Category Archives: Injustice

Death of a Nation By Delinda McCann

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island

Woody Guthrie

Our country is our home. We are rightfully proud of the many things we as a people have accomplished together. Our great experiment with a democratic representative form of government is something to be proud of. Our statements of equality among all people and our struggles to attain that ideal are worthy of praise.

Like any great experiment we need to be asking ourselves where are we in the process? Is the experiment over? Did we succeed or did we fail? We’ve had some glorious moments. Have we fallen short of the goal? Is there any way we can get the experiment back on track?

Note: I’m not touting any great success story here. We’ve become a nation perpetually at war, not as the world’s police force enforcing justice and defending freedom, but at war to support the profits of a few.

We are no longer either a democracy or a republic. We are an oligarchy, quickly sliding toward fascism. The United States of America has become the world’s greatest threat to peace and prosperity. Within our own country, we send men and women to fight in wars to protect the economic interest of the few. When those men and women return home broken in body, mind and spirit, we send them to live in the streets among the elderly, and disabled.

We made some progress in cleaning up air and waterways, but our drinking water has become compromised and except for the efforts of the poor, nothing is done to protect our drinking water.

We aren’t doing too well in many respects as a nation. Our economy is dedicated to the greed of a few, yet the poor get the blame for the conditions in this country. Racism is blatant and growing. The notion of caring for the sick, disabled and elderly, has almost disappeared from public policy.

War, bigotry, corruption and pollution all exist to enrich the oligarchy. Nobody is safe from the oligarchs in the US. Where will this lead. Can we as a people unite and turn our backs on the corrupt power elite? Are we too fragmented to do so?

What have we become and what is the moral answer to our dilemma? Some people are waiting for a hero to raise up out of the oligarch class and lead us to freedom. Heroes do not come from among the rich and powerful. Hoping for one of the oligarchs to solve our problems is futile.

From around the fringes of society, we hear people asking should we dissolve this union. Is dissolution the only moral option? By breaking into three to five smaller nations, we can dissipate resources in such a manner as to make it more challenging for the oligarchs to go to war.

Is it time for a constitutional amendment that expels certain states from the union because they refuse to live by the morally bankrupt standards embraced by more fearful regions? Should we dissolve into regions that have common issues and values and let other regions go their own way?

It is time to ask the questions and hold the discussions. With dissolution as the stick driving us forward can we unite for the common good? Maybe this country has reached the point where the common good cannot be served without a final amendment to the constitution stating that due to irreconcilable differences geopolitical regions with common interests may go their separate ways.

Delinda McCann is a mostly-retired social psychologist. During her professional career she worked with at risk youth and individuals with disabilities. Her research in the field of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome led her to become an advisor to several governments. To ease the stress created by working in the disabilities field, she took up gardening. Never one to do things in a small way, Delinda now runs a small farm and sells cut flowers. She writes general fiction based on her experience as a social psychologist. She has published five novels. She expresses her sense of humor in many of her short stories. She’s also published numerous professional articles on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Youth At-Risk. The professional articles are rather academic and dry, but Delinda pulls what she knows about human behavior, disabilities and youth into her fiction.

You may purchase her books at: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Delinda+McCann

You may view her flowers, gardens and personal blog at: http://delindalmccann.weebly.com/index.html

Musings And Checkers by Kenneth Weene

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What eight-year-old boy doesn’t want to do things with his dad? When my father told me to hop in our black four-door Ford, I was happy to oblige. That we were going to the general store made it all the better. I loved roaming that store—cram packed with scythes, guns, food, ice cream, clothes, notions, even the local post office. The entire place redolent of Maine. Voices filled with flat “R”s and twang. Local folks stopped in as much to socialize as to shop.

The wood-burning stove would be cold—summer was not a time for roaring fires; but there was sure to be a checkers game in progress, the board sitting atop an upturned pickle barrel similar to the one from which I would, if Dad was in the right mood, fish a crispy dill for a special treat. Checkers was a religion almost as important as the Boston Red Sox. Its devotees were the old men who gathered at Maynard’ store; its practice was simple, red and black.

