Thursday, July 2, 2020

Coronavirus Blues II



July in Miami Beach, the tropical unrelenting sun, the afternoon violent downpours testing the roof, the humidity climbing each day and the thoughts of  August and September daunting, intimidating, and just plain hot.   Some mornings, the palms do not sway, other mornings they bend to the tropical breezes plowing through the lush, rain-soaked vegetation.  The celosia bushes, their heavy leafs dropping into the yard and swimming pool, turn brown and are easily thrown, like little Frisbees, even against the wind.

Now in the fourth month of isolation,  a phlebotomist came by  to take blood samples from me and my wife, Catherine, because our doctor, herself isolated, said we were overdue. In addition to the normal markers, we requested Covid 19 serology tests, as we were sick in February and perhaps we bear antibodies.  That would be cool, perhaps we could go to a non-existent sporting event.  Turns out the lab forgot the test.

Hurricane season is here, always a fright for Floridians, bearing warnings from the National Hurricane Center, my iPhone hurricane tracker "whooshing" when a new storm forms, even if off the distant coast of Africa, posting maps of locations of dragons on the march, fire-breathing T-Rexes arriving to eat our air conditioning, lighting, spoil our food, and potentially evacuate us from our havens of safety into a more dangerous environment; coronavirus exposure, possible close encounters with germ-infested humanity, a reminder of impending mortality, of funeral cortèges taking the route to a soon to be climate change underwater, forgotten Atlantis of soggy corpses and gravestones.  Davey Jones cemeteries where descendants cannot even visit.   Inland mountaintop graveyards beckon.

Sleeping is difficult, requiring medication, despite a diligent dose of daily exercise.  Face time does not do the trick with teenage grandsons, who, through monosyllabic answers, clearly prefer their video screens than chat with fossilized grandparents who are not as entertaining as "Grand theft Auto."  Seems fair, though, as I did the same with my grandmother, a miserable woman, who never left her room in the house of my uncle to whom she did not speak for 30 years.

Politics, books, streaming video, zoom calls with friends, providing contact with inherent physical distancing.  I stare at the computer screen or the little phone and wonder if the family and friends feel the same, the hunger for a return to real life, this nightmare promising to end when a vaccine appears on the scene.   A grim tableaux of time running out stealing a few of our remaining years, a unmerciful heist of our most precious commodity--time.

Yet, in all this, hope shines anew.  The opportunity of the United States to pass into a renewal of national unity. Polling promises a defeat for the pestilential president. Perhaps the virus, the commonalty of the experience, the diminution of polarization, the recognition of common values despite the racist disunion posed by some politicians and their sycophants will submerge into a new experiment.  Our history, filled with such events, strengthens us.  After all, Revolution, enslavement, Civil War, two World Wars, a cold war has not yet done us in.

Perhaps the toleration of systemic racism that has inhabited this nation will recede a bit further.  Leadership does matter; compassion does matter; character does matter; honesty does matter, and as Dr. King has reminded us the arc of history bends toward justice. 

But nature does not care.

The coronavirus, nature, and our little speck in the boundless universe responds to the care we give it, the dedication of scientists and abilities that are unbound by the whims of politicians, who, pathologically deceiving their countrymen, deny the world around them; nature has no bent, it is unsparing of species which ignore it.   Viruses only wish to propagate; they are unthinking, uncompassionate and heartless children of mankind's disrespect, and perhaps the natural selector of who does and does not survive, humans included.

Only about 300,000 years have passed since the first fossilized evidence of our species appeared in Africa, and no more than 2 million years since homo erectus, our distant ancestor, appeared.  The earth is about 4.5 billion years old.  We are a millisecond, a firefly, a clap of thunder.  We mean nothing as a species, a fleeting wave of life, just like the dinosaurs.  If the world warms a few degrees, we are vanished.

Scientists predict that the sun is midway through its life cycle, created 4.5 billion years ago and probably remaining stable for another 5 billion years.  Then the Earth will be toasted, as the sun becomes a red giant, encasing the Earth.

Our civilization has much to figure out, and we have a long time to do it.  But one wonders if we will.

Many species have passed on and we may very likely will be next, whether we be white, black or yellow.  Nature does not care.



