Monday, April 08, 2019

A Personal Revelation




I arose this morning to grey skies on an early April day in the year 2019. In the midst of this adjustment to the introduction to a new day, I experienced what I consider to be a revelation of considerable importance.

This concept revolves around the theoretically somber reality of the end of life. The present is literally flying into the expectant arms of the past and my days of being a sentient creature cavorting on this wondrous blue pearl suspended as it is in the seemingly endless cosmos are diminishing as they must. I was struck by the idea (certainly not a new one) that death is the final and magnificent letting go. That moment when the breath ceases, the heart stops and the brain ceases to function; when the self dissolves into that space of absolute quiet where reality has no name, is the time when all connections dissolve and all earthly cares and concerns are immediately extinguished. This may sound somber and unforgiving, but, in my judgment, it is a fundamental reality that lies within the bedrock of existence. For that reason, it makes perfect sense – as the beginning of a personal saga is initiated with the first breath, it must end with expiration of one’s last breath. All stories have a finite existence – even our own.

Within the formidable crucible of existence, I have learned that in attempting to control as best I could the environment that I moved through, I, in fact, control absolutely nothing. Time and the galaxy of choices I have made, have moved me forward, and the ineluctable flow of events and the blossoming of circumstances within that simmering and ever-changing caldron of reality have a rhythm and momentum that cannot be impeded. Life has taught me that any attempt to control this process is essentially useless – a monumental waste of precious energy.

As a consequence, I have resolved to keep this reality deeply imbedded within my conscious life and use this perception as a filter through which pass the constant flow of experience within the purview of the present. I choose to approach my final days, whenever that time becomes evident, with that kind of clarity.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

The Unmasking of America

With the ascendancy of Donald J. Trump to the office of the President, we have come to witness the unmasking of America – a thorough debunking of any idealistic notion we may have had regarding the American character. This man even when campaigning for the nomination for the presidency in the Republican party had shown himself to be a person of almost limitless mendacity. Candidate Trump repeatedly displayed an unambiguous contempt for women and a mocking scorn towards his opponents. He demonstrated on many occasions his lack of an intellectual grasp and understanding of the complexities of national issues both foreign and domestic.

In spite of these apparent limitations, he succeeded in winning the election. With a plurality of the American voters horrified by this outcome, he validated their worst fears. Trump has subjected the nation to a veritable roller coaster ride of crazed policies especially around the issue of immigration that have clearly shown him to be an extreme nationalist and a white-supremacist devoid of any significant measure of compassion or empathy for the American people. He has been described as a narcissistic personality with no true moral center.

The fact that he continues to have a significant following, reveals the great chasm that exists in American life demonstrating that the hallmarks of white supremacy – intense bigotry, hatred and a marked capacity for violence - remain very much with us as a people.

This reality should be no surprise to those who have lived long enough to have experienced first-hand the nadir periods in the recent history of American politics. The periods I refer to revolve around the dark days of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War, especially. In each of these unsettling times, the underbelly of American life was thoroughly exposed. In each of these instances, resolutions were ultimately found, and social stability was restored.

The current reality is one of those seminal eras. What makes the present political climate disturbingly different, however, is that both sides of this rift have no desire to find common ground. Without a willingness to compromise, a democratic system of government stagnates and can become totally ineffectual. For a democracy to remain vibrant it is up to its people to demand from those in power that they truly serve the interests, concerns and well-being of everyone.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

History of Immigration in the United States

It should be kept in mind that nearly the entire history of humans – Homo sapiens – involved intricate patters of migration that originated from East Africa some 70,000 years ago.  With the complete mapping of the human genome that was accomplished in 2003, DNA analysis has shown much of specifics of this migration over the thousands of years that have intervened since the initial departure from Africa.  Interestingly enough, current genetic evidence has demonstrated that there has been some intermixing of human and Neanderthal genes (Neanderthals co-existed with humans for a long period of time).   

This vast and uninterrupted migration of humans throughout the globe was most likely motivated by the search for adequate nutrition, better living conditions and primarily to improve the chances for survival.

Considering the heightened emotion and political hyperbole surrounding the state of immigration in the United States, it might be worth while actually examining the historic data in some detail. 
Archaeological data has clearly demonstrated that during the last Ice Age (some 20,000 years ago) there existed a land bridge connecting Asia with North America.  It was across this bridge, that Asians first emigrated to North America and migrated southward effectively populating North and South America.

