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Sunday, October 18, 2015

TRY ANOTHER WAY

In the late 1970s, I saw a film titled “Try Another Way.”  The film was, at the time, an introduction to a new training concept for persons who were mentally retarded; a concept created by Dr. Marc Gold.  Although the popularity of the particular training protocol may have faded, the title remains as a symbol of what many Americans eschew:  change, choice, trying something new or actually trying to break old habits and outmoded concepts.  It has stuck with me as a usable concept, and I have repeated it to myself more than once when something I happened to be doing or saying was not working for me or for others.  I am using it today in relation to the issues of the day and to the political processes and concepts we are using to approach those issues and problems.  In general, we need desperately to “TRY ANOTHER WAY.”

Take the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (or conflicts), for example.  Does it seem to you that this follows a consistent pattern, no matter when it breaks out in the news?  One side or the other throws a rock, injures or kills an innocent citizen, destroys some property belonging to, or claimed by, the other side.  Missiles of all kinds then begin to be hurled at each other and people are killed.  Each side carries on escalating battles and a war of words to blame the other.  One or the other side calls for negotiations (sometimes for reparations), then the terms or conditions for such negotiations are hurled about.  Maybe they meet to negotiate; maybe another party like the U.S. gets involved as a third party that arbitrates the discussions.  But someone usually pulls out of these ‘peace’ negotiations, and the matter either simmers, fades away until next time, or evolves into all-out war.  The pattern is always about the same, with variations creeping in that usually complicate the situation. 

Perhaps it is futile to say “Try Another Way,” but after centuries of conflict, isn’t it about time to attempt some other approaches?  How about NOT reacting to the stone-throwing or the first provocation?  How about not hurling charges at one another?  How about rejecting the concept and tactic of revenge as a workable solution to relationships, either individual or international?

How about starting at a different point?  How about one side or the other giving something totally unexpected to the other as a gift:  land, free access to certain areas, meaningful jobs and job training; a crackdown by each side on splinter groups who advocate annihilation of the other side.  How about common projects that involve people of good will from both sides engaged in a common cause that benefits both sides in the short and long-term? 

Yes, I know these conflicts go back for hundreds of years; I know many Jews and Palestinians hate each other; I know that peace is not easily attained.  But I also know that there are people and nations that have tried other ways of dealing with enemies, and sometimes whole new relationships have begun.  The Marshall Plan began cooperation between Germany and the Allies, particularly the United States; international accords dealing with human rights, advocacy for children, and other UN-sponsored initiatives have led to better relations between countries.  And, don't forget: The Peace Corps, The Oslo Accords; Treaties on reducing armaments or global pollution or helping rid a whole continent of virulent disease of one kind or another.  There are Other Ways for enemies to act toward one another.  President Obama made that plain when he, in the midst of intransigence from old hawks in Congress (mostly Republicans and some Democrats), plus some Ayatollahs in Iran, went ahead with negotiations with Iran and actually developed something new: an agreement on nuclear power.

In foreign policy and foreign relations, we have to keep in mind the adage “Try Another Way.”  It is not helpful simply to insist on methods and terms and processes that have failed in the past and will keep failing us on into the future.  We should probably apply that idea more broadly.  Can we please try something other than belligerence toward every nation that does something we don’t like?  There has to be another way.  How about re-invigorating the Peace Corps instead of reducing its funding? Why not establish this nation as an arbiter and negotiator rather than as the biggest gorilla on the block?  Do we have to keep stockpiling useless and outmoded weapons from another era just to look militarily strong?  Must we carry on wars that have no relation to defending our country?  Fighting 20,000 ISIS militants with troops and planes and tanks and guns on the ground is not my idea of defending this nation.  Yes, ISIS could send or grow a few 9/11 type terrorists here, but stopping them has so far been successful on our part and local metropolitan and state police forces and federal agents and ordinary citizens have prevented them from carrying out their intended plots. 

