Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The tea du jour is hemlock

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It's official. I am nostalgic for the Carter Administration.

You have to go back about that far to find someone -- in this case, then-National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski -- who can quickly cut to the chase in calling out the tea-party insanity gripping Washington . . . and the laissez-faire raping of the poor and middle class that we now mistake for mainstream Americanism.

And he does so brilliantly (with agreement from conservative Republican Joe Scarborough) on MSNBC's Morning Joe, as seen above.

This, as reported elsewhere on MSNBC, is the kind of society in which we now live, and which Brzezinski rightfully decries:
As Congress and the White House wrestle whether to raise taxes for the wealthiest Americans, a new analysis of Census data shows that the wealth gaps between whites and blacks and Hispanics widened dramatically during the recession.

The analysis by the Pew Research Center, released on Tuesday, found that from 2005 to 2009, inflation-adjusted median wealth fell 66 percent among Hispanic households and 53 percent a
mong black households, compared with a 16 percent decline among white households.

Those declines increased the wealth gap between white and minority households to the largest since the census began collecting such data in 1984. The ratio of wealth for whites to blacks, for instance, is now roughly 20 to 1, compared to 12 to 1 in the first survey 25 years ago and 7 to 1 in 1995, when a booming economy lifted many low-income Americans into the middle class

The wealth ratio for whites to Hispanics was 18 to 1 in 2009, also up from 7 to 1 in 1995, the Pew analysis found.

The declines from the recession left the median black household with $5,677 in wealth (assets minus debts, where assets include items like a car, a home, savings, retirement funds, etc.) and
the typical Hispanic household with $6,325. White households, by comparison, had $113,149, the study found.

Sliced another way, the data from the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), showed that 35 percent of black households and 31 percent of Hispanic households had zero or negative net worth in 2009. The comparable rate for white households was 15 percent.

The SIPP income questionnaire is considered to provide the most comprehensive snapshot of household wealth by race and ethnicity.
THE REMEDY for this kind of inequity -- obviously -- would be as complex as it would be elusive and drawn out.

Failure to pursue a remedy, however, is to put our seal of approval on a society not of free men and women but, instead, one of haves and have-nots -- of masters and serfs.

Tea Party America not only chooses not to endorse a society where the downtrodden are lifted up, but also abjectly repudiates Jesus' injunction that "unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more."

Let me put it thus: What part of Matthew 25 don't these so-called "God and country" types get?

31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: 32 and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

IF THIS, for individuals, is a non-negotiable condition for avoiding eternal hellfire, why then would it be any less binding upon communities of individuals -- the context in which we either do what we're told . . . or don't?

Are not nations judged just as readily as men? Is not the Bible of America's "God and country" crowd -- which is the same one upon which members of Congress take their oaths of office -- replete with the sad fates of nations tried and found wanting by the Almighty?

Did not President Lincoln -- a Republican, by the way -- believe the Civil War to be a divine judgment upon this land for the abomination of slavery?

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it--all sought to avert it. While the inaugeral [sic] address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war--seeking to dissole [sic] the Union, and divide effects, by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.

One eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!" If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope--fervently do we pray--that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether."

ONCE AGAIN, we are becoming a society of master and slave, though we haven't the stomach to call it what it is. In this, we have one political party that cheers on this abomination -- some within it more heartily than others -- and another so compromised by "do what thou wilt" as to be morally and politically self-neutering.

It is in this context that we have the congressional spectacle so aptly described Monday night on CNN by Democratic strategist James Carville:
"The Democrats ... keep trying to surrender. They're saying, 'We'll cut Social Security, we'll cut Medicare, we'll cut Medicaid, we'll give you a plan that doesn't have any tax increases,' ... and (Republicans) keep rejecting it. This thing is a rout. The Republicans are winning this thing in a rout in terms of getting what they want.

"And poor Speaker Boehner came up with a plan today, and ... the Tea Party didn't even want that. So I think that you can't negotiate if one side is not interested in negotiating. This is like Napoleon and Moscow in 1812. 'I don't want to negotiate. There's nothing to talk about here.' So I don't know where this is going to end up. Maybe the Democrats can find somebody to take the white flag. So far, they haven't been able to do it."

WHY AM I not surprised?

And why am I not surprised that America's original sin comes back to haunt us in slightly altered form, or that we're so willing to accommodate it and perpetuate it for the love of money -- another Top-7 smash hit on the cardinal-sin survey?

Don't you be surprised if our love of money above all else -- especially social justice and human dignity -- takes away what we have left of it, through the actions of the self-styled "God's Official Party."

Judgment's not only a bitch -- assuming now be its moment -- it's also exquisitely ironic.

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