Series | How America Can Recover from Addiction, Dysfunction, and Corruption, Part 1: We admitted we were in a hell of a mess, that our country was in a downward spiral.

Our Country is in a hell of a mess. Several indictments have been made.  Alex Henderson, writing in AlterNet, points to 10 Ways America Has Come to Resemble a Banana Republic, wondering what it will take for America to reverse its dramatic decline into madness. Henry Giroux, writing in America’s Descent Into Madness, argues that America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, (“One of the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs, and in the long term, potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam War.”)  A politics of cruelty and psychopathic corporations predominate in our government and economics.

American Exceptionalism is not a list of accomplishments to be proud of, but a list of failures to be ashamed of.  As Richard Clark argues, in Tracking Our Downward Spiral: the Ways in Which America Still ‘Leads’ the World, we have set our country back more than 100 years — to the 1800′s — when the Robber Barons ruled and our politics were corrupted to the core.

Jimmy Carter said (recently) on the nationally syndicated radio show the Thom Hartmann Program that the United States is now an ‘oligarchy’ in which ‘unlimited political bribery’ has created ‘a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors.’ “It’s a big club.” said George Carlin, “and you aint in it.”

Both Major U.S. Parties are Plagues on Humanity writes Glen Ford in Black Agenda Report. “The two corporate parties have collaborated in knocking off countries targeted for invasion and regime change. They have both nurtured the jihadist international network that was created under presidents Carter and Reagan. And presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama are complicit in the capital crime of genocide in the Congo, where six million people have died since 1996. The presidential nominee of either party must be a ghoul, a fiend, or a banshee.” And Chris Hedges, author of his own description of America’s collapse (Death of the Liberal Class), describes our electoral process as a farce. (America’s Electoral Farce.)

Tom Stiglich | Political Nausea Bag copyFinally, writes the Reprimand Project, “Donald Trump isn’t an embarrassment to our country, he is  an indictment of it. The fact that he is the (Regressive) frontrunner for the highest job in the land – with absolutely zero experience and flaunting a (position) of unbridled bigotry, xenophobia, and misogyny – clearly shows everything is wrong with the U.S.A.”

Whether all this and more is  because we’ve been propagandized (8 Frightening Characteristics of Propaganda) and lied  to (CBS News Investigative Journalist Explains How Mainstream Media Brainwashes The Masses) to a fair-thee-well, or because of good old American stupidity (Bill Moyers | Susan Jacoby on American Ignorance), or a preference for ignorance (Age of Ignorance)  is anyone’s guess. But regardless of cause, we are in a hell of a mess  and, as Albert Einstein counseled, continuing to think the same way and do the same things over and over again isn’t going to give us different results.

The first thing we have to do is stop denying that we are faced with these problems or, worse yet, continue to bare up and soldier on under them (itself a form of denial). Ours is an addictive society (Anne Wilson Schaef, When Society Becomes an Addict). And, being the good addicts we are, we want to deny we have problems. As W. H. Auden has written: “We would rather be ruined than changed. We would rather die in our dread than climb the cross of the moment and let our illusions die.”

In short, it’s time to start believing that our coming together to work for a new order of things can restore us to sanity!

‘Til then,

Peace!

The Perpetrators Become The Victims Of Drone Warfare

Tags

,

  • Cian Westmoreland, a U.S. Air Force veteran who helped set up the drone data communications system over southeastern Afghanistan back in 2009, puts the matter bluntly: “There are so many people in the chain of actions that it has become increasingly difficult to understand the true impact of what we do. The diffusion of responsibility distances people from the moral weight of their decisions.”
  • Vietnam War Veterans Have Found the Enemy

Pratap Chatterjee, Countercurrents <Countercurrents.org>

3 July, 2015 | The myth of the lone drone warrior is now well established and threatens to become as enduring as that of the lone lawman with a white horse and a silver bullet who rode out into the Wild West to find the bad guys. In a similar fashion, the unsung hero of Washington’s modern War on Terror in the wild backlands of the planet is sometimes portrayed as a mysterious Central Intelligence Agency officer.  Via modern technology, he prowls Central Asian or Middle Eastern skies with his unmanned Predator drone, dispatching carefully placed Hellfire missiles to kill top al-Qaeda terrorists in their remote hideouts.

