The Supreme Court Decisions Are the Next Assault in the Continuing War Against Democracy: The Whole Calculus Regarding the Next Election Has Changed

Why were two Supreme Court decisions made public just after the fifth hearing of the Jan. 6 Committee? One decision protected the rights of gun owners to openly carry weapons in public. The other took away a woman’s right to bodily autonomy.

 

Were these decisions made public now to divert the media away from reporting on the Jan. 6 Hearings and the crimes of a former President who tried to make himself a forever President and destroy the constitution? Or to reassure the GOP base that their mission is still proceeding as planned? Or distract from headlines about over 100,000 people being killed by gun violence since DJT ran for President in 2016? Or headlines about racist, hate and lie-fueled assaults on black people and election officials?

 

A blog in the Daily Kos by blogger, political organizer, and author of the book American Taliban, Markos Moulitsas expressed the essence of what I have been feeling and thinking about the Supreme Court decision. It was clearly and unfortunately not just an assault on a woman’s right to abortion and to full healthcare, privacy, and bodily autonomy. And contrary to what 5 Conservative Supreme Court Justices and many media outlets have said, the ruling is not simply about turning the decision about abortion over to the states.

 

It sacrifices women to a political agenda, to a right-wing assault on democracy. This assault is particularly dangerous to women with low incomes and women of color who have less access to contraceptives and good healthcare and can’t afford to go to other states or nations for abortions.

 

The assault advances minority rule in this nation. According to the Pew Research Center, 85% of Americans think abortion should be legal in some or all cases, so this decision clearly goes against the will of most Americans. The Supreme Court itself represents rule by the minority. The court was stacked with 3 justices chosen by a President who took office with the approval of only a minority of voters, chosen by an electoral college that advances minority rule, an electoral system gerrymandered to favor one party and regulations passed by many right-wing controlled states to suppress the participation of Democrats and people of color.

 

Even more, as Justice Thomas wrote in his opinion, the decision sets up the reconsideration, meaning reversal, of other Supreme Court due process rulings and precedents, so other rights, like to contraception, interracial and gay marriage, can all be taken away. So, the rights of any group not white, Christian, straight and male could be threatened.

 

We constantly hear about how the midterms mean the end of Democratic control of Congress. But Moulitsas makes clear two crucial points. First, it might be the general trend that the political party in power often loses control of Congress in midterm election, due to the supporters of those in power not turning out to vote in as great numbers as those dissatisfied by being out of power. But this is only a trend.

 

And I am sick of hearing this past trend repeatedly spoken of as future fact. What will happen is what we the people decide will happen. Repeating this prediction of the future as an established fact of the future only serves to further suppress the majority from voting.

 

The GOP, and many media outlets further aim to suppress the Democratic vote by repeating disinformation about President Biden. Considering the divisiveness he is facing, the viciousness of the opposition, many of whose members  actually supported a violent assault on their own government, the pandemic, the war, Biden has done rather well. His administration has been considerably more humane and competent than many past administrations.

 

Secondly, due to this rule by a minority, the Democrats are not in control. We have a Democratic President and a majority in the House. They have a technical majority in the Senate only if we ignore Democrats Joe Manchin’s and Kyrsten Sinema’s constant protections of GOP rule. The Senate is split 50-50 yet Democrats represent 41.5 million more people than the GOP. And clearly the GOP control the Supreme Court. So, Democrats, or democrats, do not control the government despite a clear majority in voting numbers.

 

So, when we talk about voters who are not in power being motivated by the loss of power and/or the actions of the party in power, we need to wake up to the reality. The assault on women, the proclaimed future assault on our rights, the protection of the profits of gun companies over the health and safety of children and all of us and over the stability of our nation⎼ these are clear examples that Democrats are not in power.

 

Yet, democrats can and will (I hope) work to get out the vote. Will vote in large numbers despite their polling places being limited, despite longer lines and possible harassment. We will vote. And we will do all we can to assure a fair counting of those votes. The fact that so many have taken to the streets to peacefully protest the anti-abortion ruling and many called for the impeachment of any Justices who lied to the Senate in their hearings, I hope will not only pressure legislative action to protect abortion but motivate millions to go to the polls in November.

