July 18, 2018

Is we smarter today than two years ago?

In 2004 Susan Jacoby published her book, Freethinkers, and then set out on a promotion tour. Later, when speaking of that tour she told of an interesting and important discovery... those who came to listen to her speak already agreed with the premise of the book. There was no one at any of the stops to offer dissent. It was as if those in who might be in disagreement did not care to expose themselves to viewpoints contrary to their closely held beliefs. As a result, four years later Jacoby published her next book, The Age of American Unreason

In that book, Jacoby observes that religious extremism and political opportunism have taken over our culture, and the means by which they have done it is by mass marketing and constant repetition of falsehood. The book is almost a sequel to Hofstadter's landmark work, Anti-intellectualism in American Life. This 1963 book was his dissection of the American mindset he had observed leading up to the 1960 election, the anti-JFK tribalism, and the segregationist attitudes so prevalent at the time. 
In her book, Jacoby writes that "the scales of American history have shifted heavily against [the] intellectual life so essential to functional democracy." When asked, she called herself a “cultural conservative,” but lamented that the term had been "hijacked by the religious right," which she describes as "preoccupied with […] the preservation of the phrase 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance." Throughout the book, Jacoby builds the argument that America is damaged not only by the resulting mass ignorance, but by the pride taken in that ignorance, and of the arrogance of the ignorant individuals who practically relish their know-nothingness. (“… I love the poorly educated.”) 

Ignorance is served to us daily; here in the blogosphere, on Facebook and other forms of social media, in the nightly news, the pathetic game shows and soap operas, “reality” TV programs, and every time a politician, pundit, or preacher opens a mouth. 

But there is a difference between mundane and virulent ignorance. 

Mundane ignorance is when the on-street interviewer asks a dozen passersby to point out Idaho on a map... or name the freedoms enshrined in the 1st amendment. Virulent ignorance is evident in people who claim to be educated and call themselves “stable genius.” They believe that they are informed on important subjects when in reality they’ve just been educated into greater ignorance. 

