Point of View Columns

Hate Begets Hate

Despite the lofty ideals set forth in founding documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, the United States has always harbored hate as a very real part of its cultural DNA. So it should really not be a surprise that a particularly odious perversion of religious freedom has resulted in legislation in the state of Indiana that will make it legal to hate.

While there will always be those who argue that America is exceptional in every way, in one very way, the reality is that the United States is just like every other country in the world. Humans act out hatred of other humans for reasons ranging from race to gender to nationality to religion. And even a cursory overview of American history reveals organized and institutional hatred directed against Americans of African origin through slavery and beyond, Native Americans through genocide, Jews, Irish immigrants, Italian immigrants, women who wanted to vote or the right to choose control over their bodies, Chinese immigrants, Japanese Americans through concentration camps and gay men and women through continuing bigotry, discrimination and prejudice.

It would be nice to think that America has evolved to the point where hatred is no longer celebrated, much less legislated. But that thinking would not be fact based. Too many Americans hate President Obama because he is an American of African origin. Too many Americans, descendants of immigrants themselves, hate 21st century immigrants because they are not white. Too many Americans hate men and women simply because their gender preference does not conform to their own stated or presumed preference.

This hatred is sometimes celebrated with homophobic slurs or asinine racist songs on college campuses. This hatred is sometimes celebrated in dog whistle political rhetoric. But make no mistake, this hatred is indeed celebrated.

And now the state of Indiana joins twenty other states in legislating hate under the guise of protecting religious freedom. The Indiana “Restoration of Religious Freedom Act” is a politically inspired fig leaf covering the naked loins of homophobia and racism. The Act claims to protect “people of faith” (as distinguished from “people of no faith”?) from laws which prevent them from staying true to their religious principles.

Cutting through the verbiage and rhetorical prestidigitation, the Act will allow individuals and businesses to discriminate against individuals if their sexual preference, race or general appearance somehow offends their religious principles. What this Act does is continue to roll back the liberation of Americans that was brought about by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 along with the 14th Amendment of 1868. This brazen effort to deny Americans of their constitutional rights with the ruse of protecting constitutional rights is transparent and obvious.

What is troubling is that the outrage directed at Indiana, with Arkansas on deck, does not seem to focus on the fact that twenty other states have already passed similar legislation. What is troubling is the fact that almost half the states in this nation have already moved to restore the freedom to hate, not only celebrating hate but also legislating the free expression of hate.

It is ironic that the United States, the first nation on earth to codify principles of personal freedom, is becoming the first nation on earth to voluntarily withdraw those freedoms.

It has been said……the end will come with not with a bang…but with one last whimper.

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Point of View Columns

Free Range Congress – On the Loose

Ever since the results of the 2014 midterm elections were finalized, it has been clear that this country would be witness to a different kind of Congress – a Congress that would be unique for all the wrong reasons. Clearly closing down the government, the random blocking presidential appointments and threatening the international credit rating of the United States was just a warmup. The Free Range Congress is now on the loose.

After the 2010 midterm elections, we witnessed the ascent of the Tea Party which, in record time assumed virtual control of the Republican Party in Congress creating the nightmare for most Americans now known as the Teapublican Party. The Teapublican Congress spent two years opposing anything and everything proposed by President Obama, reserving special vitriolic ammunition for anything and everything that might serve to credit the Obama Administration.

It must be understood that the Teapublican Congress was motivated by a single ideological goal – to ensure that President Obama served only one term. It was an ideological goal that sacrificed common sense and logic. It was an ideological goal that provided the justification for causing the United States to default on its national debt. It also justified the shutting down of the federal government.

President Obama’s victory over the newly-minted Teapublican Mitt Romney by six percentage points seemed to stem the Teapublican tide, and clearly hell hath no fury like an unsatisfied zealot. Armed with a new goal, seemingly the eradication of the Obama Administration from history, the Teapublican Congress voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) over fifty times. This feat was accomplished while the infrastructure of the United States continues to crumble in real time and while American children lag behind most of the developed world in terms of educational achievement.

But the 2014 midterm elections brought forth a new phenomenon to Washington – the Free Range Congress. This country is now governed by Congress with a Teapublican majority in both houses and by failing or refusing to read the Constitution, the Free Range Congress seems to operate under the assumption that it now controls the United States.

The sketchy and pathetic and transparently partisan ploy of inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to criticize President Obama in Congress was just an opening ploy on the part of the Free Range Congress. That boorish act was followed by the mindless and constitutionally dubious letter to Iran signed by 47 senators obviously in the thrall of the Teapublican catechism.

The Free Range Congress is now warmed up and has presented a budget that will repeal the Affordable Care Act (of course), damning over 12 million Americans to the living purgatory of not having health insurance. The Free Range budget also guts Medicare and Medicaid (naturally) and provides tax breaks and windfalls for millionaires and billionaires (could it be any other way?). The Free Range Congress may prove to be a greater danger to this country than its Teapublican terrorist predecessor.

