Bernie, Jeremy and the Social-Democratic comeback.

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If, like me, you are some combination of English, American and left-wing you may be noticing a strange phenomenon.  It manifests itself in think pieces from trendy blogs and news websites alike expressing a bemused interest in an aging white dude, first elected to office in the middle of neoliberalism’s rise to power from a constituency renowned for its population of gay communist radical marxist etc, surging forward into the polls ahead of his nearest rival:the clearly more competent half of a married couple that spent the 1990s pushing the idea that the only way for the political left to go was the middle. Whilst yes the British side of this equation is in the latter stages with leadership voting for the Labour party starting tomorrow, I do think the fact that these two ostensibly fringe candidates are in the running to lead their parties speaks to something broader; to wit, the breakdown of ‘the third way.’

A Quick aside: The phrase, ‘The Third Way’, was coined in the mid 1990s to describe the political re-orientation of the Democratic and Labour parties’ leadership to the political right at the end of the 1980s in response to being politically broken by forces of Reaganomics and Thatcherism. It’s generally characterized by viewing a deregulated, hedge-fund dominated, financially lopsided market as the natural state of industrialized societies; the two-generation-long post-war consensus in the western world about tripartite social democracy being an aberration brought on by feelings of comradery during the 1940s and amphetamines in the 1960s.

Because Social-Darwinism is the apparent natural state of society the best thing lefties can do is make sure as many poor people  as possible get to be predatory with the hopes that they will rise. To this end, rather than improving workplaces or giving workers more power, social democrats should push to make this unfair world at least meritocratic. To achieve this New Labourites/Democrats have pushed for  better education so more kinds of people can get into the economic and social elite, (this is why Tony Blair’s priorities where famously “education, education, education“) all this whilst subsidizing the inevitable underclass this creates until they adjust…. somehow.

BELFAST, -: (FILES) US President Bill Clinton (L) is introduced by British Prime Minister Tony Blair during a ground-breaking ceremony for Springvale Educational Village in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Blair was showered with praise and also a few brickbats 10 May 2007 as he announced his 10 years in power would end June 27, but even his opponents conceded he is a "formidable" politician. Blair was praised for his role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland but condemned for taking Britain into a divisive war in Iraq, while his domestic policies drew mixed feelings from both inside and outside his Labour Party. AFP PHOTO Joyce NALTCHAYAN (Photo credit should read JOYCE NALTCHAYAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Don’t blame me, I was never eligible to vote for either of them

I was born in 1989, meaning my generation grew up in a world where this was the norm: neoliberalism was not just ascendant, it was the only possible option. Unions, we were told, are historical entities, any left over will die with their members. So Called “left-wing” leaders like Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, Gordon Brown and Barack Obama told us again and again, that they would love to create government work programs and widen social security nets or improve access to healthcare if only the semi-mythical super-majority of conservative voters would let them. Throughout the last 30 years the wisdom of left-wing politics has been that to win, Social democrats must trick Conservatives (who definitely outnumber everyone else and always will) into voting for left-wing parties by pretending to be them, bending to the rich and powerful whilst slipping social reforms into the package.

This is why the rise of Sanders and Corbyn is seen as a confusing aberration. As societies, the UK and US have drifted so far to the political right that Bernie and Jez managed to get to the positions they’re in because a series of political operators viewed their politics as simply impossible. Jeremy Corbyn made it into the leadership race, in part, by Blairites nominating him to be a left-wing foil for Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham to prove how sensible and electable they are. Bernie Sanders has never been seen as a political threat by anyone in D.C. so there is no serious anti-Sanders narrative; if he is talked of in a negative light, that light focuses on the fact that he’s an irrelevant curmudgeon. The liberal left along with the conservative right have spent so much time thinking of ‘Socialism’ as something aging miners sing about whilst actual, sensible political actors warn the rest of us about with poorly thought out signs.

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This is mainstream…. apparently

 The crowds and genuine excitement surrounding both these old white dudes has to be the result of a nearly 3 decade long deprivation of an actual left-wing candidate being seen as even sort of viable in the English-speaking world. The fact that they’re both old WASP-y men speaks to the level of attrition women and people of colour face in the political arena, particularly when they’re left of center. Consider Barack Obama’s swing to the right on the military and healthcare policy all the while pretending he didn’t support gay marriage until 2012. Social democracy has been in the wilderness for so long that the only proponents of it left are the most milk-toast, white bread variety of social democrat. It’s hard to imagine Hillary Clinton have an event shut down by civil rights activists and, after consulting with those activists, hiring someone from the activists’ campaign and not have that reflected negatively on her gender. So far the only person to call Sanders out for doing this is Donald Trump, meaning “Bernie Sanders is weak” is on the same level as ‘all Mexicans are rapists’ and ‘putting your name on everything is something that well adjusted adults do.’

