Sunday, February 21, 2010


Christmas is but a couple days away. I was composing another entry, but decided, at the last minute, that I should write something more in keeping with the season. More years than I care to recall, I wrote the following poem.

For all its failures, with a few lines, it offers an insight into my being that would require a tome to match. If you find the meaning of it, you will learn more about me in a few minutes of reading that years of observation, and study would never yield.

I'm humbled that you think enough of what I write here to come by from time to time to read it, and leave your comments. A blog author can't command a readership; he or she can only hope that a gem or two of worth may be found among the cloddish earth of prosaic words that variously pass as opinions, fact, insight--and, with a little luck, something approaching wisdom.

Christmas is not my favorite day. Every day is my favorite day. Yet, Christmas is special: It brings a message of hope, peace and goodwill. Each year Christmas reminds us of what life on earth could be were we to dedicate ourselves to bringing more of that hope, peace, and goodwill to our world--first as a new born (a new resolve), and extending that resolve throughout the year.

Merry Christmas to all!

Now my poem:


I want to show you where I've been,
And tell you all the things I've done.
I've saddled up the westward wind,
And ridden high above the sun.
I've haunted dusty halls of times gone by,
And left my footprints there.
I've trampled fences of the future with a vagrant's glee;
This I've done without a care, without a moment's empathy.
I've seen the silver cord of life:
I've watched it leave a trail behind,
And follow as some burdened wife,
Along the passageways of time.
My ears have thrilled to music never heard before;
Heard voices sing sweet melodies that made sad hearts to soar!
I've heard eternal sages,
Recite their catechisms ageless.
These things I've seen and heard, and more!
These things are hidden in the Word,
And locked behind your door.

This, too, I've seen, and wish to tell and share:
Of all the things I've seen and heard,
Of all the places been and seen,
No sight has been more fair,
No wisdom's been more keen,
Than the sight of those who love,
And the sound of those who care!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sex, Lies, and Videotape (& Cell Phones)

I detest liars. Yeah, I've told a few whoppers in my day, so I include myself in that detestation. As much as I'd like to be, I'm not some paragon of virtue. And so, I won't tell you that I have never lied.

But I will tell you, most of them have been mainly of the innocuous variety--the little "white lies" that we're all guilty of telling, from time to time, to ward off personal embarrassment, to avoid awkward social moments, to be polite, or to keep things from becoming hopelessly complicated.

I told c.c. that I would blog about lying and cheating one day, and that day has arrived, a little sooner than I anticipated.

And so that the air is clear: I'm discussing this very normal, but unfortunate, human failing in an impersonal way. I have no one in particular in mind, unless he or she is public, and then only to serve as examples, or illustrations for the topic at hand.

Sadly, I can choose from thousand of instances. But, neither space, not your patience is long enough to accommodate that kind of comprehensive treatment.

One of the now familiar and infamous attempts to brand one as lying comes from that chamber of decency, ethics, honor, honesty, morality, and purity, that we all know as our U.S. Congress. It came during a certain Joint session of Congress, while the President of the United States stood speaking on the subject of health care reform, before that very august body of lawmakers, and the American people:

"You lie!"

It was the shout heard around the world. And because it violated congressional decorum, convention, and customs, you'd expect that person, who committed such a violation, to be slapped with censure, at the very least. Well, the House did manage a "reprimand," and that was that, and Joe Wilson went on to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from grateful Republicans.

Most recently, Tiger Woods was caught in a lie, and cheating. Many critics believe that Tiger could have spared himself a great deal of public ridicule, and private angst had he come forward with a full disclosure of marital infidelity from the outset.

Perhaps. Perhaps not.

We can never rewound events and take an alternate path, just to see which crossroad decision would produce the most favorable outcome.

But this much we do know: In Tiger's case, the truth would have silenced much of the speculation that ensued from his accident, and his short stay in the hospital. Had he beat the clock on disclosure, professional crisis managers believe he could have gotten out ahead of the controversy, and took control of the dissemination of information, rather than leaving it up to the news media, the tabloids, and cable news to run with it, and shape the story more sensationally than it deserved.

