What Choice Do We Have?

This wonderfully well-written blog post was shared with me today. It articulates the perception that Trump and his devout followers create. This perception is of their own making. It is difficult for the rational mind to make any other assumption than the ones outlined by this blogger.

The thing I have noticed, which I have been noticing elsewhere as well, is that there are so many confused people who are seeking a leader who does not require them to read or think on their own. They simply want someone to tell them what to do. Trump is excellent at reassuring his followers that they need not think because he will think for them. Somehow this assurance is more comfortable for them than continuing to struggle with an imperfect Hillary or a revolutionary Bernie. Certainly, it is more comforting than shifting through the mass populace of Republican candidates who only seem to confuse the GOP identity rather than define it.

Those who commented on this blog who either did not read it, or did not understand the literary nuances of it, or simply hated what they saw, struck out, attacking the blogger and demanding that the blogger give equal critical measure to the other candidates. Others who read the blog but found it to make them uncomfortable with their choice to follow Trump asked the blogger to tell them what other choice they have.

What other choice do we have? We can choose to do more than ask someone else to do the research and work for us. Yes, we all like to share a quick meme or thought, but we need to research and reason, rather than simply seek a shepherd to follow.

Election Ignorance and Disillusionment

The lack of basic election knowledge shown by so many people commenting today makes my head hurt.

Getting past all the anger and rude rhetoric which dominates the online conversations, it becomes evident that the bigger problem with the political and election system is the ignorance which creates confusion and threatens to disenfranchise the voter when the hype dies down and disillusionment sets in.

It seems understandable that many might be confused by the nature of the U.S. political process. It is not as if each state or each party follow the same procedures. Even the general election process seems simple compared to all the variations to be considered during the primary season. However with the internet just a click away, answers can be found for those who are confused. There are articles to read, charts and diagrams to consider, and plenty of video explanations for those who need a person to explain it all when the charts and articles fall short. Despite all the material designed to reduce the confusion, there are many who cannot seem to grasp the basic principles of primary elections. Maybe they get caught up in the national news and forget to seek out information on their own state. Maybe they simply do not realize that the primaries and caucuses are all about choosing a party candidate rather than pitting one party against the other. Whichever or whatever it is, the confusion is problematic. Only one person will win the general election, leaving many to wonder why their vote today did not seem to count when November rolls around.

 

Education and National Defense

I have been pondering the connection between national defense and support for education. In a war between ideological enemies, support for education seems to have been very important. Yet education seems to be losing public support even though past wars have shown that an educated populace makes for a stronger society and better military force.

The following are two Pithyhistory posts that resulted from my ponderings.

Home Production and National Defense

American Way of Life and Education during the Cold War

Saith Me… Politics Today

Politics used to be likened to a Three Ring Circus, but now it seems to be much more like a Reality TV Show – entertaining, but terrifying in its portrayal of human nature and intellect.

 

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Saith Me: Hold on to Reason

When terror is the objective, we lose the battle the minute we allow fear to overrule reason.

Caution and fear are not the same; caution and reason go hand-in-hand, fear causes all reason to flee. Do not let terror win the day by allowing reason to be driven out of our lives.

 

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History: To Study or Not To Study

The more I study history the harder it becomes to ignore the ignorant who have been fed propaganda and generalizations rather than actual history with all its good, bad, and complicated parts.

The notion that one must tear apart mythology in order to seek fact does not appeal to me, nor does the idea that all facts must be conclusively proven in order to be held as true. Yet on the other hand, I find the the idea that mythology and popular lore should be the only history consumed by a patriotic citizenry just as unappealing.

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Myth Rather Than History, Fiction Rather Than Fact

Twenty-five years ago the Berlin Wall, a dramatic symbol of the Cold War, was breached and then torn down. Yet, even after a quarter century, evidence of the Cold War culture permeates daily life. Regardless of policy decisions in Washington or the ongoing debate among scholars as to whether the Cold War ended or an new Cold War is beginning, evidence that many people long for the clear-cut, black-and-white days of the Cold War is easily found; days when media and governmental propaganda directed the public to the larger imperial struggle rather than at the ground level crises the Cold War policies perpetuated.

Crisis and war abound today with coverage of human tragedy and violent conflict filling the media streams, but intervention by Russia is viewed as being bad and intervention by the United States is viewed as necessary, even if some acknowledge it as a ‘necessary evil’.  Cries for humanitarian assistance from those who are suffering, at times, are obscured by political tirades calling for retaliation and the placement of blame.

When World War I, The War to End all Wars, ended and the call for greater international cooperation went forth among the nations, politics stood in the way. When, after another great war, a second US president called for cooperation, the United Nations was formed. Yet, once again political rivalry and imperial competition undermined international cooperation. Under the cloud of Cold War animosity, it became evident that the United Nations could not prevent violence or war. However, despite such animosity, the United Nations became a vehicle for humanitarian cooperation. As the twentieth century wound down, there was hope that human suffering could be effectively addressed internationally even if it could not be eradicated.

The dawn of a new century violently reminded the world that there were many who preferred violence over peace. Sadly, the lessons of the twentieth century were not headed as fully as they should have been.