These are the people who do not show up to speak with Susan Jacoby, because they are already convinced that she is wrong. They are the people who watch only Fox, or only MSNBC for their news. They are the ones constantly parroting "fake news." They are willing to swallow falsehood so long as it agrees with what they want to believe... and they are immune to actual evidence. 


~~~

January 16, 2018

The wheel keeps on turning

The 18th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified on this date in 1919. This constitutional modification was championed by sundry groups seeking a more pure and godly nation, and saw a means to that end by constitutionally barring the demon rum.

Unfortunately, the outcome was far different from what was expected. Instead of abstinence, we witnessed the birth of a new and highly lucrative small business model. This held particular attraction for some enterprising Italian and Jewish immigrants. Once the legal sale of alcohol fell under the prohibitionist ax, bootlegging gave a giant leg up to La Cosa Nostra (which roughly translated to English means, This Thing of Ours.).

It took Americans a little time to fully realize the futility of the teetotaler agenda, but fourteen years after the ratification of the 18th amendment, it was effectively repealed by the passage of the 23rd. The mafia, however, was firmly entrenched and had no intention of rolling up the carpets and putting up the Going out of Business signs. The mob immediately branched into more hardened criminal activities; most notably the protection racket, gambling, and prostitution. Initially at least, they avoided the drug trade. That would come later. It wasn't until the late 60s that the FBI effectively broke the mob's back, and it took until after the turn of the millennium for the last of the major Dons to be convicted and sent to prison.


Almost a century of organized crime was birthed by sincere puritan efforts intended to save humans from themselves, yet in the interim saw terrible violence and bloodshed. We witnessed massive increases in violent crime and soaring murder rates. Prohibition extracted a heavy price on this nation.


This did not deter the passion of the prudes. They weren't done yet. Coincidental with the anti-alcohol efforts came the effort to demonize and prohibit by force of law yet another substance... cannabis. A fact that seems lost in this 21st century is that cannabis was freely cultivated in this nation in the 19th century and into the early decades of the 20th century. It was a good cash crop; used in  the production of medications, rope, and textiles... and yes, it was used to get high.

On the surface, the cannabis prohibition effort was played as just another of the do-gooder causes, but the true tale of how the substance fell into the cross-hairs of law enforcement is both interesting and disgusting. It harbors a vaguely European and very American narrative... racism.

Following the end of the Mexican revolution in 1920, the U.S. began to see an influx of Mexican and Central American migration. Although every state received migrants, it was seen mostly in the southern border states and into Louisiana. These migrants brought with them their native cultures, customs, and languages. One of the customs shared by most was the use of cannabis as a relaxant, yet just like Americans, the migrants also used it in medicinal preparations. Their word for the substance was marijuana rather than cannabis. Americans were familiar with the cannabis plant, but the word marijuana was a new and foreign term. This ignorance was seized upon by the prohibitionists as they mounted their new campaigns. Those folks had unlikely allies in this prohibition effort... in the form of white supremacist groups... most notably the "Christian" Ku Klux Klan.

So an unholy alliance between the prohibitionists and our good old and ever-present American racist elements took form. The campaign began by implying that this stuff they brought from down south... this marijuana... must be evil. That slowly morphed into strong hints that the Mexicans themselves were evil. New terminology also began to enter our lexicon; Cannabis became the demon weed, devil's lettuce, killer herb, skunk weed, wacky tobaccy, killer reefer, and a host of other such monikers clearly intended to demonize something that Americans knew to be beneficial. The media, fed with the false and exaggerated claims about disruptive Mexicans and their dangerous use of the evil marijuana, joined in on the campaign. It was disguised as law and order... yet was in reality little more than the latest racist attempt to keep America white.

The average American, ignorant of the fact that this terrible marijuana was in fact the very same as something with which they had grown comfortable... something already in their medicine cabinets. In great numbers the uneducated jumped on the prohibition bandwagon, torch and pitchfork in hand. The fabricated rhetoric stoked fear among the public back then, and continues to have a direct connection to the anti-Mexican movement we still see today.

We had seen previously seen where controlling citizens by controlling customs could be successful. By making marijuana a controlled substance and banning it from use or sale, our government successfully implemented a national strategy for keeping certain populations under the watchful eye of law enforcement. This suited our American bigots just fine. The more Mexicans sent to prison, the better.

Eighty some-odd years ago the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 became law. Since then the pitch and volume of the rhetoric has peaked and ebbed like a roller coaster, but the past two decades have seen attitudes change considerably. The reversal of the ill effects brought by this unjust prohibition has come more slowly than it did for alcohol, yet as of this writing, thirty states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws that in some form or another legalize marijuana, while eight states and the District of Columbia have adopted recreational use laws. Voters in Massachusetts and Maine recently passed legalization, but at the time of this writing, those states have neither written rules for growers and retailers, nor have they begun accepting licenses applications.

A major hurdle is that cannabis remains illegal under federal law. In 2013, then President Obama ordered his Justice Department to not enforce federal law in the jurisdictions where cannabis had been legalized by voters. As the public becomes more  aware of the fabricated health claims used to justify prohibition and its implied racial bias, the clamor for legalization grows louder and making it highly likely that others will follow the majority's lead. Some of the holdout states are having discussion and voters may soon find ballot initiatives addressing the issue when they go to the polls.


In spite of these popular calls for legalization, we now have another president and another Attorney General; both intent on reversing Obama era initiatives. Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions recently stated that his department would be paying no attention to the Obama mandate or will of the people, and immediately launched a new crusade. His goal is to once again raise the specter of "the evil others and their demon weed." In Sessions’ eye and apparently that of his boss, the mission should again be to turned toward authoritarian control, with a desired result of ensuring a good supply of detainees marching in chains toward the for-profit, private prisons.

So here we are for another ride on the roller coaster, and this too shall pass. We'll see what comes next, but this author predicts full repeal of all cannabis prohibition laws within his ever shortening lifetime.

The wheel keeps on turning.

