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The White Working Class was Bamboozled

8:49 am in Uncategorized by David A. Love

Originally, this was to be a commentary on the plight of the white middle class, but that demographic no longer exists in America.  So, let’s talk about the swindling of the white working class.

And although it has all come to a head in the past few years, it is a story that is years in the making.  If Stockholm Syndrome relates to the feeling of empathy that kidnap victims have with their captors, then certainly what we are witnessing today is a Stockholm Syndrome of those on the losing end of American capitalism.

To single out white working people is not to assume that others are immune from identifying with those who would exploit them financially – their own economic kidnappers, if you will.  At the same time, it was white working folks who made a deal with the devil a long time ago.  And now they’ve been sent the invoice from that Faustian bargain.  Allow me to explain.

American capitalism has promoted the mythology of the “American Dream,” the notion that everyone has a chance to get rich.  In pursuit of that dream, poor and working white Americans chose their enemy years ago.  They made a conscious decision to side with the “1 percenters” whose feet were firmly placed on their neck, rather than with similarly situated black and brown common folk.  They decided it was those of a darker hue whose progress stood in the way of their own movement up the ladder.

Generation after generation, they fought and died in wars, someone else’s beef, designed to protect the interests of the 1 percent.

They opposed social programs that had any chance of helping blacks, even if they stood to benefit from the programs themselves.  And ultimately they failed to join forces with workers of color to build a strong labor movement.  As a result of that fatal decision, the jobs moved offshore to where the labor costs were cheapest.  Chinese slave laborers are now making our iPhones, iPads, X-Boxes and other toys, and now even Chinese workers are becoming too expensive.

The most impoverished European immigrant had neither a pot nor a window to throw it out of.  But at least he or she was not black, and thus could be considered a real American.  Though poor whites had far more in common with their poor black-, Latino-, Asian- and Native-American counterparts than with some Wall Street banker or fat cat industrialist, nonetheless they viewed racial minority groups and others as the enemy.  That’s how scapegoats are created.

So, the blame is not placed where it should, which is the über-wealthy sucking the lifeblood out of democracy.  Rather the problem is identified as affirmative action, or welfare queens, or undocumented Mexican immigrants.  Solutions to the nation’s woes are offered in the form of mass incarceration and the death penalty.  Tighter social controls are introduced in the form of bans on Sharia law and Latino studies, voter ID, draconian anti-immigrant legislation and prohibitions on same-sex marriage.

Culture wars are the ultimate shell game, a cheap parlor trick of smoke and mirrors to mask the wide scale corporate theft taking place.  These cultural issues – which also include gun proliferation and the war against a woman’s reproductive rights, including contraception – will do nothing to improve anyone’s station in life.  Yet these time-tested culture wars are fought because someone is betting that the common folk will take the bait.  And usually, such is the case.

Meanwhile, the sanctimonious and self-righteous rightwing among us, a morals police and Christian Taliban of sorts, would distract us with fertilized egg personhood and mandatory sonograms for women seeking an abortion.  But in the face of injustice, like the white clergy in Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, they “have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.”   King called the contemporary church “a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound.  So often it is an archdefender of the status quo.  Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent – and often even vocal – sanction of things as they are.”

So, those who obsess over the sex lives of private citizens have said little about our national scourge of economic inequality or the suffering of the poor – you know, the stuff Jesus talked about.  Preoccupied as they are with birth control bans and zygote rights, they were conspicuously silent when the living among them suffered and the innocent died.  Last year, when the state of Georgia killed Troy Davis, an innocent black man, they said nothing.  And they had remained silent seven years earlier, when the state of Texas wrongfully executed Cameron Todd Willingham, an innocent white man.

Yet, there is hope that for their own sake, people will not fall for the shell game forever.  There is a chance that citizens are waking up, resisting the Stockholm Syndrome, and refusing to act against their economic self-interests.  The spirit of the Occupy movement has liberated the public discourse, an alternative to the neo-segregationist Tea Party and its reliance on racial scapegoats.

