Friday, September 15, 2017


Our moral bankruptcy



The news from home is not good.
Drug deaths, especially in older white men, have increased significantly in recent years. Drug overdoses are more frequent every year.
"Suicide in the United States has surged to the highest level in nearly 30 years." [https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/22/health/us-suicide-rate-surges-to-a-30-year-high.html] The suicide rate is particularly high among veterans and not, as one would think, among combat veterans but among soldiers who spent their tour of duty on military reservations back home. [http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-veteran-suicide-20150115-story.html]
The number of women who give birth and then succumb to postpartum depression has increased in recent years. [https://www.sciencedaily.com/ releases/2013/10 /131002131400.htm]
And on a slightly different note, there is a steady increase of students who miss classes in middle and in high school for more than 10% of school days.
The news is better with respect to the divorce rate, the frequency of domestic violence, and the rate of physical and sexual abuse of children. The incidence of all three has gone down but all of them, of course, remain serious problems.
All of these statistics are controversial. There are always real and so-called experts who have different numbers. But these statistics are regarded as reliable by people who understand statistics and who know where these particular ones come from.
I came across these data at the same time that newspapers reported an apparently good piece of news, namely that household income has been rising. On closer consideration, however, this good news is very qualified. It turns out that individual income of people who work for wages has remained stagnant. Household income has risen because people work more, work longer hours, work full time where they worked part-time before.
Individual income of wage earners remains unchanged at a time when corporations report rising income. Corporations earn more money because they manage to keep costs down and one significant kind of cost are labor costs. Workers earning the same as what they took home a long time ago is one of the reasons for the rosy earnings reports of corporations. Workers are being exploited to benefit corporate bottom lines.
The failure of workers' wages to rise in a time when the well-to-do, the recipients of dividends, the CEOs of enterprises, lawyers and doctors, see their income go up and their standard of living improving steadily is often blamed for the the reports about depression and suicide and other negative statistics.
But that explanation leaves out an important component of the malaise that has our country in its grip. There are a large number of people who feel insulted, whose sense of their own worth is under attack.
The rise of neo-Nazis, of white supremacists is a clear symptom of this offended sense of self. Significant numbers of Americans rest what little self-esteem they have on their skin color – a characteristic for which they cannot take credit. We are born with different skin colors. They are not earned. They are not an accomplishment. If the best I can say about myself is that I'm white, I admit that I have not done anything that I can take pride in.
The white supremacist will reply: 'I am proud of being white because whites are superior to persons of color.' But consider this analogy. Jimmy is a member of an illustrious family: among his relatives are a US President, a Supreme Court Justice and several super-rich entrepreneurs. For himself, Jimmy has not done so well. Married several times but now divorced, Jimmy has had many jobs but is always living pay-check to pay-check. His life has been a series of failures. But he is proud of his distinguished family. This is pride by association, a poor source of self-esteem for those whose own life is beset with failures.
If your self-affirmation rests on sharing the skin color of persons who are famous for their accomplishments--ignoring for the moment whether those accomplishments are mythical or real--you are acknowledging that your own life is lacking in accomplishments and legitimate sources of pride.
Why are so many Americans unable to achieve a solid self-esteem? Why is the color of their skin the most remarkable about them?
Success, in America rests on being upwardly mobile. As the years pass, one needs to increase one's earnings and in order to accomplish that one needs, most of the time, to increase one's power to extract wealth from other people. The working people whose salaries remain the same year in, year out are the victims of this extraction of value. Because their income is flat, their employer's prosper. The employer has the power to keep them working for low wages. Their income does not substantially rise; their power remains minimal.
By prevailing standards of success in America these working people are not successful. They have not accomplished anything.
This version of success is reprehensible. This idea of what makes a life worth living is utterly immoral. The good life according to this American doctrine rests on the ability to harm others, to extract value from them and their work. The successful people are those who can injure others. Life is not worth living for those who are unable to harm others.
Perhaps this ethic is behind the American love affair with guns and the high murder rate in some of our cities. If you cannot enrich yourself at the expense of others, at least you can threaten them with your guns or shoot them.
The much discussed "opioid crisis," the rate of suicide and of depression and other negative statistics such as the rate of poverty in this, one of the richest countries in the world, is a symptom of our moral failure. The big people, the people in the news, are all rich and they have become rich at the expense of others. In the prevailing morality that is acceptable. Devastated lives, misery, is the result.
Only a moral reformation would make America great again.

