Monday, July 25, 2011

This is an urgent political message regarding the President's speech tonight

If you have a mortgage, a loan, a credit card, investments in stock, are on Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid HOW THE GOVERNMENT RESOLVES THE DEBT CEILING CRISIS will directly affect you.

If the nation goes into default, the stock markets (here and worldwide) plunge or crash, and America loses its standing as the world's #1 leading country, THESE CONSEQUENCES will directly affect you.

Do you like the President?  Do you hate him?  In this instance, it doesn't matter.

The President spoke to the nation tonight and asked everyone in the country to contact their Congressional representatives and tell them what you want.

The options are simple:

(1) the bipartisan balanced approach to raising the debt ceiling, which means severe cuts (including Defense) as well as closing tax loop holes and raising taxes on the top 1% of the country who are millionaires and billionaires,
(2) the Tea Party Republicans' cuts only approach, which will make devastating cuts in everything but Defense, and will unquestionably affect everybody who has a mortgage, a loan, a credit card, investments in stock, are on Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.

As someone who is on Social Security & Medicare; who knows other people on these two programs; and who knows several people who are on Medicaid, I AM LITERALLY TERRIFIED.

If these programs are cut FOR CURRENT RECIPIENTS without compensating revenue, my friends and I may very well not get our checks in August/September and going forward; my friends and I may very well not have access to any health care.

And you, in your own circumstances, will also likely be EQUALLY SCREWED.

I BEG  you to do what the President asked.

Here's a link to finding contact information for your Congressional representative:

Do what you think is the right thing.  Your voice, your "vote," is desperately needed RIGHT NOW.

Thanks for reading this,

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Anyone Who Had a Heart

I’m a news junkie, but I don’t pretend to know a lot about the legalities and procedures of political process.  That said, after watching the President act like a school principal trying to negotiate with rival teen gangs over the last few weeks, I am more dismayed than ever.  I understand that with the Republicans having the majority in Congress, and the Tea Party’s Rasputin-like power over those Republicans, Mr. Obama has had to walk some fine lines.

But from up here in the bleachers, it’s seemed like he gave up the game before it even began.  From what I’m able to understand, the budget/deficit-raising deal that’s currently on the table – and which the ├╝ber-conservatives still aren’t happy with – doesn’t seem to do much about increasing revenue (still no higher taxes for the “job creators”) and seems to do a great deal of spending cutting, including the benefits that millions of older, sicker, poorer Americans depend on to survive.  Yet the President seems happy, because he got the gangs to work somewhat together.  It’s all about his mission to be bipartisan by any means possible – and perhaps necessary – but I’m still left dazed, confused, and feeling mightily betrayed.

Given that the President is also running for re-election in the midst of all this, it’s no surprise to me that the old Dionne Warwick hit, Anyone Who Had a Heart, has been swimming through my aching head.  Lest you don’t know or remember the lyrics, here’s how it starts out:
“Anyone who ever loved could look at me
And know that I love you
Anyone who ever dreamed could look at me
and know I dream of you
Knowing I love you so
Anyone who had a heart
Would take me in his arms and love me, too
You couldn't really have a heart and hurt me,
Like you hurt me and be so untrue
What am I to do?”

Mr. Obama’s official campaign arm, Obama For America, seems to have settled on the first of what I imagine will be several campaign slogans.  On the OFA homepage, a photo of a smiling, charming Obama has the tagline: Are You In?   You can click the box that says Yes, I’m In! and select the ways that you can Get Involved Today!  And if you Google search for OFA, you’ll see the sentence “Barack’s hair is greyer, but he’s still fighting!”

Someone on the President’s campaign team, or his post-Emanuel chief-of-staff, or Michelle, has to tell Mr. Obama in a way he can hear that we in the core base that put him into office (the aging hippies and lefties; the unprecedented number of young people and minorities) are not happy.  We’ve spent three-and-a-half years waiting to see the commanding, outspoken, counter-Washington-culture Candidate Obama emerge from the non-communicative, ever-compromising, Republican- Lite President Obama, but he hasn’t come out.

