Category Archives: Education

Martin Luther King’s Revolutionary Dream Deferred

We are now experiencing the coming to the surface of a triple prong sickness … [that] has been lurking within our body politic from its very beginning … the sickness of racism, excessive materialism and militarism. … the plague of western civilization.
—Martin Luther King, Aug. 31, 1967

We kill the most beautiful among us—anyone, it seems, who reveals the nastier, brutish elements of American society and has the audacity to imagine, demand even, a better path: peace, unity and tolerance. Abraham Lincoln, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King and so many others.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of King’s tragic assassination, and though countless publications will brim with commemorations and retrospectives of this misunderstood icon, most will miss the mark. Long ago co-opted and sanitized by mainstream political figures, the King of memory bears little resemblance to the radical, complex man himself.

He’s remembered by Democrats and Republicans alike as the “good,” “peaceful” civil rights leader—a useful foil for the “bad” activists of the black power movement, the Stokely Carmichaels, Malcolm Xs and Huey Newtons of the world. In reality, the categories were never so neat, the commonalities staggering.

In a sense, we all—white and black, liberal and conservative—have our own King. My King is the provocative King, the critic of bigotry but also of capitalism and the Vietnam War. The King, in truth, who has been willfully concealed from view.

When I arrived at the American history department at West Point in 2014, I—a white, heterosexual, military man—was handed the portfolio and teaching load on civil rights. Everyone else, it seemed, studied the American Revolution or the Civil War, and, well, I came across as vaguely progressive and willing, at least compared with my peers. A former student of counterinsurgency operations in Northern Ireland, I decided to ditch the old scholarship and embrace my new role. I’ve never looked back. I taught classes and led an annual summer excursion for cadets to visit with movement veterans across the South. I, along with two academy law professors, faced an immediate challenge: the cadets’—and most Americans’—utter misunderstanding of the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King himself.

After 50 years, with the United States again locked in racial conflict, culture wars, gaping inequality and perpetual global war, now seems as good a time as any to take stock of the state of King’s “three evils”: racism, materialism and militarism.

America’s Original Sin: Race and Privilege

The cry of “Black Power” is, at bottom, a reaction to the reluctance of white power to make the kind of changes necessary to make justice a reality for the Negro. I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear … the economic plight of the Negro poor.
—MLK, 1966

They are all linked, by the way. To treat each challenge as discrete is to rob them of their intertwined, inescapable power. Racism is a no-brainer. We’ve not come as far as we like to believe. Sure, there’s been the Brown v. Board ruling, Civil and Voting Rights Acts, even a black president. Nevertheless, each of these historic victories is being rolled back before our eyes. Schools are again as segregated as they’ve been in two generations. Conservative courts have dismantled key provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Heck, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions—a man too racist to serve as a federal district judge in the 1980s—heads the Justice Department.

Race and empire are intimately connected. Look only to the unprecedented militarization of the nation’s police—decked out in camo fatigues and sporting the same armored vehicles we drove in Baghdad—and the never-ending catalog of racially charged brutality cases nationwide for evidence. America resembles two armed camps, physically and intellectually isolated from each other. Five decades into an unwinnable and racially biased war on drugs, black men still fill the prisons in this nation—which has by far the highest rate of incarceration worldwide. In 2018 in the U.S., a black male is nine times as likely to serve time as a citizen of the next worst country: Cuba. We’ve got a long way to go.

The Unspoken King: Anti-Capitalism and Counter-Materialism

The problems of racial injustice and economic injustice cannot be solved without a radical redistribution of political and economic power.

The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and evils of racism.
—MLK, 1967

We inhabit a peculiar moment, when most Americans hardly look up from their smartphones long enough to realize they’re missing “Real Housewives.” The vacuous world of celebrity worship and material preoccupation does not lend itself to the impassioned activism King demanded. Unfettered, free-market capitalism—enabled by neoliberal Democrats like the Clintons—has gutted the American dream and rendered it an unattainable nightmare for many. The empirical evidence is staggering.

Income inequality in the (ostensibly) egalitarian United States has reached its worst levels since the Gilded Age. Wages for the working class have been stagnant for 40 years, while the superrich bask in an embarrassment of riches. The federal minimum wage is worth less in real dollars than it was 50 years ago.

Yet it’s all so much worse than that. Obsessive materialism and big money (think pharma, oil, fracking) in politics have set American culture in the express lane to existential disaster. Most of us live a delusion, wishing away the gathering storm of global warming while chasing immediate gratification from social media clicks. Soon after President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, Syria finally joined up, making America the true, lone international pariah. Really doubling down, Trump’s recently released National Security Strategy completely removed climate change from the Pentagon’s list of threats. I’m sure King would approve.

The Greatest Purveyor of Violence: U.S. Militarism, 50 Years On

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.
—MLK, 1967

One could plausibly argue that the United States remains a prominent purveyor of death, or at least chaos, across much of the planet today. It is this—the third of King’s evils—with which I am myself most familiar. Alas, in 2018, American militarism is alive and well, ranging from the symbolic martial pageantry pervading the National Football League to an ongoing, expanding and genuinely global war. Thanks to painstaking research at Brown University, we now know the U.S. military is conducting counterterror operations—all undeclared wars—in 76 countries. The bill so far? Some 7,000 dead American soldiers (eight of my own), 1.3 million war-related Arab/Muslim deaths, 10 million refugees and $5.6 trillion dollars. For this, we’ve gotten 30 times more worldwide terror attacks than occurred in 2001. What a steal.

Taking further stock of the state of U.S. militarism requires a macabre tour of direct and sponsored operations across the greater Middle East. In Yemen, the United States is complicit in Saudi terror bombing—providing munitions and in-flight refueling—that is causing famine and a world-record cholera epidemic in the Arab world’s poorest nation. In Syria and Iraq, the (perhaps justifiable) campaign against Islamic State resulted in far more civilian deaths than originally reported. Ceaseless backing of the far-right Israeli government has helped facilitate an incessant state of siege of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The U.S. also backs dictators, kings or strongmen with abhorrent human rights records far and wide across the region, from Egypt to Saudi Arabia. Sure, they’re crooks, sure, they gun down protesters, sure they behead women for “sorcery,” but hey, at least they’re our crooks.

