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Thoughtful Research

Environmental Philosophy #1

"Nature is a life support system that wastes nothing, that requires no resupply, and that humans already belong to, which is why scientists have long tried to recreate it for long-duration space missions." Jessica Camille Aguirre, "Another Green World," Harper's, February 2022, page 37.

 

Which has precedence, human rights or Nature's rights? The answer must involve which of the two can survive without the other. Obviously, since humans try to recreate it, we know the answer. That's why the Sierra Club went after Disney for trying to build in a wilderness. If you're going to build a new complex, build where there's already concrete and abandoned buildings, rather than tearing down more of Nature. There are always vacant lots. Vacant parts of town. Rundown parts of town that humanity has abandoned. Think about what Nature abandons. Nothing. In fact, Nature will try to take back what was taken from Her.

 

The trick is to believe we're hurting Nature to the point where it appears there's no return. She becomes unable to take back, or reclaim from the damage we do to Her. Yes, I capitalize Nature because She's as much a Goddess as any God you claim to believe in. Your god will not keep you alive if Nature dies. That was the subliminal message in the recent movie, "Don't Look Up." It's not just the non-climate-change believers who will suffer from Nature's demise. And there is no better planet where we can migrate to.

 

Nature is real, but saving Her is a philosophy. We need what Nature provides but some seem to think we're above needing Her. Before humans evolved out of Nature they lived as other animals do. Yes, there is the destructive forces of Nature, but these can be referred to as a cleansingeed. Tornadoes, fires, things humans cannot control, the strong conquering the weak, cats eat bunnies type of Nature, all designed to work as part of Her harmony. We are the ones that invent meaning to everything we see, rather than just accepting Nature at face value. We invented our gods to control Nature.

 

And then as thinking humans, we thought we had the right to conquer Nature, to subjugate Her resources until we pollute and destroy ourselves by using Nature as it was not intended to be used. Digging carbon out of the ground for oil means we're using ancient animals that are meant to stay buried. Here are just two examples (the pandemic could be a third) of what we did to ourselves with our abuse of Nature:

 

The Great London Smog of 1952: They didn't even realize it was happening or how many people were dying at the time. Count is as high as 12,000, noted at one site, but varies at others. The cause was extensive burning of high-sulfur coal. I remember playing in a coal bin in our basement in the late 1950s, and today am allergic only to sulfur.

 

Japanese Minamata Disease of 1956: "Minamata disease (M. d.) is methylmercury (MeHg) poisoning that occurred in humans who ingested fish and shellfish contaminated by MeHg discharged in waste water from a chemical plant (Chisso Co. Ltd.). It was in May 1956, that M. d. was first officially "discovered" in Minamata City, south-west region of Japan's Kyushu Island."

 

I've also done research on Lyme Disease and believe chemicals used by humans have come back to bite them in the form of ticks which can walk around unaffected by the chemicals they carry. "All natural resources should be managed to benefit humans," is a plunder resource philosophy. Most of these chemicals are manmade but developed using natural ingredients not meant to be combined. Many people believe, however, that Nature is meant to be controlled, managed and contained, not protected.

 

But if we recognize that we're dead without Nature, why don't we see Nature as more important than we are? What makes us more important than all other species?

 

Well, that self-importance would be hard to answer completely here, but it relates to that idea that we understand mortality and fear death. This fear of death, of being forgotten, has lead to all this progress that's now destroying us. Kant noted, "Only rational beings have moral worth." But what rational being sees a human as more important than that without which he is dead? Instead, let's argue that instinctual species, those that don't fear death or being forgotten cannot commit a wrong. Your cat might show some intelligence, but never fears being forgotten. They may avoid pain but death is accepted.

 

Murdy says that anthropocentrism is justifiable because human beings have a special place in nature, yet Christians say we live outside of paradise because we committed sin, and only after death will we find that paradise again. I think that attitude causes more suicide than the belief in karma, actually. Why destroy the paradise here on earth? Because that's not where Christian paradise is.

 

Humans have intrinsic value because of our awareness. We can see and think about what's going on around us. We can also do something about it. But it's not easy. It means giving up ease of living; we like our plastics. I read recently how Kwik Trip is going to make you bring your own mugs for coffee. That's a step in the direction we need, but it means we all have to remember our mugs. Oh, heavens, life has just gotten harder.

 

I'm going to argue here that in order to save the planet's ecosystem and thus save ourselves, human society needs to become as egalitarian as Nature herself is. There is a reason we call Nature female; because it's the female of every species that dominates. Now you won't find that information online, because there is an incredible difference of opinion. The male appears to dominate, as there is an alpha male in a wolf pack, for example. But it's the female that they're protecting. In your own experience, which cat, the male or female, is the hunter? Which seems to be in control of the other? That's what I mean by dominance. The male is typically bigger and stronger, but in early human societies, matriarchy was the rule. Once men realized they were the ones getting them pregnant, they started to control women and thus their offspring. Try having two female cats in the same household; one needs to be dominant. It has never worked for me. If you have two males, it's a little easier, but if you add a female, one of the males will become dominant and began to mark its territory. The female, however, still rules. I had a two male, one female grouping once. She often got between them and stopped their fighting.

 

We know Nature is destructive. But there's a reason rabbits reproduce so quickly. But if you want to refer to poor people as the rabbits of the world, let me hasten to remind you that humans sit outside of this ecosystem. We are an anomaly, by reason of our desire to control or alter Nature, rather than living within Her. If bunnies outstrip their environment without natural predators, their populations would crash. So would ours. But the planet's human population has been on a downswing and that's a good thing, except that now there's a movement to prevent abortion. Animals naturally abort when the environment around them dictates they won't be able to care for them. Humans have, too, since the beginning of time. Again, religious orders seem to think they have the right to change the Natural way of things.

