hatred

Love Thy Who?

Reading time – 3:43; Viewing time – 5:41  .  .  .

At an evening meeting on April 20th the discussion drifted to the issue of our political divide. The characterization of Trump voters included words like moron, racist, ignorant and a few other choice descriptors. The demonizing fell from lips as easily as rain from the sky – or manure from a barnyard animal – my protestations notwithstanding.

It’s just a guess on my part, but I don’t think character assassinations will be anything but destructive, this in a time when more than ever we need to come together to solve perhaps the largest accumulation of Gordian knot challenges we have faced.

Our vexing political divide is the focus of this post.

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Ezra Klein and Alvin Chang did a report on the issue of political identity – our political divide – for Vox entitled “Political identity is fair game for hatred”: how Republicans and Democrats discriminate. They found what you already know to be true, that we politically polarized Americans seem to be unable even to talk with our neighbors who hold political views different from our own. People are even selecting where they will live based upon whether the neighbors are politically aligned with them. And woe be to a daughter or son who marries someone with membership in the other political party.

The dysfunction we see among politicians is exaggerated because we tend to elect zealots; however, we’re not doing a very good job ourselves of even tolerating our “other party” neighbors, much less loving them. Indeed, we seem to be in an age where “other-ing” is not just accepted, but is encouraged.

In my pal Brian Muldoon’s book, The Heart of Conflict, he identifies what he sees as the fundamental reason people are so often unable to talk about differing religious beliefs without the conversation devolving into conflict. He says that it’s because any challenge to our fundamental beliefs challenges our sense of identity and that shakes our tectonic plates, so we go into fight-or-flight mode the same way our caveman ancestors treated threatening saber tooth tigers.

It appears that our political views have reached the same kind of base-of-the-skull level. As Klein and Chang write in their article, “  .  .  . rising political polarization was showing something more fundamental than political disagreement – it was tracking the transformation of party affiliation into a form of personal identity that reached into almost every aspect of our lives.”

It seems to me that invites fight-or-flight into arenas where there are no actual mortal threats; nevertheless, we treat ordinary opinions – like political differences – in the same life-or-death manner we do religious differences.

In the face of this we’re told to love our (“different from me”) neighbors. That’s a tough assignment for we human beings.

Nevertheless, that is the assignment. Should we fail to complete the assignment and get a great grade, our democracy will be at mortal risk. We better figure out how to do something other than fighting or fleeing.

In other news

House Joint Resolution 48 is what we need. It’s what I’ve been calling for in my presentations to groups all over the country since that dark January day in 2010. This is a cure for the deepest ailment of our democracy.

HJR 48 is a bill to reverse the tsunami of corporate and fat cat cash in our politics that was unleashed by the disastrous Citizens United decision. The bill currently has 23 cosponsors; that’s where you come in.

Call your representative now and request that s/he cosponsor this critically important bill. Do this even if your representative is already a cosponsor – they need your support for this.

To find your rep’s phone number, go to www.House.gov and enter your zip code in the box in the top-right corner of the page. Then pick up your phone, dial it and tell the nice staffer who answers that you are a constituent and you want your rep to cosponsor HJR 48.

Do it now, and we’ll slay this mother of our political dysfunction.

Finally, we have a whole new level of stupid coming from Washington. From The Root:

Paul Reickhoff

According to the Military Times, House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) has drafted legislation that would charge soldiers $100 a month for access to the GI Bill. The bill would deduct a total of $2,400 from each soldier’s paycheck to make them eligible.

“Pushing this GI Bill tax proposal on troops in a time of war is political cowardice,” said Paul Reickhoff, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America “Some politicians would rather make backroom deals than raise taxes or find other ways to support our troops as bombs continue to fall overseas.”

Let’s see, the geniuses in DC want to send our young off to fight and die for the oil we have to stop using if we’re to avoid hard boiling the planet, and also in order to fill monstrous political egos. As a way to say thanks, our legislators want to tax our troops.

Yes, really.

Bonus Section

Watch this Vox piece for clarity about cable news manipulation and the advancement of “alternative facts.”

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Have We Forgotten?

Reading time – 2:23; Viewing time – 3:14  .  .  .

