Dear America: Can We PLEASE Stop Coddling Corruption?

I will never forget that feeling of dread that kicked in the instant that Donald Trump was declared the winner of election 2016. It wasn’t just losing an election. This felt different from just losing an election. It felt different, in fact, from Antonin Scalia stepping outside all precedent to MAKE George W. Bush president. That, if we’re honest with ourselves, was incredibly corrupt. Scalia inserted himself between We The People and our choice — the majority’s choice — in order to send America in the direction HE wanted us to go instead of the one WE wanted to go in. That is the essence of corruption. Corruption authored “Bush v Gore”. We paid the price. We’re still paying it and will continue to pay it into the future because that’s what happens when corruption “wins”. But, the fact is,, corruption doesn’t have to win. At any and every point along corruption’s route, we can stop it.

In a sense, America opened shop already corrupt. Well, the white, Christian men who founded America aspired to a great idea that “All men are created equal” but could not overcome their own misguided, misinformed tribal prejudices. They corrupted this grand idea by making it exclusive. By “All men”, they meant them. Just them. And yet — at the same time, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson (the slave-owning outlier here) were insisting that “E Pluribus Unum” become our national motto. Out of many, one.

The “many” are hard to corrupt. The “one”, on the other hand…

All corruption begins with the getting of money. Modern humans lived for two hundred thousand years as hunter-gatherers, accumulating nothing. There wasn’t much to be greedy over. The agricultural revolution bound us to the land. Its output had value both to the community and the individual growing what the community needed. Supply and demand were invented. The natural hierarchies that evolved over the course of our hunter-gatherer years became monetized — literally. Work evolved from being a strictly communal enterprise (hunting, gathering, child-rearing) into being “an enterprise”. Who “owned” the land that was being farmed? Who “owned” that farmed output? After a while, bartering couldn’t keep up — especially as the scale increased. As cities grew (grew more populated), so too did the need for another form of equity that people could trade in place of straight good-for-goods swaps. Enter money.

Money itself has never been “the root of all evil”. It’s THE WORSHIP of money. The compulsion to acquire wealth beyond all real need. Greed is a mania. The greedy become convinced that money will protect them from all of Life’s hardships and challenges. To a degree, the greedy are right. Having money gives one options that NOT having money doesn’t. I say this from experience, having been both comfortable and bankrupt.

My family probably wouldn’t have gone through a bankruptcy following the 2008 financial meltdown if we’d been forced to sell our house instead refinancing it to the point where keeping it was beyond our reach. Each of those refi’s was based on a lie — that we could afford to pay the escalating mortgage. But, corruption starts with a lie. Our financial system was lying (because it was corrupt) and rather than look at my situation honestly (which is what I should have done), I bought into the “hope” that “somehow”, I would turn my situation around and make everything whole. I wasn’t being greedy so much as being stupid. I knew damned well I was lying on those forms. I was going along with the corruption because (I thought — wrongly) that it was benefiting me. In the end, it did not. My participation in this corruption did far more long term harm to me personally (and to my family) than any sort of short term good.

But, that’s if I’m being honest with myself.

The first step toward releasing corruption’s hold on us collectively is to acknowledge its hold on us personally. No one has to run to the FBI to confess anything. We just have to be honest with ourselves.

Once we grant that corruption has touched us personally, it gets easier to see it touching other people — and how those other people either are being victimized by corruption or are becoming victimizers. The eaters versus the eaten. Some people take to corruption naturally like ducks to water or Republicans to bullshit. At corruptions heart is the rubbish notion that any person gets rich because of something they alone have done. The same idea wants us to believe that some families have magical, “royal” blood that makes them and their spawn better. They even get it into their heads that money and power flows to them from the divine.

If that never happened — if a sky deity never actually anointed said family then their assertion that such a thing happened is a lie. Anything that furthers that lie is corrupt. In time, we bake all that corruption of the truth into our cultural architecture. The point is, it’s not shocking that we coddle corruption. We grow up with so much corruption already normalized that it’s a wonder we still know what the truth is.

