Monthly Archives: August 2013

What is it with Men?/Syria

duel

What is it with men? Do women draw “red lines”? I have never heard a woman draw such a line, a line in the sand, a line on the playground; a line which everyone understands means “cross this line and there are consequences”, physical consequences, unpleasant consequences (well maybe women do that with their offspring). Netanyahu drew a red line about nukes and Iran. This red line has not been crossed yet but Israel lives in the hood and is used to lobbing bombs at neighboring aggressors. Obama also drew a red line that implied America would punish Assad in Syria if he used chemical weapons against his own people. Is this a testosterone thing? But in the case of Assad, a totalitarian monster who will fight in the face of millions of refugees (his own people), and who will make them flee their own country; a little thing like a “red line” won’t stop a man like this. It acts like a red cape acts on a bull. But the red line has been drawn, the gauntlet has been laid down, and Assad has challenged Obama to a duel. Dueling has been illegal for a long, long time. A red line can be redrawn. That is one option. Just redraw the damn line. It doesn’t really matter if we look weak because we aren’t weak. It shows wisdom to be able to back down from a position when someone is baiting a trap, baiting a trap with dead children. How does a decent man beat a monster? He uses his brain, not his muscle.

If you can remember back far enough to remember the movie Dangerous Liaisons then I think we could find a way to register our deep, deep disapproval without lobbing bombs at a leader who is just waiting to have us lob bombs at him. (What if all hell breaks loose?) If you remember, in the movie, an aging countess (Glenn Close) had learned to use men as pawns to give to herself the independence and the power to well live without a husband. She had affairs, as many as she wanted and she manipulated the guilt and the fear of exposure the men felt in such a way that when she ended the affair, they found they could not tell. She lived above gossip and although women knew she was not quite the thing, they had no proof and she was accepted by society. Until she fell in love. She sent that young man (John Malkovitch) on his way too, but as the film opens we meet a woman who is now showing her age. She is still handsome, but not beautiful. When that young man she fell in love with comes back and implies that he is still interested, she plays her last and most dangerous game, which she loses, rather badly. She still thinks that she has kept her secrets and has enough social cachet to go on. When she appears at the opera and everyone boos her, her reaction is visceral and I’m sure that from that time forward her social isolation is complete.

boo

Maybe we could all; in every city and town all around the world, play, over very large loudspeakers,  at a certain time, like midnight at the Prime Meridian on Monday, a sound track of people booing with all of the loudspeakers pointed in the direction of Syria. I wonder if the sound would carry all the way to Syria. Then everyone in the world could turn his/her back on Assad and send Assad into a social isolation that would put him out of commission for the rest of his life. Now that would be retribution and it would feel really fine. I don’t imagine words or even world-wide approbation could affect someone like that. You know what; I don’t even think bombs will do it.

I don’t really know what Obama should do on behalf of America anymore than it sounds like anyone else does, but this situation seems to call out for a creative and global strategy. People who do monstrous things often have very hard shells.

This is the view from the cheap seats.

This blog post is also available at http://thebrissioniblog.blogspot.com

 

 

What is it with Men?/Syria

 
What is it with men? Do women draw “red lines”? I have never heard a woman draw such a line, a line in the sand, a line on the playground; a line which everyone understands means “cross this line and there are consequences”, physical consequences, unpleasant consequences (well maybe women do that with their offspring). Netanyahu drew a red line about nukes and Iran. This red line has not been crossed yet but Israel lives in the hood and is used to lobbing bombs at neighboring aggressors. Obama also drew a red line that implied America would punish Assad in Syria if he used chemical weapons against his own people. Is this a testosterone thing? But in the case of Assad, a totalitarian monster who will fight in the face of millions of refugees (his own people), and who will make them flee their own country; a little thing like a “red line” won’t stop a man like this. It acts like a red cape acts on a bull. But the red line has been drawn, the gauntlet has been laid down, and Assad has challenged Obama to a duel. Dueling has been illegal for a long, long time. A red line can be redrawn. That is one option. Just redraw the damn line. It doesn’t really matter if we look weak because we aren’t weak. It shows wisdom to be able to back down from a position when someone is baiting a trap, baiting a trap with dead children. How does a decent man beat a monster? He uses his brain, not his muscle.