 

There is also a growing endeavor around the world to use more sustainable products, to turn junk into stuff that has purpose again. Another good trend. Even in poorer places like Gaza, eco-friendly construction materials are being used in a tech firm called GreenCake. So it can be and is being done. What about Africa? Why don't we know more and care more about Africa? That, too, has to change to make our world more egalitarian.

 

Egalitarian means: All people are created equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities. Socialism is the economic version of this. Communalism is where the leaders are the poorest because they make sure everyone else has enough. And communism in the system we've seen where the leaders are well cared for while the rest at the same level of economic stagnation.

 

There is a very real thing call environmental racism, where the rich can afford to live in cleaner places. An EPA report indicated that ethic and racial minorities are disproportionately exposed to pollutants in air and water. They will take measures to clean it themselves, but there's only so much they can do when the pollutants come from the rich. When I lived in Green Bay, years back, I read about the efforts to lean up the PCBs in the Fox River. But at the same time, the Hmong population continued to fish there, even after the reports came out that the fish were loaded with PCBs. Asking them not to fish was like asking them to change their way of life, something those who still didn't speak English could not do, any more than hunters could see a lyme-infested tick before it bit them.

 

Pushback against climate change issues also includes those who read science skeptic sites that tell them about the cycles of the planet warming and cooling over thousands, even millions of years. (Odd that they accept this and not that the planet is more that 6,000 years old.) Of course we know this was true. We know about glacial effects, about heating and flooding and that alligators used to live in Spitsbergen where they don't anymore. No one is arguing that tornadoes and floods and fires haven't been around for a very long time. What needs to be understood is the kind of death that happens with cancer, with respiratory illness in smog, with diseases that break through from very deep underground when our carbon acts have impacts we don't like to think about, because we are used to our gas-guzzling trucks.

 

Others, like Koonin, noted that "the impact of human influence on the climate is too uncertain, and may be too small, to merit costly action to reduce fossil fuel use. Society, he says, will be able to adapt to warming." Well, I'm not sure we're doing a very good job of that. Not many have moved inland from the coastal areas yet, or out of Florida, where sinkholes suggest that state might just all sink sooner before later.

 

The environmental movements of the 1970s encountered pushback in the 1980s with the wise-use movement, saying that we can achieve a balance between natural sites with need for jobs, energy, food and tourist sites. Sure, maybe. But just who, exactly, is making that determination? Capitalists? Those who view Nature as only resources to exploit? We heard during Trump's administration that all national parks should be opened up to get at those resources. What happened? I'll save that for the next article.

 

My belief is that, in order to save the planet, we have to apply the socialist approach to egalitize (my word) human livelihood. But how would that work? For one, if everyone has equal access to clean surroundings, water, and decent food, will they be more willing to work and do their share? Now I don't intend to go all "imagine no possessions" here, but think about it. Until the global job and pay rates become equalized, where there's no more scrambling to make a living, we won't see the environmental changes to the degree that are being called for today.

 

When I first moved to Madison, alone, to work a $15 per hour job back in 2015, I moved into a low rent district for affordability. My apartment building had two other whites, students, and then they moved out. I was now in an all-black apartment building. The only problem I ever had there, compared to the one I had to move to in 2017, was the amount of litter in the parking lot. That indicates lack of caring due to lack of equality. If you care about where you are, you show that, or your landlords, at least, demand that respect. On the plus side, no one complained about my cat running up and down the stairs like they did at the 2017 apartment; but in their defense, by that time I had two cats running up and down the stairs. They were not in the least intimidating; they were mousers and kept the area free of varmints, but that didn't matter. So if I could move back to one of them, guess which one I'd choose? Where people were friendly in 2015, and liked my cats.

 

The point is that our environment is important to us only if we care about it. In the recent issue of Harper's there's a huge article about how space scientists are trying to recreate Earth's Biome so that we can live on other planets, because, and I quote: "While he doesn't consider himself a pessimist, Staats is increasingly certain that human civilization is on a path to self-destruction. Space colonization, as he sees it, is our only option."

 

Think about what that says. We're going to send humans, who are destroying this planet, into space to recreate our world somewhere else. What makes these space pioneers so sure we won't destroy that, too? What makes this so ironic is that they don't realize that saving a few people with a ton of money (ala the message in Don't Look Up) isn't near as good as saving this planet with that same ton of money. I remember making this same argument in high school way back in 1970.

 

That money would form, and they could provide the leadership on, a socialist network to save this planet. But for some people the only way the learn to care is if some disaster hits them, and even then, they don't wake up. A socialist environment, properly run, like in Denmark, works. The reason Denmark, however, is the cleanest place on the planet is because they have a closed system; limited immigration, 2% black and no national minority group, as we have with Spanish as a second language here. The U.S. is also a much bigger country and thus harder to regulate. England, too, has racist and littering problems, also with limited immigration.

 

So socialist solutions cannot be compared to socialist economic nations, but more to the race to space that should be applied right here at home, in recreating a biome out of a polluted biome.

 

You know this isn't the end of this topic, but only the beginning. I would love to develop this further and will continue to look into the issues raised here, such as who could help lead the way to egalitarian environmentalism so that our planet can be saved. I'll start with those space pioneers. I would love and welcome your thoughts.

 

Sources:

Jessica Camille Aguirre, "Another Green World," Harper's, February 2022, page 37.

Janine Di  Giovanni, "Generation Gaza," Vanity Fair, February, 2022, page 78

Xu Wanting, "Environmental Philosophy." Encyclopedia of Education for Sustainable Development,  http://www.encyclopediaesd.com/blog-1/2018/10/19/environmental-philosophy

"What Does Past Climate Change Tell us," Skepticalscience.com,  https://skepticalscience.com/climate-change-little-ice-age-medieval-warm-period.htm  

"Environmentalism and Social Change," Cliffnotes.com, studyguides/sociology.

