FORSETTI’S JUSTICE- THE DARK RIGIDITY OF FUNDAMENTALIST RURAL AMERICA –

An Insider’s View: The Dark Rigidity of Fundamentalist Rural America. In deep-red white America, the white Christian God is king.

This post was written last November, shortly after the election. It’s a long piece, but worth reading. It is what many of us have been thinking: that we are not building our own party the right way. As intelligent, educated people, we need to be that. We can’t meet these people because it’s a bad place and it needs change.

Are we wrong to not try to ‘get down’ with the people who don’t believe in anything in which we believe? These are not people who will ever, under any circumstances, understand us. They believe what they believe because they believe it.

We can’t believe what they believe. And we don’t want to. We don’t think it’s a mere “difference of opinion.” We think they are terribly wrong in every way that matters to us. We need to go a different way, to do the right thing. Even if everything doesn’t work go the way we’d like, we need to keep trying. That’s who we are.

If we can’t be ourselves, what are we?


Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com / Shane Trotter

As the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump is being sorted out, a common theme keeps cropping up from all sides: “Democrats failed to understand white, working-class, fly-over America.”

Trump supporters are saying this. Progressive pundits are saying this. Talking heads across all forms of the media are saying this. Even some Democratic leaders are saying this. It doesn’t matter how many people say it, it is complete BS. It is an intellectual/linguistic sleight of hand meant to draw attention away from the real problem.

The real problem isn’t East Coast elites who don’t understand or care about rural America. The real problem is that rural Americans don’t understand the causes of their own situations and fears and have shown no interest in finding out. They don’t want to know why they feel the way they do or why they are struggling because they don’t want to admit it is, in large part, because of the choices they’ve made and the horrible things they’ve allowed themselves to believe.

I grew up in rural Christian white America. You’d be hard-pressed to find an area of the country with a higher percentage of Christians or whites. I spent most of the first 24 years of my life deeply embedded in this culture. I religiously (pun intended) attended their Christian services. I worked off and on their rural farms. I dated their calico-skirted daughters. I camped, hunted and fished with their sons. I listened to their political rants at the local diner and truck stop. I winced at their racist/bigoted jokes and epithets that were said more out of ignorance than animosity. I have watched the town I grew up in go from a robust economy with well-kept homes and infrastructure to a struggling economy with shuttered businesses, dilapidated homes and a broken-down infrastructure over the past 30 years. The problem isn’t that I don’t understand these people. The problem is they don’t understand themselves or the reasons for their anger and frustration.

In deep-red America, the white Christian god is king, figuratively and literally. Religious fundamentalism has shaped most of their belief systems. Systems built on a fundamentalist framework are not conducive to introspection, questioning, learning, or change. When you have a belief system built on fundamentalism, it isn’t open to outside criticism, especially by anyone not a member of your tribe and in a position of power. The problem isn’t that coastal elites don’t understand rural Americans. The problem is that rural America doesn’t understand itself and will never listen to anyone outside its bubble. It doesn’t matter how “understanding” you are, how well you listen, what language you use…if you are viewed as an outsider, your views will be automatically discounted. I’ve had hundreds of discussions with rural white Americans and whenever I present them any information that contradicts their entrenched beliefs, no matter how sound, how unquestionable, how obvious, they will not even entertain the possibility that it might be true. Their refusal is a result of the nature of their fundamentalist belief system and the fact that I’m the enemy because I’m an educated liberal.

At some point during the discussion, they will say, “That’s your education talking,” derogatorily, as a general dismissal of everything I said. They truly believe this is a legitimate response, because to them education is not to be trusted. Education is the enemy of fundamentalism because fundamentalism, by its very nature, is not built on facts. The fundamentalists I grew up around aren’t anti-education. They want their kids to know how to read and write. They are against quality, in-depth, broad, specialized education. Learning is only valued up to a certain point. Once it reaches the level where what you learn contradicts doctrine and fundamentalist arguments, it becomes dangerous. I watched a lot of my fellow students who were smart, stop their education the day they graduated high school. For most of the young ladies, getting married and having kids was more important than continuing their learning. For many of the young men, getting a college education was seen as unnecessary and a waste of time. For the few who did go to college, what they learned was still filtered through their fundamentalist belief systems. If something they were taught didn’t support a preconception, it would be ignored and forgotten the second it was no longer needed to pass an exam.

