Conservatism — By Its Nature — Will Always Look Backwards First

I don’t judge conservatives because they want to conserve — as their name says. I judge them because they won’t admit WHAT they want to conserve. Considering as you can’t conserve what doesn’t exist, conservatives have zero interest in the future. That’s Progressives’ territory. That’s why I prefer the descriptor “progressive” to “liberal”. Progressive is just more accurate — every fiber of my being wants humankind to progress as quickly as we can into the future (because we’ve made a total hash of the past). Just as “Progressive” neatly describes my overall direction with one word, so, too does “conservative” describe the direction conservatives want to take America. What do conservatives want to conserve? What does any individual conservative want conserved? For them, the present is the perfect place to start. If they could literally take us back to the past — to the idealized time and place in their head that they think of as “perfection” — they absolutely would. Same as a Progressive would whisk us all off to a perfect future of enlightenment and harmony. Like I said: I’m not here to judge (in this blog post). I’m here to understand.

Look, the future is scary. Who knows what’s going to happen? If I take off my “Progressive World View Specs” and put on a pair of borrowed “Conservative World View Specs” (they’re way too tight for my liking), I begin to appreciate the security the past held for some. In our part of the world, Europeans got it into their heads that the brutal lethality of the pathogens they carried with them meant they were morally superior to the indigenous peoples of North America they rolled with relative ease BECAUSE they’d been decimated by European pathogens. Europeans didn’t walk onto a “virgin continent” waiting to be enlightened by them, they entered a graveyard — the ground softened not by their ideas, a little by their superior weapons, but mostly because the pathogen load heading west (smallpox, measles, whooping cough, bubonic plague, malaria, yellow fever, dysentery) was more overwhelming than the pathogen load heading east (syphilis). Europeans carried more than just disease with them though. They brought their monotheistic religion — and their monotheistic religion convinced them that THEIR god was THE god and THEIR god said THEY could do whatever they liked to other people — especially if they believed in other gods or, worse, no god.

“Manifest Destiny” was no different from Cortes decimating the Aztecs and Pizarro brutalizing the Incas. “Gold, glory and god”. That was the mandate. Europeans took the Americas with relative ease but not for the reasons they thought or still think. Better and more pathogens. That’s it. That’s the difference.

But, once convinced of their superiority, Europeans would not be dissuaded. Europeans even used their most sacred religious texts — the thing upon which they based their entire civilization — to JUSTIFY enslaving other humans. If bondage and stolen labor were good enough for iron age people, then, damn it, it should be good enough for us! When you cloak your justifications for slavery and personal superiority with the divine, perhaps you can be forgiven for thinking you ARE the “alpha and the omega”. You’ve come to believe your wardrobe is who you are — and you think you’re God.

But for their pathogens, white Europeans might not have had such an easy time dominating the America’s. Their beachheads might have been smaller and less successful even over time. Instead of being easily rolled by the Europeans — who they outnumbered by a lot! — the Aztecs and Incas might have recognized the Europeans for the competitors they were. I bet, given the chance, the Aztecs and Incas might even have learned from the Europeans, found ways to either approximate or steal the Europeans superior war-fighting technology. We’ll never know. When Americans began rolling across North America, their destinies manifested, each mile further west they traveled convinced them that they were truly on a divine mission — new crusaders, if you will, conquering Indians instead of Muslms.

The “All men” that America’s founders thought were “created equal”, were white and they were all men. In their defense, maybe they weren’t quite as ‘enlightened” as they thought. But, that’s the America conservatives want to conserve. That’s the “original version” of America constitutional originalists are thinking of. They believe THAT is the America the rest of us should still be living in. If the founders couldn’t imagine a thing, then we just have to live in an America that laments its founders’ lack of forward-thinking chops. Talk about the tail wagging the dogma! Except that wasn’t how those men thought. They made the document dynamic.

Take away the native peoples who were here for ten thousand years before the Europeans set sail just for argument’s sake (though I bet their traditions would still help us a lot). Prior to the arrival of the Europeans — and then everyone else on the planet — this continent had no “native culture”. That is, European culture was not “native” to this place. Now, when we say, “European culture”, we don’t mean one thing. German culture is not so different from English culture (their royalty’s all related) but very different from Italian culture. It took a thousand years for several of the more prominent tribes of France — the Franks, the Merovingians, the Carolingians — to evolve into what we now think of as “French people”.

Remember how some of the French had no problem collaborating with Germany during WWII? That wasn’t a new behavior, that extreme pragmatism in the face of shifting political tides. In “A Distant Mirror”, her wonderful history of “the calamitous 14th century”, the historian Barbara Tuchman returns repeatedly to the story of Charles de Navarre (10 October 1332 – 1 January 1387), a French knight, in his time called Charles the Bad. He was King of Navarre from 1349–1387 and during those years — as the Hundred Year War raged on, Charles (whose property was in Normandy) saw the English and the French armies go back and forth across his domain repeatedly. The war pitted he French crown against the English crown; both wanted to declare the other’s as theirs. While he could have remained loyal to France the whole time — and simply took his licks (being sacked and burned) each time the English plowed through. Instead, Charles chose to ally with the English BEFORE they got to his land. Suddenly, this French lord couldn’t be more English. He’d welcome them to and through his territory, feeding them, housing them, giving them happy endings if they wanted them.

Then, when the tides changed yet again — and the war’s momentum swung back to the French, Charles would hang out his tricolor as if he’d never taken it down. Why, Charles had ALWAYS been at war with Eurasia AND those damned English! Vichy France’s pragmatic survival instincts kicked in at least six hundred years before we realized. That behavior pattern is part of what we think of as “French” behavior in national affairs. Same token — the Swiss and their neutrality are not new either. The Dutch have always been traders. The Germans have always been… well… “German”. The more closely aligned with the Catholic Church a country was — like Spain — the more cruelly dogmatic it became. Franco and the Spanish Inquisition are directly related.

Even the Europeans will tell you how their neighbors are. Especially the Europeans. When those people came here, to America, they all brought their national personalities with them. No such personalities existed here. But, Europeans weren’t the only non North Americans hitting our beaches. Before too long, people from all over the world had “discovered” America — and saw that they, too, could fill this empty canvass with themselves. Who “got here first” is a nonsensical argument since, really, no one was here first. And, as for whose money paid for it? That’s swell, but “ownership” is a concept invented by men to justify their claim that a thing — land, a cave, a woman — was theirs. The concept of “ownership” saves us from having to piss on or lick everything to prove that it’s ours.

Conservatives, if they could, would piss on or lick practically everything (licking it all first before pissing on it, I’m betting). Conservatism hews closely to its “religious values”, don’t forget. They believe in a kind of perfection perverted — an Eden destroyed by a woman. They believe that humanity’s fall from Grace was redeemed by a man-god born of a virgin, sent to die for all of our sins (though, if he doesn’t get betrayed by Judas and doesn’t die for our sins, I’m kinda wondering what that woulda been like but nevermind). Let’s be real. Down deep, there’s no such thing as a “God-fearing conservative”. No truly conservative person fears God.