If you can remember back far enough to remember the movie Dangerous Liaisons then I think we could find a way to register our deep, deep disapproval without lobbing bombs at a leader who is just waiting to have us lob bombs at him. (What if all hell breaks loose?) If you remember, in the movie, an aging countess (Glenn Close) had learned to use men as pawns to give to herself the independence and the power to well live without a husband. She had affairs, as many as she wanted and she manipulated the guilt and the fear of exposure the men felt in such a way that when she ended the affair, they found they could not tell. She lived above gossip and although women knew she was not quite the thing, they had no proof and she was accepted by society. Until she fell in love. She sent that young man (John Malkovich) on his way too, but as the film opens we meet a woman who is now showing her age. She is still handsome, but not beautiful. When that young man she fell in love with comes back and implies that he is still interested, she plays her last and most dangerous game, which she loses, rather badly. She still thinks that she has kept her secrets and has enough social cachet to go on. When she appears at the opera and everyone boos her, her reaction is visceral and I’m sure that from that time forward her social isolation is complete.

 
 
Maybe we could all; in every city and town all around the world, play, over very large loudspeakers,  at a certain time, like midnight at the Prime Meridian on Monday, a sound track of people booing with all of the loudspeakers pointed in the direction of Syria. I wonder if the sound would carry all the way to Syria. Then everyone in the world could turn his/her back on Assad and send Assad into a social isolation that would put him out of commission for the rest of his life. Now that would be retribution and it would feel really fine. I don’t imagine words or even world-wide approbation could affect someone like that. You know what; I don’t even think bombs will do it.

I don’t really know what Obama should do on behalf of America anymore than it sounds like anyone else does, but this situation seems to call out for a creative and global strategy. People who do monstrous things, I’m thinking, often have very hard shells.

This is the view from the cheap seats.

This blog post is also available at www.brissioni.com

 

Who Should the President Listen to?

usandsyria usandsyria2

I find it hard to believe that we can find anyone who wants to be President of the United States even if you do get a jet and a cool code name like POTUS. The dialogue around the issue of what the President should do about Syria will give you whiplash if you really listen. First we have Assad crossing Obama’s red line by using chemical weapons against his own people (observers believe). Is he deliberately goading America? We have used chemical weapons against our foes in war, but, so far, not against our own people. Using chemical weapons, we have come to believe, is abhorrent and we find that they should be banned on moral grounds. However if other countries have such weapons we feel we must keep some also.

So as soon as Assad crossed that red line reporters began interviewing persons who harangued Obama to do something to punctuate our disapproval of Assad’s behavior. They are the hawks. They believe America must fight on the side of the downtrodden especially if they are striving to be free and that we must do this every time authoritarian monsters refuse their people justice. Some of the hawks doing the verbal prodding are the usual hawks like John McCain, but this time we also have Richard Engel, who we respect, urging America to get involved in Syria.

So President Obama announced that he will bomb certain key military targets in Syria and he will do it soon. He is looking for some support from other nations. It looks like there will be a few takers but not the UN, because Syria has big allies there. Perhaps Obama is remembering World War I where big nations allied to a small nation started a huge war over a small incident. Perhaps bombing a smallish country which has giant allies, who are not our friends, makes Obama a bit nervous, as it should.

No matter, as soon as the President announced what he planned to do the criticisms came in from the other side. They complained that it is not enough. They said it will either have no effect, or it will drag us into a new Middle Eastern war. They said that it is a declaration of war and requires the approval of Congress. Is it a trap to furnish the GOP with grounds for the much heralded impeachment of Obama if he acts without consulting Congress? Whatever, it sounds like the fallout will be far more negative than positive and yet if Obama doesn’t back up that red line statement the fallout may be worse, because then he will appear weak, they say (feckless is the new preferred insult and applies equally, it seems, to both Obama and to members of Congress).

Our actions in war no longer have the unified support we experienced prior to Vietnam and which we have never really experienced since the end of World War II. A President must walk his own line and ignore the siren calls from both sides of the aisle, but it must feel like arrows to the soul, especially when the right thing to do is not absolutely certain or clearly apparent. At least if we decided to back the path our President chooses, those actions would have the weight of America behind them, but this way we just look like a bunch of cats in a canvas bag clawing each other. I don’t want America to lose the weight it carries in the world of nations. I hope Obama has a good idea of what decision to make, because I don’t have a clue.