I don’t seriously think that Jeremy or Bernie will win their upcoming battles for leadership of the party. Even if Corbyn was to win this month, I doubt the popular power of the social democratic left would be enough to have red flags flying over both the White house and Downing Street by 2020. I do however think that the fact that these two figures are drawing huge crowds at the same time in similar political cultures does suggest if not a seismic change then the turning of a corner. My generation have spent our entire adult lives being beaten over the head with the negative consequences of neoliberalism and lopsided economics. My hope is not that President Sanders or Prime minister Corbyn will change the tax code a little bit to bring forth full communism. Rather, by fighting these elections and denting the twenty-first century consensus about the end of history and the natural state of unfettered capitalism these two survivors of the post-war consensus could remind us that one doesn’t necessarily have to be cynical to be successful.

For real though, they're slightly more right wing than these guys

They’re about as left wing as these guys, calm down

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Stand away from Rand. Thoughts on “Libertarianism’s” true born heir.

Preface: every time the word ‘Libertarian’ or any of it’s derivatives appears in this article, I’ve put quotation marks around it. I have done this because I object to people who think that the problem with society is that corporations and robber barons don’t have enough power over their employees using any word associated with ‘Liberty’ to describe themselves. I do however Understand that that word is in common usage and that i don’t have superpowers that can erase fallacious definitions from people’s heads…. yet. 

Rand

Earlier this week Kentucky’s junior senator, eye doctor and Second generation ‘Libertarian’ Rand Paul announced his intention to run for the presidency of the United States in 2016. Paul’s announcement was much better than his now rival, Ted Cruz’s announcement speech as he managed to get actual supporters along, rather than forcing students to attend. Unlike his father Paul has something close to a chance, not enough to win the nomination but probably enough to drag whoever does toward his ‘Libertarian’ points of view come the general election, possibly putting parts of his agenda in the GOP’s platform. This is likely as ‘Libertarians’ are the part of the republican party that are going to be alive in large numbers come 2020 and 2024. As a result I felt the need to quickly talk about Rand’s Announcement speech and the specific policies and implications he laid out in it.

Paul began with some fun bluster around the need to have a government that adheres to the constitution; something I always find tedious in American political dialogue as it usually comes from people who have very little interest in reading the, actually relatively vague, document itself, rather than idolizing the rich, white slave owners who wrote the thing. After a loud round of applause Paul began to make the argument for a Balanced Budget Amendment.

The Idea of a balanced budget amendment; That is making it a matter of constitutional mandate that the United States cannot go into debt, has been a pet peeve of mine ever since I found out what it is and politicians began reviving the idea around 2009 to stop some black guy spending all the money. Dissecting the idea that we need a balanced budget at all times and in all circumstances misunderstands how sovereign debt works and why it is possible, sustainable and in fact, probably necessity for a nation-state to run a national debt is a subject for better researched and learned blogs to explain. From this poor position I will simply make the point that if we have learned anything from the collapse of Soviet Communism, it is that pre-ordaining how a government will react to hypothetical future economic events and trends cannot end well. And that it is strange that someone who claims his ideology is actually an anti-ideology, devoid of isms or dogma to propose such a restrictive and undemocratic measure.

Paul’s second big idea is term limits for members of Congress. Now the 22nd Amendment is a great idea. particularly coming as it did at the dawn of the atomic age as it shut down the possibility that any one person might have their finger on the button for longer than eight years. However, term limits for the executive branch make sense in a very specific way as it means that presidents cannot realistically try to destroy their internal political rivals in a way prime ministers, or other presidents do, without at least raising up successors to take over, meaning that their political ideology cannot run on the demagoguery of one powerful individual (George H. W. Bush is a fine example of this political truth). This however does not apply to members of legislators, (theoretically) representing as they do interests of the general population rather than the authority of an organ of the state, legislators should stay in power as long as people want them there. I’m not saying all of congress are wonderful democratic flower children, far from it. I’m simply pointing out that the unrepresentative nature of American democracy has a lot to do with money, Gerrymandering and other many problems, none of which are the lack of a govern-by date.

Term limits mean people like LBJ don't get to rise to a powerful position in the senate, which means he doesn't have any pull in the senate which means no 1965 Voting rights act.

Term limits mean people like LBJ don’t get to rise to a powerful position in the senate, which means he doesn’t have any pull among senators, which means no Voting rights act.

