Money, Hate and Fear: When Too Much Goes to Too Few

Yesterday, 20 people were killed, 26 injured, in El Paso, Texas, previously one of the safest cities in the U. S.. In Dayton, Ohio ⎼ nine dead. The previous Saturday, in Gilroy, California, 3 dead. According to the New York Times, there have been 32 different incidents of mass shootings this year. According to the Gun Violence Archive, in the last 216 days, 251 people were killed in incidents of mass shootings.

 

And who are the people doing this killing? In most cases, at least the ones with hate as a motive, it is white men. According to the Mother Jones archive, of the last 22 mass shootings, 21 were by men, 13 were definably white. According to the New York Times, the El Paso murderer considered Hispanic immigrants a threat to whites. He joins a long line of white nationalist murderers, from El Paso, to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Christchurch, New Zealand, Munich, Germany, and Norway.

 

But who is responsible for fueling this hate? One obvious answer, in the US, is the President who speaks with hate and incites it. He called immigrants and asylum seekers at our border an invasion, of rapists and criminals, and just recently attacked an American city as a “disgusting, rat infested, mess” and attacked the African-American Democratic Congressman from that city.  According to an analysis by the Washington Post, in 2016 the counties in the US that held T rallies experienced a 226% increase in hate crimes compared to counties that held no such rally.

 

According to the manifesto of the shooter in El Paso, Texas, he was not originally inspired by the President’s rhetoric; but since his language mirrors the President’s, he was emboldened by it. According to the Intercept and other sources, so was the MAGABomber, and the Neo Nazis murderer of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia, etc. Many Democrats, including Beto O’Rourke and Bernie Sanders, have laid some blame clearly on the President. 2016 was the only year on record before 2019 with more domestic mass shooting deaths than days and 2019 is on track to eclipse 2016 by far.

 

The other fuel for hate is greed and money. The people who have been killed are the victims not only of hate being used to gain political power, but of too much money in politics. The Citizens United Supreme Court decision of 2010 allowed corporations and unions to spend freely on elections, and reinforced the fiction of corporate personhood. It released corporations and the super-rich from most restrictions on the buying of politicians. It said that corporations, like people, have the right of free speech. And making political contributions was a form of protected speech, not to be restricted.

 

Combine this with the increasing concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands and you have a Congress incapable of governing and of enacting laws to protect our nation. America’s wealthiest 20 people own more wealth than the bottom half the population, own more than 152,000,000 people combined. This great wealth gives a few people the means to out speak thousands, even millions, of voters.

 

Hate and money are fueling what Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg called a “national security emergency.” Another Presidential candidate, Elizabeth Warren, spoke about gun manufacturers owning Washington. But it is not just the NRA and gun manufacturers whose unfettered lust for great profits contributes to hundreds of American lives lost each year. The concentration of wealth and the power it bestows on a few people is killing us and undermining any chance of democracy.

 

And then there’s climate change, also exacerbated by the ignorance of consequences caused by the lust for profit and leading not only to the loss of thousands of lives and billions of dollars in economic losses, but an existential threat to human civilization.

 

In order to save our nation (and world), end the violence and the social disintegration it can cause, and create an economy and political system “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” we must begin by demanding that our politicians work to control gun violence and limit the power of money in politics. Then we can begin to work on hate and more systemic changes.

 

When so much goes to so few the rest feel ⎼ and are ⎼ excluded, whether we understand what is happening or not. Democrats will only win when they speak to these realities, and the fears and outrage they cause, in a way most can understand. They must counter the fear with hope grounded in a sincere concern and understanding of others and the threats we face. This is how they, or we, win the next election and expel hate from office.

 

This post has been syndicated by the Good Men Project.

A New Vision of Education?

Is the Democratic Party changing its orientation and recognizing its mistakes in education and other policies? According to Jeff Bryant, in a blog for the Education Opportunity Network, a new “populist wing” of the Democratic Party is beginning to gather momentum. If you can, read the blog. In the early 1990s, the Clinton administration helped shift party philosophy and policies to be more “centrist,” more driven by the interests of Wall Street and less by the welfare of organized labor and other members of the “working” versus managing class. However, lately the centrist policies have been exposed as disastrous. More and more people are becoming aware of how standardized testing, rating teachers based on those tests and giving public money to privately owned Charter Schools has undermined public education instead of improving it. Recently, Hillary Clinton spoke out against tying teacher evaluations to standardized tests. The candidacy of Bernie Sanders along with, I think, the opt-out movement against standardized testing, the Black Lives Matter and the earlier Occupy Wall Street movements are also partly responsible for this shift in philosophy. These populist democrats recognize that how you assess students (and teachers) shapes what is taught and how it is taught. That you can’t end inequity by threatening teachers working in disadvantaged schools and neighborhoods to do better, not without improving the overall economic situation of the people in those neighborhoods. You have to commit the resources to actually improve the economic situation. And you can’t improve education by thinking of students as products and education as a profit-making industry.

 

The struggle in the party is a struggle throughout the nation and the world, to develop a deeper vision of humanity, one with heart. It is a struggle between those who see students as future employees and as resources instead of feeling beings living their lives; who see education as a way to make money and “add value” to students as if they, we, didn’t have value otherwise. Children are not in school to learn to meet the needs of employers. They are people with desires and dreams, with social, emotional, as well as intellectual needs of their own. The struggle over the overwhelming power of money to influence policy reaches way beyond electing politicians, and any party that calls itself Democratic must confront this power.

 

What happens when students are treated as products, resources or economic entities? For one thing, I think they leave school with a sense that the core of who they are, of their humanity, has been suppressed or ignored, and remains unknown and untapped. They might feel a sense of isolation, emotional pain and anger. They may have little idea of what it means to be a citizen and neighbor. Do we want people to graduate from high school with a good understanding of computer skills, of STEM subjects, but little understanding of their personal needs, emotional nature and how to relate with compassion to others? Uncovering and understanding their own nature and their needs and dreams is thus a necessary part of education. It cannot be eliminated from schools because testing and “limited resources” leave no time for such “non-essentials.” When you think about education, you need to think about what kind of people you want for neighbors and friends, as well as who you’d want as a co-worker or political leader. With the state of the world today, we need good engineers, technicians, and doctors but we also need well-rounded, clear thinking people who understand how interdependent we all are and have the ability and commitment to grapple with the complexity of being human.

 

*The photo is of a mural created by LACS students of teachers as super-heroes.