Category Archives: Politics

Woody Guthrie

A friend posted a link to a Woody Guthrie song on Facebook the other day.  He is a big music fan and appreciates a lot of the older musicians.  It was the anniversary of Guthrie’s birthday, July 14th.

I knew the song well, but I went to the link on You Tube to listen again and that’s when I noticed them.  The comments.

I look at a lot posts now days, not for the actual content, but for the comments.  It is sort of like taking the pulse of the public.  True, it is not a representative sample of the general public and one shouldn’t put too much emphasis or importance on these minority of remarks.  But it can be amusing at times.  Or enlightening.

Everything, and I mean everything, seems to be politically charged right now.  I saw a post about the FBI crime statistics and immediately people were trying to link crime with political party affiliation.  Heck, they should just look at the politicians themselves for that.  Plenty of criminals there.

But the average murder, I imagine, has more to do with passion, the heat of the moment, or a robbery or other crime, or something else much more mundane.  When I worked for the top court in my state, I had to review all of the state’s death penalty cases.  I can guarantee you not a single murder case I looked at had anything to do with politics.

But people see what they want to see.

I imagine the politicians are patting themselves on their backs.  They have successfully, maybe too successfully, divided the country into polar opposites and many people just can’t wait to add their commentary and witticisms to any thread on social media.  And I’ll give some credit, some of their remarks are actually smart and funny 😊

Insults have become popular, though, so there is a whole bunch of eye-poking and head-slapping going on out there.  I’ve generally quit trying to add rational thoughts to the mix as the responses are, well, just kind of out there in the ozone layer, what’s left of it.

Once, apparently not liking my ideas, a person fired back that they had my IP address and were going to come to my home, rape my mother and kill my whole family.  Another time, I was called a “Communist putz” because I had said something regarding the greed and materialism I see in the current culture.  The level of civil discourse sometimes deteriorates in cyber world.

I like the blogging world much better.  People are generally more positive here, more thoughtful in their presentations, and willing to have a real discussion.

At any rate, this song was no different from any other post.  It was politicized quickly.  It was a folk song about America, after all.  And forms of government became a point of contention.  Not surprising considering Woody Guthrie often had the words “This Machine Kills Fascists” written on his guitar.

It seems to me that the lines have been blurred between our form of government and our economic and maybe even our religious systems.  Democracy is not the same as capitalism.  Socialism is not the same as Communism.  People worshiping money or monetary systems are certainly not religious in any respect.

I did like one of the comments though because I thought it showed a level of balance so here it is:

“Considering human history and the teachings of the major world religions, it seems that your statement about greed being a natural human trait is largely true. It’s also been recognized as an evil impulse for thousands of years by virtually every strain of human thought. One way to view capitalism is the institutionalization of greed. It has benefits and drawbacks, and most world democracies have settled on a capitalist system with some governmental regulation as “the best of all possible worlds.” Those who advocate for unfettered socialism seem to be ignorant of or OK with losing all of capitalism’s early benefits: constant innovation; rewarding hard work, talent, intelligence, and risk; and a strong individual work ethic. Those who advocate for unfettered capitalism seem to be ignorant of or OK with the oligarchy that quickly overtakes it as the rich use their power to stifle innovation, fix markets, and disconnect the link between talent, hard work, and upward mobility. They seem to also be OK with the violent revolt of the disenfranchised that must surely follow.”     — Patrick Lollis

Any thoughts?

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The Woody Guthrie song link:  This Land is Your Land

Feature Photo: I found this photo on the Internet in the public domain.  It was linked back to an NPR site with an interview about Woody Guthrie.

BTW: I added the Politics section to my blog because sometimes I’ll have to write something that wanders into this pasture.  But you may have noticed that I don’t post too often in this section.  I am still working on the art of presenting controversial topics neutrally.  I like to keep discussions alive and love to hear what others have to say.  Being extreme in one’s presentation may be provocative, but the discussion will usually deteriorate and die quite quickly that way.  I’d rather have an open mind and listen to well articulated ideas 🙂

 

Freedom Begins With Speech

It was the end of March and the cherry trees were in full bloom around the Tidal Basin.  Across the water on the south bank sat the Jefferson Memorial.  A fitting memorial for one of our Founding Fathers and the principle author of our Declaration of Independence.