Lakhani and Watts, 2020, "Environmental Justice Means Racial Justice," The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jun/18/environmental-justice-means-racial-justice-say-activists 

Marianne Lavelle, "A New Book Feeds Climate Doubters," Inside Climate News, https://insideclimatenews.org/news/04052021/a-new-book-feeds-climate-doubters-but-scientists-say-the-conclusions-are-misleading-and-out-of-date/ 

Barbara Polivka, "The Great London Smog of 1952," National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29596258/ 

M. Harada, "Minimata Disease," National LIbrary of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7734058/. 

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Using Attitude to Clarify Controversial History

We all know controversy. It's when we can't agree on something that happened and argue about it. Most people argue about things that happened that cannot be known for sure. Controversy is defined as "a disputation concerning a matter of opinion."  This means that no real answer can be found, and people argue what they believe to be true. It's like arguing that your God is the real God because you believe it. There's no way to establish that as fact; even NDEs can be argued as being nothing more than dreams based on a person's beliefs. Sirhan's denied parole again today for killing Bobby Kennedy indicates people don't want to visit that controversial proof that Sirhan could NOT have fired the killing shot, because, boy, what a kettle of worms that would open.

 

In "controversial history," as I will define it here, there is a way to use attitude of the people who made history to find out why things happened the way they did.  One way, of course, is by sharing both sides to every story and staying completely objective, as I tried to do in "Civil War & Bloody Peace," just following the orders and showing responses formed by attitudes. History should never be just about what happened. Dates, names and places. These have been forced on kids to memorize, without an understanding of the event itself.

 

The problem with American history, in general, is that historical events contain so much hidden attitude.  We don't want to think that our motives were ever anything but noble, so we don't get into too much depth over why events happened. We know Custer died at the Little Bighorn, and as a result, the Indians lost the Black Hills. But why?

 

That's the question we have to keep asking until we get at the truth. Many historians believe they'll never know the real reason Custer died at the Little Bighorn, and they don't want to believe what Grant had to do to get the Black Hills. Questions remain because we cannot see the whole picture without attitude. It's controversial, because it contains information that people really don't want to know.  Attitude that creates the why is what people seem to believe we can't possibly ever know, anyway.

 

In a way, we can't. I can't say for a fact that Lincoln was so involved in the Civil War because he felt guilty for secession coming over his election. There will never be a fact in that attitude unless we find it in his handwriting somewhere.  But when we infer this attitude based on the fact that secession happened because he was elected -- and we apply logic, as in, wouldn't you feel guilty? -- then we can make sense of a lot of his decisions over those four years.  

 

Making sense of history is what helps us to understand why something happened. Finding out why something happened is the only way we can learn from history. We always hear this; people who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Well, how do we learn if we don't explore reasons why something happened? And how do we learn the why if we don't look for attitude?

 

So controversial history is history using attitude that brings new light to the pieces of fact that don't otherwise fit together. Things that make complete sense because of what people who were involved in an event stood to gain from the event going a certain way is what made President Grant the instigator of the Little Bighorn, as you'll see following those events in "Civil War & Bloody Peace." Making an event make sense by looking at the attitudes of the participants also clarifies so much of what happened in the 1960s, as you'll see in "From Lincoln to Trump," and why things happened as they did after that. Think we had a handle on Civil Rights? Then how did we get a resurgence of white supremacism under Trump? How do we now see minority voting rights being threatened? Why are the minorities in this country the most at risk in the pandemic? If A + B doesn't equal C, then the event is not making sense. We cannot know the attitudes of people, but we can infer them by their actions, by what they deemed important.

 

Controversial history is also learning how the U.S. as a country, with many leaders and an over-arching guiding principle of free market, capitalism and Democracy, has made so many mistakes and bad decisions in the name of resource capital. Let's call it Uncle Sam, so we're not picking on a political party here.  Now Uncle Sam seems like a shining example of freedom to the world, and people come here to escape oppression. All well and good. But we have history that we have not learned from because we don't teach it, we hide it from view;  Uncle Sam doesn't like to tell people why he does things the way he does. Yes, the American dream is to get rich. Anybody can, right? That is the U.S. myth that so many buy into. Doctors come here from socialist countries because they can make more here. All my doctors last year had foreign accents. All of them.

 

Nearly since the creation of the U.S., big business has been in control, and rich people are more ordained than made.  There are examples, of course, of people rising from poverty due to innovation, just as there are those who were born rich and squandered it all. John Mackay is one; due to the Comstock in Virginia City, he became one of the ten richest in the world in the 1800s, but a rare man who retained that goodness to him. There are those who are rich enough to buy a political seat only to be on the inside where they can get richer. And those resources? Uncle Sam decides that if he can control another country through a petty dictator, our country will thrive. Who cares about them, right? Our cries of freedom become tarnished.  The labor (and that's the rest of us) are kept as little more than slaves to the system.

 

Uncle Sam, you see, was the last industrial nation to free its slaves; even Russia freed its serfs before slavery ended here. That's a fact that you won't hear in history class. And the attitude? Racism is caused by the dominant group (whites) not wanting competition and liking cheap labor. Slavery now is little more than being sucked into a system where you can never get ahead, because you're too busy struggling to make ends meet, and being kept there by a system regulated by business. And we have immigration problems because business likes cheap labor. Except that lately, politicians don't like how immigrants vote, so obstruct immigration, leading to a lack of labor; businesses can't find people, because they don't want more voters voting Democrat. The system has opened up its internal flaws, and we all suffer.

 

Uncle Sam, however, will continue to insist that anyone can get rich. We've all heard those stories of people who have invented the next great thing. Or won the lottery. It's like self-publishing a novel that actually turns out to be a million seller. Or trying to become the next great screenwriter, opposing a closed system.

