Sliding Doors, Shifting Perceptions and
Dr. Tiffany B.
November 1, 2008
The primary purpose of the Earth Manifesto
is to present good ideas in a compelling light, with the hope that these
writings will give powerful impetus to positive initiatives for our society
like those summarized in One Dozen Big
Initiatives to Positively Transform Our Societies and the Progressive Agenda for a More Sane Humanity.
Our leaders careen from one crisis to
another, failing to honestly address underlying problems and take courageous
actions. They should instead adopt a
far-sighted strategic master plan that is fair-minded and has the overarching
objective of being indefinitely sustainable.
The goal of our national economic policies should be to create a sound
and stable system that protects people against monetary instability and abuses
of power. It should protect consumers
against dangerous or toxic products and deceptive advertising. It should protect all borrowers and investors
against fraud, deceitful accounting, and banking excesses. And it should give heavier emphasis to good
citizen objectives like fair-minded legal protections, a fair shake for workers,
reasonable healthcare for all, guaranteed civil liberties, a well-managed
government, peaceful coexistence with others, a healthy environment, and
protected public lands, national parks, state parks and open spaces.
Our representatives should mediate fairly
between the many competing interests in our societies, and wisely focus on
creating a just society that balances short-term-oriented impulses with greater
responsibilities to the common good and people in future generations. We need win-win solutions to problems, and
should avoid mere expedient band-aid solutions that create lose-lose outcomes
and harsh economic injustices and systemic weaknesses and riskier hazards in
the long run.
1998 film Sliding Doors had a
provocative and imagination-stimulating premise: due to a curious wrinkle in circumstances,
two simultaneous alternate futures were set in motion for a young gal named
Helen (played by Gwyneth Paltrow). Each
of these two scenarios played out into a different train of events that move
forward in tandem for the rest of the film.
In one scenario, Helen finds out that her boyfriend is cheating on her
with another woman. This revelation
caused a crisis, a separation, a catharsis, a revaluation, and necessary
personal growth to adapt to the altered interpersonal reality. In the other scenario, Helen did not find out
about the infidelity, so it remained hidden and the course of events that
transpired continued along its prior course, deepening the dishonesty in her
intertwined involvement and making her life more dysfunctional.
reality, of course, only one course of events can transpire. We may imagine how different the trajectories
of our societies might be, for instance, if a presidential election gave us one
party instead of another. A world led by
a Barack Obama administration would be markedly different that one led by a
John McCain administration. Imagine how
different our society would have been if the Republicans, who lost the popular
vote in the year 2000, had NOT managed, by hook or by crook and with the assistance
of a narrowly conservative Supreme Court, to get a majority of votes in the
Electoral College. Al Gore would have
been President, not George W. Bush.
Democrats, not Gilded Age-embracing Republicans would have been in
charge of managing the economy and our foreign policy. One can only speculate at the alternative
probable scenarios, but the likelihood is that our world would be very
different -- and probably much more stable and secure and egalitarian.
we are at another high-contrast Sliding
Door moment. The choice of John
McCain would continue regressive tax policies, the faltering of the middle
class, severe inequities in healthcare, aggressive war policies, and the
embarrassment of our nation on the international stage. The choice of Barack Obama would be far more
likely to create a fairer society and one that deals more rationally, calmly,
honorably and intelligently with international affairs. In a thousand different ways, a dramatic
change of direction is what we need. We
simply cannot afford to continue to gamble that right-wing ideologies,
hard-nosed militarism, inegalitarianism, environmental despoliation and
evangelical dishonesty are our best path forward.
how different the future would be under an Obama/Biden administration compared
with a McCain/Palin administration. With
Barack Obama, we could begin to heal our dysfunctional relationships with other
nations of the world by honestly and boldly refuting the Bush Doctrine of
preemptive aggression in warfare and policies that allow torture by the
CIA. Some 80% of people abroad say that
they favor Obama over McCain. Eighty
percent! Barack Obama would likely make
taxation more progressive by increasing taxes on the wealthiest 2%, and
decreasing taxes on the other 98%. John
McCain, on the other hand, sticks with his proposal to continue the Bush
policies of giving even more tax breaks to rich people.
