hatred

What Your Bloodhound Knows

Reading time – 77 seconds  .  .  .

In a most accessible essay entitled The Umwelt, David Eagleman gives perspective to a 1909 concept of Jakob von Uexkull explaining the varied perceptions different animals have to their environmental signals. Snakes, for example, are practically blind to what humans see, but they have amazing vision in the infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum where we can’t see a thing. Were we without special scientific equipment, we would never know that it exists. In fact, we are only able to see about one ten-trillionth of the electromagnetic spectrum, so limited are we. And we go about our daily lives largely ignorant of even the possibility of so much more to be seen.

And that is the point.

Cliven Bundy is a cattle rancher in Nevada who has refused to pay his bill for grazing rights on public lands for over two decades. By definition, he is a cheat and a thief. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) at last decided that enough was enough and sent some people to confiscate his cattle. They were met by an army of angry white supremacist radicals equipped with automatic weapons and threatening to kill the BLM people. Interestingly, those belligerents brought their women and children and placed them in front of themselves so that if there were a firefight, the BLM folks would wind up shooting innocents. Such is the courage and integrity of Bundy’s extremist pals.

(Side note: If the Black Panthers had greeted law enforcement officials that way in the 1960s, how would they have been treated? Actually, we know the answer to that question, as do the survivors of the Cook County state’s attorney’s police raid that killed Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in their beds. But, of course that doesn’t matter any more, as the Supreme Court has recently assured us that ours is a post-racial society, where, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” – Chief Justice John Roberts. Gosh, that sounds easy – let’s all just do it.)

“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/education/Has_the_Supreme_Court_ended_affirmative_action_at_the_college_level.html#Xg7uUszwidafvzHS.99
“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/education/Has_the_Supreme_Court_ended_affirmative_action_at_the_college_level.html#Xg7uUszwidafvzHS.99
“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/education/Has_the_Supreme_Court_ended_affirmative_action_at_the_college_level.html#Xg7uUszwidafvzHS.99

On April 24, 2014 Bundy held a news conference and reiterated that he doesn’t believe that the U.S. government even exists. Furthermore, he told the attending reporters and his sycophants about “The Negro” on welfare and wondered aloud if blacks were better off being slaves picking cotton. Oddly, that brings us back to Eagleman’s essay – by way of your dog.

The olfactory capability of a bloodhound is a thousand times more powerful than that of a human being. We humans recognize the smell of fresh baked bread, the delight of a rose and the odor of a freshly relieved skunk and it would be common for us to assume that we know all of what is available to be smelled. But if your bloodhound had the intellectual capability for such an analysis, he would laugh at us for that.

Back to Cliven Bundy. He is certain that he knows the truth. He is not just an extremist; he is an absolutist. He knows. Yet to borrow from Eagleman’s essay, what if Bundy and his white supremacist buddies, ”  .  .  .  could be infused with the proper intellectual humility that comes from appreciating the amount unseen?” Bundy and his blind army of hate haven’t a clue what resides outside their bigoted view and your bloodhound would laugh at them for their ignorance.

There are a lot of people in positions of power and there are also many in other positions that provide them with a very loud megaphone, like Sean Hannity at FoxNews. Even with their severely limited vision, myopic as Bundy’s army, they are certain that they know the truth. What if they could be infused with that intellectual humility and they could acknowledge that there might be more in the universe than the tiny slice they know? What if all of of the absolutists could?

Yeah, I know. That’s just too crazy a dream.

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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.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Newton Was Right

Reading time:  56 seconds  .  .  .

In case you missed the short New York Times essay entitled When May I Shoot A Student?, I suggest you read this fine piece of satire about carrying guns on campus. Then consider the awful realities.

We are living in times that are awash with fear.  We fear “Islamists” and people we see as political extremists (although we ourselves are not extremists).  We fear the Russians, Malaysian Airlines, anyone with ties to Iran and fundamentalism anywhere (with the exception of those who agree with our own) and we plod through our lives harboring the handmaidens of fear, anger and hostility.

There is a relatively small cadre of actors who exploit our fears to manipulate us.  Sometimes it is for money and power (ref: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-AZ), or because they are true, hair-on-fire believers (ref: Sheriff Joe Arpaio).  Regardless, it is always for self-promotion.