A common trope coupled with legislative term limits holds that the cornerstone of the rot at the core of American government is that every single legislator does not read the entirety of bills they vote for. The fact that this argument carries weight in certain circles speaks more to a disinterest in the mechanics of government rather than an actual problem. The fact that legislators don’t read all bills in their entirety is the basis of the committee system congress is based on. This system essentially delegates the reading of bills to small groups of Congressmen who listen to experts and try to understand and then decide if a bill should be voted on. This system exists because every single law will have to stand up to teams of lawyers at one time or another. I’m not necessarily saying this is a good or a bad system, just that to simply demand that everyone reads the whole of the bill is a non demand considering you’re asking every single congressman, who are not necessarily constitutional lawyers,  to read every single sub-article and amendment in every bill, that can run up to several thousand pages, particularly if we’re dealing with something as complex as healthcare or military spending. Baring this in mind, getting them to read every word that goes into a bill would be somewhat redundant in a lot of cases versus having a legal expert read it and then explain it to them, like they do in committees.  At best this argument is a naive attempt to make government accessible, at worst (and to be honest more believable) it’s a cynical way to make Paul sound down home. Either way it’s a stupid thing to say.

I’ve always found ‘Libertarian’ claims of standing up for individual rights suspect. For a start they seem to be standing up for very specific individual’s rights. Whilst building a factory that destroys the surrounding landscape, poisons the water-table and irradiates the soil is a part of the nature of freedom, forming a union against the perpetrator or trying to get them to clean up their own mess is tyrannical statism. Paul brought this to mind in me when he discussed phone records. In part I agree with him; no one should be allowed to keep someone else’s phone records and use them for purposes unknown and unwanted to the owner of those details. Not the NSA, not the FBI, not Google, not Verison, no one; which is where Mr Paul and myself part ways. If we’re into privacy and control over your online presence, we need to be for it in all circumstances or it means nothing. I focus on this specific because i believe it is my core problem with ‘Libertarians’ and why I resent them utilizing the language of freedom and liberty; They are not for privacy, they are against institutions having access to your records when they’re not doing so for profit,  they’re only against tyranny when it’s subject to public oversight. In this sense, on a fundamental level, Rand Paul has very little to differentiate him from the Classic republican brand.

Hey though, at least the government's off your back.

Hey though, at least the government’s off your back.

In what I assume he believes to be his main appeal to left-wing voters, Rand Paul makes the very laudable statement that any law that disproportionately affects people and communities of colour  should be repealed. This is all very well, however it doesn’t really address why drug possession laws are overwhelmingly used against People of Colour verses their white counterparts. Decriminalizing drugs isn’t enough. If we made all drugs legal tomorrow instances of black teenagers being arrested for loitering, trespassing, damaging police property and resisting arrest, verses possession would sky-rocket. Trayvon Martin didn’t have drugs on him, nor did Mike Brown or Eric Garner or Tamir Rice or Walter Scott. It’s kind of cute that at the core of ‘Libertarian’ drug policy is a fundamental misunderstanding of why those policies exist and who they’re designed to be used against.

Prohibition is apparently just another example of killjoy liberals trying to control everyone, rather than a tool to use against America’s poor and dispossessed. The idea that if we just took one reason to arrest and harass black teenagers out the equation, police forces would stop this very lucrative practice is ridiculous. Wanting to legalize substances without changing anything else about law enforcement is doing the best you can to sound like you’re doing something without doing a damn thing. For a point of reference the 15th Amendment states that every male citizen of the United States gets to vote, it was specifically designed to enfranchise African Americans. It was ratified in 1870. Without reforming law enforcement or making an exerted effort beyond signing a piece of paper, the segregated south found other means to discriminate wholesale against their African-American citizens. As much as I think drugs do need to be decriminalized or legalized (depending on the drug) the fact that you could safely get high in your dorm room wouldn’t lessen the systematic racism of the police force. That said, what are a few civil rights violations between friends?

This definatly wouldn't be happening if you could buy Weed at WalMart

This defiantly wouldn’t be happening if you could buy Weed at WalMart

On the whole I hope that the kind of people who Rand is trying to bring in with this campaign; young people disillusioned with the ineffectiveness of the DNC and repelled by the GOP for being quite so tone deaf to modern America, see this upcoming campaign for what it is; a warmed over version of the Reagan ‘revolution’ with the moral outrage turned down from 11 to 6. What Paul is offering people is a world were underemployed people remain underemployed, where the cops still harass and kill people of color, where people generally are still denied healthcare and women are denied reproductive rights in defence of  religious or economic ‘freedom”. But hey, we could all get high after our terrible underpaying job though. Swings and roundabouts I suppose.