So much for the myth. In reality, there’s nothing “lone” about drone warfare. Think of the structure for carrying out Washington’s drone killing program as a multidimensional pyramid populated with hundreds of personnel and so complex that just about no one involved really grasps the full picture. Cian Westmoreland, a U.S. Air Force veteran who helped set up the drone data communications system over southeastern Afghanistan back in 2009, puts the matter bluntly: “There are so many people in the chain of actions that it has become increasingly difficult to understand the true impact of what we do. The diffusion of responsibility distances people from the moral weight of their decisions.”

Pratap Chatterjee, a TomDispatch regular, is executive director of CorpWatch. He is the author of Halliburton’s Army: How A Well-Connected Texas Oil Company Revolutionized the Way America Makes War. His next book, Verax, a graphic novel about whistleblowers and mass surveillance co-authored by Khalil Bendib, will be published by Metropolitan Books in 2016.

Full story … 

Related:

Vietnam War Veterans Have Found the Enemy, Robert Rosebrock, Veterans Today <http://www.veteranstoday.com&gt;

Vietnam’s Communism now appears to be a better solution than whatever kind of government America has today, so maybe President Obama’s upcoming meeting with Nguyen Phu Trong will at least inspire human rights at their level, because even the worst-of-worst governments would never treat their military veterans the way America’s government treats our war-injured and homeless Veterans.

Full story …

Who Let the Dog Turds In

Recently I came across two pictures: one of Paul and Shirley Wellstone on the rear deck of their green bus during a campaign stop, and Shirley Chisholm on the day in 1972 she announced she was running for president.

Then I remembered a book by Molly Ivins, “Who Let the Dogs In?” As described in goodreads, it’s “her own personal Hall of Fame of America’s most amazing and outlandish politicians –the wicked, the wise, the witty, and the witless – drawn from more than twenty years of reporting on the folks who attempt to run our government (in some cases, into the ground).”

And I got to thinking: whatever happened to such a robust cast of dogs to lead us, even if some of them were wicked and witless? Comparing them to today’s cast of mis-leaders, I thought if Molly were writing today (and don’t I wish she were!) she’d have to re-title her book: “Who Let the Dog Turds In?”

Recall principled, well-educated leaders like FDR and JFK. Then compare these portraits in courage to the likes of Nixon, Reagan, both Bushes, Bill  Clinton, and, yes, that spineless master of codependency and victimization that occupies the Oval Office now. See what I mean? No mere dogs these; we’re talking fresh turds.

A group of baboons is called a congress and recent sessions of our federal representative assemblage have lived up to their name. Where once there were giant dogs like Hubert Humphrey, Russ Feingold, Ted Kennedy, Everett Dirksen, LBJ, George McGovern, and others, now there are only turds like John Boehner, Louie Gohmert, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Jodi Ernst, John McCain, James Inhofe, and others too numerous to mention.

Maybe this is just an old man pining for what he thinks were the good old days. True, back in the day we had the John Birch Society, Strom Thurmond, and Joe McCarthy, but for the most part they were kept in the political circus’ side show. But now we have the Tea Party, Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and a huge cast of others, all performing in the center ring! These people are more than merely wicked and witless. They are crazy, ignorant, divisive, hate-filled, fear-mongers with a lack of humanity and civility supported by a mean streak that is terrifying!

It’s leadership vs. mis-leadership. While the former dogs were far from perfect, they could (and would!) rise above their human foibles and come together for the common good. The latter present-day turds can only deny a problem exists, blame someone else for it, kick it down the road, or try to bomb it back to the Stone Age.

The Peter Principle states that in any hierarchal organization, leaders tend to reach their level of incompetence. In other words, cream sours when it gets to the top. That’s us: a creamery that stinks!

But how did we get to this situation? I think the problem lies in the follower-ship in this country. For too long, we the electorate have been settling for the lowest common denominator. We do this by consistently voting for the lesser of two evils. It doesn’t work because it can’t work. (Ralph Nader explains how voting for the ‘least worst’ candidate corrupts democracy) Like a clan of hillbillies, our political family tree does not fork. It just keeps dumbing down and around, souring everything it touches.

Worse yet, as Chris Hedges reminds us (The Left Has Lost It’s Nerve and Direction), we have become slaves to this madness. If we want to reclaim our democracy, we must be willing to walk away from the major parties … . We must be willing to say no. If not, we become captives to them.

