Barry’s Blog # 423: A Mythologist Looks at the Election of 2024, Part Five

The People and the Press

There is a madman inside of you who is always running for office. Why vote him in – for he never keeps the accounts straight? — Hafiz

In just two lines, the medieval Persian poet distills the connection between the inner world and the outer, between our individual yet shared madness, our need to project it out onto celebrities and the inevitable result that a mad culture vomits onto its national stage the most wounded and narcissistic players.

In the spring of 2023 the craziness kicked into a higher gear. This new version of the old story includes five main characters: We are familiar with the first three: the MAGA Republicans, the centrist Democrats and the media (see below).

The fourth is technology itself. I’ve already made a strong case for how manipulation of electronic voting machines has been a decisive factor in every presidential election going at least as far back as 2004. By 2016, we all began to hear how algorithms had moved from social media advertising to manipulation of voting preferences. We’ve already reached the point where we can no longer verify if a photograph has not been doctored. Think about that: for nearly 200 years, photographs have been the gold standard of the truth; if you saw a picture of something, you knew that it had happened. That is no longer so. This year, with AI entering the fray, we may already be at the point where we can’t prove that anything is true, something that those who would like us all to give up voting out of sheer despair will certainly appreciate. You really don’t even know if I’m writing these words.

The fifth factor is the people and the source of our anger. Regardless of how we label ourselves, when polled on specific issues, we remain much farther to the left on most major issues than either of the two major parties, and we feel increasingly frustrated and unrepresented:

1 — Medicare for All: 69% in favor

2 — Full abortion Rights: 61% in favor

3 — Do more to reduce the effects of climate change: 67% in favor

4 — Prioritize alternative energy over fossil fuels: 79% in favor

5 — Reduce military spending: 56% in favor

6 — Increase spending on child welfare: 68% in favor

7 — Raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour: 62% in favor

8 — Support gay marriage: 71% in favor

9 — Increase regulation of banks: 56% in favor

10 — Increase regulation of major technology companies: 56% in favor

11 — Ensure that chemicals used in consumer products are safe: 92% in favor

12 — Oppose reducing the size of Social Security benefits: 79% in favor

13 — Increase taxes on the super-rich: 64% in favor

14 — More important to control gun violence than to protect gun rights: 59% in favor

15 — Support minimum corporate tax: 52% in favor

16 — Add the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution: 78% in favor

17 — Support criminal justice reform: 91% agree

18 — Support asylum for immigrants fleeing persecution: 55% agree

19 — People are rich because of their life advantages, not because they work harder: 65% agree

20 — Minorities are denied equal treatment in criminal justice: 69% agree

21 — Incarceration for long periods is counterproductive to public safety: 71% agree

One problem with citing statistics like these is that pollsters typically question “likely voters”. Since half the population doesn’t vote and that half tends to be darker-skinned and poor, we can safely assume that these stats would trend much farther to the left if pollsters interviewed a real sample of Americans. Another problem is that most people who support progressive policies tend to be congregated in coastal states that are already safely Democratic. Or are they?

22 — Legalize cannabis: 68% of Republicans in favor

23 — Raise taxes on the mega-rich: 51% of Republicans in favor

24 — Know someone who has had an abortion: 55% of Republicans

25 — Support Medicare for All: 46% of Republicans

Read that last one again: theoretically, if the race-bating and war-mongering were factored out, a Republican could run for Congress on Medicare for All!

I would imagine that you are unfamiliar with most of these stats, because you probably don’t see them in the New York Times, CNN or the Washington Post. The media’s intention (yes, we can use the singular here) is to keep all discourse well within acceptable boundaries, using methods such as false equivalencies and to marginalize all alternative voices, whether they be candidates (see below) or serious investigative journalists. Beyond that function, its purpose is to sell you to their advertizers.

While liberals celebrated Trumpus’ legal woes, he raised $34 million through mid-April, with a spike in donations after the indictment. The man may be worried, but the con-man is laughing, once again, all the way to the bank. His account was swollen considerably by CNN’s decision to give him two hours of free publicity in broadcasting his primetime “town hall” performance of the usual lies in front of a cheering audience.

In August of 2022, Chris Licht, CNN’s CEO, had canceled Brian Stelter’s commercially successful show, “Reliable Sources,” which had criticized right-wing media. Robert Reich writes that Licht had also told CNN staff they should stop referring to Donald Trump’s “big lie”.

Why? Follow the money. CNN’s new corporate overseer is Warner Bros…(whose) leading shareholder…is John Malone, a multibillionaire cable magnate…In 2017, he donated $250,000 to Trump’s inauguration.

Follow the money, indeed. Cui bono? As the pandemic created many billionaires from the ranks of Big Pharma, this election cycle will further centralize wealth and power. We recall the notorious 2016 assessment of Trumpus by Les Moonves, CEO of CBS: “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS”. Licht, who was certainly well aware of that statement, chose to up the ante. No longer perceiving any need to distinguish between the public interest and corporate profits, he told his staff the morning after the town hall: “America was served very well by what we did last night.” Two weeks later, he scheduled another town hall for early June, starring Mike Pence.

So the first thing to acknowledge about this election is that the media will be an equal participant, along with the same two doddering old fools who are likely to be nominated. And all three will be manipulating technology for their own purposes, not ours. This will not be pretty.

Read Part Six here soon.

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Barry’s Blog # 422: A Mythologist Looks at the Election of 2024, Part Four

In May 2023, a blogger expressed a common liberal complaint, writing that that under Biden the economy has been adding over 400,000 jobs per month for 11 straight months. Then he listed many recent MSM articles that expressed “relentlessly dour economic coverage” and seemed to be consistently ignoring the good economic news:

The glaring disconnect between reality and how the press depicts White House accomplishments means a key question lingers: Why is the press rooting against Biden? Is the press either hoping for a Trump return to the White House, or at least committed to keeping Biden down so the 2024 rematch will be close and “entertaining” for the press to cover?

These are legitimate questions that we’ll try to keep track of. But for now, we need to address a much larger issue, beyond the strictly economic one. Even if the media do want to build Trump up (and Biden down) to make for a more exciting and profitable campaign (see Part Five), why is the President so unpopular? I suggest a few possibilities:

1 — Cognitive dissonance. White Republicans in their echo-chambers simply don’t hear any “news” that might portray Biden in a positive light. And when they do, they have been conditioned for decades to re-interpret what they hear to fit with what they believe. That makes a quarter of us (half of the half who vote).

2 — Generational perception. Young potential voters (especially the POC who are the primary Democratic activists) see nothing but a doddering old fool and want him replaced by someone responsive to their concerns, someone who might legitimately hold their “King” projections. And people of my (older) generation are sick of being asked our entire lives to support the lesser of two evils.

3 — Innate, moral intelligence. Despite enduring an educational system deliberately designed to dumb us down, a carceral state intent on keeping millions of us from voting at all and a legacy news media that is no longer indistinguishable from outright propaganda, people may be ignorant, but they are not stupid. A surprisingly large number of us are perfectly aware that we are being lied to on a daily basis by representatives of most of our basic institutions. The only people who still wonder why so many are attracted to right-wing demagogues are liberals who prefer innocence to acknowledging the madness.

So it’s curious: if the media (for their own mendacious reasons) are not featuring positive economic news, they may actually, in a twisted sense, be reflecting the popular will.

In the midterm election of 2022, the Dems retained the Senate (while losing the House) almost exclusively due to a national revulsion with the Supreme Court’s abortion decision. Large numbers of women, very many of them women of color, had organized to repulse the MAGA crowd. But the Dems offered them almost nothing beyond support for abortion rights. As I had predicted, Joe Manchin and his sidekick Kirsten Sinema, with their constant threats to not support any legislation to the left of Darth Vader, were the most powerful people in Washington.

And what had liberals and progressives received?

Biden vastly increased the war budget over Trumpus’ own record numbers and was devoting much of his time and the nation’s dwindling money to demonizing Russia, China, North Korea, Syria, Cuba, Nicaragua and Iran with the same old, tired (but still mythically effective) rhetorical combination of American good intentions and fear-mongering. U.S. Navy divers almost certainly sabotaged the Nord Stream pipeline (releasing massive amounts of greenhouse gases, by the way), and he continued to lie about it.  Dennis Kucinich writes:

The U.S. has successfully muzzled its energy-starved allies in Europe from even objecting to, let alone investigating the destruction of the Nord Stream pipeline. Europe is stuck with the skyrocketing cost of U.S. supplied replacement fuel…The Biden Administration has done everything it could to incite a hot war directly between the U.S. and Russia, sacrificing Ukrainian youth and the majesty of Ukrainian cities…(and) His intent is to bait China, to try to make Taiwan the next Ukraine. Remember, the U.S. has 800 military bases abroad and China has zero.

Is the media against Biden? The NYT has used the word “unprovoked” 26 times in editorials about Ukraine. The (Gray) Lady doth protest too much, methinks.

This business of warmongering vastly overwhelms any good economic news. People see it, and they’re not stupid, although plenty will succumb to fear. But this prediction by Kucinich really is scary:

Biden, like…Bush in the Iraq War, will seek to burnish his Commander in Chief status as a war-time president, beginning in the later part of 2023. Going into 2024, the American people will be told not to change presidents in the middle of a manufactured war.

He sent 113 billion dollars (by 5/23) to prolong the Ukraine proxy war and was pressuring Germany and Japan to re-arm (what could go wrong with that?), without exhibiting anything but a mild intention to raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for any of these nuclear-charged risks. His CIA instigated military coups in Peru and Pakistan. His military spending in Somalia alone exceeded the country’s annual tax revenue. He secured a deal to return U.S. forces to the Philippines and complete an arc around China. He offered to give Taiwan $500 million worth of military hardware, further provoking China to more extreme language.

Did I say “nuclear”? For the first time in decades, the mass media were openly discussing nuclear war and the generals were talking about “winning” one. Indeed, Biden ignored (or implicitly approved of) an Air Force general who told his troops to prepare for war with China in two years. He increased the budget of Trumpus’ ridiculous “Space Force” to $24.5 billion and announced that the U.S. would deploy nukes to South Korea and F-16s to Ukraine. What could go wrong?

Human rights? Can anyone forget that Biden fist-bumped with Saudi Arabia’s execrable murderer Mohammad Bin Salman, removed the Jewish Defense League from the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations and assured the Yemenis, Egyptians and countless other authoritarian states of continued military support? His State Department caved in to Israeli pressure and removed its nomination of an independent expert to serve on a human rights commission. Later, the administration quietly backed Israel’s latest deadly assault on Gaza. He bombed Syria (despite a massive earthquake) after U.S. troops (in the country for several years without Syria’s permission) were attacked. He has not reversed Trumpus’ trashing of the Iran nuclear deal, nor has he reversed his decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He criticized the arrest of an American journalist in Russia while continuing to demand the extradition of Julian Assange for the crime of publishing evidence of U.S. war crimes.

Sanctions kill children. The U.N. defines sanctions as collective punishment. This is a war crime. American sanctions were blocking aid to Syria as thousands were dying. The Cuban government announced that the Biden administration, “…of all those that the Cuban Revolution has known, is the one that has most aggressively and effectively applied the economic blockade.” Biden promised to maintain the State Department’s authority over firearms exports but neglected to reverse a Trumpus order that had weakened it. Of 84 countries codified as autocracies, the U.S. sold weapons to at least 48, or 57%, of them, in two years.

Immigration? His immigration stance mirrored a Trump policy that the courts had already blocked. Deportation of children increased by 30%. During his four-year term, Trumpus had used Title 42 to remove 500,000 asylum seekers. In under a year, Biden deported almost 700,000. The U.S. rejected over 90% of Afghans seeking to immigrate, including relatives of those who had aided the occupation of their country. It accepted 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, while deporting thousands of Haitians. In one nine-day period, the administration expelled 4,000 of them, including hundreds of families with children, without allowing them to seek asylum. Altogether, Biden deported 20,000 Haitians in his first year, nearly as many as were deported during the previous 20 years. He criticized Texas and Florida for sending thousands of migrants to northern states as his administration prepared to finish building the border wall.

Racial justice? He wanted another $37 billion for police. He asked the Supreme Court to leave the racist Insular cases intact, thus ensuring that millions of dark-skinned island citizens would be unable to vote. The Justice Department accused Black liberation organizers of being Russian agents. The number of federal prisoners held in solitary confinement increased significantly. Biden doubled down on the failed war on drugs and refused to veto a Republican bill to block criminal justice reform in Washington D.C.

Public health? Biden’s pick for the director of the NIH has deep ties to Big Pharma. In the ongoing farce of the “debt ceiling” debate, he proposed deep budget cuts — not of course to the military, but to the usual domestic programs, and with the usual Calvinist hatred of the poor. Margaret Kimberley writes:

He said that he would accept republican demands that Medicaid and SNAP benefit recipients be required to work at least 20 hours per week. According to the Congressional Budget Office some 600,000 people would lose health coverage and 275,000 people would lose SNAP benefits every month if these rules go into effect.

Global warming? Biden approved more permits for oil and gas drilling on public lands in its first two years than Trumpus had in his first two years. He threatened to call for a windfall profits tax on record oil company profits but did nothing. He approved a mining project that will obliterate a sacred Apache religious site, while corporate prosecutions hit a new low.

Finance? Socialism for the rich? He bailed out the risky deposits of two failing banks, one of which had given huge bonuses to its executives hours before it collapsed. He angered organized labor by stopping the railroad worker strike. Then, a week after a train derailment and environmental disaster in Ohio, his Justice Department was backing the responsible corporation in a Supreme Court case that would make it easier to block pending and future lawsuits. He approved a massive oil drilling project In Alaska. His new Chief of Staff had previously helped oversee two health care companies embroiled in Medicare and Medicaid fraud allegations, which they had paid tens of millions to settle.

He kept Trumpus’ repeal of net neutrality in place. He allowed Medicare Advantage plans to continue overbilling the government in the short term after insurance companies lobbied aggressively against proposed rule changes. He insulted progressives by elevating long-time Bernie Sanders basher Neera Tanden to domestic policy advisor.

Perhaps most importantly (though certainly no surprise), despite the constant threat of Republican intransigence and blockage of even mild climate or policing legislation, he showed no interest in pursuing any systemic changes that might encourage a real Democratic majority, from statehood for Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia to ending the Insular laws and the Senate filibuster to increasing the size of the Supreme Court.

When I say “he”, of course, I mean the royal “He”. For his entire adult life, Biden the man has been a servant of, or at best a spokesperson — a press secretary — for much more powerful forces. Call them the Deep State, or the military-industrial complex, or simply capitalism. From this perspective, his policies for addressing the four most pressing issues for the whole planet — climate change, population displacement, the centralization of wealth and the threat of nuclear war — are essentially no different from those of any of his predecessors of the past half century, including Trumpus. Most Democrats knew this; at the time of the State of the Union address, 58% of them wanted someone else to run for President in 2024. When even the most innocent of us temporarily climb out of our denial, we tend to agree with Noam Chomsky:

If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged.

As Tony Soprano used to say, Whatahya gonna do? For some, the alternative to despair is to plunge (back) into the world of activism, to support progressive causes and candidates (at least local ones), to make the beloved community. Some will go further into spiritual work, knowing that the peace we seek out there must first be found within. Others, such as this writer, choose to walk the fine line between revealing the darkness around us and creating images of the light we have not yet allowed ourselves to see.

Read Part Five here.

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Barry’s Blog # 421: A Mythologist Looks at the Election of 2024, Part Three

Before we begin to look at 2024 let’s consider three concluding questions about 2020, because like any repressed and unaddressed themes, they will threaten to bite the Dems in the butt this time around as well.

First Question: Why was Joe Biden nominated?

Long before the primaries it was clear that Biden had no charisma, no base of voters, and no chance of beating Trumpus. But as I argued, the corporate Democrats feared their own left wing (even as the public favored it) more than it feared any Republicans. They feared the insurance companies more than the 69% of the public who supported Medicare For All; they feared the warmongers more than the peacemakers; and they feared the petrochemical industry more than they cared for the future of their own children. 

