Classtime for White Folks

Yes, I mean white folks. That may sound a little crude or you may even think racist. But this post is addressed to everyone who racializes themselves or is racialized by others as white. If you checked the box next to the word “WHITE” on item 9 of your 2020 United States Census form, then this is a video you need to watch.

In this video, Jeffery Robinson, ACLU Deputy Director and an experienced trial attorney, speaks on the topic “The Truth About the Confederacy and the United States.” If you grew up in Texas or any other Southern state, it has been taught to you that the Civil War was not about slavery and that flying the Confederate battle flag is nothing more than a salute to our wonderful history, southern gentility, and tradition.

States’ rights, according to this version of history, was the driving force that led the South to secede and make war against the odious abolitionists of the North whose cause was to undermine the southern economy.

The video runs a little over an hour and forty minutes but it is worth your time.

Mr. Robinson has a more precise term for the grand tradition that the Confederate battle flag stands for: white supremacy.

In case you didn’t see the link above: https://youtu.be/QOPGpE-sXh0

Leave a comment and let me know what your think.

The World Burns with Moral Outrage: What Is a 76-Year-Old White Man to Do?

I am probably becoming all too comfortable with my coronavirus-imposed solitude. I have rather enjoyed turning my home in Lake Jackson into my own little hermitage. But how can one not get out and do something while the rest of the world rages in the streets in the call for justice. Something besides calling a U.S. Senator’s office and letting off steam to a 25-year-old aide.

It seems especially important to act because, frankly, so little is expected of someone occupying a slot in my demographic. White, Vietnam-era veteran, not rich but comfortable in retirement. A Texan living in the reddest of red districts, who has been represented in Congress by Dr. Ron Paul and Tom DeLay. Whose school district issued a diploma to Rand Paul, the close friend and colleague of Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Really now, wouldn’t you expect me to be ensconced in that mass of voters popularly known as “Trump’s base”?

Well, that’s not the case. And I feel remiss for not being on the street doing more.

But there is one thing I can do that will not expose me COVID-19 and it will not encourage more of those little carcinomas I have to watch for so carefully. It won’t hurt those aging bones in my legs, hips and back. And it is something anyone, at least a white person, can do without exposure to police violence. Better yet, it does not involve posting or re-posting memes that will embarrass my family. This is so easy no one else will probably even notice your action. Yet it may be the most effective thing you can do to combat racism in the United States.

I got the idea from an opinion piece I read in the New York Times the other day. The article by Dr. Kihana Miraya Ross carried the title “Call It What It Is: Anti-Blackness.”

Five Minutes that Can Help You Stay Sane

Coronavirus entered my consciousness somewhere around March 6. I had heard the term and read a few stories about it, but it didn’t seem like much of a threat at the time. Some people were dying in China and Americans were becoming trapped on pleasure cruises. But people in China have been seen wearing masks during outbreaks of various viruses for years. And pleasure cruises? Why do people even spend their money on them? Major diarrhea outbreaks on Carnival cruises are so common they barely make the six o’clock news any more.

The evening of March 6, I attended a retirement party for a friend at The Wursthaus in LJ. There was, at that time, beginning to be some nervousness about being in crowds, but no one really thought much about picking up a life threatening ailment as a result of hanging out with our friends that night. We were there to toast one of them who had served our Center for the Arts and Sciences for some 35 to 40 years.

You could still have that kind of a party on March 6 without tempting death and we all made it into the month of May without anyone testing positive for COVID-19. (Have any of us been tested? Sorry. That was a needless distraction.)

The next day I got a haircut. Life went on pretty much as usual. Then LJ and the rest of the country started locking down. We learned about curbside grocery shopping from HEB. We learned how to order and pick up at The Local’s curb. Some were even learning how to cook at home. We learned how to wash our hands properly and how excruciatingly difficult it is to keep from touching our faces. And we got constant news of the horror coming out of Washington (the state with a snake for a governor), New York City, California, Spain and Italy. For us Lake Jackson folks, those were faraway places and, while we had concerns about loved ones in those places, we felt fairly safe here.

Summing Up: After the Plague

For the last few days I have been setting down a few of the things that America needs to work on right away. The experience of dealing with a pandemic during a period of such ineptitude in national leadership has made it very clear that we need to do these things. Limiting DJT to a single term will help, but it won’t fix the things that need fixing. So, today I would like to quickly review the items covered and then offer a quick list of some additional things to work on once we have a congress and administration willing to begin dealing with the realities of our world.