This blog post is also available at http://www.thebrissioniblog.blogspot.com

 

Who Should the President Listen To?

 
 

I find it hard to believe that we can find anyone who wants to be President of the United States even if you do get a jet and a cool code name like POTUS. The dialogue around the issue of what the President should do about Syria will give you whiplash if you really listen. First we have Assad crossing Obama’s red line by using chemical weapons against his own people (observers believe). Is he deliberately goading America? We have used chemical weapons against our foes in war, but, so far, not against our own people. Using chemical weapons, we have come to believe, is abhorrent and we find that they should be banned on moral grounds. However if other countries have such weapons we feel we must keep some also.

So as soon as Assad crossed that red line reporters began interviewing persons who harangued Obama to do something to punctuate our disapproval of Assad’s behavior. They are the hawks. They believe America must fight on the side of the downtrodden especially if they are striving to be free and that we must do this every time authoritarian monsters refuse their people justice. Some of the hawks doing the verbal prodding are the usual hawks like John McCain, but this time we also have Richard Engel, who we respect, urging America to get involved in Syria.

So President Obama announced that he will bomb certain key military targets in Syria and he will do it soon. He is looking for some support from other nations. It looks like there will be a few takers but not the UN, because Syria has big allies there. Perhaps Obama is remembering World War I where big nations allied to a small nation started a huge war over a small incident. Perhaps bombing a smallish country which has giant allies, who are not our friends, makes Obama a bit nervous, as it should.

No matter, as soon as the President announced what he planned to do the criticisms came in from the other side. They complained that it is not enough. They said it will either have no effect, or it will drag us into a new Middle Eastern war. They said that it is a declaration of war and requires the approval of Congress. Is it a trap to furnish the GOP with grounds for the much heralded impeachment of Obama if he acts without consulting Congress? Whatever, it sounds like the fallout will be far more negative than positive and yet if Obama doesn’t back up that red line statement the fallout may also be negative, because then Obama will appear weak, they say (feckless is the new preferred insult and applies equally, it seems, to both Obama and to members of Congress).

Our actions in war no longer have the unified support we experienced prior to Vietnam and which we have never really experienced since the end of World War II. A President must walk his own line and ignore the siren calls from both sides of the aisle, but it must feel like arrows to the soul, especially when the right thing to do is not absolutely certain or clearly apparent. At least if we decided to back the path our President chooses, those actions would have the weight of America behind them, but this way we just look like a bunch of cats in a canvas bag clawing each other. I don’t want America to lose the weight it carries in the world of nations. I hope Obama has a good idea of what decision to make, because I don’t have a clue.

This blog post is also available at www.brissioni.com
 

Thanks for Playing Bill O’Reilly: You are not a Winner

Bill O'Reilly

nuclear family

I don’t spend a lot of time listening to FOX News because it interprets every event in almost the opposite way from the way that I interpret the same event and I find myself yelling at the TV and it all gets very stressful. The views FOX commentators express are not at all politically neutral; they clearly come from the stubborn, but very biased view that the Republican Party is trying to foist on America in recent years. I do, however, like to keep a little window open into FOX World (know your enemy)  so I try to watch Bill O’Reilly, who at least, because he believes he is able to see through the political spin used by both sides, does not allow the most hateful rhetoric. He tries to get his guests to give him facts. It is almost impossible in these polarized times to present news in an unbiased way and I usually enjoy watching news interpretations that reflect my views. When I watch Mr. O’Reilly I know that what he concludes about the news will not reflect my views. But he is the one I choose when I want to spy on the opposition. Bill O’Reilly is probably the smuggest man in the world, always in charge and always carefully controlling what people are allowed to say in interviews. He invites them to speak and when they don’t say something he agrees with he simply talks over them and corrects them as they speak. My reactions as I watch this range from the predictable anger, to amused exasperation, to outright laughter. Bill O’Reilly is the quintessential rooster.