That’s because most every God-fearing conservative doesn’t believe IN God, he believes he IS God. They won’t put it that way. Instead, they say “I understand what the lord wants from me” or I have a personal relationship with God!” He looks around at others who think they understand God and shakes his head sadly. Poor, misguided fools think God speaks through them, can ya believe it? Even those of us who “think” we understand God need to be set straight by this guy because HIS version of God is THE version of God (no substitutes accepted).

Enlightenment scares these people almost as much as Enlightenments do. Conservatives have rooted not just their religious faith but everything they think in the belief that a sky deity loves them and wants them to do his bidding here on earth. How things WERE — that’s what the sky deity wants. And if how things ARE RIGHT NOW is the closest we can get to HOW THINGS WERE then so be it. We’ll take what we can get. We’ll enshrine as much of yesterday into today as we possibly can and turn off the engine.

Unlike conservatives, Progressives aren’t intimidated by the unknown. We’re adaptive by nature. New information isn’t anathema to us, it’s our life blood. And if new voices bring new information or new ways to problem-solve? So much the better! The future is going to happen whether anyone likes it or not. Change is inevitable. It’s only ever a matter of time scale.

What do conservatives want to conserve? Everything you need to know is right there in the pause BEFORE they start to answer. They’re making a list, don’tcha know! They’re thinking about everything from the past that they wish could become permanent. The playing field was not level in that past. It wasn’t meant to be. Only the “equal” “all men” were expected to play, being the only ones qualified to play — by themselves of course.

That’s the America conservatives want to conserve. It’s why they’re always looking backwards, hoping to see the past come alive again. It’s the America they had full control of, before the rest of us realized how little they understood it.

It Ain’t Black People That Need To “Get Over Slavery”, It’s The White People Who Keep Trying To Bring It Back!

Slavery is a terrible thing on every conceivable level. Its persistence is a permanent stain on humanity (and it’s lack of same). But, let’s be clear, it does persist. The desire of one group of people to enslave another group of people in this country did not end with the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. Let’s be equally clear about what slavery is in its most literal sense: stolen labor. That’s the whole point of enslaving another human (or an animal for that matter): to get their labor for free (minus the cost of housing, feeding and — if they’re a human — clothing them). If the numbers pencil out, the slave’s free labor is worth far, far more than the costs of keeping them in squalor. The southern colonies (before they became states) grew three cash crops — rice, sugar and cotton. Prior to industrialized farming, all three needed massive amounts of laborers to get them from field to marketplace. Capitalism preaches minimizing costs to maximize profit — if one of those minimized costs can be labor, well, you see where this went. The southern states institutionalized slavery (and some still justify this!) because otherwise, they couldn’t have afforded to be in business.

Profit over people is what motivates slavery. If money in your pocket means more than your humanity — for instance, how exactly that money got into your pocket — then slavery becomes acceptable in whatever form it takes, even if it isn’t literal slavery. In this country, we used to have “company towns” where a big corporation would employ pretty much everyone around. They’d use that fact to create an economic bubble where most of their employees couldn’t really afford to leave, couldn’t really afford to complain (or ask for a raise) and couldn’t really afford to even question anything. Voila — the modern slave. It all comes from underpaying people for their labor. A minimum wage of $7.25 is as close to the slavery bone as one could cut it. A person working a 40 hour week at the minimum wage will clear just a bit over $15,000 over the course of a year. Working a 40 hour work week. Hey — if they’re a restaurant worker — supposedly getting tipped — they only get $2/hour because the public is meant to make up the difference in their wages.

Slavery by any other name is still slavery. The objective is still the same. It starts with the pocketbook and goes on from there.

Take note of those objecting to raising the federal minimum wage to $15. Now, to (try to) be fair, it would be a hardship in many rural areas for small businesses to pay $15/hour. If we were to jump immediately to an across-the-country minimum of $15/hour, about one and a half million people would lose their jobs today. But — and here’s the part where we have to think a little more Big Picture (and there are ways to mitigate the job losses those million and a half rural Americans will suffer including UBI!) — on the other side of that hardship to one group of people is tremendous benefit for an overwhelming majority of Americans whose economic situations will all rise exponentially. In a very short time, even the million-and-a-half who lost their jobs initially would be swept up into the rising tide. And — if we had been compensating them via universal basic income until that happened, they, too, would benefit more quickly and to greater long term effect.

Greed inspires the shortest of short term thinking. All one can see is one’s own bank account, one’s own creature comforts, one’s own economic future. It’s a survival instinct. Same as tribalism. But the trick in living as successful social animals is to learn (and it’s not easy) to moderate these instincts appropriately — to deny them entirely when they’re counter-productive. Those instincts are all quite malleable. We can learn to compromise. But compromise can only happen between equally honest actors. If one side is using a compromise to gain an advantage then, in time, all compromise will break down because it’s all game-playing. One has to look at the Bigger Picture and be willing to sacrifice a little to get a lot.

Sounds hard to teach, I know. But it’s not.

If we began to teach kids civic pride (as opposed to blind nationalism) from the get-go (as some countries do!), we can raise more conscientious humans and Americans. Of course, we’ll have to divorce ourselves from the fiction of “the rugged individualist” who “alone can fix it!” That is pure, unadulterated, self-satisfied, only-white-people-could-possibly-imagine-it, Libertarian twaddle. The fact is, it takes a village to do anything successfully beginning with child-rearing. And the more diverse that village is, the more dynamic the child-rearing and everything the village does will be. Diversity is what makes America exceptional. It ain’t white people and their money — scheming ways to pay their diverse work force slave wages.

It’s the fact that slavery is stolen labor that makes reparations necessary. The entire Confederate economy was built on stolen labor — and that labor still needs to be paid for somehow. It just does. Thieves should NEVER get away with their thievery — especially when those thieves wear the mantle of power. To not compensate every descendant of slavery for the wealth stolen from their families would be to perpetuate the crime committed against them! But, hey — that’s only if we want to be “fair”. And slavers couldn’t give a rat’s ass about “fair”. They’re focused on “the bottom line”.

Profits over people. We know where this leads and we do not want to be here. Good thing there’s still time to get out of this vile, racist rabbit hole. Repeat — it ain’t Black people who need to get over slavery; they can’t “get over it” fast enough and get on with living the happy, successful, productive lives they’re entitled to live. It’s white people who keep the idea of slavery alive because that’s the America they want — the America where slavery kept everyone NOT white in their place. And it guaranteed to keep them there because no one could ever afford to escape from it.

Look At It From The GOP’s Point Of View — You’d Cheat Too If All You Had To Sell In The Marketplace Of Ideas Was A Turd

To compete in a democracy, you have to sell your idea of how we should self-govern better than the other guy is. It helps a lot if your ideas are empirically better, too. That’s the case with the Democrats. Their ideas indicate that, unlike Republicans, Democrats still care about democracy. They still care about governing the best way they can so that more Americans can benefit from being American and living in America. Republicans do not want to live in a representative democracy any more. A lot of them never did care for this form of government, being royalists and authoritarians at heart. In theory anyway, Democracy is easy: each person above the age of 18 (though perhaps we should make it 16 for a thousand good reasons) get one vote. Come election day, they show up at the polls and cast their vote however they like. Period. End of story. No one’s vote is better than anyone else’s vote. They all carry equal weight. At least, that’s how it should be. But, from a Republican’s point of view, that means that a Black person’s vote has equal weight to their vote which means all hell has broken loose because, to a Republican, a Black person shouldn’t be voting in the first place.

