Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Late Great United States, A Nation No longer Exceptional, a Superpower that Lost Its Way

For years now, as long as I can remember, the right wing of the political establishment, far more than the political left, and those in between, as far as I know, have said that the U.S. is exceptional, that it was the last best hope for a world longing for hope. This narrative is even emblazoned on the Statue of liberty with the words:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Emma Lazarus’

For the better part of 240 years, the United States, with its profound challenges, concerns and issues of injustice touted itself as exceptional, not like any other country or nation in the world. It was the place where many people could come to start a new life, a place where many could find the freedom to live out their dreams without fear. America was a shining house of liberty on a hill as it sought to live out the profound poem of the poet Emma Lazarus.
Image result for images of exceptionalismMillions of working class Americans, with their support of the Trump administration, and its policies meant to make America great again, have categorically rejected the poem of Emma Lazarus and with it American exceptionalism. America is no longer the last best hope of the world. To be clear, for many, such as myself, an African American Women and Transgender, the motto that the U.S. was exceptional was an important part of a grand narrative more appropriate as a lie or a myth at best. It was clear that the U.S. was exceptional if you were of European decent, primarily. Anyone coming from Europe, i.e. France, Scandinavia, Norway, Germany, Italy, England, etc. to the U.S. became white when they arrived on the shores of the U.S. and thus received exclusive entitlement and benefits of U.S. exceptionalism. Anyone not of European decent need not apply. The American citizen of European decent was and still is, to a larger extent, at the center of the western capitalist world in all respects of empire. The western capitalist world was the white man’s burden and his burden alone. That said, there is a longing, by some, as the world becomes more and more globalized, diverse and inclusive, to once again be the only one entitled to the vast riches and wealth of the world, whether psychologically or in real time, this time minus the burden they want to Make America Great Again.
Globalization, a shifting demographic, immigration, legal as well as illegal, and the ever more emerging technostate at the hands of the rich and wealthy, i.e., the one percent, primarily of European decent, present an impending doom as many working class people and their families having worked at the same corporation for generations, find themselves no longer entitled and/or privileged, as in times past. Many find themselves in circumstances and situations they never imagined to encounter. After years of telling the African American in particular, to lift themselves up by their bootstraps and to get off drugs, get a job, and take care of their family, considering the African American morally debased and unworthy of freedoms won by a civil war and progressive faith based legislation, many find themselves unemployed, on welfare or working multiple jobs, many dealing with gentrification and an opioid addiction which has become a crisis. Like many in black and brown communities, many in the white community now suffer a similar injustice experienced by many in black and brown communities. Driving around Richmond, El Cerrito, Berkeley, San Francisco, and Oakland, CA, the face of poverty, displacement and mental health concerns is diverse, dynamic and more and more a place of solidarity, where people regardless of race, gender, or sexuality are gradually being able speak with one voice.
In light of the unfortunate state of affairs experienced by many Americans, whether in red or blue states, the present politics and rhetoric, and the election of a man who practices tranactionalism as a political strategy towards authoritarian leanings; demanding allegiance from those who would be his sycophants, there would seem to be a collective immorality and cultishness in the American electorate, and I generalize on purpose here, which overcomes good common sense and virtue necessarily putting the republic and its democracy at risk. It has been said by many that there is a tribalism which taken root in our politics which infects both the democratic and republican party alike. Some politicians with nothing to lose politically, have called the republican party cultish.
This cultishness symbolizes a profound loss of hope as at least 63 million American citizens, primarily white, chose to use their power, mindful that there are other groups who don’t have the same power as they do, to elect an administration extreme and inhumane in their policies similar to authoritarian states such as Russia, China, North Korea necessarily risking a realignment of the U.S. from an uneasy arbiter of hope to one of outright despotism. The once mighty nation, the leader of the free world has abdicated its leadership, at the behest of the Trump supporter, for lesser smaller minded things which don’t bode well for future things.
Finally, the extreme hatred expressed in governmental policies of the Trump administration come as Philip Alston, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, report states that, “The American dream is rapidly becoming the American illusion,” Alston states in the report. “The equality of opportunity, which is so prized in theory, is in practice a myth, especially for minorities and women, but also for many middle-class white workers.” The report is a call to action for those who care, who want and need a better society for all. There are many who experience what the report of the U.N. says everyday of their life. Many have one, two or in some cases three jobs to make ends barely meet. I’ve met scientists, engineers, people who I thought would have good paying jobs on the street, homeless. What we have is a nation that has lost its way as it seeks to navigate its demons of race, white entitlement, supremacy, venture capitalism, and a moral depravity which has gripped its very soul.

