“Hate Speech” Must Be Put To Death In America

I have experienced the physical and emotional pain of “hate speech” personally.  I have seen its impact on those around me and those far away. Having  spent much of my childhood and early teenage years in Asheville, North Carolina, I both observed and experienced the viciousness of racism and anti-Semitism. I know, first hand,  that words of hate do not just disappear into the ether, but are contagious and spread like any sickening virus.  As you, I  have read of the horror caused for centuries by hateful words and the actions they promoted.  It is therefore particularly troubling when a man, who has spent much of his life filled with this irrational hatred and anger kills three people at two Jewish facilities in Kansas City.  By performing these cold-blooded murders he somehow felt that he was accomplishing some honorable goal.  Can the human mind become much more twisted than that?  The sad irony, of course, is that none of his victims was Jewish.  How disappointed he must be.

Yet this is only the most recent example of how words of hatred, most often based on stereotypes and misinformation, cause pain and suffering in our society and around the world. Certainly, anyone who thinks that this is a new phenomenon in America knows nothing of our history.  The anti-gay rhetoric, the anti-muslim  rhetoric, the anti-immigrant rhetoric, the anti-Semitic rhetoric, the anti-African American rhetoric are just some examples of the “hate speech” that surrounds us.  Most national groups that immigrated to the United States in significant numbers can point to incidents of discrimination and sometimes violence directed at them.  It seems that the water never boiled quite hot enough to allow for a smooth and trouble-free “melting pot effect” to occur.   Yet most of those groups did eventually meld into American society.  In fact, in many instances their national identity became a source of pride rather than discrimination.  For example, St. Patrick’s Day has taken on the ardor of a near national holiday.

symbol

It is a fact, however, that our speech has become more polarized in recent years.  We see all kinds of groups pitted against each other.  This is particularly true in the political arena in which we hear about the rich v. poor, straight v. gay, Americans v. immigrants, right v. left, state v. federal govt., gun owners v. gun control supporters, white v. black, Christian v. Jew, Muslim v. American, and on and on.  There is certainly nothing wrong with healthy debate and differences of opinion.  After all, that is exactly what democracy is based on.  However, there is something wrong when the word compromise has lost its place in that debate.  There is something wrong when all disagreements require a zero sum result.  This is when we begin to find it difficult to accept those with whom we disagree as equal.  This is when we begin to describe them with hateful and potentially dangerous adjectives.  This is when political opportunists become demagogues and rhetoric turns into “hate speech”.

Any of you who have been reading my blog posts for any time at all are aware that I have strong opinions and do not hesitate to state them.  Most often those opinions are strongest when I feel that a group or an individual is attempting to infringe on the rights of others simply because of who they are.  That includes women who are seeking equal pay or health care and immigrants who are seeking an opportunity for themselves and most importantly for their children.  It includes students who have a right to a quality education and all Americans who have a right to vote.  I hate, “hate” because I know the pain of hate.  We, as Americans must treat hate with complete disdain along those who seek to promulgate it.  Honest differences of opinion must be respected and  allowed to flourish in our democracy.  Hatred must be put to death.

 

 

The Truth About The Midterm Election

As we enter the 2014 Primary Season it is important to review the facts before we are confronted with fiction.  There is no doubt that the two parties will do everything possible to convince us of the truth of their words and the nobility of their actions.  They will spend unprecedented money to design ads and write speeches carefully crafted to create the illusion of truth and undeniable fact.  Both parties are very skilled at the utilization of the media to make their points and try to sway you, the voter, into believing that their truth, is the true truth and the other truth, promulgated by the other party, is the false truth.  It is therefore necessary, as voters, that we arm ourselves with facts that we ourselves can validate as truths.  We have an obligation to ourselves and each other to be informed voters.