Gilded Age and the Ultimately Anti-Egalitarian Expression of Greed
“If you beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest
without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor
Twain satirized greed and political corruption in his 1873 book The Gilded Age, A Tale of Today. He coined the term ‘Gilded Age’ to describe
the meretricious and extremely unfair post-Civil War period during which
industrialists and the upper class and “robber barons” and financial
manipulators gained enormous wealth and expressed their great fortune in
opulent self-indulgent conspicuous consumption.
The Gilded Age suffered a serious setback with the Panic of 1893 and an
accompanying severe economic depression.
That crisis set in motion many reforms of the Progressive Era, when
corporate conglomerate monopolies (called “trusts” at the time) were ‘busted’
and efforts were made to break up extreme economic concentrations of wealth and
power. Labor unions gained power at the
time to protect workers from long working hours and hazardous working
conditions and a variety of abuses, and American race relations descended to a
low point after the post-Civil War Reconstruction era.
upshot of the abuses of the time was that Theodore Roosevelt became President
as a reformer who sought to move the dominant
Republican Party away from being the representative of corrupt industrial
bosses and into the camp of a Progressive movement. He promised a “Square Deal” to provide a
fairer shake to the majority of the people, and he was the first U.S. President
to call for universal health care and national health insurance. He also promoted far-sighted resource
Decades later, with the onset of the Great
Depression, economic collapse and massive labor and social unrest finally
forced the country's political elite to accept truly fairer national policies
in a New Deal that reduced the growing concentration of income and wealth in
the hands of a few. The severe economic
insecurity of the majority had energized efforts to enact reforms, and these
initiatives contributed to a period of prosperity for the middle class that was
highly beneficial to society as a whole.
This continued until the rich and powerful once again seized control
with the election of wily, folksy and charismatic Ronald Reagan.
Today, our neo-Gilded Age is crashing down
in the economic crisis of 2008. History
shows us that NOW is the time to find ways to make the next up-leg of our
existence a new Square Deal, a truer Golden Age of fairness of opportunity and
lesser disparities of wealth. This new
era should be characterized by taxation that is more progressive, tighter
control of speculative excesses, universal healthcare and a fairer balance
between the prerogatives of capital and labor.
And we must once again denounce imperialism and overseas expansionism
and debt-financed aggressive militarism.
inequalities and inequities in societies make them less stable and secure,
making greater oppression necessary to keep them in force. A democracy ultimately is better for all
than a plutocracy where the few get most of the wealth. It is
the death knell of democracy to allow ever-increasing concentrations of wealth
and power in the hands of an elite few.
When Mark Twain long ago decried rapidly increasing economic
inequality that characterized the Gilded Age, he agreed with the scholar Vernon Louis Parrington who had called the period
a "great barbeque”. We need to stop
figuratively barbecuing people and stacking the deck against them, and instead
we should begin again to drive a harder bargain with the rich!
The Most Progressive of
Ideas on Taxation
Billionaire Warren Buffett testified before
the Senate Finance Committee in November 2007 in defense of the federal estate
tax, the nation's tax on inherited wealth.
He invoked the historical roots of the estate tax, which was established
in 1916 to reduce anti-democratic concentrations of wealth and power. "Dynastic wealth, the enemy of
meritocracy, is on the rise," Buffett told the panel. "Equality of opportunity has been on the
decline. A progressive and meaningful
estate tax is needed to curb the movement of a democracy toward
plutocracy." He added,
"Tax-law changes have benefited this super-rich group, including me, in a
huge way. During that time the average
American went exactly nowhere on the economic scale: he's been on a treadmill while the super-rich
have been on a spaceship."
In response, Republican Chairman Charles
Grassley, R-Iowa, asserted that the "death tax" was
"fundamentally wrong." Warren
Buffett responded that use of the phase "death tax" itself was
"intellectually dishonest" and "clever, Orwellian, and dead
wrong." The Estate Tax is, after
all, not a tax on an unwitting dead person, but a tax on the inheritance of
Economic Inequality and
In the past 25 years, economic inequality
has rapidly increased, thanks in large part to Ronald Reagan’s regressive and disingenuously inegalitarian tax policies
and anti-regulation initiatives, which have had an insidious and
corruption-enabling effect. As a
consequence, the need for reform has grown glaringly obvious. Our
neo-Gilded Age is seeing forces arise that militate to put the brakes on the
current runaway process of rising inequality.