The Sound and the Fury: What Americans need to take from British politics

The Campaign League were nice enough to let me write all over their nice clean blog. If the idea of a funny, dickish, micro-tabloid that treats British politics like we all know it should (with a running scoreboard) appeals to you. follow this blog!

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Hate Mail from America
The Sound and the Fury: What Americans need to take from British politics
The post today is not a normal Campaign League post. I asked a friend of mine to write something and here it is. Matthew is British born and now lives in America*. I write a lot about how campaigns in this country is shit, but I guess it could be worse.
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Tonight at 9pm Eastern standard time (2am proper time) the president of the United states will walk into the House of Representatives and spend about an hour explaining why he, America and the way he runs America is awesome in every way. Despite the fact that various talking heads will continuously assure each other that this and everything else about America makes the United states a special democratic snowflake, the state of the union is not unique or even particularly democratic.
Being…

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Scaling the Walls of Utopia. Immigration in the United States

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I spent two weeks in the summer of 2001 in the back of an RV driving through the American west from Denver, to Yellowstone, to Mount Rushmore and back again. At the time the tone of British politics, much like it has been for a while, focused on angst over immigration from the Indian subcontinent , southern Europe and elsewhere; the main defence of Anti-Immigrants in the UK was that there simply was not enough room on the island to accommodate the apparent rabid hordes of brown people charging through the channel tunnel. As I looked out on the seemingly endless Wyoming plains I can remember thinking that Britain could simply send anyone UK on to the US; after all they had all this room. At the time this idea made perfect sense to me; the land used to be Native American land before it was Mexico, so why not throw some more people in to the U.S.? It’s big enough and seems to be based on the idea of Immigration renewing the country. This is why the growing anger over Immigration across the Rio Grande in recent years has, as an Immigrant, disappointed me.

The general argument on the face of it is that people are not against immigration so much as they are against illegal immigration; The insistence that they are only angry that people seemed to have ‘Jumped the line’ and are enjoying the American dream without having filled out the paperwork, nothing more, reveals several things about America; first and foremost is that a large number of people have no idea how the immigration system the United States works.

Just to be clear; the United states isn’t a Deli counter; you don’t take a number and wait in one big line. There are wide varieties of circumstances people enter this country under; many have children, many don’t, some are here primarily for work, others for familial ties, or education. Of those who are coming for work, some have a specific job to come to, some don’t, some are here temporally for business. All of these circumstances have different Immigration forms handled by different offices in the Department of Homeland Security. The idea of people who are already here interfering with the process of my or anyone’s paperwork process is laughable.

Funnily enough this is no longer an accurate depiction of U.S. Immigration.

This wilful misunderstanding of how the immigration system works and the philosophy of immigration generally has meant that people who feel the ethic cleansing of the American south-west wasn’t quite enough the first few times can use legal immigrants like myself as shields for their racist rhetoric. In the American Right’s enduring – and at times perversely admirable in its vigour – campaign of insisting they’re not racist the word ‘illegal’ has been awkwardly wedged into the race hatred based rhetoric used by the kinds of people who thought it advisable to harass children fleeing violence in central America. Suddenly fear of a black planet is actually a sense fair play, suddenly I – the white English-speaking European – am the true victim of the current illegal immigration system. Whilst Mexicans and Guatemalans get a luxurious lifestyle living under the radar on starvation wages, almost entirely at the mercy of their employer’s whims lest they get reported to Homeland security; I unfairly have to wait a little longer for my permanent Green Card potentially.

The Anger over the idea that Obama is going to accept the facts on the ground and try to work with the people who are already in America and have been part of the economic and social life of the country instead of ejecting them by force is symptomatic of American self Identity. As previously mentioned on this blog “Americans” are hard to define as “America” is hard to define. However I think I can have a crack at it; America, in the most abstract sense is an extended utopian experiment in enlightened republican government. America is the last country left whose first function is to create perfection rather than mealy keeping the lights on and the trains running. This mentality that to be in America is a reward defiantly informs the notion that to be an illegal immigrant in the united states is to be a thief; you have stolen a piece of the American Dream from the decent and hard-working.The notion of American perfection means that stealing a part of America from someone is such an important problem that true residents of Utopia must be vigilant against any potential cheater. The problem is that this mentality lends itself to the kind of hateful isolationist rhetoric prevalent in European countries now that as an attempt at perfect government, America doesn’t get to work with.

