August 18, 2014

Race and Repentance in America

What is happening today in Ferguson, MO, had it roots hundreds of years ago, and nothing less than pulling out those roots will heal the situation today. America needs to reconcile with our racial history -- seeking genuine atonement and making meaningful amends. Until such time, tortured race relations will continue to plague us with more and more tragic results.

It's interesting that we even use the phrase "race relations," given how little we register that this is even about a relationship. The relationship between blacks and whites as groups in America is psychologically and emotionally dysfunctional, to say the least, and until this is dealt with on the level of the cause and not just effects, we will continue to play out over and over again the cycle of violence at its core.

It's difficult to deal emotionally with the history of slavery in America, which is why many whites have chosen not to. Yet it's imperative that we do, because until we see clearly the line of development leading from slavery to the Civil War to the Ku Klux Klan to the Civil Rights movement to "benign neglect" to the "prison-industrial complex," America will continue to misunderstand the real problem. This is not just about how many bullets were shot into Michael Brown. The shots that matter most here are way, way too many to count.

Slavery existed in slave owning states in America beginning in the 1600's, increased significantly with the expansion of the cotton industry in the early 1800's and did not end until the passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865. When finally freed, the slave population in America at that time was somewhere around four million.

But the legacy of the Civil War did not end at Appomattox. The stroke of a Presidential signature on the Emancipation Proclamation, even an Amendment to the Constitution, could end the evil of an external institution but not the pathology that produced it. External remedies do not of themselves address internal causes. Slavery ended but the racism that gave rise to it did not, only burrowing more deeply into the fabric of Southern society after the Civil War.

During the Reconstruction Era from 1865 to 1877, with federal troops stationed throughout their states, a vanquished South had to come to terms with the fact that they had lost the war. With Lincoln's assassination, gone was the voice proclaiming "malice towards none, and charity for all." Bitterness over having had to go through what they went through to win the war was the main emotional tone of the North, and the humiliation of defeat was the main emotional tone of the South.

With their painful defeat came the eradication of the South's primary economic engine, all social and political privilege, and an entire way of life. In addition, carpetbaggers descended from the North to loot, manipulate, and take whatever advantage possible of an already devastated population. Had Lincoln lived, things might have gone very differently. But he did not.

Many in the South, not surprisingly, then turned their rage at having lost the war against the people whom they saw as its cause. The last thing certain Southerners were ready to do was concede true equality of social status to blacks. And thus began an era of white supremacy in the American South, which was almost as ugly as slavery itself.

If slavery marked Phase 1 of America's black-white relationship, then the reign of white supremacy after the Civil War marked Phase 2.

Former slave owners had not necessarily awakened to the deep humanity of African-Americans; they simply could no longer own them. Their sense of entitlement and the violence it spawned simply morphed into new forms. Groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, founded in the 1860's, began a wave of terror in which lynching - hangings carried out by angry mobs -- of black Americans as well as of whites seeking to help them became common. Once federal troops were withdrawn from the Southern states in l877 and White Supremacists regained control of Southern State legislatures, blacks were routinely intimidated and attacked to prevent their voting in state and federal elections. Violence around elections became normal, with lynching reaching a peak in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During the period between 1890 and1908, southern legislatures passed new constitutions and electoral rules to disfranchise most blacks and many poor whites. They enacted a series of segregation and Jim Crow laws to enforce second-class status against blacks.

The horrors of institutionalized white supremacy were ultimately met and repudiated by the rise of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement during the 1960's. Their struggle, of course, was not easy, and Dr. King received both professionally and personally the full force of supremacist rage. From the lynching of integration rights workers, to police brutality, to church bombings, and ultimately the murder of Dr. King, the white supremacist movement did not go down quietly. Love is the only force that is powerful enough to overcome hate, and Dr. King displayed that love with the full force of his being. His non-violent message struck the heart of a nation, ultimately awakening America to the need for federal civil rights legislation. And it came to pass.

A cursory reading of history might lead one to think, "So then it was all handled, right?" But unfortunately the answer is no. The monster of racism clearly has many heads, and every time one has been bitten off, another one has arisen. The hot violence of slavery was replaced by the burrowing violence of white supremacy, which was then replaced by the cold violence of benign neglect.