It appears that this era's power elite is going to be forced to accept a
fairer social compact, and to honestly address the hardships being borne by
blue-collar workers and poor people and the middle class. We must return to the pre-Reagan policies that fostered middle class values and
fairness. And we must be vigilant
against the dangers that financial collapses create in a heightened risk of
widespread destitution and even political extremism.
hate being cheated and deceived. Yet for
years our right-leaning leadership has promised one thing and delivered
another, whether we like it or not. It
seems to me to be a kind of nefarious “Big Lie” political bait-and-switch
scheme. Do they think we’re stupid? (Are we?!)
“You can fool some of the people all of the time,
and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people
all of the time.”
--- Abraham Lincoln
Correct me if I’m
wrong, but didn’t our leaders promise populist fairness, but deliver greater
inequality and less broadly shared prosperity?
They talk about a sound economy but then deregulate to stimulate
irresponsible consumption and economic bubbles, making boom-and-bust cycles
worse. They talk about national security
and peace, but we end up with wars and a less secure citizenry. They talk about limited government, yet it
becomes bigger and more intrusive. They
talk about balanced budgets, but actually deliver the biggest deficits in world
history. They talk about wise uses of
resources, environmental protections, Healthy Forests and Clean Air, and then
they implement corporate-friendly policies that shortsightedly waste resources,
clear-cut forests, damage ecosystems and allow harmful pollution of the
atmosphere. They talk about free markets,
but give giant corporations enormous subsidies and allow more highly leveraged
risks and eventually the need for huge government bailouts. They talk about adhering to rules of law, but
evade or break laws themselves. They
talk about leaving no child behind in education, and then act to undermine
public education and make it less affordable.
They talk about fixing the drastic inequities of our health care system,
but costs skyrocket every year and “pre-existing conditions” exclusions make
health insurance increasingly unfair.
addition to this issue of rising inequality in America, there is an even more
basic problem. The measures we use to
determine economic well-being are distorted.
Our economic indicators not only
measure aggregate activity in our society, but they also help shape it and
drive our policy agendas. When
gauges of economic activity are misleading, probabilities rise for us to fail
to properly prioritize or to allocate resources in the most sensible way.
of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) are used to track how well the economy is
doing. When GDP grows, we call it good,
and we think that the economy is healthy.
Think about this on an individual level.
Are increases in personal spending generally correlated to good
things? Well, often they are not. We often spend money when we need to repair a
vehicle or our homes, or some broken consumer item. We spend more when there is inflation in the
cost of food and gasoline. When we get
sick or injured, we pay doctors and hospitals, and the amount of money we spend
on our healthcare goes up. When people
get divorced, they pay big bucks to lawyers.
On a societal level, we spend a tremendous amount of money on Homeland
Security, munitions, wars, crime prevention, prisons, toxic waste clean-up, fraudulent misappropriations, wasted energy,
resource depletion, a “war on drugs”, and natural disasters. Our GDP measures say this is growth,
but these are not good things for our quality of life.
Our crude calculus adds things up like
this, and calls it economic progress.
When we spend more time on activities that cost nothing, our measures
basically regard them as a kind of economic stagnation. If Americans spend more time going for walks
in nature, or reading, or socializing with neighbors, or meditating -- instead
of shopping -- our well-being would increase, but our GDP measures would judge
We would be wise to redefine progress by utilizing
more auspicious measures like proposed Genuine Progress Indicators (GPI). These smarter measures would gauge the actual
health of economic activities and truer aspects of the quality of life. These measures would take into account
factors like household work, the conservation of the natural environment, greater
fairness, fulfilling volunteer work, healthy communities, leisure time, and
more authentic connections to others and to the natural world. This change in focus would allow us to see a
truer picture of our economy, and to accordingly alter our activities and
improve our priorities. The steps we
take to amend our current methods of measuring GDP should be ones that
emphasize better human well-being and healthier communities, and they would
place a higher value on the environment.
Understanding the measurements of ‘ecological footprints’ would be an
excellent starting point for us to more honestly assess progress toward
sustainable uses of resources and the preservation of ecosystems so that they
can continue providing us with valuable ecosystem services. Clearer ecological accounting, simply put, is
needed. By adopting ideas like this, we
will be able to give recognition to deeper insights like those elaborated at
www.RedefiningProgress.org. Check it
salute MSNBC political analyst Rachel Maddow.
Her new show The Rachel Maddow
Show provides an intelligent perspective on news headlines and the politics
behind the mainstream news. Ms. Maddow
became a Doctor of Philosophy at Lincoln College in Oxford, so she is a small
town girl from California who has made good.
She has given television a much needed point of view to counter highly
partisan, unfair and unbalanced corporate media outlets like Fox News. She and Keith Olbermann often speak truth to
power -- a courageous quality that is much needed in today’s perplexing world
of deceitful spin. Television
programming often consists of sensationalism, yellow journalism, sentimental
stories, mindless entertainment, sports spectacles, and a prurient interest in
scandals. Such stories are unfortunately
given coverage that is more prominent than factual news and more important
also give a vocal ‘shout-out’ to Sarah Palin, who has graced our politics and
our television screens with her attractive down-home presence. You betcha!
Too bad she is such an extreme conservative and staunch religious
fundamentalist -- or, more appropriately, a shrill and wily “barracuda”!
of how the rest of the world sees us.
Our nation is a tarnished beacon of hope that has allowed ideology and
speculative fervor and unbridled greed to badly damage the economies of the
world. This has made billions of people
less secure, and it threatens the stability of many countries by insidiously
harming the vast majority of people on Earth.
Alvaro Uribe, a strong U.S. ally who is the
current President of Columbia, has blasted U.S. economic policies for
encouraging uncontrolled financial speculation.
He compared us to cowboys jumping on a wild horse with no reins. Nice going, guys!
of this. We have allowed the
inegalitarian, narrowly focused, hyper-aggressive, divisive and evangelical
Bush/Cheney regime to get elected TWICE by exploiting public insecurities and
fears of terrorists, and anger and prejudice and blind belief and religious
evangelism. Once in power, these politicians
have pretended they have been given a mandate for a right-wing agenda that is
clearly contrary to greater good goals.
They have loudly and insistently proclaimed the superior moral value of
privatized profit, as if it’s the veritable god of propriety -- Mammon! Meanwhile, as these hubristic “economic
fundamentalist” ideologies have been staunchly promoted, a disguised and
wrong-headed twin enthusiasm has been disingenuously concealed: the willingness to allow private entities to
reprehensibly and irresponsibly foist costs and risks and enormous amounts of
debt upon society as a whole.
The basic cause
of the economic calamity confronting us is the insider collaboration between
politicians and banks and other corporations.
This coalition has gambled that laissez-faire capitalism and
hyper-costly aggressive militarism are the best ways to ensure a safe and
prosperous world. As a consequence, we
have stimulated risk-taking and radically leveraged debt -- and we have at the
same time unleashed arrogant and reckless unilateral American militarism and
embraced preemptive war policies to control oil resources in Iraq. Dishonest propaganda and deceptive
rationalizations have been used to fool the public into supporting these
actions. Our leaders have basically
swaggered like bullies and embarked on a special-privilege pandering domination
gambit that is dangerous, unfair, unjust and unsustainably shortsighted.
The highest priority of
big corporations and politicians is to gain power and use it to advance narrow
self-interested goals, no matter how detrimental this turns out to be for the
majority of Americans. For this reason,
we must act to mitigate the damage these gambits can do. We must defend and improve our great
Constitutional system against the amoral and essentially anti-social goals of
big corporations, which have a strictly limited basic legal purpose of
maximizing profits and minimizing liabilities of owners and management. It is time to start focusing on systems that
are less harmful to the common good and higher social values.
Foundations of Good Government
Founding Fathers built one of the strongest foundations for good government in
the history of the world. Today we have
allowed knaves, gamblers, scoundrels and fools to turn the civilization we are
building on this great foundation into a fragile house of cards. We have even allowed these schemers to drill
into the foundation and undermine the principles of fairness and the liberties
assured in the Bill of Rights and the Constitutional balance of powers that
made this foundation so strong. This is
simply wrong. Ethically, morally and
Economics -- Making Policies to Please Speculators
The underlying causes of the economic train
wreck we are suffering are extensively analyzed in Earth Manifesto essays like The Bailout Blues and Gut Check Soul Revue,
and Reporting Live from the Ground Zero
Bleacher Seats. I highly recommend
that readers check them out! Here is a
creative and humorous Internet cartoon, which is relevant:
“The government today announced that it is changing
its national symbol to a CONDOM because it more accurately reflects the
government’s political stance. A condom
allows for inflation, halts production, destroys the next generation, protects
a bunch of pricks, and gives you a sense of security while you’re actually
being screwed. Damn, it just doesn’t get
more accurate than that!”
--- Internet Image (Ha!)
Crisis in Dealings and
Uncertainty and confusion reign today as
this severe economic crisis unfolds.
Illusions crumble and failing ideologies are exposed in the face of
deeper realities. Images slip into my
mind of the Captain of the Titanic, who threw caution to the wind and ordered
“full speed ahead” in treacherous waters.
Boo-hiss! for the Captain’s poor judgment and reckless ambition and
dangerous risk-taking with the lives of others.
The Zoology of Desire
and passion are magnificent as driving forces, but dangerous as guides.”
Baruch Spinoza, 1632 – 1677 A.D.
Michael Pollan wrote a great book titled The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s Eye View of
the World. In this book, Pollan
provides a clever, creative and insightful perspective of the world by viewing
it from the point of view of a number of plant species. Imagine that:
he looked at the world from the point of view of plants! He used this intriguing way of seeing things
to explore how four varieties of plants -- tulips, apple trees, marijuana
plants and potatoes -- took advantage of human desires for beauty, sweetness,
transcendent consciousness, and nutrition to help them propagate far beyond
their traditional ranges. Pollan’s
perceptive perspective provides a provocative way of exploring the fascinating
natural world and our human interrelationships with it. Read this book!
Using a similar creative perspective, let’s
look at the world from the point of view of animals. We are big-brained animals, so let’s consult
with human animals that are particularly adept at looking at the world clearly
and with a degree of scientific objectivity:
naturalists and scientists. We
see that there is a zoology of desire that propels all species toward goals of
reproductive success and survival.
People who are sociobiologists and psychologists recognize that there
are deep underpinnings of human behavior, and that many aspects of our nature
tend to be inherited, and are thus difficult to change. These thinkers point out that human behaviors
can also be easy to change. Incentives
and disincentives, for instance, are very effective in changing the choices
people make. By understanding natural
propensities as well as motivations and behaviors, we can design our economic
systems so that people do socially beneficial things as a matter of course,
rather than doing environmentally and socially harmful things. When systems are well designed, people are
motivated to automatically do the right things because of natural
self-interest, and not as a matter of virtue, altruism or moral conviction.
The planet Mercury moved in an apparent retrograde
motion from September 24, 2008 through October 15. Thank God we got through that -- barely! The Dow Jones Average fell by a rattling 20%
during this period, in the aftermath of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy filing
on September 15th. Believers in
astrology say that when Mercury goes retrograde, miscommunications abound and
it is a bad time to make financial deals (bailouts?!) and that the terms of any
such deals will need to be renegotiated.
I personally don’t believe in astrology any more than I believe that a
male God created the universe. But sure
enough, the terms of the $700 billion bank bailout have already been modified
from what was approved. The first $250
billion is being sensibly committed to capitalizing banks and taking equity
stakes in them, instead of just buying up bad mortgages, so that taxpayers
would assume the probable large losses!
The human mind seems to be especially well-suited to
ascribing credence to correlations between coincidence and circumstance, don’t
you think? Mark Twain: “I reckon that sometimes you can puzzle out
the meaning of a mystery. It’s like
coming through the fog into open water and seeing everything bright and
clear.” … “It made me feel kind of lighthearted too, the
way you get when someone else’s happiness rubs off on you.”
Albert Einstein was surely correct when he
observed, “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used
when we created them.”
The past lapses into the future through the
portals of the present. Make no mistake
about it, the choices we make today strongly influence what the future will be
like for us -- individually and collectively.
We bicker over small stuff and our cherished beliefs and biases; but in doing so, we ignore Big Picture
perspectives and the best solutions. Our
leaders figuratively fiddle while Rome burns, in far too many respects. We skirmish over culture wars, and are
distracted by divisive conflicts for supremacy of influence, but we fail to see
that, in the larger sense, we are all in this together. “United we stand, divided we fall.”
The “elephant in the room” is that Big
Issues confront us and we are not adequately addressing them. We must evaluate them more closely. These are not hot-button social issues; they are issues that have overarching
economic, political and ecological impacts.
Our leaders shrewdly divide us to rule.
