How To Level An American Playing Field That’s NEVER Been Level

The playing field in America has never truly been level because the “men” in “All men are created equal” never included all “men” and definitely never included women. It’s hard to even field a team to put on the pitch when the majority of the players have been banned from the stadium to begin with. America’s fatal flaw wasn’t the idea of a grand experiment in self-government, it was who we excluded from the experiment when we started it. If you really want to get depressed, think of amazing women, skilled, smart like Stacey Abrams, AOC and Susan Rice — then think of all the Stacey’s, AOC’s and Susan’s whose skill sets we left on the table, never bothering to educate them, nurture them or encourage them. Think of all the great ideas America never bothered to develop simply because of racism, bigotry and misogyny.

Leveling the playing field is, ultimately, good for everyone playing on it. Want to see just how exceptional America really is? Let’s put everyone onto the same field of dreams.

Those who really can’t compete — white guys apparently — might lose more often but, if they’d just give innovating and thinking outside the box a try, they might find themselves — because they’re being forced to compete — competing better and winning again. This Progressive won’t mind so much losing an argument to a moderate (conservatives can’t compromise) whose ideas, having been forced to compete with everyone’s, simply are better than mine.

That’s the whole mentality behind a completely level playing field. It really does put us all into the same game with the same rules.

Imagine a “game” where some turtle-faced nitwit insists the rules work one way for him and his rich friends but completely different for everyone else.

Imagine a game where we measure the field and all its features the exact same way — where both sides have to run ten yards to score a first down rather than one side having to make ten while the other gets first downs just for showing up. Imagine a game where no one gets born on third base and thinks they hit a triple.

Gerrymandering prevents the field from being level by breaking up potentially dominant Democratic voting districts into far less threatening districts dominated by some distant, rural Republican enclave that outnumbers the segmented Democratic area by just enough to be forever insurmountable. Gerrymandering is permanent minority rule’s whip. And, boy do they love cracking it over our heads every election.

And then there’s electronic voting machine fraud — the ultimate, silent, un-leveler of any playing field anywhere. As I wrote about here, it would take no more than three people to pull off a successful conspiracy to use voting machines to pad Republican vote totals — to perpetually make it appear as if there were more Republicans than there, in fact, are. Padding totals consistently would create a false narrative that those mean Progressives better be checked because of all the worried, socialism-fearing Republicans. Except, of course, a lot of those worried Republicans don’t exist and never have.

Republican-manufactured, internet-accessible, corruption-vulnerable, virtually unregulated electronic voting machines don’t fill one with confidence when contemplating their integrity. That’s because the manufacturers have none theselves (between donating to Trump and Republicans and having those same Republicans sit on their board). Neither do the Republican-run states who’ve bought the damned things and insist on using them instead of far safer, far more reliable hand-marked paper ballots. It’s also because Trump INSISTED that HIS VOTERS forgo voting by mail and USE THE VOTING MACHINES INSTEAD.

Talk about thinks that make ya go “Hmmmmmmm…”.

Sorry, but a man who lies every time he opens his mouth, projects massive criminality twenty-four-seven and who was IMPEACHED for cheating in the very election he just ran in cannot be trusted. If you’re ears didn’t prick up the instant Trump insisted HIS voters vote via machine then you haven’t been paying attention. You need to sit down till the rest of us fix this; you’ll only ever get in everyone else’s way.

The solution to our problem is this: in order, fix 1) Equality, 2) Justice and 3) Hope. You can’t have justice without equality. Fix equality first, you can have justice. If everyone believes justice is fair, they’ll have hope. Hope will create purpose and the will to realize all those Big Plans we’ll need to realize if we’re ever to regain our place in the world.

First order of business though — let’s remove the bully not just from the playing field we’re on but from the zip code we’re in entirely. Hell, let’s kick him off the planet if we can. No one will miss him.

Consider that a slam dunk.

