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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Is Our Nation Going in the Wrong Direction?

Unfortunately, many polls that ask that question leave it up to the ones being polled to define “wrong direction” for themselves when they answer.  That means, at the very least, that we cannot know just what direction those answers entail.  The wrong direction could be a leftist tilt or a tilt to the right; or even a strong pull to the far left or far right.  However, ‘wrong direction’ could also be an economic matter centering around jobs and wages, or a social issues concern centering around views of abortion, contraception and Planned Parenthood.  In other words, that question and the answers can be used to bolster either side of the political equation, depending on one’s preferences.  The validity of the answers is therefore questionable.

“Going in the wrong direction” answers involve personal bias based on many things: geography, economic status, political party, education, religion, and ideology.  Therefore, any inquiry into what might constitute a wrong direction must be based on something other than personal bias.  It must be judged against something that is fundamental; something that speaks to the human condition; something that speaks of a broad purpose and something that, at the very least, is agreed to be essential to the human condition across a variety of cultures.

Let us switch our focus a bit and explore what may be considered the right direction.  In my last post are listed some of the basic inalienable and lawful rights within our own founding documents and within the Declaration of Human Rights under the umbrella of the United Nations.  Perhaps a “right direction” for government would be the undaunted and uninterrupted pursuit of those rights and freedoms on behalf of its people.   They include:

Inalienable (or ‘natural’) rights: (“cannot be surrendered, sold or transferred to someone else”)
--life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (U.S. Declaration of Independence)

UN Declaration on Human Rights (just a few of which are):
--right to life, liberty and security of person
--No one shall be held in slavery or servitude
--No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
--Entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law
--No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
(proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations.)

Legal rights (can be modified, repealed, and restrained by human laws).  Among these are:
--Free speech, free press, right to assemble and to a redress of grievances
--Freedom of religion
--Right to bear arms
--Right to a speedy trial
--Right to vote

We should not be able to say we are going in the ‘right direction’ if government at any level is involved in passing legislation that essentially abrogates or diminishes any such rights and freedoms.  Indeed, the Australian government took a look at its laws recently to determine what kinds of encroachments were being made upon such rights by their actions.  If the Aussies can do it, why can’t we?  And maybe that’s a clue to our real problem, and perhaps to our direction at the moment. 

It appears that we have become mired in the extremes of Left and Right ideology, but more particularly, we have allowed the two major Parties to define for us the parameters of debate and discussion, and what’s more, to define the subjects, the issues, and the solutions.  The whole of our debating and discussion is now captive to the wiles and whims of these factions and their Leaders.  We have lost the ability to discern our real problems, to gather relevant and useful information about them, to debate them honestly, and then to produce bi-partisan creative solutions to pursue based on preserving and defending cherished rights and freedoms.

So, I would venture to say that YES, we are going in a wrong direction because we have allowed ourselves to fall into a trap about which many of the Founding Fathers spoke.  That trap, known as “factionalism” was to be completely avoided according to many of them.  In fact, our Founders were enough concerned about this trap, that they made sure that political parties were nowhere mentioned in our Constitution (even though some of those same Founders – Jefferson and Adams among them -- later allowed themselves to become associated with a type of political party).

Notwithstanding, here are some of their words and warnings that address the spirit of faction and animosity characterizing a radically polarized two-party system. Note especially George Washington’s “solemn warning” against this great danger to our individual and national happiness (any marks of emphasis are mine).

John Adams
“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.
~ John Adams, Letter to Jonathan Jackson (October 2, 1780).  In: Charles Francis Adams (ed.), The Works of John Adams, Vol. 9, Boston, 1854.  pp. 510-11.

George Washington
Let me … warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party.
“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.
“[The spirit of party] serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another.
“[The spirit of party] opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions.

“All combinations and associations…designed to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities... serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community.
“…they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government.
~ George Washington, Farewell Address, September 19, 1796.

Thomas Jefferson
“I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever…where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent.”
(Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Francis Hopkinson (March 13, 1789).  In: Merrill D. Peterson (ed.), Letters of Thomas Jefferson, New York, 1984, pp. 940-42)
“You will soon find that so inveterate is the rancor of party spirit among us, that nothing ought to be credited but what we hear with our own ears.  (Thomas Jefferson, To James Monroe, March 1808)

James Madison
“So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts.”
(James Madison, The Federalist #10, November 22, 1787)

I don’t believe I have experienced any greater passion in the writings of the Founding Fathers than in these words applied to factions and parties!  Their warnings and cautions about the effects of such factions are nearly clairvoyant if one applies them to the present day political scene.  In this light, we might fairly say that unfettered political party ideology, rules and principles (or lack thereof) may well be the strongest catalytic agent leading us toward fractured governmental process and administration and a fundamental disunity.   The indictments of the Founding Fathers are entirely applicable to the current parties and their leaders; in particular to the campaign of Donald J. Trump:
  • Opposition to each other to a point of obstruction of legislation; false criminal charges made against each other 
  • An abuse of words, developed to an art by Republicans who have invented a whole new language to symbolize the inadequacy and criminality of the Democrats; falsifying statistics and events has been an integral part of this abuse of meanings 
  • A spirit of revenge has seemed to become more pronounced lately, especially as each Party attempts to wrest power from the other, and as Mr. Trump attempts to destroy all competitors and critics 
  • In the cogent and highly applicable words of George Washington:  factions or parties “distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration… agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another.”  We are currently enmeshed in each of these actions by our parties, especially by the Trump Campaign. 
  • Of late, both Houses of Congress, under Republican control, have demonstrated for us the worst aspects of factionalism by stifling open debate, holding numerous and meaningless hearings, taking ‘show votes’ (largely to placate the voters where a negative outcome is foreordained), inventing crises and scandals, steering clear of real problems needing solution, and putting the ideology and the will of their Party in place of the mind of the People and the general welfare of the public.  (Take a look at what Sen. Ted Cruz had to say about some of the results of the Republican leadership at:”  
  • Finally, the leadership of the Republican Party in particular has used the very processes that are meant to move debate and action along, to actually undermine and destroy the ability of the Congress to legislate in a meaningful way.  The most obvious, of course, is the use of the filibuster and cloture vote to raise the number of votes needed to pass major legislation.  However, plenty of examples exist of leadership preventing votes, using one-time manufactured rules, and delaying votes, especially on presidential appointments. 
  • Let me add that too often Republican leadership and legislators offer amendments that have nothing to do with the original bill; undermine the purpose of the bill; or, change the whole nature of the bill -- all allowed and often planned – by the leadership.

