Speaking the language of the new millennium has proven to be challenging (to say the least) for the denizens of our political machine. Who could have predicted that the one among them, most adept at articulating the needs and concerns of the “New American,” would be a man born during WWII.
Bernie Sanders is 74 years old- he was 10 when America’s progress toward liberty was temporarily stunted, and withering in the long cold shadow cast by Senator Joseph McCarthy. From 1950 to 56, Bernie Sanders lived in an America that made sure everyone knew that anyone, not Republican or Democrat, was an enemy of the United States. The idea that industry, hard work, and determination was all a “real” American needed to claim his piece of the American Dream, seemed less-an-idea, and more a dictum. And yet, during one of the most socially and politically repressive periods in American history, Bernie Sanders managed to forge the foundation of unique brand of socialism. Mr. Sanders come to realize that, sometimes, we all need help; and that, “industry, hard work and determination,” when slanted a certain way, looked a lot like greed, inequality, and entitlements.
Bernie Sanders, right, a member of the Congress of Racial Equality steering committee, stands next to University of Chicago President George Beadle, who is speaking at a CORE meeting on housing sit-ins in 1962. (Special Collections Research Center / University of Chicago Library)
During the turbulent 60’s the Jews of New York were very insular. Still reeling from the horrors of their Holocaust, the larger Jewish community was more concerned with making certain that such a thing never happened again; they stayed in Jewish communities, and preoccupied themselves with the Judaeo-centric (is that even a word!?) politics of the day; and yet there’s a picture of a 22 year old Bernie Sanders being arrested for resisting arrest, during an anti-segregation protest, held in Chicago in the summer of 1963- I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention, in that same year, he marched with thousands of other Americans into the nations capitol, to stand with Martin Luther King, as he spoke of his dream, that all men had jobs, and were judged, not on the color of their skin, but on the content of their character.
We’re gonna fast- forward through the dozens of civil rights rallies Bernie organized and participated in during the 1960’s, the anti-war rallies of the 70’s, and his very successful 8 year stretch as Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, which took up most of the 80’s (1980-88), to the 90’s, and his years in the House of Representatives.
Like the Jews of the 50’s and 60’s, the politicians of Washington D.C. have a tendency to be a very reclusive group; but the greed, corruption, selfish and entitled behaviors, are traits peculiar to them alone. Bernie Sander’s, far from succumbing to the toxic mixture of perpetual power and infinite influence, video can be found of him doing battle with some of the most powerful influences in the country i.e. the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, and the Federal Reserve.
Again, relentlessly out of sync with his peer group, who saw him as something of a squeaky wheel; Bernie’s articulation of the growing disparity between the rich and poor, along with his staunch criticism of both parties deferential treatment of the wealthy, resonated, pitch perfect, in the heart of America’s “Every-man,” making him one of the most popular politicians in U.S. history.
“The language of the new millennium,” is evolution; it’s about human beings being humane to one another, regardless of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or economic standing; it’s a call to equity, opportunity, civility, a community that rallies to the support of “…the least of us.” Bernie Sanders is living proof that “the language of the new millennium,” is an echo of an idea, whose time has come…again.
Race. Most social scientist agree that there is no such thing, and the concept of “race” is actually a manipulation of our cultural sensibilities… an illusion. Why then, can’t we talk about it, and agree to dispel the “smoke,” and shatter the “mirrors” of a deception perpetrated-not just upon those of African descent, but all men, women, and children that have come from far and wide to call the United States home? Perhaps, it’s the air of accusation- the unspoken indictment…
“This is what happened.” says a member of the “out-group” to which the member of the other group responds “Oh my, that is a terrible terrible thing that your people have endured! Tell me, who did this horrible thing to your people?” To which the other responds “your people.”
“…and by extension- you.” is unspoken, and yet, perceived by both parties. The power of racism has always been, and always will be, it’s ability to find purchase in the shadows of ignorance, cold courtesies, or denial; until we can talk about it, racism will continue to shadow our history, and shape our future.
Recently, I read “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy Of Enduring Injury and Healing” by Dr. Joy Degruy, I was struck by her claim that slavery was as traumatic for white Americans as it was for blacks. Essentially, her point was, because most whites were Christians, and imagined themselves to be moral, by engaging in a practices as immoral as willfully brutalizing and enslaving other humans beings, it created a condition, known in psychology as, Cognitive Dissonance. Cognitive Dissonance is a response to trauma that occurs when one does something so far outside of their essential self, they have to create a completely different reality in order to cope with what they’ve done; racism is the philosophy of this alternate reality. This perspective is revolutionary, because it draws the path to healing, not through understanding one another’s race, but through understanding one another’s need for compassion, reconciliation, and forgiveness.
