The Entitlements Nobody Wants to Talk About

            The word “entitlement” has become a bad word in the American political system because it suggests that certain groups of people get economic benefits that they do not deserve and because it costs the government too much money. The specific programs targeted include Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the Affordable Care Act, food stamps, and disability. (https://www.vox.com/2014/5/12/18076886/entitlement-reform)

            While I struggle with trying to understand what happens to “the least of these” without these programs in a society that rewards the wealthy and penalizes the poor and lower middle class, I am quite sure that not all “entitlements” are talked about. Though these other entitlements do not require an act of Congress to pass or to repeal, they carry an economic and social component that most people, it seems, are all right with.

            I am talking about the entitlements afforded people because of their race and their gender. I have come to understand that white supremacy is both racist and sexist, a reality that allows white people in general and white males in particular to have privileges that the rest of us do not have and should not expect; they are entitled to certain benefits that the rest of us will never have.

            It is not just Black people who must live with the inequity of American citizenship. It has been Native Americans, Asians, Muslims – anyone identifiable as being non-white, and it has been males of all races who feel entitled to certain privileges because society has told them they are entitled to them.

            It is almost as if a great swath of people – again, primarily white people in general and white males in particular – are the spoiled brats of society. They have been used to getting their way and getting away with it. Watching the debacle of the former president’s apparently imminent indictment, for example, pulls the curtain back on how entitlement in this country works. Because he is white, wealthy, and male, he has been to manipulate the country and its institutions in ways no non-white, female politician would have been able to. He is still considered a front-runner to be the Republican nominee for president in 2024 in spite of a fair amount of evidence that he stoked the January 6 insurrection, that he has committed campaign finance crimes, that he has obstructed justice and allegedly stolen classified documents and has lied about it. Yet, he still gets non-stop coverage by the media which continues to push him as the likely 2024 presidential candidate. While an innocent young woman, Breonna Taylor, was killed while sleeping in her own bed due to the legality of no-knock warrants, this man has gotten a full and fair warning that he is perhaps about to be indicted. He knows his entitlement and has lived and functioned within it for his whole life and while it is troubling to watch, it is not surprising that he is continuing to do what he has always done – disregard the system and do whatever he has wanted.

            It seems to me that much of the entitled community walks around with a smirk. I am reminded of how offended I was when I saw the picture of Derek Chauvin with his knee on the neck of George Floyd as the life seeped out of Floyd’s body. He was being videoed, but he looked defiantly into the camera with that smirk that said to me, “Video all you want. I can do what I want and will not have to pay for it.”

            That has been the history of the entitled of America. They have used non-white and non-male people to protect their privileges and help build their wealth and power from the inception of this country, and have committed heinous crimes for which they have never been held accountable and received tremendous benefits that others were denied.

            For example, the “entitled class” received government loans to purchase homes and continue their education once they returned from fighting in America’s wars, while Black soldiers were denied the same. (https://www.history.com/news/gi-bill-black-wwii-veterans-benefits) (https://www.npr.org/2022/10/18/1129735948/black-vets-were-excluded-from-gi-bill-benefits-a-bill-in-congress-aims-to-fix-th) Black soldiers were killed after the war as they dared wear their uniforms, a sign of their service to this country, and those who killed them were seldom held accountable. (https://eji.org/news/remembering-black-veterans-and-racial-terror-lynchings/)

            Asians were denied their rights as American citizens (https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/the-long-history-of-racism-against-asian-americans-in-the-u-s) though they, like African Americans, were key to the building of this country’s economy. Native Americans were and are still denied their rights, and are still fighting for their liberty and dignity, suffering the indignity of being denied the right to speak their language or even mention their customs when their children were sent to schools operated by the Jesuits. (https://www.aclu.org/issues/racial-justice/american-indian-rights) (https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2019/03/traumatic-legacy-indian-boarding-schools/584293/).