So, here we are going in a fundamentally wrong direction.   Because parties and lobbying groups have taken over or undermined the process of a government that is supposed to spend its time gathering information and input from constituents, solving society’s problems through relevant and effective legislation, and overseeing the execution and management of laws already passed –all to the purpose of serving the people, protecting their rights and freedoms and seeing to it that their General Welfare is a prime consideration.  As the Founding Fathers warned, Political Parties and Factions are more likely to be our enemies than our friends in preserving the nature and function of our government.

What can we do about this fundamental threat to our democracy?  Let me give you some quick responses without a lot of detail:
1)      We will never rid ourselves completely of parties and factions; political organizations and agencies.  Nor should we attempt to do so, for human interaction and involvement in such organizations is a significant grounding for grass-roots democracy.  What is needed is some common-sense requirements of those entities.  For instance, we need to restrict political parties from receiving any gifts or money in any mode from special interests.  Because, at the very center of political parties, there is a distortion of the democratic process as money speaks the loudest, influencing elections and legislation, and buying more access, than ordinary constituents can muster.
2)      Third Party challenges to the major parties are one possible way to control major Party actions, especially if third parties manage to receive enough votes to overturn an election.
3)      More people registering as non-partisan independents will tend to make the major parties listen more carefully to what may be a more centralized group interested in just making government work well.
4)      We must seek changes in the way that Congress conducts its business.  It is currently a mish-mash of rules and procedures that are largely defined by a cabal of leaders who make it almost impossible to govern effectively.  Unfortunately, the ability of each House to make their own rules continues without a check or balance in sight. 
5)      So, my major suggestion is to go after the process of legislating itself.  Propose bill after bill to change the process, along the lines that follow:

-- Hearings must be held only to gather information on matters of legislation, established law, or oversight of implementation (including regulations).
-- The detailed purpose and goals of every piece of legislation must appear as a Preamble to the accompanying bill. In every instance, the problem or issue being addressed must be thoroughly diagnosed, explained and documented.
-- Title I of every bill should be required to spell out the relation of the legislation to its purpose, and should explain how the protection and enhancement of specific rights and freedoms of the People will be addressed.  Any benchmarks by which the bill’s goals will be measured should also be enumerated.
--The Title of the Bill must match the intended purpose and goals of the Bill and all amendments offered must meet the same standard, including explanatory clauses that document that relationship.
-- In the Senate, the filibuster rules must be changed so that cloture can only be used to close debate and a simple majority vote shall be the standard for passing all bills, except those that involve approval of treaties.

Over the past 20 years, Republicans have held 57% of the control of our federal government – 68% if you add in the Supreme Court – that's a 68/32 split in favor of the Republicans.  Among the states, the Republican Party holds complete control (legislature and governor) of nearly half the states (23) - more than three times as many as the Democrats. It turns out that America is overwhelmingly republican-controlled.  If we are moving in the wrong direction, we do have a particular Party that must share at least 57% of the blame. 

But that is not our main point.  The main point is that both parties have allowed way too much slippage in defending and enhancing the rights, freedoms and opportunities for all of the American people.   Republicans mainly (some Democrats as well) have put Party above country; ideology above principle.  And Donald Trump has carried such disruptive behavior to its zenith.  He has replaced debate with rancor, insults, and prejudice; leadership with bombast and false toughness; bi-partisan pragmatic legislating and governing with “I am the only one who can fix it!”  He has replaced common-sense with nonsense and substituted erratic and meaningless speech and phrases for substantive, documented and accurate discourse. 

The question of right or wrong direction is a sham.  It allows us to place blame in all the wrong places and enables us to escape dealing with the underlying causes of whatever it is that is identified as the wrong direction.  For some presently, the wrong direction is equated with whatever the Obama administration is attempting to do. The underlying causes for that conclusion may be racial bigotry, aversion to liberal ideology or simply opposition to government intervention into the health care arena.  Whatever the complaint, it is clear we are the prisoners of political ideologies that bolster our political parties, but that also distort and overturn the will of the People.

It is time to return to basics; to fundamentals as represented in our founding documents and history, and to return our legislative process to defense of freedoms, rights and opportunities while also reducing and reforming the tendency of parties and factions to disrupt, rather than to enhance, our democratic principles and ideals.     

Monday, August 1, 2016

Take-a-Ways from the Conventions

It is clear that many comments have been devoted to the outcome of the two major conventions recently concluded.  I intend to stick to a few points of inquiry, but not to repeat what has already been discussed in minute detail.  I hope my focus will be helpful to you.

1)      All political conventions are meant to hype-up their followers and appeal to independents.  Interestingly, they were both somewhat successful on that score.

REPUBs: Trump, and his Trumpeteers certainly used every creative construct they could to paint Hillary Clinton as “Crooked Hillary.”    However, there was, as usual, little substance: no documentation, no evidence, no proof for any of the claims of criminal activity.  To make a case for criminality, the Trump campaign would need to prove criminal intent, motivation and personal harm to others.  They did not; and they will not, because careless judgment is not a punishable offence.  Moreover, the items just mentioned, don’t even exist, and that’s why the FBI and the Attorney General declined to bring charges, simply because they would have no standing in a court of law if those three items are absent from the case. 

Nonetheless, Trump followers are not generally swayed by facts as much as they are by fantasy, and the fantastic construct of “Crooked Hillary” has seemed to gain ground with at least 68% of voters who find her untrustworthy, plus a remarkable 8% bump-up in polling for Donald Trump.
While we are on the subject of Hillary’s trustworthiness (and the charges of Republicans regarding her criminality in the ben Ghazi case, in the email “scandal”, and in some undefined activity with Libya, Egypt and Syria, plus the infamous example of her reckless judgment by negotiating a treaty with Iran about nuclear production), let us recall to mind Bill Clinton who chastised the Republicans for creating a cartoon Hillary that does not have anything to do with the real Hillary.  A point well-taken.

DEMs:  it is perfectly clear that the Democratic convention was built around values; mostly American values and progressive values.  It was a valiant attempt to portray Hillary Clinton in a new light: a person with enduring values that relate to the betterment of all and the unity of a nation in all its division working together to create a more perfect union.  It was an ambitious theme, goal and project.  Their success is yet to be determined, but from a partisan point-of-view, it probably succeeded to a positive degree with some supporters and some independents.  It seems to have resonated with some major Republicans who have either endorsed her or said they will vote for her. 

