Civil Rights Litigation Group

I want to use the word ironic, but apparently everyone uses it incorrectly (but it certainly seems ironic) that the party that gave us the most authoritarian president ever is going berserk over what they call mandates. 

It’s not necessarily a COVID thing. Republicans lost their minds over the mandate provision in the Affordable Care Act, a provision that would have helped fund the health care act and would have made it more inclusive. They took their complaints about the unconstitutionality of a “mandate” in a democracy all the way to the Supreme Court. They have complained about seat belt laws which have saved untold numbers of lives. They have complained about using politically correct language on campuses when campuses became more diverse, and students felt included enough to ask for more consideration. 

White dominance on college campuses had encouraged bad linguistic habits. Insults to nonwhite groups had become ingrained in white speech and white people resented having to train themselves to speak differently. Instead, they began a fierce campaign against political correctness which still gets cited by many conservative academics as the worst sin of the liberals (the Democrats). These academics know very well that words express whole schemas of stored experiences that affect the ways we interact with others. Political correctness was not even mandated behavior; it was socially determined behavior.

Republicans have forced liberals to accept gun laws which we consider dangerous, and which feel very much like mandates because we are not allowed to change any gun laws no matter how careful we are to preserve the rights of hunters and sport’s enthusiasts. Nothing will do, even when the nation lives in an almost constant state of grief, but to insist that any gun regulations go against the Second Amendment of the US Constitution. Perhaps not called a mandate, but it feels like one.

We are not living amidst a rebellion against England these days, and yet it feels that we are very close to a rebellion by one group of Americans against another group, or a Civil War. We already had a Civil War, and it was a bloody nightmare which we have never put behind us. In fact, as I write this the January 6 th Investigative Committee is live on TV replaying events that seemed like a rebellion to many of us. It is difficult to figure out what the militias are fighting for. Are they fighting to keep a president in power, even though he lost a free and fair election? Are they fighting to keep racial hate and to continue to insist that men who lost the Civil War are American heroes? Was this meant to become a mandate by force?

Are Republicans fighting because they were told that white folks will be in the minority in the future? Clearly no one minority group will hold a majority. These numbers add all minority groups into one monolithic voting bloc which would mean that all these groups agree to vote together and agree on every issue, perhaps to spite white folks. This is a myth created by Talk Radio and Fox News to rile up white people and stir up racism. Minority groups are not a single voting bloc.

Republicans are being asked to give up a lot, mostly things that are a negative drag on American society, and attitudes that should have changed long ago. If we could really conquer our persistent racism and put aside pseudoscientific research that purports to prove that the darker the skin the lower the intelligence, it would free America to be the example to other nations that we always pretended to be. 

We wish we could mandate changes in prejudices, but experience tells us we can’t mandate people to change their minds, we can only brainwash folks, as the right-wing has done, to think differently. Democrats don’t really buy into brainwashing as a valid political tactic in a democracy/republic. Is brainwashing preferable to issuing mandates? Only when you don’t realize the strategy is being used.

Republicans have wrapped themselves in victimhood and see every act by Democrats as an attack against Republicans. It is not Democrats or Republicans who caused the COVID pandemic. It is not Democrats who determined that the disease travels by air from person to person. It is the nature of the disease. But Republicans hear the word ‘mandate’ and they decide that any mandate is just about the Democrats making the right-wing do something that will take away a right. What right does a mask mandate take away? Is the mandate political? The forty-fifth president tried to force Americans to work normally through COVID because of the economy. He basically wanted workers to suck it up and get back on the job. He didn’t mandate it, but you can bet he wanted to.

It seems that the entire objection is to the word mandate. Isn’t an Executive Action a mandate, a decree, a ruling. Trump signed 220, but every President has used executive orders. They are mandates without input from Congress. Trump fired five Inspector Generals in his last months in office to avoid any criticism and show that he had a mandate to govern absolutely. He just did not use the word mandate. 

Americans need to decide. Is issuing mandates undemocratic? Are there times when mandates are necessary and acceptable? Should mandates last forever or time out? Who has power in a pandemic, the federal government, the individual states, or the individual citizen? Republicans already declared themselves the greatest patriots, the protectors of our constitutional rights, and yet they elected a man who came closer to the Big Brother figure portrayed in the book 1984 by George Orwell than any other president. Trump seemed to believe that he was founding a dynasty by divine right and should be treated as a king. 