Thus began Phase 3 of our tortured race relationship. "Benign neglect" is a phrase first articulated by Daniel Patrick Moynihan when he was Urban Affairs Advisor to President Richard Nixon, arguing that the drama of the Civil Rights movement should be followed by a period of more or less quiet in the relationship between blacks and whites. It was not necessarily a proactively racist sentiment on Moynihan's part, or even on Nixon's. But it was an abandonment of a healing process nevertheless, and in that sense at least a passive betrayal of the relationship. To say to a formerly enslaved population, "Be glad! You're not slaves anymore, and you're not going to be routinely lynched or kept from voting!" - while good, indeed very good - was still not restitution. And nothing short of restitution will constitute a real amends and redeem the soul of America. It wasn't enough that slaves in America were freed. The question remains, what were they freed to?

Civil rights legislation, with its signature Voting Rights Act, was extremely important in integrating African-Americans into the voting pool. But of itself it did little to integrate African-Americans into America's economy. And people who are left out economically are left out, period. The era of race relations post-Civil Rights movement has paralleled the advancement of American society in general, in which a relatively small part of our population - blacks, as well as whites -- has done very well, while the majority has hardly moved forward at all. "Blacks go to Harvard; blacks get rich; see, a black man became President!" is now the mantra used to justify a continuation of a policy of benign neglect. The fact that geniuses can make it in America doesn't of itself mean that social justice exists in America. Not everyone is a genius, but everyone should matter.

Yes, it is true - and very much to be celebrated - that blacks have opportunities in America today unheard of fifty years ago; but that of itself does not constitute full economic justice. The poor in America are all benignly neglected now. As long as 1 per cent of our people control 40 per cent of our wealth and 60 per cent of our people live on 2.3 per cent of our wealth, economic justice for the majority of Americans of any color isn't even on the short list of our national priorities.

One in five American children live in poverty today, making us the second highest child poverty rate in the advanced world. Among black children, however, the poverty rate hovers at 40 per cent. A black male has a one in three lifetime probability of incarceration in the United States, lending credence to Michelle Alexander's description of America's "cradle to prison pipeline." These problems are not discreet and newly formed; they are the continuation, the legacies, of a situation that began in the 1600's and still plagues us today. It's not as though the situation finally erupted into violence on the streets of Ferguson. The situation erupts into violence in the hearts of black mothers and fathers all over America every day, as they teach their children - particularly their sons - how to behave in order to avoid the unequal application of criminal justice in America. For America has fallen into a terrible pattern in the area of race, as in so many others: don't heal the disease, just suppress or seek to eradicate the systems. The message communicated by most governmental action is this: "Don't keep blacks down, necessarily - just don't lift them up. The geniuses among them will make their way. If and when they complain or act out, we have police and prisons to show 'em who's boss."

Yet heal the disease we must. And the most significant healing of any societal woe emerges from justice done. Blacks in America have been trained to ask for so little, as though God knows, we've done enough. We've done enough, white America...? What, in the name of God, have we done? We spend millions on anti-poverty programs and billions on prisons. In fact, we haven't even apologized. It's much easier for someone to forgive you when you've had the courtesy to apologize, and much easier for them to get over it if you've had the decency to fix the problem.

We need to apologize, and we need to make genuine amends. America needs to pay long overdue war reparations, and until we do, we will not move forward in any meaningful way. America needs more than forgiveness; we need genuine repentance, and restitution for our national sins.

In the 1990's, Bill Clinton suggested we have a "national conversation about race," suggesting perhaps that if we talk about it enough then maybe the problem will go away. But it's difficult to have an authentic conversation when half of the people involved in the dialogue have over two hundred years of understandable rage to express. There are situations in life - and race in America is one of them - where talk without action does not heal a wound, but only exacerbates it. Whites and blacks have a relationship in America, but it is an unequal one. One side owes something to the other, and until the debt is paid, the relationship will remain unhealed. The very mention of actually paying something back to people we enslaved for two hundred fifty years is still not on the table, not really. And until it is, then America will not be free.

America spends over 600 billion dollars a year on defense. Over a trillion dollars has been spent on the Iraq War, seen now to have been the biggest foreign policy blunder in America's history. Yet no one ever asked if we "could afford it." So it should not be considered unreasonable to suggest that America put 500 billion dollars towards a Reparations Plan For African Americans. Not piecemeal things, like Affirmative Action. But the real deal -- in a big way -- with the emotional, economic and social magnitude it deserves. Incremental changes often add up to no fundamental change at all.