Of the two examples I've provided so far, it's not the Tiger Woods indiscretions that disturb me the most (although I'm sure for Elin, and her family, it's paramount), but the Joe Wilson lies, deceptions, distortions, and political machinations. They are the ones that do the most harm to our national welfare.

Sarah Palin lied when she said that then candidate, Barack Obama, palled around with a terrorist. She and McCain didn't win, but she netted a lucrative book deal, became a contributor on Fox News, and is paid at least a hundred thousand dollars as a much-sought-after speaker.

Sarah and others lied when they said that health care reform had provisions for death panels that could, substantially, "pull the plug on grandma." Polls have shown that such lies and others about healthcare reform have a rather large following.

Curiously, the only "death panels" in operation these days are those inherent in our current health insurance plans, where thousands are denied health insurance annually because of preexisting conditions, or because they have been dropped from their health plans because their insurers believe them to be financial liabilities. These are the real death panels. Some studies say as many as 45,000 of our fellow citizens die annually, because they don't have health insurance, but that doesn't stop Sarah Palin and other Republicans from misrepresenting the health care bill currently under congressional consideration.

Our politicians, those having the public trust, and the prestige that goes with it, are not only caught periodically cheating, and sent to jail, but are caught daily lying, fudging, distorting, and misrepresenting the truth. And they're, mostly, unrepentant when found out, or when the truth surfaces, or is shoved under their nose. Several come to mind, but exVP Dick Cheney stands out as poster boy, and visual definition of dishonesty and political grandstanding.

Many republicans trashed the Economic Stimulus Package, also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, in the Halls of Congress and on radio and television, but smiled broadly behind oversized checks as the money is doled out to their constituents, or they credit the Stimulus as a job creator, or job saver, when it is politically safe to do so. Hypocrisy and lying coming together to create an effect that only congresspersons can create.

Have lying and cheating become a way of life here in America? Is it our lot in the same way that wide-spread corruption marks other cultures--that's not to say that we don't have our share of that, too?

Did you know that a survey--almost a couple of years old now--rated women leaders smarter and and more honest than their male counterparts?

If only politicians, Wall Street Bankers, health-care insurers, and lobbyists, were the only ones who practiced the fine art of "ripoffology" (I made that up. But I like it.). But when Tax Preparation chains urge you to lie and cheat, or end up lying to, and cheating you, when all you wish to do is comply with your civically mandated duty to account for your annual income, you know the nation has stooped to an all-time low.

A tax preparer discussing his elderly client's disastrous tax experience a year earlier--who is now getting a tax refund, and is in tearful relief, because she is in desperate need of the money--paints a horrible picture of greed, dishonesty, and, as far as I'm concerned, elder abuse.

A year ago, things didn't go nearly as smoothly. She had paid just under $200 to file her taxes with a tax preparation franchise and was expecting a refund of about $600, which she desperately needed. Her eyesight wasn't very good, and she didn't understand how to report income from the form RRB-1099 that she received as a result of her husband's old job with the railroad. In addition, she had a handful of old stocks, mostly shares of utility companies, that paid out interest from time to time. She explained to me, almost in a whisper, that up until his death, her husband had taken care of everything. Now that he was gone, she wasn't sure what to do.

She was living from check to check, dependent on her husband's retirement income, and the bills were starting to pile up. She knew she would be getting a tax refund --she always did -- and a neighbor told her she could get her money back faster by asking for a RAL, a Refund Anticipation Loan. In fact, the neighbor told her, she would get her money the very next day.

At the franchise, the woman who took her money at the front desk told her she was making the right decision. Otherwise, she was told, she could expect to wait up to 12weeks to get her refund. My client didn't think she could wait that long.

She paid a "processing fee" of $75, an additional $60 "service fee" (equal to 10% of her expected refund amount) and a $50 bank fee. Combined with the tax preparation fees, she paid nearly $385. By the time all of the fees were paid, she was left with just over $200, about one third of her initial refund.