 

All of this that I've just discussed is controversial history. There is no way to prove that we are all basically being held back by Uncle Sam's capitalism, right? This has been an on-going debate for a long time, and there are no real answers to offer. Free guns for all, that's freedom, isn't it? People will point to the socialist system and say it's no better. Where do all the bright minds and great inventions seem to emerge? The U.S., right? Although in today's world, it feels the U.S. is being surpassed in many ways by China, and being thwarted on the international front by Russia.

 

What I offer, as a historian, are answers to controversial historical events that have been puzzling historians since they happened. Answers will emerge by the application of another piece of information pertaining to the event that has been either unknown or that Uncle Sam does not want you to know. That, too, is attitude.  

 

And while you might say that the addition of this information doesn't make this new "why" a fact, I think you'll see that it becomes hard to look at that event any other way anymore.  Because fact with attitude makes sense.

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History Lesson #5: CRT VS PC: The Way History Needs to be Taught

When the transcontinental railroad was being constructed across the U.S., specifically that section that went east from California, the Chinese were pivotal in providing the labor to get it done. And yet, they were prejudiced against. Why?

 

Such is the discussion of history in the United States. We are long past due to teach history with honesty and attitude. How can we be the people we are when we are constantly living lies? Why is teaching real history even a debate?

 

We have a lot of hate and anger in this country that was of late exemplar in Trump's "Make America Great Again." He even tried to counter the 1619 Project with the alternate attitude in the ill-conceived 1776 Project to "re-promote" patriotic education. Find more on 1619 here: https://www.project1619.org/. In short, that's the year that slaves were first brought here, and this project wants everyone to know American history from the perspective of its slaves. Trump felt we should know it from the perspective of the founders of the Constitution - I think. We all know the constitution was not founded on equality for all, even though it says that, because at the time it only meant white men; certainly not Indians, Blacks or women.

 

There is another way to teach history. Simply by sharing what happened, and why. We used to call it Political Correctness, but in the current climate we hear the debate is over whether or not to teach Critical Race Theory (CRT) in the schools. Why do we have to give the truth fancy names? Isn't that a sure way to continue to divide us?

 

Look, I wrote two books where all I did was follow what happened and why. Yes, I found out things I never knew. It didn't make me hate this country. It made me understand this country.

 

Here's how to understand CRT:

 

In order to understand the problem of Critical Race Training in Higher Education, parents and students need to understand what Critical Race Theory is and how it is implemented. As discussed below, Critical Race Theory is not the traditional civil rights movement, which sought to provide equal opportunity and dignity without regard to race. Rather, Critical Race Theory, and the training to implement it, is a radical ideology that focuses on race as the key to understanding society, and objectifies people based on race.

 

As a radical ideology it has, so far, only divided us further as a country. Let's get back to PC issues and talk about what really happened in our history as a way to teach history.

 

I belong to a number of western Facebook pages and to Western Writers of America, and the most vocal people at these sites are pro-gun and pro-GOP. They think us liberals are all about socialism, a word they abhor without even knowing what it is. Why can't we make Indians the bad guys in our westerns again? Political Correctness (PC) has ruined westerns.

 

And it's true, cowboys and Indians aren't good guys chasing bad guys anymore. We've learned, and it's taken long enough, that history is not black & white. There were as many bad white cowboys as there were bad red Indians. Real history shows us that the Indians alone did not slaughter Custer and his troops. The army's negligence was also responsible; negligence and political maneuvering to take the Black Hills. That's real history. It's not "re-thinking history." It's removing history's patriotic skin to see what really happened. We don't misuse PC to show what really happened. But we do use PC to make those movies that show what really happened.

 

You could continue to make fiction movies that show Indians as bad guys. But at least put them on another planet, okay?

 

Yes, it's true, patriotic history has been taught all through the 20th Century, as Waxman noted. It is long past time to stop. We're smarter than that now. We know what happened in the '60s as a result of Civil  Rights, though many of us still fear voicing it.

 

I just read an article about CRT by Oivia B. Waxman in Time Magazine and it's more clear than ever that this idea only further divides. It's controversial. Truth in history is not. Oh, sure, some say teaching true history means our kids will grow up hating the  U.S. That we'll stop pledging allegiance and no longer want to fly the flag.

 

Hang in there: I'm going to show you why this isn't true. As Waxman noted, our understanding of the past is the key to how we envision the future. If we're stuck in the "South lost because their slaves were taken away" version of American history, we cannot progress as a united nation. Maybe that's been our trouble all along. We have not been able to unite since the Civil War.

 

We can. But it's going to take a real human understanding that no one ever deserved to be enslaved. We can say our forefathers were wrong and learn to live with it. That their "ideal" of equality is still being played out, and is a worthy endeavor. We can say we knew what they meant, even if they didn't. If you 'red' (not reed) Civil War & Bloody Peace, you learned that war was going to break out over western migration, as it did once before; the British didn't want the colonies to expand into Indian territory either. For completely racist notions, the Civil War was fought, and there was no way around it. But though the Union won freedom (for what that was worth) for Black people, the losers were the Indians.

 

But Lincoln didn't free the slaves. That is lesson #1 in true history. And Washington felt only rich white men should vote. That's lesson #2. The United States was not established on true equality, but on flawed humans' idea of equality. Jefferson opposed Washington, and yet some want to erase Jefferson's name. Nonsense. Erasing any true history is non-PC.

 

CRT has rallied opponents who say it perpetuates racism and exclusion. Waxman gives Rockwood School District in Missouri as a case in point. The Missouri governor recently said they don't have to abide by federal gun laws. So we know Missouri is a hard GOP case. I'm sure CRT has supporters elsewhere.

 

But I am not a fan of anything that further divides us anywhere. Can teaching the simple and objective truth do that? What some fear is weighing the scales too much in the opposite direction. Teaching the simple truth does not do that. When I set out to write Civil War & Bloody Peace, I wanted objectivity. I read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. I appreciated the author's attempts to show what really happened in history but I felt it tipped the scale a little too much in the other direction and really didn't get at the truth that we needed.