By the early 1600s, Immigrants from Europe began to build communities along the Atlantic seaboard in what was to become the United Sates.  The Spanish settled in Florida, the Dutch in New York, the British in New England the Swedes in Delaware, for example. The predominant reasons for these migrations was to improve the overall chances for survival or escape religious persecution.
One of the more insidious examples of immigration was, of course, slavery (begun around 1619) that involved the forced migration of the peoples of Africa for the sole purpose of exploiting their labor for economic gain.  This horrific practice preceded the birth of the nation that was to become the United States of America.  The founding fathers of the Republic were faced with a dilemma in the midst of the framing of the U.S. Constitution; for the continued existence of the system of slavery was in direct contradiction with the aims of the new nation.  Recognizing that any attempt to establish a constitutional prohibition of slavery would immediately undermine any hope for establishing a new nation, the decision was made to allow slavery to stand at least for the time being. 
Historically, this practice would become illegal in the United States in 1863 with the Emancipation Proclamation issued by president Abraham Lincoln in the midst of the American Civil War (1861 – 1865).  At that time, this proclamation did not have the force of law; since, the nation was still split between two warring factions – slave holding states vs non-slave hold states. 

Following the war, the 13th (1865) 14th (1868) and 15th (1870) amendments to the Constitution were finally ratified effectively abolishing the practice of slavery, establishing citizenship for the freed slaves and granting African-American men the right to vote.
In March of 1790: Congress passed a law detailing the requirements for U.S. citizenship. This law stipulated that, “any free white person of “good character,” who has been living in the United States for two years or longer to apply for citizenship.” Accordingly, nonwhite residents were denied basic constitutional protections, including the right to vote, own property, or testify in court.  At the time of the passage of this law, the census of 1790 established that of the 3.9 million individuals counted, approximately 20% where of African descent.

For much of the young nation’s history, immigration came in waves.  The following table outlines this pattern –
Time Frame
Country(s) of Origin
Details
1820-1860
Ireland and Germany
Following the conclusion of the War of 1812, immigration from Western Europe increased precipitously, especially Irish Catholics and approximately 5 million individuals of German descent.  The motivation for emigration from Ireland was the potato famine (1845-1849).
1850 - 1882
China
These immigrants worked in the gold mines, garment factories and on farms and were instrumental in the building of the railroads.
1880 - 1920
Southern, Eastern and Central Europe including Italians, Jews and many other nationalities
During this time period, over 20 million individuals emigrated to the United States many through Ellis Island in New York.  It is estimated that the direct descendants of this wave of immigration living in the U.S. are about 100 million individuals.
1956-1957
Immigrants from Hungary
At this time, about 38,000 Hungarians come to the US following a failed rebellion against the Soviet occupation of Hungary
1960 - 1962
Cuba
About 14,000 unaccompanied children come to the US as a part of a secret anti-communist undertaking called Operation Peter Pan
1970-1975
Vietnam and Cambodia
In this time frame, there was a four-fold increase in immigration from the war-torn countries of Vietnam and Cambodia geared towards family reunification
1980
Cuba
The so-called “Mariel boat lift” brought 125,000 Cuban refugees to US shores