My father never asked to play, nor was he ever asked; but I loved to watch those geezers huffing and puffing their way through each game as if it were mortal combat.

While Dad and Maynard, the proprietor, worked on our order—much of which would have to come from Portland or even Boston and would arrive in perhaps a week, I wandered through that wonderland, trying as children do to soak-up everything that was being done and said.

Elvira, Maynard’s wife was talking fabrics with Hortense Clark. Usually, I would have skipped the women’s talk, but Hortense mentioned my family name. “How come Maynard lets that kike Weene order things; I wouldn’t do business with a Jew.” She spat the last word out so it hung in the air.

“Hortense,” Elvira answered, “Joe’s a White Jew.”

“What the hell did that mean?” Instinctively, I knew it was not a question to ask aloud. That was well over sixty years ago, and I am finally ready to answer my unspoken question. My answer is not, as some might expect, about anti-Semitism, although anti-Jewish prejudice certainly underlay Hortense Clarks’s comment. Rather, it is about race or at least the American concept of race and how that concept affects our social and political discourse. It is about what has been termed by some the American dilemma, but that dilemma is not about the role of Blacks, African-Americans, Negroes, or whatever term you have learned to use when referring to people who can trace their roots back to Africa. Rather it is about how early Americans came to see themselves, how those first British-Americans came to define their world.

Perhaps a bit of history would be helpful. Well before slavery had become the mainstay of what is now the Southeast United States, it took root in the Caribbean. England had discovered sugar and the insatiable European sweet tooth demanded plantation after plantation of cane. Sugar was a backbreaking crop and labor intensive; what better way to produce it than employing the cheapest possible labor, slaves. But the Africans brought to Jamaica, the Barbados, and other islands were not agreeable to the plan or to their treatment. There were rebellions. Vulnerability to French and Spanish intrusions and to the depredations of pirates and privateers added to the sense of unease in those island colonies. Better to move lock, stock, and slave holdings to the mainland where there was comparative safety. So the Carolinas were settled. If sugarcane did not do as well in the new plantations as they had in the islands, tobacco and rice coupled with fur trade with the Indians made up the difference.

However, the plantation owners still didn’t feel that safe. The slaves were no happier with their conditions in the new setting; they still wanted freedom; and the Spanish in Florida encouraged slave rebellions. The enslaved Black population outnumbered the plantation owners and their hired hands. Then, too, displaced Native Americans brooded in the forests. There was a boding sense of danger. The solution of British troops being garrisoned in the communities was too expensive and was certainly unacceptable to the plantation owners who wanted to be their own royalty. Better to find other, poorer Europeans to share the risk, to settle the lesser lands and provide the services in the towns and villages.

The attraction of the New World to impoverished working class recruits was land. If they had none in Europe, at least in America they would now have some. So they came. Of course there was a selection process that went on. French and Spaniards were not welcome. After all, England was in almost perpetual war with those two Catholic monarchies. While Scots, Welsh, and Scots-Irish were the most welcome, there were too few of these; so other Europeans were welcome: Greeks, Albanians, Germans, and so forth. They came to find themselves an economic underclass, many indentured, often burdened with debt, and seldom able to obtain land worth the farming.

The question was how to keep these poor Europeans from forming a natural affinity with the slaves who often worked beside them all for the landed gentry. How to keep them from seeing themselves as oppressed. It was in that context that the notion of a “White Race” was born.

“Why do they call themselves the human race? Do they think somebody is going to win?” The line from a television sitcom haunts this topic. Just what do we mean by race and how do the word’s two meanings intersect?

Race in the sense of rushing or competing comes from the Norse or perhaps Old English.

Race in the sense of “people of common descent” comes from the Middle French, possibly before that from the Italian. It was originally used to describe people and other things that naturally grouped together, including wines of particular flavor, a generation, a group of people with a common occupation, or people who had a common background as a tribe.

There is no evidence that race referred to people being divided on the basis of physical differences before the late eighteenth century. In other words, those colonists—rich or poor—did not come to the Americas thinking of a “White Race.” They may have thought of Africans as different from themselves, but only in the way they may have thought the same of Russians or Slavs as not being like them or perhaps of Welsh and English being different.