2)   Two very different views of America emerge; two very different visions of what’s at stake

REPUBs: The Republicans believe strongly that America is headed in the wrong direction: over-spending at home, a weakness in promoting our military strength, and promoting a lack of respect for us abroad, violence in our cities (contributed to by Black Lives Matter) leading to murdering policemen.   We are at war with radical Islamic terrorism, climate change is a “hoax,” and regulations, especially on the environment, are hurting businesses and holding them back.  Prisons and other government-operated services need to be privatized.  They see all kinds of problems on the horizon, especially with Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Food stamps.  They say we need to either privatize ( get government money into private hands at the banks and on wall street) or devolve programs and services to the states .  They still want to repeal Obamacare and turn all power back to private insurance companies, medical corporations, drug companies. 

Support of the richest one-percent (and of rich and successful corporations) remains a top priority.  They want to  let religion loose and integrate it into the public domain, especially into educational institutions and private enterprise.  There is a general (and sometimes very specific) attitude of discrimination and blame toward minorities, immigrants, women, Muslims, Mexicans, and protestors.  Putting each of them in “their place” seems to be a constant theme, hidden behind “religious freedom,” “blue lives matter,” “law & order” “single mothers are detrimental to maintenance of “family”, and a myriad of targeted actions (such as the cautious mention of getting rid of all social programs on the federal level).

Vision of the future “Make America Great Again” -- includes making us first and standing up for this country.  It means keeping people out or at least controlling immigration beyond everything; deport undocumented aliens; tell allies they have to pay their way; tell enemies they better watch out – we’re ready to put them down if they don’t kowtow.  Use atomic weapons if necessary; withdraw from huge environmental protocol, destroy ISIS.  The real vision: bully, intimidate, act tough, don’t back down, don’t take any crap from anyone (sounds almost like a Fourth Reich-type country).  The Fatherland will be the new face of America, and America will reign supreme!  Part of that is a radical strain of law & order – a code word for keeping certain people in their place.  Trump himself put the seal of approval on this vision – which in its original in the 1930’s and 40’s was buttressed by a very important concept – that of the ‘Fuhrer’ - the strongman leader.  Donald Trump put himself squarely in that camp when he said that he was the only one who could “fix it” (mutual admiration between the Donald and Vladimir Putin is another indicator).

DEMs: “out of many, we are one” and “stronger together” are the slogans that emerged from this convention. “Democrats believe that cooperation is better than conflict, unity is better than division, empowerment is better than resentment, and bridges are better than walls.” (Democratic Platform Preamble).  And so, the DNC emphasized: an economy that works for everyone, good education is a basic right of all,  women should have equal pay for equal work, Wall Street can’t be allowed to throw our economy into chaos again, the right to vote must be enhanced not restricted, climate change is real; a new energy powerhouse will provide jobs and greater security, believes in power of diplomacy and that we must strengthen ties with allies not denigrate them; as a party of inclusion Dems must realize the promise of diversity, provide comprehensive immigration reform, protect civil liberties, and guarantee certain rights for women, workers, LBTG community and for people with disabilities.

Vision:  a united diverse and dynamic nation bringing together all people; build economy where good jobs are available to everyone; competence and stability; equality; justice; prosperity.  Do what’s right!  The Democratic Vision is of a Party and country where we work together to perfect our union and our governing apparatus.  The speeches by The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, President of the North Carolina NAACP and Khizr Khan whose marine son gave his life in Iraq, put it all in perspective when, in different ways, each reminded the Party and the country that doing the right is what we are called to do.  We are not totally defined by political, governmental, economic, or social questions and issues.  We are more fully defined by involvement in moral principles and ethical living.

In other words, all that we do in relation to others comes down to morality.  Another way to look at it: morality is not so much what one does about oneself but what one does for someone else.  Morality (or doing right) is not primarily what one does not do (avoiding drinking, swearing, smoking, perversity, etc.) but all about what difference you make for others.  Let us not miss the importance of communal principles and values that underlie our political life.  It is not so much religion – which is the hobby-horse of fundamentalists who have great difficulty thinking in terms other than laws and rules; restrictions and order.

The progressive moralist believes there is more to religion.  Personal morality is not to be dismissed but is important to be seen in the context of community well-being.  Maintaining personal goodness and obeying certain laws is important for the health of a society which is exactly why our Judeo- Christian scriptures emphasize the nature of community as an interactive body.  We live in a society that depends on the right seen as the moral imperative to act responsibly and powerfully for others; to thereby strengthen and enhance the entire community.  Yes, politics is meant to be an expression of morality – doing right to benefit others. 

3)      The morality of the Party Platforms is more important than the hype of the candidates or of the Party ideology -- the time has come to take a serious look at what is being pedaled as important by each Party Platform.  It is much more important to see those platforms in the context of communal morality. 

If the country is headed in the wrong direction, what direction should it take?  That is a fundamental question that all political parties must answer.  The Rev. Dr. Barber suggested that it is the direction of communal morality – that is, that our words and actions should reflect the morality of our ancient heritage and not just the ideology of a political party.  The point is, if this is a country fundamentally based upon certain inalienable rights that come from a Divine Source, and if this nation has at its base the biblical imperatives of a Divinity that created people in the image of that Divinity (likeness of being; given life by the breath of God known as inspiration) then this country has little choice but to go in a direction that puts into society the defense and maintenance, the inspiration and the practice, of those rights and begin to reflect within our society the attributes that have been created in us.

Our own founding documents attempt to spell out for us some of those inalienable rights, some rights bestowed by law, and some of those internal inspirations that are essential to our governing, and to our construction of our lives and the life of our society.

Inalienable (or ‘natural’) rights: “those rights that cannot be surrendered, sold or transferred to someone else”
--life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (U.S. Declaration of Independence)

UN Declaration on Human Rights (just a few of which are):
--right to life, liberty and security of person (All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood)
--No one shall be held in slavery or servitude
--No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
--Entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law
--No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
--The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State
(NOTE:  In spite of Republican opposition to most of the UN work on Declarations and Conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 General Assembly resolution 217(III) A as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected)

Legal rights   are those bestowed to a person by a given legal system (i.e., rights that can be modified, repealed, and restrained by human laws). Among these are:
--Free speech, free press, right to assemble and to a redress of grievances
--Freedom of religion (within the context of no establishment of one form)
--Right to bear arms,
--Right to a speedy trial,
--Right to vote

It is widely observed that the two types of rights are often confused, and the result can be rancor and division.  It could be rightly said that agreement on what is inalienable is not 100% anywhere on this globe.  Nonetheless, it is pertinent to say that certain rights are based on what is perceived as fundamental to the well-being of individuals and a society and that those rights appear to have their fundamental underpinnings in the great religions and cultures.

