So, I’m in search of political organizations to establish relationships with and collaborate with in the efforts to bring more about more global justice. Clean Water Action New Jersey was one organization I decided to interview with and see how we might work together. Maybe we will become allies in the future but as I was a little concerned with some of the organizations approaches both to its employees and in its political planning/lobbying priorities.
Hi! Thank you for visiting Public Comment and welcome!
I’m Sean O’Connor, a political activist, philosopher, writer, vlogger and podcaster. My goal here on Public Comment is to contribute to a universal dialogue of critical, creative, and introspective thought on politics and philosophy.
Thank you so much for taking the time to consider my contribution to the public discussion on politics and the occasional tangent. I am extremely grateful and flattered and hope you are able to find some of the information on this blog valuable.
Please feel free to share with me any feedback you want to give, positive or negative. I do not shy away from criticism. I want to be a good writer and to do that I will always need your help to keep me accountable, clear, reasonable, and diplomatic. Speaking of diplomacy, that’s my only caveat when it comes to criticism. I don’t have patience for insults or anti-intellectual attacks on character, et cetera. I like to foster a polite and diplomatic civil discourse.
It’s embarrassing to discuss my struggles with money. For me at least, it’s harder to talk about money than sex, religion, or politics because it forces me to address my deep insecurity regarding how I might be perceived based on my “economic status.” Maybe some think I’m audacious for trying to make a living as a vlogger but I’ve got to stand up for my desire because I want to live in the kind of world where people can make money fulfilling their dreams.
*Only death & illness are harder for me to discuss
*I’m not “good at” money & I fight with my self-esteem when contemplating my financial life
*What it means to love one’s job
*Free talking…upfront….sharing thoughts
*The temptation to envy those who earn more money
*My financial difficulties are, to a tremendous degree, my fault…I take responsibility for it
*I like being upfront about things that matter to me
*If there are people out there getting paid for things they want to get paid for then why shouldn’t I try to get paid for what I want to get paid for?
*Talking about money makes me so nervous I trip over my words
*Remember when we had to pay much more for video content?
*You must stand up for your values
*To me vlogging is art (& so is talking)
*Being an “outside-the-box” person
*One reason why I love politics is because moving policy forward can move humanity forward ethically
*Would you overlook your ethics if someone offered you the money to do so? (figurative prostitution, “Selling your soul to the Devil,”)
*Sometimes I get overwhelmed with this feeling that everyone wants my money
*I don’t want to be a f**** up when it comes to money
*I fear how many can corrupt relationships
*I’d like more time to read, watch vlogs, socialize on social media, be a philanthropist…
*Opening up about this is so embarassing
*I hate complaining that my work doesn’t get properly compensated but don’t so many of us feel that way sometimes?
*I tell myself that if I like my vlog then maybe someone else will too
***IF YOU APPRECIATED THIS VLOG PLEASE CLICK “LIKE,” SHARE, & SUBSCRIBE 🙂
*Happy independence day! In this vlog I suggest that grappling with being an American starts with grappling with notions of capitalism which led us where we are today as well as contemplating what kind of capitalism moving forward would be of the ethical sort. Or can there be no ethical form of capitalism? *
*Why does America mean to me what it means to me?
*Ideology & nationhood/countryhood?
*Is America in theory cosmopolitan as opposed to nationalistic/ethnocentric like certain Russian, Israeli, Palestinian tendencies?
*Thinking about America I think requires thinking about capitalism– I think it’s the most inherent part of being an American
-different TYPES of capitalism?
-slavery & genocide in the name of American Capitalism
-what does it mean to claim your own land? Who gets to claim land & why?
*Foundation of America versus other countries: example, UK, Candada….
*Is the theft of Native American land a manifestation of actual capitalist ideology or is it just in the name of capitalism?
*There is no appropriate contemplation about being an American without grappling with atrocities perpetrated against the Native Americans
* *Living in South Beach I conceptualized my sense of self as that of a “starving artist” but to understand how I reached that point requires understanding how I developed a sense of self as an artist, from my admiration for John Travolta and The Bee Gees to my fascination with Charles Bukowski & Allen Ginsberg*
*Early morning gaffes
*Move to South Beach was especially unique…it was an act of pure rebellion…something I was “not supposed to do”; my act of rejecting academia
*The people who inspired me philosophically during my pre-philosophy phase
*The importance of understanding the artistic side of myself as I came to conceptualize myself as “starving artist”
*Around 1996: Discovering acting & John Travolta/Grease/Saturday Night Fever
-Travolta seemed to have charisma, coolness, the characters he played seemed to “get the girls”… made me want to become a “movie star”: my first major “dream” in life which I fantasized about all day, every day, while at school
(do young people still say “whatevs?”)
*Sometime between 1997-1999: Discovering The Bee Gees–> deeply romantic, benevolent song lyrics which I studied and which got me into writing song lyrics
*Around 2002: J.D. Salinger (he seemed real & unpretentious) & Alanis Morrissette whose songs didn’t rhyme which inspired me to think “outside the box”
*& then on prom night I discovered Charles Bukowski: he seemed so free, open, easy to understand, reflective, real (& I wanted to be like him)
*& then there was Allen Ginsberg: the 1st poet I read who was an atheist like me, and who moved me (inadvertently) towards irrationalism, “trippy” stuff, “madness” as a sort of philosophical principle
*I thought Ginsberg, Kerouac, & the Beats were the geniuses of their time….Kerouac’s On the Road made me want to drop out of college and hitch hike America
*Some memories hurt to recall but still must be recalled anyway
*Nightmares of ex-girlfriend’s mother’s hatred for me
*Life & what we take from it as life continues…as we try to make ourselves better… & the memories that bask in us…
*Working at the liquor store I’d hear the song “Demons” by Imagine Dragons, which haunted me with bad memories of South Beach
*I started a lot of fights….how do I tell you about it without violating her privacy or mine? I was addicted to attention and compliments, I didn’t think I could help my negativity (and I didn’t try)so I was self negligent and maybe masochistic?
*I wanted my ex-gf to rebel against her parents the way I rebelled against mine….I hated almost anytime her parents/family was around and caused a bit of a scene once at how her parents could afford to eat at a nice restaurant
*That our relationship was going to end seemed hauntingly inevitable to me
*”Over My Head” by The Fray : another song that reminds me of South Beach and how I felt when I lived there
*I was closed to virtually all constructive criticism/useful suggestions people offered me
*I lacked the maturity to realize I should not have been in a romantic relationship at that time
*I thought myself a starving artist and wanted to be like Rimbaud & Baudelaire…two very depressing, pessimistic poets
“I managed to make every trace of human hope vanish from my mind…bad luck was my God”
*Some of the philosophical questions related to choosing where to live (proximity to those we love, aesthetics, spiritual refreshment, et cetera…)
*This move to Basking Ridge feels like a chance for a “clean slate…” ; a bombardment of newness (new town, new roads, new condo, new desk, new neighbors, new geography, new economy, new internet provider, et cetera…)
*A gaffe….contradicting myself about why three moves to FL in a row amounted in disaster for me…
*Another reason why I love Dostoevsky’s Notes From Underground
*My love for romantic love goes back to when I was about three and a half years old…by about 10/11 years old I grew obsessed with Grease and West Side Story— both of which impacted how I idealized “romantic love,” “love at first sight,” wanted to fall in love on the beach, processed contradictory examples of theoretical romantic love (how to explain my seemingly apolitical, otherwise Democrat by default father and my former, very Republican stepmother!?!)
*My superficial, mystical, irrational notion of romantic love
*Prior to the girlfriend I had at Florida Gulf Coast University/South Beach I never really had a “serious” relationship
*I didn’t tend to appreciate girls for who they were, mostly just how they made me -FEEL-… even the first girl I ever spent almost all my time with (though we did manage to connect in certain respects…example: both artistic…)
-I am not convinced we should just outright abolish private health insurance here and now but we must work towards equal quality for all– “universal” in some sense, which Gillibrand & Buttigieg appear to understand but Biden did not.
2 UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME
-I’ve been contemplating this for months thanks to the persistence of my friend Montaniz Stills and determined that so long as SOME people get government subsidies in one form or another (Green energy, Lockheed Martin, big Pharma, small business loans, National Endowment for the Arts, et cetera…) it would only be fair if everyone got a little money…if the government invested in PEOPLE which would be a real UNIVERSAL approach to combating poverty, as opposed to a “special interest pandering” only approach.
-That said…I don’t know why it must be $1,000 specifically but just a little bit of money can bring a person a long way…I know from personal experience
3 CONCERNS ABOUT PANDERING
-This leads to certain oppressed minorities being overlooked. Example: Native Americans. This is why I beef with the ageist pandering of CA Rep. Eric Swalwell who kept saying “Pass the torch” to younger people. This disturbed me and was disrespectful.
I think Rep. Swalwell is the worst of the candidates running for president among the Democrats.
-to be fair to him though, I respect how ambitious and successful he is for a young man his age, and, in fact, I was ageist against Pete Buttigieg for seeming too young/inexperienced, which Sen. Bernie Sanders helped me realize.
*Another candidate who concerned me was former VP Joe Biden. I am sorry for previously questioning whether or not he may be senile though. But it does seem as though he has failed learn from the 2016 elections. It seems he is still very attached to Obamacare as opposed to universal healthcare. Also he was very defensive about criticisms for his mistaken vote on the war in Iraq, then praising how the Obama administration ultimately withdrew from Iraq, despite the fact that this led to a huge mess in which ISIS took over. He seems not to have learned from this and wants to repeat this mistake in Afghanistan.
*Biden was also very defensive towards Sen. Harris’ criticisms of his past record on integration of school districts.
*AGAIN, REGARDING MSNBC’S UNFAIR TREATMENT OF YANG:
-His idea on universal income really is worth more discussion. What could be more lucrative than really investing in people? Imagine also investing in people who were taught how to be a good consumer and how to think philosophically starting in middle school! Even some Libertarians support a Universal basic income. )
-So check out yang2020.com
*I was especially impressed by NY Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. I think she really understands the key ethical issue we are dealing with: the problem is GREED, NOT CAPITALISM, which VT Sen. Bernie Sanders does not quite seem to understand.
*Gillibrand is my favorite candidate for president thus far. I like that she wants publicly funded elections (she brought up how this would empower teenage protesters against the NRA…and why was Biden kissing up to the NRA by the way?), less private prisons, and called for competition in healthcare insurance industry between private & public.
*Pete Buttigieg also impressed me, which surprised me considering my ageist bias. He was, like Gillibrand, right on about private-public competition in healthcare, called out hypocrisy within many of the Religious Right, and realizes it’s important to ensure that people who did not go to college still live well. He also made a valuable point about investing in rural America.
*As for Sen. Bernie Sanders: I think he could win because he is right on about the need for revolutionary thinking, has a charismatic approach to rhetoric, though he doesn’t explain himself so well sometimes and also sometimes fails to answer questions he is asked. Is he even a real socialist?
*Here I am in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, vlogging from my very own official PUBLIC COMMENT VLOGGING STUDIO (A spacious walk-in closet; 🙂 )
*The symbolism of moving and of certain key life experiences
*The symbolism/meaning/significance of our move to Basking Ridge: an attempt at an objective reflection of the personal meaning– as opposed to subjective (i.e., only feelings based))
*Conscious contemplation of the notion of a move from one place to another– it’s personal meaning—how does this change us?—- self expressiom & desire fulfillment @ exceptionally high intensity (a lot of mental stimulation thus higher intensity of introspection)
*Being aware of the experience of moving itself (I mean, if I were writing a novel about it how would I narrate it?)
*Flood of memories of when Ashley & I moved to Oceanside, California– the first move I had ever made with a woman– (this move to Basking Ridge is our first move as a married couple…exceptionally romantic but during drive I felt regret about my poor character during our move and time in Oceanside—- I’m determined to be a gentleman this time around!
*Our first time owning residential property!
*My astronomical gratitude to live in Basking Ridge with my wife!
2 days until we move to Basking Ridge, NJ– almost all I can think about. This move is a striking contrast to my move to Fort Myers/Estero, FL back in 2005, which led to deepened mental illness, obsession with marijuana, dropping out of college and a kind of psychological downfall.
*It’s seizing my consciousness: only 2 days until we move to Basking Ridge, NJ!
*What does it mean to think about living somewhere?
*Personal/inner revolution…major changes– like the world of Heraclitus
*The dark, revolutionary period when I moved to Fort Myers/Estero, FL in contrast to our upcoming move
*I did not really think through my move to Fort Myers/Estero, FL
*I was, in general, an oblivious person
*paranoia, panic attacks, and other consequences of my marijuana obsession
*morality & time
*convinced I suffered from severe intellectual disability
*unable to even enjoy a romantic relationship, convinced of the worst in everyone, including myself and believing Fort Myers was cursed by evil spirits
*My fantasy vision of myself as a rich & famous Ex-pat poet living in Europe only to end up a nihilist in South Beach
*My troubled epistemology
*Questions I should have asked myself & tried to answer
[Note: I began this essay in the autumn of 2017 initially intending it to be a poem. It has been revised numerous times to reach its current form]
Music plays on my Apple laptop…the back reads: “Designed by Apple in California Assembled in China.”
According to the “executive summary” for the China Labor Watch Website “workers making the iPhone” are exploited, paid just $1.85 per hour.
(Compare to my $11; compare to $7.25, America’s minimum wage).
The Guardian reports that the Foxcon Longhua factory in China, which manufactures iPhones, has body catching nets to curtail its suicide epidemic.
Should I trash what the workers produced in protest, and boycott?
I sigh…the music plays on…a man and woman sing: “I-I-I-O-I-I-I-O-I-O-AH- I-O-I-O-O-AYYYY! AYYYY! YEAHHH!…”
According to a Business Wire article published June 23, 1999, it was a husband and wife singing “a vocal chant” called “Jubilant Drinking Song,” recorded in the late 1970s and incorporated without their knowledge in this international top ten hit– the 1993 song “Return to Innocence,” by a music group that calls itself “Enigma.”
This resulted in a lawsuit and then eventually a settlement.
The music continues…I think of wind…wind…blowing through American beachgrass…
…the sound of ocean waves crashing while I’m walking on the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk, gazing at the snow falling from a dark gray, nighttime sky.
I show the winter wind my toughness as it persists, whipping my exposed skin.
The music inspires, and facilitates contemplation and day dreams…
Walking helps me meditate. My thoughts: streaming, roaming, like wind, or birds flying. No obligations… except to walk, and meditate. The sky, a sheet of blank white paper. I wish it would snow. Yes, let winter arrive early! Make it colder. Cold air, so blunt, stimulating, ordering me to feel its intensity, like masterpiece art work or extra dry gin, and refreshing, like pure cranberry juice (without any added sugar) from the refrigerator, or like waking up late after a much needed, long night of sleep, and exciting too, like the first French kiss in series, igniting my nerves. At least the air this afternoon chills enough to repel the gnats, and mosquitoes. Autumn’s rustic bouquets blooming…I wish I could walk through its maze all day. The air’s force, when it gusts, feels like God’s blessing, an extract of pure benevolence, a grandparent’s kiss.
[Note: the writing of this essay began back in the fall of 2017, intended originally as a “poem” and was completed within a year’s time and now ultimately takes the form of a short essay)
Fear of dying in my sleep…of dying in poverty, no career I climbed up to reflect on… just a plethora of aspirations and thoughts racing like a flock of thousands of birds headed south…while America’s democracy and rule of law corrode…gin and prayers fail to relax me…
But I am like my grandmother.
She used to listen to talk radio late at night as she fell asleep, sometimes not until three a.m.…
I watch the news on my laptop…
…five splits in the screen so we can see the face of each expert on the news panel… strikes my eyes like the rays of a plasma ball, the dendrites of a neuron under a microscope, octopus arms, jellyfish tentacles inside an aquarium…
President Trump called NFL players “sons of bitches” for kneeling during the singing of the national anthem to protest racism and police brutality.
Nuclear North Korea threatens the inevitability of violence…
Even on Friday, at 11:30 p.m. when one could be doing anything… many, like MSNBC’s Brian Williams analyze our Earth’s environment and community- its well-being or lack thereof.
Caretakers indeed abound: bureaucrats, military, police, fire fighters, hospital workers, and nocturnal intellectuals, with integrity.
The developing complexity of my psychology, my determinism, my nihilism, and my marijuana obsession, as I transfer from Kean University to Florida Gulf Coast University (From Elizabeth/Union, NJ to Fort Myers/Estero, FL) between 2004-2006
*My desire to drop out of college and emulate Jack Kerouac, hitchhiking America
*Moving to Fort Myers/Estero, FL to attend Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) felt like a miracle, an artist’s “dream come true.”
*The irony of feeling “liberated”– falling into the depths of determinism & nihilism
*WHY was I really even attending college? I didn’t know…I was just waiting for riches and fame because I was convinced that was simply my fate. Bob Dylan put it so well when he sang:
SOONER OR LATER ONE OF US MUST KNOW
THAT YOU JUST DID WHAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO DO
Bob Dylan; Sooner or Later
*Trying marijuana for the first time and falling in love with it
*The place you live and the philosophical ideas you develop when you live there and come to thereby associate with your time spent living there
*My addiction/obsession with marijuana
-I believed I “needed” marijuana to be a “good” poet or become “one with the universe”
*second time I tried marijuana I suffered extreme paranoia and panic attacks, yet I kept smoking it…
[Note: this essay was written during a very psychologically complex time in my life. First of all, this was happening around the time my grandfather passed away. Secondly, in the midst of my final semester of undergraduate studies I was in a state of profound confusion concerning what my next step in life ought to be. Though it seemed clear I ought to do all I could to break into the opinion-writing scene within the journalism world there were two very particular things troubling me: A) I honestly didn’t know initially what to make of the Kavanaugh hearings, especially after we learned that he had been accused by multiple women– and without evidence– of sexual misconduct. No matter how much I read on the subject I didn’t want to end up saying something or thinking something biased or blatantly demonstrating how little I know about legal nuances. In a word, I felt unqualified to “think” about what was happening; B) I felt confused about the aesthetic questions behind how one ought to write a political commentary. Moreover, I felt two competing impulses: one was to be completely detached from this rather fascinating but unpleasant period of U.S. history and the other was to in fact record my thoughts on what it was like to “experience” the occurrence of such a dramatic span of political events transpire. Spiritually and philosophically I thought, as someone who loves to write, it seemed there might be a kind of ethical obligation to document how this historical crisis within the Senate and Supreme Court permeated my mind, not as a mere political analyst or commentator, but as a human living in the country where this was happening.
This complex reaction led me to wonder if I should perhaps experiment with approaching the current political events from more of a “poetic” perspective, or “artistic” or “humanistic” or “personal” perspective– though I was not sure exactly what that should ultimately mean.
As a result, this essay was initially conceptualized as a “poem,” and one composed in a very complex intellectual-psychological-aesthetic frame of mind.]
Warriors will keep alive in the blood”
The fight for justice…hands stretching, muscles tearing, reaching for the sky- daunting, tempting to surrender, and submit, assuming futility, but people walked on the moon, made a vaccine for malaria, polio, and other diseases.
I contemplate my White Privilege, resenting every remnant of it, and scowl at America’s White Supremacist bigot bullies…oppressing…Native Americans, African Americans, Arabs, Jews, Women, the non-heterosexual, the poor, the vulnerable, the non-Christian, non-Caucasian and it disturbs me, makes me drink my whiskey with a little extra intensity…
I fear that nothing, not a single atrocity, would have moved Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s supporters in the Senate to oppose his confirmation (not that we know whether he was guilty or innocent… “the allegations fail to meet the more likely than not standard,” Senator Sue Collins said in her speech, explaining her vote to confirm him…but the way Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations were “investigated” in a rush- “More than 40 people with potential information into the sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh have not been contacted by the FBI, according to multiple sources that include friends of both the nominee and his accusers,” NBC News reported…and what about Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick who also made accusations of sexual misconduct…ignored by the Republicans in Senate, the F.B.I., President Trump ((outright misogynistic deference to Kavanaugh, it seems to me))– a “sham” as many Democrats in the Senate called it!)
Even months later, Trump says he knows acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, then says he doesn’t know him, adding to the reeking junkyards, and mountain chains of venom filled sewage lies, poisoning our politics, government, law enforcement, rhetoric, relationships, and the Republicans– not a…flinch…
A NIGHTMARE AND AN OUTRAGE!
But hope…hope…hope…look at things like New England, where the snow seems to grace with its elegance as it falls- the homicide rates there, among the lowest in the nation…look at the gentlemen like former F.B.I. Director James Comey, and the ladies like newly elected Congress woman of Kansas, Sharice Davids…
Jewel and Israel were on their third date, driving from East Windsor to Ocean Grove in Israel’s new, red 2015 Volkswagen GTI. He lamented letting go of his dark green 1997 Saturn S Series SW 2. What an irrational attachment to that vehicle he had—even to the name, “Saturn”; like the Mercury cars, it made him think of outer space and this felt more exciting than the names of most other cars. How strange, Israel thought, that both Saturn and Mercury ended up defunct within years of each other. The Saturn was his first car and he didn’t want to get rid of it—he liked holding on to relics: a couple of nine year old t-shirts, his VCR for example, a record player his grandparents had given him, their old plasma ball, their copy of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment… but alas, that damn Saturn, it cost him, on average, a thousand dollars plus, a year—sometimes as much as three thousand dollars a year– in repairs. A year earlier he had to replace the catalytic converter, the oil pump, and needed air conditioning repairs. In search of a reliable but cheap automobile he scoured consumer reviews online and stumbled upon a February 2015 US News and World Report article on the Volkswagen GTI which claimed the vehicle was the “best sports car” for the money in 2015. A year earlier the GTI had been ranked by the US News and World Report as the best “upscale small car” for the money. Perhaps not the most “attention grabbing” but the bright red color was. He actually would have preferred a sky blue car, but he didn’t have so many options, and anyway, he liked how red pierced with ambition and passion in his mind so Israel, ultimately, was pleased.
The drive—straight down New Jersey Route 33– took about 45 minutes. Route 33—at least the eastern portion of it– was one of the few nearby highways Israel enjoyed. He liked passing through communities like Manalapan and Howell which leaned more rural—more open fields to gaze at from the corners of his eyes (because he prided himself on focusing on the road)—in contrast to suburban East Windsor—where he lived all his life (Jewel lived there now too); the open space always relaxed him; for him, it symbolized the free and undeveloped, uncharted terrain of consciousness, ripe for discovery and cultivation of new thoughts. Israel told this to Jewel as they were driving, and she told him she also found a deep, personal connection to certain aspects of the environment. Then she brought up her love for mountains and her desire to live in a community where views of them were ubiquitous.
“I fell in love with them back in 2008,” Jewel said. “It was my senior year at William Paterson University. I thought Clinton and Obama running against each other that summer in the primary, and then Obama winning general election was just so amazing.”
“Yeah, it was. I remember that night too,” Israel said.
“Yeah! So…it literally gave me this, like, natural ‘high,’ and…with the university happening to be on mountains, this theme of…you know… of interconnected elevation… and… that was the night…” she paused, and Israel, who had been falling in love with her, was falling deeper now, and feeling even a touch turned on (and a touch guilty about it) by her passion, the volume of her voice increasing, her hands moving to accentuate her words and expressiveness…“that I decided I was going to be a history professor, and that I could get a spiritual high out of history…these events of such significance! And so the image of mountains are kind of like a memento of that, like a reminder of my purpose. Does that make sense?”
[Note: This is a one of a short series of essays which had originally been conceptualized as a “poem” at a time when I lacked a firm notion of what it was I really believed a “poem” to be. This piece is also interesting because I spent years not only writing it but furthermore I had spent a number of years wanting, in general, to write something about President Obama as such, or as a topic, as opposed to something very policy specific, which had been excruciatingly challenging for me. No doubt, if I compare exactly my approach to writing about a topic now to what my approach was when this essay was completed, in December of 2018, it would be somewhat different however not so much in sentiment or substance.]
January, 2016: I see President Barack Obama crying.
Small splotches of white salt under his dark brown, snowy night eye seem dabbed on there by a paint brush; of course, it’s just the light reflecting off his evaporating tears.
The photo was taken by Jim Watson for AFP/Getty Images when President Obama was giving a speech on gun control.
November, 2008: I was 22. It was my second time voting for president.
I voted for Barack Obama.
Just the past month my father had died because his colon exploded.
After he died, I thought I lived in some other universe.
The yellow, red, orange, and brown leaves falling from tree branches seemed to be all that could comfort me, reminding me of my father’s book of Van Gogh paintings that I inherited.
