The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘Native Americans’ Category

WHITE PRIVILEGE

Now that the “War on Women” campaign has gotten somewhat haggard, the Democrats have found a new slogan and are actively campaigning on it.  That latest diatribe is “White Privilege.”  Presumably this is the reason that minorities (translation black Americans) are at the bottom of the socio-economic pile.  It seems only prudent that we should examine the issue and try to separate fact from fiction.

In one respect I have to say that I agree with the premise that it’s easier to make a go of it in America if you’re white.  It’s also easier to make it in Hollywood if you fit the stereotype that we have developed that describes a person as handsome or beautiful.  But the fact that you’re either white or beautiful or both hardly insures a successful and meaningful life.  Take a look at all the Hollywood celebrities, replete with success and adulation who have met untimely, early death, often because their success allowed them to develop habits which overwhelmed their ability to cope with their fame.

At the heart of the “White Privilege” scenario is the assumption that America only affords real opportunity to whites – and more specifically male whites.  They are the ones who are purportedly in control of the socio-economic structure and their ultimate goal is to maintain their power position on the totem pole of life, subjugating all who are not members of their exclusive club to a life of servitude, or at best, mediocrity if not downright poverty.  Well, it’s a theory.

The continuation of that theory is that the world would be a much better place were it not for those white men who have, through their philosophy caused events in history to transpire, which not only negatively have impacted people of color in the United States but worldwide.  Were it not for this self-aggrandizing view and execution of life, the world would be a wonderful Utopia.  Surely anyone with even the smallest modicum of historical perspective would reject this idea out of hand.

The current movement to sanitize the American conscience, promulgated as part of the ideology of the left by eradicating the NFL team name “Redskins” is an excellent example of how the manifesto of “White Privilege” exerts itself in a practical way.  To those enrolled in the movement, the Italian or German, Irish or Bohemian immigrant who came to this country at the turn of the 20th century and never set foot west of the Hudson River is still bound up in the collective “wrongdoings” of those who ventured west and encountered Cochise and Sitting Bull.  This narrative also conveniently overlooks the fact that in pre-Columbian America there were numerous conflicts between warring Native American tribes to which the white man simply wasn’t a party.  And many of those conflicts continued after the paleface got here and in which he played no part.

It is not altogether surprising that those who view history as beginning with the second Bush administration in 2000 have missed most of what has transpired since man began recording his activities on cave walls and papyrus.  And being able to sandwich thousands of years of man’s history into less than two decades serves the purpose well for those who are slow readers and for whom the outstanding literature may appear a bit overwhelming.  The interludes into “ancient history” since the founding of America is only something into which they delve in order to try to make their case.

But the real complaint of “White Privilege” has very little to do with the indigenous people who lived here before Europeans set foot on North America.  The actual focus is on black people and the circumstances under which they came here and in which they lived and now live.  The reason for that is quite simple.  They, unlike the descendants of the Cherokee, the Apache and the Zuni’s represent a very significant bloc of voters.  Sadly, black Americans do not have casinos to supplement their incomes.  And with an unemployment rate twice the national average, many are reliant on government for their subsistence.  That, of course, is a theory but one that I believe is plausible.

But let’s play a game of “What If.”  I used to amuse myself with this when I was a child and I still play that game today from time to time.  So, what if the indigenous tribes in Africa did not war against each other and enslave those whom they conquered; and what if Europeans didn’t buy those who were already enslaved and continue their condition, bringing them to the New World or predatorily subjugate additional black Africans to satisfy their manpower needs?  Since the theory of “White Privilege” also includes a component known as racism, America would have been an almost exclusively white society and would have had no reason to invite or encourage the immigration of blacks.  That a “civilized,” first world society would uniformly hold such a racist view is not surprising and we find an excellent example of a modern, industrialized society with just such an attitude towards exclusivity.  It’s name is Japan.

Given our scenario, those who came to the Caribbean, South and North America would have remained in Africa as would their descendants.  If we had an “inner city ghetto” it would be composed of people whose skin color was white.  So given the racism we’ve postulated, would those who grew up in Africa have had a better life than those whom the left purportedly advocates for in this country?  The answer is, probably not.

The quality of life for most blacks in Africa is something that our most despondent black American would immediately reject out of hand.  There is absolutely no measure whether in terms of life expectancy, economics or having access to conveniences which we take for granted by which the typical African black can compete with his American black counterpart.  The recent outbreak of Ebola in several African nations and their mortality rate is an excellent example of how much anyone in this country, irrespective of color, is advantaged over those blacks on most of the African continent.