It was essential to the landed gentry of the colonies to alienate the poor Europeans from the Black slaves. The easiest way to do that was to play up the sense of difference and the clearest difference was the color of skin. Hence whiteness became a political tool.

That night in Maine I lay on the grass and looked up at the stars. I could see so many of them—no light pollution to interfere. I did not know even then if I believed in God or Heaven, but I do know I believed in possibilities and the future. I looked up and like many young Americans of that day I saw a world that could be better. It did not occur to me that there were many who could only see the ground beneath them, who lived in desperate fear of things getting worse.

“Keep your eye on the prize.” What a great evocation. But for those who cannot know if their children will have enough to eat, there is no prize. They cannot look to the stars; they are far too busy watching for the pratfalls along the path. For those who are living in quiet desperation there is no possibility. For them it is the simple maxim, “Look back, the Devil may be gaining on you.”

Fear becomes anger, and anger becomes rage. The Devil is coming and has to be defeated. And if that Devil is represented by the descendents of the slaves whom their ancestors were supposed to look down on, by the Black-skinned Americans whom their culture came to call a different race, why it is clear where the rage must be directed.

For a person who sees himself as a member of the White race who lives in a terror of downward social mobility, a terror known only too well by those who are just holding on to their rung of the ladder, the mythical other, the Black, becomes a threat beyond the tolerable.

From the first gleaming of the American character this terror of the not-White was mixed in— added intentionally by those plantation owners looking for allies just in case of a slave rebellion. Once it existed towards the African slaves, it was easily displaced onto other groups, groups that at some psychological level were identified as not-White. As descendents of early French settlers migrated from Eastern Canada down into Maine and New England, they became the non-Whites. The Irish who were carried to the New World by the waves of the potato blight were often labeled “Black Irish.” Obviously, to Hortense my father was not “White,” but Elvira set her straight, albeit about just that one person, not all Jews.

Today, for most Americans, the French, Irish, and Jews have been assimilated into the class of Whiteness. African Americans are still not white. Neither are those of Hispanic background. Consider those wonderful questionnaires one is so often asked to fill out, for instance satisfaction surveys after Internet purchases and services. The classifications offered for self-identification make it clear that Hispanics are not White.

A short time ago I saw a picture of four children on the social media; they were labeled Black, Yellow, Brown, and Normal. Normal, that is the label given to the white child. Perhaps there was no intent; after all the purported message of the picture was “Everybody deserves to be treated equally!” Equally to the normal, to the White.

Another recent event sends the same message. An exit poll of voters in South Carolina asked, “Are Blacks getting too demanding in their push for equal rights?” Too demanding, how can one be too demanding in the expectation of equality?

It is many years since I heard my father referred to as a White Jew. At the time, I suppose a part of me was happy with that distinction; it meant that my dad was accepted, that at least to some small degree we were part of the community. But he was not asked to play a game of checkers.

Years later I am not so happy. I wish I had known then what I know today. I would have spoken up. Voice cracking with youth and emotion I would have said, “My father is a person. He is honest and trustworthy. Beyond that, there should be no labels. We are Americans, and we should know better. We are the children of revolution, of the natural human drive for freedom, a goal that can never be realized while we are willing to classify ourselves as if we were talking about the flavors of wine.” I would have taken a bite of that pickle clutched in my right hand and added, “Besides he’s a great checkers player.” Yes, I would have added that.

At least now I know that it is my responsibility to say such things, to make those comments in the social media, to stand up for that idea in my life; that is the responsibility of a free person. For if we are not equally free, then freedom will no longer have meaning.

If there is a Devil who will gain on us, he will not be in the guise of those with a different shade of skin but in the guise of those who tell us that we must fear others in order to protect ourselves. We can defeat that evil spirit. The place to start? Might I suggest a game of checkers? Might I suggest that we set up that overturned pickle barrel and start to play—making sure that everyone gets a turn.

 

Besides his work organizing The Write Room Blog aand co-hosting It Matters Radio, Ken Weene writes and writes. His latest book Broody New Engander is now available in print and Kindle. http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002M3EMWU

To care or not to care. Are these the options? by Eduardo Cervino

Jean Valjean

Jean Valjean

Whether it is possible for a fair, reasonable person to remain oblivious to current political trends in the US. Or to abhor the hatred and jingoism vomited by righteous porters of bibles and guns.