Donald Trump keeps saying the quiet stuff out loud. For instance: “If everybody voted, Republicans would never win another election!” Want to know why Republicans will never enthuse over expanded voting rights? To them, that’d be like enthusing over your own extinction. The Republican voting base is not going to grow beyond angry white men and the women who cling to them. If Republicans really wanted to talk to people outside their base, they’d have to change their act completely. Just as well they don’t.

Republicans and republicanism favor profits over people. Progressives, by contrast, favor people over profits. We’ll leave money on the table and not beat ourselves up over it. Republicans, by contrast, can’t help being pigs at a trough, snarfing down everything they can get into their mouths. From a Republican perspective, actual human beings are the cash out in a business proposition. Every penny spent on a human or some human benefit is a penny less profit. And, if profit’s the name of the game…

What do conservatives really want to conserve? I know what Progressives want to progress toward — the future. I know Progressives want the best possible opportunities for the most possible people because that will renew and re-energize our politics and our culture. Conservatives don’t want to conserve the future, of course, because it doesn’t exist yet; in fact, conservatives want to avoid the future if at all possible. Instead, conservatives want to conserve all of the past that’s still locked into the present. If they could have their way, they’d take America back to the past — back to, what’s to them, a “Golden Age For White People”. Well, for white, Christian men and the women they’ve bamboozled into servicing them.

The reason conservatives don’t want to raise the federal minimum wage above $7.25? Frankly, if there was a way to bring back slavery, they’d do it. Slavery, after all, is stolen labor. Slaves don’t get paid for their work. The cost to house, clothe and feed them is the cost of a slave. So long as the slave’s work product is worth more than what it costs to keep them? Slavery’s profitable from the slaver’s point of view. Paying people the federal minimum wage keeps them permanently poor. No one can afford to pay any sort of decent rent if they work one minimum wage job for eight hours a day. They can barely afford to feed, clothe and transport themselves from wherever they’re bedding down to the minimum wage hell hole where they work.

As with 2020, the Republican Party has given up on selling ideas or policies. They simply sell hatred of the other now. Vote for the GOP because you hate people who don’t look like you.

As political advertising goes, that might get your base all fired up, but there aren’t enough boys in the bund to make this brand of Republicans anything other than a fringe regional party catering to the fringiest elements of Red America. After Merrick Garland gets through trying all the insurrectionists and then gets through with pulling threads on the corrupt Republican sweater, Republicans will pose even less of a threat because so many will have had to step down from their offices to deal with the very real legal peril facing them. Let’s remember — the Republican leadership KNEW a month before the made Donald Trump their presidential nominee in 2016 that he was corrupt and compromised by Russia.

“There’s two people I think Putin pays,” said current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy as he walked into a meeting of the Republican leadership a month before their convention in 2016, “Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!” Then Leader Of The House Paul Ryan cautioned Kevin not to get too crazy about it. Paul wasn’t saying, “No, no, Kevin — you must be wrong! A man as honorable as Donald Trump would never let himself be compromised in such a way!” On the contrary, Paul was saying (literally) “Let’s keep this in the family!” Keep the fact that the man they were about to nominate for President of the United States was COMPROMISED by a hostile foreign power who’ve expressed the desire previously to wage cyber war against us. A roomful of Republican leaders agreed with Paul Ryan — and kept the secret a secret that they knew/suspected that their soon-to-be presidential nominee was likely OWNED OUTRIGHT by a hostile foreign government.

Republicans know they can’t sell what they’re pitching to American voters unless those voters are already hard core racists. That’s why they’ve resorted to gerrymandering, voter suppression and treason. That’s why they’ve resorted to cheating in every way they can think of. How else is any Republican going to get elected?

White People Are Making A Hash Of Democracy — Just Like They Did To Christianity

In a sense, white people are like George W. Bush — born on third base but thinking they hit a triple to get there. The playing field in America has never been level for anyone except white people. That’s because they can only see themselves. Where the rest of America sees privilege, white America sees entitlement. Brilliant idea that “All men are created equal” is, it gets kneecapped immediately if “All men” actually means “all WHITE men”. And by “white men”, they mean THEMSELVES. Democracy’s the hardest form of government to pull off because it’s self-government. It requires every citizen get involved at least by voting if not by running for office; America’s founders never imagined a “professional class” of politicians would end up running America. But then, white people, it turns out, don’t get everything right contrary to how they think of themselves. There’s something in the northern European makeup — as exercised here in America — that despises democracy. At least, that’s how they behave toward it. Or is their problem actually democracy when it’s practiced by everyone not them?

That sounds remarkably undemocratic. But then, is there anything less Christian then your basic, white supremacist? Don’t tell them that however. In their minds? They could teach the world what it means to be a “real” Christian.

Jesus himself would probably disagree with them. In response, your basic white supremacist Christian would probably crucify Jesus all over again, happily nailing him to a cross all by themselves. Isn’t that what dirty Jews deserve anyway?

Personally, I blame monotheism. It concentrates every bit of divine power into one set of very mercurial, highly emotional, at times downright cruel hands. Yahweh is a deity only humans could create — he’s that riddled with human frailty. When a monotheist claims to understand what Yahweh wants, what are they really claiming? How about if they hear Yahweh’s voice in their heads? I promise you it’s not the same voice that the monotheist standing next to them hears. That’s not Yahweh magically making himself over inside each different human’s head, that’s each human inventing Yahweh in his or her own image. The Yahweh they hear is them.

The crusades claimed to speak for Jesus. So did the Spanish Inquisition and every pogrom. To plenty of Germans, the Holocaust was divine justice. When you get down to it, you can make the voice in your head say anything you want. And, since you’ve given that voice divine authority, what it wants can’t be denied since “God” wants it.

The institutional church uses “Do unto others” as a kind of marketing pitch and a guide for the faithful. While the flock happily “does unto each other”, the institutional church to preaches “Do what we say — or else”. Do it our way. The problem — as the church keeps learning — the more the flock learns about how life really is the less inclined the flock is to do it the church’s way — and the smaller the flock gets. If the institutional churches had really and truly preached and lived by “Do unto others”, their fortunes might be very different today. But then, they wouldn’t be institutional churches anymore. They’d have nothing to do. Just like Jesus said…

The Europeans who embraced Jesus in the abstract would have hated him in person. For starters, he was a Jew. Born, lived and died one. Europeans hated Jews. Still do. So, the Christianity they practice is Jesus-free but institution-rich, completely missing the point. Throw in the fact that most of them (even if they can’t see it) see themselves as deities. Poor Jesus — he never stood a chance.

Once you see yourself as “graced by God”, everything you do becomes “divinely inspired” even if it’s killing people. Even if it’s enslaving people. Or taking their land because your deity tells you it’s okay with him. “All men are created equal” is the Christianity analog. All actual human beings — that’s Jesus. White people think democracy applies to them. Others, not so much. The idea of “others” controlling what white people do via the political process horrifies white people because white people know how THEY act when all the political power is concentrated in their hands.

