Is America’s Democracy in Trouble?

The antics and behavior that are coming out of the White House are disturbing on many levels, but one of the most troubling is that it feels like this country is moving toward becoming an autocratic state.

A survivor of the Buchenwald concentration camp during the Holocaust, architect Stephen Jacobs, said in a recent interview that the “rise of Donald Trump is reminiscent of the years that led to the Nazi takeover of Germany.”  (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5596737/Holocaust-survivor-says-Trumps-America-reminds-years-lead-Nazi-takeover.html)

At the time that Hitler rose to power, Germany was experiencing economic, social and political unrest. Hitler seized the moment, telling Germans that he could restore their country to its former greatness. The people bought his argument, and the fall of civilized government resulted in the murders of over 6 million Jewish people.

What is astounding is not so much that the president is doing what he is doing, but that so many people seem not to care. From the Congress – representatives and senators alike – to Evangelical Christians, to masses of people who like it that he “tells it like it is,” there seem to be few people in power – politically or morally – who have the best interests of “the least of these” at heart.

These people turn a blind eye to the role of the Congress to check the raw ascent of power of the Executive branch of our government. Evangelical Christians, who have been known to be deeply judgmental of all kinds of people for behavior much less offensive and troubling than that of the president, are silent and acquiescent.

It has been amazing to listen to people defend this president at every turn; nothing, it seems, not even the cyber-attack of our voting system by a known enemy, has been enough to inspire people to do something to put the brakes on what seems like a train running downhill, spiraling out of control.

We thought that our government was immune to becoming autocratic. We thought that our Constitution and our professed love of “liberty and justice for all” were enough to incubate us from encroaching fascism. It appears that many Conservatives feel like there is no danger of our democracy falling into disrepair or ruination. But democracies, historically, have fallen, following a course much like the one on which America now finds itself.

What is worrying is that the only people who might seem to not have to worry are the very rich. This country has not been a “democracy” for some time; it has been a plutocracy, with a very few really wealthy people making policies for everyone else. But even that number of wealthy people, in control of the lives of the masses, is dwindling; we are more an oligarchy now than ever before.

Oligarchies do not care about the masses.

During the Holocaust, Hitler and his minions made decisions about who was worthy to live and who was not. The Jews were certainly deemed unworthy, but so were people with disabilities, people with mental illnesses, gay people, gypsies, twins, priests, and other groups, were murdered. It is estimated that 5 million non-Jews died under Hitler.

Germany, using the science developed in America that formed the foundation of the eugenics movement, made it its cause to eliminate those who were not the right kind of “white” person – i.e., those with Nordic features.

It feels like everyone, with the exception of that very small group of wealthy white people, are in danger from the way this administration is running the country, and none of the people who we might have thought would defend the masses from this kind of tyranny are stepping forward.

It is difficult to understand how “people of faith” can marginalize the directives given for how to create a “Beloved Community” by Jesus the Christ. Jesus is far removed from what is going on, it seems, and very few people are working to bring Jesus of Nazareth back to the center of who we are.

It feels like we are on a collision course with tragedy, and in this, the so-called “land of the free and home of the brave,” that ought not be the case.

A candid observation …

 

On Patriotism

American-flag-America

Watching what is going on now in our country is at once fascinating and terrifying.

I thought I knew what “patriotism” meant. I thought that an American patriot put America first, truly, including the tenets of its US Constitution. Being a patriot for me never meant that a person was anti-racist or anti-sexist, or was, in fact, interested in steering away from any kind of discrimination. But for me, one who waved the flag meant that they believed in the basic tenets of the Constitution, including the basic freedoms.

In the past, a patriot was virulently against Communism. The Soviet Union was America’s enemy and everyone knew it. To even give a hint of being all right with communism was a death knell.

But surprisingly, more than a few Americans seem not to care about communism or about its threat to democracy. More than a few Americans are unconcerned about the intrusion into the heart and core of our democracy by a former KGB agent named Vladimir Putin. It is breathtaking to watch the silence of the United States Congress, letting the current president cozy up to Russia with little more than a sniff.

Russia has an agenda. Russia wants to be recognized as a world power and not a pariah, and under the leadership of Putin, it is running its agenda in this country with disturbing ease. That the Congress has said nothing and done even less, that it does not demand that the president stop weakening the very fiber of this country, is astounding. The comfort I had in the three legislative branches of government being in place to check unbridled power is all but gone. It feels like we are headed toward an authoritarian government, and the Congress, which could stop it, is not doing its job.

Where are the patriots?

The small group of very wealthy people who are in power seem blind to history, or if they see and know history, they do not care about it. They are running roughshod even over the “base” that elected the president into office, as they push for policies which will make life most difficult for that very group of Americans. How nobody in Congress is talking about that, showing blatant disregard for the millions, for example, who will lose health care if the president’s health care bill gets through the Senate is beyond comprehension. These people purport to be religious people, specifically Christian, and yet they are pushing policies which leave “the least of these,” whom Jesus the Christ said we should take care of, out of the ring in which the fight for justice is being waged.