When Mitch McConnell gets up on his Treason Turtle hind legs — as he did yesterday — to burble about how he “doesn’t believe” all the Republican attempts to restrict voting are racist, he’s lying through his turtle beak. He’s being corrupt. But then, EVERYTHING Mitch McConnell does is corrupt. Literally. The fact that Mitch keeps winning elections in a state where he’s less popular than cancer, suggests that Mitch and corruption know each other well. Yet, instead of sitting in prison, Mitch gets to stand in the way of America’s future. And, instead of marching to Mitch’s front door with torches alight and pitchforks raised, we shrug. “What can we do?” we sigh. “The people of Kentucky elected him.”

But, did they? What if that’s never been the case and the solution to the Mitch McConnell problem has always been a “simple matter” of calling Mitch out for the corrupt criminal he is?

It would help, of course, if our news media would stop coddling people whose corruption they’ve already reported. To treat Mitch McConnell or Kevin McCarthy as honest actors is, in itself, dishonest. But then, our news media — having reported on Trumpian corruption for four plus years STILL refuses to see Trump himself as corrupt as if Trump was an anomaly of honesty surrounded by corruption. They scratch their heads relentlessly as they wonder what binds the GOP to Trump despite the fact that he lost them the White House, the House and the Senate. They blame the base and fear of being primaried — as if was all about the horse race and not the horses doing the racing. It never occurs to our NEWS media to blame the corruption.

The Republican Party, seeing electoral extinction in their near future, hitched their wagon not only to Trump but to Russia. They KNEW before they nominated Trump how completely Vlad Putin owned him. They even talked about it out loud. “There’s two people I think Putin pays,” said Kevin McCarthy upon entering a room of GOP leaders A MONTH BEFORE NOMINATING TRUMP in 2016, “Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!” In response, then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan made everyone present promise to keep what Kevin McCarthy thought a secret. “That’s how we know we’re family,” he reminded them.

He might as well have added, “That’s how we know we’re all corrupt”.

Everyone in that room accepted the corruption. It’s incumbent on us however to just say “no”.

The Problem With Conservatives Is WHAT They Want To “Conserve”

I call myself a “progressive” instead of “liberal”. I’m extremely liberal in most ways but the word’s got too much damned baggage. It’s been abused and misused and neo-ed to the point where, to my mind, it’s become too imprecise to describe how my mind sees the world. I want the American commonweal to progress into the future with gusto. I want us to embrace our challenges. I want us to go as far outside the box as we need to to solve those challenges. I want America to live up to the motto on our Great Seal: “E Pluribus Unum”. Out of many, one. I want America to live UP to its ideals — even the ones it didn’t fully embrace at its creation like ALL “men” are created equal. Here’s the irony — in a way, conservatives WANT America to live up to the same ideal — but EXACTLY how the founders meant it: “all white, Christian men are created equal — so long as they’re landowners.”. That is what too, too many conservatives have in mind when they take up conservatism — America circa 1850.

A debate now rages in conservative circles, started by longtime Republican strategist Stuart Stevens. In his book “It Was All A Lie”, Stevens (who has been instrumental in crafting the messages that elected hundreds of Republicans to office) unabashedly accepts responsibility for having contributed to the deeply cynical enterprise that, he now sees, was always the GOP’s true self. Stevens even sees Saint Ronnie Reagan in this harsh, new light. As satisfying as it may have been hearing Reagan deride “welfare queens” for living off the government, what Reagan really was doing was spewing racism.

Racism and white supremacy have nested at the core of Republican intent at least since Barry Goldwater, Stevens says, and it disgusts him. He now understands: the Republican Party stands for nothing today. They exist to hold onto power however they must. If that means destroying the republic? So be it. This isn’t Trumpism, insists Stevens, it’s pure Republicanism screaming at the very top of its racist, bigoted, misogynistic, ignorant voice. This is conservatives making it crystal clear WHAT exactly they want to conserve.

Obviously, no conservative wants to conserve the future. The future’s the thing conservatives are trying to keep at bay. They want to hold onto as many of their conservative values as possible so as to slow, mitigate or prevent the future from ever happening. The conservative ideal, after all, is to make the future look as much like the past as possible. If the future could BE the past? So much the better (from the conservative POV)!