Friday, April 3, 2020

Coronavirus Blues


Coronavirus blues.

The sky over Biscayne Bay, a deep blue paradigm of Florida in late March is an illusion.  Sea gulls and other birds wing by while I swim; nothing seems amiss.  The silky waters of the bay create soft waves brushing against the seawalls. Walking around my island, joggers run by me, impelled by their youth, evoking memories of when I ran 5 miles in the morning and played tennis in the afternoons.  The ease of their steps evinces a bygone fantasy, a reminder of my growing fragility.  Yet being outside is transformative, refreshing, imparting a calm that is only superficial.
Still, being inside most hours of these forlorn days ominously imply an impending doom exacerbating despair.   We know not when the pandemic will end, if our economy will survive, if our destinies will transform into a new malady or possible dystopic public health landscape, lasting for years.

Wet markets in China could produce some other source of plague.   Avian flu, I am told, has a 60% death rate.

Home confinement often does not seem to be a great chore, my wife and I vacuum, cook, clean floors and toilets.  We are paying our cleaning woman not to come, and think that she might have been infected a month ago, when she had an incessant cough.   After that, Catherine got a sore throat and a cold that lasted about 8 days, bestowing its gifts on me for another 8 days.  We had no fever, but I thought that we might have suffered infection.  Now recovered, isolated anyway, and following all the rules, Catherine insists that it was only a cold, but if not, I wonder if I could donate some plasma for antibodies to someone else who was stricken worse than me.

But without testing, who knows what we had?  Not being prepared for this crisis proves that we need government.  People hate lawyers until they need one. People hate going to the dentist until they need a root canal.  So fans of limited government, this is your come to Jesus moment.

Each day blends into another and since we are in the most vulnerable group, we do not venture out, get groceries delivered, avoid all people and frantically disinfect letters, paper boxes arriving from Amazon, vegetables, lettuce, fruit, and canned goods.  We wash our hands countless times each day and agonize over the tiny virus creeping up our noses possibly killing us, our lungs filling with fluid and gasping for an elusive breath.  Someone said that if you think someone may have infected you, use a hair dryer quickly to blow hot air up your nose to kill the virus, which does not survive above 77 degrees Fahrenheit.  Better check that one out.

Across America, deliveries are multiplying exponentially. Just like the virus. There is a newly involuntary languid pace to life now and that is not entirely bad.  No running to meet friends for dinner, no lateness for appointments, almost a pastoral interlude.  Yet it seems unnatural, forced, like house arrest. A perversion of one's freedom.  How long will people comply?

We cannot see our children and our friends except on video but have each other to dispel some of the loneliness and anxiety. We drink more. The uncertainty is daunting; each day the stock market careens on a dispiriting roller coaster.  But more than that, I think of the people in the undeveloped world dying and suffering in droves, clinging together in their huts in Delhi, in West Africa, in Indonesia, with no escape, no air-conditioned house, no swimming pool, no Netflix or even electricity or running water.  A few months ago, I watched a documentary of Bill Gates funding a new type of toilet for the third world that uses fecal matter for energy.  In 2015, he presciently spoke of the lack of preparedness for this very type of pandemic.  He did charts and computer modeling of the spread and the danger. Our government turned a deaf ear.  I wish Bill Gates were president.

The country is floundering like a harpooned whale, a gigantic leviathan of the 19th century unable to meet the challenges of a 21st century monster run wild, staring into the face of a Captain Ahab, abetted by a soulless senate majority leader enabling his president's malfeasance and proven mendacity.  The president uses his 5 pm briefings to campaign for re-election, considering his polling above the public health, contradicting his experts, blowing hot air filled with misinformation, boasting about the "great job" he is doing.  No one could handle this better, he says, and the fearful reptilian brains of his base are right in his wheelhouse.   Really, does anyone believe him?  A man who has squandered his credibility on mean-spirited vindictive tweets and name-calling for three years?

Refrigerator trucks are lined up outside overwhelmed hospitals in Manhattan, hauling away corpses.  Health care workers are on the front lines.  Why is not the army there to help them in this war?

Donald Trump uniting the country or recognizing the truth is like asking a bank robber to give back the money after he has fled to Monte Carlo. “I don’t take any responsibility.   We are just a backup for the states.  It’s their fault.” A coronavirus of lies surrounds his handling of a crisis not of his making but certainly beyond his ability to tweet away.