If you scratch at the story of nearly any American you won’t have to go very deep – usually no more than 4 or 5 generations back – to find immigrants. And those immigrants not so many years back were not royalty. They weren’t moneyed elite. They weren’t the connected and the powerful.

Elizabeth Warren was right when she said that our business leaders, our entrepreneurs, didn’t build it themselves. They got their education because we all funded it. They’re able to find skilled new employees today for the same reason. Their supplies and their goods go to and from their shops on roads we all paid for and their toilets flush because we all got together and decided to build sanitation facilities. The list of the facets of infrastructure, education, incentives and opportunities no one person built is far too long to list. The point is that we support one another and none of us makes it on his/her own.

Back to your ancestors – they didn’t make it alone either. They didn’t pull themselves up by their bootstraps; someone gave them a job. Or someone gave them credit to buy a pushcart and fill it with apples. Let that stand as a metaphor for however your far-better circumstances came about.

At the Passover Seders just concluded around the world a message near the end of the service reminds us that the longing and search for freedom is never-ending and that it is the responsibility of each of us to do our part to bring about freedom for all. Jesus said “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). The imperative across religions is remarkably consistent: It is our duty to care for the poor and the stranger.

We are in this world and this life together and irrespective of anyone’s sense of rugged individualism, we are interdependent. We are all called upon to care for one another – we are, indeed, our brother’s keeper. Have we forgotten that and where we came from?

The next time you hear someone denigrating “those others” as though they are different from and less than “us”, and chest thumping over keeping refugee mothers and babies and bedraggled girls and boys and men from our shores, or ripping mothers and fathers from their children, or refusing to pay a living wage to laborers, or threatening to limit services to the widow or the pregnant teen across town, or blocking anything that might mitigate the slaughter of our people by handguns  – the victims are mostly poor people, like your ancestors – give some thought to the imperatives that come to us through the millennia.

We are cautioned at the Passover Seder: “Remember, you were slaves in the land of Egypt.” That isn’t some metaphorical or impersonal “you;” it means you. It’s where you came from, exactly as it is for the poor and the strangers among us now. Have we forgotten?

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Guest Essay: What Ails Us

Reading time – 5:55  .  .  .

David Norman is a truly gifted executive coach and a good friend. He is also an erudite cynic, although he doesn’t use the word “erudite” to describe himself. Of course, that’s misplaced humility, because he’s an informed and insightful guy. And as you’ll see, he does use the word “cynic” to describe himself and does so quite deliberately.

He is a careful analyst of reality and has offered the essay that follows. Read his comments with your best critical thinking, because this is a challenge that we are going to have to face. To quote Gene Kranz, Mission Director of the imperiled Apollo XIII flight, “Failure is not an option.”

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First, and as a backdrop, I see myself as a cynic, at least in George Bernard Shaw’s estimation: “The power of accurate observation is called cynicism by those who don’t have it” (The World). It is from this perspective that I opine.

Well known is:

In 1920, H.L. Mencken wrote in the Baltimore Sun, “Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” 

This was quite prescient, especially considering it was written some 96 years ago.

Lesser known, but often being quoted following Trump’s election:

In this 1985 book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman critically examines TV and how, in his basic thesis, it has negatively affected the level of public discourse. In the foreword, Postman examines two dystopian visions, Orwell, in 1984, and Huxley, in Brave New World, who depicted a population too amused by distractions to realize that they had been made powerless. In Chapter 9, “Reach Out and Elect Someone,” Postman examines how political elections have simply become a battle of advertisements, in which candidates develop images meant to work in the same way that commercials do, by offering an abstract image of what the public feels it lacks. “As a result, people no longer vote what is best for them, but rather vote what they are told they lack in their lives” [emphasis added]. Postman ends his work with “The Huxleyan Warning,” in which he returns to the basic premise that Aldous Huxley was right; i.e., that we are too amused by distractions to realize we have been made powerless (excerpts from here).

Amusing Ourselves to Death was published 32 years ago.

One Other Major Influence:

Ronald Reagan, in 1987, eliminated the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine that required the holders of broadcast licenses both to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was honest, equitable and balanced. The doctrine did not require equal time for opposing views but required that contrasting viewpoints be presented.

It is not a coincidence that Fox News was started nine years later by Roger Ailes, ex-media consultant for Reagan, Nixon, and others.