 

Chris Hayes on MSNBC pointed out how rare it is that rights have been taken away from us and how often the Supreme Court in the past has been central to reactionary efforts to deny rights, working to undo what most of the rest of society had done to create a multiracial democracy. A blatant example is the malignant Dred Scott decision, which denied citizenship to a former slave who was residing in a free state and thus supported the enslavement of black people by whites.

 

On this same program with Hayes was NYU Law Professor Melissa Murray and New York Magazine writer Rebecca Traister who made very clear that this ruling is not a one-time assault and not just about abortion. Rebecca Traister said the message that things will be ok is an anesthetizing message. We must take the badness and injustice and yet continue the work. “We must use hope not as a feel- good measure. But to regard it as a tactical necessity and a moral and civic responsibility.” No matter how frightened we have become or how much we worry that our efforts will not bear fruit, we must act. If not for the immediate moment, then to build on each of all our efforts toward a better future.

 

The positive take away from Moulitsas, Hayes, Murray, Traister, and so many others is this: The importance of what we say and do over the next 5 to 6 months, or 2 plus years, is clearly revealed. These decisions by the Supreme Court can, and must, be used to change the whole election calculus and supply further motivation to reverse the old trend of midterm elections. We can and must expand the number of Democrats in Congress. We can and must change how we talk about and work for the future and the next election. If we didn’t have a good chance of succeeding, a good chance of expanding democracy, protecting our rights, creating a more caring community, the GOP wouldn’t be so obvious or desperate in what they do to stop us.

 

We have a one or two or thousand issue election coming up in November. If we value a woman’s right of autonomy over her own body, we must vote for every candidate who supports that right. If we value our right and our children’s right to safety, and to live without fear of gun violence, we must vote for every candidate who supports legal controls on gun ownership. And in practically every case, this means voting for every Democrat. This is not the end of what we want and need, but the beginning of saving our lives and improving the outlook of our future.

 

*This post was syndicated by The Good Men Project.

 

The GOP Would Sacrifice Us on the Altar of their Power and Profit: What if, Instead, We Created a Better World?

What if we, or I, have been looking at this all wrong? I often feel like we’re on the verge of losing almost everything. But what if we’re on the verge of⎼ well, winning. Or maybe not winning but at least making things better? Maybe we must re-think our thinking about  what’s possible.

 

The GOP, and even some Democrats, or the financially well-off financiers of some Democrats, have become totally desperate. The immorality of many GOP, their willingness to sacrifice everything and everyone for their greed and power, has become totally upfront and obvious to anyone not blinded by lies and an unwillingness to question their beliefs or recognize the humanity of those holding views different from their own.

 

Desperation is a sign of weakness, not strength. Unwillingness to change one’s views or listen to others is a weakness, not a strength.

 

On May 30th Sonali Kolhatkar, host and founder of Rising With Sonali, a tv and radio show that airs on Free Speech Radio and Pacifica stations, wrote an article for the Independent Media Institute arguing very cogently that the very rich are making a very dangerous calculation⎼ that it is worth sacrificing millions or even billions of lives in order to preserve corporate and individual profits.

 

She cites a new poll by the National Surveys on Energy and the Environment which found that “there is no longer skepticism among the public that the effects of climate change are real, as 76 percent of respondents—the highest on record since the poll started—’believe there is solid evidence that temperatures on the planet have risen over the last four decades.’”

 

Yet, despite overwhelming support for doing all we can to halt climate change, “corporate profit-based considerations have constantly dictated our energy use and climate policies, [and] we have effectively decided that major sacrifices of lives—most likely poor people of color—will be worth the pain of relying on fossil fuels for energy.”

 

And the same holds true with the pandemic. “Today, even as COVID-19 infection rates are skyrocketing, with cases having risen by 58 percent in the last two weeks alone, mask mandates are being dropped all over the country and COVID-19-related restrictions are ending. This is not because the virus is under control—it is clearly not—but because it’s no longer financially viable for corporate America to sacrifice profits for lives. So, it will sacrifice lives for profit….”

 

Greg Sargent wrote in the Washington Post back in September about how the GOP would exploit the pandemic, sacrifice lives by lying about vaccines, for example, to resurrect their power. Millions of people were tricked, made sick, and many died due to the anti-vaccine propaganda of DJT and the right.

 

*This blog was syndicated by The Good Men Project.