White people know how they “do unto others” and the last thing on earth they want is anyone else doing that unto them. That’s why Republicanism in America is so anti-democratic. It’s the white guy’s version of a really good idea that plays as a bad idea to everyone else. But that’s only because white people aren’t trying to be democratic.

They’re trying to undermine democracy just like they undermined Christianity. Their track record should scare the hell out of everyone not them.

The Difference Between Icing And Cake

Icing: “Both sides have decent people on them!” Cake: one side is racist, violent and reactionary, the other isn’t. The whole trick to getting propaganda to work is convincing as many people as possible that icing is what matters. If the outside is pretty, sparkly and distracting enough, hopefully no one will notice that the cake underneath the icing is rotten. And yet, some people have no idea that the cake even exists. All they perceive is the icing. Those people are called “journalists” here in America. Back when this all started, one day they’d get whipsawed in one direction by “Mexicans are rapists” colored icing, then whipsawed inn the complete other direction by “pussy-grabbing” colored icing. Then, suddenly, it was some other colored icing and the news media could hardly keep up with it. Of course, if they’d been able to forget about the icing and look directly at the cake — as Fusion GPS did when they were hired to do oppo research on Donald Trump for the conservative, Marco Rubio-backing Washington Free Beacon — they would have seen with their own eyes that every bit of the Donald Trump cake mix was vile, pernicious, corrupt, compromised and (likely) treasonous.

Icing: “Donald Trump is our nominee for POTUS”. Cake: “There are two people I think Putin pays, Rohrbacher and Trump… swear to God!”

A month before the GOP nominated Trump to be their presidential candidate, current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy walked into a meeting of Republican muckety-mucks and said the above. The room did not erupt in chaos with people angrily demanding how Kevin got such an outrageous idea into his head. No one said, “Hey, if that’s even remotely possible, we need to get the FBI on the phone right NOW!” On the contrary, then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan — one of the most powerful Republicans in office at the time — made it emphatically clear that what Kevin had just said was not going to be discussed outside that “room”. That little secret — no one questioned that Trump (and Rohrbacher) were taking money from Moscow — was going to stay “in the family”. That’s cake right there — Treason Cake. How can it not be if 1) you know or suspect that your PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE is already compromised (or easily compromise-able) by a hostile foreign power and 2) you accept that fact as “who he is” and therefore “who YOU are”?

Cake is the aggregated reality we all live in. It’s four years of watching Donald Trump and everyone in his orbit take corruption to bold new heights even corruption never thought it could attain. The Republican Party — seeing demographic extinction in their future — deliberately hitched their wagon to Trump despite knowing he was owned outright by Russia. They’d set themselves on a course toward permanent minority rule years before. The Kochs and the Mercers (and the other big RW donors) directed Mitch McConnell to seize the judiciary and use it as the basis for the soft coup d’etat that started during the 2016 election. The whole point of denying Merrick Garland so much as a hearing was to hijack the Supreme Court. That’s some serious cake.

Cake is the racism underlying the Republican Party’s bottom line. The former “Party Of Lincoln” is now the “pro-slavery party”. If they could bring slavery back, the GOP most assuredly would. Keep in mind — first and foremost, slavery is stolen labor. The slaver will eat the cost of clothing, housing and feeding a slave because the slaver knows he’ll make way more money from the slave’s work output. While Republicans know they can’t be that blatant anymore, the desire for slavery (free labor) drives their resistance to a livable minimum wage. People who can pay their bills and thrive economically (and therefore politically) can’t be enslaved. But, if one compromises their ability to pay their bills and thrive economically — and then make it impossible for them to ever acquire the wealth required to really thrive in America — one can “enslave them” without actually seeming to.

The restaurant business in America survives on the icing that diners should pay a significant portion of their servers’ wages. The cake is “no, the economic success of people in the food service industry should not rely on the kindness of strangers.”

Icing: America has the best health care in the world Cake: America doesn’t have a health CARE system, it has a health INSURANCE system — not the same thing. Whenever anyone walks in the door of our health system, the first question we ask isn’t “How can we fix you” — the proper question — it’s “How’re you gonna pay for this?” That’s unconscionable. It’s barbaric. It’s wrong.

Beware the icing eaters! They have a way of getting things really, really wrong…

Playing Fields Can’t Level Themselves

The whole notion of “The American Dream” rests on the foundational idea that, in America, provided you’re willing to work your ass off, anyone (from anywhere) can make themselves and their future into whatever they want it to be. American exceptionalism flows from the fact that people from every other country on earth aspire (still) to get to America because of that tantalizing possibility. Then those same people — having achieved some part of their dream — invariably pay America back with not only their hard work but the products of that work — whether food, health care services or just great ideas. Immigration has always been essential to America’s exceptionalism. But, some Americans don’t want just anyone to achieve the American Dream. Because economic success converts into political power, white people have worked hard — via racist legislation, voter suppression tactics and outright violence — to take any and all Black wealth before it can accumulate thereby denying them even the chance to walk onto the American playing field and play. The “playing field” in America has NEVER been level. How could it be when “All men are created equal” actually means some MEN are created equal and everyone else who isn’t white, male and Christian can go screw themselves?

White people love a level playing field when it’s been leveled for their benefit. White conservatism’s goal is to keep the playing field from ever being level. That’s what conservatism wants to “conserve” — how it was back when the playing field was at maximum tilt toward them. It’s not just advantage that succumbs to gravity — so, too, does all the money. It rolls straight downhill. Conservatives don’t want to chase it as it rolls, they want to be waiting for it at the bottom. That’s the Republican Party’s stated goal. It’s their clear intention with every anti-voting bill they shotgun at the wall in fear of what 2022 will bring. Not only did we not start with a level playing field here in America, one of our two political parties is actively engaged in doing everything in its power (including commit treason) to keep the playing field as it is — not just “unleveled” but violently unleveled. The whole point of Trumpism — which is really just Republicanism on steroids & powdered Adderall — is permanent minority rule. In other words, a playing field that can never be leveled ever againby design.

Accountability levels playing fields. That’s why Republicans don’t want it.

Fairness levels playing fields. Competition — real competition — levels playing fields. That’s really, what conservatives most want to avoid: competition. Especially in the marketplace of ideas since their idea — taking America back to the past — won’t sell to anyone else but conservatives, racists and Trumpanistas. If Republicans thought they could sell their ideas, they’d sell them. Republicans after all excel at marketing. “Trickle down economics” is pure marketing. It’s bullshit, too. “Mission Accomplished” was marketing and nothing but. Remember “Compassionate conservatism”? Hurts just to think the words together, doesn’t it? That was marketing at its most diabolically cynical.

Republicans arrive at the stadium knowing their only path to “victory” is through cheating so, first, they set about hobbling Team Democrat’s ability to assemble and suit up their team via voter suppression tactics (a thing both sides absolutely DON’T do — Democrats don’t even think of suppressing Republican voters). Then, the Republicans work the refs hard. They commit every foul in the book, deny they did anything, but assure the refs that the Democrats were doing it. They assure the refs that their flagrant twos to the head are the same as the Democrats accidentally stepping out of bounds while taking a corner three. See? Both sides “break the rules”! And our news media nods its head — yeah, both things are “outside the rules” so “both sides do it”. But, remember, the playing field was un-leveled when everyone stepped onto it. It was especially un-leveled this time because Russia was sitting at one end — waiting for America to finish tumbling into Russia’s open maw.