The general argument levelled against the recent arrival of central American children is that America is not a dumping ground. This is wrong in two very important ways; The first being that those children are not trash, the second is that America is very much the world’s Dumping ground.The essence of what is good and cool about America is the notion of the melting pot; the idea that as a country we call on ancient lands to keep their storied pomp whilst we take on their tired, their poor, their huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Since colonisation of this continent the M.O. of what made the U.S.A. the dominant culture in the world comes from taking in the wretched refuse of  the old world’s teeming shores and utilizing this scum of the earth to outperform and dominate the countries that had sent them here, in many cases those Irish, Poles, Cantons, Germans and Jews where, in many cases, as legal as the 11 million or so people who are living here “illegally” and just as productive. Either you can get on board with the fundamental idea that America is from many too one, or you can fuck off back to where your ancestors snuck in from.

Art by Favianna Rodriguez http://favianna.com/


A Case of Identity: Why Columbus Day holds Americans back.

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I just spent my third Columbus day since coming to America bathing cats and surfing the internet. As cleaning a cat is simultaneously upsetting and boring I spent a lot of time reading articles and Facebook posts on why the federal holiday is an embarrassing aberration in this day and age. This wasn’t something confined to the internet; most of my friends (as previously mentioned; a series of Anarchist and Queers, the majority of whom consider the Democratic party right wing) rolled their eyes and sighed at the vulgarity of a parade through south Philadelphia to honor a man who unleashed a wave of masochistic violence, diseases and genocide to firstly Hispaniola, and then the western hemisphere generally, bemoaning that this was not what America stands for.

I really want to believe that. I want to write a long tract about how it is inconceivable in this day and age to celebrate such a man and his works. That Columbus day is a strange aberration to American life, that it’s weird that the United States, a country that occupies none of the territory Columbus walked on, whose primary language is not only not what Columbus spoke, but the language of his state’s enemy, as well as being primarily made up of what he would have thought of as heretics, celebrates him discovering the Caribbean at the beginning of the fall. I could also question the use of Columbus day as a sober, Autumnal Italian St Patrick’s day, considering the full amount of stuff Italian Americans have contributed to the life and culture of the United States without orchestrating a genocide.

Vai squadra?

Oh yeah, this is much better than Pizza.

I would write that, but it’s not true. Christopher Columbus is probably the quintessential historical figure of the Americas, the U.S. in particular. The history of English speaking people on the North American continent is a strange mix of horrific genocide, slavery, theft, democracy and liberty that can’t be separated as much as we try. The idea of a republic in the 18th century cannot be divorced from the idea of slavery any more than the pioneers’ long trail to Oregon and California can be viewed without Christian white supremacy as its central drive. Equally you can’t view Christopher Columbus without separating the fact that without him the civilizations presently occupying the Americas wouldn’t exist without him, and that they exist because extreme violence was brought upon the civilizations that used to exist there.

It’s not nearly as easy to outright condemn Columbus as it should be; don’t get me wrong, Columbus was a terrible human being and it’s a shame there probably isn’t a hell for him to have been languishing in for five hundred years. But why is Columbus the one we decide to single out every year? The $20 bill depicts a man who committed Genocide, Half of American coins have slave owners on them, the great emancipator engaged in summery executions of indigenous peoples whilst preparing to put the emancipation proclamation into effect. The thing that is wrong with Columbus is something that’s wrong with White Americans generally, and yet it’s strange to think that the extermination of indigenous Americans is seen as a separate, peripheral aspect of White American political figures, like a set of wooden teeth or a stove pipe hat, the systemic murder of millions of  people is brushed aside as barely notable to all but a few history enthusiasts, to the point that the first result from Googling the term “Native American Genocide” assumes you’re unaware it happened.

ai-genocide

Europeans are not exempt from this doublethink regarding our history, however we do have the advantage of having been able to leave the places and pretend the whole ugly systematic genocide and exploitation of people of colour never happened. The closest British equivalent to Columbus day, Commonwealth day, used to be called ‘Empire Day’ until it was changed (much like the institution it celebrates) to pretend that Britain’s colonial project was primarily a bilateral community for everyone’s benefit. It’s not celebrated with any kind of parade i know of. European Atrocities outside our continent are largely ignored and not taught instead of being miss taught. for instance, I went to school with a guy from Zimbabwe when I was 17; he was the first person to tell me about the Rhodesian Bush War. I was equally ignorant of the Mau Mau uprising before I learned about it in collage. What we don’t do is try and defend something whose only justification is that White people are fundamentally better than everyone else who need to die to make room; we awkwardly ignore it or we talk about these things as though we are utterly detached from it. After listening to British people talk about the British Empire, it’s easy to come away with the idea that there was some personnel overhaul around about 1935 where vicious money-grubbing imperialists were replaced by Nazi killers and N.H.S. builders.