Where on the list of honesty does our nation fall when measured against other nations? Did you know that there's a National Honesty Day? "[T]he day was established by M. Hirsh Goldberg, an author and former press secretary to a governor of Maryland."

Would you like to know why he established it?

The founder of National Honesty Day, celebrated each year on April 30 as a way to encourage honesty in the workplace and the marketplace and to honor the honorable, has called for a nationwide emphasis this coming year on honesty to prevent the increasing examples of lying and fraud that are harming society and damaging our nation's quality of life.

M. Hirsh Goldberg, former press secretary to a governor of Maryland and author of five books, established National Honesty Day in the early 1990s after spending four years researching and writing The Book of Lies (Morrow), which has been translated into Japanese, Korean and Chinese. National Honesty Day is now listed in Chase's Calendar of Events, a repository of special occasions found in most public libraries. April 30 was selected, said Goldberg, because April begins with a day dedicated to lying and should end on a higher moral note.

Did Goldberg foresee the coming collapse of integrity on Wall Street, a collapse that nearly wrecked our economy, and wanted to head it off?

How much did the Great Depression result from a crisis of integrity, and a hearty appetite of rapacity? Perhaps what we label as cyclical economic activities in the markets is nothing more than cyclical movements around a wheel of right and wrong, greed and more greed, and are as predictable as the hearts of men and women. Perhaps we can follow the ebb and flow of the economy and the markets, simply by sampling the ebb and flow of human fealty to what is right and just, and our adherence to moral and ethical standards of honesty and public goodwill.

We need a Greedometer, a Truthometer, and a Heart Chart, one that tracks and plots, not our heart rhythms, but the frequency of major misdeeds in society, so that we can know where we stand economically, and socially, the way the Doomsday Clock is used to apprise the world of just how close we're edging to a nuclear Armageddon.

Movies have been written exploiting this character weakness mostly for laughs, but dishonesty is no laughing matter, if you have had your identity stolen (the protection of which has created a burgeoning market of identity theft protection services, a market, if not in the billions, soon will be).

How long can a nation endure--remain strong, healthy, and prosperous--when lying and cheating have become a way of life, our national pastime, and our national shame?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Say it ain't so....

Say it ain't so, Joe! Joe the Plumber is back. You know, Samuel "Joe The Plumber" Wurzelbacher. I didn't miss him. So now that he's back, I'd like to not miss him again.

I'm guessing he's back because he'd like to expand his 15 minutes of fame. Joe knows he can restart the clock each time he reinvents himself.

This time he's doing it by trashing John McCain (That John McCain that gave Joe a political spotlight, and future paychecks.). Without McCain, he'd just be Joe the Plumber without a book deal, and not being invited to all the big political bashes. He's learned well. If you have nothing but being famous to sell, like Paris Hilton ("famous for being famous"), you have to keep the shelves well-stocked.

I believe, too, Joe is positioning himself to be a bigger player in the Tebagger Movement. And since John McCain is out of favor with the Republican Party, and the Teabaggers (They're supporting a candidate to run against him.), Joe's exploiting McCain just as McCain exploited him. Yet, he needs to tread softly with his criticisms of Sarah Palin: Sarah Palin appears to be, for the moment, a darling of the movement. And he can't speak too nicely of the president, even if he means it:

"Wurzelbacher also reportedly said that while he believes Obama's 'ideology' to be 'un-American,' he credits the president for being 'one of the more honest politicians.'"

He needs to stick with the following lines, or find himself fighting off the wolves of disfavor:

"I don't owe John McCain shit," he said, according to reporter Scott Detrow. "He really screwed my life up, is how I look at it."

"McCain was trying to use me. I happened to be the face of middle Americans. It was a ploy."

"Wurzelbacher says it's his duty to take advantage of the platform he's been given," Detrow wrote. "He wants to talk up the issues he cares about, and encourage the grassroots tea party movement."