~~~

January 15, 2018

But I haven’t given up. And you cannot give up.


Why Getting Into Trouble is Necessary to Make Change

I’ve seen unbelievable changes during the past 50 or 60 years. When people say, “Nothing has changed,” I feel like saying, “Come and walk in my shoes.” I truly believe that if there is faith and hope and determination, we can continue to lay progress and create an American community at peace with ourselves. The next generation will help us get there.

When I was growing up as a child in Alabama, I saw signs all around me–I saw crosses that the Klan had put up, an announcement about a Klan meeting. I saw signs that said White, colored, white men, colored men, white women, colored women. There were places where we couldn’t go. But we brought those signs down. The only place you will see those signs today will be in a book, in a museum or on a video. When I was growing up, the great majority of African Americans could not participate in a democratic process in the South. They could not register to vote. But we changed that. When I first came to Washington to go on the freedom rides in 1961, black people and white people couldn’t be seated together on a Greyhound bus leaving this city. They travel to the South without being beaten, arrested and jailed.

Now all across the South and all across America there are elected officials who are people of color. In the recent elections in Virginia and some other places around the country, you saw more people of color and more women getting elected to positions of power. They are African American, they’re Latino, Asian American, Native American. Our country is a much better place–a much different place–in spite of all the setbacks and interruptions of progress.

I heard Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. say on many occasions, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I still believe we will get there. We will redeem the soul of America, and in doing so we will inspire people around the world to stand up and speak out. I believe that it’s true today, and it was true when Dr. King said it years ago. I tell friends and family, colleagues and especially young people that when you see something that’s not right or fair, you have to do something, you have to speak up, you have to get in the way. When I was growing up, my mother and father and grandparents would tell me, “Don’t get in trouble. This is the way it is.” But then I heard Dr. King speak when I was 15. To hear him preach, to be in a discussion with him sitting on the floor, or in a car, or at a meeting in a restaurant or a church, or just walking together … He instilled something within us. I never in my years around him saw him down. Never saw him hostile or mean to a single person.

Dr. King and others inspired me to get in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. And I think we’re going to have generations for years to come that will be prepared to get in trouble, good trouble, necessary trouble. And lead us to higher heights. It’s a struggle that doesn’t last one day, one week, one month, one year. It is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe many lifetimes.

The next generation will help make this society less conscious of race. There will be less racism, there will be more tolerance. Dr. King said we must learn to live together as brothers and sisters. There was a man by the name of A. Philip Randolph, from Jacksonville, Fla., who moved to New York City and became a champion of civil rights, human rights and labor rights. At the March on Washington in 1963 he said, “Remember our mothers and our fore-fathers all came to this great land in different ships. But we’re all in the same boat now.” That is true today.