Lately Mr. O’Reilly has arrived at an insight into what is ailing the African American community and once he arrives at an insight he invites guest after guest to, he hopes, come on his show and pat him on the back and say “eureka”, you have solved it. This, of course, is not at all what all of his guests say because he invites people who clearly will not agree with him so he can talk over them and criticize them when they say he is rude. The pattern gets pretty predictable after a while. Anyway, Mr. O’Reilly has decided that the failure of the family is responsible for all the woes in African American neighborhoods. All African Americans need to do is stay married, form nice little nuclear families and all the drugs will go away, all the poverty, all the arrests, poof, gone. The children will then stay in school until they graduate and go to college and get good jobs and become productive members of the middle class. It is a lovely fantasy, but O’Reilly has no real scientific proof that intact families are the answer to any of our cultural problems. The other big problem with this rather overly simplistic conclusion is that it is impossible to fix this. What does he want done? We cannot legislate it away, make a law that all men and women in pairs must form nuclear families if they have children and that they must remain in those families until the children are twenty-six. Or perhaps he expects government to start a program like the Stop Smoking Program, which has been somewhat effective, to talk up the nuclear family and keep pounding away at it until we form little nuclear families just so we will stop being bombarded with awful ads. You can’t force people to only produce offspring if they form an intact family. We can’t just wave a magic wand and voila, intact families.

In fact, white families are not so intact these days either so the trend is going in the opposite direction and we can predict that the tide will probably turn again in favor of the intact family, but who knows when that will happen. It is not helpful to keep pounding home an insight into a factor that is out of our control, which is not the way to solve the problems our young people are experiencing,  These problems are probably more endemic to our times than they are to any one racial or cultural group. Labeling a problem doesn’t fix it. Thanks for playing; you are not the winner.

Also available at http://www.thebrissioniblog.blogspot.com

 

Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende – Book

Maya's Notebook

I make it a point to read books by Isabel Allende. They immerse me in parts of American culture and the culture of South America that I know little about. Isabel Allende is West Coast, I am East Coast. She was born in Peru and raised in Chile but has lived for decades in California. My ancestors wandered down from Canada. She is an exotic to me; a window (or a door) into the histories of her ancestral lands and the experience of South American immigrants in America. Besides she is a great story teller and a pretty much flawless writer.

In Maya’s Notebook we still get history but we also get about as contemporary a story as Allende has ever told. Maya Vidal is a child of modern America, an America through which our teens are having a frightful time navigating safely. Our society fails a fair percentage of our teens in ways that bring into question any claims we might make about living in an evolved and enlightened age. The two great failures discussed in this novel (from among many) involve the dissolution of the American family and the horrors of substance addiction among teens who have no business being anywhere near addictive substances, given that their systems are especially prone to addiction, their dispositions especially prone to psychic disaster, and that they tend to lack the disciplined motivations necessary to ending addiction. Physical damage is also more serious in young addicts and if the substance doesn’t damage them then the erratic lifestyle and predatory people they meet are almost sure to guarantee that harm happens.

Maya, a typical American child of mixed race (Icelandic mom, Chilean dad) lives with her grandparents. Her mother left her as a baby and her dad is a single, self-involved pilot, rarely home and with no parental impulses. Maya loves her Nini and her Popo but when her Popo dies her world falls apart. She disappears into the Las Vegas slums where she meets all the wrong people, is addicted, first to alcohol and then to the drugs you don’t want to be addicted to. She has some internal strength, a few street smarts, and enough self-respect to keep herself alive among a very rough Las Vegas crowd. Then she ends up being privy to a crime that interests people who care nothing about teen drug addicts or even drug dealers.

Maya is found by her grandmother and sent to a remote island off the coast of Chile under a false name to keep her safe from these dangerous people. You would think an American teen used to computers and fast food and cable, etc would never stay on the backward island of Chiloe, but what she finds there is surprising. There is a saying I learned in architecture class, KISS, keep it simple stupid. Could this be the answer to America’s complexity and seeming dissolution (not to mention pollution)? While I don’t think we want anything quite as simple as the accommodations on Chiloe you might end up feeling that “we need to get us some of that.” Maya’s past eventually catches up with her, but I cannot tell you about that. I can tell you, however, that Isabel Allende scores again.