Reparations are not a radical idea; they're considered a basic tenet of social and political policy throughout the world. Why should America not pay reparations to the descendants of slaves who were brought to America against their will, used as slaves to build the Southern economy into a huge economic force, and then freed into a culture of further violence perpetrated against them? It's not as though all that's over now; if anything, the problem has grown within the cells and psyches of every generation since. America will continue to waste money on relatively limited fixes, until we buck up and pay this debt in a real way once and for all. Millions are indeed wasted if the billions we owe here are not paid. A Reparations Plan would provide a massive investment in educational and economic opportunities for African Americans -- rendered as payment for a long overdue debt. Until that debt is paid, the cycle of violence that began in the 1600s and continues to this day will continue to haunt our psyche and disrupt our social good. It is time for America to atone for our past in both word and deed, and to heal our weary soul.

Marianne Williamson is a best-selling author and lecturer. www.marianne.com

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Posted by mwblog at 8:01 PM |


July 21, 2014

An Open Letter to Hillary Clinton

Hi, Hillary. You know me. I mean, we're not friends, exactly, but we're acquaintances. You were wonderful to me back in l994 when you invited me to the White House. It's a memory I will treasure always, and you gave it to me. I thank you.

Now, about your presidential run -- if indeed you make it. I'm writing you this letter because I think the topic might figure into your decision-making, or maybe not.

I admit that in 2008 I went with Obama, feeling at the time that he was carrying the real spirit of things, yada, yada, yada. Yeah, well. Anyway.

That was then and this is now.

I want a woman president -- really, I do. A lot of us do. And yes, you're so qualified, and yes, we've known you forever, and yes, you'd know what to do from Day 1. We all get that.

But none of that is enough to get my vote, or the vote of a lot of people I know. We only want to vote for you if you run like hell away from that corporate box you've landed in. I'm telling you, Hillary. The American people have become hip to what's happening. We know now that Wall Street runs the country, and we don't like it. And for many of us, we don't want to vote for you if Wall Street runs you too.

There are the seeds of political revolution in the air -- a rebelliousness, a rambunctiousness -- that America has been sorely missing. It's faint, at least on the left, but it is there. As a matter of fact, as tragic as it is for a lifelong Democrat to have to admit this, the one place where we have been seeing it manifest recently is on the political right. The Tea Party, sans a codependent relationship with the Republican Party, is causing a real problem for establishment Republicans. And once progressives break free of their codependent relationship with the corporate Democrats, you're going to have a real problem on your hands too.

That's why I'm writing. I have a feeling you're getting most of your advice from people who think that everything I'm saying here is nonsense. So I'll say it as loudly as I can.

STOP NOW. Stop cozying up to the banks, to the chemical companies, to the military-industrial complex, to the party machine, and to all the various financiers who make up the plutocracy now ruining this country. Yeah, I know a lot of them are nice people and that's cool. But they should not be able to turn the elected representatives of the American people into mere inconveniences they can buy off election after election. And if we have a sense that you'd be just another puppet of the elite, then I don't believe that you will win. We were fooled once, but I don't think we're going to be fooled again.

In the final analysis, we really do love democracy -- and watching it dismantled as it's being dismantled, and corrupted like it's being corrupted, has taken a lot of us from denial to real depression to a collective "Hell, no!" that will have electoral consequences in 2016.

Years ago, George Lakoff compared Republicans to a critical father and Democrats to a nurturing mother. I pointed out a bit later that the critical father had become an abusive one -- but that as anyone with any psychotherapeutic understanding knows, the child will ultimately put a lot of his or her blame on the mother who stood by and allowed the abuse to happen! That's the Democratic Party machine today, Hillary. Please don't be one of them.

I know you know exactly what I'm saying, because I remember you -- a lot of us remember you -- when you were raging against the Establishment machine on top of which you're now so sweetly perched. That machine is not our salvation; it's our problem. Corporate Democrats might have gained some power for the party, but at the cost of its soul.

I'd love to clamor for you, to work for you, to cheer you on. I don't want to sit on the sidelines longing for Elizabeth or Bernie. I want to hear what's true from you. I want you to rail against the chemical companies and their GMO's -- not support them. I want you to decry the military industrial complex -- not assure them you're their girl. I want you to support reinstating Glass-Steagall -- not just wink at Wall Street while sipping its champagne. In short, I want you to name the real problems so we can trust you'd provide some real solutions.

But maybe that's just me wanting you to change, to be someone different than who you are. If that's true, please forgive my presumption and ignore this letter. But if anything I'm saying rings any kind of true at all, then I hope you'll start saying so.

