Charlotte Perspectives and Figure Ground Experiments


Sometimes it is brought home to me so clearly that we really do live in more than one America right now. It is as if we are all looking at one of those old Psych 101 lessons where we are shown a diagram and asked what we see. Maybe it’s the one where you see either the Grecian urns or the profiles of two people. Some people see the “figure” first, some the “ground”. My psychology class never talked about which view was preferable as an indication of mental health, or intelligence, or personality. The demonstration simply shows that we don’t all see the same thing when we look at something as static as a still picture. Obviously this changes even more when we are looking at complex human interactions in the real world.

But if I take my Facebook page as a little microcosm of America, which it is not, because it is only family and old friends, I can see how most of my peers see and interpret the news of the day. Today the situation we see differently is the shooting of Keith Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina. These folks that I love with all my heart do not see any other side but the side of the police. They see these black folks as criminals and they honestly believe that the lives of these policemen were in jeopardy. They have no empathy for the dead. They don’t question the actions of the police. Their reverence for our police officers is laudable. Law and order gives us a society that allows people to worry about creating positive outcomes in their personal lives rather than fighting to survive. Here is what I saw on my Facebook page today:



I look at what happened to Keith Scott in Charlotte and I am filled with grief and I despair that we will ever recover from what I see as our bias and our fear. I know that we have a Second Amendment right to bear guns but I also see how the belief that everyone has a gun changes policing. I worry that there are people who hate black folks and who are also police officers, that they are killing black folks on purpose under cover of their badge. I cannot help but suspect that as soon as one of these bad arrests begins that I will soon hear someone say, loudly and clearly, that the “person of interest” has a gun. The problem is that I do not always believe that the person does have a gun. I think guns are being planted. The only way I will ever know whether this is true or not is if we see unedited video of the entire arrest. How will that ever happen? Maybe a camera in a drone could follow each police car or hover over officers on a beat. I don’t know the answer but we sure need one, because what is happening is awful. It is not one isolated incident. It is happening over and over.

I do not understand how the people I grew up with could watch and hear the video that Mrs. Scott made as her husband, who had done nothing, was being apprehended and then killed and only see this from the point of view of the police officers. I cannot imagine having to stand with a cell phone taping the death of my husband, but that is the thing that Americans of African Descent are being told by their peers to do, to make a video record that can fact check the video accounts that are eventually released by the police. (In the case of North Carolina a law will go into effect on Oct. 1 that will no longer allow the public to see these videos. Why are we spending tax dollars on body cams if the public will never be allowed to see what the camera saw?)

This was just one of the saddest things I have ever seen. This woman had to stay very calm and she had to stay off to the side because if she didn’t she could very well end up dead also. Why don’t my near and dear peeps see this side of things also? Must we blindly admire everything our police officers do in order to deserve their protection? It is a difficult job, but we are not supposed to turn a blind eye to any injustice in a free society. How would we ever be able to recognize and rebuff a police state if all we are allowed to feel is total admiration, to never be critical? We know very well that all policemen and policewomen are not perfect. We know there is always the possibility of corruption and cynicism in people who associate so closely with desperate or bad people. A free society requires that we speak up when things do not seem right.

People who are shown figure-ground experiments and who subsequently are able to see both images are never again fooled by that particular stimulus. If people don’t see both sides of this issue it is, apparently, a sign that we live too much in our own bubbles; that we have come to see black folks as others (and perhaps they see us as others also). These terrible injustices could not happen over and over again if there was not still racism at work in 21st century America. Separation may be responsible. So are our perspectives.

Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst – Book


Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst is a modern story, a story of today’s America and beyond. The Hammonds fall in love and marry and have a child. They name her Matilda Grace (Tillie). As time goes by, as their child grows older, they realize her brain may be wired differently (my words). She is a very bright child, but she has obsessions. Right now she is obsessed with massive monuments like that Buddha that was destroyed by the Taliban in Afghanistan. She is also fascinated with inappropriate language, swear words. This may or may not be Tourette’s syndrome, but it sounds more willful than automatic. She has serious meltdowns over situations that seem small, insignificant, and unpredictable. No school has been able to keep her for long in spite of mainstreaming laws.

