Tag Archives: Politics

American Conservatism

Two Cats to Soothe Your Eyes

In an Earlier Post, I wrote about racism and its origins. Among other things, it is noteworthy that prior to enslaving Africans, Europeans never mentioned race at all. There were people in other places with dark skin, but that was as far as it went, because, who cared? Nobody. No reason to. Once you start doing wrong by people, though, you need to justify your actions to yourself. Enter race. The “Black Race” is clearly inferior, or else how could the “White Race” have enslaved them? Obviously, some serious genetic deficiencies are evident in the world. This was the worldview upon which the United States of America was founded. Even dour New Englanders were okay with other races being inferior to the “White Race.” They just didn’t think that this justified enslaving them. And, of course, we did benefit as a nation. Those slaves were instrumental in building the nation, whether they ever get credit for it or not. We eliminated slavery with our Civil War, but not the idea of racial superiority. Our laws covering cocaine, for instance, stem from an instance where somebody in Georgia axe murdered his family. He was “black,” and so the New York Times editorialized about “protecting our Negro brethren.” Yes, the New York Times. I once saw a post extolling the virtues of Ray Charles’s song, “Seven Spanish Angles,” in which the writer noted how Ray was backing up Willie Nelson on the piece. Trouble is, as Willie could tell you, Willie was backing up Ray, but the writer assumed the opposite, because, well, “Blacks” are inferior in every way, right? (Ray’s first gig was with a country band, for the record.)

So, what does this mean for Conservatives? Well, traditionally, America has benefited from a bogus structure of racism. It has allowed “White” people to enjoy tremendous prosperity, all the while they can not notice the underlying support they’re getting from “inferior” races. So, what Conservatives want to return to, to Make America Great Again, is simply the former mindless acceptance of a structure that suppressed a lot of minority people to the benefit of “White” people. In short, what Conservatives want to conserve is good old European-American racism. It’s really that simple. So when the current Republican leadership is accused of being racist, well, they are. No getting around it. Of course, there is a huge fly in the ointment of traditional racism.

That is that the game is up. As of a few months from now, there will be more “non-white” children in the United States than “white” children. (If you’re wondering about all the quotation marks, read my earlier post.) In another generation, those who insist on the superiority of the “White Race” are going to be seriously outnumbered. Fine with me, because I live in Clark County, Nevada, which is already a majority minority county. “White” folks have a plurality, but they cannot blindly dictate policy any more. The irony of the situation is that Vegas was once the “Mississippi of the West,” due to the extreme segregationist policies enforced here. Sammy Davis Junior had to go into the resort through the kitchen before presenting his sold-out shows. Fortunately, that is no longer the case. It can’t be, even though there are still plenty of people here who probably wish it could be. But, how could it?

The game being up explains the fierce following of MAGA folks. And I’m not calling them bad people, or stupid either, because bad and stupid people are everywhere. I am calling them victims of a centuries-old scheme of racism combined with a skillful application of populist propaganda. Too bad for them, really.

We could just wait it out and let things sort themselves out, of course. But the damage could be quite substantial to our institutions, prestige, and economic vigor. So, my advice is that all of us who see things for what they  are get out there next year and vote those people out. Don’t start fighting over ideological purity, just put up someone we can all at least tolerate for a few years, and vote them out. Please!

Politics

Yucca Mountain. North of Las Vegas Nevada

The picture this week is relevant to the topic. Yucca Mountain is politically controversial in Nevada. Google it if you want to know more. Short story is that this is the place where it was decided to store the nation’s low level nuclear waste. Since it’s just 75 miles from downtown Las Vegas, some folks are worried about what might happen. Nevada is an active earthquake state, so you can imagine the sort of scenario that is being proposed. There are counter arguments, also, and frankly, they may be right. I have seen video of various things being tried to break one of the containers that the waste is  stored in, and I’m not sure the average earthquake has the energy to do that. But, I’m not arguing a position on Yucca Mountain. I am using both sides as an example of how politics can skew the view of a situation.

“Good God, we’re all gonna die!” True.
“Not from Yucca Mountain because that stuff is safer than you’d think.” Also true.

