The Struggle for the Soul of America: Racism, the Relentless Cancer Plaguing America

I saw Judas and The Black Messiah the other night. It’s a very disturbing movie that all white Americans should be required to see. The docudrama tells the story of the FBI’s assassination of Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers in the late ‘60s.

More than that, the film offers insight into the ongoing black struggle for equality and justice in racist America. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was obsessed with eradicating the Black Panther Party.  He stated they were “the greatest threat to internal security of the country.”[1] Yes, the Black Panthers were a militant group, but with rival gangs as well as the FBI after them, they believed they had to arm themselves.

What Hampton and the Black Panther movement were actually fighting for was good healthcare and food security for the black community. In the movie, Hampton proclaims his goal of a healthcare clinic to serve his people on the southside of Chicago. By the end of 1969 — the year Hampton was killed — the Panthers were feeding 20,000 kids in 19 cities across the country before they went to school each morning.[2]

Today the black struggle in America continues in a more political vein. Blacks, like Georgia organizer Stacey Abrams, are working overtime to register and get minorities to the polls. They know that obtaining equality and justice for their people must go through the ballot box. 

At the same time, red state Republicans are fixated on eliminating the power of people of color through gerrymandering, purging voter rolls, reducing access to the polls and other voting restrictions. In truth, it’s all just another form of American racism.

Democrats must call out Republicans for the racists that they are. Republican voter suppression laws like those being proposed in Georgia will have a disproportionately negative impact on blacks and other minorities:[3]

“Georgia legislators also want to end early voting on the Sunday before Election Day. That’s the day parishioners in Black churches traditionally vote. Sheer coincidence, no doubt. Lawmakers want to repeal automatic voter registration, too. They even want to make it a crime to give a bottle of water to someone waiting in line to vote.”[4] 

Republicans claim that these proposals are to protect against voter fraud. However, their real purpose is to make it more difficult for minorities, who overwhelmingly support Democrats, to vote. While Democrats can challenge these new restrictive voting statutes in court, there’s no guarantee they would prevail. And, even if they did, the judicial verdicts would likely come too late to affect the crucial 2022 elections.

In fact, the Democrats only practical remedy is to take the control of Congressional elections out of the hands of state legislatures. That is exactly what H.R. 1, the For the People Act, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act do.[5] These bills would make our democracy more inclusive and block efforts by state legislators to make it harder to vote.

The bills passed the House without any Republican support. But they will not gain Senate approval unless the Democrats find a way around a guaranteed Republican filibuster steeped in racism. With some Democrats including President Biden still believing in the value of the filibuster, it is not clear how, or if, they will defeat Republican obstructionism.

Will the relentless plague of racism continue to cripple our nation? Or will the Democrats finally stand together, overcome the filibuster and uphold the right to vote for all Americans? It’s time the Democrats did the right thing in order to save our democracy.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.                                                                                        

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.vox.com/2016/2/14/10981986/black-panthers-breakfast-beyonce

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/03/us/politics/georgia-voting-laws.html

[4] https://www.commondreams.org/views/2021/03/11/congress-can-stop-these-gop-voter-suppression-laws-cold-it-just-needs-political

[5] Ibid.

The Struggle for the Soul of America: To Save Our Democracy, Defeat Republican Racism

Racism is alive and well in America. And it’s what keeps the Republican Party ticking. Donald Trump, the party’s racist-in-chief, has made sure of that.

But Trump did not initiate GOP racism. In his new book, It Was All a Lie, Stuart Stevens, a life-long Republican operative, illustrates how racism has long been a central theme in the modern GOP playbook.[1] From Goldwater’s opposition to desegregation to Reagan’s “welfare queens” references to Trump’s command to the white supremacists Proud Boys “to stand back and stand by,” Republicans have rallied their supporters with racist rhetoric for decades.[2]

The Republican Party is all about power at any price. Since playing the race card works in America, it has had no problem using racism to build support and gain power. Consequently, over 80% of Republicans are white compared to less than 60% of Democrats, according to the Pew Research Center.[3]