You have to be hopeful. You have to be optimistic. If not, you will get lost in despair. When I travel around the country, I say, “Don’t get down–you cannot get down.” I’m not down. I got arrested, beaten, left bloody and unconscious. But I haven’t given up. And you cannot give up.

~~~

January 1, 2018

Hymn, by Sherman Alexie

Hymn
Why do we measure people's capacity
To love by how well they love their progeny?
That kind of love is easy. Encoded.
Any lion can be devoted
To its cubs. Any insect, be it prey
Or predator, worships its own DNA.
Like the wolf, elephant, bear, and bees,
We humans are programmed to love what we conceive.
That's why it's so shocking when a neighbor
Drives his car into a pond and slaughter–
Drowns his children. And that's why we curse
The mother who leaves her kids—her hearth—
And never returns. That kind of betrayal
Rattles our souls. That shit is biblical.
So, yes, we should grieve an ocean
When we encounter a caretaker so broken.
But I'm not going to send you a card
For being a decent parent. It ain't that hard
To love somebody who resembles you.
If you want an ode then join the endless queue
Of people who are good to their next of kin—
Who somehow love people with the same chin
And skin and religion and accent and eyes.
So you love your sibling? Big fucking surprise.
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?
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.
Of course, I'm also fragile and finite and flawed.
I have yet to fully atone for the pain I've caused.
I'm an atheist who believes in grace if not in God.
I'm a humanist who thinks that we’re all not
Humane enough. I think of someone who loves me—
A friend I love back—and how he didn't believe
How much I grieved the death of Prince and his paisley.
My friend doubted that anyone could grieve so deeply
The death of any stranger, especially a star.
"It doesn't feel real," he said. If I could play guitar
And sing, I would have turned purple and roared
One hundred Prince songs—every lick and chord—
But I think my friend would have still doubted me.
And now, in the context of this poem, I can see
That my friend’s love was the kind that only burns
In expectation of a fire in return.
He’s no longer my friend. I mourn that loss.
But, in the Trump aftermath, I've measured the costs
And benefits of loving those who don't love
Strangers. After all, I'm often the odd one—
The strangest stranger—in any field or room.
"He was weird" will be carved into my tomb.
But it’s wrong to measure my family and friends
By where their love for me begins or ends.
It’s too easy to keep a domestic score.
This world demands more love than that. More.
So let me ask demanding questions: Will you be
Eyes for the blind? Will you become the feet
For the wounded? Will you protect the poor?
Will you welcome the lost to your shore?
Will you battle the blood-thieves
And rescue the powerless from their teeth?
Who will you be? Who will I become
As we gather in this terrible kingdom?
My friends, I'm not quite sure what I should do.
I'm as angry and afraid and disillusioned as you.
But I do know this: I will resist hate. I will resist.
I will stand and sing my love. I will use my fist
To drum and drum my love. I will write and read poems
That offer the warmth and shelter of any good home.
I will sing for people who might not sing for me.
I will sing for people who are not my family.
I will sing honor songs for the unfamilar and new.
I will visit a different church and pray in a different pew.
I will silently sit and carefully listen to new stories
About other people’s tragedies and glories.
I will not assume my pain and joy are better.
I will not claim my people invented gravity or weather.
And, oh, I know I will still feel my rage and rage and rage
But I won’t act like I’m the only person onstage.
I am one more citizen marching against hatred.
Alone, we are defenseless. Collected, we are sacred.
We will march by the millions. We will tremble and grieve.
We will praise and weep and laugh. We will believe.
We will be courageous with our love. We will risk danger
As we sing and sing and sing to welcome strangers.
©2017, Sherman Alexie

~~~

December 25, 2017

Let America Be America Again

Let America Be America Again

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? 
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free?  Not me?
Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

December 17, 2017

TELL ME AGAIN WHY AMERICA IS EXCEPTIONAL

... or The reason Christianity sucks

This will be kind of a hodgepodge tale of how European Christianity led to America being simultaneously admired and despised by the rest of the planet. I'll just be hitting the high points. You can follow the links or do your own research if you want to know more. We'll start out with the Myth of Christopher Columbus and work our way to the Bears Ears National Monument.




Chris Comes to America - Or does he?

Columbus was more or less a freelance bounty hunter of the 15th century. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, with the blessing of the Church, offered a bounty for anyone who would steal property from Spanish Jews and Muslims to hand over to the crown, and our daring young Chris was quite happy to oblige. It was the money obtained from that plunder that provided the funding for his explorations. With his pockets full of booty, three ships and about 90 crew, Chris set out looking for a new route to East Asia and India.

To give you a bit of insight into his character, while en route Columbus offered a reward of 10,000 Spanish Maravedis (about $540) for the first person who sighted land. That much money was huge, since it represented what the typical sailor would have earned in a year. One early morning on October 12, 1492, one of the crew shouted out from atop a mast that he had seen land. Indeed what the sailor had spotted was probably Watling Island in the Bahamas, which is where Columbus is recorded as making his first landfall. Columbus immediately reneged on the reward, claiming that he had seen it first.