Iris Victoria, the second child, born two years after Tillie, does not have any of these issues but, of course, Tillie’s eccentricities affect Iris’s life in many ways. Family members take turns being the narrator of this story but often Iris is giving the running commentary of these key moments in the Hammond’s life when they follow Scott Bean, a seeming visionary in the treatment of children who don’t fit within the parameters of acceptable behavior in their neighborhoods or their schools. Josh and Alexandra love both of their daughters. They wend their way through modern theories which blame problems like autism or Asperger’s on things like junk food, or pollution. Alexandra says about her pregnancy, “You’ll struggle to remember details that seemed inconsequential at the time: Did you drink tap water? Did you eat any fish that might have contained high levels of mercury?”

Alexandra tells a tale that is familiar to every parent with a “special” child. She and her husband consult doctors. They consult the internet. They get an alphabet soup of diagnoses. They talk to other parents. They talk to schools every time Tillie does something a bit too violent to tolerate. They do not know what school they will enroll her in next. That is when Alexandra sees one of those flyers with the tear off telephone numbers on the bottom posted by a man named Scott Bean who seems to have insights into how to help these children. She checks him out on the internet and he seems quite legitimate. Finally the family buys into a camp that Bean is setting up for families whose children seem to be modern medical mysteries. He calls the place Camp Harmony.

This is a novel, but it straddles a line somewhere between fiction and nonfiction. Any family who has been through trying to raise a child who does not conform to the developmental expectations of our culture will probably recognize the trajectory of the Hammond’s experiences. They will nod in affirmation at the discussions of possible environmental factors that could be causing these “disorders” to occur more frequently. They will feel quite familiar with the emotional stages these parents go through, with their quest to find a “treatment” that will give their child more positive experiences out in the world. They will try medicines hoping to find one that brings their child’s behavior back within the parameters of normalcy. Will they try something as desperate as the Hammonds who sell everything and move to Camp Harmony? How did that work out anyway? Well, of course, that I cannot tell you. Carolyn Parkhurst”s novel, Harmony, for me, does not make the cut as literature, but as a cautionary tale to folks in modern societies who find themselves in a similar situation it is well done.

The Deplorables, the Republicans, and the Media



The Deplorables, The Republicans and the Media

I will eventually get to the “deplorables” but you must be patient while I make all the connections I need to make in order to make my points believable. Bear with me while I fill in the backstory. Even though it sounds overly familiar, follow along with it one more time. Recent events have their roots in the past, as is usually true with all human endeavors.

Strange Bedfellow Reprise

I once painted a word picture of a bed full of strange bedfellows with the hardworking average Americans on one side of the bed with their corporate bosses who either still employ them or who have abandoned them on the other side and as the pillow that separates these two normally adversarial groups is the Republican Party.

Nestled in with those hardworking average Americans are some right wing fringe groups of Americans, the militia folks who turned out to start a war over Cliven Bundy, and yes the haters, the misogynists, the xenophobes, the homophobes, the anti-Semitics, the racists, those who never accepted that the Confederacy lost the Civil War, and even perhaps downright fascists and neo-Nazis. I made it seem to be mystifying that these folks were in the same bed but it really isn’t all that surprising.


Republican Media and the Strange Bedfellows

The ideological glue that holds these people so unnaturally together is what the GOP has been sending out over the radio waves (the radio!) in those Talk Radio shows of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and others for more than a decade. Republicans certainly knew their audience. They did not aim for Big Business, they colluded with Big Business. Their party was dwindling in influence and size. They needed voters. So the GOP through their media began saying the things that they knew would resonate with truckers on long distance trips, displaced workers tuning-in in garages or in their cars.

They began to say that America was being ruined, that America was being downgraded to a second-rate nation; that our leaders were knuckling under to China and at the mercy of Islamic terrorists. They took little or no responsibility for our factories relocating to the East. They took no responsibility for helping to pass laws that took away penalties, or at least did not levy penalties on companies who took their factories elsewhere where there was cheaper labor and lot of fresh consumers.

