Sunday, June 12, 2022

The Sack of Rome

In 410 A.D., Rome was sacked by the Visigoth leader Alaric. For the first time in 800 years, the city most closely associated with the rise of The Roman Empire was ruined, stripped of wealth, left in disrepair. It was the moment that signaled the end of Roman Imperialism and the reign of the Roman people over a large swath of the globe. It was a stunning moment of clarity, after centuries of slow, inexorable decay, as the Imperial bloodlines moldered and withered, and the Empire fractured after the rise of Christianity. Most of the 800,000 inhabitants of the city did not see it coming.

History is filled with moments where the citizenry of a place and time go about their business, struggle to survive every day, act as if what they know will always be so, then turn to look over their shoulder to see flames rising upon the horizon. Humanity settles into patterns and "normalcy," because that is the survival tactic that served us best in the tens of thousands of years leading up to the advent of "modern" humanity. When people found a means to survive, and do so regularly, in a fixed manner, that became "normal," and anything that deviated from that was considered with a skeptical eye. Long periods of sameness lead to complacency, when it is adaptation that is the greatest strength of any evolving species.

Physical evolution is easy, by comparison to social evolution. Changes in physical DNA occur constantly; changes in our social "DNA" occur with glacial place.

At this moment, in the United States, we are at a social inflection point. Right now, our social forces are balance precariously between progress and retreat. The seesawing back-and-forth of our society is straining the social fabric of the nation, and the first tears are beginning to show. A tug-of-war has begun, and right now both sides have a firm grip, but it will not stay that way much longer.

Mind you, it should not be this precarious. At the end of the 1960s and beginning of the 1970s, social change was alive and alight in America. Piggybacking on the success of going to the Moon, was the identification that Earth was a form without lines and borders, a place we were all going to have to get along on if we, as a species expected to survive. But the conflict between Progressive social forces and the Conservative backbone of the country led to the beginning of the tears we see now in our societal fabric. Conservative thinking determined that Progress meant the loss of freedom and liberty for a select portion of the country, the "ruling" portion, which was mainly White, male, Conservative, and prone to fear of change. This idea that the ideals of the Founding Fathers were meant to apply to all people, equally was anathema to Conservative thought. They saw the White, male Founders as exemplars of just how the nation was "supposed to be," and to deviate from their vision was to admit a hatred of the country.

In 1968, the deaths of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy heralded the reestablishment of Conservative values. The election of Richard M. Nixon put a rubber stamp of the idea that Conservatism had to ensure that Progressive thought and action were stamped out at every turn, to prevent the continued "dissolution" of White Christian male power in the United States. Watergate was the most obvious attempt by Republicans and their Conservative backers to ensure that the power Liberals had managed to forge into the new Democratic Party was snuffed out at every turn. Richard Nixon wanted the Democratic Party smashed, so that it could not pose a serious threat to Republicans. That seed, planted in 1972, has borne a bitter harvest in 2022. Fifty years later, post-Trump, the Republican Party has made a shambles of Federal government, filled the Judicial Branch with partisan witchcraft, and worked to ensure that Progressive voters do not actually have their votes count.

Right now, we are at the tipping point. It cannot be made any clearer. The only way to avoid the plunging of the United States into a White Christian Fascist abyss is to damage the Republican Party so thoroughly, that they cannot recover their strength. To do that, given current political circumstances and the need for expediency, requires the support of Democratic candidates. No, not necessarily the Democratic Party, but definitely their candidates, because these are the only people with sufficient power and backing to run up against and defeat the juggernaut that is the Republicans Party.

This is certainly not what many want to do. The rhetoric surrounding the "inability" of the Democratic Party to get anything done is less a product of supposed Democratic ineptitude and more a product of fifty years of Republican machinations, painting the Democratic Party in unflattering terms while pandering to a base that is seeded with the hate and fear required to drive them continuously to the polls. Democrats cannot defeat Republicans without help.