Say it ain't so, Senator Evan Bayh! Why would Bayh announce his retirement from the Senate within days of a deadline looming for new candidates to file their intention, with requisite signatures? His retirement announcement makes it now 5 incumbent Democrats, and 6 incumbent Republicans looking for greener pastures, or to be put out to pasture. The number keeps changing from one site to another.

"Bayh is the fifth Democratic Senator not seeking re-election. He joins Sens. Chris Dodd (Conn.), Byron Dorgan (N.D.), Ted Kaufman (Del.) and Roland Burris (Ill.) on the sidelines. Six Republicans are retiring: Sens. Kit Bond (Mo.), George Lemieux (Fla.), Judd Gregg (N.H.), George Voinovich (Ohio), Sam Brownback (Kans.) and Jim Bunning (Ky.)"

Bayh give these reasons for his sudden announcement to retire:

"My decision was not motivated by political concern," he added. "Even in the current challenging environment, I am confident in my prospects for re-election."

"But running for the sake of winning an election, just to remain in public office, is not good enough," Bayh said. "And it has never been what motivates me. At this time I simply believe I can best contribute to society in another way: creating jobs by helping grow a business, helping guide an institution of higher learning or helping run a worthy charitable endeavor."

"Two weeks ago, the Senate voted down a bipartisan commission to deal with one of the greatest threats facing our nation: our exploding deficits and debt. The measure would have passed, but seven members who had endorsed the idea instead voted 'no' for short-term political reasons," he said. "Just last week, a major piece of legislation to create jobs -- the public's top priority -- fell apart amid complaints from both the left and right. All of this and much more has led me to believe that there are better ways to serve my fellow citizens, my beloved state4 and our nation than continued service in Congress."

Is Bayh leaving because he's a moderate feeling the squeeze from extremists on both the Left and the Right? He says Congress is dysfunctional, and blames both sides for contributing to this dysfunction. Is he doing this to blunt the criticism on both sides, and to pacify those voters that sent him to Washington?

Some have speculated that Bayh's positioning himself to run for governor of Indiana, perhaps for president in the future, or perhaps to change parties, and become a Republican. He, himself, hasn't ruled out becoming a lobbyist (Good God, all we need is another legislator turn lobbyist!).

I don't think he's looking to change his party. His actions are those of a man angry with his party. I'm not an insider, with insider knowledge of the Beltway, but Bayh's actions are consistent with someone who feels betrayed, and wishes to hit back. You don't leave your party, a party struggling for every vote possible to pass filibuster proof bills, in a lurch, deciding just days before a filing deadline that you're not going to run again, especially when you're a shoo-in, if you do.

Again, in politics, you can't take anything for granted. Not even the loyalty of members of your own party. Especially members of your own party. Perhaps in the days ahead, we'll learn if there's more to the Bayh story, or we'll learn that he left for the reasons he stated.

Say it ain't so, Harold Ford! Harold Ford has unabashedly declared himself a strong supporter of Wall Street. You could say that he's Wall Street's candidate for the Senate, as he will be working largely on their behalf, as a Senator from New York. This declaration comes at a time when the reputations of corporations--those from the financial and health insurance sectors, in particular--are in disrepute, and the recent Supreme Court decision on behalf of corporate free-speech rights, threatens the integrity of our democracy.

Ford also rolled out a couple of new ideas for dealing with the still-shaky economy. For the first time, he proposed cutting the payroll tax for all businesses for six months as a way to "put more money in people's pockets."

And in a proposal sure to play well on Wall Street - where Ford is taking a leave of absence from his job as vice chairman of Merrill Lynch - Ford said the federal corporate tax should be reduced to 25% from 35%.

The latter drew a biting response from Team Gillibrand.

"Harold Ford is clearly running as Wall Street's guy," said Gillibrand adviser Jefrey Pollock. "While Kirsten is working to cut taxes on small businesses that create jobs, Harold is advocating for more Bush economics - giveaways to big corporations with no strings attached."