This isn’t rocket science (a thing conservatives fear because rocket science causes innovation and innovation causes change). Look at anything most conservatives want to legislate. The goal is to keep white people in power. To keep money in their hands. To give them advantages versus the rules that non-white people won’t get. Conservativism, by design, wants to maintain the status quo. To conserve it. The present contains as much of the future as a conservative can tolerate. They want to preserve as much of the past as they can in the present.

If every conservative was honest, that’s what they’d tell you. That’s why you should vote for them — because, unlike the progressive who’s unafraid of the future, they, the conservative, will take you back in time to when it was safer to be white. To when white people felt more assured that the future belonged to them just like the past did. One of the reasons to scream about Critical Race Theory is that CRT demands that we tell the FULL story about the past. The reason so few Americans even knew that a “Black Wall Street” existed (only to be wiped out by a race riot 100 years ago) is because “we” never reminded ourselves that it was part of our story. White people never want to hear stories about white people acting like monsters regardless of how true the stories are. They don’t want to see themselves that way.

That, too, is part of conservatism’s nature. Conservatism cannot look itself in the eye. It can’t self-analyze. It cannot stand being judged (judgmental as it is toward everyone else). It has no sense of humor. Oh, conservatives can laugh — but they never laugh WITH anyone (except other conservatives) while they’re collectively laughing AT someone else. Conservatism regards those not conservative with cynical distrust. It assumes the very worst about the rest of us — that we’re out to destroy the thing they love; for them, even freedom is a zero sum game. It’s not possible, they think, for others to have rights without white people “losing” rights. Power sharing just ain’t in their DNA.

And, so, conservatives gerrymander and voter suppress and even conspire with Russia in order to win elections that they know they can’t win fairly — all in order to conserve a version of America that never existed in the first place except in their minds. That’s the nutshell our problem sits inside of — conservatism can’t even be honest with itself about its intentions. About what IT wants and why.

Good thing the rest of us are here to explain it to them.

Reparations For Slavery Are Actually “Back Pay” That’s Long, LONG Overdue

Slavery, understandably, is one of those words that juices our emotions. Anyone with a history of being enslaved understands on a deep, subcutaneous level how that hangs on one’s sense of self. And that’s without ever having been a slave oneself. Slavery isn’t just one thing of course. It’s a lot of things, none of them good. It’s a whole system in fact. But, it’s a system built upon one key, essential foundation: stolen labor. The whole point of enslaving someone — of making them your slave — is to force them to work for YOU for nothing. You get their labor gratis. Now, consider slavery from the point of view of work. If a person works for free, they can never acquire any wealth — or power, a thing that comes with wealth. Money talks, right? If you haven’t got any — and no way to acquire any — you don’t exist. As an individual, that is. Your work however DOES exist — and you, the slave, working for free, improve the slave master’s bottom line like literally nothing else. The bulk of the profits derived from slavery derive directly from the fact that the LABOR itself cost zero.

Now, to be fair, slavery didn’t provide completely free labor. The slave owner still had to house, feed and clothe his slaves. That’s cash OUT. The cost of a slave was seen as the difference between what it cost to keep a slave and whatever that slave’s maximum productivity could be. Since they were viewed as property, slaves could be sold as needed for cash or because they were “too much trouble” (meaning expensive) to hold onto. Killing slaves wasn’t a good option; that was understood as “destroying one’s own property”. Who in their right mind would do that?

Slavery’s apologists insist that the southern states could never have become viable without slavery’s almost free labor costs — as if white peoples’ need to make a buck transcended everything else in the discussion — including other human beings’ freedom. During slavery’s reign, plenty of apologists pointed to the Bible as justification for maintaining the institution as if the backwardness of iron age scribes excused contemporary immorality.

Want to measure what “fair” is? Ask yourself, if the shoes had all been on the opposite feet and white people had experienced CENTURIES of wage theft — and all the other devious ways white people stole Black peoples’ wealth in America — would white people go along to get along? Surely, you jest. White people in America have a terrible habit of changing rules on the fly for their benefit. This is one of them — but one we’re going to change because fairness demands it.

Though the founders couldn’t bring themselves to include ALL PEOPL;E in “All men are created equal”, still, some of them recognized the true super power lurking inside the American Experiment: diversity. In 1793, those Americans insisted that the words “E Pluribus Unum” become America’s motto and placed it on our “Great Seal”. How to sum up America in three words? From many, ONE.

