fear

Cancel Culture, Crayons, Lincoln & Lemonade


Cancel Culture

It’s about shutting down, shutting up and shutting off opponents.

The power of authoritarians lies in the absolute, unthinking enforcement of their desires and taboos by absolute, unthinking followers who are otherwise average people. We’ve watched this dynamic in constant replay through all the Trump years, as people did and do unpatriotic things just because Trump wanted them to – and they’ve believed their actions were patriotic. All such things require is a nod from the authoritarian and people will do destructive, even self-destructive things. And nobody will push back against the authoritarian for fear of being persecuted and even expelled from the group at any time and for any reason.

For example, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) was a Trump sycophant. He regularly carried water for Trump and even talked insurrectionist trash at the rally on the Ellipse on January 6. But he got on the wrong side of Trump and has been kicked to the side by Trump and his followers. Brooks has been cancelled.

That’s cancel culture.

The funny thing is that Trump suck-ups point their sinister, threatening fingers at Democrats, accusing them of cancel culture whenever Dems decry bad behavior, like cops killing unarmed Black men. Then these same Trump wannabees proceed to cancel gays, lesbians, Blacks, teachers, doctors and more using legislation to shut them down, up and off. And they seek to end our democracy and our Constitution, which these cancelers falsely claim they are protecting.

The armies of the authoritarians charge ahead without so much as a single critical thought in their heads. That’s how Hitler got millions of ordinary and otherwise peaceful Germans to do the most despicable things. Threats and intimidation are all it takes. As Lord Tarkin said in Star Wars – Episode IV, “Fear will keep the local systems in line.” And so it does.

Republicans used to be strong advocates for law and order and for the rule of law. Yet on April 6 all but two Republicans voted not to hold Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino in contempt of Congress for having obviously and publicly refused to comply with lawful subpoenas issued to them by the January 6 Committee. Plainly, these guys broke the law. You would be in jail in a heartbeat if you did such a thing, but 203 Republican representatives voted to let these guys skate.

This happened because the House Select Committee is getting ever closer to Trump’s involvement in the insurrection, so Trump wants to stymie the committee. His unthinking and absolutist sycophants in the House did his unpatriotic bidding by voting against the contempt resolutions for fear of being persecuted and perhaps expelled from the Trump cult, like Mo Brooks. Ask Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney if you need further explanation.

Obeying Trump is more important to most Republicans than obeying the law.
So, they used their NO votes to cancel the rule of law.
.

That’s cancel culture.

Here’s a reminder from the New York TimesBret Stevens. Read these words as the marching orders for today’s Republicans.

.  .  .  we recall the words of Otter, one of the frat house characters from “National Lampoon’s Animal House”: “I think this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part.”

Canceling the rule of law is really stupid. Our job is to make sure that effort is futile. We have to cancel the cancelers.

Crayons

I don’t know where I found the graphic to the right – at the bottom it says, “Your Tango.” Feel free to explore.

Meanwhile, this is so simple – and frightening – that it could be written in crayon. If I had crayons.

Somehow, I managed to get to this point in life without having read George Orwell’s 1984. While walking the dog recently I came to a house with a Little Free Library in the front yard by the sidewalk. There I found a copy of 1984 and took it home.

Couldn’t resist

Within minutes of starting to read the book I was startled to find a plain description of Trump rallies, the January 6 insurrection and the mindless public recitations of demonstrably and obviously false claims. Here’s just a bit of the description of a Big Brother Two Minutes Hate session.

“The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretense was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic.”

” .  .  .  the entire group of people broke into a deep, slow, rhythmical chant of ‘B-B! .  .  .  B-B! .  .  .  B-B!” over and over again, very slowly, with a long pause between the first “B” and the second – a heavy, murmurous sound, somehow curiously savage, in the background of which one seemed to hear the stamp of naked feet and the throbbing of tom-toms.  .  .  it was an act of self-hypnosis, a deliberate drowning of consciousness by means of rhythmic noise.”

There is a mob mentality that is alive and murderous in our country. From “Lock her up!” to “Beat the hell out of protesters” to “Can we use the guns now?” we are awash in angry people who deny reality and recite the lies and rage they have been taught to chant by the authoritarian. They are ravenous for power and do not care who or what gets trampled by their stampede, even those things that allow them to rage.