Second Question: Why did Biden win (really: why did Trumpus lose)?

1 – With the most profoundly unpopular and deeply reviled president in American history, it still took a pandemic with 300,000 dead (by the time of the election) and an economic depression with forty million out of work to elect such an uninspiring warmonger as Biden. I’d like to find a way to factor in the impact of voter suppression and computer fraud. But all we have are (quite reliable, in my view) allegations, rather than actual numbers; so we’re left with the “facts” that political scientists have gathered. In that innocent universe, it seems that with no pandemic, Trumpus would be in his second term, as this study suggests. Biden’s most persuasive argument, once again, will be simply that he is not Trumpus.

2 – A second major factor is the work of people like Mike Podhorzer, political director of the AFL-CIO, who concluded that the chief difference between the U.S. and countries that lost their grip on democracy was that America’s decentralized election system couldn’t be rigged in one fell swoop. As early as March, he organized a national campaign to counter most of the Republican efforts to suppress the vote. In August and September, it sent ballot applications to 15 million people in key states, 4.6 million of whom returned them. The result was that 108 million people voted early, nearly 70% of all votes cast. Those early ballots (and millions of other votes cast in voting booths on election day in some states) were all paper ballots that could not be compromised or flipped by corrupted machines (as they certainly were in many states).

However, despite Biden’s popular vote margin of seven million votes and his 306 to 232 Electoral College victory, this was a real squeaker. He won three critical states by a combined margin of 43,560 votes – Arizona (10,457 votes), Georgia (12,636) and Wisconsin (20,467). Those three states account for 37 electoral votes. If Trumpus had won those states, the election would have ended in a tie, 269 to 269. If so, the House would have determined the winner, with each state delegation getting one vote, and Trumpus would have won.

Certainly, an astonishingly large number of people still preferred Trumpus. But he did not receive 74 million votes. His official numbers were greatly swelled (and Biden’s greatly reduced) by those same corrupted machines in the 26 states ruled by Republicans. We will never know the actual figures, but it’s clear that Biden won by even more than the official numbers. However, this leads to a deeper question:

Third Question: Why did the Democrats perform so badly in the House and Senate?

Why didn’t the biggest turnout in history sweep the Republicans away? Why didn’t the Democrats clobber this buffoon and his allies in massive landslides at every level? What happened to the expected “blue wave”? Why (once again) were the polls so wrong? Why did millions of people apparently split their ballots, rejecting Trumpus but re-electing Republicans who supported his policies?

Despite the heroic efforts of Stacey Abrams and countless others, voter suppression was the deal-clincher. The biggest turnout in history was still much smaller than the numbers of people who actually wanted to vote or thought that their votes had been counted. We know for example that over 300,000 ballots were checked into the mail system but not checked out of it. As Greg Palast reminds us, 22% of all mail-in votes never get counted.

And there were other factors.

1 – Old-fashioned fraud and deceit: Can any reasonable person believe that over a million Floridians voted for raising the minimum wage but also supported Trumpus over Biden? In Kentucky, as I showed here, Mitch McConnell had under 40% approval on election day, but beat Amy McGrath (who received more votes than Biden in in 119 of 120 counties) by 19 points. And, we were told, McConnell won by landslides in heavily Democratic areas, most of them using the easily hackable ES&S machines, not Dominion machines. In South Carolina, Lindsay Graham won in the same dubious manner. The pattern was repeated in Maine, Texas, Iowa and Florida, and probably in other states.

In 2007, by the way, California sued ES&S, alleging the company had sold 972 machines to five counties with hardware changes that the state had never authorized. Two years later, ES&S paid a $3.25 million settlement. Chump change, of course, compared to Fox News’ 2023 payment to Dominion for $787.5 million. But it does provide background. Those Secretaries of State certainly knew where to shop for voting machines.

Does ES&S stand for “Every slime-ball in the State”?

I suggest that election commissioners in most of those 26 Republican-controlled states gamed the electronic voting machines to flip five percent of the votes — not enough to get the media’s attention, but more than enough to win elections in many close races and more than enough to win the House. If we were to subtract 5% of Trumpus’ national totals – perhaps four million – and add them back into the other column we might have a clearer idea of Biden’s victory. And we’d have a clearer sense of what happened in the Senate and House.

Going forward, there have been two unanticipated results of Trumpus’ constant predictions – and then claims – of voter fraud. One is that millions of right wingers (mostly residing in the old Confederate states) have been confirmed in their sense of victimhood. Rather than retreating back into apathy, they received a new “Lost Cause” to organize around. The second is that once again, liberals find themselves on the defensive and have been forced to insist that there was no computer fraud, thus repressing, once again, the issue of the massive electronic crimes that actually did occur and will certainly occur next year.

2 – Apathy and voters’ distaste for moderate Dems. About 67% of eligible voters cast ballots, but that still means a third – eighty million adults – did not. A majority of these non-voters believe it makes no difference who is elected president and that things will go on just as they did before. They also, as I wrote throughout the campaign, tend to be Latino. Only 52% of Latinos surveyed said they were registered to vote, compared to 80% of whites and 78% of Blacks.

A strong endorsement of Medicare For All and the Green New Deal would have made a major difference. Why? Because progressives won almost all their races, while many of the Dem losses were by moderates and freshman congresspeople in essentially blue districts. And there was much vote-splitting, in which people voted against Trumpus (rather than for Biden) and left the rest of their ballots empty. Susan Collins, for example, won by 55,000 votes in Maine. But 50,000 voters who voted for the top of the ticket failed to cast a vote in Maine’s Senate race. Early in the Georgia (pre-runoff) count, Jon Ossoff trailed David Perdue by 90,000 votes. But 98,000 people who voted for President failed to vote in that Senate race.

3 – Ignorance: The government had provided enhanced unemployment benefits and stimulus checks (with  no taxes to pay for them) to millions of households. Partially as a result, 40% of polled voters thought they were better off financially than they were four years ago and apparently saw little reason to vote for change.

4 – Fear: The Dems allowed the Repubs to reframe the Black Lives Matter protests and the “defund the police” issue into the old standby of “law and order.”  As a result, Trumpus won a higher percentage of white women than he did in 2016. And although 55% of registered young voters turned out, a much higher number – 65% – of elderly people responded to the fearmongering and supported policies that might protect their investments and privileges but would deprive their own grandchildren of a future. Once again, we find ourselves in the realm of mythology – the killing of the children.

The Inauguration: The King is Dead? Long Live the King?

So where does this whole election cycle – and the $14 billion that was spent on it – fit into our understanding of myth? The narrative at the base of the American story is that of the killing of the children. What lies on top of that within our psyches is our story of American innocence. So I refer back to the questions I ask in interviews and book talks: When did you lose your innocence? – and – When did you lose it again?

When innocence is the foundation of a belief system, when a culture refuses to offer its young people the initiatory rituals that affirm their unique gifts and permanently erase their childhood innocence, people have little choice but to live lives of perpetual childishness, with a child’s attachment to simplistic ideas, mind-altering substances and vicarious violence.

When the inevitable tears in the fabric of the myth of innocence appear, they quickly close back up. So each new disillusionment, no matter how old we are or how often it happens, feels like the first time. Only the most naïve among us should be surprised to see that Nancy Pelosi’s initial statement about the Capitol insurrection was: We’ve really lost our innocence.

After five years of non-stop lies, insults, boasts, threats, buffoonery, immigrant bashing, misogyny, racist provocation and gratuitous cruelty, Trumpus had so alienated so many of us that exhaustion, massive anxiety and a collective PTSD had set in even before Covid and long before January 6th. Brand Trumpus was so toxic to all but his cult followers and those scared white, suburban women that it actually had the effect of building up Brand Biden. By inauguration day, liberal America had convinced itself that it now had a kindly, religious, poetry-spouting, emotionally accessible, purposeful leader.

The sentiment was authentic because we were so desperate to believe. Watching the inauguration, we breathed a collective sigh of relief, even as we noticed (if we were paying attention) that one of the invited guests on the podium listening to Biden denounce fascist violence was Carlos Vecchio, who had fled to the United States to escape incitement of violence charges in Venezuela and then posed in the Oval Office with Trumpus.

So what did Biden do in his first two years as President? We’ll see in Part Four. (Hint: no surprises here).

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Barry’s Blog # 420: A Mythologist Looks at the Election of 2024, Part Two

Any politician running for President is well aware of a particularly complex role they will be called upon to play, one for which they have been practicing their entire adult lives (quite literally, in the case of Joe Biden). This is because they will face a unique political dilemma created by two conditions.

The first is the capitalist domination of politics, which requires a primary spokesperson to enact the national narratives and keep them consistent with the grand aims of the military-industrial-petrochemical-pharmaceutical-media complex. The second is his symbolic role. As head of state, he must embody the mythic figure of the King for his people. And these two conditions require that he play two opposite aspects of the myth of innocence against each other.

As spokesman for the Empire, he must continue at all times to amplify the national mood of paranoia and fear of “the Other” so as to justify a permanent national military state and repression of people of color at home. In other words, he must manipulate the traditional white American sense of being the innocent victim, or at least the potential victim, of some dark (and dark-skinned), irrational, violent, predatory outsider. This of course would be nothing new to him, since anyone even aspiring to his office, not to mention those who are actually vetted behind the scenes by the gatekeepers, would be perfectly aware of it. And to be sufficiently convincing, he must, in a sense, play the victim himself, so that his followers can identify with him. Hence, Trumpus and all of his impersonators continually vacillate between absurdly macho stances and whining complaints of how they (and you) are being victimized by everything from the FBI to “socialist billionaires”.

As the King, however, his job, along with his Queen (it’s almost inconceivable that a presidential candidate would be unmarried) is to absorb the idealistic projections of two hundred million people. I write “absorb” because in myth this is a two-way process. The Sacred King receives our psychological projections and then radiates them back out as fertility, as abundance, as blessing. Not to do that is simply to suck those dreams into a black hole of narcissism and give nothing back. This has been Trumpus’ game for decades, and perhaps the consequences are finally catching up to him. Until that point, he will continue to enact (for some of us) the archetypal shadow of the Sacred King – the Tyrant. His combination of Tyrant and Con Man is his unique contribution to American myth.

Consider, by the way, that image of abundance. The King, if he is to remain King, must ensure the abundance of the realm. As a mythic image, then, he must embody that abundance. Understanding this takes us a long way toward understanding why tribal chieftains in some places are expected to be obese. It also helps explain the American obsession with positive thinking and the Prosperity Gospel, and why those con-man televangelists go to such lengths to show off their wealth.

Any person who assumes the presidency automatically takes on these public projections. At the level of image, metaphor and deep narrative, these men are the nation because they embody it, and the nation must endure. Why must “the nation endure”? In this demythologized world, authentic myth and ritual have disappeared, to be replaced by consumerism, fundamentalism, the culture of celebrity, substance abuse – and nationalism, in which the individual identifies completely with the state, and is willing to sacrifice its young to its aims.

In a twisted sense, there is some good news here. The fact that so many of us are no longer willing to soil ourselves by voting actually indicates that very large numbers of us (not including conventional liberals) can see through the ritual charade. The bad news, well…not voting gave us Trumpus. And later, it gave us an ineffective Congress that remains subservient to oligarchic and militaristic interests.

Back to the presidential dilemma. Another consequence of the loss of myth is that we have conflated two archetypes, the King and the Warrior, who is supposed to serve the King. In doing so, we minimize the creative potential of each of them. This Warrior-King must continually re-affirm the fantasy that his intentions (and ours) are noble, protective and altruistic, that America is truly exceptional, that America has a divine mission to save the world and will always prevail.

And to do that, he must play the exact opposite of the victim, the Hero (the immature form of what Jungian writer Robert Moore called the Warrior archetype) He must reassure us of his – and our – ability to meet all threats and defeat them, while simultaneously bringing the Good Word of our Christian compassion to those evil ones who would – for no apparent reason – harm us. As G.W. Bush endlessly repeated after 9/11/2001, America will prevail against the external Other — formerly the Native Americans, then Mexicans, then Germans and Japanese, then international Communism, then Islamic terrorism, which in just a few years has shifted back into “the Russians” (minus the “communist” label) and “the Chinese” (still absurdly pinned as communist) — because the nation, which he embodies, is charged with the divine mission of defeating evil and spreading freedom and opportunity. Not to do so would be to call our most basic national and personal identities into question.

Here is his — and our — dilemma, condensed down to a simple phrase. He must simultaneously and repeatedly tell us, be afraid, be very afraid – and – we are absolutely unconquerable!

He must prove to be a master storyteller of the double-bind, conflicting messages that some psychologists consider to be the genesis of schizophrenia. And after many, many generations of hearing these crazy-making narratives, it really is a sad commentary on all of us that we have come to expect nothing better from our leaders.

The media gatekeepers face an even more complicated dilemma. As fascism threatens to descend upon us, liberal America has been attempting to walk a fine line: alternately normalizing and de-legitimizing Trumpus and those who would follow his lead, while carefully refusing to examine any of the bedrock assumptions of our myth of innocence. For the sense of “nation,” with all its white privilege, economic disparities and permanent warfare to endure, the media must continually try to shore up each new crack in the veneer of American innocence. So, controlling the narratives and manipulating our perception of what any child can see as really terrible people is one of the primary functions of our media gatekeepers. The classic analysis of the media’s gatekeeping role is Noam Chomsky’s article, “A Propaganda Model.”

One of the ways they do this is by re-habilitating the reputations of previous presidents, such as Bush, his father and even his grandfather. In this context, it really shouldn’t be surprising that Bill Clinton eulogized Richard Nixon, that Barack Obama lavishly praised Ronald Reagan, that Hillary Clinton is a close friend of the hideous war criminal Henry Kissinger, or that Trumpus should be granted an insane sort of normalization.

War criminals. I don’t want to belabor this point, but it is critical to understand what the people we vote for – almost all of them – are willing to do to prove their loyalty to the power brokers. As Chomsky has said,

If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged.

It is equally important to understand how those same oligarchs require the same proof of loyalty from the media gatekeepers, who have responded by creating a mainstream consensus that the madness of normal life is normal. Dr. Gabor Maté calls this the Myth of Normal.

This is the “normal” to which Biden promised he would return us.

So it is useless and counter-productive to criticize Trumpus as merely a negative, even terrible exception to the grand narrative of American exceptionalism, or even as someone who has corrupted this story. There is nothing to be gained by arguing, for instance, that he is dangerous, incapable, racist, misogynist, stupid or unpatriotic because he won’t listen to the “intelligence community” (and his followers certainly won’t change their minds by listening to us), as if ethically minded people have any business aligning themselves with the murderers and regime-changers of the CIA.

Here is another aspect of our diminished American reality: if the CIA “leaks” any “alleged” information about “events” anywhere in the world, they are doing so because they want you to consume a narrative they have constructed, to serve the long-term aims of the American empire. In 2020, from Russia to China to Syria to Israel/Palestine to Afghanistan to Venezuela, and sometimes even Iran and North Korea, most leading Democratic politicians were criticizing Trumpus from the right.

And this bizarre truth leads us into the mystery of how they shamelessly stole both the 2016 and 2020 nominations from Bernie Sanders. Here is the fundamental reality of politics in America: both Republicans and Democrats tamper with election results whenever they can get away with it, but they do so at differing points in the election cycle. That this happens this way is no mystery. Why it happens is the mystery.

This essay is not really about politics, except to the extent that politics reflects mythology. Our first responsibility as mythological thinkers is to cultivate discrimination, to take a step back and attempt to perceive the narratives that are being played out in our culture, how they circulate within our psyches. We must understand how we participate in those stories through our own unconscious acceptance of their primary themes. We must acknowledge how they have constrained our view of the world within narrow parameters of the possible.

And before we can engage effectively in the cutthroat world of politics, we must actively grieve how they have diminished our lives, because our constrained view of the world also means a restricted view of ourselves. It means that at some level we believe that we deserve no more than what these nasty old men have to offer. It means that we have traded a moral, visceral, natural response to the world for a fragile sense of innocence. It means that we give our consent to perpetuating a world in which the father gods offer their children for sacrifice.