Monday, June 4, 2018

The Rocky Marriage of Trump and the Media, Whose making Money on this Reality TV Show


Image result for images of the mediaIt was said by Risk Santorum, a former republican congressman and CNN commentator and Trump surrogate, that under former President Barack Obama race relations had gotten worse, that somehow he was responsible for the racism which pervades much of the rhetoric of U.S. American cultural wars and politics. His fellow commentators pushed back hard on his outrageous claim.  It seems that the commentators/surrogates which support and defend their partisan ideology are hell bent on being extreme in their viewpoints and perspectives choosing to spout the most absurd talking points possible.  Now and then the host of the show whether on MSNBC, CNN, or even Fox News will hold the commentator/surrogate accountable such as Don Lemon, Alisyn Camerota, and Chris Cuomo on CNN or Chuck Todd, Chris Hayes, Joy Reid and Chris Matthews on MSNBC and Chris Wallace on Fox, but for the most part I find that the majority of hosts do not hold the commentator/surrogate accountable for their absurdities.  It’s like, they want them to come back for another interview so they don’t go too hard on them. Holding the Trump commentator/surrogate accountable regardless of the network is not their strong suit.
Of course I remember during the campaign season how the networks never held Trump or his surrogates accountable for the outrageous stuff he or his surrogates would spout off even if it were about Mrs. Clinton, such as pizzagate, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/reliable-source/wp/2018/01/01/chrissy-teigen-fights-back-after-twitter-user-drags-model-into-the-false-pizzagate-conspiracy-theory/?utm_term=.538add9604af. In fact, the networks gave Trump more free airtime than any other candidate in political history.  According to a New York Times article dated March 16, 2016, entitled “$2 Billion Worth of Free Media for Donald Trump” written by Nicholas Confessore and Karen Yourish, Trump got $2 Billion worth free media, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/16/upshot/measuring-donald-trumps-mammoth-advantage-in-free-media.html.  In another article written by Emily Stewart of TheStreet, an online magazine which focuses on Wall Street, Donald Trump received over $6 billion worth of free media as of November 2016, https://www.thestreet.com/story/13896916/1/donald-trump-rode-5-billion-in-free-media-to-the-white-house.html. I suspect the reason why he got the free airtime was because the networks, regardless of their political stance stood to make millions, he would be their cash cow.  Trump made money for the networks, and still does today as president.  Face it, Trump was a bonanza, a jackpot for networks.  There is an implicit motto, “Who cares about America, just give us the money."  It may also be that "America is money and money is America." Either way, its a sad and unfortunate commentary.
Speaking at a Morgan Stanley conference in February of 2016, CBS Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves said of Donald Trump's presidential run: "It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS." https://www.politico.com/blogs/on-media/2016/10/cbs-ceo-les-moonves-clarifies-donald-trump-good-for-cbs-comment-229996  Fact is, a divided America, one confused and dazed, racially and sexually charged, verging on a constitutional crises, with rumblings, at times, of a second civil war, the networks are making a killing, financially. Of course Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley doesn’t think a second civil war will happen but there may be some serious unrest, https://www.wyomingnetworknews.com/a-second-american-civil-war. Its all about the money and the racial and sexual strife which inflicts the body politic. Though it may be unhealthy for the country and its citizens its good for newspapers like the New York Times and networks like CBS and their sponsors.  
Leon Lazaroff of TheStreet,wrote an article entitled, Trump May Hate 'The Media' but Newspaper Stocks Are Rolling, writes, “While Trump's jabs at The New York Times (NYT)  have tempered since he met with top editors on Nov. 22, the newspaper company's stock price has been on a torrid rebound, more than 14% since the Nov. 8 election, helping to pare its 2016 decline to 4.6%” https://www.thestreet.com/story/13909414/1/trump-may-not-like-the-media-but-newspaper-stocks-are-on-a-roll.html.  