On occasion, when those trees shook, and threw their leaves in the air, especially when it rained, I thought maybe my father’s… ghost… was trying to tell me something.
November, 2012: In my naiveté, I betray my fellow Americans, voting against Obama and for Romney– my… Republican phase… failing to notice things like, say, the nature of my own poverty, and the poverty that surrounded me and my coworkers in the retail industry.
I failed to realize the exploitation.
I was a college dropout then, holding false assumptions.
Example: if people fail to “think and grow rich,” blame their skepticism, not their exploiters.
Less government, more optimism.
Mix errors like that with tornadoes of panic attacks… (extremely low… serotonin level…a doctor and I later hypothesized) almost deafening, blinding, throwing me all over the place, meddling with my thought process…
I returned to college, combating my anxiety with knowledge, learning to think and analyze more critically…as I reflected on President Obama over the years, I came to miss him.
[Note: This piece was originally written in the summer of 2017 as a poem. Over the past few years it has been revised and re-conceptualized to its current form as a very a sort of personal micro-essay on romantic love]
Things we do not desire, which I do not prefer to list, do exist in this universe but not in here, where our hands are touching like water touches the surface of the Earth as we float a little, on a black, leather couch and watch a fictional cop and a criminal shooting bullets at each other, on the television screen, or is it congress versus President Trump’s corrupt conspirators, or jeez, is it a shielded window through which we see countless episodes of good versus evil- life’s most basic theme? Now my wife’s hand slips away, innocently, like a leaf on a branch would shift in the wind, so she could grab her glass of water from the small table in front of the couch. A little while later we turn towards each other and lean in for a long kiss. After that we both smile- our lips spreading like a sunrise, bit by bit, pushing out night’s darkness, diplomatically exiling it, and we continue watching the TV.
(Brief note: this short essay was originally completed on November 4th, 2018. I initially wrote this with the interest of making it part of what I referred to at the time as a “essayistic poem.” Although I have since abandoned that particular project and the accompanying view of aesthetics I possessed at the time of undertaking that project I maintain, after over half a year of hindsight, that the thoughts in this essay in themselves are a sufficient introduction to my thinking on the question of whether or not a God might exist and thus, this blog being devoted to my “Public Comment” on my views of things, it seems reasonable to include this here)
There is no empirical evidence to suggest a God exists yet even if the universe arbitrarily happens to be,and even despite atrocities [things I hate to acknowledge like disease, genocide, tsunamis, accidents…] there is beauty-the beauty of stars sparkling, mystifying, burning, illuminating; there is the beauty of the wind, whether it is tossing autumn leaves or brushing palm tree fronds, or making contact with water, ground or the skin of a living, conscious human, or a French kiss [mmm, just the thought of one!]-or fantasy!-all only a sliver, only a microscopic speck of the beauty that we indulge in with such pleasure.
Virtually each of us, if we try can find some beautiful things that bless us. From the atheistic perspective: how serendipitous! And that is all. From a less presumptuous perspective such blessings do provide grounds at least for suspicion -and thus for hope that some creative “entity” one might call “God” is a genius artist with profound bravura composinga masterpiece universe.
There is so much to it! Think, just think about the diversity: humans that evolve from the discovery of fire to the inventions of the internet and space stations, ah, and strawberries, planets, colors (so many colors), oil, mountains, lightning, gemstones, jellyfish, cats, dogs, horses, snakes, milk, wood, sand, ocean waves, atoms, genes, silk, Aristotle, Abraham Lincoln, Helen Keller, Meryl Streep, my wife Ashley O’Connor, my mother Amy Hanselmann, my stepfather John Hanselmann, music, wine, Effexor, coffee, blizzards, motion picture, the New York Times and the Washington Post, Proust, Walt Whitman, Montaigne, gravity, ink, blood, consciousness, language, memory, mineral water, birds flying (flying!) hot springs, seahorses, broccoli, brussel sprouts, pizza, moons, temperature, states of matter, sexual and asexual reproduction, sky, seemingly infinite particulars that just so happen to be and with such nuanced particulars within the particulars-all the cells in a human and their nuclei and mitochondria, the layers of the Earth, its biomes, the gasses of Jupiter and Saturn, every planet’s orbit around the sun, the position of every star, et cetera…
If there is that much fascinating complexity, and variety, in this universe then why mightn’t there be such a thing as a God? Some creative thing that possess something like a mind that imagines, reasons, produces, just by its glorious, unfathomable nature.
Oh yes, do I ever suspect there may indeed be a God, and do I ever hope, now on the cliff before I dive into the good kind of crying…
*A personal and autobiographical approach to philosophy/ philosophical aspects of our life stories
*Growing up in white, rural Robbinsville, NJ, in the 1990’s
*My father’s house in rural Cream Ridge, NJ– 2 acres of land!
*My earliest 2 memories are of the beach
*Why I dislike East Windsor
**In the video I mistook my estimation of precisely how white Robbinsville was. I do not recall more than one African American in my class until I was 4th grade when I met someone of Egyptian background and someone mulatto. When I was in 6th grade I recall meeting two people of Indian backgrounds in my class. The bottom line is that Robbinsville was exceptionally white.
I can appreciate that former Vice-President Joe Biden is willing, so it appears in some respects, to speak his conscience and advocate for unpopular policy positions.
That said, his stance on abortion– upholding the Hyde Amendment (which prohibits use of federal funds for abortions with the exception of rape, incest, and the life of the mother) more specifically– troubles me.
Also, Biden recently “elicited confusion” — as The Daily Beast’s Emily Shugerman puts it— because, before changing his official stance today, he had voiced his support for abolishing the Hyde Amendment.
The Biden campaign says he misheard this woman on the ropeline and thought she was referring to the Mexico City rule
(The so called “Mexico City rule,” as Planned Parenthood website explains, “prevents foreign organizations receiving U.S. global health assistance from providing information, referrals, or services for legal abortion or advocating for access to abortion services in their country — even with their own money.”)
I cannot help but wonder, is this really what Biden thought?
While I don’t mean to doubt his honesty or his sharpness of thought, I ask because I’m not sure why he thought she was referring to the “Mexico City rule.”
The ACLU activist, who goes by Nina according to the ACLU tweet sharing the video– did ask Mr. Biden rather directly, “Will you commit to abolishing the Hyde Amendment which hurts poor women and women of color?” and he really had absolutely nothing to say about this policy other than to immediately emphasize how he’s “got a near perfect voting record my entire career” and to add “Right now it can’t be, it can’t stay. Thank you,” and then he walked away.
How aware was Mr. Biden of this specific interaction, and how genuine? To me, it comes across as (though I cannot prove it is) insincere, as if he was sort of mindlessly going through the rhythms of shaking hands, saying hello, and quickly acting on hasty guesses as to what he thinks the people want to hear.
Not that this is a unique problem among politicians and not that Biden should be singled out as the only one guilty of this. Still, between the dynamics of Trump’s electoral success in 2016 for appearing “different,” and Hillary Clinton’s failure in part for seeming like more of the status-quo, one would hope Democrats and sympathetic #NeverTrumpers have learned that politics in the last few years has been changing drastically. Likewise, the kind of politicians we are in need of has been changing.
More disconcerting though than Biden’s inability to appear especially genuine and cognizant of what he’s saying and who he’s saying it to is that his belief in upholding the Hyde Amendment disadvantages women who don’t earn much income.
As the Planned Parenthood website says, “When policymakers deny a woman insurance coverage for abortion, she is either forced to carry the pregnancy to term or pay for care out of her own pocket.”
Biden’s position is thus an affront to efforts made both by women’s advancement in society and efforts to promote the well-being of the economically insecure. Moreover, along with the basic unfairness of the policy, it contradicts conventional Democratic values.
Kirsten Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren are quite savvy and pro-active on this point. Of the 20 plus candidates running in the Democratic Presidential primary, along with the 89 year old former Senator from Alaska– Mike Gravel (who is not making a substantial splash in the polls)– these two are the boldest when it comes to their protectiveness of abortion rights, making it clear that they believe it ought to be a matter of law that women be permitted to have abortions should they so choose.
In the process of evaluating Democratic candidates in the midst of this primary, Gillibrand and Warren put their exceptionalism thus far on full display. In contrast, Biden, the mainstream media sweetheart, seems to be either somewhat confused, trying too hard to play politics, or simply fails to demonstrate his awareness of the consequences of his continued support of the Hyde Amendment.
So now they’re trying different avenues of harassing Mueller.
For example, Fox News pundit Steve Hilton of the Next Revolution who bemoans Mueller as the symbol of the Washington “establishment” in opposition to Trump’s “peasant” revolt– Hilton’s words” says:
What Mueller did at that Press conference wasn’t justice. It wasn’t the rule of law. It was a smear. A false statement. Designed to cause material harm to President Trump delivered with malice. You know what that is? The legal standard for defamation. President trump should Robert Mueller for libel.
What was the “false statement designed to cause material harm to preisdnet Trump delivered with malice”—?
Mueller’s claim that it was the regulation about not indicting a sitting president that stopped him recommending charges”
the OLC opinion prevented the team from even considering whether the president obstructed justice.
To break this down more simply, it’s not that Mueller decided Trump was guilty of a crime but merely chose not to indict because the OLC said he couldn’t. Instead, Mueller didn’t determine one way or the other whether the president may have committed a crime. On this, he wanted to defer to congress.
As to the complaint that by refusing to exonerate Trump that he is essentially slandering the president — what would we have the special counsel do, if he found evidence of a crime, believed he was barred from calling it a crime, and wanted to have that thing we like to call a conscience, or wanted to see the rule of law upheld, and report illegal activity however he could.
By the way, Hilton never explains or proves his allegation that Mueller lied.
Because there is no proof.
So instead of substantiating his claim he just says that the president should sue Mueller and that Mueller should be investigated for corrupt business dealings with Former FBI Director James Comey. I hope his viewers don’t take him, or those who share his lack of objectivity seriously.
If you’ve heard Bob Dylan’s song “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” then perhaps you will understand? Here’s the sense of conflict: this deep rooted desire for all-encompassing independence– economic, ideological, political, intellectual– thinking something like: “To Hell with academia!” To Hell with the corporations and ‘big business!’ To Hell with everyone who stands to gain a profit of the information they sell us! To Hell with the ‘Main Stream Media!’ To Hell with Religion!” To Hell with so called ‘art!’! et cetera…and you think it because you have a vision that just doesn’t seem to fit with all the many standards out there (ironically enough!)– too blunt to be a poet, too academic to be a journalist, too populist to be an academic, too conceptual to establish a conventional ‘narrative,’ too self preserving to be “corporate,” too “independent” to belong to a political party…
Yet, I’m not the anti-social type. I enjoy academia, I enjoy the big businesses –main stream media for example, like MSNBC — and while I’m not religious, I’m deeply influenced by Christian ideas like that wonderful maxim “forgive them of their sins, they know not what they do.” So I strive to find a balance between maintaining a sense of independence while also engaging in my love for community. This is what I talk about on this episode of the Public Comment Blog which you can watch or listen to.
“There is nothing more seductive for man than the freedom of his conscience, but there is nothing more tormenting either”
–The Grand Inquisitor (From Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov 254)
“…an attempt to liberate the more heartfelt metaphorical version of religious experience from the literalist dogma of the orthodoxy…”
-Ayad Akhtar (From The Essential Ayad Akhtar by Natalie Hulla
of the Cincinnati Play House in the Park)
In the essay “How American, How Muslim,” Pulitzer Prize winning writer Ayad Akhtar says one of his inspirations is the late 19th century Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky (Akhtar Appendix item 3). In both Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and Akhtar’s American Dervish there are characters with complex views on religion. As complex as their views appear to be, in both novels there are characters who ultimately possess religious faith or lack it. What makes comparing and contrasting these two pieces especially interesting is that despite both authors examining different religions- Dostoevsky examines Christianity, Akhtar examines Islam-, writing in different centuries – Dostoevsky wrote in the 19th, Akhtar in the 21st-, and in different countries- Dostoevsky in a considerably homogeneous Russia, Aktar in a considerably diverse and pluralistic America- their characters critically examine religion in similar ways. Both novels examine the importance of freedom (intellectual freedom, and the freedom to do what one wants), and the conflicts between reason and faith (for example, ‘can/should one have both reason and faith?’). Although they examine similar things, one notable difference is how each author’s characters define of reason. In American Dervish an atheist adheres to a notion of non-contradictory thinking and shows how contradictory interpretation of the Quran leads to antisemitism. In The Brothers Karamazov, both a Christian monk named Zosima, and Ivan, a conflicted agnostic, fear that unchecked reason will lead to violence. Moreover, the monk, specifically, views Christ as the only way to save an otherwise rational mind from this violence. In other words, the rational character in American Dervish sees reason as a path to peace and religion as a path to hate, where as for Dostoevsky, reason leads to violence and only religion can bring peace and love.
Both Akhtar and Dostoevsky have characters who champion freedom. And in fact, both examine different ways to define the concept. For example, in American Dervish, Naveed is a staunch advocate of freedom- intellectual freedom of thought, as well as freedom to act as he wishes- who believes “Eastern women [are] mentally imprisoned” (Akhtar 160; italics are Akhtar’s). Hayat’s mother says implicitly that he thinks Eastern women are sexually imprisoned too. She says, “What the filthy man really means is that [white, ‘free’ women will] put their mouths anywhere, like animals. So he can put his mouth anywhere. Like an animal. That’s what they want and that’s what they like. It’s disgusting” (Akhtar 160-161; italics are Akhtar’s). A possible interpretation here is that Hayat’s mother, Muneer, is saying white women and Naveed both like oral sex but she does not, and Naveed thinks oral sex is sexually liberating while she thinks it’s “disgusting.” This would certainly explain (but not justify) why Naveed is motivated to sleep with women other than his wife- because he feels by holding herself back sexually she holds him back from experiencing what he wants to experience; to enjoy the freedom he wants to enjoy. If she wants to deny herself sexual freedom, to him, it’s her loss but he will not let it be his. It is important to note that it is not only “Eastern women” Naveed is critical of. It’s the Muslim community more broadly, which according to Naveed consists of “fools” and “sheep” (Akhtar 320). “You can’t live by the rules others give you…you have to find your own rules,” Naveed tells his son Hayat, who is narrating the novel, when he’s explaining to him why he left a wedding they attended (Akhtar 320). A character in The Brothers Karamazov, Ivan, is similar to Naveed though Ivan takes his belief in freedom to the extreme. The topic of freedom comes up with Ivan because he and his brother Alyosha are having a conversation about “the universal questions” such as “is there a God, is there immoratality?” and ethics (Dostoevsky 234). When Alyosha learns that Ivan does not put his faith in God and Christ he asks Ivan if this means Ivan thinks, in terms of ethics, that people should be free to do whatever they want (Dostoevsky 263). “The formula, ‘everything is permitted,’ I will not renounce,” Ivan tells Alyosha (Dostoevsky 263). In both cases, these characters conceptualize freedom as an individual thinking and doing whatever it is he or she wants (though both characters have thresholds at which point things seem cruel which make them squeamish. Naveed cannot stand anti-Semitism [Akhtar 207] or the oppression of women [Akhtar 321]. Ivan cannot bear the “cruelty” of people [Dostoevsky 238]). What readers comparing these two novels may find interesting is that Naveed’s belief in freedom seems more meaningful- that is to say, there are clear, explicit, palpable things Naveed wants as a result of his freedom: namely sex and independence. With Ivan, freedom at its core does not seem to be what he actually desires. Instead it merely happens to be that the ethical justification for freedom is a consequence to the fact that he cannot say with certainty that God exists. In other words, Naveed thinks about freedom in a very personal and psychological sense, whereas for Ivan it is simply an impersonal, detached, philosophical deduction that there is no source from which it can be proven that there are things people should or should not be able to do.
In both novels there is an entirely different conceptualization of freedom posited as well: spiritual freedom which characters in both novels appear to perceive as being based, at least in significant part, on humility. In American Dervish, Mina tells a story of a Dervish, which Mina says is “someone who gives up everything for Allah” (Akhtar 191). She does not call this, explicitly, “spiritual freedom.” She actually refers to it as “true humility” (Akhtar 103) and oneness (Akhtar 104). When we compare the Dervish she speaks of to the Christian monk, Zosima, in The Brothers Karamazov we see a striking similarity. The Monk, says
Obedience, fasting, and prayer are laughed at yet they alone constitute the way to real freedom: I cut away my superfluous and unnecessary needs, through obedience I humble and chasten my vain and proud will, and thereby, with God’s help, attain freedom of spirit, and with that, spiritual rejoicing (Dostoevsky 314; italics mine).
Also striking is the fact that both the Dervish and the Monk find connections between humility and nature. Of the Dervish, Mina says
“He realized he was no better, no worse than the ground itself, the ground that takes the discarded orange peels of the world. In fact, he realized he was the same as that ground, the same as those peels, as those men, as everything else.”
Compare this with Dostoevsky’s monk: “Man, do not exalt yourself above the animals: they are sinless” (Dostoevsky 319). This notion of spiritual freedom then seems to include even a freedom from sense of individuality, distinctiveness and uniqueness for the Dervish and the Monk see people as no different than orange peels and animals. It could be argued that both therefore deny the exceptionalism of human beings and are, ultimately, pessimists who can only experience spirituality via self denial. This is actually important because we see self-denial explicitly and viscerally in American Dervish. In fact, it is Mina- the one who tells us about the self-denying Dervish- who denies herself in the story. Instead of marrying the man she loves and exploring her sense of self and purpose she marries an abusive man she was pressured by family to marry and says it is “an expression of Allah’s will” (Akhtar 343) which in fact “she regretted” (Akhtar 348). Ultimately then, it could be argued that Akhtar portrays “spiritual freedom” through “self denial” as a negative and harmful thing. But compare this to Dostoevsky! In the case of Zosima the monk, what are the consequences of his self denial? When Zosima does not resist his desires (we are speaking of the time before he becomes a monk and discovers self denial), he is driven, in a rage, to take out his anger over the fact that someone else has won the affections of a girl he fancies on his servant who he beats so brutally that the servant bleeds (Dostoevsky 297). Zosima discovers this was wrong; he says “this is what a man can be brought to” (Dostoevsky 298). Instead of engaging in a dual with the man who won the affections of the woman he is fond of, he surrenders to the man saying he can shoot him if he wants but Zosima will not shoot at him (Dostoevsky 298). The point here is that in Dostoevsky’s novel self-denial leads to noble acts. But again, in Akhtar’s, it leads to harm.
There is a third notion of freedom the two novels examine: freedom from faith, or put another way, freedom attained as a result of no longer having faith. Again we see a contras with the two authors; this aforementioned kind of freedom being depicted in a positive light by one author, and negative by the other. In American Dervish Hayat eventually comes to describe losing his faith as a positive and liberating experience (as a young teenager Hayat is a devout, Quran-reading-and-memorizing Muslim) where as in The Brother’s Karamazov Ivan, who concedes God may exist, rejects this possible God and God’s world more broadly and for him this rejection isn’t a pleasurable experience, it’s simply necessary on ethical grounds. I shall elaborate.
In the prologue to American Dervish, Hayat tells us that “to lose your faith” is “So freeing. It’s the most freeing thing that’s ever happened to me” (Akhtar 10-11). Hayat does not fully explain the nature of his lost faith nor of this liberation however it is quite possible that the freedom he feels is a kind of inner-peace after rejecting his notion of Islam and the damage which Islam did to his family and especially Mina. Moreover it is possible he feels free of guilt too We know that when he sees her “two months before she die[s]” (Akhtar 337) he “had been giving up on Islam little by little for years, and…now there was barely anything left” (Akhtar 341). After he brings this up to Mina, asking what her “suffering” had “to do with finding God” she said “Even the pain… is an expression of Allah’s will” he never once hints with the slightest subtlety or implication that she has changed his mind (Akhtar 342-343). When we see two months later he loses his faith, and cites no other significant experience associated with his faith it is quite reasonable to posit indeed this faith is lost because he sees that virtually every example of Muslim faith has brought with it unreasonable, unacceptable suffering which was tolerated as a result of that faith.
In The Brothers Karamazov Ivan has a somewhat similar experience however his qualm is spelt out for us, and it is not mere religion that troubles him, or even Christianity. It is God and reality. For Ivan, if a God exists, God is evil for God has created a world of suffering, and Heaven, according to Ivan, does not make up for that suffering, thus he will have nothing to do with Christianity, even if there is a God (Dostoevsky 245). As he puts it, “I’d rather remain with my unrequited suffering and unquenched indignation, even if I am wrong…it is not that don’t accept God, Alyosha, I just most respectfully return him the ticket” (Dostoevsky 245). In what sense then is Ivan free? He is free, at least thinks he is, of a certain kind of guilt; he feels free in the sense that while God may keep reality as it is, and while God may think He makes up for the awfulness of life with Heaven for the good believers and Hell for evil non-believers, Ivan will not give it his moral sanction- for he says: “it is my duty, if only as an honest man” to maintain his rejection of this (Dostoevsky 245). He is rebelling (“Rebellion” is in fact the title of the chapter. Strangely enough yet true to his sort of contradictory, paradoxical way, he says “One cannot live by rebellion, and I want to live” [Dostoevsky 245]) and saying God’s system is unacceptable to him, even hell for evil non-believers and heaven for the innocent is not enough. Speaking specifically about those who torture children he says “what can hell set right here, if these ones have already been tormented?” (Dostoevsky 245). Both Ivan and Hayat can be viewed as rebels here but they are rebelling against different things; Ivan is rebelling against reality where as Hayat is merely rebelling first against his father when he deeply embraces Islam and later against segments of the Pakistani community that his family sometimes associates with when he rejects Islam. He is also rebelling against the pain which these Muslims inflict on themselves, Jews, women, et cetera, as a result of their strict Quranic interpretations.
REASON VERSUS FAITH
What’s especially interesting about Ivan is that it is not reason which makes him agnostic and resentful of the universe and potentially God if there is one (at least, it is not reason according to him). Reason, or what Ivan in this instance, calls “logic” is something, first of all, left undefined, and secondly, loveless, or insufficient in terms of providing people with a capacity for love. “Sticky spring leaves, the blue sky- I love the, that’s all! Such things you love not with your mind, not with logic, but with your insides, your guts” (Dostoevsky 230). A little later Ivan says “reason hedges and hides. Reason is a scoundrel” (Dostoevsky 236). A possible interpretation, if we compare the two aforementioned quotes, is that Ivan perceives reason as a detached, over intellectualized, cold mental operation with no room for emotional experience, or sympathy. If reason “hides” it is perhaps more exactly, “feeling/emotion” which it hides, remaining cloaked only in detatched factual deductions.
In American Dervish we get another interpretation of reason and that comes from Sonny Buledi- a Pakistani friend of Naveed’s who is an atheist. Sonny’s version of rationality is non-contradictory thinking. We learn this when he debates Quranic interpretations among fellow Pakistanis. Specifically they’re debating whether an interpretation has anti-Semitic implications.
“C’mon, man!” Sonny exploded. “God condemns them [Jews] in verse sixty-one, which you choose to underline, and then follows it with accepting them in the next?! That’s an outright contradiction and unless you can explain it, it renders both versus utterly meaningless…” (Akhtar 131)
It would follow- if we apply Sonny’s epistemological standard- that Sonny is probably an atheist because as he sees it, there is no proof or logical deduction which can verify that a God exists.
But something else is interesting about Sonny’s rationality. It doesn’t only lead to atheism. It also leads to peacefulness and tolerance. Sonny’s rationality leads to a justification for Chatha’s anti-Semitism (which Chatha claims is based on the Quran) to be discredited and rejected. It is extremely noteworthy that in Akhtar’s novel, it is the rational atheist (or agnostics, or the spiritually ambiguous/open-minded) who reject(s) hatred and it is the religious characters who have hate in their hearts (whether it be outward hate for others, such as the anti-Semitic Chatha, or even Hayat when he goes through such a phase as a pedantic, literalist Muslim, or what appears to be self-hatred in the case of Mina and Muneer who deny themselves of better lives where they could be less oppressed).