So, I just managed to slip in my position without saying so, which is the point of this essay. No matter what you believe, no matter what your politics are, YOUR POSITION AND POLITICS ARE GOING TO COME OUT IN WHATEVER YOU WRITE. Mark Twain never gets on the nose with his commentary on racism in Huckleberry Finn. But, he does have Huck volunteer to go to a literal Hell rather than be a racist dick toward his friend Jim. That is a much stronger statement than saying “Racists are ignorant and undeserving of respect.” I doubt that Twain believed that statement in the raw form I’ve presented above. But maybe he did. Either way, Huck volunteering to go to Hell is a lot stronger way to make a statement about racism and social norms than any essay could ever be. So, okay, you say, but you’re writing an essay right now, aren’t you?

Well, yes, but that’s because I have a need to write something at frequent intervals. I just finished the first draft of a middle-grader, and I’m working on structural editing of a YA. Neither of those things involve much writing per se at this point, so I crank out the occasional (every Wednesday, I hope) essay, to keep my “write something” Jones down to a mild roar.

And my point, then, is that, if you, as a writer, are upset about politics on any level, if you truly want to do your bit to make the world a better place, then the thing you should do is write your stories. Maybe you’re like me, and you need to produce a few essays in between editing. Okay, fine. But write that damn story right now! It doesn’t matter what the story is, it will, without you being at all pedantic, be a better illustration of your world view than any essay (or Facebook post) could ever be. I’m serious, bucko! Stop reading this and writing something now!

There. I feel better, and you should, too!

Can You Ignore It All?

I Think This Was in Angel's Camp, but I'm not certain. Nice looking cat, though.
I Think This Was in Angel’s Camp, but I’m not certain. Nice looking cat, though.

Following politics is probably not the best way to stimulate your muse. Too jarring, too much faux importance assigned to trivia, too many arguments. I, for one, am tempted to ignore all things political, you know, turn off the TV, never look at a news site, block all news sites from my Facebook and Twitter feeds. But, even if that would work (a debatable point,) I’m not sure that’s a good idea. For several reasons.

First, some of the best art is produced under emotional stress. I’ve written exactly one decent poem in my life. It was shortly after I broke it off with a steady. My wife has some amazing art from Communist Poland, advertising Shakespeare plays and such. The regime didn’t like art for art’s sake, but was fine with Shakespeare’s plays, apparently. So, the artists did some incredibly creative work hawking theater tickets. Stressful? You bet!

And there is the fact that, deep down inside, I want to influence my readers (4th & 5th graders, primarily) to think well, and to live with some compassion for their fellow humans. No, I never get pedantic. I never go on the nose, because that makes for lousy stories. But everything I believe in will come out, sooner or later, in my stories. (I may have mentioned this before?) Which means that it might be a good idea to follow the news even when it is upsetting, in order for my emotions to stay authentic. Makes sense to me!

What I can, and do, do (I said do do heh heh) is not argue with people. In fact, most of the time, what I repost, or occasionally post if I see an article about which I haven’t seen anything, is funny stuff, because, after all, I am a comic, and have been for years. (My classmates thought I was the class clown. I never thought of myself that way. I should have.) As far as arguing with people, I imagine that you can count on the fingers of zero hands the number of times a Facebook post has converted anyone to a different point of view. So, I don’t try. With the exception of some trollbots, everybody is probably sincere, and everybody probably has good reasons. Let ’em have ’em.

I’m too busy trying to decide how a group of fifth-graders is going to rescue a couple of FBI agents. (‘Cause chapter books are a form of fantasy, too.)

It’s Not The Bad Words!

republican-party-logo-designdemocratic-party-logo-design I’ll admit that I’m glad to see Mr. Trump destroying his campaign. But I’m not happy at what I see some of his supporters saying in defense of him. I’ve seen comments like “That’s the way real men talk,” and “it’s just locker room talk!” Oh? I’ve been in a lot of locker rooms with other men, and I’ve never heard anyone talk like that. I’ve heard “I wish I could get in bed with her!” Or, “I wouldn’t toss her out of bed for eating crackers!” But never anything like what Trump says about women, and for that matter, everybody else. What Trump fails to grasp is the simple idea that we all need to respect each other.