We were preparing to march . . .

While many can recite the most famous sentence in our Declaration, regarding self-evident truths, being created equal, and the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, I wonder how many have read this document through.  For you see, it continues with a petition of grievances against the British government.  It is a protest.

And years later, to solidify the right to protest in this newly formed independent country, the First Amendment was added to our Constitution.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The group I was assembling with was a group of nurses, some 25,000 to 35,000 strong.  Here in D.C. to protest unsafe hospital staffing conditions and use of unlicensed personnel in place of registered nurses.  We were protesting to support every patient’s right to receive the finest health care treatment available.

Yes, protest is a fundamental right in this country.  It is one of those many rights that generations of our military have fought to protect.  It is not a right to be lightly discarded.  It is not a right to be denigrated if any individual group’s cause is not your own.  It is not an inconvenience to be suffered should a traditional public forum, such as the sidewalk or roadway, becomes crowded with picketers waving signs.  It is a right that should be respected and honored.

We gathered at the west front of the Capitol.  The planned march to follow presentations would proceed down Pennsylvania Avenue and end at the White House.

Capitol Protestors 8

Particularly troubling to me is an all too familiar refrain when petitioners draw light upon an issue, that if you don’t like something, that if you believe something could be changed for the better, that if you see a different way, that you should simply get out.  Leave the entrenched and established protocols alone.  Leave accepted bigotry and hatred be.  Leave injustice unaddressed.  Leave the very democracy that supports the right to protest.  “Love it or leave it.”

This attitude, of course, if accepted in the late 1700s would have kept this country a slave to the British Crown.  There would be no Declaration of Independence, just sheep meandering the pastures, herded by an occupying army.

Now, I’m not saying all causes are good causes.  But the right to petition, the right to peaceful assembly, the right to freely speak your mind are rights that should be held in reverence.  These rights form the pillars of democracy.

And march we did, united in our cause against corporate profiteering off the ill and suffering.

The March to the White House

We, unfortunately, seem to be living in a time of growing intolerance.  Where even our leaders act in bigoted fashion.  Where those who speak out, or adopt silent protest, are vilified.  If you have a different point of view you are told to leave.

But the “love it or leave it” mentality demonstrates a lack of a fundamental understanding of US Government – which was formed by dissenters from authoritarian rule and built upon the liberal principle of humanism.  The Constitution built in safeguards for states from federal government, safeguards for both the majority and the minority views.  And it allows for freedom of expression and the power to vote.  Saying people should leave if they do not conform to your viewpoint is communistic, not American.

And I can’t tell you how exhilarating it is to speak out for a cause you believe in, and to know you live in a country where this right will be protected.  I would strongly recommend that everyone in this country take a stand on something they believe in, to become active participants in our government.

Four generations of my family have served in the US military protecting our rights, and I am proud when people exercise those rights and protest.  That is what makes this country great.

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Photos:  I took these during the Nurses’ March on Washington D.C. in 1995.

Post Script 1: In my late teens I also participated in a much smaller local protest regarding voting rights.  It seems the 18-year-olds we were drafting into our military were allowed to fight and die for this country in Vietnam, but they didn’t have the right to vote.  The voting age was 21 then.  Nation-wide protests were organized, and the country changed the law.  But even if the law had not changed, I would still have been proud to participate in this established system for redressing grievances.  Dissent and protest formed this country.  These are honorable traditions.