How sympathetic should we be to Americans whose behavior and what they say they believe is illogical and disruptive. ‘We love this authoritarian man and anyone who acts like him, but we refuse to follow health guidelines because they are mandates and mandates are authoritarian and these mandates have been issued by authoritarians we don’t like.’ The right-wing has been bullying the left. 

Must we give up all mandates, even those which are promulgated to protect our health, or can we agree that, within careful limits, some mandates are necessary. Having sympathy for and excusing people who refuse to accept health mandates feels an awful lot like anarchy sometimes. Republicans have mandated that their interpretation of the US Constitution is the correct one and that their version is final. This seems like the biggest and most authoritarian mandate of all.

Climate Rant

From a Google Image Search – National Centers for Environmental Information

Climate change is real. Climate change is not real. Climate change is normal. This level of climate change is not normal. We are on the edge of climate disaster. Heat waves, mud slides, collapsing multistory buildings full of people, flooded streets, intense fires, draught, extreme storms – these things are all perfectly within the boundaries of past events. These things are signals that we are at the edge of climate disaster if we don’t change our ways now.

It looks like are not going to save humans or animals either. The planet, on the other hand, can survive whether it is empty or full. But if a planet has no life, then it just becomes one unspectacular member of a universe full of empty planets. We are just going to turn life on earth into a series of survivalist exercises that undo centuries of history, enlightenment, curiosity, exploration, and learning? Are we going to revisit the primitive life of the hunter-gatherer, without all the species from which humankind used to find sustenance, without the plentiful clean water and foliage; a future in which any other human could be your enemy?

Most of us can pick up trash, or help clean a bit of the ocean, or buy an ocean bracelet to fund others to clean the ocean (a truly enormous task). We can cart our trash out of a park after a picnic or a camping trip. But we can’t afford to buy solar panels. We can’t afford to buy an electric car. We can’t stop using oil and gas until we can afford solar panels and an electric car. We can’t change the way we commute until systems that function efficiently to move people are built. We sit in the cheap seats. Others have hoarded most of the money that should be spread among us more equally. Many middle-class people defend billionaires and millionaires because they one day hope to join their ranks. You can still be rich without hoarding.

We are in a terrible bind as a planet because we must depend on the very people who like the way things are, who are riding the money train, who make huge profits from oil and gas – we must depend on them to save the planet. They alone have enough money to make the sweeping changes that are needed. They do not seem to realize that they live on the same planet we do, or that there may be no corner of that planet left for them to live their sequestered ritzy lives on. Everything is interconnected.

Spending a week watching two billionaires barely touch space and act like they built a colony on the moon should convince us that, 1) billionaires will not save us because they are only concerned about climbing the Forbes list, and 2) at this rate we will not be able to find a Planet B and inhabit it in time to save ourselves, or even a few over-the-hill billionaires. I enjoy watching people realize their dreams, I have always imagined that we would be space travelers, and I do cheer for success, but the way this trend is unfolding it will not profit most of us at all. These visits to space are just tricks, and not cheap ones either. They may lead to something. but it sounds like they will just be repeated for profit, that no exploration will be involved.

If billionaires and millionaires won’t help save the earth, things will get worse and worse for humans, and the plants and animals that feed us (physically and spiritually). I hear voices on social media saying that we will adapt. But why would we want to adapt to a manmade hell when we were given paradise (if we can keep it). Do billionaires and millionaires believe that their money will have any value if the culture we have created is destroyed by neglect and greed? When money is worthless then we will all be back on an equal footing. We will all be struggling to survive.

I am not against ordinary, non-monied citizens trying to create their way out of dystopia, and I hope that happens. Someone will find ‘the answer,’ we will have our eureka moment and life will flourish along with the planet for millennia. Give humans a problem and we try to solve it. It’s one of our best features. We try to solve it and still balance freedom against authoritarianism, wealth against poverty, human life against plant and animal life. We might get a new battery that lasts and lasts. We might find new ways to use solar energy. We might find an energy generated from atoms that does not have the dangers of nuclear energy (cold fusion?). We live in an age when people tinkering in garages or basements changed the world. It could happen again, but will it happen in time? Will it happen if every human is expected to walk some hamster wheel of constant work for low pay?