Josh Enomoto of Investors Place, wrote a piece entitled, “4 Media Stocks That Will Win BIG on Fake News Accusations.” In it he writes, “It’s no surprise that “Mr. 45” hates big media stocks like CBS Corporation (NYSE:CBS). Trump’s contempt for the media establishment was well-confirmed during the three presidential debates. He openly complained about bias, and accused the moderators of throwing softball questions to his rival Hillary Clinton. And I’m telling you, that was media gold for companies like CBS. Sure, publicly they complain. Privately, CBS is hoping for another fake news outburst — and they’ll get it! The issue with CBS and other media stocks is that apparently, nothing fazes or will ever faze Donald J. Trump. People thought that Charlie Sheen was winning in relation to his insane antics.
He doesn’t even come close to Trump. In fact, “The Donald” is so good that he turned a Super Bowl blowout to the greatest comeback of all time. Efforts to rip him at the Oscars led to their biggest public embarrassment of all time. The Donald also saved CBS stock from falling into obscurity. Last year, between the beginning of April to the start of September, CBS dropped more than 5% in the markets. This was in sharp contrast to its amazing rally from earlier in 2016. But then Trump stepped in. First, there were the controversies, then the debates. And when the unthinkable happened, CBS soared to the moon. ”Surely, they will not admit it, so I’ll say it for them. Fake news has been awesome for CBS and media stocks.”  https://investorplace.com/2017/02/4-media-stocks-win-big-fake-news-nyt-cbs-nws-fox/
It would seem that the media and Trump are made for each other. They may pretend to have a stormy relationship but the reality is that both are making money on their rocky marriage, this, regardless of political perspective.  Of course there is nothing new here, its been this way for years, its just more overt with high drama.  That said, once this reality TV show is over, one where the republic and its democracy would seem to be at risk, “Will the American people ever have a healthy tension with their government again?” I tend not to think so since this reality TV show has revealed ever more, the ugly, putrid underbelly of the United States. At the conclusion whether through impeachment or election, there will need to be an assessment of the damage which occurred to the republic, its democracy and institutions. Of course the media will have center stage in this investigation.
I do wonder though, since Trump is the Great White Hope for the 63 million people who voted for him, the majority of which are republicans, will a congress, controlled by republicans, primarily a party for those who support Trump’s Make America Great Again agenda, have the moral courage and fortitude to look beyond the partisan leanings of power and authoritarianism, to the real hard matters regarding the oval office and a president who sees himself as a president above the law as he has absolute authority to pardon himself.” This is an interesting opinion, a hell Mary pass, if you will, revealing his guilt in the matter of the 2016 election.  He is basically admitting guilt and in this his standing in this case would seem to be in jeopardy. Chuck Grassley, senior senator from Iowa, when asked about the ludicrous idea by CNN correspondents Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb, said, “If I were President of the United States and I had a lawyer that told me I could pardon myself, I think I would hire a new lawyer, he then abruptly walked away.
It is a commentary on the political history we find ourselves living through that a President of the United States would not only come up with some seriously foul and ludicrous thinking, but that he could pardon himself, this as a blatant disrespect and disregard for the U.S. Constitution. That said, once #45 is out, media companies stand to lose a significant amount financial support, their cash cow will be gone.

