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Before I start with today’s blog. An update to my post, Language Matters. Pat McCrory lost his re-election bid. North Carolina  is a super majority Republican state. He has challenged the vote to the Republican controlled country election boards after refusing to concede. Many have rejected his demands. His hoping to string this out till the legislator is force to select the Governorship. I wonder if the Democrat that the voters voted for will be selected?

Neither party represents what I believe the American ideals stand for. The majority of citizens are so busy trying to survive, they don’t have time to think about what America was founded on. Can’t blame them. Education has been under attack since Reagan. The focus on test scores as driven the Arts, Votech and civics from schools. What is taught of the 238 years of US history comes from textbooks approved by the Texas School Book Commission. On which the  Radical Right has been attacking the free thinking flawed men that wrote the sublimely flexible documents on which our nation was founded. Men of the small leisure landed and slave owning class that reached for unobtainable ideals with feet mired the mud of real politics.

This divisive election between a demagogue and the out of touch incumbent in all but name has focused my political bent. I identify has a Democratic Socialist. The only problem with this is finding a modern set of guiding principals for the political movement. Bernie Sanders voiced a message stuck an unmet desire in the under 30 population. Income Inequality. Student debt. Influence of Elite and corporate dark money in politics. His average donation was $27. His opponents had multi-million dollar PACs. What did he do with the left over cash? Funded a Progressive organization to support others progressives running for office.

A major issue with the Democratic Socialist movement is it keeps reaching back to classic Marxist Socialism. The Cold War propaganda was active for close to fifty years. Anti Communist sentiment started much earlier. The Russian Revolution literature was exported to be used has a driving force to organize the union movement. Hard core Socialist went to Coal country. Mother Jones was a force to be feared by the mine owners. Violence was common. Armed thugs battled with striking miners. In one such incident the National Guard was mobilized to end five days of battles. Where many were killed. Coal was the life blood of the Industrial Age in America. Who was painted with the broad brush of anti capitalism radicals? Socialist. Communists. Unions. A theme that is still alive today.

A picture is worth 10,000 words. They have deep emotional impact in our primary visual sensory world. Why is the message of America’s decline as manufacturing power so easy to sell? Empty parking lots once filled with the cars and trucks of the workers streaming into the gaping maw of the dark dirty plants. Stock photos from the Golden Generation are easy to use in every story. A romantic view of the Middle Class. The reality is 1 robot has replaced 25 workers. Each new advancement makes the equipment more efficient. Workers made $25.00 an hour when all the benefits and pension cost are added in. A robotic machine works for $8.00 an hour. Doesn’t complain or calls in. Robots also don’t need supervisors. A small handful of technology trained CNC operators along with the modern skilled trades work the shifts now. American manufacturing still outproduces every other country combined. This alternate reality is so deeply embedded in the American psyche it easy to exploit.

Classic Socialism was in response to the archaic concept of the Divine Right of the Ruling Class. They were above the law. A system rife with corruption that left the common worker and their families mired has second class without recourse to any of the institutions. That anger found a outlet through the master orator Karl Marx. Come met the new boss. Same has the old boss. The Democratic Socialism of modern European democracies are center left. Some more left than others. All countries that adopted capitalist economies have centuries of village, city and regional history reflected in how political parties define themselves. The Founding Fathers were worried that once political identity took hold that democracy would be challenged by through the party system. The Electoral College is a compromise to cushion that.

The idea of socialism is hidden in plain sight. Social Security. Farm Coops and corp insurance. Medicaid and Medicare. My search for the over arching modern philosophy of what being a Democratic Socialist means has become my passion. Will I be able to help in this? Hopefully. Not a bad legacy for someone that had no focus for most of his life. Reaching for something elusive while my feet are mired knee deep in the mud.

Microcosm

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I’ve been active on my Facebook with comments in long form. The two sentence warriors are ignored for a more nuanced exchange of ideas. This has brought my thinking back to how my local area mimics the national debate around class, wage inequality and certain themes both parties fall back on. It’s a long history of immigrants and rivers. To understand the forces that shaped the state I call home a bit of history is needed. Please indulge me.