This blog post is also available at http://www.thebrissioniblog.blogspot.com and at www.goodreads.com

 

Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende – Book

 
 
I make it a point to read books by Isabel Allende. They immerse me in parts of American culture and the culture of South America that I know little about. Isabel Allende is West Coast, I am East Coast. She was born in Peru and raised in Chile but has lived for decades in California. My ancestors wandered down from Canada. She is an exotic to me; a window (or a door) into the histories of her ancestral lands and the experience of South American immigrants in America. Besides she is a great story teller and a pretty much flawless writer.

In Maya’s Notebookwe still get history but we also get about as contemporary a story as Allende has ever told. Maya Vidal is a child of modern America, an America through which our teens are having a frightful time navigating safely. Our society fails a fair percentage of our teens in ways that bring into question any claims we might make about living in an evolved and enlightened age. The two great failures discussed in this novel (from among many) involve the dissolution of the American family and the horrors of substance addiction among teens who have no business being anywhere near addictive substances, given that their systems are especially prone to addiction, their dispositions especially prone to psychic disaster, and that they tend to lack the disciplined motivations necessary to ending addiction. Physical damage is also more serious in young addicts and if the substance doesn’t damage them then the erratic lifestyle and predatory people they meet are almost sure to guarantee that harm happens.

Maya, a typical American child of mixed race (Icelandic mom, Chilean dad) lives with her grandparents. Her mother left her as a baby and her dad is a single, self-involved pilot, rarely home and with no parental impulses. Maya loves her Nini and her Popo but when her Popo dies her world falls apart. She disappears into the Las Vegas slums where she meets all the wrong people, is addicted, first to alcohol and then to the drugs you don’t want to be addicted to. She has some internal strength, a few street smarts, and enough self-respect to keep herself alive among a very rough Las Vegas crowd. Then she ends up being privy to a crime that interests people who care nothing about teen drug addicts or even drug dealers.

Maya is found by her grandmother and sent to a remote island off the coast of Chile under a false name to keep her safe from these dangerous people. You would think an American teen used to computers and fast food and cable, etc would never stay on the backward island of Chiloe, but what she finds there is surprising. There is a saying I learned in architecture class, KISS, keep it simple stupid. Could this be the answer to America’s complexity and seeming dissolution (not to mention pollution)? While I don’t think we want anything quite as simple as the accommodations on Chiloe you might end up feeling that “we need to get us some of that.” Maya’s past eventually catches up with her, but I cannot tell you about that. I can tell you, however, that Isabel Allende scores again.
 
This blog post is also available at www.brissioni.com and on www.goodreads.com
 

What Will It Take to Make Us Rise Up?

uprising4

 

We’re so passive! I’m speaking to white folks this time. I see black folks starting to push back against conservative extremism. I have not seen many signs of life yet in the Hispanic community, or the Asian community, or any of the other cultural groups who make up large or small segments of our country.

Yesterday’s celebration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of Martin Luther King, Junior’s “I Have a Dream” speech and the March on Washington of 1963 was about milestones, but it was also a great and energetic call to action. With the current attempts to suppress the right to vote, the African-American community is likely to stay energized. It doesn’t matter whether Republicans are doing these voter “adjustments” to block Democrats or to block minorities from voting since the effect is the same. Minority voters have been voting for Democrats recently and who could fault them for it.

White folks in my social sphere are half in agreement with Conservatives because the middle class is buying the “taker” argument. It plays into some cultural jealousy they have been feeling. They have had it with folks, they say, who could work but don’t. They have all worked day in and day out, week in and week out, year after year and have scrimped and borrowed and repaid and saved. They do look forward to retirement with Social Security and Medicare to allow some leisure and some rest from their labors, but they have never been on Welfare, or SNAP (food stamps), or Medicaid (although an aging parent might have been on Medicaid at some point) and they are proud that they have taken care of their own needs.

These middle class Americans are divided, as is the rest of America, about ProLife vs. ProChoice. They don’t know much about regulation on Wall Street. They don’t usually own stock. They don’t know what to make of the ACA because it hasn’t gone into effect yet (except for their children who are in their twenties), but they know that health care in America costs too much. If they are still looked after by their doctors and if prices go down they will be fine with the ACA; if not they will grumble and you’ll hear their frustration. I don’t live in the South so my cohorts are not affected by many of the battles there; battles in which the Conservatives are actually challenging American laws.