It is often said that the choices during elections are "the lesser of two evils," but whatever you may think of the Democratic Party, and there is plenty to admonish, it still attempts to do the work of governance, whereas the Republican Party has abandoned all pretense as to governing the country. Republicans simply want to tear down anything build by a century of Democratic Party progress and install an unquestioned White Christian Fascist autocracy. Even if you want to consider the Democratic Party "evil," it is not even anywhere near on par with the complete and total subjugation to evil that the Republican Party represents in the 21st Century. How can you not vote for the lesser of two evils, when one of them is completely and thoroughly evil?

There is nothing I can say, no magic words that I can utter, that will suddenly dissuade you from wasting your vote on anyone other than a Democrat who has decided to put themselves out there to try and arrest the social decay of our country. If you cannot see the forest for the trees, I cannot clear your vision. I can only encourage you to take a look, see for yourself, examine the paths that Republicans and Democrats have taken to get to this point, and ask you to think critically about what you see. If you cannot see the pure evil of the Republican Party for what it is, there's nothing to be done. But if you can, and you want it to be stopped, there is one simple way. It is not too late to bar the Gates of Rome.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

If You Choose Not To Decide

We are in one of those moments in the United States of America which will ultimately wind up in a history book, should there be anyone left willing to write the book. The last five years saw the bitter fruit of our neglect for the maintenance of our Federal government come to full fruition. We now stand in a place where there is no longer certainty that there will be a United States left in as little as a decade.

It sounds hyperbolic, but when the Founding Fathers fought a war, then wrote a Constitution, it was with the express intent that we preserve, protect, and expand their legacy. The flowery words and flowing script were a down payment on a future that would see The People take the nation to its logical extension. Now, over 240 years later, we have done what we always do: left the maintenance until the structure is on the verge of collapse, hoping to get one more year out of it before we have to do something.

It's not as if the political quandary we face is difficult to figure out. Over the intervening two hundred or so years, we have become a nation of parties, and most often only two, whose names and alignments change but are in essence flips sides of the coin. There is always a Conservative party, struggling to halt the inexorable march forward and the change inherent in, and spawned by, that march, and a Progressive party, coaxing, urging, cajoling, and pleading with people to ride the wave forward toward the future.

Currently, those parties are represented by Republicans and Democrats, respectively. The divide between the two parties, always there but usually bridgeable, is now an ideological chasm, the political version of Monty Python's "Argument Clinic" sketch. Any moderation between the two eroded away through six decades of Republican intransigence and catering to the more sycophantic in the Conservative sphere. What few rope bridges remained between the parties were savagely hacked away in 2016 by the election of a self-important, blustering con artist to the greatest position of power in the land, and his subsequent ravaging of Federal government, akin to Godzilla strolling through downtown Tokyo.

The election of Joe Biden, far from de-escalating the situation, has cemented it. Frankly, one wonders if that wasn't the plan all along: let the bumbling, incompetent President adored by his ignorant legions fall, only to spin it as a "conspiracy," to provide provender for the raging horde of Conservative sheep. It certainly led to a moment -- the January 6th Insurrection -- which for all intents and purposes was an attempt to prevent the President-elect from taking office and therefore worthy of the appellation. The seething rage of what is an increasing minority of Americans was brought to a full boil by their "Dear Leader," who acted as if it could be any other thing but an attempt to reinstall him to office. And his loyalists are, in the true fashion of King George III's two-and-a-half centuries ago, willing to make any excuse for it, short of calling it what it was.

All this said, it is becoming clear -- and you'll forgive glossing over the past few months of revelations and investigations -- that whatever "intent" may have been behind January 6th, whatever planning may have taken place, we are living with the end result being as clear as day. The Republican Party, one of only two viable parties, has thrown its weight behind a complete and total march toward establishing White Christian Fascist hegemony in the country. In States all over the country, Republican Governors and Republican-controlled Legislatures have done their level best to ignore, downplay, or sabotage the response to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, have taken steps to retract the necessary and warranted alterations to voting rights to allow everyone equal access to the vote, have begin the systematic dismantling of settled law by attacking the legality of abortion, and have removed meaningful and necessary restraints to the purchase and wielding of firearms. This is a clear and present danger to the majority of Americans who do not not share to any great degree the arcane, backward, and ignorant views driving these changes.

Which leads me, unhappily, to my point.

