Saturday, June 25, 2022

The Confederate Party of Lincoln

When Lincoln wrote that the nation was conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all are created equal he knew this wasn't true because it had not been realized. He proposed a new birth of freedom of, by, and for the people. These phrases are so well known we likely don't fully appreciate how radical it was to say in its day.

Lincoln was conceiving the United States that had been merely United States. In that he was targeting the Confederate oligarchs who had maintained a minority rule and a federal government that secured the rights of all people. In their view government must not be the peoples' unless it serves the interests of the few who are competent to decide for the collective. Reverting to claims of State's rights was their means to secure power in the hands of the few thus insuring that the will of the people could not interfere with their cultural claims and financial interests.

It is the combination of these two Confederate features that has once again seized control of our system. The minority means to govern and if they cannot govern with the consent of the majority or use the system to secure their power, they mean to rule by any means. Should that process fail to maintain their power they have demonstrated the willingness to use violence. Rule over the majority by intimidation and force are key elements of fascism.

It is no small irony that the current Republican Party and the illegitimate and corrupt Court that imposes their will over the majority mimic the interests and agendas of the Confederacy that Lincoln brought to defeat. At some point I think the impositions of minority rule will once again not only splinter us but will bring the kind of civil unrest and protest that we may not be able to resolve using the mechanisms of liberal democracy.

As rights are taken away---and Roe is just the beginning of that dismantling---people will actually come to realize more palpably the oppression that the minority means to impose. There is a forthcoming ruling of the Court that will likely effectively eliminate the ability of the federal government to delegate regulations to agencies, thus wrecking havoc on the EPA, FDA, well, all of it. The rules will somehow belong to the States where business oligarchs will make sure, as they have with guns and climate, that the majority's will has no power.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

The Seven Point Plan

Cheney declared there was a “sophisticated seven-part plan,” and future hearings will dive deeper into its components She did not enumerate the process, so I thought I would suggest the process.
(Kudos to Susan Glaser for the core listing references.)

1. Trump’s spreads election misinformation;
2. he plots to fire the acting Attorney General in order to get the Justice Department to further his false claims;
3. he pressures Vice-President Mike Pence to block the counting of the electoral votes, and he pressures military, CIA, DOJ and others to confirm his lies,
4. he pressures Republican officials in the States and Republican-led state legislatures to switch their electoral votes and scheme to send fake electoral certificates to Congress;
5. he coordinates with violent conspirators, including Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, largely through his proxies, like Stone
6. he summons the mob to the Capitol on January 6th;
7. he refuses to do anything to stop them once they are there, rampaging in an effort to stop the vote count (removing Pence from the scene, declaring the votes illegitimate, and eventually getting a stooge like Grassley as Pro Temp to do the "re-count.")
Voila. The Coup almost works.
Don't think they haven't learned from these mistakes. Next time they mean not to fail. Next time means the next election they lose and will never again admit to losing. Tyranny is not quite here but the grounds for democracy are gone. What remains are we the people responsible for establishing the rules for free and fair election and compelling integrity.

Willful Ignorance, Critical Thinking, and the Matter of Unknowing

If we want to understand why Republican America is so blithely ignorant, misinformed, and disinterested in the truth about a seditious insurrection conspiracy led by a grifting, lying, fraud who is mentally ill and utterly unfit for any political leadership we need to understand from whom they get their news.

This trail of misinformation and manipulation helps further explain why those who could know better---persons less mentally deficient than Trump in Republican leadership have decided to ignore the truth. Their relationship to money and power precludes their interest in the truth. Rep Cheney made that point crystalline this week.

But after we account for willful dissimulators, what do we make of the vast swath of Republican voters and other ignorant Americans who care not for the tasks of citizenship?

Two articles appeared this morning that caught my attention. The first appears in The Atlantic. Here David French outlines what so many in his circle of Republican friends don't know and how little they do. He also outlines the putative misdeeds that these seemingly "good" people attribute to Democrats. You can easily find this piece via the googlemachine.

We can dismiss the majority of Republicans as pathetic, unfit for democracy but it is as important to note how they have been manipulated and corrupted. In true Orwelian doublespeak fashion this is what they say about those of us who read The New York Times or other journalism that might actually have a shard of integrity.

We might retort that if you can't believe "the media" then the January 6th Committee invites you to believe your own eyes and the sworn testimony of those who suffered "carnage" and "chaos", police officers beaten and slipping in blood to fend off the mob that Trump brought to support Proud Boy and Oath Keeper white nationalists bent upon overthrow of the duly elected government. Facts are not alternative.