Putting it Together:

The U.S. Population, as a whole, has become desensitized and avoids asking piercing, thought-provoking questions, choosing instead to be led (by the nose ring, as it were) by a TV “talking head” of their preference, one or more who support our limited world view (yet, interestingly enough, we don’t even realize that “our world view” is limited!). We listen, we accept and believe. As a population, we can’t parse actual reality from “reality TV.” Not only do we not turn against TV, we actually become further hijacked by “technologies” (as Postman describes TV, even before social media, et.al.) and worship the words. Facts or alternative facts; it really doesn’t matter. “It” was said on TV; therefore, it is perceived as the truth.

[Quick sidebar: (1) Last year in my role as an executive coach, one business owner stated outright to me, “I hate my wife.” While shocked at the force and brevity of the statement, I asked several open-ended questions to get at the substance. In short, his wife, a stay-at-home-mom, would watch Fox News all day, live in her social media tribes into the late hours and “come to bed angry” every night. (2) Almost five weeks later, another business owner, in our coaching session, said, “I hate my wife .  .  .”  Identical reasons as stated above. Note: Two different wives!  But what a coincidence from a small population, my client base. And how illustrative of our TV-guided mounting anger.]

So, What Does This All Mean Now?

We should not have been surprised by the election results, but we (read that as, my wife and I) were shocked.

My contention and belief is simple: as a population we are not doing any critical thinking. Note that The Texas GOP, in their 2012 platform, “opposed the teaching of Higher Order Thinking (HOTS) .  .  .” We wouldn’t want our citizenry asking critical questions, would we? Yet people are not incapable of learning; many simply refuse to be informed – a willing and perhaps gleeful ignorance, if you will. I do believe, as does Postman, that we have dumbed-down American citizenry to a point that “they” (the ubiquitous, “they”) sit slack jawed, empty-minded in front of the TV believing that (1) Survivor is real, and, (2) listening to those “talking heads” who support their limited view of the world, thereby simply amplifying the noise and static in their heads and anger in their gut.

If, however, you are willing to learn and be informed, and have critical thinking skills (and, apparently, not associated with the Texas GOP), then you could not have mentally transposed Trump’s pre-election rhetoric and proven, egregious behavior into a possibility of him being successful as president. In the run-up to the election I simply dismissed his election as a non-plausible circumstance – it simply couldn’t happen in the U.S., I said multiple times out loud, “Don’t worry, I have more faith in our population.” Yikes! Yet, the signs were in front of me/us all the time, and was I ever fooled.

In summary, and to paraphrase Postman, we have dumbed-down ourselves to death, and have doomed ourselves to have an Orange-Marmoset-On-Head-In-Chief (OMOHIC), armed with Twitter as a megaphone, encouraged by White Supremacists (Bannon and Miller) as earwigs and backed up by three generals as Next-Line-in-Charge.

This is the fire under the boiling cauldron of today’s politics.

Throw into this cauldron an evil witches brew of a public that is increasingly vengeful, fragmented, scared, voiceless and hateful (as not only encouraged by, but also condoned by our OMOHIC). Flavor the mixture with a heavy dose of legislative and, to a certain degree, judiciary dysfunction. What possibly could go wrong?

How could this cauldron of acidic, epic ingredients not boil over into national and/or international conflict?

What’s your answer that question?

“Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mérite.” Joseph de Maistre

Tighten your seat belt; this will be quite a ride!

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Ed. comments:

Following the French Revolution, Joseph de Maistre told us over 200 years ago:

“Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mérite.”

“Every nation gets the government it deserves.”

What government do we in America deserve? Have we done the work of citizenship that is required for a representative democracy to function well for the people? As you’ve seen, our guest essayist suggests we have not. Roger Cohen agrees.

I entitled this offering What Ails Us because it is insufficient to swat at the symptoms of our dysfunction; we must deal with what is causing our national ailing. Don’t imagine for even a moment that Donald Trump is what ails us. He is a symptom, an unavoidable outcome of what we Americans together have put in motion. Figuring this out and repairing it will require critical thinking from everyone, including citizens of Texas, and especially including you. Share your best thinking below.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Worthy of You

Reading time – 1:22; Viewing time – 2:30  .  .  .

When one of us is victimized, we are all victimized.