They use these times of rampant fear to change America in hideous ways that are not wanted by the majority of us, like rejecting universal background checks before gun sales, allowing concealed carry and allowing guns in public places like bars (what could possibly go wrong there?) and now college campuses. One of the results of guns on campus will be ongoing, random shootings of college kids. It’s just a matter of time. And our grade schoolers of today are headed soon to a college campus to join their heat packing peers.  What is your comfort level with that?

Bear in mind that we tried the Wild West and found it far too brutal and bloody. Going back to that is not likely to produce a different result. So, I appreciate the satire in this essay about new laws allowing guns on campus, but as I read it my gut churned and my heart ached for the coming hordes of mourners.

Given our experience at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Virginia Tech and other school campuses, what is the requisite number of dead kids that will cause us to change our laws to something approaching sanity?

Newton was right: A body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. Applying that to the present situation, we will continue to have radical, death producing laws and lots of unnecessarily dead Americans unless we (which includes you) do something about it.  Hand wringing won’t help.

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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.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Hollering

Caution: Contains snark!  Children, as well as adults who act like children, should proceed with caution.

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When Wayne LaPierre became executive vice-president of the NRA he shed his bookish ways and made himself into the out-front, out-there, inflammatory voice of the gun manufacturers’ lobby.  His misleading assertions and fabrications of “facts” and his only partial view of the Constitution (interested in only the last 13 words of the Second Amendment and abandoning the rest) show us that he is just another of America’s pretenders to reality, our public delusionals.  It isn’t that Wayne and I disagree; it’s that we are working toward vastly different goals, as he is all about Wayne and I am not.

When Keith Olbermann had his program on MSNBC he would periodically quote Sarah Palin, catching her in yet another Palin otherworldly moment.  His disgust for her would erupt by concluding his piece, saying, “That woman is an idiot!

I have the utmost regard for Olbermann’s intelligence, but he is wrong about Palin.  She is no idiot.  In fact, it is arguable that she is a genius.

Olbermann reacted to her blatantly false statements, her inflammatory rhetoric and dingbat mistakes as though she were all about being a reality based politician, but that is not what Sarah Palin was or is about.  Sarah is all about promoting Sarah and she will say and do anything that advances her.  That is where her genius lies.  And lies and lies.  She is very good at that.  It isn’t that she and I disagree.  It’s that Sarah is all about Sarah and I am not.

In a television interview five years ago, Rush Limbaugh gave himself up as being all about himself, exactly as Sarah Palin is all about herself, when he confessed, “I am doing my show for ratings. I want the largest audience I can get because that’s how I can charge the highest advertising ratings – rates. Which means what else do I want? Money.”

Silly you, you probably thought Limbaugh believes the drivel that comes out of his mouth.  Not so.  What he believes is that if he can tweak enough people, if he can draw out the worst that is in some of us, his ratings will go up and he will get more money.  So, it isn’t that Rush and I disagree.  It’s that he is all about Rush and I am not.

The same goes for Ted Cruz (Mr. “Green Eggs and Ham”), Michele Bachmann (Ms. “The Civil War started in New Hampshire”, the John Wayne/John Wayne Gacy oops and the rest), Rience Pribus (who can’t tell the difference between the scandal that is the George Washington Bridge fiasco and the sad but non-scandal Benghazi incident).  They are all about themselves and I am not at all about them.

I’m all about America and Americans.  I know that we can be way better than the quagmire of today’s America and the only thing standing in our way is the swarm of self-serving people with big megaphones.

It isn’t that we disagree with Palin and the rest.  It’s that they are all about them and we most certainly are not.  And we have far more voices than those public delusionals and can drown out their nonsense.  We just need to holler all together.

The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity. Harlan Ellison.

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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.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Neighbors and Lives

Pope Francis was famously approached by a non-believer and told him, “We must meet one another doing good.”  That is to say, what matters most is not a professed belief, but instead it is about how we live our lives.

Those of a certain age and others who actually read their history book in high school know about Dr. Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech.  He delivered it to several hundred thousand Americans gathered on the National Mall before the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963 in what became known as The March On Washington.  What is less well known is that others spoke on that day, at that event, among them Rabbi Joachim Prinz, who spoke in his own way to the very same thing about which Pope Francis instructed us more recently.  Rabbi Prinz said, “‘Neighbor’ is not a geographic term.  It is a moral concept.”