So, my point in all this is to ask: is this not the direction toward which we should always be headed?  Is not our moral imperative to see to it that both types of rights – Inalienable and Legal – are preserved, protected, defended and enhanced not only because it is for the good of citizens and for society, but because it is the fundamental imperative of our government as enumerated in our founding documents?  I can see no other direction worthier of our attention, consideration and commitment.     

Therefore, it is extremely important to ask ourselves, before we vote for political office nominees: who best represents the moral imperative to protect and strengthen our inalienable as well as our legal rights?

Based on the two candidates and their records, plus the platforms of each major Party, I have already made my decision, and in future posts will offer more detailed analysis of what is at stake.  Here is a sample guide to some of the moral considerations:

Repub. – Donald Trump                                                      Dem. – Hillary Clinton
-denigrates individuals & groups                                                +works to bridge divides
-personal attacks: candidates, women, Muslims, Hispanics        +champion of women, children; immigrants
-will repeal ACA; undo coverage for 20k people                        +build upon ACA; CHIPS
-supports Citizens United decision                                             +opposes legal bribery of Cit. United
-deport undoc. aliens; hold up Muslim immigration                     +Immigration Plan w/citizensp. Path
-law & order; protestors and BLM demeaned/denigrated             +fix just.syst: policing, prisons; habil.  
-climate change a hoax; repeal regulations; Elim. EPA                +reduce emissns; fund alt.fuels & jobs
-protect richest 1%; lower taxes; provide tax loopholes              +1% to pay fair share from recent gains
-appt. Justices to repeal ACA; Roe-Wade; supp.Cit. United          +Justices who support just the opposite

-NRA supports him; favors guns in schools;                                 +bkground cks.; ban semi-automats; over-sized clips