They blamed the Democrats for trade deals and high taxes and too many regulations, for being in cahoots with demanding labor unions, and for environmental regulations, although many of these measures had appealed to our officials on both sides of the aisle. They seduced their listeners by speaking back to them the things that they said when they gathered together. For the most part this was guy stuff, although now husbands have brought their wives along with them and many single women who lost employment have also joined the movement.

Once Fox News went on TV and said in living color, in a format that looked exactly like news (but wasn’t) what the Talk Radio people had been whispering in American ears in black and white, the GOP realized that they had hit on a formula that could well put them back in the White House. When they added in the Patriot talk, the veneration of the flag, and took to the airwaves as the sole protectors of our veterans American was theirs, at least the white, immigrated in the 19th century, bunch.

I watched them grow their influence and it did look like the waves of grain that symbolize the American heartland (another word they latched onto with everyone sending each other little hearts on Facebook.) They hypnotized America, they brainwashed America and they turned workers who had no work into pod people. They occupied their brains and promised them exactly what they wanted. They said they would get their jobs back and they made sure that everyone could own a gun just in case they could no longer trust their government.

That is how people who did not wear suits ended up in that bed with all the suits.


How Republican Media called out to the Deplorables

The Republican Party has been using their own media to demonize Democrats. Media once tried to go for a balanced approach that sort of gave credence to the policies advocated by either side. The Republicans created a deliberately partisan media that spouted anti-Democrat messaging 24 hours a day. It is probably why the new idiom “24/7” was invented.

The GOP made the Democratic Party the party of immigrants so they could blame job loss on immigrants, especially immigrants who did not enter America through legal channels. They told workers who had to take jobs that paid far less than their old jobs that their tax dollars were being given to these illegal immigrants. Their tax dollars were being given to people who had never held a job or never would, and they painted those people’s skins as black. That is how they fed into and strengthened an image of the freeloading “other” that already existed.

Too bad the intelligence we have about terrorists is not as good as the intelligence the Republicans have about the American middle class. Of course the Republicans are the party that created the NSA with the Patriot Acts. When a black man became our President that was truly serendipity. Implying that he was not a true American, that he was not a Christian, that he belonged to a church that spewed hate about white folks in America – bonanza!

Are all of the white Americans who have been wooed and won by nonstop propaganda deplorable? I don’t think so. Are there deplorable individuals who climbed aboard the GOP train because the rhetoric resonated with their own narrow-minded beliefs? Absolutely. Are there quite of few of them? Sadly it seems that there might be. Do people who are not deplorable hold to some deplorable ideas? I would have to say that that is true.


Is the tribalism that defines the American social landscape deplorable? Will it lead us to anything positive if we are at each other’s throats? Can you make a better future when people are so invested in their own mindset that they want to lash out at anyone who thinks differently? Will dividing America into tribes who defend their territory, separating us all with hate and bile, eventually produce an America that links arms and unites to produce a more peaceful world in which we all can live? How can dividing into separate camps ever lead to unity, tolerance, and the creative spirit we need to meet the challenges of our tiny planet hurtling through space.

The Republicans have exploited our differences and exaggerated our differences in order to gin up votes because they want, they desire, they must control all three branches of our government. They must truly believe that they can restore America to a former glory that has never really been lost. Although we may be in a down cycle right now and recent developments abroad have given us more competition we are still a great nation and a world leader.

The Republicans profess their policies in almost biblical tones. They are trained to repeat talking points, to talk over their opponents, to obliterate foes with data even if the data is made up. They must think that “trickle-down economics” and cutting taxes and getting rid of regulations on business and investment, privatizing everything and building our military while cutting the size of federal government, that all of these strategies are the Holy Grail to reproducing the America that used to be so powerful and so productive.

But the GOP did not trust the American people to understand how successful their policies might be because so many of us do not agree that these policies will improve America. They still had to use propaganda to win. If you have right on your side why would you create this whole matrix of mesmerizing mind games?


Will Donald Trump and his band of Deplorables Make America Great Again?

