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Learn from history.

History

When I was in 7th grade, I had a great history teacher, Mr. Koch. He had the ability to make history come alive and to understand its relevance to today’s world. One thing he did push hard was that you cannot study or understand history if you judge it by current culture/mores. We see this today as we are asked to confront the issues of race in our country and in the discussion on slavery and the Confederacy. Slavery is a blight on America and was the main reason for the Civil War. Regardless of many of the other reasons given for the Civil War, state rights, the lost cause etc. I go with the statement of Barbara J. Fields in Ken Burns Documentary “The Civil War,” “Without slavery there would not have been a Civil War.” Today 155 years after the end of the Civil war and slavery we continue to believe that the culture and mores of the United States have not changed if anything we have become more racist.
The problem with the discussion today is that we judge slavery by modern standards. Yes, slavery is cruel and inhuman. Subjecting humans to slavery, however, is a system that has existed for as long as history has been written and unfortunately still exists today in parts of the world. Removing slavery in the US did not eliminate racism or cure all the ills of its existence. Jim Crow laws, lynching, segregation, and all that followed is the aftershock of slavery. So how does Mr. Koch’s teaching play into this.
Since the “official” end of slavery the plight of black Americans has marched, however slowly, forward toward what is hoped to be a colorblind society. We are not there yet but it is getting better. The other thing history teaches, is that much social unrest. Up to and including revolutions, are driven by increasing yet unmet expectations. The civil rights movement was driven by the slow pace of social reform but was done in such a way that society continued to grow and function. Back at the beginning of the civil rights movement there was not a large black middle class and many blacks lived in poverty. Today the black middle class is the norm with a small portion of African Americans living in poverty.
Today we are subjected to the amorphous term systemic racism. This term is applied to describe any action between black and white America. This along with the terms white privilege and white supremacy are used with total disregard to facts as they exist today. We are shown videos designed to explain systemic racism that include such things as redlining, which has been illegal since the 1960s, unequal education and income tied to racism. The lack of black home ownership is also given as a sign. The facts do not support this in total. Yes, schools in the inner city and poor neighborhoods are not the equal of suburban schools or those in more affluent communities. Yet most blacks do not live in these areas. Yes, most of these areas are black but most blacks today are living in middle class neighborhoods. As to income let us look at a Brookings Institute study.
“Last week’s headlines around the release of new Census Bureau data spotlighted a continued rise in income inequality. The Gini index—a statistical measure of income inequality—rose to its highest recorded level in 50 years, signaling that the distribution of income in the United States is the most uneven it’s been since the Bureau began tracking it in 1967.
That disturbing trend, however, masks the economic progress Black households have made in recent years. In 2018, their median household income (the level at which half of households have higher incomes, and half lower) reached $41,511. While that level only slightly exceeded that (and was statistically unchanged) from 2017, it continued to top 2007’s pre-recession peak for Black median household income of $41,134”

On the other side we see black and minority homeownership has dropped. Homeownership is considered an indicator of wealth and wealth distribution. This drop however followed periods of higher black homeownership.

In another Brookings report on Black Progress we read:
Let’s start with a few contrasting numbers.
“In 1940, 60 percent of employed black women worked as domestic servants; today the number is down to 2.2 percent, while 60 percent hold white- collar jobs.
44 and 1. In 1958, 44 percent of whites said they would move if a black family became their next door neighbor; today the figure is 1 percent.
In 1964, the year the great Civil Rights Act was passed, only 18 percent of whites claimed to have a friend who was black; today 86 percent say they do, while 87 percent of blacks assert they have white friends.
Progress is the largely suppressed story of race and race relations over the past half-century. And thus it’s news that more than 40 percent of African Americans now consider themselves members of the middle class. Forty-two percent own their own homes, a figure that rises to 75 percent if we look just at black married couples. Black two-parent families earn only 13 percent less than those who are white. Almost a third of the black population lives in suburbia.
Because these are facts the media seldom report, the black underclass continues to define black America in the view of much of the public. Many assume blacks live in ghettos, often in high-rise public housing projects. Crime and the welfare checks are seen as their main source of income. The stereotype crosses racial lines. Blacks are even more prone than whites to exaggerate the extent to which African Americans are trapped in inner-city poverty. In a 1991 Gallup poll, about one-fifth of all whites, but almost half of black respondents, said that at least three out of four African Americans were impoverished urban residents. And yet, in reality, blacks who consider themselves to be middle class outnumber those with incomes below the poverty line by a wide margin.”