Sunday, March 15, 2020

Coronavirus déjà vu


Coronavirus déjà vu

In 1946, a year after VE day, my parents lived in Jamaica, N.Y, my father managing a hotel in Long Beach, on the south shore of Long Island, a short drive from Jamaica.  Dad liked to stop at "Roadside Rest" a hot dog stand on the road near what was then called Idlewild (now JFK) airport; Dad loved taking us there.  It was cheap and delicious; I loved the juicy, plump frankfurters, the best New York had to offer.    I was four years old and they had some monkey bars outside to play on.

That summer we spent July and August in Long Beach; Dad ran a hotel called the Adelon, a beige brick building of about 100 rooms with a front porch overlooking the beach. Seagulls flittered about; their white feathers a contrast against the crisply blue sky.  Old people congregated the porch, rocking slowly in the metal chairs. I ran around, freely and childishly.   One evening, though, a huge lighting storm appeared and a blinding flash followed by the loudest thunderclap sounded just outside my window, the sky then returning inky black.  Mom was working; I ran screaming to my nanny.  One of my most frightful childhood memories--for years I suffered nightmares and shook myself to sleep, humming a repetitive moan-like sound.

We stayed at aunt Gussie’s nearby house some evenings in those summer days.  Aunt Gussie was dark haired woman with streaks of grey and a cigarette dangling perpetually out of her mouth.  Gussie and Mom played a continuous game of gin rummy, turning the room hazy with smoke.  One evening I spiked a fever of 103 and Mom panicked.  She called the doctor who, after examining me, assured her it was not polio and gave me a huge shot of a white liquid--penicillin. In my eyes, the needle looked like a pitchfork. Mom's fear pierced me. Mom, just as was everyone, terrified of polio, the genesis of which was a virus. FDR's courageous journey through paralysis ennobled his persona as a compassionate, great president, and more importantly an empathetic human being, one who understood, despite his patrician roots, the trials of the ordinary American stricken with polio.  His institute in Warm Springs, Georgia still provides hope for the afflicted.

Horrifying visions of Iron Lungs, children's heads peering out and with no prospect of emerging from the fearsome prison that kept their paralyzed lungs breathing still haunt me.  The fear was palpable, terrifying. I had dreams of being inside one an never getting out, struggling to scratch my nose and not able to run free.

In 1948 we moved to Miami Beach, polio fears still abiding.  In second grade, we were stewarded to the school library at North Beach Elementary and given little paper cups of pink vaccine to drink.  In 1952, we did not understand the benefits of the vaccine, but soon our parents learned that it was a medical miracle. The poliovirus had been banished.

In 1954 came the Soviet nuclear menace, the prospect of instant vaporization by a Russian hydrogen bomb.  Terror gripped us; hiding under a wooden school desk would protect us though, our schoolteachers informed us during numerous air raid drills.  It was another virus to fear.

When I got to Junior High around that time, Some of the kids in school joined the Ground Observer corps where, stationed on the 73d street beach, diagrams of Russian bombers had been distributed so we could identify Russian aircraft before they soared over Miami Beach to destroy Flagler Street, which then had only two old office buildings and a segregated Walgreens with a soda fountain.

In those days, they let us to listen to smuggled into school transistor radios for the  daytime broadcast World Series.   Those early autumn games were a respite from thinking the world was ending  in either nuclear holocaust or Communist enslavement.

Later, in the1980s, my generation thought we would all die of AIDS, prematurely forcing us to ponder our mortality.  There was no cure, and when heterosexuals became threatened, many ran for tests under assumed names.  Some friends died and I saw one of mine die a horrible, painful death, tubes coming out of every orifice of his body, his grey countenance laying comatose in his hospital bed, bags of dark fluid oozing from his body.   He had shuffled into my office before that to do his will and put his affairs in order for his wife and two children.  I still visualize how he looked, grey and fragile.  I became nauseated with fright.  It all now seems so remotely past. People say things are never as bad or as good as they seem at the time.

Now, a new crisis, the coronavirus.  My wife and I had planned for a cruise to Italy this May and we would rather have root canal then get on a floating Petri dish.  Even flying in a plane risks exposure to coughs, sneezes and wheezing passengers.  Mortal threats, all. Not to mention the inability be treated by overwhelmed hospitals and physicians, if the spread is too rapid.  CNN now chooses to cover more of virus  than of Trump.  Do not ask me which is the more frightening.  So now we are under household arrest, like white collar criminals waiting for trial.  The only difference is that we do not have ankle bracelets.

Doctors may be making battlefield triage decisions as to whom to treat, old or young, frail or otherwise healthy.  If the choice were between us and someone young, we would not get the ventilator. 

America has not seen this since the influenza of 1918 that killed 50-100 million people throughout the world.

The other night dining with close friends, we avoided customary hugs, handshakes and kisses--expressions of humanity and love.   My generation, it seems, must overcome another fear since the elderly are the ones most vulnerable.   I wondered about the waiters and cooks sneezing in the food, contaminating flatware and dishes. 

Even worse, we face times without human contact.

This week I watched a documentary of World War II flyers negotiating a bombing run over Germany, the navigator saying that he thought he was a duck in a shooting gallery as flack burst near his airplane. "You just lower your head and fly through." A large percentage of his friends in the B-17s went down in flames.  


Sunday, February 9, 2020

A house divided against itself cannot stand.


"A house divided against itself, cannot stand..."
Abraham Lincoln

From California to New York, from Oregon to Florida, a frightening division has descended upon our country.    From rural to urban America, people wonder whether the nation and its institutions can survive this polarity.

There have been times in American history that the nation was divided, never more so than in 1860.  Throughout that history, there had been bitter partisanship and division.   From the heat of the constitutional convention in steamy 1787 Philadelphia, the founders fought bitterly to a compromise that actually welded two nations into one in a constitution which just ninety years later devolved into a insanely bloody civil war, brother against brother, father against son, family against family.

A partisan press with countless newspapers and pamphleteers spewed hatred and vituperative allegations against their countrymen both at the founding and throughout the years leading to the Civil War.  Twitter has nothing on them.

A rural south, an industrializing north, both parts of which employed slavery, regarded Negroes as inferior, abetted involuntary servitude and a racist ethos, challenging even the most enlightened of our citizenry.  During the time between the founding and the Civil War forged compromises kept the Union together.  The Missouri compromise (1820) and the Kansas-Nebraska act (1854) failed as attempts to reconcile admission to the Union of new states as either slave or free.  The Constitution itself had slavery baked in to its original ratification (Article 4 sec. 2.3) imposing that,

" No person held to Service or Labor in one State under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any Law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or Labor, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labor may be due,"

Later, the Fugitive Slave act of 1850 imposed the duty on citizens and officials of the individual states themselves to return slaves to their owners or face civil fines, and that persons harboring slaves to criminal penalties.  Slave catchers roamed the North, collecting bonuses for bringing slaves in; captured slaves were not permitted a jury trial.

Sound like a rickety Constitution? 

Of course, the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments cured some of that, but still, it took the bloodiest war in the history of the Republic, 700,000 dead and wounded to get the amendments passed and only in the last few years was the Confederate battle flag removed from South Carolina government buildings. The Civil Rights act of 1964, race riots in Los Angeles, freedom riders, political assassinations of civil rights leaders, and a frothing George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door shouting "segregation forever!" interceded in the 1960s, almost 100 years after the end of the war and ten years after the landmark Brown v. the Board of Education outlawed segregation in the public schools.

Well, that same Constitution has given us the Electoral College, a Federalist exercise in balancing the interests of the various states, and which now presents us with
a highly undemocratic underrepresentation of large populations, California for instance, with its 40,000,000 people and North Dakota with its 500,000 each carrying two senators.  Do the math on fair representation.  Yes, I know the House is supposed to do that, but with present gerrymandering, the Democrats are obliged to win by much bigger majorities than Republicans.    With Republicans dedicated to disenfranchising voters in Florida, for example, contrary to the will of the voters, Democrats must win votes in far greater numbers than Republicans to achieve a working majority.  We now have entrenched minority government.

