End the Shocks and Remove the Presidency of Hate: Hopefully, an Administration of Justice, Rationality and Democracy is Coming

I am almost disappointed in the impeachment. Almost. Although there is great hope⎼ ten GOP did vote to impeach DT and President-elect Joe Biden will (hopefully) be inaugurated next week. But DT is still in office, and 197 Republicans, all but 4 of the rest of the GOP in the House, voted against impeachment.

 

Despite being attacked by a mob intent on violence and vengeance against fellow Congress members, and intent on stopping the operation of the Congress to which they belonged, many GOP remained silent or even tried to deny or cover-up DT’s role in the violence.

 

Some claimed impeachment would make matters worse, totally ignoring the deleterious effect of the continued lies about stealing an election and the incitements to further violence by DT and other members of their own party.  A few, like Rep Matt Gaetz of Florida, tried to equate the Black Lives Matter protests and the Capitol assault, equate protests over the murder of African-Americans with a deadly attack on the government of the U. S.. The lies and racism supported by these GOP was an assault in itself.

 

Washington Post Columnist Greg Sargent wrote that the GOP claims that impeachment would further divide us is part of an attempt to obscure their guilt, and blame the violence not on the people, like DT, who fueled and directed it, but to a generalized divisiveness. It’s not a generalized anything, but one side, DT’s side, declaring civil war against everyone and anyone who opposes his efforts to steal power for himself.

 

Such statements by the GOP during the impeachment debate followed a week of lies, distortions, and blatant efforts to cover-up DT’s culpability. It began by trying to claim, crazy as it sounds now, that it was members of a non-existent group of Anti-fascists who assaulted the capitol dressed as DT’s supporters. It continued with the Department of Defense creating an official timeline for the public that expurgated all of the actions and incitements by the President and other GOP.

 

The January 6th Assault on the Capitol was the latest in a long line of deliberate shocks administered by the DT administration. The Assault on the Capitol⎼ it sounds like a movie title. From the beginning of his run for office until now, DT has done everything he could to attack democracy, the rule of law, our humanity, our trust in others, our lives, and our hope for the future.

 

He started back in 2015 with racist attacks on President Obama, falsely claiming that if he had lost the 2016 election, it was due to Democrats committing voter fraud, while simultaneously calling for Russia to interfere in the election. He continued to ignore or lie about the threat of COVID while thousands died daily. He made a phone call on 1/02 to threaten a public official into manufacturing votes for him, and later urged on an actual assault on the Capitol building and the Congresspeople meeting in that building.

 

This wasn’t the first time he called for violence. Last year, for example, his comments contributed to attacks on the Michigan statehouse and an attempted kidnapping of the Governor. And he continues to cite malignant, irresponsible falsehoods, deny that he badly lost an election, deny that the only large-scale fraud was committed by him, deny any culpability in violence. According to the Washington Post and other news media, intelligence agencies, Governors, at this moment Right-wing and White Nationalist groups are planning ongoing attacks and a possible disruption of the inauguration all based on the alternate reality DT created for his followers to preserve his power.

 

Is he deliberately trying to use the Shock Doctrine, using “the public’s disorientation following massive collective shocks” to force his way on the American public? Or is he simply shouting, tweeting who he is and spreading his diseased mind?

 

In an article called “What the Science of Addiction Tells Us About Trump,” the author, James Kimmel Jr. describes how the brain of someone who carries a long-term grievance or who desires revenge is like the brain of someone locked into an addiction. Harboring a grievance, defined as a perceived wrong or injustice, real or imagined, activates the same neural circuitry as taking a narcotic.

 

And this revenge addiction can be easily spread. In the case of DT, we have a politics of grievance meant to manipulate feelings of hurt and humiliation into an addiction to hate and a blindness towards the truth, just like a heroin addict might not see the reality of what the drug is doing to them. Kimmel says DT primes our brains for revenge. He is addicted to being aggrieved and blaming others.

 

Racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of hate are not only attempting to hold onto power but are also addictions that undermine or destroy community. They make everyone feel threatened, not only those the hate is aimed at, but those who allow it and those who hold to it.