Sometimes, their violence is thinly veiled. Sometimes, they make death threats and they menace voters and school boards. Sometimes, they shoot people.

Would that Orwell were wrong.

Abraham Lincoln and You

No, that isn’t the title of Heather Cox-Richardson’s April 15 post, but it could be.

She begins her post with this: “Early in the morning of April 15, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln breathed his last.” With him could have gone the glue holding the states together and our very democracy, even as the Civil War was all but over.

But it wasn’t over – not really – and we see it being waged today in sneaky, dishonest ways. Except for slavery itself, all the divides of those awful years are with us and they are as threatening and corrupt today as they were then. Richardson’s post is a must-read – here’s a link.

Lemonade

Friday night I found the flyer you see at the right stuffed into my mailbox. The next day I stopped by to find that 3 first grade girls, 7 years old, had created the flyer and had set up a lemonade stand, complete with cookies, surprise packages and bags of dog treats. They and several of their friends flagged down cars, sold their goodies and were devastatingly cute.

“Just a kid thing,” you might say. But when that cold spring day was over these kids had raised almost $800 to send to an outfit doing humanitarian work for Ukrainians.

And the kids had learned a lesson about helping those who need help. They’re a great example for all of us.

Girls, YOU ROCK!

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The days are dwindling for us to take action. Get up! Do something to make things better.

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The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. There are lots of smart, well-informed people. Sometimes we agree; sometimes we don’t. Search for others’ views and decide for yourself.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.
  5. Book links to Amazon are provided for reference only. Please purchase your books through your local mom & pop bookstore. Keep them and your town vibrant.

JA


Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Root Causes


Regular readers will likely recognize that over the years I have tried to understand why citizens on the far right portion of our politics consistently vote against their own interests. I’ve dabbled in guessing why they’re willing to believe fantastical fantasies and why they are so violent in spirit and in actions. Perhaps most important, I’ve scrambled for a foothold of understanding of why they gladly do unpatriotic things, yet consider themselves patriots. I think I’m coming to a more complete answer. Let’s start with a little walk through history.

Seattle Hooverville, 1932

Republican Herbert Hoover was elected in 1928. He had been a mining engineer, a business oriented fellow. Eight months after he took office the economy began its greatest crash and Hoover sat on his hands and watched as the savings from lifetimes of work evaporated and 25% of Americans wanting work were out of work. Their families were in terrible distress. Hoover told Americans to carry on, that things would get better, but in his complete absence of vision he did nothing to help, which led to Hoovervilles all across the country. By 1932 things had become far worse. That’s when ordinary Americans decided that a wealthy patrician understood them and their challenges better than the Republicans did and they elected Democrat FDR to be president. It turned out that they were right.

FDR invented the WPA and the CCC and mounted massive infrastructure projects like the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Hoover Dam that brought electricity to millions of people. More important than that, those projects brought honest work and good pay to Americans, which brought with it the dignity of being able to care for one’s family and oneself. FDR was so popular that he was elected to the presidency four times, with his last victory coming even as the nation knew he was dying. He was that popular.

And that’s why Republicans hated him and his projects that put Americans back to work. They have been trying to kill all social and commons programs since then. And preventing that kind of success for Americans is exactly why today’s Republicans want Joe Biden to fail.

Several Republican presidents wanted to get Social Security privatized to benefit fat cats, like the ones who brought us the Great Depression and the Great Recession. When President Johnson created Medicare, Medicaid and his Great Society Program, Republicans were apoplectic and they have tried to kill all of those programs, too. I don’t know what they want to do about President Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System – maybe they want to privatize them and let the fat cats charge tolls. Here’s the thing:

Republicans hate anything that smacks of work done in the commons and things that directly benefit the people. But the people love that stuff. And people become very angry and feel betrayed when things they’ve counted on are taken away. Think about what Republicans have to do, then, to get elected.

That’s right: they lie.

Reagan told lies about non-existent Black welfare queens living like actual queens. He told of “young bucks” – his term – meaning young Black men scamming the welfare system. His doing that makes sense, because it appealed to White fear, which brought him support. Bear in mind that Reagan opposed not just welfare, but also the Brown v. Board of Education decision. How convenient it was for him to latch onto welfare lies and appeal to White supremacy, not bothering to mention that the majority of welfare recipients were White. He just threw out hateful dog whistles that appealed to the fearful and the haters.