Notes: –
  • On account of the horrendous conditions that immigrants had to endure in coming to the United States across the open seas, many individuals did not survive this journey.  As a result, the Steerage Act of 1819 was passed that issued safety regulations and also compelled ship owners to keep and supply records of their passengers.
  • As a direct response to the increased immigration from Ireland and Germany, the Know-Nothing political party was formed that had a clear and definitive anti-immigration platform.
  • In 1876 the Supreme Court heard the case Chy Lung v. Freeman in which it was decided that, “The power to set rules surrounding immigration, and to manage foreign relations, rested with the United States Federal Government, rather than with the states.”
  • By 1882, the anti-Chinese sentiment in the U.S. was so strong that the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed.  The extreme bigotry towards the Chinese was exacerbated by the apparent economic success of many of these immigrants.  In reality, this fear was mostly unfounded; since, the Chinese immigrant population represented merely .02% of the entire US population.
  • In 1924, in the aftermath of World War I, Congress passed the Immigration Act that, “created a quota system that restricted entry to 2 percent of the total number of people of each nationality in America as of the 1890 national census–a system that favored immigrants from Western Europe–and prohibited immigrants from Asia.”  In this same year the U.S. Border Patrol was established to deal with illegal immigration.
  • On February 19, 1942, the executive order (EO) 9066 promulgated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  The following is the full text of this executive order –
“Authorizing the Secretary of War to Prescribe Military Areas
Whereas the successful prosecution of the war requires every possible protection against espionage and against sabotage to national-defense material, national-defense premises, and national-defense utilities as defined in Section 4, Act of April 20, 1918, 40 Stat. 533, as amended by the Act of November 30, 1940, 54 Stat. 1220, and the Act of August 21, 1941, 55 Stat. 655 (U.S.C., Title 50, Sec. 104);
Now, therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the United States, and Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of War, and the Military Commanders whom he may from time to time designate, whenever he or any designated Commander deems such action necessary or desirable, to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he or the appropriate Military Commander may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion. The Secretary of War is hereby authorized to provide for residents of any such area who are excluded therefrom, such transportation, food, shelter, and other accommodations as may be necessary, in the judgment of the Secretary of War or the said Military Commander, and until other arrangements are made, to accomplish the purpose of this order. The designation of military areas in any region or locality shall supersede designations of prohibited and restricted areas by the Attorney General under the Proclamations of December 7 and 8, 1941, and shall supersede the responsibility and authority of the Attorney General under the said Proclamations in respect of such prohibited and restricted areas.
I hereby further authorize and direct the Secretary of War and the said Military Commanders to take such other steps as he or the appropriate Military Commander may deem advisable to enforce compliance with the restrictions applicable to each Military area here in above authorized to be designated, including the use of Federal troops and other Federal Agencies, with authority to accept assistance of state and local agencies.
I hereby further authorize and direct all Executive Departments, independent establishments and other Federal Agencies, to assist the Secretary of War or the said Military Commanders in carrying out this Executive Order, including the furnishing of medical aid, hospitalization, food, clothing, transportation, use of land, shelter, and other supplies, equipment, utilities, facilities, and services.
This order shall not be construed as modifying or limiting in any way the authority heretofore granted under Executive Order (EO) No. 8972, dated December 12, 1941, nor shall it be construed as limiting or modifying the duty and responsibility of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with respect to the investigation of alleged acts of sabotage or the duty and responsibility of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice under the Proclamations of December 7 and 8, 1941, prescribing regulations for the conduct and control of alien enemies, except as such duty and responsibility is superseded by the designation of military areas here under.”
It ordered all Japanese Americans to vacate their places of residence and move into concentration camps setup up to accommodate them.  This occurred in the midst of World War II after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.  Although the United States was already at war with Nazi Germany, no such mandate was imposed upon the many German-Americans living throughout the country.
This mass evacuation imposed a severe burden on the lives of those citizens who were forced to abandon their homes and properties for the “duration” of the war.

  • In 1948, a Refugee and Resettlement Law was passed to deal with European refugees in the aftermath of World War II
  • In 1952, The McCarran-Walter Act was passed that ended the exclusion of Asian immigrants to the United States.
  • In 1965, Congress passed the Immigration and Nationality Act.  This law effectively abolished the quota system and allowed Americans to sponsor relatives from their countries of origin. As a result of this act and subsequent legislation, the nation experienced a shift in immigration patterns. Today, the majority of U.S. immigrants come from Asia and Latin America rather than Europe.
  • In 1986, the Simpson-Mazzoli Act was passed.  This law granted amnesty to some 3 million illegal immigrants living in the US.
  • In 2001, Senators Dick Durban and Orrin Hatch co-authored the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) Act that would establish a route through which undocumented immigrants that were brought into the US illegally as children (Dreamers) could obtain legal status.  This proposed legislation did not pass.
  • In 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was signed.  Although this act offered temporary protection for some Dreamers from deportation, it did not provide a path to citizenship.
  • In 2017, President Trump issued three separate executive orders with the goal of curtailing travel and immigration from Muslim countries.  All of these orders were subsequently challenged in court.
The United States government has, as of yet, failed to establish a unified, reasoned and just policy regarding immigration despite repeated attempts across many presidential administrations.  This failure stems from many factors.  Among these reasons, lies an underlying fear shared by many individuals in the nation’s population that has its origins in a strong racial and ethnic prejudice that seems to be a part of the American psyche.  

