Being Ready to Stand Up and Speak Out: Vote and Turn the Tide

Last Wednesday, DT issued a sweeping executive order to strip career federal employees of their civil service protections. I didn’t hear about this until Saturday afternoon. Amidst so much news, about the pandemic, polls on the last debate, the GOP disenfranchising voters while abusing their power in the Senate in order to turn a sycophant judge into a justice, and the election⎼ this move by DT went almost unnoticed.

 

I doubt what he did is legal, but that hasn’t stopped him before. What this order does is allow him to dismiss, without any cause or recourse, anyone in the bureaucracy involved in helping make public policy. He is invalidating laws and policies meant to protect these workers and the integrity of government operations and the rule of law and making the federal bureaucracy totally dependent on one man for their job. And their job would no longer be to serve the American people and this nation, but to serve DT. The federal bureaucracy would join the DOJ and the Supreme Court as a division of the DT Empire. We can’t allow this to happen.

 

And this follows years of him firing any head of a government agency, including the FBI, or any Inspector General that could hold him accountable.

 

DT has talked about voting as an “honor,” not a right protected by the constitution. On several occasions, including the first debate with Joe Biden, he speculated he possibly would not honor election results (or repudiate the white supremacists who support him). He earlier threatened to withhold government funding to Democratic states which allow those fearful of getting COVID-19 to request mail-in ballots, and has called for indicting and imprisoning not just Hillary Clinton (“Lock Her Up”) but any political rival, or anyone who protests for justice or against him. This is a president who, at a rally in Wisconsin on Sunday, stood not before the American flag but the “thin blue line” flag that has become a symbol not as much for law enforcement but racism enforcement. So we oppose him.

 

Our legal system has favored the white and rich forever. There was always a “two-tier” system, one law for whites and one for people of color⎼ one for the wealthy, and one for the rest of us. In fact, the legal system might be doing what it was intended to do⎼ protect the position and property of the white and rich.  But there was still a principle of rule by law, not by the whim of people in power. The legal system might have even been improving due to the justice and civil rights movement that began in the mid-1950s, and due to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But no more. Not since the Supreme Court in 2013 nullified the most important protections in that act; not since the Citizens United decision in 2012 allowed the rich to exert overpowering influence in our elections, and certainly not since DT’s assumption of office.

 

Most of us understand how dangerous the situation is right now. We have seen or heard about other nations where no one but the rich and connected can depend on the government, to get permits, passports⎼ anything. Where paying bribes or depending on the pressure of the influential is commonplace. If DT is allowed to continue as he has, our laws and environmental regulations will be used even more not to serve the community but those in power. This is where we’re headed. The level of corruption in this administration was frightening even before his order to remove civil service protections. He campaigned on draining the swamp, but instead he’s stuffed it so full it’s flooding the nation. So we oppose him….

 

And we must vote. Vote early, if possible. If not, we can vote on the third of November and bring friends, neighbors, and family (in a safe manner) with us. Dress up in Revolutionary War costumes. Make it a neighborhood event. But vote. On Tuesday, the whole political landscape could drastically change. This is our opportunity to turn the tide and stop the devastation wrought by DT….

 

To read the whole post, go to The Good Men Project which also published it.

 

 

Using Humor to Take Down A Wannabee Dictator: The Importance of Joy and Playfulness in Our Lives Today

We hear that Joe Biden is ahead from 3 to 12 points in almost every national poll and we want to jump for joy and act silly. But we know we can’t trust polls. His victory won’t happen unless we make it happen.

 

Other than polls, there is little in the news to bring most of us joy, not after we hear about a plot by white militias to kidnap, maybe murder, Gretchen Whitmer, a sitting Democratic Governor, attack police and incite a civil war.  Not after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg⎼ and instead of passing legislation to help the millions suffering from the pandemic, the GOP in the Senate rush to replace her with a sycophant judge and turn the Supreme Court into an extension of DT’s court. Not after over 219,541 deaths and when 28 states are experiencing a spike or second wave of the coronavirus. And instead of leading the nation in dealing with the pandemic, DT leads the nation in trying to hide and deny it.

 

DT claims to be the “the most perfect person”, “an extremely stable genius” but he is the liar-in-chief, more like a red-faced, malignant ostrich with sticky hands trying to hide his head not in the sand but in a tv set. He has assaulted almost every aspect of this nation, from Social Security, Medicare, the USPS, school children, workers, especially those who are brown and black, the air we breathe and water we drink, our right to protest for justice or to vote.

 

Considering all this, who has the inclination or energy for joy? It would be inconsiderate, or sacrilegious. Fear, depression, anger and outrage seem more appropriate.

 

Or anxiety. I am so anxious about the election I can barely stand it. But we need relief, ways to relax and let our minds clear, and mindfulness and nature walks can only do so much. This is true not only at home, to keep our relationships with family and friends fresh and caring⎼ but also so we aren’t manipulated by DT’s tweets, lies and actions, which are often based on, or are the source for, Russian disinformation. I’m surprised he hasn’t developed a Russian accent. Especially after an unwatchable “debate”, humor can release us from fear and introduce us to compassion. It can help us more clearly perceive our ties to others, our power, and better understand the necessity and the means to act effectively.