However, in The Brothers Karamazov, reason is associated with violence and is conceptualized as something that is of limited use for people. This relationship is really rather complex and is articulated by several different characters in different ways. For the sake of succinctness and focusing exclusively on the ultimate essence of this idea I shall bring up only the example of sentiment expressed by Zosima, the Monk. Zosima says:
These, following science, want to make a just order for themselves by reason alone, but with Christ now, not as before, and they have already proclaimed there is no crime, there is no sin. And in their own terms, that is correct: for if you have no God, what crime is there to speak of? In Europe the people are rising up against the rich with force, and popular leaders everywhere are leading them to bloodshed and teaching them that their wrath is righteous. But ‘their wrath is accursed, for it is cruel’ (Dostoevsky 315)
Zosima assumes that rational thinking cannot lead people to goodness. Why does he think this? He says earlier of science (of which reason and logic are a part) that it consists only of “that which is subject to the senses” (Dostoevsky 313). Clearly than Zosima assumes ethics have no basis in “the senses” or that which can be abstracted from them; in other words, we see that classic notion of original sin inherent in Monk’s assumptions, i.e., Zosima thinks people are inherently bad and can only be saved by God and God’s standards- standards which could only even be first discovered by a God.
The deeper discovery we can make as readers then is that Dostoevsky and Akhtar appear to be at very opposite ends of the spectrum, not only when it comes to their views on reason, but of human nature itself, for there is nothing implied by Sonny, Hayat or anyone espousing rationality in American Diverish, that suggests they think humanity is inherently depraved. For Dostoevsky, religion saves humanity from its depraved self. For Akhtar, reason saves humanity from religion!
While reason in the two novels is interpreted by the characters differently, religious faith is viewed quite similarly, even in the face of suffering. Hayat questions Mina’s faith at the end of the novel, when she is in the hospital (Akhtar 342). He thinks “all these Sufis tales [are nothing] but fictions she’s using to shed a redeeming glow on a life scored with pain, pain I caused her, pain Sunil caused her, and that she should have sought not simply to bear, but escape” (Akhtar 342; italics are his). To her he says, “What did the suffering she had gone through over the past eight years at her husband’s hands- and for that matter the suffering she was experiencing now, as she lay dying- what did any of this have to do with finding God?” (Akhtar 342). She answers: “this is how the divine is choosing to express Himself through me…everything, everything, is an expression of Allah’s will. It is all His glory. Even the pain…That is the real truth about life” (Akhtar 343). In other words, Mina herself, according to her thinking, is irrelevant. Mina does not even exist as Mina in her mind. She exists as a manifestation of God. So whatever God throws at her, including pain and dying, God throws at her. Mina’s submission to God is a dramatization of that haunting cliché that is so often sighed, “it is what it is.” And this for her is not just perfectly okay, but good and wonderful. As Hayat describes her as she is nearing her death in the hospital: “Her eyes sparked when she saw us. However sick she appeared, she looked no less alive” (Akhtar 338) (It is only in that light that we can really understand the significance of the final page of Akhtar’s novel when he feels inexplicable gratitude which he can finally discern, saying he “finally” is able to hear what he is grateful for: “my heart, silently murmuring its steady beat” . Hayat acknowledges the fact that he has a self).
We see a very similar sentiment articulated by the monk- a sentiment the monk learns from his brother. Like Mina, Zosima’s brother is close to death and aware of it. In speaking of natural beauty, his brother says “there was so much of God’s glory around me: birds, trees, meadows, sky, and I alone lived in shame, I alone dishonored everything, and did not notice the beauty and glory of it all” (Dostoevsky 289) As Zosima is about to die before his visitors to whom he has given his final talk, everyone notes how despite the pain he appears to be in, he is “still looking at them with a smile…bowed down with his face to the ground, stretched out his arms and, as if in joyful ecstasy, kissing the earth and praying…quietly and joyfully gave up his soul to God” (Dostoevsky 324). Both Zosima and Mina face death and pain and find spiritual satisfaction in surrendering to God. Despite the element of self-denial inherent in both Zosima’s and Mina’s surrender there is one positive thing: in their final moments, God, or their idea of a supposed God can provide comfort. Say what one might about all the various aspects of elements of religions, we see at least that belief in a God can be comforting when one is confronted with one’s mortality. Religion, as depicted by both authors, has at least something to offer.
There are two wider takeaways we can gain from comparing and contrasting the examination of religion in these two novels. First, it is interesting that pain plays such a strong role in the characters of both novels as it pertains to their attitudes on religion, and implicitly on their views of human nature (are we inherently bad? Are we capable of being good? Do we need a God to be good?). This is not to say we learn anything universal about the experience of pain. Rather, it has to do more with how each unique individual processes pain. In the case of the non-religious in both novels, it is specifically that pain that motivates them to rid themselves of their faith (Sonny, who seems to be an atheist most fundamentally as a result of drier, detached rationality, is an exception). Ivan, for example, is in so much pain he can barely deal with reality so he rejects God even if God exists. Hayat sees the pain that religion has caused him, his family, Mina, and Nathan. On the other hand, the believers in God see pain as almost superficial when compared to the glory of God. That or they are so humble and self-denying that it would be a betrayal of their values to deeply sulk or curse God. Spiritual characters on the verge of death in both novels (Mina and Zosima) both find tremendous pleasure and peace despite their pain. A second takeaway is that just as each person processes pain differently, each person has different definitions for words- sometimes even multiple definitions- perhaps not even dictionary definitions, or universal definitions, further complicating these kinds of discussions. Most notably, we see different notions of freedom: spiritual freedom versus moral freedom, and the freedom that comes from losing faith. We also see different notions of reason. Dostoevsky’s characters- regardless of their broader theological differences- seem to agree that reason leads to violence yet in Akhtar’s novel, reason is shown to be supreme, even implicitly by the narrator who says, when discussing his loss of faith, that it did not bother him like other Arabs in his class on Islam when his professor suggested there was proof that the Islamic notion of “the Quran as the direct, unchanged, eternal word of God was a fiction” (Akhtar 7-11). His response, when his girlfriend asks him how he feels about the lecture is: “What’s to feel? The truth is the truth” (Aktar 9). By not putting his feelings into the validity or lack-there- of, he is being objective, i.e., he is using reason, and he grows compassionate (when he is no longer a Muslim he is also no longer an anti-Semite) and is doing so in a way which it appears Dostoevsky could not imagine or fathom.
Akhtar, Ayad. American Dervish. Back Bay Books/ Little, Brown and Company, 2012.
Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Brothers Karamazov. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2002
Frank, Joseph. Dostoevsky: A Writer in His Time. Princeton University Press, 2010
Hulla, Natalie. “The Essential Ayad Akhtar,” Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, 20 June 2017,
 Both of these novels in my view are exceptionally complex and thus there is more they have in common, and there are more distinct differences however it would require a lengthy amount of time to be so comprehensive.
 To be clear, Ivan is complex because he is conflicted, wishy-washy, and contradicts himself. He says “everything is permitted” (Dostoevsky 263) and yet loathes God’s supposed cruelty (Dostoevsky 235). Likewise, Naveed is all for freedom yet cannot stand how Muslim men oppress women (Akthar 321).
 This is not to downplay the philosophical capacity, depth or nature of Naveed. This simply appears to be a manifestation of ,what appears to me, to be a stylistic differences between Akhtar and Dostoevsky: that Dostoevsky’s characters tend to deliver long, theoretical, sometimes even discursive monologues, whereas Akhtar’s characters are much more succinct.
 Noteworthy here also is that however free Hayat feels, unlike Ivan, he actually does not feel free of guilt. The same night he says he feels free, he learns that Mina has died, and says “Now that she was gone, how could I ever repair the harm I’d done” (Akhtar 12).
 Ivan’s denial of reality suggests psychological trouble far more complex and potentially problematic than Hayat’s disagreement with religious claims. Hayat is making a philosophical, and theological discernment. Ivan, it appears, is struggling to cope with what is for him the malady of existence.
 This of course, is a claimed notion of reason, and not necessarily the proper notion. After all, is Ivan not in the act of attempting to reasoning when he is essentially saying what is what and why what is what?
 According to the end notes the quite within the quotes comes from Genesis 49:7
 One could argue this is hard as a reader to reconcile since if we apply Sonny’s definition of reason (non-contradictory thinking) to Zosima’s application of it, his very act of reasoning is what suggests to him that reason is insufficient for arriving at ethical standards.
 And ‘oh, the irony’- it is the all-loving Christian writer Dostoevsky who, throughout his life was an anti-Semite. He once spoke of “Yiddifying” ideas as “third-rate” (Frank 744). Other disturbing examples abound in Joseph Frank’s comprehensive biography.
A 2008 experiment was conducted to gain a sense of the impact that stereotypes surrounding Native Americans have on Native American children. Considered stereotypes “include[ed] the Cleveland Indian mascot, Disney’s Pocahontas, [specific] negative stereotypes [such as] dropout rates, rates of alcohol abuse, and depression rates.” The researchers discovered that “exposure to prominent media portrayals led Native American high school and college students to have more negative feelings about their self [i.e., decreased self-esteem] and community [i.e., decreased community worth], and depressed academic future possibilities [i.e., diminished achievement related possible selves].” This suggests that stereotypes are harmful.
One seemingly obvious way to combat stereotypes (which overgeneralize our ideas about a group of people, ethnic or other) is to think of people not first and foremost as members of a group, but as individuals. As the Cowlitz Indian tribe member, personal essayist, Assistant professor of English at the Ohio State University and University of Washington American Indian Studies advisor Elissa Washuta says, “I still see people lock others into the same old, tired, damaging stereotypes of what a representative member of an ethnic group should be. But the massiveness of information out there online makes identity confusion hugely easier for me, and probably for a lot of others as well, because so many people have outlets for their stories that did not exist before. We have the good fortune of learning about individual experiences, which can break up false ideas of monolithic stereotypes.”
Washuta is a compelling individual to contemplate with respect to identity and ethnic identity, not merely because she is an American Indian (both Cascade and Cowlitz), or because she in fact, has a complex ethnic background (she is also a mix of Irish, Scottish, Polish, Ukrainian, German, Dutch, Welsh, and French) but rather, because she is also a personal essayist.
Personal essays are especially unique in literature. As Columbia University professor of Creative Non-Fiction Philip Lopate writes in an extensive collection of personal essays from the first century (A.D.) to the 1990’s written by authors from all over the world, “the personal essay has an open form and a drive toward candor and self disclosure.” Lopate adds that “The unashamed subjectivity of the personal essay makes it less suspect in a mental climate in which people have learned to mistrust the ‘value-free, objective’ claims of scholarship and science.” If by “unashamed subjectivity” Lopate means the freedom to include one’s most intimate and personal feelings, my conjecture would be that it is reasonable to infer from his definition/understanding of the personal essay, that this openness provides a place for a holistic, intimate, deep, qualitative examination which strictly academic sociology, psychology, and ethnic studies may not reach, due to specialized, technical disciplinary vocabulary, strict and delineated research methods, dropped context within statistics, et cetera. Moreover, Lopate’s distinction between “the ‘value-free, objective’ claims of scholarship and science” and the personal essay, seems to suggest his belief that the personal essay can offer a meaningful perspective that “scholarship and science” cannot, adding to a fuller understanding when all perspectives are considered.
In this paper I will argue that through Washuta’s memoir My Body Is A Book of Rules (which she says can also be viewed “as a series of interlinked essays,”) other personal essays she has published on websites such as the Chronical of Higher Education, Salon, and Buzzfeed, and interviews she has given, the complexity of Native American identity and personal identity more generally, are illustrated. I will show how, in particular, Washuta rejects the notion of quantifying what she often calls her Indianness (in part as an opposition to the blood quantum concept, in part due to psychological harm that quantified Indianness has done to her) and yet still retains a distinct Indianness within her more holistic sense of self (the various aspects of her that make her who she is) that has evolved from a Catholic school girl turned anti-Catholic, to a traumatized rape victim, to someone suffering from bi-polar disorder, to someone who comes to see herself empowered. A final element of my thesis is that there is likely a relationship between the retention of her distinct Indianness and her sense of self-empowerment, in part because in sharing her distinctive Indianness, as I quoted Washuta saying in her own words earlier, it combats or attempts to combat stereotypes of Indians.
Rejecting the quantification of Indianness
A so called degree of Indianness was initially a British-North American- colonial concept, not an American Indian one. As anthropologist Gregory R. Campbell and Professor of Anthropology and Native American Studies, Dr. S. Neyooxet Greymorning explain:
“kinship rather than biology was the core component of both societal composition and individual ethnic affiliation. Every indigenous society had sociological mechanisms for the incorporation of individuals and, sometimes, whole groups by adoption, naturalization, or other ethnogenetic processes…most indigenous nations…integrated people from other societies…[including n]umerous Europeans and Africans…without any phenotypic or cultural stigma.”
British colonists in North America, while writing treaties with Native Americans invented a so called “blood quantum” concept which “defined ‘Indian’ in legal terms. In her personal essay “I am Not Pocahontas” Washuta explains the concept of “blood quantum” as:
“the degree of Indian ancestry expressed fractionally, as a consideration when defining their [tribal] membership. Contemporary determinations of blood quantum often look back to base rolls, records of tribal membership, often created by non-Indians. Determinations of blood quantum are made by establishing proximity to the ancestors listed on these rolls.”
Although Washuta does not explicitly say when the word “blood quantum” itself was first used, she does reference what she claims to be the first time American Indians were subjected to “ancestral fractionation,” citing “a 1705 Virginia statute barring a ‘mulatto,’ or ‘the child of an Indian and child, grandchild or great grandchild of a negro’ from holding public office”
This “blood quantum” concept underlying mainstream American notions of Native American ethnicity makes Washuta sensitive to questions about her Indianness. She writes that the question:
“‘How much Indian are you?’, however well-intentioned, implies that alive within me is only a tiny piece of the free, noble Indian that passed on long ago, a remnant from which I am far removed. The questions, individually, are borne from a place of curiosity, but the questions have embedded in a time when blood quantum was used to rob indigenous peoples of rights and, ultimately, lead to our being defined out of existence.”
Here Washuta tells us she rejects any limit to how Indian she can be and at least in part rejects it on the grounds of the anti-Indian sentiments (she’s referring to that aspiration “to rob indigenous peoples of rights” and have them “defined out of existence”) she says fuels the concept of degree of Indianness.
The question “how much Indian?” can be problematic for other reasons too, which we learn when Washuta tells us about her personal experiences. In a podcast interview for Montana Public Radio Washuta discusses how upon receiving a “merit scholarship” from the University of Maryland, some people suggested, with resentment, that it was because she was a Native American, not because she deserved it. She told the woman interviewing her that “people in my high school and then in my university gave me a really, really hard time about it. They said some really repulsive things to me and then some more kind of passive aggressive things and I wondered for a long time whether I deserved that money.” Washuta elaborates on this incident in her essay “How Much Indian Was I?’ My Fellow Students Asked” published by the Chronical of Higher Education in 2013. She said:
“That money never went to white kids, they said, so I must be an undercover genius. I’m not all white, I said. What was my SAT score, they wanted to know. My GPA? Extracurriculars? How much Indian was I? The first thing I learned in college was that white boys don’t care if you’re legitimately Indian if they think you robbed them of $100,000 in scholarship money that they’d earned holding a tuba for countless hours on a high-school football field.”
If Washuta had suffered from having too little self-esteem and was unable to defeat her sense of self-doubt she may not have maintained her perfect GPA, received an MFA in Creative Writing, became a professor, and a published author of articles and books. She, however, proved to be resilient.
Washuta’s Distinct Indianness Throughout Her Evolving Sense of Self
Washuta’s distinct Indianness must be understood as part of her, not the only thing that defines her. She makes it clear throughout her various writings that she possesses what one interviewer described as “different threads of identity [including] race, gender, sexuality.” In her memoir, Washuta reveals the context that establishes who she is more holistically.
As a child and young teenager she describes herself as a Catholic school girl who “couldn’t fit in” and who, despite being “bookish” and with good grades, cared more about “sex tips from Cosmopolitan” than God and religion. She shares an interesting episode during Catholic school that reveals somewhat the essence of her awareness as someone who was multiethnic. She says:
“When the nuns found out I was Cowlitz Indian, they offered me Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the Lily of the Mohawks, as a spiritual guide. I knew nothing more than that she was holy and that I was to ask her to speak to the Lord on my behalf…I could not pray to Kateri Tekakwitha. She seemed more like one of my Native American Barbies than a saint. With her braids, and ethnically confused features, her prayer card image reminded me enough of myself that I found it impossible to venerate her.”
Washuta does not talk much about her time in high school but said that “Sophomore year…I was the teacher’s pet.” She says also that “being the only Indian around got lonesome, so I took what I knew from my books and family and draped it in Indian-looking beads.” Reflecting on how her sense of identity began to evolve, particularly while she was in college, she says:
“It took some time to get the hang of being simultaneously white and Indian. But I had to be something [emphasis is Washuta’s], so I searched for an identity to sink into. Before I knew I was bipolar, and could settle into that, I had rape. It was bloody and violent and it was an injustice of the kind my [Indian] ancestors knew, I used to think.
“For awhile I had to make the rape fit into my life as an Indian. It was nice to have a straight forward, academic explanation to fall back on, one involving a history of violent oppression and subjugation, something about inherited ancestral consciousness, something about how the guy who raped me was English and could trace his ancestry back to the first English settlers. Something I could tell myself so it wasn’t my own malfunction, neurosis, weakness, character flaw, not my own fault.”
Washuta’s Distinct Indianness as Self Empowering and Combating Stereotypes of Indians
Washuta comes to realize however that she should not make her rape all about race. Furthermore she also does not associate her bipolar disorder with some sort of inherited ancestral trauma. In fact, in reflecting on circumstances surrounding her rape, she writes fictional dialogue between herself, the rapist, and different people within the law enforcement and justice system based on her notions of the television show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. A take away here should be that in turning to Law & Order for comfort, as opposed to say, some “traditionally Native American” healing practices, Washuta is stereotype busting, showing that if there is a special way a Native American seeks dealing with rape, she does not even slightly imply it to be her approach to coping. Ultimately, Washuta deals with rape in no particular way other than Washuta’s own unique, personal way.
Washuta takes a similar action when she contemplates her bipolar disorder. She does not write about experiences of engaging in exclusively or distinctly or necessarily Native American therapies or understandings of mental disorder. Washuta does not suggest there are or are not distinct Native American understandings of mental disorder though she acknowledges there is a way some Native Americans cope when dealing with mental aguish and she does not restrict herself from contemplating it. The broader point- a motif of this paper- is exactly the fact that Washuta does not restrict herself at all with respect to how much or how little ethnic influences dictate her approach to one thing or another. In one portion of her memoir, she catalogues an array of psychiatric drugs her psychiatrist had her try to treat her bi-polar disorder- documenting their technical, medical names, and describing their impact on her. In another section of the memoir she writes an imaginary letter which she pretends is from her college psychiatrist, explaining in very technical, clinical language, details of her bipolar disorder.
In a rather interesting fashion, Washuta also compares her bi-polar experiences to the apparent mental anguish of two celebrities who fascinated her: Kurt Cobain, and Brittney Spears. It should be noted that in this instance she relates here to white Americans, and makes no reference to relating to them for ethnic or racial reasons. To further demonstrate how she is not limited or tied down by a single cultural or ethnic group, or perception of how one should think, she makes a thoughtful remark on the infamous incident when Brittney Spears shaved her head. “Freudians consider long hair to represent the id and aggression, so they associate cutting long hair with killing sexuality… For many Indian tribes, cutting hair symbolizes a severance from the past, or mourning.” Here she integrates what one might say is a “Western” way of interpreting an event, with a Native American perspective. That she happens to integrate does not make her more or less Native American. It shows one example of how a Native American would interpret events, which again, is consistent with Washuta’s belief that “learning about individual experiences …can break up monolithic stereotypes” about American Indians and thus by implication, stereotypical thinking in general.
Combating stereotypes of Native Americans is important to Washuta. She elaborates on this in an interview when she is asked if she would change how “Native Americans [are] being depicted incorrectly.” Washuta responds:
“Certainly, I would like to see representations of Native people as complex humans with our own trajectories, differences, and values independent of settler lives and aims. Movies with Native characters usually take place at least 150 years ago, and Native characters appear in support of (or as a threat to) a white character’s goals. In most Hollywood depictions, Native characters get to be brave, noble, savage, lusty, doomed, unintelligent, or bloodthirsty, but they don’t get to have complexity. Most representations of Natives in books and movies are created by non-Natives. I wish that were different. I wish the book-buying and movie-watching public had more interest in Native stories–the ones we tell about ourselves.”
The issue of stereotypes is not one to take lightly, nor is the role our culture plays in perpetuating them. As was found by Peter A. Leavitt et al. : “Close examination of the population statistics and media portrayals of Native Americans reveals that they are largely invisible in contemporary American life” To confirm this, the researchers “examined the first 100 image results for each of the terms ‘Native American’ and ‘American Indian’ returning 200 images total from both” Google and Bing, and “found that 95.5% of Google (n = 191) and 99% of Bing (n = 198) images were historical representations. These search results highlight the extent to which media consumers are inundated with a narrow set of historical images of Native Americans.”
One major psychological consideration that Leavitt et al. point out is that research suggests that stereotypes or images of racial/ethnic groups matters; that vulnerable minds associate public/media images of people within their own demographic and see within the range of stereotypical/prototypical images available, the options they may be able to identify with. Leavitt et al. explain, for example that:
“when groups who experience stereotypes about their academic abilities (e.g., women in math, Black students and intelligence) think about self-relevant role models who demonstrate competence and success, the performance-inhibiting effects of negative stereotypes are diminished. Similarly, reading about or identifying self-relevant role models increases school motivation and belonging.”
Naturally, when this is lacking, psychological benefits may as well. Leavitt et al. further elaborate:
“What self-stereotyping demonstrates is that members of underrepresented groups may be motivated to identify with any available representation simply because one representation is better than no representation (i.e., absolute invisibility). The one representation, no matter how unfavorable or inaccurate, provides answers to the ‘Who am I?’ questions that people are motivated to answer and provides a reference point around which to negotiate one’s identity with others.”
Just how problematic this may or may not be, I would argue, depends on certain other factors. For example, does a person who belongs to an ethnic/racial minority group only imagine him or herself based on stereotypical images of his/her ethnic/racial minority group that he or she is exposed to, or does her/she conceptualize him/herself beyond that very limited scope?
What does ethnic/racial self-consciousness “beyond that very limited scope” of stereotypical images mean? Washuta offers us a good example. As opposed to conceptualizing her Indian self stereotypically, she conceptualizes it in part by gaining an understanding the history of where she comes from. As she writes in her memoir: “I became increasingly frustrated with the notion of Indianness, feeling so far away from the reservations I so clumsily fictionalized…I thought that if I read more about the history of Native Americans…I would almost get my blood boiling enough to reduce it down to a steaming, potent syrup that would contain some legitimate Indian essence.” She adds to this later, “The story is in the details, the traumas, the histories, not the titles and labels we apply and try to pass down without context. I’ve been searching for the story, the whole beast, the blessing, the burden.”
It is noteworthy that as interested in the history of her tribes as Washuta is, in her first memoir and the essays she makes available on her website, she does not make much mention of other Native American writers or contemporary thinkers throughout Native American history. One exception is a quote she cites from University of Kansas Professor of law comparing colonization to rape. Colorado College and University of South Dakota Assistant Professor of English Natanya Ann Pulley makes this observation herself. The theme of “Native American identity,” Pulley writes, “ is not…fully developed, which one may take as a sign of a forced theme or perhaps the work of a promising, but first book writer.” Pulley however questions her own criticism saying “I began to question why I, as a reader, think there is a work—one book or essay or line—out there clearly about Native American identity.”
Whether Washuta’s sense of Indian identity is sufficiently explored may be open to debate but she does nonetheless explore it and does so beyond identifying with stereotypes. This kind of racial/ethnic self-consciousness, is believed to be a healthy thing, particularly among racial/ethnic minorities. Researchers Yetter and Foutch write: “although ethnic minority youth tend to experience more stress than the population at large, the extant research suggests that a strong ethnic identity may moderate the effects of stress and strengthen academic and psychosocial functioning.”
In Washuta’s case this appears to be true. The connection she has to her Indianness, which she shares with us in her writing illustrates a display of her affirmed self-esteem. She writes:
“I do not think I was predestined for brokenness- this world of ours has shown itself to have no sense of order to make such a feat possible- but I’m leaning to talk to the ancestors, listen for answers, stay awake in dreams, and let those loved ones erase the muddy corners of my brain so I might learn all over again how to know anything at all.”
Subsequent to the publication of her memoir Washuta described herself in this new context in an interview as a “self healer.”
