Hier stehe ich (“Here I stand”), is thought to be Martin Luther‘s statement at the Diet of Worms (1521), refusing to submit to the Church’s discipline, holding his positions to be correct.
History has, in general, vindicated some of his major positions. In fact, had the Roman Church not fallen away from Orthodox practices, such as married clergy and Communion under both kinds, there might not have been a Reformation.
I have adopted his declaration for a Post giving some of my thoughts on the current political situation in the U.S. and in part, the world.
Read these two paragraphs very carefully:
In this blog, I want to do something different, and I call on all who read this to react, not with debate, but with similar posts giving your fundamental principles (ἀξιώμᾰτᾰ — axiomata) and corollaries.
I’m not prejudging, but if your comments are arguing or debating against my fundamental principles and corollaries, instead of enunciating your own, I will probably delete your comment, no matter how deep or long our (real) friendship is. And of course, no Ad Hominem.
I’m not interested in acrimonious debate…I am interested in sincerely learning what your worldview is. That way, actual dialogue can take place in the future.
OK, let’s go…my axiomata and some corollaries. Here I Stand:
The most dangerous Forces in the U.S. and the World Today, in descending order:
- Human Caused Climate Change and other environmental degradation and the concurrent Climate Deniers
- Movement Conservatism, and its wholly owned subsidiary, today’s Republican Party Office holders and officials (not the rank and file)
- Rule by the Gut: The abandonment of reason and intellect in our national discourse. See Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free
by Charles P. Pierce
- The 1% (with a few exceptions, see below), Corporate Personhood, “Too Big to Fail” institutions
- Trickle-Down Economic theories (Voodoo Economics — Reaganomics)
- White Supremacism / White Nationalism (US and elsewhere) and their hate groups. See Lies My Teacher Told Me, Lies Across America, and other works by James W. Loewen, as well as White Rage by White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson Ph.D.
- Daesh, Al Qaida, Wahabism, Salafism, and other Radical Muslim terrorist and hate movements (The real War on Christianity, and everyone else)
- Radical Christian terrorism and hate groups
- The Religious Right in the U.S., and that includes the Right Wing of the Catholic Church
The reason why Movement Conservatism and Current GOP rank so high, is because Movement Conservatism is a quasi-religious cult complete with Oaths, Saints, and Excommunication. It promotes the evils above (except #7, and possibly #8). See The Big Con: Crackpot Economics and the Fleecing of America by Jonathan Chait (Author).
The current GOP wins elections with a clever, but dishonest strategy. Their candidates promise to fight for the middle-class, defeat LGBT rights, stop abortion, etc. Once elected, they do none of those things, but rather consistently act in favor of the rich and super-rich, and materially and deliberately hurt the common person. See What’s the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America by Thomas Frank.
My View of the Recent Election
Having moved through the Stages of Grief after the morning of November 9, I remain heartbroken and disgusted, but mostly puzzled.
This is what I see in Donald J. Trump after listening to him incessantly for–what was it–12+ months of an excruciating campaign (more about that later).
- A man born with a silver spoon in his mouth
- A man who has demonstrated his misogyny over and over in his life
- A business man who has largely made his wealth by shorting or stiffing his contractors outright. (Ask the good folks in Atlantic City… Nucky Thompson was kinder to the city that spawned Monopoly). He’s a big-time Con-Man.
- A man who, with insidious cleverness, read the White Rage and and Middle-Class angst in the U.S. and exploited it shamelessly
- Anyone who does not think that “Make America Great Again” was a “dog whistle”for “Make America White Again” wasn’t really paying attention to who listened, and cheered
- I do not see DJT as a racist…but he sure used American Racism, playing on it constantly
- A man who showed reckless disregard for the truth, openly lying, clearly just making stuff up as he went along
- A man who proposed a completely Unconstitutional Religious Test, to be used against Muslims
- A man who used school-yard bullying and personal insult to put down his Republican and Democratic opponents
- A man who is so thin-skinned that he used Twitter to try to intimidate and lie when he felt slighted. He seems to enjoy threatening ordinary people who oppose him.
- A man with absolutely no experience in the Military or Government.
- A man with no visible political, philosophical, ethical or religious convictions. His only apparent goal was to win, possibly to self-aggrandize and make money for his companies.
- A man who made all kinds of campaign promises that it is clear now were a bait-and switch. Well at least there, he is in solid Current GOP territory.
- He is actually saying things like “In the election, we said it was rigged. But we won, so we don’t care any more.”
My conclusion was, and is, that this man is a cad, a liar, a con-man, and basically a pretty thoroughly disgusting human being.
