2020 – Grateful to Nonprofits in the Age of Trump

It’s a new year and a new decade so it’s a time for hope and looking for positive signs that should buck us up in these fraught political times in the age of Trump. Sometimes it seems that no one loves you if, economically, you are not in the top 10%. We are constantly chastised for our lack of gumption and enterprise. We are told that we are valued by our bank account and that most of us have failed at the ‘game of life’. It seems as if the government wants no part of caring for us because we can’t afford to pay and they don’t want to pay. These seem to be days of callous disregard for the fortunes of fate. No recognition is to be given to the inequality of opportunities that come with where and when you are born.

But even as our government dwindles in size and cuts services we have reasons to be grateful to a long list of nonprofits that choose a mission or task, raise money, and work tirelessly towards fulfilling that mission. These organizations try to fix the problems humans face and the problems we create that affect the environment around us.

If the federal government disappears from our every day lives as they would like to, would a web of organizations keep us all functioning. Of course, that would be possible only if we had jobs and could still support these nonprofits with our donations. I’m not sure why there seems to be a denial of how much we are all interconnected, as if wealthy people can separate from ‘life’s losers’ and exist in their own luxurious world. Without consumers it seems to me that their luxurious world would eventually collapse. Without consumers, of course, these not-for-profits would soon have to cease functioning also. This would be a great disadvantage to everyone.

So in a new year such as this, when nonprofits offer us a value for our dollars that is not under the thumb of the federal government, these organizations offer us a certain independence in case government becomes totally divorced from reality. Time to be grateful to people who labor on our behalf. Thanks to all these valuable nonprofit organizations and any that are not in this list. This list does not pretend to be complete, but all is available out on the web. (I sometimes resent all the mailers I get requesting donations, but that is just because I cannot give to as many organizations as I would like to.)

Environmental not-for-profits are filling an essential role as this administration rolls back environmental protections and pretends that science is superstition. There are many such organizations each filling a vital niche. Here’s a partial list:

Environment

Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club Foundation, Rocky Mountain Institute, Greenpeace Fund, Center for Biological Diversity, National Parks Conservation Association, Nature Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Society, Defending Wildlife, World Wildlife Fund/Federation, Rainforest Alliance, World Resources Institute, Conservation International, Green America, Humane Society, ASPCA, NRDC

Birds

Audubon Society, Cornell Labs

Oceans

4Oceans, The Ocean Conservancy, Conserve Our Ocean Legacy, Oceans Futures Society, Marine Conservation Biology Institute, Global Coral Reef Alliance, Sea Web and so many more

Fight Disease

Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure, American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Society, American Heart Association, America Kidney Fund, American Lives Foundation, America Lung Association Arthritis Foundation, Autism Speaks, and that is just the ones that begin with the letter ‘A’. Since I get a lot of mail from St. Jude’s Hospital and Doctors without Borders I had better mention them. Access a more complete list here:

http://www.rochesterhealth.com/health_resources/nonprofit_disease_organizations

Social Justice

Black Youth Project, Fair Immigration Reform Network, Fight for $15, Indigenous Environmental Network, Muslims for Progressive Value, National Organization for Women, Planned Parenthood, Task Force for Global Health, Southern Poverty Law Center, Transgender Law Center – Civil Liberties – ACLU Foundation

Global poverty

The Borgen Project, ONE Campaign, Global Giving, UNICEF, Partners in Health, Give Well, Care, Life in Abundance, International Rescue Committee, Shot@Life

Poverty in America

Feeding America, Children’s Defense Fund, Heartland Alliance, The Salvation Army, Food Banks, Children’s Hunger Alliance, Oxfam America, The Hunger Project, Meals on Wheels, No Kid Hungry, Habitat for Humanity and many more. Access a longer list here:

https://mswonlineprograms.org/       Ask for 99 Great Organizations

*The Red Cross is a nonprofit but is not totally independent of the federal government since 1905.

You could go further and research groups that protect science and education in America.

Without these nonprofits it is possible that we would be far more affected by recent government policies that favor withdrawing services and benefits that protect our environment and the poorest among us. Give if you can and remember that there are people all around us who perform important and often unrewarded tasks without which things would seem far more hopeless than they do. Happy New Year 2020.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Biz Tech

Mass Shooters and Obstructed Problem Solvers

Besides causing us to constantly grieve the killing of innocent Americans when our nation is not even involved in an internal war, these horrific shootings by our own home-grown terrorists are frustrating us (almost) beyond the point of sanity. I will not go through the list of incidents but it is out there on the web and it is terrifying and a development we never foresaw. Americans are problem solvers. We see a problem and we work on it in our educated brains. We subscribe to the belief that once we identify a problem there are solutions to that problem and we can apply them like a band-aid. But in the case of mass shootings we are being blocked from solving  problems that must be resolved in order to allow for America’s continued survival as a nation that bears any resemblance to the America we so love to revere.