I’m among the folks who will vote for Obama again, because I know the alternative will be unthinkable and I’ve had a lifetime of voting for the lesser of two evils.  But the people who fell in love with him and his hope and promises of change, believed that a true progressive/liberal Democrat was going to be in Executive power for the first time in decades.  These people – those who may not have voted for years or ever voted before – need an explanation from Obama before he can rely on them to traipse to the polls again.

They need to understand the reasons behind his turn of face; why he put bipartisanship ahead of accomplishment, particularly in his first two years when the Democrats held both houses of Congress; why the country ended up with such sloppy, complicated, way-in-the-distance health care reform with no public option and no significant challenge to the corrupt health insurance industry; why financial reform is virtually toothless; why women and their health and freedom were thrown under the bus; why the vast majority of the already-insufficient stimulus money wasn’t spent; why nothing special or important was done for blacks and other minorities; why he hasn’t proposed FDR-style public works programs to lower unemployment and increase the quality of the nation’s crumbling infrastructure; why he has remained closed-mouth about the union-bashing going on from coast to coast; why he couldn’t get the Democrats all reading on the same page.  In essence, why did he change?!

We all know that Obama stepped into an unanticipated mine field when he took office, that Bush trashed the country like a drunk rock band in a fine hotel; that the extent of the national debt and deficit were unprecedented; that the economy was literally on the verge of collapse; that he was then confronted with a Great Recession that rivaled the Great Depression and still isn’t really over; and that he has been treated with an intensity of disrespect that no white President has ever experienced (no, not even Lincoln).  It’s because we know all this that there hasn’t been angry protest, even rioting, in the streets.  But he can’t just turn around now, all glib and folksy and homeboy and ask us Are you in?  He’s not prepared for the answer.  And we’re still waiting for answers from him.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Republicans, Reclaim Your Souls

Until fairly recently, we had a vibrant two-party system in this country.  Yes, Democrats and Republicans have always had significant differences in preferred practices and policies.  But the Republican Party has gone from being fiscally and otherwise conservative, but still willing to compromise with Democrats to create laws and programs that serve the public and national good, to functioning as a barrier to compromise, civility and common sense.

There are currently numerous older and previous members of both houses who have been speaking publicly about the “old days,” when Republicans and Democrats socialized together and there were members from opposite sides who were nonetheless good friends.  It may have been the day of smoke-filled back rooms, but it was also the day of camaraderie, decency and some shared goals.

Now, it’s a whole new ballgame.  Both on and off the floor, Democrats and Republicans stay in their segregated groups.  They have become more than just partisan.  They are no longer two different teams playing the same game by principled rules.  This is largely because the Republican Party has been kidnapped by the Tea Party, a disruptive, ill-informed, right-wing-extremist fringe group.  And, it’s important to note that the Tea Party in general criticizes the Republicans for not being conservative enough.

The Tea Party has become a well-oiled political machine and a powerful lobby for a large number of assorted ordinary folks who believe in honoring the success and excess of the rich; who value religion over science; who champion free markets in all things, regardless of any negative impact on society; who prefer rogue capitalism and the profit-motive to social service and compassion; who so want to revive the past that they will not acknowledge the obvious differences and imperatives of the future; and, most of all, who think that their beliefs should be the law of the land – even if they’re contrary to the separation of church and state.  Indeed, the Tea Party will not accept secular law that is in conflict with its values, even though a majority of Americans do not share those values.

As a result (as we’ve all noticed), the Republican Party is in a hyper state of Stockholm Syndrome – the dynamic that occurs when a kidnap victim is held by charismatic captors for so long that they begin to identify with their captors and defend them against the people from their “prior” lives who are trying to free them.

