CRT: The Difference Between Stupid and Smart

The idea behind Critical Race Theory (CRT) is to learn the effect of race on the larger contours of our society, areas like law, education, housing, jobs. Originally it was studied by graduate level academics. More recently it’s been introduced at the college level. The consensus is that race has effected the country since before Jefferson wrote “all men are created equal”. 

Even more recently it’s been discussed as a course at high school level. 

Which has triggered anguished outcries from one particular race, Whites, and one particular group, Conservatives. Their complaint: it would involve teaching White kids to feel ashamed about the color of their skin. 

(Wait. White kids? No irony there.)

This isn’t the first theory that has divided people along intellectual lines.

Long ago there was a great division over the shape of the Earth. All the smart people knew it was flat because, “Look at the horizon, stupid! It’s flat!”  Those who thought otherwise were ridiculed by their version of late night comedians. Then along came the Greeks, Romans, and Columbus. He definitively proved all those smart people stupid. Which made them smart, after all.

In the spring 1692, some young girls in Salem, Mass. claimed to be possessed by the Devil and accused some local women of witchcraft. The idea divided the town like a new cult. Starting with Bridget Bishop, nineteen women were hanged . 150 more were accused of witchcraft but not convicted. By September, they learned better and hysteria abated, apologies were made, and women were no longer killed – at least for being witches.    

Sometimes it’s funny how stupid we can be before we get smart.

In 1909, California started forcibly sterilizing people with physical disabilities, psychiatric disorders, and other conditions that made them inferior human beings. Over seven decades they sterilized  20,000 people. It was part of Eugenics, a set of beliefs that go back to Plato designed to improve the human race – Darwin’s “Survival of the Fittest” on steroids. It spread around the US, killing over 60,000 people, not to mention Hitler’s Germany, and only God knows how many other places around the world. Now that’s divisive. 

It took a World War and nearly 100 years, but eventually we got smart.

Sometimes it’s not funny how stupid we can be before we get smart.

Take race, for example. Most people acknowledge that human beings are essentially similar biologically. Medical schools don’t teach one set of procedures for black bodies, another for brown bodies, still another for white bodies, and so on. Hearts are similar. Legs, arms, brains – all similar. Yet, in this country at least, minorities – blacks and browns – are always in the majority on poverty lists, crime lists, education lists, health lists, housing lists… 

Curious isn’t it? How 25% of the country could make up that large a portion of the under-privileged, unsuccessful, under-performing? It would be interesting to learn why, wouldn’t it? And maybe, just maybe, do something about it. 

Or we could just make some stupid excuse and continue the stupidity.

Like refusing a vaccine that can literally save lives, thousands of them. Stupid. Divisive. Deadly.

Since the beginning of time, we’ve all been stupid about one thing or another – not because we were born stupid, but because we didn’t know – until we learned better. 

The difference between stupid and smart: learning. 

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“What the hell is wrong with us?”

That’s the question California’s Governor Gavin Newsom asked after nine people were shot in a San Jose rail yard a few months ago, during what has become an almost weekly occurrence.

It’s also a question many people have been asking in different forms for quite awhile.

What the hell is wrong with Congress? 

“I’m going to take my ball and go home!”, they say to anyone and everyone.

Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi can’t legislate something as simple as an inquiry into the Jan 6th attack on Congress, something Congress did immediately after 9/11. Republican legislators admit off the record that the election was fair  and honest while claiming on the record that it was unfair and fraudulent. Democratic legislators won’t even talk to their counterparts; some won’t even talk to each other.

Both parties are filled with people who are more interested getting re-elected and holding onto their power than governing the country. 

What the hell is wrong with the energy industry?

“I didn’t do it!”, they say to a world that is on the verge of turning to ash. Just as Big Tobacco denied and lied about tobacco’s addictive power for decades, just as Dupont convinced an anxious public that the problem with plastic was that the public wasn’t recycling it enough, Exxon hires lobbyists and PR firms to cast doubt on climate change.

What the hell is wrong with Healthcare?

“I want your money!” says the Insurance Industry which decades ago wedged itself in between patient and doctor, becoming the sole clients of doctors or hospitals and turning healthcare from a for-patient business into a for-insurance profit business.

“No! I want your money more!”, says Wall Street, which is buying entire hospital chains, medical practices, and ancillary medical businesses, thus squeezing, not just money, but humanity out of the healthcare system. Doctor’s get 15 minutes per patient now, including the time required to fill out forms. If a patient has a relapse after leaving a hospital, insurance companies make hospitals foot the bill.

“That’s not healthcare! It’s an attack on my freedom!” say anti-vaxers and anti-maskers as they spread disease, even though their parents stood in long lines to get vaccines like polio and small pox, as well as getting child-hood vaccines to their children.

What the hell is wrong with patriotism?

“That’s not your flag; it’s mine!” says the Far Right to everyone else as they turn the nation’s flag into an icon of their politics. 

“You can’t come here!”, say sons and daughters of once impoverished refugees and immigrants to impoverished would-be refugees and immigrants.

“Protect our Second Amendment!” scream gun advocates as shooting deaths rise like a pandemic virus.