Who are these guys? What really drives them? Please, please don’t tell me that either Trumpus or Biden is motivated at any level of consciousness by a sense of duty to the nation, by a desire to serve the people. To do so is to reveal your own insistence on American innocence. It is to reveal your addiction to the culture of celebrity, your willingness to project your own inner nobility onto an image of a person, a brand.

We absolutely will never know what either of these men actually thinks, except in those rare occasions when their handlers forget and allow them to speak spontaneously. As Caitlin Johnstone writes:

The only reason to pay attention to a U.S. presidential election is to highlight the elite manipulations that go into it to help people understand that the game is rigged. Once you get sucked in to cheering for actual candidates you’ve lost sight of what’s really happening, like someone who got so drawn in to the movie that they forget they’re sitting in a theater.

Granted, one appears to be crazier than the other. And we really do need to keep him out of power before he ups the ante any further. But we no longer have the luxury of hiding behind our own ignorance and pretending that the other candidate is not a servant of the same oligarchs whose boundless greed will take us all down. Yes, Biden for the Supreme Court. Yes, for abortion rights. Yes, for union rights. Yes (maybe) for mitigating Climate change. Yes, for a more rational Covid policy. Yes, for mild increases on taxes on the mega-wealthy. Yes, for the possibility of making the streets a little safer for immigrants and people of color.

But be absolutely certain that to a Venezuelan farmer, or a Palestinian child, or a Syrian mother, or a Sudanese peasant, or almost anyone in dozens of Third-World countries under the thumb of the American empire, or to a black single mother in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward who used to work cleaning houses before her back went out, or to her autistic son – or to the military / industrial / financial / petrochemical / health insurance / carceral / high technology complex – it will make absolutely no difference who wins this election.

A mythological perspective acknowledges that when a society is in decline, it does two things. The first is that it refuses to welcome and initiate its young, condemning them to a hopeless and meaningless future. The second thing is that it elevates the very worst of its people to positions of power and grants them permission to engage in acts of cruelty that in earlier times had been restrained by public shaming, and still earlier, through effective ritual. As my book argues, such patterns inevitably include the literalization of the old myths of the sacrifice of the children.

The public knows these truths, if even at a subliminal level. A 2020 pre-convention poll concluded that 56% of likely Biden supporters were voting for him because “He Is Not Trump,” proof that he still hadn’t offered anything positive, let alone progressive, to the 100 million other people who, once again, probably wouldn’t be voting. Trumpus went low, doing everything possible to provoke fear and violence and arouse his base (the predatory imagination manipulating the paranoid imagination), while Biden went high.

This would be a fine strategy in a normal world. But idealistic language without a commitment to actual progressive policies sounds insincere — because it is. People are not stupid if they are apathetic about voting. And treating them as if they are only makes things worse.

This is no reason to remain disengaged. Of course, Trumpus had to be removed. But Liberals must also remove something – their innocence about the American empire and America’s good intentions in the world. They must also drop their colossal ignorance about how three issues — the military budget, refusal to tax the rich, and our national tendency to punish the poor and the non-white for their own poverty — are the unspoken bases of any discussion about government funding priorities. Whenever you hear Biden ask, Yes, but how are we going to pay for it?, know that both he and his media interviewer are colluding in a very deadly game.

Eventually we will (happily) turn our attention away from Trumpus. But we’ll (unhappily) have to look seriously at the corporate stooges and warmongers Biden has surrounded himself with.

So far one of them is a perfect example of everything that could go wrong actually going wrong. Neera Tanden, who would be White House Budget Director, is president of the Center for American Progress, a “liberal” think tank funded by oligarchs such as the United Arab Emirates. She is the epitome of the Washington swamp who has spent years publicizing the Russiagate lies, and she has been (writes David Sirota), “…the single biggest, most aggressive Bernie Sanders critic…” and (writes Glenn Greenwald) one of Sanders’ “most vicious and amoral attackers.”

Granted (once again — do I really need to say this?), Trumpus is a monster. But blaming him for everything distracts us from acknowledging that the emperor wears no clothes. Chris Hedges writes:

The cynical con the Democratic Party and the FBI carried out to falsely portray Donald Trump as a puppet of the Kremlin worked, and continues to work, because it is what those who detest Trump want to believe…If Russia is blamed for Trump’s election, we avoid the unpleasant reality of our failed democratic institutions and decaying empire. We avoid facing the inevitable rise of a Christianized fascism borne out of widespread impoverishment, rage, despair and abandonment. We avoid acknowledging the complicity of the Democratic Party in the orchestration of the largest social inequality in our nation’s history, the evisceration of our basic civil liberties, endless wars and an electoral system bankrolled by the billionaire class…

And, I would add, we avoid acknowledging that the U.S. provoked Russia into this terrible proxy war in Ukraine, with its tens of thousands of dead and its hundreds of billions of wasted dollars funneled directly into the accounts of the warmongers.

Yes, there was a large increase in voters in November 2020. About 67% of eligible voters cast ballots. But that still means that eighty million adults did not. Finally, somebody (the Medill School of Journalism) has surveyed non-voters, and the results should not surprise critics of the DNC. Twenty percent — that would be 16 million people — disliked both candidates. A majority believe it makes no difference who is elected President and that things will go on just as they did before. They are less likely to say that elections in this country are free and fair for all. They are also more likely to be younger and make less money than people who vote. And fewer than a quarter of them (compared to almost half of voters) said any political campaigns had reached out to them. They also, as I wrote throughout the campaign, tend to be Latino.

Read Part Three here.

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Barry’s Blog # 419: A Mythologist Looks at the Election of 2024, Part One

Readers of this blog may recall that I analyzed the two previous Presidential elections from a radical and mythological perspective. You can read the 2016 series here and the 2020 series here. Or perhaps after several years of unending stress, you really don’t want to hear any of this; I can’t blame you. But we can’t tell a new story until we have digested and fully rejected the old one.

From 2016:

It is clear that extraordinarily large numbers of people either chose not to vote, or voted against or what they perceived as the corruption, elitist arrogance, irrelevance and/or incompetence of a Democratic Party symbolized by Hillary Clinton, whose essential messages were limited to I’m more of Obama and I’m not Trumpus.

Afterwards, Bernie Sanders pointed out the obvious:

You cannot be a party which on one hand says we’re in favor of working people, we’re in favor of the needs of young people but we don’t quite have the courage to take on Wall Street and the billionaire class…People do not believe that. You’ve got to decide which side you’re on.

For 25 years the Clintons had led the Democratic Party into neoliberalism, militarism, increased inequality and betrayal of working people. The Democratic National Committee did everything possible to marginalize Sanders. And it deliberately fueled Trumpus’s rise to power with its self-described “pied piper” strategy.

Decades of lies have had their effect. With these unappetizing choices, some one hundred million Americans apparently decided that the lesser of two evils is still evil and stayed home. If “Did Not Vote” had been a candidate, it would have won in a landslide.

This is nothing new; it is a long-term trend that began in the late 1960s (only briefly impacted by Obama), that the Republicans have consistently manipulated, and which the Democrats have consistently accepted as the price of selling their souls to Wall Street.

This was the choice the election offered: management of a broken system, or replacing it. Trumpus of course did nothing of the kind, but this is what people perceived, and perception is everything. In this context, how can we can judge those who refuse to participate?

When educated (not propagandized) people vote, they vote in favor of their self-interest, not the pseudo-interests fed to them by Fox or CNN. Noam Chomsky teaches about two views of democracy, exemplified by Aristotle and James Madison. Both agreed that if we have full democracy, the poor will eventually unite and expropriate the property of the rich. Aristotle’s solution was to reduce inequality. Madison, articulating the basic contradiction of American mythology, argued that the solution was to reduce democracy. This is why elites of both parties are comfortable with our absurdly low participation levels.

A Harvard study ranked the U.S. electoral system as the worst in the developed world. But let’s not be too hasty to blame the Republicans. Julian Assange, Greg Palast, Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman convincingly demonstrated that in the 2016 primaries the DNC was able to manipulate the vote, all to the detriment of the Sanders campaign. “In State after state”, claims Jonathan Simon, author of Code Red: Computerized Election Theft and the New American Century, “the vote counts were more in favor of Clinton than the exit polls, which were more in favor of Bernie Sanders.” In one of the worst examples, Sanders won every Massachusetts precinct that used hand-counted paper ballots but lost all the ones with electronic voting machines.

Much of my writing asserts that this is one of those times in American history when great holes appear in the façades of our myths. When they do, the oligarchs who most profit from its continuation go to extreme lengths to shore up those holes and re-invigorate our sense of innocence, and the tools they deliberately utilize are the time-honored themes of American myth. It’s increasingly obvious that the old story no longer fits, but that we have yet to imagine the new story. Until we do, they’ll be able to manipulate us.

But what does it mean in practical terms to say this? To me, it means that as culture begins to collapse, its institutions – all of them – collapse as well. And this means that institutions that may have evolved over very long periods of time to bring out the best in people – their higher selves, so to speak – now function to maximize the worst in us. Others, such as the police, the military and the Electoral College, were deliberately designed to do this.

You and I were nauseated at the thought of this charlatan Trumpus and his nouveau-riche gaudiness crashing the refined atmosphere of the White House, nailing his World Wrestling Federation awards on the wall of the East Wing, partying with anti-Semites. Yes, and our reaction is a function of our class privilege and our innocent expectations. This bears regular repetition. His brand is different from Obama’s or Clinton’s or Joe Biden’s, but they are all media brands, and media have only one purpose: to sell you to advertisers. It is the image of Trumpus that he and his people have expertly created out of mud, like a golem, which the mainstream media (MSM), no less than Fox, obediently fed to us.

From 2020:

All this optimism, all this denial, all this obsession with blaming Trumpus for our ills, all this unwillingness to confront deeper issues is happening within the broader context of the myth of American innocence.

We’ll talk about the Democrats soon. But there is no longer any doubt whatsoever that the Republican Party is comprised entirely of career criminals, con men and outright sociopaths. Republican governors and secretaries of state ruthlessly, absolutely control the entire election process, including registration and access to voting, in half of the states. These are the people whose operatives actually “count” the votes, and we can assume that they will do everything possible, legal or illegal, to influence the results, exactly as they did four (and eight) years ago.

This culture has vomited Trumpus up to be our symbolic King. But he did not cause any of our problems. He simply embodies them and mirrors them back for all of us. Trumpus is us, and as long as we do not collectively admit this and refuse to confront our racist and violent national character, we deserve him.

The U.S. has the lowest turnout rate in the world because so few of us see any significant differences between the two major parties. And the twin curses of voter suppression and computer fraud have ensured that millions of votes that are cast are not counted. That is reality. But the mystery is why the Democrats have done so little about it through the last five election cycles.

Here’s another mystery. What does it say about the public’s appreciation of the Democrats that, with the most profoundly unpopular and deeply reviled president in U.S. history, it took a pandemic with a half million dead and an economic depression with forty million unemployed to finally push Biden’s poll numbers past those of Trumpus?

Here’s another one: Michael Bloomberg spent nearly a billion dollars attacking Sanders. Can you imagine the good that money would have done had he spent it registering voters?

Here’s another one: Democrats approve of the CIA more than Republicans Do.

And another: Do the Democrats really care about winning?

I hope I’m wrong. May the future bring us something better than this. We deserve better, or so we’d like to think. But here I want to present some mythological and psychological speculations.

What exactly are these two old white guys contending for? Liberals lament that the system is dysfunctional or broken, while radicals will argue that it has been doing quite well in terms of its actual functions of maintaining military empire abroad and redistributing wealth upwards at home. As a mythologist, I see both points of view, and I suggest that the myth of American innocence holds it all together.

One aspect of what Joseph Campbell called our demythologized world, especially in America, is that the distinctions between religion, politics and entertainment have collapsed (as I wrote this, Trumpus sat in the Oval Office and endorsed a brand of beans. You can’t make this stuff up). This is perhaps because all three of these areas of public life are the realm of the con man’s main interests: making money and aggrandizing the self. For more on this American archetype, read my essay The Con-Man.

Please understand that nearly anything spoken for the public by anyone at that level of power has been carefully vetted in front of focus groups and edited precisely to fit the perceived needs of a very specific audience. If in the Age of Trumpus (or for the past several election cycles) you haven’t noticed this, you haven’t been paying attention. But it began long before this particular con man entered the White House.

Trumpus and Biden (and everyone around them, including the entire press corps) know very well that every president since Harry Truman has been essentially a spokesperson for interests far more powerful than he; a “master of ceremonies” in the lesser sense; a salesman for the myth and the empire. He certainly is not its ruler. Caitlyn Johnstone writes:

…it’s a testament to the power of media echo chambers that for the most part they remain just as wrong about him as they were four years ago…All sides pretended that Trump was a radical deviation from the norm, and so did Trump, when all he actually did throughout his entire time in office was protect the status quo just like his predecessors did.

Read Part Two here.

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Barry’s Blog # 418: Veterans’ Day – or “Sacrifice of the Children Day”? Part Two of Two

You can’t stop me. I spend 30,000 men a month. – Napoleon

I would rather have a dead son than a disobedient one.  – Martin Luther

¡Que viva la muerte! – Francisco Franco 

Yes, the desire for vengeance and the hope of glory and promotion are two convincing explanations for why commanders would override their natural, paternal concern for the men under their command. But these answers don’t go far enough to satisfy me. After all, this was world war, and the carnage had not relented (except for the first Christmas) for four years.

Christmas Truce 1914

Old men had been making these decisions and – maybe more of a mystery – young men had been obeying them with few exceptions all this time. Neither economics nor religion nor dialectical materialism nor even psychology can explain the source, the intensity and the mutual culpability of this madness. Only mythological thinking can get us to the core.

My book Madness at the Gates of the City: The Myth of American Innocence attempts to understand the enduring power of the foundational myth underlying all Western culture, the narrative of the killing of the children. This story is first articulated in Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac to prove his loyalty to God in the tale known as the Aqidah. It then moves through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and blossoms in the twenty centuries of abuse, betrayal and the profound depression – or unquenchable desire for vengeance – that characterize modern history and modern families. Most specifically, it provides a template for every ensuing generation of young men who, desperately but unconsciously seeking to die to their boyhoods and be reborn as men, go willingly to the literal death that older men have planned for them. It is about powerful but uninitiated men indoctrinating uninitiated, powerless men into the worship of a vengeful god, and later of his substitute, the national state.

These stories are absolutely central to Western consciousness. They show us how long it has been since initiation rituals broke down. For at least three millennia, patriarchs have conducted pseudo-initiations, feeding their sons into the infinite maw of literalized violence. Indeed, it was their great genius – and primordial crime – to extend child-sacrifice from the family to the state. Boys eventually were forced to participate in the sacrifice. No longer comprehending the idea of surrender to a symbolic death, they learned to, in a sense, overcome death by inflicting it on others, to kill for some great, transpersonal cause or ideology.

Ultimately dying for the cause became a more meaningful act than to kill for it. Within the suffocating confines of monotheism and patriarchy, martyrdom became an ethical virtue that every believer must be prepared to emulate. “Uniquely among the religions of the world,” writes Bruce Chilton,

…the three that center on Abraham have made the willingness to offer the lives of children – an action they all symbolize with versions of the Aqedah – a central virtue for the faithful as a whole.

By the late 19th century, with nationalism replacing religion as a central unifying factor, the sky gods of Greek myth, Ouranos and his son Kronos came to rule the unconscious of modern man. For three or four generations, as Robert Bly taught, relations between fathers and sons had been changing fundamentally when men left their homes and farms for the factories. Fathers became absent fathers, and sons found themselves without close role models – just as the entire Western world was becoming subject to the most rapid technological changes in history. It was a period comparable only to our own.

One Frenchman (who was fated to die in the first weeks of the Great War) wrote that the world had changed more since he had been in school than it had since the Romans. In the thirty years between 1884 and 1914, humanity encountered mass electrification, telephones, automobiles, radio, movies, airplanes, submarines, elevators, refrigeration, public education, radioactivity, feminism, Darwin, Marx (who wrote, “All that is solid melts into air”), Picasso and Freud. It is particularly ironic that just as modern people were learning of the unconscious, they found themselves forced to act out the old myths of the sacrifice of the children.