            The truth about our society, its racism, sexism, and unpunished violence meted against those who are not in the privileged class is not pleasant. Most people know little about it and so they live with a manufactured sense of indignation that members of the nonprivileged class dare to complain about how they have been treated.

            But the hard truth exists – in spite of efforts like those being taken by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to erase the lessons off of the chalkboard of American history. And the truth is, members of the privileged class have gotten used to their entitlements due to their race and gender and are not likely to give any of it up without a hard fight.

            The members of the privileged class have been spoiled as they have been taught they are unique, different, and above everyone else. They have grown used to expecting the best of what this country has to offer – their attitudes are not unlike those of a spoiled child who has been used to having his or her way. They have become cocooned in their world, believing that they are better than everyone else and are therefore more deserving of any and everything they get – and have concurrently become pouters when they don’t get what they believe they deserve. They are resentful of those outside of their class who are able to acquire some of “their” privileges in spite of not being part of “the group. In their actions, they are much like members of some fraternities who bend and break the laws and rules of their organization, their colleges, and this society, because they live in their entitlement of being white, male, and, many, wealthy.

            This social entitlement is deadly. It has eroded the capacity of so many to feel, to care, and to empathize with, say, those who live in poverty or with those who simply want basic American rights. They cannot see, and do not care, about the way so many in our society are forced to live. They carry the Chauvin smirk and know that whatever they want, they can pretty much get, and that attitude does a couple of things: it makes them angry when they don’t get their way and it encourages them to react violently in order to get what they feel they deserve, and nobody else.

            I think I feel sorry for them. It is a bad thing to be human but be devoid of the human capacity to see and care for and about those who are in less comfortable situations than are they. What America has done is taught the privileged class and people all over the world to say, “At least I’m not black” including Black people who live in Africa and in the African diaspora.  But this country has also taught others to proclaim their superiority over those who are of different religions, different ethnicities, different genders, and sexualities, and by virtue of their saying that they exert the spirit of the privileged class, which is one of snobbery, selfishness, and superiority.

            And these exude these spirits in spite of saying they are Christian.

            We should talk more about the entitlements that are helping to kill the soul of this country. They are far more damaging than the financial programs put in place that help those who will never be a part of the privileged class.

A candid observation …

On the Real “Bad Hombres”

             As the president of this nation pushes the narrative that this country needs a wall on its southern border because people from Mexico and Central America are “bad hombres” who “bring their rapists, their drugs” and other “bad things,” the fact that once again, people of color are being made out to be the “bad” ones does not ring true. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/06/16/theyre-rapists-presidents-trump-campaign-launch-speech-two-years-later-annotated/?utm_term=.8ad954839e89)

While there are likely to be some people who seek to live in this country who have questionable motives, it is clear that the majority of them are seeking a better and safer life. They are not criminals, any more than were people who have historically entered this country from other countries throughout history. (https://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/presentationsandactivities/presentations/immigration/italian3.html) People have flocked here looking for work; the opportunities here that they heard about drew them here in mass numbers.

This president has made it an art form to label the people coming across the southern border as “bad” people, and he keeps lifting up his belief (or maybe his political talking point) that these people are bringing drugs, causing the opioid epidemic that is killing people here every day. There is no mention of the role that big pharmaceutical companies has played in marketing, selling and promoting the use of fentanyl, which is reportedly 100 times more potent than is heroin. “Big pharma,” driven by greed, has been intent on making as much money as possible by pushing this dangerous drug. (https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2018/05/insys-subsys-whistleblower-lawsuits/)

At the same time, as so many people of color are languishing in prisons because they possessed a small amount of marijuana, the former Speaker of the House is encouraging people to come to seminars to learn how to become wealthy by selling marijuana. (https://www.forbes.com/sites/irisdorbian/2018/10/19/looking-to-make-millions-from-cannabis-ex-house-speaker-boehner-will-tell-you-how/#15a8e26d7c52)

Who are the “bad hombres,” really, if the definition of the same is those who bring drugs?

