IS IT TIME YET OR ARE WE STILL IN MOURNING?
HAVE WE PIVOTED AWAY FROM THE REAL CAUSES OF DALLAS, LOUISIANA AND MINNESOTA YET?
I penned a rather emotional rant yesterday that I intended to post today. But on second thought, I realized that while my emotional outpouring might have made me feel marginally better, it added nothing to our current national “discussions.” So I decided to post this instead.
Both this Sunday’s Washington Post and New York Times are full of articles about how America is suffering, about the nation’s racial chasm, about setbacks for Black Lives Matter as a result of last week’s killings. I, like many Americans, am angry, hurt and saddened by the state of affairs we find ourselves in. But not all Americans feel this way, and I include Rush Limbaugh who, on his radio program, blamed Black Lives Matter for the deaths of five cops in Dallas, as did Texas Lt. Governor, Dan Patrick, Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and the entire Fox News network who have implicated Black Lives Matter in the Texas tragedy.
For the record, unless one concludes that as a result of a Black Lives Matter protest – let’s call it an exercise in Free Speech and Assembly according to the much beloved Constitution of the United States that the right wing loves to reference – and the fact that Dallas authorities provided police men and women to prevent violence from occurring while the demonstration was in progress, (there was no violence) this blaming of the organization for Micah Johnson’s deadly rampage, his campaign, if you will, – like that of his opposite side warrior, Charleston killer Dylann Roof – to take revenge on White people and White cops is specious, demeaning and outright slander. Let’s recall that facts – or one fact, the one which shows that the rate of death of unarmed Black men, women and children at the hands of police officers, far outnumbers the corresponding rate of death for Whites - are still relevant and have yet to be addressed in any even marginal fashion.
On page 10 of the NYT this morning are two articles totally unrelated to “our national suffering” that can shed some light on why the country is allegedly so divided, why there exists such a racial chasm between Blacks and Whites (although the mixed race attendance at Black Lives Matter protests around the country tends to give lie to this assumption) and how we have come to the point where mass killings are followed by sympathy, condolences, “coming together” as responses when what is actually required is action.
"Anti-Abortion Group Presses On Despite Supreme Court Ruling"
“Herndon VA: Stung by the recent Supreme Court’s decision that overturned Texas abortion clinic restrictions, leaders of the country’s largest anti-abortion group are redoubling their efforts for restrictions on abortion that they claim will prevent fetal pain and that they believe can fare well in the public eye and, they hope, in the courts.” (Anti-Abortion Group Presses Ahead)
In characteristic fashion, the anti-abortion folks simply can’t take “NO!” for an answer. We’ve seen this same “tactic” over and over again from conservatives, right wingers and Judicial Watch whether in the Supreme Court’s ruling on same sex marriage, separation of Church and State, voter ID laws, EPA rulings and many, many other such court rulings. One could charitably characterize this drive as a political effort to get what the anti-abortion group wants but quite frankly it seems to me that this is just pure and simple lawlessness, defying the law, ignoring the highest court in the land, let’s say. Presumably the right wingers will and do cite “the law and will of God” in their defiance of law but let's recall that this is not Iran. It is the rule of law that separates America from the many religious republics around the world in which “God’s Law,” however this might be interpreted, rules supreme. But not here. It is, in fact, our Supreme Court who rules supreme.
How is this related to last week’s deadly killings? Well, for many years now the majority of Americans after Sandy Hook, after Charleston, after Orlando, after nearly 400 mass shootings in 2015 alone, want stricter gun controls. But conservatives simply will not allow any action, any legislation, which might stem the flood of such killings. This refusal to do anything was amply illustrated just a day prior to the Dallas killings when Republicans – the Freedom Caucus to be more specific – refused to allow a bill that even the NRA supported to come to the floor of the House of Representatives for discussion. This, of course, cannot be accurately characterized as “lawlessness” yet this lawful inaction will inevitably lead to more deaths of more innocent American citizens. And while this inaction may be legal, it fully demonstrates the moral turpitude and bankruptcy of rabid gun rights advocates, the NRA and the Republican Party. Inaction is a choice just as action is.
"The Right’s Wording For Public Education in Kansas: "Government Schools""
“Leawood, Kansas: Kansas has for years been the stage for a messy school funding fight that has shaken the Legislature and reached the State Supreme Court. Governor Sam Brownback, a Republican, and his political allies threatened to defy the court on education spending and slashed income taxes in their effort to make the state a model of conservatism. Somewhere along the way, the term “government schools” entered the lexicon in place of references to the public school system.” ( KANSAS "GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS" )
You will recall that when Sam Brownback was elected Governor of Kansas in 2010, he boldly declared that he was going to make Kansas the “poster child” for how conservative rule and public polices would result in a conservative paradise on earth. Six years later, by any rational measure, his program has been an abject failure and has done enormous damage to the economy and the people of Kansas.
