I am a big enthusiast of history and personal stories of the past from various perspectives. Why you ask? Because they allow ME to choose where more of the truth and reality of events can be deciphered rather than hearing or reading only one version of those stories and events. This enigma and anomaly of singularity is no better symbolized than by two very different American memorials.
The fact that there are two dissimilar memorials, two divergent storylines about the same events in the sacred Black Hills of South Dakota, with Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse, I find intriguing, peculiar, and refreshing. The two exemplify humanity’s resilience, national cannibalism and expansionism, and behavioral complexity, while still having some level of equity, even if it takes over a century to acquire and disclose.
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If you go to the National Park Service’s website of Mount Rushmore, you’ll read the header, “American History, Alive in Stone…” The introduction goes on to say:
Majestic figures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, surrounded by the beauty of the Black Hills of South Dakota, tell the story of the birth, growth, development and preservation of this country. From the history of the first inhabitants to the diversity of America today, Mount Rushmore brings visitors face to face with the rich heritage we all share.
If you click the “Read More” link following, it takes you to a page to assist you with making plans for your trip to visit the memorial and helpful tips. If you’d like to know the history behind the creation of Mount Rushmore, you are going to have to dig further.
Learn About the Park — the NPS
Scrolling down this menu tab following the Plan Your Visit tab, you find a number of subjects related to the memorial. However, out of the eight choices you will only find one about the history (and creation) of Mount Rushmore under the heading of History & Culture. There you will find three more sub-menus, two of which are about the history: 1) People, and 2) Stories.
Under this Peopleheader you can read brief backgrounds of the important men of the project who contributed in various methods to the legal proceedings to begin the construction, fund-raising, its blueprints, development, and finishing with particular attention to Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Of more interest are the speeches of these two presidents at Mount Rushmore. Coolidge’s speech beginning the official construction he made on August 10, 1927 and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s speech dedicating Jefferson’s unveiling on August 30, 1936. I recommend reading both speeches if you can.
Under the Storiesheader you will find ten (10) sub-menus. Of those ten, you will find maybe 2-4 topics relating to the contextual history of Mount Rushmore. Back to the main menu of Learn About the Park, toward the bottom is the sub-header Education. That tab has Parks as Classrooms which divides into four more sub-sub-menus, two of which might lead one to a contextual history of this National Park: Curriculum Materials and Other Resources. After examining completely both of those topics, including every single offerings of history/social studies curriculums, nowhere is there found any mention at all, not even the support(?) by one or any of the original inhabitants of the Black Hills where the monument was built. Reading the popular majority of information available on Mount Rushmore you will or should come away with a purely Euro-American white-man narrative of people and events. The lopsidedness is unavoidable.
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Gold Discovered in the Black Hills
In the early 1860’s while on missionary duties to several Native American tribes in Montana, Idaho, and Dakota territories, Jesuit Father Pierre-Jean De Smet, reported to American settlers and expansionist he saw Sioux indians carrying gold they said came from the sacred grounds of the Black Hills. Meanwhile, since the mid-1700’s several tribes like the Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Pawnee were being pushed out of their native lands westward by American settlers and mercantile, forcefully and by habitat degradation of living resources. Due to the rich buffalo hunting grounds of the northern plains, many refugee tribes settled in and around the Black Hills.