Neighbor, he believed, is not restricted to the people who live next door, across the street or down the block.  It is about how we treat those people, of course, and we typically treat them better than we treat others, simply because we know them and have some level of personal relationship with them.  But Prinz told us that neighbor is a moral concept and not limited to those whom we know personally.  We must meet one another doing good.  It is about how we live our lives.

We live in an age when so many powerful people inveigh against connection, who use their power to separate us, to demonize those “others,” the ones we don’t know, and to take away their rights and even their tools for self-sufficiency.  They tell us that wealth, health and even nutrition – everything – is a zero-sum game, where others advancing will somehow diminish you.  Theirs is a dark and false religion that serves to frighten and divide us and ultimately to impoverish us.  But life with others is not a zero-sum game.

What if Pope Francis and Rabbi Prinz are right?  What if those “others” are our neighbors?  What if we have a moral connection to them, perhaps a moral obligation in how we treat them?  What if we were to meet one another doing good?  It is about how we live our lives.

Christmas is just behind us and surely it was a day when the stories of long ago were repeated from pulpits all across the land.  But what of the messages?  Were they perhaps less about scriptural belief and more about how we live our lives?  In fact, that is all we can control.  And those stories told every year really are all about how we might live our lives throughout the entire journey.  That is what matters.

We are faced with challenges that seem to be more vexing with each passing day and solving them becomes more difficult with each of us who gives up in frustration and no longer yells back at the television or the radio or the newspaper over injustice done to some of our neighbors.  A sense of powerlessness grips us, as those in power continue to self-serve, all the while labeling their infidelity in manipulative, patriotic sounding terms.  We’ve been made to feel afraid and no longer consider our extended neighbors, so we disconnect and hunker down and things get worse.  Even so, what is important is how we live our lives.

It is about whether we pick up the trash in the park and put it in a waste can.  None of us will get a merit badge for that, nor will someone come to pat us on the head and tell us how good we are.  On the other hand, we will have changed ourselves for the better and even changed the world with such a simple act.  Let that be a place holder for any act of doing good, doing what needs to be done and meeting one another there.  It is about how we live our lives.

Each day presents us with another 24 hours to use – to live – as we choose.  If Rabbi Prinz was right, that neighbor is a moral concept, and if we were to remain mindful of that, which of our choices might be different?  If Pope Francis is right, that we must meet one another doing good, then our choices matter not only to the people we are and to the people we will become, but they matter enduringly to those we touch as well, including our children and their children.

We are, indeed, neighbors, and we must meet one another doing good.  It is all about how we live our lives.

What if that applied to our politics?  Things might be better.

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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.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

I Get It – At Last

Why would senators and congressmen intentionally force the United States to the brink of financial disaster?

Why would legislators drive us to default on our national debt and tell us that default will be a good thing?

Why would billionaires fund grass roots organizations that have their members wave Confederate flags and spout hateful lies?

Why would Bible thumping go on everywhere, such that no speech can end without invoking God?

Why would otherwise sensible people in Kansas, Texas and elsewhere deny verified facts and long proven theories and instead be promoting science as seen through the eyes of relatively ignorant people of thousands of years ago?

Why has congress been gridlocked for so long?

The answers to those questions and more can be found by taking a step back from vilifying the (insert your own epithet here) extremists and railing at the stupid things they say and do.  Instead of thinking they are (re-insert your epithet here) irrational, assume that they are sensible and determined warriors fighting for their desired goal.  What would their goal be?

That is the answer I found in reading Deborah Caldwell’s article in the Huffington Post.  The insanity of current events disappeared with the clarity that hordes of powerful people want to eliminate our government and put in its place a Christian theocracy.

Doubt that?  First read Caldwell’s article.  Follow through to the links she provides.  Then test it all with your experience of hearing Ron Paul tell us he wants to eliminate government support of public education (what would that leave for our children?) and Grover Norquist wanting to shrink the government so that it can be drowned in a bathtub (what would take its place?).  Test it against Michele Bachmann glorying in the coming end times that will be hastened by the destruction of our American structure.  Don’t dismiss that just because Bachmann says crazy things most of the time, because there are thousands – perhaps hundreds of thousands – of Americans who agree with her and 50 of them are in congress right now and they are destroying our government.