Then there is the question of rapists coming over our southern border as if we do not have a real problem with men keeping their genitals inside of their pants. White supremacy, I am finally understanding, is as much sexual as it is racial; men believe they are superior to women and they have been given power by our patriarchal society. The slew of men who have been accused of and/or convicted of sexual impropriety is only growing. In this country, rapists are in the White House, heading major television networks, making films, starring in movies, sitting in Congress, pastoring churches and giving communion to children.

Americans, in other words, have no platform for touting moral superiority. Bad hombres in our country, permeating every aspect of life, are everywhere, even here.

What is particularly distasteful is that our media really does bring out the fact that a false equivalency is being raised by the White House to push its racist agenda. America has always struggled with immigration and has a history of wanting to keep people of color out.  Even though Chinese immigrants were responsible for building much of America’s railroads, the Chinese Exclusion Acts were passed by Congress to keep them out. (https://history.state.gov/milestones/1866-1898/chinese-immigration) Benjamin Franklin didn’t think Germans looked white enough and wanted to keep them and others who had “swarthy complexions” out of the fledgling country. (https://qz.com/904933/a-history-of-american-anti-immigrant-bias-starting-with-benjamin-franklins-hatred-of-the-germans/)

The point is that the White House’s claim that “bad hombres” are who are coming over the southern border is a dog whistle for its racist desire to keep people of color out of the United States. There are bad hombres in this administration who, though they wear three-piece suits are engaged in shady financial situations, who are rapists, who use drugs and who are now lining up to sell them legally.

The “bad hombres” label is as disingenuous as it is wrong. America needs to see herself for what she is, bad hombres and all.

A candid observation …

Can White Supremacy Be Cured?

The disease called white supremacy is as deadly to the soul and spirits of those afflicted as is a stage four cancer with metastasis.

Unlike cancer, however, white supremacy is contagious and affects everyone it touches. It is without rationality or compassion; it is willfully blind to the reality that those who claim intellectual superiority are simply wrong. It causes people to compromise the conception of God who presumably made everything and everyone intentionally, and it allows people to distance themselves from the putrid and toxic exudate which comes from the hearts and mouths of those who live by it.

James Baldwin

White supremacists do not see people of color as human beings with emotions, needs and the right to dignity; they instead view people as objects. Their dehumanization of human beings is not reserved for only black people, but for brown people, for Jews, for Catholics, for women, and for the poor (whatever race the poor might be.

That’s just for starters.

White supremacy is a mindset which is most notably practiced by wealthy white men, but which is also supported by white people in general. It is a receptacle for racist thought, but also for sexist and Xenophobic and anti-Semitic thinking as well.  It is a way of life based on power and fear of losing that power. It spawns and provokes violence as a means of maintaining its power because the white supremacist believes that violence is proof of being strong.

White supremacists have lied to themselves for so long that they believe the lies. They feel completely justified in oppressing people who do not fit the mold of what they expect. White supremacy is about power, just as is rape.

Author and essayist James Baldwin bemoaned the seemingly hopeless plight of white supremacists. In an interview with David Frost in 1970, Baldwin pondered out loud if this country was on the verge of a civil war. The Civil Rights Movement had been all but decimated, and the gains made by black, brown and poor people were slowing being reversed. It was an act of abject hatred, a quality which white supremacists inhale and digest, presumably because doing so is the only way they can continue their oppression of others.

The Civil Rights Movement, observed Baldwin, “always contained within itself something self-defeating.” Black people, led by Dr. King, believed “at the beginning” of the movement that “there was a way of reaching the conscience of the people of this country.”

“We did everything in our power to make the American people realize that the myths they were living with were not so much destroying black people as whites,” he said.

White people, he said, “are much more victimized” than was he or black people in general, he said, adding, “it is terrible to watch a nation lose itself.” The country was not on the edge of a racial war, he said, but on the edge of a civil war.