It is time for all Republicans – politicians and citizens alike – to stand up to the Tea Party, which is taking them down a wrong, dangerous road.  Whatever their personal religious beliefs may be, Republicans must renew their faith in the wisdom of secular government as mandated by the Constitution in America  – a country that abounds in differences of faith and opinion and prides itself on its diversity.

It’s also time for Republicans to rededicate themselves to governing in the public interest and respecting the office of the Presidency, even if they don’t care for the man who’s currently President.  It’s time for the Republicans to stop combining the doing of their jobs with the campaigning for their jobs.  It is unconscionable to state shamelessly that as a party you will not work with the President and that your primary goal is to bring him down, no matter what he offers and no matter what the consequences may be.

The Republicans have a right – indeed, a duty – to stand by their party’s core principles of belief in small government, low taxes, moderate government spending and, now, the need to address the national debt and deficit.  They do not have a right to be obstructionist, petulant, rigid, indifferent to the welfare of the people, and threatening to the economic health and world standing of the country.

To the great dismay of the Left, President Obama has been more than obliging and cooperative.  He, in fact, is playing loose and easy with the core values of the Democratic Party.  Real Republicans should see this.  It is only because the Republican Party has allowed the Tea Party to threaten its honor, its history, its common sense, and the better angels of its nature, that at this juncture they will not play a fair game.

Reclaim your souls, Republicans.  If you do, you just might win the essence of what you want, as well as the 2012 campaign.  (I don't want you to win, but if you don't get a grip, everyone will lose, big time.)  I urge you to stop buying in to the fear and loathing and ridiculous extremism of the Tea Party.  You are the party of Lincoln and Reagan.  Look at what they did and ask yourself what you should be doing now.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Working Class Roots: From Hardworking Acorns, Political Trees Grow

photo: me in my artsy-fartsy teens

Since I started a full-force political rant on the Fourth of July (I’m sure some of you think I’ve been ranting since starting this blog in 2007…), I’ve been thinking about my parents a lot while mulling over the subjects of class and race and politicians behaving badly.  My parents were lifelong Democrats with many views definitely left of center, and without question, they played a major role in shaping my politics and values.  Isn’t that what parents are supposed to do?

My father, who was black, spent his youth as an ordinary seaman and eventually a Merchant Marine who served with valor during WWII on two different oil tankers that were set on fire.  After that, he was a waiter and wine steward (First Class) in the heyday of the great trans- atlantic liners: the S.S. United States, S.S. America, etc.

When, after seven years of marriage, my mother rebelled against being a seafaring widow and insisted he find work on land, my father then spent more than 25 years as a skycap for TWA.  He was an unabashed working class man and an ardent union man.  He made more in tips than he did in straight salary.  He wouldn’t buy foreign cars and indeed made a constant conscious effort to Buy American in every way possible.  He was a naturalized citizen, born and raised by “town people” (for reference, think “lace curtain Irish) on the British West Indian island of St. Vincent.  His father, who emigrated here after him, worked at the Chunky Candy factory in Brooklyn for about 30 years.  Sans hardhats and beer bellies, they were regular American guys.

My mother was a typical New York Jewish girl.  Both her parents came from some part of Eastern Europe that was sometimes Russian and sometimes Polish, depending on how the political winds were blowing.  He was a tailor, when he wasn't skipping off to Florida to wear white suits like a dandy and bet at the dog track.  She spent most of the year literally flicking chickens and doing whatever odd jobs she could get, and in summer, she cooked in one or more kitchens in the Catskills hotels.

Sometimes the family was on Relief (as Welfare was then called) and my mother’s most vivid memories of her Depression childhood was the year that Relief gave all the poor kids red blazers that marked them as Relief kids for all to see, and, the day she came home from school and found her mother sitting on the sidewalk, crying, all their furniture and worldly goods around her.  They didn’t foreclose so much in the Bronx; they just evicted.

After high school, my mother worked in some large government office in New Jersey, where one of her co-workers, on learning she was Jewish, said “I never met a Jew before.  Where are your horns?”