American history is replete with examples of this prejudice beginning with the institution of slavery that was extant at the very beginnings of the Republic and the near genocide of an entire race of Native American populations.  Nearly every ethnic group that has immigrated to the United States has felt the toxic psychological, economic and social impact of this prejudice.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Delusional Mind in the Twenty-First Century

Faced with the ever-growing list of highly problematic issues that face humanity and its future prospects in the 21st century, there is the very human tendency to retreat into a state of consciousness that resides in a chronic delusional state of thinking. This state of being effectively not only obscures the real status of human existence in the modern era, but also creates in its stead a picture of the world that is filled with rich and vibrant color, luxurious and comforting textures and, most importantly, an enhanced image of self that speaks of grand and extravagant possibilities.

Modern humans have become so effectively isolated and separated from the natural world, that is the species origin, that we are thoroughly imbedded in a human-crafted environment that relies upon artificial and often fanciful constructs. The concepts imprinted within the thinking brain in such a state, reveal a universe where money and its accumulation consume much of human consciousness; where pleasure, comfort, convenience and personal happiness are regarded with so more importance than the very vitality and longevity of humans and other life forms on the planet; where many of the images that constantly impinge upon the human retina have their origins in completely artificial and contrived sources and are often quite meaningless in content.

The sum total of these influences has created a social order that is predicated upon a complex and interlaced set of delusional elements. As a result, modern humans move about their world in a near-constant state of distraction. In such a state, human behavior continues to unravel and undermine the future security and viability of the species. In such a state, pre-occupation with self and its shallow pursuits seem to subsume all other considerations.

Despite the ingenuity and richness of this delusional world, the real nature of existence remains unabetted. The future that awaits humanity is a natural consequence of all the choices we make and continue to make in the present time. To continue to ignore this reality is to effectively embrace what the future will necessarily bring.

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Schizophrenic Nature of the American Experience

Contemporary life in America today can be likened to a schizophrenic experience. On a daily basis the news describes events and circumstances that seem to come from entirely divergent worlds. On the one hand there are instances of irrational violence and behavior that seems to have its origins in realm of the darker emotions devoid of any input from the rational mind. This is readily exemplified by the mass shooting of innocent victims attending a public event; the erratic policy decisions of a white-supremacist leaning president; racially-motivated police actions, or the daily occurrences of irrational, aggressive and provocative behaviors that permeate daily life in life of humans in the United States.

In parallel with this kind of news, there are those stories that suggest the existence of an alternate reality in which inspired and heartening events unfold. I am referring here to the many instances of compassionate acts of kindness and unqualified assistance that are offered to those who suffer misfortune; to the many divergent voices that incessantly advocate for peace and social justice; to those who act with passion and resolve on behalf of the natural environment and those who directly put their own lives and risk for the sake of the weak and vulnerable.

Within this category, I also include those whose professional lives are dedicated to the advancement of science with the goal of furthering our understanding of the natural world, the nature of life, the human body and the vast and wondrous cosmos in which we live. Within this category, I also include the many individuals responsible for developing technologies that directly impact the quality of life as we have come to understand it. It is interesting that there is a significant segment of the American population that regards scientists, technologists and professionals with advanced understanding, within their particular domains, with disdain and characteristically describes them as “elitists.” Ironically, these individuals who choose to scorn the intellectual achievements of others are the very benefactors of the products of their collective labor.

This discordant set of conflicting values lies at the very heart of the schizophrenia of which I speak. In my mind, this dissonance is a reflection of the dichotomy that persists within the infrastructure and fabric of the human brain – between the seat of the emotions, the source of suspicion and hatred and xenophobia, and higher-order thinking that incorporates acquired knowledge, reasoned judgment and thoughtful decision making.

Throughout human history, civilizations have become shipwrecked upon the hazardous terrain of the dark emotions. Whether or not, America can weather the storms prevalent in the 21st century remains an open question.




Saturday, February 09, 2019

Black in the US


What is currently transpiring regarding the political climate in the state of Virginia regarding the racial attitudes of white men in power is, in reality, a disturbing look into the very heart of America. It would be easy and much less painful to simply point a finger at these politicians and focus all the blame and derision in that direction. In reality, these men are simply a product of their upbringing and the cumulative pressure to conform to the endemic racism that underscores so much of American life.

The first documented evidence of slavery in the US is 1619. It is now 400 years later, and we remain as a people bound and chained to conceptions and beliefs some more subtle than others that confirm and reinforce the extent and diverse set of advantages that whites have come to take for granted.

In many parts of this country, it had been a common practice that Blacks were intentionally prevented from purchasing housing and property based upon their race. As a result, much of the wealth tied to such property has remained secured preferentially in the hands of white families. This wealth passed down through the generations has had a profound impact upon the financial discrepancy between the races. Further evidence of the consequences of ingrained racial prejudice is the quality of education available to the children of lesser means. Local funding for public education is often tied directly to property through the collection of local property taxes. The inevitable outcome of this relationship is the differential quality of education available to the poor and especially people of color as opposed to their white counterparts.