Clearly, we need the help of engineers who are busy right now removing oil and gas from the depths of the earth. We need more billionaires to pitch in right now and speak out for the ways we can change our lives to preserve our lives. Your yachts may be fun right now and you may think you can sail away to escape the visible signs that earth’s climate is changing, as you did to escape the pandemic, but eventually there will be no untouched places to go, the supply lines will fail, and you will have to rejoin the survivors or die. This is not up for debate. This is real and we need the best and brightest (if simply having lots of money proves you are the best and brightest) among us to pitch in and help. Perhaps you are hoping to shrink the world population through more pandemics and natural disasters, but it will be a crap shoot and how do you know you will be the ones to survive? If I sound angry, it’s because I am.

Rogue Governors

From a Google Image Search – Wikipedia – 2021

Florida, Texas, South Dakota, Tennessee, along with other states in the Midwest, South, and some Western states east of the Rockies, are states that were collected by the Republican Party. Although these states had always been majority Republican states, there were concerted campaigns to make them super-Republican red states. The idea was to make Republicans the majority party in as many state houses as possible and in every branch of the government in each state. Evangelicals were helpful in this endeavor using the churches’ pulpits and printing presses to make sure that there was a connection between God and the Republican Party. They promised, in coded messaging, to make America white again and Christian again, or at least to keep white folks in power in perpetuity. They used ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) to write actual laws and circulate them in conservative states. Sometimes these legislatures adopted these laws as they were written, with no amendments at all.

Today 30 out of 50 states are red states. This would suggest that the Republican Party has been both busy and successful. Although these are not the most populous states, in the Senate populated and less populated states get two Senators each, which is why it is so difficult for Democrats to be the majority party in the Senate right now. States have always competed for money and resources. But during the pandemic Trump and Republicans in Washington pitted the states against each other in a life-or-death struggle to get COVID tests, PPE’s, N95 masks. Before we even worried about how citizens would protect themselves from contagion and disease, we needed to make sure our hospital staffs were protected from contagious hospital patients, or we would soon run out of caregivers. There were tales of people hoarding supplies in secret locations, of clandestine air deliveries in the dead of night. We did not look at all like the United States of America.

One of the lures that Republicans used to woo states was the promise of a return to the original way powers were divided between the federal government and the states. This had been argued out in the Federalist Papers, but southern states had been unhappy with the outcome. Southern states do know how to carry a grudge. So, the Republicans yammered on about States’ rights and promised to make the federal government smaller, much smaller. The Federalist Society promised to place conservative judges on federal courts and the Supreme Court until most judges skewed conservative, although judges were once considered nonpartisan. They promised to cut taxes, indeed, to never raise taxes on corporations or the wealthy. Easy to see why states lined up to get these goodies. Republican tactics have worked. They have delivered, or are in the process of holding out, for many of these promises to become realities. Their favorite strategy is obstructing Democrats until Republicans become the majority once again.

 If a few Republican virtues were overlooked, state governments could be forgiven because the earthly rewards were many. Christian folks had to change Christian dogma just a bit from the old beliefs that poor people deserved a hand up, to a message that read quite differently. The church claimed that being well-off or rich meant that you had pleased God and that you were chosen to be lifted-up into Heaven, come the Rapture. Poor people became pariahs, shirkers, lazy.

We learned that some people were “Makers,” and some people were “Takers”. Rich people would no longer have difficulty passing through the eye of that needle. You can see why rich folks might want to ride the Republican train. Plus, Republicans said that puny humans could not cause the climate of an entire planet to change, and they saw no reason to shift away from fossil fuels and other carbon emitters. The oil and gas industry became ever stronger supporters of the Republican Party. Anyone who owned stock in gas and oil companies lined up with the Republicans. Republicans were having a moment even before Trump appeared on the scene with his cult followers.

There are twelve states that never accepted the Medicaid expansion: Wyoming, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Kansas, Texas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina. Missouri accepted the expansion but never used it. This happened during the Obama administration, and these states were praised by Republicans Senators and right-wing media. Here began the rogue’s gallery of Republican governors.