 

The truth that we need is one that shows President Grant as he was, not as he wanted us to remember him. The truth allows us to continue to read books like Mark Twain.

 

Mark Twain was the one who encouraged and helped President Grant write his Civil War memoirs. Mark Twain helped create his image. Grant avoided writing anything related to his presidential years. Okay, he was dying of throat cancer at the time, but when he left office in 1877, all he said related to his presidency was as an apology for allowing politicians to walk all over him. Really? The hero of the Civil War is blaming others for the graft and corruption during his presidency?

 

I don't use anyone's autobiography to demonstrate who they were. Nor would I demean any fiction novel like Twain's, written in the past that is a mirror to what that time period was like. You want to know who Grant was, you have to follow objective history.

 

Unless we learn from history we could well repeat it. And hiding what was written in history has been part of our historical legacy, too, because our history embarrasses us. We want to hide it. Hiding it hasn't done us any good, so let's try learning the truth for a change.

 

Grant felt the Indians could be pushed around. Trump felt minorities could be pushed around. He professed to being the first to cut off travel from China, but allowed the virus to get in through all other routes. The first occurrences turned up in NYC and Seattle. We heard early in our shut-down in 2020 that minorities would get hit the hardest. Did Trump know this, too? Is this why he felt he should not have lost the 2020 election? Yet he held rallies that summer and didn't care if his supporters wore masks. He said no, he wasn't worried about the virus; he was standing far enough away from everyone. How that didn't lose him votes, I don't know.

 

I do feel the GOP got more votes by cheating, and yet they accuse the Democrats of it. Why wouldn't there be more absentee balloting in 2020? There was a pandemic shutdown at the time.

 

Trump felt Black Lives Matters was one of the problems in the country that White Supremacy could fix. Trump supporters were the ones who caused the violence during the peaceful protests that summer of 2020. They were the ones who had something to gain by disrupting protests over the death of George Floyd. Trump was the one who had something to gain if he could send out the National Guard against a largely Black protest.

 

Trump decided that his election loss was fraudulent and he gets his QAnon followers so worked up that they tried to invalidate the final election vote confirmation on January 6th by storming the capitol. Trump was completely against the peaceful transfer of power that had been our strength in this country since the Constitution was devised, not because he was being PC. No, because he was a poor loser.

 

By standing against what this country stood for, he and his supporters committed the biggest act of political incorrectness. You can't pretend reality is what you want it to be. You can't pretend that history is supposed to go your way because you think you're the good guys. Voters decide, as they always have. And losers, up until Trump, have always been gracious.

 

To be politically correct, we have to correct our misconceptions of history. We have to erase what used to be patriotic history and learn the real history of the U.S., a country born in violence that seems to know no other way to respond. Since Biden was confirmed, gun violence has been worse than ever. According to CBS News on June 24th, there have been 296 mass shootings so far this year, the deadliest year in two decades.

 

Waxman said it right, that most people have to go to college to learn real history. And that's what makes colleges both liberal and hotbeds of protest. How dare educators lie to me all this time! I hated history in high school. I graduated in 1971 and didn't have my first college history class until 1995. I now hold a master's in history. True history is illuminating and invigorating. There's so much potential there for us to become a real and united people. But only if we learn it.

 

Waxman noted one who said that they weren't racist just because they didn't want CRT taught in their classroom, but she didn't say what it DID make them. What other reason is there for not wanting it taught? In my mind, it could tip the scale too far the other way and that is what people are objecting to, I think.

 

We need objective history and we need it in the grade schools, and we need it yesterday.

 

Trump committed the largest act of political incorrectness by supporting only the white Christians who don't believe that black lives matter.

 

Juneteenth is now a federal holiday, as a PC salute to the past. It commemorates the end of slavery by making the day slaves in Texas heard they were free a federal holiday. It has nothing to do with the Civil War, or the 13th Amendment. Texas was simply the last to let those people go.

 

What does another holiday accomplish? I'm not sure. But finding this out, and the Oklahoma massacre, and so many other things that I share in From Lincoln to Trump, is a good start. Maybe we need the students to ask more questions. Maybe the parents can tell them things they don't learn in schools as a way to start those conversations. Maybe if we show that learning the truth doesn't hurt us but sets us free and makes us feel not only smarter but more responsible to do better, we'll be able to move for real honest curriculum in our schools.

 

In the South in the 1960s, we saw a lot of objection to Civil Rights emerge, and when Kennedy pushed for it, and Johnson finished it, many of the Southern Dixicrats turned Republican. It had been Republicans who were against doing away with segregation. They felt segregation worked. They didn't see the Blacks as a voting bloc worth championing. President Kennedy did, and Bobby Kennedy picked up the Civil Rights voting mantle and ran with it. He got 100% of the black vote in the Los Angeles Watts District just before he was killed. Why was he killed? Because of Civil Rights. That's why his brother John and Martin Luther King were killed.

 

We cannot pretend race was never an issue. We have not had any decent progress toward equality since then. But the way to get it is through the truth in history.

 

Yes, it's good to recognize the end of slavery in Juneteenth. But we also have to recognize it wasn't the end of prejudice. It is being PC to write history as it was, not as we were taught to be patriotic and believe America was right no matter what, because then we'll start to understand where we're at today.

 

You see it, right? If you're taught to believe America is right no matter what, then how could slavery have been wrong? No, it's patriotic teaching that's wrong.

 

This country of immigrants is filled with examples of prejudice. Here are just a few I used in From Lincoln to Trump:

 

"Why not discriminate? Why aid in the increase and distribution over our domain of a degraded and inferior race and the progenitors of an inferior sort of men?" This was a quote by Republican Senator John F. Miller of California, and he may have been referring to the Chinese, who he wanted to stop coming to California. (President) Arthur refused to exclude them from immigrating for twenty years, instead reducing it to ten. They were not given citizenship, a law that was finally repealed in 1943. (p. 65)

 

In 1942 Mexican immigration was encouraged for agricultural needs because of the fear of labor shortages. Called the Bracero Program, it continued to be renewed for the source of cheap labor. FDR incarcerated Japanese US citizens during the war; one refused to go and took the case to the Supreme Court, who ruled it as a military necessity. (p. 108.)