Washuta has used the essence of individuality inherent in a- “personal essay”-/memoir not only to combat stereotyping, but to illustrate indeed how “personal” all aspects of identity are, whether ethnic/racial, religious, sexual, career, et cetera, and further, how that ethnic aspect or element of self-identity is (for example, her Indiannness), like self-identity more broadly, complex. Washuta makes it clear that her Indianness is not in anyway to be misconstrued as having a necessarily biological component. When asked in an interview what she considers the “most irritating myth about Natives” she answered “That our identities are based completely in what a DNA test might say about us (bullshit) or in what we present that’s in alignment with something someone saw in [the movie] Thunderheart (bullshit) rather than in our relationships and our roles in our communities.” In light of these themes Washuta addresses it may be well worth the while to ask ourselves every now and then: are we ever stereotyping others without realizing it? Perhaps we are quick to be defensive, but as was pointed out by Leavitt et al, which I mentioned a little earlier, we are quite inundated with caricaturized and more historical images of Native Americans, as opposed to real, modern, holistic images. What if our inclinations to think about Native Americans in a certain way have been developing somewhat subconsciously and inaccurately because of what we have and have not been inundated with? What comes to our mind when we stop to think about Native Americans? Do we think about someone like Pocahontas or someone like Elissa Washuta?
1) Peter A. Leavitt, et al. “’Frozen in Time’: The Impact of Native American Media Representations on Identity and Self-Understanding” Journal of Social Issues 71 no. 1 (March 2015)
13) Brief comment on Washuta’s use of the term “Idnianness.” That this should be addressed was brought to my attention upon reviewing feedback to an earlier draft of this paper. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary lists “Indianness” as a word but does not define it. (“Indian,” Merriam Webster Dictionary, accessed April 29, 2018, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Indian) The Oxford Living Dictionary does the same. (“Indianness,” Oxford Living Dictionary, accessed April 20, 2018, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/indianness) To keep from digressing, it seems the point to be made is that this term does not appear to be a widely defined term among prominent dictionaries. Washuta uses the term often in her writings but does not explicitly define it. Upon reviewing a vast body of her work it is my guess that she means, implicitly, Indian identity.
15) American Indian Nations (Lanham, New York, Toronto, Plymouth, UK, Altamira Press A Division of Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2007) 315
16) Ibid., 317
17) “What’s in a Label? Native American Identity and the Rise of a Tradition of Racism,” American Indian Nations (Lanham, New York, Toronto, Plymouth, UK, Altamira Press A Division of Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2007) 23
50) In this particular interview Washuta does not give any specific examples of “Hollywood depictions” however, in her essay “I Am Not Pocahontas” she lists several, including but not limited to Dances With Wolves, Last of the Mohicans, Indian in the Cupboard and Pocahontas. One of her criticisms is that “these films relegated Native peoples to the past” (Elissa Washuta, “I Am Not Pocahontas,” The Weeklings, September 4, 2014, http://theweeklings.com/ewashuta/2014/09/04/pocahontas/)
52) Peter A. Leavitt, et al. “’Frozen in Time’: The Impact of Native American Media Representations on Identity and Self-Understanding” Journal of Social Issues 71 no. 1 (March 2015) 44.
55) Ibid., 46
56) Ibid (qtd in)
57) Ibid., 47
58) Elissa Washuta, My Body Is A Book Of Rules (Pasadena, California, Red Hen Press, 2014) 155-156, 170
66) Georgette Yetter, Victoria Foutch, “Investigation of the Structural Invariance of the Ethnic Identity Scale With Native American Youth” Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 19, No. 4, 435-436
67) Ibid., 436
68) Elissa Washuta, My Body Is A Book Of Rules (Pasadena, California, Red Hen Press, 2014) 180
Activist Philipos Melaku-Bello, who says he is “past my mid 50’s,” sits on his wheelchair in front of the White House every day, sometimes for as long as 16 hours, according to an ABC report. The Daily Mail reports that Melaku-Bello has been doing this since 1981. Melaku-Bello’s protest is part of the William Thomas Memorial Anti-Nuclear Peace Vigil.
On June 3, 1981, [Activist] William Thomas began a nuclear weapons protest outside the White House when vehicle traffic still passed by the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. For years the Department of Interior wouldn’t issue him a permit to stay there. His plan was to stay on the sidewalk, no matter what, just outside the White House by its iron fence. As the vigil continued he was repeatedly arrested for camping but challenged the Park Service in the courts over its attempts to remove him.
The outcome of many court cases was that the vigil was grandfathered into a permitted round the clock occupation. All other protests at Lafayette Park were limited to a 10:00 pm deadline. The Peace Vigil was later moved across the street and remained on the red bricked sidewalk, facing the North Portico of the White House. It may continue as long as it is staffed and no activist sleeps on watch.
Mr. Melaku-Bello told me he is a resident of Washington DC, that he studied Political Science at UCLA, and that he once worked with a former King of Ethiopia. More specifically, according to the Daily Nation, Melaku-Bello claims to have “work[ed] for Amha Selassie, the exiled son of late Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie.
“In the course of that work, which involved preparing human rights reports, Melaku-Bello recounts being wounded by a landmine blast in Ramallah in 1987, leaving him in a wheelchair,” the Daily Nation added.
He was generous enough to grant me an interview.
When asked if he could change one thing, Melaku-Bello told me it would be the Military Industrial Complex budget, which he says has “misplaced $7 trillion” and contributes to our astronomical federal debt. Does Melaku-Bello think President Trump should be impeached? “Absolutely,” he told me.
Yes, the president of the United States can, legally, be indicted.
I made that declaration in front the Capitol Building- home to the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Not only did I say the President could be indicted. I added that he should be indicted.
In response to my video, some of my Facebook “friends” showered me with insults. They say I have “Trump Derangement Syndrome” and shouldn’t discuss the law because I didn’t get a degree in law (meanwhile they never address the actual arguments I make, which those with just a little background in philosophy would know amounts to the ad hominem fallacy).
Despite the fact that my critics did not refute or even address my arguments, I wanted to delve into the proof that indeed the president can be indicted.
In my latest episode of PUBLIC COMMENT LIVE I discussed a letter addressed to former Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr.
This letter was written by Law Professor Ronald D. Rotunda thoroughly citing remarks made by our Founding Fathers, constitutional law, Supreme Court decisions, and other legal experts demonstrating the “Indictability of the President.”
Yesterday twelve former senior intelligence officials issued a joint statementsaying that President Trump’s removal of former Director of the CIA John Brennan’s security clearances has “everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech.”
The officials added, “We have never before seen the approval or removal of security clearances used as a political tool, as was done in this case.” They described the president’s actions as “inappropriate and deeply regrettable.”
any benefits that senior officials might glean from consultations with Mr. Brennan are now outweighed by the risks posed by his erratic conduct and behavior [which] has tested and far exceeded the limits of any professional courtesy that may have been due to him.
The president added that “Mr. Brennan has a history that calls into question his objectivity and credibility.” (Coming from a president who, according to the Washington Post, “has made 3,001 false or misleading claims” as of last May, it is quite ironic that he should question any one else’s “objectivity and credibility.”)
One example the president gives of Brennan’s questionable actions is the occasion when Brennan
denied to congress that CIA officials under his supervision had improperly accessed the computer files of congressional staffers [when in fact] The CIA’s Inspector General [IG], however, contradicted Mr. Brennan directly, concluding unequivocally that agency officials had indeed improperly accessed staffer’s files.
Trump’s claim however is misleading. A subsequent report by a CIA Accountability Review Board concluded that the CIA actions were not illegal and did not breech any agreement made between the Senate and the CIA. Is President Trump familiar with that report? Or is he true to form and simply lying?
It is also worth noting that Brennan apologized for his contribution to adding confusion over the matter. As McClatchy reported: “[Senator] Feinstein called Brennan’s apology and his decision to submit [to the IG] findings to the accountability board “positive first steps.”
In any event, if President Trump thought Brennan’s supposed shortcomings with respect to the C.I.A.’s access of Senate computer files merited removing Brennan’s security clearance one has to wonder why it is only in the midst of recent criticism from Brennan that Trump has suddenly expressed this judgement.
President Trump also said in his statement statement
Mr. Brennan told congress that the intelligence community did not make use of the so-called Steele Dossier in an assessment regarding the 2016 election, an assertion contradicted by at least two other senior officials in the intelligence community and all of the facts.
The New York Times has reported — and Republicans who hold the majority vote on the House Intelligence Committee have concluded — that the [Russia] investigation began in July 2016 and was prompted by the actions of George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign.
Mr. Papadopoulos told an Australian diplomat in May 2016 that Russia had political ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate. Australian officials then alerted their American counterparts of the conversation with Mr. Papadopoulos.
The information provided by Mr. Steele did not reach F.B.I. officials who were investigating Mr. Trump’s campaign until mid-September of 2016, The Times reported in May.
Next, President Trump claims:
Mr. Brennan has recently leveraged his status as a former high-ranking official with access to highly sensitive information to make a series of unfounded and outrageous allegations- wild outburst on the internet and television- about this Administration.
He has made no reference to which “highly sensitive information” Mr. Brennan revealed to the public.
President Trump’s statement furthermore describes Brennan’s public statements as“increasingly frenzied commentary,” attacking Brennan’s state of mind.
What does appear indeed frenzied is the approach president Trump has taken to remove Brennan’s security clearance.
The standard revocation process includes memos that outline why a clearance is being withdrawn, and would allow the former official to offer a defense or a rebuttal. In Mr. Brennan’s case, the C.I.A. did no such review of his behavior or comments.
Not only is the president contradicting security clearance removal precedent, but he made it even more emphatic in a Wall Street Journal interview that he was essentially punishing Brennan for his involvement in the Russia investigation, implying that anyone having anything to do with the investigation could theoretically be victim of Trump’s vindictive actions.
President Trump reflected on Brennan and the Russia investigation, saying to the Wall Street Journal, “I call it the rigged witch hunt, [it] is a sham. And these people led it! So I think it’s something that had to be done.”
According to the President then, because he thinks the Russia investigation is a “rigged witch hunt” and “a sham” that Brennan participated in, Brennan should have his security clearances removed.
Considering only Brennan’s loss of security clearance, this might seem only to be an obstruction of justice and an abuse of power, but in light of there events of this week, it is clear that this is a piece of a broader attack on the first amendment- freedom of speech and of the press, specifically.
Recall the fact that Trump described Brennan’s public statements as “increasingly frenzied commentary”- referring most likely to Brennan’s claim that Trump’s deference to autocratic Russian President Vladimir Putin, and refusal to acknowledge the unanimous findings of the U.S. intelligence community, is treasonous.
Trump cited this as part of his rationale for stripping Brennan of his security clearance but Brennan is permitted by the First Amendment to say whatever he wants about the president (so long as he does not reveal confidential information).
The Chicago Tribune reported today that former Trump aid Omarosa Manigault Newman is being attacked for her criticism of the President. Omarosa has released tapes embarassing to the president, such as a conversation between Omarosa and Lara Trump where Trump tries to silence Omarosa with hush money upon being fired by President Trump’s chief of Staff, John Kelley. She’s also written a tell-all book “Unhinged” making claims that there is a tape of the President saying the N word, among other claims.
Omarosa Manigault Newman has a stash of video, emails, text messages and other documentation supporting the claims in her tell-all book about her time in the Trump White House, a person with direct knowledge of the records told The Associated Press Friday.
President Trump this week embarrassed himself and incited tremendous outcry when earlier this week he referred to Omarosa as a “dog,” giving the public one more example of how Trump deals not in reason or evidence based criticism of his own critics, but rather, resorts to dehumanizing insults.
Trump campaign litigation counsel Charles Harder…sent a letter to Simon & Schuster executives threatening that the book’s publication would subject the company to liability for ‘substantial monetary damages and punitive damages.’
In the letter, according to the Chicago Tribune:
Harder said that excerpts of the book ‘contain confidential information and disparaging statements’ and that the Trump campaign’s potential claims against the publisher include tortious interference and inducement of Manigault Newman to breach her NDA [Nondisclosure agreement] with the campaign.
‘Now that you are aware of these contractual provisions, and Ms. Manigault-Newman’s breaches thereof, the Company will have claims against you, and all persons working in concert with you, should you proceed with publishing and selling the Book,’ Harder said, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The [Washington] Post.
The Chicago Tribune reports that Simon & Schuster outside counsel Elizabeth McNamara said Harder [the Trump campaign lawyer]
did not identify any particular excerpts as false, and the Trump campaign ‘does not have a viable legal claim merely because unspecified truthful statements in the Book may embarrass the President or his associates.’
In other words, Omarosa is being harassed- in fact, Trump reportedly wants Omarosa arrested – and he is attempting to prevent her from speaking, because her book makes the President look bad to the public.
While Simon & Schuster has said it will not stop publishing the book, the fact is the President of the United States swears an oath to uphold the constitution and by attempting to prevent Omarosa for exercising her first amendment right he is in direct violation of the constitution. He is not doing what he has sworn to do.
In a perfect world with lawmakers on both sides committed to upholding the Constitution, there would be bipartisan agreement on the need to begin impeachment hearings. there are more than enough grounds to commence hearings based on what we know to date and on Trump’s public conduct, including abuse of his authority over security clearances, his other assaults on the First Amendment, his blatant attempts to interfere with the Russia investigation….his drafting of a phony cover story for the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, his false public denial about payment of hush money to Stormy Daniels, etc.
It need not be “a perfect world” however, for Congress to do what it ought to do. It just needs to be a slightly more honest world- a world with a touch more integrity.
Further, perhaps if enough Americans make it blatantly clear to congress that they will not win re-election if they fail to impeach, congress will act. Trump’s base may be hard to crack but it’s not invincible and not immune to a tripping point that sways supporters from his hypnotic grasp.
People are speaking out in increasing numbers.
These recent first amendment attacks are happening the same week that hundreds of newspaper editorial boards condemn the president’s constant attack on the press,- calling the press “the enemy of the people” for example- after the Boston Globe suggested they all do so.
Showing how visceral the President’s attacks on the press are,Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell reminds us:
When unhappy with Post coverage in particular, Trump has threatened government action against Amazon in an apparent attempt to financially punish its chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, who independently owns the paper.
Journalists and media owners are hardly the only ones whose job or financial security Trump has targeted from his bully pulpit. He called for the firing of National Football League players who kneel in protests during the national anthem. NFL owners, in a secretly recorded meeting in October, expressed concern about the president’s impact on their bottom line.
The president has been so reckless in his attacks that his removal of Brennan’s security clearances has awakened the anger of a retired Navy Admiral who oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden,William H. McRaven. McRaven wrote: “I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearances as well, so I can add my name to the men and women who have spoken up against your presidency.”
McRaven says of Trump: “Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation.”
It is interesting that McRaven notes Trump’s “McCarthy-era tactics” because when McCarthy enraged people in the military during his “witch hunt” for attacking the first amendment it ended his political career and was met with a historical response. McCarthy was told:
“Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?”
When will congress tell Trump “You have done enough” and impeach him? Or, are there too many among us willing to sacrifice our First Amendment rights?
[My response, my story, my fundamental principles, for the record, part 1 of 2]
[My response, my story, my fundamental principles, for the record, part 2 of 2]
I pay attention to my critics because I value transparency, accountability, and intellectual discussion about challenging issues, especially in the realm of politics because policies directly affect us.
Policies affect whether we are at war or at peace. Policies impact matters of poverty and wealth. Policies determine whether or not our civil rights are protected. They influence the harmony or discord in a diverse, cosmopolitan, pluralistic, democratic society. They can cause great anxiety or great relief. If we are going to talk about policies we should do so with great care.
When one of my critics- Duke Manning, a student of philosophy at Temple University, who is also a bassist- wrote a six paragraph complaint describing his belief that I do not discuss politics with great care, tremendous thought, and synthesis and logical analysis of research, I took issue to it because it could not be further from the truth. You might even note the irony that I spent over three hours articulating my refutation to his comparatively short Facebook comment.
Here is his critique:
While Mr. Manning’s critique is inaccurate I must thank him for one thing because it is fair to say that if I am going to advocate staunchly for a set of policies it would be beneficial to all who consider my commentaries on the matter if I were to take extra efforts to clarify with greater intensity, why I think what I think.
With respect to my thinking, Manning suggested to me that I “seem to jump in head first with a thought [I] have without really doing enough research and considering how certain” I am. He adds that I “tend to be the kind of person who gets an idea and runs with it without really investigating it deeply or without considering that you are wrong.”
He cites the fact that in 2013, when I was a member of the Libertarian Party (which I am no longer. Now I am a registered Democrat) and running for the New Jersey Assembly, I advocated establishing a voting poll tax.
He notes that he insisted to me that it was a bad idea and that I disagreed with him. (I didn’t disagree for long however. Within months I came to realize the utter absurdity and injustice of such a policy.) This to him, proves that my “views are very unrefined”and causes him to “worry that [I] will eventually promote an idea that might harm [my] appearance.”
While it is true that Manning’s description of my intellectual shortcomings in 2013 are accurate, he fails to account for the fact that over the last half of a decade I have first of all disavowed a plethora of false assumptions I used to hold.
Secondly he fails to note that my commentaries are in fact heavily sourced and cite experts with a diversity of perspectives. In fact, in his assault on my intellectual integrity he does not cite a single published commentary of mine.
Instead he relies on statements I made half a decade ago which I in fact disavowed within months of having made those statements as proof of my intellectual laziness and “very unrefined views” today.
I want to provide you with my refutation of Manning’s characterization and while doing so explain to you in the form of an extemporaneous statement, the story of political evolution, and the fundamental concepts that underline my social democratic political philosophy.
It is my hope that first of all, this will serve as proof that I value and contemplate feedback even when it is negative, even when it is wrong. Secondly, I hope that you will find me transparent- that it does not seem as if my point of view came to me hastily out of some vacuum. Finally, I hope that by having done this you have gotten to know me better.
“You can’t constitutionally impeach a president for these reasons. Please stop,” my Facebook friend said to me while I was video streaming live on Facebook discussing a plethora of grounds for impeaching President Donald Trump.
Another Facebook friend chimed in, saying “You MUST have a crime” to impeach the president.
In fact, they are both wrong says centuries of U.S. impeachment proceedings.
In order to substantiate my case I did some further research. Specifically, I read a Newsweek article written by the Vice President of the Cato Institute (the Libertarian Think Tank), Gene Healy, and I read a report made for congress entitled Impeachment and Removal written by legislative attorneys Jared P. Cole and Todd Garvey. Both of these sources explain how, throughout the course of U.S. history, noncriminal behavior- such as, for example, showing up to work drunk, all the time- have served as grounds for impeachment of U.S. officials. Violating the public trust is a popular standard for impeachment according to the report for congress.
My critic’s response to my proof that he is incorrect was: “Jesus…give it up..”
That, of course, I will not do as my record on this blog clearly suggests.
My entire analysis can be seen in the video above. It is my first official episode of “Public Comment Live” (the first time I I did a Facebook live-streamed video blog with that official title).
Fire and replace the “absentee congressman” and anti-women, anti-LGBT Republican Chris Smith! Democratic candidate Josh Welle deserves the privilege of serving New Jersey’s fourth congressional district instead. The district’s voters should vote for him, and Americans throughout the country should donate to his campaign.
(“Absentee congressman”: by the way, that’s Welle’s words for the record, not mine.).
At the U.S.- Russia Summit Press Conference in Helsinki Associated Press reporter Jonathan Lemire asked President Trump: “would you denounce what happened in 2016 [i.e., the Russian interference in the election] and would you warn [Russian president Vladimir Putin] to never do it again?”
Trump would not denounce it, would not warn Putin never to do it again, and in fact said that Putin’s denials were “strong and powerful” while the U.S. intelligence community’s findings were not “strong and powerful.”
Trump also said he didn’t “see any reason why” Russia would interfere in our elections. (The fact that we have been sanctioning them for things like violating international law when they annexed Crimea, et cetera, seems to escape the consciousness of the president)
In response to Trump’s open treason and groveling before Putin, Welle said:
“As a post-9/11 veteran and an everyday citizen, I was appalled by the President’s actions in the press conference with Russian President Putin in Helsinki. For a sitting U.S. President to side with an authoritarian Russian leader while undermining the integrity of America’s intelligence community is a threat to national security and an insult to the men and women who serve and protect this country.”
Responding also to Trump’s claim that the European Union is “a foe, ” Welle said:
“In choosing to support Putin over our NATO allies, Trump failed in his duties as Commander-in-Chief and reinforces to the American electorate that he lacks the diplomatic skills necessary to lead during times of great uncertainty.”
In contrast, Representative Chris Smith refused to criticize the president in the least. (Anyone who is dogmatically uncritical in the name of being “a team player” for their political party proves they lack basic ethical standards and the intellectual capacity necessary for the kind of judgement a lawmaker should have).
Smith did not utter a single word acknowledging President Trump’s deference to Putin (or his sycophancy towards him) nor did he demonstrate an awareness of Trump’s blatantly obvious undermining of U.S. intelligence. In fact, Chris Smith acted as if President Trump was not even at the summit, saying:
“Today’s summit broached crucial issues affecting human rights in many countries, election meddling, the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, and terrorism, among other serious concerns.”
After it took a day for President Trump to try and play the American people for idiots, and tell us all that actually, he misspoke, Chris Smith took part in Trump’s deceit, saying
“Today, President Trump stated the obvious—we know that Russia meddled in the election. He said further that he has ‘full faith and support’ in the conclusion reached by the intelligence agencies in their investigation. This clarification is welcomed and, frankly, expected.”
Smith says this despite the president’s numerous walk-backs calling the entire Russia investigation “a witch-hunt” and “a hoax.” Smith has no comment on that, proving he is either incompetent or unethical.
But there is more at stake than a treasonous president doing the bidding of an anti-Democratic Russian President and flouting the law. The preservation of basic civil rights are under constant attack so long as Chris Smith remains in congress.
Thankfully, Josh Welle won’t have it.
Welle believes women should not be slaves to theocrats and fetuses- he believes women have the right to choose if they want an abortion or not. Welle says: “A woman should be able to make her own healthcare choices” and that he “Support[s] women’s reproductive rights and their access to safe and affordable care including contraception, preventive care and funding for Planned Parenthood.”
Chris Smith does not believe that. He believes that rape victims should not be allowed to have abortions.
Consider Smith’s attempt to actually change the legal definition of rape as part of his Pro-Choice agenda.
“For years, federal laws restricting the use of government funds to pay for abortions have included exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. (Another exemption covers pregnancies that could endanger the life of the woman.)”
Chris Smith took issue to that and introduced legislation that would redefine “rape” and thereby limit the number of rape victims who can receive government funded abortions.
Mother Jones reported:
“types of rapes that would no longer be covered by the exemption include rapes in which the woman was drugged or given excessive amounts of alcohol, rapes of women with limited mental capacity, and many date rapes.”
Mother Jones added: “As for the incest exception, the bill would only allow federally funded abortions if the woman is under 18.”
Chris Smith’s attacks on reproductive rights spans decades, with relentless attempts to pass a constitutional amendment banning abortion.
He also infamously denigrated the LGBT community when he said “I am a strong believer in traditional marriage and do not construe homosexual rights as human rights.” It’s clear that Chris Smith is divisive- that he thinks the 14th amendment of the constitution, which declares all Americans equal under the law- is null and void. Smith wants utterly unconstitutional control our sex lives.
Welle, on the other hand, supports LGBT rights. He says “No American should be treated differently because of who they love. I support full federal equality for LGBT Americans because gay rights are human rights.”
A number of Smith’s constituents are disgusted by his bigoted policies and rhetoric but Smith doesn’t have the nerve to listen to their appeals to change his mind.
He hasn’t granted his constituents a town hall in a quarter of a century. He is terrified of facing their criticism. He doesn’t even have the courage to face his opponent, Welle, in a debate. He doesn’t even live in the state he is supposed to “represent.” As is widely reported, he lives in Virginia, not New Jersey.
Chris Smith is an absolute coward, afraid of the outrage his decades of bigotry have incited.
Josh Welle, a Veteran who has served in Afghanistan and Iraq has proven he does have courage.
Residents of New Jersey’s fourth congressional district deserve a Representative who is not afraid to condemn the president’s treasonous, criminal, unethical behavior, not afraid to face the people he wants to serve, and not afraid to stand up for them, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. And if Americans throughout the country donate to this campaign it will also help in the Democratic effort to reclaim the House of Representatives.
“We have a cancer within-close to the presidency, that’s growing. It’s growing daily. It’s compounding. It grows geometrically now, because it compounds itself.”
