A Nation Divided will Remain Divided after Trump Loses

As a consequence of his own self-destructive behavior, hopefully, Donald Trump has doomed his chances of winning this November’s election. That is the good news.

The bad news is that even if he loses this November’s election, Donald Trump and his supporters will not be going anywhere. Trump has given voice to a deeply angry and embittered population of Americans who not only believe that President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are evil but also believe they are destroying our country. This population of Americans have shown a willingness to believe each and every ridiculous accusation made against Obama and Clinton and if Trump says it loud and often enough his followers will want to believe; it doesn’t matter whether or not it is true. Donald Trump is their champion because he is an authoritarian outsider who uses his platform to say everything his supporters have wanted to say but could find no one to listen. Well, people are listening now.

We need to be reminded of the fact that just a few short months ago, Bernie Sanders had an equally vehement population of supporters who were expressing their own anger and frustration about the status quo in Washington. Both movements illustrate how deeply divided we have become as a nation and as a free people. Fortunately, the Trump and Bernie Sanders supporters are at opposite ends of political spectrum because if they were able to find issues around which they could coalesce they could well have a clear majority of American voters.

Add the division that separates white Americans from blacks and other minorities, the division between the rich and poor, and between many Christians and people of other religions, particularly Muslims, and the chasm that divides us seems even more ominous.

What does it say about a democracy that so many of its people are bitterly unhappy with their government? How can democracy survive if American voters are so divided that common ground cannot be found?

What makes Donald Trump so scary is a combination of his ignorance of the Constitution of the U.S. and his willingness to dismiss that Constitution. Democracy is not a fact of nature rather it is a fragile state of equilibrium that exists between freedom and responsibility; an equilibrium for which the American people have always been willing to work hard to protect. It requires that we be able to compromise on issues about which we disagree and that all parties be willing to sacrifice a little of their personal freedom for the betterment of the whole.

Part of Trump’s appeal to the disaffected is that, as an authoritarian outsider, he professes a willingness to force his will on other people in order to make America great again. This is the way he has run his businesses and it seems this might also be the way he has pursued women. It should come as no surprise that he believes he can run the nation the same way he runs his businesses.

The greatest threat to democracy would be the election of a President in possession of a powerful ego and what he believes to be a clear mandate to make things happen; a President who is willing to disregard the actions of both the Congress and the judiciary. It would require a President who believes that he, alone, can decide what is best for the American people.

That sounds an awful lot like Donald Trump. As I have said in previous posts, this is the scariest thing that has happened in my lifetime and poses a far greater threat to our way of life than terrorism.

Nearly 20 years ago, I began to worry about what could happen if the issues that divide us were to become intractable and I tried to envision what that would mean to the American people and to our democratic form of government. I began writing a book about how things could go horribly wrong if this trend were to continue. I finished that book fifteen years later and published it in 2013. It is a novel entitled, Light and Transient Causes, about what could happen if the American people were to become so angry and frustrated as to elect an authoritarian outsider to the Office of the President on the basis of his promise to make America great again, at any cost.

Because it shows how quickly things could go bad, Light and Transient Causes is a book Americans should read if they are fearful of where we could be headed. As one reviewer wrote, “It’s chilling in the sense that it is all possible in the world we live in today.”

Ironically, the words “light and transient causes,” which were taken from the Declaration of Independence, were prominently displayed behind the candidates of recent presidential and vice presidential debates. I invite the reader to check the book out.

Lack of Insight and Empathy are Subtle Forms of Racism

It is amazing how many white people think there is no reason why African-Americans, poor black people specifically, cannot pull themselves out of poverty and live their lives like we do. When a black person is shot by police these same people will say “if they don’t want to be stopped by police they shouldn’t break the law!” These Americans have no insight into the implicit pre-judgment in their minds that the black person must have been doing something wrong,” or even worse, that “they should not have been there in the first place.” How can America be great if there are public places to which access is denied because of race or religion?

These white Americans do not understand why anyone whose car broke down along a highway would be afraid of an approaching police officer. They cannot imagine that that they would be perceived as a threat when walking through someone else’s neighborhood. Most white men cannot imagine that women, whom they pass on a sidewalk or other public place, would feel endangered by their nearness just because of the color of their skin. White Americans do not understand what it is like to be profiled by the color of their skin.

White Americans are incensed when a millionaire black athlete kneels during the National Anthem as a form of protest over the death of yet another black man at the hands of police. These white people have no insight into the fact that the reality in which young black children are reared in the U.S. is not the same reality with which they are familiar. They do not understand that the chasm that separates poor blacks from mainstream American society seems as wide as the Grand Canyon to black Americans. Most whites Americans cannot comprehend that life in poor urban and rural communities is not a matter of choice. They do not see that the black athlete who kneels during the national anthem is using his platform to speak on behalf of young people who are unable to speak for themselves.