Now, as he assembles his administration, he has made a few good picks, however, on balance, he has a leader of the Alt-Right as his chief strategist (above). Several of his appointees seem to be designed to destroy the very agencies departments they will lead. And all the billionaire kleptocrats! And Roger Ailes, one of the chief evils of the age is in the background. His “drain the swamp” has turned into “Import more Alligators”!
In The Nation, Susan McWilliams makes an excellent point that Hunter S. Thompson predicted the Trumpism of Total Retaliation in his Hell’s Angels. Read the commentary which is thoughtful and important for us Liberals to understand. Trumpism is embraced by those who feel society has left behind.
So, my conservative true friends, I know that you are intelligent, good people, and that you have not been left behind. In your statement of axiomata and corollaries, please (and I mean this sincerely), let me know how you could have voted for this man I loathe.
By the way, while I see Hillary Clinton as a good, Methodist Grandmother, who has been in public service most of her life, her campaign was very poorly run. That’s why I say that we have an evil party (GOP) and a stupid party (Democrats) in the U.S.
My depression was in large part because I hoped that this year, a fundamentally decent person, Mrs. Clinton, would break the US glass ceiling (the only glass ceiling higher is the Papacy!), as the best qualified candidate in modern history. The sword was supposed to be driven through the heart of the GOP Dragon, and Good would triumph. That’s a hard dream to see shattered.
One final word: I acknowledge that DJT is the President of my Country, and I want him to succeed. Unlike the Republicans of Congress who made it their sole guiding principle to make President Obama’s Presidency fail (they didn’t succeed), I will support every good thing DJT does, and will decry any bad thing he does, even-handedly.
I have spoken about this before, but it is worth mentioning that I see us moving into a new Gilded Age.
I further fear that there are many signs that we are repeating mistakes of 1930s Germany.
I can elaborate about those things in future posts.
My Suspicion of the Super-Rich
If a person is Super-Rich, or if the company is one of the mega-corporations, I am instinctively suspicious. The super-rich and big corporations have to prove to me they are not crooks and kleptocrats. A few have:
- Bill and Melinda Gates
- Mark Zuckerberg
- Elon Musk
- George Soros
- Mark Cuban
- Warren Buffet
… for example.
I am also automatically suspicious of the management of large, and mega corporations.
Sources of News
I get my news from a wide variety of sources. Here are a few
- The NY Times (the American Paper of Record)
- The Wall Street Journal
- The Economist
- The Washington Post
- Huff Post
- The Atlantic
- Network News (including looking in on CNN and even Fox–shudder!–from time to time)
- Local TV and internet news
- Occasionally Pacifica Radio
- The LA Times
- The SF Chronicle
- The SF Examiner
- Occasionally French press
- The New Republic
- National Catholic Reporter
- America Magazine
- Crux News service
- The Nation
- The reporting of Fr. Tom Reese, S.J.
- Snopes.com for fact-checking
Each of these has some bias in the way stories are chosen, written, etc. For example, the WSJ has a bias toward business. Huff Post is progressive. If a story strikes me, I will then drill down to find primary sources.
I don’t like dismissing news stories because of their publication source–actual Fake News is the Exception. If it gets reported, and I’m interested in it, I will investigate further to see if it happened, the circumstances, and read several viewpoints from different sources to get a feel for it.
Gone, thank heavens, are the days when the press conspired to keep FDR’s disabilities a secret.
My big beef with the press in this election is how they gave so much free time to Trump, and never effectively held his feet to the fire about his many problems, such as
- Trump U
- Bankrupting Companies
…while brutalizing Secretary Clinton on emails, etc.
This Saturday Night Live skit summed up how I saw the mainstream press this election cycle, and deplored their actions:
Is there Liberal Bias in Mainstream Media and the Media industry?
In a word: Yes. But not why most people think.
In my experience on this planet, the Liberal/Progressive position is the factually, philosophically, and ethically correct position roughly 75-80% of the time. Liberals, however, are divided among themselves and often very poor communicators, while Conservatives are amazingly effective communicators (see below).
Therefore the Media and Entertainment naturally gravitate toward truth and away from self-serving falsehood. Therefore they only appear to have a liberal bias, they actually have a bias toward truth.