Is it alright that some of us are being diminished? We better figure out really fast that everyone is somewhere on the list of those who will be diminished sooner or later unless something powerful happens.

You must take action. You must get up and speak out.

Black lives matter. Brown lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter. And we all better be demanding that. Otherwise, nobody’s life matters.

There are people who would take from you whatever you hold dear. The only way to stop that is to stand up for what you believe in.

Are you dispirited? That’s not enough.

Are you sad? That’s not enough.

Are you enraged? That’s not enough.

You must take action. You must get up and speak out.

Sometimes the threats we face are right in our faces and they are easy to see and easy to fight. Sometimes they’re hard to see, like global warming, but they’re here just the same. And they will harm you and the people you love unless you do something to stop them.

You must take action. You must get up and speak out.

Do you care? That’s not enough.

“I’m no longer Accepting what I cannot change . . . I’m changing the things I cannot Accept!” Chicago Women’s March, January 21, 2017

Do you worry? That’s not enough.

You must demand the world you hope to see.

You must vote.

You must demonstrate.

You must protest what you know is wrong.

You must take action. You must get up and speak out.

Are you smart and clever? That’s not enough.

Do you want better? That’s not enough.

You must take action. You must get up and speak out.

It’s hard work. It is full of disappointment and frustration. But you already know that nothing that is worthy of you is easy to achieve.

You must take action. You must get up and speak out.

Do this.

And this.

Your children and grandchildren are counting on you. So take action. Get up and speak out because that is worthy of you.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Decency

Reading time – 1:46; Viewing time – 3:20  .  .  .

Joseph Welch, Chief Counsel to the U.S. Army,
June 9, 1954

June 9, 1954 was a remarkable day in American history.

Alcoholic, lying Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) had taken center stage in 1950 when he spoke for five hours on the floor of the Senate, making wild accusations of communists in the State Department and denigrating homosexuals. He used his position as chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations to make yet more wild, unsubstantiated claims that eventually ruined the lives of countless innocent Americans.

On that June date, though, Joseph Welch, chief counsel to the U.S. Army, which was under investigation by McCarthy’s sub-committee for supposed communist ties, called out McCarthy with words that instantly became memorable for their truth-to-power courage. “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” Watch it here on YouTube at roughly 1:12 of the clip.

McCarthy’s lying, his false innuendos, sweeping, accusatory generalizations and his intentional dividing of Americans from one another, all solely to promote himself, had finally caught up with him. From the official Senate record of that disgraceful man,

Overnight, McCarthy’s immense national popularity evaporated. Censured by his Senate colleagues, ostracized by his party, and ignored by the press, McCarthy died three years later, 48 years old and a broken man.

We’re living now with another tyrant who uses the same tactics. He has already hurt many people and is in the process of hurting many more. The blue collar Americans he promised to help are and will be ignored by the billionaire buddies in his cabinet. The laws and regulations we’ve put in place over the years to protect us from the harm caused by bullying, shortsightedness, excessive greed and impropriety are already being swept away. He is attempting to crush the Constitution under his gold plated heel and put our future at risk, so that we will once again be subject to the failings of the past.

Had I the opportunity, I would ask President Trump, “Have you no sense of decency, sir?” but I already know the answer. So do you.

So, here’s a question to ponder: Why does Donald Trump hate America and Americans?

Taken one step further, why does Donald Trump hate babies and people who are suffering? Why is he so ready to hate anyone? Whatever the answers, they impact you. Have a look at Keith Olbermann’s 3-minute piece on that.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Picture of a Duck

Reading time – 2:03; Viewing time – 4:09  .  .  .

Fact #1: On January 26 alt-right, anti-Semite, white supremacist advisor to President Trump, Steven Bannon, told the New York Times that the “elite media” is “the opposition party” and should “keep its mouth shut.”

Opinion: That sounds a great deal like a lightly veiled threat to freedom of the press and has an Orwellian thought police stink to it.

Fact #2: On January 24 Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) spoke on the floor of the House, declaring that President Trump is, “not getting the news coverage he deserves.” Smith said, “The national liberal media won’t print that, or air it or post it,” He continued, “Better to get your news directly from the President. In fact, it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth.”

Opinion: That’s a most interesting take on truth, this from the Chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee who denies climate warming (also here) and really isn’t much for science at all. Perhaps he, too, saw the biggest crowds ever on Inauguration Day.