New Hampshire hasn’t picked a “winner” since 1988…why? We are driven, like cattle, every four years, by the media, to the trough that is New Hampshire, and there, force fed a noxious amalgam of meaningless polls, misleading data, and hours of mind numbing, political chatter. This ritual is part of a continuing effort (by both parties) to pay homage to a broken political machine, whose time has come. The world is changing, and the Collective American, is changing along with it.
We crave something more: power, purpose, independence…reconciliation? Who knows, but what we do know is, that whatever it is, won’t be found trolling the barren wasteland of yesterdays political landscape. The sustenance we seek is organic, authentic, and sustainable; the founding concepts of a new millennium. I’m not saying that the primaries, in general, don’t serve a purpose; I’m saying that the primaries, in general need to be re-purposed to inform, not dictate… to reveal, not expose… to guide, not manipulate- in short they need to become “authentic.”
Donald Trump. What can be said that hasn’t already been said about this guy? Well, here’s something… he’s not Adolf Hitler. Recently, Auschwitz survivor, Eva Schloss, the 86 year old stepsister of holocaust victim, Anne Frank, wrote an essay it which she compares “The Donald” to the original “He who must not be named.”
In her essay, published for Newsweek, Ms. Schloss says:
“If Donald Trump becomes the next president of the U.S. it would be a complete disaster… I think he is acting like another Hitler by inciting racism. During his U.S. presidential campaign he has suggested the ‘total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,’ as well as pledging to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico to keep illegal immigrants out.”- Eva Schloss, Newsweek, January 2016
Hitler was an evil S.O.B. (no doubt about it!), but most scholars agree, once you got past the whole “failed artist” thing, the guy possessed real skill as a politician. Most people don’t know that he was Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” in 1938. A sh*t-head for sure, but he was a patient, calculating, astute, and a powerfully charismatic sh*t-head.
“We erupted into a frenzy of nationalistic pride that bordered on hysteria. For minutes on end, we shouted at the top of our lungs, with tears streaming down our faces: Sieg Heil, Sieg Heil, Sieg Heil!From that moment on, I belonged to Adolf Hitler body and soul.”- Alfons Heck, Former Hitler Youth, Author, 2001
Hitler’s effect as a speaker was made more profound, because, more than merely speaking as “a German”, in his mind, he was “all Germans” speaking; the phenomenon as observed by famous Swiss Psychiatrist, Carl Jung:
“While Mussolini was an ordinary man—“a human being”[…]— Hitler was not, lacking individuality, confused with his nation’s collective soul, and possessed by its Collective Unconsciousness. Not even by the Collective Unconscious of a single nation, but that of an entire race, the Aryan race. And it is for this reason that the listeners, even those without knowledge of German… be gripped and hypnotised by his words; because he represents them all—he speaks for all of them.”- Carl Jung, Psychiatrist, 1938.
Before he became “Der Fuhrer,” Hitler had lived many lives; he had been a student, homeless, imprisoned, and a soldier. His ability to tap into, and project these diverse experiences formed the foundations of his mass appeal, making him, what the late, great, David Bowie, would call, the “first pop star.”
The point: The destruction wrought by Adolf Hitler was deliberate, systematic, and precise. An angry man, with extraordinary gifts, chose, with every word he spoke and every move he made, to condemn millions.
