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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Argument

Letter from V responding to Bernie who asked why he is so angry after he gratuitously sent out an article attacking Obama from 8 years ago by a clearly delusional man. See https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/empty-suit/.

Bernie, I am not angry.   I really truly believe my side of the equation.  I could still remember your mon very entrenched in the Democratic Party in Chicago too.  I never said a word.   I just listened.  She was mainly interested in Chicago politics.  --    I believe I have for the most part checked out both sides and I agree with the Fox news.  They are on target.   Just for off my head items:    1)   I believe there should be borders.     2) Abortion ended.   3) Less Regulations.    4) Lower taxes   5) Full employment.   That is happening all over the United States now.    Very healthy.    Yes, it has some disadvantages like slow completions of contracted jobs due to the shortage of qualified employees.  It is happening to me now in NV.   5) The removing of statues of famous people because of past slaves is really stupid.    That just shows how immature this society has become.   --  It goes on and on.    I listened to Rollie for years.   Read his writings and Blogs.   We are so far apart that there is really no use talking to that man.    It is sad.     He is a very nice man with ideas that should be trashed.    No, I am not angry.    I am CORRECT.    6)  I also look up to Rich People.   Most of them really had to work hard or take enormous chances to make it to that position.    Even with a big start, It is very hard to succeed.     Your buddy Soros, has to be a very smart person.    At some point he took a hefty logical chance and won.    He could have lost and we would never hear of him.   He is your savior now.  Why is Soros, Soros?   I don’t have a clue.   He does, I am sure.  Ninety percent of my Jewish friends are on his side too.   They don’t have a clue either.    --    No it is not anger.    I just hate stupidity.     You say that is me.    I say bullshit.  


V, Bernie just sent me your reply to her. Thank you for saying I am a nice man. And I agree that my ideas should be trashed. Like Socrates, I know that I do not know. 

While I am enjoying life very much and loving what I am doing in our local community, I am also daily in touch with mortality. People who have become good friends are always dying in this old folks’ home! I feel I have about 10 years left and want to use them well. 

On the other hand, I am not like Google’s Artificial Intelligence director (Ray Kurzweil, whom I read, admire, and disagree with) trying to achieve biological immortality. I think it is good for the future of humanity that people die. I especially believe that it is important for us old white males to let go. We tend to believe in our own bullshit. We need to trash our ideas and continue to be open for new ways to think and act. But habits do not go easily. 

I agree with your beliefs as listed—e.g., borders, abortion, regulations, taxes, employment. But if we were to talk it out, we would probably disagree on how they might be accomplished and at whose expense. But I have found that in speaking with you, we never talk it out. You just hold on to a position without thinking much about it. You pass out rumors and repeat other people’s judgments without checking up on the evidence for them. I find you do not see the complexities in the world as it is. I have never argued with you, though I’ve tried, because you see everything and especially politics as taking sides—kinda like a football game.  Win/lose, I’m right/You're wrong/ my side/your side.  I can’t do that. Arguing to me means considering a position or an action from many viewpoints and also being willing to search for higher viewpoints. [PS. There is a great Monty Python skit that shows the difference between argument and contradiction. Very funny.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1gf957Qw7A]

I also disdain name-calling that puts persons in boxes without indicating what is meant, e.g. socialist/capitalist, left/right, friend/enemy, losers/winners, right to life/right to choose, democrat/republican, progressive/conservative. That’s done all the time in cable TV and talk-radio. It adds nothing. It is never "either-or" for me—even "both-and” is too limiting. 

I know we have very different values and perspectives. I still consider myself a Companion of Jesus (the one before all the myths were written about him as I learned in my Jesuit studies). I take on his attitude (as St Paul urged) toward the “little ones,” the “ones left out,” the “poor” under thumb of the dominant. Nevertheless, I am very comfortable with and value those who have wealth. Personally, ever since I took the vow of poverty, I have never made getting rich an objective in my life. However, I also defend other people’s wish to pursue wealth. The rich and powerful don’t turn me on. Just not my goal. Not my definition of success.

So, no, I do not look up to rich people any more than I look up to poor people. I hope I don't look up to or down on anyone. When I look at systems of hierarchy (whether in business, church, or state), I see systems of oppression. I resolve to oppose anyone or institution (governmental or private) who would pursue wealth by screwing other people.