-John Dean, on tape discussing Watergate with President Nixon
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily…”
-Donald Trump, speaking at a press conference the day Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller III alleges, in an indictment, that Russian election related hacking began
“What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening”
–Donald Trump speaking at a rally
Please, let’s at least pause and reflect because something is wrong
It upsets me, and it nauseates me as real has come to seem surreal when reflecting on the current political conditions in America, yet alas, I must join with my fellow patriots in calling out our President, Donald Trump, for actively committing treason (not to mention a list of other crimes, such as obstruction of justice, and violation of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, and its first and 14th amendments). I must also join in the patriotic and just choir of lament over Congress’s refusal to protect America from the president’s attack on our national security operations (including the solidarity of our alliances), our democratic process, trust in the operation of our government as a whole, trust in the free press, and his attack on objective reality more fundamentally. To protect us from the President’s utter treason- his mysteriously dogmatic policy of doing the bidding of Russian President Vladimir Putin- congress should remove President Trump from office immediately. As of the moment I put these words on the record unfortunately Congress is yet to act as they ought to. In the meantime then, we, the people, will have to be the ones to act, and do so by inundating congress with demands to remove the president from office immediately.
I concede that my rhetoric could arguably be interpreted as perhaps unacceptably over-dramatic however I hope you might at least grant me this: when president Trump verbally attacks our closest allies in the European Union, calling them “a foe,” and yet lavishes Russian president Vladimir Putin with praise, calling his denials of interference in our 2016 presidential election “strong and powerful”- much more so, apparently, in his estimation, than the unanimous findings of the U.S. intelligence community- such an attitude does appear quite upside down and contrary to what most of the world expected from a United States president (note that even a barrage of Fox News commentators expressed disgust with President Trump over this matter); this certainly at least merits pause and reflection.
I understand that some critics, of course, disagree with this perspective. Maybe you are one of those critics who remains passionately loyal to Trump but I hope at least you are willing entertain the Devil’s advocate nonetheless, if only to double check your convictions. Other critics reading this may share my basic concerns yet find my overall interpretation of recent events as presumptuous, since, for example, Robert Mueller III’s investigation into Trump’s possible ties with Russian interference in our 2016 elections has not yet concluded. In other words, we do not yet know all the facts. That is true but we do have some facts, and moreover we have enough direct evidence, including the President’s own behavior and words on live television to prove that his behavior and catastrophically poor judgement are not befitting of a president. Indeed, some of Trump’s actions are blatantly illegal. Take his violation of the emoluments clause for example, which he is currently being sued for in a civil case. Evidence of President Trump’s impeachable offenses exist in troves. Indeed, the case against him is so complex and multifaceted that History Professor Allan J. Lichtman wrote an entire book – The Case For Impeachment- outlining and explaining the case as he sees it.
In light of the immense complexity surrounding President Trump’s disturbing behavior and the special investigation into it- specifically his ties to the Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, but also his blatant obstruction of justice, his attacks on the first amendment, his cruel treatment of children at U.S.-Mexican border (he has torn babies from their parents who were merely seeking asylum), questions about campaign finance laws, violations of the emoluments clause and other financial activities- I want to hone in specifically on president Trump’s treasonous behavior throughout what NBC News anchor Katy Tur calls the president’s “worst week ever,” explain why it is indeed “treason,” why it is dangerous, and why therefore, congress must impeach President Trump and remove him from office immediately. Every U.S. citizen should be pressuring congress to do so. Even more specifically, I will focus on the frightening implications of Trump “publicly sid[ing[ with Russia over his own intelligence community” -to borrow a phrase from Katy Tur- thereby humiliating them in front of the world and of the fact that he publically considered handing over U.S. citizens to Russian President Vladimir Putin for interrogations.
I shall begin with a few of the week’s most tumultuous events and historically charged comments as I believe it will set the stage, so to speak.
Trump believes Putin, not the entire U.S. intelligence community
On Monday, July 16, 2018, there was a U.S.-Russia Summit and then a Press Conference in Helsinki, Finland. “We carefully analyzed the current status, the present and the future of the Russia-United States relationship — key issues of the global agenda,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin, describing the nature of the summit. President Trump offers a similar characterization, saying he and Putin discussed “a wide range of critical issues for both of our countries. We had direct, open, deeply productive dialogue.”
At the press conference following the secret conversation between Trump and Putin, Associated Press reporter Jonathan Lemire said to President Trump:
“Just now President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every US intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did.
“My first question for you, sir, is who do you believe? My second question is would you now with the whole world watching tell President Putin — would you denounce what happened in 2016 and would you warn him to never do it again?”
President Trump said in response: “My people came to me, [Director of National Intelligence] Dan Coats came to me and some others and said they think it’s Russia.
“I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
President Trump did not at all “denounce what happened in 2016” and he did not “warn [Putin] to never do it again,” – to never interfere in our elections again (Neufeld). Trump openly and with the whole world watching, espoused his belief in Putin over the entire United States intelligence community (including the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, who Trump himself appointed), saying: “I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that president Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.” (Neufeld; emphasis mine). Trump did not say that our intelligence community has “strong and powerful” evidence explicitly articulated in Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller III’s indictment of 12 Russians accused of participating in the meddling of the 2016 election- evidence which clearly Mueller, his staff, and a grand jury all found compelling and convincing enough to proclaim the conduct of those 12 Russians so suspicious that they should face a court of law (although we can be confident that Putin will not extradite them). Trump literally and quite uncritically (so sadly true to his form) deferred to the unsubstantiated claims of a Russian dictator whose nefarious anti-American activities include ordering “Russia’s military intelligence agency [to] infiltrate the control rooms of power plants across the United States [which] could enable it to take control of parts of the grid by remote control.” (What happens to sick hospital patients dependent on power to sustain their lives if Russia shuts down the wrong power plants? That would be one concern among many. Concerns President Trump clearly does not share with rational Americans.)
Outrage & Orwellian Smoke and Mirrors!
Americans responded in outrage over this open display of pure treason. That day, former Central Intelligence Agency Director, John O. Brennan tweeted: “Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to and exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treason. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???” Conservative columnist for the Washington Post, George Will, wrote in his July 17 article that “collusion with Russia is hiding in plain sight” and called President Trump a “sad, embarrassing wreck of a man.” One of Trump’s most ardent supporters, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich tweeted: “President Trump must clarify his statements in Helsinki on our intelligence system and Putin. It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected – immediately.”
Even those highest up in Trump’s chain of command found the situation to be something they needed to inject themselves into. NBC reported that: “Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo had a private conversation with Trump to urge him to make clarifications on his comments from the news conference in Helsinki.” And so, he did, one might argue, attempt to make clarifications, though really what he did was play word games and treat we, the American people, as if we are incapable of seeing through his smoke and mirrors. President Trump said:
I thought that I made myself very clear by having just reviewed the transcript [of the Helsinki Press Conference]. Now, I have to say, I came back, and I said, “What is going on? What’s the big deal?” So I got a transcript. I reviewed it. I actually went out and reviewed a clip of an answer that I gave, and I realized that there is need for some clarification.
It should have been obvious — I thought it would be obvious — but I would like to clarify, just in case it wasn’t. In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word “would” instead of “wouldn’t.” The sentence should have been: I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t — or why it wouldn’t be Russia. So just to repeat it, I said the word “would” instead of “wouldn’t.” And the sentence should have been — and I thought it would be maybe a little bit unclear on the transcript or unclear on the actual video — the sentence should have been: I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia. Sort of a double negative. So you can put that in, and I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself.
People are not convinced by Trump’s claim that he meant “wouldn’t” and not “would.” As NBC reported: “Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. accused Trump of trying to ‘squirm away’ from his comments in Helsinki. ‘President Trump tried to squirm away from what he said yesterday. It’s 24 hours too late and in the wrong place,’ Schumer said” (Clark). NBC further reports, “Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he wasn’t buying it. ‘I don’t accept the president’s comments today,’ Warner said. “If he wanted to make those comments, he should have had the strength to make them in front of Vladimir Putin” (Clark).
Trump supporters like Newt Gingrich however thought Trump fixed the problem. He tweeted:
President Trump did right thing today in clarifying his comments in helsinki-reiterating his respect for and support of Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and the intelligence community. President responded quickly and clearly once he realized he had used wrong language.
Although Trump sort of changed a few of his Russia talking points, he injects a totally unsubstantiated, modifying contradiction which amounts to nothing more than an obfuscation which on the surface could only appease those who think America’s official languages should be Orwellian FoxNewsspeak, BreitbartNewspeak, and Doublethink. Trump said: “I accept our American intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place, could be other people also” (emphasis mine). Since the American intelligence community’s conclusion is not that interference in our 2016 election “could be other people also” it is blatantly obvious that Trump in fact is merely adding to the list of 3,000 plus “false or misleading claims” he has already told to the American people. Beyond the fact that he contradicts himself he also provides no source or rationale as to how he knows or even why he suspects it “could be other people also.” He is merely trying to confuse vulnerable minds and convince them to submit dogmatically to his invented, fake reality. “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening,” Trump tells the American people, implying that only what he says is happening is indeed happening. (That is why all news media content that contradicts his claims are deemed “fake news,” and why reporters who ask questions about the president [questions which his Press Secretary Sara Huckabee Sanders deems “inappropriate” are banned from the White House, and why Trump threatened to strip security clearances former intelligence officers who criticize him in ways which Press Secretary Sanders calls “inappropriate.” Attacks on the first amendment, abuse of power, and desperate attempts at mind control- that is “what’s happening.”)
That’s how Senator Jeff Flake (AZ-R) perceives it also, saying we witnessed “an Orwellian moment” and that President Trump is “wag[ing] war on objective reality.” Senator Flake did not hold back and stop there. He clearly established an implied grounds for Trump’s impeachment when he spoke on the Senate floor three days later. Flake said: “An American president was invited by a reporter to denounce Russian attacks on our elections and in doing so defend the country he was elected to lead.” Flake addressed “the findings of our intelligence community regarding the Russian aggression” which Trump rejects and said “To reject these findings and to reject the excruciating specific indictment against…Russian operatives in defense to the world of a K.G.B. Apparatchik is an act of will on the part of the president.” He characterized Trump’s behavior as “giving aid and comfort to an enemy of democracy,” citing the exact constitutional definition of treason, which can be found in Section 3. Clause 1 which says in full:
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open court.
It does need to be noted that unfortunately not every Republican shares Senator Flake’s perspective. The view which contrasts Senator Flake’s most strikingly is that of Senator Rand Paul. Senator Paul alleges that “Trump Derangement Syndrome has finally come to the Senate” and he condemns what he perceives to be a widespread “hatred for the president” and says it is “so intense that partisans would rather risk war than give diplomacy a chance.” Paul seems to confuse issues by equating widespread outrage over Trump’s refusal to acknowledge U.S. intelligence conclusions of Russian meddling (and instead take Putin’s word for it that they didn’t do it) and his refusal to strongly condemn them for it with openness to talk. One might speculate that Senator Paul either isn’t thinking clearly or is himself a “partisan” who would rather defend the president’s behavior than acknowledge the troubling contradictions that tarnish Trump’s credibility on this matter.
Sen. Paul was especially infuriated over allegations that Trump is a treasonist. “For goodness sakes, we have the former head of the CIA John Brennan gallivanting across TV now being paid for his ‘opinion,’ to call the president treasonous. This has got to stop. This is crazy hatred of the president. This is crazy partisanship that is driving this,” Senator Paul said (Senate Session). (That Rand Paul of all people, once known widely for his libertarianism and his constitutionalism suddenly seems to have a problem with Brennan’s exercise of his first amendment rights is baffling and I cannot help but find it strangely suspicious. Something seems to have deeply corrupted Senator Paul but that is another conversation for another time.)
“This seems not treated with the urgency required.”
“The entire country should be aware of this. If Putin can single out @mcfaul, he can single out anyone.”
As if President Trump’s “submissive and deferential” attitude and actions towards Putin (to cite Senator Bob Corker’s [R-Tenn.] characterization at the beginning of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee [which he chairs] hearing on the U.S. summits with North Korea and Russia) weren’t a great enough shock to the nation, President Trump sent Americans into even more alarm during yet another disaster of a press conference. It was the Wednesday following the Monday Helsinki incident. As the Washington Post reports:
“Russian authorities yesterday named several Americans who they want to question, who they claim were involved in Bill Browder’s quote-unquote ‘crimes’ in their terms [Browder is accused of committing crimes in Russia but they are widely disputed], including former ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul,” the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman said. “Does President Trump support that idea? Is he open to having U.S. officials questioned by Russia?”
“The president’s going to meet with his team and we’ll let you know when we have an announcement on that,” Sanders replied.
Putin wanted the U.S. government to allow his government to interrogate Browder and other U.S. citizens including former ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul and this infuriated most vocal Americans. Washington Post journalist Samantha Schmidt writes:
“The willingness of the White House to contemplate handing over a former U.S. ambassador for interrogation by the Kremlin drew ire and astonishment from current and former U.S. officials. Such a proposition is unheard of. So is the notion that the president may think he has the legal authority to turn anyone over to a foreign power on his own.”
Among the most prominent of voices opposing this terrifying notion was acting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “That’s not going to happen. The administration is not going to send, force Americans to travel to Russia to be interrogated by Vladimir Putin and his team,” Pomepo told the Christian Broadcasting Network. Although Pompeo thankfully says it’s “not going to happen,” where’s his moral compass and characterization; where is his pronouncement of the bigger meaning of the fact that President Trump actually considered the idea that certain Americans should have to be forced to answer questions asked by a dictator who rigs elections, annexes sovereign territory, and has his critics imprisoned or murdered? The former Secretary of State John Kerry, who served under President Obama was able to offer more clarity: he characterized the notion as “dangerous.” Representative Eric Swalwell (D-Calif) tweeted this: “Take this to the bank, @realDonaldTrump: you turn over former U.S. Ambassador @McFaul to Putin, you can count on me and millions others to swiftly make you an ex-president.”
One of the most sobering and crucial reactions for Americans to heed (if not the most) is seen in a Twitter exchange between a professor at the U.S. Naval War College and the Harvard Extension School- Tom Nichols- and attorney Ben Campo. The exchange is as follows:
Ben Campo: Am I overreacting when I think that the mere consideration
of this request by the White House is an abdication of their duties and a
very dangerous precedent by the administration? This seems not
treated with the urgency required. [emphasis mine]
Tim Nichols: No. You are not overreacting. The entire country
should be aware of this. If Putin can single out @mcfaul, he
can single out anyone. The president’s job is to protect us, not to
even * consider * handing any of us over to an enemy government.
There is currently, among us Americans, a debate as to whether Trump’s actions- undermining our intelligence community and considering subjecting American citizens to the harassment of Vladimir Putin- indeed qualify as “treason.” To begin with, what is the definition of treason? Here it should be noted that there is the rhetorical or general definition of treason (not applicable to the law, but used in informal conversation) and then there is the legal definition. It should also be noted that in response to Trump’s behavior and comments at the Helsinki press conference, “treason” was the top searched word on the Merriam-Webster Dictionary website, as the site tweeted. This suggests it is possible that a massive plethora of Americans thought they may have witnessed treason committed before there very eyes and sought check whether they might be right. The second, third, and fourth most searched words were: “abase, traitor, collusion” demonstrating further evidence that at the very least, a compelling number of Americans found Trump’s behavior suspicious and concerning.
According to the Oxford Dictionary “treason” is defined as “The crime of betraying one’s country, especially by attempting to kill or overthrow the sovereign or government” or “The action of betraying someone or something.” But let us consult more than one dictionary as more than one perspective should always be considered. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary “treason” is defined as:
1 : the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign’s family
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.
The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted (emphasis mine).
“Russia and the United States are on the opposite sides of various armed confrontations in Syria”
Politifact, widely known for scrutinizing controversial claims, sides with a number of legal experts that it cites, claiming in an article that “Trump’s actions have not met the strict constitutional definition” of treason. The popular rationale which Politifact’s experts adhere to is the interpretation that treason requires that the U.S. be in an official state of war, which the experts say we are not. (It should be noted that Politifact did not oppose the notion that Trump is a “traitor.” Politifact is arguing based on legal semantics) The author of the Politfact article cites legal historian at Fordham Law School, Jed Shugerman, who says: “We are not at war with Russia under any fair understanding of the word.” Jacobson then paraphrases: “Shugerman added that even a notion like ‘cyberwar’ with Russia is a metaphor for war rather than an actual deadly conflict-unless that cyberwar were to escalate to, say, hacking into nuclear power plants with the intent of exploding them.” (Here it should be noted that Russia has and is hacking into our power plants.)
University of California-Davis law professor Carlton Larson is also cited in the Politifact article and says “Even if one thought the Russian hacking amounted to an act of war, the U.S. has not treated that hacking as an act of war. So until an actual state of war erupts between the United States and Russia, Russia can’t formally be an enemy for purposes of treason law.”
Conservative commentator Kevin D. Williamson, in article for The Weekly Standard doesn’t even bother to confer with constitutional or dictionary definitions of “treason” and instead cites the concept as it was treated by ancient Romans. Williamson writes:
the law of the Roman republic defined treason in military terms: perduellio consisted of making war on the Roman republic, assisting those making war on the Roman republic, or handing over a Roman citizen to an enemy at war. During the republican period, charges of treason were levied almost exclusively at Romans in military service for actions taken in a military context.
Williamson should refer back Robert Mueller III’s July 13 indictment of 12 Russians interfering in our election and note that Mueller ties election interference to “a military intelligence agency called the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff (“GRU”) (United States of America V. Viktor Borisovich Netyksho et al.; emphasis mine) This is clearly and explicitly a military context.
Still, clearly it is a reasonable trend among legal and intellectual minds contemplating Trump’s actions, to conclude Trump is not guilty of constitutional treason on the grounds that the U.S. and Russia are not at war in any traditional sense of the term. But I contend that the nature of warfare and aggression between nations have evolved, as I believe, is made clear by the fact that according to Mueller, Russia’s attack on our elections was a military operation. Russia is engaged in new forms of aggression which include, not just attempting to subvert our democracy in general, including our intelligence community, and our sovereignty especially as it concerns our foreign policy, and not just waging a misinformation campaign by inundating media with propaganda as part of that subversion, but also attempts to control our power grids which poses a severe threat. As the New York Times reports:
the Department of Homeland Security reported that over the last year, Russia’s military intelligence agency had infiltratedthe control rooms of power plants across the United States. In theory, that could enable it to take control of parts of the grid by remote control (emphasis mine)
If Russia’s cyber attacks should not be called acts of war, how exactly do we categorize Russia’s aggression? Let us briefly delve deeper into legal understandings of war for further clarity. According to 18 U.S. Code S 2331- Definitions (4) (a, b, & c):
(4) the term “act of war” means any act occurring in the course of—
(A) declared war;
(B) armed conflict, whether or not war has been declared, between two or more nations; or
(C) armed conflict between military forces of any origin; (Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute; emphasis mine)
The question ultimately comes down to the phrase “armed conflict.” The 2015 Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) Deskbook [“a collection of teaching outlines, collected, bound, and distributed as a matter of instructional convenience, intended only to introduce students to the law and point them to primary sources of that law”] says “it is a well-settled proposition in international law that the LOAC applies to all spheres of conflict, to include land, sea, air, space, and also cyberspace” (see page 8, footnote 3; emphasis mine). That being said, there exists a point of view that there is no definitive, explicit, legal definition for an official cyber attack, or state of war fought exclusively in cyberspace. As Federal News Radio reported in an article by Scott Maucione last April:
Since cyber became a major domain, what exactly constitutes an attack on the nation and its people remains debatable.
Rep. Dan Donovan (R-N.Y.) wants to change that. Last week he went before the House Armed Services Committee to request a provision be added to the 2019 defense authorization bill that provides a legal definition of cyber warfare.
“Cyber war does not fit within the traditional confines of how we conceive warfare. While we have a cyber command that is tasked with protecting U.S. cyberspace, we do not have a legal definition detailing under what circumstances a cyber attack is considered an act of war. That is why I am requesting an amendment that will require the Pentagon to form a working group to propose a legal definition, report back to Congress and make the findings known to the public,” Donovan said during the April 11 hearing (Lawmakers still looking).
On the other hand , Business Insidercites Jens David Ohlin, a vice dean and professor of law at Cornell Law School, who told reporter Grace Panetta:
even without a formal declaration, there is a case to be made that Russia and the US are indeed at war.
“One argument would be that Russia has engaged in a covert cyber intervention against US interests, including election meddling, that rises to the level of hostilities… However “an even better argument would be that Russia and the United States are on the opposite sides of various armed confrontations in Syria”
… referring to Russia’s backing of the Syrian government while the US backs rebel groups there.”
It is certainly true in that sense that an “armed conflict” exists between our two nations. Let us also consider that Russia has used actual force (hacking and stealing private information and using it for nefarious purposes, even accessing our energy grids, compelling the president [for reasons yet to discovered] to interrupt the coordination and functioning our government by striving to delegitimize and stifle the effectiveness our democratic process, our intelligence community, even our alliances, and to crush dissent in the media by striving to delegitimize all voices in the media critical of Trump and his relationship with Putin ) and that this force has damaged our government as an institution, and threatened our national security.
“Half (49%) of Americans agree with former intelligence officials’ assessments that President Trump acted ‘treasonous’ during the Helsinki summit”
Trump’s open, public and dogmatic deference to Putin (again, with whom we are in armed conflict, and cyber warfare) and not the findings, and credibility of U.S. institutions is by all means treason: a pronouncement that many Americans persist in making.
Recall again, the tweet from former Central Intelligence Agency Director, John O. Brennan: “nothing short of treason.” Recall again, as well, Senator Jeff Flake who described Trump’s behavior as “giving aid and comfort to an enemy of democracy,” again, citing the exact constitutional definition of treason. In a Seattle Times article University of Washington Law Professor Hugh Spitzer writes:
Could Trump’s actions provide a legal basis for impeachment under Article II, Section 4, of the Constitution, which provides for removing the president and other officials “on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors”?
The answer is “yes.” Spitzer says the answer is yes because in his interpretation of events, Trump is “adhering to the enemy, and giving them aid and comfort” (“’Aid and Comfort…’”).
New York Times Columnist Thomas L. Friedman writes:
There is overwhelming evidence that our president, for the first time in our history, is deliberately or through gross negligence or because of his own twisted personality engaged in treasonous behavior — behavior that violates his oath of office to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Friedman’s rationale? Trump “threw his entire intelligence establishment under a bus,” and blamed the United States in part for our poor relationship with Russia (forget the audacity for a second, he does not even bother to suggest why he thinks this, other than to say that the U.S. and Russia “should have had this dialogue a long time ago” which they did if he will remember that both President Bush and Obama have engaged in dialogues with Putin.
Friedman’s colleague at the New York Times, Charles M. Blow says :
“Trump should be directing all resources at his disposal to punish Russia for the attacks and prevent future ones. But he is not…America is under attack and its president absolutely refuses to defend it. Simply put, Trump is a traitor and may well be treasonous”
The front page of the New York Daily News for Tuesday, July 2017 reads: “OPEN TREASON; *Trump Backs Enemy Putin over US intel….”
An astonishing trend is blatantly apparent: A number of law professors, lawmakers, and pundits in the media allege that Trump committed treason. And by no means whatsoever, do they reflect some “fringe” group (such as the Green Party or the Libertarian Party), nor do they reflect mere Democratic partisan anger at Trump. According to an Ipsos poll conducted after the Helsinki incident, “Half (49%) of Americans agree with former intelligence officials’ assessments that President Trump acted ‘treasonous’ during the Helsinki summit.”
President Trump must be impeached
Condemnation however is not enough. The president must be impeached, and treason is an impeachable offence. After impeachment, the Senate must vote to remove Trump from office. He should then be indicted and tried in a court of law. Since lengthy commentaries such as this one can sometimes muddle the bottom line, let us be clear exactly what Trump should be impeached for (at least with respect to his ongoing treason):
Publically proclaiming the illegitimacy of U.S. intelligence (which unanimously agrees Putin coordinated an attack on our elections) and instead deferring to the word of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose unsubstantiated denial in interfering with our elections, Trump calls “strong and powerful,” thereby conspiring with Putin in a misinformation campaign and a campaign to literally destabilize the functioning of our government, and slow down the efficacy of our national security apparatus and coordination.
Willingness to even consider handing over U.S. citizens to Putin (who has a global reputation for having his critics murdered both in Russia and abroad) whereby they would be subjected to harassment, at the very least, and either end up in prison for phony financial crimes or murdered at worst, proving that the president not only has failed in his ability to defend Americans from Russian aggression, but has also demonstrated a disinterest.