As time passed, my mother spent 14 years going to Hunter College off-and-on at night, slowly and reverently accumulating credits like Krugerands towards her BA in English Lit.  By day, she worked her way up in New York’s legendary schemata trade – or, more accurately, worked her way back, back in the back offices, from bookkeeper to office manager to comptroller.  They were nasty, seedy little offices with roaches and no windows; the pretty stores were up front.  She ended her working life with 17 years as the manager of the subscription department of a hoity-toity Wall Street newspaper (not the Journal) for which moguls paid hundreds of dollars for a year’s supply of weekly editions.  In all those years, she never bought a piece of stock, because the market made her and my father nervous.

This was my family; these are my roots.  Because I was an only child, as well as an only grandchild and niece, I was as spoiled as a kid could be and since my mother was in the rag trade, I was always dressed to beat the band.  My mother took me to concerts and museums; I went to the movies with my parents.  My father never let us put milk or juice cartons or salad dressing bottles on the dining table, because that was crude.  He would set the table the way he used to set them on the big ships.  And he made classy cocktails: Manhattans and Brandy Alexanders and Whiskey Sours and Sidecars.  I was only in my teens when I graduated from Shirley Temples.  My father believed that if he taught me how to drink properly, I wouldn’t be a drunk.  He was right.  Booze is one of the few vices I’ve never had a problem with.  Knowledge is power.

My father’s leisure time was spent largely in bed, reading newspapers or magazines or books on geography, history or religion; that was his hobby.  My mother was an avid reader, a very occasional writer, a talented amateur painter, and a lover of opera, dance and theater.  She attended as many such performances as she could, often with me.  And because my father worked for an airline, they could fly for free so long as they went off-season and stand-by, so they did, they traveled to many places ‘round the country and ‘round the world.  In these ways, they were somewhat different than other working class folks.  But all the years my mother spent struggling to come up with new things to do with chopped meat and chicken helped keep everyone’s feet on the ground.

I was always a little racially confused and I certainly wasn’t religiously rooted in anything (culturally, yes, but not in matters of faith).  My father was Episcopalian, but he didn’t make a big deal about it and my mother was a classic intellectual Jewish agnostic.

My childhood wasn’t some urban, ethnic, Leave It To Beaver, but if I wasn’t a happy kid, it was largely because I was lonely and already affected by depression, although we didn’t know that for a long time.  Still, people loved me and took care of me; I ate a lot of wonderful food; I was showered and surrounded by books and music.  I went to good public schools, where, according to virtually every teacher I had, I wasn’t working up to my potential.  But I sang (I had a very beautiful voice when I was young) and took piano lessons and wrote poetry and songs and watched a lot of TV.

I also did household chores (no pay, just family obligation) and was a babysitter (to learn the value of work and money).  We talked politics at the dinner table and I learned what mattered.  (But I didn’t know, for example, that there was a social stigma about working for tips; it never occurred to me).  When I got older, they let my friends and me make posters for anti-war demonstrations in the living- and dining-rooms.  And for several years, I was the beloved “kitchen lady” at Pacifica Radio WBAI during fund raising drives.  I also went to a nice Lefty summer camp for teens run by the YM & YWHA.  In the main, it was all good.

So lately, as I watch my country go nuts, I find myself reflecting with frequency on my past and digging ever deeper to get a firm hold on what grounds me, even when I’m not thinking about it consciously.  Gather yee flowers – and yee strength – where yee may.


Monday, July 11, 2011

This Is Class Warfare

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day.  Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.  Teach a man to create an artificial shortage of fish and he will eat steak.  – Jay Leno

My fellow Americans…please look closely.  We are in the midst of genuine Class Warfare, and the rich are winning – not because they’re more powerful (per se), but because they are fully engaged in this fight in order to protect their best interests.  The middle class, working class, and poor are losing – because we are not fully engaged, we are not united, and we’re very confused about what our best interests are and who in politics (greatly imperfect though they may be) are motivated to serve those interests.

