Monday, May 30, 2016

Pat Buchanan's America

In the popular culture of the '40s and '50s, white men were role models. They were the detectives and cops who ran down gangsters and the heroes who won World War II on the battlefields of Europe and in the islands of the Pacific.
They were doctors, journalists, lawyers, architects and clergy. White males were our skilled workers and craftsmen -- carpenters, painters, plumbers, bricklayers, machinists, mechanics.
They were the Founding Fathers, Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Hamilton, and the statesmen, Webster, Clay and Calhoun.    
Pat Buchanan
On April 22, 2014 Conservative radio show host Dennis Prager penned a column in the National Review titled "From The Great Man Theory To Dead-White-Male Criticism Theory". I didn't read this article until a friend sent it to me in September of 2015. After reading it I wrote a series of articles about race and used his arguments as a springboard for the first installment titled "The White Washing of American History". In his article Mr. Prager waxed nostalgically about a time in American history when all of the heroes were white males and their atrocities were hidden from plain sight. He went on to attack the universities for teaching a version of history that called into question the founding fathers. For many Americans the myth of America as a Christian nation ordained by God is as real as the Easter bunny is to a small child. They reflexively attack anyone who dares to present historically accurate evidence that contradicts the notion of "American Exceptionalism". The quote I opened with comes from an eerily similar Pat Buchanan article published on May 26th titled "The Great White Hope". After reading his arguments I was convinced that many on the right are suffering from an acute case of paradoxical thinking which is defined as:
cognition characterized by contradiction of common logical procedures. Even though this form of thinking can be correlated with skewed thought procedures, like those appearing in schizoid personality disorder or some types of schizophrenia. It can additionally be utilized as a way of abstaining troubles or aversive beliefs in a positive way. They've fought the notion of white privilege so long that the moment whiteness doesn't afford what it use to they liken the push for racial equality to white oppression. 

The plight of white men in America is worsening at a time when racial minorities and women are represented in greater numbers across a variety of fields; however, the racial and sexual demographic shift the right complains about isn't truly reflected inside the power centers of America. Women, blacks, gays, Mexicans, and Muslims are blamed for the declining status of white men in America, but a majority of the causal links to this decline can be directly attributed to decisions made by other white men. The reflexive need to scapegoat the "other" is an outward sign of ignorance and cowardice. Instead of challenging the power structure in a direct and meaningful way too many choose to aim their anger at those standing beside them or beneath them on the socioeconomic scale. Now that large numbers of white men are suffering fates usually reserved for those of us on the underside of America's caste system conservatives are taking drug addiction, alcoholism, depression, shortened life expectancy, and suicide serious. The Republican debates were awash with one tale of drug tragedy after another. Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and Ted Cruz all told gut-wrenching stories about their families personal struggles with losing a loved one to drug addiction. The same politicians who thought incarceration was the solution to the inner-city drug epidemic have now shifted to policies geared towards treating the white men who've become the national face of these epidemics.