How does this all relate to race, slavery and the civil war. We can see that, while not perfect, the difference in black status of living has improved and continues to move forward. If, however we continue to look back at the past and continue to treat the problem as if it had never improved, we would fail. Most blacks in America are descendants of slaves, we cannot change that. Slavery is a stain on the soul of America and will not be erased. But understand that the practice of slavery was not considered wrong by the practitioners, so stop judging them by todays standards. Much of the country considered it a moral evil. None of the whites at the time considered the black race equal. There were “scientific” studies at the time to prove the point. This was a starting point. We fought a war, went through reconstruction and the Jim Crow era. It was not until a century after the civil war was there any serious consideration to equal rights. Back in the day systemic racism was the norm, considered a given. Today most whites do not concern themselves with the race of a friend or neighbor. A small minority do, a very small minority.
Another small minority of activists is also working to promote an agenda based on continuing to portray historical facts as current. Racist police exist and minorities have been killed because of them. But a review of the facts indicate that this is not the norm. Today we see lists of blacks who have been subjected to police brutality or assumed to be. Taking all at face value let us consider the number of interactions that the police have with the public daily. What percentage results in an incident that can be ruled racist? In a report in USA Today:
“Self defense may be understandable if the police were engaging in an epidemic of shooting unarmed Black men and women, as we now hear daily — but there is no such epidemic. For the last five years, the police have fatally shot about 1,000 civilians annually, the vast majority of whom were armed or otherwise dangerous. Black people account for about 23% of those shot and killed by police; they are about 13% of the U.S. population.
As of the June 22 update, the Washington Post’s database of fatal police shootings showed 14 unarmed Black victims and 25 unarmed white victims in 2019. The database does not include those killed by other means, like George Floyd.
The number of unarmed Black shooting victims is down 63% from 2015, when the database began. There are about 7,300 Black homicide victims a year. The 14 unarmed victims in fatal police shootings would comprise only 0.2% of that total.”
We need to stop breaking down the population by race. We need to move forward from our past but remember the past and understand it existed. Slavery was evil but those that practice it were not necessary so. It was a part of the norm and ended. Leave the past in the past and move forward to correcting the effects of it. If we continue to live in the past, we will never move forward.
While there is still a difference between Black and White regarding wealth, the gap is closing. We are facing a larger social problem with the second wave of what has been called postmodernism. As one academic put it:
“Postmodernism presents a threat not only to liberal democracy but to modernity itself. That may sound like a bold or even hyperbolic claim, but the reality is that the cluster of ideas and values at the root of postmodernism have broken the bounds of academia and gained great cultural power in western society. The irrational and identitarian “symptoms” of postmodernism are easily recognizable and much criticized, but the ethos underlying them is not well understood. This is partly because postmodernists rarely explain themselves clearly and partly because of the inherent contradictions and inconsistencies of a way of thought which denies a stable reality or reliable knowledge to exist. However, there are consistent ideas at the root of postmodernism and understanding them is essential if we intend to counter them. They underlie the problems we see today in Social Justice Activism, undermine the credibility of the Left and threaten to return us to an irrational and tribal “pre-modern” culture.”
What has generated from this postmodern thinking is the concept of group think, there is only one way of looking at any problem and that it must fit into the current narrative. It can be argued that group think is not new, we have always strived for “the American Way of Life.” The truth is that for 200+ years the American culture has grown and evolved toward one of individual equality. In other words, it was the individual who should be at the center of all discussions. It is the individual who is responsible for their actions. In order to eliminate racism you eliminate race from the interactions of individuals. As Dr. King said we should judge a person by the content of their heart and not the color of his skin.
Today there are many African-Americans who have benefited by this belief. But some have not and the illiberal left has mounted an attack on the country by ignoring history and the advances we have made as a society to engage in the tearing down of the very structure that has made the advancement possible. What needs to be done to help the rest to follow and prosper is to continue to move society forward not stop and try to move backward. The government must learn that it is not necessary to pass laws making lynching illegal, it already is. It must move forward with the traditional liberal beliefs in individualism and equality.
Today we are being inundated with the concepts of the Social Justice movement and Critical Race Theory which proposes that race is not biological but a social construct devised by white supremacist to maintain power and control. To prove this point, we are reminded about past abuses such as slavery and Jim Crow and other past sins, without regard to changes in society. If you are a white person in todays society it is a given you are a racist, either consciously or subconsciously. To make matters worse there is no defense, if you agree, you are a racist, if you disagree you are a racist but do not know it.
The good news is, I believe, that most do not buy into this philosophy, yet. The bad news is that the few who do have hijacked the narrative and that many in political and business leadership roles are willing to make a Faustian bargain with those that are pressing for the most radical/dangerous demands.
History is a guide that is seldom followed. It is more often used as a mallet to ensure reality is deflected. It is twisted and turned and beaten out of shape to ensure people that do not know history are set on the path toward their own destruction. There can be arguments made on both side on the current desire to remove statues of Confederate leaders, I for one have always considered them traitors. But a considered action by a governing body is one thing, the actions of a mob are another. When mob mentality takes hold reason and logic are lost. Take for example the attack on the statue of an abolitionist in Philadelphia or the defacement of the monument to the 56th Massachusetts.
It is time that history be returned to its rightful place, a window to the past and a roadmap to the future. The roadmap will likely look like a set of concentric circles while lopping back on themselves they do manage to move forward. The point is to learn from the past to create a better future. To continually live in the past with a hatred of the present is a weight too heavy to bear on any society. We have taken a giant U-turn in our study and understanding of history and somewhere decided this is where we want to be. I am not sure we have just stopped or taken a turn that is not going forward or back.

