Monday, March 12, 2018

Western Democracy by Nature Is Unstable and in the 21st Century Is Increasingly Unstable

1. I explore further how Western “binary opposition” interferes with the ability of our democracy to function domestically and internationally.
2. Why was it possible for Russia to meddle in our 2016 election, and why are we paralyzed, unable to take action to stop such meddling in the future?

My weekly ritual on Sunday morning begins with preparation of a pot of heavy brew coffee in our espresso maker, and my low fat Greek yogurt mixed with stewed prunes. I take these and the New York Times to our sunny guest room/library the quietest room in our house, and read the national and international news, the Arts, and food in that order. This morning I read an article that suggested China is the most stable of the world powers in the Pacific Rim region (not the USA). ‘“This is without question a big opportunity for China,” said Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, a New York based research firm that forecasts global risks. “The United States has become a less certain partner for a while now.”’* That assessment was prompted by D. J. Trump’s recent impulsive answer, “Yes,” to South Korea’s request that he meet with North Korea’s erratic Kim Yung Un in a summit to address North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

As I read the article, I had an unsettling thought, that our democratic electoral system is by nature unsteady, that the USA has been and always will be “a less certain partner.” And, I thought we must as a people understand the peril for the democratic form of government in order to take action to limit that instability in the future. The unpredictable behavior of our current president is the ultimate example of our erratic system. Our elections held for various offices every two years in the USA provide the mechanism for capricious outcome. Other Western Democracies’ elections while variations on a theme provide the same mechanism for slippery outcomes. The possibility that policies domestic and foreign will change drastically on a regular basis with an increasingly volatile electorate is a logical outcome of that system. It is only natural that foreign powers would seek to take advantage of our tricky political system.

Russia’s dictatorial President Vladimir Putin meddled in the 2016 election, and the possibility that Donald J. Trump’s campaign committee cooperated, perhaps willingly engaged with a foreign power in that meddling is increasingly unsettling in our domestic and international political relationships. At the same time it is predictable that China, North Korea,Iran and many other actors on the world stage hope to take advantage of the variability created by our electoral system. That it took two centuries for the worlds autocratic powers to attempt to interfere in our fickle internal politics is most remarkable.

I am not advocating against democracy as a system. I am arguing that we have been foolishly blind in our assumption that it is the best system of government ever invented. That it allows the people of a nation to participate at a fundamental level in government is unquestionable. That Western Democracies in general and the USA in particular have been working to improve that system for the past two centuries is also undeniable. However, increasingly we as a national culture perceive polarized Democrat and Republican parties. The notion of Western binary opposition developed historically from the linguistics of Ferdinand De Saussure and constructed in multiple disciplines over time through the philosophical thinking of Jacques Derrida, anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss and others allows an understanding of the increasing instability in our election system and it follows a priori in our government. At the same time we in the west do not comprehend the linked nature of oppositional thought as in the Yin and Yang of Eastern philosophical and spiritual thought. I posit here that an understanding of Western binary opposition demonstrates the blind spot we have toward the inherent instability of Western democracies in the metamodern era, our own in particular.*1 Binary opposition theory states that most Western thought is based in extreme antinomy and places one of the two possible positions in a hegemonic relationship with the other, explaining the extreme and volatile positions of the current president and his party to the other party and to moderate thought in both parties. Examples of that thinking include the following. DJT and his supporters see white northern European people as superior to all others and base national policy on that notion. White people are understood as superior to black people, and that the institutions of our nation are by nature opposed to black people thus the statement to black people in campaign rallies, “vote for me, what have you got to lose.” Simultaneously our nation is understood to be in opposition to all others and that friends and enemies alike take advantage of us. Only the intervention of many in the Republican Congress has prevented DJT’s unilateral action in the current aluminum and steel tariffs placed on foreign nations.