Because this is all very obvious. To pretend, for an instant, that events as we see them hold any other meaning is denial on a scale not seen since the Romans thought they still had an empire, even as the Visigoths were knocking down the gates of Rome. I'll avoid the quotation of Santayana, but you get the idea.

And still... the mainstream media is filled with the reports of Democratic infighting. Much of it is an amplification of such minor fluff as to be ludicrous, but there are definitely fault lines in the party, which slide and creak ominously when elections are approaching. Now is no different. Next year, 2022, is the bellwether year for our nation, because to hand Republicans control of any branch of government at any level, no matter how tenuously, is a prescription for catastrophic failure.

To that end, it would seem clear enough: vote for Democrats. But therein lies the rub. Because the Progressive side of America is a rainbow of thoughts and ideas, and unlike the lockstep machinations of Conservatives, Progressives spend a lot of time arguing instead of doing. This, invariably, leads to the weakening of Democratic power and a further erosion of actual progress in the nation. Some factions within the Progressive movement simply take their toys and go home, rather than support Democrats, when it's Democrats that are the only ones who have a realistic chance of advancing Progressive causes. This maddening passion play that invariably unfolds every election cycle is frankly the final pin to be pulled in the grenade that will trash American democracy once and for all.

Now, I preface the following thoughts by saying: I'm no longer a fan of parties. I believe, in the age of global communication, that the organizing principle of the political party -- never a necessity -- is now an abject waste of resources. It is possible, as we've seen repeatedly in the last decade, for people to organize on large scales through the auspices of the Internet, and to create a force for action on many levels.

That said, in the arena of politics, we are not there yet. We're still dependent on an archaic system that is driven by two parties, and we won't be able to change that at all until we change our outlook and accept current realities. Those current realities are pretty simple. Republicans have now made it clear that they will not advance Progressive policies. Period. They will not work toward the betterment of all, as the Constitution enjoins them to, but will seek to establish their vision of what America is, also know as White Christian Fascism. To make any other read, at this point, is ludicrous and unconscionable. The writing is on the wall.

The only group of sufficient size, power, and organization that can oppose the Republican drive toward an authoritarian regime is the Democratic Party. Love them or despise them, they are it. If we do not support them, if we do not vote for them, if we do not work toward ensuring that they have a fair shot in elections, then we lose more that just those elections; we lose what America is supposed to be. The Republicans will have no problem enacting policies that will basically strip power away from anyone who does not swear fealty to their views. If you think it can't happen here, then I have news for you: it already is. Republicans in several States have been ensuring that the power of Democratic election officials can be circumvented to allow them to install their own candidates instead of rightfully elected Democrats. They are aligning the electoral network to ensure that they can simply seize power, upon the pretense of "rigged" elections, which are rigged, but in their favor.

So, you have a simple choice in upcoming elections: vote for Democrats or don't. If you can't vote for Republicans but won't vote for Democrats, and decide to sit it out, you've voted in the most inimical fashion. You've also shown that you do not care even an iota as much as you claim to about people, because you are condemning the rest of us to tyranny to salve your wounded pride. "Principles" are a wonderful thing... until you're staring down the barrel of a gun and realize they don't stop bullets. This may be your last opportunity as an American citizen, to participate in the thing which is your most solemn dusty as a citizen. Do your duty.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

All Things Being Equal

I have watched the movie Lincoln a dozen times or more, now. Forgiving the filmmaker's habit of glossing and smoothing over history to present a coherent narrative thread, it is still a window into a time when the story of equality was still raw and jagged. A time when it was far easier to dismiss those of darker skins to being inferior to the marbled and mottled white of the Founding Fathers.

At one point, Daniel Day-Lewis' President Lincoln relates learning of Euclid's First Axiom: Things which are equal to the same thing are also equal to one another. It is a jumping off point for the coming vote on the Thirteenth Amendment to abolish slavery, per the story.

Euclid spoke of the "self-evident" nature of his Axioms. They were true because they were true. They were bedrock principles of geometry and mathematics; neither would function without such things as the First Axiom being true. The movie extends the idea that perhaps this could be considered a starting point for that immortal phrase, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are create equal." More importantly, it applies the idea to people, that they are, in fact, all people.