 

Once we acknowledge that our country has had a past filled with subjective hatred and injury, we discover the true meaning of PC, that we are a different, and a better, people today and the changes in the way we look at ourselves is the best use of PC there is.

 

Michael Foucault noted that a true student of the past

 

…must grapple primarily with the events of history, its jolts, its surprises, its unsteady victories and unpalatable defeats -- the basis of all beginnings, atavisms and heredities.

 

If we show both the good and the bad in U.S. history to even our children, we'll discover that they are able to understand and still love our country, if we teach it right. We are all flawed human beings, doing our best in a flawed system. Let's teach it that way.

 

SOURCES

 https://criticalrace.org/what-is-critical-race-theory/. 

 Olivia B. Waxman, "Past Tense," Time, July 5 - 12, 2021, p. 81.

 https://www.cbsnews.com/news/2021-deadliest-year-gun-violence/. 

 Matthew Karp, "History as End," Harpers, July 2021, p. 29.

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Reflections: A comparison of two presidential campaigns

Jack Newfield's memoir of Bobby Kennedy is an intensely personal look inside the man before he decided to run for president; Newfield started following Bobby as a journalist in the autumn of 1966, and then covered that campaign through June 5, 1968. Apparently Newfield started out disliking him, noting that he'd picketed the Kennedy administration in 1963 at the Justice Department over the treatment of blacks to date. At that time Newfield was protesting black oppression, and saw Bobby come out. When someone yelled, "we haven't seen too many Negroes coming out of there," Bobby's only response was that they did not hire by the color of the skin, only by their ability. Bobby was booed for this. Two years later, Newfield found himself following Bobby as a journalist reporter.

 

So Newfield fills this book with intimate moments showing what Bobby was really like. He was a human being, and certainly flawed. He was not only complex, but contradictory. Newfield claimed he was a man at war with himself, especially in these early years after his brother was killed. This book made me understand Bobby more, and identify with him as a human being.

 

This is also a book that, in reading it today, shows how little politics has changed since then. I'll share some of those comparisons here in this summary of a book I highly recommend; it sells pretty cheaply used at Amazon.

 

Bobby is portrayed as a passionate, sensitive introvert, not naturally inclined to the political process but drawn to the nobleness of it. He could be moody, and he daydreamed. According to Newfield (54), he was "a nature sensualist. Clouds and rain depressed him. Sun, wind and the sea elated him. Mountains, rapids and animals exhilarated him."

His belief about the nobleness of the political process can be summed up in his own words (55): "…but we can lessen the number of suffering children, and if you do not do this, then who will do this? I'd like to feel that I'd done something to lessen that suffering."

 

In today's world so many people think all politicians are only crooked, no longer working to lessen anyone's suffering. But we have to believe that desire is still there in the people who want to run our country, or all hope is gone. Are we nothing more than dollar signs walking around?

 

Newfield (56) called this time between 1965 and 1968 "the most concentrated and violent change in American life since the 1930s." This book demonstrates that change as a reflection of the Vietnam War, just as our politics evolving today continue to reflect Bush's invasion of Iraq and growing terrorism that has resulted.

 

What's interesting about the 1968 political campaign year is that Lyndon Johnson (LBJ) became one of the first to decide not to seek re-election, which happened previously in 1884 with Cleveland. In Johnson's time, television was to the people what the internet is today, certainly a mover and driver of more information than people ever had access to before. They were showing Vietnam battles on nightly news, and that was unprecedented. I think there were some World War II scenes shown in movie houses, but nothing like this before. It's really not surprising that there would be an outgrowth of war protests with those kinds of visions. "Television, and the media in general, are now more powerful in determining politics than heredity is," noted the author (57).

 

People get upset over the idea of a "Clinton" dynasty, as some were over a "Bush" dynasty, but that's nothing new in American politics—the Adams, the Roosevelts, and here potentially the Kennedys. If one is suited to the task, with experience and education, the last name shouldn't be factor.

 

One of the criticisms of Hillary Clinton has been that she changes her mind. But a trait of a good leader is the ability to reassess. Bobby Kennedy did so on Vietnam and in his Vietnam speeches between 1965 and 1968 he would often apologize for the role he and his brother played on getting them involved. George McGovern's break with Johnson in 1965 had a big impact on him (130). He later said that if McGovern had run in '68, he would not have. The author also quoted a columnist here who believed Bobby stayed quiet all through 1965 to avoid a fight with President Johnson. Later the author said he made his first aniti-war statement in 1965, but became more vocal in '66, when the Senate too had begun to turn against the war (134).

 

Immediately Bobby faced a backlash of criticism from many, including those who had been friends with John Kennedy. "The general impression was that Kennedy got the worst of the political exchange because of the subtleties of his own position, and the potency of the simplistic anti-Communist rhetoric of his opponents" (135). Sometimes the development of the strength of convictions takes time, and in-depth analysis of the mood and pitch of the country's people; a true leader can change with the times and the will of the people.

 

But the backlash meant that Bobby stopped talking about the war for the remainder of 1966 (136), even as his opinions grew. Newfield gives readers the impression that Bobby was not the natural politician that his brother had been. But he wanted to be president because there were so many people to help, and he didn't know how else to help. His passion made people begin to rally around him. He felt real.

 

He was back at it in 1967, and this time, he did not give up. Here's from his last speech in 1968: "Do we have that authority (to kill) tens and tens of thousands of people because we say we have a commitment to the South Vietnamese people? But have they been consulted—in Hue, in Ben Tre, in other towns that have been destroyed? Do we have that authority? ... What we have been doing is not the answer, it is not suitable, and it is immoral, and intolerable to continue it."