The point is as simple as it is disturbing: While there are many “purveyors of violence” in the world today, the United States is far from innocent. Militarism is alive, well and growing in our increasingly martial culture. In King’s time, young Vietnamese girls burned in napalm strikes signified this mindset. Today, perhaps the consummate image is a starving Yemeni child.

Appropriating the Dead: Willfully Misremembering King

In America, in the fifties and sixties, one of the important crises we faced was racial discrimination. The man whose words and deeds in that crisis stirred our nation to the very depths of its soul was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
—President Ronald Reagan, 1983

When a Hollywood performer [Reagan], lacking distinction even as an actor can become a leading war hawk candidate for the presidency, only the irrationalities induced by a war psychosis can explain such a melancholy turn of events.
—MLK, 1968

That neoliberal and neoconservative voices—along with mainstream figures in both parties—annually pay dutiful homage to King, without uttering a word about materialism or militarism, is a national disgrace. That former President Reagan, hero of the contemporary right, would publicly praise him, borders on the absurd. Lest we forget, Reagan, after all, made the first stop on his general election campaign in Neshoba County, Miss.—praising “states’ rights” in the city where three civil rights workers were famously murdered in 1964. He also initially opposed the bill officially designating Martin Luther King Day. Refusing to deny that King was a “communist,” Reagan would only say, “We’ll only know in about 35 years, won’t we?” And by the way, there are still four sitting (Republican) senators who voted against the MLK holiday: Richard Shelby of Alabama (no surprise there), Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Orrin (There’s No Blacks in Utah) Hatch and (disturbingly) John McCain of Arizona.

Every year, we’re treated to the same hypocrisy. Mainstream figures in both parties—some who vote for massive tax breaks for the rich, nearly all who support America’s endless wars—publicly laud and then invoke the ghost of King. None lays out a 21st century plan to implement MLK’s still incomplete vision. They have no such plan. They were bought and sold by corporate elites and the military-industrial complex long ago. On the right, some even engage in the fantasy that King was actually a Republican. He wasn’t. Truth be told, King would fit into neither of the two parties today. His platform and favored issues hardly receive public airing anywhere but the fringe left. Nonetheless, both Democrats and Republicans invoke King’s ghost every January for petty political gain. It’s heinous.

Republicans especially, but also centrist liberals, want us to believe King was one thing only: a narrow, nonviolent civil rights activist. That he gave only one speech: about a dream of his black daughters attending school with young white girls. They’ve sanitized him, castrated his message, omitted (through strikingly Orwellian “new speak”) his uncomfortable quotes. They’ve done so with nefarious intentions and political agenda: convince the masses that King’s revolution is over, completed, final. Stop complaining, stay out of the streets, there’s no reason to protest. Be thankful for what you have.

Don’t fall for it. Read, study, unearth the real King, the radical King, and take up the torch of his fight—a dream deferred—against the three evils still alive and well in the United States: racism, materialism and militarism. The owners of this country are counting on your apathy. Prove them wrong.

By Maj. Danny Sjursen/truthdig

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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I Live in a ‘Shithole Country.’ It’s Called the United States This country has never really been “great” for everyone.

It takes a level of pomposity inconceivable to most of us to describe another country as a “shithole.”

It’s unfortunately just one more of the obnoxious, racist, and altogether absurd statements we’ve come to expect from President Donald Trump. If the president were to venture beyond the manicured lawns of Mar-a-Lago or the White House, he might see that the U.S. is not exactly in a position to judge, much less denigrate, our global neighbors.

In case you missed it, here’s what Trump reportedly said: “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” He was referencing Haiti, El Salvador, Honduras, and apparently most of Africa. He went on to ask why more people from Norway (a nearly all white country) weren’t coming to the U.S.

The story was first reported by the Washington Post. It’s been confirmed by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), who heard the words firsthand.

Trump and his defenders completely ignore the direct and disgraceful role America has played in making life worse in the countries he cited. Among many other things, we’ve backed right-wing death squads in El Salvador, supported cruel dictators in Haiti, and trapped poor countries the world over in debt through International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans with tight strings attached.

I’ll leave it to foreign relations scholars to parse the rest. What I’m concerned about is Trump’s complete lack of concern over the “shit-holiness” of the country he leads.

Gandhi taught us that a country’s greatness is measured not by its richest, but by how it treats its most vulnerable members. By this measure, the U.S. is a certified shithole.

The U.S. is the wealthiest country on earth. Yet one in five children here will go to bed hungry tonight. Thirteen million American children live in poverty, the highest rate among the world’s wealthy countries.

One shining light for poor American kids is that almost all of them have health insurance, thanks to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) put in place in 1997. That light is rather dim right now, however, as Congress waffles on funding the program, leaving millions of children’s lives in the balance.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, Philip Alston, conducted a two-week tour of the U.S. in late 2017. He found some of the most extreme inequality anywhere in the world.

“The United States is one of the world’s richest and most powerful and technologically innovative countries,” Alston wrote in an op-ed for The Guardian, “but neither its wealth nor its power nor its technology is being harnessed to address the situation in which 40 million people continue to live in poverty.”

America also has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, the highest infant mortality rate among developed countries, and is the only industrialized country not to guarantee health care as a basic human right. The list goes on, but you get the point.

As Alston put it, “Americans can expect to live shorter and sicker lives, compared to people living in any other rich democracy.”

This is not to say that many, many Americans aren’t living happy, healthy, wealthy lives. They are. And some kids born into poverty will someday work their way to financial security. But the proportion of those actually succeed is steadily shrinking.

Still, this is a country where disoriented hospital patients can be dumped on the street in freezing cold weather, wearing only their thin hospital gowns—as a viral videorecently captured happening to a woman in Baltimore.

Fortunately, far from the halls of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, dedicated activists and organizers are working tirelessly to make the U.S. a better place. Social movements like the Women’s March, Black Lives Matter, Indivisible, #MeToo, and a new Poor People’s Campaign are leading the nation in this direction.

Leaders, some whose names we’ll never know, are doing the tireless work to right the wrongs and correct deep-rooted injustices. They know that despite Trump’s slogan, this country has never really been “great” for everyone. They’re the ones working to clean this shithole up.