Fact #3: On Holocaust Remembrance Day, President Trump issued a statement that failed to mention Jews or antisemitism (also here), even though in the Holocaust Jews were specifically targeted for extermination. This was the first such Presidential omission.

Opinion: Blowing off the recognizing of the murder of six million people, all of the same religion  .  .  .  an anti-Semite with the President’s ear  .  .  .  what could that mean?

Fact #4: On January 28 President Trump issued an Executive Order banning citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States and also halting the U.S. refugee program. Trump made it clear that those seven countries were just the start and that there will be more Muslim-majority countries added to the list. He claimed that the ban is for the purpose of protecting the United States against “radical Islamic terrorism.”

Opinion: During his campaign for the Presidency Donald Trump promised repeatedly that one of the first things he would do as President would be to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. Attempting such a thing would immediately fail for being in violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution, so Trump is using this subterfuge to effect religious discrimination.

Let’s connect the dots. First we’re told to shut up. Then we’re told to get our information only from the President. Then the President snubs Jews and bans Muslims. This is looking very much like the beginning of making the United States an officially white, Christian nation with discrimination, subjugation and humiliation for all others. These dots make a horrific picture.

Using the duck metaphor, if connecting the dots makes a picture that looks like a duck and we then find that it walks like a duck and also quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. But this duck is full of hate.

If you’re up to it, have a look at this post that presents a fair assessment of what is really going on and the grave danger that may be on the way. History tells us that there is something to this. Thanks to SL for pointing me to the blog.

In other news  .  .  .

(read this out loud in your best Walter Cronkite voice)

ALTERNATIVE FACTS UPDATE: Following a weekend of impassioned protests at airports across the nation last weekend against President Trump’s Executive Order effectively banning Muslims from entering the United States, Trump blamed airport delays first on Delta Airlines’ computer problems and also blamed Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) tears. In a statement issued this morning, Sen. Schumer’s tears have denied responsibility for any airport delays and suggested that Mr. Trump couldn’t find reality with two hands and a flashlight.

Trump’s tweets have been scored BIGLY ALTERNATIVE on the Alternative Facts Meter. Kellyanne Conway, official advisor to the President, is reportedly pleased and is said to be smiling, as well as continuing to talk constantly, but without addressing any question posed to her.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Question

Reading time – 1:56; Viewing time – 3:48  .  .  .

amer-united-1-10-17

No email link is available, so copy/paste [email protected] into an email and say you’ll be there.

I’ve been in dialogue with a small group of smart people, many of whom read and contribute to this series. They have offered great clarity and insight and have pushed me to refine what I now see as the key question of our time. The question I pose is in service of something much larger and which requires naming in order for the question to make full sense. It is about our acute political polarization and how we can bring people together so that we have the muscle to demand the change – the democracy – our country needs.

Over most of the decades of my adult life I have seen what looks to me to be an incremental loss of democracy in America, with the people losing power and an elite few gaining it. Most Americans are centrists, but most of our elected officials are either partisan zealots or they cower before the zealots, resulting in governmental outcomes we the people don’t want and helping to polarize our citizenry. For example, 80% of Americans want universal background checks on sales of firearms and a ban on assault weapons, but the legislative extremists and the powerful, well funded lobbying groups ensure that there is never even a vote on the issue. There are many other examples of how we the people (as in democracy = “rule by the people”) are not getting what we want, all of which is to say that democracy has been sorely compromised.

What requires naming for The Question to make full sense is that we must save our democracy. Perhaps you prefer “restore” our democracy. Either way, just stopping the thieves is insufficient.

So, my question is:

How can we politically polarized Americans find a way to talk with one another, not scream past one another, and come together in the common cause of democracy?

Just asking the question unmasks me as the 60s idealist I remain, but I believe that it is the question we must answer in order to change our course. I went out on a limb with my article ringing the alarm of fascism staring us in the face and I expect substantial push-back. So, too, did those ringing the alarm in Mussolini’s Italy, in Hitler’s Germany, in Stalin’s Russia and in Pol Pot’s Cambodia (yes, I know those last two were communists – the same democracy robbing principles hold) and many other places where authoritarians ruled. The danger usually isn’t obvious when change is made incrementally, but now you need only look at the cabinet and advisor picks of our President Elect, match that with his extremist promises, flagrant lies, pathological need to be powerful, his thin skin and cruelty, his obvious contempt for our laws and the Constitution and you should be able to see the fascist freight train at the other end of the tunnel barreling down on us.

