Posts Tagged ‘diversity’

Michael’s trouble, Naomi’s hope

November 26, 2011

This is an eye-opener, although parts of it may disturb you. But Americans can not operate a democratic republic with heads in the sand.
Whether you”re with them or against them, the Occupyers are now fanning out a spectrum of ideological strategies, and our nation will be changed as a result. The societal inequalities they protest will not be easily disposed of. We must consider and analyze their complaints if our nation is to get over the polarizing hurdles that now obstruct our governing urgencies.

Although law enforcement agencies in cities throughout our nation have undertaken, for the most part appropriately, some restrictive measures to contain the Occupy campers, these people are not going away. They live among us, as does the Tea Party whose signs were raised before them.
To glean some understanding of where this thing is headed, I recommend a listen to this one-hour panel discussion:

The New School/New York City meeting of minds was sponsored by The Nation magazine,  and recorded at the above link for Democracy Now!. Michael Moore and Naomi Klein are positioned, as it were, at the two bookends of the discussion, with three other well-spoken panelists between them. The troublesome film-maker’s controversial presence is appropriately seated on the left. Naomi’s seasoned optimism later provides a constructive balance on the other end of the table.

Compare Michael’s grudge to Naomi’s hope.
On one end of unfolding Occupy Wherever drama, Michael Moore says, with an odd excitement in his voice, he’d like to overhear the fearful trepidations now being uttered nightly in the bedrooms of the 1%.
On the other end, Naomi Klein admonishes the Occupyers to move beyond the “outrage phase” to a new phase of hope.
Which way will the Occupy movement move?
The way of the American revolution, or the way of the French revolution?
The way of constructive democracy, or the way of a vindictive reign of terror?

Michael Moore is a genius of video programming, and he certainly expresses in his work a powerful advocacy for underpriveleged people, but he does have some problems, mostly that he presents everything in good vs evil terms. But ourmaterial world, including capitalism, is constituted in  shades of gray everywhere you look, whether you’re facing left or facing right. Here are just a few of the key phrases that indicate his judgemental attitude:

~ the “beginning of the end of an evil system”
~ deficit/debt ceiling as a “distraction”, as if fiscal responsibility were not a real issue
~ “they (the 1%) created this…all the pain and suffering,” as if pain and suffering had not existed before corporatocracy
Michael Moore prefaces his caustic assessments somewhat with a hopeful observation that the Occupy movement has “aleviated despair in this country” and “killed apathy.” This is true. But here is what’s worrisome about Michael Moore:

Toward the end of the program, he mentions the inspiration that he imbibes when contemplating that a mere two people, Marx and Engels,  occupied unbroken ideological ground over a century ago. Unfortunately for the world at large, what Marx and Engels could not foresee was the onslaught of oppressive state power, through the cruel manipulations of  Stalin, Mao and others, that would later be perpetrated in the name of their theoretical wealth and power redistributions. Someone should remind Michael Moore and his comrades just how the Stalin and Mao movements turned out after their early revolutionary phases. Contemporary protesters would do well to remember the words of one of their patron saints, John Lennon, who sang, “…but if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao, you ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow.” While that Beatlish warning may be politically incorrect in China, it surely applies here in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

In contrast to Michael Moore’s hyper-critical inputs, Naomi Klein got her turn, later, at the other end of the 5-member panel. Her well-prepared spiel included a listing of positive changes, “a track record of developing alternatives” that have manifested in practical applications since the Seattle WTO protests in 1999:

~ solutions to the ecological crisis becoming solutions to the economic crisis
~ green co-ops, as in Cleveland
~ farmers’ markets
~ community-supported agriculture
~ community renewable energy
~ localizing economies
~ devolving power to community levels, decentralization

These last two or three are the ironically dubious components of an evolving Occupy agenda, insofar as this: the federal/statist interventions required for implementing egalitarian measures are inherently contrary to decentralizing reforms, unless the federal actions are  at some point withdrawn or minimized. How likely is that?

The happiest item on Naomi Klein’s constructive list was her mention of the 14 bicycle-powered generators being used to fulfill electrical needs at Occupy Wall Street. This happened after the police had removed their gas-powered generators, which was a blessing in disguise since the campers needed some incentives to overcome their own fossil-fuel dependencies. I’ll commend them for investing some innovative sweat equity to capitalize  their dream of green energy.