Knowing this about their belief system and their view of outside information that doesn’t support it, telling me that the problem is coastal elites not understanding them completely misses the point.

Another problem with rural Christian white Americans is they are racists. I’m not talking about white hood-wearing, cross-burning, lynching racists (though some are). I’m talking about people who deep down in their heart of hearts truly believe they are superior because they are white. Their white god made them in his image and everyone else is a less-than-perfect version, flawed and cursed.  (MORE)


PLEASE SEE THE REST OF THIS STORY AT: AN INSIDER’S VIEW on ALTERNET

THE DARK RIGIDITY OF FUNDAMENTALIST RURAL AMERICA – FORSETTI’S JUSTICE

An Insider’s View: The Dark Rigidity of Fundamentalist Rural America. In deep-red white America, the white Christian God is king.

This post was written last November, shortly after the election. It’s a long piece, but I think worth reading. It is what I have been thinking too, that we are not going about building our party the right way. As intelligent, educated people, we need to be exactly that. We can’t meet these people on their turf because it’s not where we will ever be and it’s not where we believe anyone in this country should be. It’s a bad place and it needs to change.

Are we wrong to not try to ‘get down’ with the people who don’t believe anything we say, no matter how we explain it? Surely we are accomplishing nothing. These are not people who will ever, under any circumstances, understand us. They believe what they believe because they believe it.

We can’t believe what they believe. It’s impossible. We need to go another way. To become what we should be: enlightened, intelligent people who will do what we do because we believe what we are doing is the right thing. Even if it doesn’t work out the way we’d like, we will continue to do our best because we believe in ourselves.

We aren’t going to fix the world by trying to be people we can not be. We can sympathize with them. We can appreciate their world-view. We just can’t be them.

And finally — if we can’t be ourselves, we are nothing. If we can’t be liberals, intelligent, thoughtful, mindful and willing to go out of our way to help people who are not us, then we will be powder and blown into the wind.


Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com / Shane Trotter

As the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump is being sorted out, a common theme keeps cropping up from all sides: “Democrats failed to understand white, working-class, fly-over America.”

Trump supporters are saying this. Progressive pundits are saying this. Talking heads across all forms of the media are saying this. Even some Democratic leaders are saying this. It doesn’t matter how many people say it, it is complete BS. It is an intellectual/linguistic sleight of hand meant to draw attention away from the real problem.

The real problem isn’t East Coast elites who don’t understand or care about rural America. The real problem is that rural Americans don’t understand the causes of their own situations and fears and have shown no interest in finding out. They don’t want to know why they feel the way they do or why they are struggling because they don’t want to admit it is, in large part, because of the choices they’ve made and the horrible things they’ve allowed themselves to believe.

I grew up in rural Christian white America. You’d be hard-pressed to find an area of the country with a higher percentage of Christians or whites. I spent most of the first 24 years of my life deeply embedded in this culture. I religiously (pun intended) attended their Christian services. I worked off and on their rural farms. I dated their calico-skirted daughters. I camped, hunted and fished with their sons. I listened to their political rants at the local diner and truck stop. I winced at their racist/bigoted jokes and epithets that were said more out of ignorance than animosity. I have watched the town I grew up in go from a robust economy with well-kept homes and infrastructure to a struggling economy with shuttered businesses, dilapidated homes and a broken-down infrastructure over the past 30 years. The problem isn’t that I don’t understand these people. The problem is they don’t understand themselves or the reasons for their anger and frustration.