At the same time, the GOP is actually losing a considerable number of its establishment-type followers due to Trump’s lies about the election and his promoting the insurrection against Congress.[4] As a result, the party is now dominated by Trump’s racist base. Anyone who doesn’t fall in line, like the seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump in his impeachment trial, is censured or labeled a traitor by the party.[5]

Consequently, the GOP has become a racist, immoral cult, that employs anti-democratic tactics to gain control of government. And many red states are now implementing more voter suppression measures targeted at minorities to consolidate power:

“Republicans have introduced some 165 proposals in 33 states this year that would make voting more difficult. These include imposing new voter-identification laws, rolling back access to mail balloting and early-voting periods, and adding new hurdles to the voter-registration process.”[6]

In addition, red state legislatures are using gerrymandering to further solidify their clout. Taking the redistricting process out of the hands of partisan legislatures has never been more critical.

Ron Brownstein’s recent article in The Atlantic (a must read) clarifies just how urgent this matter is and what needs to be done about it. He explains that Republicans “will likely return to power and control politics for the next decade or more,” if the Democratic Congress fails to pass HR 1 and a new Voting Rights Act (VRA) this year:

“Given the likelihood that, absent federal intervention, red states will enact severe gerrymanders and new obstacles to voting, the decision about whether to end the Senate filibuster to pass these two bills could shape the future of American politics more than anything else Democrats do in the next two years.”[7]

Congress should have the COVID relief bill on President Biden’s desk before the end of March. Once that is done, HR 1, the For the People Act,[8] and a strong VRA must be enacted into law before Congress’s August recess. In order to ensure government of, by and for the people, we all must put maximum pressure on Congress and the Biden administration in the coming months. Write or call your senators and representatives and the White House. Attend their town hall meetings this spring. Let’s make our voices heard loud and clear.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/aug/02/it-was-all-a-lie-review-trump-republican-party

[2] https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-09-29/asked-to-condemn-white-supremacists-trump-tells-proud-boys-hate-group-to-stand-by

[3] https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/10/26/what-the-2020-electorate-looks-like-by-party-race-and-ethnicity-age-education-and-religion/

[4] https://www.bostonherald.com/2021/01/13/republican-voters-leaving-party-after-pro-trump-mob-stormed-capitol/

[5] https://www.voanews.com/usa/us-politics/republican-groups-censure-party-lawmakers-who-voted-impeach-convict-trump

[6] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2021/02/democrats-need-hr-1-and-new-vra-protect-party/617987/

[7] Ibid.

[8] https://www.commoncause.org/our-work/constitution-courts-and-democracy-issues/for-the-people-act/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Do Your Part

Lately I’ve been struggling. Surely, I am not alone. Many others are wrestling with their consciences as well. On the one hand, I want to escape from the tsunami of chaos and pain that our country is enduring right now. At the same time, I feel a degree of guilt that I’m not doing enough to help alleviate the suffering and eliminate the injustices. Does this sound familiar?

I know that doing something, almost anything, that provides aid to those in need or supports the overhaul of our failing system can make a difference. If nothing else, it will make me feel better. If that’s not enough to motivate me to get off my butt and get involved, then my knowing that what I do will help relieve someone’s distress and/or advance the country toward a more equitable society should do it. If I’m not contributing in some way to the solution, then, as they say, I’m part of the problem.

While there’s an immense amount of work to be done to repair the harm and get the country on track, we cannot allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the enormity of the task at hand and become immobilized. Rather, I believe we need to pause, go within and examine ourselves, as well as the big picture.

Let’s ask ourselves: Where can I be most effective? What can I do that best utilizes my abilities and resources? And, how can I do it without getting burned out or despondent?

The truth is it’s up to all of us to abolish racism, reduce income inequality and fix our corrupt political system, among other pressing issues. Feeling guilty that I’m not doing enough only gets in my way of steping up and taking positive action. Making you feel guilty that you are not doing your part only isolates us from each other. We need to come together, work for the greater good and get the job done. Below are just a few of the many organizations which would love your assistance in accomplishing these goals.