As we increasingly see the two parties at the extremes of such a binary opposition we are unable to locate variations, gray areas where there might be room for discussion. Instead we hear accusations of intolerance and anger on both sides. Because of the oppositional stance of both parties it is also impossible to focus outside and beyond the binary to find thought in many other directions. We are blind to actual reality as well as other possibilities. As a current example of our myopic vision I offer the following. Increasingly during the past forty years the ability of a few individuals of extreme wealth within Western capitalist societies to infiltrate the system is a fact.*2 In our country the extreme wealth of super rich corporations has provided for the passage of laws by the Judiciary that place more and more power in the hands of the extremely rich. At the same time Russia’s current autocratic system - an amalgam of super rich oligarchs who run a conglomeration of corporate giants overseen by the current autocratic president, Vladimir Putin - fostered the downfall of the fledgling Russian democracy is also fact. The visible interference of Russia in our politics is the logical outcome of that country's failed democracy. Concurrently, Donald J. Trump’s inability to recognize the fact of Russian interference in our democracy and to take action is a product of his own insecure binary visualization of the world around him – “only I can fix this.” And, our inability as a people to recognize that our democracy is teetering on the brink of destruction due to myopic understanding of the nature of democracy may be our undoing.

• *Rich, Motoko, “Trump’s Abrupt Calls on North Korea and Trade Open a Door for China,” The New York Times, International, News Analysis, Sunday, March 11, 2018.
*1Derrida, J., 1981. Positions. Trans. A. Bass. Chicago: Chicago UP Lévi-Strauss, C. 1963, 1967. Structural Anthropology. Translated by Claire Jacobson and Brooke Grundfest Schoepf. New York: Doubleday Anchor Books.
*2 Piketty, Thomas, Capital in the Twenty-first Century, Harvard University Belknap Press, August 14, 1017.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Binary America and the Trumptocracy

The antecedent to our current orgy of angry partisan politics is the ancient Western epistemological error in which all things are viewed as binary opposition, and I mean everything of which the universe is made (positive and negative energy) whether as in this case, fact or not.* We see all of science, culture, the arts, history, nations, religions, peoples, politics and daily life tied up in binary opposition. Practically everything is understood as an either/or proposition; either you are Democrat or Republican, black or white, Northern European or Southern European, brown or white, Christian or any other religion, Native American or other kind of American, a citizen of the US of European origin or any other. And, I could go on and on with all the - one thing versus the other - binary comparisons though I’ll stop here in order to continue my argument. That all this “either/orness” is faulty epistemologically can be demonstrated through the analogical trope we very often use to demonstrate faulty logic, that ‘something is like comparing apples to oranges.’ Both are types of fruit, both sweet, one juicy and tangy with a touch of bitterness, the other more astringent and less juicy, so they are alike and different at the same time. They are not binary opposites. So too, much of what we tend to construct in opposition is not.

The Trumptocracy we are so disastrously mired in has come about precisely because we view so much in opposition that is not. Let me provide one example. The recent argument over commemorative confederate statuary as stated so often, it should be either left in place or removed, as though their were no other way of looking at an issue that is artificial in its presumptive binary existence. So, what other way is there to look at it, you might ask? I say that the confederacy and the American civil war are a historical fact and to remove the statuary is a fascist like attempt at erasing history. You might say, “OK, let’s remove them and put them in a museum, then we won’t have erased history.” In answer, I would tell you that putting the statuary in a museum is in a sense removing them from public view, thus erasing history from the eyes of our diurnal lives. We could argue in this vein forever setting up one binary opposition after another. We are arguing in circles about an a priori assumption that is faulty. The construction of the issue as binary is at fault. The American Civil War happened. That we fought it over many issues - the most important of which was the morally repugnant southern white Christian defense of enslaving a black population - is a fact and can’t be denied. The monumental sculptures, encomium to heroic southern white heroes of a lost cause are steeped, one might say, enveloped in historic sentiment and argument, and are understood in so many ways, based in each individuals interpretation and comprehension of history, whether correct or incorrect, or partially understood – it is not binary in nature. Rather it is so terribly complex and cannot be viewed as an opposition. The argument as proposed in the first instant was faulty. We all see so much of our history in this impossibly incorrect - apples versus oranges binary opposition – that we are unable to hold a logical argument without bitter confrontation. The Trumpocracy that we are trapped in is itself causing an either/or argument of bitter proportions, and understandably so. However, the causes of this terrible moment in our history are buried in a historic complex of faulty binary oppositions of Brobdingnagian proportions. It begs the question, how do we fix such a mess in the long run?