Now everyone was judged by how useful they were under capitalism. In 1900 George Simmel wrote that existence in the urban factories had diminished human passions in favor of a reserved, cynical attitude. This had created a compensatory craving for excitement and sensation, which for some was partially satisfied by the emerging consumer culture. But others needed something even more extreme, more Dionysian, to make them feel alive. The mass euphoria of belligerent nationalism provided it.

Ouranos had been in the ascendant. But he soon evoked his opposite. As a group, the generation of older men of 1914 were embodying Kronos, the god who ate his own children. The pace of technological change simply exceeded humanity’s capacity to understand it, and the pressure upon the soul of the world exploded into world war.

How did this play out on the battlefield? Any honest military historian will admit that the generals (or in this context, the ritual elders) learned absolutely nothing in those four years. They began in August 1914 by exhorting the troops with Dulce et Decorum est Pro Patria Mori and then sending wave after wave of boys just out of high school against massed, fortified machine guns. A million died in just the first four months. Yet four years later, in late 1918, tactics hadn’t changed at all. The poet Wilfred Owen (who would die in the last week of the war in yet another senseless and suicidal assault) described the terrible irony of the soldiers’ experience:

Dulce et Decorum est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.

Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues –
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori.

These are profound mysteries. Perhaps the old men did learn some things, even if none would dare articulate them: that myth trumps fact; that they remained free to enact these horrific narratives; that far from being punished, the worst of the warmongers would go on to live with the highest honors and privileges – and that the story would go on unchanged.

On November eleventh, 1943, the Nazi S.S. memorialized the 25th anniversary of the armistice with a display – uncommon even for them – of gratuitous cruelty. They forced the 40,000 residents of the Terezin ghetto in Czechoslovakia to stand at attention in a freezing, rainy field all day for a head count that didn’t happen until late afternoon. Anyone who moved was shot. Three hundred collapsed and died before they were allowed to return to their barracks.

It had to end in 1945, we’d like to think.

Certainly, twenty years after the end of the Second World War, after Korea, the generals had finally learned that it was useless to send infantry against machine guns, right? Wrong. Throughout the Viet Nam war, the U.S. Army’s primary tactic – “search and destroy”, or “target acquisition” – was the sacrifice of infantry units to flush out the concealed enemy. Helicopters intentionally dropped troops into “hot zones,” where they were often pinned down by enemy fire. They defended themselves until air strikes hit the enemy positions, and then the American survivors left the terrain to the enemy’s survivors. No actual ground was liberated or acquired, and few precautions were taken. Sociologist William Gibson writes,

Story after story…concerns commanders who knew large enemy formations were in a given area but did not tell their subordinates because they did not want them to be cautious.

In countless other examples, the Army expended American lives to force the North Vietnamese off steep mountains for no discernable purpose. The 1987 movie Hamburger Hill depicts the nine-day assault on “Hill 937”, designated as such because it’s height was 937 meters, and costing 72 American lives and hundreds of wounded. The film ends with a victory celebration. What it doesn’t show, however, is that most of the North Vietnamese escaped and that the Americans abandoned the hill two weeks later.

Abandonment and betrayal (mythologically, Ouranos and Kronos) became the primary metaphors understood by hundreds of thousands of Americans, even if they’d never heard a Greek myth. Psychologist Jonathan Shay writes that the soldier’s common experience was violation of the moral order, or betrayal. He quotes one veteran: “The U.S. Army…was like a mother who sold out her kids to be raped by (their) father…”

In the decades after the end of that war, American elites, with the assistance of Hollywood filmmakers, made a determined effort to rehabilitate its criminal memory as (at worst) an honorable crusade and (at best) a tragic “mistake”. In the public mind the veteran was now either a violent thug or a victim – not of a culture that ate its children, but of liberal politicians and cruel Vietnamese torturers directed by scheming Russian overlords.

I invite you to consider, however, whether the war was really a mistake. Cui Bono, follow the money. Great fortunes were made, as they would be made during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and as they are being made right now while the U.S. intervenes in Ukraine, Yemen and Ethiopia and funnels billions to the arms industry.

Perhaps more importantly, the mythic fix is in as well, in the shape of the “good war”. The public remembers Viet Nam as a tragic mistake conducted by men who had the very best of intentions. It remembers Iraq and Afghanistan in precisely the same mythic terms. It will remember Ukraine in the same way. The myth of American innocence is being reconstituted and revived for yet another generation of old men who are already anticipating the next opportunity to feed more young men into Kronos’ gaping maw.

All this leads me to suggest that when you consider speaking to a veteran today, think before you do. What precisely will be your intention? Will it be, as veteran James Kelly writes, “…an empty platitude, something you just say because it is politically correct”? Will it “…massage away some of the guilt at not participating themselves”? Will it be “…almost the equivalent of ‘I haven’t thought about any of this’”? Kelly also writes:

After all, despite the various reasons that people join the military, from free college to a steady paycheck to something much more patriotic or idealistic, there is one thing we all have in common: Our passion for our country and your rights and freedoms that we swore to protect.

May it be so, and may passion for country grow into passion for the Earth.

Full disclosure: I acknowledge that I am not a veteran, and I have no concrete, felt understanding of a veteran’s experience, let alone the experience of combat, wounding or trauma, or even of their family’s pain. But I must tread – lightly but firmly – into this “morass” (to coin a phrase). I sincerely hope that Mr. Kelly would support this statement: We fought to defend your free-speech right to completely disagree with our reasons for fighting.

Myth and politics (radical politics) can meet. Howard Zinn, who became a pacifist after serving as a bombardier in World War Two, put Veterans Day in what I consider to be its proper perspective:

Our decent impulse, to recognize the ordeal of our veterans, has been used to obscure the fact that they died, they were crippled, for no good cause other than the power and profit of a few. Veterans Day, instead of an occasion for denouncing war, has become an occasion for bringing out the flags, the uniforms, the martial music, the patriotic speeches reeking with hypocrisy. Those who name holidays, playing on our genuine feeling for veterans, have turned a day that celebrated the end of a horror into a day to honor militarism. As a combat veteran myself, of a “good war,” against fascism, I do not want the recognition of my service to be used as a glorification of war. At the end of that war, in which 50 million died, the people of the world should have shouted “Enough!” We should have decided that from that moment on, we would renounce war… war in our time – whatever “humanitarian” motives are claimed by our political leaders – is always a war against children…Veterans Day should be an occasion for a national vow: No more war victims on the other side; no more war veterans on our side.

How often does the statement “Thank you for your service” serve as a personal apology for the knowledge of how shameful the nation’s actual treatment of vets has been? No one really knows how many veterans have (or had) “passion for their country,” or how many believe that it is a sweet and noble thing to die for it. But the mythmakers and gatekeepers are going to extraordinary lengths to convince you that they do, and to marginalize anyone in media who disagrees. Caitlin Johnstone writes:

Don’t say “Thank you for your service” to veterans. Don’t pretend to agree with them when they claim to have fought for your freedom and democracy. Openly disagree with people who promulgate this narrative. Treat Veterans Day and Memorial Day as days of grieving and truth-telling, not celebration and glorification…“But Caitlin!” you may say. “What about World War Two veterans?” Well, fine, but…do you notice how far back you had to reach in U.S. history to find a war in which veterans arguably fought for a just cause?…There are no war heroes. There are only war victims.

To counter the onslaught of what really is fake news, imagining a new way of being requires a reframing of “the old lie”. One step would be to rename Veterans Day as Armistice Day and celebrate its original meaning. As Chelsea Manning tweeted,

Want to support veterans!? Stop sending us overseas to kill or be killed for your nationalist fairy tales. We can do better.

If America were to miraculously awake from its 400-year dream of innocence and denial and speak honestly for once, we might admit that Veteran’s Day is really Sacrifice of the Children Day. Here’s an alternative to “Thank you for your service”: I can never know what you went through, but if you’re willing to speak about it, I’m willing to listen. And if possible, I’m willing to share your grief.

Yes, praise the vet, not the war. Praise real elders like Howard Zinn, not the con men who avoid military service and feed a bloated defense budget. Praise grief processions, not parades of military hardware. Praise a veteran’s willingness to help us change, not romanticization of his battles. Praise the desire for initiation, not the sacrifice of the children. Praise commonalities, not otherness.

My name is Francis Tolliver. In Liverpool I dwell
Each Christmas come since World War One I’ve learned it’s lessons well
That the ones who call the shots won’t be among the dead and lame
And on each end of the rifle we’re the same
– John McCutcheon, “Christmas in the Trenches”

Some related essays of mine:

A Truce for Christmas

Myth, Memory and the National Mall

Redeeming the World 

Thank You for Your Service

The Myth of the Good War

To Sacrifice Everything

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Barry’s Blog # 417: Veterans’ Day – or “Sacrifice of the Children Day”? Part One of Two

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. – It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country. – Quintus Horatius Flaccus (Horace)

If any question why we died, tell them, because our fathers lied.  – Rudyard Kipling

So if you love your Uncle Sam
Bring them home, bring them home
Support our boys in Vietnam
Bring them home, bring them home – Pete Seeger

My good sir, what are you doing? Don’t you know the armistice goes into effect at 11:00 o’clock? – German officer under a white flag, to American officer

We’ll be back in twenty years. – Another German officer

Veterans Day was established in 1954 to celebrate all U.S. military veterans. In our modern memory, however, it has lost its connection with its original name, Armistice Day, which marks the anniversary of the end of World War I in 1918 and is still observed as such in Belgium, France, Brittan and many other countries. In 1938 Congress had made Armistice Day a holiday explicitly dedicated to perpetuating world peace. The shift from that stance to one praising those who fight, taken during the Cold War, should tell us much about the American psyche and the American empire. And an honest look at why so many died for so little might just compel us to consider renaming this holiday once again.

We cannot imagine the extent of the suffering. The Western Front stretched from Switzerland to the North Sea. Casualties on both sides averaged 2,250 dead and almost 5,000 wounded every day. Over four years, 3,250,000 were killed and 7,750,000 were wounded there. Total losses – including the Eastern Front, the Balkans, Austria, Italy, Turkey, the Middle East and Africa – were 8,400,000 dead and 21,400,000 wounded (of which seven million were permanently maimed), bringing total casualties to almost thirty million. Another 6,300,000 civilian deaths were attributed to the war. Then, the Spanish Flu, spreading before the end of the war and certainly exacerbated by it, killed an additional 25-50 million people.

Some soldiers refused to fight. Of 112 French divisions, 68 had mutinies. Fifty men were shot by firing squads. Three of those executions became the basis for Stanley Kubrick’s antiwar masterpiece, Paths of Glory, in which a pompous general castigates his soldiers for retreating and talks of “patriotism.” Kirk Douglas, the officer who defends his men, enrages the general by quoting Samuel Johnson: “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

This essay is about that last day of the war – actually, it’s about the last six hours. After arguing for three days, emissaries of the belligerents signed the armistice document at 5:00 AM on November 11th, agreeing that fighting on the Western Front would formally end at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. That left six hours, during which all the French and British generals and most of the Americans insisted on advancing everywhere, taking as much ground as possible (even though the armistice clearly demarcated what the new boundaries would be) and punishing the Germans until the very last moment.

I was reminded – brutally – of what happened during those last hours when I viewed Netflix’s new production of All Quiet on the Western Front. The new film departs from both Erich Maria Remarque’s book and the classic 1930 film in two significant ways:

1 – Most of the story takes place during the last three days of the war, regularly cutting back and forth between the ongoing carnage suffered by 18-year-olds in the trenches and the well-dressed, well fed diplomats and generals negotiating the precise terms of the armistice document in a finely-furnished rail car. It’s a clear contrast and an indictment of the old men who always send young men to sacrifice themselves.

2 – It depicts certain German generals as being so humiliated by the terms of the armistice and the personal loss of honor that, unwilling to surrender, they order a final, bloody attack on the allies. It ends with the protagonist dying, not from a sniper’s bullet on an “all quiet” morning (as in the 1930 film), but from wounds he suffers in those final, frenzied moments.

Both the original film and this new one are deeply anti-war and should be required viewing for all high school students. But any film presents a narrative with a point of view, and I was bothered by this one, because those last scenes invert history. It wasn’t the authoritarian Germans who flung thousands of boys at massed machine guns and artillery, knowing full well that the armistice had already been signed. It was the democratic French, British and Americans.

Hostilities on the Eastern Front had ended months before. Everyone was hearing rumors that the German Kaiser had abdicated and left the country, that Germany had become a republic, that Berlin was already a scene of revolutionary riots. German artillery had fallen silent in many places, only firing in response to Allied artillery. Some German troops were retreating toward home. Several units had mutinied. Over ten thousand had surrendered in the last week.

But the Allied generals insisted on more artillery bombardments and yet more mass infantry attacks, often uphill, over open ground – against entrenched machine guns – that should not stop until precisely 11:00 AM. They threatened to court martial any field commanders who might consider the humane decision to disobey, avoid any useless casualties and keep their men in the trenches until the shooting stopped. A few did just that, risking their careers, but the commanders of nine of the sixteen American divisions obeyed, sending their men forward. Some of the attacks began as late as 10:00 AM, and some units who had not heard the ceasefire order kept fighting (and dying) until 4:00 PM.

According to the most conservative estimates, during those last hours following the signing of the armistice, all sides on the Western Front suffered over 2,700 deaths (including at least 320 Americans) and 11,000 total casualties, 10% more than would occur on D-Day, 26 years later. “There was, however,” writes Joseph Persico, “a vast difference”:

The men storming the Normandy beaches were fighting for victory. Men dying on Armistice Day were fighting in a war already decided.

Why the mad, final advance and utterly unnecessary slaughter on 11/11/11? There seem to be two obvious themes here, and a third that requires a greater imagination of us.

The first is simple, understandable vindictiveness and the desire for maximum vengeance on the part of the French, whose farms, towns, forests and cities had been churned up for four years, and whose people had died in the millions.

The second, regrettably, was a final opportunity for glory and the possibility of career advancement. Accounts written by many of the senior officers such as Douglas MacArthur and George Patton make this quite clear. Patton, at least, was honest about his martial vocation:

We can but hope that e’re we drown

‘Neath treacle floods of grace,

The tuneless horns of mighty Mars

Once more shall rouse the Race.

When such times come, Oh! God of War

Grant that we pass midst strife,

Knowing once more the whitehot joy

Of taking human life.

We need to go deeper.

Read Part Two here.

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Barry’s Blog # 416: Who is an American? A Timeline, Part Eight of Eight

Part Eight: 2010-Present

We have got to make the white population uncomfortable, because that is the only way to get their attention. – Bill Russell

2010-2017: Immigrants file over 1,200 sexual abuse complaints against ICE agents, only 2% of which it will investigate. Over $3.2 billion is spent over the past decade to resolve nearly 40,000 claims at 25 of the nation’s largest police and sheriff’s departments.

2010-Present: Over 230 bills will be introduced in state legislatures to institutionalize an unfounded fear of Islam and Muslims, and to foment a climate of intolerance toward them.

2011: DHS completes some 650 miles of border walls and fences. The government will later admit that illegal border-crossers had simply found new routes, that the fences had been breached thousands of times, and that the Secure Fence Act had caused at least 1,000 additional deaths. California first observes “Fred Korematsu Day.” Whites believe they are victims of racism more often than Blacks. Native tribes are running 460 gambling operations, with annual revenue of $27 billion. At its height, the NYC “stop and frisk” program stops 685,000 people in one year. Worldwide, multi-racial Occupy movements protest the corporate control of national economies, while polls report that most Americans support racial profiling.

2012: Most whites again do not vote for Obama. Trayvon Martin is murdered in Florida. An Arizona Border Patrol officer shoots across the border, killing a Mexican teenager.  Six people are murdered in a racially motivated attack at a Sikh temple.  Obama announces that he will stop deporting undocumented immigrants who match certain criteria included in the proposed DREAM Act. He initiates the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which will eventually register 750,000 young people who entered the country as children, the vast majority of whom speak fluent English, have no connection to the countries of their birth, and have committed no crimes. Meanwhile,  2,000-3,000 non-citizen veterans, promised that they would automatically become citizens through their service, face deportation.

