Cliven Isn’t the Only One

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy has caused  a stir, talking all that racist stuff.

But the “outrage” expressed by his Republican buddies seems a bit disingenuous, and their distancing themselves from him publicly is nothing more than politics at its best … or worst …depending on who you are talking with and in what venue.

Cliven Bundy wonders if black people were not better off being slaves.  He said, “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom,” he was quoted as saying. (http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/24/politics/bundy-and-race/)

And everybody is in a tizzy. For what? Because of what he said, or because he said it OUT LOUD, exposing the way many white people probably talk in private?

I have had so many white people talk to me, with hushed voices, about how bad the racism is, about how many white people hate President Obama, and about how so many white people are anxious to “take the country back” from …black people.

According to these folks with whom I have talked, many of these people are obsessed with “saving” America from the influence of being governed by a black man. They are worried that Mr. Obama’s foreign policy has made him come off as weak, thereby plunging the country into morbid danger. They believe that the rise in Americans receiving food stamps, due to the break of the American economy, speaks to the president’s deficits and the danger of “big government,” although it was the economic policies of the previous, Republican administration that drove our country nearly to the depths of economic despair.

“All they want,” one white woman said to me, “is to get that black man out of the White House. They can’t see the good he’s done for the simple reason their vision is clouded by their hatred of him, just because he’s black. They’re afraid that he’s done too much for ‘the blacks,” and not enough for white people.”

Enter Mr. Bundy. Say what you want, Bundy might very well have spilled the conversation content of many a cocktail party attended by the very rich. “Big government” seems to be a government which attends to the needs of the underclass, and rich people seem to resent that, like poor people are getting something for nothing, and off their backs.

I guess they don’t see how it is the labor of the poor people who have propelled their corporations into economic bliss, even while the poor people become poorer.

Bundy said, “maybe I sinned.” But, he quickly added, he said what he meant. It’s in his heart, this opinion about what “the Negro” is like, and how blacks are lazy and how they abort their children and will not work…And …he added that if “those people” cannot take hearing what is his truth (I am paraphrasing), then Martin Luther King hasn’t done his work.

Huh?

Racism and white supremacy and the desire to hold onto it smolders right under the surface of the American psyche.  Every now and then somebody messes up and says out loud what is often said in private.

That’s what happened with good ol’ Mr. Bundy.

He’ll smart a little, but white Conservatives will never leave him. He’s a rich white man with a lot of resources. They might smack him on the wrists, and their strategists are probably telling them to distance themselves from  Bundy for the sake of the upcoming mid-term elections – not for the sake of the people he offended.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bundy will continue to be a welfare rancher, letting his cattle feed on land owned by the federal government. He has a subsidized ranch, seems to me, and it’s no less a drain on the federal coffers than is public housing or food stamps.

Thing is, he can afford to eat. He hasn’t paid for that land in years and owes millions. He won’t go to jail, or probably even get a fine. That, while blacks who have committed non-violent drug crimes are languishing in prison …making even more white people rich via the Prison Industrial Complex.

So, I’m not surprised at what Bundy said. He is giving voice to a lot of people who have wanted to say just that for a long time.

People get uptight if anyone says anything about racial inequality and injustice in this nation. As soon as anyone says anything about those phenomenon, describing how some policies absolutely work against black people,  we are playing “the race card.”

He played it like a champ. I suppose he is. And he’s not going to change and he’s not sorry. Neither are the Republicans who are voicing outrage.

Please.

Republicans, your outrage rings hallow because of your actions and policies. You have been so interested in making Mr. Obama a one-term president that you have felt free, in fact, compelled, to talk in private about how you feel about this race thing.

Damn Bundy! You let the cat out of the bag, in this, our post-racial society.

Who’s going to get it back in? The cat is running freely…

A candid observation…

Big Government or Not?

Washington DC: United States Supreme Court
Washington DC: United States Supreme Court (Photo credit: wallyg)

 

It’s confusing sometimes, understanding when government is supposed to step in and when it isn’t.

 

Conservatives argue against “big government,”  but they also vouch for the right of the federal government to step in on some very personal issues. In the current discussion going on about same-sex marriage, the mantra of many Conservatives is that “we don’t need government to step in and redefine marriage.”

 

Yet, they want government to step in and “define” marriage in a way that fits into their ideology. Right?

 

Did the United States Supreme Court overstep its authority when it ruled that women have a constitutional right to have abortions? Are abortions, who has them and who does not, within the purview of the duties and decisions of the governments, via the nation’s highest court? (http://www.denverpost.com/nationworld/ci_22857283/supreme-court-same-sex-marriage-case-has-echoes)

 

Many people think the SCOTUS did  overstep its authority in the Roe Vs. Wade case, but they are pulling for the high court to settle the current disagreement on same-sex marriage. I am totally confused. When is “big government” all right? Does a court ever have the right to decide what is “right” in such personal issues?