The many, it’s understood, aren’t going to come here because they were kidnapped from their lives somewhere else, brutalized, transported and dehumanized so that others could get rich off your hard work. The many will come here for the opportunities that exist nowhere else on the planet. E Pluribus Unum is a great sales tool. Come Work For Free? Not so much.

The Confederacy, like the cotton, tobacco and sugar cane it relied on for cash flow, was literally BUILT on the free labor of slaves. Every single slave — or their descendant — has a legitimate claim against both the individuals who forced them to work for free and the government itself that falsely justified laws that permitted such egregious, wrong behavior. This was a conspiracy to deny a particular class of Americans (whether or not they were correctly called “Americans” the wages due them. Government conspired with private industry for their mutual benefit. They even went to war to protect this evil conspiracy to deny Black people the compensation to which they were entitled then and still are entitled.

Statues of limitations are a convenient way for those guilty to run out the clock on their culpability. A thing stolen remains stolen until its return to its true owner. Time can’t actually “forgive” anyone or anything. That’s the guilty party whistling past the graveyard of discovery . The wage theft inherent to slavery was just the most obvious of the thefts. Every time white people destroyed a thriving Black neighborhood like Greenwood — Black Wall Street — as they did in Tulsa in 1921 — they’re not just “burning out” and tearing down a thriving Black neighborhood. They’re stealing that neighborhood’s wealth. They’re taking its property — and that, too, DEMANDS reparation.

Hey — would the Carnegies or Rockefellers or Kochs or Mercers put up with this kind of thing? Ask a “hard” question, why don’tcha…

Hi, My Name’s America And I’m A Racist

The first step before you can begin any 12-step program is to recognize that you have a problem. Speaking from experience — I never ever thought of myself as “an alcoholic” though I abused alcohol exactly like one. Often, we are the worst judges of our failings, being so close to them, as we are. But, if we want to conquer our weaknesses — if they’re holding us back from the lives we want to lead — we can’t conquer shit if we don’t own up to the fact that we have those weakness to begin with. Look, racism (like beauty) is entirely in the eye of the beholder. Just as beautiful people can’t really judge their beauty, neither can racists judge their racism. Whether or not someone thinks they’re attractive or not is one thing — the worst thing most beautiful people are guilty of is self-adoration. Whether or not they’re racist is entirely different. When racists act on their racist impulses, the subject or subjects of their racism often get hurt or killed. Racists are all time bombs unaware that that’s what they are.

Eight people, six of them Asian women, are dead today in Atlanta. Eleven Jews were murdered, six wounded at the Tree Of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27, 2018 (the shooter wanted “all Jews to die”). There’s a whole freakin’ LIST of church shootings — that’s Black churches or Muslim houses of worship being shot up by angry white guys like Dylan Roof. A nominee for president began his presidential campaign by telling the world “Mexicans are rapists”. Almost every bit of Republican opposition to Barack Obama started with his skin color. The British royal family (well, Prince Charles, most likely) worried aloud that they feared “their blood” might appear “tainted” should the color of Meghan and Harry’s kid be thought “too dark”; what on earth makes ANYONE think any royal’s bloodline is superior to any other human’s? That’s bullshit — on steroids. I know it ain’t America’s racist problem, but it flows from the very same poisonous well of racism.

I drank to excess because I had anger issues that I mistakenly thought alcohol was “helping me” with. I was wrong. Radicalized white Americans (men mostly) think their racist attitudes are helping them. They think America should be some sort of “white homeland”. No, that would be Europe. America WAS a “homeland” — but not to anyone white. Racists are like a virus — infecting things and taking them over, converting that thing into them. And just as viruses are harder to kill than, say, bacteria (penicillin is useless against viruses), diminishing the impact racism has (and anti-Semitism and misogyny and bigotry of every stripe) will require not only vigilance but persistence.

America was born a racist. “All men are created equal” did not mean “all men”. It certainly didn’t mean all humans. C’mon, America — say it out loud. The Truth will absolutely set us free: We’re America and we are RACIST!

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.

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”.

“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.

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”.