 

Dismantling Walls, Reducing Pain, and Rethinking Thinking

There are so many obstacles, both personal and institutional, we face in trying to improve our lives as well as the society we live in. But we too often overlook the way we think about thinking as one of those obstacles.

 

How we think, as well as what we think about or pay attention to, influences the answers we derive and our emotional state. This might be one reason why the GOP so vigorously use twisted logic to attack the search for truth⎼ about Jan 6 and DJT,  about science, public schools, and education in general, and certainly about gun violence. This is not just a dangerous political maneuver, but one that could threaten our survival as a nation and as a species, because it turns our most precious resource⎼ our minds and ability to think⎼ into an enemy to be feared and fought against.

 

We often conceptualize intelligence as our ability to learn, solve problems, or select goals and calculate how to reach them. But intelligence and thinking are not just a road to a desired end but a quality of our journey. It involves the ability to let go as well as dig deeper, not just to think but rethink our assumptions and beliefs. To know our limitations. The Greek philosopher Socrates supposedly said that what made him wise was that he knew he knew nothing.

 

Organizational psychologist Adam Grant, in his book Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, spells out how our mistaken idea of thinking can lead to distorting what we look at. And the brighter we supposedly are, the more blind we can be. What makes us intelligent, he says, is an ability to question our assumptions, and beliefs. To act like scientists testing our hypotheses.

 

We often resist rethinking, not only because of the time and energy required, but because it would mean questioning ourselves. Such questioning might add more unpredictability to an already unpredictable, often threatening world. And we’d have to admit we’re wrong, and capable of being very wrong. Our identity is tied closely to our beliefs and what we think are facts. To change our viewpoint can feel like abandoning our sense of ourselves. We might prefer the “comfort of conviction over the discomfort of doubt.”

 

Many of us use one of 3 models for thinking: a preacher defending their sacred beliefs, a prosecutor proving the “other side” wrong, or a politician seeking approval. Instead of thinking clearly, we often “listen to opinions that make us feel good instead of ideas that make us think hard. We see disagreement as a threat… and surround ourselves with people who agree with our conclusions” instead of those who challenge our thought process.

 

The result is what’s called the Dunning Kruger Effect. This is based on studies showing that people who scored the lowest on tests of reasoning and grammar had the most inflated idea of their abilities. The less we know in a particular domain, the more we overestimate our intelligence in that domain, and the more rigidly we hold our beliefs. Instead of recognizing what we don’t know or have yet to learn, we hide from the realization. We fall easily into the bias of thinking we’re not biased.

 

We might think this doesn’t apply to us, but I saw this operate in my own life. After returning to teaching after a 10-year absence, for a few years I found myself presenting answers to students more than modeling ways to question. I held viewpoints with more conviction than I felt because I didn’t want to expose my lack of knowledge.

 

 

**To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.

The Relationship of All Humans, Revisited: A Stable Society Is Like a Loving Relationship

A relationship with another person, even one of long standing, with a friend, colleague, even a spouse, can seem so strong but, in reality, be so delicate. It is important to recognize this. We expect emotional ties to bear so much, to tie people, families, groups together. But emotions are just thoughts, feelings, and sensations. They are ephemeral; like air, they can be moved or changed so easily.

 

I look at my wife, Linda, and realize how much better my life is because of her. I think more clearly and gain new perspectives because we talk so easily together. The more I feel love, appreciation, and gratitude, and the more I allow her in, the more I enjoy my day. Yet, despite all that, sometimes I lose it. I don’t feel the connection. I feel what I feel and think what I think but what she feels, or thinks is beyond me. I relate to her as if she were a means to an end, my own projection, simply the source of my own satisfaction, or pain. I mentally accuse her of being the cause of what hurts me.

 

And then I become aware of what I’m doing. I feel our separation, the fragility of our life together and how easily I could lose her. I shudder and wake up.

 

Society is also a relationship. Of course, there’s more to it than that, just like there is more to a marriage than emotion. There’s history, commitment, often there are children, homes, possessions, and for a society, institutions, buildings, roads, laws, and social processes. But what do any of these mean without the sense of relationship?

