I wish I could say that this post would answer all our questions plaguing our country. It won’t. What this post hopefully will offer is a design for unifying our legislative and ideological process more efficiently. It is neither complicated nor particularly innovative. It is simply an effective measure toward success.
Currently, when we approach an issue in America, we assume that the “other” party, which ever party one considers his “other,” or group or organization will have the wrong answer. We are so incredibly certain about our correctness at every turn. We have no intention of discovering new information; we simply want people to agree with us. If they don’t, they are necessarily wrong and simply require education. We walk in with a fight in our hearts. We automatically presume we know best. The problem is that if we begin from that standpoint, we are the ones who are instantly wrong.
If we want harmonious and constructive work to begin in earnest in America, we must begin by walking in with five questions:
1. How do we each define the issue in front of us?
2. Can we agree not to move toward a resolution until we are all satisfied with the definition of the issue?
3. Do we understand that no one person or group is going to get everything he or she wants in the resolution?
4. How do we work together to resolve this issue in a manner that would benefit the greatest number of Americans?
5. What are your ideas? I am willing to listen to you fully, then thoughtfully consider them before responding graciously.
If we start here, then we can reduce the polarization in this country. Any adamant statement in the process that starts with, “Well, you/your party did this…” is not effective. It is counterproductive toward future work together. It brings the issue into the past and necessarily demands that the focus on the work in the present be forgotten.
If we want unity and creativity to move the process forward, we must start by listening, not talking. When I was a boy, my father insisted that my brother, David, and I learn this poem:
“A wise old owl lived in an oak.
The more he saw, the less he spoke.
The less he spoke, the more he heard.
Why can’t we all be like this wise old bird?”
Good guidance for a difficult time, I’d say. If we approach one another with a willingness to listen, to understand that others have differing views than we do that do not make them wrong or bad, then we can build something great together. Until that time arrives, we will continue to watch the chasm between our fellow citizens widen and deepen. If that happens, all of us lose, no matter how “right” we thought we were in the first place.
I finally figured it out! It’s taken me a long, long time to define what the issue is in United States politics, but I’ve done it! I have the answer! We are not moving from a democratic republic to an autocracy or theocracy, or toward socialism or any other known form of government. The form of government we see looming on the horizon is much worse. We are moving toward a Neurocracy!
An increasing number of our leaders have lost touch with their constituents, authentic, reasonable American values, and the purpose of government so deeply that their neuroses are taking over. Narcissism, bipolar disorder, dissociative identity disorder, compulsion, obsession, and myriad other diagnoses are running rampant everywhere throughout our local government to our national leaders of all parties.
Add to this fertilizer of ideology the mass hysteria created by abusive and judgmental language and philosophies, the willingness of the media to feed these delusions, and we have the beginning of our American Neurocracy.
So for those who would like the definition of this new term, here it is:
Neu-ro-cra-cy /njʊə-rəʊ-krə-si/ (noun) Greek neuro-: sinew, string, nerve; -cracy: strength, power. A government run by many individuals who suffer from myriad neuroses (mental or emotional illnesses), and who attempt to make laws to satisfy the needs brought on by these conditions. ~ The James C. Glica-Hernandez Dictionary
Hopefully, this will help clarify the issue in politics and government so that we can set ourselves toward treating our national woes by replacing those suffering from these conditions, and repairing our overarching ideology before this national diagnosis becomes more of a reality.
“Xenophobia – A fear of or aversion to, not only people from other countries, but other cultures, subcultures and subsets of belief systems; in short, anyone who meets any list of criteria about their origin, religion, personal beliefs, habits, language, orientations, or any other criteria. While some will state that the “target” group is a set of persons not accepted by the society, in reality only the phobic person need hold the belief that the target group is not (or should not be) accepted by society. While the phobic person is aware of the aversion (even hatred) of the target group, they may not identify it or accept it as a fear.” ~ Wikipedia (Oxford English Dictionary reference)
In research published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 1994 , and research in Belgium in 2000 , scientists found a strong correlation between authoritarian personalities and groups described as conservative, and xenophobia. Those identified in various ways from conservative, authoritarian, or fascist, genuinely believe that they are morally, genetically, or otherwise superior to those toward whom they express their extreme fear.
Certainly not all who express strong beliefs in one area or another should be considered xenophobic. Honest, good people from all walks of life are encouraged, and even obligated to participate in their governmental processes. Their views may be diametrically opposed; yet, their divergent views maintain a healthy dialogue in our country. There are those, however, whose extreme views teeter on, or fall over, the boundary of constructive exchange.