The White House is filled with old, angry white men primarily, who resent the browning of America. Their resentment is not new; there was a similar backlash against “globalization” in the 1930s. Anti-immigration sentiment back then led to the passage of anti- immigration laws which would today appall many of us. When the report came out that by 2030, America would no longer be a “white” nation put the fire underneath the bigots, the white nationalists, and many non-politicians for whom the thought of not being in the majority was painful and frightening.

It seems that what is going on, fueled by white working class Americans who are angry that they have been ignored, is a fight which has at its roots the most vile racism and bigotry. The leaders of our nation are virtually silent about white nationalists taking their anger out on people of color – white domestic terrorist activity – even as they decry the terrorism carried out by ISIS.

What also seems to be going on is toxic capitalism. The very rich have abandoned allegiance to America and have decided to become best friends with Russia, our enemy, for the sake of making more money. Patriotism be damned.

Tom Snyder the Yale history professor who wrote On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, said that America has about a year to stop the path toward tyranny on which America is now traveling. The impotent Congress will not stop what is going on; it is not clear that the United States Supreme Court will be much more of a protector of America and her Constitution, all the vitriol about caring about that document notwithstanding, and the Executive Branch is filled with angry, old, racist white men who want America to be as white and male as can be.

Patriotism as we know it is gone. Or maybe the issue is that I never really understood what patriotism really was in the first place.

A candid observation …

What is an American…Christian, Really?

I am stunned by the rhetoric being spouted against Muslims here in America.

I am stunned that major GOP candidates are leading the pack and I am stunned that American …Christians …are buying into it all.

What is an American Christian, really? I grew up thinking, having been taught, that Americans were the best; we had the best morals, the best values, the best ideas, the best government. I grew up believing, erroneously, it turns out, that America’s very founding documents touted the belief that “all men were created equal.”

I grew up completely immersed in the statement made by our Statue of Liberty, and her words, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” I thought it was glorious to have such representations of human rights in my country.

I coupled that with the version of Christianity I was taught: that Jesus was love, that Jesus reached out to “the least of these” and rejected nobody. I cherished this religion which seemed to embrace the notion of a loving God, who was, in the end, non-judgmental, all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good.

So, my world, my created, fantasy world, was shaken once I began to read about the discrimination, hatred and violence carried out in this country by …American Christians. Where was the belief in the Constitution? What about the words spoken by Jesus in the Bible? It began to seem to be all a sham. White American Christians, too many of them, were too ready to either practice racial hatred against blacks and Jews and whomever else was to be targeted at a given time, and the notion of “all men being created equal,” I read, meant only white men. I read that the ships on which white people brought Africans to the Americas had religious names, including Brotherhood, Integrity, Gift of God, Liberty, and Jesus. (From There is a River, by Vincent Harding, p. 3)

It seemed that even whites who thought such thinking was against Christian principles as stated by Jesus were reluctant to say anything, and so they remained quiet. Racial hatred was OK; God, they suggested, was a white man who wanted America to be a “white man’s country.” Therefore there was no problem, no disconnect, between the way white American Christians treated people of color.

So, the Islamophobic rhetoric we are hearing today ought not be disturbing. American Christians, led in the GOP bid for the presidential nomination, are accepting and embracing the horrid words and suggestions being offered by Presbyterian Donald Trump and Seventh Day Adventist Ben Carson, who says he loves the Bible.

Which Bible?

Because of what happened in Paris, Trump, the Presbyterian is suggesting actions that are reminiscent of Nazi Germany, South Africa …and Palestine. Separate people; brand some as bad, inhuman, unworthy of respect. Do it to protect others.

It is a heinous thought and scary. How many people, innocent people, will suffer from civilized, non-violent terrorism, which is all that Trump is suggesting? This feels like a sort of McCarthyism, all over again. And the supporters of Trump, Carson, Rubio, Christie and Cruz are on board.

When Barack Obama was elected, people said America was “post-racial,” but that was far from being true, and the fact that this anti Islamic rhetoric is rising by the day is evidence of it.

Did God make a mistake? Did God mean for the world to be just white people?  I don’t believe that, but it seems that a vast number of American Christians, white American Christians, believe that. They find no disconnect at all between discriminating against and oppressing people of color, and the dictates set forth by the American Constitution and the Holy Bible.

So, someone tell me. What is an American …Christian, really?  It’s time to stop wading in idealism, and look at our country and its touted religion squarely in the face. Because it seems that what I was taught about both democracy and Christianity …are sorely mistaken.

A candid observation …

 

 

 

What America Values

At first, it didn’t hit me.

It was the holiday season; Christmas was fast approaching, and retailers wanted profits.