And quickly please, Hillary. People are starting to despair.

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Posted by mwblog at 5:27 PM |


July 13, 2014

THE CENTRAL AMERICAN CHILDREN: A Refugee Crisis, Not an Immigration Crisis

It is totally without conscience to knowingly send young children into places where they are likely to be tortured and/or killed unless they agree to sell drugs and commit murder, and stand a good chance of being tortured and killed even if they do. Yet social policy without conscience is what both Republicans and the President are proposing when they advocate the elimination of laws already on the books that would give the worst case Honduran and El Salvadorian children asylum.

"Speedy removal" is the term used the other day by our Director of Homeland Security in discussing one third of the expenditure for President Obama's 3.7 billion dollar proposed plan to deal with the crisis of those children. What a chillingly cold term for deporting people who have nowhere to go. Knowingly sending children back to places rampant with evil is to conspire with evil.

Immigration laws are important, and only those seeking asylum on legitimate grounds should receive it. But in this case, due processes by which asylum would be established for those genuinely in need are being circumvented. This is nothing but child abuse on a massive scale. Many people talk today as though "protecting our borders" is some sort of sacred responsibility, while protecting children is some tawdry inconvenience for which we bear no moral responsibility.

On July 13th's "Meet the Press," Congressman Joaquin Castro, D-TX, argued that many of the children should be presented with the chance to make the case for asylum. "These folks need to be given the case to go to court and argue their case," Castro said. He said that deporting children who are escaping the violent conditions in their countries like Honduras and El Salvador is not "the humane thing to do."

In the words of President Kennedy, "America cannot afford to be materially rich and spiritually poor." And our spiritual poverty these days is staggering. Turning those children away is an immoral as turning away boatloads of Jews trying to escape Hitler's Germany. We did that, but at least there's a general consensus that we should not have. How is sending these children back to the most violent places in Honduras any different?

God does not love Americans more than he loves anyone else. He didn't give Americans some divine right to health and safety, and leave everyone else to just care for him or herself. Even if we were to believe such a distorted version of God's love, then how, please tell me, are those Honduran children supposed to take care of themselves? It seems to me that they tried their best, simply getting here. If God helps those who help themselves, then perhaps He is asking us now to aid Him in His efforts.

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Posted by mwblog at 7:34 AM |


July 10, 2014

THE REVOLUTION OF CONSCIOUSNESS

There is a revolution occurring in the world today, but it is not fought with armies and it does not aim to kill. It is a revolution of consciousness.

This revolution is to the 21st Century what the Scientific Revolution was to the 20th. The Scientific Revolution revealed objective, discernible laws of external phenomena and applied those laws to the material world. The Consciousness Revolution reveals objective, discernible laws of internal phenomena and applies them to the world as well.

The Scientific Revolution improved the state of humanity in many ways, but it also fostered a worldview neither ultimately helpful nor deeply humane. That worldview is mechanistic and rationalistic, without the slightest bow to the primacy of consciousness. Yet consciousness supplies moral vision and ethical purpose, without which all the science in the world won't keep us from destroying ourselves or the planet on which we live.

Gone with irony and deep sigh any lingering hope that science will cure all the ills of the world. Certainly science has improved and continues to improve the world in significant, even stunning ways. But despite all its amazing gifts, science cannot give us what we most need now. It cannot save us from ourselves. Science can lead to the cure of a physical ailment, but it is not just a physical ailment that needs healing. Humanity's core problem is not material but spiritual. It is our insanity -- our inhumanity towards each other -- from which we need to be delivered, in order to save us from the self-destruction on which we seem so bent.

Science is carried out at the behest of human purposes. It can be used for good and it can be used for evil. Of itself, it is neutral and thus amoral. It should not therefore be our god. It's time to end our strict obeisance to its dictate that the laws of the material world are fixed and unalterable, unchanged by the powers of consciousness. The old Newtonian model of world as machine has in fact given way to the realization that the universe is not a big machine, so much as it is, in the words of British physicist James Jeans, "a big thought." Science itself has begun to recognize the power of the mind, but not so a lot of the world it has mesmerized over the last hundred years.

We need to heal our thinking, in order to heal our world.

The Law of Cause and Effect holds true on every level of reality. Thought is the level of cause and material manifestation is the level of effect. Change only on the level of effect is not fundamental change it at all, yet change on the level of cause changes everything. That is why a revolution in consciousness is our greatest hope for the future of the world.