Due to constant skirmishes between American settlers-commerce moving West and Native tribes defending their lands, sovereignty, and way of life, the U.S. Government began studying and considering methods of “obtaining peace” with the “hostile peoples.” In the spring of 1868 a conference was held between the white-man U.S. Government and the Sioux indians in Fort Laramie, Wyoming. This became the Treaty of Fort Laramie. It proposed four primary accords signed by both parties:
Set aside a 25 million acre tract of land for the Lakota and Dakota encompassing all the land in South Dakota west of the Missouri River, to be known as the Great Sioux Reservation
Permit the Dakota and Lakota to hunt in areas of Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, and North Dakota until the buffalo were gone (yet white-man hunters were already wiping out the bison)
Provide for an agency, grist mill, and schools to be located on the Great Sioux Reservation
Provide for land allotments to be made to individual Indians; and provide clothing, blankets, and rations of food to be distributed to all Dakotas and Lakotas living within the bounds of the Great Sioux Reservation
Sadly, however, neither the U.S. Government nor the Sioux indians and the other tribes had gotten wind of rising rumors about discovered gold and its implications. In November 1875, American prospectors found a large deposit in the Deadwood Gulch. This would be the death-pick for the Native American tribes and the start of the Black Hills Gold Rush. By 1872 the constant violation of the Ft. Laramie Treaty by white settlers, miners, and mercantilist — e.g. the Northern Pacific Railroad traversing straight through their buffalo hunting grounds — were so rampant and not stopped by the U.S. Government and President Ulysses Grant that inevitably on the grounds of utter disrespect and continued degradation of sacred Ogala-Hunkpapa Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho lands and living resources (declining buffalo), and broken promises by White Americans, the angered tribes led by Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse wanted no more forked-tongue talk from the white-men.
As many nationalistic, overly patriotic American politicians and their constituents today would do to protect their own homes, family, and living resources, the Native American Indians did exactly what any human would do in the face of hostile takeovers: standup and fight! And so began the Great Sioux War.
Most Americans today know the popular history stories about General George Custer’s valiant last stand at the battle of Little Big Horn and maybe related surrounding battles, but what most Americans do not really know or understand in-depth are the racist, discriminatory treatment and persistently broken U.S. treaties with Western and Great Plains Indians from the late 18th and entire 19th century. When Mount Rushmore was first imagined, drafted, and construction began in 1927, the story of the Black Hills Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho, along with many other tribes were essentially omitted and written out of authentic American history.
The Crazy Horse Memorial is the deserved symbol and story of a people and a way of life intentionally removed from their lands to foreign lands (reservations) undesirable by their conquerors, and through either militant extermination or oppression, their way of life — ironically not protected under the U.S. Constitution, DoI, or legally by state and federal courts — is only survived today by lucky survivors of ruthless, heartless American expansionism and commerce that defines most of U.S. history into the world empire it is today; the “other” side of the little told story of this nation.
Instead of the more popular patriotic slogans most Euro-Americans enjoy tossing around loosely, here’s another…
“God Forgive White America, Its Greed, Racism, and saturated Blood on its Hands!”
I must confess that four months ago when I chose to tackle this subject and new field of study for a blog-post or two—that turned out to be four—I had little idea it would be so laborious and challenging for me. Not only was it formidable over time, but it was equally demanding of quality representation, of which I feel I have failed or sacrificed in some ways. For that I apologize. I likely bit-off much more than I could chew. And though my current personal situation has made my time reading, researching, blog drafting, blog writing, and publishing difficult and quite limited, I do hope this conclusion is sufficient enough to glean from the whole, some expansion on a little known, little taught or discussed subject: ignorance. If nothing else, I hope these four parts have invoked a deep curiosity to learn and know more about what we don’t know, for it is great, it is endless, and paradoxically attainable.
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Previously in Part III, I examined the colorful ways we fabricate facts, or our conscious intentional lying, and how to discern and reveal their motives and utilization. I also covered how North and South American indigenous fossil knowledge and their worlds became lost or entirely omitted from Euro-American archaeological records. Then finished with how to understand the benefits and advantages of historical-interdisciplinary hindsight. In doing so this groundwork offers a comprehensive, enlarged intellectual body of reliable context as well as a necessary reversal of or counter to explicit and implicit ignorance in the U.S.
