THE PARADOXICAL MISTER SANDERS

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

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 Core Rally

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.

Bernie Sanders young arrested 1963

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.

Bernie Sanders Confronts Alan Greenspan
Senator Sanders Confronts, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan 2002

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.

Bernie Sanders young

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.

Racism In America: A Path To Healing

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.