Post Script 2: The Constitution should be viewed as a contract between the government and its people.  The government cannot infringe upon the rights guaranteed in this document.  However, private employers, to the extent other laws do not apply, can infringe upon those rights.  Thus, we have the current controversy about the NFL requiring their players to stand for the national anthem and not engage in protest.  This action is legal because the NFL is a private club and not a government actor.  But I don’t believe this action should be condoned by any government official who is bound to follow the Constitution.  For a leader of this nation to express intolerance of the people exercising their fundamental rights as citizens, rights that our men and women in uniform have fought for and died to protect, borders on tyranny.  And as is expressed in our Declaration of Independence: “A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

Post Script 3: By the way, health care is still not recognized as a fundamental right in this country.  Sad.  In fact, the only law I am aware of that requires the administration of health care is the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA).  The law requires that a patient, upon presentation to an emergency room, be stabilized before they are transported to a different facility.  The law was designed to curtail the practice of “patient dumping.”  Ambulance services and hospitals were redirecting and dumping patients in state-run facilities once they found out they had no insurance.  This profit-based practice was endangering lives.

It’s Really About Outnumbering

Disclaimer: This piece is not intended as an attack on any religion.  What it tries to point out is how groups try to control and manipulate power.  I’m all for anyone who seeks spiritual awareness in any context.

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There has been a lot of controversy swirling about the new administration’s policies on immigration. And while the words “terrorism” and “extremism” have been thrown about as justifications for issuing unconstitutional, blanket bans on specific target groups, I do not believe this is the real reason behind such actions. And guess what, there has been no dramatic influx of radical terrorists without the unconstitutional ban.

It’s really all about “outnumbering.” Backtracking to an earlier time in this country, we can look at the history of abortion laws. How is this related? Well, it’s like this. Over a hundred years ago abortion was legal in this country and you didn’t need a doctor to perform it. Salons sprouted up offering these services. Two opposition groups developed. One was doctors, they were upset that they were not getting a piece of the pie. The protestants, the second group, were upset because white, middle and upper class, protestant woman were now getting frequent abortions. The original outlawing of abortion had to do with doctors wanting money, under the guise of controlling anything they would deem to be medical, and the fear the protestants had about being outnumbered by the Catholics. The Catholics weren’t as worried, abortion was strongly against their religious tenants and the obedient posed no threat, they were out there being fruitful and multiplying, even where the children could not be fed.

You see, religious leaders longed for the days when religion dominated government. In Republics, like ours, this was eliminated, but the easy solution was to outnumber other religions – control the populous. That way, the majority of elected officials would share your belief system and the laws would be shaped to reflect and enforce that singular religious set of values and morals over any other set. Americans, and their elected officials have, for a few centuries now, been dominated by white, European Christians. This has now changed because of immigration. And in another 30 to 50 years, for the first time in this country, white, European Christians will be in the minority. Not surprisingly, we see an increase in white, nationalist Christians wanting to solidify their powerbase, and the only way to maintain control for the long-term is to limit immigration. And what better way to package and sell this idea than FEAR. After-all, those in power don’t want to admit they are really opposed to other religious beliefs.

I don’t think the real fear is rooted in Islamic Extremism. I think the fear is that Muslims are growing in number world-wide, and growing in populous in the US. And those in control don’t approve of Muslim values and teachings – they are still fighting the battle of proving their God is the best and superior God – instead of actually acquiring any spiritual awareness. Terrorism provides a convenient excuse for other agendas, like “othering” an entire group of people on the basis of race, ethnicity, or religion to purposely discriminate and eliminate if possible. For example, terrorism has been an excuse used by the Russians to invade in the Ukraine and involve itself in Syria. And “fake news,” just like the label of “terrorism,” will now be used to discredit any source in opposition to any agenda being propagated by those in control. Almost all of the terrorism that has occurred in this country has been from home-grown terrorists – good white Christians. They all had their justifications.

People can choose not to act from the basis of fear and make intelligent and lawful choices, but will they? People are easily led by fear-mongering.  A couple of quotes come to mind:

“Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear–kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor-with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it …” — General Douglas MacArthur.

“Of course, the people don’t want war…that is understood. But voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” — Hermann Goering.

Next year, will there be too many Germans, Italians, or Chinese in this country? That’s why our forefathers designed the Constitution the way they did – to prevent all forms of discrimination and one of the primary means for preserving this country’s freedom has been to keep religion separated from politics.