It is possible that you don’t and won’t share my view of the dire future we face if we sit back and let others make our decisions for us. That’s okay, because you likely share my view that we have lost key elements of democracy and that we have to re-secure them or we will lose all.

Abraham Lincoln said it best: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” We must stand together – righties, centrists and lefties –  if we are to restore our democracy.

So, back to my question:

How can we politically polarized Americans find a way to talk with one another, not scream past one another, and come together in the common cause of democracy?

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Danger – There’s Bad Stuff Coming

New York Times, April 9, 1944

New York Times, April 9, 1944. Click the graphic to download the full article as it appeared.

Reading time – 2:55; Viewing time – 5:35  .  .  .

We need a good and optimistic start for the new year. That message is for next week. Let’s first establish in a blinding flash of the obvious and in a compelling way why we need that good and optimistic start.

You don’t need a pundit, a pol or a blogger to tell you that American institutions are at risk and look shaky. There is bad stuff staring us in the face in so many venues and there is a chance you’ve wondered how bad it can get. The answer is, very bad. Here are some examples.

Under the ultra-thin, see-through veil of ensuring decorum, Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House and beloved Republican brainiac, the proposer of changes to Medicare and Social Security that he says don’t privatize those programs, except they really do, has proposed banning live streaming and photos from the floor of the House. This comes as a knee-jerk reaction to Republicans having been sucker punched by Democrats who demanded an up or down vote on universal registration of sales of firearms. Ryan ignored them and they responded witih a sit-in. Ryan tried to quash the event by closing the House session, which turned off the CSPAN cameras, but smart phone live streaming foiled his attempt at abridging free speech. Now Ryan and Republican hissy-fitters want to further restrict speech by fining Democrats and perhaps telling their mommies on them. Start thinking about abridgement of rights and be clear that practice will extend to your rights.

President Elect Trump notoriously retweeted hate group tweets and offered mealy mouthed responses to calls that he repudiate hate groups. During his campaign rallies he repeatedly called for protesters to be beaten up and demeaned them as though they were sub-human. He continues to refuse to repudiate hate groups and has brought Steve Bannon, alt-right hater of all things not white and anyone not worshiping male dominance, to be his chief strategist. Oh, and he wants to deport 11 million Hispanics and register Muslims. Start thinking discrimination and scapegoating.

Trump has hired lunatic fringe Mike Flynn to be his National Security Advisor. This is the same Mike Flynn who retweets phony stories and conspiracy crap, one example of which motivated North Carolina resident Edgar Welch to drive from his home to DC to invade a pizza parlor, believing he was rescuing sexually abused children from the basement. He believed that because Mike Flynn brainlessly retweeted the bogus story. The good news is that the bullets Welch fired into the floor of the pizza restaurant didn’t hurt anyone. The bad news is that Mike Flynn, the fool who didn’t have the sense not to retweet this blatantly false story, is and will be advising the new president on when and where to use America’s military might, including nuclear weapons. Start thinking about military adventurism giving rise to horrific catastrophes.

There are many more examples of the democracy killing efforts underfoot, including Trump’s ridiculing and criticizing of the press so that you won’t find credence in reports from investigative journalists who report on Trumpian malfeasance.

To bring this to a focus, let’s check in with President Franklin Roosevelt’s Vice-President, Henry Wallace. He knew something about the harm that authoritarian regimes do to democracy and the world and has agreed to speak to you from his day and explain this fully and clearly. Click here to download a PDF copy of his comments as originally published in the New York Times on April 9, 1944. Click here to download a highlighted, easier to read version. Read it, especially the highlighted parts and you just may see a parallel between then and now and you’ll begin to realize just how bad the bad stuff we’re facing really is.

No one knows who said it first, but it’s often attributed to Sinclair Lewis:

When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.

appoint-merrick-garland

Click me and sign the petition – because you can fight fascism right now.

Fascism? In America? Do the reading. Do an online search of fascism in America. The alarm rang a while ago, the snooze button is broken from our banging on it, hoping the alarm would go away and we all have to wake up.