Saturday, September 2, 2017


Violence in politics today



President Trump is by no means the only person who tries to equate violence on the right to violence on the left. Many newspaper columns tell us that the neo-Nazis, white supremacists, anti-Semites, anti-Muslims, KKK and other splinter groups on the far right are not significantly different from splinter groups on the far left. Both, we are told, use of violence as a political tactic.
This equivalence is deceptive and is meant to deceive. Violence on the right is different from violence on the left. Neo-Nazi and neofascist ideologies openly profess to admire German Nazis who murdered mentally ill citizens, citizens with limited abilities, homosexuals, Romas also known as "Gypsies", Jews, labor unionists, Communists and others. The Nazi ideology that neo-Nazis profess to admire does not hesitate to kill human beings. Theirs is a murderous violence as illustrated most recently in Charlottesville, only the most recent murder committed by right-wing neo-Nazis. It does not respect human life. It does not respect people of different persuasions but is willing to assassinate those who disagree.
Some left-wing groups--they often call themselves "anti-fascist" or also "anarchist,"--are willing to engage in violence. But this is a very limited kind of violence. Quite explicitly it excludes harming human beings and is limited to destruction of property, to disrupting traffic, to engaging in fist fights with police and so-called "alt right" groups.
Claiming that far left and far right groups are really the same because both employ violent tactics confuses different kinds of violence, it erases the difference between at most throwing a punch, on one hand, and driving a truck into a crowd of people to kill random pedestrians, on the other.
Confusing these very different kinds of violence legitimates right-wing militias, some of whom showed up in Charlottesville armed to the teeth, and at the same time delegitimizes left-wing groups who appreciate the grave danger these right-wing militias and admirers of German Nazism constitute and are willing to oppose them with their fists.
In addition, the equivalence between the left and right violence serves also to delegitmate Anarchists who are an important component of the far left. Anarchism is a long established political movement that aims all its efforts to struggle against the many different forms of coercion in our societies. The anarchist ideal is a society where coercion is at an absolute minimum. What each person wants for his or her life, anarchists assert, should be the main determining factor of what happens in that life. In pursuing this ideal, anarchists point out to the very many situations where citizens in our society are forced to live their lives in ways they have not chosen.
The groups that are most powerful in our society have always tried to make the anarchists look as dangerous, unreasonable persons. In the interest of maintaining their own coercive power and making it look as if it were a version of a free society, distorting the message of anarchism has been an important tactic.
But the anarchist message needs to be taken seriously. In the last two or three years many white people have begun to understand how persons of color live day to day in a state of siege. In their communities they are stopped and frisked. The police that is supposed to protect them more often murders them. Excessive numbers of people of color end up in prison and once discharged from prison are often unable to find work.
White women as much as black are forced to work for lower pay than men. More often than not they are not only breadwinners, as are the men and their family, but they also are mothers and housekeepers – projects their husbands or boyfriends often participate in only minimally. A very large media apparatus forces on them bizarre standards of beauty as well as the obligation to make themselves attractive to men even when they themselves are not interested in that.
For anyone in this society whether a person of color or white, female or male, the laws supposedly made at the behest of citizens are enforced by heavily armed police. The power of the government is backed by the power to injure and kill.
Nor is that the end. Employers have tremendous power over their employees, even at times of full employment. Landlords have power over their tenants. Schools impose their rules and lessons by force and under the threat of punishment and even expulsion. The poor receive some public support and pay for that by constant supervision from the courts and social workers.
Wherever you turn in the society there is someone telling you what to do and forcing you to pay attention.
Is that "the land of the free"? The anarchists say "no." Instead of listening to the calumnies of those who compare them to white supremacists and neo-Nazis, we need to listen carefully to what anarchists say and enter the struggle to defend what little freedoms we have left in a world of constant coercion.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Myth of Unity