Europeans can mentally get away with the act of being vague about our murderous past because our self identity isn’t based on it having happened. If there had never been British, French, or Spanish Empires, Britain, France and Spain would still exist. There is definitely space were Spain is, we can argue about were Portugal and France begin, but Spain has definitely always been somewhere in between and filled with Spaniards. America on the other hand was the piece of British territory between the Atlantic and the Appalachian Mountains before it was the Eastern Third of North America before it was the space between the 49th Parallel and the Rio Grande before that included Alaska, Hawaii, Porto Rico, Guam, The Virgin Islands and Parts of Samoa, with Panama, The Philippines and Canada flirted with as possible parts of America, all of these places have original inhabitants that were pushed out or murdered so white people could move in and set up shop. My point is that America is not quite a country in the traditional seance, the idea behind it is… well, an Idea. It’s one of two countries in the history of the world whose sole reason for creation is putting an ideology into practice, and the last one to still exist.

The greatness of America isn’t in what it has done or is doing as a lot of that is pretty terrible and problematic: the positive attribute of America is in it’s potential. Whatever mistake the slave owners in Philadelphia made by not specifying who “We the people” included means that a leading power in the western world has shifted the norms of that society from that of human bondage and legal segregation to one with a bi-racial dude in charge all whilst failing spectacularly to live up to this country’s founding ideals. Columbus Day not only needs to be thrown out, we need to discuss why it was ever a holiday in the first place. Unless we do that we are denying that American history is that of people aspiring one thing and acting in a fundamentally different way. We need to hash out the evil of men like Columbus and Jefferson and Lincoln because unthinkingly celebrating the deaths of outsiders to your benefit is what other countries that never claimed to have moral superiority woven into their DNA. Columbus Day cheapens what it is to be American and pretends that our forebears didn’t betray the fundamentals of what being American is supposed to be and holds current Americans back from being the contentious global citizens we aspire to be.

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Lets all get ready to Enjoy Indigenous people’s day 2015!


A quagmire of bullets; An outsider perspective on America’s gun debate

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At a party over the Christmas period I was asked the most striking thing about living in America; as a question I had been trying to hone what I thought about my adopted country, previous answers had involved celebrations of excess, the racism, the general sense of optimism, the food and the surprisingly high quality of beer. However all my attempts at answering this question didn’t seem quite complete until this particular question at this particular party because I’ve come to realize that the one unifying thing about everyone in America; (Black, White, Rich, Poor, Conservative, Liberal) is that the whole country seems to be pretty self-involved. I say this because despite the fact that France is fighting a war in North Africa, whilst Russia and China experiment with varying degrees of rocket technology in a world where a country at the crossroads of the world is slowly descending further into a death ridden hellscape; the primary debate in my current homeland is how many bullets should be in a semiautomatic machine gun; an argument which, as a foreigner I am continually drawn into.

My experience of this argument  has predominantly involved someone at a party asking me, as an English person,  what my country of birth’s experience with gun control is, and how that makes me able to adjudicate on how Americans should live with or without guns. The answer is that I don’t have any expertise with gun control and almost no British people do, no matter how many British liberals who pretend to be Journalists say otherwise; the experience of the UK is really uninformative in regards to America. Firstly the British don’t and didn’t have guns; it’s not that there was a wide ranging ban on guns which resulted in guns being taken away from the general population; there were two laws enacted in the year following a man shooting up a school in Dunblane  – a year that had a pretty momentous election halfway through – the second law was just an extension of the first and between them made owning functioning shotguns difficult and Handguns nearly impossible. The bill was not especially controversial as it affected less than 1% of British people and was in no way a factor in Tony Blair becoming prime minister. Secondly the cultural experience of gun violence in the lifetime of my parents, grandparents, and probably that of my great-grandparents was entirely external; if you were a subject of the British government in the 20th century with your own non-shotgun firearm, you were probably a member of a Northern Irish Militia. Growing up as a teenager in the mid-2000s I was bombarded with advertisements hammering home the fact that as of 2006 the British police consider the very fact that you have a gun on you evidence of intent to murder. I’m pointing all this out, not to tell British people in America to shut up about Guns in America – by being here we are as likely to get shot as anyone else – but the notion that somehow the British and our fellow Europeans have either the right or wrong answers to America’s issue with people being shot, is simply incorrect. The reference points people use when talking about Britain are also wrong; no one can seriously claim that the level of crime in Britain is related to gun legality one way or another, particularly as the definition of what’s a crime, let alone violent crime actually is varies between our two countries, with the UK casting a wider net with that particular definition. Sighting the experience of other countries for either side of the argument is denying the very specific problems faced in America in regard to gun violence, treating the problem like simply an international one that America hasn’t gotten around to solving yet. In doing this everyone seems to be ignoring large factors in about Guns in America that have yet to be brought up; Poverty and Race.