Wall Street Corporations need an "inside guy" like they need regulatory reform to force them to play fairly within a "free-market" structure. Practically every senator in the Senate are their "inside guy." In 2008, health interest alone spent more than $478.5 million dollars to influence Congress.

Well, read it for yourself:

According to a study by The Center for Responsive Politics, special interests paid Washington lobbyists $3.2 billion in 2008—more than any other year on record. This was a 13.7 percent increase from 2007 (which broke the record by 7.7 percent over 2006).

The Center calculates that interest groups spent $17.4 million on lobbying for every day Congress was in session in 2008, or $32,523 per legislator per day. Center director Sheila Krumholz says, “The federal government is handing out billions of dollars by the day, and that translates into job security for lobbyists who can help companies and industries get a piece of the payout.”

Health interests spent more on Federal lobbying than any other economic sector. Their $478.5 million guaranteed the crown for the third year, with the finance, insurance, real estate sector a runner up, spending $453.5 million. The pharmaceutical/health products industry contributed $230.9 million, raising their last eleven-year total to over $1.6 billion. The second-biggest spender among industries in 2008 was electric utilities, which spent $156.7 million on lobbying, followed by insurance, which spent $153.2 million, and oil and gas, which paid lobbyists $133.2 million. Pro-Israel groups, food processing companies, and the oil and gas industry increased their lobbying expenditures the most (as a percentage) between 2007 and 2008.

Now, this was just for 2008. Can you imagine what the outlay was for 2009? If we the people aren't getting enough democracy, and not enough representation from those we send to Washington, it's because we stop governing, and stop protecting, our own interests when we send someone to Washington. Until we put an end to lobbying abuse, and wring the money out of the system, it will always be business as usual on the Hill. But will we? The Tea Party movement seems more interested in curtailing government spending, than in curtailing special interest spending, more interested in turning the clock back, than in taking their country back. We can never expect Washington to be fiscally responsible, as long as we allow special interests to call the shots.

Their interest doesn't always clash with that of the people, but who's going to step in when it does? The Courts? The people? Our Representatives? Anybody?

Say it ain't so!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Politics generally consume my thinking to the exclusion of other issues. But it's not an all-consuming preoccupation. Yet, if you're a regular reader of this blog, you'd not know that, because it is a primary focus.

That's because politics frame so many of the issues which face us as a nation: healthcare insurance reform, financial regulatory reform, climate change, terrorism, two wars, and putting brakes on what still threatens to be a runaway a recession.

But today, I'm going to diverge, and travel a road less traveled by, and see where I end up.

Not too long ago, I read a post on a blog I frequent occasionally. The commenter is white. The post was naked in a way that caught me off guard. I wouldn't have been anymore startled had a person walking ahead of me, stopped suddenly, turned, and belted me. It had that kind of impact.

That's enough of a buildup. I promise: Your patience will be rewarded, because I'm going to share that post with you. I don't think the person will mind. He (I think the person's male) doesn't visit my blog, at least not to my knowledge.

I copied the post, thinking that at some point I'd share it in a blog entry of my own. In preparation of that, I returned to the blog and learned that the person left other posts in response to several queries for more information, and clarification. The person leaving the posts seemed sincere, and is a regular on the blog. Here's the first of three posts:

"OK I'm sorry to change the subject but I have to bring this up, I'm sorry.

"I realized last night that I'm racist. You see, I was watching a reportage on the French channel about this (white) French-Canadian family so eagerly and lovingly adopting a little girl from Haiti (black), waiting at the airport with tears of joy with the entire white-as-rice extended family in tow. They're all so moved and so happy. I see the new daddy hugging her tightly carrying her off, such a tender scene.

"And I felt revolted, like it was gross or something. It was visceral, I couldn't help it. In fact I'd even go so far as to say it's not my fault because I was very alarmed by my honest reaction.