* The Yin/Yank symbol actually demonstrates interaction between oppositions as the two symbolized in black and white spin into one another in the ancient Chinese image.

* The term, "binary opposition" itself originated in Saussurian structuralist theory. As Derrida proposed, there is no authentic binary pair.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

How and Why I must Not Respond to Hate with More Hate

One night when I was 15 I died. One night when I was 42 I almost died. Today, I have the same chest bug that turned into walking pneumonia in 1986. Let me try to explain how these three things relate to Trumpageddon 101.

When I was fifteen I died (some would say I had an out of body experience). And I went to a place where I found God. It was not really a place, not space, not light, or dark, though as I am human I use human terms to describe it. There was no word, only God. I understood that I did not belong there, at least not then, that I must go back home. There were things that I had to accomplish. I was to learn over time that those things are not special in the way we understand "special." However, I have done them, do so now, and will continue to do them because they are necessary to complete my existence in this life. In short, I must live as best I can. I must love and be loved and use that which I have been given in humility because all that I have and have become in this life is on loan. It is not mine. It is because of that all too brief moment, that I believe I do have some small knowledge of God.

That discloses the experience I had as a teenager. But what does all that have to do with almost dying again in 1986? It is a long and convoluted story that I shall try to make as brief as possible. On September 11th, 1986, my birthday I had the most annoying chest ailment and cough. It wasn’t a cold. It wasn’t terrible, but it did make me tired and I felt as though I carried heavy weights strapped to my arms, hands, legs, and feet. I went to the doctor and was told it was a virus and I just had to live through it. Antibiotics were not in the picture. I will leave out the two months that followed, several doctors’ visits, and rounds of antibiotics.

Two months later. I was preparing to lead a workshop for district-wide in-service. I was building a set for the fall play our high school theater group was to present late in November. I was teaching and working 10 to 12 hour days because of those and other commitments as department chair. I was a working artist adding bits and pieces to over sized hyperrealist powdered graphite drawings, a series of works based in part on historic photographic images. Along with all those commitments I made two weekly 90-mile treks a week to help an ailing parent.

On the night of Tuesday, November 11th, 1986, after putting the final touches on the In-Service plan I fell asleep only to wake two hours later coughing up blood. My partner of 18 years, Joe took me to the emergency room at Lancaster General hospital where I was admitted and treated immediately. I was to stay in the hospital for five days in isolation with a sign on my door that prevented entrance of any and all persons. The hospital staff had decided that I must have AIDS. My partner and I were monogamous, so I knew AIDS was out of the question, but my protestations were ignored. Never the less, after four days of testing, and having been given a list of 25 possible diseases and variations thereof - all were eliminated except empyema pneumonia (walking pneumonia) – our family doctor told me I was lucky to be alive and the AIDS signs were removed from the hospital room door. For the first time I was allowed visitors.

Fast-forward to January 20th, 2018 and once again I have that mysterious chest and throat malady that always throws me into immediate paroxysms of coughing and fear. I’ve been to the doctor and I have my drugs and I’m taking them exactly as directed always with fear.

“Will this be the time I die?”

I know it may be illogical, but each time these symptoms occur I fear that this will be the time I don't get better. And so, once again I return to politics and my possibly illogical fear that this “Trumpian” era marks the end of the USA, as we know it. I fear that I will not live long enough to see the end of the story with diurnal adventures in the destruction of governmental departments, Russian interference in our daily political process, disgustingly arrogant tweets by our narcissistic president, diametrically opposed arguments in Congress and Senate that are impossible to reconcile, the triumph of white supremacist policy in our domestic life, and foreign policy that is destructive to the world order of the past seventy years. I wonder how I can go beyond the binary opposition of the political parties. How can I possibly listen to and talk with those people that are opposed to the very basic tenants of my belief system - many claiming to be of my Christian faith - the loving instruction I received from parents and church, those ideals that Jesus taught us in the new testament - love for all people and things on this earth, God, the heavens above and universe beyond? In a transcendental manner, I must move beyond hate and anger. I must go beyond the disillusioned and tragically oppositional culture in which I live to a space where all is able to coexist in a state unlike mater versus antimatter in mankind's cyclotrons. The two actually do exist at the same time in God’s universes. So the lesson that I am beginning to learn from my death, near death, and current fear of death is that I must (at least some of the time) give up worldliness and be not of this place and time. I cannot discard the anger and yes, the hate I feel unless I peal away all the layers of my worldly conditioning, go back to the time before birth, even before gestation, back to God's universe. I can only do that by struggling against the block caused by my anger, hate, and fear of death. I must continue my prayer/meditation.