 

I don’t know if DT is deliberately applying increasing shocks to the citizens of this country (or the world) or it is just his malignant and demented sense of self-importance, but for the health and well-being of all of us, he must be removed from office and his agenda of hate ended. The assaults, and the lies and crimes that incited it, must be investigated and prosecuted not for revenge but to discourage further violence and place justice and the rights and well-being of “we the people” first.

 

We need an inauguration of hope. We need to do all we can to pressure more of the GOP to speak honestly about the election (and COVID), put democracy first, and treat the new Biden Administration as people⎼ if not as partners, then at least not as enemies. We need to pressure 17 GOP Senators to join with Democrats, to remember their oaths, and complete the impeachment.  To protect our voting system and prevent future DT’s. To protect us from the virus, rescue the economy from the super-rich, end institutional racism, and create a more democratic nation.

 

Corona Shock: Getting Perspective and Taking Action to Protect Ourselves and Our Nation

Besides keeping ourselves mentally clear and calm and physically healthy, and helping others do the same, we have to stay informed about what DT is doing to further undermine the health, any remnants of democracy and the security and stability of our nation. After three years of shocks to  our personal emotions, our collective mental health and our political and legal system, almost two months of the coronavirus has changed almost every aspect of our society. So many changes that we can barely digest it.

 

DT did not cause the coronavirus. And our health care system was inequitable, too expensive, cumbersome, etc. even before DT. But so much has been revealed about how his lack of judgement, incompetence and greed has made the crisis even worse.

 

Let’s go back to January 13, 2017, 7 days before DT took office. As Politico reports, DT’s aides, future cabinet members, even a future press secretary, were briefed by President Obama’s aides as part of the transition of power, on topics like preparing for a possible pandemic, and securing funding from Congress to improve our health care system, prepare antivirals, masks, etc. Besides the fact of the instability of the DT administration that has led to about two-thirds of those officials no longer being in their position, there is little evidence that DT took any of the briefing to heart. Susan Rice, who was at the meeting said: “Rather than heed the warnings, embrace the planning and preserve the structures and budgets that had been bequeathed to him, the president ignored the risk of a pandemic.”

 

He further set up this crisis with his tax cuts to the rich passed in 2017. This reduced government income and increased the national debt, thus making the nation more vulnerable and  less able to respond to a crisis such as the one we are in now. He proposed to help pay for these huge handouts to the rich by cutting programs that serve and protect the majority of us, including Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

 

DT and the GOP in general have made us all more vulnerable to a pandemic by wasting government time and resources with their attacks on the Affordable Care Act (Obama-Care) and proposing legislation that helps insurance companies more than the insured. If people cannot afford health care, they might not go for treatment when they feel ill, and thus spread the illness to others.

 

DT’s attitude toward public health could at best be called short-sighted and at worst idiotic and cruel. He proposed cuts to the 2020 and 2021 budgets for the CDC. Cuts to the CDC began in 2018 or earlier, when Obama-era health security funding was cut and the agency ran out of money. According to Fortune Magazine, “Overall in 2018, Trump called for $15 billion in reduced health spending that had previously been approved, …cutting the global disease-fighting budgets of the CDC, National Security Council (NSC), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Health and Human Services (HHS) in the process.” He dismantled the entire White House team in charge of global health security that was also created by Obama. Later, he denied knowing about this cut, but video of his talking about the cut shows that is clearly untrue. He proposed Medicaid cuts to nursing facilities for the elderly.

 

In fact, The Atlantic ran an article about how DT’s response to the Coronavirus insured the worst possible outcome. As the New York Times reports, DT has continuously minimized the scale of the coronavirus crisis, treating it as a foreign threat that could be eliminated by building a wall to keep it out. He has contradicted his own public health officials, by talking about going to work when sick, shaking hands with people on his travels (as if the warning by health officials to wash one’s hands was nonsense), and claiming a vaccine will be available soon when it will take a year or more to produce. He has politicized the crisis while blaming the Democrats for doing so, blaming Obama (again), making false statements about how our previous President handled the swine flu epidemic, implementing rules that made testing more difficult (but never happened).

 

DT claimed that the media coverage is part of a political conspiracy to destroy his presidency. He focused more on creating his wall against the “foreign virus” then getting out the test kits that are needed to actually stem this crisis and find out who and how many people actually have the disease.  In fact, the US is clearly far behind other nations in terms of the numbers of those tested.

 

It is good that DT relatively quickly stopped travel to and from China. It is good that this week he is trying to actually, finally, listen to scientists and speak more moderately in his briefings. But some of his proposals to reduce the crisis and help those of us who are sick or have lost jobs or businesses due to the illness, will make things worse. For example, his proposal to cut Medicare and suspend the payroll tax will further hurt those most vulnerable in this crisis. Suspending the payroll tax could undermine SSI while doing nothing to help people who have lost their jobs or businesses due to the virus. If you have no paycheck, a suspension of the tax does nothing for you. It predominantly helps the wealthy. Also, his cuts in the food stamp program and proposed cuts in sick leave will only worsen the situation.

 

And his constant lies, not only about the coronavirus but almost everything, the disinformation campaign propagated by his followers, and his attempts to gag health officials, scientists and others, makes the crisis worse because we can’t trust anything he says.

 

And remember: this crisis began just after DT interfered in the Roger Stone sentencing, fired the former acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire (after he had his aides brief Congress on Russia’s threat to our next election), and replaced him with a DT loyalist. He is clearly trying to turn the intelligence community into an agency to serve his personal political interest, not the nation’s, as he already did at the DOJ. We could go on and on describing his attempts to undermine the rule of law and what’s left of democracy in this nation.

 

We need, once again, to make calls to Congress. We can’t have big protests, due to the virus, only persistent little ones. But we can call and demand investment in health and other infrastructure⎼ we need health care for all, better and free testing, money targeted to assist those most in need, not further entitlements for the rich. A check for a thousand dollars might be nice, helpful for many of us, but will be a bitter pill to swallow by those who lose their food stamps, Medicare, Social Security, hospital bed, or life.

 

 

Here are a few phone numbers of Democratic Senators: NY Dems: Schumer: 202-224-6542 & 212-486-4430, Gillibrand: 202-224-4451. Others: Doug Jones, Al. 202-224-4124; Joe Manchin, W. VA. 202-224-3954; Krysten Sinema, AR: 202-224-4521.

GOP: Lamar Alexander: 202-224-4944, Cory Gardner: 202-224-5941, Mitt Romney: 202-224-5251, Susan Collins: 202-224-2523, Lisa Murkowski: 202-224-6665, Portman: 202-224-3353, Ben Sasse: 202-224-4224, Mike Lee: 202-224-5444.

Dem House: Nancy Pelosi: 202-225-4965

Steny Hoyer: 202-225-4131

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Healing Cries of Outrage and Compassion

So much has happened in the last week or more. So much cruelty, so many lies. Yet, the hearts of many have awoken, have reached a point where mutual feeling and compassion has overcome fear or disbelief or inertia and has led so many to speak out. It feels like, or maybe I am just hoping, that the opposition to T is growing and will continue to grow.

 

T’s policy toward immigrants, of separating children from their parents so their pain will scare others away from our borders, is not only so inhumane and cruel I can barely stand to think about it, but ignorant in terms of the long range effects of this policy. If our borders are marked with red in the hearts of so many, then we, as a people and a nation, are marked with red, like targets. Like a cruel threat to eliminate. As an immoral nation. It is unbelievably costly in terms of human suffering. It is costly in terms of the money spent in building and staffing the prisons to hold the people, and providing judges to judge them, food to feed and doctors to care for them (and hopefully that will get such care).

 

And it is based on so many lies. As most of us know, and despite T’s statements and tweets to the contrary, undocumented immigrants from the south, and elsewhere, are less likely to commit a crime than US citizens. The border, despite T’s claims, has not been overrun by illegals, certainly not more than in past years.

 

T claims his policy is nothing new. President Obama supposedly did it. Democrats passed a law to do it. And he’s helpless to stop it. Congress must stop it. Then a few days later, he signs an executive order claiming to do just what he said he couldn’t do. Of course, the order, in effect, is almost as cruel as the policy it claims to end. It creates more chaos and does nothing to help re-unite parents with the children the government ripped away.