2013: Asserting that racism is history, the Supreme Court strikes down the heart of the Voting Rights Act and enables states to again disenfranchise minorities. Florida re-introduces chain gangs. The Black Lives Matter movement begins. Black women are four times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related complications. Black women and girls account for 33% of all women killed by police. Loving vs Virginia is first cited as a precedent in federal court decisions regarding same-sex marriages. Realtors inform blacks who are looking for rentals 11% fewer rental units than they show whites, and black homebuyers are shown 20% fewer homes.

2014: Police murder Michael Brown and Tamir Rice, sparking mass protests. California stops sterilizing prisoners. In the Flint water crisis, 6,000-12,000 primarily black children face elevated blood lead levels. The percentage of churches throughout the nation with at least 20% diversity rises from 7.5% in 2000 to 13.7%. A million black children live in “extreme poverty” (a family of three with disposable annual income of less than $7,000). The “Blue Lives Matter” countermovement convinces Louisiana to make targeting police a hate crime. Protesting construction of a new telescope, Hawaiian activists occupy the road to Mauna Kea. Over 900 anti-Semitic incidents are reported.

2015: Citing the 1901 Insular Acts, Obama opposes full voting rights in areas with four million Americans (almost all of them people of color) living in Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa and the Virgin Islands, thus ensuring a Republican victory in the next election. A racist murders nine Blacks in a South Carolina church. North Carolina protects Confederate monuments. Blacks make up 67% of Ferguson’s population but 93% of those arrested. The Army is 20% black, but ten of its bases (all in the South) are named after Confederates. The Confederate flag flies over the South Carolina capitol. Louisiana’s Angola prison holds thousands of inmates, 75% of whom are black. Most are serving life sentences; a third were convicted by non-unanimous juries. Convicts sue and achieve small improvements in treatment, but not air conditioning.

The National Park Service develops a narrative of the Reconstruction period and erects a marker documenting the 1866 Memphis massacre. The Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage.  Virginia establishes a compensation fund for victims of involuntary sterilization.

2016: Hillary Clinton is the first woman to run for President. When Trumpus arrives for a rally, Black drivers are more likely to be stopped by police, especially in counties with higher racial resentment & when his speeches include more racial references. The 2015-2016 campaign rallies cause 10,000 additional stops of Black drivers. The Border Patrol grows to 62,000 employees, with a $14 billion budget. The Supreme Court denies birthright citizenship to American Samoans. The murder rate for Native American women is 10 times the national average. Colin Kaepernick kneels during the National Anthem at football games, starting a movement to bring attention to police brutality. Team owners collude to blackball him. The North Carolina KKK parades in celebration of Trumpus’ election. Three-quarters of whites say police treat all racial and ethnic groups equally. The FBI reports on a fictional “black identity extremist” movement. Police murder Alton Sterling.  Native activists lead mass protests on the Standing Rock Reservation. Militarized police using water cannons clear an encampment in the path of the DAPL oil pipeline. Obama denies a construction easement, but Trumpus will reverse his decision. The National Museum of African American History opens in Washington. Eighteen states are spending more money on prisons than on colleges and universities. Over 50% of Latinos say they have experienced discrimination.

2017: Police murder Philando Castille. White supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia protest removal of a Confederate monument, provoking conflicts with anti-fascists and one death. Racists harass a Palestinian bakery in Oakland. Trumpus rescinds protections for transgender students. The West Virginia Supreme Court rules that the state’s hate crime law does not cover anti-gay assaults. Attorney General Sessions reverses Obama’s policy to stop charging low-level nonviolent drug offenders with severe mandatory sentences. Nevada, Illinois and Virginia ratify the ERA, but only after the deadline has expired. Further litigation will keep the Amendment in limbo.

2017-2019: Trumpus calls for building more walls, stopping all Muslim immigration (except for Saudi Arabia and other client states), removing citizenship from American-born children of non-citizens, ending DACA, imprisoning migrants in old internment camps, sending the military to stop Central American migrant caravans and pardoning Joe Arpaio. The Supreme Court rules that immigrants can be detained indefinitely. Comprehensive Health Services pays a $3.8 million fine for double-charging the government for its services but continues to charge $750 per detainee per day. Eleven statues in the Capitol Building commemorate Confederates, including several in uniform. Taxpayers are paying $40 million/year to support Confederate monuments. Melania Trump’s parents are the beneficiaries of “chain migration.”

2018: Homeland Security stops referring to the U.S. as a “nation of immigrants.” The Justice Department replaces the term “undocumented immigrant” with “illegal alien” and announces that 100% of border-crossing cases will be criminally prosecuted. The Border Patrol separates 3,000 children from their parents, including from those legally applying for asylum. A White House official says, “The children will be taken care of – put into foster care or whatever.” The Supreme Court lifts an injunction against enforcing the Muslim travel ban. Sixty percent of Republicans agree that increased demographic diversity would “weaken American customs and values.” Forty-seven percent of them agree that “there is a group of people in this country who are trying to replace native-born Americans with immigrants who agree with their political views.” Eight percent of white students attend high-poverty schools while 45% of Blacks and Hispanics do. Eleven people are murdered at a Pittsburg synagogue. The foreign-born population reaches its highest share since 1910, and the new arrivals are more likely to be college-educated and Asian. Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland are the first Native American women elected to Congress. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp improperly purges 340,000 (mostly Black) voters, assuring himself the governorship.

2019: Trumpus declares a national emergency, giving him the power to direct $6 billion from other federal agencies for his border wall, closes all international offices of Citizenship and Immigration Services and bars all asylum seekers who pass through a third country. The government repeatedly prosecutes a humanitarian volunteer for providing food and water to immigrants in the desert. It spends $3.8 billion on new contracts related to “unaccompanied alien children.” Immigration officials use secretive and unreliable gang databases to deny asylum claims and remove live interpreters from immigration courts. Homeland Security admits that its use of abhorrent conditions is to deter immigrants from entering the country. Over half of the 20,000 Border Patrol agents, including its Chief, are members of Facebook groups that post hatred of immigrants.   Defying Congress, ICE opens three new migrant jails. Top executives of a “nonprofit” contracted to jail migrant children receive million-dollar paychecks. DHS disbands a domestic terror intelligence unit that had monitored hate groups. The government detains a record-breaking 70,000 children. The U.S. now has the world’s highest child incarceration rate. The Justice Department argues against providing soap, toothbrushes or beds for detained children. The Border Patrol orders agents to not hug children or even to allow siblings to hug each other. Investigators reveal a DHS intelligence-gathering operation in the San Diego-Tijuana area targeting journalists, immigration attorneys, and advocates working with the migrant caravans. The government revives a clause that kept Nazi-Era refugees out of the country. A federal judge rules that the FBI list of “known terrorists”, which has grown to over a million people, including thousands of American citizens, is unconstitutional. The New York Times publishes the 1619 Project.

Blacks, 13% of the population, are 24% of the poverty population. The NAACP warns Blacks to carry bail money with them if they travel to Missouri. Florida re-enfranchises ex-felons and then essentially re-institutes the poll tax. A racist burns down three Black churches in ten days. Flint still has 2,500 lead service pipes. Over 90% of adults with gang enhancements (additional prison time or release conditions tacked on to sentences) in California prisons are either Black or Latino.  82% of Blacks support reparations, while 75% of Whites do not.

Asian American students sue Harvard over race-based discrimination. The national women’s soccer team sues for gender and pay discrimination. Joy Harjo becomes the first Native American Poet Laureate. California apologizes for its genocide of Native Americans. Congress exonerates the Port Chicago Fifty. The number of interracial marriages as a proportion of new marriages increases from 3% in 1967 to 19%. Women now account for over half of the college-educated labor force.

2020:  The Border Patrol invites the press to watch it detonate explosives on the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in southern Arizona, just as the chair of the Tohono O’odham Nation is offering testimony in Washington regarding the administration’s desecration of O’odham lands. Many U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents of Iranian descent are detained and interrogated when trying to return home from Canada. Trumpus tries to add a census citizenship question as part of a strategy for altering the population numbers used to divide up seats in Congress and the Electoral College. Polls find that a majority of Americans see an “invasion” at the southern border. The State Department discourages travel by foreign women who are pregnant to decrease “birth tourism”, (traveling to the U.S. solely to give birth in the country so that their child qualifies for citizenship). Over 130 applicants for asylum sent back to El Salvador are killed upon arriving. Although children are typically entitled to special protections under the law, including the right to have their claims adjudicated, federal agents are expelling asylum seekers as young as 8 months, citing the risk of COVID-19.  The government drastically increases fees for immigrants and asylum seekers. Trumpus calls the coronavirus “Chinese virus” and “kung flu”.  Fifty-five percent of white women support him.

Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd are murdered, leading to a multi-racial uprising that spreads to 2,000 cities and towns in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. An estimated 15-25 million Americans participate in the demonstrations, making them the largest in U.S. history. Activists call for defunding the police. In Kenosha, Wisconsin, Kyle Rittenhouse shoots three anti-racists, two fatally. He will be acquitted and meet with Trumpus. Citigroup  concludes that the nation could have been $16 trillion richer if not for racial inequities in education, housing, wages and business investment over the past 20 years. Black workers have lost $113 billion in potential wages because they couldn’t get college degrees. The housing market lost $218 billion in sales and $13 trillion in business revenue never flowed into the economy because Blacks couldn’t access bank loans. Black-owned homes are more likely to be assessed at higher values relative to their sale price. Blacks pay 13% more in property taxes than white families in the same financial situation.  Latinos (almost 20% of the population and 25% of U.S. box office) are featured in under 1% of the stories told by entertainment media. Israeli police and military have been providing training to hundreds of police from 13 states. While only 9% of blacks agree that police do a good job of treating different racial groups equally, 42% of whites agree that they do a good or excellent job. Over half of the 264 police deaths in the “line of duty” can be attributed to Covid-19. Forty-eight police officer deaths were by gunfire, 44 due to traffic crashes. Over a quarter of wrongful convictions result from false confessions (almost half in New York state). Trumpus establishes a “1776 Commission” to counter the publicity generated by the 1619 Project.

Three Southern states remove their statues of Confederates from the U.S. Capitol. The Supreme Court rules that half of Oklahoma is Native American land. The Washington football team changes its name. Deb Haaland becomes the first Native American Cabinet secretary. North Dakota ensures that Indians are eligible to vote despite lacking ID’s with residential addresses. A federal court shuts down the Dakota Access pipeline, but the government opens the Alaskan refuge to drilling. The victims of the Flint water crisis win a $641 million settlement. Philadelphia apologizes for its 1985 aerial bombing of a black neighborhood.  The Supreme Court strikes down Louisiana’s non-unanimous jury law. Pete Buttigieg is the first openly gay cabinet secretary.

2021: Mounted Border Patrol agents intimidate children on a Texas riverbank. Deportation of children increases by 30% under Joe Biden. During his four-year term, Trumpus used Title 42 to remove 500,000 asylum seekers. In under a year, Biden deports almost 700,000. Nearly 20,000 minors are returned to Mexico, 3/4ths of them unaccompanied by adults. In one nine-day period, the administration expels 4,000 Haitians, including hundreds of families with children, without allowing them to seek asylum. Altogether, Biden deports 20,000 Haitians in his first year, nearly as many as were deported during the previous 20 years.

Nineteen states enact 33 laws to make it harder for minorities to vote. Georgia criminalizes offering water to people in voting lines and reduces the number of voting drop off boxes in Atlanta from 107 to 25. The Supreme Court rejects D.C. voter representation in Congress. The Senate refuses to consider legislation on the filibuster or voting rights. Thirty-eight states have “Stand Your Ground” laws. Fox News mentions “critical race theory” 1,300 times in four months, provoking nine states to pass anti-CRT legislation. Oklahoma enacts a bill to protect drivers who run over protestors. A dozen states introduce similar measures. Thirty five states attempt to stop BDS boycotts against Israel.  Texas, Idaho and Oklahoma pass laws allowing residents to sue abortion clinics, doctors, nurses and even people who drive woman to get abortions. School districts in 26 states ban 1,648 books (713 in Texas). The most challenged books include Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer, Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.

Native American life expectancy drops by 4.7 years during the Covid pandemic, three times that of whites. The Department of Agriculture rejects hundreds of loan applications from Black (42%) and Asian (37%) farmers while denying only 9% of white applications. Rejections increase under Trumpus but also in Biden’s first year. The USDA admits that nearly all the billions in federal farm bailouts to offset the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have gone to white farmers.

Antioch, California apologizes to descendants of early Chinese immigrants for forbidding them to go outside after sundown in 1851 and then burning down its Chinatown in 1876. The Cleveland baseball team drops the name “Indians”. Biden restores protection to the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. California offers compensation to surviving victims of its 70-year forced sterilization program. A federal court holds that the Constitution’s Citizenship Clause applies to persons born in American Samoa. Prior to this point, since many laws required citizenship as a condition for public employment, 100,000 “non-citizen national” American Samoans could not work as police officers, firefighters, paramedics or public school teachers. They couldn’t be court reporters in Utah, optometrists in New Mexico or funeral home directors in Oklahoma. As servicemembers they couldn’t vote for president, serve in specialized services or become officers. New York City bans qualified immunity for police who use excessive force.

2022: The Supreme Court strikes down Roe vs Wade. A Republican congresswoman calls the decision a “historic victory for white life”. Idaho’s abortion ban gives more rights to the rapist’s family than to the pregnant victim. Ohio denies abortions to at least three minors who had been raped. Women turn to Mexico for abortions. Nearly 400 police officers respond to the shooting of Latino children in Uvalde, Texas without intervening. COVID-19 drives violence against Asian Americans, who sue a Northern California County, alleging racism in traffic stops and enforcement of cannabis-related property liens. Florida instructs civics teachers to teach students that slaveowners Washington and Jefferson opposed slavery. A federal court upholds an 1890 Jim Crow law in Mississippi. Twenty-two Republican state Attorneys-General sue the administration for pushing schools to follow anti-discrimination practices.  A North Carolina town hires a Black woman as city manager, prompting its entire, all-white police force to resign. House Republicans unanimously refuse to investigate Nazis in the military. The Justice Department concedes that five thousand deaths in jails, prisons, and police custody have gone uncounted in the past three years. A northern California sheriff’s department discloses that 47 deputies have failed psychological exams going back to 2016.

 Nine migrants drown in one day trying to cross the Rio Grande. The administration claims to have reunited 400 migrant families separated under Trumpus. Biden criticizes Texas and Florida for sending thousands of migrants to Washington, Massachusetts and New York,  but his administration prepares to finish building the border wall. Counting all types of civilian security personnel, the U.S. has 1.2 million police. Two Harvard professors call for hiring 500,000 more of them.

A federal court denies relief to 80,000 first-time DACA applicants who have been waiting for over a year. Immigration Services keeps their $495 applicant fees. Border agents lie that a two-year old asylum seeker is “looking for work”. The U.S. rejects over 90% of Afghans seeking to enter the country, including relatives of those who had aided the occupation of their country. Biden accepts 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, shortly after deporting thousands of Haitians.  Yuma’s Border Patrol confiscates and discards the headwear of 60 Sikh men.

Florida passes a “Don’t Say Gay” Law. Anti-LGBTQ hate surges online. A federal judge rules the government cannot require companies to cover the cost of HIV prevention drugs.  A group of Georgia mothers alleges that by not being allowed to read sexually explicit material aloud at school board meetings, they themselves are being censored. Arizona bans recording of law enforcement within eight feet. Following the raid on Trumpus’ Mar-A-Largo, Republicans call for defunding the FBI. Oklahoma charges 26 women with felony child neglect for using cannabis during their pregnancies. Conviction can result in life in prison. DeSantis appoints a white county commissioner in Florida’s only predominantly black county; the man resigns after photos surface showing him in a Klan outfit. Biden requests $37 billion to hire 100,000 new police officers. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett signs a $2 million book deal with Penguin Random House.