And, as Jon Stewart poignantly observed in a recent New York Times Magazine interview,[1] we must address ‘why’ we are plagued with racism, police brutality, and a two-tiered society:

“(The) root of the problem is the society that we’ve created that contains this schism, and we don’t deal with it…

“It’s white people’s lack of being able to live up to the defining words of the birth of the country that is the problem.

“(The system) is incentivized for conflict as well as for corruption…which is money from large sources pouring into a place not to help, but to gain control…We’ve got a (expletive)-up permanent campaign system with too much money in it.

“What’s broken is the legislators’ ability to address the issues inherent in any society.”

Clearly, we have a number of systemic issues we must address as a nation if we are to begin to heal the country and move forward. Unfortunately, our current national leadership has no intention of doing this. Part of our job, then, is to install new leadership in Washington which understands these critical matters and has the courage and foresight to take them on.

At the same time, each of us must find the resolve to help stop the bleeding and rebuild our country. Here’s just a few suggestions of organizations you can contact to learn how you can help, or to obtain assistance for someone in need: New Mexico Government Assistance (https://www.newmexico.gov/i-need-assistance/), Black Lives Matter (https://blacklivesmatter.com/), New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics (http://nmmop.org/) which recently became RepresentUs New Mexico, Common Cause New Mexico (https://www.commoncause.org/new-mexico/) and Retake Our Democracy (https://retakeourdemocracy.org/).

Bruce Berlin

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/06/15/magazine/jon-stewart-interview.html

 

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Make America Safe for All

Cracks in the Trump firewall are finally appearing. Though rare for the military to publicly oppose a president, earlier this week Gen. James Mattis, Trump’s former Secretary of Defense, stated that he was “angry and appalled” at the White House’s use of military troops to disperse peaceful protests over the death of George Floyd.

Mattis was outraged that troops would be ordered “to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens – much less to provide a bizarre photo op (Trump holding a bible in front of St. John’s Church in DC) for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.”[1]

Later that day, Retired Marine Gen. John Allen said President Trump’s threats to use the U.S. military on protesters “may well signal the beginning of the end of the American experiment.” Allen believes our Constitution is under attack. He was particularly struck by Trump’s claim to be “an ally of peaceful protesters” as he removed those peaceful protesters to clear the street for his blatantly political maneuver.[2]

Retired Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as other military leaders, are also criticizing the president. Mullen wrote, Trump “laid bare his disdain for the rights of peaceful protest in this country, gave succor to the leaders of other countries who take comfort in our domestic strife, and risked further politicizing the men and women of our armed forces.”[3]

Even a few Senate Republicans are speaking out against the president’s actions. Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse objected, “But there is a fundamental — a constitutional — right to protest, and I’m against clearing out a peaceful protest for a photo op that treats the word of God as a political prop.”[4] And, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) explained, “I don’t think militarization is the answer to the anxiety and fear, the distrust … that we feel right now. It is not the response.”[5]

Other Republicans are standing up to Trump as well. The Lincoln Project(https://lincolnproject.us/), was organized by major Republican figures,including attorney George Conway, the husband of Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway, to defeat Trump and Trumpism in November. Republicans for the Rule of Law has a similar goal. (https://www.ruleoflawrepublicans.com/) Contact these organizations and learn how you can help.

While some Republican officials and military leaders are beginning to speak truth to power, only the people are taking action and protesting Trump, his authoritarian administration and racial injustice. Where is Congress?

Why haven’t Republican and Democratic lawmakers responded to the people’s cries for equal justice under the law? Where is the funding for greater police oversight and the victims of the government’s racial abuses? And, why hasn’t Congress withheld funding from the Trump administration until it works with Congress to protect all Americans?

We, the people need to demand Congress act. It’s past time for Congress to stand up for our First Amendment rights. To enact legislation to protect all Americans against police brutality and racial bias. Those legislators who are unwilling to support and protect the American people against the Trump administration’s bigoted and unjust measures must be voted out of office this November.