We’re sitting, today, in the “float” between Trump’s perverted Department of Justice and the refurbished, rejuvenated and returned-to-its-core-principles Department of Justice that Merrick Garland will helm once he’s confirmed by the Senate — a process that starts tomorrow. The DoJ has already begun finding its equilibrium again as the lifers who hung on by their fingernails during the Trump-Sessions-Rosenstein-Barr years step forward, asserting normalcy as they formally await new leadership to clock in. Garland has already stated publicly that he will prosecute white supremacy as terrorism. That, all by itself, is a game changer. But, it’s what happens as Garland’s DoJ pulls those white supremacy threads that will undo the entire, corrupt, treasonous Republican Christmas sweater.

The January 6 Insurrection dot connects to the white supremacy dot. The white supremacy dot connects to the Roger Stone and Mike Flynn dots which connect to the Donald Trump dot. But, the pandemic dot ALSO will connect to the Insurrection dot (I betcha they wondered aloud in the Trump WH — which someone will testify to under oath) if it would make it easier to roll America via insurrection if America was weakened by a non-existent pandemic response. We already know Russia had an interest in keeping America weak. The Russia dot, we’ll learn — after Merrick Garland’s DoJ resurrects the counter-intelligence investigation into Trump’s relationship with Russia that Rod Rosenstein quashed — connects, one way or another, to pretty much everything.

If we want this playing field leveled, we’re going to have to level it ourselves. We’re going to have to remain vigilant once it’s as close to leveled as we can get it (keeping in mind there will always be resistance) by electing people committed to getting the playing field leveled. Every attempt to un-level the field — as the Republicans are doing all over America with a raft of new anti-voting laws — needs to be met with not merely resistance but rage focused back on them with white hot, laser-like intensity.

The bottom line is so simple: the fairer the game, the better the outcome for all and the more Americans “win”.

“Both Sides Do It” Is Racist Claptrap, Not Journalism

Both sides “doing it”…

There are two sides to every political situation: power and resistance. One either HAS the power or one is resisting the guy who does. By definition, by purpose, both sides are not doing “it”. They’re not doing the same thing. They’re doing the opposite for very specific purposes. “Ah, yes!” says the “Both Sides Do It” practitioner, “But if the resistance were to GET power, THEN they’d ‘do the same thing’!” Which means… exercise power? Abuse power? Is that the accusation? WHEN both sides get power they DO the exact same thing? Sorry, American Journalism, but you’re going to have to back that up with receipts — which you absolutely do not have. In America, Black people have NEVER had power. They’ve ALWAYS been the resistance. We don’t know how they’d behave if or when they ever became “THE” power because it’s never happened before. There’s not precedent to use as a basis for “both sides do it”.

To say Republicans and Democrats behave the same is cynicism on steroids. It’s not intellectually lazy, it’s intellectually inert. It ascribes motives to human behaviors that don’t add up, that don’t describe reality. Republicans are far better at marching in lock step than Democrats. The press is always jumping on how “divided the Democrats are” as if that’s never been the case before. No, that’s how Democrats are (that’s modern Democrats, not the Democrats of the 1800’s which became the Dixiecrats which became the modern Republican Party – per Heather Cox Richardson’s excellent “To Make Men Free: A History Of The Republican Party“). Modern Democrats began in the 1920’s. Will Rogers nailed our spirit: “I’m not the member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat”. That spirit endures. It’s kinda what happens when your tent really is open to anyone and everyone. Diversity is messy. It demands constant compromise as the group accommodates new immigrants. But the deal is, new immigrants into our system rejuvenates it with new energy, new aspirations and new ideas. It always, always, ALWAYS pays for itself.

Both sides do not use voter suppression of the other side’s voters as a campaign tactic. Democrats aren’t afraid of the marketplace of ideas because they have new ideas to solve old problems that the old ideas didn’t. A lot of those old problems were CAUSED by those old ideas. Both sides, for instance, do not and did not approve of slavery. Slavery isn’t a dead issue here in America. It’s still painfully alive. There are two parts to this monster. We see the racist part — of course we do! But there’s an economic part to the monster. It’s the economic part that birthed the monster in the first place — stolen labor. Slaves work for free.

Colonial America relied heavily on cotton, sugar cane and rice to cash flow its economy. All three crops are labor intensive. If one had to pay all the labor required a fair wage, one might not make any money growing and selling those crops. Or one might not make enough (whatever that is). But, if one could get all the labor required for free? Suddenly slavery’s on the table. The expenses of housing, clothing and feeding the slaves needs to be figured into the accounting, but you have to figure it penciled out positively for slavery. The free labor made all the expenses of slavery worthwhile.

Now, ask yourself — how do we feel about people who work for free? Who have no choice in the matter? If we’re the power, we like them. We’d like more of them. If we’re the resistance…

Though we made literal slavery illegal, we’ve done nothing to make theoretical slavery a part of our architecture. Even when Black people have been paid for their work — and allowed to accumulate earned wealth — white people found ways to take it from them. Jim Crow laws, for instance. Poll taxes that made voting extremely difficult. Sometimes, as with Black Wall Street, the Black section of Tulsa, teeming with luxury shops, restaurants, movie theaters, a library, pool halls and nightclubs that a white mob burned to the ground in a race riot that started on May 31, 1921, the “taking” was as literal as literal can be.

Both sides do not do that. Both sides don’t even think that way. Only one side does — and they’ve left behind copious receipts that any journalist can eyeball.

Of course, the trick is, you have to WANT to eyeball those racist receipts. You have to WANT to find them if they’re there. But, first, you have acknowledge that they could be there! And once you open your mind to that fact? Suddenly, that racism appears everywhere. It’s not the racism that suddenly appeared, it’s your capacity to SEE the racism — that it indeed IS there. And once your mind opens to that fact, you can’t help asking “how’d it get there?” And the answer to that is — it didn’t have to “get there” because it always WAS THERE.

“Both sides do it” is the grossest kind of generalization. It assumes that the slave and the slave master are equally culpable for the slave’s situation. It asserts that because the slave master HAS a point of view that therefore that point of view (just because it exists) must be valid — equally valid, in fact, to the slave’s point of view. Ummmmmmm, no. The slave master may have a point of view but they most definitely do not have a “point” — justification for their vile point of view.

Oh, right — I forgot — they have “economics” to back them up. If they don’t pay their labor nothing (or a ludicrous “minimum wage”), they won’t make enough money for their stockholders. And if the stockholders don’t get the return on their investment they want, they’ll take their investment dollars elsewhere — so, whatever we do, let’s not raise the minimum wage! No one can live on the current federal minimum wage ($7.25 an hour!) and no one will be able to live on the $12 an hour Republicans and dishonest Democrats like West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin insist is “all we can afford”. Horse shit. We can’t afford NOT to pay people a fair, sustainable wage.