By Josh Hoxie / Fortune

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Poor Diets Are Killing More Americans Than Anything Else Even in young populations across the United States, nutrition-related health conditions are prevalent.

systematic study by a group of 125 leading researchers who call themselves the U.S. Burden of Disease Collaborators shows that diet is the leading cause of both death and disability in the United States (U.S.). Meanwhile, only 12 percent of visits to doctors’ offices include counseling about diet, according to research by the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

Even in young populations, nutrition-related health conditions are highly prevalent, according to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and many cancers are linked to diet and are together called non-communicable diseases (NCDs). NCDs are the highest cause of adult mortality in the U.S. and account for 70 percent of premature deaths globally, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Because NCDs are in large part caused by food or lifestyle choices, the WHO argues that “most premature NCD deaths are preventable.”

While more than 70 percent of both men and women in the U.S. are overweight or obese, according to the U.S. NCHS, a national survey by the University of Chicago reports that 60 percent are trying to lose weight. In total, MarketData Enterprises reports that Americans spend US$ 66 billion annually on diets and diet aids.

Unfortunately, while 94 percent of physicians feel that nutrition is important, only 14 percent feel comfortable talking about it, according to the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Even among high-risk patients with CVD, diabetes, or hyperlipidemia, only 1 in 5 receive nutrition counseling.

The root of the problem lies in the way doctors are educated in American medical schools, according to Dr. David Eisenberg of the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University. “The fact that less than 20 percent of medical schools have a single required course in nutrition is a scandal,” he says. “It’s outrageous.” According to a study in the Journal of Biomedical Education, less than one-third of medical schools in the U.S. teach the recommended 25 hours of nutrition content over a student’s four years of classroom education.

Dr. Eisenberg’s solution is to train other doctors himself. Through a partnership he founded with the chefs of the Culinary Institute of America called Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives, he has taught thousands of American doctors in teaching kitchens around the country. This new class of doctors is learning to turn their backs on the reductionist ‘a pill for an ill’ approach and instead live what they preach.

Some medical schools are starting to retool, like the Tulane University School of Medicine, home to the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine, and the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, in partnership with the L.A. Kitchen.

Dr. Erica Frank, the Research Chair of Preventative Medicine and Population Health at the University of British Columbia, has been working to build a body of literature that describes the connection between doctor lifestyle and patient outcomes. A decade ago, Dr. Frank surveyed more than 2000 medical students and found that the best predictor of whether they counseled their patients on healthier practices was whether they themselves incorporated those practices into their lives. She also showed that patients actually had better food habits when their doctors also did.

Increasingly, doctors are turning to culinary training to flesh out their toolkits as healthcare professionals. Food Tank interviewed Dr. Robert Graham of New York City as he was in the process of enrolling in culinary school at the Natural Gourmet Institute. “My decision to become a chef comes after years of watching patients battle ailments that could be remedied with a change of a diet,” he said. I’ve spent the past 15 years of practicing medicine witnessing the impact of poor diets on the health of people I was trying to take care of.

Collectively, efforts to combat obesity in the U.S. seem to be making progress. A report in August 2017 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America’s Health suggested that U.S. obesity trends began to level off in 2015 and 2016, after decades of constant increase.

By Michael Peñuelas / Food Tank

Posted by The NON-Conformist

The Validity and Usefulness of the Term “Black Misleadership Class”

It is both an actual and aspirational class, which ultimately sees its interests as tied to those of U.S. imperialism and its ruling circles.”

In what he called “an afterthought” to his December 21 article on “The Black Political Class and Network Neutrality,” BAR managing editor Bruce Dixon dropped an unexpected bomb. He now has “deep reservations” about use of the term “Black misleadership class,” because “it implies that there is or ought to be a class of good and righteous black leaders.” The term is “sloppy and imprecise,” Dixon writes, adding (I hope) sarcastically:

“Maybe the good ones are supposed to be the ‘real’ blacks and the bad ones unreal. Maybe the difference [is] having or lacking character, table manners, home training or ‘real’ blackness, or even some kind of black magic.”

This is all quite cute, but bears no connection to the way the term “Black misleadership class” has been deployed by every one of BAR’s editors, including Dixon, since the publication’s inaugural issue in October, 2006 — and by Dixon, Margaret Kimberley and myself in our previous duties at The Black Commentator. It is as if Bruce imagines that he has been in the company of narrow Black cultural nationalists all these years, and has finally broken loose from such mysticism. He appears to believe that his colleagues — and, apparently, his former self — have been guided by perceptions of Black leaders’ “authentic or inauthentic blackness,” rather than their “class allegiance.”

“It is as if Bruce imagines that he has been in the company of narrow Black cultural nationalists all these years, and has finally broken loose from such mysticism.”

It’s a broad brush, and inflicted on the wrong people. The language of Black “authenticity” seldom appears in Black Agenda Report, and virtually never from the pens of its editors. During Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign, his boosters, mainly in the corporate media, claimed that Obama’s Black detractors were obsessed with the idea that he lacks “authentic” Blackness. However, BAR’s problem with Obama has always been that he is a corporate warmonger – an “authentic” toady for the ruling class. Our critique of Obama has consistently focused on the class that he serves. But Bruce seems to remember things differently.

I have so deeply embraced the “Black misleadership class” terminology, I thought I coined it, myself. But, a thorough Google search of both BAR and The Black Commentator provides no evidence of my authorship. Instead, the first use of “Black misleaderhip class” by anyone appears in the March 17, 2005, issue of The Black Commentator – then under my editorship — in an article by James Warren, titled “Thirty-Seven Years of Non-Struggle Misleadership .” Warren, who described himself as having “been active in the Black and Labor movement for over 35 years,” refers variously to a Black “misleadership class” and “Black mis-leadership” as standing in the way of “our most prized possession…the ordinary working class men and women waking up as if from a deep sleep.”

The next reference to the term appears in the title of Bruce Dixon’s February 9, 2006, piece, “Failure of the Black Misleadership Class .” However, “misleadership” does not appear in the rest of the body of the work. Instead, Dixon uses the term “black leadership” 17 times, without the prefix “mis.” Three months later, on May 11, 2006, Dixon refers to the “black misleadership class,” and later “the black business leadership class,” in an article titled “The Black Stake in the Internet .”

The first use of ‘Black misleaderhip class’ by anyone appears in the March 17, 2005, issue of The Black Commentator, in an article by James Warren.”