All is not lost. Principled, well-educated leadership exists in this country, but not within the rotted-out, dumbed down, corrupted structures of the two major parties. We the People will have to go find it. That means building political power outside the Republican and Democratic parties, whose leaders have repeatedly demonstrated that they are totally incapable (dumbed-down, soured) of governing in any meaningful way.

Progress can happen only by building independent political power. We do not have to accept the candidates the two major parties offer us. That means forming movements (not parties) and finding and selecting dogs who will speak only for that movement. This is different than trying to decide which of two, corrupted, soured, dumbed-down turds we’re willing to endorse and support.

It can be done. It has been done. Even a cursory reading of, for example, the labor movement shows that. But it takes intelligence and involvement. We have to get our collective heads out of our backsides and our backsides off the couch and into the streets. As Frederick Douglas reminds us, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will.”

Maybe someday, then, some yet-to-be-born author will write a book: “Who Let the Leaders In?”

The Only Winner in November Will Be The Status Quo

And we will all continue to be the losers until we rethink our practice of politics and act accordingly.

Author’s Note: Although written in September, 2008, if you substitute the current players for those isix years ago, you’ll see the arguments made here are still valid. 

We are in the midst of one of the most consequential presidential elections of our lifetimes, as E. J. Dionne asserts. Yet you’d never know it. What we have is a campaign turned horse race to oblivion. First, our choice of candidates (horses) is dismally bleak: a corporate-sponsored liar, war-monger, and sadist on the one hand and a corporate-sponsored unproven third-rate motivational speaker and carnival barker on the other. And, secondly, we have voters (bettors) fawning over both these candidates and expecting change!

Change? The only winner in November is going to be the status quo. Since nothing in this election cycle has changed in how we think about and practice politics in this country, how can we reasonably expect change?  Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. As Earnie Larsen says, “If nothing changes, nothing changes.” We are insane if we think we can effect change by selecting either one of these defenders of the status quo in November!

Why?

First, corporate and other special-interest funding of our elections. As Molly Ivins suggests, if you want to see how a candidate will perform in office, just look at his or her major or fundamental source of funding. Show me the source of the money! In the case of both McCain and Obama that trail leads straight to the board rooms of the corporations and the offices of the lobbyists on K Street! Both candidates, by accepting this funding stream, have offered themselves as representatives of the corporate and special-interest gods, all the while sacrificing the common weal.

It is the corporate and special interests that will continue to be served in January no matter who gets elected in November because we will have elected the finest public officials private money can buy!

This is why the Democrats have been so wimpy. Their primary funding source and, consequently their behavior, is the same as the Republicans: corporations and lobbyists!

While it is true that the Republicans proposed the war in Iraq, the tax cuts, the policies that shredded the Constitution, and other evils the majority of us decry, the Democrats went right along with ‘em! Without the support of the Democrats, the Republican extremists couldn’t have adopted their radical agenda.

Jim Hightower, Thieves in High Places

“The sad truth is that none of George W’s agenda would be hanging around our necks without the complicity and often the direct support of national Democratic leaders. They’ve ditched the Red Wing boot bunch and thrown in with the wing-tip crowd, going all wobbly on the whole concept of why America needs a Democratic party.”

Want proof?

  • The $1.3 trillion tax cut that Congress enacted could not have passed without the votes of 12 democratic senators.
  • The vote for the Bill of Rights shredding Patriot Act was 96 to 1 in the Senate (Russ Feingold the lone dissenter), 337 to 79 in the House, virtually unopposed by Democrats.
  • Rigging tax loopholes and loosening accounting rules for corporations  was a specialty of the Clinton White House, with the enthusiastic backing of the party’s congressional leaders.
  • NAFTA and WTO, which were permission for corporations to screw working people and the environment world wide, were products of the Clinton Administration.
  • And the Homeland Security Act that suffocates American freedom, passed 90-9 in the Senate, which was under Democratic control at the time.

“What we need,” Molly Ivins points out in her book, Bushwhacked,  “is to end the legalized bribery that has rotted the democratic political system.” She continues: “We need “public campaign financing. It’s this incestuous relationship with big money and failure to identify with the common people that has weakened our political process.”