Nice guy, eh?

In the process of attempting to approach the island, Columbus wrecked the Santa Maria. Local and friendly indigenous bands of Arawaks, Tainos and Lucayans witnessed the accident, swam out to the wreckage, rescued the sailors and Columbus, and then worked for hours saving their cargo. We know all this because Columbus kept very good records. He was so impressed with the friendliness of the native people that he claimed their land in the name of Spain and the Catholic Church, kidnapped local women and children for the entertainment of the crew, and enslaved the men to look for nonexistent gold. In his own journal he wrote:

“As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts.”

So now we know the evil that was in the heart of a man for whom our Exceptional America has named a national holiday. 

On to the next chapter, skipping ahead about three centuries. 

In 1775 Thomas Johnson and some other British citizens convinced the Piankeshaw tribe to sell them some land in what is now Virginia. Johnson died and willed the land to his heirs. In 1818 a Scotsman by the name of William M'Intosh bought a bunch of land from the U.S. Congress, with about 11,000 acres of it being part of the land Johnson bought from the Piankeshaw. As you might guess, this pissed off the Johnson's heirs, so they sued M'Intosh. The Court ruled for M'Intosh because it was the Congress that made the sale. Johnson's heirs appealed to the SCOTUS, which upheld the lower court ruling. In Johnson v. M'Intosh (1823), Chief Justice John Marshall wrote in his opinion that "the United States earned the 'exclusive right…to extinguish [the Indians'] title, and to grant the soil.'" He further wrote that "...the Indians themselves did not have the right to sell property to individuals," and that "...M'Intosh's claim, which was derived from Congress, was superior to Johnson's claim, which was derived from the non-existent right of Indians to sell their land." 

So at this point you have to ask, why did the tribe not have the right to sell their ancestral lands? Well, Chief Justice Marshall had an explanation for that. The M'Intosh case was one of three such cases, collectively known as "the Marshall Trilogy." All were based on the Doctrine of Discovery.

This doctrine is not and never was a law. It is a legal construction built upon the Christian faith and dates back to the time when the Church needed to justify what Columbus had done to the natives of the Bahamas. In 1493 the Pope retrospectively issued a Papal Bull which in part states, "...any land not inhabited by Christians" was available to be discovered, claimed, and exploited by Christian rulers and declared that "the Catholic faith and the Christian religion be exalted and be everywhere increased and spread, that the health of souls be cared for and that barbarous nations be overthrown and brought to the faith itself." 

Charming.

Marshall applied the Doctrine according to the way that colonial powers laid claim to lands belonging to foreign sovereign nations during the Age of Discovery. Under it, title to lands lay with the government whose subjects traveled to and occupied a territory whose inhabitants were not subjects of a European Christian monarch. The doctrine has been primarily used to support decisions invalidating or ignoring aboriginal possession of land in favor of colonial or post-colonial governments. Our Exceptional America has used this doctrine as an excuse to violate a majority of the treaties it has made with the native peoples of this land.  


Fast Forward Two Hundred Years

In 1851 the Standing Rock Sioux reservation was created under the Treaty of Fort Laramie. The Standing Rock Sioux may sound familiar, and it should due to the debacle created when our Exceptional America violated the treaty by agreeing to allow the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross near reservation land without consulting the tribe. This set off a protest as the tribe was rightfully concerned about it's only access to clean water. As the tribe protested, peacefully for the most part, there was video shot of the pipeline construction company bulldozing ancient stone prayer sites near the pipeline. Then the same company brought in private security guards who unleashed dogs on the protesters, and when the dogs didn't deter them, the guards sprayed the protesters with Mace. Not to be outdone, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple first brought in water cannons, dousing the protesters with water on a frigid day, and then declared a state of emergency as an excuse for cutting off the protester's camp water source. In the end the protesters disbanded due to the oncoming, brutal winter. President Obama finally put a stop to the construction, but the current president gave the go ahead. Since that time the pipeline has lived up to the people's predictions, springing several leaks with the first coming before it was fully operational.