Now the GOP is the party of Donald Trump who is the pied piper of the “deplorables”, regardless of how shocked the Republicans act about what Hillary said. In the future qualities like xenophobia, racism, and misogyny will not help us create the global society, which is evolving whether we like it or not. These feelings are backward and really don’t belong in a nation that espouses equality. They will only produce a more primitive American, not a futuristic America. The fact that these people have found a home in the Republican Party with Donald Trump at its helm is the best reason of all to elect Democrats in 2016. We need to fight these feelings in ourselves not give them free rein.


Time for Single Payer Health Care


It’s time for Single Payer Health Care. Obamacare has had some great moments. Many people who could never afford insurance now have it. People with preexisting conditions, once excluded from health insurance to assist them with their health expenses, now have coverage.

Obamacare has also been hard on some people in the middle class. You do not have to be in the upper middle class to be faced with these hardships. Retired couples are being faced with huge yearly fees for their health care and high deductibles and high copays.

Someone on my Facebook feed, someone who worked all her life, with a husband who worked all his life said that they have to pay $6000/ year and that this does not cover office visits and tests. This couple is not poor, but neither are they wealthy. Whatever they have was earned through hard work and smart financial management. So they have a house, not a McMansion, they have a camp, not exactly a Hamptons Beach house, and they have a small boat. They have grandchildren and a dog and they live modestly, not flamboyantly. This is just one story but I have heard it over and over again from family and friends.

Obama dealt fairly with the insurance companies as far as I can determine. He did not go for Single Payer Insurance. He got the health insurance companies to accept some compromises and he designed a plan that featured a private/public partnership. But insurance providers like Aetna and United Healthcare are no longer happy with the compromises they negotiated and they are backing out of the deal. They say that their stockholders are not pleased, or their profits are too low, or even that they are losing money. If the insurance companies back out Obamacare is basically dead it seems to me.

America accrued some important benefits from Obamacare that are not health related. Lots of people who work for private health insurance providers kept their jobs and I do mean lots of people. If the insurance companies vacate the deal that allows Obamacare to function then Obamacare will eventually go away and lots of Republicans will open champagne.

But there will be a backlash. All of those who were once uninsured and who have had pretty good insurance for a while will not, I think, quietly accept having it snatched away. Although the insurance companies may believe they can go back to their old ways of doing business I do not think that will fly. What other option will we have to try except a Single Payer Health Care Plan for which there is already a considerable drum beat? People who are paying giant fees for their insurance may be quite willing to pay higher taxes to allow the federal government to back such a plan, perhaps modeled on that in England or in Canada.


Single payer may also be the only plan that will offer enough public leverage against the pharmaceutical companies to bring down the prices of the meds we use. And a single payer program will offer lots of jobs. Those who lose their jobs with private health insurers (and there will be many) will be most prepared to take the new jobs, although they might have to accept lower wages. Doctors, health professionals and hospitals, clinics, etc., already living with the lower wages offered through Medicare will find that their wages will be lower across the board. That could make for some pretty unhappy health care providers. Will they move to China? Probably not. Will the quality of our health care go down? That is a possibility. Some single payer systems seem to involve longer wait times.

There is plenty for both the insurance providers and the insured to think about here. A for profit health model seems unsuited to maintaining health or treating those whose health is challenged because the model is too focused on profits to do tasks that are basically humanitarian in nature at affordable rates. And yet the people who are somewhat overburdened right now in terms of paying more for health care than they should have to pay may not be willing both to pay higher taxes and get less quality through a Single Payer Health Care system.

Who’s More Racist?/Dems Broke Our Inner Cities?


The Recent ‘Who’s More Racist’ Meme

Donald Trump, a man who is running to be President of the United States, can apparently say any racist thing he wants and still pretend to have the interests of those he maligns at heart. Our jaws are constantly dropping because nothing sticks to this guy. The media, cold one day, critical and willing to announce that this is a man who should never be our President turns around on the next day and conducts campaign business as usual. They interview him, play videos of his statements, broadcast round-tables full of media commentators from both major political persuasions and by doing so normalize his campaign once again, all of their hyperbolic complaints set aside to be revisited on another jaw-dropping day.