Dear Regulation-Hating Republicans: Get Ready To Be Regulated Into Extinction

It’s simple. If the playing field was automatically level for all Americans — and if everyone behaved honorably, respecting the rule of law, we could probably dispense with most regulations. Alas, that’s not the case.

Some people — okay, Republicans, it seems — cannot imagine walking past a pot of money without wanting to take it all for themselves. Having all the money means having all the power — which is really what it’s all about anyway. Yes, an over-zealous government can become tyrannical via over-use of rules and regs. But then over-zealous criminals can become tyrannical via UNDER-use of the rule of law.

There’s no middle ground unfortunately. We thought there was. Right now, our problems all flow from the unequal enforcement of the rule of law. We punish Black and brown people harshly while letting rich white people skate. The rule of law eventually breaks down when it’s applied piecemeal. It’s like integrity — it is or it isn’t. You really can’t have 99% of your integrity. It’s the dubious 1% that immediately defines you.

It’s a fact — in response to Donald Trump, Trumpism, Republican corruption and the RW’s naked greed, we will over-regulate ourselves. At least, that’s how it will feel to some people — Republicans. Having the rule of law applied to them will feel like over-regulation. Think of it from the criminal’s point of view — one moment, they’re breaking the law with impunity. The next, they’re in handcuffs. See? Over-regulation.

And handcuffs will be what plenty of Republicans are wearing come 2021. Handcuffs and prison orange will be the new Republican “look”. It’s hard to think of many Republicans who won’t be rocking that look hard. They’ve all — at the very least — conspired to commit a whole host of crimes. Republicans knew even during their 2016 convention — when they formally nominated Trump — that he was breaking the rule of law.

Current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy famously (it was reported on!) entered a meeting of Republican head honchos and said out loud: “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump”. Then Speaker of the House Paul Ryan famously replied “Let’s keep this in the family”. Everyone agreed to keep secret the fact that they were breaking the law.

The rule of law will insist that every single Republican who had even the faintest inkling that something was amiss with their party was OBLIGATED to pick up a phone and call the authorities. See something, say something. See something, say nothing? We need to ask WHY? Rather, the rule of law needs to ask “why?”

America started with an impossible contradiction — the statement “All men are created equal” cannot co-exist with slavery. And “all men” needs to be “all people — regardless of their gender — are equal before the rule of law”. That applies to them, of course, regardless of who they love. Making the playing field truly level for everyone will take time and effort and focus. It won’t happen by itself — but then, that’s how the rule of law works. We The People will have to make it happen.

And, despite all the awkwardness and inconvenience that applying the rule of law will cause, the indisputable fact is — it will be worth it.

Republicans won’t think so. Their lawyers will write angry letters demanding we release their clients from long federal prison sentences.

The rule of law will read their letters and refuse to budge. It didn’t condemn them to extinction, they themselves did that. The rule of law was simply the road they took to get there.

First & Foremost, Slavery Was Stolen Labor

If I steal your car, I’ve stolen something you bought using money you made from the sweat of your brow. If I enslave you, I cut out the middle man as it were. I don’t have to steal your car to get what was yours, I steal your labor directly. It’s more efficient. More ruthless.

In America, slavery belonged to the south where it worked the fields mostly. Picking cotton and cutting sugar cane were labor intensive work back before machinery showed up. If a plantation owner had to pay for labor (never mind a fair wage for that labor), their profits would have been wafer thin if they’d had any at all. The whole point of slavery is you get the work done — and you make your money — without having to worry about the cost of labor. Sure, sure — you still have to feed and house that labor but, since they’re slaves anyway, it’s not like you have to make their food or housing decent.

Since slaves aren’t technically human to the slaver (even calling slaves three-fifths of a regular white person was an over-statement to them made solely to cut the Electoral College deal), he can not only steal their labor but every other facet of their lives too. The slaver can see the slave’s children like calves or lambs to be separated from their parents and sold off individually.