Bull Connor 2.0: The Police Response To #OccupyWallStreet

2:04 pm in Uncategorized by David A. Love

Looking at the police response to the Occupy Wall Street movement, Bull Connor would be proud.

What went barely reported recently was that the United Nations has taken an interest in how the United States has dealt with the Occupy folks. Specifically, Frank LaRue, the UN special rapporteur for the protection of free expression, believes that the law enforcement crackdowns against Occupy protesters are a violation of their constitutional and human rights.

Meanwhile, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, noting the assault by police and arrest of journalists in some cities, urged authorities to protect journalists at these protests.

Why are the local authorities breaking up these peaceful protests — in which people are exercising their right to free speech — often through the use of violence, mass arrests, tear gas, smoke grenades, pepper spray, bean-bag rounds and brute force? And why are they beating and detaining reporters, or judges and city council members for that matter?

It all reminds me of Bull Connor, that infamous bull horn-toting, civil rights-era Commissioner of Public Safety in Birmingham, also known as “Bombingham,” Alabama. Summoned from central casting, the dyed-in-the-wool white supremacist drew attention to himself when he sprayed water hoses and sicked dogs on peaceful public demonstrators, including children. Those water hoses tore the bark off trees.

And the press caught all of it on tape.

Connor made a fool of himself, and his actions and those of his henchmen were broadcasted before a national and international audience. It put the U.S. to shame, and placed the spotlight on the Jim Crow South in particular. The moral bankruptcy of segregation was evident in the heavy handed tactics employed by the Bull Connors of America.

Then there was the riot by the Chicago police at the 1968 Democratic Convention. And on May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard killed four and injured nine unarmed protesters at Kent State University who opposed Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia.

This nation, the land of the free, has always known what to do to keep people in line, especially in order to protect capital. Armed thugs, whether dressed in blue uniforms or not, were used by people in power for union busting and strike breaking. The 1 percent never could have succeeded without the complicity and active participation of some members of the 99 percent, including the cops who provide the muscle. Those working class police officers, who certainly will never become rich, should side with the very popular movements that would improve their own condition. After all, as is the case with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, union busting includes police unions, too.

The NYPD brass who walked around pepper spraying Occupy protesters, and the UC Davis police who summarily sprayed peaceful student demonstrators, behaved in the time-tested, repugnant tradition of Bull Connor. These days, the key issue is not Jim Crow segregation or the war in Vietnam. Rather, as Naomi Wolf poignantly noted in the Guardian, the Occupy agenda is getting money out of politics, reforming the banks, and stopping politicians from passing legislation affecting Delaware corporations in which they are investors. In other words, they want to cut American capitalism at the knees, eliminate the fraud on Wall Street, and drain the swamp of legalized corruption and bribery that is Washington. They want to get rid of the fundamental inequities of a system to which Americans have become far too accustomed. This is the best tradition of Martin Luther King’s “radical revolution of values,” what he envisioned as “the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society.”

Needless to say, there are those who will do what they must to prevent this from happening.

Cities throughout the nation appear to be acting in concert with an anti-Occupy Wall Street strategy. It is no coincidence that simultaneously, police forces throughout the country are violently disbanding Occupy tent cities. The Department of Homeland Security held conference calls with numerous city governments on how to crack down on the protesters. The writing is on the wall.

The police response to the Occupy Movement flies in the face of the reputed tenets of American constitutional democracy, and contravenes the precepts of international human rights law. But hey, this is America. And in America, capitalism trumps democracy. And we can’t allow capitalism to become a dirty word, now can we?

We Could Use A Little Class Warfare Right Now

8:33 am in Uncategorized by David A. Love

Recently, the jobs crisis in America prompted New York mayor Michael Bloomberg to predict that riots will come if jobs are not created soon.

“We have a lot of kids graduating college, can’t find jobs,” Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show.  “That’s what happened in Cairo. That’s what happened in Madrid. You don’t want those kinds of riots here.”

“The damage to a generation that can’t find jobs will go on for many, many years,” he added.