As Senator Russ Feingold wrote in The Progressive: “It has become clear that meaningful campaign finance reform is a necessary precondition for the Congress to be able to do the people’s work in Washington.”

We need to, I submit, chase the termites from the forest of our political timber.

  • Enron, WorldCom, Wal-Mart? Uh, well you see, we took their money, too, and let’s not piss off those guys, ’cause we want more money, you know?
  • Bush’s preposterous trillion-dollar tax gift to the wealthiest people on earth? Oh, about that, uh, a lot of us voted for it, so . .
  • Impeach George for his Iraq Attack? Well, now, we can’t be unpatriotic! We voted for Bush on this one, so best just cheer the commander-in-chief and move on.

Consider further:

This is a time to condemn the bankers, not to embrace them. They are the scoundrels who got us into the biggest economic mess since the Great Depression, lining their own pockets while destroying the life savings of those who trusted them. Yet both of our leading presidential candidates are scrambling to enlist not only the big-dollar contributions but, more frighteningly, the “expertise” of the very folks who advocated the financial industry deregulations at the heart of this meltdown.

  • Kristin Jensen and Matthew Benjamin, Bloomberg.com

Obama’s tilting toward Rubinomics stirred a warning from organized labor.

A Rubin protege, Jason Furman, is now the economic-policy director of Obama’s campaign.

Neither candidate is proposing a single-payer universal program of healthcare demanded by the majority of Americans, only some patches on our present profit-based system demanded by their corporate sponsors—big insurance, big pharma, and big medicine.

  • Trudy Lieberman, Columbia Journalism Review

McCain wants to rip up the employer-based health care system, replace it with tax credits for families and individuals, and require workers to pay income taxes on the value of their health insurance benefits from employers. He also wants families to make medical decisions. Obama would let people keep insurance from their bosses but make it easier for those who are uninsured to buy coverage through a public plan like Medicare. Neither would require people to carry health insurance (except Obama requires it for kids). Both candidates promise tax subsidies. How big they will be and who they will help is anyone’s guess.

Another reason why we will be the losers in November no matter whom we select is because we eliminated the only really candidates of change—Kucinich and Edwards—in the primaries.

(And before you get carried away tsk-tsking on a sea of mock sexual hysteria: Let him who is without sin cast the first stone! As long as the occupant of the White House is faithful to their oath of office and represents the citizenry—not the corporate/special interests—it’s none of our business who he or she is having consensual sex with, where and when. What Bill Clinton and John Edwards did in private was nobody’s business but theirs as long as it was consensual. Their behavior is to be preferred to that of the current occupant who apparently is pure sexually but who non-consensually puts it to every country, soldier, laborer, criminal defendant, consumer, taxpayer and citizen he can find and then lies about it!)

During the primary season every progressive I met was for Dennis Kucinich or John Edwards intellectually. But, when asked whom they were going to vote for and why, the response always was Obama because he can beat the Republicans in November.

Huh? Since when is the election a horse race in which bets are placed on which horse is going to win? I always thought it was the voters, not chance, that determined the outcome of an election. And, even if it is, since when does a racing fan go to the track and bet against which horse they don’t want to win? (Forgive them, Harvey; they know not what they do!)

A campaign for office is not a horse race, no matter how often our corrupted mainstream media want to present it that way. Terms like momentum, leading, handicap, etc. have no place in the conduct and coverage of political campaigns. Nor are they advertising campaigns in which we try to find the most marketable candidate or product and then sell them like a commodity like cars or soap or hemorrhoid preparations.

In a political campaign, the appropriate and responsible behavior is to select the candidate who most parallels your views and then stick with them!  Had voters done that, we’d have an entirely different candidate on the Democratic, and probably the Republican, side. I mean progressive is, or should be, the majority political position in this country.  And would be if we’d stop irresponsibly casting our votes against those candidates or boggeypeople we oppose and start voting for candidates—like Kucinich and Edwards—who represent our political position.

Why?

  • Only the very few of us can even afford to vote with the Republican minority.
  • Which means the rest of us outnumber them, are the Progressive majority.
  • And the majority of us, as evidenced by the polls, want a progressive agenda. We want:
  • members of the Bush regime impeached;
  • single-payer universal health care;
  • an end to the Iraq and Afghan wars and our troops home;
  • real social security, not semi-privatized retirement accounts;
  • public financing of campaigns;
  • an end to the so-called war on drugs;
  • immigration reform based on the ‘they work here, they live here, they stay here’principle;
  • labor unions; and
  • etc.