We are capable of doing this another way; we don’t need troops in Afghanistan or Iraq or Syria or Libya or wherever to convince ourselves that they are “defending” our country.  Not really.  They are embroiled in conflicts that have gone on for centuries and in most cases are simply defending the status quo of the country and leaders in whatever country they are active.  Russia is not the only nation keeping dictators and straw men in power.  We have done it over and over.  Time to try another way.  The John McCain and Lindsey Graham approach to every disagreeable incident abroad is passé, dangerous, wasteful of money and lives, and a distasteful attempt at promoting exceptionalism or brute strength, but not a solution to any global problems that currently exist.  We must find other ways to be a “great and strong nation.”
 
Strength is not measured by military might alone.  In fact, a nation that believes it must “defend itself” from every threat made by some tinhorn dictator, terrorist or middle east nation no bigger than one of our states, is not projecting strength, but weakness.  Being constantly afraid of attacks upon us from terrorists or rogue nations is the epitome of a fearful nation, not of a confident world leader.  The whole idea of opting out of world-wide U.N. accords and agreements is not the best way to win friends, or to engender peace.  The Republican concept of exceptionalism once again fails to impress, for greatness grows out of willingness to help, to support, to aid others as neighbors not by attacking everybody as enemies. 


The belligerence of the current Republican Party operatives (and a few Democrat emulators) is not acceptable nor effective nor successful.  Is 14 years at war in a small country like Iraq a measure of a strong and successful nation?  Hardly.  It is a quagmire and an unwinnable war with no legitimate purpose because it fails the constitutional test of Defense of our nation.   Likewise, Afghanistan is nothing but a war of revenge against the Taliban because of the twin towers tragedy.  Did we destroy the Taliban?  No, they are stronger than ever and “they’re back” winning battles for parcels of that country.  Did we accomplish any more than Russia did in that land?  No.  And, we missed the whole point in the first place:  none of the terrorists of 9/11 were from Afghanistan or Iraq; 15 of the 19 were citizens of Saudi Arabia. The others were from the United Arab Emirates (2), Egypt and Lebanon.  We didn’t even settle the score like G.W. Bush said we would.  However, with a new strategy of special ops forces taking out leaders of the Taliban and of Al Qaeda, President Obama actually accomplished the original intent of bringing attackers to justice. 
We cannot claim to be a world leader unless we change our concepts and our tactics.  Isn’t it interesting that some of our Presidents, after their terms, not only built impressive Libraries, but also established foundations and organizations whose main purposes were to aid the countries and peoples of the world community in terms of education, health, economics, entrepreneurship, disease prevention and cure?  Does it not give you pause that what they learned from their terms was not belligerence as a helpful enterprise but the fact that what this world needs is a giving and caring that will build people up rather than tear them down.  I submit to you that this is “Another Way” that works.