"Now mind you I don't see this child as undeserving or inferior in any way and I would never dream of denying her opportunity or what have you based on the color of her skin. But my God I can't believe it!!!

"Well there you have it. I'm sorry.

Yes. There. You have it! It's quite an admission. And for the record, I didn't respond, but others did. I wasn't at a loss for words, just momentarily stunned, and not quite sure how to respond. How do you respond to one's admission of being a possible "racist." I say possible, because the reaction may have come from another place in that person's psyche that had nothing to do with racism. His next post seems to suggest that possibility:

"The more I think about it the more I think it also had to do with the poor little girl herself, she had these annoying pig tails, no expression of any kind on her face, and she looked pretty unhealthy and skinny and stuff so she wasn't cute. Today I saw pictures of more children being adopted and they were real cute so I dunno. Maybe if it had been some gangly un-cute slavic kid I'd have been revolted too but I doubt it. It just seemed forced and unnatural or something. I guess that makes me racist. What can I do? Sorry folks. At least I admit it."

Okay. He doesn't mention color. Or that the little girl reminded him of a monkey, or an ape. Only that she wasn't "cute," appeared "unhealthy," and was "skinny." Nothing out of the ordinary there. And one of the responding posts pointed that out, and suggested that perhaps he has an aversion to unattractive children, and that he wasn't actually racist. What I can say with some certainty is that the juxtaposition of black and white in an intimate setting seemed to be "forced and unnatural" for him. He practically admits that, and assumes he must be racist.

Let's move on. The third installment. The third, and final, post:

"I guess the question is not whether one is inherently racist but whether they act on it to discriminate. I think the term racist implies that the discomfort with POCs automatically means they are intolerant and discriminate. I do not discriminate.

"It's like a psychopath who has urges to murder people, well that's not his choice, he can't help it. But if he gives in and goes on a spree then he can be condemned. Same with people who are attracted to children. As long as they never act on it then it's merely a thought crime.

"So what can you do about racists and these other people? Send them to re-education camps, clamping their eyes open like in A Clockwork Orange to try to change their wiring like in A Clockwork Orange? Some would argue then that gays have the same malfunction that needs repair (not me.)

"So maybe the term racist has been overloaded, is there a term that describes someone with a visceral discomfort for something (or an unusual liking for things) but does not act upon it to discriminate or break the law? An asshole? But doesn't being an asshole require a will to be the thing that makes one an asshole?"

Okay, some good questions. The images invoked are a little disturbing (a homicidal psychopath, and child molesters), but then it's his account, using examples that resonate for him. Alright. I'm still in the game.

So to the question: Can you call yourself, or another, a racist, if you, or they, never act upon said racism? Is racism a thought, a belief, or merely an act, or both? And if it's an act only, and a person never indulges that act, can he be said to be a racist?

To fill in the blanks a bit: The person posted to a black blog, and, for the most part, wasn't helped much with his perplexity, because no one seemed able to unravel the knot of his problem, or to satisfy his knowing one way or the other--that is, whether he's a racist or not.

He implies discomfort around people of color, but wasn't squeamish about posting to a black blog, nor being found to be a racist, nor sharing the revelation of learning that he is one. Certainly, being anonymous, even with a handle, can make a difference.

Here's a working definition of racism:

rac·ism (rā'sĭz'əm)
The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.
Discrimination or prejudice based on race.

I can't say that this person is truly a racist or not, and will take him at his word. I'm not sure if he's all that certain. Yet, if you're truly racist, believing that your race is superior to another, then, in my book, that makes you a racist, whether you act upon that knowing or not, just as a person who believes that he's Baptist, will accept that definition of himself, whether he does anything to show that outwardly or not, and Catholics a Catholic, whether they attend church, or follow any other practices expected of those of that faith.

Help me out with this one. Give me your thoughts. And feel free to disagree.

