Us vs Them.. How Did We Get Here; How Do We Get Out??

HDWGH Banner

In lieu of talking about the current political scene, I am going to try to make the logo above one of the central topics here at RJsCorner for the coming months. I know I frequently announce these types of projects and then don’t carry them through, but this one is kind of like an epiphany for me. I don’t think there is going to be one way to break the “Us vs Them” tragedy; it will take millions of voices singing the same tune to make that happen.  I want to be one of those voices…

I haven’t thoroughly thought out a particular strategy for my contribution but being a history buff I know we need to find where we have been before we can figure out where we are going.  So, I will start out here with studying the biggest examples and then search for a possible solution.

Going from there will likely be how each of us can contribute to putting the current “Us vs Them” episode into the past.  I know this is a noble goal, especially at this late stage of my life but I want to be one of those millions who contribute, so why not.

2018-02-01_11-46-29.pngTo finish this first post I want to talk a little about the featured photo of this post which is also included in the banner that will be on each post on this subject.  It was a large illuminated panel shown here which is at the “Brown vs Board of Education” national site in Topeka Kansas. The building is not a large one but contains many artifacts that will make you think about racial prejudice and particularly the Civil Rights era. Many of you probably recognize the picture as Birmingham Alabama forced school integration. On September 10th, in 1963, twenty black students entered previously all-white public schools in Birmingham they were protected by National Guard soldiers. As I was going through the rooms I suddenly came upon on this large picture and the hate that filled the young white woman’s eyes literally shook me to my bones.  I have never seen hate personified as I did in the large photo. Every time I see the photo I wonder if that young girl ever got over the hatred she had? If she didn’t it probably consumed her as it did so many southern bigots of those time.

Now a story about my personal experiences with racial prejudice in the Southern States in the 1960s and 70s. I was a young engineer in 1972 when I was sent to a Shreveport Louisana factory to assist in solving a manufacturing problem.  It was there that I met Mel. He was a “good ole boy” that all the engineers loved to hear his stories. When we went to the cafeteria for a coffee break he proceeded to tell his dehumanizing story about lazy black niggers. I was totally embarrassed by his words and even more embarrassing was that the told in within hearing distance of scores of African-Americans sitting in the dining room. That fact didn’t bother him at all, in fact, it probably excited him. This was my first real exposure to racial prejudice and it stuck with me throughout my life.  I think throughout this series we will come to find that turning your enemy into something inhuman is an essential part of this ugly process.

For anyone who cares to read the inscription on the panel click on the photo below to see a readable view:

Civil Rights Pic.jpg

 

Latching On To False Beliefs..

It’s become quite clear that really bad people get more attention than decent people. Liars get more attention than truth-tellers. Conspiracy theories get more likes than reasoned arguments. It’s clear that short tweets are more convincing with some people than logical and balanced discussions.

It’s also clear that people are getting lazy and think that a democracy is a never-ending state.  That could be a tragic rationale to have.  As Thomas Jefferson said, maintaining a democracy is hard work. In order to make thoughtful choices at the ballot box means studying the issues to determine the best path to take.  Are we, for the most part, losing that ability today?

I don’t know if we are beyond the tipping point in our democracy or not, but we are getting closer to that sorry state and I propose that the reason is laziness. We latch on to a very flawed person or belief and disregard everything else. It is just easier, and lazier, to make a snap judgment instead of making the effort to come to an informed decision.

It is easier to latch onto a conspiracy theory instead of debunking it. Like the phrase “Make America Great Again”, that sounds good at first thought but if you study the facts you know that this phrase really means turning back the clock to a time that we deem better than today.  Two things are wrong with this idea.

  1. The world, like it or not, is in a constant state of change and it always has been and always will be.  You simply can’t change that fact.
  2. Many seem to forget that the past contained many or maybe, even more, problems than the present, but different ones.

2017-12-11_11-08-05.pngI grew up in the 1960s and was of a draft age during the Vietnam war. Almost 60,000 of my generation lost their lives in that totally needless war. Compared to the about 6,000 in the ten years of war in the Middle East today. How can those be the good old days?

Double-digit inflation took a serious toll on wages. Compared to the low 2% or less today those were troubling times.  I can remember one year during the 1970s the annual inflation rate exceeded 15 %. That is many times what it is today. It decimated many senior citizen’s nest egg and caused some pretty severe times for them. How could those be the good old days?

2017-12-11_11-12-04.pngAnd then there was the Civil Rights movement that finally broke the Jim Crow. That was the racial caste system which operated primarily in southern and border states, between 1877 and the mid-1960s. Jim Crow was more than a series of rigid anti-black laws. It was a way of life.   Of course breaking Jim Crow also meant a mass migration in the south from the Democratic party to the Republican party.  I remember the political unrest at the 1968 political conventions dwarfed anything around today.

2017-12-11_11-10-33.pngPlainly speaking, the “Good Ole Days” that many dream about now wasn’t any better, and maybe worse, than today.  We need to find 21st-century solutions to our 21st-century problems instead of looking backward. Will that take work? Of course it will but considering the consequences it is worth the effort.