GOP:Democrats

While I will not go into great depth within the short space of this blog post, I feel it is important to point to specific areas that will fall into contention between the two parties.  The first among these is the “War on Women”.  The GOP has gone to great lengths to denigrate this as false, while the Democrats have validated it, embraced it and made it their own.  Three areas in which the GOP and the Democrats are on opposing sides come to mind.  There has been a wholesale closing of clinics that offer women specific services including cancer screening and abortions, while GOP-controlled  states throughout the country continue to enact laws limiting access to these services.  Additionally, the GOP-controlled House has prevented the passage of the “equal pay for equal work” legislation that has been awaiting action for years.  Finally, the GOP has been ardently opposed to an increase in the minimum wage, an issue that disproportionately impacts on women.  It seems that the Republicans, both on a statewide level and a national level, have taken positions that are clearly detrimental to the interests of women.  Which party has the truth on their side on these issues?

While the GOP touts its support of the US Constitution when it serves their purposes, they clearly forget what is says when it does not help their position.  The efforts in states throughout the country to limit voting by creating barriers through time limitation  and arduous registration requirements is unconscionable.  They state that it is to prevent voter fraud, but, in fact, this excuse is fraudulent. Democrats have continued to fight the GOP efforts at every turn.   Happily, many of these restrictions have been cast aside recently by the courts, yet the GOP effort has not diminished.  The transparency of this effort, to make it more difficult for minority, poor and elderly voters to get to the polls,  is a clear indication of their disdain for the average voter, and their fear of allowing people to vote their beliefs and preference.  This was a battle I thought we had won decades ago with the passage of the Voting Rights Act, but sadly I am wrong.  Which party has the truth on their side on this issue?

The Affordable Care Act was implemented, and despite all of the efforts of the GOP, and a disastrous rollout, the goal of 7 million sign ups was met and exceeded.  The GOP controlled House has tried to repeal or diminish it over 50 times, while GOP controlled states have done everything possible to sabotage its impact locally.  Yet it is working and has already changed lives and has served in an important way to improve the health of our country.  Though the Republicans will  continue to denounce it and denigrate it as a failure and hurtful to our economy and damaging to business, the Democrats will continue to support it and take pride in this monumental achievement.  While the GOP will continue to hold up examples of people who have lost coverage or can no longer go their doctor, the Democrats will focus on success stories.    the GOP  will not acknowledge the healthcare crisis before the ACA was passed, and is yet to come up with an alternative. The continued efforts of the GOP to damage and repeal the Affordable Care Act would be laughable if they weren’t so potentially hurtful.  Which party has the truth on their side on this issue?

The GOP continues to complain about the deficit and the unemployment rate.  Yet the facts are in conflict with their complaints.  The rapid growth of the deficit, out of control under President Bush, is being reversed under President Obama, as the jobs lost as result of the disastrous Bush economic policies have all been regained.  Now, Democrats acknowledge  that there is still a necessity to more effectively control the deficit, and the quality and nature of the jobs regained is not the same as those that were lost.  they have proposed budgets that will accomplish just that.  Yet  the GOP has presented and approved budgets that are incredibly unfair to the middle class and those in need, while protecting the interests of the wealthy and blocking any Democratic effort to make changes.  It is time for the GOP to understand that if they want to be the  party of the wealthy they must be honest about it.  It is hard for me to believe that many who consider themselves part of the Republican base, are the very people being most drastically impacted by GOP policies including their refusal to approve an extention of unemployment benefits.     How can the GOP continue to attempt to cut benefits to the poor, while expecting their support in elections?  Or is it that they don’t really expect them to vote?  Either way, the GOP economic dogma is heavily weighted towards the wealthy, and that must be clearly stated.  Which party represents you on these issues?

On issues such as gun control and immigration the GOP has worked diligently to prevent action.  While they speak about broadening their tent, they, in fact, are shrinking it by not advocating for the very issues that many in America care deeply about.  Democrats have been trying to make progress on these issues for years, only to be blocked by GOP nay sayers.  The Republican party has extraordinarily narrow interests  and is heavily funded by those who expect their interests to be guarded and protected.  While these supporters and their GOP representatives will be the first to call themselves patriots, they are,in fact, selfish oligarchs.  Which party represents your interests?

