Government, Economics, Not Flawed: We Are

If you have read any of my stuff you may be convinced that I
am a Communist or a Socialist because I always seem to be “bad mouthing”
Capitalism. But I actually have nothing against any of these business models. I
do have a problem, however, when a way to conduct economic activity gets mixed up with a
way to govern.
If a nation’s government is not the same as a nation’s economy
then Communism and Socialism seem to be in trouble because both combine the two
spheres. Capitalism also becomes problematic in this regard as we have seen,
because it allows individuals to amass wealth which in turn seems to confer
power on them which they can then abuse to interfere in government.
There is nothing inherently wrong in any of these economic
models of course. The flaws, as usual, are in us. We are basically animals,
competitive and “red in tooth and claw”. We are still wired to be hunters and
gatherers and perhaps that conquer-all nature is the only way we survive.
But we are also no longer primitives. We are civilized
(although sometimes it doesn’t seem so). We live in societies which originally were
formed also for survival and still function that way. We have learned, but don’t
all admit, that societies call for some communism, some socialism, and some
free enterprise or capitalism. Societies function best when all members are
educated, all share certain basic amenities, and when they incorporate some
tolerance for individual differences. We also see societies that have survived
for centuries that do not require that all individuals are educated and share
the basic amenities. These societies often do not tolerate much or any deviant
behavior. But if I had to choose between the two I know which one I would
choose.
It is impossible, I think we must all agree, to have a perfect
government, a perfect economy, a perfect society because these are all human
innovations, human constructs run by humans who we all seem to understand are
imperfect. Every religion or culture I know of encompasses an acknowledgement
of our flawed nature. The seven deadly sins as currently enumerated are: pride,
greed, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth and are alive and well the world over.
Our intimate familiarity with our failings is perhaps one
reason humans have come to realize that totalitarian governments are
problematic for everyone but the leader. There is no way to place any check on
whatever flaws the leader may possess. We know that no matter how infallible
the head of state claims to be infallibility is not a trait humans possess.
Communism, rule by the people, arrived at in bottom-up
fashion, was not structured to succeed, and perhaps never could be. Leadership
is spread among too many without sufficient scaffolding to keep people from
constant power struggles and, in addition, offers no useful structures to
untangle those struggles fairly. The Communist governments we have seen seemed
to produce a suppression of rights for most members of the society that turned
life into a gray, grim existence without producing the promised worker’s
paradise of equality for all.
Capitalism (not a system of government contrary to the current
popular beliefs of some) is not able to produce a perfect society where all
prosper either. Capitalism depends on the business relationships of us – people
– imperfect people. America has almost slipped over the edge into total
Oligarchy and therefore can teach us (before it is too late) what Capitalism in
the hands of humans can do to a society when it becomes too entwined with
government.
Our wealthy citizens are destroying our Democracy, bending it
to their will. What they don’t seem to see is that they are just headed in a
direction that will take us back to somewhere human societies have already
been, the old aristocracy and serf model, with perhaps a small merchant class
able to survive. And while the wealthy may want to go there – after all things
seemed pretty hunky dory for those at the top (although they had to pay for all
the wars), things in this antique model should not look too appealing to the
rest of us. These Capitalists have brought the American people low by showing
us that their patronage is portable. They can simply remove their largesse and
apply it elsewhere.
Now we have to prove that we are not mere factory fodder. We
must not let wealthy people take away our rights and our privileges and our
civil progress. Living materialistically simpler lives would help the planet
but how we do this should be a choice Americans make together, not a series of
decisions of a wealthy few at the top who would amend our government so that it
maintains their economic advantage even if it must be at the expense of the
rest of us.
The Americans who want to keep the economic scales tipped
their way, who are turning our Democracy into a Corporatocracy (owned by
corporations we no longer work for) are not the only citizens trying to adjust
the design of our government. We also have the Evangelicals who are trying
to convince us that America is immoral and that only a Theocracy that keeps our
laws acceptable to their God can keep America from the fate of Greece and Rome –
“decline and fall”.
All governments are flawed because they are made by flawed
beings. All economies are equally prone to excess for the same reason. Our
government was created with built-in checks and balances to overcome these
excesses our natures are prone to. What we are experiencing right now is that
familiarity with how government actually works has allowed these checks and
balances to be short-circuited or muffled. This is what Republicans have been
doing. They have been playing with fine-tuning aspects of governance, doing
things like drawing skewed voting districts, suppressing non-Republican votes,
buying state governments, using the Hastert rule and the filibuster to block
legislation, stuffing the courts with Conservatives and then not allowing new
positions to be filled with Liberals, and holding the Presidency hostage until
they gain control of the entire system of checks and balances, which finally
will happen if they are able to get us to elect a Republican President.
It makes me very unhappy to see these folks disrespect our
Democracy like this and it does great harm. It teaches the rest of the world
that Democracy can be vulnerable to the same human flaws as any other form of
government. That does not just affect my mood and make me blue, it scares me,
because if Democracy cannot help us hold a middle line, cannot help us
guarantee rights and benefits to all, cannot enforce a degree of tolerance for
a range of “normal” behavior, then no government can. I had hoped that
Democracy would serve as a model for governance on our entire planet, but if
bad human behavior is allowed to twist Democracy away from its ideals then we
are left with no governmental model with which to face the future.
I ask the Republicans, the capitalists, the wealthy, and the
religious to stop messing with our Democracy. You have made your point. You can
possible take over the whole nation and have your way but only if you change
our government so much that it is no longer a Democracy at all. You get your
way in the now, but you turn the future into chaos. Please take the long view
and stop all your machinations. 
By Nancy Brisson
 

