Poison and Policy

In light of the recent events in Charlotsville, New York Times columnist and writer, Charles Blow makes a valid point: Donald Trump gives “articulation” to the American White Nationalists’ most virulent racist hatred, but it could be “too simplistic, too convenient, to castigate only Trump for elevating these vile racists.”

Blow argues that the blame for Charlotsville lies at the doorsteps of the Republican party that has for decades, perhaps since the passage of the civil rights act of 1964, danced the “devil’s dance” with the racially intolerant groups of the country by “providing quiet sufferance” to them.

He cites the instance of policies that were crafted during Richard Nixon’s regime; the poison of racism, claims Blow, was baked into the policies. One such “policy” jumped out at me: the war against drugs. In hindsight, the anti-drug “war” was a covert policy launched to disrupt the fabric of African American community.

Nixon started the “war” in 1971. Writes Blow that the war was a poisonous policy: “The policies are the poison.”

A confession by John Ehrlichman in an interview to Harper’s Bazaar, Nixon’s domestic-policy adviser and a Watergate co-conspirator, reinforces the administering of such poison by the GOP:

The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.

Poisonous indeed.

 

 

 

A Poem Against Hate

Sherman Alexie has said what I believe in: the true test of one’s ability to love, with sincerity is the stranger. It’s easy to love one’s own “DNA;” it’s darn simple to be a decent parent, but to care for a stranger requires discipline and a re-conceptualizing of love as a force that’s more unrestrained and generous.

Here are a few memorable lines from the poem, “Hymn“:

But how much do you love the strange and stranger?
Hey, Caveman, do you see only danger

When you peer into the night? Are you afraid
Of the country that exists outside of your cave?

Hey, Caveman, when are you going to evolve?
Are you still baffled by the way the earth revolves

Around the sun and not the other way around?
Are you terrified by the ever-shifting ground?

But of course, our present Voldemort is the Caveman, to whom the poet ascribes no love but only gall:

Hey, Trump, I know you weren’t loved enough
By your sandpaper father, who roughed and roughed

And roughed the world. I have some empathy
For the boy you were. But, damn, your incivility,

Your volcanic hostility, your lists
Of enemies, your moral apocalypse—

All of it makes you dumb and dangerous.
You are the Antichrist we need to antitrust.

Or maybe you’re only a minor league
Dictator—temporary, small, and weak.

You’ve wounded our country. It might heal.
And yet, I think of what you’ve revealed

About the millions and millions of people
Who worship beneath your tarnished steeple.

Those folks admire your lack of compassion.
They think it’s honest and wonderfully old-fashioned.

They call you traditional and Christian.
LOL! You’ve given them permission

To be callous. They have been rewarded
For being heavily armed and heavily guarded.

You’ve convinced them that their deadly sins
(Envy, wrath, greed) have transformed into wins.

The American Dream is an Ideal

As the New York Times reminds us, the meaning of the phrase “American dream” has become saturated with the toxicity of ugly materialism. Yet when James Adams coined the term in 1931, he had meant the “American dream” to be actualized on a moral, rather than a monetary plane. Home ownership and possession of cars larded with technical trinkets were not part of the promise of America in Adams’ “The Epic of America”:

[The American] is the dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of a social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and recognized by others for what they are.

 

 

 

I Would Not be Anyone Else

Todd May’s philosophical rumination on what we would do were we to aspire to be someone else:

We live in world in which the lives of those with more wealth or fame or recognition or influence or beauty are constantly placed before us as though they were something to aspire to. And, of course, there is nothing wrong with aspiration in itself. But to the extent these lives are presented to us as something to be hankered after, as lives we would certainly want if only we could have them, we are presented with an image that asks us to forget what is important to us. In an age of acquisitiveness, and one moreover in which the normative constraints on acquisitiveness have largely fallen away, it is comforting — and perhaps even imperative — to recognize that of all the personal histories that we might choose from, it is our own that would be our likely choice.

A Happy Place

Is having an utopian consciousness necessary for a modern society?

Yes, writes Espen Hammer:

There are reasons, however, to think that a fully modern society cannot do without a utopian consciousness. To be modern is to be oriented toward the future. It is to be open to change even radical change, when called for. With its willingness to ride roughshod over all established certainties and ways of life, classical utopianism was too grandiose, too rationalist and ultimately too cold. We need the ability to look beyond the present. But we also need More’s insistence on playfulness. Once utopias are embodied in ideologies, they become dangerous and even deadly. So why not think of them as thought experiments? They point us in a certain direction. They may even provide some kind of purpose to our strivings as citizens and political beings.

What a Refugee Child is not Told

A philosopher ponders on the other history of America’s evolution over time. The question he asks is a valid, though not a quintessentially “patriotic” one: If only a refugee child were to be told about the history of violence, cruelty and systemic disenfranchisement of groups that white supremacists have successfully weakened, decimated and dominated, how would she perceive her adoptive home?