We have developed a weird idea in Idiot America: that there are two sides to every story, and that both sides must be given equal time. There are not always two sides, as I outlined in a previous post. For example:
- The world is not flat
- Earth revolves around the Sun, not vice versa
- Human-caused negative environmental change is real
- Creationism is not science, and belongs in philosophy and theology classes, not in science classes
- Humans and Dinosaurs did not co-exist (Sorry Sarah Palin)
Charles Pierce did a good job in Idiot America in enunciating these fundamental laws at work today in the U.S.:
- Anything that moves units is good (sales)
- A fact is what enough people believe
- Truth is how fervently they believe it (truthiness…thank you Stephen Colbert)
- The worst thing to be on any topic is a genuine expert in the field.
What we Progressives need to do is
- Organize as effective a communications apparatus as the Right Wing has
- Re-examine ourselves humbly as to how we got arrogant and comfortable
- Be present in every community and convince Middle-Class and Blue Collar Americans that we have their backs, and really do so! (Thanks Bernie!)
When Centrist seems Leftist: the Right and Left are not at parity.
In The Big Con: Crackpot Economics and the Fleecing of America, Jonathan Chait demonstrates how the “Center” of American politics has moved steadily Right-ward, and also the incredible lock-step propaganda machine of the Right.
One great example of the non-parity is the institution of the Think Tank.
Liberal Think-Tanks were founded to explore fact-based policies, and to offer solutions to situations that had been vetted by the best and brightest scholars in the field. Members often disagree with one another publicly.
Right-Wing Think-Tanks were founded to propagate and defend dogmatic positions, usually of Movement Conservatism. Their agenda is set a priori.
These two institutions look alike, but they are not really alike at all, and are a wonderful illustration of the difference between current Left and Right in the U.S.
How did I get here?
Now, you may ask, how did I get here?
I base this on these excellent works of US History:
- Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America by David Hackett Fischer
- American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard
- American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good by Colin Woodard
Using Woodard’s expansion of Fischer’s schema of the separate cultural areas (Nations) that make up North America, here is my journey:
I was born to parents who grew up in El Norte (El Paso), and who had moved to one of the capitals of the Far West, Phoenix. However, my Mother’s half-Hispanic heritage, my Father’s family ties to Yankeedom (Illinois), and very frequent visits to my Grandmother’s house in El Paso, tempered me, orienting me toward El Norte culture.
A liberal Catholic and Jesuit education inspired me, and then I was thoroughly initiated into the ways of Yankeedom at Yale, New Haven being one of the two capitals of New England culture. (Boston is the other.)
Novitiate in Santa Barbara (El Norte) continued the liberal influence. Then I went to Fordham and learned the tolerant, liberal and competitive ways of New Netherlands in NYC.
From there I taught in Los Angeles, one of the capitals of El Norte. After Regency at Loyola High School, I returned to the Yankeedom, studying in the other capital of New England culture, Boston/Cambridge.
Following Ordination, I was posted to the cultural capital of The Left Coast, San Francisco, and have been here ever since. The Left Coast is a cultural extension of Yankeedom.
If I didn’t turn out to be a liberal, part Hispanic, Yankee, it would be very strange. My coalition is Yankeedom and her allies. The whole history of the U.S. can be seen as a struggle between primarily Yankeedom and the Deep South. The other nations change their allegiances. Yankeedom preaches “Ordered Liberty.”
In this election, most of Yankeedom and her children stayed blue, New Netherlands did too, and Colorado and New Mexico of El Norte joined. California, since the majority of the population lives in either The Left Coast or El Norte, California, and its sometime ally Nevada went blue. We lost pretty much everyone else.
Read Woodard’s work to get further insight.
What am I in favor of?
Most of this post so far has set down what I am against. Now let’s flip it and see what I am for!
My stance was essentially formed by my Western and Eastern Christianity, and my education.
Fundamental is my belief in the liberating message, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, full of acceptance and wholeness, and full of justice for the poor. The rich can take care of themselves, God’s predilection is for the poor and powerless. This should be our’s too.
In the realm of economics, I stand with the Cappadocian Fathers (St. Basil the Great, St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory the Theologian, St. Gregory of Nyssa) and the teacher of many of them, St. Macrina.
In this view, being an entrepreneur is a talent given by God like any other, shipbuilding, cooking, etc. The entrepreneur may legitimately make a lot of money for his/her family if the following conditions are upheld:
- He/she provides a good product/service at a reasonable price
- He/she pays a living, competitive wage to workers, in safe and healthy conditions
- He/she does not fall victim to luxury, and gives sacrificially to the poor
Health Care was not thought of, because the Roman Empire in the East had a free, public/private health-care system in the major cities. Like most of the civilized, industrialized world quite sensibly has today, with one big exception!
Furthermore, I am for a mixed, blended economy. The Economy is a human artifact, and we can make it anything we want to.