 

Of course, Obama did not have a policy of separating children from the parents of asylum seekers or immigrants as a way to scare away other immigrants. Of course, Democrats passed no law forcing T to separate children from parents.

 

Friends have cautioned me to look behind the headlines. Whenever T does something spectacularly awful, something else awful is hiding in the shadows, or something threatening to T is being hidden. It is painful to say this, but T is ripping children from their parents not only as a way to satisfy his political base and his own base instincts. He is hiding the fact he is ripping off social welfare and health care programs from most Americans as well as hiding his own possibly treasonous and criminal activities.

 

So, while many of us are focusing on the cruelty being done to immigrants, the GOP, on Tuesday, 6/19, quietly passed through a House committee a budget proposal that would fast track large cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, as well as education and other programs that actually serve most Americans, all to finance continued tax cuts to the rich. This proposal is expected to pass the House—unless there is a public outcry.

 

On Thursday, they released a plan to reorganize the federal government, and cut programs like food stamps. It would combine the education and labor departments and give private industry a more direct role in the government. This could, for example, undermine the teaching of the humanities and redirect education to be totally concerned with one goal —providing labor to corporate interests. It could undermine the power of workers in general and the enforcement of civil rights in schools.

 

However, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort remains in jail, a judge ruled that the evidence seized by the FBI from his office can be used in his trial, and new evidence has been uncovered of Trump advisers like Roger Stone meeting with Russian agents.

 

What is heartening is the outcry. Millions of Americans are calling Congress, and as Rachel Maddow revealed in a story on Thursday, 6/21, lawyers are organizing to defend, pro bono, federal officials who refuse to “follow orders” on immigration.  Multiple states are suing the T administration to stop his immigration policy. And millions of dollars have been raised in just a few days to provide legal assistance to the parents and children separated at the border.

 

Even more, the number of people who are ready to enter politics to defend America from the racism, sexism, etc., criminality, greed, and shortsightedness that this administration represents has increased dramatically this year. Over the last week, I have attended a fundraiser and/or donated to two amazing people who are running for office. One is a friend, Michael Lausell, who is running for the New York Senate in district 58. The other, a former student and graduate from the Lehman Alternative Community School, Satya Rhodes-Conway, is running for Mayor of Madison, Wisconsin. And five people are competing in the Democratic primary in New York’s 23rd district to unseat T supporter Tom Reed. I have met and talked to two of the candidates at different political demonstrations and think both are worthy of my vote (Max Della Pia and Tracy Mitrano).

 

I just hope that all those who oppose and are outraged by this immigration policy, as well as the GOP tax policy, can keep in mind that our differences are less important than what we share ⎼ our humanity, and the drive to unseat T and his whole administration. To protect our environment and create a democratic government that works for and looks to promote the rights, freedom, education, and quality of life of the great majority of people in this nation.

 

**There is a New York primary on Tuesday, June 26th.

***And remember to make calls and speak up against this immigration policy and against cutting Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security in order to continue to finance tax cuts for the rich. On Saturday, June 30th, there will be demonstrations all over the nation to support immigrants. In Ithaca, the demonstration will be on the Commons, at 11:00 am.

Without Empathy and Feeling, Thinking Suffers

All too often, people forget or fail to understand how feeling, particularly feeling empathy, is necessary for clear thinking. Empathy aids thinking in two ways. It allows you to more fully understand a person or phenomena, as in “putting yourself in the shoes of another.” And to think clearly, you must think with less bias and distortion from your own likes and dislikes; empathy can actually counteract this distortion.

 

To think, you need relevant information and ways to organize, “view,” and explain that information. But information remains just random words unless you connect to it. You need feeling to derive meaning and you need to “put yourself in another person’s shoes” in order to understand what standing in their shoes is like. You can’t understand a time in history unless you imaginatively, with feeling, put yourself there. In a similar way, you can’t really understand a mathematical formula or scientific theory unless you can use it and conceptualize the consequences of applying it. And to do that, you need to think from the perspective on the world that the formula or theory implies. If you are to answer questions and solve problems regarding the world around you, you need to “open to” others and your world, as well as see the world from their perspective. You need this “felt relationship.”