I wonder who will they give free media airtime to next?

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Political Correctness and a call to respect of the humanity of the other


There are times when one must make their selves heard, and as such, make their stance on positions known. These days I consider “Where I Stand” more important than ever. This post about political correctness emerges after watching a debate on political correctness and the various intersections of grievances which have become fertile ground for discussion whether on the political left or right.  There seems to be so much grievance these days I wonder will the republic survive. This is my response or input on the topic of political correctness.
Image result for images of political correctnessPolitical correctness is fundamentally about respect.  That is respect for people, considered the other, whose humanity was disrespected, trampled, neglected and in many cases murdered for over 300 hundred years and even today suffer amidst systems of oppression. The children of those who perpetrated such violence and vitriol still to this day have difficulty and are exercised by the need for them to respect, unconditionally, the humanity of the other. Political correctness is an imperfect means, as all means are, of somehow giving respect due black and brown bodies. It is an acknowledgement that the country was founded with a birth defect at its foundation. Political correctness is one means to address the birth defect, to engage in a process of healing. Healing, in this case, becomes a moral obligation as the soul seeks the light of justice, as love in the public square. It is effectively building a more inclusive and healthy society which imparts its best. Mindful of Micah 6:8, political correctness is a means to love our sister and brother and to do justice and to walk humbly with God.
It would seem, based on the rhetoric of the President of the United States, AM talk radio, Fox and Friends, and many of the supporters of Make America Great Again, that the moral obligation which political correctness seeks to address, as one interpretation of Micah 6:8, is antithetical to their position, whether in a religious or secular context. To respect the humanity of the other is tantamount to heresy. To acknowledge the humanity of the other would be a rejection of their believe system which is rooted in the denial of the other and their humanity to avoid an all-consuming apocalypse.  Charles Blow, a brilliant American Journalist, commentator, and current visual op-ed columnist for the New York Times commenting on the cancellation of the Roseanne Barr show by ABC, in response to her abhorrent racist tweet about Valerie Jarret, said that “racism is a part of a believe system present since the founding of this country. He further says, stop being astonished!” Van Jones said, in response to Charles Blow, “It does seem that there’s been a moral collapse in our political center.” This moral collapse is a consequence of a believe system which rejects outright the call of political correctness.
Even now fans of Roseanne are attacking ABC for canceling the show. It is clear from the sitcom’s ratings that many, not all, of middle America felt affirmed in their biases and in many cases racist tendencies. It allowed them to feel comfortable in expressing their views and perspectives of disregard for a society and culture more and more diverse. It is unfortunate that for many, free speech, is about their freedom to disparage a person or community they don’t understand or don’t like. This type of “free speech” is detrimental to society making it more and more coarse and as such dangerous and divisive on many levels. On the other hand, “I get it.” Political correctness regarding free speech, should not be about protecting anyone from the harsh realities of life in America.  It should not be used to stifle dissent or controversy, more so, it should enrich serious debates on social and cultural matters which lead to a mature and pragmatic discourse. But should it be used to stifle the racist, the sexist, the homophobe, transphobe, etc., or intimidation, those who practice what is considered immoral and indecent? No, but there must be a robust pursuit of just language which overcomes a language of intimidation and the indecent.
Amidst a cultural and civil war raging, its proxy being social media, politics and religion, Jordan Petersen, Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto, and a Clinical Psychologist, is against political correctness seeing it as a part of a failed postmodernist intellectual regime hell bent on resentment against those and their systems who oppress. It is the oppressed getting back at the oppressor which, for Peterson, is detrimental to society and the grievance of the oppressed.  While I see his point and I, myself do not believe in revenge, I do want respect for my humanity. This is the question, “Can those historically oppressed and disenfranchised ever attain respect from the dominant group?” It is clear that the dominant group represented by the Trump supporter has a serious grievance as they feel disrespected, marginalized and made to feel less than, and their grievance should be addressed, yet, to be clear, their grievance comes nowhere near the grievance held by First Nations People, African American’s, Mexican Americans, Chinese Americans, Korean Americans, women, and people who identify as LGBTQIAP, etc., but I don’t want to get into what aboutism, a term used by those on the political right these days as an excuse for deeper more psychological issues rooted in displacement regarding entitlement and privilege.
In a debate involving Michael Eric Dyson, Michelle Goldberg, Jordan Petersen and Stephen Fry, Michelle Goldberg, blogger, author and New York Times columnist, commented that in her interviews of people at Trump rallies she found that many people were upset that they couldn’t say what they wanted to say about women and by implication black and brown people. They feel their voices are marginalized for the sake of political correctness. Goldberg’s interviews are a reminder that many people, particularly those who support Donald Trump and his Make America Great Again agenda, demand freedom to disrespect the other anytime they please without hesitation, to discriminate, to return to a time, reflecting here on the Dred Scott v. Stanford Case of 1857, when black people, i.e. slaves had no rights that should be respected by the United States.  
From a Christian perspective, and this is my theological point, political correctness is a discourse on justice, as a means towards morality, which expresses ones love for God and the other. The other, many times in sacrifice, struggles to live this sacred call out daily amidst certain injustice which looms over their humanity. In this, the other transcends a believe system which marginalizes and denies their humanity and the humanity of others. Emanuel Levinas, a precursor of James Baldwin and Cornel West, engages the other as an authentic, even a sacred presence.  The other, considering a mindset which denies their humanity must be the resistance as they develop certain strategies which combat a mindset reminiscent of Nazi Germany and America’s Jim Crow South. Their actions must be of a morality courageous as they remain steadfast in their just convictions. Many times, this may be a protest against a legal policy which reflects desires to protect ideologies of injustice such as the current U.S. Immigration policy.
Political correctness is not about shutting down the rhetoric of those haters and people discontent but it does seek to call those who would be such to show respect for the other even in their hatred and discontent.  Is this a bridge too far?  Only time will tell.

We have a lot of work to do and we will get through this.
Rev. Monica Joy Cross, Christian Church Disciples of Christ