I could be wrong, but I don't think there's such a thing as benign racism (as implied by the comments in the posts above). I agree that racism is not always overt, not always in your face. But that's only one kind of racism. The harm of overt racism is clearly seen. And the victim and the perpetrator easily identified. Here's what I think: People can believe in certain faiths, believe themselves to be a serial killer, or a child molester, or a racist, and, whether those people go beyond those beliefs and indulge their self-definition through actions, those beliefs will color their attitudes, their behavior, and their words.

If they can control the urge not to kill a person (which I doubt), a psychopathic killer will kill something: cats, dogs, or goldfish. Or the goodness, love, hope, joy, or peace of another. A child molester will molest something. Insinuate feelings for children, whether they touch them inappropriately, or not: with looks that may be disturbing, words that are suggestive, and body language that may make children and adults uncomfortable. Racist may not discriminate in ways that we'd call racist, but in other ways that show their racism. What I call passive racism, racism of avoidance: not attend a movie, a sporting event, live or do business in a certain part of town, not stop to help someone in need, avoid a sales clerk--inactions, of a sort (not openly racist), when it involves those of the wrong color.

And then there's racism that purports to do good. Frantz Fanon speaks of it in his writings, I think in one of two books, Black Skin, White Masks, or The Wretched of the Earth, where he makes the following observation: White colonials marry black women (an ostensibly harmless act), believing that their offspring will improve the black race, elevate it by virtue of the two races coming together, one race benefiting the other, because of its natural, evolutionary, superiority.

And then there's paternalism, the need to guide, correct, and govern the behaviors of others, because of the mistaken belief that they lack the civilizing means to conduct their own affairs in fruitful ways, or in accordance with proper social standards, and expectations. This tendency of some peeks through the racial clouds from time to time, in both the real and virtual world. It can be subtle, or it can be bold enough to make you wince.

In none of the racial instances above, would the people I described necessarily be called racist. The instances are too ambiguous. Yet, the racist knows. In all the examples above, whether the person's a psychopathic killer, a molester, or a racist, the person ultimately victimizes him or herself, whether, or not, he or she acts on his or her pathology.

There's always victims.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

It's My Tea Party and I'll Cry if I Want to!

Vanity FairThis blog entry was inspired by Ernesto. He left a comment on the previous blog, and I responded, but decided at the last minute to turn the response into a blog entry, expanding it somewhat.

I won't quote him here, but sum up briefly the topic of discussion. He observed a malaise among voters, a political backlash of a sort that could translate into many voters staying away from the polls in 2010, as was the case in 1994 that ultimately swept Republicans into power in both houses of Congress.

I think that this is the gist of it. Correct me, if I've misspoken, Ernesto.

My response sought to examine why, at the moment, the country is looking backward for answers, rather than forward.

This is not a good trend, I wrote. If Democrats fail, I see a resurgence (let's say a hike) of those things that got us into this fix in the first place: laissezfaire economics, tax cuts for the rich, the continuation of a shadow financial system, and an expansion of our military presence around the world.

If they truly wish to restore our national economic clout among the world communities, these are the things that the Teabaggers, and Republicans, should be obsessed with destroying--those corporate forces that have hurt, and continue to hurt, our national preeminence--but that's not the case. Teabaggers, in particular, are obsessing over Obama and his suppose socialist agenda, and the federal government's big-spending appetite.

And that seems to be their primary concern. Yet, there may be other concerns hidden just below the surface. And that's what this blog entry will explore. The Teabagger movement may be a shill, smoke and mirrors, for something other than just interjecting fiscal responsibility into government.

Here's my thinking. If the Republicans can't find a way to co-opt the movement, the Teabaggers are poised to weaken the Republican party.

The Teabaggers are more a regressive movement than a conservative movement.

Their movement, as bogus as it is, stands to siphon off millions of voters, as it caters to this nation's biggest fear, in my estimation--whites becoming increasingly irrelevant as power brokers, and demographic bullies.

This could explain why some politicos are opposed to this year's census head count, and others are kissing up to the Teabaggers.