My whole life I've been told by conservatives and the conservative media that the very real instances of racism I've experienced weren't racism at all, but a combination of my overly sensitive perceptions about race and the legitimate economic realities facing Americans as a whole. I was told to ignore the statistics that chronicled the disparities in educational outcomes, employment, housing, incarceration, and mortality rates. I was told that those outcomes were due to the breakdown of the black family and Affirmative Action; in short: there's nothing to see here. The conditions too many inside the black community live in are a direct consequence of historical racial animus and the growing disparity in wealth accumulation. The condition many working class whites find themselves in is solely a product of our shared economic struggles. Global capital markets demand the cheapest labor force possible to insure high quarterly profits. This isn't an either or proposition. Americans, as a whole, are suffering from decisions made by the heads of multinational companies. The unemployment rate is half of what it was at the height of the economic crash, yet wages have remained mostly flat. The greed at the center of capital markets has reduced America's working class white population to an after thought. Money is more important to the powers that be than heritage, culture, and racial pride. The only thing sadder than this reality is the fact that so many working class whites refuse to accept that they've become victims of the one thing the wealthy elite in this country believe in more than "American Exceptionalism": capital markets.
Men like Pat Buchanan and Dennis Prager are so invested in the lies they've told their respective audiences over the years that truth looks like partisan opposition research. If you scan the channels on your television white men will still represent the majority of the people you see. If you show up on 99% of college campuses a majority of people you see with tenure are white men. If you read the above the fold stories in any major news paper the majority of those stories will be written by white men. Donald Trump's campaign is a symptom of the white male push to stem the demographic shift America is undergoing. Once the Tea Party proved to be ineffective at governing they changed their name to the freedom caucus, and once Donald Trump loses in November his base of angry white men will find another vehicle to vent their frustrations through. The inclusion of women and minorities to fields that are still dominated by white men is seen as proof of America's decline. I'm almost as frustrated with those on the left who try to legitimize and explain this line of argumentation as I am with those on the right who offer it as a reason for white male suffering.
It's difficult for me to place the newfound suffering of working class whites ahead of those who've struggled with systematic oppression in America for hundreds of years. I empathize with their plight, but I won't stop pursuing racial and social justice because someone fell off of a socioeconomic ledge they didn't earn. America has undergone a major economic shift over the last 35 years; much of the economic pain historically felt by people of color has shifted to working class whites. I don't know If it's possible to bridge our racial and social divides in a way that would be acceptable to all parties involved. I'm certain black people aren't willing to accept less for the sake of racial harmony with dissatisfied white men, and my hunch is women aren't likely to do so either. I don't know how to connect with someone like Pat Buchanan when he writes:

The world has been turned upside-down for white children. In our schools the history books have been rewritten and old heroes blotted out, as their statues are taken down and their flags are put away. Children are being taught that America was "discovered" by genocidal white racists, who murdered the native peoples of color, enslaved Africans to do the labor they refused to do, then went out and brutalized and colonized indigenous peoples all over the world.

My parents were still attending segregated schools over a decade after the Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas decision was rendered. I know people who went to school districts in Virginia that chose to shut their doors to all children before they would educate black children. This America Donald Trump wants to take us back to and the right misses so much isn't a place I want to visit much less live. I understand that all of the really good jobs belonged to white men and that it was probably pretty cool to sit in a diner and not see anyone who didn't look like you, but those weren't great days and anyone who believes they were should never challenge the notion of white privilege: or as I like to call it for my overly sensitive progressive friends "advantageous societal predisposition". As bloggers we sometimes make the mistake of thinking we can solve society's problems in a few short paragraphs. Sometimes we just need to add our perspective to the problems we're facing so another voice of dissent can be registered. It's harder to cure a disease by treating each individual symptom rather than addressing the root cause of the illness. If a majority of the people on the right think like Pat Buchanan is it possible to change that thinking? Do we bear the responsibility for reaching out to them?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

I'm Tired Of Defending Hillary Clinton

In the last few months I've felt compelled to defend Hillary Clinton. I didn't sign up for this. I didn't support her last year when this election cycle began, and I didn't support her during the 2008 primaries. It's not personal, and I'll do everything I can to help her beat Donald Trump in November. With that said, I've watched Hillary Clinton pander to African American voters in every imaginable way over the course of her political career. She, like every Democratic candidate in my lifetime, has done the necessary toe tapping and sermonizing to "prove" their commitment to social justice. Every four years Democratic candidates show up at historically black churches to connect with "their" people. Many of these interactions are awkward at best; I've never believed she's as comfortable in theses situations as she lets on, but to be fair I never thought Al Gore or John Kerry were that comfortable either. I've organized campaign events for white politicians who were noticeably shaken in the presence of predominantly African American audiences. A majority of politicians, irrespective of party affiliation, pander to their perspective constituencies, so when Hillary does it why is she treated so much differently?