Yet neither McCain nor Obama, Republicans nor Democrats, are interested in, let alone fighting for, any of these things. And the people who are, who did? We left them on the curb watching the political process rust like so many cars.

A final reason why we will be the losers in November no matter who we select is because we have given away our freedom as citizens and it’s corresponding awesome responsibility, to our oppressors, to our figureheads.

Like Mike Royko suggested, we really don’t want leaders: people who engage us in the political process, challenge us, and constantly prove to us that we can reach beyond ourselves. No, we want a figurehead: someone who will run the country for us and make all the decisions; someone to tuck us in every night with what we want to hear, a few encouraging, soothing, words, and a glass of warm milk.

But if we are to restore this nation to it’s former glory, we must throw off the yoke of political oppression, get out of bed, and take that freedom and responsibility back.

How? Consider what other oppressed people have done.

First of all, recognize that we all have a role in it.  We are citizens in this great democracy. We have a right and a responsibility to be actively engaged in the systems that affect our common welfare. Only we and our ignorance and our apathy, no one or nothing else, not George Bush, not the Republicans, got us into this mess and only we can get ourselves out of it.

Secondly, we have to drop the waiting-for-the-messiah complex. We have to begin to realize that we are not victims; that if a new order is to be, its up to me.  Most of us want God or someone else–individual or institution (Obama, the Democrats) to change the external aspects of our civic lives so that we don’t have to change internally by letting go of our collective ignorance and apathy.  We want to be exempt from the responsibility for maintaining our common welfare.   We often find it easier to resent and suffer in the role of victim than get off our couches, study the issues, and get actively engaged in our political process.

As St. Paul writes: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.”

“Do not conform yourselves to this age,” as St. Paul also writes, “but be transformed by the renewal of our minds.”  As W. H. Auden has written,

“We would rather be ruined than changed;

We would rather die in our dread

Than climb the cross of the moment

And let our illusions die.”

Citizens have immense unused power.  We could, theoretically, insist on a new campaign system that reflects our role as the seat of power in a democracy, not as pawns in a military-industrial-congressional power struggle. We could drive out fear in this country by restoring our faith in the dictum that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.  We could raze one set of walls and create a government that truly promotes the general welfare.  And we could raise another set of walls and let justice roll like a river and flood the streets.

We could.  Theoretically.  We have the power.  But only in a very few places have we even begun to think about using it.  For citizens, as for black people, the hardest battle isn’t with Mr. Charlie.  It’s what Mr. Charlie has done to our minds.

On Anger and Profanity and Being Too Polite

David Culver, Telling It Like It Is

To those who may be uncomfortable with my anger and/or dislike my way of expressing it occasionally, I’m asking you to give me the opportunity to defend myself.

Sadly, nearly all of what goes on in our world is evil in one of its many forms: wars, massacres, genocide, injustice, corruption, greed, ignorance, apathy, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, etc. And anger is an appropriate response to all of it. As Thomas Aquinas wrote, “He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral. Why? Because anger looks to the good of justice. And if you can live amid injustice without anger, you are immoral as well as unjust.”

Anger at evil and expressing it is a major biblical theme. Moses was angry when he came down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments and saw the people worshipping the Golden Calf, angry enough to smash the two tablets on which they were written. The Old Testament prophets were angry. You cannot read Isaiah, Hosea, Jeremiah, etc. without dealing with a lot of their justifiable anger as they ranted against the evils of their day.

Christ’s precursor, John the Baptizer, was angry with the religious and secular leaders of his day. When the temple leaders came to see him on the day he baptized the Christ, an accurate contemporary translation of his question to them would be, “What are you a**holes doing here?”

Jesus was angry. “Scribes! Pharisees! Hypocrites!” is a phrase he repeated over and over in a memorable rant. And a tremendous amount of anger is described in the words and portrayed in the pictures of the time he whipped the moneylenders from the temple, enough to get him crucified less than a week after it happened!

In my understanding, anger and hate are not the same thing. Anger is an emotion and hate is a behavior. While there’s a very fine line between the two, and they often appear together, they are separate and distinct: I can be angry with someone without hating them.