My democratic-republican values in my own path to American citizenship has me deplore economic and political inequality and injustice and all the systems that cause it. When I say, “freedom and justice for all,” I really mean it and want to make it happen. I know that not everybody thinks that way. I am grateful that my own personal persuasions and religion can contribute to, but not dominate, the public arena. I realize that I must continue to transcend even my own beliefs, values, and positions. That for me is the meaning of faith. Ever transcending.

While we are so different in our backgrounds and values, I believe that people with different opinions can enter into other perspectives and understand others' values in ways that advances thought. But that takes what some call critical thinking that acknowledges the complexity of the human condition. I read, go to lectures, take classes, discuss with many people who disagree with me and I learn so much from them. I am constantly adjusting especially if they are too. It is not just a matter of shouting beliefs based on authority. It is working together to understand together, finding common ground from where to start, and respecting where people are coming from. That is why I quit listening to you and all your missives wind up in my junk box. I’ve heard them all before and nothing changes. 

Nevertheless, I do love you and wish you well. I won’t talk politics or religion with you.  But I’ll be glad to go to gun targeting practice with you again and talk about sports and movies. I wrote a book on spirituality and another on faith. Both need a lot of critique, but that may be too close to religion and politics.

Another PS. I just read American Ulysses: A life of Ulysses S. Grant by Ronald White and Jill Lepore’s wonderful new book on American History These Truths. Both are very comforting because they show me how we got here and that we have been here many times before.  Everyone talks about being polarized and I suppose many are. But I’m not feeling that way. But then I don’t make any claim that I am CORRECT.

Conclusion NOT. V wrote a response that indicated that he had no understanding as to what I was saying here. And he made assumptions about me and my family that were totally off the mark. I must admit my own incapacity to communicate to him. I see and accept him as a very unhappy old white man. May he rest in peace.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Assimilation and Acculturation

The worst thing the founders did was build slavery into the American political economy and so creating a house divided. Even after civil war, suffrage, and freedom movements, there remains a norm of propertied white male Protestant Christian preeminence which raises its standard from time to time often provoked by autocratic populist leaders.

The best thing the founders did was declaring the freedom of and from religion linked with the freedom of speech and assembly and so setting the American ideal as freedom and justice for all.

Immigration policy has historically wavered between these two standards which I name assimilation vs. acculturation.

The acculturation standard (I realize I am redefining its meaning) welcomes people of all ethnic origins, religious persuasions, tribal languages, sexes, sexual orientations which are consigned to the private sphere of household affairs.  This standard entrusts citizenship to the public sphere which sets its own visions and rules, its own policies and rules, and which is open to all as equals while protecting their privacy. 

This is why we can distinguish a private, (household, ethnic, tribal) culture and a public (American, democratic republican) culture. Another way of putting it, we have a personal religion and a civil religion. 

The assimilation standard does not recognize this division between private and public. It requires citizenship to be, or at least tending to be, in sync with Euro/Anglo, Protestant Christian, private propertied, heterosexual male values. And to be honest, I admit that this Euro/Protestant private culture and religious persuasion did indeed shape the public culture and religion in the thirteen original states.  

But the growth of the nation in size and in democratic republican ideals allowed many other cultures and religious persuasions to continue in the reshaping of that public culture and religion even to the point of amending the constitution and passing new laws. In the 1950s this was recognized in Will Herberg’s book, Protestant, Catholic, and Jew (which he might amend today adding Muslim, Hindu, Atheist, Feminist, LGBT, Universalist, and Secular Humanist) as ways of being American. 

I think there are few people in America who want to judge persons by the color of their skin, their sex, their sexual orientation (even though biases linger and so do certain institutions). While there are too many hate crimes, very few Americans hate one another or newcomers—especially once they come to know each another. I also think that, while we can value pluralism and multiculturalism, we have a right and a responsibility to work for a unified public culture and expect persons to act in a civil way according to generally agreed-upon norms. Our law is not Sharia, Canon, Confucian, or Biblical law, even though we might learn something from these traditions.

Pluralism or multiculturalism in no way opposes unity and cohesion. No more than the public sphere opposes the private sphere. Where one is strong so is the other. And vice versa.

We are all on a path to citizenship, whether we are born here or elsewhere. That means we abide in a public culture which we call American democracy with its values, language, and rules of civility. We can and should criticize and help shape that culture so that it more closely achieves its ideals of equality, freedom and justice in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in a democratic, nonviolent way. Those of us who behave, serve, and act civilly are the true citizens.