If I steal your labor, I steal a big part of you — of who you are and why you’re here. You may think your purpose in life is to live happily. I think your purpose is to pick my cotton and keep the mint juleps flowing — for free. If I win that fight and force you to work for me, for nothing, you will have no way even to earn your way to freedom. I will know that you will be my slave forever.

The fact is, slavery was very good for the Confederacy’s agrarian economy. “If the Confederacy had been a separate nation, it would have ranked as the fourth richest in the world at the start of the Civil War.” Without slavery, the south couldn’t produce cotton cheaply. That is no justification for slavery. But it was to the south.

Ironically, when Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin in 1794, they thought the gin’s ability to comb cotton seeds from cotton bolls would reduce the need for slavery. The opposite happened. While a slave “could pick the seeds out of 10 pounds of cotton in a day. The cotton gin could process 100 pounds in the same time.” The white guys running things planted more cotton. Rather, they had their slaves plant more cotton.

America has always lived with an impossibility at its core — the idea that “all men are created equal” except the ones who are slaves. Not only did we not actually believe that all men were created equal, we did not believe their work was equal either. We’ve always believed that white peoples’ work was worth more than black peoples’ work — even if it was the same damned work.

Once I steal your productivity, your happiness is easy to pick off and destroy. It’s stolen labor that makes slavery “slavery”.

America Is Realizing: It’s Been Living A Lie; The Good News? It Wants To Stop Living That Lie

How can all men be created equal when some are considered slaves? Those two ideas cannot exist together.

The trick to living “bullshit-free” is you start with yourself. Forget anyone else’s bullshit till you’ve dealt with your own. Trust me — once you’ve started an honest, deep dive into every one of the truths, half-truths and total lies you tell yourself every day? You won’t have time to even think about anyone else’s crap.

America has lived a lie since its founding. “All men are created equal” and slavery are mutually exclusive propositions. They can’t live in the same hemisphere never mind the same zip code.

Europe took Christianity and turned it from “doing unto others” into a Holy Roman Weapon that was going to “save you” even as it murdered you — a very neat trick. As Jared Diamond points out in his excellent book “Guns, Germs & Steel”, Europeans are bullies who dominated everyone they touched not because of any genomic superiority but because where they lived provided them certain important advantages when they encountered other people. For one, their continent and its access to trade routes to Asia gave them both raw native materials (like iron) and access to foreign raw materials (like silk).

Europeans and their active trading gave them something else — collective immunity to diseases like smallpox.

When the Europeans arrived in North America, their microbes decimated the native American peoples with horrifying efficiency. Ninety percent. And the Europeans didn’t even know they’d done it. The Europeans arrived with bad intentions and an angry god in their baggage. They used their angry god to justify their bad intentions. They used their angry god to justify their bullying.

European culture has contributed lots of nice things to world culture — some lovely architecture, sculpture and painting. Terrific music. Great food. A fair amount of noteworthy literature and philosophical thinking. They also contributed more bullying than anyone else.

European bullying, in fact, outweighs everything else Europe contributed to the world by a factor of a million. Europeans needed slaves to do the back-breaking work of planting and harvesting cotton and sugar cane (which is especially labor-intensive). The whole basis for slavery, don’t forget, was relatively free labor. You don’t have to pay a slave a salary but you do have to house and feed him — albeit just enough to do the work you need him to do so you can steal it from him.

Remember — America did not begin its life as any sort of level playing field though it aspired to be one. The problem — its idea of a level playing field (“all men are created equal”) was contradicted by the devil’s bargain it made by allowing slavery to continue. America’s current Independence Day makes a mockery of the very ideals it insists it’s celebrating. We are only as free as the least free among us.

America wasn’t free until every slave stopped being a slave — especially those who didn’t know they’d been freed and were no longer in bondage. But, even the end of slavery didn’t end slavery. Though it stopped existing as a legitimate business or “institution” with Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation (1862), the last slave didn’t learn they were free until June 1865. Juneteenth should be America’s Independence Day — that’s the first day we even pretended that “all men” were “created equal”.