I’m stealing this idea from Kurt Vonnegut: we don’t need to love each other, or even like each other, but we do need to respect each other. And that respect is due just because we are all human beings. The world is way too small and interdependent for a return to isolationist, racist, misogynistic behavior. Which is what is wrong with what Trump, and some of his supporters, have said. “Grab her pussy” is not respectful to the person getting groped. Neither is wearing an ape mask and offering a black guy a banana. You don’t have to like blacks, you don’t have to like latinos (you may call them all “Mexicans,” I know,) you don’t have to like liberals, you don’t have to like me. But, you have to respect all of us as human beings.

Black Lives matter is a result of people being disrespected for generations simply because their skin is brown. And there are more examples, of which here are some.

Our drug laws are the result of disrespect. Cocaine is illegal because of a perceived need (in the early 20th century) to protect people whom the New York Times referred to as “Our Negro Brethren” from the evils of a South American Plant. Opium is illegal because of the perceived threat of Chinese immigrants. It was the “Yellow Menace,” you see. Got to wonder what today’s many Asian immigrants think of that one, huh? And weed, that is marijuana, is illegal because of disrespect to Mexican (really were this time) migrant laborers. Got to keep them spics in line, you know!

So, out of a failure to respect various groups as human beings who are as smart and capable of taking care of themselves as anyone else, we have distorted the social fabric to the point where it is normal for DEA agents to get into shooting wars with employees of rich cartels. Swell, huh? And consider that most illegal drugs begin as weeds. By which I mean that they are cheap.

Racism, sexism, misogyny, drug laws, unequal enforcement of laws, all are examples of not respecting each other. Vonnegut was right: what we need is a lot more respect. So, sure, as I’ve also read, Hilary has a potty mouth. I have a potty mouth, too! But, I don’t aim my mouth at entire classes of humans, and, maybe more importantly, I’m not trying to become President of the United States while being disrespectful to most of society.

I may make one exception and say something about a group. Frankly, if you can still support Trump, knowing all that we know about his character, I think maybe you do belong in Hilary’s basket. You know the one.

Immigrants

As background, I’d like to point out that my family first arrived in this country at Jamestown, well before the pilgrims landed. Yes, they were idiots, looking for gold in the Dismal Swamp. But they were amongst the first European invaders. They were cousins, but a direct ancestor of mine fought in the Revolutionary war, with Connecticut. Funny, that, because he was from Philadelphia. Too many blue bloods in Philly for his taste? Oh, wait, he was a blue blood.

My mom even looked down on my dad’s family because, among other reasons, the first of them didn’t arrive until the 1840s. Laggards!

So we’ve been here 408 years now, and I think that qualifies me to talk about immigrants.

Trump? What’s with that guy? Nobody on earth works harder than a Mexican! Who’s going to build that wall for him? Wasps like me? Good luck with that, Don.

408 years. We were here first, dammit! And I’m okay with immigrants. Those of you who think immigrants are ruining the country? Feel free to go back where you came from at any time of your choosing!

Oops!

I vastly underestimated the degree of apathy in the Democratic base. Ah, well, I better not hear any of them bitching about the government for the next couple of years. Their loss.

There’s always next cycle!

John C. Calhoun and Current Politics

I don’t mean the John C. Calhoun who was a Confederate advocate prior to the Civil War. I mean the John C. Calhoun who was an adviser to President Nixon on issues of mental health. My John C. Calhoun was essentially a biologist specializing in mammalian behavior. Okay, in how mammals act and why.

Assuming they have any, you can still buy a copy of his Space and the Strategy of Life. It’s way out of print. I got a copy for free from the man himself because somebody clued me into the secret method of getting one. That was, write him a postcard by hand asking for it. Now that, if you will, is sort of odd. But it was fitting, given what his research uncovered. My copy is just a photocopied reprint of a manuscript, I imagine you get covers and everything with the book.

