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.”

Saturday, July 1, 2017


Is health care reform fair?



The proposed health care bills both in the house and the Senate will save a good deal of money but will also reduce the number of Americans with health insurance. If the current bills become law, 14 million people will lose their health insurance in the coming year and another 8 to 10 million will lose their insurance in the coming 10 years.
Who are these 14 million Americans?
The majority will be poorer Americans and older, retired persons. A disproportionate number of those will be persons of color. African-Americans are about 12% of the population but about 20% of the poor. About 11% Americans are Hispanic and 14% of them are poor.
Few voters are going to be moved by those numbers because they have bought into the mythology of the "welfare queen" first invented by Ronald Reagan. The story is about people of color who are too lazy to work and therefore live off government handouts. In Reagan’s story, a Chicago woman on welfare drove around in a Cadillac and carried Gucci bags. Reagan’s story was a fiction--a lie.
No doubt some welfare recipients are lazy and avoid working. But that is, of course, also true of some of the sons and daughters of the captains of industry who don't have to work and therefore don't and party instead. Think of Paris Hilton. But the made-up story about the welfare queens ignores the facts about the working poor. According to government census data 12% of people working make barely more than $15,000 for a couple. They can survive only with food stamps and other government assistance. A significantly larger number of working Americans still do not earn enough to put food on the table and to avoid being homeless.
Huffington Post gives us some examples of working poor families:
"Not so long ago, Kathleen Ann had a house, vacation time, spending money and everything else available to someone with a high-paying corporate job. Then she was discarded in a layoff, cast into a world where she could only find occasional part-time work. Ann now makes less than $20,000 a year, lives in an apartment and has been forced to accept that she is poor — a “Used-to-Have,” as she described it. “As a ‘Used-to-Have,’ I know exactly what Corporate America, lobbyists and politicians have taken away from me ,”she said.
Carla Shutak thought buying a house with her husband, who was gainfully employed as a civil engineer, would be a wise investment. When he was laid off in 2009, they couldn’t keep up with the mortgage payments and their home was foreclosed on. “My American Dream died,” she said. “Despite doing what we were taught was right by putting 20 percent down and asking for a fixed 30-year mortgage, we were now in our 40s and starting over with nothing.
Monica Simon, 24, works full time at an online advertising firm, earning $23,000 a year after taxes. She’s still paying off her student loans and often relies on credit cards to cover basic costs. “Sometimes I get paid and then I have, maybe, $150 left over for the two weeks,” she said. “I just feel I’m getting way behind where I want to be for my age. I feel I’m just starting my life and I’m already miles and miles behind.”
A significant portion of the poor who will lose their health insurance are actually working. It is just that their jobs pay little, and their hours are quite unsteady and unpredictable. The new proposed health care bills favor the young and those who earn more than $50,000 a year. It penalizes the poor, regardless of whether they work or not.
This is blatantly unfair.
What is fair? Everybody has their own idea of fairness.” Many people think that but they are quite wrong. When they take their children to baseball or football games they know when the umpire is unfair, when he or she does not apply the rules in the same way to both teams. There is no argument about fairness there. The same idea of fairness was involved in the Inflatagate scandal. It would not be fair if one team’s footballs were inflated to a different hardness than that of the other. The same idea of fairness forbids insider-trading. It is unfair for one person to have information not available to others. There are many more examples. Fairness means that prevailing rules are applied evenly to everyone.
Applying different rules about health insurance to the poor than to the remainder of the people is unfair.
But in American politics fairness does not seem to count for much. No one in Congress seems to worry much that the rules applying to the well-to-do do not apply to the poor.
At this point many people will try to blame the poor for their mistreatment. If they had done better in school, if they had gone to college, they would not be under-or-unemployed, they would not work at minimum wage jobs.
It may be true that if the people who are now among the working poor had managed to get more education, they would have a better income, although today some college graduates are selling cups of coffee at Dunkin' Donuts. But the fact remains that there are jobs that don't pay enough for people to live on their earnings and someone will do those jobs. Regardless of who gets an education and doesn't, 12% of American workers earn way below the poverty line and someone is going to do those jobs and be really poor in spite of working hard. These are the people who are going to lose their health insurance under the new proposed health care law.
There is no way of defending that uneven application of rules as fair.
Congress and the US government do not care about fairness. Our system is designed to favor the rich.