Nothing much has changed.

Spurred by fear of losing their power, white supremacists, led by the current president, are on the prowl, joyfully grateful that the president is “on their side.” If, as Rev. Dr. William Barber says that the opposite of hatred is fear, then what we are seeing is fear unleashed, not caring who might be mowed down in the process of making America “great” again.

This nation was conceived in white supremacy. The Native Americans on whose land the whites from England descended had to “destroy the indigenous people in order to become a nation,” said Baldwin. We are still trying to become a nation and if the truth be told, we are not so interested in being “one nation under God.” In fact, our very diversity and pluralism have been major factors in stoking the fear of the white supremacists.

White supremacists will not admit it, but their wealth and power depend on – and have always depended on – the condition of the people whom they regularly oppress. Mass incarceration, voter suppression, poverty, the attack on social programs – are all tools white supremacists use to maintain their power. They are deathly afraid that their power is in jeopardy; hence, the rise from the underground of their hateful rhetoric and violent behavior – even as they criticize violence which comes from people trying to defend themselves from the attacks of white supremacists.

Baldwin said in 1970 that “for the first time the people legally white and the people legally black are beginning to understand that if they do not come together, they’re going to end up in the same gas oven.” White supremacy has taken root in the soul of America and it cannot be cured; it has gone untreated for too long,

The gas ovens stand ready to receive us – oppressed, yes, but oppressors even more. This sickness is only getting worse, and the outcome of white supremacists being driven by their hatred and fear is not going to be good for them. What goes around certainly comes around, and be sure, their behavior is “coming around.”

A candid observation …

America Has the Flu

If one of the main problems of influenza is that it attacks the body’s respiratory system, leading to pneumonia and other pulmonary issues which ultimately cause death, it would seem that America, under this president, is on life support, unable to breathe. This president and his administration  have shown us our disease and instead of leading us to ways to heal it, is ignoring everything that would “make America right again.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), pneumonia is one of the most common and serious complications of the flu. Pneumonia caused by the flu can be viral or bacterial, but both can be deadly and in fact, do cause many deaths. (https://www.cdc.gov/pneumonia/index.html)

America’s racism has been its chronic illness  – its flu, if you will – since its inception; English people came here to escape British oppression, but also to make this “New World” a land created by white people for white people. They immediately began to oppress Native Americans and soon, black people. They declared Native Americans as being savages and brutes and justified their treatment of them on those beliefs about them. Racist ideology was included in nearly everything that these very religious people did from the 1600s on and was built into the United States Constitution.

Black and other oppressed people have fought the racism and sexism, anti-Semitism and many other “isms” for generations. Gains have historically been made and are then lost because angry white people have risen up and worked to undo the gains made by the oppressed groups, almost always violently.

Under this administration, the white backlash is serious and toxic; the venom of white nationalism is filling the lungs of America’s capacity to breathe in “liberty and justice for all,” while simultaneously breathing out racism, sexism, Xenophobia and all other forms of oppression.

Whenever blacks have made gains and fought racism, whites have done everything they could to undo those gains, furious that the federal government has at times supported the quest for freedom, justice, and dignity of people who are just as American as are whites.

America’s influenza – its racism – has not only been toxic but contagious. We are seeing white nationalists boldly declaring and boasting about their racism; Steve Bannon the other day said that whites should wear the badge of “racist” proudly. (https://www.thedailybeast.com/steve-bannon-racist-label-is-a-badge-of-honor) while the GOP-controlled Congress and Senate sit idly by and let the president do and say what he wants, as well as his followers. There is no outrage about the violence being perpetrated by White Nationalists; there are no efforts to stem the tide.

America’s capacity to be a just nation – a place where there is true “liberty and justice for all” – is being hindered by her lungs filling up with the deadly bacteria which causes cultural pneumonia. The safeguards of liberty and justice, morality, and goodness do not apply in the minds of those who believe that this nation should be a nation of white people. Our very plurality – something which other nations have celebrated – is what the White Nationalists abhor, and neither the US Constitution nor the Holy Bible or the religion called Christianity protect those who are attacked and discriminated against simply because of who they are.