The French were thin on the ground in North America. The fur trade was the economic king of the era. Catholic missionaries followed and occasionally led the opening of the Great Lakes. Fort Pontchartrain du Detroit was founded in 1701 where the river controlled the trade routes. Fire destroyed the entire city in 1805. Fire and rebirth. Trade. Building 85% of passenger cars for the railroads in America. The assembly line. The first concrete road. Arsenal of Democracy in both WWI and 2. The slow decline of the Paris of the Midwest into riots and white flight segregation. The poster city for failure. A new generation leading the way to rebirth. An immigrant city. Interstate 75 is the concrete river on which ideas and commerce happens.

White Gold. Stands of old growth forests rebuilt Chicago. The wealthy of East Saginaw Lumber Barons refused to bridge the river separating them from the workers providing the source those riches. That all changed in 1893. Fire destroyed more than 250 stately homes and businesses. The entire district where the elites lived.  A Democratic union working class city arose from the ashes. The open land left from logging attracted German settlers from Franconia in Bavaria. The French never left. Polish. Mexican field hands. The Irish. Immigrants. All bring a cultural history with them. Similar but different. Then there’s Midland. World headquarters of Dow. A professional class creating a bubble world shared values.

America in the ten country area known has Mid Michigan. Rich and poor. Conservative, Liberals, the Left and the middle. Farmers. Business owners. Retirees and union members. Gentrification of Bay City’s historic downtown waterfront. Rising prices and stagnant wages. More part time minimum wage jobs than full time positions. The best and brightest leave. Those that can move. The results of a shrinking middle class exposed by bad roads and loss of hope. Politics sorted by the zip code you live in. Division by rivers, urban or rural, having a different pigment in your skin and educational credentials.

This is also what my friends list reflects. Social media has expanded my world. But shrunk that world into an echo chamber if I’m not careful. This election has created too many of those. My posts, like this blog, sometimes drift into dead ends of vagaries of an unfocused mind exploring ideas. Seeking a clarity through the process of expression. A reflection of the physical and mental duality we all live with. A reality shaped by the boundaries of family, culture and available choices.

Thanksgiving will be a difficult time for many. Remember we have more in common than we are different.

 

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Update

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First I’d like to thank those of you who still follow my post. Sporadic is one description. Like many my dedication to thongs gets sidetracked. Being bipolar doesn’t help. Everyday stress builds up to the point of overwhelming my coping with it. This election has focused a hidden passion. Politics. How can I make my surrounding world better? One way is to refine my vision through writing about the questions confronting me.

One of my desert island books has a quote that guides me. Anything you write to publish will attacked, misunderstood or embraced. None of which you can control. Words you will have to defend or not. That has become my mantra. Writing is an exercise in editing after the fact. Like all things the more you exercise a particular skill, the better you become.

I’m in the process of becoming. Finding a voice and style. So I apologize for my mistakes in grammar or losing the thread of thought. I have discovered my think is more global. Making those complex or contradictory thoughts into a cohesive blog post can be beyond my best efforts. I will read any constructive directions. Not criticism is the traditional way. My reaction is to internalize the bad. Not the good.

Thanks again. Look forward to read your blogs.

Tribalism Part 2

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Jon Stewart in a post election interview explained about what is so exceptional about America. Our democratic institution has lifted us above the natural tribalism other countries haven’t risen above. That is what November’s election did. Brought us closer to the countries the US held morally accountable for their actions.  Since 9/11 the sides have become more regressive in their rhetoric. Refusing to supply the buoys to mark the rocky shoals that could rip the bottom out of the American experiment.

Politically correct speech that discourages open exchange of diverse ideas. Safe zones and trigger warning are the extreme evolution of that. Carlin was right about soft fuzzy words. They hide the hard truths of the original reason for finding language in order to describe new thoughts in need a vocal component. The Liberal Left.

Attacking political correctness on college campuses. Conservatives afraid to voice a contradictory point of view to the mob. Candidates using more radical xenophobic terms in order to get their base to vote for them. Openly racist comments re-tweeted without comment or condemnation. Statements disavowing them a week after the fact. A post election spike in hate crimes. The Values faction and Tea Party  Right.

Both Tribes throwing bombs at the pillars supporting the very democracy that allows them to have that freedom. Freedom from arrest for voting the way they did. Paramilitary forces of the winning factions burn down their neighborhood in the middle of the night. Bullets, machetes and rape. A third world response.

Then there’s the vast majority holding more complex nuanced opposing views. Those willing to have a more open conversation about the small difference in our basic beliefs. An unspoken realization that some subjects are for private moments. Not public neighborhood events where the more radical want to disrupt such understanding. Tyranny of the One. Fifty percent of 300 million+ did not vote. Spun by the winner has a mandate to impose his vision of America. They are so dispirited at the morass of politics of usual, they stopped caring. Why should they?