Saturday, June 10, 2017


American Fascism


Since Donald Trump became the 45th American president, we hear a lot of talk and hinting about Fascism in America. It is important for us to be as clear as possible about our current condition.
Fascism is a form of authoritarianism. The government's powers have no limit. Popular opinion carries no weight. All power is in the hands of a fascist party. There are no elections. What laws there are, are decreed by different government officials. Citizens may not appeal the orders of the government to an independent judiciary. Citizens do not have any protection against the government police power. If the government believes you to be a threat to its power, they can arrest you and if they so choose kill you. You may disappear and never be heard of again.
In a fascist society there are no rights to privacy. Any organization you may belong to, is organized and run by the government. With the rise of a facist government, labor unions are turned into branches of the government as are other previously voluntary organizations. Clubs of stamp collectors, clubs of genealogists, garden clubs-- all become official state-sponsored organizations.
Fascist governments tend to be paranoid. They have their spies everywhere. Families are disrupted when some members belong to the official fascist party and spy on other members of the family who may be less enamored with the new government. It is not safe to make negative comments about the government in your workplace; someone may report your jokes to the police and you may find yourself arrested in a concentration camp before you know what hit you. The government controls education. The government takes books off library shelves that it regards as hostile to its own mission. The government decides that certain kinds of art and music are unacceptable. They may not be performed in public. Private performances expose the performers to government suspicion. The government declares certain groups of the population to be no longer legitimate citizens. In extreme cases, such as Nazi Germany, these select groups consisting of Jews, of homosexuals, of communists were slaughtered in large numbers.
The government institutes a reign of terror. Citizens who are disaffected will be very careful not to voice their criticisms for fear of disappearing in prison camps. The new fascist party and its government are in complete control.
Fascist governments are wild eyed nationalists. They incline towards military adventures in order to expand the nation's territory and power. They do not tire to boast of the superiority of their nation and its culture over other neighboring nations.
Can Americans in 2017 recognize themselves in this portrait?
Yes and no. We may point to President Trump’s "America First" rhetoric. But we need to acknowledge that American nationalism has been in the ascendant for a long time. We have invaded and bombed foreign countries in order to promote our particular form of government which we call "democracy." The belief that our institutions are superior to those of other countries has dominated American foreign policy for at least a century.
But our politics, you say, is not dominated by one party. After all we have the Democrats and the Republicans and they are at each others’ throat quite regularly. But this two-party system does raise interesting questions that need a lot more reflection than is possible here: it often seems to many people that we really have only one political party – the party of the rich and that those of us who are not rich are not represented.
We do have, we think, an independent judiciary. There are constitutional protections of citizens against the government. The government cannot just make you disappear and even kill you if that's what they feel like—unless you are undocumented.
The government cannot freely censor literature and art. It is not free to determine what children will learn in school. It is not independent of popular opinion about schools or cultural matters. It cannot simply cleanse libraries of books it considers a threat to its own power.
We do have private organizations that are not arms of the government. The local kids sports or poetry organizations are not under government or fascist party control. It would be completely illegal for the government to try to take over those private groups.
Moves in the direction of fascism are always a threat. Since 9/11 Congress has allowed the government new forms of supervision of private communications by citizens. It has allowed government police forces such as the FBI or CIA to interfere with private citizens and their property in ways which are of dubious legality. The freedoms we brag about are much more precarious than we are willing to admit and their defense is a continuing effort – an effort that is not always successful.
But none of that makes the US a fascist country. For most of us fascism is a constant threat, but not a reality.
Fascism is a constant threat but not a reality if you are a middle-class white person, especially if you are a man. Your world is very different if you are a black youngster or even a black adult – man or woman.
In 2016, long before Pres. Trump got elected, more than 250 black persons were killed by police. 34% of unarmed people killed by police were black men. Black men constitute 6% of the population of our country. Very few of the police involved in these killings were indicted. Even fewer were convicted.
If you are black in America your government resembles a fascist government much more closely. You may be arrested and killed pretty much at the discretion of the police. You have no recourse to the court system to protect you.
The Constitution protects citizens very unevenly. White middle-class citizens live in a more or less constitutional democracy. The country in which black Americans live resembles fascism a lot more closely.
And God help you if you are undocumented.
Is America a fascist country? There is no unambiguous answer to that question. The answer you get depends a whole lot on whom you ask and who you are. Sadly, white citizens do not frequently enough recognize that Black citizens live in a very different America from that inhabited by Whites.