The Teapublican terrorists sought to hold this country hostage. The Free Range Congress does not seem to care that ignoring the infrastructure, despoiling the environment and extinguishing the hopes of millions of Americans is a recipe for a disaster that does not have to happen.

Most Americans would be shocked and appalled by the actual details of the budget put forward by the Free Range Congress. But then, most Americans do not bother with the details of anything.

Let us hope that this time it will be different.

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Point of View Columns

The Negro Problem – Whites Behaving Badly

It is a surprise when commentators, white and black, express shock, dismay and surprise at the vile ditties sung by the white and privileged SAE frat boys on the bus at the University of Oklahoma. And then the collective American media are shocked that the Miami police department used images of black men for target practice. And then we hear more howls from the shock echo chamber when the Majority Whip of the United States House of Representatives admits to having addressed a meeting of Ku Klux Klan members.

When discussions regarding race relations in America begin, there is a tendency of some commentators to suggest that “all sides” of this contentious issue be taken into consideration. Once again, this quote provides a useful guide:

“There is no negro problem. The problem is whether the American people have loyalty enough, honor enough, patriotism enough, to live up to their own constitution.” – Frederick Douglass

The point, of course, is that any consideration of the various factors affecting the relationship(s) between the national black community and the national white community must, of necessity, begin with the recognition that from its literal inception, this nation embraced the theology of racism and the legalization of racist practices. This is not a matter of opinion. It is a matter of fact based on actual American history.

Over the centuries this theology has morphed into schools of thought and political philosophies that link the pathological effects of racism to “cultural” differences instead of anthropological differences. The legalization of racist practices have evolved from outright slavery, to Jim Crow practices, and now to the employment of the law enforcement and correctional systems to continue to subjugate and marginalize huge segments of the national black community.

But the reality is that America is addicted to racism. The reality is that as a nation America is a raceaholic. And like the drug addict or the alcoholic, this country cannot begin to walk down the road of recovery until it stops its denial and accepts the problem that is literally part of its DNA.

It does no good to treat racist remarks by public figures as “misstatements”. It does no good to term the racially-based brutalization and murder of black Americans for centuries as “isolated incidents”. And it does no good to hide behind the fig leaf of “the inherent goodness of the American people”.

Because while all of humanity is inherently good, good people all over the world have stood silently through pogroms, massacres, holocausts and the ritual of the lynch mob. For centuries, good people in this country lived comfortably while black Americans were enslaved, raped, murdered and sold like cattle. For over a century good people in this country lived quite comfortably while black Americans sat in the back of the national bus.

And now, in the 21st century, good people are deaf, dumb and blind to the pathologies in the national black community, becoming conscious only to point out that the people who are damaged did it to themselves – ostensibly in some sort of cultural vacuum chamber that totally absolves the “good people” of blame or responsibility.

If anyone reading this column truly believes that the University of Oklahoma is the only university where the word “nigger” is spoken freely, then they are invited to visit any college or university in America. If anyone truly believes that Ferguson, Missouri is the only town in America where police officers racially mock President Obama and jail black Americans disproportionately, then they are invited to visit any town in America.

It is too bad that there isn’t a Betty Ford Clinic for nations. Perhaps this country could go, admit its addiction and begin a twelve step program that will heal this country and allow all the “good people” in this country to become truly good people.

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Point of View Columns

The Negro Problem and the Letter

Ever since Barack Obama was inaugurated as president, there has been a split screen perspective on his administration. On the one hand the livid, steel-boned opposition of the Teapublicans has been described as normal politics – perhaps a tad more strident, but nothing worse than what Lincoln or both Roosevelts or Clinton faced during their presidencies. But there is another perspective which is a reflex that reflects the vile virus of racism that still afflicts this country.

“There is no negro problem. The problem is whether the American people have loyalty enough, honor enough, patriotism enough, to live up to their own constitution.” – Frederick Douglass

The eloquence of Frederick Douglass in damning slavery and its racist foundation reverberated in real time and has echoed through the ages to this very day. His challenge to the American people to “live up to their own constitution” could have been spoken this week.

One of the interesting aspects of the United States Constitution is that even though it was written over 200 years ago, it continues as the governance document for this country because of its initial clarity and its continued capacity for adapting to modern times. On the issue of the role of the President and Congress with respect to foreign policy, Article II of the Constitution states:

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur

This week that 47 members of the United States simply defied the Constitution that they are sworn to uphold by sending a letter to the leadership of Iran that was clearly intended to interfere and subvert the Obama Administration’s negotiations with Iran regarding limiting its nuclear energy usages. Even the most serious student of American history would be hard pressed to locate a similar instance of absolute insult and disrespect by Congress for any President of the United States.

