Class Warfare Blog

August 3, 2017

Why Are Americans So Afraid?

I was reading an article over at AlterNet with the title above. The subtitle is “Facts Take a Backseat to Deeply Ingrained Fears.” That article takes a fact-based approach in that they point out that violence has been and continues to be on a decline (for a very long time, even including world wars). That is per capita violence, not necessarily total violence as the population is still growing rapidly. That article’s author concludes that the fear people possess is a belief rather than a conclusion from the facts. A bit of discussion of fear mongering and they were done. I am using the same title, but they were asking the question; I will try to answer it, in part.

They didn’t quite go one step farther and they really need to. Why is America so afraid? That is the emphasis they missed. What might be the basis of American fear? We have experienced far less terrorism than much of the rest of the world, yet we seem to be more afraid, for example. The connection that they missed is that the U.S. is also one of the most religious countries in existence. If you compare our church going rates to, say, Great Britain or France, we are way out in front. It may be the case that not even a majority of Britons believe in a god.

And what is the foundational basis of the form of religion we currently espouse? Fear and belief. And what has been happening in the world of religion in the U.S.? Currently there has been a major increase in market share of the “nones,” those who respond to polls, like the Pew Poll on Religion in America, that their religion is “none.” The Nones have doubled as a percentage of the population in the Pew poll for instance. Atheism is spoken about and written about widely. Conservative religion in this country, in response I believe, has upped the drumbeat. The standard message has always been “we are a sinful nation” and “we need to repent our evil ways or God will punish us.” “If we only were to accept Jesus as our Lord, we would be ‘saved’ from eternal torment when we died.” That sounds like a fear-based campaign if I have ever heard one.

And as churches close or they see large reductions in their numbers of parishioners, the pressure gets increased on the standard message. We are more sinful that we were in the past! We are in even more need of belief! The world is descending into a miasma of degradation! Church going rates are decried as being at all-time lows when, in fact, the church-going rates a little over one hundred years ago were a small fraction of what they are now. They mean a “recent low” but that doesn’t have the impact of “all-time low.” Often this message isn’t all that overt, but it is there. And it provides a base for the feeling of fear from the purveyors of violence. There are secular fear mongers, too (Republicans), but I won’t mention their names (Republicans).

This is not accidental. The cadre of very rich people who are trying to subvert democracy in this country, like fear. They also prefer fear that is not based in fact because real fears have real causes that must be addressed. False fears can be “solved” by the same magic that created them in the first place. You may wonder how long we can be kept in a state of fear. To me, the answer is clear: centuries. If you look at how long many in the South have feared the reprisal of Blacks for how they have been treated by the white community, you will see a history of fear management. During the slave period, whites were ever fearful of slave revolts and any hint of such a revolt produced a vicious backlash. After emancipation, vagrancy laws and sundown laws were used to keep Black Americans in a state of near slavery. Jim Crow laws kept Blacks and Whites from interacting and developing any real relationships. It also kept Blacks weak in that in this country money = power and if you don’t have any money, you don’t have any power. The term “poor Black” became almost an oxymoron in the postbellum South.

The latest manifestation of the fear campaign is to make sure that white Americans saw Black Americans, primarily males, as criminals. By jiggering the laws, a large percentage of the Black male population ended up behind bars. Even when they got out, they were ex-cons and had trouble getting jobs and, well, money = power. This stereotyping campaign has been so effective that many police officers are so afraid of Blacks that they shoot 11-year olds with cap guns and even shoot White women because they don’t take the time to really look at the situation. The laws have told them that if they feel fear, they can shoot. And we have made damn sure they feel fear, a lot of fear.

Feeling fear without reason is the tool of the cadre of very rich folks who are trying to capture our democracy. Trying, hell, they basically have captured our democracy. When was the last time Congress passed a bill that the American people supported? Polls showing 60%, 70%, even 80% public support for legislation which then fails to pass. For example, we cannot seem to deny convicted felons, or people with restraining orders, or the mentally deficient the right to bear arms! That would contribute to people feeling safer and where’s the upside in that? People are so in favor of reasonable gun laws that a majority of NRA members support some of them. But … nah, they really don’t want you to feel safer. People want government-supported health care? Too bad, that would contribute to an overall sense of well-being and safety, so, nope, can’t be done.