Whilst I don’t own a gun, and have never shot one, I do live in 2012’s fourth most gun murdery American City. Last year in the city where I live 285 people were shot to death, of which 240 where people of colour this isn’t a statistical aberration, In 2012’s third most murder American city; Detroit had 387 murders of which 361 had people of colour as their victims, in Chicago, (Number 2 on the 2012 list) since 2007, 661 White and Hispanic people have died in the same time frame as 2,097 Black people. These murders are almost always with handguns, illegally obtained for the specific purpose of killing someone. Despite this no one seems to be talking about guns generally,  unless they’re sighting the fact that most people die from pistols as evidence of the futility of doing anything. Crucially however the only Guns that seem require any kind of examination are  the kinds of guns that tend to end up killing middle class white people. This focus on relatively rare guns contributes to the fact that despite living in one of the top five murder cities in America, I don’t feel especially worried that someone will shoot me on my doorstep because I’m not Black and I do not live in a ghetto.

For a Non-American living in this country the fact that all the legal protections and inter-community bussing that has gone on in the past has done very little to racially desegregate it’s cities, is the glaring self-evident fact that no one seems to be able to talk about outside private rooms with one’s friends. This is despite the fact that It’s seems sort of evident almost everything in America is at least somewhat tainted by the fact that poverty and racism are such prevalent lines of division in American society today. This inability to talk about the very real fact that either because of Conservatives refusing to believe that social programs could ever work, or Liberals turning away from the probable reality that past attempts at social engineering have been inadequate or simply missteps, has meant that inner city violence seems to have been normalized by way of being ignored as just another part of Urban life and utilized for the amusement of suburban dwellers. Violence there is to be contained, not necessarily prevented and certainly not addressed in any meaningful way which has meant that despite the some 285 people that were shot to death within a few miles of my home since I moved here, the first discussion about how my country of residence might regulate firearms is because someone from relatively well-off community shot children from relatively well-off families. This is troubling as the people who die from murder in the United States, don’t generally do so in groups during a dramatic burst of violence at the hands of someone with a mental illness and a machine gun, the murdered population is slowly and systematically added too, one or two at a time with very little comment by media. Whilst I sympathize with liberals who want to get a handle on assault weapons, they’re not the real mass killer in America, and if they intend to do something about the highest gun death rate in the developed world they better do something about pistols.

As someone who didn’t grow up in a country where the second most important individual right was to own a firearm, I have no emotional feelings toward guns. I don’t feel more or less free in a country with a heavily armed citizenry which probably makes it hard for me to understand the pro-gun lobby contention that they and their AR-15s are the only thing between freedom and an authoritarian government. This is problematic for several reasons. The first it’s simply ahistorical as not only did Hitler deregulate Guns in 1938; part of the Nazi party’s ability to rise to power was the existence of a largely legal, armed militia. Despite this there is no denying that had Anarchist groups in Barcelona not sized weapons quickly enough, then Franco’s’ forces would have almost certainly overrun the city, I can’t help but think that whilst the guns in the hands of anarchist where crucial in that instance the deciding factor was the level of organisation the CNT initially had on the ground rather the amount of bullets in their pockets. The argument presented by those such as the NRA and Alex Jones is reminiscent of the Polynesian Cargo Cults: a religion based around a misunderstanding during World War 2; the Polynesians witnessed American soldiers build Landing strips and docks on their islands to fly food and other supplies into the war-zone. Based on the information that supplies appeared after landing strips had been built, the native population, unaware of 20th century technology, assumed that Landing Strip = Cargo, and began building their own Landing strips in the hopes of the US air force favouring them. In much the same way many gun rights advocates seem to be under the impression that under any and all circumstances Gun = Freedom, That it was souly the muskets that established America rather than the ideas of the enlightenment. This is obviously problematic as it has meant the Bush administration was able to effectively nullify the Fourth and Fifth amendments because they didn’t touch the Second, and therefore in the logic of the pro-gun lobby; infringed on no freedoms. For a group of people who seem so intent on mimicking a group of men who have been dead for almost 200 years those who think the key to the American republic is simply the amount of firepower normal people seem not to be aware of John Adam’s Opinion which was that far from being simply a matter Bunker Hill and Lexington;

“The Revolution was effected before the War commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations. This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.” 

I understand my opinions may well be suspect as I am coming from an urban anarchist perspective but my understanding of how people maintain their freedom is though working and lower middle class solidarity as opposed to small bands of vigilantes parading around, showing off their semi-automatic weapons to the neighborhood every day.