A Plague on Both Your Houses?

People, and this includes some of my liberal
friends, are always saying that the dysfunction in Washington right now can be
laid at the feet of both parties. They believe that Democrats and Republicans
are equally to blame for the partisanship and obstruction, for the enormous gap
between the wealthy and the rest of us. And, of course, they are right, or in a
way they are right. Money is far too important in Washington. It talks louder
than we the people who can’t afford to make our voices heard because we cannot
amass enough money to turn up the volume. We do need to deal with the outsized
influences of special interests with lots of bucks, of Wall Street and the
banks, and of big business.
However the Republicans have introduced another
whole level of political drama that we must deal with first. Republicans have
gone off the rails, off the deep end, delusional, and are aggressively pursuing
reactionary policies that will hardly take America into a prosperous future.
Democrats have been slow to counter the outrageous activities of the
Republicans. Democrats have been shy, hanging back. They want to pretend that
regular order still pertains in Washington. They are stodgy, self-conscious and
do not want to match the operatic tone of the GOP (or the Biblical Old
Testament tone either). That may be all to the good. Watching the full opera
treatment play out in Washington might be too much for everyone.
However, we the people need to understand that, although
our elected Congressmen in both parties are too involved with amassing personal
wealth and a power base that will give them staying power and clout, the
impasse we are presently in cannot be attributed equally to both parties. Both
parties are not trying to rewrite the Constitution. Both parties are not trying
to make it more difficult to vote. Both parties are not trying to overturn 50
year old court rulings that offered new hope to many beleaguered women. Both
parties are not trying to privatize everything. And both parties are not trying
to bring back a brand of Federalism that lost the debate the first time it was
hotly contested in the 1780’s.
My point is that before we can deal with the greedy
we need to deal with the nutty. This is what us lefties are trying to say to
our families and our neighbors who support the GOP no matter how insane their
actions.
There is a word that describes the things some
Republicans have been saying and that word is fascism. I did not want to be the
first person to use this politically and emotionally charged word in relation
to the Republican candidates for the Presidency of our nation but last night on
TV someone (sorry I don’t remember who) brought up this term which has not
really been used much since Mussolini rose to power in Italy. Go over the
definition carefully and see if it does or does not fit current circumstances.
This definition was offered by Google
.
noun: fascism; noun: Fascism;
plural noun: Fascisms
  1. an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of
    government and social organization.
synonyms:
authoritarianism, totalitarianism,
dictatorship,
despotism,
autocracy;
More
Nazism, rightism;
neofascism, neo-Nazism
“a film depicting the rise of
fascism in the 1930s”
o   
(in general use) extreme right-wing,
authoritarian, or intolerant views or practice.
Origin
from Italian fascismo, from fascio
‘bundle, political group,’ from Latin fascis (see fasces).
Translate fascism to
Use over time for: fascism
So when we have people like Donald Trump saying that
he will register all Muslims and keep certain mosques under surveillance and he
will send any Syrian refugees that come to America straight back to Syria he is
pandering to the xenophobia in us in order to get us to elect him. And his
actions are fascist.
We also have the Republican candidates who would
like to turn America into an Evangelical Christian theocracy. So when we hear
Ted Cruz, this guy who supposedly channels our forefathers, say that we should
accept only Christians from Syria we should hear a crowd behind him loudly
whispering “fascist”, “fascist”, “fascist”, because what he is advocating is
certainly not the Democracy our founders designed. But we don’t hear any great
outcry. Our media bends over backwards to fairly represent the policies of both
political parties. And Americans just keep watching FOX News, which barely
qualifies as a news channel. (Stop watching FOX News!)
So let me say once again that in terms of setting
priorities we need to get rid of the nuts in Washington before we can tackle
the greed that is distorting our government. Both threaten our Democracy but
the extremists have only recently taken over the top spot on that priority list
(just since Obama took office). They seem able to say any old un-American thing
and still maintain their popularity. This is why we need to elect a Democratic
President in 2016. Sadly, the left may have entered the fray too late in the
game. There is no way in which I accept the claim some people repeat again and
again that both parties contribute equally to the recent dysfunction in
Washington.
By Nancy Brisson 
(graphic from time.com)