But why, one might ask, did Kansans fall for what many of us predicted would be the disastrous results of Brownback’s “experiment” (his words) from the very beginning? One strategy conservatives have employed - and far outgunned liberals - is in the arena of “language manipulation.” As stated in this article, David Merritt, a columnist for the Wichita Eagle, wrote that state legislators’ “deaf and blind” ideology was threatening public schools. “Some have begun to call public schools “government schools,” a calculated pejorative scorning both education and anything related to government." Pretty strong, if accurate, words.
One assumes that the pejorative “government schools” did not originate in the Kansas legislature (although given that we’re talking about Kansas, it’s not impossible) but for a state legislature – any of the 50 United States state legislatures - to take up and use this term is surprising for folks who are presumably intelligent, thoughtful representatives of "the people," to be charitable about it. But such word manipulating didn’t begin with Kansas. It has its roots at least thirty years ago. If we’re talking about government, those roots can be traced straight back to President Ronald Reagan, who famously stated “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.”" This was in 1986, precisely thirty years ago and this virulent anti-government strain and refrain in pubic rhetoric and public policy implementation has only grown.
But since 1986 we have been bombarded with legions of such anti-government sentiments. I recall Newt Gingrich, then a Congressman representing Georgia in his cultural warfare against the National Endowment of the Arts, labeling NPR’s still running “All Things Considered, “One Thing Considered,” meaning, for those of you perhaps not born at the time, that “All Things Considered” was a subversive “liberal” program. Note that Gingrich (current potential VP for Trump) and fellow traveller, South Carolina Senator Jesse Helms, did succeed in reducing funds for the arts and succeeded in removing an exhibit by Robert Mapplethorpe from public view. This is called censorship yet conservatives at the time wildly applauded these actions. George Lakoff, a linguistics professor from UC Berkley, has been tracking for decades the successful right wing framing of public issues like abortion, health care, unions, government, among others, with carefully contrived catchphrases: “Tax Relief,” “Pro-Life,” “The Democrat Party,” “Death Panels” as well as co-opting such words as “Freedom” and “Liberty.”
The term “government schools” is a common reference to overseas national school systems and it’s been around for decades to distinguish public school systems from privately financed and run schools. The Libertarian Party adopted the phrase in its 1980 platform: “Government schools lead to the indoctrination of children and interferes with the free choice of individuals.” Today, conservatives and right wingers condemn colleges and universities as universal “hotbeds of liberal activism” and socialist indoctrination, when not tagged with the term “Communist Indoctrination.”
I know nothing about how Kansas runs it public school system. But I guarantee that school districts across Kansas are "government schools" because they are run by locally elected school boards as are virtually all public school boards in the country and not because of some coercive "hand" of the Federal Government. The solution to Kansas "government schools" - should Kansans feel that the Department of Education is running the show - is easy. Forego Kansas' portion of the $550 billion public tax dollars spent annually on supporting pubic school students and they will be totally free from "government schools." This, of course, will not happen since it would require local tax increases which in Kansas' conservative economic paradise is about as likely as the Second Coming cumming this year.
Rush Limbaugh and Fox News succeeded in manipulating the terms “liberal” and “liberalism” into pejoratives equating them with Socialists and Communism a couple of decades ago. And in the current campaign for the Presidency, Donald Trump has eschewed “political correctness” for telling it like it is no matter that words like “nigger,” “kike” and “wop” are demeaning, grossly disrespectful and in many cases inflammatory. Words, in fact, do matter. They are not content neutral but conjure up mind images and when these images are negative, are all minds simply immune from negative pejoratives but universally accepting of positive ones? I think not.
If there is a single root cause of our national divisiveness, of the racial chasm we are told that we are facing, I believe that it is the right wing’s wildly successful campaign of “word and language manipulation” that has been going on for decades. George Orwell would have been proud of so successful a campaign.
To sum up, when lawlessness is excused as freedom, when nothing is done to ameliorate severe social problems, when crises are met with words of sympathy rather than actions, when the exercise of free speech and assembly is promoted by one side yet condemned by another, when the public media is either unwilling or unable to execute its prime function as the Fourth Estate, when political, authoritarian and rhetorical excess goes unchecked, when the rule of law fairly and equally applied to all citizens is absent, when inflammatory and hateful rhetoric is allowed to stand with no consequence and poisons the public atmosphere, tell me again how it is that Charleston’s Dylann Roof and Dallas’ Micah Johnson have somehow not gotten the messages we’ve been allowing to be sent out across America for decades?
In fact, I think one could argue quite successfully, that both killers have, indeed, correctly interpreted those messages.
NOTE: In 1997 David Bowie released a music video that pretty much predicted where we have wound up today. As you watch, keep in mind that this was in 1977, four decades ago.
PS: A bit of good news in an otherwise depressing time. Perhaps as a result of the Gods' providing us with most generous rainfall this year, we have dozens upon dozens of small but rapidly fattening tomatoes in our backyard here on Capitol Hill.