 

For the first few years of the DT era, comedians were a prime source of humor and relief. Jimmy Kimmel and other late night comedians helped influence the effective fight against the GOP attack on our health care in 2017 (although there were some who blamed comedians for making the divisiveness in this nation worse. Humor can be used to oversimplify and obscure, as well as to grasp the complex and reveal what is hidden. Intent is important.)

 

In the 9/26 Sunday New York Times, Nicholas Kristof wrote a piece called “To Beat Trump, Mock Him. The lesson from pro—democracy fighters abroad: Humor deflates authoritarian rulers.” Before DT, we in the U. S. didn’t have much experience confronting authoritarian rulers and so are often stumped about what to do to hold DT accountable. The more normal frontal attacks, and revelations of his corruption and malignant actions don’t work as we expect. As Kristof points out, the impeachment hearings seemed to elevate him in the polls….

 

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

Go Vote! And Consider What It Means To Be Free

We use the word all the time and often get worked up over it, so what does ‘freedom’ mean to you? The meaning has varied greatly amongst different people and times in history. For the early Romans, ‘freedom’ meant not being a slave, or being ruled by a Roman, not an Etruscan. Later on, it meant they could choose the rich Roman to rule them. At the height of Athenian democracy, it meant you could choose not only the rulers but the rules, and any citizen could be a ruler for a day (or lead the Assembly or Athenian Congress), but women and slaves were excluded from such freedoms.

 

Does freedom only involve political choices? Are you free if you can vote for someone to hopefully represent your interests, but in other areas of your life, choices are greatly limited?

 

Is having a choice the only criteria of freedom? My philosophy professor in college, Frithjof Bergmann, asked: What if you have many choices but none of them are meaningful ones? You can chose from twenty or a hundred cell phones or shirts, but none of them are what you really want or none satisfy the deep hunger in you. Or, is it free if you have ten insurance companies to choose from, but you can’t afford any of them, or can’t afford any that provide reasonable coverage? Or is it free if you have only one choice, but it’s a good one? And what if you have hundreds of choices of what to buy, yet the use of resources to provide such a selection shortens your lifespan or shortens the lifespan of humans on the planet?

 

What if your freedom means another person’s oppression? I frequently hear on the news Trump supporters say “now we will be free.” If they own a store, they will find religious freedom, for example, by not serving a gay person or pay for health insurance for a woman who makes the awful decision or medically needs to have an abortion. I had a discussion with a Donald Trump supporter who said one of the things most dear to him is freedom. He said he valued freedom to chose to have health care or not, or which health care provider. He said it was important to have freedom where to send his children to school. He also claimed that if tax money funded public schools, it should also fund charter and religious ones. But what if such policies meant the loss of a quality education for others, or the destruction of resources needed to provide people with the economic support they need to live? Which “freedom” is primary?

 

For many people, freedom means an absence of constraint. You are not locked up in jail, not forced to work in chains. It means, hopefully, that you are recognized as a fellow human being, with rights equal to all others. That is crucial, but is it enough? Defining ‘freedom’ as “not being in chains” is like defining ‘conscious’ as “awake” (not asleep). This is the beginning, not the end. You need to consider how aware you are when awake. And what if you are locked up for defending your principles? Or you “freely” act in ways that cause you and others suffering—is that freedom? Or you act only with your own interests in mind and, thusly, perpetually put yourself at war with all others. Is that freedom?

 

And what if one person out of ten or a hundred owns most of the wealth? Does that limit your freedom if you’re not one of the top 1%? In the US, approximately 1% of the population owns 60% of the wealth. When that happens, it means the richest people pay a smaller percentage of their wealth in taxes. It certainly means they have a much larger spendable income. Thus, they have more money to influence the political process, and less money is available for the infrastructure, health care, education, environment, emergency services and first responders, etc. that serve all of us. In the 1950s and 60s, the US economy was greatly expanding, but income tax rates for the rich were two – three times higher. As taxes go down on the wealthy, expenses go up for the majority. If you must work two jobs and have little “free” time, or spend most of your income to pay your bills, is that freedom?

 

Figuring out what freedom means is more complex that many realize. It is a great question for a teacher to raise with students, or a parent with children. My high school students loved such discussions. Not only what is freedom, but why is it important? If it is so hard to define, should it always be paired with love or compassion or equity? To me, it means not controlled by someone else’s interests, and not feeling stuck, confused, or lacking, not locked inside yourself so you can’t feel or respond to the suffering of others. To rule yourself, you must know your own mind, and be honest with yourself. As much as you can, you are aware of your own emotions and thoughts. You can’t act freely in the world if you don’t constantly expand your breadth and depth of understanding of it, and can’t feel the humanity of those people around you.

 

One basic freedom we have is to vote and participate in the political process in very basic ways. So, we need to use it, and as wisely as possible, or think about the consequences of losing it.

 

 

*This is a slightly amended version of a blog I posted earlier in the week.

*If you are in Ithaca, NY this weekend, I will be giving a talk on my book, Compassionate Critical Thinking: How Mindfulness, Creativity, Empathy, and Socratic Questioning Can Transform Teaching, on Saturday, November 12th, at 2:00 pm at Barnes & Noble.