 

It seems like we are straddling a rail. We want government, big government, but only on the things where there is an ideological dispute, right? We want big government when there is a tragedy, or a natural disaster. We don’t want big government when it is too concerned with helping the poor, spending money on people whose lives seem to many out of control. Big government should stay out of those kinds of things. Of course, had it not been for “big government,” many people would have been swallowed in the nation’s most recent economic debacle. but many people are still very critical of the government’s attempt to help people who were drowning.

 

So, “big government” is out of line when it comes to dealing with issues of poverty and economic despair, right?

 

But big government needs to come in and set the records straight when it comes to personal situations involving sexuality and abortion, right? In those cases, the government gives into a responsibility to make moral decisions for the citizens of the United States. Right?

 

The bottom line is that there is no consistency on when big government is necessary and needed and expected. When Hurricane Sandy came, people were expecting government to step in and help those who had been so severely impacted. Had “big government” not done that, it would have been criticized soundly.

 

And now, big government is being called upon to decide who gets to get married and who does not…but this is a moral question, right? Is government really allowed to tell people what they can or cannot do as individuals? Is that the purview of government?

 

The thought of the government having the power to decide who can get married, and thereby be entitled to the legal benefits of marriage, is as distasteful as the idea of the government having the authority to tell women how many children they can have, and whether or not they can get an abortion. I don’t believe that abortion is good, but it doesn’t seem that government has the right to tell a woman if she can or cannot get one. Isn’t that kind of subversive?

 

It seems like there ought to be a new constitutional convention or something, to define big government and to clarify what the federal government can and cannot do, and what it must and must not do.

 

At the very least, though, it seems that those who rail against “big government” ought to tailor their criticisms. The argument against “big government” ought to explain that folks are only against big government when it comes to allocating money, especially for the poor and downtrodden, the oppressed and pretty much forgotten citizens of this country. When it comes to defining morality, though, and what personal decisions Americans are allowed to make, big government needs to step in and do…what a good government does.

 

Do I have it right?

 

A candid observation …

 

 

 

Big Government Be Damned?

OK. So Nancy Pelosi says Republicans are anti-government ideologues. My question: So why do they run for office?

If one does not believe in government, then what do such political candidates believe in? Why spend literally millions of dollars to be elected to office? Why are they there?

What do these anti-government ideologues want? They don’t want the government to do anything for the underdogs of our society.  They prefer for the private sector to do that, some kind of way. But doesn’t the private sector, businesses, want to make money most of all, and are pretty much not concerned with the well-being of those who do the work?

President Calvin Coolidge said that the business of government is business. Some have said that democracy and capitalism, as two belief sets, are not compatible. Democracy as we have come to understand it, or the way many interpret it, is supposed to be “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” We who believe in democracy have internalized that to mean ALL people.

But capitalism is different. Capitalism seems to adhere more to the line of thought which promotes the “survival of the fittest.” Capitalists scorn those who cannot “make it,” and do not believe that democracy is supposed to mean that everybody can and should get the same benefits. Capitalists promote the thought that the only reason some people don’t make it is because they do not try, especially in America.

True, there are more opportunities for attaining the so-called “American Dream” in these United States, but some people really try to make it and just cannot. Maybe it’s because of extenuating circumstances or personality flaws, but maybe it’s because of something called discrimination. Surely that cannot be ruled out, no?

If it were not for government, people who have dealt with discrimination wouldn’t have had any protection, it seems. Blacks, browns, women …have all had to call on government for help and fairness when business and/or society would not budge. Government acted …albeit slowly …to insure a more level playing field for those who had been essentially pushed off to the sidelines.

So, there IS a need for government.

So, if there was no “big government,” what would happen to those who are making their way to center field now? Would there be a repeat of post-Reconstruction, when blacks, who had made political and economic gains were essentially pushed back into legalized slavery in the system known as “convict leasing?”

The federal government really stayed out of the Southern states after Reconstruction got underway, and slowly, state governments began to return their society to the way it had been before. The powers that be didn’t want blacks, and certainly not women, to have the opportunities that white men had. They didn’t even think blacks should have been freed from slavery.

Big government, then, has its place, it would seem. When people are trying to make money, they want to make money, not babysit or placate people who are having a hard time making it. They want the most work for the least buck, period. Without a big government that cares about people, many ordinary folks would just be out of luck.

That’s not to take away the fact that some people are extremely skillful at pushing against the resistance that comes with pursuing any dream. Some people just will not quit, and they deserve to move ahead. Vince Lombardi once said “winning isn’t everything but it is the only thing.” That is the mantra for many people and it works.

But some people with a little less chutzpah, or a whole lot more discrimination working against them, need help. Heck, even the most tenacious people need help. So if that help comes from big government, that should be OK.

Of course, this conversation is kind of superfluous. Everybody calls on government once in a while, whether or not one is pro or anti-big government. Everyone has a sense of entitlement when something catastrophic happens; then we want our government to kick into gear, and be BIG.  If the government does not, we get indignant.

But we tend to only understand, as human beings, our own needs, and cast the needs of others aside. We don’t even want to think about the “have-nots” too much; we avoid really getting to know why they are where they are, because to see their suffering makes us uncomfortable. That’s human nature. Nobody wants to see suffering.