Just like with Gas and Electric, let these elements each do what they do best:
- Fairly regulated, ethical capitalism
- Collective work, Socialism
- A balance and cooperation between Business and Government
I am a huge supporter of small-to-medium businesses and business owners, and the middle-class. I know many very ethical small-to-medium businesses and business owners. They and the middle-class backbone of America.
- Strong Labor Unions
- Universal health care
- The New Deal–Updated for today. We promise to work as hard as we can, and Society promises to take care of us if something goes wrong
- A level playing field for opportunities for all
In the realm of Justice, I follow John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice. In a nutshell, nothing must ever benefit the highest in society without also benefitting the lowest in society. That’s why I love the line from G.K. Chesterton’s “O God of Earth and Altar“:
Tie in a living tether
the prince and priest and thrall,
bind all our lives together,
smite us and save us all.
I strongly support our military and Law Enforcement, while wanting to make sure that Law Enforcement lives up to the high ethical standards we need. The attacks on Police must end.
I do see that, largely due to the white supremacist tendencies in America (see above), African Americans have never had full freedom and acceptance in America, even after the end of Slavery, and this must be addressed. Black (and Brown) lives do matter just as much as White lives do. We have to live up this.
Here are my views in a nutshell:
To this I now add:
- Remove Corporate Personhood
- Reform the Electoral College so that either all Electoral Votes are proportionately assigned, or States pledge to give their electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote. (I’ll have a full blog post on this later).
- Remove all Voter Suppression laws and consider issuing a free National ID Card, and making voting mandatory for all citizens, as in Australia (more on this in the same future Blog Post).
In the realm of Society, I not only tolerate diversity, I celebrate it. We were never a Christian country, we were a Country where the majority of people were Protestant and Anglican Christians. We were founded on the ideas of The Enlightenment, Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism.
Here are a few things I support:
- I advocate to protect ethnic minorities and the poor from the tyranny of the majority.
- Full rights and justice for Indigenous Peoples
- Women must have full and complete equality in society, including equal pay for equal work.
- LGBT peoples’ rights must be protected
- African-Americans must finally be fully free and empowered in the US
- White European Males and their descendants have generally been in charge of the world since the European Invasion of the rest of the World in the 15oos and following. They did some good, they did some bad. Time to share the power.
- Reasonable border security
- A road to citizenship for those already here
- In a coalition with others, improving the conditions in Central America: Colombia did it, so can others.
- Reducing the number of abortions to as few as possible by great health care, education, and prudent use of birth control. As Hillary believes, bortion should be safe, legal, and rare.
- Eliminate Poverty in America
- Provide the means for the Homeless to return to Society, or be cared for.
Watch the tear-producing 60 Minutes segment on Colombia improvements.
My endgame: The Rosicrucian Utopia–The Federation
In the long term, I look for movement toward the Rosicrucian Utopia Gene Roddenberry so beautifully depicted in Star Trek’s Federation.
Here are some of what I hope we will evolve toward in the next few centuries. The “” indicate citations from the Rosicrucian Utopia. I have also added my own thoughts, not in quotes.
- “Politicians are profoundly humanitarian and strive to serve the common good.”
- “Economists manage state finances with discernment and in the interest of all.”
- “Scientists are spiritualistic and seek their inspiration in the Book of Nature”
- “Artists are inspired and express the beauty and purity of the Divine Plan in their works”
- “Physicians are motivated by love for their fellow beings and treat both the soul and the body.”
- “Misery and poverty have vanished, for everyone has what he or she needs to live happily.”
- “Work is not regarded as a chore, but as a source of growth and well-being”
- “Nature is considered to be the most beautiful temple of all, and animals are considered to be our brothers and sisters on the path of evolution”
- “A World Government composed of the leaders of all nations, working in the interest of humanity, has come into existence.”
- “Human relations are founded upon love, friendship, and fraternity, so that the whole world lives in peace and harmony.”
And my own additions:
- Eventually sane economics leads, as in The Federation, to the elimination of money, and that everyone has what she/he needs to be successful for them selves, and to benefit society.
- In the realm of Religion and Spirituality, all initiates of every Path recognize the initiates of all other Paths, and that we all value the many ways to the same Source of Being, as in this wonderful clip from Babylon 5:
I consider this the anthem of my quest, from Wm. Blake’s Milton (in its original text):
And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?
Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!
I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land.
So, there are some of my fundamentals and corollaries. This took more than a month of thought and introspection, and is still woefully incomplete. I invite you to do the same, and share with us your “Here I Stand.” Through this, we can come to understand one another better, and move forward together.
Thanks for Reading!
Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant