Monday, September 5, 2011

Miss Sarah's "Come to Jesus"? Not so fast...

So check this out... While addressing a horde of tea partyers (let's face it, a bunch of self-proclaimed partyers) in Iowa recently, Ms. Palin (does she use Ms. I wonder?) cautions her supporters to beware of Dems and Repugs running for President, all of whom she insists are, unlike herself, corporate cronyists. But look at this phrase she tossed out that went completely unnoted by press:

"This is why we must remember the challenge is not simply to replace Obama in 2012. The real change is who and what we will replace him with," Palin said at a Tea Party rally in a rural area south of Des Moines. "Folks, you know it's not enough to change the uniform." [my italics]

Excuse me – "who and what"? "change the uniform"? Will someone please 'splain to me what she means? Just what kind of 'uniform' was in her mind's eye? Is it too much to assume a not-too-subtle racial meaning here? I'm not one who goes around constantly on the alert for racial slurs, but since when do dems and repugs wear uniforms? Did she not mean "color"? As in change of color is not enough? Blind to her own fear/racism, she goes on to lash corporate cronyism while proposing we fix the economy by destroying the remnants of regulation and oversight that attempt to keep that very cronyism in check. Never a dull moment with the Queen of the Me-Firsters.

Poor Sarah. She is at heart just another american white (as-a- sheet)- collar aspirant suffering from "Last Place Aversion" described in recent research. LPA finds that, among other things, things, Jim Crow (note a recent resurgence of those laws) was more important to poor Southern whites than it was to plantation owners. Hmmmm... You'd think the plantation owners would have more of a vested interest in keeping blacks from voting than poor whites who have nothin to do with the massah's farm. Why does this matter? What, if any, light does it shed on today's voters?

Among my fellow Americans are those citizens I call the Me-Firsters. These are not just the Tea Party types. Some of them are quite stealthy about their Me-Firstism until pressed to offer an opinion. They're the stingiest among us. They rule the new Republican Party, perhaps even Congress, and include ersatz Independents and tend to ally themselves with candidates claiming to be Repubs. The info on the above link may curl your hair, but it demonstrates what I've been saying for some time: A large and often vocal 'cadre' of Americans have become the most fearful, desperate, I've Got Mine and I'm Hangin Onto It, greedy folks in the developed world. Let me say that I encountered nothing of this kind of Me-First thinking among regular folks in Europe last year, only among the wealthier rentier class, but even they according to news reports are telling their governments to raise taxes on them cause it's getting embarassing. (Also they have vague memories of the guillotine.)

American Me-Firsters were the kids in preschool (which they later defunded as grownups) who did not get a smiley face sticker in Sharing. This so called "silent majority" (with usefully vague parameters) became a movement. Spawned in the Reagan greed-is-good eighties, suckled at the gushing tit of Bush One's color coded fear culture and touted by his "Christian" base, Me-Firstism has grown fat and lazy, resting smugly on its corpulent laurels (and unacknowledged government largesse), unbowed by facts and unchallenged by the majority of Democrats. But the rationale of Me-Firstism is a lie.

Because Me-Firstism is about as far as you can get from Jesus' admonition to keep only what you need. (Bankers, take heed! The only folks upon whom Jesus vented his worst wrath were the Money Lenders.) The New Testament (like - duh - there's a reason they needed a "new" one) sez that if we have two coats, we must give one to the man who has none, i.e., to share (redistribute) wealth rather than hoard or covet more. Me-Firsters do no such thing. They might smugly haul a trash bag of last year's coats ("oh, this one has a hole in it") to GoodWill, which will then charge a middle man's fee and donate that money to the Republican party, but be assured a Me-Firster will hoard several "nice" coats ("why throw away good money?") against the possibility of future want. (Then they'll insist Jesus said give only "one" coat. Typical Repub rationale. No.. Stingy... he said if you have Two give One away; an argument here for 50% tax on the wealthy, you ask me.)

It is that fear of future want that has swept the nation since 2001, a fear that stands in staunch denial of our own willful ignorance, our vulnerability to unpredictable events, including events for which we as a nation cannot bring ourselves to accept responsibility, like the ruin wrought by illegal wars or global warming. So we hoard what we have, building a wall of denial that things must change and that we must be the ones who change it, that we are our brothers' keepers (no mention of "fraternite" in our founding documents, no sirree), that ignores the karmic repercussions of our stinginess and denial, our hoarded wall of illusory safety. We hoard, each in his way, and retire in fear to the remote- controlled comfort of the screen rather than respond to brave voices demanding that a new way forward is needed (Bernie Sanders for President?), that tyranny is the enemy, a hungry beast we are all feeding with small choices we make every day, that our fellow Americans are our brothers in the struggle against that tyranny. That, as Jesus said, "as you do to the least of these (the poor) you do to me". That there is no return to some mythical past where everyone had what they needed (unless they were black, a minor detail, see The Help), never mind that the wealthiest were taxed at something like 90% then.

Me-Firstism is the reason we as a nation are headed for the dumpster. In a We-Are-All-Bankers now fantasy, we've adopted their selfish values thinking we can compete and win on their level. But the Joke's on us as we plod onward, admonishing the poor to grab their bootstraps and stop complaining, with nary a glance backward to see what history's taught us. Ardent Me-Firstism is why the dems (their mindnumbingly passionless delivery aside) can't get a progressive message across despite research that affirms liberal ideals of commonwealth comprise the mindset of most independent voters and are what's most desperately needed now to get us out of the hole we're in. It's why folks vote against their own economic interests, and why this Second Great Contraction (see Kenneth Rogoff) won't make a damn bit of difference in why those near the bottom (as opposed to AT the bottom) of the economic ladder will vote against their own interests in next election, siding with the wealthy, yet never know know what hit em when it backfires. As the study linked above tells us, Americans as a voting public are most terrified of being the last guy chosen for the team, the one left standing alone. In a nation gripped by fear of the future, they vote for those at the top, simply in order to avoid being the guy at the very bottom by keeping at least ONE person poorer than they are below them, between them and the very bottom. And some of these folks actually call themselves Christians. They will vote for the very politicians that are screwing them just to stand next to the cool kids' table even as they are left poorer by further government "cutbacks".

The definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. If the guy below YOU doesn't survive, you're movin down , baby, not up the ladder. You're the next one to go. How myopic (read: terrified) do you have to be to not see this?

I saw The Debt last night. Good film. There's a powerful scene that felt to me like the center around which everything else seemed to revolve. The former Surgeon of Birkenau, held captive by Mossad agents, tells one of them that the Jews perished because, as a people, they were too weak (the Jews saw themselves as " too nice a people" not to blindly follow the law, however heinous) to stand up to the Nazis. Otherwise, he sez, how else were four Nazi soldiers able to force a thousand Jews to the camps?

Hmmm.. there's an attention getter. Because there simply IS no logic to four human beings being able to enslave a thousand. While somewhat discomfiting, the guy has a point, certainly one no one likes to consider.

And herein lies the timely lesson. Of course the German people bore a huge responsibility. Few would admit they saw it coming, even if they did, as the German government subjected Jews and others to one seemingly minor humiliation after another?But what of the Jews themselves? What would you or I do, and when? How would we know it was time to stand up? If none of us are willing to put everything on the line – and is there any doubt about what that means today? – to save what's left of our hopelessly corrupted Republic, and if the effort to deny the depth of that corruption is sapping whatever strength we may have to put it right, we are doomed to being herded, as the Jews were, into metaphorical death camps, lives of debt servitude at the hands of banks, loss of privacy and civil liberties, of freedom of movement, deprived of decent education and healthcare and relegated to a lifetime spent pandering to the wealthiest among us, or facing a screen in an office or pacing a big box store parroting some sales pitch or other, hawking crap no one needs, or toting a gun for the military in exchange for the privilege of seeing a doctor when we're wounded or bringing up a worthy credit score if we want to purchase a house or own a car.

The old Nazi was right. History teaches us real human liberty is no joke, it has a price. It's why the deaths of JFK, RFK and MLK shame us when we think about them. They risked everything to lead, and they knew it. The only folks who took to the streets after those deaths in '68 were black. What did they have to lose? They'd lost their hope and their leaders. They'd get the shaft either way, stay home or riot.

Everyone thinks it's someone else's job to lead, to protest, to risk...... risk what? Isn't the very fact that we're all cowed by the notion of an all- knowing NSA and FICO, of having a "bad record", enough to convince us that things have already gone too far? That we don't deserve to regain the republic we aren't willing to "keep". That the justice system isn't what it should be? That things are perilously close to a kind of Germany-in-the-30s Light? Isn't it interesting that the only folks in the streets these days are ones without The Bomb handy to keep their enemies in line? Someone said terrorism is the atomic bomb of the poor. Is it really the media's fault that they fail to inform us properly? Or is that just an excuse for our docility? Willful ignorance. We see what we want to see, hear what we want to hear. Obama's message of "hope", change you can believe in? Sounds too much like a religion to me, something into which you are baptized. No thanks. I know how to read.

Everyone wants someone else to do it for them. Yet they don't even take the time to do the homework on those who would presume to do that in government. Then they complain government sucks and say kids today have no values, no work ethic. Please. Who do you think those kids are emulating?

Tolstoy asked, "What then must we do?" I keep reading blog posts that say when it gets bad enough people will rebel. I said that myself in 2000, figuring four years of Bush would wake people up. I hear people say, When is someone gonna do something? I always think, Well, how bout you, guy? then I think, How bout me? How will that happen when all the things that matter to our ability to survive in a crowded world – a reliable job, a little emergency savings, ethical businesses, a place to live, decent schooling for your kids or yourself, a credit score over which you have no control, time for real conversation, declining median income, exorbitant bank fees, the illogically high cost of food and medical care, the lack of affordable public transport, rigged election machines and new Jim Crow laws, a corrupted electoral process wherein bankers own the voting machines, an unresponsive congress – get worse every year as our power to use the system to make needed changes weakens along with our spirit for such action and the cost of elections goes up along with pharmaceutical sales and the size of entertainment screens and anyone who isn't a couch potato, who doesn't know the latest DWTS winner is regarded as abnormal, even suspicious, by the majority?

It's the little things we do wrong. They accumulate like malignant cells. Quietly, in the dark unless you're watching carefully. A silent civil war's been going on for more than forty years now and it's coming to a head. Yet Americans are acting more like mooning, heartbroke teenagers than righteous defenders of liberal democratic ideals, all grown up and ready to do battle with the thoroughly corrupted powers that be. What makes us think such courage is no longer required here? We know this is what it takes. To live in a principled society, there have to be those willing to stand up and die for those principles so the rest of us remember what's important.

How was it that four Nazi soldiers could force a thousand Jews into a camp?

Because not enough people refused to accept the little tyrannies, not enough stood up and said NO to participation. Not enough people were willing to risk their lives for a principle. The urge to unprincipled survival is strong. Would the Jews have chosen defiant death if they knew what awaited them in the camps? Is that how bad it has to be for people to stand up?

Ask the Egyptians, the Syrians.

It wasn't in their nature, the Nazi says.

Is it in ours?

OK,,, if you're feeling like you need a laugh, here's a good one, unless you're one of those passive aggressive PC types who'd insist this constitutes child exploitation. then, well....whatever...

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