Hillary faces authenticity questions that her political rivals seem immunized from. Donald Trump is authentic because he's "brash"; his almost daily contradictions of his own stated beliefs are glossed over by a fawning media because he connects to his supporters in such an "authentic" way. He's ratings gold for the networks, so they turn their head when he holds multiple positions on the same issue on the same day. ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox appear to be the only people more gullible than his most die hard sycophants. Donald Trump's authenticity is built on a pattern of doubling down when you're wrong and changing positions when you're dead wrong. If someone ranked Donald Trump's twenty-five most inflammatory statements and outright lies there would be at least three that didn't make the list that would have ended anyone else's political career, yet many on the left and the right have acquiesced to this authentic narrative that's been sold to us.

Bernie Sanders' was the most authentic candidate left in the race; his campaign rhetoric reflected his legislative career, but he's damaged his brand over the last few weeks. His Kamikaze slash and burn approach has caused many to see him in a less favorable light. He survived his pro gun votes and escaped the backlash Hillary received for the 94 crime bill, but couldn't garner the kind of support from his generation of voters and people of color to claim the Democratic nomination. Among his most loyal supporters Bernie Sanders is seen as the rightful heir to Dr. King's legacy. For some, the actions he took as a student in Chicago during the 1960's eclipse the fact that he moved to Vermont where he was all but isolated from the plight of African Americans. To put it in perspective Bernie Sanders has lived in Vermont longer than Dr. King lived. By the standards set by some of the progressives I talk to there are at least a dozen members of my church who qualify for the Democratic nomination. Again, I think Bernie is stand up guy, but let's turn the dial down on the messianic talk.

Hillary said young black males should be, "brought to heel". I've had to accept the fact that blackness represents a threat to some of our white allies. This doesn't mean she wasn't wrong for equating troubled kids with wild animals, but I won't hold her to a higher standard than I hold her predecessors to.  I don't begrudge Bernie Sanders for moving to Vermont, but I don't equate living in a state with less than 2% African Americans with being on the cutting edge of civil rights. Hillary has apologized for her statements; I don't know if her apologies are sincere, but she's on the record and seems like she's trying to amend her past mistakes. There's a level of intellectual honesty needed to further discussions about topics this sensitive. Northern progressives view Hillary Clinton in a way they don't view themselves. Bashing the caricature of Hillary Clinton doesn't solve any of the problems progressives are talking about. There are progressives who've moved so far to the left that they identify more closely with conservative reactionaries than the centrist in their party. I'm tired of defending Hillary from personal attacks. She's the candidate we have. We can brood over the fact that a particular candidate didn't win, but ultimately the people have spoken. If voting for Trump seems like a reasonable alternative to Hillary then the odds are you were never a progressive. If not voting is your answer then do so in a way that doesn't do more harm than good. The Supreme Court is more important to the long-term health of our country than the overly righteous sense of political purity that passes for progressivism. Donald Trump's list of perspective jurists prove this. We need to get a grip. November is less than six months away.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Trump Supporter Or Capitalism's New Slave?

"Trump voters are a coalition of the dispossessed. They have suffered lost jobs, lost wages, lost dreams. The American system is not working for them, so naturally they are looking for something else."
David Brooks

The writing is on the wall: working class Whites are feed up! America has become more like Rosanne, Married With Children, and Jerry Springer than Happy Days or Friends. It took global capitalism 40 years to do to White working class Americans what hundreds of years slavery, Black Codes, and Jim Crow laws to did to millions of African Americans: make them question their worth, doubt their ability to improve their station in life, and challenge the validity of the American Dream. Global capitalism has done more to shatter the myth of White supremacy than all of the late twentieth century Civil Rights activists and academicians combined. It's hard to feel superior to another group of people when you can't pay your bills. For the first time in American History African American and Hispanic parents are more optimistic about their children's future than Whites are. This is odd when you consider that at the height of the financial meltdown Black and Hispanic unemployment numbers were disproportionately higher than the numbers for their White contemporaries, yet survey after survey reveal more optimism inside these communities- why? I would suggest that historically oppressed people endure the psychological pain that accompanies market collapses and economic downturns better than people born into "advantageous societal predispositions". When you are the last hired and the first fired you never develop a sense of job security. When your college diploma is valued the same as a White person's high school diploma meritocracy and the American Dream are just empty signifiers.