In this conclusion I want to very briefly touch on white, or Anglo/Caucasian ignorance, explore the social theorems of ignorance, and then ask Where are America’s public intellectuals, who might they be, and why today are they few and far between? and provide plausible answers. Let’s jump right in. (line break)
A few summers back as my two kids, my Mom, and my sister and I were seated around the dinner table, the discussion turned to American history, a subject that mostly interested my 15-year old son, but usually made my 22-year old daughter, Mom, and sister roll their eyes. When I made my point that our nation’s White House, the Capitol building, and some other government buildings were built by African-American slaves, I got facial expressions of pause, silence, and astonishment. Their faces said it all. As a state certified educator in Texas, I was not surprised by their baffled, yet silent responses. This tidbit of historical fact and its implications generally does not make it into state-approved classroom textbooks nor is it required by the state’s core-curriculum as critical learning. Thus, we have a classic case of anglo-caucasian (white) ignorance. I rather like this introduction…
White ignorance… It’s a big subject. How much time do you have? It’s not enough. Ignorance is usually thought of as the passive obverse to knowledge, the darkness retreating before the spread of Enlightenment. But… Imagine an ignorance that resists. Imagine an ignorance that fights back. Imagine an ignorance militant, aggressive, not to be intimidated, an ignorance that is active, dynamic, that refuses to go quietly— not at all confined to the illiterate and uneducated but propagated at the highest levels of the land, indeed presenting itself unblushingly as knowledge. — Charles W. Mills
Professor of philosophy at the City University of New York, Dr. Charles W. Mills believes by clarifying and demarcating historical white domination and its ramifications, as well as examining the individual and social processes of cognition with regard to race, we can start to understand how best to achieve multiracial enlightenment that garners short-, mid-, and long-term benefits not just for a few, but for all humanity.
White Domination & Ramifications Dr. Mills finds ten components to clarification and demarcation. I will point out four I find particularly important.
Race as a cognitive phenomena historized — white domination has been and still is a social-structure, not a physio-biological structure. “Whites” did not exist in the ancient world.
Leaving white paradigms — “White” in white ignorance doesn’t need to be confined to just white people. To a greater or lesser extent this has existed due to power relations and patterns of ideological hegemony.
Male ignorance — ignorance of the male gender must be analyzed equally as it is far more ancient, going back to the very origins of patriarchy.
Avoiding false beliefs — gaining a broader understanding of white ignorance is not only sociological, but normative too. Flawed patterns of cognition are promoted or propagandized by certain social models and group membership as are truthful-moral ones.
Individual & Social Processes of Cognition Before getting into Dr. Mills’ work below, watch this 6-minute video. It is a prime example of Memory and Testimonydiscussed below and how to incorporate it into social cognition:
An examination of white supremacy and its historical dominance, injustice, and ignorance cannot be done without understanding the influences of individual and social processes of cognition. Separating out these various components can be demanding for they are in perpetual interaction with each other. For example, when an individual discerns, they do so with sensors that have been socialized. Keeping this in mind, Dr. Mills analyzes five dynamics that I will summarize:
Perception— in general, perceptions and conceptions are practically one in the same, so tightly related that often they’re indistinguishable. Individuals do not create these categories, we absorb them from our cultural contexts. Two prime examples are the world’s continents, they’re sizes, and the term savages and its origin and context. They beg the questions, Why is Europe a continent and say India or Eurasia are not? And savage originated from Anglo-French cultures in the 13th century, the Age of Exploration and Colonization by European superpowers, and implies a person/people of uncivilized, primitive, dumb behavior and inferior to the designator(s). Why is this context assigned to savage? Does it justify imperialism, conquest, and domination? The context of savage continued into the 18th century and found its way into one of our most enduring U.S. documents:
When Thomas Jefferson excoriates the “merciless Indian Savages” in the Declaration of Independence, then, neither he nor his readers will experience any cognitive dissonance with the earlier claims about the equality of all “men,” since savages are not “men” in the full sense. Locked in a different temporality, incapable of self-regulation by morality and law, they are humanoid but not human. — Charles W. Mills