The Elites and corporation have bought the election process. They watched has the one candidate with a positive populist message was sabotaged by the controlling interest of the party who’s nomination he was seeking. The wall to wall coverage of a reality star demagogue. Personality not policy. Great rating. Advertising money rolling in to the coffers of corporate media. The apologists stay is was good campaign strategy. Worked didn’t it. Eight years of No while their roads get worse. Echo chambers reinforcing the tribalism of the hardliners. No Compromise. EVER.

One reformed Islamist put it best. It the Voldemort Theory. One based strictly on Fear. Denial he was alive. No we killed him. Has to be another explanation. Followed by the absolute refusal to use his name. He who must not be named. The ultimate controlling fear. Deny the facts. Hysteria. How does a Brit who was spokesman for a group that first called for a Caliph understand what has happened in America?

My opinion is he was part of an Empire that broke apart into tribalism. Look at former British Africa. The way the India Subcontinent happened. Warlords. Rulers for life. Hindu Nationalism. The very strength of our founding principals have become a weakness a small minority have exploited for their own gain. Extreme Tribal ideas that discounted or rejected by the majority of the past have been championed by zealots. Repacked through new branding. The outliers of civil society found the wellspring to nurture a narrow vision of what is right for all. Forget logic. Who needs independent facts. Except the ones we can twist to support our agreement. Pure emotional reaction for the scapegoating of the Other. It’s not you. They did it.

While the vast majority of us were struggling with shrinking wages to pay ever increasing bills. Worrying about our kids futures. Hoping we can get one more year out of the car. while watching neither party talk to our hopes and fears or reality. We’re on our own. Wait. What did you say? Say that makes sense.

Our greatest challenge is America will wake up. The president elect cabinet selections, . Appointees are the stuff of nightmares. They will be confirmed in spite of past transgressions that made them leave public service. Or past records contrary to the good of the nation. My greatest hope is the mission creep that the bureaucracy is know for. Four thousand appointees out of 2 million civil servants doing the day to day work. Gatekeepers of inertia. Another hope is that the Democrats take up the mantle of NO. Not on all issues. But for the most damaging to the country has a whole.

Trump got 1 out of 4 votes to win. Tribalism on open display. All his actions so far in his Palatial gold plated digs show his disregard for the past dignity for the Presidency. What’s the line from Aladdin. Great power. Ityy Bitty Living space. The White House is a step down. What happens next? Can the silent majority defeat our natural tribalism or fall victim to worse? I don’t know the answer outside of my own limited space. Gandhi first request of a dispirited group was the ask them to sit not to where they were told to. He knew they would take no other action. History shows us he won.

India is the largest democracy in the world. Starting to be racked by Tribalism fueled by religion. European countries are dealing with their own National Populist movements. All these countries have a more engaged population reflected in their voter turnout. What does that say about the Original country to try this form of government?

War Stories

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Was in the local Barnes & Nobles yesterday. Aimlessly wondering around  when I was taken back to 1986. My navy years on board a forward deployed supply ship. Found a book in the smallish ship’s library. Vietnam vets were starting to write about their time in country. It was part of the process of healing. Reintegration. The same is happening now.

Civilians will never understand what it means to serve on a personal level. I have tried to understand the way Conservatives think. The small daily reinforcements of living inside that framework create a barrier. Military culture is the same. Low pay. Military families on food stamps. Serving with people you don’t like. Family housing that should be condemned.  Officers of the lowest quality. It’s hardest on the families. Moving every three years. New schools. Support systems run Great to the God Awful. Divorce rates are always higher than the national norms.

The past 15 years of conflict have left lasting scars. Journalist embedded with certain units kept in touch afterwards. They write books about their group. Others write their personal stories. Taking a life is an intimate experience. Holding a buddy as he dies is worse. That is the extent of my imagining something so far beyond my experience.

Two passage from that book read in 85 have never left my memory. He was the commanding officer of Special Forces unit. An E6 Sargent given a commission for the duration and attrition.

When he would get a straight razor shave from the local barber there was a member of his squad with an M-16 there. If his throat was slit, the local was going to die too.

After discharge, he decided to return to college. An environment where Vietnam was a explosive subject. How far to move from cover to cover. The instant sorting of threats. Fields of fire. Walking down a hall was stressful. How would the perimeter be set and defended.