At moderator Richard Kim’s direction, Naomi Klein addressed directly the issue of federal/state involvement. (I know for a fact, this is the biggest objection that arises from our conservative factions, especially since government programs are funded by taxes.) Naomi tempers the session’s wonky explorations with an appropriate admonition: “State power can be just as alienating, as corrupt as corporate power.”

And there’s the rub, America. As a wise creature of the forest once said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Glass half-Full

An amicable encounter of worldviews

October 3, 2011

Every weekday at noon I take an hour break from work to eat a sandwich and some little carrots. During that time, the availability of  two NPR-affiliate stations affords me a radio choice between two excellent news analysis programs: Boston WBUR’s Robin Young, who hosts Here & Now, or Philly’s WHYY presentation of Fresh Air, hosted by Terry Gross.
Today I chose to listen to Terry’s interview with evangelical Christian leader C. Peter Wagner,  and I’m glad I did.
I am a Christian who happens to live in the USA, which is a nation that cherishes freedom of speech, and respects a multiplicity of opinions. Although I frequently discern a gulf of difference between Terry Gross’ worldview and mine,  I have often admired the sensitivity and skill with which she conducts interviews. Terry chooses her interviewees from a wide array of philosophically diverse personalities. including some persons who are markedly different from herself. This was one of them.
At no time has Terry’s respectful sensitivity been better demonstrated than it was today in her conversation with Peter Wagner.
Mr. Wagner represents a charismatic Christian subculture with which I have some common history and familiarity. Terry Gross represents a free-thinking secularist intellectual culture that is, in many ways, antithetical to Peter Wagner’s.
The inquistive exchange between their two gentle souls today was an example of civility that is sorely lacking in today’s  cacophany of combative discourse.
I’ll not say much more about their discussion. You can listen on the link above.  I will, however, quote from Mr. Wagner’s final comment to Terry, which was “I really congratulate you for the good research you’ve done.”
In other words, Terry took the time to explore what fundamentalist preacher Wagner really stood for, instead of forming her interview strategy on caricaturized stereotypes or political exaggerations. The result was exquisitely instructive, and an example of the exploratory enquiry that  public media  should aspire to.
As for  Mr. Wagner, this apostle, who was chosen to represent the so-called dominion theology movement of contemporary Christendom… I commend his unique optimism, founded upon a love-centered faith that is rarely seen these days.  At one point he said to Terry: “I think the world is going to get better and better…He (Jesus) will return to a very strong world…reflecting the kingdom of God– not the miserable world we live in today.”
Amen, brother.

Glass half-Full

two sides to every firestorm

September 12, 2010

In this great nation of free people expressing ideas freely, of course we find that there are two sides to every story.
On one hand, Daniel Greenfield analyzes the koran-burning controversy from a constitutional perspective. He comes up with some pretty good points, like this one:

“The same media which has consistently opposed a Constitutional amendment that bans flag burning (generally because they tend to agree with the flag burners), has now decided that burning the Koran should be a crime. Because burning the flag or killing thousands of Americans is no big deal– but burning a Koran, someone should make a law about that.
Given a choice between burning the US Constitution or burning the Koran– the media happily raises a lighter to the First Amendment. To them nothing American is sacred, but everything Islamic is.”

On the other hand, since any incendiary issue (like, say, the American thrust toward revolution in 1776 that ultimately led to our constitution and its protected rights) is complicated, we see another side of the story with legitimate points, as represented in this article from Alex Kane of the Indypendent, a New York City newspaper, which documents a groundswell of support for the Islamic center among the residents of that city:

“Organized by New York Neighbors for American Values, a new coalition of over 100 groups formed in response to the opposition to the Cordoba House project, faith leaders, elected officials, musicians and activists voiced strong support for the proposed Islamic community center, which will also include a September 11 memorial, a restaurant and culinary school and more.”

So I say that if Muslims in New York City can convince their neighbors that it is safe and appropriate for  them to build a cultural center (or mosque whatever), then let ’em build the dam thing.
But don’t curb the constitutionally-protected rights of a Florida pastor to express his opinion about it, or about the oppressive religion behind the controversy.
If the Muslims of these United States have something to contribute to our free nation, then let them convince us of their respectful intentions. They are free to present their case, and to express themselves religiously by their practice and by their construction.
Likewise, Rev. Terry Jones is free to express his views by burning a Koran, as long as its his property.