 

We spend most of our time each day in human constructed environments with other human beings. The beauty and necessity of our cooperation with others surrounds and envelops us. Yet often we lose it. We treat other people as means to our own ends. We treat cashiers like the machines they control. We treat other drivers as obstacles to pass. We treat people we barely know with the briefest of recognitions and people we don’t know are ignored or worse. There are so many people around us. How can we do anything else?

 

The more we harden our personal borders and think of ourselves as separate from others, the more pain we feel, and the easier it is to go from indifference or ignoring others, to hurting.

 

Or to lying to ourselves. Telling and recognizing the truth means getting as close as we can to what’s real, what is happening in ourselves and the world. A lie hides and distorts, pushes away what’s real, by intent. It substitutes a fiction, an idea for reality. Of course, it can get complicated. I don’t know if it’s best or not to always tell the truth. But in general, knowing and speaking the truth, or knowing as best we can what’s actually going on in ourselves and others, fosters healthy relationships. When problems arise, as they must, we can only face them if we notice them. We can only face what we allow ourselves to perceive….

 

**To read the whole article, please click on this link to The Good Men Project.

Last Night, A Dream: About The Handmaid’s Tale? The Supreme Court? Or Depths I haven’t Yet Realized?

I woke up from one dream and found myself in another. The first dream, which I barely remember, returned me to when I was a teacher. A school trip I was helping lead had gone bad. In the dream, a young man I don’t remember ever knowing was caught trying to steal from our group. I was holding him by the upper arm⎼ and then I was catapulted into a totally new scene.

 

I was in a city, like Manhattan, still holding the upper arm of the young man from the previous dream. We looked around us at a world gone crazy and which neither of us knew. It had all the energy of a war movie. Many people were running, rushing fast through the streets. There was a group of 5 or so white men, dressed in dark, maybe black clothes, walking deliberately, and carrying signs. “Join the chorus.” “Become a chorister.”

 

The apparent leader of the men with signs approached me and said, “You look like you could do it. Join us. We need you.” I didn’t respond and the group moved on.

 

We turned a corner of the street. I let go of the arm of the teenager and we talked about what we were seeing, and what we should do. “What do you think is going on?” I asked him. We were now allies, refugees together. I thought to myself maybe I should find the man with the sign and ask him what was going on. What is the chorus, besides people singing together? The horror of the novel, The Handmaid’s Tale  came to mind. Would it be better for me to be a chorister or leader than a foot soldier? Or maybe not? Could I be a leader? And of what?

 

I imagined myself reading books of fighting strategy. And then I woke up to daylight, morning. In my bed.

 

Is this related to the white men (and one woman) in dark robes now trying to turn our society into a Gilead, a patriarchal, white supremacist, totalitarian Christian state that treats women as property? The dream came to me a few days before news reports revealed a draft of a decision by 5 Conservative Supreme Court Justices to overturn Roe vs Wade.

 

Was my subconscious giving me a warning? Or trying to wake me from a sleep of inaction? Was the dark robed man in the dream trying to get me to join other white men as oppressors? Or to fight them?

 

Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale, said the story just exposes trends that she saw happening back in the 1980’s in the US. Her work was a response to people saying such events could happen in other nations, but never here. But here we are. We have 5 Supreme Court Justices taking away rights and health care from one half of all of us.

 

And how do they justify this? They say they are saving the lives of unborn children. They don’t seem to care about the lives of children once they are born, since many support executing people, including women who have had abortions. Many in the supposed “pro-life” movement supported cuts in programs to feed hungry children and deny affordable healthcare coverage to those with “pre-existing conditions.”

 

In the leaked draft opinion on the issue, Justice Samuel Alito relied heavily on 17th century English judge Matthew Hale. As Deanna Pan writes in an article for the Boston Globe, Alito argued that prohibiting abortion should be upheld because it has an “unbroken tradition” in the law. But slavery, in the 17th Century, had an unbroken tradition as did denying women the right to own property. So did, according to Hale, sentencing women to death for witchcraft and allowing husbands to escape criminal liability for raping their wives.

 

Human rights, democratically elected governments, also television, computers, baseball goes against what was established tradition in the 17th century.

 

Alito ignores the fact that Roe has been accepted legal precedent since 1973, almost 50 years. It was upheld in three previous cases, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Whole Women’s Health v. Herllerstedt, and in 2020, June Medical Services v. Gee. Alito’s arguments come from a time when only a few white men had any political power.