We know that strict adherence to the Second Amendment of our Constitution has been ’weaponized’ by some Americans such as militia members, white supremacists, and racists to the point where we are prevented from keeping almost anyone from owning a weapon, even a weapon of war, and openly carrying it everywhere they go. We have seen after each shooter episode that swearing allegiance to a strict interpretation of the Second Amendment does not allow problem solvers to look at the gun ownership laws and set some reasonable limits on gun ownership. What might a reasonable limit be – violent mental disorder has been suggested and the NRA doubled down and declared that the mentally ill should not be denied gun ownership. Even blind Americans cannot be denied the right to own a gun, a stance that might isolate blind people even more than their disability often does. Should people who broadcast hate speech be denied guns? We suspect that much death and mayhem might be prevented if that could happen.

Riot police protect members of the Ku Klux Klan from counter-protesters as they arrive to rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY – RC1DBF890610

Our mental health system is broken and has been since we began to issue scripts for psychotropic drugs and remove psychological support systems for people with some fairly serious mental disorders. Stubborn symptoms of depression, schizophrenia, paranoia can make it very difficult for some people to enjoy a consistently productive lifestyle. But the meds they are prescribed have unpleasant side effects that change peoples’ personalities so drastically that they no longer feel a connection to their own identity and they stop taking these meds to get ‘themselves’ back. Once they go off their meds and have no access to a support system they may be susceptible to the hate speech they hear around them, it may make them fearful and paranoid or angry; they may not have the impulse control that will stop them from buying a gun and taking action. Since we understand the limitations of the meds to control hereditary brain conditions we need to replace some of the human support systems for children, parents, and adults who have to live their lives as their brains try to mislead them.

We also have an understanding of what Langston Hughes identified as “The Dream Deferred”. Robbing a group of people (in this case black and brown people) of opportunities which they can see others all around them benefitting from sets up an inequality that makes people outside the neglected group disrespect them and see them as being of less value. But this is a self-fulfilling prophecy and is in no way an actual sign that any ability deficit exists. Giving both segregated Americans of African Descent and poor white Americans all kinds of opportunities to succeed would lift the spirits of the entire nation and rob hate of its favorite food – stigmatizing a group as inferior.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (L) gives a thumbs up sign as he walks with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

It is the NRA, Conservatives, and the right wing takeover of our government that prevents us from implementing the solutions that our problem solving skills have generated and, although some things can be done at the local and state levels, some avenues have been totally blocked. We need to keep in mind what Mr. Hughes, American poet said would happen if a dream (or a solution to a problem) keeps being deferred. IT EXPLODES!, he says. His prediction has been realized and is being realized in America every day. As long as we hold the future back through hate and division it will continue. Perhaps the election will give us the way to stop the obstruction but this in no way looks like a lock. It may eventually require mass demonstrations if we are even capable of persisting in such a strategy. Frustration, helplessness, anger, and grief is a toxic recipe, not any kind of solution, and it will only poison American culture. This evil concoction could never take the place of a recipe whose ingredients are action and hope.

Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches – Forbes, PBS, CBS News, Yahoo News, Business Insider, CityLab, Talkspace, Verge Network, The Gazette, Twitter, The National Memo, Mijente, NYT, RMN

Do We Want to Escape from Freedom?

Erich Fromm, a social psychologist of some renown, researched and wrote his book, Escape from Freedom, in the years between WWI and WWII. He  was watching the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany and he was shocked and puzzled by what he was seeing. He was seeing people who had just fought a consuming and destructive war being swept up in a fury of national fervor and ready to go to war again. The first war lasted four years and was seemingly triggered by the assassination of an Archduke, but was most likely caused by simmering resentments about national borders and national slights among powerful European nations. World War I changed the configuration of European and Middle Eastern states forever. People had difficulty adjusting loyalties to nations that held no history in their hearts. Many people were liberated from Empires that had governed their lives for decades or even centuries but they were not prepared for the political changes that resulted from the war.

https://voanews-vh.akamaihd.net/i/Pangeavideo/2014/08/1/16/16199b35-4022-4d10-b56c-3287414c6600,_mobile,,_hq,.mp4.csmil/master.m3u8

In his book, Fromm explores the conundrum that, although people long for freedom in the abstract, they often feel more secure under authoritarian rule by one person or one ruling party. When the leader is benign people tolerate authoritarianism well, but we know that power corrupts. Leaders find it difficult to remain benign. They get greedy and their people become more critical and must be squelched to justify the power of the leader. When people cannot speak freely, freedom is gone and rebellion grumbles in the villages, towns, and cities.