One side in this debate wants as many Americans as possible to have the best lives they possibly can, to be as healthy as they can be, to educate their children without bankrupting their futures, to have every opportunity every other American has, to vote because it’s their right. The other side — plenty of receipts to pick through — DOES NOT!

“Responsible Gun Ownership” Is A Myth

It seems the Robert Alan Long — the Atlanta shooter who claims his sex addiction, not his racism, motivated his killing spree — purchased the weapon he used to murder eight people, six of them Asian women, MERE HOURS BEFORE using it to commit murder.

I’m not arguing the second amendment here. It exists. What it actually says and intends us to do as a result — that’s an argument for another blog post. The fact that any discussion about guns in America automatically becomes a discussion about language shouts volumes. But then, Americans are good at putting lipstick on pigs, thinking “All men are created equal” while institutionalizing slavery, and selling utter nonsense as “religions” that other Americans gobble up as gospel truth. We’re culturally acclimated to seeing one thing as its opposite — take Manifest Destiny. WE still tell ourselves that was a “good thing”. It wasn’t. In fact, Manifest Destiny wasn’t even a legitimate idea based on legitimate thinking. It was a myth — invented by white people to justify their terrible behavior. “Responsible gun ownership” exists in that context — a myth invented to justify… well, in this instance, not “terrible behavior”. But, behavior that can lead to terrible things happening.

It all starts with people believing a myth is real.

I’ve fired a gun before. In fact, I really enjoyed riflery the six years I got to do it when I was a kid going to sleepaway camp. I got a few NRA badges to prove it! Back then (this was the mid 1960’s), the NRA was still a “gun safety organization” and the thing I remember most from my six years of riflery, aside from the fact that I wasn’t half bad at it, was the constant refrain of gun safety, gun safety, GUN SAFETY. More than anything, the NRA-backed training I got back then imprinted the idea that guns can kill you. Even if you do everything right, there’s always the possibility that you could ONE thing wrong and you or someone could get hurt. That’s why you have to be hyper vigilant. You can never let your guard down whenever a gun is out of its locker. You have to be “responsible”.

See, I was taught “gun responsibility”. I believed in it. Just like everyone else in America, I got it into my head that while some people will only ever use guns to do bad things, most people (who just so happen to be white), only every want to use their guns to do “good things” — like hunt (debatable as a “good thing” — it certainly isn’t good from the hunted animal’s point of view) or target shoot (a perfectly good thing!) or defend themselves (a perfectly dubious thing). It’s inside that last thing — “self defense” where most of the “responsible gun ownership” mythology lurks.

For starters, it assumes something very, very dark about the rest of America — outside that gun owner’s front door. Whereas, in most other countries, it’s assumed you don’t need a gun to protect yourself from your neighbors and fellow citizens, in America, it’s “normal thinking”. Of course danger awaits outside your front door! Of course you need a lethal weapon to defend yourself — the threat outside is hell bent on murdering you! That excuse gets played regardless of which direction crime statistics are headed. The urge to “defend one’s home and hearth” isn’t based on statistics. It’s based on fear. In America, that fear is based on racism. The whole “good guy with a gun” vs “bad guy with a gun” quietly casts the good guy as almost certainly white and the bad guy as almost certainly Black. Hmmmmmm… now where could such an idea have come from?

Racism touches or has touched almost every facet of American life. Guns are no different. The whole point of our gun laws, at present, is to feed racist fear. If we could magically remove racism from peoples’ brains, here in America almost every bit of the incentive to own a weapon would evaporate. My upper middle class Jewish family — politically very liberal — still succumbed to racist fear during the riots the followed Martin Luther King’s assassination. Though Pikesville — where I grew up — was miles and miles from the parts of Baltimore that erupted in violence, my parents (and others), went out and purchased guns. They were afraid of angry Black people (angry for a very legitimate reason) coming to our neighborhood and being violent. No such thing ever happened. Did it occur in any of the angry protestor’s heads to do such a thing? Probably — but, so what?

It’s a testament to how good white people are at diving and conquering everyone else that Blacks and Jews — two groups with way, way more in common than not — could be set against each other like that. The overwhelming majority of Jews arrived in America after slavery was gone. Jews were never considered “white people” in Europe. Jews occupied the first “ghetto” — in Venice, Italy — to which they were segregated starting 29 March 1516.

Quick side note — the “ghetto” (it’s an Italian word), was a swampy island connected to the rest of the city “…by two bridges that were only open during the day. Gates were opened in the morning at the ringing of the marangona, the largest bell in St. Mark’s Campanile, and locked in the evening. Permanent, round-the-clock surveillance of the gates occurred at the Jewish residents’ expense.[fn] Strict penalties were to be imposed on any Jewish resident caught outside after curfew.[fn] Areas of Ghetto Nuovo that were open to the canal were to be sealed off with walls, while outward facing quays were to be bricked over in order to make it impossible for unauthorized entry or exit.[fn]

Jews fled Europe because of racism. They hoped for a better life here where (hopefully) racism wouldn’t constantly destroy their communities and steal their wealth. Fortunately for the Jews, America was already doing that to Black people by the time the Jews got here. And, while not considered white by most Europeans, Jews were just “white-adjacent” enough in America that white people didn’t make a point of taking their wealth as white people had historically in Europe. While Jews prospered, Black people struggled — as the Jews had in Europe — but also with the additional burden of slavery; Reconstruction’s failure kept slavery on the table.

You don’t have to dig down too far inside just about an gun law in America to find the fear it rests upon. And that fear is of former slaves getting guns and coming for payback. That’s the base justification. It’s irrational. It’s unspoken. But it’s there.

Ever notice how “normal” it is for right wingers and militia types to show up at right wing rallies armed to the teeth — even INSIDE government property where they’re using their arms to literally threaten legislators? Were those people all “responsible gun owners”? No one got shot that day. Good thing, I guess… are we then to measure the relative success of “responsibility” by lack of body count? No one died, all the gun owners acted “responsibly” this time. Is that it?

The difference between a “responsible” gun owner and an irresponsible one is the unexpected event. Take Nancy Lanza — mother of 20 year old Adam Lanza, the guy responsible for the Sandy Hook school shooting. By all accounts, prior to that event, Nancy Lanza was a “responsible gun owner”. I bet Nancy Lanza thought of herself as a “responsible gun owner”. Until the day she wasn’t — the day her son murdered her with her with one of her own weapons before heading out the door and murdering 26 MORE people at Sandy Hook Elementary School, 20 of them CHILDREN.

One moment Nancy Lanza was as responsible a gun owner as anyone and the next — a gun violence victim. Killed in her own home by her own gun. Trying to see how the “self defense” angle fits here. No one broke in to do this to her. She set herself up for failure — and then, she set up the very community she loved and was part of for even worse failure.

And pain.

The full measure of a gun owner’s “responsibility” doesn’t occur when their gun is sitting safely inside a gun safe. The gun was not designed to do that. If you really want to know how responsible a gun owner is, you have to measure their responsibility when the gun’s outside its safe and in their hands — where it always has the potential to do real damage just by operating within its design specs.