What civilian occupation is there for a Marine trained in heavy machine gun operation and maintenance? Or the ones covered in memorial tattoos for their fallen buddies during multiple deployments? The hyper-awareness of everything around them? Strangers in a foreign culture who look the same. Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, have unfunded the VA for years. The system I depend for my treatment. Until it fails from the burden of those returning from combat. Then it a national shame. Too Late.

Saying Thank You for your service is a throw away phrase. The only one the majority know when it comes to the military. How are you doing? Translation. I do really care or have time to listen. Want to help? Call your Congressman. Find which bill will strip funding for long term care. Demand the social contract with veterans is kept. Not just the voyeuristic exercise of reading the words of men working through a journey the 95% non military population think of has heroes.

They are men and women living to protect those next to them. Not some grand cause. They silently carry the death of friends who raised their hand to voluntarily reaffirm an implied oath of the native born citizen. One that embodies ideals of  Democracy the elected leaders have forgotten. War stories sell. Always have. I can only hope these books end up the hands of decision makers as well has the general public.

If it to Good to true…

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Those people who thought Trump was any different, welcome to Business as usual. Repel Obamacare? Let’s not be to quick about that. Newt Gingrich wants to bring back HUAC. Not Nazi or Communist this time. Not political Ideologues that are a danger to a free and open world. Muslims. I was became politically aware of Newt Gingrich, the Speaker of the House, has he pushed his Contract with America. Pulling the list from the coat pocket closest to his heart to check off each line item. All in front of the cameras. The base went into orgasmic spasms. No one of those We’ll Make America Great Again theater tricks passed the Senate.

So what does the Back Bench attack dog bomb thrower do. Recruits house members to run for Senate seats. I’ve never underestimated his intelligence in pursuit of his vision for a roll back the clock Conservative convert or die agenda. Or the ignorance of that segment of the American population that shared that dream. Impeach Clinton for infidelity? YES. While he has an affair while still Speaker? YES. I HAVE THE POWER. I AM ABOVE THE LAW. Divorce. Ethics violations by Congress. Marriage. Another affair. Another divorce. Marry that one. So much for the sanctity of marriage. Possible Secretary of State? The President’s voice has leader in the Free World.

At one point I tried to understand the mind of the conservative movement. My personal status has a non believer is very focus on the social and values intolerance on the Right. Convert or Die. The small minority voicing beliefs of a Christian Nation. The vast majority of believers are much more tolerant. Their churches care about the communities in which they are part of. The Liberals fell for the trap of debating on the oppositions terms. They come across has weak. In Europe I would be a Democratic Socialist. How does that translate in America? A moderate Republican who is fiscally aware. Having an  understanding that the social safety net has to be strong. The more people fall through the gaps, the more expensive they become. The inequality of wealth is a dangerous threat to the country. The Libertarians push the gas pedal on the Capitalist car while talking on their cell phone. Socialism control the brakes and try to steer away from the crowds walking. A delicate balance forgotten in my country.

You can spend $7.00 a day on a free lunch programs, rent and food assistance in order to shape a future contributor to the economy. Or $40 a day sent to a private prison contractor for the inmate not receiving proper medical or training then thrown back on the street. Back to the neighborhoods mired in deep poverty with high unemployment where the only growth industry is illegal. Parole violation. Back to prison. To fill a quota written into the contract by the private contractor in order to have a prison built in your town. Yes that is an actual clause. Add $40 to the sea anchor holding back the economic recovery.

Ben Carson, Mr. Mumbles, to head the educational future of America’s future generation. A creationist proponent. A surgeon whose livelihood was based on science. not faith healing. God first before reason. Plays great to the values base who think Choice and punishing teachers makes sense. Look at the test scores. Bring god back. Don’t believe the same test scores in the choice schools.  Mike Pence. Let’s roll back every social equality gain since 1970? If Trump is impeached because of past acts that would have disqualified him from running, guess who runs the country? Mr 1950 was a great year. My state says so. Supreme court to the right. To the Right. That enough of the Cupid Shuffle.

History is am evolving continuum. Where the particular culture starts determines how far they have come. Indiana was the heart of the Upper Midwest racist movement. Any group different from the majority is looked on with distrust. They represent, in a concentrated form, the Other we natural fear. A function of the fight or flight trigger from our development has early  humans.  What will last longer the water or the rock? Go to a beach. That sand started has big boulders. Even granite.