 

Or maybe the dream had nothing to do specifically with denying women the right to control their own body. There have been so many reasons we have protested lately, including Black Lives Matter, ending gun violence, and calling for DJT to be held accountable for treasonous acts. But there also are people forced to run through the streets due to the horror of Putin’s war against Ukraine.

 

Maybe the dream was about the need for action by anyone who thinks the whole drift toward Gilead is not only wrong but threatens the very future of democracy. And because many of those who push an anti-women agenda that criminalizes abortion also deny human-caused climate change, they threaten the ability of our planet to support the life not only of human children but of all living beings.

 

So, we must all ask ourselves: if we think this attack on women is wrong, what are we ready to do? How can we speak out? What creativity or specific skills do we have to make our speech heard and honored? What tactics have we read about in the past that have led to successful political actions or in evoking the attention and compassion of the nation?

 

Brian Resnick wrote an article for VOX outlining 4 Rules for Making A Protest Work, like keeping the protest nonviolent and more proactive (preventing an action) than reactive, making the message very clear and salient, joining different groups or issues under one banner, and aiming for specific actions or legislation.

 

We might think of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. We might think Lacie Wooten-Holway, a mom and neighbor of Justice Kavanaugh, standing outside his home holding a candle of protest. We might think about the protests against the GOP Graham-Cassidy Health Denial Bill in 2017; the women’s wall in India in 2019, or the wall of Moms in Portland in 2020. Or the first Earth Day events in 1970 or maybe placing flowers in gun barrels and levitating the Pentagon during the anti-war movement in the sixties.

 

And especially joining the upcoming Women’s March on May 14 and working to protect and get out the vote this November.

 

The fight here is first for a woman’s right to abortion. But it is equally for equal justice for all before the law, voting rights and protections, environmental justice and protections, healthcare for all, and the advancement of public education.

 

**This article was syndicated by The Good Men Project.

Letting Go of Normal: When Looking Is Itself An Act of Creation and Breathing is A Revelation

Although it’s technically spring, it’s still very much winter. The breeze is distinctly chilly and it’s snowing. Hard. Transitions between seasons, and maybe between anything, can be so unpredictable. Winter, as well as old ways of doing things, does not like to let go.

 

A cardinal, of such a beautiful red color, sits on the branch of an apple tree as the snow filled wind roars around it. How cold it must be out there for it. It waits for the right moment to swoop down and eat the food my wife left for it. And nearby, sits a mourning dove, so much a part of the branch I at first didn’t see him or her or them. Her presence is more beautiful than any work of art, although many artists would love to paint what I now see.

 

So many of us want to return to a different season, a time without at least the inhumanity and destruction of Putin’s war against Ukraine. We want to return to relating to other people without masks, or not worrying about breathing in the air from another person’s mouth or wondering if our trip to the grocery store would result in sickness.

 

We want to return to stable supply lines for food and other necessities and no inflation. We want to return to a time, or maybe create a time, that we see a sustainable, enjoyable future ahead of us. We want to think our financial well-being assured.

 

Or we want to feel the possibility of our rights protected. Our voice not only heard but honored. And justice is, finally, not only possible but a regular occurrence. That the blatant assault on the desire for democracy, real democracy, by the followers of DJT and Putin and white nationalists and others is ended, replaced by a drive toward increasing voting rights and protections. And we want to end the continuing concentration of wealth.

 

Much of this got relatively better with the election of Biden and Harris. At least the possibility of things getting better, of reason, caring, is present. But the concentration of wealth is getting worse, not better, along with the lies, hate, and support of malignant autocrats by much of the GOP. All we need do is listen to the racism implicit in the GOP questioning of Ketanji Brown Jackson to understand what their party represents.

 

We want to free our nation of the racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, anti-LGBTQ+ etc., of the hate that drives too much of our society.

 

We want to end the anxiety over climate change, of the increasingly destructive weather: tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, and drought.

 

But this is our world right now. There is so much and so many to mourn. We can’t crave what we remember as “normal” in the past, because what was normal and good for one was not such for others. We want something fairer and more stable. So many of us care about all these issues but feel that caring hurts too much. Is too painful. We feel facing it means no more joy, no love, no companionship. And yet, we know if we turn away, it will only get worse….

 

*To read the whole post, please go to The Good Men Project.