I’ve heard it said and am beginning to believe that we are one or two ISIS-related terrorist attacks in America away from Mr. Extremist, everything in the false language of unearned greatness President Trump declaring martial law and suspending civil liberties. Just look at those he surrounds himself with, consider his absolutist, power-grabbing, self-congratulating nature, factor in his pathologically thin skin and the retaliatory abuse he heaps on innocent people. This just doesn’t look good for our nation.

If you had already caught a glimpse of this you likely have wondered what can be done and who will stand up to the bullies. Start with this: It’s up to us.

In addition, both some help and some hope are on the way and will be in the next post. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, it’s your turn now – in the Comments section below.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Whitefish, MT – Guest Essay

whitefishReading time – 2:54  .  .  .

An email addressed to our family from my travel writer, Montana native, daughter-in-law Wendy arrived and it was so shocking and important that I asked permission to post it here as a guest essay. You may know what’s going on in Whitefish, MT, but it’s unlikely that you’ve heard about it on such a personal level. Read on. It’s important.

I don’t know if you’ve read the headlines lately, but there’s some super disturbing news happening right now in Whitefish, MT—the town that Scott, the boys and I will be visiting next month (and where Pop just visited). Richard Spencer, the leader of the alt-right white supremacist movement, has targeted Jews in the area. The town is horrified and standing together—they’ve held packed town hall meetings to re-read the anti-discrimination laws and have done everything they can to support the local businesses that are most affected and targeted by racism. Spencer’s mom owned a building of businesses and she said that her business was affected by her son’s activities and she now is forced to sell, which Spencer is using against the Jews in Montana—it’s sick. Read these articles:

Think Progress

CNN Video [There are several videos on the page. Wait for Gary Tuchman’s Whitefish piece to load.]

LA Times

This terrifies me to my core, especially because I was born and raised in Montana and I feel so bad for the open minded and openhearted majority of Montana locals who are dealing with this. The scary thing is that this dirt bag, emboldened by Trump, has decided to run as an Independent and already has a platform: Montana First. Isn’t this what most of us feared with a Trump presidency? The trolls are coming out from under the bridges and are showing themselves. It’s up to us to support and become activists for what’s right. Missoula, MT (the biggest town near Whitefish) has started a “Light in Every Window” campaign and I think everyone, Jews or not, should stand up and show solidarity, across the nation by putting menorahs in our windows. Also, visit the Love Lives Here in the Flathead Valley site to show support for the Whitefish locals.

And, if you think that what happens in one small town in northwest Montana doesn’t affect you, you’re wrong—this hate mongering is happening everywhere and it’s growing. We need to stand up for our brothers and sisters who are being discriminated against.

When I asked Wendy if I could post her comments, here’s how she responded:

Of course.

I’m so disturbed and sad. The hate groups are growing exponentially and I really feel like non-Jews and non-people-of-color need to stand up and SHOUT, “THIS IS NOT OK.” Whitefish has known about Spencer for years and they’ve stayed quiet until Spencer grew emboldened by Trump and became louder. Now, this little picturesque town is getting torn apart by the attention and association with this dirt bag. I’m proud of the people I know who live there and of this little town that could, but I fear that it will harm them beyond repair.

I also feel like my job of visiting and writing with the purpose of tourism is more important now than ever. The majority of Whitefish residents don’t feel this way [like Spencer]. The majority believes in love and diversity and community.

My pal Brian Muldoon is an attorney and mediator living in Whitefish and he keeps his finger on the pulse of the town, so I asked for his comments about what is happening there. He wrote, “And the people of Whitefish are NOT deeply divided about this, as some media have reported. It’s Richard Spencer v. Everyone Else.” That’s reassuring. What is not as reassuring is that, as Brian notes, it’s very hard to shut down the trolls and the haters, in part because they have a First Amendment right to spew their hatred – plus, they revel in the publicity.

It’s important that you understand that this is not just an intellectual, “Oh, that’s interesting” exercise. Brian just advised that the FBI has sent one Whitefish family into hiding. They only do that when there are credible death threats.

Hatred has consequences. For some valuable context, read Brian’s short essay, Why Racism Matters – just click the title to download the PDF.