As for the issue of the so-called jeopardizing of the safety of our soldiers…just what are our soldiers defending, if not those constitutional rights and the people who are entitled to them?

Praise God for the NAACP

July 25, 2010

Praise God for the NAACP, an organization in which a person is still able to publicly testify, without nitpicky persecution, about what God has done for her.

Shirley Sherrod recently addressed a convention of their members at the Freedom Fund banquet. She delivered a powerful, timely message for  that organization, and indeed for our nation during this perilous time. You may want to watch Shirley’s entire address as it has posted online,

Her testimony constitutes an exemplary demonstration of how one person who has love, a constructive attitude, and a little help from God can overcome adversity. Ms.Sherrod has persevered though lifelong persecution and  hate to make a positive impact on a dysfunctional society. Hers is a rare contribution in a world ithat desperately needs  help.
I’d like to share with you a few selections from what she told the NAACP that night of March 27, 2010. The rest of this blog consists of quotes I have selected from Ms. Sherrod’s message:

“I knew that on the night of my father’s death (in June, 1965, ed.), I felt I had to do something.I had to do something in answer to what had happened. My father wasn’t the first black person to be killed. He was a leader in the community. He wasn’t the first one to be killed by white men in the county. But I couldn’t just let his death go without doing something in answer to what had happened. I made the commitment on that night at the age of 17 that I would not leave the south, that I would stay in the south and devote my life to working for change…”

“Two weeks after I had gone to school at Fort Valley, they called and told me that a bunch of white men had gathered outside our home one night and burned a cross….”

“My mother and my sister were out on the porch, with a gun…she saw some of them; she recognized some of them. She said: ‘I see you. I know who you are.'”
“She became the first black official in Baker County, just 11 years later, and she is still serving, y’all.  She’s chair of the board of education, and she’s been serving almost 34 years.”

“I didn’t know how I would carry out my commitment that night…”

“…that night…I was back in one of the bedrooms praying, asking God to show me what I could do.  I didn’t have… the path wasn’t laid out…there that night…I just made a decision that I would stay and work (instead of moving up north, ed.),  and young people,  I want you to know that when you are true to what God wants you to do, the path just opens up, and things just come to you.  God is good; I can tell you that.”

“…I’ve come a long ways. I know that I couldn’t live with hate, you know. As my mother had said to so many, “If we had tried to live with hate in our hearts, we would probably  be dead now. But I’ve come to realize that we have to work together, and it’s sad that we don’t have a room full of whites and blacks here together tonight, because we have to overcome the divisions…”

don’t do arizona paranoia

April 27, 2010

Where would I be today if all my honky ancestors had been repelled from American borders  by the native peoples?
What if Sitting Bull had  successfully mobilized the indigenous tribes to deport all us freckled interlopers?
What if those Sioux, Cheyenne, Mohican, Ojibway, Chippewa, Cherokee, Seminole, Navajo, Hopi et al  had driven my paleface people back  into the Atlantic where they came from?
What if the native dwellers had demanded that my greatgreatgreatgreatgreat grandparents produce evidence of American citizenship?
What then?
Then America would have been deprived of a great melting-pot heritage of diverse excellence.
Then our dynamic history of diverse productivity never would have happened.

Don’t go paranoid on us, America.
Don’t pull a Berlin wall trip on our next crop of opportunity-hungry, hard-working, innovating huddled masses yearning to be free.
Don’t shut them out. Let them in. We need energetic people now.
If this present Arizona xenophobia takes root and finds oppressive legal support among the rest of our states, we will sever ourselves from the very roots of multicultural fortitude that makes America great among the peoples of the earth.
Let me see your papers just doesn’t have the ring of inspiration like welcome to the land of the free and home of the brave.

Mr. America, tear down this wall.