A look in Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary will help clarify my point. Words used to describe anger are wrath, fury, rage, ire, passion, and forcefulness. Words used to describe hate are disposed to injury, evil disposition, malevolent, spiteful, offensive, disgusting.

Profanity is the language of anger. Like chili pepper, profanity turns up the heat (anger wrath, fury, rage, ire, passion, forcefulness) of what is being expressed. Kirby Larson, an award-winning author, said, “There is nothing like the occasional outburst of profanity to calm jangled nerves.” And many of us are familiar with Mark Twain’s thoughts on the subject: “In certain trying circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity furnishes a relief denied even to prayer.

Words are neutral, neither good nor bad in and of themselves. Responsible, knowledgeable linguists will back up George Carlin’s assertion; “There are no such thing as bad words. Bad thoughts, perhaps; bad intentions, maybe. But no bad words.” It is sheer stupidity to assert that, out of approximately 400,000 words in the English language, there are seven words that are “bad.”

Edmund Burke, British statesman, parliamentary orator, and political thinker stated, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing (or, as I add, the wrong thing).” And not expressing anger when appropriate is clearly doing nothing (or the wrong thing); thus fostering and supporting evil (immorality in Aquinas’ words).

This idea of evil filling in the vacuum created by the absence of good is what George Monbiot, an English writer, is trying to get across in his article “Right’s Stupidity Spreads, Enabled by Too-Polite Left” < http://www.evergreenedigest.org/special-project-archives-rights-stupidity-spreads-enabled-too-polite-left>. “Self-deprecating, too liberal for their own good, today’s progressives stand back and watch, hands over their mouths, as the social vivisectionists of the right slice up a living society to see if its component parts can survive in isolation. Tied up in knots of reticence and self-doubt, they will not shout stop. Doing so requires an act of interruption, of presumption, for which they no longer possess a vocabulary.”

In other words, fellow Lefties, in the words of Walt Kelly’s Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Not the evildoers, not the right, not the neocons, not the Michele Bachmans and Rush Limbaughs, but us, and our reticence to put up a fuss!

So stamp your feet or mutter or do something so the world will know you’re there, huh? Not getting angry when necessary is a betrayal … of your principles, your causes, your fellow human beings, your faith, and your values. It’s time to stop walking around with a blank stare on your face so no one will know your head’s asleep!

Anger in the defense of liberty is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.

Why I Have Left the DFL party

Note: I originally wrote this in January, 2010, right before the party precinct caucuses the following February. With the appearance of Ted Rall’s “At Some Point, Progressives Need to Break Up With the Democratic Party” <http://evergreenedigest.org/some-point-progressives-need-break-democratic-party> and the re=appearance of Chris Hedges’ “The Left Has Lost Its Nerve and Direction” <http://evergreenedigest.org/node/377>, I think it’s time for me to add my two cents worth on this issue.

Why I Did Not Caucus with my party (DFL) on February 2, 2010.

  • The next years are going to be about mediocrity, broken promises, and striving for second best. That’s not the MN I grew up in. And it’s not what I voted for, or was promised.
  • Do we continue as part of a political institution that we feel in large part is not serving us or the common good, or do we strike out towards something that we can participate in with integrity?

For as l-o-o-o-o-n-n-n-n-n-g as I can remember, certainly ever since the obligations of getting an education, serving in the military, getting established in a career, and starting to raise a family were completed, I have attended my party’s (DFL) precinct caucuses. It’s a habit, born of a middle school teacher’s planting the seeds of activism deep in my heart, becoming radicalized in college at the feet of the good Jesuit fathers at Marquette University in Milwaukee, and my church’s (St. Joan of Arc) nurturing of that commitment to activism in pursuit of peace and justice. From those many precinct caucuses, I’ve often gone on to serve as a delegate to county and district conventions and as associate precinct chair. The first Tuesday of February in even-numbered years comes and, like a Dalmatian at a fire, as soon as the bell rings, I’m there.

But this year it is different. I’m angry; I feel betrayed; I feel that my continued association with the DFL is coming at the cost of losing more and more of my political integrity; I feel I’m being taken advantage of, valued only for my time (to volunteer in fundraising) and treasure (to donate), never for my political position. I see my relationship with my party as an abusive one, and I’ve grown to the point where abusive relationships just aren’t that much fun anymore!