It is obvious that the press has no idea what to do in an unprecedented situation such as the election of 2016, although they have no trouble beating up on Hillary Clinton every day. I guess because she is not holding press conferences, where they can beat her up in front of a camera crew to be stored on video for all eternity, they are driven to destroy her in absentia. Hillary is being made famous by the Donald for making one tone deaf statement about African American young people in the 1990’s, which does sound bad and brings forth a wince when repeated in 2016, but is still only one statement no matter how many times it is repeated. Meanwhile Trump has hired a roster of advisors who don’t mind rubbing shoulders with White Supremacists or even members of the Ku Klux Klan, or who are prominent White Nationalists. And yet it seems we are supposed to be deciding who’s more racist?

His new campaign advisor has perhaps pointed out to Donald Trump that he cannot win the Presidential election unless he embraces at least one minority group. It looks like Americans of African Descent are the chosen ones because he just burned his bridges with Hispanics and probably Latinos also. Donald Trump, a man who knows next to nothing about history is now trying to rewrite American history for an electorate that also either knows and cares little about history, or has been entertained for the last decade by the twisted versions of American history as told by Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh.

The Discovery of the Bigoted Democrats of the 60’s by the Republican Right Wing

These same media right wing guys have been so excited since they learned about the Democratic Dixiecrats — a group of Democrats who were virulently anti-integration in the South both before and after the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (the President at the time was Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat). It delights these grown men to crow about all of the segregationists with their whiter than white skin and their thick Southern accents who were members of the Democratic Party during the Civil Rights Movement. It is proof, they craftily contend, that Democrats are racists. Except that the Democrats were so inhospitable to Strom Thurmond, et al that the Southern wing of the Democratic Party (those very Dixiecrats) eventually left the Democrats and joined the Republicans where they found a better fit, and the Republicans became the party of Southern accents and perpetual bitterness at their loss in the Civil War, kept alive by the Confederate flags flown throughout the South, and on many a Republican truck bumper.


The Democrats Broke the Inner Cities (or Did They)?

Now Donald Trump has his people blaming Democrats for the fact that not much has changed in our inner cities. He is saying that 50 years of Democratic programs have done nothing to ameliorate poverty or to bring prosperity to Americans of African Descent. Sadly, in the absence of data, that does seem to be the case. There is some data available but Donald Trump is not a data miner. It is also true that Democratic programs have never been consistently funded and have been modified whenever Republicans had the votes. These programs have been under constant attack from the right who have made several very familiar arguments against such programs.

1) Giving people government support makes them dependent on that support and they will like the free money so much that they will never want to leave that support system or do anything to become self-supporting members of our society, so the very support government gives, turns people into the perpetually poor and dependent.

2) A strong central government is anti-American and will lead to authoritarianism or Communism; furthermore it is against the intentions of our forefathers as written in the US Constitution which gives more rights to the individual states than to the central government. This section of our Constitution is actually very brief and open to interpretation, so much so in fact, that our founding fathers wrote the Federalist papers to try to reach a consensus interpretation, which I believe they were unable to do.

Neither of these arguments represents more than a point of view. There is no proof that all people will see government assistance as a comfortable hammock in which to while away their lives or that having a very small federal government will insure our continuing freedom as a nation.

It does seem clear that societies without any support for those who are poor suffer more social chaos and economic inconvenience and health and hygiene challenges than those societies who do prop up their poorest citizens with at least minimal dietary and health initiatives, and that things improve even more when education, training, and work are offered also. We know these things because we have documented histories from societies that did not offer these thing to those who were at the bottom of the social and economic heap. (England, for example)

Do Republicans Have a Better Plan?
So when we have someone like Rudy Giuliani claiming that Democrats have failed Americans of African Descent for the past 50 years – after I get over my outrage at such a statement

[Would it have been better to have done nothing?

[Would tough love and state’s rights have produced better results?]

– it becomes important to look back over the past 50 years to see if Democrats really are the culprits who we should blame for the seeming stasis in our inner cities and if it is truly time to give Republicans a go.