American poverty is changing; as long as Mississippi, West Virginia, and Kentucky were thought to be the face of white poverty their suffering was seen, by many, as a deficiency in moral convictions. The lesson I take from America's global economic shift from producer to consumer is that we can't afford to look at systemic poverty through the lens of Max Weber's Protestant ethics. Market shifts have undermined or dismantled what were once considered decent middle class jobs. There are millions of people who have suffered this fate through no fault of their own. The Irony is that Trump supporters have turned to a symbol of corporate America's worship at the alter of capitalism to fix the problems caused by global capitalism. The Rust Belt wasn't created by women entering the workforce, Pittsburgh and Ohio didn't shutter steel mills because Blacks moved into upper management, and textile plants didn't send their units of production to China and India because Mexicans crossed the border. The economic pain many of Donald Trump's supporters are feeling is a direct result of people like Donald Trump and their thirst for more. If Bill Clinton had never signed NAFTA into law we still would have seen a mass exodus of manufacturing jobs. Capitalism, by default, demands the cheapest labor possible. The need for cheap labor is exacerbated when a company moves from private ownership to public ownership. The mistake many on the left make is believing a radical shift in our politics can cause a radical shift in the greed that fuels markets. The mistake many religious people make is believing that a shift in our morals can constrain global capitalism. The mistake that many on the right make is believing that instituting their policies (again) will make a difference in the lives of their constituents. The mistake we all make is believing we can change this system, in any significant way, without causing pain to those already hurting.

Capitalism is an amazing economic system until wages go up. Manufacturing leads to income, income creates new wants and needs, and new wants and needs lead to new job creation, but eventually wages go up and the system has to do a hard factory reset- usually in another land where wages are lower. The Free Market is a religion. It exists everywhere without existing anywhere. The market isn't Wall Street or brokerage houses where commodities and financial instruments are traded; they're just the temples for the worship of markets and monetization. Donald Trump will talk tough about trade, but he knows that with or without free trade agreements the powers that be are going to find a way to feed their greed. Trump knows it's easier to get some to support bad economic policies pitched by someone who looks like them than it is to get some people to embrace good economic policies pitched by someone who doesn't. Donald Trump cleared the field of his 16 Republican opponents using a Malcolm X like "By any means necessary" approach. I've watched this unfold with a sense of horror and amazement. I grossly underestimated the level of fear inside many of our fellow Americans. In the words of Goethe, "There's nothing more frightening than ignorance in action." I don't mean all of his supporters, but let's be real: the average American's ignorance of foreign and domestic policy is a pillar of political platform.

Global capitalism is the ultimate game of winners and losers; it has no racial preferences. Cheap labor is tied to deep suffering. This is a fact many try to avoid addressing. How bad would your life have to be to make you take a job making $1.00 a day? During the course of my life I've been fortunate to meet some very wealthy Black and Hispanic people, but I've never met a person of color who shipped jobs overseas. America, for the most part, was sold out by those who profess to love her the most. Donald Trump and his ilk may love America, but their actions prove they love money more. Donald Trump can't "Make America Great Again" Our country has never been great for all of us, but he has made America a little more interesting. His campaign opened my eyes to how desperate some in our country are. I'm saddened that so many people believe a man who profited from shipping jobs overseas is interested in bringing them back. Many of the jobs we've shipped away are never coming back. At a subconscious level, I believe more of our fellow citizens know this but refuse to admit it. Many of the people hurting now will continue to hurt long after the 2016 election, many of them will continue embracing polarizing figures who lie to them about the causes of their pain. Some will do it out of ignorance, but some will do it because it's easier than accepting the fact that people who look like you sold your family out for a mess of pottage.