In their defense, most gun owners will never have happen to them what happened to Nancy Lanza. But none of them can guarantee that they won’t. They can’t.

And the second they tell you they can? They’re acting irresponsibly.

White Perspective Is A Bully’s Perspective

We get it — the idea of power sharing horrifies you; it always has. That’s why you’ve worked ceaselessly — regardless of whether you went by the label “Dixiecrat” or “Southern Democrat” or “Republican” — to prevent anyone NOT white from participating in American democracy — a thing you yourselves abhor. The problem with democracy — from an autocratic point of view — is that you can’t trust voters to vote for you and your ideas; they probably get that you’re a power mad fraud. Democracy is a marketplace of ideas. As we all know, crony capitalists don’t want a free market for you, they want a free market for THEM. Hell, conservatives (the political wing of crony capitalists) now openly admit that they MUST cheat in order to win elections which is WHY Republicans suppress Democratic voters but Democrats NEVER even think of suppressing Republican voters. Democrats don’t have to do that — because their ideas sell just fine in the marketplace.

The right wing money understood a while ago that the more America diversified, the quicker their hegemony would end. The more Black people voted — the quicker white hegemony would end. It’s not as if Black voters are insanely liberal as a group. They’re not. To begin with, they’re not monolithic. No group is — including white people. But there’s a difference. Because they’ve been the ones holding all the political power and wealth in America, white group-think has far greater real world (realpolitik) weight than anyone else’s. We do not now stand on a level playing field. We never have and every time we treat it like it is, we’re grossly mis-representing reality.

White perspective (born of white culture) always assumes it’s superiority over everyone else. For instance, white perspective tells itself it “discovered” America. That assumes that prior to white, Christian Europeans arriving on these shores that the America was a virgin land, filled with darkness, ignorance and savagery — all waiting to be saved by them. No, actually, it wasn’t. As historian Charles C. Mann points out in his excellent “1491: New Revelations Of The Americas Before Columbus”, “… the pre-Columbian Indians were not sparsely settled in a pristine wilderness; rather, there were huge numbers of Indians who actively molded and influenced the land around them. The astonishing Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan had running water and immaculately clean streets, and was larger than any contemporary European city. Mexican cultures created corn in a specialized breeding process that has been called man’s first feat of genetic engineering. Indeed, Indians were not living lightly on the land but were landscaping and manipulating their world in ways that we are only now beginning to understand.” Native Americans founded, lived and thrived in actual cities in North America while Paris and London festered in the mud, struggling to rise above their humble beginnings.

Historian Jared Diamond brilliantly summed up European “superiority” as “Guns, Germs & Steel” (the title of his excellent history of how the white man’s germs, mostly, reduced North America’s native population so completely that defeating the survivors militarily was remarkably easy. That wasn’t the Europeans plan — not at first; in time they’d realize how effective blankets infected with smallpox can be in controlling Indian population size. It is what happened however.

For what it’s worth, the Indians did pass syphilis — one of their native infections — to the white man.

The first thing every schoolyard bully does is reduce whoever he’s bullying to something less than a human. Bullies can’t bully their equals (they’re all afraid they’d lose) and they certainly can’t bully their superiors. That leaves people the bully feels superior to. And off they go! Bullies see everyone not them as one kind of cockroach or another. Once you’ve stopped seeing other people as people? Bullying them is easy. Who cares if you “hurt their feelings” — to the bully, the bullied’s feelings are there TO be hurt. That’s why bullies bully — hurting other people gets them hot.

Another thing that happens when you reduce other people to “less-than-people” status. You negate their history. White people denied the value of Native American history before they introduced Christianity to them. Who cared what savages thought? Who cared where savages came from or why they had the traditions they had. Cockroaches don’t have “traditions”. White Americans have also negated Black history. That’s why some white Americans think they should be free to “opt out” of Black History Month.

Negating a peoples’ history also negates their wealth. White America’s greatest crime against Black America is slavery of course. But, slavery, remember, is first and foremost STOLEN LABOR. That’s the point. You can’t amass wealth if you can’t acquire it to begin with. And you can’t acquire wealth if you never get paid for your labor — the thing you have to sell.

In the American south, slave owners justified slavery by saying they couldn’t profitably engage in growing rice, sugar or cotton if they had to pay the labor needed to PICK those crops a living wage. Or any wage whatsoever. The costs of buying, housing, clothing and feeding slaves was understood as the “costs of doing business”. In fact, slavery was NEVER a good economic model for those businesses. But then, white people will believe anything if it involves denigrating Black people.

We all know what the Trump insurrectionists were thinking. They told us. We know what they wanted — and still want. Being the ultimate bully, Donald Trump can’t conceive of losing. But, Trump’s bullying has an extra dimension to it: treason. This is no secret to Trump’s republican co-bullies. Current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy famously told a roomful of Republican leaders a month BEFORE they nominated Trump to be their POTUS candidate “There’s two people I think Putin pays, Rohrbacher and Trump… swear to God!” The reason the entire Republican Party has gone along with this insanity is because they’re all guilty of treason.

White people need to step back for a bit. If they don’t do it of their own accord, their stepping back will be done for them and probably not nicely. No one likes being bullied. Especially not bullies.

Ironically, when it comes to being bullied? Bullies hate being bullied more than anyone.

The GOP Is Soooooo Pro-Slavery, They’re Actively Trying To Bring It BACK!

Wanna talk the bitterest of irony? “The Party of Lincoln” isn’t just some “fellow traveler” with slavery. The Republicans are the Bond Villain convinced he can make it rain. The GOP makes no bones about how racist it is. The overwhelming whiteness of its membership isn’t a bug, it’s the whole point. The Right White money — think the Kochs & Mercers — have steered their party toward a visible horizon — permanent minority rule. Between gerrymandering and massive voter suppression tactics, Republicans have created a host of bizarre “looking glass worlds” like Michigan and Pennsylvania where the structure of government has been so perverted that Democrats have to vote in far larger numbers than Republicans (more than twice Republican turnout) just to level the playing field. Can anyone say “poll tax”? Seen as a whole (hell, seen even in parts!), the Republican Party is actively engaged in a project that — had they succeeded (they won’t now) — would have returned America to a country where slavery exists. This time though, it wouldn’t just be Black people in chains. What America did to Black people was a perverse dry run for what the GOP STILL has in mind — the enslavement of everyone not them IN America.

Being Jewish, I know what it’s like to be looked at as if I was a cockroach. What do I mean by that? The first step in legitimizing the idea of genocide in someone’s head is you stop seeing the people you want to genocide as “people”. I use the word “cockroach” because — except from people who study cockroaches — we all understand that visceral feeling produced at the mere idea of “cockroach”. That’s how racists feel about Black people — and brown people and “yellow” people (a color descriptor I honestly do not get) and Jewish people. They are one thing, all the rest of us are quite another. We can be useful. We can even be profitable. But we are always, always, ALWAYS expendable.