These middle class-ers (new word) could quite easily agree to shut down Welfare (which they suspect of being a bigger program than it is), or food stamps, or social security disability (for those who are not truly disabled), or Medicaid. I don’t believe they have thought through what America will be like without these programs. If they think America has scary parts now (and they do) it will be even scarier if these programs go away. Those most affected would be America’s poor children and that will tear their hearts out since they are actually very compassionate people.

There are sections of our cities some of us never go into – not because of hate – because of fear and feelings that we will not be welcomed. There are invisible walls around our inner cities and they don’t just keep some people out, they keep some people in. Skin color delineates the wall. When you read about shootings every day in the news, shootings in certain neighborhoods of your city, it doesn’t make sense that we would want to go there. It is fear that has people rudely locking their car doors or waiting for the next elevator. (In fact, I never ride in an elevator alone with any man who is a stranger.) This is not done to hurt anyone’s feelings, although we understand that it does; it is done because it makes us feel safer. (As if a locked car door could stop a bullet.)

Addiction is also part of this scenario. Maybe cities will always contain neighborhoods that less “adventurous” residents will want to avoid but perhaps we can reach a place where the most frightening neighborhoods, the least beautiful neighborhoods are not occupied by those with the darkest skin. If fifty percent of inner city students do not graduate we have to find out why. Can we design schools these students will not want to leave? I think we can. I don’t think privatization of schools is intended to retain these students who leave. I think privatization is about separation (segregation). I hope I’m wrong about that. But education is the key to the doors that open up the middle class (as long as there are jobs to be had.)

So what will make my friends and my family rise up and send a do-nothing Congress home? Attacking unions hasn’t done it because we have almost no factories. Cutting public services and employees may eventually get through to them, but since these folks are pretty self-sufficient and don’t require government services very often (they believe), it will take longer for these affects to be felt. Of course, many members of the middle class have had those public (government) jobs that are now on the chopping block. If their pensions keep disappearing, they might rise up, but I hope that doesn’t happen.

I don’t even want the peeps to be violent. I’m not talking revolution here. I’m talking political activism, making Congressmen do their jobs or go home. If cuts make chaos, and climate change makes chaos, and if they lose Medicare and Social Security they may decide to speak up. If their lifestyles begin to erode they might speak up. They should really speak up now. They should speak up before things get this bad. The extreme right is not the friend of the middle class. Do you realize that some states are breaking their paved roads up to make gravel roads which require less upkeep?  Doesn’t this scare you? If scares me. Something might come along to save us but I don’t see it on the horizon yet.

Speak up; don’t give up the American Dream just yet. Hold on to as much of it as you can for as long as you can. Fight, fight, fight! (Fight verbally, within the law, with your voice, with your vote.) Stand up and be counted! I can’t believe you all are still are so silent. Maybe you really do want small government and an end to having a social safety net. I just don’t think you’ll be happy with that state of affairs once it really applies and no one can tell anyway because you’re saying anything.

This blog post is also available at http://www.thebrissioniblog.blogspot.com

 

 

What Would It Take for Us to Rise Up?

 
 
We’re so passive! I’m speaking to white folks this time. I see black folks starting to push back against conservative extremism. I have not seen many signs of life yet in the Hispanic community, or the Asian community, or any of the other cultural groups who make up large or small segments of our country. Right now I am speaking to the middle class, no matter what other groups they represent, but I am most familiar with the thoughts and actions of my family and my friends.

Yesterday’s celebration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of Martin Luther King, Junior’s “I Have a Dream” speech and the March on Washington of 1963 was about milestones, but it was also a great and energetic call to action. With the current attempts to suppress the right to vote, the African-American community is likely to stay energized. It doesn’t matter whether Republicans are doing these voter “adjustments” to block Democrats or to block minorities from voting since the effect is the same. Minority voters have been voting for Democrats recently and who could fault them for it.