In an article titled “The Black Caucus’ Fatal FOX News Embrace ,” that has disappeared from the archives of Black Agenda Report but was picked up by Common Dreams on June 6, 2007, Leutisha Stills refers to “the groveling mentality of a Black misleadership class that watches African Americans get their asses kicked every day of the year by Rupert Murdoch and the entirety of corporate media….”

I don’t show up in Google using the BMC term until October 9, 2010 when I condemn “a misleadership class that sells out the people at every turn” in a video of a speech to the Black Is Back Coalition.

BAR editors Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, Ajamu Baraka, and Margaret Kimberley have all used the term, in articles posted on March 12, 2015 , September 14, 2017 , and January 18, 2017, respectively. Coleman-Adebayo blasted the “Black mis-leadership class” for orchestrating an elaborate kabuki theatre in the city of Selma, Alabama”; Baraka excoriated the “black mis-leadership class” for fully participating in “the process to deliver the people’s resources to the ruling elite”; and Kimberley denounced Atlanta Congressman John Lewis for exemplifyingeverything that is wrong with the Congressional Black Caucus, the Democratic Party and the black misleadership class.”

Nellie Bailey, an editor and co-host of the weekly Black Agenda Radio program, is a consistent user of the term. Indeed, until Bruce Dixon’s recantation of December 21, all of BAR’s editors cited the sins and crimes of the “Black misleadership class” – with Dixon and me blasting the BMC most often.

Brother Dixon now prefers to substitute “political” for “misleader.” He writes that the “black political class” (Dixon does not capitalize “Black” — I do) “happens to be a class to which most of us don’t belong.” But he is the one guilty of “sloppy” and “imprecise” usage. Bruce and I and the rest of the activist/writers/analysts at BAR do belong to the broad Black political class. He is restricting membership in the political classes to elected officials and, presumably, lobbyists, corporate media commentators and business friendly civic organization “spokespersons” that carry the rulers’ political water. Grassroots political activists are written out of Dixon’s definition of “politics” — even those who dedicate most of their waking hours to “people’s” causes. Most Black preachers and academics (except those whom media award the title “public intellectual”) would be excluded, too. The bourgeoisie certainly prefer the narrowest definition of political class, restricted to those who speak for Power.

“Grassroots political activists are written out of Dixon’s definition of ‘politics.’”

For those of us who don’t work for the rulers, “political class” winds up being of little use, much like the term “the chattering classes.” We all chatter. The question is: Who is chattering to whom, about what, and in whose interests?

“Black Misleadership class” is not a ‘scientific” term. It is weaponized political terminology, with specific meaning based on Black historical and current political realities. Most often, in our usage at BAR, the term refers to those Black political forces that emerged at the end of the Sixties, eager to join the corporate and duopoly political (mostly Democrat) ranks, and to sell out the interests of the overwhelmingly working class Black masses in the process. It is both an actual and aspirational class, which ultimately sees its interests as tied to those of U.S. imperialism and its ruling circles. It seeks representation in the halls of corporate power, and dreads social transformation, which would upset the class’s carefully cultivated relationships with Power.

We know who these people are, based on their political behaviors. Our job, as conscious “political” people, is to expose their treachery — so that the Black masses will reject their “misleadership.”

“Until Bruce Dixon’s recantation of December 21, all of BAR’s editors cited the sins and crimes of the ‘Black misleadership class.’”

The following is excerpted from an article of mine that has disappeared from BAR’s archives, but which was picked up by the August 31, 2014 Greanville Post, titled, “Black Folks are Going Nowhere Until We Discard the Black Misleadership Class .”

“The current Black Misleadership Class voluntarily joined the enemy camp — calling it ‘progress’ — as soon as the constraints of official apartheid were lifted. They exploited the political and business opportunities made possible by a people’s mass movement in order to advance their own selfish agendas and, in the process, made a pact with Power to assist in the debasement and incarceration of millions of their brothers and sisters. In the case of Black elected officials, their culpability is direct and hands-on. The professional ‘interlocutors’ between African Americans and Power, from the local butt-kissing preacher to marquis power-brokers like Al Sharpton, serve as the Mass Black Incarceration State’s firemen….”

Students of Black history will immediately recognize the role played by these Black “firemen”: they are the “House Negroes” that Malcolm X inveighed against ; the aspiring or professional “type of Negro” who, when the master’s house started burning down, “would fight harder to put the master’s house out than the master himself would.” — Malcolm X, Wayne State University, January 23, 1963.

Malcolm struggled on behalf of the “field Negro,” the working class masses. “House Negro” and “Field Negro” were not scientific terms; they were political weapons that resonated among the Black masses. They had sharp, cutting edges, designed to rebuke and isolate the internal enemy, and to discourage other Black people from collaborating with the ruling class.

Our mission today is no different.

They are the ‘House Negroes’ that Malcolm X inveighed against.”

In 2013, in a speech marking the first national conference of Students Against Mass Incarceration, at Howard University, I explained why BAR makes “full use” of the term, “Black misleadership class”:

Some folks might think we mainly use it as an insult. And we DO.

“We believe that denunciation and shaming of those behaviors and politics that are destructive to our people is a good and useful thing to do.

“When people who claim to be Black leaders aid in the destruction of our people, they deserve to be insulted — “buked and scorned,’ as we used to say.

“So, of course we mean to insult these people that we call the Black Misleadership Class….

“They wanted to put their own upwardly mobile faces in high government and corporate places. That meant preserving the system — not tearing it down.

“They wanted to celebrate their own upward mobility, not agitate for social transformation. So, after 1968, they helped shut the Movement down.

“In order to consolidate their own political power, and curry corporate favor, the Black Misleadership Class directed Black people’s energies toward the narrowest electoral politics and the crassest materialism. Their modus operandi is to treat the masses of Black people as cheerleaders for the upward strivings of a few.

“The ultimate expression of that madness, is that the Black Misleadership Class poured all of its energies into protecting a symbol of ultra-upward Black mobility — Barack Obama — while the bottom fell out for the Black masses.

“This is the same class that has historically been far more ashamed over Mass Black Incarceration, than outraged. They resent those Blacks who have been caught up in the criminal justice system, because they mess up the petty bourgeois picture of Black America that they like to paint.

“They have no use for the rest of us, except as props in their for-profit productions.

“So, damn right, we like to insult the Black Misleadership Class. It’s part of our political work. They need to be insulted.

