Born: 1962 (age 59 years), Maine
Alma mater: Harvard University (B.A., Ph.D.)
Responses to yesterday's post at this blog:
Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905, SCOTUS): Re state law requiring small pox vaccination: Upon the principle of self-defense, of paramount necessity, a community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens the safety of its members.
Thanks Sloan for your post. We are in a broken America and putting the pieces back together is going to be a long road---if we and our descendants can do that. Thanks for the perspective from Birmingham. I have a very good friend who just moved back there (his hometown) from NYC. Keep writing here and in your wider life!! Peace and Courage to all.
Thanks, am headed back to Mother Ship for a bit, then …
Thanks, Sloan. I'm like you: something feels "off" when I'm not writing, and frankly, I've been a little "off" since 2016, but especially in the last year. I have enough (virtual) balls of crumpled paper to build a small house.
We each have our own sense of what "broke" America, meaning, what were the most significant contributing factors to where we are now. Yours are slightly different from mine, but both our understandings are limited to the last 79 years of history (less for me). One of the things I've enjoyed so much about Heather's commentary is the deeper historical perspective that takes us back to at least the early 1800's.
I think all three of the things you mention -- as well as all of the ones I'd list, and perhaps even Heather's list -- are cases of the question of entitlement. "Entitlement" means -- literally -- possessing a "title," which few people have these days, but more generally, "entitlement" speaks to political agency: the permission to act publicly in a significant way. More pithily, it differentiates those who can do as they please, from those who must do as they are told. The core issue in Vietnam was the idea of our young being indiscriminately drafted and forced to do (and die) as they were told. Civil rights were about the "traditional" role of blacks as the class (or caste) that must do as it is told. The feminist movement was about the "traditional" role of women to shut up, do as they are told, and make themselves sexually available on demand.
There are two ways of looking at any expansion of agency, or entitlement. One is the view that a "free" society -- one in which all its citizens have significant agency, or are entitled to act with significance -- is more peaceful, stable, prosperous, and satisfying, and is overall a win-win (non-zero-sum) game. The other is that entitlement is a fixed quantity in a zero-sum game, and that when I gain agency, you lose agency. People who take the former approach are willing to give up some of their entitlement "for the greater good." People who take the latter approach will, at best, do whatever they can to hold on to every bit of personal entitlement they possess, and at worst, will try to take entitlement from others to gain more for themselves.
The sociophiles versus the sociopaths.
Our extreme form of sociopathic capitalism in the US (with its roots in European feudalism overlaid with chattel slavery), equates entitlement/agency with wealth, or in our time, money. If you have money, you can do what you want. If you don't have money, you must do as you are told. If you get more money, you have more agency. If you lose money, you lose agency.
Money is inherently zero-sum. In barter, I may want your chicken more than I want my goat, and you may want my goat more than you want your chicken. We trade, and we both win. With money, it's an exchange of fungible (interchangeable) tokens that have zero inherent value. At the end of any trade, mediated by money, if either of us benefits (gains money, hence agency) the other loses it.
This is one of the foundations of the "Who will pay for it?" argument with government-run social programs. It would be one thing if we are actually talking about overspending our resources. But that is never the argument. It isn't "How can we afford this?" but "Who will pay for it?" Whoever pays for it, loses entitlement. Unless, of course, they can turn a profit from it.
A lot of conservatives are dedicated capitalists, and they've mostly bought into the zero-sum nature of social programs. When you talk to them -- whether it's a rich person, or a self-employed carpenter -- and bring up "social programs," the first thing they do is make a face and reject the very concept of "government giveaways for lazy people." The whole model of zero-sum entitlement makes the idea of "worthless people" inevitable. Four centuries ago, they called them "waste people." A half-century ago, they were "white trash." Today, they are "the homeless."
"They don't deserved to be saved. They need to save themselves."
This is a very American disease, rooted in a human weakness.
I'm from a prominent wealthy family, and know well of what you speak. After many "lifetimes", I ran out of money, was unable to make living wage, lived on the street, in shelters, other people's spare rooms, cars. I know of what such people as that speak. The entitled have been around for ages and that's not going to change. Buddha was entitled, left it, became enlightened, finally, it is said, went back to where he had started. As did I, but I'm not Buddha. However, I did die to this world, but still lived in it. That cannot be remotely imagined until it is experienced. So, I come at just about everything from a different perspective.
I, too, really appreciate Heather weaving history into current affairs, which often provides excruciating context for today's currents and cross currents. When I address something, I go to the most off the road less traveled by place, against the grain. I have given up expecting any change to result from my efforts. I wish it were different, but it's not.
Heather is writing her guts, heart and soul out. I do truly hope America is made a better place for it. Regardless, her God assignment is to write her guts, heart and soul out, regardless. Heather is an icon for any and all Americans to try to match in his or her own unique way, or not. I think when Heather writes, Angels sing.
I have said and written many times that it will take angels invading people and stopping them in their tracks and waking them up for real and redirecting and schooling and correcting and guiding them, for any real change to occur in America, and in humanity. That, too, is something that cannot begin to be imagined, that kind of Intervention, until it is experienced.
Understand, I am not a church person. I don't carry a Bible. I grew up in that tradition, then I was taken somewhere else, but those roots were crucial for the transition to occur. When people sometimes ask me if I attend church, I say, "I don't know when I'm ever not in church? We are in church now, aren't we?"Meanwhile, I would add the white January 6 mob and their leader, Donald Trump, represent what never was resolved by the American Civil War - White Supremacy. Trump gave them new hope. He resuscitated them. When they claim the 2021 election was stolen, they mean blacks stole it. They don't say that, because that would force the Republican Party to disavow them and Trump, or be vilified in Eternity. The Republican Party knows this, also, and by keeping silent, by ignoring January 6, they stand just as guilty of the attempted White Supremacy coup as the white mob and Trump and every person who claims the 2021 election was stolen, including black Republicans, who who in olden times were called Uncle Toms. The Republican Party today is the White Supremacist Party, and Republicans who say they abhor White Supremacy, the KKK, Nazis, but do not act like it, do not bolt that party, or splinter from it a new Republican Party, are White Supremacists, too. The law is very clear about aiding and abetting, and that's what they are doing by not rebelling and calling for the heads of the January 6 white mob and Donald Trump. As in, they all should be hanged. Every last one of them. For attempting a coup of the National Government, in the National Capitol, on National Television.