Less than a year later, in an unprecedented executive, that same president ordered the review of 40 national monuments created over the past 21 years, all on Indian land. The goal was obvious. He wanted to give the lands that were preserved for their beauty and for the native culture to those who would exploit the resource and defile the sacred ground. The current president called national monuments created by Obama as “an egregious abuse of power,” and said “It never should have happened. I am signing this order to end abuses and return control to the people,” when in fact, the action took the land back away from The People."

In an article appearing in the online edition, National Geographic writes, "Even in the face of Trump’s frenetic efforts to erase other parts of Obama’s legacy on multiple policy fronts, his call for ending abuse of monument designation stands out. No president has ever revoked a national monument named by a predecessor. No president has ever tried."



Just as when the 1851 and 1868 Treaties of Fort Laramie were broken, the reason for the shrinkage of Bears Ears is because of America's greed. Conservative Republican lawmakers have long argued that the federal government, which owns almost half the land in 11 western states, should turn control of much of it over to the states, or sell off parcels for commercial development and the allure of new jobs. In the black Hills the treaties were broken due to the discovery of gold. For Bears Ears it is the lure is coal and oil

When Obama created the monument in the waning days of his administration, Utah’s congressmen denounced Bears Ears as “a slap in the face” and “a travesty.” Rep. Rob Bishop, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, promised, in a website video, “We will fight to right this wrong.” With this president it was no fight. If Obama did it, he was going to undo it.

It is clear that Obama had the power to create national monuments on federal lands. That authority was written into law by the Antiquities Act, which was signed in 1906 by Theodore Roosevelt. With the exception of Reagan, every president since Teddy has used the law to designate national monuments. Obama created 34, which apparently rankles the current president.

His actions with Bears Ears will not be met with acceptance. There is still hope that we can put a stop to this latest violation of trust. Brad Sewell, a senior lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council, says “These are very popular places.”  He points out that “Many of our national parks started as national monuments. Even in Utah, where a fair amount of opposition is brewing in certain quarters, the public at large is in favor of national monuments.” Bears Ears is also home to more than 100,000 Native American archaeological and cultural sites, considered sacred by many tribes. This was Obama's primary reason for setting the land aside.

Disagreement over the Antiquities Act’s intent lies in its simplicity. The four-paragraph law clearly states that the president is authorized to “declare” national monuments. But the law says nothing about the presidential authority to do the reverse. “The Antiquities Act does not provide for rescinding a national monument,” says Robert Keiter, director of the University of Utah’s Wallace Stegner Center, and a specialist in public lands law. “The courts have not ruled on whether there is an implied power in the statute. The issue has never been litigated previously.”

There have been numerous Attorney General opinions arguing that the president lacks the power to revoke, with the most notable being authored by President Franklin Roosevelt’s attorney general in 1938. When FDR inquired if the Antiquities Act allowed him to scuttle a derelict Civil War-era fort in Charleston, South Carolina, as a national monument, he was advised it did not. Successive administrations heeded the same advice. This administration, having shown a disregard for precedent, public opinion, and the law, will attempt to once again show the contempt that this country has held the First People, and once again the People will rise up to meet the challenge. 

European Christianity has set the tone for the exploitation of the land and the disenfranchisement of a people. The natives may have been savages in the eyes of the old world, but the truth is that there has never in recorded history been so much savagery wreaked upon a people as was seen and is still being seen in this country. 