Conversely, Donald Trump, though not “evil”, also lacks many of the other attributes that made Hitler so formidable. The ability to empathize… not so much; this is Trump’s attempt at empathizing with a mother of two, at a town hall meeting aired on the “Today” show back in Oct. 2015:
“It wasn’t easy for me[…] I started off in Brooklyn. My father gave me a small loan of $1 million,” Trump said. “I came into Manhattan. I had to pay him back. I had to pay him back with interest. But I came into Manhattan, I started buying up properties. And I did great.”- Donald Trump, New Hampshire, 2015
…and I don’t think Donald Trump is racist, I think he’s an elitist; unless your net worth exceeds his, it won’t matter if you’re black, white, purple or blue, he’ll deem himself better than you. (Nice rhyme!) Anyway, in his own words:
“I’m the most successful person ever to run for the presidency, by far. Nobody’s ever been more successful than me. I’m the most successful person ever to run. Ross Perot isn’t successful like me. Romney – I have a Gucci store that’s worth more than Romney.”- Donald Trump, Des Moines Register, June 2015
The point: Though, not exactly “evil”, “The Donald” is still dangerous. His flippant disregard for anyone that doesn’t agree with him, has caused a rather alarming pattern to emerge. World news agency, AFP, reported pro-immigration protesters being pushed and spat on at Trumps rally in Richmond, Virginia last October, to which he lamented:
I didn’t see much of the protest. We have thousands of people in this room… we [they] have about ten people over there. They’ll get the headline.”- Donald Trump, Richmond Virginia, 2015
A month later, at a rally held in Birmingham, Alabama, a protester was beaten and kicked by Trump supporters while he yelled, “get him out of here; throw him out!” from the podium. Later, when asked about the incident, D.T. responded in his usual unapologetic manner:
I’ve realized, over the span of my short career as a blogger, that I have a tendency toward long-windiness, but whereas my family and friends may find themselves captive audience, I believe you deserve an escape hatch, so I’ve created one, it’s called “To The Point.” A companion to this blog, the topics will be the same mix of politics, human interest, and social concerns that you’ve come to expect, just fewer words(hopefully!) Don’t worry, for you gluttons who desire to continue to be bashed about the head and eye by my in-depth analysis of EVERYTHING, I will continue this blog. So, check out “To The Point”, and let me know what you think about my attempts brevity.
As the country struggled to understand the why’s and how’s of yet another mass shooting, GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson made the following comment during an interview held just a few hours after the tragedy:
“Obviously there are going to be those calling for gun control, but that happens every time we have one of these incidents, obviously that’s not the issue. The issue is the mentality of these people. And we need to be looking at the mentality of these individuals and seeing if there are any early warning clues that we can gather that will help us as a society be able to identify these people ahead of time.”
Comments like these made in the aftermath of such a tragedy, by someone not directly involved is understandable. Unless you’ve had someone snatched out of your life so suddenly that their beds are still unmade, words remain unsaid, hopes die unfulfilled…unless one has lived through the unimaginable horror of having someone you gave birth to, raised, loved, or just sat next to in class… murdered, one could never understand the depth of the imprint it makes on the lives of those left behind.
But, when someone refers to the murder of 9 students, attending college, in Oregon; 9 churchgoers , attending prayer services, in South Carolina; 20 children and 6 adults, attending elementary school, in Connecticut… when that person refers to such an occurrence as just “one of these incidence…” it alludes to a level of disconnection from the human experience that I find alarming, from someone with designs on the presidency of the United States.
I do understand his position, as presidential candidate he must tread lightly for fear of isolating members of his political base. Put another way, as a conservative, he didn’t want to give any leverage to those looking for tougher gun laws. I understand his position… but I don’t accept it. So far, in 2015 alone, there have been 298 mass shootings resulting in 379 deaths, and I believe the families, left behind, deserve more than political “half-speak” from a man renowned for his compassion… they deserve honesty, they deserve empathy, they deserve answers.
My first conscious thoughts of anything as grand as a Milluminati came to me shortly after the 2008 presidential election. Some friends of mine and I were having lunch when one of them commented on the elation [I] “must have felt…” at having a black man elected to the presidency of the United States- “what a vindication!”- they gushed. Although I did appreciate the spirit of my friend’s assumptions, I’d have to admit that I was just as befuddled as anyone… I couldn’t understand how it had happened! Nothing revealed itself during my twice-a- week visits to the local barbershop… there was no hint that the sleeping spirit of united political action had swept through the African- American community, moving all 14 million of us to vote as one. As usual, my friends and relatives in Texas were withholding their support, deferring to the time tested wisdom of “Aint no way these white folk gonna let a black-man be President!” We more “progressive” blacks, by and large, were split down the middle… “Obama’s too inexperienced and liberal…” “Too bad he’s a democrat…”, and my personal favorite “he’s not even “truly” black…” were just a few reasons some African-Americans didn’t celebrate Obama’s ascent. Yes, it’s true that many of us were absolutely in favor of the campaign for “Change”, but just as many were not in favor of Marriage Equality, a Pro-Choice agenda, or gay rights.
But if we didn’t elect him who did? Who had the gall, the audacity… the vision to make a “black” man- a descendant of slaves… the single most powerful person on the planet?