White folks in my social sphere are half in agreement with Conservatives because the middle class is buying the “taker” argument. It plays into some cultural unfairness they have been feeling. They have had it with folks, they say, who could work but don’t. They have all worked day in and day out, week in and week out, year after year and have scrimped and borrowed and repaid and saved. They do look forward to retirement with Social Security and Medicare to allow some leisure and some rest from their labors, but they have never been on Welfare, or SNAP (food stamps), or Medicaid (although an aging parent might have been on Medicaid at some point) and they are proud that they have taken care of their own needs.

These middle class Americans are divided, as is the rest of America, about ProLife vs. ProChoice. They don’t know much about regulation on Wall Street. They don’t usually own stock. They don’t know what to make of the ACA because it hasn’t gone into effect yet (except for their children who are in their twenties), but they know that health care in America costs too much. If they are still looked after by their doctors and if prices go down they will be fine with the ACA; if not they will grumble and you’ll hear their frustration. I don’t live in the South so my cohorts are not affected by many of the battles there; battles in which the Conservatives are actually challenging American laws.

These middle class-ers (new word) could quite easily agree to shut down Welfare (which they suspect of being a bigger program than it is), or food stamps, or social security disability (for those who are not truly disabled), or Medicaid. I don’t believe they have thought through what America will be like without these programs. If they think America has scary parts now (and they do) it will be even scarier if these programs go away. Those most affected would be America’s poor children and that will tear their hearts out since they are actually very compassionate people.

There are sections of our cities some of us never go into – not because of hate – because of fear and feelings that we will not be welcomed. There are invisible walls around our inner cities and they don’t just keep some people out, they keep some people in. Skin color delineates the wall but only poverty keeps people there. When you read about shootings every day in the news, shootings in certain neighborhoods of your city, it doesn’t make sense that you would want to go there. It is fear that has people rudely locking their car doors or waiting for the next elevator. (In fact, I never ride in an elevator alone with any man who is a stranger.) This is not done to hurt anyone’s feelings, although it is understood that it does; it is done because it makes us feel safer. (As if a locked car door could stop a bullet.)

Addiction is also part of this scenario. Maybe cities will always contain neighborhoods that less “adventurous” residents will want to avoid, but perhaps we can reach a place soon where the most frightening neighborhoods, the least beautiful neighborhoods are not occupied by those with the darkest skin. If fifty percent of inner city students do not graduate we have to find out why. Can we design schools these students will not want to leave? I think we can. I don’t think privatization of schools is intended to retain these students who leave. I think privatization is about separation (segregation). I hope I’m wrong about that. But education is the key to the doors that open up the middle class (as long as there are jobs to be had.)

So what will make my friends and my family rise up and send a do-nothing Congress home. Attacking unions hasn’t done it because we have almost no factories so unions have lost a lot of their power. Cutting public services and employees may eventually get through to them, but since these folks are pretty self-sufficient and don’t require government services very often (they believe), it will take longer for these affects to be felt. Of course, many members of the middle class have had those public (government) jobs that are now on the chopping block. If their pensions keep disappearing, they might rise up, but I hope that doesn’t happen.

I don’t even want the peeps to be violent. I’m not talking revolution here. I’m talking political activism, making elected Congressional representatives do their jobs or go home. If cuts make chaos, and ignoring climate change makes chaos they may decide to speak up, and if they lose Medicare and Social Security they may decide to speak up. If their lifestyles begin to erode they might speak up. They should really speak up now. They should speak up before things get this bad. The extreme right is not the friend of the middle class. Do you realize that some states are breaking their paved roads up to make gravel roads which require less upkeep (Rachel Maddow tells us)? What’s that about? Is it about small government or impoverished government? Doesn’t this scare you? If scares me. Something might come along to save us but I don’t see it on the horizon yet.

Speak up; don’t give up the American Dream just yet. Hold on to as much of it as you can for as long as you can. Fight, fight, fight! (Fight verbally, within the law, with your voice, with your vote.) Stand up and be counted! I can’t believe you all are still so silent. Maybe you really do want small government and an end to having a social safety net. I just don’t think you’ll be happy with that state of affairs once it really applies and no one can tell anyway because you’re not saying anything.

This is the view from the cheap seats.

This blog post is also available at www.brissioni.com