However, I warn you, almost the only thing that the Republicans have to go on is that tricky time we already discussed when Civil Rights hung in the balance, when half of the Democratic Party (the Southern half) was a 60’s version of Dino’s or Democrats In Name Only, men so bigoted that the Democratic Party eventually could not contain them. It is the tale of those very Dixiecrats who eventually fled to the open arms of a Republican Party, a party which has obstructed social programs vehemently ever since (whenever they could get away with it and still get elected to public office) that is providing Donald Trump with his opportunity to “zap” Democrats.

Throughout the Obama years we have heard their spokesman, Paul Ryan, hailed by the party until recently as a truth teller, repeat the wisdom he gleaned from multiple readings of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand — that we are destroying the character of the poor by propping them up and that the poor are takers who will demand more and more from the middle class until they too join the ranks of the poor – the story of the takers and the makers. It has been a compelling story, but is it true?

It seems to me that we lose more as a society by not helping poorer citizens than we do by helping them. The jury is still out on determining what positive and negative effects the past 50 years of programs offered to the poorest Americans have had. If the same families whose grandparents were poor are still as poor as that previous generation, then why is that the case? Is it the failure of the programs, or the failure of the modifications to the programs, or some other factors altogether that are responsible for the lack of change, of growth? Whatever the reasons I do not believe that the Republicans have mentioned any approaches that will help inner city communities in any way.

My Conclusions

Neither party is blameless when it comes to the stubborn stasis in our inner cities and so when Donald blames this on the Democrats he is being disingenuous and the most obvious reason is because it is politically expedient to do so. He has no insider knowledge that will help us unravel this stubborn problem and the Republicans sink or swim approach is a way to deny any blame for the current state of affairs and wash their hands of dedicating any more tax dollars to improving the situation. At this juncture I would say that actually going into our cities and asking residents what they believe would help the most and what their particular needs are seems as if it would be a great start.

Some of the Information and Historical Evidence I Reviewed

In order to refresh my own memory about the history of this argument about which party is more racist and which party has “broken” our inner cities I researched a number of topics.  First I looked at the roots of welfare which are older than you might think.

Welfare and Social Security programs began during the Great Depression with the New Deal of FDR and, says Wikipedia, ended when Bill Clinton (Democrat) faced with a majority Republican Congress passed the Welfare to Work bill in 1996.

If is instructive to watch some of the video record saved on You Tube and elsewhere on the internet. When you hear the question “which party is more racist” and then you watch the evidence you are likely to be confused. Some of these men were saying racist things as members of the Democratic Party because they were from the South and they were vehemently opposed to integration. But this view was not typical of the Democratic Party overall. Lyndon B. Johnson, prime mover of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was also a Democrat. Eventually these immovable Southern men had to take their anger and hate and huffily leave the Democratic Party. When they did that they found their new home with the Republicans. So when you listen to Strom Thurmond and Bull Connor and George Wallace talk on these videos they are Democrats. But not for long.

strom thurmondbig

The Confederate Flag

Bull Connor and Civil Rights

George Wallacebig

George Wallace

Segregation forever –

And even the Republican hero President, Ronald Reagan, appears very different when seen from a more liberal point of view:

Bill Maher on Ronald Reagan on Ronald Reagan

Rachel Maddow on Reaganomics and how it hollowed out the middle class

Black folks and Reagan

Republicans may also try to convince you that the War on Drugs belongs to Democrats but the War on Drugs began in 1914 and has been a fairly consistent policy in the US since that time. It is true that Americans of color have been pursued and incarcerated at a much higher rate than white Americans or even than guilty Americans, but Democrats alone are hardly to blame in this regard.

War on Drugs

Actually began in 1914 – A Democrat and a member of the House of
Representatives named Harrison proposed the first bill in Congress which passed

Nixon (Republican) used the name War on Drugs

Drug Czar appointed under George H W Bush and raised to cabinet level status by Bill Clinton

Drug free media campaign act of 1998

Sentencing disparities have been well documented

Nixon creates War on Drugs

Stop and frisk

Lately we have also been made aware of how real estate practices like redlining (used by Donald Trump to avoid renting apartments to people of color) also made it difficult for some minority citizens to leave inner cities.