Trump is a businessman thinking he can negotiate with other countries. The cold realities of Nation state bare no resemblance to I want a hotel here. Pay you for work and material according the terms of this contract? No. There is no lawsuit available for that. But hey, he won’t take his salary. I’m a Billionaire. Being an armchair political junkie without cable, my news come from numerous sources. DW. BBC. The French. NPR. China and Japan world service. Occasional RT. The first three have a slight culture slant in the stories they chose. Contrary to the Rights claim. NPR invites their views on the political shows. Then doesn’t talk over them. The world’s reaction is shock. Except for Putin and those warlord countries with Democratic in their name.

There were voices in the wilderness that predicted a Trump victory. Based on their contrarian  data points are the now dissecting the how and why for the half of the country in shock. Hillary wasn’t a candidate. She was an incumbent. The ultimate insider. Understanding social media was the key. It’s influence and immediate reactions. “People will believe a large lie sooner than a little one.” The tsunami driven by the anger of the unheard can’t be seen when one side has it backs to the wall of glass windows in the million dollar coastal third home. Hope that chardonnay was good.

Pat Buchanan wrote a book about how the Neo Cons high jacked Bush II first term. I can’t wrap my head around his brand of conservationism. His insights as a leading voice of the intellectual component are incisive. The case laid out was with a lawyer’s logic. A point by point indictment of a group of ideologues hell bent of turning back the clock. A crusade to change the very fabric of American standing in the world. That is what I see clustered around a vastly more inexperienced Trump. One of those voices in the wilderness says he will be impeached if the lawsuit on Trump University happens. Those same supporters want a postponement in order to claim Executive Privilege. Above the Law until they rewrite it.

 

An Anniversary of Sorts

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Two years ago on this date I walked through the doors of the local  shelter. My status has a homeless vet was official. The downsizing of my life was complete. Down the rabbit hole. Except there wasn’t a techno-colored world of whimsy waiting. It was jail without the guards or bars. I’d like to say we were treated has adults down ob our luck in life. My veteran status afforded one of its few benefits. A room set aside for Vets. The military has a shared culture. One that is a comfortable known structure where disparate personalities can function without friction. Where you my not like the person you serve with there still trust at deeper level than a complete stranger.

The room was orderly. We each had a drawer in the shared desk. Our door was always closed. People had to knock. They knew not to walk in. An anomaly to the chaos of the rest of the residence. One of the blogs I follow is the Stone City. A writing project for those in prison. They bravery face the truths that put them in that place. Looking back I saw exactly the short term instant gratification they wrote about. A concentration of bad choices, unmediated crazy and failure to navigate life by the process of flawed thinking. Run by those doing their Big Hammer christian fulfilling their calling. I somehow don’t remember Jesus forcing people to attend a tent revival style preacher every evening. Lucky I could, and did avoid, the one during the day.

Being there turned a temporary status of unemployed worker without support to available for all those programs denied before. Somehow being a homeless vet in a shelter was better than a struggling one trying to stay a part of what is consider a Civil Society of Productive People worthy of Status. Funny have stepping through a door puts you in the cross hairs of what half the population considers beneath contempt. Try it sometime. Can you put everything you own in a four door La Sabre? I can. With room to spare. That is if I could afford the $350 to fix enough to safely drive.

That freedom was the major difference which separated me from everyone else in the mission. The one thing that is critical to success in America. A car. Jobs have moved out of the cities. No bus service there. Got keep Those People out of our neighborhoods. Small things matter in my new reality. My luxury is a $3 large coffee  where I’m allowed to use the WiFi to write this blog. My public living room. Located in a old downtown district that fought the mall madness of to the white flight suburbs.

Michigan was the only state in last census to lose population. In the Ken Burns documentary about Immigrants one phrase encapsulates my situation. It easier to be poor in a poor country. Or in a struggling state with a strong union past. Everyone who knows my story knows family members with the same one. Many men have spent some time in the same shelter. Using a bridge card for food is a fact of life for many. The stigma or shame of having one is rampant in the down state communities around the urban cores. One that wants to strip benefits from me.

Remember, but there by the grace of your god. I used make a joke about being poor. There Poor. Po. P. and silence shaping the mouth to speak. After being 3 of the 4, it was too real for it to be slightly humorous. Time has reduced the depression around this date. This holiday season, like the past 10, hold a number of such unpleasant life changing anniversaries.  The Dude Abides.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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