“We need a Movement, not just to deal with our external enemies, but also our internal ones. Because they are killing us, from the inside out.”

Brother Dixon may be willing to give up a perfectly good weapon, but I am not.

Down with the Black misleadership class! Power to the people!

By Glen Ford/BAR

Posted by The NON-Conformist

White Nationalists Push Back Against Efforts to Honor Black Confederates

The 2015 Charleston church massacre and 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville prompted a reckoning with the monuments that still dot the former Confederate States of America, with dozens of municipalities pulling down statues and relocating plaques and flags to museums.

Now two Republican lawmakers want to erect a new monument at the South Carolina statehouse—to African-Americans who fought for the Confederacy. It’s not surprising that they’re running into opposition from historians, who say almost no blacks chose to take up arms for the South. But the project is also at odds with the efforts of white nationalists who, for different reasons, want to ensure the Confederacy is remembered as a white supremacist project.

State Reps. Bill Chumley and Mike Burns told TPM their inspiration came from a group of descendants of African-American Confederate soldiers who reached out to them last October, wanting to construct a monument honoring their ancestors. The lawmakers say their only aim is educating South Carolinians about a forgotten part of their state’s history.

Civil war historians counter that the vast majority of blacks who served in the Confederacy were slaves working as cooks, servants, laborers. A very small number, some historians say, did serve as armed soldiers, but only because they were forced into doing so. They argue the myth of blacks volunteering as soldiers is designed to obfuscate the reality that slavery was the root cause of the conflict.

Meanwhile,  a younger generation of white nationalists proudly acknowledges that the South fought the Civil War to protect and propagate the enslavement of African-Americans. And they have pushed back against efforts to memorialize black Confederates.

“One of the things that this black Confederate narrative is trying to do is paint the Confederacy as a multicultural, progressive experiment in civil rights,” Kevin Levin, author of the forthcoming book “Searching for Black Confederate Soldiers,” told TPM.

“Hardcore white supremacists want to step back and say, ‘Look, the Confederacy was racist, their goal was the preservation of white supremacy and slavery. And they’re actually the ones who are on solid historical ground; they’re the ones that are cutting through the myth.”

In a 2017 blog post, white nationalist Brad Griffin decried so-called “Rainbow Confederates” who engage in “deceptive historical revisionism.” Another leading white nationalist, Matthew Heimbach, has written that the focus on non-white soldiers obscures the fact that the Confederate army believed in maintaining “the superiority of the White race in all affairs.”

Commenters on a recent article posted about the South Carolina monument on white nationalist site American Renaissance mock the effort to honor black soldiers as “tripe” and “cuckservatism at its most absurd.”

The lawmakers behind the proposal, which they pre-filed in December, both voted in 2015 against removing the Confederate battle flag from statehouse grounds. And they admit that they’re trying to advance the largely discredited idea that the Civil War was fought over states’ rights and economic issues, not primarily over slavery.

“It is in part about slavery,” Rep. Burns told TPM of the conflict, “but in fact it’s largely about the 35 percent tariff that was imposed on all goods and services coming in and out of the south in that period. The truth of the matter is that there were thousands of black Confederates serving on the side of the south.”

Burns and Chumley claim it was Walter Curry, a board member of South Carolina’s African-American Chamber of Commerce and great-great-great grandson of the state’s only known female African-American Confederate veteran, who first reached out to them about constructing the monument. Curry did not respond to TPM’s requests for comment. Chumley and Burns said they would release the names of the other black South Carolinian individuals and groups who pitched the monument idea to them next week.

“Whatever the circumstances were, they fought,” Chumley told TPM. “They picked up the cause. That’s what was admirable about it.”

But historians, despite some ongoing disagreement on the number and significance of the role blacks played in the Confederacy, say these sorts of depictions are historically inaccurate, not educational.

John Stauffer, a Harvard University historian who has clashed with Levin over his advocacy for the “symbolic” importance of black Confederates, told TPM that the “statistically insignificant” number who took up arms did so “essentially with a gun to their heads.”

There were a small number of free blacks in cities like New Orleans who outwardly supported the Confederacy to protect the few rights they had, and tens of thousands more enslaved laborers who worked on ironworks, railroads, and as body servants to Confederate officers on the battlefield. But a Confederate law prohibiting blacks from enlisting as soldiers, enacted out of fear that arming African-Americans would foment an uprising, wasn’t repealed until weeks before the conflict ended in 1865.

Stauffer cautioned that public monuments like the one proposed in South Carolina fail to provide this necessary context and are just another way of “purging slavery from the war.”

Scores of websites maintained by modern-day Confederate sympathizers aim to do just that, pushing dubiously-sourced news accounts and images of black men in uniform as proof that African-Americans were valued servicemen. Paul Gramling, Lt. Commander-in-Chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, told TPM the existence of black Confederates proves that the “reason for that war was money and taxes.” Kirk Lyons, head of the stridently pro-Confederate Southern Legal Resource Center, maintains a Facebook page devoted to those people, and said statues like the one in South Carolina would be a credit to the “contributions” of these “undercounted” supporters of the Confederate government.

The monument proposal has been assigned to the legislature’s judiciary committee, and Chumley and Burns hope to get a hearing to debate it once the body reconvenes next Tuesday.

Advancing the project will be an uphill battle.

Reached by phone Wednesday, Rep. Samuel Rivers, the only black Republican in the Palmetto State’s legislature and a member of the judiciary committee, said a “dicey” new Confederate statue was the wrong way to teach residents about their state’s history.

“I have no desire to continue to go backwards in some continuous battle that has already been won,” Rivers said. “I’m for educating us on what happened, but erecting monuments of over 100 years ago? Let’s move forward.”

By ALLEGRA KIRKLAND/TPM

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Increasing Numbers of US Parents Are Choosing to “Unschool” Their Kids

When Andres, a child on the autism spectrum, was in first grade, he became upset in math class and, in frustration, broke his pencil. “That moment dictated his entire public school experience,” his mother, Anaya J., told Truthout.  “He got overwhelmed, broke the pencil, and was quickly labeled as ‘dangerous.'” By the end of that academic year, six-year-old Andres had been suspended four times. The reasons? Refusing to do his work, becoming distracted in class and kicking school personnel when they attempted to physically restrain him.