In our culture getting "eyes on" is more important than any form of written or spoken word. American short attention spans, illiteracy, and willful disinterest in matters of import cannot be underestimated.

That said, what half the county prefers is Fox News, another Orwell-worthy name since the propaganda channel's shameless efforts espouse the Trumpista claim: whatever we say the dupes believe. In order to keep their dupes in line Tucker Carlson's show during the Jan6thComm hearing did not break for commercials for the first hour to keep eyes off the truth.
If you follow Twitter in the rightwing universe you are being told that the gravest threats to American democracy involve support for Pride. I kid you not. And of course the espousing of violence is shamelessly advocated without the slightest moral consideration since these advocates of hate deem themselves the true Christians. Abhorrent as this all is, it's like junk food: you become what you consume.

Eyes off is as important as eyes on. This means as The Atlantic and the NYT article below demonstrate that America is not only ignorant and manipulated by the power of rightwing propaganda, it has little critical ability to move out of its information silos.

We hear only what we want to hear while we are being told what it is we want to hear is true. There is no both-sides-ism to my point. The "left leaning" news includes the facts. Facts are pesky and difficult to create because they require serious human efforts that involve critical thinking. We have to trust, for example, in the methods and evidence of science and scientists when we are ourselves less capable of understanding the material ourselves. You might do as much when you ask Google Translate for a bit of help with French too. I mean simply when you don't know, you need help, you have to admit your vulnerabilities. Whether people have the capacity to understand what learning entails is another matter entirely.

Given the nature of global events it's fair to say that everyone is under-informed. I am distraught when matters of science done by actual scientists is dismissed just as I am when folks are unwilling to consider journalistic standards and efforts at professional integrity.

Republicans use "the media" to mean their political adversaries s when they are their propaganda advocates. I for one think there is still such a thing as professional, personal, and moral integrity. To discern that requires critical abilities. Those need to be understood, taught (they are not intuitive), and applied. Get on your Spock or your enterprise might crash into the sun.

Offering up our best understanding, being transparent about methods and sources, and holding ourselves to ethical standards may be a requirement for functional democracy. Confirmation bias needs its counterpunctual: how could I know if I am mistaken? Do your best to create the facts and interpret them honestly: this is what you are taught to do in college if you actually received an education. It should be what is taught by 8th grade but that is another discussion.

What we need to understand here is not that both sides are ill-informed or stuck in silos of preferred political values or persuasions. What we need to see that that a significant portion of the American electorate is participating in well-orchestrated conspiracies, subject to fraud, and can't tell the difference because they refuse to consider the quality of their sources and the agendas of those who would manipulate them.

Friday, June 10, 2022

All is Not Lost, Everything is a Footnote to the First Word

Another thought today about the January 6th Committee because it's important to mitigate our not unwarranted, perhaps overly cynical view that nothing will come of it. Is our government hopelessly lost to dysfunction?
The evidence is in. Not yet.
Take to heart this fact: the recently defeated president of the United States attempted to overturn the Constitution rather than accept the outcome of an election. He and his cohort conspired and executed a coup attempt. They failed. Why?

Brave and patriotic people stood up for the truth and stopped him. Brave and patriotic people now seek to hold him to account. In the future brave and patriotic people will likely have to stop them all again. This is not cynical anymore than it is pointless. This is the real work of citizenship. How quaint? This is your country. This imperative of citizenry obtains only if you care about democracy. Democracy has not yet failed.
Be one of those brave and patriotic people. Do not let our democracy fail. Continue to do the right thing. Insist that others join you so that we do not fail. If you don't we will fail because everything about democracy actually depends on We the People.
If you want democracy you will have to save it but not by yourself. We is the first word of the Constitution. All the rest is We too.

The Coup in Progress and the Committee

 In case you missed it there is coup-in-progress that is the continuation of the January 6th Coup Attempt that very nearly succeeded.  Republicans mean not to fail this next time.   The Committee is underway.  Last night was the first hearing and here's what I think.