The politicians are running the show, but it is religion, American religion, that has provided the base for their fear mongering actions, and, interestingly the religious still support them. The minor fact the Evangelical Christians supported Donald Trump in droves tells you all you need to know. And if you think I am exaggerating read the book Democracy in Chains.

The money = power equation works quite simply. By accumulating a large fraction of this nation’s wealth, the people in this category can have a small cadre with enough wealth to exert more power than the rest of the country can. If you wonder why unions have become powerless. If you wonder why wages have been suppressed for so long, start thinking about money = power. It works both ways. Since we do not have it, we have no power. Since they have it, they have the power, enough power to get their money declared a form of “free speech” by the fucking Supreme Court. Now their expenditures to keep democracy in chains is protected by the Constitution!

May 15, 2017

We Don’ Need No Protection Cause Racism Ain’t No More

According to The Nation magazine:

“On June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act, ruling that states with the longest histories of voting discrimination no longer had to approve their voting changes with the federal government. A month after that decision, North Carolina – where 40 counties were previously subject to that requirement – passed the country’s most sweeping voting restrictions.

“The state required strict voter ID to cast a ballot, cut a week of early voting and eliminated same-day voter registration, out of precinct voting and pre-registration for 16 and 17-year-olds. On July 29, 2016, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit invalidated these restrictions, which it said targeted African Americans “with almost surgical precision” in violation of the Voting Rights Act and 14th Amendment.”

If I remember rightly, the Supreme Court argued that singling out those states for “special treatment” under the Voting Rights Act (basically requiring any changes to voting laws to be screened for approval by the Justice Department) wasn’t needed any more because, well those states had reformed and were no longer what they were. Besides there’s racism everywhere.

So, here we are just under four years later addressing racist voting regulations which “targeted African Americans ‘with almost surgical precision’ in violation of the Voting Rights Act and 14th Amendment”  in one of those very states. I am sure glad their ain’ no racists no more in No’th Carolina.

Three cheers for the Supreme Court … uh, no?

July 9, 2016

Why Are We Spending Billions to Get the “Bad Teachers” Out but Nothing to get the “Bad Cops” Out?

Filed under: Culture,History,Morality,Politics,Race,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 12:15 pm
Tags: , , ,

There is a false narrative, aka a lie, doing the rounds in our culture: our schools are failing because of “bad teachers.” As a consequence billions of dollars have been spent by our federal and state governments to create systems and testing instruments to identify the “bad teachers” so we can get them out.

I suspect that many, if not most, cops are decent people who have no more prejudices than average citizens, but there are more than a few who are racists and they are killing Black folks for trivial reasons (a common one is having a taillight out on your car, but then there is holding a toy gun in a toy store, playing with a toy gun in a public park (a child!), talking “sass” to an officer, driving while Black, and many more).

So, where are the billions in federal incentive money to get police departments to adopt uniform standards? Where are the testing services lining up claiming they can identify the bad apples so we can “get ’em out?” Where are the community policing choice programs? Where are the charter police departments?

Teachers aren’t shooting people, why are we so focused on them?

(Psst . . . follow the money.)

July 7, 2016

Why Cops are Blazing Away at Black People

The Nation ran an article (Why Alton Sterling and Philando Castile Are Dead by Kai Wright) which had the subtitle “We have too much law enforcement, too deeply enmeshed in our lives, and that fact is making us less, not more safe.” Unfortunately the article misses the mark. No matter how many or few police there are, we have many, many, many examples of police officers treating white people gently, even when they are walking down the street naked or drunk with a shotgun, and Black people being treated as if they were psychopaths. (The latest case was one in which a Black man told a police officer, before he reached for his wallet to show his driver’s license, that he had a gun that was permitted, the cop drew on him and shot him dead).