That we must find another way is not only true of foreign policy.  Our domestic policies under Republican legislative control are as out-moded, dangerous and unsuccessful as anything they are promoting on the foreign policy side.  This is a Party without a soul; a Party without a policy Plan; a Party without a conscience.  It is controlled by a Right-wing that:
  • advocates deceit, violence toward children, gun worship, destruction of organized Labor, and of public schools, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare – that is, destruction of all government-sponsored and operated programs that many people rely on for some insurance of survival or assurance of opportunity
  • has openly bad-mouthed just about every minority group.  By not passing a comprehensive immigration bill, they have shirked their responsibility and forced one particular national group – undocumented immigrants from Mexico – into the shadows
  • have discriminated against women by refusing to pass equal pay for equal work, by using the ACA as a tool for banning contraception and choice regarding abortion, as well as making life miserable for “welfare queens”  - denigrating single mothers living at or below poverty level – by drastically reducing programs like WIC, TANF, lunch programs, day care, Head Start, and SNAP (food stamps), and many others that affect children and their mothers
  • is the party of obstruction, blocking every program, budget and policy proposed by the administration, so that our first Black President will be blamed for all that has not been passed, addressed or solved 
  • wants to repeal health care legislation that has helped to insure over 12 million formerly uninsured citizens
  • has taken money from the poor and disadvantaged and those with disabilities and given tax breaks to the rich as well as fewer restrictions on businesses and corporations (including environmental restrictions, restrictions on Wall Street speculation that brought on the worst recession since the great Depression).  
  • believes that climate change is not occurring except maybe as a natural cycle of this planet
  • wants to privatize as many government operations as it possibly can because the 1%  robber barons they support can establish private profit-making businesses, e.g. schools and prisons
  • refuses to appropriate funds to re-build and repair our crumbling infrastructure and thereby refuses to create jobs that would enable such construction; or for that matter to create any jobs
  • ignores the deaths from gun violence in all areas of our country and refuses to take measures that would curb such violence like closing sales loopholes 
  • has chosen something called the “trickle-down theory” which is an excuse manufactured by its operatives to hide their extraction of tax money meant to aid and abet the less than 1% of wealthy individuals and corporations that they subsidize and aggrandize with tax cuts, rebates, subsidies and other special provisions in the Tax Code so that the rich can grow more prosperous while others suffer 
  • has advocated all kinds of restrictions on voting by certain populations, especially African Americans
It is past time to try Another Way on domestic policy and programs.  It is proven over and over that putting Republicans in office DOES NOT equate to lower budgets, balanced budgets, less bureaucracy, a reduction of the deficit, or prosperity for all.  Instead, almost always, it amounts to welfare for the rich, nothing for the poor, build-up of the military, war, higher taxes for the middle class, and economic recession or disaster.  So it comes down to one obvious thought – we must Try Another Way!  We have to discharge these destroyers of the middle class, deniers of climate change, purveyors of discrimination and war-mongers.  It is time for the changes advocated by Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley: 
  • Challenge the NRA and their premises and get gun owners who hunt, target shoot and compete in sporting contests into some other organization of their own making that does not lobby on behalf of gun-makers, nor advocate on behalf of mass killers. 
  • Let us again break up banks into commercial and savings banks and not allow them all to eat us up with market speculation or outrageous fees or interest rates that discriminate against the poor, the student, and those of minority communities who are often denied personal loans or mortgages. 
  • Free tuition at public colleges and maybe even more! 
  • Raise the cap on FICA tax. 
  • Strict controls on pollution from factories;
  • Rebuild bridges, schools, roads and public buildings;
  • Give the poor the tools, the resources and the backing to make their own communities come alive; support community action again.
  • Since empty houses have long far-outnumbered homeless people in the United States, and emergency room and jail visits for the homeless are costing more than providing housing, let’s follow the suggestion of Roots Action and demand that people living without shelter be provided shelter in our empty houses.
  • Raise Social Security benefits, lower taxes on the middle class and finally pass a single payer health care plan.
There may be an endless list of other ways that we can progress in this country, and the Democratic Party is the home of that list!  And yes, we can pay for all of it, but the rich must pony-up their fair share!

We cannot proceed any further down the road to destruction.  We are vulnerable as a country to another recession, to the destruction of fundamental rights by a Supreme Court full of Republican sympathizers who render decisions based on Republican policy and ideology rather than on constitutional principles and provisions.  We are vulnerable to the creation of an elite aristocracy that tell us what to do and when to do it (they’ve already begun that process by capturing and funding candidates sympathetic to their views).  We are vulnerable to destruction of a vital middle class, so that all of those in the other 99% of the population will struggle mightily for every success and bit of happiness they can wrangle from a broken and rigged economy.

So voters – Try Another Way!   Don’t be bamboozled by what Republicans and their minions say – pay attention only to what they have done and are programmed to do!   They are programmed to despise government structure and process except when it is useful for imposing their will!  Electing Republicans to any state or national office in this atmosphere is equivalent to risking your future on people who want to completely control that future, and who want to produce outcomes other than the welfare, liberty and common good of the vast majority of our People.