In deep-red America, the white Christian god is king, figuratively and literally. Religious fundamentalism has shaped most of their belief systems. Systems built on a fundamentalist framework are not conducive to introspection, questioning, learning, or change. When you have a belief system built on fundamentalism, it isn’t open to outside criticism, especially by anyone not a member of your tribe and in a position of power. The problem isn’t that coastal elites don’t understand rural Americans. The problem is that rural America doesn’t understand itself and will never listen to anyone outside its bubble. It doesn’t matter how “understanding” you are, how well you listen, what language you use…if you are viewed as an outsider, your views will be automatically discounted. I’ve had hundreds of discussions with rural white Americans and whenever I present them any information that contradicts their entrenched beliefs, no matter how sound, how unquestionable, how obvious, they will not even entertain the possibility that it might be true. Their refusal is a result of the nature of their fundamentalist belief system and the fact that I’m the enemy because I’m an educated liberal.

At some point during the discussion, they will say, “That’s your education talking,” derogatorily, as a general dismissal of everything I said. They truly believe this is a legitimate response, because to them education is not to be trusted. Education is the enemy of fundamentalism because fundamentalism, by its very nature, is not built on facts. The fundamentalists I grew up around aren’t anti-education. They want their kids to know how to read and write. They are against quality, in-depth, broad, specialized education. Learning is only valued up to a certain point. Once it reaches the level where what you learn contradicts doctrine and fundamentalist arguments, it becomes dangerous. I watched a lot of my fellow students who were smart, stop their education the day they graduated high school. For most of the young ladies, getting married and having kids was more important than continuing their learning. For many of the young men, getting a college education was seen as unnecessary and a waste of time. For the few who did go to college, what they learned was still filtered through their fundamentalist belief systems. If something they were taught didn’t support a preconception, it would be ignored and forgotten the second it was no longer needed to pass an exam.

Knowing this about their belief system and their view of outside information that doesn’t support it, telling me that the problem is coastal elites not understanding them completely misses the point.

Another problem with rural Christian white Americans is they are racists. I’m not talking about white hood-wearing, cross-burning, lynching racists (though some are). I’m talking about people who deep down in their heart of hearts truly believe they are superior because they are white. Their white god made them in his image and everyone else is a less-than-perfect version, flawed and cursed.  (MORE)


PLEASE SEE THE REST OF THIS STORY AT: AN INSIDER’S VIEW on ALTERNET

BORN A CRIME – TREVOR NOAH

I don’t review a lot of books anymore, but this one got to me. There are lots of books written by people — including me — who had a hard time growing up. Abusive parents, poverty, oppression. War. There is a lot of awful stuff children endure.

Trevor Noah endured all of it. Name something bad that a kid can experience and it probably happened to him. Born under apartheid, his existence was illegal. His birth was, as the title of his book suggests, a crime.

born-a-crime-coverAs the child of a white father and a black mother under South Africa during apartheid, if he had been noticed by the authorities, they would have taken him from his family and put him … somewhere. So merely surviving until the end of apartheid was no mean feat. Add to that extreme poverty, violence and life under the most oppressive, racist regime you can imagine. Actually, you may not be able to imagine it. I knew it was bad, but South Africa refined oppression into an art form.

One of the other noteworthy things about this book was that I learned great deal about things I thought I already knew. I don’t know if Noah intended it as a cautionary tale, but it is. Chilling.

I didn’t read the book. I listened to the audiobook because Noah reads it himself. He has a beautiful, melodic voice and a lovely cadence. It was a treat for my ears and my brain.

You might think with all of this terrible stuff — and some of it is really horrific — that this would be an angry, possibly embittered man. But he isn’t.

He’s funny when humor is possible. Even when he’s serious, there is grace and wit —  plus a sweetness and generosity of spirit that’s rather uplifting. I don’t think I’ve ever said that about a book. It’s not a word I use lightly. Trevor Noah is a rare person, able to appreciate the good stuff in his life and not obsess over the considerable amount of injustice he has experienced.

I’m not a big fan of celebrity memoirs or autobiographies, but this is exceptional. If you have the patience, listen to it as an audiobook. Otherwise, consider reading it. He’s a smart guy, a good writer, and an astute observer of humanity, government, politics, and relationships. Insightful, witty, and entertaining, I highly recommend it.

Amazon has all the various formats and probably so do other online booksellers and maybe your local bookstore, too — if you are lucky enough to have one.

