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News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Occupy Trump

The political divide in he U.S. is no longer over what is the best way to achieve the liberty, equality, and justice set forth in our founding documents.   The argument is now about whether liberty, equality, and justice are  desired national goals.  

In September 2011,  we saw the Occupy Wall Street movement surround the financial district with the message that Wall Street rigged the economy to serve only the top one percent and the protesters represented the 99 percent.  They pointed to Wall Street as the direct cause of the Great Recession.  The movement spread across the country,  disrupting some activities,  but it was a peaceful movement.  As police evicted the Occupy protesters from their occupation sites,  they quietly retreated.  The media commentators dismissed the Occupy movement as a disorganized flash-in-the pan, and concluded they the protest was over.  People who supported the movement had an agenda that was a bit too cerebral for the shallow media-minds to grasp.  Their agenda was to demonstrate to the American people how all but the top economic percentages were being systematically disenfranchised from the economy.  With the implementation of Ronald Reagan's trickle down politics,  masses of people were pushed out of the middle class with an alarming increase in the poverty rate.  They pointed out that welfare recipients were not people who refused to work, but were, in fact, largely people who worked with two or three jobs trying to survive in an economy designed to benefit only the very rich.

The message was taken  up by Bernie Sanders who seemed to come out of no where as a contender for presidential candidacy.   But to those who understood the message,  Sanders is no surprise.  He has long substantiated the message and spread it with eloquence and without malice.

In contrast,  the Republicans are advancing the quintessential one-percenter in Donald Trump.  Trump demonstrates all that is destructive and offensive in a corporate ruler.  He divides the world into winners and losers.  His political rhetoric consists of unsupportable claims based on patently false information.  His exchanges with rivals consist of juvenile insults and taunts, and  his monologues are racist, sexist, misanthropic rants. Although some claim he is smart politically, his effectiveness is in his primitive, alpha-dog intimidation and promise of power to those who harbor the lust to exercise racist oppression and return to Jim Crow and beyond.  The America he claims is a loser is the America which  has advanced a social struggle from slavery and Jim Crow toward racial and ethnic equality, sexual equality, and equal rights for all gender identifications.  The America he wants to make great again is the America that discriminates against people,  lavishes insults, abuse, and poverty of those designated for oppression.  The America he calls a loser is the America which won World War II and through diplomacy and cooperative effort built its defeated enemies into two of the world bastions of democracy.  It is the America which has built peace and reduced the threat of nuclear disaster, not an America modeled after the belligerence of Vladimir Putin or  Kim Jong Un.  Trump's appeal is to those who side with the playground bullies as the source of power,  whose notion of freedom is the right to torment and humiliate others with belligerent crudity and cruelty.  

Trump's speech after winning primary elections last night demonstrated the depth of his politics.  He insulted the press that was allowed into his victory rally.  (His campaign staff maintains a list of news organizations and reporters banned from covering his events.)  He bragged about his wealth and his deal-making.  He promised to turn the running of America over to corporate leaders, saying they were the best in the world.  He emphasized his support of the Second Amendment.  As the rally was held in a ballroom on his personal estate in Florida,  he was not bothered by protesters, as they were carefully excluded from the event.  However,  when protesters exercise their First Amendment rights against the Trump hate speech,  he whines that they are thugs who are trying to abridge his free speech.  Trump never engages in a dialogue with others unless it is to cast his insults and abuse at them.  

In a word,  Trump is mindless.  There is no evidence of thought or contemplation in his words.  His political success is in following Schopenhauer's rule:  The person who writes for fools is always sure of a large audience.”   Trump's large audience is a sign of the intellectual deterioration that corporate rule has brought about in America.  The analysts say that Trump's supporters are angry at being ignored and left out of the recovery following the Great Recession.  The deadly irony is that Great Recession was caused by those corporate CEOs and money managers who are driven by avarice and a status gauged by how much oppression they can inflict.   They think that Trump, who is the poster boy of CEO avarice and whose campaign was ignited by his promises to oppress huge groups of people, is going work in their behalf.  Trump gives voice to their anger and malice,  and he makes promises about making deals which will make America "win,"  but he never addresses the causes of the decline some people feel.  That's because he and his kind are the cause. 