Conception— this aligns us to our known world. The unknown world, however, is assessed and judged not with the discreetly detached concept, but viewed and judged through the concept. Very rarely does an individual resist this societal bias. And here is the baffling irony of this egocentric, white-centric condition which surrounds the word savage:
In the classic period of European expansionism, it then becomes possible to speak with no sense of absurdity of “empty” lands that are actually teeming with millions of people, of “discovering” countries whose inhabitants already exist, because the non-white Other is so located in the guiding conceptual array that different rules apply. Even seemingly straightforward empirical perception will be affected—the myth of a nation of hunters in contradiction to widespread Native American agriculture that saved the English [e.g. Jamestown] colonists’ lives, the myth of stateless savages in contradiction to forms of government from which the white Founders arguably learned, the myth of a pristine wilderness in contradiction to a humanized landscape transformed by thousands of years of labor (Jennings 1976). In all of these cases, the concept is driving the perception, with whites aprioristically intent on denying what is before them. — Charles W. Mills
Memory— it is sadly ironic that as I get to memory of the individual and/or social cognitive process that events such as those in Charlottesville, Virginia, Aug. 12th occurred. It reiterates just how crucial it is to understand the fluid interconnectedness of these five components, including memory, and how it relates to white knowing and unknowing due to denial of requisite facts. While understanding collective memory, we must also understand collective amnesia. They always go hand-in-hand. We remember the Holocaust primarily because Hitler and Nazi Germany lost the war. But what about the Pequots, the Nama, the Tasmanians, the Beothuks, the Congolese, the Hereros, or the Armenians? What about the Native American Cherokees or any of the over 200 tribes on the continent? What about 19th century antebellum slavery, killing rebellions such as Nat Turner’s, and the atrocities throughout the American Civil War? Today, over seven generations later, Americans still confront their historical identity and memory over the Standing Rock Reservation oil-pipeline and Charlottesville, VA over a Robert E. Lee statue and what it means.
As the individual represses unhappy or embarrassing memories, that may also reveal a great deal about[their]identity, about who[they are], so in all societies, especially those structured by domination, the socially recollecting “we” will be divided, and the selection will be guided by different identities, with one group suppressing precisely what another wishes to commemorate. Thus there will be both official and counter-memory, with conflicting judgments about what is important in the past and what is unimportant, what happened and does matter, what happened and does not matter, and what did not happen at all. — Charles W. Mills
Testimony— How do you know your exact birth date? Your knowledge of your birthday is most certainly told to you by those there in the delivery room, your mother and father, and perhaps doctors and/or nurses there at the time. Hence, your beliefs about your birth time, place, month, and year are through testimony. We are quite dependent on others for what we know and this most certainly involves elaborations of social epistemology. Those elaborations also come from other previous individual and social epistemic elaborations and so on. In cases of veracity and neutrality, it bears significant impact to ask ‘testimony by whom and for what (possible) interests gained or lost?‘
Motivational Group Interests — these can be found in varying strengths with any political, religious, economic, and/or sports groups with common interests. What these sorts of groups demonstrate are what is commonly known in cognitive, developmental, social, clinical, and neuropsychology as hot cognition (as opposed to cold/unemotional) associated with physiological arousal responding more to environmental stimuli. Peer-assimilation is another aspect of hot cognition. This certainly applies to racial grouping and “color-blindness” as well.
Though he speaks primarily on the African-American plight in the U.S., in this following video-clip Harvard University Fellow and MIT Professor Noam Chomsky talks about white domination and racism from the historical record. This really applies to all non-whites in America and the world, does it not?
Social Theorems of Ignorance
Is ignorance simply the absence of knowledge? The sum of society’s ignorance is much greater than the sum of our knowledge. Yet, how much do we really know about social or collective ignorance? Where does social-collective ignorance come from? How much do we impose it upon someone or upon ourselves? What role does social-collective ignorance play in interactions, group relations, in institutions, in civil, business, and criminal law, and managing risks? Typically our societal norms give negative connotations to ignorance, but when might it be preferrable not to know something? Can it be a virtue?