Last week the workers at a Mississippi Nissan auto plant voted against unionizing. In the country as a whole union membership is at an all-time low. At the same time the pay of working people is more or less what it has been for the last 50 years while the pay of plant managers, bank managers, and managers in all sorts of other branches of business has skyrocketed.
There are many reasons for this disproportionate enrichment of the upper-class and the stagnant wages of the people who produce things, or who do the paperwork necessary to keep this economy going. But surely one of them is the belief on the part of many working people that management is on their side and that unions are not.
This is just one example of what is striking about the American political landscape. Large numbers of voters do not seem to see where their interests lie. Donald Trump, a multimillionaire, who wants to cut the taxes on the rich and reduce assistance to the poor, the unemployed, the sick and the elderly, has the support of millions of Americans who work hard for a scanty living. They expect their lot to be alleviated by the representative of a class that is responsible for their deprivations in the first place.
Donald Trump is a member of the class of employers. Both in real life and in Reality TV he takes great pleasure in firing employees. Like other employers he is interested in depressing wages. Any person of limited income who supports Donald Trump is voting against his or her pressing interests.
People voting against their interest is a common phenomenon in our political system. There has been vocal support for abolishing Obama care among people who had health insurance for the first time thanks to this law. There is opposition to Social Security and other social safety net features among its beneficiaries. A lot of voters don't seem to know when they are relatively well-off.
These many different instances of voters being unaware of where their interests lie are a consequence of a grand deception that many Americans have bought into. Americans think of themselves as one people, "united under God." Politicians constantly talk about what "the American people will not stand for" or what "the American people demand." We have one flag and that flag is very important to many people. We have one national anthem (which few people can sing all the way through.) We have one government.
This mythology about being one nation, one people, might be fairly innocuous. People believe all sorts of weird stuff and that does not really matter. You may believe that there should not be fluoride in the drinking water. But there are other ways in which you can protect your children's teeth. You may think that your children will grow up more peaceful if they don't play with guns. (But when they are grown, those same children may still sign up to serve in the military.)
The mythology of national unity becomes destructive and dangerous when it obscures the divisions of our nation which makes some groups the enemies of others. In many situations the people who manage a workplace have interests diametrically opposed to the people who work for them. They do not belong to the same nation in any important sense.
Nissan built its auto plants in Mississippi where many people are very poor and good jobs are hard to get. That allowed them to recruit a docile workforce – people who thought that Nissan management cared for them, when in fact it only wanted people willing to work for low wages.
Donald Trump wanted to get elected and to be loved. The people who voted for him thought that they belong to the same nation and shared the same interest. They did not understand that it was reasonable for them to be cautious before trusting a millionaire real estate operator to be their best champion.
As long as the myth of one America is powerful among us, voters will ignore the fact that while we have one government, that government has very different relationships to different groups. Our government is largely run and concerned about the interests of large businesses. The interests of the little people, the interests of the people supporting Donald Trump are very far down on the government's list of interests.
The government's interests are in the first place those of white males. If you are a black male, the government is less often and less fervently on your side. Most of the time it doesn't pay attention to you.
In a way everyone knows this. Black Americans know this when the government's police becomes a mortal danger to them. Women know it when the government drags its feet making sure that equal wages for equal work for women becomes a reality. Native Americans, long the victims of broken promises by the US government, know this. Working class men, proudly wearing their Marine Corps t-shirts, nevertheless know that they do no have to live paycheck to paycheck.
But then they turn their back on these facts when they reaffirm a mythical unity on Presidents Day or the Fourth of July. They start thinking again about America as a unified nation. That is a more comfortable thought. Living in a world of constant struggle where suspicions are often justified and there are few people you can trust without careful examination is much harder than living in a world where we are all together and all unified and we can be sure that the other Americans care as much about us as we care about them.
It is difficult for the many young men and women, and for their families, in our Armed forces, many of them in acute danger, to think that they are fighting, not for a united America but for a ruling class using them for its own purposes.
But the united America is a myth. It is important to see the truth that America consists of many nations whose interests are at cross purposes. Some are more powerful and they get most of what they want. Most of us are not powerful and we get very little.
Wake up , America!

Friday, August 4, 2017


Buying a pig in a poke.