They pit us against each other over such things as God, guns, saluting
the flag, gay people, immigrants, and reproductive rights. The book What’s
the Matter with Kansas cogently relates the pathetic details of these
gambits. Our leaders do this to gain and
maintain control and dominance, and NOT for noble purposes, contrary to their
rhetoric and Big Lie deceptions. They seek dominance, “my friends”, in order to
impose an order that benefits them personally along with a very narrow subset
of people who are their cronies and friends and supporters. The vast majority are excluded or
harmed. These ‘leaders’ are shrewd
opportunists, damning us and our descendants so that they may achieve their
small-minded and excessively selfish advantages.
Here is my transcendent vision. It’s actually common sense! Breathe in deeply, and let go. Overcome any emotional charges you may have
for the moment. Instead of being
distracted by red herrings and vitriolic narrow-mindedness, let’s find ways to
work together to limit the high cost of wars abroad, to reduce enormous budget
deficits, to invest in vital undertakings, and to address problems of social
justice, peaceful coexistence, homelessness and poverty. And let’s strive to staunch the rapid
depletion of resources, and to restructure our societies in ways that mitigate
the grave impacts of environmental assaults.
McCain Is “Misoverestimated”
want to know: can the truth be stretched
until it dies of thinness? I recently
read the “Make-Believe Maverick” article about John McCain in an October 2008
issue of Rolling Stone magazine. The article makes it clear that John McCain
is poorly suited to be our nation’s leader.
He is a false populist, having embraced regressive taxation that puts
the self-interest of wealthy Americans high above the well-being of the vast
majority. He supported the harmful policies
of the Bush administration more than 90% of the time. The other 10% of the time he may have been
acting as a maverick, bucking Republican orthodoxy, but that is woefully
inadequate to qualify him as the best person to lead our nation into a fair, stable,
honorable, honest, peaceful and sustainable future.
John McCain is
also ill-suited to be the commander-in-chief of our armed forces. He has demonstrated a nasty hot temper on
many occasions and is extremely hawkish and military-minded. He has opportunistically flip-flopped, and
sacrificed principles for power on numerous occasions. He has been a glory-seeking and
hyper-ambitious guy for his entire adult life.
In contrast to the heroic myth that his campaign crafted about him, his
past behavior has been characterized upon occasion by dishonorable conduct,
dishonesty, self-aggrandizement, poor performance, heavy drinking, womanizing,
and rude behaviors.
temper and opportunistic ambition lead him to be erratic and prone to episodes
of poor judgment. He has been affiliated
with lobbyist-dominated corporations and efforts to deregulate banks and
commerce, which have been primary causes of the economic crisis that is now
having such a devastating impact on people worldwide. He played a significant risk-enabling role in
the costly Savings and Loan debacle of the late 1980s, which was a veritable
epitome of corrupted and dishonorable opportunism. It is amazing that his political career
survived his involvement in the Keating Five group of U.S. Senators in that
scandal. Despite this blemish on his
record, he has chosen fundamentalist economic advisors like Mr. “mental
recession” Phil Gramm -- people who tend to be stubbornly ideological, myopic,
shrewdly greedy and insensitive to the common good.
caricature of "Joe the Plummer" in an October 2008 Presidential
debate demonstrated his desperate ambition and willingness to distort the truth
in an attempt to reverse his slide in the polls. He has been running a truth-distorting and
negative smear campaign against Barack Obama.
He has made a bad miscalculation in choosing Sarah Palin as a running
mate, because he chose a woman whose social conservatism is, in many ways,
distinctly contrary to the best interests of women. We do not need another dissembling, naïve,
power-abusing politician in the White House after these long years of Bush and
Cheney misdirection and wrong-headedness.
White males may regard Sarah Palin as a babe, "you
betcha", but the choice of an inadequately experienced female
politician as a running mate, and one who divisively panders to right-wing
extremists on hot-button wedge issues, is cynically calculating and
pathetically manipulative. It is
diametrically opposed to what we need in a leader during these perilous
choice we should make on November 4, 2008 seems clear to me. Well-grounded hope illuminates a set of
brighter potentialities and a more positive way forward. In contrast, alluring sirens of rapturous
supremacist delusions and stimulated insecurity lure us like a shimmering
mirage that appears scintillating to a desperate man dying of thirst in the
Elephant in the Room -- How Much Does Racism Color Our Perceptions?