I had long thought that they did that because they got off on the power trip and the attention they received that fed their self-promotion.  I had thought that the people in the streets spouting radical stuff were just venting their anger and hoping that finally someone was listening to them and that for a brief moment they had a little bit of control.  I may have been right, but that is not the big story.

The big story is that there is a huge number of Americans who want this country to be a Christian theocracy.  They will say and do anything to make that happen and they care not at all about the destruction they will cause to America and the world with their fundamentalist, literal interpretation zeal.  They think that our Founders wanted America to be that way, this in spite of the fact that the Founders specifically designed the Constitution to prevent America from being a theocracy and they wrote about the importance of that extensively.  And that perfectly captures the denial of reality that goes on for our current day extremists.

Now imagine if the zealots had all the power, that the only law of the land was the Christian Bible and that those in charge believed in a literal interpretation of the Bible.  America would look a lot like fundamentalist, theocratic Iran.  Get ready for public stonings.

Are you scared yet?

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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.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Melting Pot?

Melting PotSince the first immigrants arrived this has always been a Euro-centric place.  Surely that’s understandable, since it was Europeans who were the primary immigrants for a very long time.  Of course, after a while we started importing Africans to be our slaves, but there was no need to change our orientation, since Africans weren’t considered full human beings.  Some time later people began to arrive from Asia, Mexico and Central America, but the Euro-centrics were the huge majority of the population and continued to be the powerful, the culture controllers.

The Euro-centrics were something else. too: they were mostly Protestant.  The Founders and most of the immigrants and most of their descendants where Protestant, so that has been the dominant religious orientation from the start.  That the Founders inscribed freedom of religion into the Constitution (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof: .  .  .  “) had no impact on that, so white, European Protestants have been the dominant force in America.

In the early 1960’s I overheard a conversation between two men.  One was saying with obvious concern, perhaps anger, that Ernie Banks, the Chicago Cubs star, had purchased a house a couple of blocks from where he – the speaker – was living.  This was in Chicago, a starkly divided city of neighborhoods where Poles, Italians, blacks, Jews and others pretty much stayed in their own area.  It was birds of a feather flocking together for safety.  And here was good ol’ Ernie, a black man, purchasing a house in a white area.  So, I asked what seemed to me to be an obvious question: “Are you going to picket his house with your neighbors, or ask for an autograph?”

My question wasn’t received well, as you might imagine, as my irreverent attempt at humor was a poke in the eye to this fellow’s quite serious, “He’s not like us and I don’t like him and don’t want him living down the street from my children” attitude.  His ignorance led to fear, which led to hate.  He was not alone in his behavior, nor has that ever been unusual.

Seema Jilani wrote a stunning and deeply disturbing piece for the Huffington Post about American racism today.  Read this piece with the knowledge that your sense of right and wrong, fairness and even simple courtesy are at risk of feeling violated.  And know that hers is similar to the day-to-day experience of millions of non-white or non-Protestant Americans.  If you’re feeling really courageous, do a gut check on your own prejudices.  Unless you’re somehow immune to the messages that bombard you daily to fear what is different from you, stoked continuously by political manipulators, you may find something there.

We humans do reasonably well with what is known to us and typically fear what is not known.  It’s a survival instinct and it worked well when our ancestors were living in caves and every day brought existential threat.

Almost on our doorstep is something that is not known – what American life will be like when white Protestants are a diminishing minority, incrementally losing power and control.  Just imagine all that racism reversed – shoe on the other foot, so to speak – and having to endure the slicing and bleeding of discrimination a hundred times a day just to function in every day life.

Did you say that you just want to be tolerated by those who are different from you?  No, you did not say that.  Nobody wants to be tolerated.  Other than Dick Cheney, we all want acceptance.  Toleration, by definition, suggests that others are willing to hold their noses in your presence, as though that is somehow better than beating you up.

So I’ll tell you what: I won’t tolerate you and you can stop trying to tolerate me.  Let’s instead pull a Rodney King: “Can we all just get along?”  King didn’t live long enough to see that happen.  We haven’t yet either, but perhaps we can do something about it now.

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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