However, the idea that I must transcend the “Trumpian” era doesn’t mean that I will lay down and accept the hate filled white Supremacism infesting 2nd decade 21st century USA. It doesn’t mean that I accept this president of no character and morality. It doesn’t mean that I accept the damage he and Congress are doing to this country. It doesn’t mean that I can’t or won’t fight for the things I believe in. Instead I must stop descending to the level of hateful derogatory language and behavior that our president and congress and so many millions of others exhibit. Instead I must continue to work with my LGBTQ brothers and sisters, women and the “me too” movement, all people of color, Muslims, Christians, and Jewish people to bring us back from the brink of malediction and self destruction. But I must do all these things while simultaneously removing hate from my heart.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Time to Panic: USA Is In Danger of Sinking Beneath Nasty Quick Sand In Trumpian Swamp

It is obvious to this writer that the actual purveyors of fake news on the far right, FOX, Breitbart News and others have succeeded in their propaganda campaign against the lawful elements in our government. Because of their attacks we are witnessing the Republican Congress and Senate attack the Muller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the possible obstruction of Justice by DJT and his presidential campaign. I am not looking at charges of possible collusion between the DJT election team and Russia because there is so much evidence demonstrating that actually did happened including parts of the Christopher Steel Dossier that have been proven correct. Never the less DJT, most Republicans, all the powers that be, pundits and news institutions tell us it is impossible to prove collusion. Instead, last week the Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI capitulated to the Republican congress and gave all the confidential documentation that Muller needs for said investigation to Paul Ryan because the Republican house was considering a contempt charge against the DOJ and FBI. Additionally, charges are to be filed against Christopher Steele for creating a “phony” dossier, thus preventing the possibility that any Steele testimony can be considered in the Muller investigation. With Senator Diane Finestine’s release of Glenn Simpson’s full testimony on January 9th, it would appear both investigative committees, House and Senate are now dead in the sullied congressional waters. And, to throw more sewage into the federal swamp, the DOJ is to launch new investigations into Hilary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation. It would appear that the far right is completely successful in pushing the Republican Congress and the Department of Justice into a thorough attempt to collapse the Muller investigation thus preserving the DJT presidency, the most corrupt in the history of the United States. In this author’s eyes, the current government, both houses and the presidency have committed treason against the people of the nation by preventing a thorough investigation into a foreign power’s cyber attack and invasion of the United States of America.

We, you and I, all of us together have 10 months until the 2018 elections. We must work toward the complete turnover of this Senate and Congress. None of us should care if it the two institutions are split between Democrat and Republican as long as most of the current players are replaced with new members that understand they work for all the people of this country, not just the super rich Corporate Oligarchy and Donald J. Trump. Meanwhile the current Congress, Senate and President must be informed by the people that we understand their agenda to be a detriment to the nation, and only a massive march of millions of us on Washington D.C. will be affective in achieving that goal.

News Articles Consulted Viewed January 4, 2018. Viewed January 4, 2018. Viewed January 4, 2018. Viewed January 4, 2018. Published 2:03, PM, January 9, 2018. Viewed 1:57 PM EST, January, 10, 2018.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Joyous New Year Day Dinner Turns Sour: Republican and Democrat Friends, the Trump Agenda and the LGBTQ Community

This is an entirely emotional report based in fear. I make no attempt at rational thought, and I do not apologize.

Yesterday Joe and I went to a New Year Day Pennsylvania Dutch style pork and sauerkraut dinner with our hosts from Pennsylvania and other friends. To be clear the dinner took place in south Florida, not in Pennsylvania. It is also necessary to clarify the political composition of the group. Of the six couples attending three were of the middle or upper middle class. The other couples count themselves among the upper classes. Politically, the majority present were Republican, 2 of the middle class couples, Democrat. Joe and I were the only LGBTQ couple attending. To be clear, I know that two of our Republican friends present at the dinner party did not vote for Donald Trump and I suspect that two others are not at all happy with DJT.