Points 1 and 2 clearly prove that Trump is giving “aid and comfort to an enemy” (an enemy we are armed conflict with), and that enemy is Russia.
And let it also be clear that just as perceptions of Trump’s actions are not merely defined as treasonous by radical fringe groups, the same is true of calls for his impeachment. A CNN/SSRS poll found that even prior the Helsinki Crisis “42% of Americans say President Donald Trump should be impeached and removed from office.” While no polls have been released since the event, given the fact that perception of Trump has sunk to lower estimations post Helsinki, it is not at all unreasonable to speculate that public support for impeachment will grow. Most certainly, as I have outlined, by conferring in this commentary, with legal experts, lawmakers, pundits in the media, and the view of nearly half the American population, public support for Trump’s impeachment and removal must grow, or else Putin will have succeeded in indeed hijacking the U.S. presidency and controlling key elements of its foreign policy; he will have succeeded in subverting U.S. sovereignty, which we must never allow, as this nation was founded on the principle that no dictator may take our sovereignty from us.
@JohnBrennan. “Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???” Twitter, 16 Jul 2018, 8:52 a.m.,
@RadioFreeTom. “No. You are not overreacting. The entire country should be aware of this. If Putin can single out @mcfaul, he can single out anyone. The President’s job is to protect us, not to even *consider* handing any of us over to an enemy government.” Twitter, 18 July 2018, 12:32 p.m., https://twitter.com/RadioFreeTom/status/1019666361621143553
Restuccia, Andrew and Nelson, Louis. “Trump’s Putin fire rages on,” Politico, 19 July 2018,
President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin and everyone in their cultish gang are working desperately to control our minds and taking blatantly unconstitutional approaches to achieve those ends. I know! It sounds crazy. I feel like I’m dreaming (and it’s a nightmare) but alas let us review recent attempts on the part of president Trump and his administration to prevent dissent and criticism from reaching the media whereby the public can see at large the president’s treason, incompetence, and severe shortage of ethics.
It is crucial, I believe, for me to submit my evidence with also providing context. First of all, I am far from the only person sounding these alarms. Yesterday Washington Post analyst James Hohmann published an article with a headline reading : “Trump creates an alternative reality, and he wants you to join him there”
Hohmann cites a revealing quote from president Trump: ““what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” I want to repeat those words from the President of the United States one more time so that it can be made perfectly clear that the president wants to encourage people to doubt their most basic perceptions and instead put all their faith in him: the textbook method of establishing totalitarian, dictatorial, Orwellian, authoritarian, despotic, tyrannical power. Textbook, ladies and gentleman. It’s what Putin does. It’s what Kim Jung Un does. It’s what Stalin did. It’s what Hitler did.
“Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth”- so went the Nazi Germany mantra. It was their fundamental principle of propaganda and mind control. There’s a really valuable and elucidating article published by the BBC, written by Tom Stafford on October 26 2016 with the headline “How liars create the ‘illusion of truth’citing multiple psychological research findings that find that “Repetition makes a fact seem more true, regardless of whether it is or not. Understanding this effect can help you avoid falling for propaganda, says psychologist Tom Stafford.”
Let’s make the context a little deeper now. It is important. According to the Toronto Star as of now President Trump has told 2083 lies.
CNN (which Trump calls fake news [pay attention to that]) puts the count at over 3000.
I think the takeaway should be that it is widely accepted among the media and civil society that Trump is a pathological liar. So when a pathological liar says to the American people (most of whom know he is a pathological liar)“what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening” it is blatantly clear that Trump is striving desperately, perhaps by banking on the power of shock and audacity, to pressure vulnerable minds to reject what they perceive and take Trump’s word for everything.
That’s the context. Now let us consider president Trump’s attacks on dissent and his approaches. Yesterday, as the Huffington Post reports, CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins “said she was called to White House deputy chief of staff Bill Shine’s office, where Shine and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders disinvited her from the next press event.
CNN said in a statement that Shine and Huckabee Sanders told Collins her questions were ‘inappropriate.’ I didn’t know that the first amendment listed “inappropriate questions” as one of the exceptions of the free press or free speech. Since it’s not written in the constitution Shine and Sanders will have to let us know where they got that one from.
The Huffington Post adds this:
Collins was serving as the network pool reporter, representing all of the major news networks, for an event with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday. At the end of it, she and other reporters asked Trump a few questions ― as is common for journalists who attend such gatherings. (Trump sometimes answers questions in these situations; other times, he chooses not to.)
According to CNN, Collins asked Trump questions about Michael Cohen, his former attorney who is under federal investigation and whose secret recording of Trump was recently released. She also asked about Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom the Trump administration planned to invite to Washington. D.C., this fall before pushing back the meeting.
Other journalists at the event, including HuffPost’s Ryan Reilly, also asked the president about Cohen’s tapes multiple times as staffers ushered them out of the office.
Worth repeating is this: “Other journalists at the event, including HuffPost’s Ryan Reilly, also asked the president about Cohen’s tapes multiple times as staffers ushered them out of the office.”
Thankfully people on the left and the right in the media community are condemning these actions. Even the president of Fox News had this to say, according to the Huffington Post:
“We stand in strong solidarity with CNN for the right to full access for our journalists as part of a free and unfettered press,”
Now let’s talk about Trump’s desire to revoke security clearances for people in the intelligence community who are critical of him. You’ll notice strikingly similar language in the justification out of the mouth of Press Secretary Sara Huckabee Sanders:
“Making baseless accusations of improper contact with Russia or being influenced by Russia against the president is extremely inappropriate and the fact that people with security clearances are making these baseless charges provides inappropriate legitimacy to accusations with zero evidence,” Sanders told reporters Monday. (That’s from The Hill)
Note that word “inappropriate.” Reporters are asking “inappropriate” questions and critics are expressing “inappropriate” concern and criticism. According to the White House “inappropriate” behavior (not illegal behavior, and not verifiably dangerous behavior, just “inappropriate behavior”) is grounds for harassment, intimidation, and silencing dissent.
Inappropriate behavior: I thought president Trump’s reference to “shithole countries” was inappropriate.’I thought it was inappropriate for the president to boast about how he grabs women by their genitaliawithout their consent. I thought it was inappropriate of the president (treasonous even) for the president to publicly humiliate US intelligence officials in front of the entire world and say Putin (who murders his critics) is the one who has it all correct, it is Putin, Trump said who is “strong and powerful” compared to our invalid intelligence community. I am just putting it out there for what ever it is worth.
I’m not the only one in the world outraged by this by the way. Again, from The Hill:
“It’s never happened before and sets a bad precedent,” said Jim Lewis, a former U.S. official and expert in foreign policy and intelligence at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The New York Times adds to Huckabee’s desperate attempt to find a clever sounding ‘justification’ for a lack of better words, The president is exploring the mechanisms to remove security clearances because they politicized, and in some cases monetized, their public service and security clearances.”
Meanwhile President Trump monetizes his public service (though I think of it more as a disservice) at the Trump hotel in DC where members of foreign governments stay and thereby bribe him in attempts to influence his policy decisions which each dollar they pay for services there.
Lies and hypocrisy and attempt to crush dissent.
Some people argue that the people Trump are targeting don’t need their security clearances anyway. But as the New York Times points writes:
“Former high-ranking officials in defense, intelligence, diplomacy and law enforcement usually maintain their clearances to advise those still in government, former officials said. A clearance also serves a more personally profitable function: helping departing officials get jobs at security contractors or similar firms.”
“Revoking their access to classified information could weaken their ability to work as consultants, lobbyists and advisers in Washington.”
More from the NYT:
“It is intended to punish and intimidate his critics and is shameful,” said Jeffrey H. Smith, a former general counsel for the C.I.A.
Ah, but what is it our president tells us: “what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in utterly rejecting this occultist behavior of a treasonist, criminal, and despotic president and calling congress to demand that they impeach Trump now!
This was a Facebook Live Stream I did on 7/18/18 explaining the facts behind my utter conviction that we need to call our members of congress and demand that they impeach Trump. My friend and co-worker said I should put this on YouTube to reach more people.
Treason, obstruction of justice, violation of the emoluments clause, violation of the first amendment, forcing babies at the border from their parents- the list of President Trump’s criminal and unethical behavior goes on and on!
Perhaps the most frightening of his disgusting and unacceptable behavior was when he suggested handing to Vladimir Putin, former U.S. diplomat Michael McFaul.
I was terrified when I learned that Trump was open to this. I felt a fear unlike any I’d ever felt before- a fear so chilling I consider it somewhat traumatic for this thought passed through my mind: Trump is open to arresting his/Putin’s critics, sending them by force, to the dangerous hands of Putin – a man who kills critics and journalists who make an impact. It’s happening, I thought. It’s the beginning of freedom’s demise in America. Critics will now have to fear for their lives.
As Samantha Schmidt reported in The Washington Post, “Tom Nichols, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College and the Harvard Extension School” said in a Tweet:
The Senate, thank God, unanimously rejected the prospect of this dangerous idea, however, as Nichols tweeted:
“the entire country should be aware of this”
because Trump cares more about how his criminal and unethical relationship with Putin than his own fellow Americans. Add to the pile of evidence the fact that Trump takes Putin’s word over the word of our own intelligence chief, and that makes treason.
I believe Trump should be impeached, removed from office, and arrested immediately! I hope you call your members of congress and demand impeachment now!
-A Critical Examination of President Andrew Jackson’s Economic Policies-
PART 1- INTRODUCTION: IMPORTANT, FUNDAMENTAL, ABSTRACT QUESTIONS ABOUT ECONOMIC RIGHTS
What entitles a person or a country to land? What entitles a state, county, or town to land?
It is an extremely important question because land is a resource and a resource is valuable and thus is worth money, and moreover, land and money are both properties- things people can possess. This only leads to further questions.
Should a person be allowed to claim and keep his or her own property?
If not, why?
If so, under what conditions, and why?
The degree to which a person cannot claim and/or keep his or her own property is the degree to which either rampant slavery, theft or government regulation defines a region’s official or unofficial economic policies, and there are various factors which determine these policies.
Are we talking about a region that does not acknowledge property rights, doesn’t enforce property rights, or doesn’t fairly recognize and enforce property rights?
In the case of the United States, from a historical perspective, we must start with the fact that Thomas Jefferson wrote in our Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, and among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (1776)
Further, in the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution, it is stated that its purpose was to “secure the Blessings of Liberty.”(1787) (Tragically though, we must add that this most sacred right of “Liberty” (so sacred a right that our founders capitalized the “L” in the word) was not fairly secured even slightly until the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteen Amendments (the prohibition of slavery, the guarantee of equal protection under the law, and equal guarantee ((but only among men)) to vote) were passed.
It took until the 20th century for women to have the right to vote, and until the 21st century for homosexuals to have the right to marry. To this very day, the clash of Native American culture and Capitalist American culture remain an issue. It is one of the more tragic truths of the human condition that moral enlightenment of a society is an evolutionary process, no matter how self evident it may be to some, and no matter how self evident some may say it is while not practicing what they preach.
But this is really only half of the complexity of economic policy.
There is the morality of property rights, and then there is the politics of it.
After all, a government cannot operate if it cannot tax the citizens. Sometimes the government is short of money and needs to borrow. Moreover, the government has to decide whether or not there should be a federally mandated universal form or currency of money and whether or not the government should have any hand in the circulation of any given currencies, which means, should it have a central bank, or should banking be an entirely free enterprise?
Money is not just currency exchanged or deposited in a bank. Money is, or buys, resources.
One of the greatest resources on Earth is land.
When European Colonists came to America they faced a tremendous land conflict because there were already Native American Tribes living on the land.
And on the one hand, the Native Americans claimed the land first.
On the other hand, Colonists were introducing, albeit in a very sloppy, totally inconsistent way, an official and capitalistic idea of land ownership, whereby a person purchases land that may be his or her own to do whatever he or she wants with it.
Many Native American tribes did not share that view of handling land.
When two cultures have such fundamentally different different views of land ownership, what is to be done?
These are just some of the economic policy questions that early American politicians faced. But that’s only the more intellectual-philosophical part of it.
What about the politicking part of it?
That is to say, what about that part where, in an American context, politicians have to:
1) please enough of their constituents to get and remain elected, which is a horrendous task if that constituency base is bigoted, biased, or generally ignorant, which means that in the realm of campaigning the politician’s rhetoric may resort to entirely betraying his or her real conscience just to get perhaps, a chance to suddenly flipflop and use the power of his or her vote/authority in the legislature or within his or her office to promote a policy he or she truly believes in (I am not necessary saying I condone this so much as I am saying it is a clear reality much of the time)
2) get a majority of fellow politicians with a wide range of different perspectives and different constituencies to agree on rules that everyone in country must follow. This means, I am willing to assert, that just as the moral enlightenment and education of a country is an evolutionary process, the politicking of a country is a messy and fundamentally imperfect, contradictory process.
Tying all of this back to economic policy, I’ve offered the above context, not in defense of American history’s immorality and totally unacceptable politicking and policy, but rather, as a framework from which we can at least objectively evaluate economic political reform from the perspective of the political and cultural and economic climatethat politicians have had to work within so that at least we might gain something legitimate to appreciate.
So far as reforming economic policies go, I can think of no other politician who addressed them so comprehensively than former United States President Andrew Jackson.
It may be true that Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson may have given us some basic principles of economic philosophy, and it may be true that Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson may have uplifted the poor with the “New Deal” and The “Great Society” policies but each of these men I have mentioned tended to have particular focuses. In contrast, so far as economic policies in the United States goes, President Andrew Jackson took on virtually every aspect of it.
Andrew Jackson’s comprehensive economic policies, in each case, surely addressed the issue of property rights, but with the exception of paying back the federal debt and lowering tariffs, it was not the property rights for all that he concerned himself with; as his mandated increase in the supply of land was at the expense of Native American rights and tragically their lives; his increase in the circulation of gold meant a loss of purchasing power for those who owned mostly silver; and finally, his decentralization of the banks in the name of taking on the monopoly on the money supply only empowered and enriched those heading his so called “pet banks”, leaving many to fall prey to loosely regulated state chartered banks or free banks; each case being a matter of either upholding or violating property rights.
By looking back and critically examining each of these treatments of property rights, it is my hope that at the very least, it will be perfectly clear that Andrew Jackson was no hero for “the people”- that instead he was a hypocritical, extremely dangerous megalomaniac who used the seductive pretense of protecting property rights to simply bask in his own power, act vindictively towards others, impoverish some, authorize murders, and enrich his friends in his pet banks.
PART 2: ANDEW JACKSON’S FISCAL POLICIES
*PAYING BACK THE DEBT
Some historians, at least those participating in the publication of Robert Divine’s America: Past and Present, Volume 1 either are generally uneducated historians (very doubtful considering the depth of its scholarship in many aspects of its chapters on United States History) or are ones so entirely and terribly biased that they want to completely evade the monumentally historic fact that in 1835 President Andrew Jackson paid back all of the United States’ federal debt, which was, according to John Steele Gordon, “about $58 million.” (2011, 3) Gordon also notes that no president ever had paid back the debt before, and never has since. One might think that in Devine’s textbook, somewhere in the index, under “D” and “debt” one would find, among the following:
Debt: for American Revolution, 142; attempts to reduce England’s, 109–113; growth in colonial period, 89; Hamilton’s solution for national, 161–162; Jefferson’s policy on paying national, 184 (Divine 2012, I-3)
…some mention of ‘Jackson’s complete repayment of.’ Alas, it is not there. But the event did occur and as I stated, it was quite momentous but not only because Jackson was the only president in our history to do it.
Governmental debt is, in almost every situation, an unjust taxation on future taxpayers without even a democratic say in having it bestowed upon them. Moreover, it is quite literally a liability. It was debt which destroyed the Ottoman Empire. It was debt which so weakened the United Kingdom that it sought to usurp money from the American colonists. In the words of President Jackson, in his first inaugural address, debt is “incompatible with real independence.” (1829) He is quite right about this if one will think about it literally. When a country needs money from or owes money to another country, it is to that degree, dependent on it. When a country owes no money, it is literally independent, and the amount of its surplus represents the degree of its economic strength.
Unfortunately, governmental debt alone is not the sole cause in a country’s thriving, mediocre, or failing economy and thus while Jackson may be exceptional for extinguishing it temporarily, it did not make him a savior of the United States economy. Noteworthy as it certainly was, in the context of improving the U.S. economy, ultimately it was simply a single achievement, buried under an list of failed, immoral economic policies.
LOWERING DUTIES AND TAXES
When Andrew Jackson entered the Presidency the United States was suffering from “tariffs [that were] at their highest level in American history.” (Whaples 2014,11) In 1832 Jackson approved a reduction in tariffs. (Divine, 10) A year later Jackson lowered tariffs even more. (Ibid) Tariffs went down from “an average of more than 50 percent to less than 20 percent—a rate that was well below the nineteenth-century norm.” (Whaples, 11)
It should be duly noted that historians appear to agree generally and implicitly at the time, tariffs were the main form of taxation in the United States, however it should be likewise noted that historians tend to be ambiguous about the exact particularities of early tax policies. According to Policy Almanac “in the late 1790’s, the Federal Government imposed the first direct taxes on the owners of houses, land, slaves, and estates [but then w]hen Thomas Jefferson was elected President in 1802, direct taxes were abolished and for the next 10 years there were no internal revenue taxes other than excises [until] the War of 1812, [when] Congress imposed additional excise taxes, raised certain customs duties, and raised money by issuing Treasury notes [which i]n 1817 Congress repealed …and for the next 44 years the Federal Government collected no internal revenue [i]nstead…receiv[ing] most of its revenue from high customs duties [i.e., tariffs] and through the sale of public land. (History of the US Tax System; The Post Revolutionary Era)
This is more or less corroborated by Charles Adams who tells us that the earliest federal taxation policies were 1) a tax on whiskey (which was ultimately repealed by Jefferson); 2) tariffs, 3) a “direct tax” (which is left undefined, but also referred to as “Hamilton’s taxes” which were ultimately repealed) (Adams, 2006)
Syracuse University Historian Andrew Wender Cohen also confirms that taxation in the nineteenth century “meant tariffs…” (When Americans Loved Taxes, 2015) The significance of emphasizing the notion of tariffs as the main prey of taxation is that when we think of how property taxes, and income taxes affect us, this is how people would have viewed the tariff rates, which, by the late 1820’s and early 1830’s were viewed as so intolerable that Vice President John C. Calhoun and the South Carolina declared them unconstitutional and nullified! (Divine, 235)
To realize then that Jackson cut the tariffs, i.e., the tax rate, by about 30 percent, is to further realize that he gave the American people a lot of their money back! Just as paying back the federal debt was no small gift for the United States, neither was this massive tax cut! Say what one will about taxes and the need for various government programs, there is a point when taxation turns from a necessary revenue for financing the government, to a point of abuse and theft.
When folks are taxed up to fifty percent, in other words, half the value of their product or service, or income, or property, that is utter abuse as it is depriving a person of half their assets. But even if one wishes to criticize Jackson for giving the people more of their money back, one cannot deny that his tariff reductions, just like his debt elimination, were acts of protecting private property rights.
Unfortunately Jackson’s two major fiscal policy achievements, which more or less served the American population universally, are more or less undermined in the broader scope of things as his monetary policies proved to bring tragedy to Native Americans, deprive owners of silver their due purchasing power, and demonstrate that at his core, however much he wanted to give Americans some of their money back, he was ultimately a megalomaniac, which his banking policy proves.
PART 3: JACKSON’S MONETARY POLICIES
INCREASING LAND OWNERSHIP AT THE EXPENSE OF NATIVE AMERICAN RIGHTS AND LIVES
If history is to have any meaning whatsoever then its most horrific episodes must to some degree haunt us; we must feel so angry with those who committed the gravest of evils in the name of our country, that as part of our tradition we condemn them passionately, we teach every generation about the evils perpetrated, and although we cannot change the past we can at least know it and out of contriteness and self esteem constantly improve ourselves morally, and politically. True, it is ultimately insufficient but in a universe where humanity can’t be omniscient and perfect, settling for improving upon our consciences and making something out of it is better than not. I say this because one of America’s ugliest and bloodiest money grabs occurred at the expense of the Native Americans, and although Andrew Jackson was not the only American President or politician or official or person to partake in it, (in fact some of the state legislatures were arguably crueler) he nonetheless led a fair share of it.
It would be inaccurate, incomplete, immoral, unjust, ugly, useless and I think even crazy to discuss Jackson’s monetary policies without discussing the Indian Removal Act. Land is an extremely valuable thing and bloodbaths over it have plagued humanity from its earliest days even up to the present. One need only to look at the crisis in Ukraine which is really a dispute between the American-Western European Alliance and Russia, or to look at the dispute between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
As is stated in Divine’s textbook, in 1830 Jackson “called for the speedy and thorough removal of all eastern Indians to designated areas beyond the Mississippi.” (2013, 234) After the Indian Removal Act was passed he “us[ed] the threat of unilateral state action to bludgeon the tribes” as means of coercing the Native Americans to leave their homes and migrate West. Divine adds: “[b]y 1833, all the southeastern tribes except the Cherokee had agreed to evacuate their ancestral homes.” In response, the military “forced them to march to Oklahoma.” (Ibid.) The event has been termed the Trail of tears because a quarter of the Cherokees who marched died.
The Seminole Tribe was also reluctant to be coerced by Jackson and his accomplices. This resulted in what historians call The Second Seminole War (1834-1841) which Divine tells us lasted seven years and was America’s “most expensive Indian war” in its history. (Ibid.)
With Native Americans now forcibly removed from their land the government had vacant land to sell, which means the government now had 1) a massive-although immorally, unjustly obtained- source of revenue and 2) a massive amount of property to give, mostly to white males. Such an explosion in newly own land was an explosion of new capital, that is to say, an explosion in newly valuable and/or exchangeable, sellable property. Speaking strictly in terms of money supply and material wealth America was greatly enriched.
I grant that a complexity in the matter was the fact that not all Native American tribes were capitalistic and speaking economically, for perfectly valuable, money-making land to have its economic potential frozen when there were people willing and able to make the most of it economically, it amounted to a legitimate political conflict. To say that some kind of deal should and could have been struck where Native Americans could keep the land they inhabited while American capitalists could have found a way to profit is obviously easier to state, than to show how it could have been done. But in hindsight that is what should have been striven for. Instead, the Jackson administration committed massive theft and genocide against the Native Americans and cashed out tremendously. This demonstrates how wickedly racist and hypocritical Jackson and his accomplices were.
On the one hand, Jackson was supposedly about property rights. He lowered the tariffs and reduced the debt. He enacted policies that let people keep more of their money; and not only let them keep more money- he even increased the supply of money they could gain and not with fiat money but with actual assets: land. But what about the property rights of the Native Americans? What about their money supply?
Suddenly one has to grow suspicious of just how pious Jackson was about property rights and economic prosperity. Clearly this principle did not apply to Native Americans and American history is forever damned by Jackson’s evil, racist exception. But was racism the only stain in Jackson’s supposed protection of property rights?
INCREASING THE CIRCULATION AND VALUE OF GOLD AS AN ATTACK ON THE NATIONAL BANK
While Jackson was increasing the money supply by stealing land from the Native Americans he was also stealing purchasing power from owners of silver in favor of owners of gold. To be contextually fair though, there was more to this political move than Jackson merely having an extreme bias in favor of owners of gold over owners of silver. The Founding Fathers of the country had unfortunately and inadvertently set the stage when they passed the Coinage Act of 1792.
The Coinage Act of 1792’s currency policy and the rationale behind it and relevant history are all a bit complex, mainly because prior to the act there were several competing currencies in America.
As the very famous economist, professor, and contributing force behind the establishment of the modern Federal Reserve, Laurence J. Laughlin, writes in his classic book The History of Bimetallism in the United States: “[i]n the time before the adoption of the Constitution the circulating medium of the colonies was made up virtually of foreign coins.” (I.II.1, 1885)
Among them, he tells us, was the English guinea, the French guinea, the Johannes, the Half Johannes, the Spanish pistole, the French Pistole, the Moidore, the English Crown, the French Crown, and the English Shilling. (Ibid.) Laughlin adds that: “[f]rom 1782 to 1786 the colonies began seriously to consider the difficulties arising from the variety of different coins in circulation, and their deleterious effects on business and methods of accounts.” (I.II.2) This, he tells is, is what propelled American leaders to seriously contemplate the establishment of some kind of official currency policy. (Ibid.)