Last Tuesday (May 28) I suggested that the first priority should be to adopt a program of universal health care.

Next, I talked about the electoral and legislative processes that could benefit from some tuning and the application of current technologies. The guiding objective would be to improve the fidelity of communications so that voters can be assured that those in the seats of power in government hear “their masters’ voice” more clearly.

On Thursday, I addressed the need to correct the imbalance in income and wealth distribution that has occurred over the last four decades of Tea Party tax cutting and the Republican attacks on the graduated income tax.

Saturday (May 2), I talked about the necessity of having the public sector and education professionals in charge of primary and secondary education again.

And, finally, the need to restore the civil service and properly staff the government with qualified, independent, non-partisan professionals is also of paramount importance.

That should keep the 117th Congress busy for a couple of years. But there is so much more that needs to be done while we have at least two branches of government enlisted on the side of sanity, goodwill, and a spirit of sharing. Here are a few:

  • Maybe we should look at how we are teaching civics and government in public schools and in college. We are experiencing a generation of voters who have no clear understanding of their job and responsibilities in a democracy. They think it is enough to have an opinion, wave the flag and cheer for other people’s sacrifices without understanding what the government does and how to apply one’s own constitutionally endowed power to make it work for their own interests and those of their families. So, enough about the patriotic symbols and hero-worshipping the founders: Let’s teach about the principles underlying our constitution and the mechanics of governing.
  • Make our foreign policy consistent with the need for promoting governments around the world that will take care of the rights and needs of women and children as their top priorities. (Of course, we must first make that our policy here. Much of that can occur if we take care of those top five items I discussed.)
  • Make major investments in infrastructure consistent with Green New Deal goals that will provide jobs and address climate change issues.
  • Put climate change at the center of our domestic and foreign policy concerns. Four long years have ticked off the clock of doom while DJT gave his pulpit over to science denial and the short-term interests of industries that make money from environmental exploitation. And while we are at it, we need to re-examine the principles of American capitalism and how It relates to government and the people.

And as we take on this list of necessary reforms, we need to always keep in mind the constitutional features that have tended to make us less a nation and less a democracy. It may be time for us to try nationhood and democracy rather than the federal system that works pretty well so long as people behave as if we are a nation. However, lately it has proven to be an impediment to national action when we most needed to act as a single nation.

And, democracy? We owe our tears and shame for what we have done to that sweet ideal as DJT has exploited and corrupted our public purposes at every turn and has placed America on the side of dictators and power hungry narcissists like himself, wherever he finds them in the world.

Item #5: Restore the Civil Service – Enough of the Shallow State

When I was in college in the early 1960s, I developed an intense interest in government. Government seemed to be a potent tool that could be developed and used as an instrument of peace. That fit so well with my personal values that I decided to make a career in it. I believed that there was sweet spot somewhere between anarchy and absolutism that met the needs described by Thomas Hobbes in The Leviathan to transcend man’s natural state without government:

“In such condition, there is no place for industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving, and removing, such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

A tour of duty as an officer in student government persuaded me that my personality was not suited for service in public office, I gravitated toward civil service where most of the policies of government were implemented. Pressed for employment after military service and with our first child on the way in 1971, I secured a position as a social service worker with the Texas Department of Public Welfare.

Item 4: Repair and Restore Public Education

The public and private response to the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the failure of public education into sharp relief. But let me be clear, this failure is not the product of “bad schools”, teachers, or uninspired learners. It has roots in many sources including poverty, poor nutrition, underfunding, electronic distractions and, maybe most significantly, the combination of pinch-penny funding and legislative meddling in the professional business of educators.

And what does this have to do with the COVID-19 pandemic? Don’t strain your eyes looking for science illiteracy, weak critical thinking skills, lack of knowledge of government, history, health care policy, international politics and the basics of public communication.

Popular notions of American exceptionalism have led us to think that the USA would be the world’s leader in addressing any crisis of this nature. We have the science, the technology, health care infrastructure, manufacturing and distribution capacity. So why are we struggling to explain to the public that injecting Clorox into the veins is not such a good idea? Or that injecting UV rays into the veins – even if it were a good idea –presents unique challenges? Maybe the physics department at Trump University can work on that one.