If this sentence strikes a chord, make no mistake. It’s meant to provoke you.

Can you pass beyond the cheap literary hook?

Can you share with me the outrage against those forked-tongued politicians, preachers and televangelists poisoning people’s minds?

What can I do to awaken empathy for the millions among us at the margin of society?

Are we becoming a nation of psychopaths?

A nation where puppets of the rich govern for the benefit of the rich.

A nation where legislators criminalize poverty, and police arrest good men who feed the hungry.

A nation so arrogant that it takes pride in bucking the trends of the industrialized world. Refuses free education and affordable health care for all. Reduces child welfare, increases control of women’s reproductive rights, and promotes inequality.

A nation that revives the discredited philosophy of Ayn Rand, thereby raising the pursuit of money to the level of a satanic cult.

A nation that tramples over honest but less fortunate citizens

The majority of Americans refuse to see that abstaining from voting allows the nation’s oligarchy to solidify its control over our system of laws.

We agree that congressmen are for sale to the higher bidder, like whores in a Wild West bordello. But our refusal to vote gets them re-elected by 13% of eligible voters.

How many legislators enter office possessing a moderate net worth and leave as millionaires?

Coolidge, the 30th president of the US, said, “After all, the chief business of the American people is business.” That canon served the interest of the entire people well.

Now, however, the avarice of the 1% has created despicable new sources of revenue. It has converted education of the nation’s youngsters into a business.

Have we forgotten that education is the foundation of the country’s future?

It’s no coincidence that incarcerated citizens in the US exceeds the number in other industrialized countries combined. Sweden has closed four prisons for lack of inmates. But in the US, prison construction is a growth industry more profitable than home building

Greedy CEOs have converted the pharmaceutical industry and health services into businesses dealing with life and death. It’s more accurate to say dealing with preserving the lives of those who can afford the best at the expense of hurting those who cannot.

The war on drugs is another profit center. A large sector of the armed forces pursues smugglers. Those resources could be allocated to rehabilitation of the users. This is crazy, the equivalent of trying to cut the supply and let the demand increase.

Millions of citizens have died of tobacco smoking. When was the last time you heard of anyone dying from smoking marijuana? Yet we subside the tobacco industry while resisting legalization and taxation of marijuana in most states.

Does all this sound to you like a successful, exceptional society or a failed one?

How can we fix the future if we believe things are perfect, contrary to all statistical evidence? In reality, we are number seven in literacy, twenty-seven in math, forty-nine in life expectancy, but number one in defense expending and religious belief.

By now you may say, complaints, complaints. What can we do?

We should start by removing the For Sale sign from the Capitol building. About 150,000 wealthy individuals in the country contributed the great percentage of money spent in the races in an effort to manipulate the uneducated masses. They invest billions of dollars to buy loyalty from senators and representatives.

The average legislator spends thirty to seventy percent of his or her time in office raising money for the next campaign. What do you think they give away in exchange for the money they receive?

Their yearly salary increase, or cutting taxes for the 150,000 donors?

Increasing regulations of the banksters and larcenous Wall Street speculators, or cutting the peoples’ right to heath care and education, children’s’ Head Start programs, and soldiers’ mental health care?

Please, my fellow Americans, teach your children to vote. Better still, take them with you when you vote. Stop the madness before we regress to the times of the pre-industrial revolution, if we are lucky, of those of Genghis Khan if not.

 

Eduardo Cervino was born in Havana, Cuba, where he studied art and architecture. The Castro revolution failed to deliver on its promises of freedom, prosperity, and peace. Eduardo refused the communist regime’s indoctrination. Instead, he voiced his opposition and ended in an agricultural forced labor camp. In time, he moved to Madrid, Spain.

To leave his loved ones hit him like a ton of bricks. The pain seeded his heart with an overwhelming desire to give a hand to the fallen and join any group dedicated to healing the hurting.

