, he promoted the principles of republicanism so well Pitt’s government had him indicted for treason against England, fearing French-style rebellion erupting there.  Paine fled to France to a hero’s welcome — Rights of Man was a natural big “hit” among the French revolutionaries — and was immediately elected to the French revolutionary Convention.  But, he gravitated toward the more moderate revolutionaries, the Girondins, rather than to the more radical revolutionaries, Robespierre’s Jacobins.  He was among those who advocated not executing King Louis XVI; he favored exile instead.  This put him at odds with the Jacobins, and when the Terror ensued, he was imprisoned and scheduled for execution via “Madame Guillotine.”  Those to be guillotined for a given day had notices nailed to or marked upon their cell doors the night before.  On Paine’s scheduled day of execution, he was ill with typhoid and a physician was summoned to attend him in his cell, whose door was left open, hiding the deadly notice against the wall of the hall of cells, or hiding the deadly mark on the door facing when the door was closed for the night.  Those who gathered the unfortunates with a notice or mark on the door to the carts for the public be-headings the next day passed by Paine’s cell, whose notice was hidden from them either by an open or a closed door.  The bureaucracy of the Terror apparently was such that if you missed your day of execution, it was a long time until your re-processing cycle was completed.  A few days later,  when Paine’s cycle was completed, if it ever was, Robespierre was out of power, and Paine was released and readmitted to the Convention.  However Tom Paine’s notice of death was hidden (He was so sick he knew no details of how he was overlooked.), his head was salvaged by a doctor’s “house call!”

Why, then, is there any need for my appeal?  Why, by the time he died back in America in 1809 was he not “ushered into the ranks” alongside Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, and Adams?  I think the answer is linked with the problems of our nation today, with the reasons he is sorely needed today in the ranks of the Founding Fathers (FF).  And the link is summed up in one word — religion.

Born in England (Country of birth no barrier to being listed with the FF; Hamilton was born in the British West Indies.) a Quaker, Tom Paine became, like Gen. Greene, a patriot who renounced his pacifism, a “fallen Quaker,” if you will.  Like so many of the FF, he was a deist and falsely accused, especially by the clergy and by the Federalist political party, of being an atheist (The atheist charge was a political action executed as part of a similar attack by the Federalists on his friend Thomas Jefferson).  Only decades after his death, many of his religious principles and beliefs had profoundly changed the religious landscape of the United States, in the form of the Unitarian movement.  A major part of his enlightened humanitarianism was and is individual freedom from political and religious bigotry.  Such freedom as it exists today is indebted in no small measure to Tom Paine. Yet, ironically, what set him at cross purposes with the orthodox Christian Church at large proved he was more familiar with Christian Scripture than most believers!

About the time he was going into prison at the hands of the Jacobins, he wrote Part i of Age of Reason, a scathing critique of Christian theology and of the Church in general, using the Scriptures themselves as his argumentative tool.  The accuracy of Part i referencing the Bible is nothing short of remarkable; not many had the familiarity of God’s Word to write Part i.  Two years later, after he was released, he wrote Part ii of Age of Reason.  Part ii was a wonderful continuation and supplement to Part i.  Together, both parts make up what I would call a “must read” for every believer and non-believer alike.  Age of Reason and Thomas Jefferson’s The Jefferson Bible together make the most disturbing case by Americans against Christianity as passed down to us by the Apostle Paul as I’ve ever run across.  If it were up to me, I would make these two publications required reading for every public, parochial, and private high school graduate in the nation.  (Also, see my Sorting Out the Apostle Paul [April, 2012] and The United States of America — A Christian Nation? [June, 2012] on this website Beyond Good and Evil, www.ronniejhastings.com .)

Through politics, then, the same kind of religiously-motivated power struggles we see today in big-moneyed, Tea Party, fundamentalist conservatism, Tom Paine was made an anathema and died in obscurity in New York City, his enormous contributions to the birth of our nation conveniently forgotten by most of the nation.  He was not helped by the fact he ad hominum criticized George Washington for not doing more for him while he was in the French prison, admittedly, but that seems small potatoes compared to Common Sense, Rights of Man, and Age of Reason.  Nor was he helped by his tactlessness and drunkenness during bouts with depression in the last seven years of his life, but these foibles seem forgivable in light of how he stirred the hearts and minds of the American cause during the dark days of Valley Forge.

On MSNBC Chris Matthews quotes Tom Paine regarding a people’s power to “change the world” by changing their government, and President Obama quoted Tom Paine in his first inaugural address.  Paine’s words still stir what Jefferson and Adams called the “spirit of 1776.”  We need his words again in our hearts and minds; we need Tom Paine’s courage to stand up for the revolutionary principles upon which our country was founded.

Moreover, we need Tom Paine to remind us of Franklin’s observation — if the Founding Fathers had lost, they would have been hung as treasonous criminals.  We need Tom Paine to remind us that in the day of the Founding Fathers, the group to which he rightfully belongs, the conservatives of the day wore red military coats and spoke with a British accent.  We need a Paine Memorial comparable to that of Jefferson’s.

RJH

 

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