According to recent studies,  the top 1 percent received 95 percent of the gains made in the recovery from the Great Recession.  Obama's recovery was greatly hampered by corporations and their Congressional toadies.  Bernie Sanders has led the struggle against the economic inequality that underlies the anger and frustration of many Americans.  In their anger,  they have not been able to identify the causes of their torment.  Rather,  they have clung to old racial hatreds and assume that a black guy win the White House is the source of their plight.  Guns which can dispatch the minorities they blame with a little bad scripture thrown in are what they cling to.  Trump gives them voice.  And the very people he and his ind exploit turn to him as a savior  

The Republican Party is behind the foolery of the angry Americans.  Christian philosopher and theologian Soren Kierkegaard identified what has become its rule:  “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” 

Donald Trump is a symptom of America's larger problem:  a mass of people who have not the wit or education to be anything but fooled.  They are the product of the attacks on education and conditioning by he popular media that has identified reality as totally inhabited by fools.  And they have chosen the most flamboyant fool of all as their savior.   

If there is any attempt to bridge the divide between Americans that is assuming a lethal hostility,  it must be done in the recognition that those who believe that democracy functions on intelligence and education have to find a way to talk to those who have been indoctrinated into detesting intelligence and education.

That might well have to be done by demonstrating what a fool Donald Trump is and what fools he makes of those who believe in him as a solution to their plight.  

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Racism, guns, terrorism, and the motive to emigrate

It is easy and tempting to compare the tenor of the GOP presidential debate to Germany of the 1930s,  when so many people seemed to fall under the spell of Hitler.  But with the 21st century came a greater willingness to examine the attitudes of the people during the years of Nazification.  The examinations reveal that the charismatic hold Hitler had over the people involved  his perceiving what the people wanted and shaping his propaganda and his policies to meet their ambitions and desires.  He met with more political agreement than opposition.  Those who disagreed with his policies were intimidated into acquiescence by their friends and neighbors.  

However,  America has its own holocaust to account for.  Slavery and its Jim Crow aftermath and the dispossession and genocide against the American Indians still emerge as political factors.  The campaigns of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio resonate with appeals to those aspects of American history and identity.  What is happening with the GOP campaign is a revival of a mentality among the people that produced the suppression and atrocities which are inescapable facts of American history.  The call to make American great again is uttered in terms of oppression and hatred.  The difference is that the political parties have switched positions.  The GOP is now the advocate of oppression.  To it, equality , justice and liberty for anyone but white people are liberal decadence.  

When Barack Obama was elected president,  many, probably most, considered it a milestone in America's advance toward freedom, equality, and justice.   But a black president in the White House was so deeply resented by those still possessed by racial attitudes that a new wave of overt racism flooded the nation's politics.  The GOP announced from the beginning, as is recorded many times by Mitch McConnell,  that its mission is to obstruct anything proposed by President Obama.   Early in his first term when Obama was negotiating with John Boehner,  his phone calls were refused by the House speaker as a ploy to show the black president that he would not be treated as an equal by the white leadership.  GOP congressional  leaders have from the outset demonstrated their seething resentment of a black interloper occupying the White Man's House.   The brazen displays of contempt and disrespect by Congressional leaders encouraged the resurgence of racism and overt oppression of blacks that have become common again in American life.  The frequent killing of unarmed blacks by the police is a sign of an attitude that is a return to the early, violent days of Jim Crow.  The attitude motivating this behavior has a long tradition in the United States. 