California asks Indian tribes to bring back the once-prohibited practice of lighting controlled burns to help prevent devastating wildfires. The Gullah Geechee people of the Georgia Sea Islands win compensation because the state had failed to provide adequate services to members of the community.  Patricia Guerrero becomes the first Latina Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court. The Supreme Court rules that the government can suspend Trumpus’ “Remain in Mexico” policy. A Federal court requires the administration to proactively reconsider denied visa applicants to Muslims and Africans. Congress requires the military to report on white supremacy in the ranks. Florida voters oust a judge who had ruled that a 17-year-old isn’t mature enough to have an abortion but is mature enough to have a baby. Federal judges block Ron DeSantis’ “Stop Woke” Act and rule that the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to the transgender community. Mary Peltola becomes the first Alaska Native American elected to Congress. Brown University acquires the papers of Mumia Abu-Jamal. The bison population has been brought back up to around 500,000.  The Department of Veterans Affairs announces that it will provide abortions, even in states that have outlawed them. Congress finally passes an anti-lynching law and bans discrimination against black hairstyles. Ketanji Brown-Jackson is the first Black woman Supreme Court Justice. Jim Thorpe is reinstated as the sole winner of his 1912 Olympic golds. Mary Bethune is the first African American to have a state-commissioned statue unveiled in the U.S. Capitol. Anna May Wong is the first Asian American woman to appear on a U.S. coin. Lloyd Austin, the first Black Secretary of Defense, orders that nine army bases that honor the Confederacy be renamed.


Of 245 million adults, 220 million are eligible to vote. Over twenty million – at least half of them people of color – cannot vote. This includes most prisoners, ex-felons, territorial residents and college students on campuses not in their home districts. The more African Americans a state contains, the more likely it is to ban felons from voting. The average state disenfranchises 2.4% of its voting-age population but 8.4% of blacks. In fourteen states, the share of blacks stripped of the vote exceeds 10%, and in five states it exceeds 20%. Over 60% of Republicans want the U.S. declared a Christian nation. In the last two years, at least 130 bills have been introduced across 42 states that would increase the involvement of law enforcement in the voting process. Of those bills, 28 have passed in 20 states.

Police kill 1,200 people per year.  Blacks are three times more likely to be killed by police than whites, even though they are 1.3 times more likely to be unarmed than whites. Every 28 hours, a person of color is shot dead by a policeman, a security guard or a self-appointed vigilante. 43% of the shootings occur after incidents of racial profiling, and 80% of the victims are unarmed. Over 98% of police killings do not result in an officer being charged with a crime. Over 20% of Medical Examiners reported having been pressured by an elected official or appointee to change the cause of death. One in six L.A. deputies is in a gang. Litigation related to their excesses has cost the county over $50 million. Two thirds of Americans aged 15-34 treated in emergency rooms suffer from injuries inflicted by police or security guards.

Blacks and Latinos constitute 67% of the total state-prison population. The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is California’s largest state agency, with over 54,000 employees servicing nearly 161,704 inmates and 104,872 parolees. The prison guards’ union is the strongest in the state. One in every thirty adults is in the corrections system. With 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. has a quarter of its prisoners. Blacks are incarcerated in state prisons at over five times the rate of whites. 80,000 prisoners dwell in solitary confinement, one third of whom, because of this treatment, are or will become psychotic. One in seven incarcerated people are serving life sentences, and 2/3rds are people of color. Three hundred veterans are on death row.

Blacks are seven times more likely than whites to be falsely convicted of serious crimes, and they are imprisoned longer before exoneration. Innocent Blacks are 7½ times more likely to be convicted of murder than innocent whites. Seven million people (3.2% of the adult population) are currently under some form of correctional supervision. Around 50 million people have criminal records. Louisiana imprisons a higher percentage of its people than any democracy on earth.  Five thousand persons there, 2/3rds of them Black, are serving life without parole, and 344 have served over two decades.

Black drivers in Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego are 2-5 times more likely than white motorists to get pulled over by sheriffs for traffic violations. These sheriff patrols spend significantly more time conducting these proactive stops than they do responding to calls for help.

The U.S. is the only nation that sentences people to life without parole for crimes committed as minors (currently, nearly 1,500), and ignores any international laws restricting the juvenile death penalty.  Over 500,000 Americans work in corrections. Around 63,000 inmates work for over 4,000 companies that have benefited from cheap prison labor.  Federal law prohibits persons with drug convictions from being on or near the premises of public housing and maintains a lifetime ban on welfare benefits for persons with drug convictions.

The U.S. has spent $100 billion on border and immigration control since 9/11. Legal immigrants are at their highest level ever, at 37,000,000. 50,000 Irish reside in the country illegally. Migrants from nations targeted by the U.S. (Venezuelans, Cubans and Nicaraguans) are automatically eligible for asylum. Cubans still receive preferential treatment. Some of them receive “humanitarian parole” and can wait for a year in the U.S. before applying for permanent residency, with 98% of those who enter on the southern border staying in the country. Most other migrants are forced to wait in Mexico or elsewhere for immigration judges to decide on their applications for asylum. Haitians continue to be routinely deported. Mexicans and Central Americans make up over 90% of all immigrants imprisoned for unlawful entry and reentry.

All five American Territories continue to send non-voting delegates to Congress, and their residents still cannot vote for President. Representatives of the 9,000 American Samoans in Utah challenge the denial of their voting rights; the Biden administration asks the Supreme Court to leave the Insular cases intact.

Nearly 10% of California’s residents are prisoners, parolees, felons or undocumented immigrants whose lives are diminished by limitations upon the right to vote, restricted employment opportunities, and exclusions from welfare benefits. Congress has greatly expanded the list of offenses that can lead to deportation for legal immigrants. Minor criminal violations and everyday legal infractions, ranging from shoplifting to traffic violations, now routinely trigger one of the state’s most consequential sanctions— deportation.

Indigenous, Latino, Pacific Islander and Blacks all have significantly higher COVID-19 mortality rates than either White or Asian Americans. After decades of white flight and neglect by state officials, predominantly Black Jackson, Mississippi lacks drinking water.  Three plaques above the entrance to a science hall at West Point Military Academy honor the KKK and Confederate generals Lee and Stuart. The Catholic Church has still not rescinded the Doctrine of Discovery. Nine states have banned race-based affirmative action. Seven still ban atheists from holding office.  Chapter 7 of Title 8 of the United States Code is still headed, “Exclusion of Chinese.” A white Georgia school bus driver is fired for pushing two young black kids to the back of the bus.  The largest federal housing program is the mortgage interest deduction, a continued subsidy to many racially exclusive suburbs.

Some insurance companies are refusing to provide coverage for police departments unless they change their policies on matters such as body cameras and chokeholds.  A majority of citizens in Florida, New Mexico, Hawaii, Maryland, Nevada, Texas, California and the District of Columbia are no longer Caucasian. Union popularity hits a 57-year high. For the first time in its history, the United States has a Native American, a Native Alaskan, and a Native Hawaiian serving in the House of Representatives. California removes the term “Squaw” from place names.

To be continued.

I would like to see the government admit that they were wrong and do something about it so this will never happen again to any American citizen of any race, creed, or color…If anyone should do any pardoning, I should be the one pardoning the government for what they did to the Japanese-American people…One person can make a difference, even if it takes forty years. – Fred Korematsu

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Barry’s Blog # 415: Who is an American? A Timeline, Part Seven of Eight

Part Seven: 2000-2010

…the ultimate measure of health in any community might well reside in our ability to stand in awe at what folks have to carry rather than in judgment at how they carry it. — Father Gregory Boyle

2000-2010: Since officers have qualified immunity and police unions protect perpetrators,  New York City will pay $964 million to resolve excessive force and brutality claims, including seven times for one officer. The country will lose a third of its manufacturing jobs during the decade.

2000: The Osage Nation sues the Department of the Interior for fraudulent management of their assets, settling in 2011 for $380 million. Alabama is the last state to repeal its anti-miscegenation law. The census allows respondents to list themselves in one or more of fifteen racial/ethnic identities. California, followed by twelve other states, requires insurance companies to report on their roles in slavery. The South posts its first black population increase in over a century. Joseph Lieberman is the first Jew to be nominated for Vice-president. Almost two million ballots are disqualified because of faulty vote-counting machines. The Supreme Court throws the election to George W. Bush.

Congress requires the states to report all deaths in prisons or police custody. But it provides no funding or enforcement mechanism, so the Bureau of Justice Statistics must rely on 18,000 local agencies to provide the data voluntarily. Many states will collect data in a haphazard fashion, with little verification. Only 36 states will report data every year. By 2014, BJS will be recording data for fewer than half of arrest-related deaths nationwide. Congress will try to strengthen the law in 2016, but the Trumpus administration will sabotage the effort, allowing only 20% of jails to report any deaths at all in a given year. One that does, Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Virginia, will report 68 deaths between 2003 and 2018, sparking a federal investigation that finds “The jail’s practice of subjecting prisoners with serious mental illness to prolonged periods of restrictive housing…shows deliberate indifference to their health and safety.”

2001: Whites murder nineteen Sikhs, Muslims, Arabs and South Asians in response to the 9/11 attacks. The DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act, which would grant residency status to qualifying foreign immigrants who had entered the U.S. as minors, is first introduced. Congress will debate it for the next 16 years, until Trumpus rescinds it. The No Child Left Behind Act prioritizes student testing over racial integration and requires military recruiters be granted the same access in schools as college recruiters.

2001-2002: The FBI entraps large numbers of impressionable young men of color and then prosecutes them as terrorists.

2002: Congress creates the Department of Homeland Security, which by 2017 will have 240,000 employees, a $40 billion budget and persistent allegations of waste, brutality and fraud. Drafted partially in reaction to the controversy surrounding the 2000 election, the Help America Vote Act mandates that the Election Assistance Commission improve and certify voting equipment. 

2003: Congress creates the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), which will eventually have 20,000 employees and a $7.6 billion budget. It will detain about 34,000 people on any given day, in over 500 detention centers and jails nationwide, and deport two million people.

The American school system is nearly as segregated as it was in 1960. Eighty percent of Latino students and three-quarters of black students attend schools that are majority nonwhite. A sixth of all black students attend schools in which minorities make up 99% of the population. The percentage of black students attending majority white schools is at its lowest point in fifty years. Minority high schoolers are performing at academic levels equal to or below those of three decades ago.  Police use racial profiling to stop Black and Latino drivers on the basis of less evidence than used in stopping white drivers, who are searched less often even though they are more likely to be found with illegal items. The resultant fines, arrests, legal fees and time spent in court mean that people of color have even less disposable income relative to whites. In New York City alone, the stop-and-frisk program will make over 100,000 stops per year between 2003 and 2013. Ninety percent of those frisked will be Black or Latino.

The Supreme Court rules that a Law School can consider race as a plus-factor when evaluating applicants and maintains the prohibition on the use of quotas. Fourteen states still retain their sodomy laws. Conviction in Idaho can result in life imprisonment until the Supreme Court strikes down all such laws.

2004: The National Museum of the American Indian opens on the National Mall. Bush allows the ban on assault weapons to expire; mass shooting deaths will increase by 239%.

2005: DHS’s bogus national database of “critical terrorist targets” grows to 300,000 localities, including thousands of non-critical sites such as doughnut shops and petting zoos. Indiana will have more than California and New York combined. Surveys find that 35% of foreign-born Hispanics and 36% of Blacks hold strong antisemitic beliefs. North Carolina apologizes for its mass sterilization program; several states follow suit. Congress gives gun manufacturers immunity from legal liability.  Operation Streamline  initiates a “zero-tolerance” approach to unauthorized border-crossing by engaging in criminal prosecution of immigrants. Up to 70 people are tried together, sometimes wearing shackles in the courtroom. The number of prosecutions will increase from 4,000 annually in the early 2000s to 16,000 in 2005, 44,000 in 2010 and 97,000 by 2013. The Minuteman Project, a borderlands militia, claims 1,000 members. The Real ID Act waives local laws that interfere with construction of physical barriers at the borders. Fred Korematsu dies.

2006: California apologizes for deporting Mexicans between 1925 and1931. The Secure Fence Act authorizes additional fencing, vehicle barriers, checkpoints, lighting, cameras, satellites and drones. Conservatives claim that undocumented immigrant mothers are having children in the U.S. (“anchor babies”) only to gain citizenship. Three months after Hurricane Katrina, 20% of whites deny that the government’s failure to respond had anything to do with race. Ninety percent of Blacks disagree.

2006-2017: The nation’s largest police departments will fire 1,900 officers for misconduct. But on appeal, they will be forced to reinstate over 450.

2006-2020: Over 1,200 women are arrested for self-induced abortions and other claims of fetal harm.

2007: Over 9,500 children are still attending Indian boarding schools. High School students in Ashburn, Georgia attend their school’s first racially integrated prom, while their parents protest. The Supreme Court prohibits the use of racial classifications in student assignment plans to maintain racial balance. Four states officially apologize for slavery and Jim Crow, followed in the next nine years by five others.

2008: Congress estimates that Homeland Security has wasted roughly $15 billion.   Barack Obama wins the presidency even though most white voters do not vote for him. Pennsylvania convicts two judges are for sending children to for-profit jails in exchange for kickbacks. The recession increases racial disparities when long-term patterns of discrimination and fraud provoke the subprime mortgage crisis. While 6.2 % of qualified whites had received high-risk mortgages, 21% of blacks had. Wells Fargo had motivated loan officers to aggressively market in minority neighborhoods. Women of color were the most likely to receive subprime loans. Banks will foreclose on 240,000 black homeowners. In Washington they are 20% more likely to lose their homes than whites with similar incomes. The net worth of black households will decline by 53%, compared to 16% for white households. Twenty percent of whites say their ideal neighborhood is all white, 25% say it has no blacks, 33% say it has neither Hispanics nor Asians and only 25% say they would live in a neighborhood where half of their neighbors are black. A California State University fires a Quaker for refusing to sign a loyalty oath without inserting a reservation that her defense of the state and country would be done “nonviolently.”

2009: The KKK burns a cross in a black Alabama neighborhood. A Louisiana official denies a marriage license for an interracial couple. Obama refuses to revive the Fairness Doctrine. A local insurance risk pool warns the 60-officer Maywood, California Police Department that it will lose its coverage if it does not enact a dozen changes focused on reducing violent encounters with the public. When police fail to do so, the risk pool pulls its coverage, and the department disbands.

2009-2016: Obama will deport 2.5 million immigrants, 40% with no criminal conviction. Following police murders of unarmed black men, blacks and whites protest together in Oakland, Anaheim, Ferguson, Charlotte, Baltimore and Milwaukee.

2010: In the Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court allows corporations and unions (with far fewer assets) to spend unlimited money on political ads, finding that funds not being spent in coordination with a candidate’s campaign “do not give rise to the appearance of corruption.” States introduce 1,400 immigration measures – exceeding the total of the previous ten years – and 246 become law. The United Nations determines that the Doctrine of Discovery is the foundation of the violation of indigenous human rights. An “End Racial Profiling Act” is defeated in Congress. Arizona bans Ethnic Studies programs from schools. Nearly 60% of African Americans are living in the South – the highest percentage in 50 years.

Read Part Eight here.

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Barry’s Blog # 414: Who is an American? A Timeline, Part Six of Eight

Part six: 1950-2000

As long as you are south of the Canadian border, you are South. – Malcolm X

1950: Congress bars immigration by communists or fascists, (by now, the Nazi scientists have all been naturalized) requires communists to have their literature stamped as propaganda, bans them from holding passports or government jobs and establishes a board to investigate persons suspected of joining their groups, members of which cannot become citizens. Immigrants found in violation can have their citizenship revoked. The government builds six concentration camps to hold anyone deemed a threat during state emergencies. Truman appoints a former head of the Japanese internment camps as Commissioner of Indian Affairs.  Amendments to the 1948 Displaced Persons law eliminate the preference for farmers and extend the total allotment of visas to 400,000, including 80,000 Jews. The State Department allows war criminals to remain U.S. citizens. When Soviet bloc countries request their extradition, Washington refuses. A 1954 revision of the law will eliminate the critical prohibition that had made suspected war criminals ineligible for U.S. visas. California requires state employees to subscribe to a loyalty oath that specifically disavows radical beliefs. The University of California fires 31 faculty members who refuse to sign it. They sue and are rehired. Louisiana erects a monument near the site of the 1873 Colfax Massacre. Its inscription claims that the mob violence that killed 150 Blacks “ended carpetbag misrule” in the state.