The evening began with delicious hors d’oeuvres that each of the couples had brought to the party. Joe made his mother’s recipe of deviled eggs and we brought those along with homemade cookies and red wine to share. Our host made each of us whatever cocktail we desired and that amplified the lively conversation and camaraderie. When we were summoned in to the dining room for dinner we found a table decorated with a large mound of roses, heavy laden with huge platters of pork, bowls of sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, apple sauce, and homemade rye bread. Once everyone had filled their plates, the conversation and laughter continued until one of the ensemble brought up Donald Trump. That elicited the following remark from a Republican in our company. “I’m so appreciative of all the wonderful things DJT has done for our country including the destruction of Obamacare.” I countered with the example of a friend who had obtained health care through Obamacare for her employees and herself for the first time since she bought her business 6 years ago, only to have the cost double since DJT signed his orders to the department of Health and Human Services to stop financialy supporting Obamacare. The Republican friend responded with a statement that someone she knew had to pay $42,000.00 for health services obtained with Obamacare. During the conversation one person at the table said she was frightened enough to consider leaving the country. She was told that indeed she should leave, at which point I said, “we best not discuss this any further.” That statement was effective, cutting off all DJT talk. Instead the conversation reverted to nothing much of consequence. However, though our host’s cooking was delicious and everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time, my mood had been squelched and the evening irreparably damaged. I couldn’t help but think about all the harm done to our nation beginning with Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, an actual cyber attack and invasion of the USA. The new president whether he and his campaign committee helped Russia in that attack or not has proceeded to change the political face of our nation drastically beginning with the defense of white supremacists and Nazis in the fal of 2017, institutionalization of religious intolerance toward people of the Muslim faith, official shunning of young DACA Americans brought as infants to the USA illegally by their parents, presidential orders taken against Transgendered people in the armed services, Obamacare severely handicapped by the president and congress, Justice, EPA, FBI, the CDC, State Department, Health and Human Services and Education Departments all hindered and denounced as inadequate with new department heads installed who are on record as being opposed to the standard decades old practices of their departments, judges put in place with little or no court experience, not to mention the inflammatory and incendiary attacks DJT made against the 5th Estate, and against foreign governments including our most important allies.

I left the dinner unnerved, feeling a sense of foreboding because it should be obvious to all our friends that in addition to all the concerns I outlined here, this current president and his government represent a possible danger to Joe and myself as we are part of the LGBTQ minority the president and vice-president have disparaged repeatedly. * This evening I felt (illogically or not) that Joe and I are witnessing the beginning of something akin to the late Weimar Republic in Germany as the Nazi Party first began to gain power and influence.


*Verandani, Suman, What Will Happen to LGBT rights with Donald Trump as president? International Business Times, published 5:30 AM, 11/10/16, viewed 11:50 PM, EST, January 1, 2018.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday, October 13: On Christopher Isherwood, Our Current White Supremacist President, WWIII Nightmares and other existential threats

What other existential threats are there that might have something to do with this president (not capitalized on purpose)? I know, for instance, that DJT and his few appointees are undermining and/or humbling our various government departments; the EPA, Justice, Homeland Security, FBI, CIA and others. The EPA protects our environment; air, water, soil, the foundation for all life. The CIA and FBI are there to protect us from criminal elements at all levels, so of course the president is undermining them because they are actually looking into allegations that he, DJT may have colluded with a foreign government in an effort to influence the 2016 election. The president is purposefully destroying healthcare in the USA thus threatening the existence of every middle class, working class and poor member of our country. Additionally, by negligence and/or neglect Americans are dying of avoidable disease in Puerto Rico because of a poorly mounted rescue effort after Hurricanes Irma and Maria. By extrapolation, what other natural disasters will be poorly tended to because this president is so preoccupied with fancied threats to his own personhood? However, the greatest threat of all is nuclear war, the total destruction of the northern hemisphere and our civilization caused by tweeted braggadocio, arrogant name calling, foolish ignorance of history and an inability to heed the advice and warnings of others. This is a short list of existential threats being created by the Pied Trumpster!

