Useful Scoundrels?

Does the end justify the means?  Can a scoundrel serve a good purpose? Many great dramas have been written and filmed around these great questions. Some politicians’ actions say that their personal answer to boh questions is “yes.”
Here’s an analysis of that phenomenon: The Scoundrel Theory.
Here are some more perceptive articles.
Rolling Stone Magazine: “Trump’s Republican Party has taken on the attributes of a cult” – Sean Wilentz
Time Magazine: “Unifying values, around speech and civility, freedom and fairness are shredded by rising tribal furies and passions. We have a president for whom division is not just a strategy, it’s a skill.” — Nancy Gibbs [Former Editor and Chief].
NY Times: “The Republican Party is doing harm to every cause it purports to serve.” – David Brooks.
We are in a time when our fundamental ethics and mores are being called into question.  What exactly is the “American Way” these days?

The Blacksmith Metaphor

Iron and steel can be shaped and hardened into durable implements with fire and repeated blows. Maybe the “heat” generated in our turbulent society will allow us to shape it for the better. It’s up to those who love peace to stay engaged lest others forge only weapons, chains, and shackles.

The durable metal [mettle?] of American Individualism and independence needs tempering with compassion and stewardship for the common good. It’s about having integrity as an inclusive and beloved community. Can that vision be forged from the base metal of predatory self-interest? How much heat and how many blows are necessary?

[photo: Shutterstock]

Image may contain: fire
 Thanks to George Lakey for the metaphor of heat softening the metal so that it can be worked and shaped. The song “If I had a hammer” comes to mind.

“Living in Dark Times” – New from Pendle Hill

These are indeed dark times. I read of national and world events, grind my teeth, and sometimes despair that the light of hope for my children and grandchildren is dimming, not brightening. Rex Ambler’s Pendle Hill Pamphlet “Living in Dark Times” was published last month.  The Pendel Hill website summarizes his message thus:

How can we effect positive change in our current difficult world situation? In this pamphlet based on his talk at the 2016 Friends General Conference Gathering, Rex Ambler shares his reflections and insights. Citing William Penn, he urges readers to avoid objectifying the world, focus within, and live lives that reflect the truth they discover.

Continue reading “Living in Dark Times” – New from Pendle Hill

What Rebel Memorials Represent

In the days following Charlottesville’s white supremacist march historians offered evidence that the construction of Confederate memorials represents more than a simple historical artifact of the US Civil War.

Chart showing when Confederate Memorials were Built.
Peak in 1915 coincides with rise of KKK.

The peak in 1915 was a period of extreme segregationist sentiment among white Americans.  President Woodrow Wilson ordered the segregation of black federal workers.  The first Hollywood blockbuster film, Birth of a Nation,  celebrated the KKK, debased blacks, and fueled the growth of racism and segregation in the following decade. The NAACP was founded in the same period.

While at Chautauqua (8/5 to 8/20/17) Marguerite and I attended a showing of Birth of a Movement presented by the filmmaker Bestor Kram. This Independent Lens PBS Documentary gives the historical context surrounding Birth of a Nation and offers a key to understanding why Confederate Memorials are not merely a commemoration of historic figures and events. (Click the image below to view the trailer.)

Birth of a Movement Trailer

When we understand the political and social climate surrounding the creation of these Monuments, it becomes clear that they were erected to honor the ideology of white supremacy and those who fought to preserve not just slavery, but the whole social system that dehumanized blacks.

Critics point out that in Germany when structures and artifacts of the Nazi era have been preserved, it is done in a context of national shame. Students are taught about that period as a dark time, not a proud one.

This is not generally the case with Dixie. And, the  Confederate flag has been taken by the white supremacists as a symbol of their tribe. You won’t find black Americans flying the “Stars and Bars” on the back of their pickup trucks.

 

Red Tape Rollback? – Latter Day Robber Barons

The mailing pictured below cost the sender at least $20 for each copy that was mailed.  This “non-profit” is soliciting serious money from wealthy Americans.  It is one of the groups that have defended the Tobacco Industry for years and is now funded by the Koch Brothers and others of like mind.
It is cleverly crafted to suck in the small business owner — maybe this is not the first time you have seen it.  It is the third appeal I have seen since #45 office. They all come from different organizations, but they all have the same basic format: a long richly personalized letter, first class mail with patriotic postage stamps, an artfully worded pitch, and a stamped self-addressed envelope with the target’s name already typed in the return address space.
Consider the source and ask yourself if they really are fighting for “We the People” as they claim.

Civic Hygiene

The Boy Scouts of America were part of my formative years and as an adult, I led two Explorer Posts. At every meeting Scouts recite the Scout oath and law:

 

 

Scout Oath or Promise         

On my honor I will do my best

To do my duty to God and my country

and to obey the Scout Law;

To help other people at all times;

To keep myself physically strong,

mentally awake, and morally straight.

 

Scout Law

A Scout is …

trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly,

courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful,

thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.

 

You may see this as quaint. Perhaps you object to the reference to God, or the notion of duty to country, or the idea of being obedient. All these traditions are now widely scorned as naive.

 

Rotary clubs across the nation recite the Rotary Four Way Test:

The Four-Way Test of the things we think say or do.

Is it the truth?

Is it fair to all concerned?

Will it build goodwill and better friendships?

Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

 

Both of these traditions deserve to be part of our American Civic Hygiene: practices that protect against infection by calumny, fear, bigotry, ignorance, intolerance, and avarice. No sneering!

Beware The Ides of March

There is a Twitter protest (#idesofmarch, #idesoftrump) which suggests that angry citizens deluge the White House with postcards on March 15th.  Julius Caesar was assassinated on that day in 44BC as we remember from Shakespeare’s play in which a soothsayer warns the emperor, “Beware the ides of March.”

 

This is a really bad idea for several reasons. No good purpose would be served by such an action. We already know that the 45th president has a very thin skin, and would react badly with the attendant storm of press commentary.  He uses the drama of such moments to cover actions that he doesn’t want headlined, and the press obliges in the interest of keeping ratings and circulation up.   

 

The act itself is purely rage – an act of hate and cruelty toward someone who evidently can’t help himself and may be mentally ill. “Darkness can not drive out darkness, only light can,” as Martin Luther King famously said. We may be furious with 45’s actions and words, but we must respond with clarity and with words and deeds that promote resolution. Our outrage must be channeled to influence our government representatives positively. They are beginning to see that the game has changed, and that the Trumpists (19% of people eligible to vote) will not suffice to reelect them if the other 80% is mad as hell and organized.

 

President Trump prides himself on counter punching. His instinct, when attacked, is to attack back. I know of no instance where he has paused and looked inward when confronted. In fact he wants the world to see him that way. Much to the dismay of his would-be political handlers, he strikes out on twitter and in public discourse.

 

He does understand leverage and power.  The real leverage he respects is the 2018 election, and a congress that

Rep Contact Info
LWV page to find contact information for elected representatives.

balks because so many of their constituents oppose his policies.

Many of my friends are engaged in issue specific calls, visits, and letters to their elected representatives. This is how and where to strike back. Get the contact information for all of your elected representatives at this League of Women Voters site:

http://hq-salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/5950/getLocal.jsp

Check out the Indivisible Guide written by congressional staffers about how to influence your elected officials:

https://www.indivisibleguide.com

Sending nasty postcards to the White House will squander your time plus half a dollar’s worth of postage and postcard. Worse, in doing it we become that evil we hate. It is essentially a personal attack, a publicity stunt, … exactly the behavior we deplore in our 45th President.

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