While the left goes on about “White Privilege” it ignores one very important point in its railing against racism.  That is that, unlike their counterparts in Africa, American blacks have a modern infrastructure, access to education and health care and happen to live in a country where it is less important “what you look like” than it is “what you do with your life.”  It may be that some of us have a tougher row to hoe than others.  But nothing is impossible and people have overcome great challenges throughout mankind’s history.

Perhaps it’s time for those black Americans to get off the “rhetoric bandwagon,” take stock and then take steps to improve their situation.  No one ever said it was going to be easy.  But that statement applies to people of all colors.

FOLLOW THE LIEDER

 

Despite his brief thirty-one years, Franz Schubert was one of the most prolific composers of the classical age.  Among other compositions, he had more than six hundred secular songs (lieder) to his credit.  “Die Forelle” is one of the most charming and best known of these.

I’m fairly certain that when Schubert composed this song he was thinking little more than of an encounter between the fish and fisherman – which ended badly for the trout.  But as I listened to this lovely song I thought to myself that there is a clear analogy between the story Schubert told and our world today.

Perhaps you’ve heard President Obama’s recent statement that, “This is the world’s most tranquil period in human history.”  I know that he recently went to Colorado to fund raise.  Perhaps he stopped at one of the recently opened marijuana shops and picked up a stash of weed.

Domestically we have an influx  of illegals entering the country.  Sadly, some of them are trying to escape horrible conditions in their home countries and we all, if we are compassionate, have concern for them – whether they are children or adults.  But before we offer our largesse to these visitors, ought we not have at least as much concern for our own citizens – particularly our black citizens – who live in our inner cities and are subject to as much violence as any of these newcomers?  Two thirds of American voters believe that is the case.

In addition to NSA spying on everyone in the world with a phone or an email account we now find out that the CIA which is supposed to operate only internationally has been prying into the private affairs of U. S. senators.  More is being revealed daily that the “phony scandal” at the IRS seems to be a calculated plan to destroy the administration’s opposition politically.  Whether the sole perpetrator of the conspiracy was Lois Lerner or whether others were both willing and involved participants remains to be learned.

We as a nation have now given Obamacare it’s worst approval rating since it began to be implemented.  This FUBAR law has yet to see its most important implications but those will be coming soon as insurers review their pool of customers (as best they can as there are many who think they are insured but are regularly being denied coverage since healthcare.gov’s back end still isn’t function correctly despite the system’s $800 million cost) and consumers who don’t like the law now are in for a big surprise as they receive their premium notices for 2015 and the employer mandate kicks in finally.

Internationally – well, where do we even start?  There is a mini war going on in Ukraine.  Two weeks after the downing of MH 17 there are still the bodies of eighty victims rotting in the fields.  An Ebola epidemic is breaking out in west Africa – with possible worldwide consequences should it be exported.  Hamas has already broken this weekend’s 72 hour cease fire with Israel – hours after it was adopted.  ISIS claims to have taken over and is now in control of Benghazi, Libya.  This list is far from complete.  If this is tranquility then it is hard for me to imagine what turmoil must look like.

With this litany of issues that are fomenting, what do we see our government doing?  The quick answer is that like our clever fisherman who stirred up the waters to muddy the hapless trout’s perspective, the administration is trying to focus the public’s attention on things like a purported impeachment effort (this is pure hype) and the injustice that heaps opprobrium on any caring citizen because of the Washington Redskins team name.  To quote one of my favorite political pundits of all time, Charlie Brown, “Good grief.”

The president and his administration have added an entirely new meaning to the expression, “Muddying up the waters.”  It’s only a shame that those who voted for a second four year Obama administration and now regret that decision hadn’t the perspicacity to see what so many of us realized in 2008 and got hooked when the waters were still clear.

THE RIGHT TO VOTE

The Constitution, as amended four times, makes it very clear that we consider the right to vote as inherent in those Americans who meet the standards that we have set for eligibility.   No other issue in this document has been addressed and revised so many times.

Over the years we have set to strike down those rules which deny the franchise because of race, financial condition, sex and age.  We have attempted to include as many Americans in the process because it is our belief that in a republican democracy we should hear the voices of as many citizens as possible.

The governed should have the right to select those who govern.  This was the principle which caused the Boston Tea Party and which ultimately brought about our break with King George III and our becoming an independent country.

In an earlier post I addressed the question of whether meeting the current criteria is enough to qualify a person to cast her or his ballot.

https://juwannadoright.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/be-afraidbe-very-afraid/

In that post I posed the question, should a person who doesn’t have an equivalent knowledge of the fundamentals of American governance and our current political leaders to that which we require of immigrants seeking citizenship, have the right to vote?  Constitutionally, the answer is yes.  But is that wise or is that a good principle?