Three Takeaways and Futures
1. It is the Committee's intention to demonstrate that this was an orchestrated, planned coup that Trump sponsored like a mob boss using his underlings to execute. It happened to fail.
This time.
AG Garland? Are you listening? If this is not the crime of seditious insurrection led by a former president what exactly is?
2. Republicans know that their voters explicitly or tacitly endorse the Coup. Last night Fox did not break for commercials while the Committee was in session so that its viewers would not be tempted to change the channel. Of course, Fox is culpable in establishing the narrative after the coup attempt that it was not a coup but "legitimate political speech" and that the big lie is not the clear and present danger it is to democracy.
Fox will insure that the vast majority of Republican voters, content as they are to endorse the coup, the lies that caused it and the lies that support the coup-in-progress, remain in line. Rep Liz Cheney telling the truth is being lionized for telling the truth while she is being run out of her party. Expect only more of the same. Minds are made up. Nothing about these hearings will move the electorate.
3. Should they lose the next election Republicans and Fox intend for their coup-in-progress not to fail. Democracy no longer matters (i.e., you must be willing to lose, as Democrats clearly are) and they mean to gain power and never relinquish it again peacefully. Their voters endorse their claim to power at any cost. Many would prefer a "peaceful" takeover thus seizing the government by destroying norms and using the law to carry out the coup-in-progress.
The minoritarian rule of white supremacist nationalism will prove more important to the Fox viewer than democracy. Wall Street will endorse the rise of fascism as the oligarchs secure power. If we do not act to protect democracy there will no recognizable America once Congress is Republican. As soon as 2023 we may well see their vindictive agenda at work: don't be surprised if they impeach Biden. Cruelty is the point: they are fueled by fear, grievance, anger, and revenge.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

More About the Widening Gyre

Let us be frank though I know that is not an inviting thing to say.
Uvalde, Buffalo, Heller, January 6th Committee, war in Europe, the planet burns, gas is $5 a gallo, food is expensive, and I fear that America is losing itself or whatever it may have ever had of democracy's promise. Too grim? Because too true? I cannot and will not "blame" anyone much less President Biden because that is facile and as unhelpful as it is unfair.   We need each other and a reckoning.  I think we are not up for it.  They are running out the clock, like they always do.

There is a blank gaze, a pitiless sun as the darkness drops again and yet we must with all good hearts come to meeting. We must continue the conversation no matter the sense of futility. We must hold each other in the centre that does not hold. And so we must find a way to contend with what will be made better only by a million small turns that demand every ounce of care. We doubt we are as able these things as we are sure that it took as many turns to get here albeit with far less attention.

The President commented that he is hoping for "rational Republicans." I tried to restraint my chortle so as not to reveal the obvious with too much disrespect for decency in the face of fact. The only question I have is whether he knows this is bullshit and he needs to say it because he thinks he does or if he thinks there is such a thing. The latter is more frightening than the former.

It doesn't help to be the pessimist though I find optimism, especially in the face of facts, equally pointless. Biden, like Obama, even like the cynical, grievance driven Republicans has to say that things will somehow "get better" or that we have a bright future only if.

What they all understand but will not say is that the facts are refused as much as they may (or may not) be in dispute. With the Jan 6th hearings coming I wonder whether any public airing of the evidence will matter one bit. Whose mind will change? What motivation will be kindled? Why would we believe that truth telling will make things better when so many are served by their lies and delusions? There are apparently no rational Republicans, or at least that how it seems to me.

Facts are often too hard to bear and the remedies are not actually remedies at all. Rather our struggles will depend as much on our willingness to live in complexities we cannot fully fathom, much less control. If we are folks who understand those things then how does that bring us to any reckoning with advantage over the forces of disarray? What destiny we don't make may befall us because we aren't in truth the change we wish to see happen---no mortal has that kind of power over worlds of karma and lila. We can only be part of meaningful movements of change. But it is no small matter to create such movements, much less ones that depend upon perseverance in the face of honest travail.

It would be helpful to understand better the difference between the kind of world we wish we lived in and the kind we do---and what we can do to address that chasm. What I think we see when we do reflect upon the shared situation is how frustrating and difficult it is to effect a collective better. Coming to terms with the facts is no small matter but what we cannot agree upon in America seems to be anything like shared facts, even those most hard won. We don't have much collective trust in science or critical thinking because most of us have little capacity for either. Harsh but untrue?

I'm not suggesting we were better off when the few media outlets gave us the same paternalist palaver on the evening news. But I am saying that our abilities to collect ourselves to create serious civil conversation has never seemed harder, even in the face of all of the information that is readily available. Virtual worlds have made harder truths harder still to agree upon.

We need a more sophisticated, serious, and mature level of discourse, just like we need helpful even buoyant narratives to frame the changes we must face. But for most of us change is disruptive, difficult, and reluctant even as we admit that the constraints of education and emotional capacity test our abilities to communicate effectively and honestly with each other. If we make a necessary personal commitment to engage would that really help? I proffer the contrary to bolster the rhetoric: Where else could we go that wouldn't make matters worse? We need to make things better. Now what?