Calhoun determined that any group of mammals has an optimum size. For different species the optimum number is different. For rabbits, it’s a lot. Really a lot. For humans, it’s eighteen. The optimum number seems to relate to how much food can be gathered and distributed, how much space the individuals need for their activities and things like that. For any mammal, when the number of group members gets close to twice the optimum, the group splits in two, hey no hard feelings, and now there are two optimum groups. Lucky groups, I suppose you could call them, keep splitting off and splitting off. Of course, sooner or later, if a species is really successful, it runs out of room to keep splitting in two.

Uh-Oh.

In most cases, if that happens, then some groups just have to go. As in get killed off by other groups. Humans sometimes indulge in that solution, but mostly we don’t. Instead, we add a layer of complexity to our social lives so that we only meet roughly the same number of people we’d meet in an optimally sized group. That’s where social class comes from. After a while, not even that is sufficient, so we add layers of layers. By using these artificial seeming social dividers, we humans can endure population numbers that would be inconceivable to many species.

This relates to politics because, if you think about it, something has to give every time the population of a group of humans reaches eighteen times a power of two. At 36 (18 x 2) you either split, or come up with a class system. At 72 (18 x 4) you can so that again. Before you know it, you’ve got separate villages, a principality, a kingdom, an empire, each adding a layer and keeping individuals only meeting a manageable number of other people. How do you live in a city? You ignore the people you meet on the street unless you have actual business with them, or they are friends in another context. Sure, you’re all in New York or whatever, and you may be a heckuva bunch, but you keep out of each others’ business, because you have to to survive.

So, say your population is approaching 2,359,293, which is 18 times 2 raised to the 17th power. Go ahead and add it up, if you wish. Like say you live in the Las Vegas area, which population recently topped the 2 million mark. Hey, we’re getting close. It would be reasonable to expect that some tensions are developing, right? Well, some are. The City of North Las Vegas is in financial trouble and so is now using the County Jail to hold suspects for trial or whatever. There is talk of consolidating Fire Departments, also. As Calhoun points out, England and Scotland became the United Kingdom when their population was right, although that’s not obvious in a historical reading. In the same manner, Southern Nevada is having a crisis of government, where consolidation seems like the key to saving money all around. It is (gasp) another layer of government, but it also is being, mostly, welcomed. In the business world, all of us are eagerly awaiting the full consolidation of licensing. It isn’t fun paying a fee here, a fee there, another one over somewhere. What is being put together is a method to pay all license fees at the same time, and to one entity. Whee-doggie. Dang, biological destiny at work!

And, what if your population has recently exceeded 301,989,888? Like, say, the population of the United States of America did in recent years? Would you expect that things might be up in the air? Maybe a fairly significant number of people wouldn’t be happy with the way things are going? Maybe even that some people would simply go into denial about what’s happening and, oh I don’t know, say that they want to “Take Back The Country?” Why yes, you would expect that. And so, here we are. The problem for the super-conservative crowd is that there is no going back. They can learn to accept what the country has become, or they can fade into historical insignificance. That, friends, is why “Current Politics” is in the title. The question now isn’t whether we let all the immigrants vote or whatever, the question is whether we use their skills to keep America great. That’s what we’ve always done during past similar crises, and I’m pretty sure that is what we will do this time. Of course, I have been wrong before, but I’m pretty confident that we’ll come through the current crisis (which may get worse before it gets better) just fine.

*****Aside about creativity.*****

I said that getting an article from John C. Calhoun involved a hand-written postcard. That’s because he also discovered that people who move through a group quickly interact with a lot more other people during the day, while people who move through a group slowly interact with a lot fewer other people during the day. And, further, that “high velocity” people, meeting lots of other people, tend to be influential but not creative, whereas “low velocity” people, much more solitary (in general) tend to be creative but not influential. (This is  true in most species, not just humans.) Calhoun chose to be creative, which is why only an old-fashioned slow means of communication worked. Today, if any form of art is done by committee, no matter how much brainstorming and cross-checking they do, it’s going to more or less suck. Real art is the result of real creativity, and that, my friends, requires a passle of alone time. Which explains why nerdy folks like Jobs, Gates, and Zukerberg stomped all over corporate giants like Xerox and IBM in building the modern Internet. Bottom line: if you want to construct something that basically is a known quality, like a skyscraper or city hall, form a committee. If you want good art and innovation, be alone, be very alone.