1950-Present: The median household in public housing earns 57% of the national median income. That number will fall to 41% by 1960, 29% by 1970 and 17% by the 1990s, when, relatively speaking, residents will be three times as poor as they had been in the 1950s.  The G.I. Bill finances 90% of the 13 million houses constructed in the 1950s. Southern politicians ensure that 98% of those homes go to whites, even in the North. Only one Black family can buy a home between 1950 and 1960 in the white neighborhoods that dominate California’s San Fernando Valley. Of 350,000 federally subsidized homes built in Northern California between 1946 and 1960, fewer than 100 go to blacks, as do none of the 82,000 homes built in Levittown, New York. People of color remain locked in the inner cities, their dwellings and businesses often torn down to make room for the interstates that will shuttle whites to the suburbs. Over 100 Black churches will be bombed or burned across the South.

1951: Pope Pius XII first uses the phrase “right to life”, launching the modern anti-abortion movement. State restrictions grow tighter, leading to a black market in abortions. Truman establishes a committee to ensure that employers working for the federal government comply with all previous non-discrimination laws. The Martinsville Seven, a group of young black men, are accused of raping a white woman. When the Supreme Court twice refuses to hear the cases, they are executed. They will be pardoned 70 years later.

1952: Congress abolishes all racial immigration restrictions and allows Japanese and  Korean Americans to naturalize. However, these countries receive only small annual quotas. The law defines three types of immigrants: those with special skills or relatives of U.S. citizens who are exempt from quotas; average immigrants; and refugees. It again bars suspected subversives, even those who had not been active for decades. The Supreme Court rules that alien land laws in over a dozen states are unconstitutional. The Air Force is the first branch of the military to fully integrate.

1953: The Refugee Relief Act admits more Southern Europeans, including 60,000  Italians, 17,000 Greeks and 45,000 from communist countries, after thorough security screening and proof of guaranteed homes and jobs. President Eisenhower fires 5,000 federal employees as suspected homosexuals. Congress begins a 13-year period of disbanding Native tribes and selling their lands. The largest tribes terminated are the Menominee Nation in Wisconsin and the Klamath in Oregon. Over a hundred Native groups in California lose federal protections and services. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Jews convicted of spying for the Soviet Union, are executed. Illegal abortions are not reported, but the Kinsey Report asserts that 90% of premarital and 24% of married pregnancies are aborted. Vice President Richard Nixon imposes on government contractors the primary responsibility for desegregating their own companies, thus ensuring minimal outcomes.

1953-1973: The CIA, working with the Bureau of Prisons and the Public Health Service, begins Project MK-Ultra, an illegal human experimentation program that administers hallucinogenic drugs to hundreds of unsuspecting men, generally African Americans.

1954: Ellis Island closes. Operation Wetback deports over 250,000 Mexicans annually. The Border Patrol changes its language from “policing unsanctioned laborers” to “policing criminal aliens.” Agribusiness, however, continues to recruit cheap labor. The continuation of illegal immigration, along with public outcry over many U.S. citizens removed, dooms the program.

The Supreme Court declares racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional, overturning the “separate but equal” doctrine. Two months later, the first White Citizens’ Councils form in opposition. By 1957, these councils, operating in 30 states with 250,000 members, will use social pressure and economic retaliation to intimidate supporters of integration. The massive resistance successfully prevents integration as parents transfer over 500,000 children to private schools, or “segregation academies”. In the five Deep South states, all 1.4 million Black schoolchildren will attend segregated schools until 1960. By the 1964-65 school year, fewer than 3% of the South’s black children will attend school with white students, and in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina that number will be below 1%.

1955: The Southern states phase out the use of chain gangs. Martin Luther King Jr. leads a bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama.  Emmett Till is murdered. Congress designates all Border Patrol officers as customs inspectors and gives the organization primary authority over drug interdiction between official ports of entry. The INS begins to strip-search all detainees upon entrance to immigrant detention facilities and detains migrants for longer periods to run criminal background checks on all deportees. Testing Enovid, the first birth control drug, doctors conduct unethical experiments on Puerto Rican women without consent or full disclosure of risk. Many experience severe side effects and three die.

1956: King’s home is bombed. A mob blocks school integration in Mansfield, Texas. The original GI Bill ends, having supported nearly 8 million World War II veterans with education and 4.3 million home loans worth $33 billion. As employment, college attendance and wealth surges for whites, disparities with their black counterparts widen. The first Mexican American in 36 years is elected to the Texas legislature.

Construction of the Interstate Highway System begins, frequently through minority neighborhoods, allowing more whites to retreat to the suburbs. Detroit will lose 60% of its population. In Los Angeles, a single freeway cutting through the mixed-race Boyle Heights will destroy 2,000 homes. In Beverly Hills, whites will successfully block construction of another freeway. Land values in neighborhoods bisected by freeways plummet, adding to generational wealth disparities, while communities suffer from air pollution. Those (mostly minorities) who lose their houses are not entitled to assistance from the government in relocating to new homes. The government will not require that new housing be provided for those forced to relocate by future interstate highway construction until 1965. But by then the interstate system will be nearly complete. The Border Patrol reinvents immigration control as crime control. Officers are instructed to substitute the term “wetback” with “criminal alien”. The Narcotics Control Act imposes life imprisonment and even the death penalty for certain offenses and makes drug conviction a trigger for deportation for immigrants.

1956-1958: California terminates 41 Native Rancherias. Long-term FHA policies that guaranteed loans to builders of working-class suburban subdivisions – with explicit requirements that blacks be excluded – result in a situation in which housing projects for whites have many unoccupied units, while those for blacks have long waiting lists. Eventually, as whites continue to leave the inner cities, almost all public housing will be opened to blacks. But industry such as automakers close many downtown assembly plants and relocate to rural and suburban areas to which black workers have less access. Good urban jobs become scarcer and public housing residents become poorer. Every metropolitan area in the nation suburbanizes, with all-white subdivisions surrounding an urban core where African Americans are concentrated.

1957: Utah becomes the last state to permit Native Americans to vote. Construction of the Kinzua Dam floods Seneca traditional lands protected by treaty. In a suburb of Chicago 6,000 whites attack 100 blacks picnicking in a portion of a park that had previously been white-only. Congress establishes a Civil Rights Division in the Justice Department. Raphael Cruz (who will later be father to Ted Cruz) leaves Cuba and obtains political asylum in the U.S.

1958: 94% of whites disapprove of inter-racial marriage. Residents of Little Rock, Arkansas vote to close their public schools rather than comply with federal desegregation orders. Eisenhower will deploy federal troops to escort the students to school. A Virginia court sentences Mildred and Richard Loving to a year in jail for their interracial marriage. They appeal, ultimately to the Supreme Court.

1959: Twenty-one black teenagers burn to death in an Arkansas reform school. Organizers of an American fashion show in Russia remove scenes that feature black and white models together after forty fashion editors protest the representation of racial integration. Eleven of the top twenty-five TV shows are westerns, which comprise a quarter of all prime-time network hours.

1960: A mob riots against integration of a New Orleans elementary school. Landowners in Greene County, Alabama evict 75 black families attempting to register to vote. In Fayette County, Tennessee, 700 blacks who register are evicted. Yale ends its unwritten policy to restrict its Jewish student body at 10%. Interracial marriage is illegal in 31 states.

1960-1980: The 1960s will see 160 riots. Of the one million persons displaced from their homes by the Interstate Highway Program, 3/4 will be black. A fifth of all black housing in the nation is destroyed for highways even as the government expands housing for whites. As public schools in the Deep South desegregate through federal court orders, private school enrollment increases by over 200,000. The South’s 11% share of the nation’s private school enrollment increases to 24%.

1961: Residents of largely black Washington receive the right to vote in presidential elections but can only elect a non-voting delegate to Congress. Whites riot when the University of Georgia integrates. Mobs attack the freedom riders in Alabama. A Virginia judge upholds racial segregation in courtrooms.  Birmingham closes its parks rather than permit integration. President Kennedy establishes yet another committee to force companies to comply with anti-discrimination orders, and a Commission on the Status of Women.

1962: New Mexico allows natives to vote in state elections.  Chicago has over 100 “blockbusting” real estate companies actively changing the racial status of two blocks/week. Readers Digest and Look publish sensational stories about welfare cheaters. Illinois is the first state to decriminalize sodomy. New Orleans segregationists bus Blacks to New York as the “Reverse Freedom Riders”. The Supreme Court strikes down an anticommunist loyalty oath in Florida.

1963: Over 700 Black children protest segregation in Birmingham, beginning a movement that sparks widely publicized police brutality. All the white students withdraw from the newly integrated Tuskegee High School. Five days later, terrorists bomb a Birmingham church, killing four Black girls. Such bombings are so common that some nickname the city “Bombingham.” The next month, hundreds of Black Selma residents attempting to register to vote are met with violence by state and local officials. Louisiana merchants protesting integration deny service to all members of the military, regardless of their race. Dr. King comments: “The most segregated hour in this nation is Sunday at 11:00 am”. The March on Washington is the decades-long culmination of a mass movement against racial and economic injustice.

1964: The 24th Amendment bans poll taxes. Two-thirds of California voters support Proposition 14, which allows property sellers and landlords to openly discriminate. Integrated groups of pastors attempting to enter segregated churches on Easter Sunday in Mississippi are beaten and jailed. Three civil rights workers are murdered in Mississippi. Over 7,500 whites protest integration of New York City schools. Patsy Mink is the first woman of color elected to Congress. President Lyndon Johnson pressures defense contractors to sign voluntary affirmative action agreements; many corporations in the South largely ignore him. The Civil Rights Act aims to end discrimination in all firms with 25 or more employees, as well as public schools, hospitals, libraries, etc. It has 70% public approval. Johnson’s War on Poverty funds welfare and employment programs, food stamps, Head Start, Medicare and Medicaid. The Supreme Court strikes down two state loyalty oath requirements. Similar decisions will follow in 1966 and 1967.

1965-1982: More Americans will go to prison than between 1865 and 1964.

1965: The Voting Rights Act enfranchises racial minorities. The Immigration and Nationality Act abolishes “national origins” as the basis for quotas and welcomes immigrants from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. It gives priority to relatives of U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents and professionals and other individuals with specialized skills, but for the first time it limits immigration from Mexico to 20,000/year. This results in the beginning of large-scale illegal immigration. The INS continues to deny entry to homosexuals on the grounds that they have a “constitutional psychopathic inferiority.” Blacks riot in Watts (Los Angeles). Malcolm X is assassinated. Cezar Chavez and Dolores Huerta lead the United Farm Workers in their first agricultural strike. Alabama State Troopers and the Ku Klux Klan attack 300 nonviolent protesters on a bridge in Selma. The Supreme Court declares sex a private affair. The government lists 235 deaths from abortion attempts. In the last major literary censorship battle, Boston bans W.F. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch.


Issur Danielovitch

No longer needing to appear to have Anglo-Saxon names, film actors begin to use their real, ethnic names. At its peak, urban renewal displaces 50,000 families annually.

1966: Congress allows Cuban immigrants and their immediate families to become permanent U.S. residents in one year, while other immigrants must wait five years to apply. “White Supremacy” is the motto of the Alabama Democratic Party. Huey Newton and Bobby Seale found the Black Panther Party in Oakland. When Panthers march armed in Sacramento, California quickly passes strict gun control. Alabama forbids school desegregation. Blacks are assigned to combat units in Vietnam in greater numbers than their percentages in the population. Making up 11% of the forces, their casualties are over 20%. Black leaders convince Johnson to order that Black participation be cut back. By 1969, Black casualties will drop to 11.5%. Medicare functions as an effective integration tool; within a year of its passage, no American hospitals or doctors’ offices are segregated. The Supreme Court prohibits tax payment and wealth requirements for voting in state elections.

1967: In Loving vs. Virginia the Supreme Court rules that Virginia’s interracial marriage ban violates the 14th Amendment, but interracial marriage is still illegal in 16 States. The Court justifies qualified immunity for police officers from being sued for civil rights violations. The Detroit uprising is the worst of sixteen major race riots. Police arrest 7,000 people. The Bracero Program ends. Thousands of “Sundown Towns” still exist.

1967-1973: Twelve states liberalize their abortion laws. The FBI spends years monitoring Aretha Franklin. 

1968: Dr. King is assassinated; 125 riots follow across the country. Two days later, Oakland police murder Black Panther Bobby Hutton. The Supreme Court prohibits racial discrimination, including blockbusting, in private housing markets. The Fair Housing Act declares housing covenants illegal and permits blacks to access previously white neighborhoods. But it prohibits only future discrimination, without undoing the previous 35 years of government-imposed segregation. William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols perform American TV’s first interracial kiss on “Star Trek”. The Young Lords model themselves after the Panthers as a civil and human rights organization for Puerto Ricans and other Latinos. Spreading to thirty cities, they will be repressed by the COINTELPRO program. Congress increases the FBI’s budget by 10% to fund police training, mostly for riot control, and prohibits interstate firearms sales except by licensed manufacturers and dealers. Over a third of Puerto Rican women have been sterilized, often without their knowledge or consent.

1969: President Nixon’s Operation Intercept requires customs agents to search every vehicle entering the U.S. for drugs. It throws border crossings into chaos and ends after three weeks. The Stonewall riots in New York begin the modern fight for LGBT rights. HUAC becomes the House Committee on Internal Security. FBI Director Hoover describes the Panthers as “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country” and covertly sabotages them with surveillance, harassment and the assassination of Fred Hampton. By 1982, at least 20 Panthers will be dead. The administration lobbies against expanding welfare and proposes a Family Assistance Plan requiring all welfare recipients except mothers with children under age three to find work.

1970-1980: Newark, Dayton, Tallahassee, Cincinnati, Detroit, Los Angeles, Washington and New Orleans elect their first black mayors.

1970: Congress passes the Equal Rights Amendment and sends it to the states with a seven-year deadline to acquire ratification. The Family Planning Services and Population Research Act is intended to assist poor people with limiting the size of families. But over the next six years the Indian Health Service will single out full-blooded Indian women of childbearing age, sterilizing 3,400 of them, often without their knowledge. Mississippi police open fire at Jackson State College, killing two black students and injuring dozens.  The 1970s will see 16 riots. Hawaii is the first state to legalize abortion. Los Angeles police riot against the Chicano Moratorium, killing four.The IRS removes tax-exempt status from segregated private schools. To retain that status, schools must publish non-discrimination policies and not practice overt discrimination. Many refuse to comply. Native Americans in Massachusetts found the first National Day of Mourning as a counter-celebration to Thanksgiving.

1971: Massacre at Attica prison. The 26th Amendment lowers the voting age to 18. Alaska Natives contest the state’s violation of native land rights by opening their lands for lease to private oil companies. Congress ultimately gives them a land grant of 44 million acres and $962 million in compensation for giving up claims to nine-tenths of Alaska. For the first time since 1902, the five “Civilized” tribes win the right to elect their own leaders and reconstitute their own tribal government systems.

Nixon declares a “War on Drugs,” which will shape crime policy and – through the loss of voting rights for ex-offenders – every presidential election for the next half century. The prison population will increase from 200,000 to 2.2 million, 60% people of color. Blacks will be incarcerated in state prisons at five times the rate of whites. With only 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. will have 25% of the world’s prisoners, nearly half for nonviolent drug offenses.

The Supreme Court rules that federal courts can integrate schools, sometimes requiring the racial composition of individual schools to reflect the composition of their districts. This is generally achieved by busing. White families respond by moving to the suburbs, while many others transfer their children to private or parochial schools. These effects further increase the non-white percentages in many urban schools.