After arriving in the USA, he wrote his memoirs. Eduardo found great satisfaction in writing. In New York City, he renewed his painting career. Since then, he has combined painting, architecture, and writing to quench his curiosity and express his awe for life’s wonders.

He has traveled throughout the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, and Canada. In the USA, Eduardo has resided in Havana, Cuba; Madrid, Spain; New York City, Denver, and Phoenix.

“Life’s ups and downs make it a marvelous experience,” he said. “But only if we cultivate an ever-growing circle of friends to share it with.”

http://tinyurl.com/cultofiona

Do Words Change Our Responses to Violence and Injustice?   By Joyce F. Elferdink

Doublespeak_From a book cover on Doublespeak by Matthew Feldman                                      cover

Scene 1; Take I

 Awakened by my alarm set for WHYD 89.9 FM, the station that usually bore me gently back to the living, instead shocked me into a fully awake state today with this news flash:

A bomb exploded last night in Our Savior Catholic Church, killing at least 220 persons. Most of the dead are high school students who were practicing for a fundraising concert to continue Mother Teresa’s work in Calcutta. No group has yet taken credit for this heinous act, although evidence points to an anti-gay group. Our Savior’s priest who allowed the church to sponsor meetings of Until Love is Equal is among the dead. Most of the families of the dead teens were already reeling from the announcement last week by Heinz Distillers NA that positions for 700 of the 1476 currently employed locally will be abolished by month end and the lines moved overseas. With unemployment in the area already at a twenty hear high, the surviving family members will become poor overnight. The company’s CEO, Nicholas Nastii, defended the firings as necessary to remain competitive. He was quoted as saying, “Our wage expenses were too high, especially when the jobs required a level of expertise unavailable. We’ve contracted with Employment Services to help those being downsized find more suitable jobs.”

 

Scene 1; Take II

Awakened by my alarm set for WHYD 89.9 FM, I brushed my teeth as I half listened to the announcer discuss last night’s news. Something about an incident that occurred somewhere in the area…

Student workers—as many as 220–have been reclassified as collateral damage. The youth were practicing for a concert in a faith-based facility when the mishap occurred. This comes at a very bad time for most of the families. Many of the teens and their parents were employed by Heinz Distillers NA. The company, the region’s major employer, just last week announced plans to outsource fifty percent of its bottling unit to the U.S., a very large end user and said to have cheaper immigrant labor. Surveys of families affected by the mishap and downsizing indicate the majority will be forced  into the ranks of the economically disadvantaged.  Heinz CEO says that is not so. “These people only need to revise their employment expectations. Those who are willing to work will be able to afford all necessities.”

How differently did your mind and heart respond when the news reporter used the following terms instead of plain English: Collateral damage  instead of  death and property destruction; downsizing instead firing; economically disadvantaged instead of poor; mishap instead of catastrophe. There’s also outsourced and faith-based, which some would label doublespeak.

This is my attempt at doublespeak, a term that combines George Orwell’s ‘doublethink’ and ‘newspeak’ that he originated for his political novel 1984.” As he saw it: “Political language . . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” (George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” 1946)

In 1974, the National Council of Teachers of English established a Doublespeak Award, given annually to “public speakers who have perpetuated language that is grossly deceptive, evasive, euphemistic, confusing, or self-centered.” Recipients have included the CIA, Exxon Corporation, the U.S. Department of Defense (three times), Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Glenn Beck.
[Retrieved from http://grammar.about.com/od/words/a/Doublespeak-Soft_Language-Gobbledygook.htm]

What person or organization would you nominate for the Doublespeak Award, whether public speakers, writers, or  other “taxpayers”—oops, are all citizens taxpayers? And please explain the criteria for your selection.

 

Joyce Elferdink’s Bio:

This author thinks of herself as a teacher, apprentice, traveler and activist. Her inspiration comes from life experiences and an overactive imagination (nothing new to authors) and by the diverse novels she reads (but primarily science fiction). This summer she was stunned to receive an Excellence in Teaching award from her employer, Davenport University. Now if she could only get one of those equally prestigious awards for her novel, Pieces of You or the one just begun, The Battle of Jericho, 2035. Actually, her primary purpose for writing is to make readers think about questions we all may be asking.