Do you imagine this is an isolated case of hatred? It isn’t. Here’s yet another independent, ongoing tally of hate crimes, with the Whitefish situation detailed second on the list.

Simply watching in horror is what allows the scourge of hatred to expand. Silence is not an option. Do as Wendy implores: Stand up and, “SHOUT, ‘THIS IS NOT OK.'”

  • ————————————-

    Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

    YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Eye Opening

Reading time – 3:13; Viewing time – 5:30  .  .  .

I’m still trying to figure this out and I think I’m making progress. Reality keeps telling me that I better hurry it up.

Why did people vote for Donald Trump even when he promised to do things that would harm them?

It’s easy to dismiss such people as ignorant or stupid. It’s also both factually inaccurate and counterproductive. First, nobody wakes up on election day and decides to do something harmful to themselves. We all act in what we perceive to be our best interests and feel we have good, sensible reasons to back that up. Second, if you want to encourage someone to see things in a different way, starting with, “You’re stupid,” probably won’t be useful, so a different approach is called for. In very short order that is going to become critically important. Stay with me to see why.

Sarah Kliff wrote a most interesting article in Vox entitled Why Obamacare enrollees voted for Trump. The sub-head is “In Whitley County, Kentucky, the uninsured rate declined 60 percent under Obamacare. So why did 82 percent of voters there support Donald Trump?” Good question.

The short answer comes from a woman living in the area who signed up thousands of people for Obamacare and then voted for Trump. Interviewed by Kliff, she said, “I found with Trump, he says a lot of stuff. I just think all politicians promise you everything and then we’ll see. It’s like when you get married — ‘Oh, honey, I won’t do this, oh, honey, I won’t do that.’” Kliff later reports, “I kept hearing informed voters, who had watched the election closely, say they did hear the promise of repeal [of Obamacare] but simply felt Trump couldn’t repeal a law that had done so much good for them. In fact, some of the people I talked to hope that one of the more divisive pieces of the law — Medicaid expansion — might become even more robust, offering more of the working poor a chance at the same coverage the very poor receive.”

In other words, they heard Trump’s message that he would repeal Obamacare and simply didn’t believe it. Here’s another example.

Watch the “Bernie Sanders in Trump Country” discussion that was aired on Chris Hayes’ program on MSNBC on December 12 and pay special attention to the panel members. They consistently expressed the same views as Kliff’s interviewees in Kentucky. They just figured that Trump was saying what he needed to say to get elected and, once elected, would do whatever these people viewed as the right thing, even when the right thing was in conflict with what Trump said he would do.

Before you slip into smug mode, wondering what kind of fools these people might be, consider what you expected from Barack Obama in 2008. There’s a good chance that you imagined that he would consistently do the right thing. Later it’s possible you were disappointed in him for failing your right thing test.

There’s a psychological term for hearing what we want to hear and dismissing as insignificant what we don’t want to hear. It’s called confirmation bias and we are all subject to our own version of self-delusion powered by that bias.

Here’s the bottom line to this: Be slow to ridicule Trump voters as stupid or ignorant or racist (yes, clearly some of the really loud ones are that). All that most of them were doing in this past election was being human. And they will respond to you a lot better when they realize that you respect them. In fact, that may be the key both to understanding what happened in this election and, more important, the key to a better future for you and our democracy.

Millions of voters have buyer’s remorse right now because they really voted against establishment Hillary, not for Trump. And they got Trump and now they are horrified. It’s time to respectfully invite them to join you and others to do something to stop the extremist agenda of the oligarchs and generals who are about to take the reins of power.

Not convinced that’s happening? Go here and here and click through the links there to learn what this open season of American hatred looks like. And as you do that, recognize that this brutality is sanctioned from the top. Protections you take for granted are on the edge of being eliminated by Presidential cabinet appointments, people who are dedicated to eliminating the agencies they will lead, the ones that now provide those protections you take for granted.

There is extreme danger on the very near horizon and we better make our voices heard. And we better reach the millions of Americans who voted for Trump and are now horrified so that they make their voices heard along with ours.

On a livestream on the 19th there was a critical clarity that was offered: Love doesn’t trump hate; Organizing trumps hate. As I have written repeatedly, if things are to change for the better, we’ll actually have to do something.

So, now that you see the looming danger and understand Trump voters a little better, get up, get involved and get organized – while we still can.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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