Take note.  The Republicans are not your friends – nor are they your chief enemy.  The primary enemy in America today is the Tea Party.  They can no longer be dismissed as a wacko fringe group.  No matter how ridiculous you think they are, they are also well organized, growing in numbers, passionate about their beliefs, and willing to engage in a battle to make their opinions the laws of the land at the federal, state and local levels.  With every passing day, the Tea Party is developing into a major third party in this country.  We ignore them at our peril.

Republicans used to be fiscal conservatives.  They were ideologically conservative, too, as demonstrated by their behavior/attitudes toward the civil rights and women’s movements (particularly their historical opposition to integration and legal abortion), and they have never been supporters of gay rights, either.  But it’s only since George H.W. Bush (with a quick, fairly ineffectual intermission with Bill Clinton) that Republicans have become radical conservatives, initially because of the increasing influence of Evangelical Christian political activists.

However, it is only since the election of Barack Obama – too black and too liberal (in their view) to tolerate – that all components of the Right have become mega-radicalized and have joined forces to repeal the progressive strides of the mid-20th century and ensure that Obama doesn’t succeed in further progressive efforts.  The sad irony is, they have only prevented Obama from succeeding in moderate, deeply compromised efforts.  As a result, we’re in trouble.

Our main problem isn’t the economy or unemployment or the erosion of longstanding civil rights, and it isn’t the debt, the deficit, bad health care, poor education, or decreasing environmental protection.  Our main problem is that we do not know who and what we are, we are not united, and many of us are too busy, disillusioned, or just plain unmotivated to be politically active in any way.

Let’s start with who and what we are.  For quite a few decades now, the middle class – sometimes called the lower middle class – has been unwilling to see itself as working class.  If we wear ties (men) and business suits (men and women) to work and live in at least a half-way decent home, we consider ourselves middle class.  We look down on the poor as much as the upper middle class and rich do, even if we’re currently unemployed and can’t find work, or our homes are either under water or in foreclosure.  We take pride in this middle class label, ignoring the fact that conservative power and an economy skewed to the rich have rendered this label meaningless.

It isn’t just laborers or factory workers or miners or migrants or servants who are working class.  Those who think themselves middle class are working class, too.  Indeed, I would go so far as to say that if you depend on a company for a paycheck, even a substantial paycheck, you are working class.  Even if you are an entrepreneur, individual contractor or freelancer, whether you’re doing well or just managing by a very thin margin, you are working class.  If you are out and out poor, perhaps on public assistance, perhaps on Social Security retirement or disability, you are working class.  Put more simply: if you can’t afford to light your cigars with $100 bills, you’re working class.

My advice to you is wake up and smell the sweat – and the danger.  There are many politicians and others at the top of the food chain who do not care about you.  Even if you’ve worked hard all your life, even if you became a Reagan Democrat 30 years ago or, for some inexplicable reason, identify with the Republican or Tea Parties now, the upper crust does not care about you.  They have no sympathy for your unemployment, or mortgage problems, or inability to send your kids to college, or the fact that whatever money you accumulated in 401ks or IRAs or T-bills or stock investments were wiped out in the economic collapse of 2008.

Nobody with serious money cares about the working class.  Those with serious money and the rich – the distinction being, rich is something you can blow in a New York minute; wealth is something that doesn’t weaken, that flows from generation to generation, no matter what.  The rich may once have been working class; the wealthy, never.  Either way, they don’t care about you.

That’s why it’s essential that we, all of us, the larger, combined Working Class, pay attention to what’s happening in Washington DC and state houses across the land.  Look at what’s happening to unions.  Look at what’s happening to wages (stagnant for years), look at what’s happening to prices of everything (increasing daily), look at your overall circumstances (somewhere between shaky and dire?), look at your children’s future (dicey?), look ahead to your old age (scary?).  If the machinations of politicians are worrying you, if it pisses you off to hear the rich described as “job creators” when all they do is sit on their money or outsource employment opportunities to countries with cheaper labor, if you’re angry or frightened or outraged, think about who and what you are.