In our democracy it is quite acceptable for candidates to misrepresent themselves. No one is terribly outraged if, once elected, politicians act in ways contrary to their promises during their campaign. Obama got elected on slogans like "Change." He gave the impression of being concerned about the middle class – people who work hard but barely earn enough to get by. As soon as he got elected he chose his advisers from Wall Street, from Goldman Sachs, where concern about the middle class is not high on the agenda. This change did not arouse a great deal of protest. We have allowed our politicians to misrepresent themselves for a long time. We accept that kind of deception.
It is not terribly surprising that, once inaugurated as president, Donald Trump’s primary allegiance is to millionaires instead of to the working people to whom he appealed during his campaign.
Nor is it surprising that he proves inept in his relationships with Congress or the Republican Party of which he is now the nominal head. His experience as a real estate tycoon did not give him the opportunity to acquire political skills. We have always known that. We should not be surprised that the candidate elected because he is not a politician will then lack some of the skills politicians acquire in the course of their careers.
Trump in office has been notorious for his misrepresentations of facts. He does not hesitate to distort reality. He is willing to claim polling numbers, or approval by the public, or phone calls from leaders all of which are completely false. Anyone who followed him on the campaign trail is not going to be very surprised by that although the extent of his untruthfulness is startling.
And anyway, politicians have low regard for the truth. Remember – as one notorious example of government lying – the weapons of mass destruction that the Bush administration had pictures of to justify the invasion of Iraq? It turned out there were no such weapons.
But Donald Trump in the White House shows himself to be incapacitated in ways that we did not have reasons to expect.
Many voters thought that managing a multi-million dollar real estate empire would prepare him for managing the US government. But it turns out that he is completely incapable of doing that. Managing a large enterprise requires planning. A view of goals, of accepted management practices, of constructing a staff to execute the leader's commands – that and more is needed for running a complex set of institutions. During the campaign Trump promised all sorts of actions in order to create jobs, in order to preserve jobs, in order to ease conflicts in foreign affairs. There were suggestions of action plans.
But those turn out to be nonexistent. Trump is flailing around following momentary impulses. He has not managed so far to construct an administration that is unified around a set of plans. In order to understand the trajectory of this new administration one must study chaos theory. What is happening is incomprehensible. What will happen is unpredictable.
Not only does the Trump administration not seem to have any clear plans about how to run the country, it appears that the president is unable to stick to one thought while he's talking. Even his pronouncements lack focus. The beginning of the paragraph often addresses government policy and before you know it, Trump is talking about his popularity and how much everybody loves him.
Here is one example of how the president talks
: "Asked about his tax policy, Trump said, “I want to achieve growth. We’re the highest-taxed nation in the world, essentially, you know, of the size. But we’re the highest taxed nation in the world. We have - nobody knows what the number is. I mean, it used to be, when we talked during the debate, $2.5 trillion, right, when the most elegant person - right? I call him Mr. Elegant. I mean, that was a great debate. We did such a great job...”" (Dianne Williamson in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, 8/3/2017)
This kind of incoherence is not only alarming because it is not limited only to the president's speech but pervades his career as a president so far. It appears that this man is unable to focus.
I do not think that that was obvious during the campaign. There are important aspects of the person of Donald Trump that the ordinary voter was unable to see.
That raises worries that go far beyond the person and career of the current president. His trajectory suggests that the way we go about selecting candidates allows them to conceal effectively shortcomings which would definitely disqualify them from the job for which they are running. If it had been clear during the campaign that this man is unable to focus on any particular thought for more than 30 seconds, some people would have voted differently for fear that this inability to stick to a topic would disqualify him from being at the head of our government. But I don't think many people knew that.
The presupposition of our democracy is that voters are informed about their choices before they cast their ballot. Uninformed voting does not make a democracy. Political campaigns are supposed to allow the voters to inform themselves about the candidates.
But now it seems that the kind of campaigns we run leave the voters ill informed. It seems that our kind of campaigns have just allowed us to elect a president who lacks elementary requirements for the presidency – the ability to hone in on a subject and to remain attentive to it for more than 30 seconds.
The election of Donald Trump as president shows that serious handicaps of the candidates may remain hidden from the voting public. It demonstrates a major weakness in our political processes. It is quite unclear at the moment how to change those in order to avoid further elections of people unqualified for the office.

Monday, July 31, 2017


What's a citizen to do?