Groupthink and its Destruction of America

free-speech

Groupthink occurs when a group values harmony and coherence over accurate analysis and critical evaluation. It causes individual members of the group to unquestioningly follow the word of the leader and it strongly discourages any disagreement with the consensus

Psychology Today”

 

 

The problem with today’s politics, academics and general discourse is the invasion of groupthink into almost everything. Some of it intentional, such as the Russian probe of the last election and others that just take off and take over any attempt at facts to dispute it.  

Groupthink, a term coined by social psychologist Irving Janis (1972), occurs when a group makes faulty decisions because group pressures lead to a deterioration of “mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment” (p. 9).  Groups affected by groupthink ignore alternatives and tend to take irrational actions that dehumanize other groups.  A group is especially vulnerable to groupthink when its members are similar in background, when the group is insulated from outside opinions, and when there are no clear rules for decision making”

On the Russian probe, we recently discovered that the collusion accusation came from the Clinton campaign shortly after they lost the election. In their book “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign” the authors reveal how the blame was to be discussed.

“That strategy had been set within twenty-four hours of her concession speech. Mook and Podesta assembled her communications team at the Brooklyn headquarters to engineer the case that the election wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up. For a couple of hours, with Shake Shack containers littering the room, they went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument.”

In this aspect of groupthink, a political talking point has been spread by the Democratic party elites and pounded into the head of anyone who will listen, until it is accepted as unalterable fact, even though to date there has been no proof. In the beginning, it is just a talking point for the party faithful to carry forward, but soon evolves into groupthink by its acceptance and adaption by the press and then social media. For many it is so accepted that regardless of what any investigation determines or what facts are brought forward, it was the Russians that caused HRC to lose the election and Trump and his people colluded in the effort.