With an unleashed president, sociopathically bound to his vindictive agenda, extreme anxiety pervades the Democratic Party, fearing that this president will be re-elected, boasting that "he alone" is claiming responsibility for the booming economy, acquitted from his misdeeds by a kangaroo court, comprised of quaking GOP senators afraid of tribal banishment to an ignominious gulag of GOP opprobrium, losing their congressional health plans, positions, prestige and power andthe ultimate loss of the dignity  which they inartfully tried to preserve.  Instead, they have lost it anyway by their surrender to political expediency.

We need either a constitutional convention or a huge movement among voters to recognize that the divisions among us are not the result of a political agenda, but instead, tribal cultism.  Many of the policy agendas result from identity politics, rural against urban, wealthy against poor, a displaced working class losing out in the battle against inevitable technological displacement, climate change and nuclear proliferation, the greatest threats to the world.  A leader who can heal these divisions and create forbearance and a spirit of compromise is what we need more than ever.    A president of either party who can understand reality, not phantasmagorical narcissism.

It is said that great crises manufacture an FDR, a Winston Churchill, an Abraham Lincoln.   Where may he or she be?

Monday, December 2, 2019

A Loss of Dignity.


Recently there has been much written about the polarization of America.  Francis Fukuyama, the noted political theorist has written a book on the subject, " Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment."  Brilliantly conceived, Fukuyama deals with the reasons the politics of identity has struck so discordant a note in our present national conversation.  

Since I have not completed the book, I can only deal with what I have read so far, but at this point, I cannot resist in remarking how prescient a work it is and the subject of why we have seemed to have sunk so deeply into selecting leadership that is so viscerally repugnant.

Donald Trump is a master of mining the depths of the inherent contradictions in the psyches of his followers.  By using dog whistles, he plays to both the fears and the desires of those who consider themselves forgotten by the elites--the loss of their perceived respect and dignity.  Their invisibility.

The American middle class, despite its station in the world compared to other nations, has suffered, Fukuyama says, from a loss of their self-esteem because they have become invisible to the elites of both the government and those residing on the coasts.  This invisibility is worse than being regarded as rubes, yokels and rednecks.
Since deindustrialization, they have lost their place in society.  They have lost the meaning of their work and thus their claim to respect and dignity.

Fukuyama alludes to philosophers who have dealt with this subject, Aristotle, Kant, Rousseau, who all have different takes on how we regard ourselves and our relation to the world in both a political and psychological sense.  But the essence is a human quest for dignity and respect.

Fukuyama analogizes, moreover, that losing something of value is more important than gaining something of value.  For example if one makes $1000, the self-satisfaction of doing so is more easily dismissed than losing $1000 through theft or a lost wallet.   A sense of loss, therefore, outweighs a sense of gain, because one regards the event with a diminution of self-esteem.   For another example, the loss of jobs in the industrial Midwest among auto workers is a devastating blow to people who worked hard and earned $47 an hour but now earn $15 an hour working just as hard.  This is fertile ground, for manipulative demagoguery, converting the rust belt into fertile ground for hucksterism, for a pied piper of mendacity and illusory dreams.

That is what, Fukuyama argues, has happened to American workers as well as to workers in other countries suffering from the effects of deindustrialization and technological displacement who have found themselves in the netherworld of lost aspirations.

The result of all this is the place provided for increased demagoguery.   This has happened in our history before.  During the great depression of the 1930s, people who had lost their jobs suffered more from the loss of dignity than from the loss of employment.   Along came Father Coughlin, Huey Long and other charlatans, to fuel the sense of displacement and valuelessness among their followers and to increase the credibility of their own populism.

People who have lost their place on the auto assembly line, the steel mill, the farmer, have flocked to a flim-flam man who promised them that their jobs would be restored when he really knew they would not. 
  
The expression of the dignity of work is not lost on us.  People who think that Andrew Yang's offer of a guaranteed annual income is not the sinecure that its advocates might think.  Whether people really want something for nothing is open to question.   Most people do not want handouts; they want to earn their keep not only for their own pocket books but also for their dignity.  Many of the benefits of a welfare state are an anathema to most Americans and even among those of us who believe that government has an obligation to help the less fortunate among us.