What seems self-evident to modern eyes was not so to 17th, 18th, or 19th Century ones. The movie accurately, but perhaps too softly, portrays the revulsion of White men at the idea they might be considered equivalent to Black men. Opposition to the Thirteenth Amendment was not necessarily because anyone wanted to promote slavery further, or maintain its legality, but due to the idea that millions of freed Black people would demand equality under the law, and White men were not ready to give it to them.

We step one hundred fifty years into the future, and the idea of equality has taken on broader connotations. There is still the Black-White divide, as healthy as ever, written into the very marrow of our society, but now so many other groups are subject to variations on the theme. Hispanic and Latin individuals, members of the LGBTQ community, the disabled... humanity has had equality divvied up and partialed out in microscopic quantities to be fought over by many groups, like a pack of ravenous animals, while the White power structure works feverishly to retain the power to do the divvying and partialing out. The result is the inevitable: White fear of extinction driving us to an administration wholly incapable of running a nation, populated by those who were never capable of doing so in the first place.

If the current situation does nothing more, it should galvanize us into action. We've been deficient in our maintenance of government, and lacking in the moral firmness to drive bigotry, hate, and greed from the halls of Congress and the Oval Office. It's time we stopped assuming that someone will take care of the things necessary to restore order. That was always our responsibility. Many Founding Fathers were skeptical we could do it, but they gave us the power nonetheless. If we were slow to recognize the coming onslaught, we have enough outrage within us to light the fire necessary drive it back. If we take action.

We, who are enjoined to affirm and believe in equality, know the stakes. It is not just the equality of race that must concern us, though this does run through every other area of concern. We must establish equality of Justice. We must establish equality of Income. We must establish Equality of Health. We must establish Equality of Care. We must establish Equality of Education. Most importantly, we must establish Equality of Representation, for all time. It is time for the Constitution to receive proper upgrades, and safeguards, and to retire those parts of it no longer relevant to the modern age of humanity.

This is on us. All of us. But it starts with those of use who carry the same privilege as those who now seek to roll back the clock on American history, to a nonexistent "gilded" age. The easiest way to tear down a system built on White privilege is by White privilege, from the inside. If we are reticent because we are afraid of what we will lose, then we do not understand that we have already lost it. No amount of freedom, liberty, or justice we may hold means anything while it is shared unequally with our fellow citizens of all types. If we do not work to ensure equality in all things, we stand to watch our society tear itself apart as these groups try to wrest from us what we could simply impart by our efforts on their behalf.

It is no longer possible to maintain the current state of affairs. We fight for what we know is right, or as President Lincoln once said, our nation stands to die by suicide.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Moving Forward

A wise man once said:
If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, whatever you do keep moving forward.
This is my single favorite Martin Luther King, Jr. quote. He said a great many inspiring and grand things in his time, but this strikes a chord within me. I wear the mantle, proudly, of "Progressive," because it's root is "progress" and that is what Mankind has done throughout its existence: moved forward.

The journey forward is not always easy. Dr. King could certainly attest to that. The journey forward is not always swift. President Barack Obama can attest to that. The journey forward is not always safe. Representative John Lewis can attest to that. Some never get very far in the journey forward. Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, and many others can attest to that.

In my heart, I know progress is a slow, painstaking, agonizing road. Most of us who hew to the wisdom of it know we will not see the fruition of the actions we take to bring it about. Every Progressive is heir to Sisyphus, pushing the stone that is the burden of shoving a mewling, kicking, screaming humanity forward, only to occasionally see it roll back.

We stand in that moment now, aware that the stone we have struggled to roll forward stands to kick back toward us. Like Sisyphus, we could see this as a part of our punishment for hubris, and we should, for while we have pushed the stone, some among us have made it harder to move. There are those who will not push, because the stone is not what they want it to be. There are others who see pushing the stone as a waste of time, and look fruitlessly for another stone that will be easier to move. To be true Progressives, we must all push the stone together, and take what little movement it makes as progress nonetheless.

The struggle to move forward is never-ending. There is no stopping for breath, as many are wont to do, when a milestone is reached. For whatever progress we have made up to that point, there is much further still to go. We should never be satisfied, we should never be proud, of where the stone lies; we should always be asking ourselves: Where must the stone go now?