The nation’s prisons are populated by people of color in disproportionate numbers. In addition, as a nation, the US has one of the highest per capita prison populations in the world. Moreover, prisons have become a booming private industry insuring that this legacy will be continuing well into the future.

In my mind, one of the more foreboding examples of the chronic and enfeebling state of racism is the preponderance of police shootings of black males especially in the nation’s urban areas. Again, it might be convenient to rest the blame solely upon the police. However, this reality underscores the often- subtle perception that Blacks lives are more expendable.

The abject failure of this country and its people to come to terms with the nature and substance of its racial attitudes once and for all and to rectify the deep inequities that exist among our people is a disturbing reality of contemporary life. The most distressing trend is the apparent reemergence of the notion of white supremacy reminiscent of the pre-Civil War era in which the nation was sharply split by vastly divergent ideological principles. This is especially evident given the rise of legislation in the American South designed to suppress the participation of the non-white population in the voting process reminiscent of the dark days of Jim Crow.

The time is long overdue for this country to come to terms with its history especially in regard to the blatantly inequitable treatment of a sizable portion of its population.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Power and its Corruption

The fact that a significant portion of the federal administration has been shut down for almost a month due to an inability of a divided government to reach a compromise agreement is, of course, extremely unsettling. It suggests that further disturbances will come and that as a society, we may be heading towards an escalating state of chaos and uncertainty.

Underlying this morass, however, there lies a reality that is as old as the existence of human societies and that is the formidable existence of the will to power. The state of order and the intricate system embodied in the rule of law is something that all of us depend upon and that we take for granted. Human civilization relies upon a covenant that specifies a system of rules designed to maintain that order. In the United States this covenant is embodied in its constitution. Within that document is the central concept of a democratic republic formed for the purpose of creating a government of, by and for the people. This was and continues to be a revolutionary concept; for, the tendency over the thousands of years of the existence of human societies has been toward the establishment of a hierarchy based upon wealth and power.

I believe it can be said without exaggeration, that even within contemporary societies and cultures world-wide, the powerful rule. Inordinate power brings with it the tendency towards corruption – the use of that power to usurp and exploit the powerless. The United States is not immune in this regard. Of course, it is the intricate system of laws and custom that helps to curb the breath and degree of that corruption.

Over the few hundred years of the political and social evolution within the United States, there has been significant progress towards realizing the dream of a government of, by and for the people. This has been a slow process during which time slavery was abolished, women were and continue to be freed from their repressed status, and the civil rights of minorities have been asserted and codified in law. The current demographics of the nation suggests a great diversity of people in terms of the color of their skin and their cultural origins. This diversity is now reflected more fully in the current occupants of public office in the House of Representatives. The ascendency of greater numbers of ordinary citizens to positions of influence poses a threat to those who actually hold the reins of power.

Over the span of the past few decades the powerful have orchestrated a concerted effort to regain their hold upon the nation. The apparent success of this goal is embodied in the makeup of the current administration. It should be of no surprise that many of those chosen for top cabinet positions within the government are white men of wealth and power who have deep corporate ties and whose primary focus is to ensure that the economic interests they represent take precedence over the people they are supposed to serve. This is particularly evident in the area of government regulations and especially the dominance of the interests of the fossil fuel industries over any concern about the natural environment as relates to public land use and the undoubted and deleterious changes in the earth’s climate.

History teaches its students that important and critical choices made by any nation or people can have lasting and dramatic consequences for the future. If the acute degree of this corruption that has engulfed the political life of this nation is met with silent acquiescence, then the crisis will only worsen - creating a situation where the general well-being of the many will be entirely subsumed by the capricious and self-serving behavior of the powerful. Such a conclusion would be reminiscent of the dark days of the past when the so-called “robber barons” were unbounded.

There is, however, an entirely different future possible if the collective voice in opposition to this folly is forceful and unequivocal. As a people, we are more than capable of demanding that our leaders act in service to all the people. We are certainly capable of choosing leaders that can exercise good judgment, have the intellectual capacity to comprehend complex issues, demonstrate personal integrity and have an appropriate respect for the truth. We should expect the very best not only from ourselves but from those who seek our vote and have chosen public service. It is in the best interest of everyone to do so.