Life Is Our Question

Right now, we are inundated with so many questions. So much uncertainty, fear, and grief. So much awareness of how tenuous life is without an equal awareness of how to face the tenuous. The fragile. The uncertain.

 

We often want to return to at least a semblance of stability. Security. We want answers. Sometimes, like for many of us, right now life can be too much. And all too often, the answers we search for are delayed or too difficult to uncover. And living in a state of questioning is uncomfortable. It is also uncomfortable to go through our day or at night to sleep with our questions as our bedmate. But often, that is the only answer. To just sit, sleep, ache with our questions. Or be grateful for the fact that we can ask them.

 

The poet Rainer Maria Rilke said, in answering a letter from a young poet, to “be patient to all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves.” The point is to “live the questions” so at some point we can live our way to an answer.

 

He was mainly concerned with love relationships, creativity, and integrity. But I think this advice applies to all questions that could change the direction of our lives and heart.

 

One of my favorite contemporary philosophers, Jacob Needleman, developed this further and wrote: “Our culture has generally tended to [try to] solve its problems without experiencing its questions.” We want a solution quickly, even before we feel the full dimension of what we face. We too often want what’s easy and immediate.

 

But rushing for an answer forces us to leave out what could be most important, and to favor what’s “practical” over what’s compassionate, our bias over reality. It weakens us just when life is trying to teach us how to be strong.

 

I noticed when I was teaching secondary school that the students loved to grapple, in the classroom, with real, tough, open-ended questions. But with adult friends and relatives, not so much. Finding solutions was preferred over asking questions that might have no verbalizable answer. Needleman said that when we open any newspaper, or today, look at our phones, and we see every news item breathes philosophy. Breathes deep questions. Ethical. Existential. Metaphysical. Epistemological.

 

We read about Putin’s war against Ukraine and ask about the nature of evil, or human nature, or⎼ how do we stop a war? We read about the climate crisis and ask about reliable evidence, truth, or ⎼ how do we get people to realize this crisis is so real we must stop and change what we’re doing?

 

We read about racism, attacks on LGBTQ+ children, and so many other forms of hate, and ask⎼ How do we talk to a neighbor who hates so deeply they create violent walls around everyone they know? Or we read about the pandemic or attacks on women’s health and ask⎼ How do we turn the richest society in the world to one that actively cares for the health of its members?…

 

**To read the whole article, please click on this link to The Good Men Project.

Collective Trauma Will Only Be Solved by a New Dawn of Compassionate Action

 

President Biden is sometimes criticized for not helping Ukraine get fighter jets from Poland, or for not pushing NATO to establish a no-fly zone over the country so Russian jets can’t bomb and strafe the Ukrainian people. Biden says he can’t risk escalating the conflict and starting a World War, but critics maintain we’re already at war and so should go further in supporting Ukraine.

 

But the strategies endorsed by some critics would mean NATO pilots either flying jets to Ukraine or flying over the country and could result in NATO, including Americans, shooting it out with Russians. Maybe, they think, we should just bomb Russian troop convoys and artillery.

 

Where is the line between helping an invaded nation and going to war alongside it? Or where should it be? What constitutes enough of a motivation to risk World War? To risk nuclear war? Does anything warrant that risk? Talk about an environmental crisis.

 

The President is expertly weaving a very fine line here. He has moved that line as he has led NATO to come together like it hasn’t before.

 

The World is not at war. Ukraine is at war with Russia, or with Putin. Ukraine is being attacked. The Ukrainians are dying. The Russians are losing not only in world opinion but often in the ground war and so are purposely targeting the civilian population. Ukraine’s cities are being destroyed. Their democracy as well as their homes, bombed. The rest of Europe, the U. S., most of the world is not.

 

Yes, Russia, especially, has facilitated cyber-attacks against us, against our elections and businesses. But so has China, North Korea, other autocrats. Yes, our sense of humanity is at war and our nation is divided against itself. Yet, we are, or most of us are, relatively safe.

 

Yes, we are paying higher gas prices. We face shortages. We face rising anxiety and fear. We face a constant news assault on our sense of shared humanity. On our future. But we are not facing bombs. Disinformation bombs. Yes. New strains of COVID. Yes. Organized hate and 5 years of assaults on our rights. Yes. On our education systems. We are facing a climate emergency. And now, this war against a people, a nation, against democracy.