Isolation from the world was not the answer, nor is it ever an effective answer. No nation can become a hermit in this modern world without causing internal suffering. Military and humanitarian intervention into the crisis ridden regions of the world is a price great nations pay for the economic gains such regions provide. During the nineteenth and twentieth century, the United States expanded its trade and its influence worldwide. Time, and time again, the United States touted its right to intervene, first in the Americas and later throughout the globe. It was not the only nation to do so. The great nations of the twentieth century all benefited from the colonial and neocolonial policies that provided wealth to their citizens. The competition for resources led to war and certainly contributed to the Cold War game of Risk that dominated half a century. This competition also led to some of the turmoil of today, and is being used as justification for many of the atrocious acts of violence being perpetuated by radical power hungry groups. Yet, rather than working in cooperation to combat the human suffering that increases daily, the great nations seem to have splintered, at least if one reads the propaganda filled media accounts which focus on sensationalism rather than facts.

Has the world become more violent and less compassionate than at any other time in human history? Or is there simply greater means for news of the violence to be shared?

These questions cause me to ponder and reflect on the state of humanity and the crisis of mankind, but there is a bigger question that keeps tumbling around my head and disturbs me on a deeper level. Why would someone wish to sensationalize or embellish the already horrific levels of violence occurring in turbulent areas of the world? It is easy to understand those who wish to ignore the horrors man inflicts upon man, to deny the reality that man can be the most uncivilized of the creature of the earth. Those who hide from the ugly of mankind seek isolation and are naïve enough believe that closing their eyes in the face of danger will make the danger disappear. It is easy to understand their reasoning and their motivation, but the motivation of those who wish to make the horror worse than the evidence supports is much more difficult to pinpoint.

Do they seek to demonize the enemy? During World War II, the strategy of demonizing the enemy was key to gaining support for war. When the war was over, the hatred for the enemy was to magically disappear and the demon to become a friend. The same strategy was used throughout the Cold War. This strategy of demonization worked well for governments (even if the magic of friendship failed) and now seems to be adopted by non-governmental organizations (not necessarily a new tendency) with far reaching consequence including creating a huge volume of untrustworthy ‘news reports’ which make evaluation of world events difficult at best.

If demonization of others is the motivation, then what is goal? Certainly the issue of the worldwide violence and growing humanitarian crises is of great concern, but of greater concern is the growing push for more violence – retaliatory violence. When governments are behind the call to war, there is need for level headed evaluation and hopefully international cooperation. When the call to war comes from sources unknown or sources with questionable motives, the need for level headed evaluation and hopefully international cooperation is much greater.

Sadly, such cooperation seems to be of little value in a world which is seeking a hero, a world in which myth has replaced history and fiction replaced fact.

 

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Bias in the Media

Media bias comes in two forms, the suppression of news coverage and the coverage of news in a manner that constitutes propaganda. Propaganda, or what we are being told and sold, makes up half the problem of biased reporting, the other half of the problem lies in the suppression of news.

In an article I was reading this morning, published by POLITICO, there was a great quote by Sharyl Attkisson, “The images that the public sees every day, in many forms, are influenced and manipulated by political, corporate and other special interests through orchestrated and well-financed campaigns.”

I had great hopes, for a brief moment, that for once the media would discuss the presence of and issues caused by corporate or special interest bias in the media. Sadly, rather than branching out past the standard issue of political bias in the media, the article only focused on the well discussed presence of political bias.

Political bias/propaganda is fairly easy for most people to identify, and the educated can maneuver through it with little difficulty. Although frustrating, political bias is not the real danger because it is relatively obvious. It is the corporate and special interest bias/propaganda that hold the real danger for the public, because of the difficulty identifying the motivation. We could say, “It is all about money,” but this oversimplification obscures the difficulties we face in identifying what money is purchasing. Certainly, a corporation would want to increase its earnings and thereby wish to wage a campaign against anything that threatens earning potential, but unlike with pure political bias, the public is more often then not unaware the campaign is being waged. Special interest bias/propaganda is even more difficult to identify, because unlike in a political campaign where the special interest group is identified at the end, news coverage does not include a “paid for by” statement at the end of each news story. Nor will you hear a “this story which we did not cover was suppressed by” statement during the news coverage.

While many can learn to read between the lines of propaganda and glean an understanding of bias, one cannot read between the lines when there are no lines due to suppression.

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Here’s My Cape – Does Anyone Want It?

This morning’s breakfast conversation centered on the international events headlining the news, and my ongoing attempt to write a thesis on the diplomatic history of the twentieth century. The central theme of the discussion revolved around the notion that great powers prefer a world were there are many large nations rather than many small nations. The conversation also turned to the problems created by superpowers.

When the Cold War ended, many in the United States naively celebrated the idea of being the only superpower. Many believed that being a superpower was better than being one of the great powers, and the opportunity to shed the role of superpower was waived.  Now, after a quarter century of being the sole superpower whether in reality or in myth, a greater comprehension  of the responsibilities and the dangers of being a superpower has developed.

The problem, however, is that when the United States now asks, “Here’s my cape, does anyone want it?” no one steps up to take it.

When Edna Mode, of The Incredibles, said “no capes,” is this what she was really warning us about? Are superpower capes just too dangerous? Should the capes simply be retired and replaced with the plain clothes of diplomacy?

It is with this question on my mind that I return to the realm of history and try for a few hours to shut out the political realities of the day.

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FYI: I cannot view, nor do I endorse any of the ads that are shown on my blog.