Congress and the Minnesota legislature haven’t passed one solid piece of what can reasonably be called progressive legislation in recent memory. On the national level, there’s the $1.3 trillion tax cut that benefits mostly the very wealthy; the Bill of Rights-shredding Patriot Act; rigged tax loopholes and looser accounting rules for corporations (a specialty of the Clinton White House); NAFTA and WTO, which were permission for corporations to screw working people and the environment world wide (again, products of the Clinton Administration); the Homeland Security Act that suffocates American freedom; two ever-expanding wars; and a health care reform debacle. Locally, we have the abuse of unallotment and the balancing of the state budget on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens: veterans, the aged, people with disabilities, minorities, the poor, and the homeless.

All of this has been with the explicit support and encouragement of Democrats. As Jim Hightower explained in his book, Thieves in High Places, “The sad truth is that none of George W’s (or Tim P’s) agenda would be hanging around our necks without the complicity and often the direct support of national (and local) Democratic leaders. They’ve ditched the Red Wing boot bunch and thrown in with the wing-tip crowd, going all wobbly on the whole concept of why America needs a Democratic party.”

For example, as Les Leopold writing in AlterNet asks,  “Where’s the Progressive Agenda for the Great Recession?

(http://www.evergreenedigest.org/content/wheres-progressive-agenda-great-recession) It’s been AWOL thus far.” And Cenk Uygur, writing in the Huffington Post, imagines “for a moment a world where the Democrats proceeded from strength. Here is how the health care debate would have unfolded instead.”

(http://www.evergreenedigest.org/content/how-democrats-should-have-handled-health-care-debate) Marianne Williamson, writing in the Huffington Post, says, “We elected Obama and then he sort of became someone else. He’s doing a lot of good things in various areas, but he’s certainly not changing the new bottom line: that corporations get to run the world.”

And locally all the Tweedy Bird-like DFL has been able to do is complain about the big, bad puddy-tat governor, all the while enabling him to beat up on ‘em! John Van Hecke, Minnesota 2020 Fellow, in an article “The Minnesota Legislature’s Hegel Problem,” (http://evergreenedigest.org/content/minnesota-legislatures-hegel-problem), argues that State DFL legislative leaders seem determined not to express a contrasting vision (to Pawlenty’s unrelenting ‘no new taxes’ mantra), focusing instead on procedural strategy.”  And they even failed the procedural battle at session’s end! Senate Finance Chairman Dick Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, said that “while Pawlenty has proven to be a stubborn and wily adversary, ‘we (DFL) allowed this to happen.’”(“DFLers call Pawlenty ‘stubborn’ on his cuts” Star Tribune | MN, http://www.startribune.com/politics/state/48297777.html?elr=KArksLckD8EQDUoaEyqyP4O:DW3ckUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aUUsZ).

Which leaves me wondering, with Marianne Williamson in the Huffington Post, “Where Does A Democrat Go From Here?”

“Clearly,” writes Chris Hedges in the Philadelphia Inquirer, “the left has lost its nerve and its direction

(http://www.evergreenedigest.org/content/left-has-lost-its-nerve-and-its-direction).”

He argues that, “If the left wants to regain influence in the nation’s political life, it must be willing to walk away from the Democratic Party, even if Barack Obama is the (president), and back progressive, third-party (officials) until the Democrats feel enough heat to adopt our agenda. We must be willing to say no. If not, we become slaves.”

But that’s easier said than done. Saying “no,” to the party of my extended family and one I’ve been a member of all my adult life, is hard for me, like it’s hard for a partner in an abusive relationship (which my relationship with the DFL clearly has become) to walk away from it. For the longest time I struggled with trying to reach a decision: do I continue to be active in my party or not? It never was, or is, a question of not being politically active in consort with others, whether in a party structure, church, activist organization, and/or other structure. The question was, “Do I continue with the DFL Party?”

Then a dear friend and fellow activist came to my rescue.

