This morning I read a note from someone frustrated with the state of politics in the United States. She spoke of the news media failing their responsibility to inform the electorate and referenced a well-known comparison of news-media exposure received by US Presidential candidates this election cycle. By Nov. 30 last year, Donald Drumpf (“Trump”, I’m not being facetious, watch this) got 234 minutes of “news” coverage on the networks, while Bernie Sanders had all of 10 minutes. A leading candidate for President had 10 minutes of coverage in a whole year. In contrast, she said, the French have a strict process of electoral politics, limited and equal TV time for candidates with a threat of heavy fines for violation. This frustration is shared by millions of Americans. I have also noticed that people on different sides of the political isle often use the slogan “We The People” when airing their grievances. In my view, there is a disease at the core of this slogan, and most people who throw this slogan around may be oblivious to its contested reality.
In the United States corporations are considered “people” (Mitt Romney’s infamous quip during the last election). The business of these corporate “people” is to generate the most money (via profits) for themselves (corporate ethos) and their partners (shareholders). You may have noticed politicians’ talk of the American Dream, Land of Opportunity, etc. What is essentially left unsaid is that this “opportunity” is to amass all the wealth one can for oneself, at the expense of others and even the world in which we live. This greed is not considered a vice. Yet Marvin Gaye gave sweet voice to our thoughtful observation that, “Children are told to give and not just to take. If we were all children…you know the world will be a better place.” But we continue to raise our children with mixed messages, and confusion about who is and who is not a person, and they grow up with this cognitive dissonance that further compounds their sickness. The GOP, the self-proclaimed “grown ups” (the party of Givers who do not actually want to give, they never saw a tax they wouldn’t want to cut or a regulation they wouldn’t want to kill) reflect this disease most overtly. But, in truth, the Democratic Party is as much in the bag, so to speak. The oft-reviled Establishment is comprised of this two-party system.
In general, we call these Givers philanthropists. Ignored are the everyday people who give of themselves, their time and a larger proportion of what little they actually have. Our pedestals are for those Givers, generally “people”, who give for personal benefit, tax deductions (tax filing as an individual or as a corporation?), goodwill, or “networking” which feeds their material success.
The “people” and the people aspiring to be such are committed to this way of life at the exclusion of much – even their own wellbeing, and that of the environment that ensures their very existence. So, human and corporate people aren't very different after all – they routinely choose things that are not in their own best interest.
Also in the United States are people (humans) who may not generate the most profit, some by choice but mostly because of historical circumstances or economic & social policies. Many of these people are termed Takers (those whom the Donald would call the losers – the “poorly educated” whom he loves). These people are derided (looked down upon) by the corporate-minded operating under a warped version of the Protestant Work Ethic, which is seen as a virtue. However, what generally goes unexamined is that most Americans (the people) already work longer, are more productive yet have declining incomes and poorer health outcomes. Where, one wonders, is the virtue in all this hard work?
The virtue is in the fact that some “people” (corporations) have seen their incomes rise, and almost all benefit for the last 30-40 years has gone to these “people”, who already have the most, the infamous 1%. And, the riff-raff, the grunts, the people, believe that some day they too will be a part of the 1% - that, in short, is the American Dream. It is no joke that mostAmericans believe they are above average! (Don’t just move on, please consider this logical fallacy.)
This is why people, against all evidence and good sense, choose to support politicians who will protect the interests of their imagined future wealthy selves (the 1%). For instance, most people railing against the “Death Tax” (Estate Tax) have ~0% chance of paying it, since it affects the wealth in excess of $10.9 million. Yet, we have millions up in arms about high taxes. In fact, with a few exceptions, taxes today are lower than they have been in more than 80 years.
Let me illustrate using some examples why corporate personhood is desired. If a common person, an American taxpayer gets in financial trouble and declares bankruptcy it has significant impact upon his/her life. If you or I do not pay our bills or default, even strategically, on our mortgage, for instance, then we are considered deadbeats and made to feel worthless. Yet, companies default on loans regularly and the consequences are not worthy of comparison with what individuals have to bear. How many times has Donald Drumpf declared bankruptcy? How does he get to run for the highest public office as a “successful” businessman?