With the aforementioned research to consider, those who are more open to other cultures, races, and groups should exhibit compassion for those who have the psychological challenge of xenophobia, in part because the research also describes that some who exhibit the xenophobic behavior suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome. In addition to compassion, though, we must also recognize the symptoms of this condition and listen to the message with an educated ear.
As we follow the political machinations of the 2012 election process, we have an opportunity to assess whether groups exhibit this xenophobic-based authoritarianism, and if so, how the larger population should respond. There are few tell-tale signs of this condition. Their rhetoric includes correlations to:
- cultural conservatism;
- a desire for social dominance; and
Additionally, those who exhibit these xenophobic qualities also are found to have a negative correlation to empathy, tolerance, communality, and altruism. Do we see those qualities exhibited in national politics today? If so, how?
Fascism, authoritarianism in its extreme, is defined by Merriam-Webster in the following way:
“A political philosophy, movement, or regime… that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.”
None of our candidates have suggested that a fascist government is what the United States needs; however, some aspects of fascism are becoming increasingly visible, including the stated desires of “severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition” by those who believe their traditions and values are most important. These beliefs would relegate certain populations in our society to the status of invisible. This, too, may be indicative of the growing xenophobia in our country. A vocal, if not large at this point, group of citizens sympathetic to these views are listening more attentively to candidates and public figures who espouse these exclusive behaviors. The research indicates that those who suffer from xenophobia rarely recognize themselves as sufferers. They simply see themselves as correct in their views.
Although as a people we will likely choose to ignore these evident signs, the xenophobic underpinnings of contemporary politics are nonetheless apparent. These fears can be ameliorated in part with compassion, a focus on inclusion, support for those who value all aspects of American culture, and those responsible to the entire American population, rather than only to their closed, isolated group.
A welcoming, inclusive community for all is the antithesis to xenophobia. How do we view America today? Our leaders are saying it best. I suppose it just depends on to whom we listen.
 Pratto, Felicia; Sidanius, Jim; Stallworth, Lisa M.; Malle, Bertram F. (1994) “Social dominance orientation: A personality variable predicting social and political attitudes.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 67(4), Oct 1994, 741-763. doi: 10.1037/0022-35126.96.36.1991 Retrieved on February 9, 2012 from http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/67/4/741/
 Duriez, B. & Van Hiel, A (2000) “March of modern fascism. A comparison of social dominance orientation and authoritariansim.” Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 32, Issue 7, May 2002, pp 1199-2013. Retrieved on February 9, 2012 from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886901000861
Whether one is a Republican or a Democrat, poor or wealthy, of one race or another, gay or straight, or any other category one can imagine, President Obama’s State of the Union address held one message that was more important for us to hear than any other part:
“Each time I look at that flag, I’m reminded that our destiny is stitched together like those 50 stars and those 13 stripes. No one built this country on their own. This nation is great because we built it together. This nation is great because we worked as a team. This nation is great because we get each other’s backs. And if we hold fast to that truth, in this moment of trial, there is no challenge too great; no mission too hard. As long as we are joined in common purpose, as long as we maintain our common resolve, our journey moves forward, and our future is hopeful, and the state of our Union will always be strong.” ~ President Barack Obama, January 24, 2012
At our best, we are a unified nation that allows for dissent, but always remembers that we all have one flag. We do not compartmentalize the red stripes from the white stripes, the stars from the blue field. It is one flag. We can find as many ideas of how to make things better as we have American citizens, but we have forgotten something along the way. Our leader must be at the front of that fight.
When I was a boy, my father and I would regularly be at loggerheads. I, in my ridiculous arrogance, thought my father didn’t know what he was talking about. I’d roll my eyes, and huff and puff whenever he said something that I imagined was said solely to embarrass me. The one thing I always remembered, though, is that he was my father, our family leader. I knew that he was always acting in the best interest of our family. As I grew into adulthood, I learned to respect my father’s brilliance as a businessman, dynamic love as a grandfather, and his rock solid wisdom as a father.
A president is not a father, he is a national leader. We have more room to question, argue, and rebut; however, we must also remember that until the time comes for us to change the individual inhabiting that office, he or she is still our president. Our president still makes the rally call around the flag, and we as Americans should heed that call with grace and strength, all eyes moving forward toward success and happiness.
If one is not a part of the resolution; if one is not a part of the constructive conversation; if one is solely beating his breast in lamentation of what is wrong and why it went wrong, then he should step aside and make room for those who want to assist in the process. Our stagnancy in Congress is an excellent example of what happens when we populate the houses of Congress with those who simply want to play the victims, and this means on both sides of the aisle.