The Gun argument will almost certainly conclude without a very satisfying conclusion for anyone involved, this is probably because both sides are fighting over the very small piece of turf they have allowed themselves to discuss, that the only real problem with America’s murder rate is how many assault weapons a mentally ill person can keep in their house. This seems like less likely to stop as much deadly violence in the United States as possible, but rather to localize it outside of the national consciousness, in out of sight urban areas, so we can all stop worrying about poor people being killed.

These guys seem less about gun rights than they are about using them when necessary

These guys seem less worried about gun rights than they are about using them when necessary


Go Right! Why the Republican Party Should have chosen Rick Santorum This year.

For the past week everyone I know has been incredibly happy that Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has dropped out of the republican presidential race, leaving a boring and apparently moderate man who 2% of the American electorate think is called “Mittens” to pick up the nomination. They’ve been doing this out of a sense of state pride as Pennsylvania’s most embarrassing son has now stepped out of the political lime light for the time being at least. The only exceptions to this has been my Father-In-Law and my Wife who wanted Rick to go onto Tampa – a move that would have ultimately destroyed the G.O.P.’s chances this November. I however think both of these reactions are wrong; The republicans including moderates should have voted for Ricky, and ultimately given him the nomination for the same reason you need to take so much heroine, that you vomit on yourself in front of your niece on Christmas eve so you can see the true depravity of your addiction: an Insidious disease needs to get worse before it can get better.

This is a fun Chart

 

The central tenant of Rick’s pitch to republicans ultimately correct – Moderate republicans don’t get elected, and haven’t done since Eisenhower: this is generally viewed as proof that America is a Right wing country who only votes for people like Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Cater, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama for superficial reasons that don’t need to be looked into. In fact what has happened is of the American right’s own making. Ever Since It stated utilizing the Evangelist Christian movement in the 1980 Election – a hitherto untapped market – the Republican Party, far from being able to control and moderate it as one would have assumed from a political party’s reaction to a religious movement became more and more reliant on the Evangelical baptist market, believing it to be the largest single bloc in American political life, rejecting all the Bob Doles and John McCains the less intensely religious wing of the party had to offer.

It is this rejection of relatively moderate republicans as ‘Republicans In Name Only’, and pushing home the idea of ‘True conservatives’ in the role of the far right white knight, the republican party has done an odd thing; they have taken a philosophy which historically has stood for moderating progress to make sure that progress Is right into a virulent ideology. Gone is the willingness to build a coalition with those from the center and as a result have boxed themselves into a world where criminalizing miscarriages seem like a good idea. This wouldn’t matter as much if tribal voting was less of a fact in modern American politics; a fact that accounts for the fact that ‘Conservatives’ are the single largest political group, even though a majority of Americans believe Gay Marriage should be legal and that taxes aren’t too high. In a large number of cases it’s not the actual ideas of the party that hold the GOP together, rather the self image that has built up around it. This self image is as outsiders but also speaking for the majority, this idea of self means that If Romney does win, it will almost certainly be attributed to the Republican party speaking for the oppressed masses who apparently want Doctors to lie to their patients in a clinic that has nothing to do with planned parenthood, but if he looses it will attributed to the alleged moderate nature of Mittens and his Massachusetts team resetting the cycle for 2016, where otherwise normal human beings will state that they are not concerned about the very poor and don’t believe in women’s health.

With thanks to Vanity Fair. More at http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/2012/04/rick-santorum-ends-campaign-in-photos

The unintentional savior of America?

The only way to break this cycle of self assured fleeing to the right is to actually field an indisputably far right candidate. Someone who has publicly stated that men forcibly impregnating a woman is a gift, that current gay marriages would be nullified and that expanding education opportunities is an act of snobbery. To actually run a candidate who sincerely says these things and is widely regarded to be getting ready to act on them to the point that they have to try to play down their near psychopathic right wing ideas, as Goldwater had to in his disastrous 1964 bid for the presidency. My Democratic friends seem much more relaxed about Mittens, as he gives off an air of a cynical Yes man, this relaxation will be construed by republicans as proof of Romney’s insidious liberalism, and so thus continual resistance to the final realization of what it is the republican party is actually doing with itself is delayed for yet another election cycle. This is less advice to help the republicans win and more a hope that the country I now live in might one day have a kinder and more considerate public dialogue. So if you are a republican, or living in an open primary state, don’t vote for the centrist I the hopes of dragging the American right away from the abyss, go hard right to push them ever closer to their moment of clarity. Because it’s to late for the G.O.P. to be reasoned with, they need to get worse, before they can get better.