Even when we gave blacks legal standing, we couldn’t help thieving from them. How many of those 40 acres plus mule ended up in white hands instead of black? How much of “Black Wall Street” was returned to the successful black businesspeople and entrepreneurs who were murdered, burnt out or sent fleeing during the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921?

White people have a shitload to answer for — not that they’ll ever get around to it. They’re so busy, ya know…

The good news is the African American women have had our backs the whole time. If there was a way to award a group of people for constancy, integrity, loyalty and grit in the face of relentless cruelty, African American women would be perennial first place finishers. Despite hundreds of years of unspeakable abuse, they remain by and large America’s most fiercely loyal subscribers. They believe in our ideals more than we do.

But that, apparently, has started to change. What even black leaders acknowledge is a sign that something very real has changed — the majority of protesters there demanding institutional change in the face of systemic racism are white people. The white majority has finally realized that they can’t possibly be as free as they want to be until black and brown people have exactly the same opportunities, benefits and privileges.

Black women especially have always known about the responsibilities that come with freedom. They’ve been reliably civic-minded from the first instant they were emancipated. Because they knew what it was to be slaves and did not want to live like that ever again.

And they did not want their children or any of their children to taste slavery again.

Racism isn’t an add-on to slavery, it’s slavery’s justification. Ask just about any Trumpanista if they’d be down with bringing slavery back, you KNOW they’d say “yeah — bring it back!”

Trump’s shrinking poll numbers reflect the last few quasi-racist rats abandoning the SS GOP Racist. All that’s left now are the hard core racists. We’re roughly down to the 29% of Americans who still approved of Richard Nixon on the day he resigned because of Watergate. Let’s stop trying to redeem these people. They don’t want redemption, they want to hate.

Though the press has stopped covering them, Americans STILL are taking to the streets every day to protest. The “silent majority” that Spiro Agnew invented (actually the term went back a ways and originally referred to the dead as the “silent majority”) were as much a legitimate “majority” as Jerry Falwell, Sr’s “moral” majority were legitimately moral. They weren’t.

A majority of voters chose Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016. We know it was at least 3 million voters more but, if we extrapolate the number of possible suppressed votes and voters — HRC’s victory (in terms of who wanted her vs who wanted Trump — regardless of their ability to realize their vote) would likely have been far, far bigger if every voter got to vote and every vote got counted.

There’s a reason Donald Trump & the GOP fear vote-by-mail like a black person moving into their neighborhood. In their mind, “there it goes”. Trump has said the “keep it silent” out loud: when more Americans vote, they vote Democratic which means if all Americans voted, Republicans would likely lose every election going forward.

The reason is that Americans are now woke. Only someone who wants to live in the past would vote for Republicans. People who now demand that America FINALLY live up to its own damned ideals have taken over the conversation and it’s about damned time.

If only the news media would get woke along with us. They, too, are living a lie — that “both sides do it” (whatever the hell “it” is).

America already feels the cleansing power of the light. We need to shine it on Republican corruption like it was an ultraviolet light destroying virus particles.

We The People do not fear the truth. We know now what it will free us from.

Unfortunately, There’s Really No Such Thing As “Fair”

“Fair” is kind of like the Buddhist notion of “Bodhisattva”. A Bodhisattva is someone on the road to enlightenment. But they’re not there yet. If they think they’re there? They’re definitely not “there”. Enlightenment is as hard a goal to achieve as “fair” is. It’s more surreal than real, more abstract than plastic.

And it’s so personal. What’s fair to me might not be fair to you. Even when we compromise (the goal, really), if the compromise is “fair”? Neither of us will like it much; it’s not “fair”.

“Fair” gets harder when there are multiple competing interests whose concept of “fair” contradicts one another. Maybe the problem is we value “fair” to the individual over “fair” to the group. Assuming everyone’s rights are being respected (a big assumption), it’s hard to justify being fair to one person at the expense of a large chunk of everyone else.