Trump encouraged red states to forego mask mandates and lock downs even when COVID numbers were high and there were no vaccines. Republicans routinely put the economy first and implied that Americans who stayed home were deadbeats and would be responsible for ruining the American economy. Of course, high death rates tended to put the kibosh on a desire to rescue the economy at all costs and it was an economy that did not even deliver to all Americans equally. Some states never issued stay-at-home orders: Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. In November of 2020 Texas, Florida, and South Dakota refused to lockdown. I have a clear picture in my mind of Gov. Noem of South Dakota setting up chairs at Mount Rushmore that ignored social distancing guidelines meant to slow disease spread. There sat all those folding chairs in perfect rows, set up as if for a pre-pandemic wedding. Trump was so proud of her.

DeSantis in Florida and Abbott in Texas have been trying to out-Trump each other. Gov. DeSantis used masking and lockdowns as sparingly as possible, and Florida let in travelers whenever they could get away with it without public outcry. Now we see the same reluctance to encourage people in red states to get vaccinated and we see COVID numbers rising again.

Seventeen states have passed or are getting ready to pass voting restrictions. New Texas voter laws would even allow the legislature to overturn the votes cast in a free and fair federal election by claiming fraud and would have partisan people watching the polls. Laws have already passed in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Iowa. Still to come are similar laws in Michigan, and Texas. The only reason Texas has not passed voter restrictions into law is because the Democrats all fled the state and vow to stay away indefinitely.

Twenty-five states are ending the $300 unemployment benefits offered in the rescue plan because they hypothesize that these benefits are keeping Americans from returning to work: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, W. Virginia, and Wyoming.

These rogue governors make it seem as if we are living in two different Americas, because essentially, we are. Whenever I see Governor DeSantis on the news, or Governor Abbott, or Governor Noem I know there will be some sound bite that will make Democrats worry about their sanity. How long will this Trump-love go on? Will plain old Republican-love turn out to be just as incomprehensible? Will all of this reach a head at some point, perhaps requiring the services of Dr. Pimple Popper, or will something much less culturally ridiculous happen, something serious and sobering. like a second civil war.

Keep an eye on those states that turn down benefits their people can use, that threaten to pass laws that really do put free and fair elections at risk. Keep an eye on Governor Abbott and his terrible voter laws, and his newest push to go back to building the wall at the Mexican border. We are getting ready to hear a whole lot of fearmongering intended to make us all cower in our beds because Mexican criminals are coming to get us. And keep an eye on Governor DeSantis who seems to want to run for President in 2024.

Caste by Isobel Wilkerson-Book

From a Google Image Search – The Kojo Nnamdi Show

Even if Oprah had not chosen Isabel Wilkerson’s book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent for her book club this book was destined to become a classic about caste and the role it has played in Hitler’s Nazi Germany, that it still plays in India, and the role it plays in America. We don’t often call the racism we practice against African Americans a caste system, but Wilkerson feels that something that began with enslavement of humans from the African continent has become set in the kind of same kind of stone as the caste system in India. Further she believes that America’s treatment of African Americans after slavery informed the definition of Aryans as the only people with genetics pure enough to remain in the new Germany under the Nazi regime. She has done her due diligence and backs her contentions up with plenty of anecdotes and quotes from those who wrote to preserve the system, and those who wrote to end it.

Pg. 32 “In the winter of 1959, after leading the Montgomery bus boycott that arose from the arrest of Rosa Parks and before the trials and triumphs to come, Martin Luther King, Jr., and his wife, Coretta, landed in India, in the city then known as Bombay, to visit the land of Mohandas Gandhi, the father of nonviolent protest. They were covered with garlands upon arrival, and King told reporters, “To other countries, I may go as a tourist, but to India I come as a pilgrim.”

“One afternoon, King and his wife journeyed to the southern tip of the country, to the city of Trivandrum in the state of Kerala and visited with high school students whose families had been Untouchables. The principal made the introduction.

‘Young people,’ he said, ‘I would like to present to you a fellow untouchable from the United States of America.’