Anaya says that over the course of that year, she saw her son’s self-esteem plummet and knew that she needed to make a change — and quickly. She made countless phone calls, and after a great deal of bureaucratic wrangling, finally placed Andres in a private school that specialized in educating children with disabilities. “Andres was enrolled in a program that cost $80,000 a year — a fee I couldn’t pay myself,” Anaya said. “I had previously sued the Department of Education (DOE) to force them to pay for his schooling, since the law requires them to do this if they can’t provide an appropriate public school placement for a particular student.”

For more than three years, Andres excelled in this program. Unfortunately, Andres’ education began to unravel when suddenly, without warning, his paraprofessional — or educational assistant — was removed from the classroom. She had been the person who helped Andres stay on track in class and helped him when he became dysregulated. “The process was not transparent,” Anaya says, “so I have no idea why the school did this. I could not get a real answer. The [paraprofessional] was essential to him. She was the stop-gap between him and his teachers. Once DOE pulled her, Andres had no support in school.” And once more, he began to flounder.

This time, Anaya decided to completely withdraw Andres from school and began to homeschool him in September 2017. Together, she and her son are now pursuing “unschooling,” a form of homeschooling that allows the child to determine what he or she will study and when.

Anaya understands that unschooling has countless critics, who question whether unschooled students can acquire the math, reading and research skills — or even the disciplined work ethic — they’ll need as they come of age, but she dismisses these concerns. Andres is thriving, she says. He spends two full days a week in micro schools — small, private, student-directed learning centers — for which she pays out of pocket, one of them run by a woman who is herself on the autism spectrum. Among other things, Anaya says, her now 11-year-old child is learning about himself. “He’s discovering that his behaviors are part of who he is and that he can function despite them,” she said. “Just yesterday, I heard him tell his brothers that he did not want to eat something because it would upset his sensory system. His self-awareness is phenomenal.”

Andres attends a weekly math class and has been to computer coding camp and museum-run art classes. He’s also gone on numerous educational excursions with other homeschoolers. “I’m learning independence,” he said. “I like being able to decide what I want to learn.”

Although Anaya admits that “the concept of free choice can sometimes feel like an abyss to Andres,” she has seen him blossom since leaving school. For example, a few weeks ago, she noticed him watching a video on the scientific method. After viewing it, he decided to do an experiment, mixing yogurt with different fruits to see what color variations would emerge. He then watched a second video, this one on molecular biology, which he followed with a film on Max Planck, a German theoretical physicist who won a Nobel Prize in 1918.

“It somehow caught his eye,” Anaya, a fact-checker, editor and researcher who works at home, explains. “He spent two-and-a-half hours reading about Planck and learned that his daughter had participated in the anti-Nazi resistance during World War II. Andres then wrote a paper, four single-spaced pages, about her work. He really enjoys typing, but on this particular day, one thing led to another, and he ended up learning a great deal about science, history, rebellion and writing.”

Homeschooling Is on the Uptick

Andres is one of approximately 2.2 million US school-aged children, out of a total population of 49 million, who are currently being home- or unschooled. And their numbers are growing.

There are many reasons for this: Some parents choose to home-school/unschool for ideological reasons; for example, to insert a Biblical worldview into their child’s education, without ever enrolling their child in a public or private program. Others, however, are motivated by a desire to avoid relentless testing, rigid curricular demands and the lack of freedom imposed by most public school educators. Still others, like Anaya, remove their kids from school as a last resort, once they conclude that schools are failing them. For these parents, home-schooling is the lesser of numerous evils: They fear what will happen if their child is subjected to repeated in-and-out-of-school suspensions or outright expulsion. Some worry that the bullying, racism, homophobia and/or transphobia that their child has experienced will lead to suicide. For many parents and children, home-schooling/unschooling seems like a rational, responsible choice.

But it’s rarely easy.

In fact, there are as many ways to home- or unschool as there are children. Some parents form coops with like-minded families and share the work, whether it’s organizing field trips, coaching sports programs or overseeing other kinds of group activities. Others purchase curricula — there are numerous online courses, curricula and printed materials for sale at rates ranging from a few hundred dollars to several thousand — and set up quasi-classrooms in which children follow the instructions provided. The public library is typically also utilized.

What’s more, there are few laws dictating what home- or unschoolers are expected to learn or how they should be taught. For example, 39 states have no requirements regarding credentials, so even a parent who is barely literate can be an instructor. Similarly, there is tremendous variation in student monitoring: Some states require home-schooled kids to take an annual proficiency exam or be evaluated by a licensed educator. Others require few evaluations.

Lisa R., a resident of Montgomery County, Maryland, is home-schooling her 10-year-old daughter, Marisa, and is pleased by the accountability demanded from her local education department — a belief that is not always shared by other parents. “We are required to submit the curriculum we use, supplemented by videos of Marisa as she studies, to the country school board twice a year,” she said.

She believes that this is essential to guarantee that real learning is taking place.

“Marisa is a nonverbal communicator,” Lisa says, “and we are very networked with other parents who utilize the Rapid Prompting Method (RPM), a communication system that utilizes letter boards and a keyboard to help the person express [themself].” Lisa and her wife came to RPM after both public and private schools made little headway in educating Marisa. They are now part of an educational cooperative, where teachers trained in RPM work one-on-one with the students enrolled; they also follow a clear curriculum with measurable goals and standards. “What’s great is that the curriculum can be tailored to the individual,” Lisa said. Still, she adds, the curriculum covers the same subjects that other fifth-graders are taught.

“I’m not someone who ever expected to home-school my kid,” Lisa said. “But when my wife and I saw how little the schools were actually willing to do for many kids with learning difficulties, we felt we had no choice. Despite the Americans with Disabilities Act, kids who don’t communicate verbally are considered unable to communicate at all. The schools assume incompetence, as if being nonverbal is a reflection of intelligence. This needs to change.”

Lisa describes what she calls public school “warehousing,” basically babysitting kids rather than teaching them, as if the goal is to spend the least amount of money possible on each child who is enrolled.

Home-schooling, on the other hand, can be pricey. “We pay about $20,000 a year for the coop Marisa goes to and it maxes us out,” Lisa said. “You need to be fairly affluent and highly educated to even find your way to RPM. The travesty I see is that access to programs that work for nonverbal children are completely class-linked. We’re a two-income household, but educating Marisa is a struggle that has shaped our professional choices. These choices are not available to most people. There’s a huge disparity.”