This is a very dangerous position for any people to find themselves. In the past, it has been confined to small groups and was still dangerous. The operational commanders of the US armed forces in the late 1930’s and 40’s knew of the dangers of Japanize aggression but had determined they were incapable of a major attack on US positions, then came Pearl Harbor.

 

Currently groupthink has been used to argue other political points. The repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and its replacement the American Health Care Act (Trumpcare) are being declared the death of millions of Americans who will be thrown out into the street and made to live without any health insurance. As the bill is still being worked out and major elements of Obamacare will remain, this is obviously blind panic. Today the President will declare the US will withdrew from the Paris Accords on the environment. Again, millions if not billions of people will die and American leadership will wain and we will become a pariah in the world. Currently the US has made great strides in environmental protection, well beyond that of most of the world. We have replaced coal with natural gas at great savings both economically and environmentally. While I feel for the coal industry it is unlikely that the end of the Paris Accords will bring back coal in any major way. It is just not economical.

Groupthink however has now made anything associated with President Trumps administration instantly odious to all of humanity. There is nothing to see here, move on, we have decided and if you do not agree you are a fascist, homophobe, racist, deplorable. In fact I agree with a lot that Trump is doing as well as disagree with a lot of other things he does. This is because I refuse to give into the easy road of groupthink. I will leave you with some words of wisdom, not mine.

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.

Albert Einstein

“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking”

George S. Patton

So, everyone PLEASE THINK.

2016 Another Political Upheaval in America

My country, the greatest in the world with an unbelievable diversity in culture and citizens will soon be faced with an impossible choice for its next leader, or so it would seem

The Republican Party started out with 17 candidates running for the nomination. Five withdrew before the primaries even started while another 11 have since dropped out of the race. This leaves Donald Trump the presumptive nominee. On the Democratic Party side, we started with what could be called five viable candidates and are now down to two. Of the two, Hillary Clinton, is the choice of the party elite, and barring unforeseen problems or an indictment, likely the nominee.

Donald Trump was considered a side show and a joke. Coming with what many considered a ton of baggage and no political background, all he had was name recognition and a lot of money. The power elites and the political pundits saw no future in his candidacy and down played early victories. Hillary Clinton on the other hand was the anointed one.  In the beginning she had what was seen as a clear path to the nomination, since none of her announced opposition had the money, standing, name recognition or power base that she did.  

So what went wrong? Trump beat all of the political professionals while Clinton faced, and may still face, an unexpected challenge from an unlikely source, Sen. Bernie Sanders. Following the primary in Indiana Trump defeated Sen. Ted Cruz, his closest rival, by double digits, Sanders then beat Clinton. Up until the week before, the polls had Cruz winning and up until the day of the primary Clinton was in a tight race but still leading. Even with this victory Clinton is still on track to win the nomination based on her past wins and a large number of “Super Delegates” in her pocket. Still it was not the cake walk/ Coronation she was expecting.

Again, what went wrong? While the main stream media ignores the plight of the democrats there is no end to the death notice for the GOP. Within its own ranks there is talk of the end and the need to find the soul of the party. Maybe this is not the end of either party just a restructuring and/or an update.

From time to time there are upheavals in the body politic, such as the recent advent of the tea party on the right and the new progressive movement on the left. In the tumultuous ‘60s we saw Barry Goldwater on the right and George McGovern on the left rise, and then go down in flames.  The existence of political splits is not new in America. The Progressive Party of the US, better known as the Bull Moose party split from the republican party over policy difference between Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. Then there was the Native American Party also known as the Know-Nothing-Party, which formed to oppose immigration. The immigrants where mostly German and Irish Catholics. Any quick study of these parties will show that many of the issues then are the same as now.