The reason for this difference is simple: the cops have been programmed to consider Black males as hostile and dangerous. No, I do not deny that there are neighborhoods in which many young Black men are hostile and dangers, but the police have come to the conclusion that all young black men are hostile and dangerous, even those carrying cellos, or toys, or babies, for Pete’s sake.

This is a direct result of the elimination of Jim Crow laws.

Recall that Jim Crow laws were a result of the elimination of slavery. Those laws were supposed to keep those Black people in their place (under some White person’s boot heel?). But when the Jim Crow laws were determined to be illegal, something had to be done! (Yeah, right.) What was done was use every tiny aspect of the law to put them into jail. In the South they were even put on work gangs to pay the bill for their incarceration, which is de facto slavery.

The reason police see a Black male, armed or unarmed, and perceive them as threatening and are all to easily triggered to pulling their weapons and blazing away is that … they … are … terrified.”

To support this criminal distortion of our justice system, a campaign was waged to make sure people knew how dangerous young Black men were. Remember Super Predators? (If you can’t recall, ask Hillary Clinton, she does.) Remember the “New Black Panthers” on Fox (Sic) News?

By supplying all young Black men with a criminal record, you can then legally deny them the right to vote, and deny them jobs for which they otherwise qualify, amongst other things. Since they have no reasonable means of support, they are then tempted (some are at least) to a life of crime, which just reinforces the false narrative that got them where they were in the first place.

What I don’t understand is “What do the assholes who perpetrated this scam have against Black people?” Black people were primary brought into this country as slaves. But unlike White indentured servants, there was no end to their involuntary contract, and in addition, their children were automatically covered by the contact. All recognize this practice as being wrong now (not so much back then). Then after Black slaves were emancipated, they received nothing by grief as recompense for their forced labor, and still are receiving grief to this day.

The reason police see a Black male, armed or unarmed, and perceive them as threatening and are all too easily triggered to pulling their weapons and blazing away is that … they … are … terrified. The Brotherhood of Policemen shares stories that reinforce the “all Black males are hostile and dangerous” false narrative. Ever over-the-top story is met with another even more frightening, these stories having been collected over decades and saved to share over and over with new hirees, etc. The end result is the police treat Black people, especially young Black men, like they would a rabid dog and they often don’t hesitate to put those dogs down.

The police have been programmed by white supremacist terrorists. What else can you call the perpetrators of this hoax? They are white, think Black people are inferior, and are spreading terror. Yet they wear no hoods and are woven into our society almost invisibly.

May 19, 2016

Trump, Political Correctness, and the New Racism

If you view the 20th Century from afar, you can see the tide of racism at ebb. The reasons for this reduction in racism were both political and social (hard to separate the two). It became more and more illegal to discriminate against someone for superfluous reasons (gender, skin color, ethnicity, sexual identification, etc.) and socially it became less and less acceptable to utter racist comments. A stereotype was created, for example, of one’s racist uncle who said things as family gatherings that were quite inappropriate, but those statements were common fare for all those gathered not that long ago. But slowly we achieved a society in which saying anything appearing to be racist or sexist acquired swift approbation.

Then along came “political correctness,” the criticism of which is pushback against the pushback against racism. As this pot slowly bubbled on the back burner, along came the Internet. The Internet allowed anonymity to people making comments, freeing them from any social approbation for making racist or sexist comments and Internet Trolls were born (some with their own websites). Then along came Trump.

Internet Trolls acquire their power from their namelessness and invisibility to social checks and balances. But Candidate Trump has openly made racist comments, under no such protection, and has been very, very successful. If a candidate for the highest political office in the land can make racist and sexist declarations and succeed politically while doing it, then why should others refrain? Who has higher political and social standing than our President, the first among equals?

The New Racism is, yes, the Old Racism. It hasn’t changed but it was slowly being driven out of our culture. I fear now that, as we continue as a society, its expression will be more and more open. Those criticizing it will be accused of rampant political correctness. Those freed from such societal constraints as were being constructed will become more and more prominent in our discourse.