King was floored. He had not expected that term to be applied to him. He was, in fact, put off by it at first. He had flown in from another continent, had dined with the prime minister. He did not see the connection, did not see what the Indian caste system had to do directly with him, did not immediately see why the lowest-caste people in India would view him, an American Negro, and a distinguished visitor, as low-caste like themselves, see him as one of them. ‘For a moment,’ he wrote, ‘I was a bit shocked and peeved that I would be referred to as an untouchable.’

Then he began to think about the reality of the lives of the people he was fighting for—20 million people, consigned to the lowest rank in America for centuries,’ still smothering in an airtight cage of poverty,’ quarantined in isolated ghettos, exiled in their own country.

And he said to himself, ‘Yes, I am an untouchable, and every Negro in the United States of America is an untouchable.’”

Again, using the author’s own words,

Pg. 85 “On this day, June 5, 1934, they were there to debate a legal framework for an Aryan nation, to turn ideology into law, and were now anxious to discuss the findings of their research into how other countries protected racial purity from the taint of the disfavored. They sat down for a closed-door session in the Reich capital that day and considered it serious enough to bring a stenographer to record the proceedings and produce a transcript. As they settled into their chairs to hash out what would eventually become the Nuremberg Laws, the first topic on the agenda was the United States and what they could learn from it.

The man chairing the meeting, Franz Gürtner, the Reich minister of justice, introduced a memorandum in the opening minutes, detailing the ministry’s investigation into how the United States managed its marginalized groups and guarded its ruling white citizenry. The seventeen legal scholars and functionaries went back and forth over American purity laws governing intermarriage and immigration. In debating ‘how to institutionalize racism in the Third Reich,’ wrote Yale legal historian James Q. Whitman, ‘they began by asking how Americans did it.’”

Pg. 88 “By the time that Hitler rose to power, the United States ‘was not just a country with racism,’ Whitman, the Yale legal scholar, wrote. ‘It was the leading racist jurisdiction—so much so that even Nazi Germany looked to America for inspiration.’ The Nazis recognized the parallels even if many Americans did not.”

This might shock you, but Wilkerson offers evidence that the American treatment of African Americans did serve as a model for the Nazi exclusion and genocide of Jews, Gypsies, and others not considered pure enough to live in an Aryan nation. It is unclear whether we can shame Americans who fight to keep African Americans as the lowest caste in America and the scapegoats in everyday disputes. The rest of us, sadly, have no trouble believing that America has even more to shoulder in terms of blame and greater reasons to offer at the very least, apologies; and perhaps to seriously consider reparations. And Wilkerson is not done. She goes on to discuss the eight pillars of caste and to discuss each in some detail with plenty of pertinent details, anecdotes and quotes from scholars. More examples and descriptions of actual events bring us right up to Charlottesville and now.

Pg. 324 “’Trump was ushered into office by whites concerned about their status,” Jardina writes, “and his political priorities are plainly aimed at both protecting the racial hierarchy and at strengthening its boundaries.’ These are people who feel ‘that the rug is being pulled out from under them—that the benefits they have enjoyed because of their race, their group’s advantages, and their status atop the racial hierarchy are all in jeopardy.”

About the social safety net

Pg. 348 “There are thriving, prosperous nations where people do not have to sell their Nobel Prizes to get medical care, where families don’t go broke taking care of elderly loved ones, where children exceed the educational achievements of American children, where drug addicts are in treatment rather than in prison, where perhaps the greatest measure of human success—happiness and a long life—exists in greater measure because they value their shared commonality.”

Pg. 349 “The majority of America’s peer nations have some form of free or low-cost healthcare coverage. The writer Jonathan Chait noted America’s singular indifference, unique among developed nations, towards helping all of its citizens. He connected this hard-heartedness to the hierarchy that arose from slavery. He found that even conservatives in other wealthy nations are more compassionate than many Americans.

‘Few industrialized economies provide as stingy aid to the poor as the United States,’ he observed in New York magazine in 2014. ‘In none of them is the principle of universal health insurance even contested by a major conservative party. Conservatives have long celebrated America’s unique strand of statism as the product of religiosity, or the tradition of English liberty, or the searing experience of the tea tax. But the factor that stands above all the rest is slavery.’

A caste system builds rivalry and distrust and lack of empathy toward one’s fellows. The result is that the United States, for all its wealth and innovation, lags in major indicators of quality of life among the leading countries in the world.”