As for a nation with multimedia diversions—not to mention a stubborn, widespread belief that the American Dream of upward mobility still will come to all who want it— I have maintained that it will take a great deal for riots to come to this country once again.  I certainly would not want to see violence fall upon anyone in any community.

At the same time, as a student of history I understand that things do happen.  In the 1960s, communities of color reached a tipping point.  Call them riots, civil disturbances or urban rebellions, they often arose from acts of police brutality.  But ultimately, they came to reflect frustration over poverty and inequality, a lack of economic opportunity, no jobs, bad schools and a shortage of housing.

And it was also a time of heightened political awareness and political activism, with the civil rights, antiwar and Black Power movements in full force.  Meanwhile, J. Edgar Hoover and the police made their best effort to neutralize these protest movements, even if it meant assassinating their leaders.

Now, I’m sure that some commentators at the time dismissed the riots as acts of vandalism and mayhem on the part of “those” lawless people, meaning black folks, who just don’t know how to behave.

And yet, while blacks, Latinos and other historically marginalized groups have always known pain, whether back in the day or under the current recession, today we are witnessing something fundamentally different.  Today, the thumbscrews are being applied to America’s poor, working class and middle class, as a collective.  And you can’t help but believe that the torturers are engaged in a perverse experiment to see how much they can get away with.

If the U.S. has not reached a tipping point of sorts, you can’t help but think it will come soon.  Some 6.9 million jobs have been lost since the trap door came aloose on the nation’s flawed economic system in 2007.  Add to that the jobs needed to keep up with population growth and America has a jobs deficit of 11 million jobs.

A jobs crisis exists side-by-side with a staggering rate of poverty unmatched in over half a century.  One in six Americans lives in poverty—46.2 million people, or 15.1 percent—a third of them children.  The Latino poverty rate is 26 percent, with 27 percent for blacks.  The U.S. is experiencing a lost decade, and beyond the numbers there exists a profound psychological toll that defies any degree of quantifying.

It is one thing to say that half of all Americans earn less than less than $26,000, and only 1 percent earn  over $250,000.  You can also point out that in the land of opportunity, the nation with the highest inequality in the industrialized world, 400 people have more wealth than half the entire country combined.

But it is an entirely different proposition to ask why, and how to stop it.

Simply put, America’s political governance system has been purchased by the nation’s top 1 percent, and they are getting their money’s worth.  Corporate money has taken over the government, and the government is unable, no, unwilling to take care of the needs of its people, sans the 1 percent who possess their sales receipt in hand.

American politics is legalized bribery and corruption.  With the social welfare system peeling away for austerity’s sake, American capitalism, unfettered, is reverting back to its natural state of exploitation—allowing a few winners, mostly losers, and a lot of cold-bloodedness and cold-heartedness to go around.

The party controlling Congress is a Koch Brothers-led sideshow of extremism, lunacy, instability and racial paranoia.  And the party in the White House is led by a man who means well on his best days, but has placed far too much faith in Ivy League white dudes.  He has sought friendship with those who plan his demise— and that of the nation’s economy for political gain— as he legitimizes and embraces their pathological ideas.  Half-measures and Clintonian triangulation have appeared misplaced and wholly inadequate, falling far short of the bold promises of hope and change in the 2008 election.

Right now, the president is on the right track in his populist efforts at pushback against the GOP, including a proposal to end the Bush tax cuts and tax the wealthy more, or at least as much as the rest of us.

Ultimately, public pressure will turn all of this around, as it always does.  What we learned is that elections are not enough, and politics is not a spectator sport.  The people must demand what they want from their elected officials, and change the terms of the public debate.  Mass protest, not President Obama, will do the job of saving us from American capitalism.

A movement called Occupy Wall Street has decided to take a cue from the Arab Spring, and engage in nonviolent mass occupation to fight the greed and corruption of the top 1 percent and restore democracy in America.  The movement, which plans to camp out on Wall Street for a few months, is not getting as much attention as it should.  Hopefully that will change.  We could use a little class warfare right now.  It is always good to know where things stand.