When we say “All men are created equal”, we better mean “everyone” is created equal — before the law (which is what it means). If the Law treats everyone fairly — that is, “equally”, there’s a better chance we’ll feel that we’ve been treated fairly. That’s all we can ask. It’s the consistency that creates a basis for “fairness” in our minds. That’s why the Rule Of Law — as a concept — gives us the best possible chance to experience the most “fairness” for the most people.

Racism is inherently unfair. Ditto bigotry, misogyny and every other form of irrational, ignorant hatred.

But, just like “fair” is a human construct, so’s the Rule Of Law. We invented it. And though we want to think it’s “automatic” or autonomous, it isn’t. It does not self-perpetuate. It’s not some perpetual motion machine. We have to care for these ideas and nurture them. We have to renew both the ideas and our passion for them.

As the Trump years have taught us, if you start taking “fairness” for granted, you’re doomed to a life of perpetual unfairness. Minority rule — as an example? Not fair. Mitch McConnell hijacking the judiciary — to give hard core conservative judges power over an increasingly progressive majority? Not even remotely fair. Committing treason to win the presidency in 2016? Don’t get me started…

“Fair” is a muscle we have to exercise every single day. We have make sure we’re being fair — despite the unfairness around us. If we don’t exercise our own sense of fair — that is, fair for the group — our “fairness” muscle will atrophy, wither and die. Before long, we’ll become like every Trump supporter. Their idea of “fair” begins and ends with them.

You want fair? Be fair. Have receipts ready to demonstrate what real fairness looks like. Be prepared to persist. “Unfair” is the bully’s preference and there are plenty of bullies around.

America Is Still Dealing With Its ‘Original Sin’: We Screwed Up On Slavery

If you really think about it — and you don’t have to think too hard — an awful lot of our current debate about racism in this country is as old as the Republic itself.  When the Founders of this Republic sat down to hash out what this country was and what it wasn’t, what they wanted it to be — and not be — they got bamboozled by the pro-slavery faction.

The fact that the Founders of this country couldn’t/wouldn’t outlaw slavery within our borders was a staggering mistake.  We fought a whole Civil War over it.  We’re battling over it still.

Either ‘All Men Are Created Equal’ or they aren’t.  There can’t be ‘Some Men Are Created MORE Equal’.  Well — there can — but that isn’t this country.

Except it is.  Because we screwed up at the start and allowed slavery to not only ‘be’ but — and here’s where slavery STILL haunts us — to guarantee slavery’s survival, we reverse-engineered how OUR version of democracy would ‘work’.  We empowered the slavers.  We empowered A MINORITY.

I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that that minority is WHITE, CHRISTIAN & MALE.

Historically, White-Christian-Male Culture has hated and feared any culture that wasn’t IT.  It’s used the Law to punish ‘the other’ and their culture.  Quick ‘for instance’ – marijuana prohibition never had anything to do with marijuana being a health risk (it isn’t — not compared to thousands of OTHER things we do or imbibe LEGALLY) – it was about the fact that marijuana (unknown to White Christian Male Culture) was enjoyed by MEXICANS who brought it with them when they migrated (many after the Mexican Revolution started in 1910).

Those same White Christian Males hated marijuana even more when Jazz Musicians — code for Black Men – took to it enthusiastically.

If you look at the arguments we’re having today — and it’s heavy with racism — you can’t miss slavery’s echos all over the place.  What is VOTER SUPPRESSION if not white people trying to keep black people from voting?  That’s not occurring in a vacuum.  It’s White People resisting the fact that Black People (‘slaves’ to the republican mindset) are free, are citizens, and can vote.

Republicans despise the fact that Black People or Brown People or Asian People or ANY PEOPLE that aren’t them can vote.  They’ve seen for eons where this would lead — to the demise of White Christian Male Culture as the ‘dominant culture’ in America.  To the End of Slavery, really.

And Republicans desperately don’t want THAT to happen…