This may surprise some of my readers, but I think that the concept of restricting the vote only to those who are qualified may have a great deal of appeal to our more socially liberal friends.  How many times have you heard the argument from those who are “Pro Choice” that rules for women should not be established by men?  They don’t have any “skin in the game” – if you’ll pardon the expression.  So I think that this post will appeal to people on both sides of the social spectrum.

I started thinking about this the other day because the son of one of my neighbor’s works at a Native American casino in California.  We were discussing his responsibilities and duties with his employer when I asked the question, “Do the Indian casinos pay Federal Income Tax?”  My neighbor didn’t know the answer to that so I started to research the question.

The answer is that they do not.

Because the casinos exist on “Sovereign Land” they are exempt from the laws regarding the payment of Federal Income Taxes that the rest of us enjoy.  Why they are required to pay a portion of their revenues to the states in which they are domiciled in contravention to the principle we have established at a Federal level is an issue of some confusion to me.

In theory and I’m sure in practice as well, these are enterprises which are run “in trust” for the members of each tribe – a sort of co-operative arrangement.  The massive profits are annually distributed to members of the tribe in the form of “dividends.”

Needless to say, without the obligation to pay Federal Income taxes on their take, puts these casinos at a distinct advantage over their competitors – companies like MGM Mirage and Harrah’s.  Their cost of doing business is significantly lower.

It is precisely for this reason, more favorable tax treatment, that so many American corporations have chosen to conduct many of their operations in overseas environments with more beneficent tax laws than we have in this country.  It is the reason that so many U. S. dollars stubbornly remain overseas instead of being repatriated.  But that’s an economic argument that we’ll save for a later post.

The real question is, should the tribal elders running these operations have the right to vote for those in Congress and for President who enact and sign laws into being including tax laws from which they themselves are exempt through treaty?  This is essentially the same argument that my “Pro Choice” friends make regarding men enacting laws governing women.

Frankly, I have a great deal of empathy for our Native American brethren.  They, perhaps more than any one group, have been victimized throughout the history of this country until recently.  But clearly they do not have the same onus on them to pay taxes on their casino enterprises and that brings to mind the spirit of the Founding Fathers who believed that only the governed – those who were subject to the law – should be entitled to vote for those who made the law.

Of course, this thinking leads to a far more sinister and wide-reaching issue regarding those who do not contribute anything to American society through the payment of Federal Income Taxes – the nearly half of our population who are now in that condition.  Should they have the right to determine how much “the wealthy” or the remains of the “middle class” should pay to support them?  Should those who are contributing to society only by taking from it have the right to vote?

I leave that question to my astute readers to debate and look forward to hearing your comments.

ON STYLE AND SUBSTANCE

It is with a deep sense of gratitude that I realize how fortunate I was to be born in America.  No, we haven’t always gotten things right in this country.  We tolerated slavery and we brutally took lands and the dignity of the indigenous people who were here before us.  But when the history books are written, America will still stand as the greatest beacon of freedom and opportunity that has yet emerged on planet Earth.

As a child I realized I was different from my classmates.  My dad was just a working stiff with a high school diploma.  My  classmates’ fathers were doctors with lucrative practices.  Mom got a job so that I could have a private school education and piano lessons.  My classmates’ moms were busy organizing the color co-ordination for the next cotillion.  The dining room in our rent-controlled apartment alternated as my bedroom when the Castro convertible sofa on which I slept was pulled out.  My classmates had their own bedrooms in their Park and Fifth Avenue cooperatives.  My grandmother was our cook and cleaning lady – but she had also worked for people in that capacity who had the wealth and status that my classmates’ families enjoyed.

If there was one thing that I learned from my parents and grandmother it was to believe that in America anyone could make as much or as little of herself or himself as they chose.  I have clung to that belief through many years because I have seen that it is true.  My faith in that idea has never waivered – until the last few years.

I have never been a fan of hoopla whether that takes the form of the introduction of a new fantastic product or a political convention.  It was for that reason that I only reluctantly tuned into the Republican National Convention this week.  I am glad that I did.

Listening to Condoleezza Rice describe her experience as a child in Birmingham, AL, being refused food service because she was a black child and looking at what this remarkable woman has accomplished despite her disadvantages and the prejudice with which she grew up helped restore my faith in my childhood American dream.