The Atlantic has published an excellent article examining this phenomenon. Under the title, "The End of White America?," the article probes the white resistance that might ensue from a shifting demographics that will see minorities in the majority, and the majority in the minority, encapsulated in this foreword:

"The Election of Barack Obama is just the most startling manifestation of a larger trend: the gradual erosion of “whiteness” as the touchstone of what it means to be American. If the end of white America is a cultural and demographic inevitability, what will the new mainstream look like—and how will white Americans fit into it? What will it mean to be white when whiteness is no longer the norm? And will a post-white America be less racially divided—or more so?"

Not all, obviously, feel threatened. Obama represents, not only the impending threat, but a coming to terms with this new American reality.

However, as the nation becomes more progressive in its outlook, less fearful of surrendering power to the minorities in its midst, and losing its European character, this reactionary trend will, in all likelihood, surface more and more, and voices will become more strident in declaring their disapproval.

Vanity Fair might be feeling the need to push back using it's March issue:

"Magazines have a tough time getting race right, but usually they manage to do a better job than Vanity Fair did in its March issue. The magazine, which is owned by glossy publishing house Conde Nast, recently delivered its annual Hollywood issue -- to howls of protest from around the blogosphere and the analog world.

"The problem: Of the nine supposedly up-and-coming starlets featured on the fold-out cover, not one is African-American, Asian or Hispanic. The average skin tone on display is as white as the new-fallen snow."

Is this more about some Americans resisting a losing of the America that gave them comfort, and power, including white privilege, and the economic advantage that goes along with that, than a government run by Democrats?

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The movement may be muddled about its intent, but what does stand out is its anti-Washington fervor, and a return to the Constitution as a guide for moving forward. Lost in the discussion is the role of the Supreme Court in interpreting the intent and purpose of our most revered document.

Yet, when two of their main speakers are Sarah Palin, and Tom Tancredo, you can't help but become increasingly suspicious of the Tea Party Movement's true motives. Inviting these two, they may have let the cat out the bag on their eventual direction.

"Tancredo, as well as the organizers at their news conference [Tea Party Convention], trashed former presidential nominee John McCain -- as did many Tea Partiers here. Tancredo, a hardliner on immigration, vowed to do whatever he could -- if he could do anything -- for J.D. Hayworth, McCain’s conservative primary opponent this year. Skoda said a McCain win would have been “a disaster” for the country."

Here's what I posted, somewhat indelicately, on another blog:

What they [Teabaggers] should be decrying is this nation's corpocracy, corporations that have this nation by the balls, and are squeezing hard, and will squeeze harder now that the Supremes have given them a much needed vise with which to make us all cry uncle, and not just Uncle Sam.

Uncle Sam won't be able to help us. At least not right away, if at all, and perhaps only in a limited way. A nice rant, but it misses the mark, just as the Teabaggers are missing the mark, and, from all indications, missing on purpose.

It's the Democratic agenda which Teabaggers fear (or claim they fear) and not corporate hegemony. What I believe have them in a partial dither is this: The Democrats are focused, for a change, on improving the living conditions of the middleclass and the underclass, regardless of race. And I believe that that rankles their rank and file. What they should have learned over the years is this:

Racial tolerance doesn't weaken us, it makes us stronger, regardless of who's in the majority. Multiculturalism won't dilute democracy, or automatically pit one group against the other, if we remember that we're all one--of the same race, the same human family, but with some differences. Those differences--which certainly may be used to divide us--should not be suppressed, but embraced, and celebrated. And they shouldn't be used to ascribe to some an inferior standing and to others a superior one.

As technology brings us closer, we learn that neighbors and neighborhoods take on a whole new meaning, that teacher and student can be miles apart, and that we can talk at length with people clear on the other side of the world with the same ease with which we may have an across-the-fence conversation with our next-door neighbor.

Some will, undoubtedly, seek to use this advancing technology to sow seeds of distrust, and division, but it will all be in vain. It's hard to hate those whose humanity reaches out to you with the same familiarity we encounter when we interact with neighbors, friends, and family.