I have touched on only a few of what I consider the more important issues in this blog post.  The reality confronting America is that the upcoming election is vitally important.   The results will help to determine the direction of our country now, and for future generations.    I keep hearing that voter turn out at midterms is light.  History supports that fact.  However, the Democrats need to make a Herculean effort to get the vote out and make sure that we keep control of the Senate and reduce the GOP control of the House.  That is the truth for America.

Is America Still A Nation?

One of the important goals of public education is to inculcate us with the values, myths and visions of our country.  After all, a nation is composed of a group of people with a common set of values, goals, history and visions living within a defined territorial boundary and presided over by a government or leader. If the nation is to continue to exist from one generation to the next, the young must be taught what to believe.  In America, as in other countries, public education has been determined the best way to achieve this.  While there are many who attend private schools, the curricula required in those schools is dictated by the state.  All students, whether in public or private schools, are taught the basics that lead them to becoming  loyal and proud Americans.    It is this belief system that is the very fabric of America. The divergent opinions within that belief system creates the texture of our uniquely American fabric.

While those diverse views have sometimes stretched the fabric to its limits, it has torn it only once, resulting in the Civil War.  Since the end of that war we have seen many changes in America and the world around us.  The events of the latter half of the 20th century thrust America into world leadership both militarily and economically.  As we assumed those roles we changed internally as well.  Economic leadership required a larger and more educated workforce.  We  became a more urban society as many moved off of the farm and into the cities. But most importantly, the expansion and availability of information first on TV and later on the internet began to make us more aware of ourselves as a nation.  It served almost as a mirror, and many didn’t like the reflection.  It created the birth of a social awareness that had up to this point been marginalized in our culture.  The Civil Rights Movement,  the Anti-War Movement, the Women’s Lib Movement, the Gay rights Movement became forces in American culture.  Of course, for every “movement” there was a “countermovement”.  The fabric was being stretched and the texture, while once exhilarating and exciting in its diversity, was now becoming belligerent and threatening.

As we view the first years of this century the picture has changed little.  There are a multitude of issues on which there is great disagreement.  There is enormous stress on the fabric that we call America.  We look at Congress and say that it is dysfunctional.  It can’t seem to come to agreement on anything.  However, as we cast aspersions at Congress are we casting a blind eye at the real problem?  The famous quote ” I have seen the enemy and it is us”, couldn’t be more appropriate.  Is  Congress’s dysfunction simply a reflection of America’s dysfunction?  Are our Congressman and Senators not reflecting the opinions of the majority of those whom they represent?     Poll after poll shows that America is split almost down the middle on the very issues that are reflective of our basic values and beliefs.  Everything from the role of religion in society to equal rights for minorities and gays and the role of government in protecting those in need, as well as interpretations of constitutional rights, are at issue.   These disagreements are important because they reflect a fundamental dispute over the values that comprise the fabric of our nation.

tattered flag

Now we come to the difficult question.  Does America still fulfill the definition of nationhood?  What is it that makes us a nation?  If we have such vast differences of opinion on the basic values on which our governance is based, what ties us together?  The only time in recent years that I felt that we truly stood together as a nation was when we were attacked on 9/11.  Is that what we are, a military and economic entity?  Aren’t we supposed to have a common vision, a national dream?  Have the differences become so embedded and hardened that we can never reconcile and compromise?  I believe these are the important questions of our time.  I believe that if our children and grandchildren are to have the benefits that America is capable of bestowing on its citizens and the world, these questions need to be answered.  Who are we and what do we believe?

 

 

 

 

The Melting Pot Looks More Like A Stew Than A Broth

When I was a kid we learned that America was a melting pot.  We were told that people from all around the world dreamed of coming to America because success was based on how hard you worked, not where you came from.  The dream of every immigrant coming to America was that their children would become “real Americans” and live that American dream.  While we all came from different countries and had different histories and traditions, the goal was to sort of homogenize this into the ideal which was to be an American.  For most, the path to this goal was through education.  Learning English and dressing like an American was important.  Efforts were made to lose accents and learn American slang.    While you could be where you came from in the home, you strived to be an American on the street.