Listening to Sen. Marco Rubio describe how he could hear the clanking of his father’s keys as he came home late at night after working as a banquet bartender so that he could provide for his family and give them an education and the opportunity that he knew they would never have had in his native Cuba inspired me to believe that there is still hope for this great land.

But neither of these eloquent speakers is running for President of the United States.  Mitt Romney is – and while there are many things to be said for his candidacy – his ability to rouse a crowd through a stirring speech is not one of them.  He is not a Demosthenes nor is he a Ronald Reagan.

But perhaps Governor Romney has something that is even more valuable than a great ability to make speeches – and that is a basic caring about other people – a deep sense of compassion and humanity.  That was my takeaway from the testimonials that were presented by people who had known him and whom he had helped.

To me that is the most endearing and genuine quality that we need in someone who is a true leader.  That is what gives me hope – that there are still caring people in this world who practice what they preach and do so without self-adulation.  To me that is what has been lacking in America for the last four years.

In the history of humanity we have always had false prophets who eloquently made false promises.  Ultimately we have found that the rainmakers and the snake oil salesmen are peddling a worthless product.

This November we have a very clear cut choice to make.

Do we want to allow our decision for whom we vote to be determined by eloquence or by accomplishment?  It seems a very obvious choice to me – but that’s only because I will always go with substance over style.

A MAN OF FEW WORDS

There was a man from Vermont named Calvin Coolidge who became the 30th President of the United States.  He was dubbed, “Silent Cal” because of his terse conversational style.  I have just finished reading Claude M. Fuess’ excellent biography.  We would do well today to emulate much of what President Coolidge espoused and did during his time in office.

Coolidge rose through the ranks to become the Governor of Massachusetts.  He came to the nation’s attention when in 1919 the Boston Police went on strike.  Boston’s Police Commissioner, Edwin Curtis had threatened to suspend any officers who organized in a union.  He ultimately carried out his promise.  As a consequence, three quarters of the force walked off the job.

Samuel Gompers then the President of the AFL stated that the Commissioner acted inappropriately in denying the Boston Police’s right to form a union.  Several days of rioting and lawlessness ensued in the absence of law enforcement.  Coolidge responded to Gompers via telegram:

“Your assertion that the Commissioner was wrong cannot justify the wrong of leaving the city unguarded.  That furnished the opportunity, the criminal element furnished the action.  There is no right to strike against the public safety by anyone, anywhere, any time.”

As Governor, Coolidge signed into law a reduction in the number of hours that women and children were allowed to work; presented the State Legislature with a balanced budget by trimming expenses without raising taxes and vetoed a bill that would have provided state legislators a fifty percent pay increase.  He also vetoed a bill that would have allowed beverages with low levels of alcohol to have been sold in the state, although he personally opposed Prohibition:

“Opinions and instructions do not outmatch the Constitution…”

In 1920 Coolidge was surprisingly nominated to be Vice-President on the ticket headed by Warren G. Harding.  Harding’s administration was plagued with scandal and it was largely through Coolidge’s efforts and reputation that faith was restored in the White House when President Harding passed away suddenly in 1923 and Coolidge succeeded him.

Coolidge was nominated the Republican candidate for President at that party’s convention in 1924.  Despite the sorrow he experienced because of the unexpected death of his younger son, he conducted his re-election campaign in a dignified manner, without speaking poorly of his opponents, preferring to express his opinion on his theory of how government should be conducted.

The Coolidge administration, guided by its Treasury Secretary, Andrew Mellon, the third highest taxpayer in the country after John D. Rockefeller and Henry Ford, lowered the rate of Federal taxation while reducing spending so that by the end of his first elected term in office, one quarter of the national debt was retired.  The only Americans who paid income taxes as a result of their policies were the top two percent of income earners.

Coolidge was adamant in his support of equal civil rights for all Americans and signed into law the “Indian Citizenship Act” granting all Native Americans full citizenship.

“Our Constitution guarantees equal rights to all our citizens, without discrimination on account of race or color.  I have taken my oath to support that Constitution.”

Perhaps the most often repeated, if perhaps apocryphal exchange, which highlighted Coolidge’s moniker as “Silent Cal” was reported to have occurred between the President and writer, satirist, Dorothy Parker.

Parker was supposedly seated next to the President and said,

“I have a bet with a friend that I can get you to say more than two words.”

Coolidge reportedly turned to her and said,

“You lose.”

Perhaps the essence of Coolidge’s view on the office to which he had been elected was best expressed in his statement:

“The words of a President have an enormous weight and ought not to be used indiscriminately.”

As this man of few words believed, less is more.  Words for all of us to remember.