The source of this cancer on our society is the inability of people to accept responsibility for their own lives. Instead, if their life is shitty, it is the fault of “Others.” We are not responsible for all of the negative impacts on our lives, we are only responsible for how we respond to them. Blaming groups of “Others” in a blanket fashion can salve an ego, but only a very small ego, one possessed by a very small person.

If I were to urge all of us to adopt the wisdom of the ages, I would refer us to the wisdom of Rodney King: “Can’t we all (just) get along?”

(Note: Mr. King did not include the word “just” but we have added it collectively because the question then more closely conforms to the desire of people to just get on with their lives without being judged based upon irrelevant criteria.)

May 12, 2016

Biblical Explanations and Justifications

In a religiondispatches.org review of the book The Lost White Tribe (The Lost White Tribe: Explorers, Scientists, and the Theory that Changed a Continent, Michael F. Robinson, Oxford University Press, April 2016) which addresses the somewhat perplexing desire on the part of mostly nineteenth and twentieth century white explorers to find white people in previously unexplored (by white people) places.

At one point the review’s author, Michael Schulson, comments:

“… as they entered Africa, Europeans had another tool with which to understand all the new people they were meeting, trading with, and sometimes enslaving. The first 11 chapters of Genesis offer a fairly comprehensive account of human diversification. The text shows how and where people originated (Eden), describes the lineages of early humans (all those begats), explains the origin of languages (Babel), and mentions the dispersal of people after a catastrophic event (The Flood).

“Most importantly, there’s Ham, one of Noah’s three sons, who is cursed to be “a servant of servants” in Genesis 9 (a verse used by plantation owners to justify the enslavement of black people). But as Robinson chronicles, an alternate Hamitic hypothesis was also deeply influential. In this version, Ham’s descendants did go down to Africa, but they stayed white. Once there, they ruled over the dark-skinned locals.”

I assume that this is fair telling of some of the justifications in circulation for what people were finding as they explored. Remember that the initial purpose of biblical archeology was to confirm what we were told through the Bible, not to discover anything per se. The Bible had a profound effect as a source of “wisdom.”

But, egad, the amazing poor level of thinking involved!

Consider the “the dispersal of people after a catastrophic event (The Flood).” Hello … the people of the Earth had been dispersed and the Great Flood killed all of them, save eight. The remaining eight could comfortably sit in a ten by ten foot space. I’d say that was a fantastically non-dispersive event. And, brilliantly, since the people pointing to this evidence regarding how people came to be dispersed all over the planet, they were operating from the understanding that … people were dispersed all over the planet! So, the Great Flood was a setback in that trend, not a feature. (Talk about evolutionary/genetic choke points!)

Then consider “In this version, Ham’s descendants did go down to Africa, but they stayed white. Once there, they ruled over the dark-skinned locals.” According to the depiction of the Great Flood, everyone subsequent to that event has to be a descendant of Noah and Noah’s wife, Whatsherface. Everyone has to be of the exact same race, the race of Noah. And there could be no pre-existing “darkies” for Ham to rule over as they had all been killed by the Flood, so where did they come from? Was there another Creation we were not told of?

Granted we are talking about the thinking ability of white supremacists, basically all white people of the time, but the level of thinking is stupendously bad. It is, though, quite in keeping with the bulk of the biblical justifications and explanations being bandied about even today. If one looks at the performances of professional Christian apologists as being appallingly poor, consider that most of the apologies are being made by amateur apologists, who are far less adept.

The book looks fascinating but I do not think I could read it. I find the accounts of the oppression of various peoples so vile as to cause frequent stops in my reading to allow my blood pressure to recede. I have pushed hard to educate myself on subjects closer to home, the treatment of native Americans by U.S. white supremacists for example, but even then frequent stops are needed for my bile to be dealt with.

When it comes to justifying our actions, people apparently have a very low bar. It is as if we have all agreed that “if you accept my bullshit explanation, I’ll accept yours.”