Whether or not you accept Wilkerson’s theory that African Americans’ position in America represents an actual place at the bottom of a “caste system,” the damage our racism does to our American democracy/republic and to human beings who were brought to this country to be slaves is incontestable. We must redress the harms we have done if we are ever to claim a spot among leading nations on this planet; a spot untarnished by a “big lie” that we truly believe that “all men are created equal.”

Although this book follows all the structures of any good scholarly text, it is quite readable and should be on every reader’s list. Great addition to the genre and will most likely become a reference book for other writers on the subject.

Two Anniversaries: China and America

From a Google Image Search – The Guardian – China celebrates 100 years of Communism


July first in 2022, was the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party and photos showed Chinese citizens looking at President Xi with smiles and what looks like true pride. China had Chairman Mao as its leader for many years and Mao tried to create a true Communist state by turning over the Chinese social hierarchy like a farmer with a pitchfork turns the earth to enrich the soil. It was a disaster. Mao’s ‘Great Leap Forward’ and the ‘Cultural Revolution’ which ousted top officials and gave farmers and other ‘lower caste’ Chinese people authority to make change, was a failure because it left untrained people with grudges to bear in charge of manufacturing, food production, and distribution. Simple village people who had never worked in governing positions were making laws, enforcing laws and meting out justice. After a time, China broke down and did not function to feed its people or govern its people. Mao took the title of President, but he made a good case for doubting that Communism could create a functioning society. Communism in the USSR was also having similar problems producing enough food and generating a prosperous economy.

America, after World War II, set about making the world safe for democracy. Instead of missionaries selling religion, America was peddling democracy, and along with democracy, capitalism. Sometimes American motives were resented by European nations and by Russian nations and eventually in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Established leaders could not help but find Americans intrusive. With army and air bases all over the world America was perceived, once the grief and tragedy of the war had worn off, as an occupier, attempting to make itself the boss the world. Many nations had never been democracies. They had been monarchies and then authoritarian states. They may or may not have had connections to the Roman and Greek ideas of republican government, but centuries had intervened. These connections, if they still existed, were mostly academic.

However, capitalism had proven to be a great driver of the American economy. As communism failed to provide a sustainable society, America was enjoying general prosperity that was widely spread throughout the population. Democracy might not be winning around the world, but capitalism was. We were generous. We taught nations who showed an interest how to make capitalism work for them. We sent in corporate experts and government experts to get businesses up and running. We exported some of our businesses to interested nations, and sometimes to nations that were not quite so interested.

Spreading capitalism worked better than our wildest dreams, except not so much for America. We found that we had created rivals not friends. We found our own workers were losing their jobs to nations on other continents. For America, sharing economic tactics has not been quite as beneficial. Labor was much cheaper in emerging economies. Our corporations saw opportunities in emerging markets. The Great Factory Migration left America reeling. It has also thrown our republican democracy into a long period of introspection and recriminations, jealousy and fear, hate and division, forcing us to deal with issues prosperity covered over, such as our inability to rid ourselves of our racism.

But on the 100th anniversary of communism, China is looking as if they might be taking America’s place on the world stage. Go and see the photos in the article referenced at the beginning of this essay. They show the greatest asset that China possesses, its people, its enormous population. It is looking like Communism, when it combines authoritarianism with capitalism, is a great big winner. So much easier to lead a nation when no one can dissent, when everything does not have to be discussed and argued ad infinitum. With authoritarianism becoming, seemingly, the world’s most popular form of government, and with America torn apart by political strife, democracy is not exactly selling itself to nations the way that capitalism has.

We have been dabbling in our own experiments in autocracy. If we cannot make our democracy function, we could lose our freedoms, freedoms which are looking like an enormous flaw when it comes to running a state. It could find us no longer merely flirting with authoritarianism but succumbing to it. Picture an American President in front of an audience of American citizens, arrayed in perfectly straight lines staring with adulation at our Leader. Even Trump’s rallies hardly happened in straight lines. It is not only a stretch of the imagination to picture Americans as puppets controlled by ‘Big Brother;’ it is against everything we have been taught to fear and loathe. However, as we celebrate our own 245th anniversary, it is not as big a stretch as it once was.