White men and women who ridicule the idea of “white privilege” are oblivious to their own lack of empathy. Rather than seek to understand or work to find solutions they opt, instead, to pass judgment on their fellow citizens. They are so busy exercising their “white privilege” in response to their perceptions of black America that they have no insight into how they, themselves, are perceived by that other America. Sadly, far too many do not believe that blacks are entitled to such privilege and they do not care what black America thinks. These Americans reject the assertion that their behavior is a subtle form of racism. They also reject the possibility that they could ever be wrong.

It is because of such intransigence that we remain divided as a nation, unable to assuage the pain of past and present injustice. When are white Americans going to acknowledge that the greatness of America is a matter of perception and that we do not all enjoy the same opportunities and freedoms?

Rather than strive to address the inequities of our society and the prejudices of the American people, conservative white men and women want to turn back the clock to a simpler time when they felt safe, secure, and in control. We cannot achieve the future we seek by bullying, calling people names, blaming others when we do not get our way, by clinging to the past, or by abandoning our democratic principles. What we all must understand is that there will never be a simpler time.

The reality that is early 21st Century America is a function and consequence of our government’s policies since the end of World War II; both republican and democrat, liberal and conservative. Since the world has changed exponentially, we must be willing and able to think exponentially, which is just another way of saying “think outside the box.” The one thing of which we can be certain is that the problems of the balance of the 21st Century will not be solved by the solutions of the past. The sooner we accept this truth the sooner we can begin working together to repair the widening breach that divides us.

If They Fail We All Fail!

Over the last 150 years, the educational process at work in our schools, both public and private, has evolved slowly through a steady stream of incremental reforms. During those same 150 years, American society has changed exponentially. A combination of a growing population; increasing diversity; immigration, both legal and not; advancements in technology that would have seemed unimaginable even two decades ago; a crumbling infrastructure; a more competitive world marketplace; a fragile ecosystem; and, a far more complex political environment place great pressure on a democratic form of government.

Democracy depends upon our public schools to prepare young people for the responsibilities of citizenship and to be productive members of society. In the dynamic world in which we live, the current American educational process is ill-equipped to meet the needs of an incredibly diverse population of children, a significant percentage of whom are disadvantaged. If we were creating an educational process from scratch, given what we now know that process would look much different than it does today. It would be structured to produce the outcomes we want.

In order to alter this reality, we must start by clarifying the purpose of public education in America. As simply as we can state that purpose, it is to prepare our nation’s children for the responsibilities of citizenship and to help them develop the knowledge and skills they will need to become productive citizens. We must work to help each child maximize their talents and abilities so they will be able to enter adulthood with a menu of choices for what they want to do with their lives in order to find happiness and meaning. We also want them to be able to create value and add wealth to society. Of equal importance is that they be able to carry out their civic responsibilities as members of a participatory democracy. This requires that they have sufficient understanding of the complex issues facing our society to make thoughtful decisions.

We want their education to be well-rounded to include language arts and mathematics skills; a solid understanding of the natural world (science); a grasp of history in hopes that they can learn from our mistakes; and, finally, a full appreciation of the diverse cultures of humanity as expressed through the arts and social sciences. We need to teach them that diversity is our greatest strength as a nation.

During the balance of this Twenty-first Century, the world will continue to undergo unprecedented changes that will challenge the ability of our planet’s diverse population to live together in peace. We must address the issues of hunger, health, and economic welfare while protecting our natural habitat. We must do all of these things in the midst of the hatred some people have for others and in spite of the horrible violence people do to one another.

As a nation, we cannot be successful bickering among ourselves and neither can we meet our objectives if we must continue to support an ever-larger segment of people who live in poverty. Add caring for the steadily aging baby boomer generation and the burden will soon be overwhelming.

A significant emphasis of conservative right Americans is that it is time to cut off those who depend on government assistance. The problem, of course, is that these millions of Americans who are dependent are not going to slip away into oblivion and let the rest of the population do their own thing.

We must also recognize that there will be a shift in political power over the balance of this century. According to the projections of the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2060, the population of non-Hispanic whites is projected to decline from 62 percent, today, to an estimated 44 percent of the total US population. Any illusions white Americans have that they will continue to rule the roost into the latter half of this century are pure fantasy, which may explain, at least in part, the vehement demands that refugees be barred from entry and that illegals be returned to their home nations.

If we are committed to the preservation of the great American democracy, we must invite the poor and the non-white to become full and equal partners. Somehow, we must close the gap between white students and their black and other minority classmates. This requires that we make the reinvention of public education in America our highest priority.

If we continue to allow these children to fail, we all fail.