IS POLITICAL CORRECTNESS STIFLING YOU?

If you think being “politically correct” is ruining your ability to communicate, you’ve got other unaddressed issues … like …. maybe you’re a bigot. If you can’t express yourself without insulting individuals or groups, your problem isn’t political correctness. It goes a lot deeper than that.


Political Correctness is the avoidance of forms of expression or action that exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.”

Simply put, it means treading carefully, gently — and preferably not at all — on other people’s sensibilities and sensitivities. It’s the “golden rule,” sometimes called the ethic of reciprocity: Don’t do something to anyone else that which you wouldn’t want done to youIt’s a fundamental principle of human interaction, the bottom line of being a decent person.

I’m for political correctness. Especially with Orange Head running for president. “Being P.C.” means controlling your mouth. It means not spewing insults at minorities, ethnic, or religious groups, disabled people, disenfranchised, or downtrodden people, or anyone who just happens to be different from you.

politically_correct-01

Bigotry isn’t okay — whether it’s put straight out there, or presented thinly disguised as humor. We all used to know this. We were taught — most of us — to be polite and careful about not hurting other people’s feelings. We were brought up to not insult others. Not by accident and definitely not on purpose. We all should know this without being reminded … but with You-Know-Who setting a really horrible example, a lot of people are getting a very warped idea of what’s okay. Trump not only doesn’t care who or what he offends, he goes out of his way to make people feel bad. To shame and humiliate people, with a strong emphasis on women. To make those who are already suffering feel worse. He’s a demagogue, a schoolyard bully writ larger and uglier than ever.

What a guy. Just what we need to lead this great land.

So, for the socially challenged, the simple rule is: “IF YOU THINK IT’S OFFENSIVE, DON’T SAY IT.” As a rule, this works better than any amount of sensitivity training. Especially since so many people seem to have no sensitivity to train.

Offensive is what it seems to be, even when whoever said it insists he or she “didn’t mean it”

“Hey, folks, I was just kidding. Can’t you take a joke?” It’s the classic bully’s line. Of course he meant it. Bullies always mean it, but being a bully, he or she counts on you to avoid a confrontation.

It’s time to confront the bullies. Time to tell them they aren’t funny and we aren’t laughing. Bigotry, racism, and cruelty are not funny. It’s not about political correctness. It’s about civility. Kindness. Good manners. Decency. Fairness.

Standing up for what’s right even when it’s inconvenient.

It’s what has really made America great.

THE POWER OF WORDS by ELLIN CURLEY

I just read several articles about the recent outpouring of anti-Semitic vitriol on Twitter from Trump supporters and white “nationalists.”

I am Jewish. My parents were both born in the U.S., but my grandparents were born in Russia or the Ukraine. I grew up on stories from my maternal grandmother about living in a Shtetl, where murderous, anti-Semitic rampages by the Cossacks were commonplace. Jews were not allowed to socialize freely with the gentile population, let alone intermarry. My great-grandfather was a respected Rabbi and one of the rare Jews who was allowed to do business with the Gentiles in the big town of Minsk.

racist-signs-and-protestersIn addition to these stories, I heard a lot about the plight of the Jews in Germany and Eastern Europe as the Nazis came to power. As a child, I used to think about what I would take with me if that ‘knock on the door’ came one night to take me away from my home and my life. I often wondered if I would be the kind of person in a Concentration Camp who shared my bread and tried to help others, or if I would do whatever I had to do to protect myself.

Today, I am terrified when I read some of the anti-Semitic stereotypes and accusations that are used online. They sound just like the propaganda used against Jews, not just in the 30’s and 40’s but all the way back to the Middle Ages in Europe. Romans probably also used similar rhetoric against Jews even before they started hating Christians as well.

Overt and virulent antisemitism has been relatively dormant in America for decades. Jews seemed to have assimilated into the mainstream to the point of almost becoming invisible. Or so I thought. Antisemitism has clearly not been socially acceptable for a while. So it wasn’t expressed openly very often, and I didn’t have to think about it or experience it directly.

