Thursday, February 27, 2014
In the world and empire at large
My fellow Amuricans have gotten heartily tired of imperial wars. That hasn't stopped our rulers from killing people in other countries, but it has restrained them from sending US troops to do the dirty work. Besides killing people, theirs and ours, these adventures have been bankrupting us. And the US certainly doesn't "win" the aftermath -- no wonder we're war weary.
People in the US are probably also less secure in many respects, having given millions of people more urgent reasons to hate us. But hey, we're still behind some big oceans. …
At home: economic and democratic discontents
The US and European casino economies crashed and burned in 2008, causing widespread insecurity and misery. Though by accident of geography I live at the epicenter of a tech boom and see its consequences daily, for most people economic prospects have not recovered. It's a dreary time to be an ordinary person. Meanwhile we continue to proliferate plutocrats who somehow missed out on the lessons about sharing and responsibility for community in kindergarten.
Our Constitutional system is not weathering technological and social storms very well. We're spied upon without meaningful restraint, because our rulers can. Right wing politicians and courts are warping the legal system to privilege money, illiberal religion, and inherited class status.
On the other hand, the demographic changes that are the prerequisites for meaningful change within our democracy -- such as it is -- march on. It was obvious from the early 1990s that white anxiety about losing our majority status in California was driving a series of increasingly desperate measures affirmed by an aging shrinking majority to retard the advance of Those People -- African Americans, Latinos, Others. And then, rather suddenly, the 40 percent of the white electorate that wanted peace and prosperity more than cultural dominance joined with emerging voters of color and BINGO! -- Republicans in California became vestigial, no more significant than an appendix, though sometimes becoming gangrenous.
What this means in California is that policy fights take place within the Democratic party, not so much between the political parties these days. (See also the Mike Honda/Ro Khanna Congressional race this year: both Dems, both of "Asian" ancestry, one the candidate of traditional Democratic voters, the other of Silicon Valley venture capitalists.)
Nationally, the emergence of the new, more brown, majority means that we can elect a Black Democratic president -- who'd have foreseen that in 2005? Not many of us. Yet Obama's two elections have stimulated creative open expression of the nation's historic racism. The NRA's open gun carry project, abetted by rightwing Supremes plus "Stand Your Ground" laws, makes for what seems open season on young men of color. We can't seem to do right by our underclass of immigrant workers upon whom we depend for the country's dirty work. And in many states (usually those of the old Confederacy and friends) posturing about nullification of federal authority or even secession seems popular.
If the country follows the trajectory of California, and I think most of it will, unevenly, haltingly and grudgingly, we can anticipate a time, coming sooner than we now imagine, when a plural society without a single dominant demographic becomes simply who we are.
Unsticking a homophobic consensus
No shit -- it looks like gay people are well on our way to being normalized in this country -- though certainly NOT everywhere in the world. We even got married right here in this house, after 34 years … I sure never thought in 2005 that would happen in the next decade.
I worked in these vineyards some during the last nine years and learned something important and perhaps little recognized. Sometime about a dozen years ago, some smart LGBT leaders convinced some smart funders that work among religious people to (at least) reduce knee jerk antigay sentiments would have a huge payoff for winning gay equality. It's hard to assemble money behind a relatively novel strategic insight, but they were right. There came to be (some small) funding for work in the more approachable religious denominations and even on the fringe of more hostile ones. And when people met people and were reminded of the injunctions of their own best angels, good things happened. Among my Episcopalians, we pretty much went whole hog for full inclusion of all God's children. Other religious bodies may not have quite gone there -- and some probably went further sooner -- but lots of religious people, the people in the business of putting out social and moral norms, got a lot more used to having LGBT folks about. Why we even came out in their families!
The result of all this agitation was to bring a new force to bear in the to-and-fro of this social and political arena. And it was the arrival of a new force, not an enormous one, but a novel one, that gave a big push to move concerns that had been buried or stuck for a long time.
I think any of us who hope to move anything in society can learn from this, as I did. Actually the lesson was right in front of me, but it took the trajectory toward rising acceptance of my people to pound it into my thick head. In order to change society/politics/cultures, some new force has to be introduced to overcome the inertia of "how it has always been." The Right did this in the 1980s by turning apolitical evangelical Christians into engaged reactionary voters. Liberals are doing this whenever we work for increased political participation by the emerging majority of color. Gays found just the right allies by enlisting the closest thing our society has to moral arbitrators.
Yes, I'm doing that and so is the population. And it looks as though I'm going to put some energy into exploring the political implications of being a member of the increasing large elders' category.
I do think my lessons of the last few years are profoundly relevant here. Old white people are the bedrock constituency for bad outcomes in today's United States. But hey -- I am one. Those of us who think differently need to explore what makes us different and whether there is anything we can do to peel a few more of our cohort away from the politics of fear and distrust. We don't have to win everyone, just reduce the reactionary impulse at the margins. That could be enough to help a lot in the current configuration of forces.
And the Democrats need to get over it with offering cuts in the Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits we and our parents paid for. This is a no brainer. There's money in this country to pay the bills; get it from the plutocrats, not grandma.
Our over-heating planet
A friend responded to yesterday's post about global warming: "Please tell us what to do to stop this clock."
I don't merit that kind of confidence. I don't know the answer. We need to bring new forces into this struggle. There are people -- especially oil and coal barons like the Koch Brothers -- who literally profit from heating up the planet. Most of us don't want to carry a constant consciousness that our very own, often comfortable, capitalist civilization is abetting future disaster. But it is. And we, together, have to stop this.