Historian Forrest G. Wood in his book The Arrogance of Faith notes that Christianity has been “fundamentally racist in its ideology, organization, and practice.”  Christian idealism apparently means that the dominant ethnicity or race of this country must be homogeneous and puritanical, Wood says.

To hear and to watch this country backslide into a blatantly racist and sexist “norm” is disheartening, but worse, it is ominous because pneumonia damages the lungs and makes it impossible for a person – or in this case, a nation – to breathe. Empires fall. America, the Empire, is in the intensive care unit and its lungs, filled with the bacteria of hatred, are getting more and more weak.

A nation which despises, ignores, and casts aside “the least of these” is destined for death.

A candid observation …

 

Our Slip is Showing

In the “old days,” women would wear slips under their dresses and/or skirts; to not do so was considered a violation of proper modesty. The slip could be whole or what was called a “half slip,” which was, as the name indicates, a garment that hung from the waist down.

Half slips were notorious for not being cooperative. You would get what you thought was your size, and the slip would be fine for a while, but sooner or later the elastic around the waist would wear, and the slip would not stay in place.

In variably, the slip would hang below the hem of the skirt or dress, and some other sympathetic woman would whisper, “Your slip is showing.”

I thought about that as I have been watching what has been going on in our government. Our foundation is one which was built on racism and sexism. Though we were purported to be a democracy, the Founding Fathers seemed to have disdain for the idea of too much power coming from the people. This government was always about elevating and keeping some in power, and about keeping other people down. According to Howard Zinn in A People’s History of the United States, four groups of people were not represented in the Constitutional Convention: slaves, indentured servants, women and men without property.” (p. 91) Even at the inception of this “great democracy” the value system was firmly in place: the rich were to run the country and to maintain their power and increase their wealth by exploiting the working poor. Writes Zinn: “the Declaration functioned to mobilize certain groups of Americans, ignoring others.” “The American people” was never the masses, but was really the small group of wealthy, white, male landowners…”We the people,” a phrase coined by Governor Gouverneur Morris did not mean Indians or blacks or women or white servants.”

Charles Beard, a 20th century historian, wrote in his book An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution  that “the rich must, in their own interest, either control the government directly or control the laws by which government operates.”

If we read and study this history of America, we might not get quite as agitated as some of us are in the present day as we watch what is going on in our government. We are abiding by traditional American political history. That history is not a stellar one; it is fraught with discrimination and bias, with government allowing for and even sanctioning those who do what they think best in order to keep the moneyed class in power, to keep the oligarchy intact.

And while it has not gotten as much attention as the escapades that have been going on in and around the White House, the sexism that was written into our Constitution is rearing its ugle head as well. The House constructed a health care bill that is sure to have devastating effects on many, including women. In their work to craft this bill, a picture appeared having only white men in the White House, deciding whether or not maternity care and mammograms should be considered to be “essential” health issues to be covered under the Republican bill. (http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/03/trump-health-care-summit-white-guys)

As this administration barrels through proposals that will hurt so many people, it seems that her slip is showing – a slip which includes her racism, sexism, and paternalism at the least. With these people in power, poverty will increase, as will mass incarceration; voting rights are in danger of being seriously compromised, and anyone who challenges the policies stands the possibility of being sanctioned. These people in power are not unlike, it seems, the Founding Fathers, who envisioned a country run by a small group of wealthy white men who controlled everyone and everything.

The slip which is America’s undergarment has been soiled by the dust that comes from such injustice, but it is America’s legacy. Those in power do not worry or care about if the slip is showing, but, rather, only that it stay in place in order to maintain – or in this case, regain – the status quo.

It’s called “making America great again.”

A candid observation.