TheMeltingpot1

Perhaps the greatest indicator that the melting pot was, in fact, working, was the growth of suburbs after World War II along with the huge number of GI’s who went to college on the GI Bill.  America, its  lifestyle, wealth and freedoms were the envy the world over, as we, as Americans, were proud and felt that we could achieve anything.  The latter half of the 1940s and the 1950s were a special time  and, on the surface, a time of tranquility.  The election of John F. Kennedy in 1960 seemed to symbolize the youthful vitality of a nation that could strive to new heights.  That is certainly how we felt when Kennedy announced the goal of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth by the end of the decade.

However, much of the illusion that had been the cement holding this country together died along with Kennedy when he was assassinated.  The contents of the melting pot began to appear more as a stew than a broth.  While throughout the first half of the 20th century every Americans sought to be as American as apple pie, during the latter half of that century we began to see new labels appear.  Individuals began to identify themselves as African-Americans,  Mexican-Americans, and Irish- Americans.  We began to see the growth of the Women’s Movement and the birth of Gay Pride.  The generational split over the Viet Nam War further exacerbated a sense of fracture within our nation.  The Civil Rights Movement imposed itself on this landscape and began to tear at the very fabric of American life.  While many welcomed the changes represented by the clash of generations, values and dreams, there were many who longed for the days of Ozzie and Harriet and the  melting pot mythology that bound Americans to each other.

Most dangerously however, there were those who sought to exploit these changes for their own political benefit.  The first effort that comes  to mind was Nixon’s Southern Strategy that turned states that had been Democratic for years into Republican supporters.   The goal here was to emphasize the crumbling of yesterday’s America and create fear in the losses yet to come while promising to prevent additional erosion.  He further tried to create a fear, hatred and distrust of those who would dare to question those values.  The Republican past and Nixon’s Southern Strategy was only a precursor of the Republican present.

Imagine that in the 40′s, 50′s and 60′s a fully accepted slogan was “What is good for General Motors is good for the USA”.that long for the America of yesterday where everyone knew their place and the rich got richer and the poor were fed scraps by corporate America continue to support these Republicans.  While I imagine there are many in the Republican party that see no problem with this, we do understand what it says about the climate in America at that time.  While the Republican party talks a good game about wanting to enlarge its “tent”, they, in fact, really want to maintain their base of 50′s and 60′s throw-backs.  The GOP yearns for the simple days of yesteryear when people believed in the authority of government, the rightness of corporate power and accepted their station in life.  The GOP believes that all who really want to succeed can do so with hard work.  They consider any government role in preventing those in need from complete disaster to be unnecessary because if they really wanted to be better off , all they need to do is work harder.  The long-term unemployed simply aren’t trying to find jobs, that’s why we shouldn’t encourage them by
extending their benefits. They believe immigrants are taking jobs and benefits away from real Americans.  Therefore, we can’t provide a comprehensive Immigration Bill.  We can’t raise the minimum wage, they believe, because it will hurt corporate America.

The mythology of the melting pot worked as long as everyone knew their place and didn’t push to upset the order of things.  While the GOP yearns for a return of those days, we must make sure they don’t have the opportunity by taking over control of the Senate and maintaining control of the House in 2014.

 

 

The Malaysian Plane Is Missing And It’s Obama’s Fault

WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM FOR BREAKING NEWS

“We are standing in the Capital Rotunda where word has just come to us that the House has voted to condemn the actions of President Obama for his administration’s inaction regarding the missing Malaysian airliner.  For background on this breaking story we bring you back to our studios at FIX News.”

“Thank you Jim.    We are here in studio with Dr. Bob Ballanger, a noted expert in the area of Alien Communications.  Please tell us what we know so far regarding the fate of the Malaysian airliner and what we have heard from the aliens.”

“As we know thus far, the aliens have acknowledged rendering the Malaysian plane powerless while in flight and then whisking it into its ship.   We know this because they sent us a message describing their actions through telepathic waves that were received only by me though the antenna here at FIX News.”