Pundits on TV talk about “the Bradley
effect”, which is a discrepancy between voter opinion polls and election
outcomes in American political campaigns when a white candidate and a non-white
candidate run against each other. The
Bradley effect is named for Tom Bradley, a black man who lost the 1982
California governor’s race despite being ahead in voter polls. It refers to an apparent tendency on the part
of some voters to tell pollsters that they are undecided or likely to vote for
a black candidate, and yet, on election day, vote for his or her white opponent.
prejudice is still strong in America.
Not only is there a deep reservoir of outright bias and bigotry among
many people, but there is an extensive amount of subtle racism. Think about this in a revealing light. Imagine what the polls would say right now if
the record of the white guy candidate and the record of the black guy candidate
were SWITCHED. In other words, think
about this: (1)
What if John McCain was a former president of the prestigious Harvard Law
Review, while Barack Obama finished 894th out of 899 people in his graduating
class? (2) What if McCain was an
eloquent and charismatic speaker, while Obama was known to publicly display a
serious anger management problem on many occasions? (3) What if Obama was the one who had military
experience that included discipline problems and a record of crashing seven
airplanes? (4) What if Obama had
difficulty reading from a teleprompter, or did not even know how to use email
or the Internet? (5) What if McCain had only married
once and Obama was a divorcee? (6) What
if Obama was the candidate who left his first wife after she had a severe and
disfiguring car accident? (7) What if
Obama had met his second wife in a bar and had a long affair while he was still
married? (8) What if Michelle Obama was
the wife who became addicted to pain killers and also had acquired them
illegally? (9) What if Michelle Obama's
family had made their money from beer distribution? (10) What if the Obama's had adopted a white
child? (11) What if Obama had famous
parents whose influence got him into privileged positions and bailed him out of
hot water on many occasions? (12) What
if Obama’s running mate had paraded five children across the stage, including a
three month old infant and an unwed, pregnant teenage daughter? Wow!
tried to sell their brand of politicians as caring deeply about “family
values”, so this contrast is a most surprising irony. It is astonishing to have the standard bearer
for the Republican Party turn out to have a lousy moral character and the
standard bearer for the Democratic Party to be such an exemplary character.
lampooned the follies and foibles and hypocrisies of human nature, so if he
were around today, as the spirit of his wry humor still is, he would have
drawled with scathing sarcasm at this extraordinary contrast between these two
presidential candidates. If family
values are reflected in the orthodoxies of their national policies, then
Republicans represent male domination, female repression, strict parenting,
excessive sexism, and a deep and abiding concern for embryos and fetuses
coupled with an overriding deference to the enrichment of the proverbial Few at
the consternating disadvantage of babies and mothers and children and students
and old people and the prospects for flourishing of all people in future
generations. Irony doesn’t get much more
ironic than this! Shame on those who
peddle this perverse set of values!
Subtle racism covers up and rationalizes
and minimizes positive qualities in one candidate and emphasizes negative
qualities in another when the candidates are of different races. On big issues, there are enormous differences
between Barack Obama and John McCain.
While Obama essentially stands for fairness and more power for the
working class and the middle class against the dominant prerogatives of the
upper class, McCain is a shrewd opportunist and a false populist who
champions regressive taxation and puts the self-interest of rich Americans high
above the well-being of the vast majority.
McCain has sacrificed principles for power on numerous occasions,
flip-flopping on the Bush tax cuts, offshore drilling, the
estate tax, the GI Bill, waterboarding, immigration policy, the storage of
nuclear wastes at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, teaching intelligent design, and
fully funding the No Child Left Behind law.
The character Howard Beale, a network
anchor in the great film Network
(1976) declared, “I'm as mad as
hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!!" Here is the context. Beale told viewers:
“I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot. I don't want you to write to your
Congressman, because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression
and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street.
All I know is that first, you've got to get
mad. You've gotta say, "I'm a human
being, goddammit! My life has
So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your
chairs. I want you to get up right now
and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell, "I'm as
mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!!"
personally don’t know how effective this unhinged -- or sane -- action might
be. But one really important option lies
before us, and it is easy. Don’t just
get mad, get even! Reject extremely
conservative politicians and the status quo.
Go to the polls on November 4, and vote for a new Progressive Era. Mark the box for Barack Obama and Joe
Biden. Then, once they are in office, we
must work on them to make sure that they honestly advance a fairer, more
sustainable, more ecologically sound, and more propitious agenda for the
Dr. Tiffany B. Twain