Recently I’ve had a series of dark abstruse dreams. Upon reflection I realized that these nightmares mirror my fears of the threats listed above. Herein enters the slightly tangential connection to Christopher Isherwood. You see, I am a lazy intellect and I’ve been reading “Christopher Isherwood: Diaries” off and on for several years. Not having a photographic memory I vaguely recalled a nightmare Isherwood described early on in that weighty thousand page plus tomb and scanning the chapter about his first year in the USA I found the following entry dated August 6, 1939.

“Then I noticed that the smaller boy was wearing a repulsive kind of truss or girdle with an electric light switch protruding from his thigh. He was crippled in some way. He was getting the worst of the fight. The larger boy hit him, drawing blood. The boy snorted up the blood through his nostrils and spat it out into a glass jar. The absolute stolidity with which he accepted his injury was what filled me with horror. I knew that his whole life would be like this – one cruel, stupid, savage fight after another – until he died. Woke sweating. I know the dream was somehow about a European War.

By contrast the previous page in Isherwood’s diary described his meeting with the Buddhist Swami Prabhavananda the day before the nightmare. In that meeting the Swami gave Isherwood four principles and I distill them here. First, search for an “all pervading presence. Second, project goodwill thoughts to every being. Third, the body is a temple that contains Reality. Fourth, meditate about the qualities of the real self, in all things, infinite (in the West, God). I think to remind myself of a fifth principal, to search past the immediate self centered consciousness that life has taught us is reality. However the important part about this mental meandering is the contrast between Isherwood’s nightmare and the Swami’s vision, and that opposition placed in proximity to a second opposition, my own. I fear that Trump’s madness will involve us in horrific events versus the “Art Cards” I created beginning in 2015 with “peace,” followed in succession by “Love, joy, harmony,” and finally in 2017, “create.”

Isherwood complained to the swami that he didn’t know if he could live up to those four principles in the everyday world. Prabhavananda said, and again I’m paraphrasing, not to worry, that it was part of Isherwood’s life work to integrate his existence with the search for the real self or God.

What does all this mean? The lessons I’m learning, - and I’m sure these will have to be reinforced over and over again before I am able to stop living in total panic 24/7 – are several. 1) I must work on my relationship with God, the “infinite.” 2) The most important life task anyone can tackle is to somehow integrate the self in this world with our search for God in all things. 3) If we neglect to do so, it will be at our own peril. 4) I cannot fix DJT, or this broken country and its people. 5) Instead, I must fix myself.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Friday, October 6, 2017: I Fear the Worst!

I admit that I force myself to write rational text lacking expletive. It is difficult to do so because I am angry and confused. I don’t understand how it is possible for the following to be continuing characteristics of our current national political reality. and I fear for the nation and the entire planet.

1.  Less than 60 percent of eligible voters actually vote in our elections.

2.  35 million of the voters in last years election continue to unabashedly admire DJT and believe to this day that he is repairing the political state of our country while dividing us, deconstructing his cabinet, government and tearing the nation apart.

3. ,Many among those who do vote actively ignore and/or deny the obvious mental infirmities of the current president, a narcissist who practices bullying, refutes proven Russian interference in the 2016 election and in so doing prevents our government from devising ways to protect us against such attacks in the future, marginalizes various groups of our citizens including women, all people of color, Muslims, and LGBTQ people, claims the fifth estate creates “fake news,” is unable to reflect actual empathy in times of disaster, and has recklessly put us in danger of nuclear war on one front, North Korea and works to add a 2nd nuclear front by unraveling the nuclear agreement with Iran.

4. Politicians in our Federal Senate and Congress, governors and legislatures of various states, and local government officials are willing to stand quietly by the escalating disorder caused by DJT in our body politic in order to maintain their own positions of power.

5. After many massacres in which Madmen among us have been able to buy multiple weapons of mass destruction and turn them against us, our own people, the president, and congress insist that we are not free unless we as individuals are able to own arsenals of mass destruction and that the constitution grants us the right to own these arsenals which can have no other purpose than warfare and/or mass murder of our fellow Americans.