Friday, July 22, 2016

Trump Presidency: A Bigger Picture

It is unfortunate that voters often do not take into full consideration the damage, problems and difficulties that can extend from one Presidential administration into the future, affecting new generations. There are probably several quite cogent reasons for not “using one’s head,” about this, but perhaps it simply goes back to something I’ve said before on this Blog:  our brains favor making short-cuts to reality.  Too often we fail to take differing types of information as a tool for discovery rather than as a threat to what one already believes or holds as “true” or “false.”
 Commonly referred to as “cognitive biases” (“tendencies to think in certain ways that can lead to systematic deviations from a standard of rationality or good judgment”), the following may be examples of some biases that pertain to being unable to deal with future consequences (many of which have been on display of late in Cleveland):
1) “Confirmation” bias -- a “tendency to interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions – but it often limits the ability to take in new data and thereby change old opinions.”
2) “Anchoring” or “focalism” – the predilection for relying too heavily on one piece of information when making decisions: people with this kind of bias often cannot discern or imagine any other solutions. 
3) “Bandwagon effect” – the tendency to do or believe things because others do; related to group-think and herd behavior
4) “Availability cascade” - A self-reinforcing process in which a collective belief gains more and more plausibility through its increasing repetition in public discourse ("repeat something long enough and it will become true").
5) “Conservatism” - The tendency to revise one's belief insufficiently when presented with new evidence, thus being satisfied with the “status quo”
Just to give you a taste of some of the consequences with which we find ourselves living, that evolved from conservative Republican administrations, let’s start with a military man, very conservative in many ways; a hero to many who proclaimed: “I Like Ike.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower:
Even this moderately conservative Republican gave us some long-term results that linger.  His administration allowed the CIA to function as a ‘shadow’ government, disrupting regimes in other countries, e.g. Indonesia, Cambodia, Cuba, the Congo, and most of all, in Iran where Prime Minister Mosaddegh was overthrown (with CIA help) and the Shah was placed in power. Although the CIA today is somewhat more controlled, we inherited both the enmity of certain countries, such as Iran, and the allowance of secretive exploits by the CIA; such as current monitoring of personal phone calls, emails, other communications (and let us not forget the use of water-boarding under George W. Bush-Dick Cheney).  Internal spying on countries both friendly and not so friendly are all extensions of the extra-curricular activities of the CIA and other intelligence branches in this and subsequent administrations. 
Beware those who live and die by total warfare against others, including unchecked covert operations – the consequences always come back to haunt us both at home and abroad.
Richard M. Nixon:
We still live with Nixon’s ‘southern strategy’ that changed voting patterns in our South for future decades. His campaign ‘dirty tricks’ also changed voter trust for government into a distrust still exploited today by Right-wing candidates.  National Government has been made into an enemy and that produces the Right-wing push for states’ rights and state takeover of national programs.  One long-term consequence: Medicaid returned to the states will result in current health-directed dollars being re-directed toward state administrative costs, simply because the national administrative structure will be eliminated.
Beware those who see states as the be-all and end-all for governing ourselves.  We have tried it more than once and failed each time, e.g. the early Articles of Confederation had to be abandoned in light of the Confederation’s inability to supply our Revolutionary War troops. Beware the Party that declares the evilness of a central government, without mentioning the inability or failure of states to provide their own citizens with adequate health care, retirement benefits, jobs or education, a clean environment, or a thoroughly modern infrastructure adequate for large corporations that are themselves multi-national.  We must maintain a strong national government to produce outcomes that will address national problems, needs and issues like those just mentioned.  
Ronald Reagan: 
We also live with the consequences of Ronald Reagan having fired striking air traffic controllers thereby emboldening future conservative leaders toward ‘Right to Work’ laws, constant attacks on union activities and the abrogation of employee rights and benefits, such as an adequate health care plan or retirement plan for every worker. 
Beware the Trump backers who tout the businessman image and who say that he loves his workers and learns much from them.  Why then does he oppose unions, a minimum wage (the concept itself), and equal pay for women? 
Trump, and many of his supporters, have inherited or acquired the false assumption that organized Labor is bad for Business.  ORGANIZED LABOR IS NOT BAD FOR BUSINESS; it’s a check on business practices that exploit workers and consumers and a boon to businesses that treat workers with dignity and respect.
Is organized Labor the reason for losing manufacturing firms to other countries – no, that happened because Business decided to exploit the workers in other countries  and because a certain Republican administration set up some favorable conditions under which businesses could leave our shores, make a pile of profit and protect those profits in off-shore non-taxable accounts. 
Is organized Labor the reason why so many employees of private businesses are being summarily fired or laid-off without a procedure in place to protest their forced exit?  Hardly.  Are Labor unions responsible for employee losses of healthcare, pension, and pay check?  No; businesses are taking advantage of the non-union shops and exploiting workers every chance they get, even in the non-profit sector.   
These are just a few examples of negative enduring consequences of voting for Right-wing conservative candidates for President.  There are more actual examples; check them all out at: (from which was gathered some of the material above).
Now striding upon the scene comes Donald J. Trump… who unfortunately embodies every far Right doctrinaire policy and idea that has gone before him, to which he has added more by asserting fascist-like rhetoric and actions that have no place in United States politics.  However, there are enough frighteningly-biased voters and moneyed sponsors behind him that he is now the actual Republican nominee for President of these United States.  
The enduring nightmarish consequences of his possible election are many, but we will mention just a few for your consideration.
  • One or more Supreme Court nominees that will lean the Court to the Right for several generations, thus preventing all progressive values and programs from seeing the light of day.  Meaning specifically, the loss of Roe vs. Wade and the right to a legal abortion.  But that’s not all: it relegates women to criminal status, causes deaths from botched illegal abortions, and relegates women to a less competitive status. 
  • An opposition to: bargaining rights, the minimum wage (not just a raise but the concept itself), equal pay for equal work, paid family leave, promises to devastate our work force and their families for many years.  All those white working men who believe Trump will take care of them will be toiling for peanuts.  Trump will betray you just like Reagan betrayed the unions and workers who supported him.
  • And guess what?  Under Trump there will be a reduction in unemployment benefits, and no special programs for out-of-work or poverty-level wage earners.
  • Other Government Benefits will not be readily available, like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, CHIPs, transportation aid, rent subsidies, public housing units, retirement pensions, or social services.  Low-wage earners are going to be out-of-luck.  It would not be surprising to see the return of tent cities, work crews beholden to industry moguls; control of every aspect of the lives of those living mouth-to-mouth in the hands of the privileged bankers, financiers, manufacturers and industrialists.  If you thought government hand-outs to those in poverty were reprehensible; wait until you see what the Trump crowd will be handing out, or not handing out, as the case may be. 
  • Just what do you expect will happen when the military and weapons of destruction are allowed to build up to enormous proportions in order to make America feel great again?  Well, it won’t be to keep the peace.  Trump has already threatened to use atomic weapons against ISIS, and some countries like North Korea and Libya and Syria are not on his all-time favorites list either.  Anybody who messes with Trump will experience war as a first response.  But war brings consequences that last for decades.  We are still paying off war debt that has accumulated since WWII, and still dealing with the competition and enmity of former enemies.
  • If the last week is any indication, we will have Mr. Trump to thank for a division of groups of people along lines that are designated by his government. His animosity toward Muslims, Mexicans, Syrians, and people of color, plus a few more categories like women and young protestors, tends to make the Wall he wants to build on our southern border a sinister image of walling off or segregating certain portions of our population.  Perhaps internal walling-off will be less by physical walls then by means of restrictive policies, laws, regulations, rules and lack of opportunities.  Why not? several of his Governor colleagues like Christie and Pence (V-P nominee) have already done so!
  • Watch out for Trump trying to please Evangelicals by signing legislation that allows religious objections to health care provisions – birth control specifically.  And, watch out for the creeping menace of religion inside government and vice versa (already begun under George W. Bush) to be continued under Donald Trump who wants immediately to remove any restrictions on churches regarding tax exemptions, private school support from tax dollars and eligibility for government grants.
  • What about his commitment to “Law and Order?” Does that mean the police will be more militarized and more at war with their neighborhoods and communities rather than fulfilling their role as protectors of the populace?  Does it mean riots in the streets will be controlled by murdering and wounding everyone who “looks like a criminal?”  No one that I know wants to live under such conditions, because it will affect all of society, not just protestors or poor people or racial minorities.  We are in for a dismal future dedicated to law and order rather than to liberty and justice for all.
Just what constitutes “Law & Order”?  Some people say it is the “Rule of Law” in contrast to rule by despots or tyrants, or by the mobs in the streets who believe that they are above the Law.  Broadly speaking, “Law and Order” is basically the condition of a society brought about by the observance of certain legislated rules and laws under strict control by police who have the power to act to prevent crime, to detain and arrest, to bring charges (sometimes of dubious validity), and to bring violators into a court of law.  But, it is strange how ‘Law & Order’ in radical Republican words and phrases keeps sounding like a war on certain folks in certain categories or circumstances. 
Just like the “War on Drugs” and the “Southern Strategy” -- and now the Republican call to “Support the Long Blue Line” of police officers – Trump’s “Law and Order” is nothing more than a dog whistle meant to be heard essentially by white citizens only.  These various nefarious strategies represent Republican attempts to discriminate against people of color and refugees (particularly those with darker skin).  Movements or organizations that protest society’s treatment of these groups, and the protestors themselves who disrupt the order of things with their demands for change, reform and revolutionary actions, will be under constant scrutiny and harassment.  Just like ACORN and Planned Parenthood, they will feel the long arm of the Law and Order police as they swoop down and make arrests on newly “TRUMPED-UP” charges. 
“Law & Order” has little to do with protecting the vulnerable in our society, or those who have no money to spread around, or those who face economic and social challenges every day of their lives. “Law & Order” has little to do with equal justice for all and in fact is code for unequal justice needing to be meted out to those who don’t conform to the white establishment’s rules and standards. 
Remember please, that our Constitution does not contain the phrase “Law & Order.”  It prefers justice, tranquility, common defense, general welfare and the blessings of liberty for all, not just a few.  It does provide for calling forth the ‘militia’ to “suppress insurrections and repel invasions” but it does not define protesting in a non-violent manner as equivalent to “insurrection,” nor does the Supreme Court. 
“Law & Order” remains a dog whistle invented by conservatives to warn the white and privileged citizens of this nation that one or another group needs to be “put in its place.”  That is its essence, its flaw and its preferred outcome.  Anyone who mistakes it for an appropriate ideal to pursue has swallowed a radical Right-wing line that leads us right back to the horrors of slavery, Jim Crow laws, lynching’s, police shootings, forced segregation and subjugation, and the unjust incarceration of minority men and women. 