During Hurricane Kartina economically disadvantaged people mostly of color, were reviled for “stealing” bread, which they had to do in desperate conditions and to survive. Private mercenaries were brought in to restore law and order, with orders to shoot if necessary. Yet, Wall Street sold Collateralized Debt Obligations they knew to be worthless, and perpetrated other egregious fraud almost bringing the American economy to its knees, and after we (the taxpayers) bailed them out, their delinquent management gave itself millions in bonuses. Bullets are for some, and bonuses for others. The rules for people and “people” are not the same and that much should be clear by now.
Yet, people want desperately to become “people”. We The People grow up with this American Dream. But for millions it is a nightmare. The established structure (the Establishment) of which the media sources are a part, support this bizarre American Dream, they reinforce it and help perpetuate it. Then comes along a 74-year old Jewish Senator from Vermont who says that the emperor has no clothes (that the structure itself is diseased).
Senator Bernard ‘Bernie’ Sanders in his disheveled clothes, has been hammering this same message for the last three decades as the longest serving independent in Congress. Twenty years before that he was getting arrested on the south side of Chicago while protesting segregation and marching with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. This is a man who doesn’t just speak the truth, which he does in his gruff voice punctuated with wild hand gestures. Bernie Sanders walks the walk. And he’s been walking for a long damn time.
Why is Bernie’s message resonating now? Unprecedented and widening income inequality, the Iraq War, Too Big To Fail, bursting of the housing bubble, GOP obstructionism of Obama, ~60 attempts to overturn the Affordable Care Act, “free trade” (jobs shipped overseas), gutting of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, which ensures that our air is breathable and that our water is clean – Flint, Michigan) and public interest regulations, Citizens United (corporate influence, unlimited money in politics, corruption of “free speech”, etc.) are a few reasons. This is why Bernie Sanders’ message has hit a nerve amongst those who realize that something is off with this neatly packaged, and mostly unexamined, American Dream they have been sold. This is especially true with the young, whose collective future is at stake. Perhaps these reasons are why the young are turning up for Bernie, and not because they are naïve.
Why aren’t more people supporting Bernie? What about the older generations, and especially African Americans? This is where the news media’s abdication of their duty comes in. But let me be specific. National Public Radio (NPR) is a publicly funded news media, and even they focus on a reality-TV star (Donald Drumpf) giving him free publicity, while mostly ignoring Bernie and the movement he is inspiring. That is, in letter and in spirit, an abdication of their duty. The blame is less clear with corporate media, because as explained earlier they exist only for profit, and the lines between news, opinion and propaganda have been increasingly blurred in the last couple decades of media consolidation and corporate control of what is discussed and what is ignored by these “news media”.
An informed electorate is the foundation of a healthy and vibrant democracy. The American electorate (the voters) is poorly informed (the noise from cable “news”), deliberately uninformed (news media blackout of Bernie Sanders) about issues that matter most to them (the issues Bernie is giving voice to).
Let me tie it back to the disease of We The People: confusion of who is and who is not a person and the cognitive dissonance of what to value (human beings and our planet over profit and personal aggrandizement).
There is good reason for the Establishment to fight Bernie Sanders, and to keep the electorate uninformed. Bernie is proposing a mass movement as the solution. Let’s be clear that is also what President Obama needed, and repeatedly asked for – a mass mobilization for humane public policy, and not one that is merely “efficient” and generates the most “profit”. Unfortunately, the only time Obama saw mass mobilization was to get people to the voting booth and himself into the White House. We, the voters, seem to have rested on our hands after getting President Obama into office, as if one man, any one man, can change America. No one man (or woman) can do that. Only mass mobilization, a collective paradigm shift will do so. And, that is Bernie’s message and proposal. It is not smoke and mirrors.
The mobilization of everyday Americans, who are feeling the Bern, scares the established order (the 1%, corporate interests and, yes, the Democratic Party), because that kind of a paradigm shift will, of course, require it (the Establishment) to transform. Transformation can be a terrifying proposition. For it to occur and to be sustained, the old order must die. That is evolution. We can resist it, but it is inevitable. We (The People), the old and diseased mindset, are effectively an obstacle to this (r)evolution. Our young (in mind and/or in body) see this, and that is why we (We The People) are joining this revolution. Won’t you join us?
Sitting on the side of I-355 with my car out of gas. Reflecting on the perfection of this moment, and of life itself. This connection to What-Is-So thanks to a dear friend and mentor M. Salahuddin Khan.