Caesar Said It

“Since we have come to the place, it does not appear to be foreign to our subject to lay before the reader an account of the manners of Gaul and Germany, and wherein these nations differ from each other. In Gaul there are factions not only in all the states, and in all the cantons and their divisions, but almost in each family, and of these factions those are the leaders who are considered according to their judgment to possess the greatest influence, upon whose will and determination the management of all affairs and measures depends. And that seems to have been instituted in ancient times with this view, that no one of the common people should be in want of support against one more powerful; for, none [of those leaders] suffers his party to be oppressed and defrauded, and if he do otherwise, he has no influence among his party. This same policy exists throughout the whole of Gaul; for all the states are divided into two factions.” — Caius Julius Caesar, 58BCE

Available at University of Virginia online library (click the title of this post); taken from Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic and Civil Wars: with the Supplementary Books attributed to Hirtius; Including the Alexandrian, African and Spanish Wars.
Julius Caesar
Translator W. A. McDevitte Translator W. S. Bohn  
1st Edition.
Harper & Brothers
New York
1869 Harper’s New Classical Library

I draw some conclusions from that quote from Caesar. For one thing, he was a pretty good writer. Beyond that, apparently we use  a Gallic political system in this country. In Gaul I imagine that there were liberals and conservatives, with the aim being that neither ever really get the upper hand. Caesar actually liked this two-faction system, as he called it, enough to write about it. Mostly Caesar didn’t like much but Caesar, but this Gallic invention was one of the exceptions.

Before somebody gets all bent out of shape about the “Damned French,” I need to point out that the Franks (French) moved into Gaul four-hundred years after Caesar wrote his Commentaries, and that the Gauls were more closely related to the Welsh, Irish and Scots than to the Franks. The two-party system was a Celtic invention, actually.

Now in the USA we see the truth of what Caesar wrote. When one faction (party) gets too powerful the people restore some sort of balance. Recently, that election in Massachusetts, which should have been a shoe-in for the Democrat, instead became a referendum on unbalanced party power and hey, shazam, no more supermajority in the Senate. For the same reason that Obama got in last year (too many people not feeling like they were being heard) Obama got a new headache this year. And on we go. For the record, the winner will serve exactly one term. Massachusetts is what it is, after all.

Of course, it is amusing to watch the Democrats scurry about, I’ll give it that. Will Rogers said it: “I’m not a member of an organized political party. I’m a Democrat.” Yep. I imagine that Caesar would be amused.

Steve

The Presidency

The President of the United States has to be the most thankless job in the known universe. I heard someone on the radio say the other day that Obama is “destroying the very fabric of the America that we grew up in.” Wow. I’ll bet he wishes he had that sort of power. Actually, of course, the President can’t hardly go to the bathroom without somebody following him in and keeping him safe. How the hell you’re supposed to do anything at all creative when nobody will ever leave you the heck alone is beyond me. And of course, the most recent past prez, you know, Shrubby the Bush as I like to call him, was vilified far beyond what his level of incompetence called for. He did not, contrary to what I’ve heard, cancel the constitution or institute a police state. I bet he wished he could do some of that, but thanks to the fact that any idiot, including present company, can pretty much say whatever he wants to, nobody can do such a thing in this country. I could say similar things about Clinton and Bush the Elder (the one with a brain) but I think I’ve done enough damage to individual presidents for one day.

The reason I mention all that is that I’d like to propose that we amend the way we select presidents. Instead of an interminable election, how about every six years, or eight, or whatever seems fair, we draft one eligible citizen, and that poor schmuck or schmuckette is stuck with the job. I would cap eligibility for the draft at seventy, though. I’d hate to think we killed anyone outright. Just think of the benefits we’d accrue. For one thing, instead of somebody crazy enough to actually volunteer for the job, we’d get someone sane enough to avoid it. Of course, the truly sane might just emigrate to Canada. In the middle of the night. With their headlights off. But still, we’d have a president who was truly one of the people at last. Think of it: we could get a new Lincoln, or Daniel Webster, or FDR or JFK or Homer Simpson!

Really, just think it over. I’m sure you’ll come around to my way of seeing things.

Steve