So we work hard to make sure we are comfortable, and criticize big government it attempts to do things that will make the lives of some legitimately suffering people a little easier. We shut our eyes to the real barriers which spring up in a capitalistic world and society and instead blame those who struggle for the situations in which they find themselves. We regard those who cannot make it as moochers.

Some of them are, and some of them are not. We just don’t want to take the time to make the distinctions and give help where it is needed. We are content to charge the poor and blame the poor for being poor, thus helping to keep them poor, and we defy the government to try to change that reality. We in America have little regard, it seems, for the burgeoning population of older Americans who barely have enough to live on once they can no longer work. And so, many older Americans are living in deplorable conditions, and we will not look that harsh reality in the face.

What does it take to make people in a democracy do what democracy purports to do – to make a society where all people are created equal? Those who do not like such a notion say that to want that is to be socialist. OK, but really, that’s what our United States Constitution says – all men (people) are created equal.

We have a problem in our formative ideology. It seems that there is an untenable tension between capitalism and democracy, and capitalists are criticizing the very political system which has made their wealth acquisition a reality.

A candid observation …

 

Democracy Understood

Sometimes, what we want to be true and what actually is true do not intersect.

What we want to believe in, in America, is that we live in a democracy – meaning, to most of us, that there is an ideal to which we adhere: that  “all men are created equal,”  and that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights…” That is, at least, what I grew up understanding “democracy” to be.

But what seems to be more true is that we live in a capitalistic society – in which all people are not created equal, nor should anyone expect that to be the case.

Of course, when the Declaration of Independence was written, as well as the Bill of Rights and the United States Constitution, the words “all men” meant white, landowning men. The framers of our precious document never intended for the phrase to be understood as one that included people of all nationalities and/or races, nor did they intend for it to include women. “We the people”  did not include what was then and what would become the vast populace of this country. The boundaries of race, class and gender were set up from the very beginning of the life of this nation.

As time passed, we idealized our founding documents, and we decided that the phrase “all men are created equal” meant that the Founding Fathers had a love for “all people.” On that basis, the downtrodden decided that according to our Constitution, they had the same rights as anybody and everybody else. This was America, where everyone was free, or was at least supposed to be.

The stark contradiction between our idealization of the words of the Constitution, Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence, however, was there from the beginning.  Slavery was an American reality, and in spite of a horrible Civil War fought, a war which accounted for more American deaths than any modern war, nobody really wanted them to be “free,” and certainly, nobody believed black slaves to be “equal” to whites. President Abraham Lincoln, though he freed some of the slaves, particularly those who lived in the South who were needed to help fight for the Union, never thought they were equal to whites, nor did he think black people, slave or free, should have the same rights as white people.

Enter capitalism. The right to be “free” was based in capitalistic theory from the beginning, it seems. The wealthy landowners had the power from the beginning, and to them, “freedom” was the ability to make money! That’s why people want to flock to America; our free enterprise system means, theoretically, that “anyone” can make it here. The prevailing thought seems to be that if you are down and out, then it is somehow your own doing.

That just is not true. As I have watched our country in this current economic crisis, and read about how the country fared during the years (and afterward) of the Great Depression, it has become increasingly clear that the capitalistic system is constructed to protect the monied class. “Too big to fail,” though distasteful, seems to be a part of capitalistic ideology. It feels like America’s economy is graded on a curve, much like exams I took in college were graded. In a curve, some will fail. It’s built into the system. What used to be true in America is that there were a fair amount of people “in the middle” who could make it, and the number of the very rich was small, proportionately.

Now, however, that middle section of people is getting smaller and smaller, while the number of very rich and poor to very poor is getting larger.

That is the way a capitalistic system works.

The tension between the “haves” and “have nots” has been a standard reality in America. President Franklin D. Roosevelt fought for the common people during his presidency, and he had a pretty broad swath of support at the beginning; the country was in such dire straits that even big business let him have his way in shaping the New Deal. FDR knew that in order for a capitalistic system to work, its people had to work so that they could make money and spend money.

But after a while, big business grew uneasy as big government, acting on a democratic principle that “all people” should be able to work and make a good living wage, spent money in order to create programs for literally millions of people.

Big business, people who understand capitalism and how it works, are not all that concerned with millions of people making a living wage. I would imagine  they would say “it’s not personal. It’s business.”

If we understand that we live in a capitalistocracy as opposed to an ideally defined democracy, we might not stew as much as we do about the economics of these days. The arguments back in FDR’s days – the need to balance the budget, cut government spending, lower taxes …were the same as they are now. FDR fought against what he believed to be economic policy which adversely affected the masses of American people, but he knew that he was making big business angry.

Perhaps the most telling statement about this country, and what it is, came from President Calvin Coolidge, who said,”The business of America is business.”

That sums it up fairly nicely and succinctly, does it not?

As I understand what America is, the relationship between big business and big government, I seem to pause. I realize that not only I but a vast number of people have been confused about this word “democracy.” We are not supposed to be a nation where everybody can make it, and if they cannot, can be assured that the government will stand in the breach.

I get it now.

A candid observation…