What is the Revolution of Consciousness, in a nutshell? Like all great movements in human history, it is based on a single insight: in this case, that we are not separate from one another. We are not material beings limited to the physical body, but beings of consciousness limited by nothing. Like waves in the ocean or sunbeams to the sun, there is actually nowhere where one of us stops and another one starts. On the level of bodies, we're all separate of course. But on the level of consciousness, we are one.

What that means, of course, is that what I do to you, I do to myself. That makes the Golden Rule very, very good advice. Do unto others what you would have others do unto you - because they will, or someone else will.

Anything we do to anyone else will ultimately come back at us, whether as individuals or as nations. Once we know that, we cannot un-know it. It changes everything, including our hearts. How can we not change how we see each other, once we realize that we are each other?

In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., "We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one, affects all indirectly." That understanding is not metaphor or symbol; it's a description of an ultimate reality shoved from our awareness by scientific materialism. To reclaim that understanding is not blind but visionary. King was not just a movement leader but also a spiritual one, proclaiming that the human condition would not fundamentally change until our hearts were changed. Until that change occurs within us, every time we cut off the head of a monster three more will take its place.

In the words of President John F. Kennedy, "Those who make peaceful evolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable." The Revolution of Consciousness paves the way for the peaceful evolution of the human race. The alternative to that evolution is catastrophic and impenetrable darkness.

Any species, if its behavior becomes maladaptive for its survival, either mutates or goes extinct. What arrogance it would be to believe that that applies to every species but our own. In fact, humanity's behavior is maladaptive for our own survival: we fight too much with too many weapons of mass destruction existing on the planet, and are actively destroying our own habitat. Our choice is clear: we will either mutate or we will die.

The mind does not want to hear this, but the heart rejoices in it. The dictates of science aren't so sure about it, but the dictates of consciousness are clear. Humanity doesn't need to make another machine; it needs to make another choice. We need to consider the possibility of another way, another option, another path for the human race to follow...one in which we do not bow before the laws of science, but rather bow before the laws of love. The mind will no longer be our master, but our servant. Science will no longer be a false god, but a truer help. And humanity will evolve.

The earth will heal, peace at last will come to earth, and war will be no more.

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Posted by mwblog at 5:56 PM |


July 4, 2014

We Have It In Our Power To Begin The World Over Again

Advocating for American independence, Thomas Paine wrote, "We have it in our power to begin the world over again."

And indeed, on July 4, 1776, that's exactly what our Founders did. By signing the Declaration of Independence, they established a break from England and gave birth to a new nation.

Cataloging King George's many and horrific abuses, the Founders did what they felt they had to do in order to secure their own rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Only a total and complete break from England would give them the opportunity to do that.

Throwing off the yoke of what had become a tyrannous rule, 56 brave men risked death for themselves and terrible retribution upon the colonies should their endeavor fail. They knew the violence they were calling down upon themselves, once King George's army arrived to crush their rebellion. They knew there was no guarantee that their effort would succeed. Yet they were willing to take that risk, in order to establish the right of Americans to govern our own lives...not only then, but forever.

Today, we too often take our rights for granted. And a right that is taken for granted, too easily becomes a right that is taken away.

July 4 should be a day of mindful, not mindless celebration. It's a day to look back at what was courageously created in the past, in order to claim the courage to create a more powerful future. America is still, despite our weaknesses, the container for the most powerful idea on earth: that all things are possible, that the future does not have to be like the past, and we all have the right to live as we wish to live.

John Adams, the second President of the United States, said he hoped our national birthday would be a day when Americans of every generation revisited America's first principles -reminding ourselves and our children why freedom matters.

As a recent Congressional candidate, I was reminded every day during my campaign how fortunate we are to live in a country where I could say whatever I wanted to say about our government, point out whatever I felt needed to be pointed out, and no one had the right to stop me. Read any newspaper story today and you're reminded of all the places in the world where such honest reflection is not allowed, not possible, or even punishable by death.

So today, on July 4, let's celebrate with more than a bar-b-que. Let's celebrate with deep and humble gratitude for the extraordinary gift that was given us on this day 238 years ago. Obviously, the Founders didn't create a perfect system. But they began the process, in an amazing way. It's now ours - as the stewards of democracy in our own generation - to continue to carry the process forward. To make it better, as best we can.

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Posted by mwblog at 11:11 AM |