Then he stoked distrust and hatred of government itself, even as he was leading the government. He told Americans that, “Government isn’t the solution to the problem; government is the problem.” It was a new verbalization of opposition to all social programs. Surely, we wouldn’t want to support anything that helps those lazy, shiftless “others,” right?

As I said: lies.

Bush II was a lie spewing machine, corrupting the Constitution every day and calling it patriotism. And the patriotic thing played well. He told us, “You’re either with us or you’re against us,” and Americans lined up, not wanting to be left behind and thought of as unpatriotic. Republicans are still playing that card. They do that even as they ended programs that would help Americans.

Manufacturing jobs were shipped overseas and citizens were left with nothing. They were betrayed by their own government. (Full disclosure: Clinton was complicit in that.) They call that patriotism and rugged individualism, “right sizing” and freedom and a lot of other fine sounding names. They use their superb propaganda machine to get people to believe their fantasy, just like a circus sideshow barker. It turn out they really can fool some of the people all of the time, even as they are being betrayed.

All the propaganda and all the betrayal has stoked the anger of the people. Plus, it’s plain that Whites will no longer be a majority in this country in just a couple of decades, so Whites fear their hands will slip from the reins of power. The knowledge of that has brought more levers for Republicans to manipulate the people, like gerrymandering, the filibuster and voter suppression.

People are left in quite a confusing and simplistic mess.

Their anger is so great that they’d rather infect and kill their loved ones and die themselves, than follow simple government health guidelines crafted by doctors and scientists.

They’re so blinded by their distrust of government that they believe conspiracies too loony even for a cartoon and they agitate for autocracy that would make them serfs to the ultra-wealthy.

Their sense of betrayal is so overpowering that they refuse simple and obvious realities and reject as cheating anything that doesn’t go their way.

Their fear and anger are so great that they metaphorically have a middle finger extended at all times just to feel powerful.

All of that is orchestrated and overheated by big money puppet masters who manipulate fears and anger, so that the people blindly follow leaders and a party that literally have no policies other than to obstruct and disempower everyone but themselves.

So, the people cheer and send contributions to politicians who stand against the very things that would help the people, like the infrastructure bill and the good jobs that will bring; like voting rights, gun safety, reasonable cost pharmaceuticals, child care, medical insurance and broadband. With every vote or obstruction to voting on those issues and with every manufactured barrier to voting and with every appeal to fear and anger, the manipulators appeal for donations to Trump-fearing GOP sycophants in congress and in the states and municipalities. Those dollars are then used to further diminish the future of the voters and the voters’ children.

But the people don’t see that, because they are so angry. Worse, they don’t realize they’ve been hoodwinked for generations. And that is why our citizens on the far right of the political spectrum consistently and unknowingly vote against their own interests, leaving them nothing but their rage and whatever weapons they own in order to feel powerful and in control of themselves.

It’s all about anger, fear and hopelessness and how easy it is to manipulate people who feel that way.
.

Do you doubt that? Watch Adam Kinzinger’s short video and his appeal for Country First.

A Tale of 4s In 2021

Unemployment dropped from 6.2% to 4.2%.

– Wages rose approximately 4% – the final annual numbers aren’t in yet.

– The economy is so strong that there are 4 million more job openings than Americans seeking employment.

– We added 4.6 million jobs. Or is it 6.2 million? Not sure, but it’s a good number.

Republicans, please stop telling Americans how awful our economy is and how the Democrats are ruining it, because that’s just another Republican lie.

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The days are dwindling for us to take action. Get up! Do something to make things better.

Did someone forward this to you? Welcome! Please subscribe – use the simple form above on the right. And pass this along to three others, encouraging them to subscribe, too. (IT’S A FREEBIE!)

And add your comments below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. There are lots of smart, well-informed people. Sometimes we agree; sometimes we don’t. Search for others’ views and decide for yourself.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.
  5. Book links to Amazon are provided for reference only. Please purchase your books through your local mom & pop bookstore. Keep them and your town vibrant.

JA


Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Winning, Part One: The Numbers, Rage and Yoda


This is just simple math.
.