Then, acknowledge to yourself that, like it or not, you’re in the midst of class warfare, and not doing your bit for the war effort – whether on the frontlines or the home front – just isn’t cricket.  And, is certainly not in your best interest.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Singin’ the Independence Day Blues

George Carlin used to say that he never understood the concept of national or ethnic pride, because pride is what you should feel about something you’ve accomplished, not something you had nothing to do with.  “I’m not proud to be Irish,” he’d say by way of example.  “That was just an accident of birth; both of my parents and their parents were born in Ireland, so I’m Irish.”  He would often add – while voicing his disapproval of “hyphenated Americans” – that he was born here, which made him an American.  I’m with George.  So, I’m not proud to be an American – but I have always been pleased and grateful to be an American, and in many ways I still am.

But this year, I must add that I am ashamed of what America is becoming – ashamed and alarmed, because of our dysfunctional, partisan, corrupt politics; the devastation of our economy; the zeal of Republicans/Conservatives; the ennui of Liberals/Progressives; and the dithering, dangerous ineffectiveness of Democrats.  Years ago, one of my mother’s friends often said, “We are living in perilous times.”  What must he be saying now?  What can any thinking, concerned, Leftist-in-some-kind-of-way person say now?  How about saying this: “Yes, I’m discouraged, disgusted, busy and exhausted – but I’m willing to do something, because something must be done!”? 

I had a rather startling epiphany the other night.  I watched – with a combination of horror and awe – two fascinating programs on C-SPAN.  They featured speeches from two annual political conventions that were held in Minneapolis last month.  The first was that of Netroots Nation, which says on its Web site that it “…Amplifies progressive voices by providing an online and in-person campus for exchanging ideas and learning how to be more effective in using technology to influence the public debate.”

The other was that of RightOnline, described on its Web site as “…A project of [the] Americans for Prosperity Foundation dedicated to advancing liberty and prosperity for all Americans through greater citizen participation online.

Both organizations conducted Blog Conferences during their events.  RightOnline also held a workshop called “Facebook 101.”  One of the speakers told a heartwarming story about an 82-year-old woman who spoke with him briefly before the workshop, then contacted him on Facebook a few weeks later asking to “friend” him and vice versa, and she had already acquired 500 new “friends.”

Obviously, Republicans and Conservatives who were outpaced by miles by the new media infrastructure of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign were determined not to be caught with their hard drives down this time around.  What they’ve learned and how they’ve learned to use it is nothing less than impressive (and, therefore, downright terrifying).

Equally frightening was an address to the large RightOnline assembly by Conservative blogger/professional journalist Andrew Breitbart, whose Web site is very large, very impressive, and looks/reads like a full news network site.  He was introduced by someone who predicted that “he’ll be to online media what Rush Limbaugh is to radio.”  This former liberal is indeed smart, charming, funny and undeniably compelling.  He said his personal goal is to “take down the institutional Left,” and he also observed – with considerable accuracy, it pains me to say – “Liberals believe that they don’t have to lift a finger, all they have to do is say ‘I’m a Liberal’ [and their work is done].”

There were, of course, other speakers at RightOnline, and you can check out my link to their site for specifics – but I want to summarize by telling you the three ideas, oft repeated, that I found most interesting.  First, the well-organized Right genuinely believes that President Obama campaigned as a Moderate but has governed as a Liberal.  The fact that Liberals believe Obama campaigned as a Progressive but has governed as a Right-Compromising-Moderate says something very important about the two opposing views, which is that each has a very different view of reality.