By the time Erich Fromm wrote his book, which was published in 1941, the same people who had lost so much in World War I were tuning in to the voice of a new, arousing, madman who offered the German people a restoration of national pride and the boundaries of the old Germanic Empire, shrunken by the Versailles Treaty and the end of World War I. (National boundaries and national pride cause most wars, both large and small.) Hitler was also tapping into the jealousy and hatred people felt towards “others”, non-Arians, and he was beginning his campaign that would eventually lead to the murder of 6 million Jewish people and the eviction of many more.

In the second Forward to his newest edition of Escape from Freedom, Fromm writes:

“After centuries of struggles, man succeeded in building an undreamed-of wealth of material goods; he built democratic societies in parts of the world, and recently was victorious in defending himself against new totalitarian schemes; yet as the analysis in Escape from Freedomattempts to show, modern man still is anxious and tempted to surrender his freedom to dictators of all kinds, or to lose it by transforming himself into a small cog in the machine, well fed, and well clothed, yet not a free man but an automaton.”

He cites three trends that may contribute to our fear of freedom. First he mentions the development of atomic energy and nuclear weapons. He says, “Yet only a relatively short time ago, during the Cuban crisis, hundreds of millions of human beings in America and in Europe for a few days did not know whether they and their children were ever to see another day…” This anxiety is still with us.

“Aside from the nuclear revolution, the cybernetic revolution has developed more rapidly than many could have foreseen twenty-five years ago. We are entering the second industrial revolution in which not only human physical energy – man’s hands and arms as it were – but also his brain and his nervous reactions are being replaced by machines.”

And third, he says, “Another danger has increased, rather than diminished: the population explosion.”

“The giant forces in society and the danger for man’s survival have increased in these twenty-five years, and hence man’s tendency to escape from freedom.”

He says, “[T]he drive for freedom inherent in human nature, while it can be corrupted and suppressed, tends to assert itself again and again.”

“[T]he development of man’s intellectual capacities has far out-stripped the development of his emotions. Man’s brain lives in the twentieth century; the heart of most men lives still in the Stone Age. The majority of men have not yet acquired the maturity to be independent, to be rational, to be objective. They need myths and idols to endure the fact that man is all by himself, that there is no authority which gives meaning to life except man himself.”

So here we are, 73 years after World War II and after the man who almost succeeded in turning Europe into an empire ruled by the most dangerous dictator the modern world has seen so far. Yet we are once again seeing people vote for dictators to head their nation and then reelecting them again, even after they have proven to be suppressive. We see a Chinese dictator getting his people to make him President for life. We see Duterte more popular than when he became the leader in the Philippines. We see Erdogan reelected by a pretty big margin because he promises to keep Muslims from a Middle East in disarray out of Turkey. We see a significant group of Americans treating our President like the authoritarian leader of a cult of loyalty and backing his most undemocratic policies with a mysterious fervor.

(Perhaps there is a democratic – authoritarian cycle just like there is an economic boom – bust cycle. Maybe the universe of human governance is simply ruled by physics and perhaps sine waves rule. In America we produced a straight-line of democratic rule for almost 250 years. I was hoping that we could defy the physics of governance (if there is such a thing) and extend that out for at least another 250 years. We could bust the hegemony of the sine wave or make those sine waves intervals so long that the line became, for all  practical purposes, essentially straight.)

So a book that seemed passé might offer insight into current events. What social psychological research backs up Fromm’s claims? His premises strike a chord with us, and this very inexpensive book may provide us with some answers that will have relevance here at our current moment when we are experiencing our own “fear of freedom”, here at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Is what we are experiencing a case of the fear of freedom that prompts humans to give up freedom whenever they win it, or can we save our democracy/republic and harness intellect and rational thought to keep hard-won freedoms and make them so attractive that other nations want to join in. Can we stop America’s descent into authoritarianism or even nouveau serfdom and take the planet into a positive new world order that is humane and believes in the future rather than the apocalypse?

I realize it is boring to say these things over and over, I realize it is repetitive, but until #hope and #freedom and #equality are, once again, subjects that are understood and embraced, rather than contested ground, we, who think humans can be free, will keep bombarding the universe with this message. #Make it So.

On May 6, 2010, I wrote “Let Freedom Ring”, also about this book, Escape from Freedomhttps://www.thearmchairobserver.com/let-freedom-ring/