Financial Sacrifices Demanded

Jan Hunt, director of the Natural Child Project and author of three books on unschooling, explains that unschooling is very different from both regular school and from most varieties of home-schooling, which she agrees can be costly. “Unschooling costs as much or as little as the parents want to spend on resources and activities,” she said.

Hunt became an unschooling adherent after reading John Holt’s 1981 book, Teach Your Own, and meeting local unschooling families. “The best way to learn anything is to explore whatever we’re most interested in at that precise moment,” she said. “Unschoolers learn to trust that the child knows what he or she needs to learn and how to learn it. School makes that approach nearly impossible.”

“Perhaps the best analogy is to a reference librarian, who waits until she knows what the library patron is looking for, and then helps her to find it. No reference librarian tells the patron what to learn, although she may make suggestions once she knows the patron’s interests. In the same way, unschoolers stay alert to their child’s interests as they develop naturally, and help their child to find the resources needed. We don’t direct or teach. We just pay attention.”

Studies, she says, support the efficacy of this approach.

In 2011, psychologists Peter Gray and Gina Riley queried 232 families from 34 US states and several Canadian provinces that had unschooled their kids for at least three years. Their first study focused on parents; a second study, conducted in 2013, queried 75 formerly unschooled students. In the first study, all but three parents voiced strong and enthusiastic support for the method. Seventy percent said that unschooling had taught their children responsibility, self-direction and self-motivation, but noted that social isolation was sometimes a problem. Nonetheless, they concluded that the positives outweighed the negatives.

The later study, which focused on the students themselves, revealed that virtually everyone who had been unschooled — albeit a tiny sample — was personally successful: 78 percent were self-supporting, with 53 percent in business for themselves. The majority worked in the arts as photographers, graphic designers, writers, illustrators, painters, musicians and actors. In addition, 83 percent had pursued a higher education, with half of those completing a Bachelor’s degree.

Learning Emotional Intelligence

In addition to fostering curiosity and intellectual development, unschooling advocates stress the importance of non-academic lessons: For example, they often point to the value of developing emotional intelligence.

Like Anaya and Lisa, Paula T. began home-schooling her now 24-year-old daughter Jana after a host of charter, parochial and public schools deemed her child a behavior management problem. “All kids are unique and no labels are needed, but that’s not what schools do,” Paula said. “I wanted Jana to learn critical thinking skills and know how to help a diabetic grandmother at the end of her life.”

Paula eventually realized that she did not need to place her child in school, that she could plug her daughter into a community band — the home-schoolers band — and programs specifically created by local museums for home-schoolers. “She could also interact with others by playing computer games,” Paula said. “For us, there was no downside to unschooling. But I’m aware of my extreme privilege. I did not have to work outside the home, and was happy to be around my child every day, answer her questions and meet her needs.”

Paula says that she and Jana took advantage of the learning opportunities that constantly presented themselves in their everyday lives, a foundational precept of unschooling. This is not a new philosophy. In fact, until the late 19th century, most people were educated at home; the only organized schools were run by religious bodies and charged a fee, with Massachusetts becoming the first state to impose a compulsory education law in 1852. The idea of a formal classroom — with same-aged children following a standardized curriculum — was challenged by progressive educator John Holt in the 1970s. Less than a decade later, more than 20 states had legalized home-schooling, but it was not because of Holt. Instead, the shift was promulgated by the grassroots organizing of evangelical Christians, who feared secular humanism and wanted their offspring to have no contact with “godless” public schools.

By 1993, home-schooling was legal in all 50 states. Its popularity continues to grow, and its unschooling wing continues to expand. There’s no reason to anticipate this trend reversing, especially as public school budgets and funding for support services continues to diminish.

By Eleanor J. Bader/Truthout

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Hail to the Warmongers

Delayed Enlistment Program members stretch a giant American flag over the field during an NFL pregame ceremony in Tampa Bay. (U.S. Air Force / Wikimedia)

I think [the emperor] knows what Rome is. Rome is the mob. Conjure magic for them, and they’ll be distracted. Take away their freedom and still they’ll roar. The beating heart of Rome is not the marble of the Senate. It’s the sand of the Colosseum. He’ll bring them death … and they will love him for it.
—Senator Gracchus, “Gladiator”

They all want to be “war presidents.” Most American chief executives learned long ago that the express lane to high approval ratings—at least initially—lay in military excursions and martial bombast. Just ask the Bush presidents, father and son.

Domestic consensus is hard. Republican health care policy: unpopular. The new tax reform bill: very unpopular.

But bombings, raids, even the death of an American commando or two are always good for a rally-round-the-flag publicity boost. And make no mistake: President Trump, the former reality TV star—and still my commander in chief—always can sniff out good ratings.

When a Navy SEAL died (along with several children) on a botched raid in an undeclared war in Yemen, the president had only to parade the petty officer’s widow before Congress to commence a record round of applause. CNN panelist Van Jones, not a supporter of the president, had seen enough: “[Trump] became president of the United States in that moment, period.”

Sometime later, when Trump expanded America’s undeclared war in Syria, launching 59 cruise missiles at Assad’s forces, CNN host Fareed Zakaria could not contain himself: “Donald Trump became president last night.” Odd, isn’t it, that acts of war—more than any other deed—transmit leadership bona fides?

Perpetual war, of course, is now as American as apple pie. In the span of my own military career, we’ve even been through several names for the campaign. First, we called the actions the “war on terror,” then “Operation Iraqi/Enduring Freedom,” then the “long war,” and now who-knows-what. But despite changing tactics and several rebrandings, we seem no closer to victory. What remains is the culture of conflict, the reality of death and certainty of protracted war.

And, of course, the war culture demands its own discourse. Here, the president and a bevy of politicians stand ready to spew martial rhetoric on demand. A bipartisan array of mainstream Beltway figures agree that warmaking is oh so “presidential.” To unleash the war machine is to appear utterly “serious” as a commander in chief. Can’t blame them. All politicians respond to positive reinforcement, especially Trump. The populace empowers militarism through questions not asked and platitudes unchallenged.