The daily paper reads more and more like the Hollywood gossip magazines I pass at the grocery store checkout counter every day. It is all about personalities. No day passes without another mouthwatering story about the president contradicting what he just said yesterday or rudely attacking another media personality. I wake up asking myself: what has he done today?
But that is an interesting question for fan magazines or gossip columns but it is not relevant when citizens make their political decisions.
You may love Donald Trump, or Hillary Clinton, or Barack Obama, or Bernie Sanders, or any of a number of other large-scale celebrities in the political world. Maybe you prefer Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz. Maybe you have given your loyalty to a white supremacist or still mourn the passing of Dr. Spock.
But that's an altogether personal decision for you and has nothing to do with the choices you make as a citizen.
Let me explain.
Your neighborhood mechanic has been taking care of a series of cars of yours over a long time. You have become friends. You welcome a mechanical problem because it provides an opportunity for visiting with your friend and exchanging stories about each other's lives, about his and your children and family.
The latest car you bought is a hybrid. Your friend tries to make needed repairs but has to confess, after a while, that he does not understand enough of this new kind of engine to restore it to working order. Your friendship is not affected by that. You do not like each other any less for the fact that his mechanical skills are limited. You still stop off from time to time to enjoy each other's company briefly even though you now entrust car repairs to someone else who has the necessary specialized training to repair hybrid engines.
Your deep affection for this man does not commit you to trusting all of his opinions. Friends are no less beloved for being sometimes unreliable or ill-informed.
As citizens we are in an analogous situation. You may feel very strongly that Donald Trump, with his mischievous, assertive little -boy refusal to be a serious politician is a breath of fresh air in the uptight, hypocritical and deceptive Washington DC. Trump tells you what he thinks. He tells you what he likes and does not like and he is not ashamed to change his mind when he receives new information. You like that a lot. And all anyone should say: good for you; go with your feelings.
But the fact that you like Donald Trump has little to do with whether his policies are good for America, anymore than that my friendship with my mechanic commits me to believing everything he says or insisting that his professional opinions are infallible.
There is an important difference between loving someone and thinking that they can do whatever needs to be done. I love my son but I would hesitate to accept his offer to correct a plumbing problem in the house or to repair of the electrical system when it malfunctions.
The same is true in politics. Your loyalty to Trump has little to do with the policies he is recommending. A great deal of factual information needs to be accumulated to assess a political choice of policy. Whether global warming is a hoax or a serious threat is a question of fact. If, indeed the indications are that global temperatures are rising, and if there is reason to believe that this rise in temperature is due to greenhouse gases, then we must act on this information and reject the policies of those who don't take this problem seriously, how ever much we may love them.
"I like him, therefore I believe everything he says" is the motto of the lazy.
The daily gossipy information about the president’s latest tweets or naughtiness is not relevant to deciding about government or national policy. They should be relegated to the back pages of the newspaper where we learn about the private lives of celebrities. The front pages of the newspaper and the top items in the news must be information about issues that affect all of us deeply. The decisions citizens need to make should not be affected by whom they like and whom they don't like, it should be based on the relevant available information.
You can like Trump all you want. He is sort of cute sometimes. But don't believe what he says just because you like him. You don't pick your mechanic because he is a friend. You choose him for his mechanical skills and knowledge and you do the same when you need the services of a plumber or an electrician as well as of different kinds of medical experts. You pick them by their qualifications and by the recommendations of persons whom have reasons to trust.
Political choices should be no different.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Being dense – one form of white privilege.



The expression "white privilege" is becoming more familiar. More whites are beginning to understand that the price they pay for living in this society and benefiting where the system works well is very different from the price paid by persons of color. Here are some obvious examples: no one locks their car when they see me coming up the sidewalk. I am not very likely to be stopped by police and interrogated about who I am or what I am doing here when I walk down the street to say hello to a neighbor. For me, the police are likely to offer support and protection. A black man walking down the sidewalk will often hear of the lock click in the car occupied by whites. The police will stop them and want to know who they are and what they are doing here in their own neighborhood. If they were walking down the street in my neighborhood, which is mostly white, it is even more likely that they be stopped. A large majority of victims of police shootings are black, the majority young black men.

In these and many other ways whites are privileged in this society. They do not bear the burdens borne by persons of color. One form of white privilege that does not receive enough attention is the privilege of not knowing what it is like to live in the United States as a black person and, another large privilege, not having to think about that.

This reminder was brought home to me by a story in the Sunday paper. For 50 years an organization called METCO has bussed students, exclusively students of color, from Boston to some of these suburban schools in towns like Sudbury or Swampscott. The newspaper article detailed how some of the black students are victims of open racist attacks. What is worse for them, there are hardly any black teachers or other role models in these suburban schools. The people from whom they are to receive the exceptional education not available for them where they live are all white. It is difficult for them to learn to think of themselves as knowledgeable and exceptionally capable young black men and women when the only capable people they meet in school are largely white.

I read this and think, yes that is a real problem. Maybe the school systems in Sudbury and Swampscott and other suburban towns must make a special effort to hire African-American teachers or counselors or someone who can present an image of African-American excellence to the students.

It took me quite a while before I realized that METCO and its project raise serious questions for the white parents in the suburbs and the politicians and leaders in Boston and the surrounding towns.

Once you think of them, the questions are obvious: why is it that African-American students in Boston – and the same is of course true of many white students in the city – need to be bused to get a decent education? Is not every child entitled to a high-class education and to the opportunity to learn as much as they are capable of learning?