So tell me please... exactly why do we say that America is exceptional? If there was ever a time when this land was exceptional at anything, it was before the white Europeans brought their Christianity to these shores.

~~~~


October 14, 2017

uBuntu, Humanism, and the Lost Heart of a Nation

What is uBuntu?

Loosely translated, uBuntu means "I am because we are." Briefly described uBuntu is an African system of values that predates the Ten Commandments by two and a half millennia. uBuntu is taught by example. It illustrates the humanness, the value of community, and the value of caring for and sharing with the community.

The Origin

uBuntu is not religion based but rather it originates in ancient African spirituality and cosmology.  How far back we do not know. Africa is the the ancient "cradle of humanity," and it is thought that uBuntu may be the oldest, still existing system of human values, originating in the ancient, indigenous African'curiosity of the origins and meaning of life.

To find the basis for uBuntu we would look to Egypt and the concept of Ma’at. Records have been found in Egypt and in Ethopia which date to the period of the Old Kingdom, circa 2350 BCE. These records tell of the Forty Two Laws of Ma’at and the Seven Cardinal Virtues (truth, justice, propriety, harmony, balance, reciprocity and order) that instructed the people of that era on correct moral behaviour.

Ma’at as uBuntu 

Depictions of Ma’at show a sitting or standing goddess, often with a scale. She will have an ostrich feather in her headband and will be carrying a sceptre in one hand and an ankh in the other. The role of Ma’at was to maintain balance in the universe by regulating societal behavior.  It was her duty to determine if a person would have eternal life by placing the heart on one side of the scale of justice and the feather (representing truth) on the other side. If balance was achieved the person had achieved eternal life. It is believed that all religious afterlife or resurrection myths have roots in Ma'at.

The two concepts, uBuntu and Ma’at, are interchangeable.  The northern, central and western African religions were based upon a Hermetic philosophy of sciences originating with Hermes Trismegistus of Alexandria. This is the theosophy of Khem (Ta Shema) or ancient Egypt. Ma’at is the Ancient Egyptian/Ethiopian symbol of uBuntu.

In interesting correlation to the spiritualism of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, the characteristics of Ma’at have both metaphysical and ethical components. Therefore the laws of nature, community, and the divine, as well as the ideals of honesty, caring, sharing, truth, and order are all interchangeable. The concept of Ma'at relies less on the five senses to determine truth and instead ventures beyond the simply physical to look to the metaphysical world as well. uBuntu is considered to provide order and balance to the universe through humanistic love.

Humanism in uBuntu

To the African, the art of achieving personhood requires that it be earned by a lifetime of sharing and caring. To exist requires existing for the community and for all others who exist. The self only emerges by cooperative relationships with others and with the world. uBuntu means that a human can never be alone as the person is in continual communication and communion with others and with nature. The human is constantly feeling the pulse of the community and is always aware of humanity's impact on the environment around him.

Think of uBuntu as the Golden Rule

In Ubuntu we see a balance between the human and humanity. The Golden Rule states that we should “Do unto others as you would have them do unto ourselves.” uBuntu would say "I am because we are. We are as one." What is done for one is done for all. What is done to one is done to the other. There is ethic of reciprocity.

The tenets of uBuntu may be stated this way:

One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself (Golden Rule.)

One should not treat others in ways that one would not want to be treated (Silver Rule.)

On April 4, 1967, a great man and proud descendant of Africa; a man who embodied a 20th century uBuntu... spoke these words:
"A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies."

On November 22, 1963, the United States lost a president to the culture of incipient hate and fear that seems to have been part of the nation's fabric from the time the first Europeans landed on these shores. John F. Kennedy was a friend of the man speaking those words, and on April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated by a sniper's bullet just like JFK before him. A year and two month later, King's ally and brother to the assassinated president, Robert F. (Bobby) Kennedy, met the same fate.


Fifty years later we have almost daily mass shootings and multiple murders across the land, yet only when 20 school children are gunned down by an emotionally disturbed man, or an entire nightclub full of patrons become target practice for another lunatic,  or almost 600 country music fans fall victim to automatic weapon fire do we even hear about it in the news. It has become that common and we have become that lacking in empathy. White collar crime and ghetto violence have become commonplace. Our representatives in government are puppets for big money interests, installed for the purpose of fleecing their constituents, and almost half of all Americans voted to install a plunderer in chief... a hater in chief into the most powerful office on the planet.

This country and Ubuntu are strangers. It is this which we must change.
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