“Dr. Ballanger how is it that only you here at FIX News is able to receive these messages and have there been any additional communication since the first?’

“We don’t know why they selected me at FIX News as their conduit.  We assume because they felt they would get a fair and balanced reaction and response.  We hope for additional communication at any time now”

“Thank you Dr. Ballanger, and now back to the Capital Rotunda where Jim is trying to talk to some of the House members to have them explain why they took such dramatic action.”

“Thanks Bob, I am standing here with Tea Party member Bill Bartly from Alabama.  Thanks for taking a moment to talk with me Representative Bartly.  Tell me, why did the House find it so important to take this dramatic action against President Obama?”

“Thanks for having me Jim.  We believe fervently that had the President been willing to reach out to these aliens we would not be facing this crisis.  This is just another example of Obama focusing on his liberal agenda and ignoring national security”.

“We at FIX News understand your frustration.  We are honored that the aliens have chosen our antenna as the only conduit for their communication.  What is it that you would say to the aliens now if you could communicate with them?”

“My colleagues and I feel at this point we have to be tough and demand the release of the airliner.  Yet the President has yet to acknowledge this communication and act on it.  He is taking precious time to verify its existence rather than act. We have always believed in the credo, ‘act , then verify’. He is weak and pathetic.”

“What would you use as leverage to back up your demands for the immediate release of the plane?”

“We need to threaten to arm their enemies and support them in the coming intergalactic battle”.

“What intergalactic battle?”

“The one that is sure to come because of the impotent and ineffective intergalactic policies of this administration”.

“Thank you for taking the time to speak with us Representative Bartly”.

“There you have it.  We here at FIX News have the communication as heard exclusively by our expert Dr. Ballenger.  This is another example of how our national security has been threatened by a weak and indecisive President”‘.

“We now bring you back to our normal programming with continued coverage of this breaking story”.

Is The 2014 Midterm Election A Match Made In Hell?

Remember that kid who always found something to complain about.  You know, the one who never liked your idea, but never seemed to have an idea of his own.  He would grudgingly go along with the crowd and look for the first opportunity to say “I told you so”.  When challenged he would never identify specifics, but would generalize about all of the things that were wrong.  He just constantly gave off this negative vibe, but couldn’t understand why people didn’t want to be around him.  You see, he thought that he was being analytical, perceptive and constructive.  And most of all, he thought he understood reality better than anyone else and that he was the smartest kid in the room.  It was therefore his duty to lead the misguided and ill-informed and to protect them from themselves.  Welcome to the GOP.

There seems to be nothing that President Obama or the Democrats can do that doesn’t receive criticism from the Republicans.  It is amazing that they can find something to complain about regardless of the issue.  What is most troubling is the arrogant and supercilious tenor of their comments.  They don’t just criticize, they condescend.  It is as if they are saying, ” how can these ignorant and misguided souls be so stupid?”  After all, the fact that 96% of scientists the world-over agree that climate change is real shouldn’t be the basis for proactive legislation.  You see, the anti-science folks know better.  The fact that we, among the industrialized world, have, by far,  the highest number of gun deaths and the most liberal gun control laws doesn’t lead these folks to question the appropriateness of our laws.  You see, the experts at the NRA know better.  The inherent contradiction of demanding that government stay away from business and financial regulation and gun control, while demanding that government control the availability of abortions and birth control and marriage equality does not present a problem for this “know it all”group.  This is the same group that sings the praises of America as a place where hard work will provide all an opportunity to be successful, and then does everything possible to block that success by refusing to raise the minimum wage and extend unemployment benefits.  They do this as they cut funding for the Food Stamp program claiming that it just encourages government dependency and laziness.  As this President has worked hard to undo the incredible damage done by his Republican predecessor in the area of international relations this group has criticized every move.  They scream about our loss in Benghazi, while never questioning the thousands killed and wounded in our needless war in Iraq.  They seem ready to place our soldiers in harm’s way, yet those who yell the loudest have never been willing to place themselves in harm’s way.  This is the group that has pledged itself to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and has tried 50 times, yet has never come up with an alternative.  They are more concerned about the health of the insurance industry than the health of their constituents.  This is a group that sings the praises of democracy and seeks to export it the world-over, yet works hard to restrict voting rights throughout our county.