It is reasonable to ask whether these 47 senators and their supporters are so firm in their fear of Iran or so steadfast in their unequivocal and unquestioning support of Israel that they felt it necessary to shatter the centuries old divide between the Presidency and Congress on matters of foreign policy. Was there some imminent danger to which the Obama Administration had turned a blind eye which warranted this shameless conduct?

The answer to all three questions is simply “no”. So why would these senators take such an outrageous action that embarrassed the entire nation in the eyes of the world. Could it be the “negro problem” to which Frederick Douglass referred?

Could it be that the fact that President Obama is black suddenly changes the Constitution, rules of decorum and traditions of probity and respect? How the unprecedented pledge of the Republican opposition in January 2009 to ensure that President Obama would “fail” as president be explained? What other reason can there be for no sanctions being imposed on South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson when he called President Obama a liar during his State of the Union speech to Congress?

Could there be any other explanation other than the “negro problem” for Congress shutting down the federal government and precipitating the lowering of the nation’s credit rating by doing the default death dance with the national budget. And for what other reason would Congress unilaterally invite a foreign head of state to speak for the sole purpose of criticizing the policies of a sitting president?

It would be a waste of time to search for other explanations. The “negro problem” has unhinged the Obama Administration’s opponents to the point that they cannot even feign respect. The “negro problem” has stripped the Teapublicans of their ability to respect the Constitution and it is proper to wonder if this “negro problem” has impaired their ability to think clearly, if at all.

When will the Teapublicans have “loyalty enough, honor enough, patriotism enough, to live up to their own Constitution”?

Inquiring minds need to know.

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Point of View Columns

March 19, 2003 – A Day of Infamy

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt termed it “A Day of Infamy”, as indeed it was. It also presaged the formal entrance of America into World War II and the eventual death of over 400,000 military personnel. Historians looking back on the 21st century may call March 19, 2003 “A Day of Infamy” as it was the day that the United States wrongfully invaded Iraq, presaging the deaths of millions and the destabilization of virtually the entire planet.

We know now that even before the dust of 9/11 settled, the Bush-Cheney administration was determined to invade Iraq. Even though there was no credible (or even plausible) evidence that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, it soon became a doctrine of American foreign and military policy that the regime of Saddam Hussein would be targeted and destroyed.

The straw man of Weapons of Mass Destruction has been debunked and degraded so that even the most gullible Teapublican zealots choose to avoid a serious discussion of this exercise in mendacity by the Bush-Cheney team. The right wing of the right wing in this country simply chooses to ignore the cascade of lies and the torrent of misinformation that led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003.

The American people, and the world, were told that this military action would bring democracy to Iraq and set the framework for regional peace throughout the Middle East. The Bush-Cheney team even bribed and cajoled members of a faux alliance into supporting this adventure to put a multinational fig leaf on its naked aggression.

The entire world now knows the consequences of this misadventure. By precipitously collapsing the most powerful military force in the Middle East, America destabilized a region that has been a ticking bomb for decades. By dismantling the Iraqi military structure every religious and political faction with a grievance in that country had the opportunity to arm, mobilize and terrorize its perceived opponents, enemies and competitors for power and domination.

The reason why this retrospective is important is due to the fact that revisionist historians and delusional politicians are creating the narrative that the rise of ISIS and the death spiral in Syria and the homicidal outrages in Libya and Egypt and Yemen and Somalia and Afghanistan are somehow related to the “weakness” and “lack of leadership” of the Obama Administration. We are already witnessing what appears to be the Quadrennial Teapublican Clown Dance, where presidential aspirants from this political cohort find multiple combinations of the words “leadership”, “American exceptionalism”, “power”, “strength” and “democracy” to characterize their foreign policy vision.

One quickly notices that words like “restraint”, “intelligence”, “vision” and “consequences” don’t make the cut when Teapublican speechwriters are at work. Other missing words are “casualties”, “collateral damage” and “unexpected consequences”.

What we know with certainty is the misguided and deceit-drenched policies of the Bush-Cheney regime in Iraq resulted in thousands of American deaths and economic damage to this country in excess of a trillion dollars. What we know with certainty is that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died unnecessarily and that the infrastructure and national identity of Iraq have been compromised, if not forever, than at least for a generation. What we do know if that without the March 19, 2003 invasion the malevolence of Al-Qaeda does not become a force in that region and the apocalyptic ISIS is never born and is not threatening the planet as it does now.

It is important to understand that as the Teapublican Clown Dance begins that we do not listen to a replay of the music and lyrics that were first released in March of 2003. We literally cannot afford a repeat of the consequences of the Bush-Cheney misdeeds that were not “mistakes”. These misdeeds were the result of a malevolent and deceitful world view that should be denounced and renounced by anyone who presumes to run for the presidency of the United States.

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