March 10, 2014

Let Me Guess . . .

Some pseudo-historian in Louisiana was asked to comment about slavery during Black History Month. His main point was “that was then, this is now; we are past all of that.” He did feel compelled to throw in “if slavery were so bad, why did 90% of the slaves stay in Louisiana after they were freed?”

Let me make a wild-ass guess to answer this “gentlemen’s” question. Let see: slaves were forbidden, by law, to learn to read or write. Since they were slaves, they had no money. The local code said it was “okay to lynch niggers.” And the only place they knew was a radius of several miles from where they were at that moment.

I can just imagine their thought process. It probably went something like this: “Hey, I’ve got an idea! I got no money. I can’t read or write. White people would as soon see me dead as look at me. I think I will take off walking and head out to a new state where things will be, I don’t know, . . . different. Now which way is that other state, maybe I’ll just ask the next person I see.”

Right.

“Maybe the Devil I know is better and I’ll hunker down right here where I know a few people and check out the lay of the land first.” Now that seems more like it.

Folks, racism against Black people is alive and well. If it is nowhere in your sight, just look on the Internet. Google up “nigger” or “dumb nigger” and see how many hits you get.

The amazing thing to me is the source of this racism. Let me take a number of other wild-ass guesses: When this country was being founded, most people considered anybody who didn’t look like them to be a barbarian and inferior. (Think about how we treated the indigenous people who were here before we came.) That’s kind of normal. But along came a number of innovations. Indentured servitude was one. People in England (white people!) signed away their lives for a number of years to finance a trip to the new lands. They essentially became slaves but with a time limit and some cultural boundaries as to what they could be asked to do. Then, the next thing you know there were people being sold off of ships from Africa, wherever that was. Those people did not speak English or any other civilized tongue. Clearly they were subhuman barbarians, so buying them as a form of less-expensive labor seemed reasonable. Plus the Church and the Bible okayed this, heck the Bible endorsed and and provided rules for treating slaves.

So many people became slave owners. I believe a majority of our Founding Fathers were slave owners. George Washington famously freed his slaves. Thomas Jefferson famously did not (fuck them, yes; free them, no). It was a common syndrome in the South, where there were the greatest numbers of slaves and the smallest white population, of being fearful of a slave revolt. (I wonder why slaves would revolt if their lives were so wonderful? Who can tell what goes on in the mind of a subhuman; that is if they have minds.) At the beginning of the Civil War (not the War of Northern Aggression; it was the South that was the aggressor) the greatest fear at the start of the war was that Lincoln was going to free the slaves (Lincoln being a well-known “nigger-lover;” you can read all about it in the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, IL).

So that war got fought, some of the slaves (only those from secessionist states, now) were freed and low and behold, white folks became prejudiced. Jim Crow laws (including those wonderful vagrancy laws) were created to control all of those freed slaves who were slavering for revenge upon honest, God-fearing white folks.

And so it went. Animus piled upon animus, all based in fear. Because if you yielded to it and really looked you’d know that those slaves were real people who just happened to have darker skins than yours. And what was done to them was an abomination and you approved of it either explicitly or implicitly. They started out as captives in wars but then ended up “sold down the river” in Africa only to be “sold down the river” in the U.S. Their languages were stripped from them. Their cultures were stripped from them. Their religions were stripped from them. Their families were stripped from them. They were treated woefully and with great violence.

If you really stopped to think about how you would feel if that had been done to you, or any member of your family, you would feel outrage, immense outrage, too. And to be the sponsor of all of that misery would be unthinkable. So, you, who are a good person (you know this in your heart, bless your heart) don’t think about that; you think about how subhuman “they” are, how unlike us they are, how “shiftless and lazy” they are, how undeserving they are.

And if you, like that moron in Louisiana, think we are past that, think again. Our  politics is punctuated with words like “lazy” and “hammock” and “Kenya” and “Muslim” and “birth certificate” to tap into that current of fear, that current of racism.

The U.S. is post-racial, my ass.

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