And so the issue was debated among Robert Morris, the Super Intendant of Finance, and Jefferson, and Hamilton. (I.II.2-8) Although it was ultimately determined, based on Hamilton’s advice, that the United States Dollar would be backed by both silver and gold- a policy called bimetallism, Laughlin tells us, Hamilton did have a bias towards gold. (Ibid) To enforce this policy would of course require determining how much gold is worth how much silver.
To determine the how much gold was worth how much silver our Founding Fathers researched gold and silver values across the world, with a keen eye on Spain.
“[Hamilton] announced that the later issues of dollars from the Spanish mint had contained 374 grains of fine silver, and the latest issues only 368 grains, which implied a current market ratio in the United States (if these dollars exchanged for 24¾ grains of fine gold) of from 1:15.11 to 1:14.87, or a mean ratio of about 1:15. Of this ratio Hamilton says it is ‘somewhat more than the actual or market proportion, which is not quite 1:15.’ But, throughout his inquiry, no one can doubt but that he was honestly seeking for a ratio as near as possible to that existing in the markets of the United States. He certainly can not be charged with an intention of underrating gold.” (I.II.16)
In other words, it was Hamilton’s point of view that fifteen ounces of silver should be worth one ounce in gold. This in fact was the standard determined by the Coinage Act of 1792. Unfortunately it led to unintended consequences: a devaluation of gold by the mint and an overvaluation of silver. This was so problematic that, in the words of Laughlin, “gold coins were seldom seen during the largest part of this period from 1792 to 1834. Even when bank-paper was used, the reserves of the banks were generally in silver, not in gold. Whatever the cause of the change in the relative values, certain it is that gold disappeared, and that the United States had but a single silver currency as early as 1817, and probably earlier.” (I.II.31)
President Andrew Jackson and his allies understood that this was a consequence of a bimetallist monetary policy and reasoned that if silver could overtake gold, as it did, under such a policy, then by changing the ratios, gold could overtake silver. Writes Laughlin: “the majority [of those debating a change in monetary policy] were evidently aiming at a single gold standard, through the disguise of a ratio which overvalued gold in the legal proportions. In the market an ounce of gold bought 15.7 ounces of silver bullion; when coined at the Mint it exchanged for sixteen ounces of silver coin. Silver, therefore, could not long stay in circulation.” (I.IV.17) Indeed the Coinage Act of 1834 was passed and the new standard increased to 16 ounces of silver for one ounce of gold. Was this change in a policy merely an appeal to owners of gold who had been essentially ripped off for decades, or was there yet more to it?
Economist Paul M. O’Leary writes: “[t]he real forces back of the ultimately successful effort to establish a coinage ratio of 16:1 were immediately political; what looks like a friendship toward gold was really more a case of animosity toward the Bank of the United States with its circulation of bank notes.” (1937, 84)
An expression of this animosity was published in The Washington Globe, as cited by O’Leary, stating that pro-silver members of congress, and the the bank favored silver because “the United States bank can then get nearly all the domestic and foreign gold, to sell to Europe and the West Indies for a premium.”(89)
Jackson most certainly agreed with
this perspective, saying in his Eighth Annual Address to Congress that “[a] value was soon attached to the gold coins which made their exportation to foreign countries as a mercantile commodity more profitable than their retention and use at home as money.” (1836) ( In other words, a bimetallic policy that favored silver, according also to the Washing Globe, O’Leary tells us, empowered the Bank, being a super rich entity compared to average Americans, would have the upper hand in gold purchases, and not for the purpose of circulating it within the American economy, but rather, for the purpose of enriching itself by selling to foreign interests.
Andrew Jackson did not stop after the Coinage Act of 1834. He also instructed the Secretary of the Treasury-Roger B. Taney- to stop depositing federal money into the national bank and to in fact withdraw federal money that was presently deposited in the bank. Then the newly withdrawn money was to be deposited into preferred state banks that were referred to by anti-Jacksonians as “pet banks.” (Divine, 238-239)
Further, in 1836 he passed an executive action named “The Specie Circular” which required that all purchases of public land be made in gold or silver. (Divine, 240) In defense of this policy, Jackson stated:
“By preventing the extension of the credit system it measurably cut off the means of speculation and retarded its progress in monopolizing the most valuable of the public lands. It has tended to save the new States from a nonresident proprietorship, one of the greatest obstacles to the advancement of a new country and the prosperity of an old one. It has tended to keep open the public lands for entry by emigrants at Government prices instead of their being compelled to purchase of speculators at double or triple prices. And it is conveying into the interior large sums in silver and gold, there to enter permanently into the currency of the country and place it on a firmer foundation. It is confidently believed that the country will find in the motives which induced that order and the happy consequences which will have ensued much to commend and nothing to condemn.” (Jackson’s Eighth Annual Address to Congress, 1836)
While it may appear that Jackson was heroic by taking gold away from the national bank’s self enrichment, devaluing its silver thus in the process, making gold more valuable than silver so that the people, and Jackson’s pet banks may enjoy gold’s newly increased purchasing power, and while it may appear that Jackson took on the evil of fiat money, logical analysis will show, I contend, that it was not quite what it seemed to be.
It is true that central banking is always a suspicious activity.
After all, left unchecked, it has the power to devalue the national currency by putting more money into circulation, backed either by something fundamentally less valuable than another commodity (as in the case of silver coins as opposed to gold ones) or fiat money, while still having the advantage of being the institution in charge of the money supply, and thus being the institution with the most money which could be used to manipulate policies domestic and foreign- everything from handpicking politicians to cashing out on instigating wars by lending money to arm two opposing parties. That being acknowledged, it would be foolish to assume that private, or free banks would not necessarily climb to the same position of corrupting power.
The only difference is, at least in theory, that a central bank can actually be held more accountable, whereas a series of free/private banks, by virtue of being totally free, or separate from the government, again at least in theory, could be subject to less scrutiny since they would be free, and separate from the government.
It should be noted emphatically here then that the current central/national bank of America- The Federal Reserve- is NOT an example of what a good central bank should and could be as is evidenced by the fact that it has not been audited in decades and is shrouded in secrecy and is significantly independent of the government, functioning almost like a federally sanctioned private bank that can do virtually whatever it wants. (One could I think argue that it is a regulated central bank in name, but a free and independent one in practice which is further arguably how it gets away with its evil and exuberant inflation)
By taking on the national bank, Jackson did not really do anything to reform actual banking so much as he took power away from particular bankers, suggesting that his famous war against the central bank was more like an act of personal vindictiveness than any kind of political heroism.
As for increasing the value of gold and decreasing the value of silver, ultimately it ripped off and served as an act of theft towards anyone in possession of silver or seeking possession of silver as it was unnaturally devalued. Now, if Jackson had the wisdom to do away with the bimetallic standard and instead establish an official monometallic gold standard, nobody would have lost out. But that he did not do.
Even Jackson’s “Specie Circular” is not really impressive since the country was under a bimetallic standard, not a fiat money standard.
In other words, paper that could be redeemed for gold or silver wasn’t fundamentally a bad thing. It was not of less value and so it really was totally unfair for Jackson to grant land purchasing rights exclusively to those in immediate possession of the gold or silver.
Granted one could argue to a holder of paper money at the time ‘just go to the bank and get your gold or silver’ but what is the point of possessing money, paper or metallic, if it cannot buy?
It might be one thing if paper money could not at all be redeemed for silver or gold but such a policy should either be universal or not at all. It is obvious by the exclusiveness of the policy (it only pertained to purchases of public land) that Jackson was seeking to grant the government’s new pet bankers with gold and silver- especially gold. After all, we must consider the fact that it was they- Jackson’s pet banks- who were now receiving deposits of money from the U.S. Treasury-in other words, money (gold and silver) that went from the hands of purchasers of public land to the U.S. Treasury then to Jackson’s pet banks.
To clarify it even more so: it was the undoing of one system of crony-capitalism which had been orchestrated by the former national bank, and the creation of a new system of crony-capitalism, which had been orchestrated by Jackson and his pet banks. The bottom line: Jackson was a hypocrite and megalomanic. His monetary policies were not about ‘the people’, they were about manipulating the people, appeasing cronies, and getting to be the man in charge.
PART 4- THE CONCLUSION: A THOUGHT FOR HISTORY TEACHERS
A portrait of Jackson’s economic policies is a highly complex one. It is also highly controversial. Within it are actions so controversial even to historians today that those with biases that federal debt is good will not even mention in their history books that Jackson paid back all of the federal debt and was the only one to do so. Some other historians with a more libertarian or nationalist leaning bias might portray Jackson as a man who took on on the evils of the institution of the central bank. James Perloff writes in his book Shadows of Power, for example: “the Bank of The United States (1816-1836), an early attempt to saddle the nation with a privately controlled central bank, was abolished by President Andrew Jackson…American heeded Jackson’s warning for a remainder of the century.” (1988, 20-21) What Perloff does not mention is that, first of all, if any credit is to be granted to anyone in curbing crony capitalism it was actually President Martin Van Buren who fought for an Independent Treasury so that government money wasn’t benefiting certain peoples’s banks. Secondly Perloff fails to mention that the country was subject to the instability of fairly unregulated banks.
Larry J. Sechrest reports in his book on free banking that nearly fifty percent of free banks (of which there was about 709. 678 of which had sufficient records for historians and economists to evaluate) failed! ( 97-98) And among the ones that didn’t fail immediately, on average, they failed to remain in business for even a decade. One could debate the significance of those statistics for a long time thus I shall not pursuit it longer.
The point is that this is just how complex Jacksonian economics was: it is a topic worth the examination of countless books, but still a bottom line about the essence of it can be succinctly stated: Jackson’s economics amounted to property rights for some, but theft and death for others.
Yes, he paid back the debt (a wonderful thing!) and yes he lowered tariffs (in other words, taxes- another wonderful thing) but it really wasn’t all that meaningful in the grand scheme of things since he stole land from the Native Americans, many of whom were murdered and died as a result, which he then sold to people only with gold- which had been newly granted a higher value- and silver-which there was less of and which had less value, amounting to theft committed against owners of silver- all of which ultimately enriched Jackson’s pet banks since federal money received for purchase of land (again, stolen by native Americans) in the form of gold (again, at the expense of silver owners).
Ultimately, the notion of protecting property rights seems more like a means to an end for President Jackson; it seems, in conclusion, to have served as nothing more than an attractive political principle that he used to appeal to and seduce the people as to remain powerful in a newly and highly democratic culture. It would have been different if Jackson had refused to force the Native Americans from their land, if he had passed an official monometallic gold standard instead of a bimetallic standard that favored owners of gold and Jackson’s pet bankers. It would have been different if instead of moving power from one banking system to his preferred bankers, he had just reformed the National Bank and sought to forbid it from conducting self enriching activities that were not fair to the American people. But he did not do those things so as lovely as his debt elimination and tariff reductions might be, they were not done in the context of integrity.
Humanity is not perfect and politics is extraordinarily messy but John Adams did not need to fit in with his peers by owning slaves. Lincoln may have tarnished his name by being a racist but he still fought for the end of slavery- and won! Jackson does not have, as an excuse, that people just tended to dislike Native Americans.
And while, again, politics is no doubt messy, if messy politics can at least lead to good policy- to justice!- at least then, we the people could feel somewhat less cynical about it all.
But Jackson did not bring more justice to America. In fact, his presidency brought to America more injustice, and not solely “more”, but great injustice, using the beauty of the protection of property rights as mere bait so that he could commit his atrocities.
Let us note that President Elect Donald Trump appears to have learned from Jackson, not about how Jackson’s actions were evil though, but rather, how Jackson used the promise of justice to enjoy his own power at the expense of his fellow Americans.
One need only consider Trump’s recent attack on the First Amendment, when he suggested that those who burn the American flag should go to jail or lose their citizenship, to know this much. (Nelson, 2016)
With that in mind I must close by stating emphatically and very seriously, that a critical examination of Jackson’s economic policies tied to a critical examination of current US politics, makes it very obvious that history teachers need to do a much better job teaching their students about the real nature of the evils of Andrew Jackson.
Divine, Robert A.; Breen, T. H.; Williams, R. Hal; Gross, Ariela J.; Brands, H. W.. America: Past and Present, Volume 1 Pearson Education. Kindle Edition.
Gordon, John Steele. “A Short History of Debt.” American History. Volume 46. Issue 4. pp. 58-63. Accessed December 3, 2016. <a href=”https://ezproxy.wpunj.edu/login?url=http:// search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=fth&AN=64393590″>A Short History of DEBT.</a>
O’Leary M. Paul. “The Coinage Legislation of 1834.” Journal of Political Economy. Volume 45, No. 1. February, 1937. The University of Chicago Press. Accessed on December 3, 2016. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1824056
Perloff, James. Shadows of Power. John Birch Society through Western Islands. Appleton, Wisconsin. 1988.
(Note: When I originally wrote this I was registered to the Republican Party. I am now a Democrat)
By voting Donald Trump for President, and telling others to do the same, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, has deeply damaged the already rotting Republican party- (which, merely as a result of hope and optimism for a better future I am very reluctantly still a member of) and further, Speaker Ryan has tarnished his legacy.
Neither of them should win a single vote. Unfortunately, unless there is some wild miracle, Gary Johnson will not be the next president, and both Trump and Clinton, despite their sociopathic approaches, will win plenty of votes and one will most likely become president. But just because some people are evading the totally unacceptable and violent natures of Clinton and Trump does not mean the Speaker needs to join in. He had the chance to be a Republican hero- actually a hero the entire country could unite around and embrace, however, alas he has destroyed it.
I understand that political pressures can run very deep- that the Republican Speaker of the House not voting for a fellow Republican presidential candidate could potentially alienate him, burn a lot of bridges, hurt his political career- his very job as Speaker of the House could be at stake as could alliances that might have been facilitating any presidential ambitions the speaker might have, but sometimes the magnitude of a wrong is not worth condoning just to keep one’s job or keep one’s alliances.
Republican Governor of Ohio, John Kasich, understands this much, as he told us he could not vote for Donald Trump. In his own words, Trump fails to “offer a positive, inclusive vision for our country.” (https://www.facebook.com/notes/john…)
It is Republicans like John Kasich who preserve a shred of hope for the Republican party- a shred of hope that the party still can be led by men and women of conscience, and not be destroyed by bigots.
I do realize not all Trump supporters are violent, coarse, bigots. And they’re not all idiots either. They are not “deplorables” as Clinton would have us all believe. Some of my best friends, who I greatly admire, are Trump supporters, but I do believe those of you supporting Trump are failing to take into account the man’s truly violent nature, and what embracing him means for the future of the Republican party, and I think Speaker Paul Ryan is downplaying just how harshly history will judge him.
Let’s face it. The Republican party is losing popularity and legitimacy. It’s not Reagan’s golden decade of the 1980’s anymore.
It was a Republican president- George W. Bush- who led the United States into the war in Iraq, on a bogus claim that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. It was Republican President George W. Bush who led America into more debt in two presidential terms than the United States had ever accumulated in its entire history.
Meanwhile it is largely the Republican Party that is responsible for alienating homosexuals and women with their religious fundamentalism. (They complain about religious freedom only when it pertains to their religions!) Meanwhile, a large number of Republicans have sought to alienate the intellectual and scientific communities by denying their findings of climate change.
When Donald Trump sought the Republican nomination the Republican Party had a huge opportunity for a makeover. It had the opportunity to condemn bigotry and the inciting of violence. Ironically, during that primary, most Republicans did just that. Even though Trump won a plurality of votes, he did not win a majority! Sadly all he needed was a plurality, and in a race with so many contenders, he needed just the slightest plurality.
That much cannot be blamed on the greater portion of Republicans, however, the subsequent support earlier Republicans opposed to Trump suddenly gave him- on that point- by and large, far too many Republicans have let us down, despite having a chance to show they were truly men and women of principle and of moral conscience. Remember Ted Cruz? Trump had implied that Cruz’ wife was ugly compared to his own wife. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news…) And Trump suggested that Cruz’s father might have been involved in the JFK assassination. And according to Cruz, Trump was “utterly amoral!” Yet Cruz and others, like Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, end up backing the utterly amoral man- thus lacking conscience and courage; voting for Trump anyway.
Cruz may have been on a path of self destruction anyway, but Ryan, who had such a bright future and great credentials- Romney’s VP Pick, Speaker of the House- now he’s in with the violence inciting ways of Donald Trump, and one might guess Ryan thought it was to his political advantage. But whether Trump wins or loses it’s not a win for the Republican party or Paul Ryan. If Trump wins this election it will only be because Hillary Clinton was such a bad candidate as well, and Trump has been better at playing the Jacksonian “populist”.
It will not be a long term victory for Ryan. Again- if Trump wins, essentially by default- after a Trump administration, Ryan will be one of the “utterly amoral” who helped destroy the Republican party, not the man of conscience who stood against the evil within his party, like John Kasich, among a few courageous others. And whether Ryan knows it or not, in the history books, that’s how he’ll be contrasted to those like Kasich- just like George W. Bush became so toxic that the family name hurt brother Jeb and destroyed his political ambitions.
I don’t know how long the Republican Party can hold out for. I don’t think the Libertarian Party is necessarily a serious competitor (I’m voting for Gary Johnson anyway, of course!) nor do I think the Green party has impressive prospects, but at some point I suspect some wise Republicans who will want long political careers passing reforms they can be proud of will eventually want to cut their ties.
In my personal fantasy, those wise Republican separatists, along with some Libertarian separatists who refuse to go along with the extremism and pseudo-anarchy will form a “Safety-Net Libertarian” Party. That may not be likely in the near future, but the decline in credibility within the Republican party is. What of the prospects of it’s potential destruction?
Just look at the most basic facts: most university professors are not Republican. Most media organizations do not lean Republican. That’s not because they’re totally brainwashed by a communist subversion scheme. It is because anybody who is watching the Republican Party can see it is destroying itself. It fails to compete and gain real legitimacy in the eyes of the people, who only go to the Democratic party, because at least the Democrats try to pretend they’re addressing more concerns that affect more people.
The Democrats are for the civil liberties of homosexuals and women. The Democrats at least claim to look out for the poor. The Democrats at least listen to the scientists who are concerned about climate change. The Democrats at least try to claim respect for religious diversity. That’s why they can get away with having a presidential candidate with such horrible judgement – one who votes for deadly war, astronomical debt, and violates state department policy.
Because they do a better job trying to reach out, where as Trump is the alienator in chief. Both the Trump and Clinton are disasters and that should mean something to Speaker Ryan and if rebranding and improving the Republican party meant anything to him, all he did by voting for Trump and voicing support for him was dramatically lower the odds of Republican Party’s and his own long term success.
-An evaluation of the major theories of jurisprudence, with an explanation as to why the ‘natural law’ theory is the best one
(Note: I originally stated in this post that I wanted to be a philosophy professor. That is no longer the case. I want to concentrate on advancing a Social Democratic agenda via activism and commentary.)
All questions pertaining to politics and law, in my view, are a result of one question that is so consequential that its answers can cause genocide, or protect the freedom of individuals so that they may thrive.
The question is: “what should people be allowed to do, and not allowed to do?”
Answers to this fundamental question give us political philosophies and theories of jurisprudence. As someone who aspires to be a philosophy professor, and has run for political office three times, I have had much to say about political philosophy, and yet little about that branch of philosophy called jurisprudence.
Now I shall for the first time say a bit on the topic. In my opinion, the “natural law” theory is the superior theory of jurisprudence, and is so because it is based on reason (a word with many different definitions. For the purposes of this paper, when I refer to reason, I refer to non-contradiction) and morality.
That being said, there are some valid criticisms of other aspects of the theory, in particular, the assertion by some, that natural law is necessarily based on a God, and also, the fact is, some proponents of natural law theory have misapplied it.
Before I elaborate further, I shall be clear about exactly what natural law theory is said to be. In an academic outline on the term “natural law theory,” where it is also referred to as “classical naturalism,” it is defined as “a group of theories that contend, in a variety of ways, that law is to be identified by reference to moral or ethical (as well as formal) criteria of identification.” (Principe, 1)
I think it is worth adding that most proponents of classical naturalism- including Grotius, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and John Finnis (Banks, O’Brien, p. 82) (as well as Locke, even if merely by implication) to name just some- believe that inherent to the discovery of morality and natural law is the application of reason.
The standard of reason that is upheld by so many ‘natural law’ theorists is, in my opinion, its most important and fundamental element, for, as I view it, everything in life should be and absolutely can be approached via reason. (As Aristotle would say, A is A, i.e., a thing is itself, therefore A cannot be B, or C, or D, ad infinitum, i.e., a thing cannot be both itself and not itself.)
In my view, the very proof for this lay in the fact that it is empirically verified when one sees, or hears, or even feels with his or her skin, the letter “A,” and not any other letter, and thus, no other standard of knowledge should be used, as it would be incorrect, irrational, illogical, contradictory.
This is an epistemological idea, however, that every other major theory of jurisprudence introduced by Banks and O’Brien in their textbook on the American Judicial System, refuses to accept, either by a most obvious and fundamental misapplication of reason, or the complete disbelief that reason is the correct standard, or even a possible one.
For example, consider what I believe to be the profound irony and most basic contradiction of legal positivism.
We are told that according to legal positivism, “law is empirically discovered by reason,” yet on the other hand, we are told that law is “free from moral judgements about what the law should be.” (Banks, O’Brien, p. 85)
But a person cannot be both rational and legally amoral.
In fact there is no such thing as legal amorality.
That which one calls “moral” is how one thinks he should fundamentally treat himself and others, or put another way, what is a right action, and what is a wrong action.
For example, in my view of morality, right actions are ones that a person takes in order to thrive, which means he or she must take care of him or herself first, out of self-compassion, and should, further, do for others, out of compassion for them, whatever he or she is best equipped to do, when he or she can.
I call this the “morality” or “ethics” of “compassion.”
This necessitates political action- specifically, the protection of individual liberty, with safety-nets, to protect the integrity of individual liberty, i.e., protection against a laissez faire state where the utterly immoral people exploit the highly virtuous ones.
But all moral views necessitate political/legal action. Quite literally, a legal view that claims morality should be kept out of law merely confesses that one thinks implicitly that it is moral for the law to allow and prohibit particular actions, but, at least as I see it, either they do not recognize the implication or they are being dishonest.
At least legal positivism claimed to be rational. American Realism, according to the outline referenced earlier, is fundamentally skeptical, and “play[s] down the role of established rules (or the ‘law in books’) to discover other factors that contributed towards a judicial decision in order to discover the ‘law in action.’” (Principe, 2)
Moreover, American Realism claims to discover “what is empirically and pragmatically ‘realistic’ about judging” based on “sociological and psychological factors.” (Banks, O’Brien, p. 95) The empirical and the pragmatic and sociological and the psychological however, apparently have nothing to do, fundamentally with reason, only skepticism, which simply means chronic uncertainty.
To be fair to American Realism, at least it can be argued that empiricism could suggest probable guesses based on consistently observed things; at least it makes some kind of appeal to a notion of a more likely truth versus a less likely one, and/or maybe there is a truth, however not graspable by people.
At least then there is a sort of reaching for a semblance of logic. The theory of “critical legal studies” however, claims to “destroy the notion that there is one single ‘truth,’ and that by disclosing the all pervasive power structures and hierarchies in the law and legal system, a multitude of other possibilities will be revealed, all equally valid.” (Principle, p. 2)
If analyzed we see that the claim that there is no single truth is a contradiction in terms. Taken at its word, we must somehow accept it as singularly true that there is no single truth (that A is B, that a thing is not itself) when we are told that there is no single truth.
That is like saying I am not a cat but I am a cat.
That being said, I do concede that this theory of “critical legal studies” has at least one logical concern (although I guess adherents would not describe it as logical in my sense of the term)- “all pervasive power structures and hierarchies in the law and legal system” should always be scrutinized because application to logic is not automatic and guaranteed, even when the application is referred to as logical, and it has resulted at times in racist, classist, elitist actions. Similarly of feminist legal studies: chauvinism and misogyny can be problems within the legal system and elsewhere which is irrational and immoral which is why I would argue that an honest and consistent application to basic natural law theory would treat all fairly.
Although I have touched on the moral element of natural law briefly already, I believe it deserves more attention. It is one thing to say that it logically follows that morality must dictate law, but it would sell natural law theory short not to also mention in a bit more detail the nature of just how, in my interpretation, consistent and logical natural law theory would inject morality into law, and contrast that with how others might interpret the role of morality in natural law.