I always knew it was still ‘out there,’ but I assumed it was less prevalent, less vicious and irrelevant. Now, I have to face the facts. Large segments of America’s population still hold to the same hatred and stereotypes which have plagued Jews for centuries. Americans are more tolerant and enlightened overall today, but apparently, some things won’t die out.

anti-jewish-sign-germany-1937

An anti-Jewish sign posted on a street in Bavaria reads “Jews are not wanted here.” Germany, 1937. – US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Julien Bryan

For now, it’s ‘just words’. My family is testament to the fact that words morph into accepted — even prevailing — attitudes, then actions. Finally into social norms and policies. I don’t think we are poised to become a fascist state. I don’t believe anti-Black, anti-Muslim, anti-Mexican or anti-Semitic language and behavior will be tolerated by most Americans. I certainly want and need to believe that.

Nonetheless, it’s still uncomfortable for me. Having to deal with the hatred I know is there for me because of my lineage or the religion I don’t even practice is disturbing on so many levels. It was better when the haters had to hide under a rocks and were afraid to come out in the open. That’s where they belong. Under rocks.

I hope we can send them back to a place where they are afraid of us instead of us having to fear them.

DAMNING WITH FAINT PRAISE AND FLATTERY FLYING

In the final few moments of the “debate” (and I use the term with more than one grain of salt), the “contestants,” excuse me, I meant “candidates” were asked if there was anything at all that they liked or admired about their opponents.

Clinton said, “Look, I respect his children. His children are incredibly able and devoted, and I think that says a lot about Donald.” You could call it flattery. I’m less impressed with the Trump kids than she is. But she’s a politician and has to be politic and polite.

Election-2016-sign

Trump accepted Clinton’s words as “a nice compliment,” and added, “I will say this about Hillary. She doesn’t quit. She doesn’t give up. I respect that. I tell it like it is. She’s a fighter.” Really? Wow. Praise indeed.

It was the “high point” of the event, the high ground of a depressing hour of television. I hope this is as low as our political process can go. I think we’ve hit bedrock. After this, we’d have to dig and go underground.

In the spirit of this appalling year and proving (again) that “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose“(the more things change, the more they stay the same),  here’s a clip with Richard Pryor and Robin Williams. It’s called “Racist Court.” It’s at least 30 years old and still both relevant — and funny. Why aren’t I laughing?


FLATTERY | THE DAILY PROMPT

JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN, DOESN’T MEAN YOU SHOULD

Colin Kaepernick has been all over the news. He’s the 49ers quarterback who refused to stand for the national anthem as a protest against racism in the United States.

colin-kaepernick

There definitely is far too much racism in the United States. Too many police incidents. I’m totally on board with Mr. Kaepernick’s right to express his opinion on the matter in any legal, non-violent way.

Our Constitution’s first amendment paints the right to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of the press with a broad brush. What it fails to point out (though it is implicit) is that everyone shares this freedom — on all sides of an issue.

So if other people hate how you express your opinion, they have the right to burn your jersey, refuse to go to games in which you are playing … and for that matter, dismiss you from your job.

72-first-amendment-text

Freedom cuts all ways. That’s how it’s supposed to work. Mr. Kaepernick is absolutely free to express his point of view. So can everyone else.

Do I agree with one side or the other? I agree with both sides.

More to the point, Mr. Kaepernick should have thought longer and harder about how he would take his stand. Offending many people is not always a good way to make your point, no matter how valid your point may be. He should have considered the potential impact on his fans — and ultimately, on his career. Especially in view of the fact that he’s not playing well.

In sports, you can get away with murder if you’re playing well. If you’re not …

If your team is less than thrilled with your on-field performance, getting involved in a major controversy might tip them in the direction of not renewing your contract. That’s the painful reality. I’m sure he never thought expressing his legal, constitutionally guaranteed opinion would raise such a negative ruckus — or end up with him facing unemployment.

You could classify this incident as a cautionary tale.

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Legal isn’t the same as well thought out. Was he justified in protesting racism in America? Sure. But maybe this wasn’t the best way to go about it.