                                STATE                           POPULATION (millions)

Wyoming                                    0.58

Vermont                                      0.62

Alaska                                         0.73

North Dakota                              0.76

South Dakota                              0.88

Delaware                                     0.97

Rhode Island                               1.1

Montana                                       1.1

                TOTAL                         6.73

Those eight states have 16 senators representing them.

Indiana has as many people as all those states combined, but has only 2 senators to represent them. It’s about the same for Massachusetts, Tennessee, Missouri and Maryland.

New York has over 3 times as many citizens as the total of those eight states, but has only 2 senators to represent them.

California has 6.5 times as many citizens as the total above, yet Californians have only 2 senators.

All power to the low population states! Minority rule today! Minority rule tomorrow! Minority rule forever!*
.

And it’s nuttier than that.

There are roughly 40 million more people in blue states than red states, yet senatorial representation is roughly equal, which means that 40 million blue state people are under-represented and discounted in the Senate. To be fair, that is due not just to our two-senators-per-state rule, but also because of voter suppression and gerrymandering that favors and keeps red states red. No way to paint a happy picture about that. It’s just what Republicans do.

In case you wonder why this mangled representation exists, read the explanation from Senate.gov.

What that explanation won’t tell you is that the Framers didn’t trust our mostly illiterate population to select well, so they created both the Electoral College and this presumably deliberative body, the Senate. Both were supposed to be safer when chosen by land-owning, literate white men.

Kyrsten Sinema

That assumption of the Framers has brought us presidents elected by a minority of voters (2 of the last 6 elections, plus some others and Republicans have lost the popular vote in every presidential election but one since 1988). It has also brought us a non-representative Senate. The primary present-day duty of the Republicans in the Senate is to obstruct progress for our country and to manipulate for their individual power – minority rule – which means they’re all about protecting and promoting the interests of big money donors. (See: Kyrsten Sinema receiving huge money from Big Pharma, then refusing prescription drug pricing reform. Just a coincidence, I’m sure.)

Red-Blue politics ebbs and flows (at least it used to), but common sense says that head count representation ought to be proportional in the Senate. It isn’t. That has substantive impact on the lunacy of our current politics and it’s related to our vaccine refusers in a very loud way.

The refusers are exhorted every day to refuse vaccines by breathtakingly false and destructive information coming from state and national leadership. They’re told to refuse the very thing that can save their lives and the lives of those they love. They surrender their facility for critical thinking and embrace only what stokes their rage.

They scream about the infringement of their freedoms. They proclaim entirely untrue propaganda, like that the vaccine will make them sterile, or that there are nanobots in the vaccine and Bill Gates will be able to track and control them, or that vaccines have killed more people than the disease or any of a hundred false claims from sick imaginations. And Americans continue to die at the rate of 1,400 per day.

The constant is the presence of  rage. It’s stoked every night by Tucker Carlson and during the day by Ted Cruz, Ron DeSantis, Greg Abbott and the know-nothing TV and radio blabbers who rake in money from advertisers because our rage-ists tune in. And the refusers vote for red state politicians who tell them what they want to hear and who then go to Congress and state legislatures to fulfill the role of rage in minority rule. That’s the Senate-rage connection and the Republicans work it to perfection to win elections.

I think there’s something else going on and it fits hand-in-glove with rage. It’s fear. Fear of being controlled. Fear of being wrong. Fear of smart people. Fear of science. Fear of change. Fear of government. Fear of globalization. Fear of “others.” Fear of the future. Fear of needles. Fear of their own ignorance. Fear of complexity. Fear of everything they don’t understand. Fear of a world they can’t make sense of.

Keith Olbermann says it more flamboyantly than I do and I’m not crazy about the name calling parts of his post, but fundamentally, I think he has it right: our refusers are afraid. They won’t acknowledge that, because doing so wouldn’t be manly. It would pop their rage-puffery and they wouldn’t get to feel as powerful. Their refusal, though, doesn’t erase their fear or the tribalism it spawns. And their fear, stoked every day by Republicans, is causing more of us to die from the pandemic and is igniting violence around the country.

Perhaps you thought the dishonesty and hypocrisy of the Rs was the entire problem, but I tell you with certainty that it is not. Its matching bookend is wimpy Democrats enabling their anti-democracy, letting Republicans get away with that.