Nowhere in the texts I considered upon doing my research does it explicitly say that Natural law theory necessarily posits that all moral principles must be codified into law. In contrast, if we consider how natural law is the basis for “individual natural rights” such as “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (Banks, O’Brien, p. 83) it follows that it is a right thing to do, i.e., a moral action that the law be made to permit and prohibit certain things- specifically to permit freedoms, and to prohibit violations of freedom.
That does not mean however, that an action which might be immoral, say prostitution, should therefore be illegal.
The moral claim is that the law should protect freedom, i.e., self determination, and thus prohibit coercion; only immoral acts which are coercive in nature require legal prohibition.
Adherents to natural law, throughout history, unfortunately, have not always understood this, despite it being the very meaning of their premise.
For example, in my view, it is a totally misguided idea of morality, based on a totally erroneous reasoning, how, “the Court appealed to natural law principles in asserting that blacks were not citizens entitled to constitutional rights in Dred Scott v Sanford (1857) [and] [i]n Bradwell v Illinois (1873), [when] the Court ruled that women could not practice law because it was ‘in the nature of things’ for them to remain relegated to the ‘domestic sphere as that which properly belongs to the domain and functions of womanhood’ [and further, how] [m]ore recently Justice Clarence Thomas cited natural law and the Deceleration of Independence in criticizing the rationale in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the landmark case ending racial discrimination in public schools.” (Banks, O’Brien, p. 84)
Those are completely irrational moral claims that do not represent a proper application to natural law, but rather, forms of statism, altruism, collectivism, racism, chauvinism, and misogyny.
Although it is my opinion that classical naturalism, in its most general and popular sense – being explicitly based on the application of reason and morality- is the superior theory of jurisprudence, that is not to say the theory is perfect.
For example, many of the proponents of classical naturalism ascribe, with certainty, that its ultimate basis is in a God. As Banks and O’Brien write, “Natural Law is thought of in divine terms as God’s law.” (p. 81) Now, it very well may be, as I personally speculate, that a God does exist and that all truth is God’s creation, however, if so, it’s yet to be proven. Logic only tells us that there is no proof that a God does not exist but that nevertheless, one could. But a “could” does not justify a “does” and thus those classical naturalists who assert with certainty that a God does exist and that natural law is to be thought of as God’s law are, in my view, being hasty.
Briefly, on other theories of jurisprudence I have deemed inferior compared to classical naturalism, they at least have fair points regarding aspects of law they are critiquing- for example, American Realism, although “skeptical” at least leads us to question that which is asserted as moral-legal fact, and at least Critical Legal Studies dares to question the sometimes corrupting roles of power and higher status within the legal system- where economic status or race or sexual orientation, et cetera, is sometimes a factor when they should never be, and at least feminist legal studies dares to call out where the judiciary has unfairly treated women.
If classical naturalism could be revised and stripped of its contradictions, and if the mistaken applications of it could be made clear, I believe we would have a theory of jurisprudence which would be as perfect and logical as Aristotle’s laws of identity, and non-contradiction.
HOW THE PHILOSOPHY OF ROMANTICISM CAUSED THE RISE OF HITLER, THE NAZIS, WORLD WAR 2 AND THE HOLOCAUST
How does one lost and lonely, unsuccessful artist named Adolf Hitler become responsible for the sadistic torture and murder of nearly 11 million other human beings? (Schwartz, n.d.) Moreover, how does the population of a country with a rich intellectual, individualistic culture where major industrialization, liberalism and democracy (even inclusive to women at a time when women’s suffrage was a new thing yet to sweep the world) have taken effect, freely and voluntarily give dictatorial powers to a man who openly spewed racist anti semitic comments such as “it was the Aryan alone who founded a superior type of humanity,”(Hitler, Mein Kampf) and “[the Jew] is and remains a parasite…the effect produced by his presence is also like that of the vampire” (Ibid.) and threatened violence on his fellow Germans, saying in a court hearing that “I may assure you that if the Nazi movement’s struggle is successful…there’ll be some heads chopped off…[and] we will fight…with all the means at our disposal, even with those which are illegal from the world’s point of view”(Sax, 1992); how does a country of seemingly intelligent people surrender itself to the psychotic fury and totalitarianism of an openly racist and violent man?
To provide a comprehensive answer to these questions is an extremely complex undertaking, thus many books on the subject have been written. There are many angles and contexts one can investigate to gain hindsight into how Germany was hijacked by Hitler and his Nazis- there are economic factors (Germany suffered hyperinflation and a depression), and political factors (Germany had been defeated in World War One, and so its economy and military were downsized as a result, and Germany was just beginning as a democracy and it was an extremely divided democracy at that) and there are also crucial philosophical factors.
As Dr. Leonard Peikoff wrote in his article “Nazi Politics”: “[Hitler and n]azism triumphed because Germany was ideologically ripe [italics are Peikoff’s throughout], because the intellectual groundwork had been prepared, because the country’s [fundamental- philosophical] ideas- were ready.”
Dr. Peikoff goes on to explain that ideas spread across individual cultures and that the dominant, trending ideas essentially determine the philosophy of most of the people in the country and the basic philosophy of the country, and its government. Throughout The Objectivist Peikoff writes a series of articles on this topic defining and explaining the body of philosophical ideas that primed Germany for Hitler’s Nazi takeover. Of the various philosophical ideas that Dr. Peikoff discusses (pragmatism, dogmatism, collectivism, subjectivism, romanticism et cetera) the one that stands out to me as the most consequential, and responsible for Hitler’s tragic rise is “romanticism”.
In this article I will argue that the spread of the philosophy of romanticism in Germany from the late 1700’s to the early 1900’s is largely to blame for not only creating the monster that was Hitler and the Nazi movement, but that it was also responsible for creating within a significant portion of the population, a vulnerability and even an openness by default, to Hitler and Nazism.
To Support my argument, I am going to analyze what I believe to be the three elements of romanticism most relevant to Hitler’s rise: the romantic aesthetics, romantic epistemology and education, and romantic ethics, each, not merely as intellectual ideas, but ideas in relation to their manifestations in the history preceding Hitler’s rise.
Before I elaborate on exactly what romanticism is, and discuss its aesthetic, epistemological-educational, and ethical ideas and their impact, I think it must be noted that my assertion that romanticism is to blame for Hitler’s rise is a controversial one.
First of all, among philosophers and historians who do concede that romanticism played a part in the rise of Hitler and Nazism, they disagree on the degree in general, and in relation to other philosophical ideas (also in varying degrees) they also think are to blame.
As I mentioned about Dr. Peikoff, he emphasizes a range of ideas. In fact, more so than any specific idea, Peikoff seems to think the influence of philosopher Immanual Kantand the idea of collectivism were more to blame than romanticism (which is not fundamentally Kantanian).
In his own words, “It is Kant who made possible the sudden mushrooming of the Platonic collectivismand statism in the modern world, and especially in Germany,” (Peikoff, Nazi Politics II) even though Peikoff admits that Kant was not actually a statist.
In contrast, Lawrence Birken, argues, quite to the contrary that it was not romanticism that is to blame, but actually what romanticism was an opposition to. He writes that the philosophical problem “was actually a further development of the Enlightenment, a revolutionary Enlightenment which used fanaticism to destroy an older but weakened fanaticism, terror to destroy an older but milder‘terror’”. (Birken, 1999)
So then, what, in the most general sense, is this ‘philosophy of romanticism’ that philosophers, historians and commentators are debating about? There is not a consensus here.
Elizabeth Millan-Zaibert contends that there are types of romanticism, and that the romanticism of Germany is a specific “German Romanticism” and that even that can be divided into phases. (2004) For example, she focuses on what she terms “Early German Romanticism” which she defines as a philosophy that opposes the notion that a philosophy can have a basic, primary, fundamental principle, and one that posits that “an introduction to philosophy can only be a critique of earlier philosophy.” (Ibid.)
Dr. Leonard Peikoff agrees that there is a specific “German romanticism” but does not provide terms for different stages of “German Romanticism”. (Nazism Versus Reason) He defines “German romanticism” as “the open revolt against reason and the Enlightenment” that had its “greatest influence- in Germany…and that man’s true source of knowledge….is: feeling- or passion, or intuition, or instinct, or faith, or the subconscious.” (Ibid.)
I believe that Dr. Peikoff’s definition is accurate for as I analyze the romantic aesthetics, epistemology-education andethics, the most central theme throughout will be the primacy of “feeling”, especially the feelings of “passion” and “intuition.”
Indeed, I contend that a significant number of the German population, as a result of the spreading romantic philosophy, were quite literally lost in a plague of unchecked passion, and were so enthralled by Hitler’s extreme, out of the ordinary passion, that many had an intuitive feeling that his incredible passion could save them, and so they submitted themselves to him.
I think it is a very important point that, to a considerable degree, romanticism was first developed by philosophers who were contemplating art and poetry in the 1790’s and, in fact, throughout the so called romantic movement in Germany and even at the onset of the birthing political Nazi movement, the political activism was led by very artistically minded men. (As many know, Hitler himself was a failed artist).
I say this is important to note because one may not typically think of something as esoteric as art and aesthetics as a catapult for political movements.
In any event, of romanticism’s origin, Millan-Zaibert tells us that in the 1790’s, “[in the very early stages of [the romantic] movement [the term romantic was used in Friedrich Schlegel’s] literary criticism to denote…subjective [poetry as opposed to] classical poetry [which] was objective…”and then later, in reference to “an appreciation for the subjective elements in art [more broadly], [and] a developing interest in viewing and understanding art in terms of its history.” (2004)
This romantic aesthetic spread, developed and endured for over a century, and in fact, remained very key to romanticism as such, as well as the beginnings of the Nazi movement.
One very influential German thinker, for example, who wrote the bestselling Rembrandt als Erzieher in 1890 (Author Fritz Stern tell us “in the first two years the book went through thirty-nine editions”) said of art that it was “the highest good, the true source of knowledge and virtue.” (Stern, 1961) However, he added that “great art could spring only from the volk” (The Aryan Germanic people as a unified community and state) and that from such art knowledge could be intuitively gained. (Ibid.)
The popularity of this book, according to Stern, which I am willing to grant, indicates that a significant number of Germans either agreed with him or were open to or interested in those key ideas.
The meaning to gain here from this romantic aesthetic is that it made reason an unpopular thing in Germany, and intuition the popular replacement, but also we see an aesthetic idea that embraces racism- most notably a view of Germanic/ Aryan supremacy and the idea that good art is dependent on adhering to that racist tenant. Moreover, art, and this view of art in particular, is posited as a something like a religion- but on what grounds? This leads us to romantic epistemology.
ROMANTIC EPISTEMOLOGY AND EDUCATION
As romanticism developed and spread as an aesthetic philosophy, so to did the importance of subjectivity- the notion that knowledge (to whatever degree a subjectivist even believes in knowledge) is to be gained by feeling, and especially intuition and not by reason.
One necessary consequence of any given epistemological foundation is going to be the education that the youth of a culture receives. If parents, teachers, and professors agree that knowledge is to be gained one way or another by feeling, then curricula and pedagogy would of course follow suit and indeed it did. As we have seen from the romantic aesthetics, an emphasis was placed on the idea that good art can only come from communion with the volk. This general obsession with the Volk in aesthetics, and in other aspects of philosophy, was called Volkish thought and was a huge element of German education in the 1800’s.
Writes George L. Mosse: “Schools were founded according to Volkish blueprints and principles. In the state schools the ideology infiltrated into the minds of the students through books, curricula and teachers. [And then the teachers and students]…spread the ideas they had picked up.” (1964)
Mosse adds that Volkish ideology in the schools was the rule, not the exception. (Ibid.) Also, as a result of Volkish ideology in schools, antisemitism began to spread; it was believed that “[Jews] could not be expected to have sufficiently deep or sacred feelings about [the Volk, and the Volk landscapes, the Volk History] to appreciate the message.” (Ibid.) Further, it was believed and propagated that the Jews were too intellectual for German Volkish schools.
Through these romantic Volkish schools, as is evidenced by a new racism, it can further be seen how a romantic ethics can be established and taught.
Just like romantic aesthetics, and romantic epistemology centered on “feeling”, so too did romantic ethics.
In fact, it is the romantic ethics that are the most dangerous, because it is one’s code of ethics that mandate what essentially one is going to do with one’s life, and how one will treat one’s self and others.
By saying the romantic ethics are most dangerous I mean that perhaps through a subjective epistemology at least a universal compassion is a possible direction, or even, one could intuitively feel that at least sometimes there is a time and place for reason. (For example, it could be argued that American culture of today is pragmatic-existential and allows for degrees of subjectivity, but still concedes a value in science ((which absolutely depends on reason and empiricism)) and maybe even sometimes a degree of rational consideration with respect to treatment of others. Existentialists are by nature supposed to allow tolerance towards others as it posits that everybody can define their own meaning and values.)
Unfortunately, the romantic ethics essentially dictates a worship of feeling- especially of intuition and passion. I alluded to this earlier when I mentioned that art, and romantic aesthetics was viewed somewhat religiously and as superior to science.
Bertrand Russell writes that romantics had a “proneness to emotion…the emotion of sympathy…[which was] direct and violent and quite uniformed by thought.” (1945) (I contend that this sounds quite a bit like Adolf Hitler. No, I do not mean to say that Hitler was actually sympathetic, but I would argue that he thought he was sympathetic to the cause of the aryan race and providing them living space and making them strong and that that which he believed to by his sympathy was arguably a major motivating factor.)
It is not just an obsession with emotion, and sympathy or perceived sympathy. It is an obsession with passion. Russell adds:
“It is not the psychology of the romantics that is at fault: it is their standard of values. They admire strong passions, of no matter what kind, and whatever may be their social consequences…..most of the strongest passions are destructive- hate and resettlement and jealousy, remorse and despair, outraged pride and the fury of the unjustly oppressed, martial ardor and contempt for slaves and cowards. Hence the type of man encouraged by romanticism…is violent and anti-social, an anarchic rebel or a conquering tyrant.” [Emphasis mine] (Ibid)
Upon reading that assessment of the romanticist’s obsession with passion, I contend that a person with a basic understanding of Hitler cannot help but think of him again, as Hitler was violent, anti-social, and a tyrant.
But were the German people in general violent, anti-social tyrants? Some clearly were because they voted for the Nazis and became Nazis and participated in mass genocide. Other Germans leaned towards the other kind of passion obsessed type that Russell mentioned- the anarchic rebel.
I say that because Germany, when it was the Weimar Republic became a near de-facto anarchy, which Benjamin Sax and Dieter Kuntz describe as a “severe crisis over the distribution of power…which destroyed the parliamentary system in 1930.” (1992)
Another property of the romantic ethics was the idea that one should cultivate a strong personality. As Mosse tells us about romantic-volkish education: “The strong personality was important for the school, not the strongest intelligence.” (1964)
Robert W. Lougee calls this a “romantic individualism” which “ stressed the uniqueness of individuals, a uniqueness which placed them beyond conformity to any general law or principle” and “Man became a law and measure unto himself” and further yet, “developing one’s own individual nature is a primary objective.”(1959)
I would make the argument, that here too, we see the manifestation of Hitler, who was obsessed with his personality- so obsessed that he had to be the captivating, charismatic center of attention and of control and his fellow Germans were to idolize him, and never question him. Also, I believe it is true that one could see that in a culture where passion, and a strong personality, and intuition are like moral imperatives, how would one not be vulnerable to Hitler?
After all, Hitler had a strong personality, and he was extremely passionate. For a person who views such concepts as moral imperatives, and sees a man so methodically and extremely practicing them, what vision other than Hitler’s would be able to compete for their- it hurts me to say- love and worship?
Romanticism is an extremely complex, systemic philosophy. As a philosophy that was perhaps first developed with art in mind, i.e., in the philosophical branch of aesthetics, I believe, it should make one pause for a moment, for how often does one think of theories of art as potential precursors to something like the Holocaust?
In contrast, traditionally, perhaps, at least in western, or American culture, we think of art as the realm of a safe, free self expression, or maybe we think about Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Mona Lisa.But isn’t even that possibility quite telling of art and art theory- that is- that it has, at least, a kind of political implication.
If a certain kind of art and/or a certain kind of aesthetic becomes popular, perhaps we ought to question what the implications might be. But a subjectivist aesthetic alone, although I think it is at best a bad habit, does not have to mean a subjectivist epistemology- that is to say, perhaps one might think that in the realm of art, one should be subjective, but in matters regarding “what is knowledge?” and “how do I gain knowledge” one could still be an objectivist, or at least partly. The romantic epistemology however, does away with this possibility.
In truth, the romantic epistemology is actually extremely complex if fully examined, as it not only upholds ideas such as ‘knowledge comes from intuition, not reason”, but it further holds complex ideas as to how ones ‘intuition’ can be informed.
In fact, it is so complex that I do not believe it could be fully explained in this specific discussion, however, I would emphasize, as I mentioned earlier, that the romantic epistemology holds that intuitive knowledge comes from a religiosity towards art, and, at least according to the German romanticism, from oneness with the Volk, which thus breeds racism and did breed especially, anti-semitism, and a general culture of basic irrationality, and the German romantic volkish schools truly indoctrinated these bizarre ideas and taught what would become a truly deadly, destructive system of ethics that worshipped extreme emotion, irrational passion, and “strong personality” above intelligence and intellect.
As I have said, it is no wonder, not only that an Adolf Hitler entered the German scene, but moreover, it is also no wonder that enough German people were duped by him and democratically elected him thus enabling him to do away with the democracy he used to gain power and impose his evil tyranny.
This is important to keep in mind because Manfred Frank claims in his book The Philosophical Foundations of Early German Romanticism that the historical connection made between romanticism and Hitler’s Nazi Germany is an “invented” one and a “cliche”, because the Nazis “hated the protagonists of early German Romanticism.” (2004)
That some Nazis may have hated philosophers who contributed to romanticism for any reason, or that they may have rejected some aspects of various versions of or takes on romanticism is to totally miss the point: that romanticism created, within German culture, enough people with the mentality-the obsession with irrational art, the obsession with intuition, passion, racism, irrational, whimsical as opposed to intellectual and healthy cultivation of personality (or cultivation of personality for its own sake, as opposed to truly knowing one’s self and cultivating a good self)- that could be easily become or be swayed by Hitler and the Nazis and for any one who discusses this romanticism-nazism relationship and overlooks that and/or tells others to overlook it as “cliche” and “invented” is to literally ignore facts- which is exactly what the romantic epistemology called for, thus, such a person has fallen prey to it.
2 Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf(London, New York, Melbourne: 1939), Kindle edition, chap 11 (Kindle Location 4548)
3 Hitler, Mein Kampf. (Kindle Location 4806-4808)
4 Benjamin Sax, Dieter Kuntz, “The Triumph of National Socialism, 1929-1933” in Inside Hitler’s Germany (Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath and Company, 1992) , 108-109
5 Leonard Peikoff, “Nazi Politics” in The Objectivist original ed Ayn Rand (Irvine, Ca, Second Renaissance Inc., 1990) 599
6 Peikoff, “Nazi Politics”, 560
7 Peikoff, “Nazi Politics II” in The Objectivist, 625
8 Lawrence Birken, “Prussianism, Nazism and Romanticism in the Thought of Victor Klemperer.” The German Quarterly, Vol. 72 , No. 1 (Winter 1999) 33-43, http://www.jstor.org/stable/407902 accessed July 2, 2016
9 Elizabeth Millan-Zaibert, “Introduction: What is Early German Romanticism” in The Philosophical Foundations of Early German Romanticism (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2004) Adobe Digital Editions, 1
10 Elizabeth Millan-Zaibert, “Introduction” , 11
11 Elizabeth Millan-Zaibert, “Introduction”, 10
12 Peikoff, “Nazism Versus Reason” in The Objectivist, 724-725
13 Elizabeth Millan-Zaibert, “Introduction”, 12
14 Fritz Stern, “Critic as Failure” in The Politics of Cultural Despair: A Study In the Rise of The Germanic Ideology (Berkley, Los Angeles and London: 1961, 1974, 1989) 109
15 Fritz Stern, “Critic as Failure” 98
16 Fritz Stern, “Critic as Failure” 138
17 Fritz Stern, “Critic as Failure” 119
18 George Mosse,“Education Comes to the Aid.” In The Crisis of German Ideology,
(New York, NY: First Howard Fertig, Inc. 1964, 1998) 152
19 George Mosse, “Education Comes to the Aid” 154
20 George Mosse, “Education Comes to the Aid” 155
21 George Mosse, “Education Comes to the Aid” 166
22 Bertrand Russell, “The Romantic Movement.” In The History of Western Philosophy. (New York, NY: A Touchstone Book- Registered Trademark of Simon & Schuster, Inc. 1945, 1972.) 675
23 Bertrand Russell, “The Romantic Movement” 681
24 Benjamin Sax, Dieter Kuntz, Inside Hitler’s Germany 13
25 George Mosse, “Education Comes to the Aid” , 161
27 Manfred Frank, “On Early German Romanticism as an Essentially Skeptical Movement: The Reinhold- Fitche Connection” in The Philosophical Foundations of Early German Romanticism (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2004) Adobe Digital Editions, 25
After criticizing the East Windsor Town Council for passing resolutions without discussing them or allowing the public to question them; holding the meeting at the same time as a school board meeting; lying; refusing to film meetings;and refusing to discuss the prospect of a democratically elected mayor, the mayor says she only allowed me to speak because the state mandated it
Among the issues on last night’s agenda was establishment of salaries for the mayor, the council, and other non-union township employees. I asked the mayor and council twice how they decide how much they, and the other employees should make, and as you might have expected, I got no answer.
This is a problem because they voted to give themselves annual raises without explaining why. Furthermore, what if certain other township employees are presently being underpaid? Because there is no transparency on how salaries and wages are established we are kept in the dark with respect to how appropriately or inappropriately township employees are being compensated with our tax dollars.
As I stated during the public hearing, it is also disconcerting that the mayor and council have decided to give themselves annual raises, whist continually holding us liable for more and more debt.
While it is not unusual for the mayor to interrupt me when I speak during public comment it should not persist. It is, in my view, down right abusive, to interrupt members of the public, while they are asking questions about, or are commenting about how our money is going to be used. I did not only ask questions about the establishment of salaries and wages. I also asked questions about long term borrowing plans, debt reduction plans, if we could have our meetings filmed and posted on the township website, and if we could have a democratically elected mayor.
What I have to tell you next saddens me profoundly, but it needs to be said. Mayor Janice Mironov told the public a lie last night. She told the public that she has answered all of my questions and that I just ask them all again because I do not like her answers. While it is true that the mayor has answered some of the questions I have asked her throughout the years, and it is also true that I do not always like the answers she gives, they are not the questions I persist in asking her each weak.
To allow our mayor to get away with lying, in my view, is unacceptable. Lying is always wrong, but when an elected official lies, there can be more where that came from, those lies can be with respect to our money (in a very sluggish economy, mind you) and it certainly establishes a terrible precedent in our community. So I ask that you join me at the next meeting, and tell the mayor you will not stand for lies.
Many people in our community (and in fact, throughout the county!) know about our controlling and dishonest mayor however not enough do. Please help me spread the word, call the mayor’s office and say you disapprove of lies and disrespect, and vote her out of office this upcoming election.
I will continue to keep you updated and will work hard to have the mayor voted out of office. I will also persist with my efforts to make East Windsor’s government more transparent, accountable, and discussion friendly.
There was a public hearing here in East Windsor on an ordinance to borrow $1 million . In my opinion, it was an illegitimate public hearing. I had a lot of questions and concerns about borrowing this money because items on the capital improvements list seemed suspicious. 3 Garbage trucks in 3 years, over $20,000 a year, every year on parks and playgrounds, a constant need for leaf equipment.
Unfortunately, despite bringing these questions and concerns to the attention of the Mayor and the town council I was interrupted more than 8 times, and ignored. I won’t lie to you. Regretfully, at one point I lost my temper. I lost my temper because after having to argue with the mayor just to be able to finish what I had to say she was, in my honest opinion, speaking to me as if I was entirely ignorant about what I was discussing.
Even if my concerns, when addressed, turn out to be nothing to worry about- the fact remains that I have done a fair deal of homework on this subject.I wanted to share with you footage of the event because I think everybody in our community should see just how unwilling the mayor and council members are to debate and have discussions with members of the public or seek clarification on matters they find confusing.
I admit in retrospect that I should not have proposed a “devil’s advocate ordinance” because it’s wrong to dictate how council members discuss issues.