 

That is where we need to put our effort. Into strengthening our humanitarian work, into helping Ukraine defend itself and into stopping autocracy here as well as Ukraine.

 

If we think we are at war, now, in most of Europe and the US, as many say we are; if we stop maintaining a conceptual as well as physical line between supporting the Ukrainian war effort and refugees and actively, militarily fighting Putin, then we are lost. We must find other ways to oppose autocracy and stop the killing.

 

Putin’s War can show us what we might face if we don’t do whatever we need to do, not only to stop Putin, but stop autocrats in this country, too. If we say we are militarily at war with Russia now we might create the false impression that we can go on with a relatively normal life while autocrats are attacking us⎼ or if Putin and those who support him, like DJT and other GOP, continue their attacks. That is a dangerous idea.

 

Every time we see it in the news, we might imagine ourselves being bombed. And this empathy might actually help us take appropriate action⎼ as long as we can also let it go. We also need to be able to find moments of peace in ourselves. When we respond to a crisis with inertia, we seed anxiety. When we respond with compassion and action, we seed a sense of agency. Strength. We respond more fully, think more clearly, and feel more alive. Feel more powerful.

 

We need a new dawn of caring. Of compassionate leaders. Of listening and collective action. This is what will, hopefully, save us all. We can diminish the collective trauma here by using mindfulness and studying ourselves, psychology, philosophy, history to uncover and dissolve the hidden pain, hooks, biases, and expectations that autocrats use to seize our attention, manipulate, and hurt us even more. We can send resources to Ukraine and help get out the vote here. And we can find our own ways to care for our families and neighbors, be creative, join hands with others, and stand up together to end this war.

 

 

*This post was syndicated by The Good Men Project.

 

The Power that Liberates vs the Power that Corrupts: The Skills Needed to Obtain Power and Lead Effectively are the Ones Most Likely to Deteriorate Once We Have Power

What is the root of real power, power that is consistent with having a satisfying life? That inspires others? That makes us effective leaders?

The people of Ukraine especially, but really the whole world, have been suffering due to political leaders like Putin and DJT politicians whose idea of leadership is to center power on themselves alone. Too many people have this maladaptive idea that only by being selfish and ruthless can we be an effective ruler. Some even think that only by being ruthless can we succeed in making the world a better place.

I was just re-reading two articles from the May/June, 2017, Scientific American Mind that clearly show research on power proves the opposite to be true. The first is about the psychological effects of power on the powerful, and that one of many reasons the common idea of power is maladaptive is because it can undermine the motivation by ethical and empathic people to want to take political action. The second article is on self-compassion.

The British politician and historian, Lord John Acton, has often been quoted as saying: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power to corrupt absolutely.” He was mostly speaking of Popes, Roman Emperors, and absolute monarchs, but he could be speaking of Presidents.

In an article called Power Moves: Success Changes How People Think and Act—Often, But Not Always, For the Worse, psychologist and science writer Theodor Schaarschmidt asks if the corrupting influences of power are real and attributable to the mere fact of having power? Or is it that ruthless people are the ones most likely to search for power to begin with? The article discusses psychologist Susan Fiske’s research—as people gain influence, they change. They act with less empathy and with a reduced concern for details.

In general, those in powerful positions tend to overestimate their skills, take greater risks, think in terms of stereotypes, and ignore outside viewpoints. The more power they get, the fewer social norms they tend to follow. They can become “Machiavellian” and disregard moral or even legal limits and feel free to use others in the pursuit of their own status and advantage. Schaarschmidt cites research by psychologist Kibeom Lee showing that when Machiavellian traits combine with narcissism and psychopathy, people act with less honesty and humility.

At first glance, it might seem from this research that empathy is somehow in opposition to the sense of agency and motivation to assume power. However, in his book The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence, psychologist Dacher Keltner says it is social intelligence, or the power to understand, value and advance the goals of others, that yields true power; and it is involved in every relationship and interaction. Without this social intelligence we tend to act like patients who have damaged their brain’s orbitofrontal lobes (the parts of the brain critical to empathy and socially appropriate behavior)….

 

*To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.