1972: Police arrest a group of activists known as the “Abortion Seven.” Nixon integrates the construction workforce on federally regulated projects. Construction unions protest. The U.S. experiences over 2,500 domestic bombings in just 18 months. In the last major loyalty oath case, the Supreme Court upholds a requirement that State of Massachusetts employees swear to uphold and defend the Constitution and to “oppose the overthrow of the [government] by force, violence, or by any illegal or unconstitutional method”.

1973: Enrollment at Indian boarding schools reaches its highest point, 60,000. American Indian Movement (AIM) activists occupy the Wounded Knee massacre site to support Oglala traditionalists against corrupt tribal leaders. Over 2,000 Indians resist a siege by the FBI, U.S. Marshals and eventually the army, who fire over half a million rounds of ammunition and arrest over 1,000 people. The 10-week standoff ends with 185 Native people indicted on federal charges. Los Angeles County first acknowledges the existence of a gang with 47 members within the Sheriff’s Department.  In magazines depicting welfare, 75% of pictures feature African Americans even though they make up only 35% of welfare recipients. Louisiana changes its life-in-prison sentences from “10/6” to a 20-year minimum. Nixon creates the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and blames the anti-Vietnam War movement and leaking of the Pentagon Papers on Jews.  The Supreme Court legalizes abortion and bans federal agencies from discriminating against disabled candidates.

1973-2005: 413 women will be arrested for self-induced abortions and other claims of fetal harm.

1974: In the largest Indian removal since the 1830s, Congress forces relocation of 12,000 Dine’ who are blocking strip-mining interests. North Carolina is the last state to end its sterilization policy. The government compensates survivors of the Tuskegee experiment. Residents of the District of Columbia regain the right to vote for mayor and city council but still lack voting representation in Congress. The Supreme Court first addresses the issue of school busing, confirming that segregation is allowed if it is not considered an explicit policy of each school district. The Boston School Committee disobeys orders to develop a busing plan. Boycotts and over 40 riots ensue.

1975: The Pine Ridge shootout occurs.  Congress ends the House Committee on Internal Security and calls for decentralizing students from Indian boarding schools to community schools, but many large boarding schools will remain open until the early 1990s. The Civil Services Commission announces that it will consider applications by gay people. Congress restores full citizenship rights to Robert E. Lee. In addition to establishing a permanent ban on literacy tests and other discriminatory voting requirements, amendments to the Voting Rights Act require districts with significant numbers of non-English-speaking voters to be provided with assistance in registering and voting. Latina women initiate a federal class action lawsuit involving large-scale sterilization that occurred without informed consent or through coercion. The Senate’s Church Committee reveals extensive abuses against U.S. citizens by the FBI and CIA, but no one is prosecuted. California allows prison inmates the right to marry, bring civil lawsuits, make wills, and create powers of attorney.

1976: President Gerald Ford terminates Roosevelt’s 1942 internment order and apologizes to Japanese Americans. Over 35 years, North Carolina has sterilized 7,600 people, 40% minorities. A third of Puerto Rican women have been sterilized. The Supreme Court rules that political money is free speech, protected by the First Amendment. It also rules that plaintiffs must prove discriminatory intent behind any challenged action, thus reducing constitutional protections due people of color. Kentucky ratifies the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. The Hyde Amendment bars the use of federal funds to pay for most abortions. The Supreme Court prohibits racial discrimination in private schools and holds that states do not have authority to tax or regulate Native activities on their reservations. Tribes soon open bingo operations. Ronald Reagan speaks of “welfare queens”.

1977: Racists attack a synagogue in St. Louis. The Equal Rights Amendment receives 35 of the necessary 38 state ratifications, but Phyllis Schlafly mobilizes conservative women in opposition and stalls further votes. Five states revoke their ratification.

1978: The Supreme Court allows corporations to contribute to ballot initiative campaigns. President Jimmy Carter approves $4.3 million to build a fence on the U.S.-Mexico border. White supremacist groups establish camps and train hundreds of vigilantes. Federal authorities ignore them, accost migrants in the desert and investigate the Sanctuary Movement. The militia camps will expand well into the 21st century. The National Socialist Party of America seeks a parade permit in Skokie, Illinois because of the many Holocaust survivors residing there. Skokie refuses to allow it, but the American Civil Liberties Union intercedes on behalf of the Nazis, who march in Chicago. Congress restores full rights of citizenship to Jefferson Davis, 30 years before apologizing to African Americans for slavery. Congress restores basic civil liberties to Native Americans, Inuits, Aleuts and Native Hawaiians, allowing them to practice traditional religious rites and cultural practices.  The Mormon Church allows blacks to be priests. The Supreme Court upholds affirmative action in college admission policy but rules that specific racial quotas are impermissible. Congress finally facilitates the prosecution and deportation of Nazi war criminals and collaborators hiding in America.

1979: The Equal Rights Amendment fails to receive enough support in the states before its deadline. The largest nuclear accident in the U.S. occurs on the Navajo (Dine’) reservation in Church Rock, New Mexico.  The contaminated river groundwater spreads through the Rio Puerco alluvium and the cleanup continues to this day. Klansmen and neo-Nazis murder five members of the Communist Workers Party in Greensboro, North Carolina. Carter requires government agencies to take affirmative action in support of women’s business enterprises. Job growth in the U.S. peaks and begins to decline. Boston attempts to ban the film Caligula. Louisiana removes parole eligibility for anyone with a life sentence.

1980-1990: The Supreme Court repeatedly employs the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause to support white claims of reverse discrimination from affirmative action programs while demanding proof of intent to discriminate before supporting black plaintiffs. A federal court forces Mississippi to stop using “Lost Cause” history textbooks in its schools.

1980-2000: Successive administrations will allow massive immigration of Cubans while turning back those escaping fascism in El Salvador and Guatemala. Defining the Haitian boat people (as opposed to Vietnamese boat people) as economic rather than political refugees allows the government to refuse asylum to thousands. Israelis are another special case, with unlimited immigrant privileges, unique among Middle Eastern countries.

1980: A commission concludes that the internment of the Japanese Americans occurred because of “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership” and that the military had lied to the Supreme Court. The Mariel Boatlift brings 100,000 Cubans to the U.S. and solidifies Republican control in Florida.  The Government offers compensation to the Sioux for taking the Black Hills. The Sioux refuse the award, valued at over $1 billion as of 2011, because acceptance would legally terminate their demand for their return. Calling affirmative action “reverse discrimination”, Reagan reduces funding for equal employment opportunities. However, courts continue to reaffirm hiring quotas.

1981: Reagan cuts welfare (AFDC) spending and allows states to require recipients to participate in workfare programs.

1982: Congress enacts a 25-year extension of the Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court makes voting easier for people with disabilities. Reagan expands the war on Drugs, further fueling mass incarceration, particularly in targeted Black communities. He triples the federal drug enforcement budget, hires 4,000 additional prosecutors, triples the number of drug cases prosecuted, and doubles the conviction rates for drug crimes.  Albert Sabo, the judge in the Mumia Abu-Jamal trial, is overheard saying, “I’m gonna help ’em fry the nigger.”

1982-1992: The crack cocaine epidemic results in a doubling of the homicide rate for young Black males. Eleven Southern states enroll 675,000-750,000 white students in private schools. An estimated 65-75% of them attend schools in which 90% or more of the student body is white. 

1982-2000: California builds 23 new prisons, compared to twelve built between1852 and 1964.

1983: Corrections Corporation of America becomes the first for-profit prison company, managing 65 correctional and detention facilities. Louisiana repeals its “Negro” definition of “one thirty-second Negro blood”. Over 3,500 segregated private academies operate in the country, with over 750,000 children enrolled.

1985: Reagan attempts a partial border closure with Operation Intercept II. Philadelphia police fire 10,000 rounds of ammunition into a house occupied by MOVE, a black liberation group, before dropping a bomb from a helicopter, igniting a fire that destroys an entire black neighborhood, killing eleven and destroying 61 homes.

1985-present: The war on drugs will disenfranchise over six million people, two million of whom will be black. The more blacks a state contains, the more likely it will be to ban felons from voting. The average state will disenfranchise 2.4 % of its voting-age population but 8.4 % of its blacks. In 14 states, the share of blacks stripped of the vote will exceed 10%, and in five states it will exceed 20%. While 75% of whites will register, only 60% of blacks will be able to. In each Senate over the next 35 years over a dozen Republicans will owe their election to these laws.

1986: The Supreme Court upholds Georgia’s sodomy law.

1987: The Supreme Court rejects a Black man’s death penalty appeal grounded in claims of racial inequality and instead accepts proven racial sentencing disparities as “an inevitable part of our criminal justice system.”

1986: Congress gives amnesty to 3 million undocumented immigrants already in the country. As a compromise, it becomes illegal to knowingly hire or recruit illegal immigrants. Thousands of businesses and individuals will ignore the new law. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act creates a significant disparity in the sentences imposed for crimes involving powder cocaine (used primarily by whites) versus crimes involving crack cocaine (used by minorities), with mandatory minimum sentences set at a 100:1 ratio. Black prison populations swell, while there is little change in the number of whites. Disparities in sentence lengths also increase; in 1986, Blacks receive drug sentences 11% longer than whites, but that disparity will increase to 49%. Congress establishes the National Indian Gaming Commission.

1987: Boston’s school district has shrunk from 100,000 students to 57,000, only 15% of whom are white. A federal court rules that it has successfully implemented its desegregation plan, even though 80% of the student population in 13 schools is either white or black. Reagan’s abolition of the fairness doctrine quickly leads to the rise of right-wing talk radio.

1988: Congress pays $20,000 each in reparation to tens of thousands of Japanese American survivors of the internment camps. The government, however, refuses to pay Japanese Latin Americans. California criminalizes membership in street gangs and imposes greater punishments for criminal offenses committed by members. “Gang enhancements” can add 10 years to a sentence. The process for identifying members is notoriously subjective and can include “frequenting gang areas”. Over 85 percent of people validated as gang members in California are Black or Latinx. Southern senators amend the Fair Housing Act to allow landlords to refuse to rent to anyone with a single conviction for drug dealing. Presidential candidate George Bush uses the Willie Horton case as coded racialized language to defeat Michael Dukakis. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act establishes a long list of retroactively applied “aggravated” felonies that trigger deportation for immigrants, including lawful permanent residents.

1989: A white mob murders a Black teen in Brooklyn. Boston police scour Black communities searching for anyone who fits the description provided by a white man who had lied, claiming a Black man had shot his pregnant wife. South Dakota replaces Columbus Day with Native American Day.

1990: Congress prohibits discrimination based on disability and revises all grounds for immigration exclusion, including homosexuality and language requirements. It increases total immigration to 700,000/year for 1992–94, and 675,000/year after that. It provides family- and employment-based visas and a lottery for immigrants from “low admittance” countries. This benefits Salvadorans by also creating temporary protected status for those unable to return home because of ongoing violence. The Border Patrol begins to erect  barriers south of San Diego, ultimately erecting fourteen miles of fencing. Congress declares that Native Americans are entitled to use their own languages and requires the Attorney General to collect data on crimes committed because of the victim’s race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or ethnicity. This is the first statute to recognize LGBTQ people. Twelve percent of young people now call themselves multiracial. Lake Forest, Illinois finally ends its anti-Jewish and anti-Black housing covenants.

1990-2019: Fifty predominantly black churches will be bombed or burned across the South. Courts began relaxing judicial supervision of school districts, calling for voluntary efforts to achieve racial balance. Partly due to widespread belief in the “welfare queen” stereotype, 22 states pass laws that ban increasing welfare payments to mothers after they have more children. In order to receive additional funds after the birth of a child, women are required to prove to the state that their pregnancies were the result of contraceptive failure, rape, or incest. Seven states will later repeal these laws.

1991: The Supreme Court lifts a desegregation decree, authorizing one-race schools in Oklahoma City. The Los Angeles Times reports on L.A. Sheriff gangs. Bush prevents an attempt to revive the Fairness Doctrine.

1991-1995: The number of unauthorized immigrants sentenced in federal courts increases by 167%, compared with 13% for citizens.

1991 to 2000: The U.S. admits more legal immigrants, (ten to eleven million), than in any previous decade. Criminologists speak of black youth “superpredators” and “crack babies”. Senator Joe Biden introduces the Police Officers’ Bill of Rights

1992: Los Angeles experiences over 1,000 gang-related homicides. A white jury acquits three of the four police officers who beat Rodney King, provoking the Los Angeles uprising. Gangs in Watts establish a peace treaty to challenge police brutality and end the mass violence.  After two years, gang violence will drop by 44 percent. Peace treaties spread to 15 cities, despite repeated attempts by police to undermine them. Presidential candidate Bill Clinton, promising to “end welfare as we have come to know it,” wins the election only because George Bush and Ross Perot split the conservative vote. Berkeley, CA is the first city to institute Indigenous People’s Day as a counter-celebration to Columbus Day.

1993: Clinton begins Operations Hold the Line and Gatekeeper, which focus on intercepting illegal entries at the border. Then, with the “Prevention Through Deterrence” strategy, the Border Patrol attempts to control immigrant movement by rerouting it away from urban ports of entry and into wilderness areas, thus heightening the risks. These programs will cause over 7,000 deaths without halting the mass movement of people. Congress requires state motor vehicle agencies to offer voter registration opportunities. States must offer mail-in voter registration applications and opportunities to register to vote at certain offices and maintain accurate voter registration lists. In its first year, over 30 million people update or complete their registration. Washington state passes the first modern “three-strikes” law mandating life imprisonment, followed eventually by 25 other states. Under such mandatory sentencing laws, black offenders will grow from under 10% in 1984 to 28% of mandatory minimum drug offenders by 1990.  Congressional acknowledgement of federal involvement in the 1893 overthrow of Hawaii’s government serves inspires the Hawaiian Sovereignty movement. The National Holocaust Museum opens in Washington, years before America’s own historical crimes, such as slavery, will be similarly addressed.

1993-2017: Joe Arpaio, Sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County, oversees what the Justice Department will call the worst pattern of racial profiling in U.S. history, including the re-introduction of chain gangs, until he is convicted and removed.

1994: Clinton’s North American Trade Agreement floods rural Mexico with subsidized American corn, bankrupting two million Mexican farmers. The result is a massive increase in migration northward. Following Clinton’s ban on assault weapons mass shooting deaths drop by 43%. California’s Proposition 187, passed by an overwhelming majority of voters, would deny health services, social services and education to undocumented immigrants and mandate that all public employees report anyone seeking services whom they believed might be undocumented. Implementation is halted by the courts.

1995: Clinton institutes the “wet foot, dry foot policy.” For the next two decades, any Cuban caught on the waters between the two nations (with “wet feet”) is summarily returned to Cuba, while one who makes it to shore (“dry feet”) gets a chance to remain in the U.S. and qualify for expedited residency status. Mississippi ratifies the 13th Amendment. Alabama and Arizona re-introduce chain gangs. White flight begins to reverse as returning affluent suburbanites gentrify decayed neighborhoods, raise property values and force poor minorities out.

1996: Clinton authorizes mandatory detention of illegal immigrants. Those convicted of serious felonies are placed in expedited removal proceedings. He also authorizes further border fencing, but environmental concerns slow construction. The number of immigrants in detention increases dramatically.

Congress defines a single conviction of “moral turpitude” or any conviction that carries a minimum sentence of one year as deportable offenses. It also criminalizes online discussion of abortion. Attorney General Janet Reno refuses to enforce the provision, which remains on the books. Nine states begin to ban affirmative action, leading to a 23% drop in the chance of college admission for minority students relative to non-minority students, compared with a 1% drop in other states. The Supreme Court supports racial disparities in conviction rates. Congress replaces AFDC with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, ending individual entitlement for poor families and signifying that no one can make a claim for assistance just because they are poor. “Work first” programs impact Black women in racialized and gendered ways by emphasizing the need to place employment above all else to qualify for support.

1997: A study finds that “the three-strikes law did not decrease serious crime or petty theft rates below the level expected on the basis of preexisting trends.”

1998: Japanese Latin Americans who had sued for reparations ten years before receive $5,000 each.

1999: A Memphis jury finds that the MLK assassination plot was a conspiracy that included “governmental agencies.”

Read Part Seven here.

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