 

Bobby was afraid to run up against Johnson. They never got along and for a while, Johnson's politics were favorable; also, his brother had chosen him (though Bobby told him not to) (202). No love was lost between them during JFK's presidency; Bobby was often treated (and acted) like second-in-command. For these reasons he was late to declare himself an anti-war president, and was considered a coward for a while. Eugene McCarthy got in before him and gained a lot of support from the college crowd. Johnson at first—following the JFK assassination—received as high as 80% approval, and 69% of his bills in 1965 were passed, a record number (189).

 

Politics at this time revolved around poverty, racism, bureaucracy, foreign policies and war. How little things change, sometimes, no matter how hard we try. But in 1967 the revolution began, and it wasn't started by Bobby or the Beatles. It appears it started with the anti-draft movement (195), probably related to the news reports showing what went on in war. By early 1967 the Democrats were looking to replace LBJ. One movement was to draft Bobby, but he wasn't ready (19 . In June of that year, he was clearly in turmoil over his inability to challenge Johnson. At that time he used glowing praise for the president that he later regretted (203-204).

 

He finally began to travel the country in mid-January of 1968, making anti-war speeches, and his closest friends felt that meant he was running. He openly admitted to disliking McCarthy, calling him pompous, petty and venal. He couldn't endorse him. "Gene just isn't a nice person" (211-213).

 

Yet it was the Tet offensive beginning January 31, 1968 (234) that got Bobby into the race and not LBJ's decision not to run again, as I had thought. With McCarthy already running he was receiving a lot of support from the campuses and the Jewish communities. A number of Bobby's closest advisers jumped up to encourage him, but his brother Teddy remained uncertain (235).

 

Finally on March 16th he made his candidacy official : "I do not run for the Presidency merely to oppose any man, but to propose new policies … I made it clear to Senator McCarthy … that my candidacy would not be in opposition to his, but in harmony … my desire is not to divide the strength of those forces seeking a change, but to increase it" (257).

He worked hard to gain the trust of the college crowd, who saw McCarthy as the man with courage. At first Bobby's audience was made of those who hated hippies and happy that Bobby was running against Johnson. He talked up the college revolution scene, saying that we need to attack life with all our youthful vigor (262-263).

 

By the end of March, "Kennedy Besieged … there was almost a riot at the airport, the crowds were out of control, and there as a brief fistfight between a Kennedy enthusiast and a McCarthy heckler." There seems to be a distinction here—enthusiast versus heckler? It's a perspective issue, same as today. Or it really was a McCarthy fan sending jeering words at a Kennedy fan. "I want to find jobs for all our people," said Bobby into a bullhorn. I want to find jobs for the black people of Watts, and the white people of eastern Kentucky. I want a reconciliation of blacks and whites in the United States" (273-274).

 

Reconciliation? You see, blacks and whites didn't always not get along. They don't all not get along today. See the movie Free State of Jones playing now and you'll see what I mean. The more we live with each other, the more we can. That's why desegregation was so important in the 1960s, but still, we see so many places today where a white hasn't seen a black, except on TV.

 

Bobby was devastated by the death of Martin Luther King, and was tempted to withdraw. Shades of Dallas had to have run through his head. But he knew he had to speak out. "But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings who abide in our land" (281).

 

And later: "For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly, destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is a slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter" (283).

 

How far have we come, really? Shouldn't we be ashamed that many of these words can still be said today? Where is the hope of the 60's?

 

Kennedy began winning heavily with the black population, to the point of Ethel saying, "don't you wish everyone was black?" (299) When Kennedy didn't do as well as expected, Newfield intimated a double standard: "If Kennedy had the relationship that McCarthy has with Shana Alexander and Mary McGrory, it would be a scandal. But Gene can get away with it because no one accuses him of buying off the press. So he gets a free ride."

 

If Kennedy was like Sanders early in the race, he became like Hillary later. Bobby appealed to the blacks, as Hillary does, and both are accused of duplicitous methods. Was Bobby using his brother's name? Newfield believed the opposite was true (303). By invoking their mistakes and how wrong the war was, and ramping up on Civil Rights, Bobby was making a name for himself. Hillary, too, puts herself squarely with the liberals and women's and black rights, and the need for more gun regulation.

 

A man heckled Bobby at one of his stops, and the police arrested him. Bobby said to let him go, but they wouldn't. So Bobby promised to get him out of jail as soon as he was elected. That kind of peaceful rhetoric seems missing now, where this kind of heckling had been easier to tolerate.

 

Bobby also pursued gun control legislation, and he tested the ground against rifles and hunters in Oregon, known for being very volatile state over the issue. He lost Oregon, but he loved to challenge his audiences, not cater to them (307). This was before the California vote, and if he didn't get that, he wasn't sure he could keep going.

 

His speech in Oregon is worth noting: "Nobody is going to take your guns away. All we're talking about is that a person who's insane, or is seven years old, or is mentally defective, or has a criminal record, should be kept from purchasing a gun by money order."

 

After Johnson announced he wasn't running, Bobby took on Hubert Humphrey with the same vigor of being pro-war that Johnson was. "If the Vice President is nominated to oppose Richard Nixon (and Nixon was pretty much running in the primary unopposed), there will be no candidate who has opposed the course of escalation of the war in Vietnam" (313).

 

In Oregon, McCarthy had scored heavily against Bobby, but Bobby didn't counterattack, fearing to appear ruthless, and not wanting to alienate McCarthy's college voters. He wanted people to see him as running against Humphrey. McCarthy, on the other hand, went after Bobby's previous pro-war record with his brother. But Newfield noted that Bobby was on record as being anti-war even before McCarthy (315).