Here is my message to Congress: Ladies and gentlemen of the 112th Congress of the United States of America,
Lay down your weapons and pick up your plowshares. You must stand next to one another and look forward rather than standing nose-to-nose, facing one another in unwavering arrogance. How can you possibly see where we need to go if all you keep in your sight line is your colleague as an enemy.
One final note to all public servants, Democrat, Republican, and otherwise – Even if you do not fully agree with the person who is currently president, or trust in his judgment, we the people of the United States of America chose him. If you do not trust the wisdom of the American people, please leave your post, because we are the ones to whom you ultimately answer, and we are the ones who invited you to serve in the first place.
We have seen the National Defense Authorization Act 2012 pass in the both houses of Congress and signed into law by the president of the United States that allows for indefinite detention of American citizens without habeas corpus. We have seen basic human rights ignored and denied by our fellow Americans through bans on gay marriage. We have seen basic health care and housing denied to our population because they haven’t the money to care for themselves. We have seen corporations evolve into entities that are considered individuals deserving rights. What this all means is that we have forgotten who we are. Any society, Roman, Ottoman, Egyptian, or any other, that forgets what it is, is doomed to reduction into oblivion so that something more aware and healthier can take its place.
When we removed ourselves from under the rule of King George III of Great Britain, we codified several facets of the lives we wanted into two documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
United States of America Declaration of Independence
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Most people discuss the “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” part of this sentence. A word at the beginning is much more intriguing – “self-evident.” They could have used the word “clear,” or perhaps “obvious,” but they chose “self-evident” in this beautifully-crafted statement. The authors made it clear that we as individuals are supposed to assume that all members of our society are equal and deserve the same treatment and benefits as every other citizen in our country. These rights are not issued with discretion by any other citizen; they are a natural part of being a citizen of this country. Not only are they a natural part of being American, we cannot be alienated or separated from those rights in any way by anyone or any entity, including our own government.
This first section is the part we all know; however, there is another part of this paragraph that we tend to forget:
“— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
Most people discuss the rights identified in this section as pertaining to themselves, missing the broader picture. Individuals have the proclivity to protect their own land, property, families, and rights. It may be an instinctual process; however, by focusing on one’s self alone, one misses a larger responsibility as a citizen of the United States – to protect our nation as a whole. We rightly value those who serve in our military as protectors of our liberties, yet we forget that we, too, have a weight on our shoulders as well. We must assume the rights of all citizens and fight to correct anything that disallows members of our society from their freedoms.
In the Preamble to the Constitution, the first words, “We the People of the United States in order to form a more perfect Union,” reiterates what we found in the Declaration of Independence. The authors said again that we as a whole must come together to work hand-in-hand to achieve the most unified citizenry and society we can. It didn’t say, “We the governors…” or “We the few…” or “We the wealthy and powerful…” It says “We the People.” All the people. Everyone single one of us inclusively has a role to play to elevate ourselves toward the hopes of those who began our country.
Preamble to the United States of America’s Constitution
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
The question for us becomes this: Which single individual in our country deserves less than everything promised in our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution of the United States? Which person out of the millions born in our land or who have chosen our country as their homeland, requires or deserves fewer freedoms than any other? Any thinking person will, of course, respond that there is not one person that deserves less. Some might say non-Christians, gays, Muslims, the disabled, the mentally ill, or those born in other countries deserve fewer freedoms. Certainly those who would say this are wrong according to our nation’s establishing documents. They are acting contrary to our national intention. And who is responsible for defending these individuals who have lost their voice and their first-class citizenship in our country?
In the same way as our founding fathers intended, each one of us is responsible, wholly and without abjuration, to ensure the full and irrevocable rights of all American citizens through word and deed. Anything less is contrary to who we are as a people. As we’ve learned in other fallen civilizations, we must remember who we are if we are to survive as a nation.
Polarity is unavoidable when two or more people or groups have divergent philosophies and desires for action. It’s the nature of the beast. Group A wants this. Group B wants that. Group C wants the other. The part that is sometimes missing is that all three groups necessarily must have something in common because they are discussing the same topic. Commonality is what is often missed in these discussions. This is exactly what is happening in the United States currently.
The Democrats and the Republicans have emerged as vehement rivals. The Republicans blatantly direct the public discourse toward fear mongering and accusations while the Democrats spend most their time whining and pursuing passive aggressive techniques to get their way. It has become a fifth-grade play yard with adults behaving like spoiled, entitled bullies or frightened wallflowers. The result is that neither house of Congress accomplishes very much. There is plenty of posturing, arguing, puffing up, criticizing, and belittling; however, this Congress has one of the smallest lists of accomplishments in American history.