Dr. Michael Smithson, Professor of Psychology at the Australian National University, has been working in the area of uncertainty and ignorance for many years. He takes an interdisciplinary approach to socially produced uncertainty and ignorance and believes one must begin with defining what social ignorance is and is not.
Socially Produced Ignorance: What It Is and Isn’t Social ignorance is 1) emerging, it is 2) partially constructed by society, and it is 3) imposed. It is manipulated deliberately or as a by-product of some social movement or process. It is also typically at a macro-level of large groups within power relations. As far as how kinetic ignorance is managed(4) it is typically at the micro-level with individuals and how those individuals conceptualize, represent, negotiate, and respond to ignorance. Thus, the managing agent is often indirect or as a spectator concerning the thinking and behavior of ignorance. These are four theorems of social ignorance.
Social ignorance is not the external world and how it arises in non-social settings. For example, the non-social settings would be science and the limits of science. It also includes epistemological and religious frameworks that make assertions about non-knowledge or meta-knowledge in exogenous non-social terms. It is not a managingunder kinetic ignorance either. In other words, how people/groups think and act in uncertain environments, and not artificially generated under theory.
Negotiated Ignorances There are at least five different negotiated ignorances between social (or at least interpersonal) arrangements of ignorance. A sixth could be time, or the lack of time, to adequately understand dynamics of an event, place, or person, but for the sake of time (no pun intended), I will very briefly cover these five:
Specialization — is simply an admittance there is too much for any one person to learn everything exhaustively. Hence, spreading the perceived risks can be achieved in three ways: 1) diversified learning rather than direct or narrowed learning, 2) therefore, concurrently diversified ignorance is created, and 3) acquired knowledge is also diversified via social collaboration.
Privacy — another social ignorance arrangement which is not necessarily controlled access to information by others about self, but can also be consensual with trusted persons or experts. Secrecy is imposed unilaterally, but privacy involves levels of risk. And trust is interconnected within organized specialization.
Trust — is a state of perceived vulnerability or risk. Dr. Smithson (on Yamagishi) elaborates:
“[Toshio]Yamagishi and his colleagues argue that trust and “commitment formation” are alternative ways of reducing the risk of being exploited in social interactions. Commitment formation involves the development of mutual monitoring and powers to sanction and reward each other’s behavior. However, the reduction of transaction costs in commitment formation via uncertainty reduction comes at a price, namely the difficulty and costliness in exiting from the relationship and foregoing opportunities to form other relationships. Trust, on the other hand, entails running the risk of being exploited but increases opportunities by rendering the truster more mobile and able to establish cooperative relations more quickly. Trust, therefore, is both an example of a social relation that requires tolerance of ignorance and also trades undesired uncertainty (the risk of being exploited) against desired uncertainty (freedom to seize opportunities for new relations).”
Politeness — is another example of how social relations trade on ignorance. Within formal public conversations people typically don’t expect to first place their hand on a bible and state “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” The strategies a talker may utilize are varied in creating disinformation, e.g. promoting a false impression of approval, or agreement, or offer tactful brevity, vagueness, or ambiguity. However, this latter strategy is not always negative because it could nurture healthy adaptability or change due to diverse interpretations.
Legitimation— social ignorance is also used in a number of facades to vindicate inaction, keeping the status quo (also known as business as usual), opportunism, evasion of responsibility or liability, and risk management strategies. Our American legal differences between civil cases versus criminal cases, as one example, are where a verdict in the former can be given on probabilities and in the latter it must be given “beyond reasonable doubt.“
“Licit” actions and choices done on the basis of social ignorance are abundant in our mundane life as well. As previously discussed in this series, legitimizing high-level federal policy change, or non-change, use (abuse?) the precautionary principle, e.g. climate change counter-measures.