Our pace and the demands of making it through another month give us little opportunity to reflect as we feel the pressures to just do something. In the meantime of course there is war, climate, sickness, and the costs we seek to address in our everyday lives. And we must hold the centre that does not hold, as Yeats reminds us. In that widening gyre and passionate intensity find ways to make meaning inside ourselves. That can only happen if we continue to reach out and connect with each other.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Sure to Offend Someone: The Easter Bonnet Problem

On Giving Good Hat

So it's Easter and who doesn't like bunnies, chocolates, estrogen, and spring? It's snowing in Bristol as I write this. If you happen to like ham, I suppose I can easily get with the bacon part of the ham. It's all so goyam, you know?

If you like to say "Happy Easter" that's cool with me 'cause everybody should be happy about something. I suppose I should start there because it'll be interesting to find out if this next bit offends you, somehow.

You've likely noticed I have a penchant for offensive religious jokes but I will insist that they need to be funny. No professional scholar of religion who can't laugh at---not just with---religion is anyone I want to hang with. (<--very awkward sentence structure, hehe...) 
Then again, I almost never hang with fellow religion scholars. They are almost to the last nicer and more likable than I am and that only sometimes bothers me. But far far far too many believe stupitshit. And this is not limited to, say, Easter.
A pal of mine who I do work for just said, in effect, and I kid you not, "Do you think you could be nicer to the people who don't really know you, people on our team?" I merely reminded him that I am not nearly as funny as I wish I were and that even my mom said once that my brother was better looking but I was smarter. This is actually true. I know I can sound unnice. I can even sound arrogant and obnoxious because I have an unwarranted amount of self-confidence when I'm not up all night gaslighting myself with imposter's syndrome.
Like the Canceled Easter joke---they found the body. Of course I made myself into a faithful child when my parents, bless them, looked at askance at my interest in religion. It took me a while to figure it out but I was interested in eastern religious bypass until I met Appa who had the most remarkable way of not trying to persuade you of anything. Appa taught by merely pointing things out and sorta'kinda'hopin' that you would come to it of your own accord. I mean I went to him lookin for Full On No Kidding Advaita Oneness Bypass and instead of merely calling Utter Bullshit on this nearly psychotic theory of yogic bypass, he merely worked his way around the edges until he landed on the core of the matter---and never once, not ever did he call it out. Like I just did. Mere name calling here, not even a worthwhile argument. But meh. That doesn't make it less bullshit. So I nearly got tossed out of Divinity School on a weekly basis and I do love me some Hindu temple and pilgrimage. You do know that it's because it's a long, strange trip into the darkest corners of our Collective Unconscious, a one way ticket to the abyss of meaning that we can only make while here, in this limited, conditioned, unfinished and always three-fourths unknown self of embodiment. Wow, that was way too serious for a post about bunnies and chocolate. WTF is wrong with me? But here's the core of this. I am reading allllll sorts of SINCERE wishes for a Happy Easter. I even have friends who can say this with a straight face. I mean, I'm all for the Durkheimian sociology of ANY holiday, just get together under some religious pretense and have a few laughs, don't invite that Trump Uncle who you never liked that much anyways (and if you did, well, it was a mistake), and get on with the food. If there's booze involved, I won't object unless it's a more serious matter for you, in which case my actual serious support and I'll pour you something vegan non-alcoholic no problem eva'. But when I get the sorta' serious Happy Easter greeting it's just f'in' weird to me. I can't separate this from the Jesus Died for Our Sins and then Didn't Really Die part 'cause I not only think that is obviously untrue to even people who say it is but because it's just a very bad myth. I'm all for a good myth---tell yerself a healthy lie for better reasons, but be careful because people will not get the joke. Next thing you know you are apologizing and blaming the interwebs for not conveying your in-person sincerities. I dunno, but people are so easily offended about f'in' everything these days. I suppose many have good reason but life I tell you is basically offensive to anyone paying attention.
Then there's the "happy easter to all those who celebrate" bit. WTF does that mean? Does it mean you like to get together with yer peeps for some food lovin'festing? Who could object to that? Does it mean you grew up with some traditions and your family was swept up in the fictions of history that could have been much better had we told other stories? Does it mean this is an allegory you can roll with? Okay, fine. You might say Jesus was supposed to be a swell guy, that he told us to love each other and not be dicks. Last I looked the people claiming the Christian mantle are mostly not like that, and never have been (but who's judging that ye be judged? John somethingsomething endzone sign here.) Anyways, I resent 2000 years of lies that have been told as literally true. Cause they really do think it's literally true. Ask our pal d'Current Pope who you may say is a swell guy 'cause he's not a Nazi like that last guy. I think their hats suck too. I dig hats. I like religions that give Good Hat. Give me some Dalai Lama banana slug hat anytime. Way better hat. All the rest is just bunnies and chocolates and I'm totally okay with that. Any you. For real.