For some weeks afterwards I did what curious people, like myself, do when confronted with impossible puzzles: I carried it with me everywhere I went. One day I found myself having an energetic discussion with a friend of mine who was an ardent supporter of the GOP; he was [patiently] explaining to me that, due to his relative political inexperience, Obama would soon be “out of his depth.” This idea had been widely circulated on FOX, and other conservative news outlets after the elections, so I had been given ample opportunity to develop a counter-argument and was preparing to launch it when… “Dad, you’re just saying that because he’s black…” his son huffed, as if exasperated by his father’s lack of insight. “That’s not why- his color has nothing to do with anything!” was the very predictable (and somewhat feeble) response from my friend. I could take you through the next hour or so of ideological bludgeoning inflicted upon my friend by his son, but I won’t. What’s important is this: where did this kid come from, and why was he so informed?
After the young man was done educating his father on the finer points of political debate, he donned his favorite “slouchy” beanie, skinny jeans, Jimi Hendrix t-shirt, iPhone, backpack, and skateboard before riding off into the kind of Winter night that only exist in places like Corona Del Mar California.
Putting It All Together
My friend’s son was 16 at the time- not even old enough to vote, and yet… Not only did he exhibit a depth of knowledge and enthusiasm for politics- uncommon for Americans of any age, I could tell that he had given his father a thing or two to think about… I was onto something! I felt my “impossible puzzle” shrink to the size of something slightly better than an improbable riddle. Is it possible that a group of kids like my friend’s son came together to elect Americas first “black” President, less than 50 years after MLK’s march on Selma? A group of kids hanging out at a Starbucks in Newport Beach supplied me with all the intel I needed.
There were about 15 of them, all in their late teens, early 20’s; apparently they had all gathered here to participate in a “Magic the Gathering” tournament. (Find a millennial, they’ll tell you all about it.) Their faces were black, white, brown, pink, and beige. “Where’s Farhan?” A very pretty, pink member of the group inquired while making her way to one of the available tables. “He just “snap-chatted” me a picture of him,in traffic, coming from L.A…. he’s gonna be awhile!” a young man, whose skin was the color of dark coffee, answered, never looking away from a match between an Asian young man, and an Indian-Asian young woman. “Oh yeah… I got that too…” a tall black boy supplied, ” “…sucks to be him!” he finished as those around him laughed their agreement.
There, in Starbucks, over the bubbly voices of espresso machines plying their trade, and the muted chatter of commerce being conducted men in ties, I heard another voice…bold, unapologetic, its accent universal, its timbre deep and powerful… a thunder-clap resonating through space and time, vibrant with the energy of youth… I could hear the future.
Millennials is the term used to describe the group of people born between 1982 and the year 2000, and depending on who you ask they are either “civic minded and aware” or “narcissistic and entitled”; “depressed and detached” or “upbeat and connected.”
It seems that where ever one looks, someone is trying to find a way to harness the lightning-strike power that the millennials under my roof have dubbed The “Milluminati.”
The Illuminati is a secret society, composed of a handful of the most powerful people in the world, and their goal is to control everything from birth to death, war to wealth, and all things in-between…all while remaining perfectly invisible. See where I’m going with this? Whether or not the Illuminati actually exist depends on who you ask. Urban legend has it that their agendas unfold by degrees and can take decades to come to fruition. Not so for the Milluminati.
The similarities between the Illuminati and its 21 century redux are non-existent save, of course, for both groups relative invisibility. For instance, where the former is isolated, calculating, patient, and self-serving; the latter is networked, impatient, operates in plain sight, and has a decidedly altruistic bent. One works through established institutions to accomplish its goals while the other works to deconstruct, re-imagine, or enervate any institution that it finds to be archaic or obsolete. The Illuminati (if you believe in such a thing) goes to great length to maintain their veil of secrecy and anonymity, the other is shielded by nothing more than the casual way it executes its agenda. Those not aligned with millennials will perceive its actions as nothing more than random, lazy attempts to be relevant.
A Quick Tally
Well let’s take a look at a few of the “random” things that have happened since the first of these young people started voting:
Legalization of Marijuana- A conversation that has been relatively one-sided since the 1930’s when the federal government implemented the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. Without boring you to death with a lot of history, people have received 20 year prison sentences for possessing 10 joints. Although federal law still lags… many states are starting to see, with the help of their 18-29 year old constituents, the upside to legalizing marijuana, chiefly the $1.3 billion to be made from simply taxing it. Additionally, 60% of that same age group is in favor of legalization – a trend that has been surging upwards since around 2010.