Morality in America: Secular or Religious?

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America wants to be and believes that it is a moral nation, at
least as moral as flawed humans know how to make it, but we are in the midst of
a tug of war to decide if our morality will be secular or religious. It is
unclear why we are even having this argument. The Constitution and our
forefathers clearly come down on the side of religious freedom for American
citizens and they have left enough written documentation to convince most of us
that the founders of our nation felt that the best way to insure religious
freedom is to separate government and religion. This would seem to negate the
formation of a Theocracy.

However, some in present-day politics are trying to walk back
our traditional understanding of what our founders intended while claiming that
they can channel the actual intentions of those who wrote our founding
documents. They argue that America harbored only sects of Christianity in Colonial
times and that, if our forefathers had been faced with Muslims, or Buddhists,
or other global religions that have found a home in modern day America, then
they might have written about religion and government in a different way, or
they might have made America a Christian nation. But wishing it, or even
positing it as a logical conclusion, does not make it so. I would like to think
that our founders were far-sighted and wise, but think the 3/5 rule which
turned some people into objects, and think about the blatant elitism of our
forefathers, which suggest that they were products of their times, perhaps
overseers rather than seers.

Examining the differences between secular morality and what
advocates mean when they long for religious morality might help inform of us of
which way we would like to go. The right wing Conservatives, with a
preponderance of Evangelical Christians offer us some insight into religious
morality. We get an impression of an Old Testament sensibility, a return to the
rules as laid down in Leviticus. We have the Ten Commandments, of course, but
when we turn them into very literal rules for our nation they would change
America a great deal. I won’t go through them one by one.

The Commandment we are most caught up in right now is Thou
shalt not commit murder. Here is the Pro Life argument in a nutshell. How will
we ever get around the moral argument about whether or not the killing of an
unborn baby, whether it is a mere blob of cells, a possibility of life, or
whether it has taken fetal form and resembles a child is murder or whether that
Christian concept is not the business of our government. We know women have
aborted unwanted children since the beginnings of time and at great risk.
Sometimes the timing of a pregnancy is so wrong or the circumstances of the
pregnancy are so repugnant that a woman is almost obsessed with stopping the
pregnancy. Sometimes a woman knows or senses her own life will be in danger if
she gives birth to a child or even shows anyone that she is pregnant. Since
pregnancy falls within the female realm, the decision about aborting a
pregnancy should fall within the female realm and the process should be as safe
as possible and should definitely not involve rooting the fetal cells out with
a stick or a coat hanger. If the GOP truly wants to end abortion then they need
to set up humane systems to help women through to term and to find parents for
the children that are the result of unwanted pregnancies. Until these systems
are in place I don’t see how women will agree to ending legal abortion.