In 2002 Republican Senate candidate Saxby Chamliss cruelly attacked Viet Nam vet and triple-amputee Sen. Max Cleland (D-GA), who was slow and not aggressive in response. He lost his reelection bid.

In the 2004 presidential race John Kerry was attacked and called a coward by a Republican group that came to be known as the Swift Boaters. He kept silent about them, not wanting to give them credibility by responding to their their lies. When he at last did speak up it was too late and he lost the election.

Both of those Democrats were defensive and failed to attack. They failed to aggressively call out the lies. That’s how to lose an election, as both of them did. And I’m disgusted by Democrats who won’t do what’s necessary to win an election now.

Required homework assignment

Read Sheila Markin’s exceptionally clear, shocking and sadly accurate post. This will count for 50% of your Civics grade. The final will be on November 8, 2022.

Wisdom Wake-Up Call

From my Yoda-like friend, Ozzie (all italics mine):

“Reality always (and probably all ways) wins. Our only job is to get in touch with it.”

Enough with the illusions and wishful thinking.

“Or as the Little Prince shared: It is with the heart that one sees rightly. For what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Enduringly true. And there is plenty that is essential and easy to see with the eyes. Keep them open and see what is plainly before us.

“Or: If you want to live your dream: #)#_!%^ WAKE UP!!! (Screamed as loud as humanly possible).”

If your dream includes a healthy democracy that serves the people, sleep walking through life just won’t do. #)#_!%^ WAKE UP!!!

See Winning, Part Two on Sunday, November 14 to learn what to do about it.

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* Paraphrased from Gov. George Wallace’s (R-AL) inauguration speech, January 14, 1963. Even with the word swapping, my meaning is pretty much the same as his, except that I mean it as sarcasm. Wallace meant it as enduring hatred.

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The days are dwindling for us to take action. Get up! Do something to make things better.

Did someone forward this to you? Welcome! Please subscribe – use the simple form above on the right. And pass this along to three others, encouraging them to subscribe, too. (IT’S A FREEBIE!)

And add your comments below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.
  4. Book links to Amazon are provided for reference only. Please purchase your books through your local mom & pop bookstore. Keep them and your town vibrant.

JA


Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Wrong – Just Wrong


Reading time – 69 seconds  .  .  . 

T.M. Luhrmann is a professor of anthropology at Stanford University and she wrote a most intersting opinion piece for the New York Times entitled Where Reason Ends and Faith Begins. In it she wrote, “Most people, whatever their religious persuasion, assume that there are decent human beings with good intentions who interpreted the evidence differently and who are wrong” (emphasis mine). Does that kind of absolutist thinking sound at all familiar?

ISIS is terrorizing the Middle-East, killing Shia, Christians and now Yazidi’s. They are warring to create a caliphate (from “caliph” – successor to Muhammad) not just across the area, but across the entire Muslim world. They believe that they have the one true faith and interpretation of the words of Muhammad and, as such, anyone who sees things differently is wrong. Fatally. And since their quest is in service to God, any brutality they commit for their cause is justified and no compromise is possible.

The same kind of closed thinking is what drives Hamas to kill indiscriminately and to set up Palestinians to be collateral damage in order to drive world sympathy. That is not to say that there are no legitimate grievances. That area of the world is founded on perpetual grievances, with each injustice being the basis for the next act of violence. Still, for Hamas it’s their way or the highway. The one toward which they aim their rockets.

Be slow to imagine this kind of mental intransigence is confined to killers in the Middle-East. Recall the murderous enormity of the Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades. On a smaller scale, Dr. George Tiller was murdered in Wichita, KS by an extremist with the same kind of religion-justified cranial impasse. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered by a self-proclaimed Christian. Our government was shut down by a band of Tea Party absolutists for whom compromise is not just unacceptable; it is Bible-thumping blasphemy.

Don’t think for a minute that attitudes like that are unproductive. Throughout history that kind of thinking has produced millions of dead bodies, tortured people, refugees and failed nations. People have been made to live in abject poverty and continually in fear for their lives. And how odd that all is, when so much of this evil is done in the name of God and of religion.

God save us from the God-inspired absolutists.

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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 offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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