What the hell is wrong with us? Look around.

“Increase shareholder value!” say the rich to the poor through the mouths of politicians, lobbyists, lawyers, bankers, and brokers. 

“I’m holier than thou!” say pedophile priests to their young wards.

“I’m just helping my kid!” say parents who bribe college admissions people.

“You deserve it!” say advertisers to customers, who nod in agreement.  

It’s us, Governor. It’s us.

If you look back on the history of this country, its proudest moments were times of sacrifice, heroism, and contribution to the common good. 

WWII is one of the greatest examples in modern times. But there are others. Jonas Salk didn’t make a penny from his polio vaccine. He simply gave it to the world, saving millions of lives. 

Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson? They’re still negotiating. 

Roosevelt led a national economic recovery from the worst depression in US history, not to mention to victory in WWII. 

Our former President? He refused to even recognize the pandemic; it sullied his re-election effort.

But before we jump all over him or cheer NY for going after him for tax evasion and God knows what else, consider this: We are the culture who elected him. 

We are the culture that rewards low prices to the point of deleting entire industries. We are the culture that allows kids to cheat in school. We are the culture that rewards dishonesty with success. We are the culture that ignores poverty, homelessness, mental illness and so, so much more. We are the culture that teaches the worship of “me”.

What the hell is wrong with us, Governor Newsom? We’ve become a culture of spoiled brats.  

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What? Father’s Day?

The early morning sun and I contemplate the coming day. It is full of summer promise and soft air, the kind of day for celebrating just about anything. But Father’s Day? No way.

It doesn’t compare to the day a one year old with white blond curls tastes her first lemon. She sits in a high chair in a high-toned restaurant, chatting to herself as her mother, grandfather, and I chat with each other. Her eyes cast about and come to rest on a wedge of lemon. Big smile. Ever so delicately she lifts the lemon from the plate and then chomps on it like a lumberjack at breakfast. There’s a pause. The smile fades. Her mouth falls open, lower lip quivering, and the wedge falls to her lap, her eyes searching for help. I reach over and, with my napkin, wipe the taste of lemon from her tongue. She touches her tongue with a perfect little fingers, contemplates our laughter, then bursts into her own giggles, totally enjoying the joke, whatever it is.

There is a day in the front yard when another little girl blissfully hugs her one year old brother around the head, unaware that the playmate she has wanted for all of her three years, whose muffled wails and tiny flailing arms bring me running, is not feeling the same bliss. I gently separate them and  suggest the difference between brothers and stuffed animals. Her look is worried until I swing her high and tell her that she is the best, most loving big sister any brother ever had.

“Good night. I love you”, we say to our five year old  daughter one night. “I love you…AND I like you!”, she replies. An important distinction to be sure. “Love you and like you” becomes a permanent term of family endearment.

One summer day, I am carrying a laughing boy into the surf when we are both upended by an unexpectedly strong wave. We surface, sputtering.  His now very large eyes warn of permanent fear of water. I quickly shout “wasn’t that fun!” and  toss him in the air. He comes back down and grabs me firmly by the hair.  I brave the pain as the giggle returns and we head out in the surf once more.

At  dinner a 7 year old announces that he knows algebra. “Z minus X is 2”, he says. I search  through cobwebbed algebra , but am stumped. “Uh…what?”  “X is 2 less than Z”, he says, picking at broccoli. Then I remember the alphabet; Z is the 26th letter and X, the 24th.  I can’t wait for his generation to fix the world.

I am watching my 12 year old’s Lacrosse game through close-up lens, determined to get THE Sports Illustrated shot. At one point both teams crowd the net. There are screams for a score. I stumble over a large dog, reflexively snapping the shutter in an effort not to fall. Great yells announce the score and I think bad thoughts about all dogs. “Did you see me score, Dad?” he says after the game. “Absolutely” I say with false conviction (I must have seen it- I never took my eyes off him!). Later I look at the pictures and almost miss it – a perfect shot of my son scoring. 

My favorite Christmas card is a packet of “Poems For The Holidays”, written by an 11 year old one December  day. “I saw a bright star, soaring across the night sky, above all the world, with golden trails of sparkles, a star for a wish come true”. The packet is dedicated “to my Father, Henry Briggs”.

Father’s Day is not any single day. It is every day.  

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Republicans to start Master Class in Lying

Following recent attacks by Rep. Liz Cheney (R,- Wyoming) on the Big Lie about the election, and reiterating that skillful lying is the future of the Republican Party, Representative Kevin McCarthy announced today a new “Master Class in Lying”. The course is designed to train Republicans to lie imaginatively, effortlessly, and with purity of purpose. 

He broke the program into 5 categories: 1) The Big Lie, 2) Embellishing the Big Lie), 3) Lying about Lying, 4) Lying just to troll reporters, and 5) Lying because we can; we’re out of high school!

The Master instructor will be announced once Facebook reconsiders.

To show Republicans followers the effectiveness of lying succinctly and with a straight face, McCarthy checked all 5 categories immediately following his Wednesday meeting with President Biden at the White House with one master sentence: “I don’t think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election.” 