 

**This article is an update and re-write of an earlier piece I wrote, https://irarabois.com/power-liberates-vs-power-corrupts/

https://archetypeinaction.com/index.php/en/more-tools-to-change-society/162-politics-a-rhetoric2/political-psychology/4770-the-power-that-liberates-vs-the-power-that-corrupts

A Crazy Dream: When We Teeter on the Edge Between Depression and Hopefulness

I am dreaming that what seemed impossible yesterday will be possible tomorrow. Or as Anne Applebaum put it in her recent article in the Atlantic, the Impossible Suddenly Became Possible. People are waking up to the fact that war can still happen, yet we can and we must not only save Ukraine but save and expand democracy.

 

On February 28, Ali Velshi, substituting for Joy Reid on the MSNBC program the ReidOut, discussed results unexpected by Putin, and maybe by many of us. He didn’t expect President Zelensky of Ukraine to be such a determined, inspiring leader. He didn’t expect so many Ukrainian civilians to take up arms. Didn’t expect university students, bartenders, common citizens to make Molotov cocktails in their classrooms, bars and homes. He didn’t expect ordinary Ukrainians to sit down in front of tanks. He didn’t expect thousands to protest in Russian cities, and cities throughout the world. He didn’t expect former Soviet satellite states like Belarus, or Hungary, to refuse to send troops or support him, but instead to speak out against him. To help isolate him.

 

He didn’t expect Russian troops to surrender their arms and admit to reporters they were told they were being sent on maneuvers or a peacekeeping mission, not being asked to kill fellow Balkans. He didn’t see NATO coming together after his protégé, DJT, did all he could to undermine or destroy US alliances with other democracies.

 

All through the world, as well as here in the U. S., people who want to live in a democracy, who were shocked by DJT, GOP attacks on voting rights, white nationalist violence, COVID, global warming, economic insecurity into being afraid or hopeless saw what we dreaded most played out. Putin made them see, made us see, what we could lose. Made us see what might happen if we did not act. If we got so caught up in ourselves that we forgot that we share this world, this suffering, this love of life with others, billions of others. We realized if we hadn’t already done so⎼ we cannot allow the forces of autocracy to be emboldened any further.

 

In-between the perception that something is wrong, and the action taken to stop it is a gigantic space, and an opportunity we all have, to find our communion with others. To find our power. To find the way that we, the unique people that we are, to act, to help, to speak. Seeing what the Ukrainians are facing and doing can inspire us to act. But will we act?

 

Yet, as Dana Milbank put it in a Washington Post article, Republicans are so eager to see Biden fail, so eager to undermine democracy, they act in ways that help Putin succeed. Act in ways that threaten not only Ukrainians, and other Europeans, but us. Here, in the U. S. They are supporting an autocratic ruler who is causing an unknown number of deaths and, so far, almost one million refugees with the goal of destroying a nation’s freedom and way of life.

 

There is the popular expression about using a carrot or a stick to get people to learn, or to act ⎼ using praise or blame, prizes or threats, inspiration or fear. Due to the awful conditions we face right now and might face later, from COVID, climate change, white nationalists, and Putin⎼ this is the stick. We can see what we fear happening here or everywhere. But there’s also the carrot, the opportunity, the prize. But this prize is not something someone else gives us but one we give ourselves. We get stronger. We get closer to others. More compassionate. We build a better society.

 

Because of Putin we might be shocked into action. Because of the Ukrainian people, we might be inspired.

 

As Heather Cox Richardson put it, “…Ukrainian resistance to Russian president Vladimir Putin, supported by the cooperation of the U.S. and European allies and partners in strangling Russia’s economic system, was forging a global alliance against the authoritarianism that has been growing in power around the world.” It’s time to join that resistance. To speak out in support of, to send aid, money, supplies to Ukraine.

 

As I fear what the Ukrainian people are facing, and teeter on an edge between depression and hopefulness, it is beginning to seem more possible that we can build a resistance and maybe create a better world for us to live in. We can build or actualize a love for this world. I hope I’m not just dreaming.

 

 

**Many people and organizations are working to aid the people of Ukraine and stop not only Putin but international and American forces of autocracy. One list of organizations to support is provided by Timothy Snyder, historian, and author of On Tyranny. You can also read his newsletter on Ukraine. Charity Navigator is another resource.

 

***This article was syndicated by The Good Men Project. Please go to this link.