Is Social Ignorance Always An Insight-Deficit? Contrary to popular belief, ignoramuses are not always at a disadvantage. There are cases where they are better off than very knowledgeable people. Case and point, if you could be told exactly when and how you were going to die, would you want to know? Why or why not? Would you want your spouse and children to know the details of your death? Why or why not? Often in the field of counseling where doctor-patient confidentiality existed, I found myself in the position of aiding social ignorance between spouses, family members, employers or a circle of friends for legitimate reasons, e.g. one spouse’s history of unfaithfulness, in order to maintain necessary therapeutic stability. Many spouses/partners don’t care to know intimate details of former lovers/spouses. Dr. Lael Schooler and Ralph Hertwig, both of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, assert from their research that forgetting facilitates the use of inferential heuristics that also trade on environmental structures.
What I hope has been adequately conveyed here is that ignorance, particularly social ignorance, is quite prevalent. It exists practically everywhere, including with yourself. It is predominantly socially structured. Accordingly, it deserves as much attention, monitoring, and updating as one’s repository of knowledge. This, our social and individual human ignorance-condition, I hope would conflate wise, cunning humility and not inflated arrogance. Therefore, how might we as social parts of a whole get regular checkups, quarterly or annual appraisals of our cunning humility and/or inflated arrogance? Glad you asked!
America’s Public Intellectuals – Questions
What does intellectualism mean? After this four-part series, is it possible for intellectualism to thrive and coexist with ignorance? Should that even be questioned? Can intellectualism guide ignorance and ignorance guide intellectualism offering more balance, more tolerance? In our modern age of technology and data-overload, are we too knowledgeable, too informed?
Today, we are not necessarily uninformed, but so over-informed it forces our cognitive capacities to seek out preferable trigger-topics and information that bolster our own perspective. That is most certainly a self-imposed ignorance and to degrees social ignorance. On the aforementioned section of social ignorance, sociologists define that as a neo-tribalism tagged with near-fanatical insistence on cohesion and monism in a world, its Nature and fauna that is anything but monistic or binary. Within this neo-tribalism, humans — perhaps just advanced primates at this point? — historically have resorted to bullying and moral castigation to keep their own status quo. But at what cost? Many public intellectuals agree: the egghead is dead, replaced by chest-beating activists. That may be true.
If our nation’s Founding Fathers were alive today, they would almost certainly be distraught and aghast at the loud polarity and lack of common interests. This isn’t to say those members of the 1787 Constitutional Convention, lasting a miserable 116 steamy days and nights, did not have their heated differences. Indeed they did. However, those resilient intellectuals mixed daily with their communities and adversaries; they had no choice really but to learn basic etiquette, tolerance, compromise, and mutual understanding and do it face-to-face. Those differences, conflicts, and resolutions took enormous amounts of highly skilled dialogue, negotiation, candor, and listening as they did expressing.
Fortunately, our modern intellectuals are still around, as seen in the Stargazer’s Guide image, as well as several of their interdisciplinary colleagues I’ve included throughout this four-part series. They too could easily be included on the map in their respective fields. Perhaps they are not as recognizable or accessible today because technology is increasingly finding intrusive ways to get in front of our faces and into our schedules, not weekly or daily, but hourly! Too much information-knowledge is just as bad for us individually — and potentially within a social framework of influence — as ignorance is because covertly hyper-knowledge fosters more risks that would otherwise be spread-out, diversified to minimize risks or learning-bankruptcy.
The difference between intellectualism (knowledge) then in 1787 and now (over-knowledge), as I personally see it, is that whether opposing sides embrace it or not, we know a lot less than we think we do (ignorance). Arrogance with power is the chief combatant of agnotology and collaborative progress. To remain stagnant in current knowledge without diversifying and going into the darkness of ignorance and where it leads is to risk terminal illness at the hands of Nature, predatory Nature to be specific. That assured apathy (that all is known) will be especially lethal if we do not recognize, with no exceptions, that ignorance is an equal or greater dichotomy. An egalitarian dichotomy not to be feared, but merely appreciated, explored further, confronted if necessary, and thus made more commonly defined, inclusive of both individual and social frameworks.