As for me, I’m no longer moved by uniformed pageantry, truculent swagger or bellicose action. While not an outright pacifist, my heart now lies forever with dead children on Baghdad’s streets and all the other helpless, innocent refuse of the chaos America unleashed in a troubled region. Rhetoric is lost on a veteran who knows empathy, both for his foes and innocent victims. As Walt Whitman reminds us, that is the “real war,” and it “will never make it in the books.” Perhaps it must be so; eternal conflict requires our forgetting.

What we—veterans, activists, human beings, take your pick—cannot countenance is bluster from a generation of leaders who have never seen the horror of combat. Not that all soldiers are right, or superior or more ethical. Far from it. But shouldn’t the line be drawn somewhere? I set that line at irresponsible, toxic gusto from policymakers spared by college deferments, bone spurs or the demise of conscription. They never have had to grapple with the honest, visceral stench of warfare.

Trump, let us remember, claimed to “know more about ISIS than the generals,” promised to “bomb the shit out of ’em” and to not need the advice of “non-hero” John McCain (who should have known better than to “get captured”). Trump, a “veteran” of a New York “military” high school, never relents in his oratorical bombast. Many Americans may scoff and write him off, but this rhetoric is dangerous. This president, remember, is the one who threatened North Korea with “fire and fury the likes of which the world has never seen.” Does that mean nuclear war? If so, what is the potential trigger? No one seems to know or say. This is terrifying.

Trump’s proclamations, while farcical and coarse, aren’t all that unique. During the 2016 election campaign, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz gleefully vowed to “carpet-bomb” Islamic State and “see if sand can glow in the dark.” As I listened to Cruz, I felt like crying out: “Those are human beings under those bombs.” The irresponsibility of his harangue, from a sitting senator, is staggering.

Unfortunately, most Americans inhabiting the warfare state are numb to such talk. Think for a moment what Cruz called for: carpet-bombing by the Air Force that would kill many thousands of civilians. This is ethically abhorrent and tactically obtuse—as each of those innocent deaths are known to motivate future adversaries and feed the Islamic State recruiting machine.

It also demonstrates a trait Cruz has in common with the vast majority of America’s political “chicken hawks”—they don’t know a thing about combat. After all, noted hawks such as Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Hillary Clinton, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and others haven’t served a day in uniform. If they had, or if they knew a thing about operational matters, they’d surely know Islamic State lives, fights and travels among the civilian populace and within populated cities. Carpet-bombing is highly inappropriate and ill-advised, playing right into the hands of Islamic State’s propaganda playbook.

Recent reports—though the Pentagon disputes them—note that many thousands of Iraqi and Syrian civilians have been killed in America’s somewhat more measured bombing campaign. It doesn’t matter, though. Few Americans call out the chicken hawks or force them to pay a political price. The U.S. is deep into more than 16 years of war, and the populace is immune and apathetic.

Militarism and tough talk are, of course, bipartisan in the hallowed halls of the American garrison state. After 9/11, then-Sen. Clinton admitted being “pretty pugnacious” and said that vaguely defined “terrorists” would “feel America’s wrath.” While she supported Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, she remained hawkish on the Islamic Republic, threatening “massive” (read: nuclear) “retaliation” should Iran ever attack Israel.

The bottom line is this: Today’s mainstream Democrats are no doves—they just couch the hardline rhetoric in cagier language. If anything, Democrats appear to so fear the Republicans labeling them as “soft” on terror that they overcompensate and try harder to prove their warlike spirit.

Being tough with talk and loose with the bombs is the easy part. Crafting a strategy to bring decades of war to a satisfying conclusion while minimizing human suffering demands a bit more. More, one fears, than Washington is capable of offering the American people. The current president vowed to “defeat terrorism” on several occasions. Sounds reassuring. Nonetheless, short of nuclear strikes (which Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee seems worried about) or full national wartime mobilization, it is unclear what would end terrorism—which is a tactic, not a tangible adversary, by the way.

Make no mistake, I recognize the need for a strong, credible, national defense deterrent. But irresponsible rhetorical language is poisoning American culture. The citizenry has been taught to thoughtlessly worship all that is martial and violent. It’s all linked: war abroad and militarized police at home; Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, Roy Moore and the whole “me too” moment about sexual assault; mass shootings and tens of thousands of other firearms deaths a year. This is America. This is what makes us exceptional on the global stage.

Do not be fooled. Nationalism, patriotism and the whole lot are at their core militaristic and chauvinistic emotions. We Americans are a violent lot and revere savagery in its sundry forms. Many men cling to the combative language of “national defense” because they—and guess who they vote for—sense a crisis of manhood, one that ties directly to the Weinstein scandal, et al. For these countless, terrified men—civilians and veterans alike—war and militarism are the last bastions where vulgar masculinity, in word and deed, remain acceptable.

The hawkish semantics also relate to the uniquely American gun culture. This week, I stopped by the Walmart in my (ostensibly liberal) Kansas college town, and there were a dozen gun and ammo magazines, but not a single thoughtful foreign policy publication. No Foreign Affairs, no Harper’s, no Economist, no anything. That’s how most Americans want it, and it reflects the prevailing culture. Should we really be surprised? Americans’ historical heroes have long been the Wild West gunfighters, themselves often extralegal vigilantes.

We are a violent, weaponized people. When was the last time you saw a person who didn’t carry a gun to work honored before a football game? Where are social workers and elementary school librarians venerated on the 50-yard line? This, of course, is where the specious NFL kneeling controversy connects to our pervasive, aggressive discourse. Even Americans’ cherished “Star-Spangled Banner” is, at root, a war anthem. It’s a national psychosis mixing power, violence and barely stifled guilt.

The culture is inundated with militaristic displays, uniformed honor guards, jets flying overhead, and on and on. This occurs every week in the NFL, and it’s neither necessary nor healthy. Even I’m old enough to remember when we saved most of that pomp for just two times of year: Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Two is enough.

If only America’s officers and policymakers thought before they spoke, provided mature, nuanced analysis and ditched the flashy bluster.

It would also be great if American military professionals had the self-awareness and confidence to be less self-righteous and make do without the martial pageantry and constant adulation.

This veteran, at least, votes for fewer flags and more speculative prose, softer anthems and stronger debate. If only that were still possible.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author, expressed in an unofficial capacity, and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.

By Maj. Danny Sjursen/truthdig

Posted by The NON-Conformist