How is it that the children in Sudbury and Swampscott get a good education that takes them on to good colleges and jobs that provide a good income and in many cases political power, while children in Boston proper may have to go to private schools at considerable expense to receive a comparable education?

Our very different, locally financed and run school systems are an important factor in stratifying the society of adults. By giving poor education to some children we set them up to do menial or manual work that pays modestly and leaves them in the shadows politically.

By being born in the suburbs of parents affluent enough to afford housing there, suburban children are selected when they enter preschool at 3 or 4 years old to get good educations, go to good colleges and become makers and shakers.

The life trajectories we map out for children have little to do with ability and everything to do with geography. They have everything to do with inequality which we not only tolerate but support actively by putting up with unequal educational opportunities for rich and poor, for white and black.

So much for equal opportunity.

A lesson whites have to learn from this example is that we are too ready to accept the inequalities that exist. We do not question why it is that a black student has a much harder time to get a good education than a white student.

We must learn to be much more alert to the inequalities that exist and are perpetuated virtually without criticism if we ever hope to create a society that seriously struggles against inequality. In our society our leaders mouthe condemnations of inequality and, having done that, continue to support the status quo.

The willingness of whites to overlook the daily inequalities of Blacks supports the unwillingness of the powerful to make change. In other words, white behavior, as usual, continues to support and maintain white privilege.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Frederick Douglass on the 4th July


In 1852, 10 years before the outbreak of the Civil War, Frederick Douglass then living in Rochester, New York, was asked by The Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society to address them on the 5th of July. In his speech he praised the Americans who 76 years earlier had declared their independence from England and had fought the Revolutionary War to make that independence a reality. They earned the gratitude of future generations of Americans for asserting that "all men are created equal" and making that principle the basis of their new government.
Douglass, was born a slave. While traveling in England in 1846, his British supporters bought his freedom from his owner in Maryland. Now free, self educated, he spent much of his life traveling through the United States, as well as England and Ireland, to speak in the cause of Abolitionism.
In his 4th of July speech, he reminds his audience that universal human equality did not extend to the slaves. They continued to be grievously oppressed. The passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, which allowed Southern slave owners who kidnap runaway slaves anywhere in the United States, had only deepened the suffering of African-Americans.
In his speech Douglass does not mince words: "There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour… For revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival."
In recent years, many cities and towns have held public meetings to read this speech by Frederick Douglass. One such meeting was held where I live. It was a hot, sunny day, the sky blue with hardly a cloud, where a long line of volunteers, African-Americans, Whites, people of other origins lined up to each read one paragraph of this heart rending speech.
The audience was small but the readers conveyed their intense sorrow at the continuing injustices suffered by people of color in the United States.
Then the meeting was over. The organizer of the event, a local Black business man, ended the event with the words "God bless America."
God bless America, the nation on earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than those of any other nation? The final invocation of God's mercy seemed at odds with the uncompromising condemnation of America's racial practices we had just read in Frederick Douglass’ speech..
To be sure, even Douglass himself, as he comes to the end of his condemnation of slavery, ends on a hopeful note. He is confident that slavery will come to an end. Most comments on the Douglass speech draw attention to this final expression of confidence that America will finally live up to its own principles and extend equal rights to everyone, black or white.
And is that confidence not justified? We just had a black president. Slavery has come to an end. So has Jim Crow. Black Americans vote and run for office and sometimes get elected.
But wait. Slavery still exists. Our government holds more than 2 million persons in prison. Many must work in prison industries where workers get paid somewhere between $.23 to two dollars an hour. Prison workers have no benefits. They are not allowed to organize. They will be punished if they refuse to work for a pittance. Their condition is not unlike that of their slave ancestors.
The number of Black prison inmates is quite disproportionate to the number of black Americans in the population as a whole. One in three Black men are in prison or live under the supervision of parole officers. They come from black communities where the unemployment rate is close to 50%, where schools fail to teach elementary reading and arithmetic skills to children, and their parents, the working poor, have no time to supervise their children because they are too busy trying to earn a meager living.
The Black Lives Matter movement arose in response to unarmed black men and women being killed by police officers. To date very few of these police officers have had to face court and those that did, were most often acquitted. In the United States in 2017 all men and women are still not created equal.
    We should not invoke divine blessings for America. We should ask for blessings for the small Black children who braved angry mobs of white, racist adults to claim their right to an equal education--a right they still have not won. We should ask blessings for the generations of African-Americans who patiently demanded equality at great danger to themselves.
    We should see our present turmoils as troubles we brought on ourselves for what Douglass called our “revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy.”