In addition, social media has exacerbated this phenomenon by emphasizing  the shrinking of the middle class, the income of which has exponentially spiraled down in the obverse exponential growth of corporate profits, and executive compensation with FOX news propaganda  mouthing administration lies about how "great" the economy is doing and how coal miners jobs will be restored, if only we could keep America away from intruding immigrants.

Happy Holidays   

Sunday, October 27, 2019

After Trump, What?



As the political process, and make no mistake about it, impeachment is a political process, seems to be finally grinding exceedingly fine against a man who really did not want to govern in the first place, Americans need to consider what lies ahead.

While the president thinks that the “phony emoluments clause,” is not what Alexander Hamilton and James Madison had in mind for pretenders to despotism, it is exactly what they had in mind. Both Hamilton and Madison feared an “unfit usurper with despotic tendencies” by writing into the constitution Article II impeachment provisions, and  In the Federalist papers, expressing deep concern about “unfit magistrates,” drawing upon sanguinary English history for the definitions of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

The argument that Trump is simply a blaggard rings exponentially truer.  His thinning congressional apologists fear that his candidacy in 2020 will potentially bring them down in a cascade of voter outrage. 
Even immoderate Republicans sense the danger, worrying what will come next.   Will they all lose their jobs? Will the Democrats get carte blanche to correct the continuous train wreck of impulsive ineptitude?   Or, is Trumpian politics the new normal?

I think not.  The debates among Democrats so far has been civil; we suppose that a conscious decision has been made to follow Ronald Regan’s directive of not speaking badly of one’s fellow party members, even opponents aggressively vying for a win.

The damage done so far to American foreign policy,  betrayal of our allies,  ignorance of governance, the skeleton staff at the White House, and  uncertainty of world leaders should abate once the president is ignominiously shuttled to jail or to his golden tower, perhaps sporting a GPS ankle bracelet, railing how the system victimized him.  His twitter followers and congressional enablers will have to wait until the next opportunity.  But Trump will probably fade away, a small man, made smaller by his vindictiveness, vulgarity, and “victimhood,” his ignorance, hubris and mendacity.   

One of the key aspects of a democracy is forbearance and respect for other’s perspectives. Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt of Harvard argue in “How Democracies Die,” illustrate how democratically elected leaders, become intolerant of their opponents by attacking them and a free press.  This tactic will ultimately fail in America.  It did not fail in Weimar Germany, but we are not Teutonic militarists, emerging from a great depression.

Profound ideals of freedom are expounded in our constitution by the founding fathers, a brilliant constellation of leaders who emerged at just the right time.  Flawed though it was (slavery) our constitution has provided a framework for both the left and for the right, for conservative and progressive, a document for the ages.

It is that document that now threatens the authoritarian demagoguery of Donald J. Trump.  The perversion of the presidency will not last, nor should it.  We will get through this aberration, this assault on American values. 

America, granted, is under challenge from technological displacement, by the rise of illiberalism, by Russian revanchism.
by stagnant wages, by inequality, by climate change.

Americans have a great opportunity now to cleave together, as we did in World War II, as we would have if Abraham Lincoln had not been assassinated, and racist Andrew Johnson allowed the confederacy to win the peace after 700,000 Americans lay dead at Antietam, Gettysburg, Cold Harbor, the Wilderness, Chickamauga, Vicksburg, and Fredericksburg to preserve the Union and free the slaves.   After Marian Anderson sang on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with the help of Eleanor Roosevelt who resigned her place in the Daughters of the American Revolution when racism did not allow the great soprano to sing. And After Dr. King marched on Washington awakening our Republic from its sleepwalking through segregation, lynching and racial injustice.

At the same time, the Constitution provides an escape from the road to totalitarianism. From the would-be intolerance and autocrat-admiring Donald Trump.  It is the lynchpin of freedom in America, not because it is hermetically sealed in the national archives, but because the people of this county believe in it.   It is in that belief, in that faith in the American ideal, that weathers the storm of malign Trumpism.  It is the belief in the “better angels of our nature,” that America will regain its bearings, like a sailing ship as expressed in the verse of Longfellow.   “Sail on, oh ship of state, sail on, oh Union strong and great; humanity with all its fears, with all its hopes of future years, is hanging breathless on thy fate.”

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

A cultural war rages in America.