Donald Trump takes pleasure in being the “Law and Order” candidate.  Why?  Because it fits with his bullying persona, his business values of cut-throat competition where only the strong survive, and his view of the world which is seen from a Tower bearing his name.  From that Tower, he gets to look down on everyone below, and from that Tower he can pursue whatever he pleases, no matter who it hurts or to whom it is offensive and damaging. 
In spite of the rosy words surrounding him from other convention speakers, Donald Trump has been named in at least 169 federal lawsuits, according to a investigation. “They read like a history of Trump’s business failures, successes, and bombastic personality.  The federal lawsuits… date back to 1983 and involve everything from business disputes, antitrust claims and, more recently, accusations that Trump’s campaign statements are discriminatory against minorities. He’s been sued by celebrities, personal assistants, prisoners, people in mental hospitals, unions, and wealthy businessmen.”
The White House and the Oval Office are meant to be different – the ‘Peoples House’ it has been called, where some earlier-day Presidents used to welcome crowds of people who were looking for help, redress of grievances, or maybe a special government hand-out.  In modern terms it is meant to be the place where the People’s business is transacted in ways that will benefit them, bring justice, and solve problems, dependent to a great extent on the attitudes and beliefs of the one who holds the Office and on those he/she appoints to play a key role in the mission and purposes of the administration.
In view of the useless, negative and meaningless rhetoric of Trump family members, politicos and others, on the campaign trail and in the convention hall in Cleveland, it all comes down to this:  Donald Trump has demonstrated that he is not fit to be President of the United States.  The directions he has proposed are contrary to our cherished ideals of liberty and justice for all; of providing opportunities for the vulnerable; of protecting all people equally; of meeting the legitimate needs of our people, and of providing for the General Welfare of all of the people within our borders (not just citizens), plus honoring treaty provisions of common defense for the nations of NATO. 
The fact that his acceptance speech contained just one ‘concrete’ proposal for change -- building that wall on our southern border – is demonstration enough that he is unqualified for this office.  Rather than propose specific steps to be taken to change policy or regulations (beyond Obamacare repeal and two treaties re-negotiated) he made it abundantly clear that everything depends on him as the change Agent, as the Facilitator, as the Negotiator.  That is equivalent to authoritarian leadership -- the strongman who has charge of everything and everybody. 
Beware the meaning of Trump leadership – being the Champion, the Voice, the ‘Only One’ who can make something happen.  Democracy does not work that way, and Donald Trump is spouting fascist ideology of the cult of ‘der Fuhrer.’   The continuing consequences of putting such a cult leader in charge of our government are found in the histories of many nations across our globe.  Democracy is “messy” but authoritarian leadership is brutal and lethal.
In conclusion, let me share with you a comment from Newsvine (dated June 20, 2016  by someone who identifies himself as "jim32780") that sums up some of the reasons why, despite the lies and innuendos heaped upon Hillary Clinton during these last few days by Republican attack-dogs, we must vote for Hillary Clinton for President.  It tells exactly what we are voting about: not personalities, but progressive issues, values and actions.

 I don’t see this election as voting for Clinton.  I see it as voting for The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Voting Rights Act, Food Stamps, Minimum Wage, Union Rights, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Roe v. Wade, Marriage Equality, the Department of Education, National and Community Services Act, union activities by federal employees, environmental research at the Department of Energy, USAID, intercity and high-speed rail grants, Community Development Fund, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Corporation for Public Broadcasting Subsidy, National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, a liberal majority on the Supreme Court for the next 30 years that will overturn Citizens United, plus whatever Senator Sanders can get done with a Democratic Senate and a Democratic President.

If Trump is elected, all that is gone.  It’s not about Clinton.  It’s about over 80 years of the Progressive Movement that we’re in danger of losing because we’re not looking at the bigger picture.”

Monday, July 11, 2016


 The tragic events of this last week smashed any thoughts of a respite from discussing violence.  We are in the midst of what happens when rhetoric becomes over-heated, when individuals of one racial group are targeted as 'criminal,' based on a profile of stereotypes that render them "guilty" and dangerous simply because of their skin color. That is what happened in Baton Rouge and in St. Paul, Minnesota – innocent men’s skin color sentenced them to death by rogue police officers following “protocol.” Question is: what protocol?  Is it the unspoken one that proclaims: ‘Blacks are criminals so shoot them if they don’t comply with every order, and maybe even if they do.’  Is that the protocol being followed covertly by some police departments, or is it simply an attitude prevalent among some police in some cities? 

The situation is bad, and tragic.  Not only do we have “lynching” of black people by rogue cops killing innocent men like Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, now we have the reactive shooting of police by a rogue lone wolf who happens to be Black, and a veteran.  We mourn the loss of each individual, whether suspect or first responder, and pray for their families who are suffering under the burden of those losses right now.  Now, let us back up and apply the brakes a bit.

v  We need to avoid irresponsible talk of the beginnings of a race war, or a war on cops.  We need to admonish media outlets that publish over-blown headlines and stories, just as we need to eschew the prejudiced meanderings of blowhard politicians, like Rudy Giuliani who has made a blatantly stupid statement that the “Black Lives Matter" movement is inherently ‘racist.’  Not only has he thus made the victims of white racism blameworthy for claiming an equal standing with all other lives, but with a  typical white superiority, he denigrated and devalued the BLM movement and its members by proclaiming that 'all lives matter’ and that the BLM group should not emphasize just their own race. 