The Democrats, the oldest party in the United States, having been formed from the Democratic-Republican party in 1830 to elect Andrew Jackson, has seen many changes to it since its inception, ending up as it is today as a progressive and liberal party. Their opposition for 20 years was the Whig party who sought to modernize and industrialize the U.S. This party supported a national bank and believed that wealth rather than military might, would win power in the world. The Republican Party burgeoned onto the American landscape in the 1850s as the Whigs began dwindling in power. It was born to halt the Kansas Nebraska Act which would have allowed slavery to move into the North. The Republicans gained a foothold in power until the 1930s when Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt became president. That power base lasted until the 1960s when Republicans reestablished support among Americans with the election of revered general Dwight D. Eisenhower. Since the 1950s only four presidents have been elected by the people who were Democrats, including Kennedy, Carter, Clinton, and Obama.
With all the disagreements since the 1830s, and even during the Civil War, rarely have we seen such abominable inaction in our government because of politics. The one thing that can be said about previous eras in our political timetable is that our legislators were, rightly or wrongly, called to action. Today, we see most of the 100 senators and 435 representatives in a stalemate on nearly every issue. The Republicans significantly rule the House and Democrats have a slight majority in the Senate. We have found ourselves in a cesspool of stagnancy that is injuring Americans at every level.
When will our politicos awaken from their angry stupors to recognize what they have injuriously done and tragically neglected to do? What are the magic words that will enlighten our legislators adequately so that we can once again have a strong and healthy economy, a strong and healthy population, and a strong and healthy operation of government? How long will we allow the politicians to blithely sing their own praises, believing everything they say, even though neither group has effectively improved our governmental situation in any substantial way?
As we approach our election in 2012, we must look long and hard at who is running for the highest offices in the land. Are they individuals of integrity, intelligence, and creativity, or are they simply arrogant blowhards who have chosen a national stage on which to lavish themselves in self-aggrandizement? What are we as Americans willing to tolerate this time around?
There is nothing wrong with a two- or more-party system of government. Opposing ideas are healthy in that we have an opportunity to hear the voices of everyone in our country. When we recognize stagnancy, however, we must encourage new blood to join the ranks. It could be a new party, or a new, wise voice who speaks as strongly as FDR, as plainly as Truman, as inspirationally as Kennedy, as eloquently as Reagan, as intelligently as Clinton, and as hopefully as Obama. Somehow, we must inspire those who have a selfless interest in the well being of the American people first and foremost as their purpose. We must find people to populate the houses of Congress who understand that in every issue, there is a mandatory expectation of bilateral resolution. Sometimes one group will have more of what it wants and sometimes the other group will have the lion’s share of the compromise, for certainly, that is a word that has become increasingly dim in American language… compromise. Let us insist on balance and compromise before we have nothing left to discuss.
This morning, I awoke to read that there is a tentative agreement between the players’ union and the owners in the National Basketball Association (NBA). This ends the 149-day lock out that cut the season by 16 games. The season likely begins again on December 25 with a 66-game season. From all reports, the owners acquired much of what they were hoping, but the players, too, benefit from this agreement. By comparison, at least this isn’t a 50-game season like the one we had during similar battles during the 1998-1999 season. Everyone should be happy, right?
With a quarter of the season lopped off the books, how will the owners or the players fare? Considering the numbers that are bandied about, such as the $400-plus billion per year in revenue, $80 billion is a lot of money lost during this lockout. In the microcosm of Sacramento Kings-World, we are in an even more tenuous situation considering how this recent lockout and tentative agreement will affect the new arena being considered for the Kings.
When the Maloofs were considering moving the Kings to Anaheim, one of the stringent requirements to stay an extra year was the construction of a state-of-the-art arena to house the Kings. With the economic situation in the United States right now, the Maloofs watching every penny they offer as well as the pennies from other governmental bodies and private corporations toward the arena, the security of the Kings continued residence in Sacramento remains in the balance… the Power Balance, if you will; and Power Balance Pavilion is not where they want to be.
With Sacramento’s mayor, Kevin Johnson, losing his “strong mayor” referendum in the courts, he has a relatively small voice regarding whether or how this arena is built. The city council members, the city attorney, and other unelected city officials are now the movers and shakers in this process, and some of them do not agree with Mayor Johnson at all. Compound that with the reluctance of local corporations to flood this project with money, and the risks to the completion of a regional arena and the loss of the Kings escalate.
The NBA rift was at the worst time possible for the Kings and Sacramento. We will see in the coming year whether the resolution of this current contract was enough to keep the Kings here. My crystal ball suggests it may not be enough, with the caveat that in one way, this battle may have had an unusually good side-effect: The Maloofs cannot afford to move the Kings because of the revenue loss this year.