Good luck playing the discrimination game, two generations from now this country will look a lot different than it does now. In another 500 years we may only have one race – what will the racists and bigots discriminate against then – oh yeah, there is still religion : – )

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Photo:  This photo was found on the Internet in the public domain.  I’ve been unable to find any other attribution for its source.

The Politics of Division

I don’t think anyone would deny that the country is very divided on a number of political issues.  The odd thing is this, I can talk to my liberal friends and my conservative friends, and this “gap” in general viewpoints is really pretty small on most matters.  So, what’s the deal?

For the past several election cycles, both major parties have hit hard on dividing people, usually on ideological social policy issues.   Using the vast power of all forms of media, they have convinced the public that these are huge issues, that the people should be divided over them, and that the point of view held on the issues defines what party you should vote for.  They have even convinced most voters that this handful of issues are more important than going to war or ballooning the deficit to give select portions of the populous, the 1%ers, a huge tax break.

Why?  By polarizing the country on such issues, and by screaming about them, they beat the drums to get their voters, their “believers,” out to the poles to vote for them.  They drive the heard.  And then once elected, if you have noticed, neither party tries to eliminate these issues or solve them politically.  Why?  Because they need them for the next election cycle.

Abortion, gay or transgender rights, and immigration are three primary examples.  Of course, guns are in the mix too.  Looking at abortion for an illustration, under the second Bush administration, there was a four to five-year block (2003-2007) where the Republicans had control of all three branches of government.  Both houses of Congress, the White House, and the U.S. Supreme Court.  Yet, they didn’t outlaw abortion, or even try to, although they claim that as one of their party’s major platforms.  They had the power to do that, but they would not have been able to use this issue in the next election cycle if they made it go away.  The Democrats, equally, play the same game.  Amazing how there is no “solution” for immigration, or was there ever really a problem to begin with?

They manipulate these issues, and the people, to get votes on issues they do not intend to fix.  Once in power, they follow their own agenda, which is usually doing things to help out their biggest campaign contributors and, of course, themselves.

The problem for the politicians that I don’t believe they saw coming, is they were too successful.  They have truly divided the country in ways that now threaten the existence of democracy.

Fear-mongering with false information is a primary tactic used to divide.  Beating the drum of White, European, Christian Nationalism is perhaps the scariest tactic I’ve seen of late.  Things are getting really ugly.  The flaming I see on the Internet is shocking.  We’ve had violence in the streets.  We have threats on the free press.

The government is militarizing the police, not just because criminals are using more advanced weapons, but because they are preparing for civil unrest.  If this purposely generated division spills into too much street violence, beware of Martial Law.

In the background of this purposely orchestrated hatred, the wealthy just received a huge tax cut at the cost of ballooning the deficit by 1.4 trillion dollars – even though 78% of the public opposed it.  Congress also just gutted the Americans With Disabilities Act.  Again, to benefit business interests over people.  It’s rolling back environmental regulations, allowing short-term corporate profits to take precedence over poisoning the planet and the people.  Wow!  You see, the dial hasn’t moved either way on abortion, immigration or guns – the issues people think they are voting on.  Once in office, the politicians ignore the public’s wishes completely and give themselves and corporate America huge payouts.

I could list out more issues in detail and offer data now, but I’ll save that for some individualized posts.  I realize people can have strong views on many issues, but I’d ask people to really stop and analyze situations and contexts, not just issues in isolation.  Examine how those in power might be manipulating.  I never expect complete agreement on such controversies, but I do appreciate civility and intelligent thought and discussion.  I like to have my thinking challenged.  It is even good for all of us to be proven wrong on occasion – just to get our minds to open.

Enlightenment comes in many forms.  Hating or vilifying others because they believe differently is not one of them.  We must learn to think, analyze, converse and compromise.  We can’t let sound bites, buzzwords and incendiary catch phrases divide and conquer.  The nation is stronger united.

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