 First of all, Mr. Giuliani, you don’t understand the term “racist”, and second, if we follow your logic, we should not allow organizations like: B’nai B'rith International, Hispanic Associations, Italian-American, Ukrainian-American or Polish-American clubs or associations, or the NAACP  -- all of which (along with many other ethnically- and racially-oriented associations) dedicate themselves to the advancement of their lives and particular culture.
v  Fortunately, we have many responsible and rational white and black folks who are already emerging to stand by each other in this critical time.  Protests and some reactive violence will probably persist, with blame coming at them from all sides, but let us refrain from over-heated rhetoric that exacerbates the situation.
v  Rather, let us take time to dig at root causes of hatred; prejudice; racism (see my postings of 12/7/2014; 5/21/2015; 6/22/2015; 7/12/2015).  We cannot continue in a state of denial and inaction.  The passing of Time will not solve our problems surrounding race relations because they are too deeply ingrained in our institutions.  I used the word 'dig" on purpose for that implies some very basic work on the part of all of us.  If we don't engage in the hard work of revolutionary change, we shall inevitably inherit the destruction of our democratic ideals, rights and freedoms simply because we cannot survive the cancer of racism that threatens all of our core values.
v  A Washington Post database has been keeping track of police shootings that have resulted in a suspect’s death.  In 2015 that number for Jan-June was 415; right now for the same period in 2016 that number has already risen to 512, and is probably still on the rise as we speak. (For all of 2015, total killings of suspects equaled 990). In contrast, shootings of police officers by suspects was 7 for the first six months of 2015, and 13 for the same period in 2016. Within the statistics is something that must be granted full attention.  Black suspects are 2.5 times more apt to be shot and killed by police than white suspects.  The broader question that begs an answer still remains: comparatively, how much is an African American life worth in our society?  Or, put another way, Do Black lives matter equally with all other lives?   
v  It is past time to approach every individual as:
1) a unique individual
 2) as a person with potential that must not be lost
3) as someone worthy of dignity, respect, fairness, and charitable (not charity per se, but caring or positive) attention to personal well-being
4) as a human being whose life matters, and who deserves rights, privileges and freedoms (as well as responsibilities) inherent to that status.
v  Perhaps it is more than past time to look again at what our own origins as a nation tell us about treating others with dignity and respect.
According to the Declaration of Independence:
  • all men are created equal with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  But there’s more that we sometimes ignore or shove aside:
  • governments are instituted among people to secure these rights, and those governments derive their powers from the “consent of the governed.” Moreover, when government becomes destructive of these purposes,
  • it is the right of the People to alter or abolish that form of governance and to institute and organize principles and powers that seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness,” with the proviso that “long-established governments should not be changed lightly or for ‘transient’ (passing, temporary, not lasting; transitory) causes.”  But when a long train of abuses and usurpations shows a pattern toward reducing those rights under an absolute Despotism,
  • it is the duty of the People to throw off such governance and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
Interesting isn’t it?  The clues to our purposes are all there in the very document that originally declared independence from Great Britain.  Maybe Bernie Sanders read over these same words and knew that what we must have is a revolution; not simply an evolution.  Just in case you have forgotten, here are some of the insufferable acts of Tyranny that were cited against George III, King of England at that time.  Now substitute the current Congress or certain state Governors and Legislatures for the King, and you might have a clearer vision of what we face now (examples in parentheses), and why revolutionary action is needed:
  • Refused assent to laws needed for the common good, and other laws for the accommodation of large districts of the People (minimum wage increase; workers’ compensation for longer period; equal pay for equal work; hard-hit wards in New Orleans (as result of Hurricane Katrina) still rebuilding, mostly with private money; Flint Mich. still begging for help with infrastructure, as many more towns and cities will soon be doing).
  • Used methods and procedures to fatigue legislators (the Senate filibuster and made-up rules of procedure used to delay and postpone action))
  • Refused for a long time to cause others to be elected (or appointed in case of hundreds of Obama nominees held up in Congress)
  • Obstructed the Laws of naturalization of Foreigners, refusing to encourage migration
  • Obstructed the administration of justice by refusing assent (to appointments)
  • Established Laws that are unclear in terms of judicial powers (search & seizure; stop and frisk; coerced confessions; minimum sentencing; three strikes (felonies) and out)
  • Gave assent to, and support for:
    • quartering large bodies of armed troops among us (like major city militarized police forces?)
    • protecting them by mock trials from punishment for any murders they commit
    • depriving us in many cases of trial by jury (heaping on multiple charges to force plea bargains; killing of ‘suspects’; over-burdening of public defenders)
    • imposing taxes on us without our consent (taxes caused by undeclared wars; by bailing out banks and finance companies; by allowing extraction of special subsidies for a privileged few from tax revenues)
    • abolishing our most important laws (assault weapons ban; voting rights pre-approval for certain states; voting rights circumscribed)
    • altering fundamentally the forms of our government (pushing states’ rights; nullification of federal laws; devolving national programs, such as Medicaid, to the states where they can’t be sustained; 50+ attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act; attempts to abolish regulatory enforcement agencies such as the EPA, and consumer protection agencies)
    • repeated petitions from the People rejected and made worse by repeated injury of citizens (equal pay for equal work; gun violence control – could not even get Congress to pass bi-partisan No Fly-No Buy legislation to prevent those on no-fly list from purchasing a gun)
  • Deafness to the voices of justice and consanguinity (‘affinity’; ‘relationship’) (constant in both Congress and state legislatures: listening primarily to the wealthy or the elite; not calling anyone to testify on effects of bills on the People; advocating repeal of Obamacare without listening to those who will be most affected: the poor).
The basic questions surrounding our present situation become more focused when viewed in the light of our original “Declaration of Independence.”  It is not that we must overthrow another nation’s government in order to institute our own.  It is not simply that we must treat people with more respect and charitableness (which, nonetheless, is wholly necessary!)
The real question is: can we acknowledge our failings as a representative democracy and as a Republic that derives its very existence from the will of the People?  Can we re-form, re-format (re-organize) our government(s) and our institutions so that they encompass and imbue the basic revolutionary principles of our Founding? 
Bernie Sanders and his followers say it can’t be done without a real Revolution.  The Black Lives Matter movement has its doubts as well.  Progressive groups keep hammering away at reform on key issues.  The Democratic Platform will be one test of whether or not there will be real change proposed by Democrats.
The Radical Right says we are going in the wrong direction; that we need to return to a time when the federal government was under strict controls and the states were the powerhouses of our system (if they were so important, how come the Founding Fathers changed from a confederation of states to a federal system?)  Others are opting for law and order; the NRA advocates arming everyone they can to fight the forces of evil (unfortunately those forces defined by some as everyone who is non-white; gay and un-American, plus a rogue federal government in its enforcement role); some want an oligarchy (rule by an elite few) and an economic engine that is unrestricted by any government controls (regulations).  There are some on the Right who have even advocated secession of certain groups or states; some have simply tried to nullify federal laws they don’t like.
Underneath it all, we find the destructive forces of racism and violence, division and discrimination motivating people to resolve whatever issues they envision or encounter in a destructive manner.  Those forces exist on both sides of the spectrum, from the rogue police who kill innocent people simply because they are of color; and those who kill police because they are sick and tired of being denigrated by the police and society in general. 
What do we do with such division, hate, misunderstanding, ignorance and bigotry?  We do what Martin Luther King, Jr. did; what Gandhi did; what Mandela did; what Rosa Parks did.  We do what Lincoln did; what Kennedy and LBJ did; what revolutionaries have always done.  We return to our roots to start over and to build upon the ancient truths that serve as the foundation stones of our lives and our institutions.  We question everything in the light of our founding principles and truths.  We ask the People what they believe and what they want and need, leaving no one out or left behind. 
We begin to build something new based on our debates and discussions.  We hold neighborhood, community, city-wide, area-wide, statewide, regional and national forums, both formal and informal, so that we can talk to one another; and more - so we can get to KNOW one another on a more profound level – as individuals with unique thoughts, ideas, opinions and, most importantly, good will! 
If we don’t listen to one another and talk with one another, we will be forever caught in the formal media and social media trap of merely reading words or seeing pictures that appear on a monitor – no real encounter, no real interchange, no real conversation, no real knowledge of one another – it’s all virtual reality perhaps substituted for relationships.  How many have mistaken the tools of information-gathering and ordering for the essence of living where there is actual live communication and involvement with other human beings? 
Communication at its foundation is something we do as a live interchange with someone else by which we give something of value to another; a part or share of ourselves.  It is like a gifting of self. Granted it is of immaterial things like knowledge, thoughts, opinions, ideas, hopes, qualities – but nonetheless, it is a giving of one’s persona as experienced through those personal items.  We cannot hope to give of ourselves in this way to others unless we are actually in touch with others – we must have real interchanges, real confrontations, real debates – with real people or we will not come to a real and viable outcome. 
So, the first step in our plan is communication – giving of ourselves in real time and presence to others and building strong bridges across the divides.  The problem is, we continue to receive rhetorical platitudes, but no actual plan of action.  The rest of this posting is about taking action in a positive way nationally.
In an interview with Lester Holt of NBC NEWS, Hillary Clinton discussed some of what I am writing about today.  So Hillary – what’s the actual plan?  Can we have a national Plan in place by November 8th when we vote?  How do we get people talking about revolution?  I would suggest that Bernie and his wife could be your ambassadors for interaction and revolution (radical change in values and institutions).  How about getting something started with that announcement?  
I think the second step is to involve every institutional entity in this country in internal discussions and forums on what it is they are fundamentally supposed to be doing – what is our mission and purpose – and more importantly: how does our mission and purpose relate to carrying forward and enhancing the purposes and principles underlying our foundational documents and judgments?  Or, we might want to start the other way around: what is our particular organization, institution and/or organized entity (including corporations) not doing to practice and bring to effective reality, the principles of our form of democracy? 