So, three or four days before Christmas, some of them announced that they would keep their doors open, extend their hours, to accommodate shoppers. Kohl’s would be open from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Macy’s would be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Stores opened on Thanksgiving to give shoppers a head start.

They wanted to be sure to please their patrons. On the surface, if one was a shopper, that seemed like a nice gesture.

But then it hit me. States all over this nation sought to restrict the days and hours during the day that people could vote in the mid-term elections in 2014.

We are important enough, in other words, to accommodate when business wants our money, but we are not important enough to accommodate when we try to exercise the right we have as Americas to vote.

For shopping, there is some understanding that people might find it hard to get to the stores because of their busy schedules.

For voting, no such understanding is given. The sentiment is, or seems to be, “if you want to vote, you will find a way to get there in these proscribed hours and on these proscribed days.”

The movie Selma is released tomorrow. The fight in Selma was about the fight to get the right to vote. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed …but since then, there has been serious, organized opposition to that law, which has resulted in the slow dismantling of all that that law made possible.

Americans are free to spend their money; this nation will help Americans spend their money, but this nation will NOT help people exercise their right to vote.

Shop until you drop …but go sit down somewhere and don’t complain if you can’t get to the polls on the limited days and times which the government has made possible.

How come some Americans don’t see anything wrong with this picture? How come some …or, I might say, many …Americans scoff at the notion that some people really do need more days and times to vote than others? How come it’s OK to go overboard to get people to spend their money, but not OK to provide more days and times to vote?

All of the voter suppression we have seen is the result of the vast numbers of African-Americans and other marginalized groups having been able to vote in 2008 and 2012. The lives of the marginalized were considered and honored; people who had never voted before finally got the opportunity.

It was glorious. It was democracy, right? It was evidence that “all men are created equal.”  It was about a level playing field. Parity. Equity. Democracy exercised generations after Jefferson et al drew up our Constitution.

But the glory has faded and continues to do so. The powers that be didn’t like marginalized people showing up en masse, causing this country to lean toward true democracy. So, they have worked to dismantle nearly all of the gains made in the Civil Rights movement …while simultaneously making it easier for people to shop using money they do not have so that the rich can get richer and the marginalized can remain marginalized.

At first, it went past me. I missed it. It didn’t hit me.

But I get it now, and it makes me sigh.

Democracy is an ideal and an idea that looks good on paper.

But when the task of making and maintaining democracy is thrown to the people, it might as well be thrown to the wolves.

People don’t want democracy. They want power and money and will do anything they must to obtain it.

I get it now …and I am not impressed. My concept of democracy, where “the least of these” are considered as human and are treated as such, is not real. It never has been.

A candid observation …

 

 

 

 

He With Gold Rules

“He with the gold …rules.”

That is a line spoken by Bill Moyers in his documentary: “State of Conflict: North Carolina.”

It is a fascinating but troubling documentary, exposing the right-wing takeover of government in North Carolina, bankrolled by one Art Pope, among others …which is resulting in an extreme erosion of rights of people in that state.

Specifically targeted are voting rights, women’s rights, and public higher education.  There are consistent “snips” to social safety nets in the state. Medicaid was not expanded in the state, seriously affecting “the least of these” and compromising, if not outright preventing, the very poor to have access to health care.

There is a minister, Rev. William Barber, president of the state chapter NAACP and a key coordinator of the multi-issue, multi-ethnic movement  which has taken on the state. Barber began his public protest with a small group of people last year; that number of people has swelled to thousands, gathering in cities all over the state, protesting and fighting what is going on.

There will be a mass rally on Saturday, February 8, in Charlotte.

Those are the facts of what’s going on. Here is my gut-wrenching reaction about what’s going on.

This sucks.

I have long thought that “justice” comes most readily to those who can pay for it. What’s going on says that “government” is defined and shaped by those …who can pay for it.

At the end of the day, is there such a thing as a democracy, where, theoretically, there is “liberty and justice for all?”  Is the notion of government “of the people, by the people and for the people” a pie in the sky? How can a select few of wealthy people be so cavalier about the lives and welfare of the masses? How can legislatures so blithely cut away services that will make live more bearable for so many people?

Somehow, a small group of wealthy people, and a larger group of not-as-wealthy-but-wanna-be people have gotten the notion that if one is poor, it’s because he or she is lazy. They have bought into the notion that in America, anything and everything is possible if one is willing to work hard.

Scores of people would refute that, people who are working two, three jobs to make ends meet and who still can’t make those ends meet. Scores of people who do have low paying jobs but with no benefits would refute that as well, stating for the record that they work as many hours as possible – at minimum wage, many of them – and are still living below the poverty level.

That the wealthy cannot see this, or perhaps more stridently, do not believe this or care about the truth of what’s being said and experienced, is troubling. It pulls at the very seams of a nation that prides itself on being morally superior to other nations.

A nation which forgets and exploits its poor cannot be said to be moral, not in any shape, way or form.

A candid observation …