Call your representative and senators ((202) 224-3121) and demand they take action to deal with these issues. See https://fundersforjustice.org/organizations/ for organizations you can support that are working on police accountability and racial justice. Let’s work together to make America a safe place for all its people.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.

(1] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/06/james-mattis-denounces-trump-protests-militarization/612640/

[2] https://www.yahoo.com/news/retired-marine-general-john-allen-trump-military-beginning-of-the-end-america-152143340.html

[3] https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/06/trump-commanders-esper-mullen-miller.html

[4] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/02/us/trump-republicans-protesters.html

[5] https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/500726-trumps-vow-to-deploy-military-faces-gop-pushback

 

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Hate in America

While our country is deep in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, another long-term, deadly infection has raised its ugly head once again. The police killing of an unarmed, black man, George Floyd, is just the latest example of the pervasive American curse of Hate.

We can no longer call the recurring killing of unarmed black men the use of excessive police force. The truth is these are hate crimes. In 2014, the shooting and killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by police officer Darren Wilson shocked the nation. In 2015 alone, the police killed over 100 unarmed black people, the great majority of them male.[1] The risk of being killed by police if you are a black male is almost three times as great than if you are white.[2]

Still, hate in America is not limited to racial bigotry. Immigrants, gays and lesbians, Jews and others have continuously been subjected to hate crimes. Today it’s gotten to the point where one’s political affiliation can make you the target of hate. Recently, a man in a Cowboys for Trump video proclaimed that “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.”[3] While the man goes on to say he really only meant killing the Democratic agenda, if that’s the truth, he could have just said that. Clearly, he was inciting hate.

Then, none other than our bigot-in-chief, Donald Trump, retweeted this video on his official Twitter account, stating, “Thank you Cowboys. See you in New Mexico!” While hate in America certainly preceded Trump, he has done a great deal to foment and condone hate and bigotry in our country. In fact, Trump appears to be creating a “hate movement” to further his re-election prospects.[4]

A few months ago, after a Sikh temple in California was sprayed with white supremacist and neo-Nazi graffiti, Trump targeted leading Democrats and the Sikh community. He retweeted a doctored image showing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer wearing a turban and hijab while standing in front of the Iranian flag.[5]

Why is there so much hate in America? And, more importantly, what can we do about it? Studies have shown that fear underlies hate. A certain segment of our population feels threatened by those who are different from them:

“The research has shown that many dominant group members, often white Christians in the countries studied, express fear of immigrants in their nations. In particular, respondents have voiced fear of immigrants changing their cultural, political, and economic way of life.”[6]

This same phenomenon occurs whether the difference is racial, sexual preference, religious or whatever:

“People who hate tend to think, feel and behave from an “in-group” versus an “out-group” mentality….The “ins” use the “outs” as scapegoats for the social, economic, and political woes of the community….The underlying insidious presence of contempt and disgust – a deep dislike for the other who is considered unworthy of respect.”[7]

According to Psychology Today, “The change in our behavior as a society can only be sustained if we challenge the underlying beliefs and assumptions that maintain this toxic behavior.”

As always, it is up to us, the people, to speak out. We must stand up for our American values of inclusiveness and compassion. Let Trump and his bigoted followers know that we will not tolerate their hatred.

Call the White House to register your objection to Trump’s hateful rhetoric at 202-456-1111, or email at https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/. See https://fundersforjustice.org/organizations/ for organizations you can support that are working on police accountability and racial justice.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.

[1] https://mappingpoliceviolence.org/unarmed

 [2] https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/after-ferguson-black-men-and-boys-still-face-the-highest-risk-of-being-killed-by-police

[3] https://www.theroot.com/trump-shares-video-claiming-the-only-good-democrat-is-1843732030

[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/07/18/trump-is-leading-hate-movement-world-is-watching/

[5] https://www.newsweek.com/donald-trump-sikh-center-california-nazi-graffiti-1482045

[6] https://theconversation.com/the-psychology-of-fear-and-hate-and-what-each-of-us-can-do-to-stop-it-113710

[7] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/anxiety-fear-and-hate/201803/the-psychology-hate