China feels our loathing of communism and of unfair business practices and it makes China more angry and more competitive. It may be making them more militarily aggressive. If we go back to those pictures of celebrating Chinese people and picture them again as legions of soldiers, an air force, a navy it is enough to make us tremble. So many people. Is it enough to unite us? If we get too weak as a nation, America will be a great temptation to countries that are flexing their muscles now that they have stable and even growing economies.

Watch some of the documentaries about the Great Wall of China and some of the excavated ancient cities and you will meet archeologists, anthropologists and other academics on Disney+ at National Geographics, who equal or surpass experts around the world. Authoritarianism under Xi is not causing the kinds of disruptions we saw under Mao. Xi runs an orderly, productive China. Xi does not run a free China though. He uses fear to keep people in line but for the most part he uses progress and national pride. Right now, it would be senseless to get some bug in our brain that says we must free the people of China. Right now, we need to get our own house in order.

Whether or not we can work out our problems with white supremacy and racism and get on with the business of fighting climate change remains to be seen. It seems, though, that we do not have the luxury of time. We need to hurry. Oceans are rising, heat waves are more extreme, fires are more frequent, droughts are deeper and last longer. Most contemporary arguments come back to the exigencies of a warming world; a world drenched in extra carbon dioxide. These changes are affecting every nation. If we ever needed a ‘new world order’, a body of cooperating countries on every continent, it is now. If Americans keep listening to racist old reactionaries, keepers of the Confederacy, old men hanging on to power in order to hang on to wealth; men like Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy and Tom Cotton, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, we will not be in the forefront of the global movement to find ways to live on earth without destroying the planet that is our home. We may not even be able to remain a sovereign nation.

Xi cannot live forever. An authoritarian government’s quality depends almost solely on one person. As we saw in the case of Mao, bad leadership, no matter how well-intentioned can lead to disaster. Who will lead China next? Will China’s fortunes continue to rise if their new leader is less able than President Xi? Democracy, a republic was supposed to avoid the instability of being ruled by one dynasty after another. Our democracy is meant to withstand debate and to be a forum for hashing out philosophical differences. It is also supposed to support creativity and academic rigor to find solutions to social problems. We cannot be divided for long, given the challenges we face, without losing what we all should value most, and that might not be freedom as it is being defined right now. The most important thing might be that we find a way to live up to our American creed and unite to live up to our American potential.

“Defund the Police”

(Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

‘Defund the Police’ is a slogan. It works well if you are chanting at a demonstration but, unless you understand the complex argument behind the slogan, it can be used against those who shout it. The Republicans are especially good at acting aghast at almost anything that sounds like change, that sounds even slightly progressive or empathetic to we the people. They lump all these ‘ideas for a better society’ together and dismiss them as ‘socialism’. Gasp.

‘Law and Order’ is the slogan conservatives prefer to chant, reminding us that chaos is afoot, and our lives are not safe without police in riot gear and armored vehicles. Conservatives advocate law and order while they arm everyone with as many weapons as their hearts desire. Many of those hearts are innocent of evil intent, but many hearts are twisted by the events of their lives and mental messages that have left them damaged. Law and order becomes war when everyone could possibly be armed, and even a squirt gun can look like a real weapon.

‘Law and order’ has been the cry used by conservatives because it resonates with citizens who just want to live peacefully and feel that the best thing to do with criminals and malcontents is to jail them, or more recently kill them, accidentally, on purpose. A law-and-order approach becomes problematic when it polices one ethnic group more than another (because Black folks actually are not a separate race). It may be that some crimes are more obvious and more blatantly flaunt laws in our central cities, but broken taillights are not the kind of crime most of us find fearful, or audaciously unlawful. And too many black citizens are in jails because they committed a minor crime and cannot make bail.

When people chant “defund the police” they are not saying that we should cut all funds for police departments from our budgets, (except perhaps in Oregon). They are saying that our police wear too many hats. And they are saying that the policies that are conveyed by that “law and order” trope have not worked. The numbers of crimes wax and wane in our cities, and in our states. These rises and falls may correlate with rises and falls in our economy, or they may, indeed, correlate with times when there are crack downs on illegal activities, with policies like the borderline unconstitutional ‘stop and frisk’ policies. They may be crimes of opportunity during moments of uncertainty as this moment when two opposing sides are torn about how much “law and order” we want to have, and how racist our current approaches appear.