 

This “felt relationship” is empathy and compassion (and imagination). Psychologist Paul Ekman describes three forms of empathy. There’s “cognitive empathy” or an ability to read the mental state and emotional expression of another person. Then there’s “feeling with” or care for, the other. A sociopath might be able to read emotion but not feel for the other. Compassion takes this further, to the point where caring and feeling propel action. Compassion is the felt awareness of interdependence with others and caring enough to act in response to that felt awareness.

 

James Austin, a clinical neurologist and Zen meditator, discusses how, when you practice empathy and compassion, you use more “selfless” pathways in the brain. This provides a natural counter-balance to the distortion of likes and dislikes. When you perceive a blackberry bush, for example, you need to see it both from its’ position relative to you (which uses dorsal, top-down brain pathways) and see the bush itself in relation to other bushes and trees (ventral, bottom-up pathways). This ventral pathway asks “What is it?” or “What does it mean?” in comparison to the dorsal asking, “How does it relate to me?” Even at this basic level of perception, you need both perspectives.

 

We need to value, “feel for,” both perspectives. But much of our society teaches only the value of “self-knowing.” Self is defined only as what distinguishes and separates us from others. The result, according to many researchers, is a one-sided and isolated sense and concept of self and increasing narcissism. Even President Obama, in several speeches, warned that our society is developing an empathy deficit disorder. This one-sided knowing, and intellectual and emotional attachment to a concept of an isolated sense of self, leads people to defensively react to any appearance of a threat, even one not to the bodily self and world, but only to the concept of a separated self. This can undermine the sense of society as a relationship of all its members. It is one reason why schools must include not just an education in reasoning and memory, but feeling and empathy. When the conceptual framework of a culture devalues empathy and an understanding of the role of feeling, we’re in trouble.

 

Many students come to class and argue that empathy and compassion don’t really exist. They say that humans act compassionately only out of self-interest. Some teachers argue the same. Acting with compassion and empathy is in your self-interest. It helps immune response and improves emotional well-being. According to James Austin, it also leads to more effortless learning, especially when sustained attention is required. But all of these goodies are undermined if the outwardly appearing act of compassion or altruism is done with self-interest in mind. The intention to act with the other’s welfare in mind is what leads to the positive rewards.

 

So, what can schools do? Teachers can model empathy. Mathieu Ricard, biologist, author, and Buddhist monk, cites a great deal of research to show that when teachers practice and act with empathy and compassion and establish a personal relationship with students, student learning improves, violence and absenteeism goes down.

 

Teachers need to point out that when you disagree with others, it’s easy to think your viewpoint is the “right” one. You might look down on your “opponents” and think you know something they don’t. If only they knew what you knew, they would “repent.” In Aristotelian logic, something is either true or false. It can’t be both. So, if this “other” view is correct, that means your view is incorrect. And most people I know don’t like being “wrong” or being looked down upon.

 

You can directly develop compassion through meditation practices. You can also start by mindfully noticing your thoughts and the story you are creating in your mind. Realize that as you are thinking of your “opponent,” she or he is thinking of you. Your viewpoint of this person, or of whatever question you are discussing, no matter how deep, can never encompass the reality of the person or question. So, hold your viewpoints with some lightness or humor and this will leave room for others to enter.

 

When you feel an emotional response to what another person says, or you are unclear about what was actually said, ask: “Can you repeat what you said and clarify what you meant? What was your line of reasoning?” One of the most valuable lessons hopefully taught in a class is how to learn, understand, and change. When you face a viewpoint that is different from your own, take it as an opportunity to learn, not a threat.

 

So, when you run into what you perceive as a threatening idea, or when you don’t understand someone, take a breath. Notice what you’re feeling. Breathe in the sense that this is another person you are speaking with, not a lifeless concept. Feel the fact that the person might be feeling something just like you; you feel you have the correct view, she might feel the same. Maybe he is feeling scared or defensive. As you breathe out relax, look at the other person, and only then begin to speak. Empathy and feeling will contribute to clear thinking. And you and the other person will then meet.