 

Bobby finally agreed to debate McCarthy before the California primary, and of course they each won it, depending on who you listened to. But when his staff asked why Bobby blew the closing remarks so badly, he said, "You won't believe it, but I was daydreaming. I thought the program was over and I was trying to decide … where to take Ethel for dinner" (321-322).

 

The last time the author talked with Bobby, it was about Bob Dylan. Bobby had just heard the song "Blowing in the Wind" and was very struck by it. He decided he wanted to meet Dylan. As they talked and Newfield wondered how Bobby could win the activist students, Bobby turned to brood out the window again (324).

 

Toward the end of California campaigning, those in Bobby's camp decided that Bobby and McCarthy were alike on so many issues, and the focus still needed to be against Humphrey. Yet on June 4th McCarthy claimed that Martin Luther King had endorsed him; that Bobby once had his phones tapped (330). Some feared Bobby wouldn't take New York later. Others feared this country was going to kill another Kennedy, "and then we won't have a country" (327).

 

We all know what happened. He was killed, just after winning California. We can hope and pray that never happens in this country again, even as the death toll from guns rises. Newfield ends the book without mentioning the killer's name, and just asking "Why?" 

 

As you think about the campaign in 2016, let Bobby's last words stay with you:

 

I ask you to recognize the hard and difficult road ahead to a better America –and I ask you tomorrow to vote for yourselves. The people must decide this election—and this must decide so that no leader in America has any doubt of what they want. For your sake, and for the sake of your children, vote for yourself tomorrow (327).

 

I don't want to share the author's final words because, quite frankly, I don't want to believe them. "And from this time forward, things would get worse; our best political leaders were part of memory now, not hope. The stone was at the bottom of the hill and we were alone."

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Now Available: From Lincoln to Trump: a political transformation

 

 

This adventure in journalistic history was unlike my other one in two ways. Civil War & Bloody Peace (CWBP) took me twenty years, from beginning to publication, and I was on the road, a lot, going to all the places at which Henry served to dig out primary information to find out why he was sent where he was sent. From Lincoln to Trump (FLT) took not even a year from beginning to publication, because I relied on information commonly available. CWBP was an exercise in objectivity - I had only to demonstrate why Henry said what he said late in life. I had no other agenda. But FLT was written more with subjective objectivity. I am not alone in disdaining Trump as president; historians overall call him the worst president, and Lincoln the best. I felt that made such interesting bookends for everything that came between them that I wanted to find out what the heck happened to the Republican Party from Lincoln to Trump.

 

I'm going to be presenting on both books in September, so I'm going to see if I can hash out a kind of rough draft here.

 

CWBP was a book that I submitted for publication for about 10 years before I gave up and self-published. Well, I couldn't let all that research go to waste, right? Reasons given by publishers for not picking it up varied. Mostly, the lack of my being able to demonstrate that this wasn't Henry's personal story - because he was a nobody, right? But that his orders, where he was going as a non-comm during his 20 years in the army at such a pivotal time in history, I felt could teach us a lot about our history, in a very real way. And that it does.

 

I queried a few publishers on FLT but I knew that I wanted to get it out before the election, because I planned to fill with what happened during every presidency that led to today. No publisher who responded was able to handle such a quick turnaround. So again, I had no choice but to self-publish.

 

This means, of course, that I now have a second book that is not validated by any other historian. And yes, that bothers me. I sent CWBP to my thesis advisor and he hasn't responded since receiving it. I asked for a review from someone on campus. No response. I asked one of my thesis committee members to have someone he knows read FLT before it goes out. Again, no response. I don't know why. And not knowing feels like - when your favorite pet cat disappears one day and never comes back. You never get closure.

 

Anyway, FLT was a cheaper process. I depended on some very factual books to come up with some of the main events in each president in this survey. From there I found some controversy and dug out further information to more fully develop each of the issues in the book.

 

For CWBP, I used a more day to day approach, or fort to fort, and showed what happened at each location that sent Henry there, and kept him there. He was in the Civil War starting in 1862, and then went west - a total of five enlistments, more than any other soldier I found in this research, until medical discharge in 1884.

 

In FLT, I was also able to use research I'd been compiling for quite some time on the assassinations in the '60s. It seems that people don't understand how transformational that period was in our society - and I think that with Trump we're facing another transformational period. But as I put this book togather I found something in the '60s that never occurred to me before. Is it possible the Democrats of the South - Dixiecrats - killed JFK? 

 

So you don't just see Republican presidents, although the focus IS on the GOP. I also do brief comparisons on issues of economy, war, racism and more to Democratic presidents. Because somewhere along the way, the two parties flipped. But did they? I was surprised by the answer, and you will be, too.

 

The seed for FLT was planted in CWBP. In that book I demonstrated how the Republicans gave up on black rights. But I was only scratching the surface, because the book had to have an ending, and I chose Henry's death in 1916. What I learned in FLT made this country's character so clear. When Trump says "make America great again," he really does mean a kind of re-segregation, and dominance, that he felt made us great once before. He is a direct response to Obama's reaching out to the world for healing after the divisive presidency of GW Bush and his Iraq war. But his election is so much more than that, as you'll see.

 

Both books depended on the digging out of facts. You cannot rely on the opinion of others. If you find someone's opinion, and he makes it sound like fact, you have to dig further. While putting FLT together, the libraries closed down. I had to rely on books I could buy, and that I had in my library, and whatever I could find online. But I don't rely on opinions.

 

You will find controversy. I talk about who could have assassinated civil rights leaders like the Kennedys and King; not lone assassins. I include who was freemason throughout this history, but then I also include a discussion of freemasonry in the appendix. I open things up further with my own commentary throughout, something I did not do in CWBP. But I wanted to make sure readers did not miss some of the connections I saw throughout the book.

 

I finally finished up with some more books from the library. In all FLT is an amazing resource. Give it a try. Help validate this work, so that more people take a chance on it. I will use any reviews in my presentation in September.

 

Thanks for reading.

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