February 20, 2010

If the exuberance of this great nation is ever to win the rest of the world over to our ways of liberty, then let us live largely and not be paranoid about letting people come and go. Send us the huddled masses yearning to be free, and they will rejuvenate our culture of freedom in unanticipated ways that enrich and extend our cultural heritage. As oppressed people of the world gather to us, they stir up fresh winds of innovation; some of them will return to their countries of origin as ambassadors of our good will.
Thus is our open American portal more persuasive than any other in the world.
For a hundred years, the western nations were knocking on China’s door, trying to persuade them to have an open door policy. Now it’s time for us to reinforce the idea by keeping an open door of our own–an unhindered exchange of people and ideas, open source. Like Google.

I got a little mad this morning when I opened some email from Pat Buchanan’s crowd and started reading about the conservative agenda. I’m a conservative myself, but when he starts harping on illegal immigration, I had to write down a few rants of my own,  ’cause that’s the least of our worries. That  labor dem crowd is right in there with him in the same paranaoid protectionist stripe. Americans just need to get off our asses and get back to work and quit complaining about all the other people in the world who want to be a part of our great experiment.

My progenitors were largely Scot-Irish immigrants who arrived on these verdant shores in some past century seeking opportunities to start anew. I’m thankful they were not turned back at the harbor.

Is our nation too crowded today to tolerate the open immigration of opportunity-seekers like those of  ages past who propelled our industries  to unprecedented levels of productivity? No. You want to know what crowded is? Look at Asia. Look at Mexico City and Johannesburg. Those places are bustin’ at the seams. If we are going to coexist with the developing nations in the 21st-century, we need to share some of our frontier heritage so some of them can get a breath of fresh air and learn what freedom is all about.  We are not crowded here in America. Yeah, sure we have problems. Doesn’t everybody?

Although our enlightened constitutional matrix constructed by ole white guys 250 years ago has served as an excellent framework for cultural freedoms to emerge, it is by no means the whole story. Our founding documents provided a superb beginning, but then we had to fight a bloody civil war 75 years later just to reconcile some of the structural deficiencies that the founders didn’t have the time  to properly resolve.  Such is the history of human progress, especially in a democracy. We don’t have time for perfection. You want perfection? You want something finely-tuned? Start a cottage industry and make watches or better mousetraps of widgets or software that surpasses anybody else’s product.

But in the public square, it’s always been about what works for society as a whole. Make a deal and move on. Unfinished business will be forever with us, like the poor. Jesus pointed out that they would always be among us. He and his predecessor Moses spoke principles for taking care of them, and we need to employ some of those strategies, along with the prosperity-generating stewardship principles about which they also preached.

Idealistic systems for engineering a classless society are pipe dreams. Get real. Marx and Mao, though they had a few accurate analyses, have been disproven as a source for societal construction.  Find something good to do and get to work so you can contribute to the commonwealth instead of sponging from it. If you can’t find it in yourself to do that, then get in line and we’ll see what we can do for you. You lawmakers need to cut your losses and move on.  Pass the dam health care bill and let’s get everybody some access. It’s time to move on. There’s no such as thing as perfect legislation.  The founding documents of our republic prove that.

Give everybody a chance–that’s what the “unalienable rights” from our Creator are all about. Multiculturalism is what made the USA the great nation that we are today. The vibrant diversity that propelled us into world leadership during the last century was not born of WASPish founding fathers spouting ideas of 18th-century enlightenment. Our greatest strength is, and has always been, our unique place in world history of hosting the genius of other cultures, and allowing them to bloom and bear seeds of innovation that are subsequently cast upon the jetstreams of  the world. Give me the melting pot or give me death.

The hardest-working people in the USA have always been the newest immigrants. This is as true today as it ever was; I’ve seen it with my own eyes. How many good ole boys in construction trades have been outdone in recent years by a crew of Mexicans?  This is not a trend to be despised; this is the way it has always been. Maybe it is time for the good ole boys, having English proficiency, to get back in school and  go on to greater horizons such as electrical work or HVAC.

Read up on solar collectors, Marvin, and tinker with them a bit. You may be the one to make the breakthrough in efficiency that our post-industrial, post-commuter infrastructure is looking for. You might be the one to make that Edison or Bell or Ford leap forward into technospace while Juan and Edwardo are building the walls of the house where your new, improved designs will find their actualization.

This essay is all over the map, I know, but then so are the peoples of the world, and we’ve all got something to offer. Thanks for tunin’ in for a bit.