Reporters immediately called their editors for guidance on whether to call that a “Lie”, an “Untruth”, a “Fabrication”, or an “Allegation”.  

“Who cares! Run it now!” The editors said. “We need clicks and eyeballs. Biden is boring.”

McCarthy’s announcement triggered enthusiastic applications from promising young House Republicans.

Among them: 

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), who had been blamed by his own family for helping incite the January 6 attack on the Capitol, nailed #1 by saying the rioters were “peaceful patriots” who had been “harassed”  by Federal Law Enforcement.

Rep. Andrew Clyde (R- Ga) qualified for #2 with “there was no insurrection” and  the video from that day looked like “a normal tourist visit.”

Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga) got a standing “O” on #3 by saying The Big Lie wasn’t about the Insurrection at all; it was Biden talking about bipartisanship.

All three got into the first Master Class.

Some Republicans have, sad to say, simply not met the high standards of admission to the Master Class.

Mitt Romney was barred from even applying.

Liz Cheney, daughter of ex-VP Cheney was deemed unteachable for blaming the (soon-to-be-named) Master for the attack on the Capital. She reacted like the spoiled elitist she is with this childish comment: “We must go forward based on truth. We cannot both embrace the big lie and embrace the Constitution”.

Then she killed any chance of reapplying next year with, “Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar.”  

“They’re hugging and kissing the police and the guards, you know…”, said the Master.

Meanwhile McCarthy aides were enthusiastically recruiting students from Georgia, Arizona, Arkansas, Texas, Florida, Pennsyltuckey, and Upstate New York.

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The Republican-Democrat Shoot Show.

That old evil VP Dick Cheney’s daughter, Liz, is in the center spotlight shooting at the lies our Former President (FP) and carnival barker as his supporters yell about the election. 

And stodgy Romney is supporting her. 

What do you know: Republicans with backbone! And integrity!  Who’d a thunk it? 

Meanwhile FP is an ex-cheerleader without a megaphone, trying to get disinterested fans back into the stands. 

My only real worry is that Facebook and others might return his megaphone in 6 months. It’s a tough call: we cherish free speech, but with FP’s 30,000 lies over 4 years, does free speech now include free lies?

Democratic leaders, Biden, Pelosi, and Schumer are shooting money at the people in the stands, like confetti from a cannon, while pretending refugees aren’t trying to get into the show without a ticket.

Meanwhile Hawley, Greene, Cruz, Jordan and others are out in the parking lot trying to gin up FP fans by attacking anyone who disputes FP.

FP subalterns like Rudy Guiliani, Mike Pillow-Guy, and other psycho-sycophants are being sued almost as much as FP himself and for the same thing – The Big Lie.

Tucker Carson is screaming from the Fox box about Democrats trying to replace white voters with black and brown voters in an effort to destroy our democracy.

While Democrats in the cheap seats are screaming that Republicans are blocking black and brown voters in an effort to destroy democracy.

It’s like cats being herded by – I don’t know – other cats?

Dumb, huh?

But wait. None of these people are dumb. OK, maybe FP, but, if so, he’s dumb like a Fox host.  

So what’s going on?

And why so much anger?

The answer: fear. Fear begets anger as surely as sex begets babies.

This country was founded by what Penn Sociologist Digby Baltzell called White Anglo Saxon Protestants, or WASPs. WASP men came here from Europe and imported African American slaves. Waves of other immigrants followed, from the Asians and Irish in the late 1800’s to Italians and Jews in the 1900’s to Central and South Americans, Mexicans, and Asians again in the 2000’s. 

A bit simplified, to be sure, but these immigrants strengthened the country as they moved up the ladder from poverty to prosperity. 

With each wave of immigrants, WASP men lost a little control, culturally and politically. Until recently that loss was reasonably subtle because it involved WASP men being replaced by other white men (usually Catholic or Jewish) for the most part.  

But more recently three other groups have demanded a space on the ladder: women, Asians (again? Yes! I know, I know) and brown and black people. And non-whites are growing, from a little less than 40% of the population now, to over 50% by 2045.

“Holy Shoot!” (Yes. I know, I know).

Wasp males lost primary power over culture and politics starting in the 1950’s. Now all whites are facing the same threat. Loss of power.

And recently, when white males, particularly non-affluent ones, look down the ladder, there aren’t as many rungs between them and the ground. Even worse, the lower rungs aren’t always guaranteed to have non-whites on them.

So white males are scared.

Enter FP. He didn’t invent racism; he just took advantage of the fear if provoked. He didn’t invent right wing conservatism (remember, he was a liberal before he was a conservative); he just took advantage of the fear it provoked – and encouraged it to the point of insurrection on Jan 6.

Which really scares the other half of the country: the non-conservatives.

We’re at a crossroads, culturally and politically. Do we fight for what seems inevitable: the growing diversification of our culture? Or do we resist diversification and fight for the old order?

Whichever side you choose, it’s scary. And that’s the real worry. Fear begets anger. And anger begets a real shoot show.

Those supporting a society of mixed races want the country to continue in that direction. Those supporting a white-controlled culture, want a return to the old way. It’s all about who has the power.

Either way, we are all at a crossroads and that is quite scary – for all of us. 

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)