At its bottom line, slavery is stolen labor. Forcing people — against their will — to work for free — doing work they do not want to do: slavery. Here in America, cotton and sugar cane became cash crops. Problem: both were labor intensive to farm and harvest. If one had to pay all the laborers a fair wage, one might not make a whole lot of money growing those crops. BUT — if one could get all that expensive labor for FREE, well then — one COULD farm those crops and make a shitload of money. Of course, nothing’s entirely free — one still has to house, clothe and feed slaves. That’s cash out. So — business being just math — one needs to cost-benefit analyze what it costs to have a slave versus the money one can make from that slave. Judging by how slavery proliferated in America — and how vociferously slavers fought to KEEP slavery in America — slavery must have been one rock solid business model.

America justified slavery — to itself — because it was good for business. That’s a stone cold fact. Some Americans even held up their Bibles to back up how righteous it was, too. Slavery was good for business AND sanctified by God. Anyone NOT wanting slavery, was… well — cockroaches come to mind.

As historian Heather Cox Richardson has pointed out in her book “To Make Men Free: A History Of The Republican Party”, with America, you have to be careful about political labeling. Something strange happened in America — but then, racism makes strange things happen. The Republican Party Abraham Lincoln felt kinship with and joined because it was anti-slavery — has switched places with the party it opposed: the Democrats. Forget labels! Back then, people calling themselves “Southern Democrats” were pro-slavery. When the country split apart to engage in civil war with itself, the Republicans were understood to be anti-slavery and the Democrats pro-slavery.

Woodrow Wilson — one of the most racist presidents we’ve ever had (though we consider him “New Jersey” because he was at Princeton, Wilson was born in Alabama) — was a Democrat. By contrast, one of Wilson’s predecessors — Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican — was progressive in myriad ways (he was an early environmentalist). By the time Warren Harding became POTUS, the Republican Party was no longer the set of ideals the party was founded on. Perversely, they were now officially the party they used to run against.

When Richard Nixon adopted his “southern strategy”, he was simply formalizing what everyone already knew: Republican success in the future needed to tie itself to racism. The longer Republicans could keep racism alive, the longer they could hold onto power. That’s the “southern strategy”. It all hinges on the lingering embers of Confederate sympathy — and we all know what the Confederacy’s founding principle was: SLAVERY. If you get weepy in any way, shape or form when you see a Confederate flag? It means you like slavery.

Now, “liking slavery” is one thing. Doing something about it — like fomenting an insurrection? That’s a whole lot of lines crossed where there’s no going back.

It’s not a coincidence that, historically, southern Democrats (modern Republicans) worked diligently to keep Black people from voting. Hey, remember that “3/5 of a man” idea — it’s because Southerners knew sorta-kinda how many Black slaves they held. If those people were counted as “citizens”, white southerners would soon be shit outta luck and in the minority! Doesn’t take a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows, as they say — or a racist to see himself in the minority. The Civil Was was all about keeping slaves slaves.

The South may have lost the war but, damn if they didn’t win the peace that followed. The South literally rewrote the narrative. Look at every seceding state’s “Here’s why we’re seceding!” document. Not a single one mentions “states’ rights”. Not a one. But slavery? C’mon now — if you can read, you can see The Truth. The southern states rebelled and left the union over slavery. When the war ended, their desire for slavery did not. Southern sympathy killed Reconstruction dead. America might be a very different country today if Reconstruction had rolled out as intended. Instead, the sons of the Confederacy legitimized their lingering racism by changing the narrative completely. Suddenly, their treason wasn’t about slavery, it was about something fundamental to the American ideal: rights — states’ rights!

Suddenly, traitors like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were being celebrated by America — as heroes FFS! We got it into our heads that a murderous, rebellious battle cry — the “Rebel yell” — was fun, funny, profitable. Oy, America — OY!

The New South just announced itself in Georgia. The Democrats won there because Black people have returned. They will not be bamboozled or cheated out of their rights and their wealth this time. The South will be better for it. It already is.

Make no mistake — Republican racism won’t stop of its own accord. We will have to physically stop it. We will have to remain vigilant. These embers of hate can rekindle just like that. We need to see the Republicans clearly for what they are and what their mission is. When the Biden Administration and the Democrats put forward their $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, they arrived at the number by putting pencil to paper and calculating what We The People would NEED. As Joe Biden himself has put it it — we shouldn’t be afraid of spending too much, we should be afraid of spending too little.

And yet — the 10 Republicans who approached Biden with their own proposal didn’t have that problem in mind. They pitched a package one-third as big. We KNOW why Team Biden pitched their number — math. Why did the Republicans pitch the number they pitched? Careful — if you get too close, you’ll find that number smells oddly like shit — because the Republicans pulled it from their asses. There WAS and IS no basis for the Republicans’ number. It’s just a number that’s less than what the Democrats want — and what the Democrats want is to alleviate the suffering of ordinary Americans.

What do the Republicans want? If we had anything like a “news media”, they’d be circling that question like sharks drawn to fresh blood. Surely the GOP has a particular reason for denying so many Americans help. Surely they have some “organizing principle” around which they’re drawing their wagons… They don’t actually. That’s the point. They don’t have a point!

The reason not to give people the relief they need is the same reason you want to keep the minimum wage at — say it together — “slave wages”. People too poor to adequately feed themselves should have just enough energy to work for their next paycheck. Whether they live or die — not relevant — because every one of those cogs is replaceable. Cogs or cockroaches — it’s all the same thing. The closer you can get those working for you to work for nothing — and that is how Republicans would love to have it — the closer you get back to literal slavery.

But, let’s be real — the dynamics of a “company town” are the dynamics of slavery. It’s feudalism. It’s a practice conservative business owners have pined for. Not-so-funny funny thing? The Black Death killed half of Europe. It also killed feudalism. Pandemics can change things on a fundamental level. Bubonic plague created a labor vacuum. Too few workers made work more valuable. Vassals, formerly obligated to till their masters’ fields now had a choice. They “could” do what their masters needed — but they could also tend the fields of the lord next door — because he was willing to pay a cash premium to make sure his crops didn’t rot in his fields before they could be harvested.

The plague empowered workers and economic change by disempowering the slavers. This pandemic’s empowering the perennial political underclass — but also by disempowering slavers.

This time, America could get it right. Because Black people are taking so much more of the political power (power long overdue them!) alongside women in general and other people of color, we have the will to finally level this playing field the way it should have been leveled at the start. Slavery cannot produce greatness of any kind because it automatically disrespects the labor required to produce work. Only by treating labor fairly — paying it what it deserves to be paid — can we achieve the freedom we talk about. Freedom after all isn’t just everyone getting to do whatever the hell they want.

That’s a silly, ten year old’s idea of freedom — “You’re not the boss of me” — you know, “Libertarianism”. Freedom comes with awesome responsibilities. It’s a package deal, sorry. Don’t want the responsibilities? Don’t take the benefits. Part of being free is making sure EVERYONE has the same level of freedom. That requires everyone having the same opportunity. That requires everyone gets the same access to a good education, the same good, comprehensive health CARE (not insurance, care), the same treatment under the law. That takes work and vigilance.

The Republican Party now freely admits: they have no interest in democracy. Not enough people want to vote for their “ideas” (such as they are) to make democracy practical for them. Now, cheating, on the other hand — that’s just necessity now. America simply does not want the Republicans’ vision for America — or for them. Who wants to be a slave?