Paul pauses during a network news interview on Capitol Hill in Washington

Obviously, I find this group to be dishonest, disingenuous and self-serving.  I marvel at their self-imposed delusion.  But I marvel even more at the prospect of their electoral success in the 2014 midterm elections.  It is a wonder to me that our electorate is so ill-informed and willing to buy the incredibly flawed arguments of the GOP.  The fact that the GOP is willing to run on these issues and arguments tells us much about their view of the electorate.  Is our electorate as oblivious and ignorant as the GOP thinks?  If so, it is a match made in hell and bodes ill for our future.

The Democrats must energize to reverse what may be a disaster for our nation.  We must do all that we can to assure that the Senate holds its Democratic majority, and that the House does not lose any more Democratic seats.  The legislative paralysis that we have experienced over the past several years is far better than the regressive policies we will see enacted into law if the GOP hold a majority in both houses.

The McCain Ego

Isn’t it time that we got out of the sandbox and off of the playground?  When are our senators and congressmen going to grow up?  We, those they represent, are expected to confront life’s challenges in mature and responsible ways in order to survive.  They play word and procedural games with the issues vital to our economic and physical well-being.  We work hard to do the best we can for the sake of our families.  They work to, first and foremost, maintain their positions of privilege and power.  We realize that there are many issues that we are not knowledgable about and appropriately defer to those with expertise. However, it seems that there is a sense within congress that all valid and important information resides solely within its hallowed walls.

Angry McCain

This is particularly true every time this nation is confronted by an international challenge.  Whether it be the Middle East, Europe, Asia or any other part of the world, there are those in the Senate and Congress who perceive themselves as experts and can’t wait to provide their “all important” opinion.  However, in fact, there are real experts in Washington.  They have spent their lives studying, visiting and observing particular countries or regions.  They are not only knowledgable about the obvious, but also the more subtle nuances.  They understand the intricacies of “intra” and “inter” relationships.  They are aware of economic and security issues.  They have studied the culture, the language and the history.  They are keenly aware of how any particular statement or action by the United States will be perceived and responded to.  They are paid for their expertise as employees of the State Department, the Defense Department and the CIA.  Why, then, does some senator or congressman feel that what they have to say is so important?

The idea that “politics ends at the water’s edge” was a rule respected by both parties for decades.  The understanding that the United States is strongest when it displays a unified front to all international challenges has been a “rule of thumb”.  All parents understand that if the kids see even the hint of a difference of opinion on an issue they will exploit it.  This is no different.  That isn’t to say that we must all march in “lock step” and abide by the decisions made by those in authority.  Certainly that wasn’t the case during the Vietnam War or more recently during the war in Iraq.  Yet publicly pushing a policy in one direction or another before the President has even had an opportunity to develop his own strategy simply comes off as being a “knee-jerk” reaction.  This is especially so when that push is always in the same direction by the same people regardless of the particulars of the situation.  In this case I am talking about McCain, Graham, Rubio and Cruz.   They, the non-experts, lacking knowledge and specifics, all too quickly condemn the President for weakness and inaction.  By doing this they perpetuate a self-serving narrative of a President who is indecisive and lacks the resolve to protect America.  The inherent dangers in this action are obvious as the selfishness.

It is time for America to elect a Congress that is prepared to first and foremost serve the interests of the people.  We now have a Congress that is in perpetual campaign mode and is interested only in winning  the next election.  The Legislative Branch of the government has an important role to play.  While it is there to “check and balance” the actions of the Executive Branch, it is not there to paralyze it.  The President, first and foremost is responsible to the security of our borders and the safety of all Americans.  Compared to President Bush, President Obama has done a superb job in this area.  Can’t the GOP stop campaigning long enough to celebrate our victories and enjoy our national security?  It is time for McCain, Graham, Rubio and Cruz to give it a rest and support the President as he does his job.