Their second belief is that they are, as Breitbart put it, “in a monumental revolution to bring America back to being a Right-Center nation.”  This is important, because so many people on the Left are merely obsessed with the notion that the Right is looney-tunes – which I agree with, but our opinions are no practical match for people who believe they are in the midst of a genuine American Revolution, and as you may have noticed, they are unified in this belief and acting on it, both at grassroots and in the halls of political action.

Third, the president of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, noted that “it’s hard to be a Liberal in America today” because the Right has indeed become so well organized and united in their goals.  He also cited Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama as having “ruined America” with “radically Left-Wing policies” and it is from these that the Right is determined to “take the nation back.”

For the past several years, every time I saw a sign or heard a person say “we want our country back,” I assumed they meant they wanted to take America out of Barack Obama’s black/Muslim/born-in-Kenya hands.  And while I still believe there are elements of racism (not to mention idiocy) in their opinions, their actual concern, their true belief, is that America has been co-opted and destroyed by Left Wing actions for decades.

As for Netroots Nation, sadly I must report that they came off as lame in comparison – not in their ideas, but in the size of their live audience and the specificity of their calls to action.  Cenk Uygur, a Turkish-American Liberal standard bearer whom I have never heard of – which may say more about my ignorance than his status – was their guest speaker.  He’s a regular MSNBC host, as well as the creator/host of a syndicated Liberal radio talk-show, The Young Turks, and a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post.

Uygur spoke eloquently and at length, saying that “this is a Class Warfare.”  Regrettably, most Liberals and the country’s working and middle classes don’t know it, which in itself is a huge problem.  Uygur noted that America’s Founding Fathers were indeed Liberals, because of their belief in government’s protection of the rights and welfare of the People, and the separation of Church and State, regardless of each man’s personal religious beliefs.

Most important, Uygur stressed that campaign finance reform is urgent and essential because “Corporate America owns the American political system.”  He pointed out that while the Right adamantly opposes higher income and corporate taxes, the old Leona Helmsley maxim that “only the little people pay taxes” has become increasingly true because of ever-increasing payroll taxes.  Another blow to the little people will come from the Right’s desire to raise the retirement age from 65/66 to 70.  And of course, mention was made of the dangers and hardships caused by union busting.  Uygur, and others, said all the correct things – except what can and should be done about them.

I’ll begin to close with a rough summary of these ideas about those of us on the Left: (1) we cannot abandon Barack Obama no matter how pissed off or disappointed we may be, because the alternatives are unthinkable; (2) we have a moral obligation to find some bit of time in our busy lives to engage in some form of political activism, because not doing so is irresponsible, given the arduous efforts by the Right; and (3) we can’t afford to be glib or indifferent or wrapped up in our own little worlds as to believe that all that’s happening is political-bullshit-as-usual and there’s nothing so special about politics and elections this time around.  It’s not so, and I BEG ALL OF US not to be blind to the cautionary lessons of history.

Adolf Schicklgruber was viewed as a joke when he tried to become a fine-art painter in early-1920s Vienna.  Even later when, as Adolf Hitler, he became chancellor of Germany in 1933 and turned the Weimar Republic into a totalitarian, autocratic dictatorship he named the Third Reich, this seemingly-silly little man was an object of scorn and dismissed as unimportant, both by many at home and at high levels of the international political community.  They thought him ridiculous and essentially harmless, never imagining he would become the vituperous agent of Nazi barbarism.  But Germany’s grim economy, high unemployment, unprecedented levels of hunger and homelessness, not to mention the  international disrespect heaped on this once-proud nation, began to make the ridiculous seem like salvation.

I don’t believe the American Right Wing is comprised of hateful, murdering Nazis.  But I do believe their ire is dangerous, their beliefs are demented, and their capacity to gain power and reinvent America in their own anti-government, anti-labor, anti-social-safety-net and pro-profit-making-everything is very real.

On this Independence Day, let us think of what America was and can be if guided by compassionate, educated (science based), secular, progressive leadership – and what it could become if we sit back and do nothing, allowing the Right Wing zealots to take power in all quarters.