Should our policemen and women have to deal with people with mental illness, or mental illness combined with drug use? Could not some funds be better spent on programs to tackle these antisocial problems head-on. Giving people psychotropic meds and sending them back to their lives works for some folks, but not for everyone. There are side effects that make people feel that they are not themselves. Their problems may be severe enough that they need professional help in addition to meds. Mental illness can be exacerbated by poverty. It can lead to homelessness and then to the use of street drugs, addiction, and crimes to afford the illegal substances. By the time these problems have compounded no one may be able to successfully intervene.

Often, we send such people to jail where they get no help with their mental illness. We found that mental institutions simply warehoused people with even minor mental conditions that deviated from the norm. We need to spend money on citizens who are disruptive to society, or who have difficulty keeping a job or with training or schooling because a mental state derails them. The police should not be saddled with this responsibility.

We need programs and mentors, and to keep paying for research to find better psychotropic medicines. We need to help single mothers who cannot handle a child who is having adjustment problems related to socialization, and when these problems are worsened by mental illness. Police have killed some of these young people who present as possible domestic terrorists because these are social groups that accept loners, and because these young people appear to have a weapon. So “defund the police” means that we need to spend money to take another look at how we deal with mentally ill people in this culture and seek out ways to do better, for their sake and ours.

We need to deal with the racism that has torn America apart for two centuries at least. There are more poor people who are white than there are poor people who are black, but black people who are poor have less social mobility than people who are white and poor. Isabel Wilkerson, in her book Caste: The Origin of Our Discontents, contends that we have actually turned our black and brown citizens into a caste, a caste that is deliberately kept on the bottom of the American caste hierarchy because of nonsense science (as in, eugenics), because they are so easily separated by their skin color, because someone has to be on the bottom, and because many believe, even to this day, that white people are superior. Belonging to the bottom caste means that your place in society is even more concretized than if the matter were just about racism.

“Law and order” cannot fix this. Will we profit as a society if we put all black people in jail? Or kill them for the slightest attempt to explain their situation, instead interpreting their every move or sentence as defiance? We can do better. Since we are all responsible for the poverty of black and brown people in America, and for their limited choices to attain affluence we can enrich the lives of black and brown children if conditions surrounding them are endangering their chances of success, or even their lives. We need to offer opportunities that appeal to black and brown children across the entire age spectrum. It will not be easy, and it will be expensive. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) suggests that government open an education account or a coming-of-age account for each black and brown child who faces the obstacles our society erects, and we need to allow that account to accumulate wealth that a child can depend on after they graduate from high school or a training program. It’s a start.

There are already elders in black and brown communities who have taken on the task of providing for some of the needs of their young neighbors. Children love to be helpful, and it builds pride and character. Children could be paid to assist the elders with these programs. These could be summer jobs for children old enough to work. We already have sports programs to benefit inner city children, but these programs do not often extend to smaller towns and villages. We could use part of the budgets now dedicated to police departments to provide programs everywhere they are needed.

Residential academies where children stay during the week and return home on the weekend may sound extreme, but they produced many leaders when used for white children. These academies and prep schools have excluded people of color, but they present us with a model that might prove to black and brown children that they are valuable members of our society. They would also make it more difficult to tempt children to join neighborhood gangs and might even bring about the demise of gangs.

Children from cities could spend the summer in nature parks around the city that they rarely, if ever, get to see. These parks often have a room for meetings or classes. Giving children a task in the park, such as helping survey a type of plant or animal or bird, and then showing them how to input their data into a computer in the classroom would engage the mind of almost any child. Older children could do similar studies of their own neighborhoods or cities and combine their observations in a report at the end of the summer.

I am sure that creative minds, or better yet, groups of creative minds could come up with endless ways to engage children and then implement those plans given the correct kind of community organizing and an influx of funding. If we do not engage these children, the horrific incidents that we now term “law and order” will continue to play out, and that will eventually tear America apart. This is just a cursory analysis of what it means to “defund the police”. Conservatives will keep sneering at the slogan and ignoring the excellent ideas to be found behind the meme. Ignore them. Don’t elect them.