The biggest challenge for all NBA teams this year is the rebuilding of fan confidence in the league. When it was announced that a tentative deal had been struck among the various factions, comments on the social media site, Facebook, resounded like a giant raspberry, “Who cares?” As it has in contentious seasons in the past, it can take a couple of years for the fans to renew their faith in their favorite teams and the league. The resentment for being so ignored in this process can be enormous. Bitterness equals additional revenue loss through unfulfilled season ticket renewals and reduced new ticket purchases.
Of course, time alone will tell what will happen, but my guess is that the Kings will remain at least one more year beyond this season. Yes, the players will likely get the lion’s share of the revenue. Yes, the agreement will certainly encourage greater visibility for small market teams like the Sacramento Kings. If the fans have any hope to retain the Kings in Sacramento after that, though, there is no other choice but to ensure that the arena is built in short order. Grand plans mean nothing without a groundbreaking ceremony. The final part of this equation has to do with the Kings themselves: They must win ballgames. Without a winning season, between the fan disconnect, economic concerns, lack of a new arena, and political wrangling, this could spell doom for Sacramento’s involvement with the Kings. Although this NBA agreement helps, we are still a million miles from security regarding where the Kings will decide to settle are concerned.
When did we decide that events such as a peaceful sit-in on a university campus, or a Black Friday shopping frenzy require pepper spraying the participants? Have we reached such a level of anarchy that our citizens require routine dousing with a concoction of chiles, propellant, and ethanol (booze)?
With the reintroduction of peaceful and not-so-peaceful demonstrations around the world, we have an opportunity to see what has been absent for many years, the people taking action to affect change. Those in power are nervous, of course, because across the globe, governments are tumbling under the vibration of the protesters’ voices. The United States of America appears a bit nervous, so contrary to the promise of the First Amendment to our Constitution, she has chosen to try to quell these voices with what was described on Bill O’Reilly’s program, “a food product,” which by the way, if one were to eat a chile relleno and a glass of wine, would be about right.
I suppose I understand, if not agree, why places like UC Davis pull out cans of gaseous condiments to sour the protesters’ day. They are afraid that change is coming, and it is arriving without the consent of the powers-that-be. Scary, yes? Ask King George III of Britain during the American Revolution; King George VI of England during the uprising in India in the 1940s, which led to its independence from Britain; the segregationists of the 1950s, including state leaders when the Civil Rights Movement really took hold; President Richard Nixon during the demonstrations against the war; President Zine El Abidine ben Ali of Tunisia, and no fewer than 16 other countries’ leaders who saw uprisings in the Arab-North African Region during the Arab Spring; and all the other leaders who saw change come at the hands of a nation’s people.
The people, when they are focused, can be a powerful force. Those in leadership, instead of actually listening, attempt to quell these vibrant voices. The problem is that with each event like the one at UC Davis, they lose credibility, and appear desperate to maintain control.
On the other hand, we have events like the pepper spraying by a woman of those around her at Wal-Mart on Black Friday 2011. I have to say this out loud or my head will explode: Perhaps the shoppers deserved it. I know. I know. Those readers who have clothing tags strewn all over their beds, and brand new televisions for $125 dollars will rail at what I have just written.
“Why shouldn’t we be allowed to be ungracious and wild-eyed in our attempts to get great deals before everyone else?!? Why shouldn’t we exercise our American freedom to jeopardize others’ safety to satisfy our greed?”
Well, the First Amendment grants many freedoms, but none of them includes injuring others to get a great deal; or perhaps I just don’t understand our Constitution fully. The woman who pepper sprayed other patrons of the store was clearly in the wrong, as are the people who shot other purchasers with firearms; however, because I believe that everything is for a reason, perhaps this is a wake-up call to all of us who experience this type of compulsive purchasing mania. If one wants to compete with others, take up a sport, play backgammon, or try out for American Idol, for goodness sake!
Pepper spray has its place. A group of hoodlums beat an innocent citizen, then discovered by the police, and the officers whip out their chile dust to protect the gentle person. That makes complete sense. Looters begin attacking privately owned shops after a horrific loss by their football team, and again, the police reach into their holsters for their canisters of irritant. This, too, is utterly reasonable to me.
Ultimately, we must look at our intentions as a people. What will we say is the appropriate use of control agents such as pepper spray, rubber bullets, and water cannons against our populace? It seems proper to use these methods to bring people back to their senses when they have clearly lost their minds in shopping or lamenting a sports loss. It appears wholly inexcusable and counter to everything we know as a nation to silence the voices of our citizens when they are speaking peacefully, but in large numbers, to our governmental leaders.