At this moment, the stone is inching backward, threatening to gain momentum and crush us beneath its weight, because we took our eyes off the ultimate goal: freedom and justice for all. All the gains we have made can be erased in an eye-blink of human history if we do not set our feet, place our hands on the stone, and keep pushing. Some may use their Herculean strength, some their full might, some a mere hand, others maybe only a breath, but the sum of all our force is necessary to keep the stone moving forward. No effort can be counted as too small, save no effort at all.

What happens in the coming weeks may well determine the fate of a nation. If it is to be so determined, then let each of us, to whatever level we can, to whatever amount of force we can muster, push this great nation forward against whatever tide opposes its progress. A flake of snow has little weight, but a mass of such can form a mighty avalanche. Let us be that avalanche. Let us be that force. Let us continue to move forward.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Straining At Invisible Chains

There is no Emancipation Proclamation for bigotry.

There is no Civil Rights Act for hatred.

There is no Civil War for racism.

No matter the extent of actions taken to drive out slavery and tamp down the racism behind it, it will not die. It may be strangled, it may be driven under rocks, it may be forced from the light of day, but it rests below the surface, sits quiescent in dark corners, and it waits.

The Black portion of America is straining at invisible chains. Ephemeral, insubstantial, but as strong as the strongest irons that ever held their ancestors in the bottom of ships bound from Africa. Chains forged in racial supremacy, scientific impurity, and patriarchal psychology, by a White race that has done its level best to make every effort to prove its inherent superiority while simultaneously proving Black inferiority. No amount of blood on the battlefield nor ink on paper has rid America of the scourge of systemic, endemic racism.

We can proclaim progress, we can point to a Black President and a museum dedicated to the African-American experience, we can point to all the walks of life where Blacks can now be regularly found, and still there are the invisible chains. No Black person may be made to dance on the auction block, but they are still for sale in the marketplace of ideas, and the idea that they are a threat, that they are lazy, that they are expendable, are all bought and sold in blood and rhetoric.

Police still routinely shoot Black people who pose little threat to them, claiming "imminent danger." GOP Congressmen regularly denigrate Blacks as dependent on government, and a GOP Presidential nominee has lumped all Blacks into the category of having little or nothing to show for their efforts.

We can see, in the clear air of the 21st Century, the biases that wove the bonds of slavery, that built the self-reinforcing system that perpetuated the idea of racial superiority. We can see the tricks and obfuscations and tyranny used to continue to hold the Black race in thrall to the White race. Even with all the steps taken by so many, Black and White, to scour clean the stain of slavery and bigotry from the nation, like Lady Macbeth, we curse that apparent inability to blot it away. It seeps out from the pores of a nation that has defective cells in its marrow that perpetuate this cancer.

Where will the day come that a Keith Scott, or a Sandra Bland, or a Tamir Rice, or a Mike Brown, or an Emmett Till, might walk down the street and not be the subject of the depredations of police? When will legislators understand that affirmative action is the redress for a system that was designed to prevent Black inclusion in colleges and universities? When will the Voting Rights Act no longer be necessary?

Right now, our nation seethes, as one man has brought into the daylight the bigotry and racism most decent Americans have tried to hold down for decades. Donald Trump's atonal ignorance on matters of Blackness is only superseded by his willingness to overlook the overt racism of many of his followers. He cannot see the chains that still bind Blacks to centuries of scorn and sabotage and slavery through White supremacist attitudes. It easier to claim on one hand that no one has helped them, and on the other that they need to help themselves, and that somehow, he alone, can be their emancipator, though his history is strewn with his own racist tendencies.

Now, in our nation, we finally have a chance to deal a severe blow to racism. We can take the Republican response to a Black President, the odious and fatuous bigot that is Donald Trump, and thrash him at the polls. Every decent American has a chance, through their ballot, to proclaim what we know in our hearts: there is no room for racism anymore. We can repudiate Trump and the minions who follow him, and deal them a death blow of seismic proportions. We can ring the bell of freedom for all Americans loudly and fully, by showing our Black brothers and sisters that we will no longer tolerate their being bound to the past. We can, once and for all, take up the hammer of justice and break those invisible chains.