Why then is the world coming to an end for the Republicans and what are the problems being faced by the Democrats. Historically these types of movements die out quickly. Neither of the parties above lasted long and neither of the reform movements of the left or right held power come the next election cycle. The difference today, if there is one, is 24/7 news coverage and social media. The political elites and the talking heads/pundits have not caught up with the change. The ascendance of Trump and the intransigence of Sanders campaign have caught those who should know better off guard. Rather than the party controlling the people the people are controlling the party.  I am very concerned about the reaction of the power elites. From the beginning the Democratic National committee has made no secret about their desire to see Clinton the nominee and has manipulated the process to ensure that outcome. Sanders has managed to challenge the status quo and has made a fight of it. The advantage the Sanders insurgency has over Trump is that he cannot be challenged over his position relative to the political spectrum, he is a liberal. The republican leadership however is having a hard time reconciling their definition of conservative and Trump. Sen. Ted Cruz continued to tout that he was the only “true” conservative in the race. Going so far as to call Trump a New York liberal.

Since Trump has apparently vanquished all others he is now facing a revolution of the republican leadership because he does not fit the ideal. Recently Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said in an interview the reasons he is having trouble backing Trump is that he does not understand “conservative values.” Among these values and principles Ryan pointed out was limited government, the role of the executive, and adherence to the Constitution. These points and some others have been used to show Trumps lack of orthodoxy. I would point out to those conservatives gathering feathers and melting tar that the one overriding principle of the country is the voice of the people. I must tell the Republican elites that Trump won the primaries and the people may be changing the definition of conservatism. 

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor for the National Review in a past article quoted a conservative stalwart of the past, Russell Kirk, author of such books as “The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Elliot,” stating “Russell Kirk, who could not define conservatism in a paragraph, much less a sentence, would consider it folly to even try. Kirk wrote, “Conservatism is not a fixed and immutable body of dogma.” Rather it is a recognition that life often pits some values against others, and that men are not always brilliant at sorting out which value should trump which in any given situation. As Edmund Burke noted, “The nature of man is intricate; the objects of society are of the greatest possible complexity; and therefore no simple disposition or direction of power can be suitable either to man’s nature or to the quality of his affairs.”

In a similar vein William F. Buckley was asked in an interview if he agreed with the following:   Q. Book publisher Henry Regnery once said, “Conservatism is not a fixed and immutable body of dogma, and conservatives inherit from Burke a talent for re-expressing their convictions to fit the times.” Buckley agreed whole heartedly. So what’s up with today’s conservatives?

Nothing is the answer, it’s the so called conservative leadership that is the problem. While Clinton fights the “true” liberals of her party in her march toward the nomination we hear of many on the left bailing out and promising, at the least, not to vote. The well-known conservatives are doing the same and much worse, they are actively seeking an alternative candidate to run as a third party conservative. In other words, they are doing everything in their power to elect Hillary Clinton. The logic is that she will be so bad that they get to pick the candidate in 2020 after a disastrous four years of Clinton.

The irony of this is that major conservatives such as Bill Kristol are talking to Mitt Romney as a possible savior of the conservative cause and third party candidate. You remember Romney, he lost as the republican party candidate four years ago because 3 million conservatives sat out the election, as they are threatening to do this year. Romney is also the person who refused to run during the republican primaries. The Romney who held so much sway over the republican rank and file that after he came out and attacked Trump no one listened and Trump just continued to roll forward.

Many writers are asking what has happened to the party of Lincoln and saying things like Clinton is more conservative than Trump. I will remind those that the party of Lincoln was a third party that was considered the left wing progressive party of the time and stayed in power until FDR. The democrats did not begin there swing to the left until FDR and still were mostly conservative until JFK in the 1960’s.

What we are seeing today then may be nothing more than another swing and realignment of ideals. The stance conservatism of Goldwater day’s finally giving way to a more pragmatic branch of conservative. The beginning may well be traced back to Reagan and the Bush’s. The democrats on the other hand are holding to dogma at least 50 years out of date. What we are then actually seeing is what has always made America great, the people are taking charge and making changes. Power elites should not worry, they will adapt to the changes and once more be in charge as the people go back to their lives, with the warning that they can do this again, as they have done before.