An increasingly minoritizing white America are struggling with the past of a nation substantially built on the backs of imported slaves, their sweltering sub-decks populated by a degraded humanity, forced to lie in their own urine and feces. The first twenty slaves arrived in British America in 1619, according to Jill Lepore, author of a new history of the United States.  The sorry institution exploded in the colonies after the invention, in 1793, of the cotton gin, an impetus for profitable manufacturing of cottons and linens and for the necessity of an exponential increase in chattel slavery in all of the thirteen colonies.

The consequences of this institution led to the American Civil War, being, as most wars, driven by economic forces, further justified by the rationalization of preserving a “way of life, and individual liberty” (of white men). Perpetuation of that puissance expanded the number of slave states as the American Union spread over the continent, through the victimizing doctrine of “manifest destiny,” enabling theft of the lands of native Americans, Mexicans, and others, including Hispanics in the great American West. Frighteningly, Hitler conceived the idea of lebensraumfrom the American model, writing about it in Mein Kampf.

Now, the chickens have come home to roost.  The stain on our history, through knowledge of the past has caused a dissolution of MAGA 1950s equilibrium of America.  The whiteness of “Leave it to Beaver,” and “Father Knows Best,” is reluctantly surrendering to the political realities of a woke generation.   The dispossessed, the robbed, the abused portion of the American polity are demanding reparations for the backbreaking servitude and social discrimination they were obliged to endure through much of the history of the Republic but also creating much of our wealth and infrastructure. Predicated on economic servitude’s malevolent benefits and the building of America through economically indentured generations since the Civil War, there is currency to the argument that America owes a monetary debt to the descendants of slaves, not merely those who lived in the 19thcentury.

Current white nationalist backlash is no different than the traitorous Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Nathan Bedford Forrest’s (KKK founder)  defending the Southern aristocracy perpetuating itself on the treasure created by negro slaves, continuing unabated through an aborted reconstruction fulminated by the impeached, but not convicted, racist Andrew Johnson, and the resegregation of the South and the military by the former president of Princeton University and of the United States, who believed that black men were inferior to whites, the heroic Woodrow Wilson, who envisioned a peaceful world order and campaigned unsuccessfully for a league of nations and gained a Nobel Peace Prize for his  failed effort. 

White racist men such as the current president and his base of white supremacists will not succeed in suppressing demands for economic equality, immigration justice, and more American diversity. Finally, after centuries of struggle, the world of white dominance of our country is being dragged kicking and screaming into a more diversified American 21stcentury ethos. Despite the last gasps of an anachronistic, aberrational president, a disenfranchised minority is beginning to define its own future.    Republican gerrymandered voter suppression occurring in the heartland is being challenged not only by a new generation of Americans, but also by many white people who are beginning to understand the economic disparities created by racial prejudice and economic deprivation and an electoral system engineered to perpetuate the status quo of voter suppression and rural overrepresentation. We are a national entity--a people, not geographical state boundaries alone.   Although our economic and federal system ensures more freedom, it also provokes more economic disparities and even tribalism, the ultimate enemy of a free republic.   The electoral college is the single most undemocratic institution in our federal system, allowing states like North Dakota two senators for 500,000 people and California with its 39,000,000 the same two senators. It must go the way of the proverbial horse and buggy. It was a successful compromise among disparate states not yet a country to ratify a new constitution.  Now it must be put to pasture.  The middle class is beginning to realize that it is not immigrants causing employment loss, it is unparalleled technological change creating the disorder. 80% of the jobs lost are because of it, not scapegoated immigrants and minorities. 

All this unhinging is happening very rapidly, almost like the recent California earthquake. Trump’s America is trembling beneath his feet, despite Twitter rages, petulant ad hominem attacks on adversaries, and the chaos of an indelibly incompetent administration that thinks that climate change is a hoax, and that “a new and better health plan” (that does not exist) will help our country by ejecting 30 million people from their insurance.  And yes, that people of color who criticize him or his policies “go back,” an old Strom Thurmond trope.

The technological forces pushing major international corporations and the uber-wealthy to new, gilded age disparities between them and the middle class is becoming increasingly self-evident as a threat to our republic.     Equally, the thinly veiled disguise of whites being abused by the descendants of slaves or immigrants no less a hoax than PT Barnum’s appeal in the carnival midway of a horrible freak show.