Besides adopting a literal interpretation of the Ten
Commandments, we have those who suggest that we need to heed things that are
often incidentally described in the Bible as the Christian traditions that
pertained at the times when the Bible was written, although quite a few
centuries passed before we had both the new and the old testaments. So we have
those who admonish women to be submissive and to allow their husbands to
control the lives of the family. I’m not sure, given what we now understand
about the way this can lead to domestic abuse of wives or children or both why
we would ever want to take power away from women ever again, or why women would
freely give up their position as equals.

Those on the religious right argue that having women once
again assume a submissive role in relation to their husband would restore the
nuclear family, end crime, end immorality and end sexual and gender
“deviation”, in other words, would put LGBT people back into the closet or put
them in danger of being punished for their “immoral” behavior. And then, they
(these new patriarchs) argue we could end all this political correctness crap
and, in fact, life would be good. Society’s rules would be simple and clear,
and right and wrong would be spelled out according to God and Jesus [or to someone’s
interpretation of acceptable Christian protocols for living a Godly life].

The Bible does not talk about evolution, so we would just bury
centuries of scientific inquiry? Science, in fact, comes up with so many
conclusions that appear to be at odds with the Bible that we can expect that
abandoning scientific pursuits will bring us all closer to the heaven. Will we
punish those who have curiosity built into their psyches? Well we will
certainly have to pass laws against such investigations of our world and decide
how we will punish those who persist. Can you see how this could all get out of
hand very fast? Do you want an America that lives out the dream of the
Puritans? Do we want to measure our government’s laws by any particular
religion? Will we have a democratic government if it is “God” (as interpreted
by man) calling the shots?
 
 

Clearly sticking with secular morality grants us the freedom
to maintain a democracy. But what rules apply to secular morality? That is what
makes it all so difficult to enjoy freedom because a citizen must frequently
judge what will offer maximum freedom to the most people, while doing the least
harm. This is an enormous task. We often get the balance wrong. Here we rely on
the dialectic to set things right. When things go too far in one direction
forces drag events back towards the center.

So take the case of campaign finance, which most of us agree
is totally out of whack with the very foundation of democratic government. Once
our Supremes agreed that corporations were people we gave our elections back to
the very elite who argued for ascendancy at our nation’s founding. We gave our
elections to the wealthy this time, not the landowners, although I’m sure they
all own land (perhaps not in America, though). President Obama’s election
proves that small donors have some power, but the right wing is trying hard to
negate that. Republicans have more milestones on their agenda to turn our
governance over to the wealthy. Now individuals can give as much as they wish.
Republicans manufactured an IRS scandal and raised such a ruckus that no one
can reevaluate the use of 501 C-4’s again. Even the ploy to pass a flat tax
needs to be examined very carefully because it is most likely a political IED.
In fact Republicans would like to simplify our government right to death.

We are trying to make sure that secular morality, that old golden
rule of ‘Do Unto Others as You Would Have Others Do Unto You’ is still a
guiding force in our nation. We are trying to practice a new American
Exceptionalism that relies on diplomacy and a ‘live and let live’ spirit
(whenever possible) rather than the old idea of exceptionalism that says we
must loom over everyone and threaten to beat them into submission because fear
is the only emotion people really understand.

The American experiment to respect each other and to share
power is still an exceptionally idealistic one and, in that sense, our
exceptionalism still lives and, if we were allowed to cooperate with other
world governments to help lift people around the globe and turn the planet into
a safe, stable, and healthy world the morality of that would far outshine any
Puritanical rule of lockstep religious practices and prejudices that could ever
come out of the atavistic longings of the right wing of the Republican Party in
America.
 
By Nancy Brisson