As I wrote back to her: “You’ve pretty well summed it up for me: ‘Do we continue as part of an institution (political, religious, whatever) that we feel in large part is not serving us or the common good, or do we strike out towards something that we can participate in with integrity, but might not have the power or critical mass to be effective.’ We sure as hell can’t be any less effective than we are in the DFL. As I wrote, ‘Congress and the Minnesota legislature haven’t passed one solid piece of what can reasonably be called progressive legislation in recent memory.’ And not only have they have not passed progressive legislation, they’ve been complicit in, and directly supportive of, the exact opposite!

”The present day DFL party is not the party of my grandfather, the party created by Floyd B. Olson, or the party of Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, Eugene McCarthy, or even Paul Wellstone. It’s a GOP Lite fundraising juggernaut. I don’t believe the DFL can be changed from within. Progressives have been trying that tactic, too, with no noticeable results. And doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the poster-child definition of insanity. It has to be changed from without. Dammit, something has to give pretty soon and the DFL can’t make it happen.

”For me the only thing left is to strike out in new directions. And although my new options may not on the surface have the power of critical mass, the fact that someone could participate with them with integrity speaks of eventual long-term success.”

And so I took the first step in that thousand mile journey last Tuesday (Feb 2), a step away from the DFL. To where I’m not sure, but at least my vision is no longer limited by blind devotion to a dead party that forced me to compromise my political integrity as the price of participation. In the words of the Johnny Nash tune, “I can see clearly now,” all the many other options for serving the causes of peace and justice in consort with others. “It’s going to be a bright, bright sun shiny day!”

American politics has descended into madness.

I agree completely with Noam Chomsky  that the congressional refusal to extend unemployment benefits is evidence that American politics has descended into madness.

“The refusal to provide very minimal living standards to people who are caught in this monstrosity — that’s just pure savagery,” Chomsky said during an interview with HuffPost Live. “There’s no other word for it.”

That the same can also be said for the reduction in food stamp benefits, the recent budget deal (Budget Deal Keeps Cuts, A Disaster for Majority) and the GOP war on the poor (Meet the poverty liars: GOP peddles more garbage in war on the poor) only reinforces Chomsky’s conclusion. All are proof of what he told HuffPost (U.S. Politics Are Now ‘Pure Savagery’): that corporate interests dominate the policy agenda of the Democratic Party, and he cited conservative scholar Norm Ornstein’s observation that the Republican Party has “drifted off the spectrum” and no longer functions as a serious parliamentary entity.

Congress no longer practices politics but class warfare. It is a lap dog of the 1%’s class war against the 99%. The Nobel Prize-winning New York Times columnist Paul Krugman argues that the rich are waging “pure class warfare” and that the rich are even more selfish than you thought.

In his article RIP, the middle class: 1946-2013  Edward McClelland argues the 1 percent hollowed out the middle class and our industrial base. And Washington just let it happen. (That’s not quite true. The greater majority of us, uneducated, apathetic, irresponsible US citizens, choosing to ignore Andrew Jackson’s warning in his farewell address that “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance” have not been even interested and involved, let alone vigilant about our collective public life, thus enabling Washington to just let the current corrupt, mad, barbaric, demonic, sadistic, and savage situation happen.)

In the early 50s Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy demonized at will whomever he chose with the charge they were communists. “Tail-gunner Joe” practiced this sheer demagoguery until Edward R. Murrow of CBS Television exposed him for who he was and a the attorney Joseph N. Welsh, in his famous rebuke of McCarthy directly asked him: Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Contrast that single demagogue with the countless demagogues we have in our midst today. Don’t tell me you don’t know who I’m talking about: Limbaugh (German for limp dick), Beck, Coulter, Boehner, O’Reilly, Ryan, Bachman, Cruz, McCain, Lieberman, Palin, Romney, Obama, Benedict XVI, Westboro Baptist Church, televangelists of all stripes, Wall Streeters and their academic schills, Bush I & II, Gates, Powell, Rumsfeld, Cheney, both Clintons, all but an extremely small handful of members of congress, celebrities, Christie, etc., etc, etc. Where are reporters like Murrow exposing these class clowns for who they are and why isn’t there an angry chorus of citizens shouting at them, “Have you no sense of decency … ? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

No,  like the class clowns we went to school with, we laugh at them because we mistakingly think they’re funny and we reward them with the recognition they crave. I ask you, who’s crazier, a Sarah Palin or those of us who provide approval for her to make an ass of herself? Or do we really know any differently ourselves?

More to come.