“LITTER-ALLY” SPEAKING

It may surprise those of you who think of Las Vegas as a mere mecca for gambling and neon lights brightening up the night sky of the desert that less than an hour’s drive away there are mountains and snow.  This is an area known as Mt. Charleston – and while it doesn’t get the amount of snow that Stowe, Vt. or Vail, Co. receive – still when you’re in a desert you take what you can get.

A few Sundays ago I got a call from Barry, the three goldens’ companion person who asked if Gracie and I would like to take a ride up to Mt. Charleston as he noticed that there was still some snow on the mountains.   I gladly agreed and the six of us took off in his SUV.

Mt. Charleston is only about a forty-five minute drive from my house as Gracie and I live on the northwest side of town and the four dogs quickly settled in for the ride.  If Mt. Charleston were a disco or nightclub it would not be permitted to exist – as there is only one way in and one way out.  Even though it is at an elevation of nearly 12,000 feet and usually ten to fifteen degrees cooler than here in the valley it still gets extremely dry during the summer.  As a result, the Mt. Charleston Fire Department is a vital and integral part of the community.

We made the turn into Mt. Charleston and started toward the summit.  When we got to the Lee Canyon turnoff Barry turned as he knew an “unofficial” trail that was generally not over-populated with hikers.  We pulled into this unmarked trail and let the dogs romp.

To the three goldens who lived most of their lives in Montana the several inches of snow that were still on the ground probably did not seem overly impressive.  But to Gracie – who had only seen a light dusting on our front lawn a few times – the look on her face suggested that she thought she was in canine Heaven.  She began making doggie snow angels and then started exploring the woods.  I was a little surprised that she was so adventurous.  In fact, she led her three companions in forays taking them higher up the side of the mountain.  But they all responded well to voice commands and did not go too far from us.

After walking for around forty-five minutes we decided to return to the car and began our descent.  As we neared the vehicle Gracie began to explore a small ravine to the left side of the car.  I went over to make sure that she didn’t go too far down which was when I saw it.

Whether this was left by one person or a group, lying on the ground in this virtually pristine area of forest was an empty Gatorade container, an empty two liter bottle of soda and, most significantly, a one half full plastic container of charcoal lighter starter fluid.  We picked up this refuse and took it home, safely disposed of the contents of the lighter fluid and recycled all three pieces.

It makes me wonder … what were those people thinking?

THE NATIVE AMERICAN’S TEAR

 Once upon a time in America we had a simpler way of looking at the world. Our concerns were focused on things like keeping America’s environment clean and the country beautiful.

 One of the ads that was designed to raise our individual commitment to this goal featured a Native American. The man had a tear running down his elderly face as he surveyed the landscape, looking at the debris that had been tossed carelessly along a highway by passing motorists. The caption on the ads read, “Please Don’t Litter.” 

Growing up in New York City I had gotten accustomed to seeing litter flow freely down the streets and on the sidewalks. Despite the plentiful supply of garbage cans which the city placed on the streets, I regularly saw people toss candy bar wrappers and other refuse on the sidewalk, ten feet before they could have placed them in the appropriate receptacle. This always bothered me as a child – and it still bothers me as an adult.  

If people wanted to litter their apartments from floor to ceiling I considered that to be their business. But when they inflicted that same behavior on their fellow citizens – then they had gotten me involved in the conversation.

 I never quite understood why we needed an ad campaign sponsored by the Federal Government on this subject. It seemed intuitively obvious to me that putting trash in garbage cans was the right thing to do. That understanding came from the fact that my parents taught me to do that from the earliest moments that “potential trash” came into my little hands and possession.

 I remember being in Central Park with dad one Saturday. I had a runny nose and dad was holding a tissue so that I could blow it. After I had finished, dad wadded up the used tissue and gave it to me. We got up from our park bench, dad took my little hand and asked, “Now what do we have to do?” I knew because I had seen my parents do the same thing many times.

 “We have to put this in the garbage can.” Dad nodded his assent and we walked to the nearest receptacle where I was allowed to throw the soiled tissue away. I think I was six or seven years old. This scene was repeated many times – to the point where I realized that putting trash in a garbage can wasn’t a choice – it was the only choice.

 Although dad lived his entire life in an urban setting, he had an innate sense of the sanctity of the world which provided us what we received to sustain our lives. He had a respect for the fragility of our environment and understood that it was our responsibility to protect it from harm or mis-use.

 If he ever met that elderly Native American along the highway, I know that they would have formed a deep bond – and they both would have shed a tear.

 

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