After the Civil War, during Reconstruction,  Blacks became participants in government.  In many counties in the South,  blacks comprised the majority.  They, of course, gravitated to the Republican Party to which they owed allegiance for freeing them from slavery.  But in the 1870s, as Congress ended Reconstruction,  white  communities and politicians took action to get control of government back into all-white hands.  A major move was to suppress Black voting.  White Democrats organized armed militias to wage terror campaigns against Black Republicans.*  Historical accounts record an extensive campaign of attacks against Republican meetings and the killing of Black leaders.   While the Ku Klux Klan was active,  many of those attacks were not carried out in clandestine circumstances.

During the last quarter of the 18th century,  the campaigns of terror and suppression successfully eliminated the black Republican vote in the South.  For example,  in 1875,  there were 90,000 Rep publican votes cast.  In 1878, the state's Republican vote dropped to 4,000.

The oppression in the South was so intolerable to many Blacks that they began organizing groups to emigrate out of the United States.*  Liberia became a destination of choice.  At one point an organizer from Louisiana, Henry Adams,  in 1877 wrote that he represented 69,000 Southern Blacks who signed up to emigrate to Liberia if they could find the means.  Racial terror increased.  The year 1890 had the greatest number of lynchings of Blacks in U.S history, and the desire to leave the country was commensurate with the violence and oppression.  

There were other places than Liberia that were emigration destinations,  but it was a country created for freed  slaves and had the most appeal.  A problem was the expense of getting there and establishing a life for people who had great difficulty in coming up with the  money for the trip.  

Blacks and other minorities in the U.S. are facing some of the same discriminations and oppressions today that they faced 125 years ago.  But this time it is Black Democrats who are facing organized oppression by White Republicans.  Since 2008 when Obama was elected, Republican state legislatures have passed restrictive laws with the aim of suppressing the Democratic vote.  It is estimated that since the 2012 election,  laws have been passed that will eliminate 1.28 million votes for the 2016 election.  

The rise of Donald Trump is a sign of a nation sinking back into a state of suppression.  Those who delve into what is making him so popular among voters keep coming up with the conclusion that he appeals to a deep bigotry that is being unleashed within the nation.  One study concludes that he relates to people because, "He isn’t afraid to say the things they also say, even if those things are deemed racist, sexist, xenophobic or politically incorrect."  In other words,  a very significant portion of the population does not believe in the quest for liberty, equality, and justice for all people.  Trump has given a voice and a face to a political trend among the people that does bear a resemblance to the attitude among the German people in the 1930s that turned to Naziism.  But it is a brand of hate and oppression that has its origins in America and is a malignant political force that is rooted deep in Republican politics, not just in Donald Trump. 

Trump is also the face and voice of the one percent.  To those Americans who like to live under the rule of corporations,  he appeals to their allegiances and the belief that their well being  is dependent upon the wealthy.  

In South Dakota, there is a marked decline in the registrations of Democratic voters, while the Republican Party makes gains.  The discriminating, oppressive, and corrupt government of  South Dakota gives people who believe in liberty, equality, and justice a motive to emigrate from the state.  The voter suppression on the reservations, the punitive laws that target minorities and women, and  the support of predatory activity and fraud in business dealings have much to do with the decline of Democrats.  And the stalking and taking over of federal properties by armed white supremacists has sent a signal of what direction that American is heading.   Some people are looking for the modern day equivalent of Liberia, whether it be another state or another nation.  The United States has established a democratic example for the rest of the world, but much of the civilized word has surpassed it.  Many people have given up on finding the advancement of democracy in South Dakota.  It is pointless to engage in politics with factions whose idea of political success is the deprivation and oppression of other  people.  

The turmoil of emigrants fleeing violence and  oppression is straining the  democracies of Europe.  For those Americans who are looking to escape oppressive political designs,  the big question is,  where can they go?  In the wake of the Trump rise in politics,  Canada and some other countries have already extended an invitation for talented and democratic-minded people to contribute their talents and their desire to build democracy to their countries

*Journey of Hope:  The Back to Africa Movement,  Kenneth C. Barnes.  University of North Carolina Press,  2005. 

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States