Marriage Equality- It’s been on the back burner since the 70’s. The rise of “Gay Pride,” with it’s in- your face assertion that it was not only “ok” to be gay, but that it could be down-right “fabulous!” Artist and entertainers rammed the topic into the national psyche, and there it languished, never achieving the full integration that had been the goal. 2000 saw the first states legalizing same-sex unions. By 2004 a few states were actually choosing to recognize marriage equality. 2009 saw the first federal laws actually making “Pathologization or attempted treatment of sexual orientation with minors by mental health professionals illegal in some states.” Finally, in 2015 the Supreme Court of the United States in a 5-4 decision ruled that state level bans on same-sex marriages were unconstitutional.
Elected A Black President- I could just leave it there, but I want to take a few lines to illuminate the relevance of this. As far as presidents go, Obama is fairly moderate… never straying too far from the policies, or the governmental structure, that had been put in place long before he came into office. He was never going to be a revolutionary. But what was revolutionary was what he symbolized- in a word… “Change!” The act of electing an African-American as the P.O.T.U.S. is tantamount to the ancient Egyptians electing a Jew to be Pharaoh and illustrates the revolutionary changes expected by this generation in a way that can’t be measured by polls, studies, or statistics.
We All Get Old…If We’re Lucky…
Generally speaking, as we become older, human beings tend to “settle-down” into communities of people that reflect our beliefs and values. While in our youth we are interested in exploring, developing, and defining what those beliefs and values are. What makes this generation so uniquely formidable is its ability to create networks, share information, connect, and mobilize on a scale never seen in all of human history… all while remaining virtually invisible. I recently had a conversation with a young man- himself no older than 23. He assured me that “kids” from his generation hadn’t the slightest idea what they were voting for, because they were too lazy to look up the issues themselves. In his sage and sober observation he observed that instead of engaging in the “real” work of analysis and research, they simply chose whatever looked “…coolest…” The good news is according to prevailing trends and research, my young friend is a little off the mark. According to the Pew Research Center for Politics and Policy in 2008:
Young voters are more diverse racially and ethnically than older voters and more secular in their religious orientation. These characteristics, as well as the climate in which they have come of age politically, incline them not only toward Democratic Party affiliation but also toward greater support of activist government, greater opposition to the war in Iraq, less social conservatism, and a greater willingness to describe themselves as liberal politically.
The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) published the following report after the elections of 2012:
An estimated 23 million young Americans under the age of 30 voted in the 2012 presidential election which is on par with voting rates during the 2008 presidential election. CIRCLE estimates that youth voter turnout was 50 percent of those (18-to-29) eligible to vote. This was very close to the 2008 youth turnout rate of 52 percent, indicating that youth held steady in their participation.
Liberal or conservative, republican or democrat… these concepts are being bent, broken, and re-imagined in ways that they haven’t before… the muscle behind the morphosis is young, proud, enigmatic, quick to act, and technologically sleek. Capable of looking bored- even aloof ,one minute, and then with a keystroke, change the course of history. And yes, I think that’s pretty cool!
Now for the bad news… various polls show that the Millennials political fire is starting to wane or at least modulate toward a more conservative center. There are plenty of reasons for this… polls are notoriously prone to being manipulated to fit agendas, and there are a lot of agendas centered around controlling a group of people with massive political capital, youthful idealism, and the tools to recreate the world… now. So, by telling you that you are more conservative the hope is that you will become more conservative- think “Jedi-mind-trick.”
Another possible reason the millennial fire may be cooling a bit is… simply put… we get old. As we live life, we become more invested in the stability afforded by upholding the status quo; relationships, marriages, mortgages, kids in college, careers, business interest… these things require a certain amount of physical, fiscal, and political focus in order to be maintained.
The dynamic idealism of youth will always give way to the solid pragmatism of maturity- upon which the next wave of progress will be built- it’s the whole “Standing on the shoulders of giants” thing.
Curious People Like Me
The puzzle of the Milluminati- who they are, and what they mean for the world we live in, went from being impossible to solve to being sublimely easy to accept. Who knows why young people do the things they do: why the children of plantation owners fought so hard to abolish their birth right; or how the children of slaves decided they were entitled to their humanity; or how the children of segregation, both, black and white, decided it was time to live as one… who knows! But it works… and today that’s good enough for a curious person like me.