In other words, it may be useful to look first at each  group’s negative aspects that ignore, denigrate, or empower negative and destructive principles, purposes and behaviors in relation to equal justice, rights, freedoms, and responsibilities.  Then move to consider what can be done to overturn those negatives and to move each organized group into greater compliance with democratic principles.  Invite and engage non-members from the affected community in this process.
The third step?  I think it will have to address our national mission and purpose.  I would propose that our federal government begin by actually debating the mission and purposes of our foundational documents.  The Congress could hold hearings on several crucial subjects like: equal justice – what does it entail?  Equal rights – what are they and how can we protect and enhance them?  The opinions of the People – how can we make sure that all the voices are heard and acknowledged in our democratic system?  How can we promote the fundamental right of the vote?  It’s time for Congresspersons and Senators to stand for something.  Let them express their most cherished thoughts and beliefs, but not as though running for office; instead, as though the life of this government is at stake.  Let’s have a referee who will preside and enforce the rules of debate and comment, calling out members who cross the line from debate and discussion to political rhetoric.  The rules for the Presiding referee to follow should be prepared before any discussion commences. 

At the same time, let us have the departments and offices of governments at national, regional, state and county/city levels engage in discussion and debate about the same general issues I have proposed for private organizations and governmental entities.  Their task should be to determine how their particular entity both blocks and furthers the principles of our founding documents and subsequent major judicial decisions.

Somewhere in this plan, I believe we need to make room for a year-long process leading up to several White House Conferences on the main subjects of mission and purpose of our government and our institutions, complete with actual proposals for changes, amendments, new laws, and policies.
I believe such a process is a necessity but would not be without difficulties.  It is not only necessary, but imperative, given our current circumstances of division, discrimination, bigotry, elitism and demagoguery, and outright murdering of innocent people.  But, more to the point, we are failing in the most important basic principles that form the foundation of our democracy.  It’s past time for this national discussion and debate.  Otherwise, we shall continue down the road to destruction, simply because we have provided no way to address our concerns and our reasons for being.  It is the challenge for our times, with our broad and varied population, with our numbers, and with the apathy that exists in some quarters. 

But, do we really have a choice?  Without a national discussion, we will continue to hear the voices of demagogues, candidates, pundits, corporate moguls, plus the views of extremists on both sides, all the while silencing the concerns of millions of voters and citizens who are trying desperately to tell their representatives things they seem not to want to hear: sensible gun violence controls, fair and comprehensive immigration policies, climate change, equal justice. 
Revolution comes in many ways: sometimes quietly and without warning; sometimes out of growing chaos; other times out of revolts of various groups (like unions in Poland); often out of despair, frustration, unemployment, unequal access to opportunities; too often out of the neglect of a true mission and purpose; and, often enough, out of the force and the burden of one burning issue or one overriding concern. 
What I propose is that a revolution be allowed to occur out of citizen participation: debate and discussion of who we really are and what we are really meant to be and to do.   South Africa did some of that in their peace and reconciliation movement.  We have had experience with it to a degree in the Women’s Rights movement, the Labor Movement and the Civil Rights Movement. 
But, we have perhaps gone so far off track now that we must plan and organize to a degree not seen before. In order for a national discussion to go as deeply as possible into our heritage, our founding principles and our demographics we must make this into a revolutionary referendum on Who We Are?  Why We Exist? And What We Need to Change Dramatically in order to actually be who and what we claim to be.  Otherwise, we shall have no choice but to (as the Declaration of Independence reminds us) “suffer while evils are insufferable, (and) to right ourselves by abolishing the forms to which (we) are accustomed.”

Can we do this?  Can we actually have a national discussion about topics like constitutional imperatives; racial and cultural divisions; equal justice; the responsibility of corporations? 
Can we find ways to restore ordinary citizens to their status as the force behind government – to their rightful place as the consenters and the deciders?  Can we talk in-depth about inclusion, participation and activism? 
Can we deal with the demands of the 21st century and agree on what schools must do once again to provide an effective quality education for all? 
Can we find solutions to the issues of gun violence, climate change, bargaining rights, and religious freedom restrained by the establishment clause?  Can we talk about life and abortion and other social issues like our approach to crime, violence and incarceration?
 I don’t honestly know for sure, but I have had the privilege of taking part in a national process involving discussion and debate leading up to a White House Conference on Aging.  It was interesting, engaging, exciting, and best of all, successful.  Many real and viable suggestions for change on all levels of government were made.  The Congress even passed legislation to put a fair number of the suggestions and proposals into effect. 
We do have models to guide us, and YES, WE CAN DO THIS, if we can just find the leadership, the plan, the incentive, a viable process and the will and commitment to make it happen.  If challenged to participate, I’m ALL IN!  How about YOU?