(paragraph break) Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always
Surprise! I am not a fan of horse-blinders, headless ostriches, or one-tree forests. I am not a fan of shallow, baseless rhetoric or opinion unless it is cleverly woven with satire and parody. Nor am I a fan of closed systems and strong-armed boxing in. Are you asking “What on Earth is he going on about?” Fair question.
What 2017 will become for Americans, and hopefully to a minimal extent the world, will be or has been partly determined by 2015-16, the state-of-the-Union and its unionists today, and what will result in 2018 and 2019 based on the past and present. This is the final post from the previous: 2016: Cries for Mutiny.
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The Past Two Years
2015 and 2016 in America saw many economic, political, social, and scientific headlines, many good as there were bad. Following are some of the biggest and in my opinion most impactful relative to the well-being of all U.S. citizens and citizens to be.
Racism, lethal violence, and gun-control, and so by default our nation’s outrageous incarceration rate, seems to never go away. The mass shootings at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC and the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL, a popular LGBT club, were two of the deadliest shootings in recent history. The Charleston Church shooting was reportedly motivated by a 21-year old white supremacist charged with 33 counts including murder, firearms charges, and federal hate-crime charges. The murderer’s beliefs prompted continued debate over the state’s long history of flying the 19th century Confederate Battle Flag atop the state capitol building. This shooting and other similar shootings in the U.S. including the Pulse nightclub—and Roseburg, Lafayette, Chattanooga, Planned Parenthood, San Bernardino—ignited again the still never-ending controversy of racism and gun-control.
The phrase Black Lives Matter became a common trending 2015 hashtag on social media following events such as the death of 25-year old Freddie Gray while in custody. Increased police violence and killing continued throughout 2016, primarily toward or effecting African-Americans, shockingly suggesting that the end of the American Civil War in 1865, the ratification of the 13th Amendment also in 1865, then decades later historical victories by the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s and 70’s never happened! It seriously begs the question whether basic human rights in America have really taken firm roots after 151 years!
On a high note, in 2015 June 26th, the White House vowed its support for the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in favor of marriage equality for same-sex couples. President Obama remarked:
“In my second inaugural address, I said that if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. It is gratifying to see that principle enshrined into law by this decision.”
But American history has shown that simple moral, ethical equality for all is still far from established, practiced, and protected within our national borders, e.g. Texas Rep. Andrew Murr in my previous post. And America is not always so embracing when it comes to foreigners and foreign affairs, despite what Lady Liberty is supposed to symbolize to the world.
The European refugee crisis from war-torn nations like Syria have been an embarrassing blemish across Lady Liberty and all Americans. Tens of thousands of people fleeing from the Middle East and Africa learned harshly just how paranoid and apathetic the United States has become. Germany, Sweden, and the U.K. on the other hand opened up their arms wide taking in far more than President Obama’s plan to allow 10,000. Other foreign aid into those warring nations reached all-time highs and lows for the international community despite U.S. peace and refusal talks. Yet, these refugee figures come out of European and American sources — the numbers are anywhere between 1.1 to 4.4 million refugees in African nations, ironically where some of the poorest nations in the world are located. Hmmmm.
The U.S. economy made several headlines as well, no surprise given the upcoming Presidential primaries and election in 2016. The federal deficit indeed shrunk over 2015. The final figures came in at $439 billion, about $45 billion less than in 2014. Employment rose, unemployment fell, and for the first time in the past 7-years, 2015’s real hourly pay climbed faster than 2%. Good news, yes. However, America’s widening zip code inequality continued to rise as poverty and a lack of upward mobility became not just social and economic problems, they became bigger geographical ones too. American living standards only saw limited gains creating a false illusion of recovery. This was reflected by a contraction of aggregate supply rather than a strong expansion of demand, all according to the Brookings Institute. Therefore, now is an easy segway into America’s federal politics and “Election 2016″… a campaign year that would go down in history as infamous, to put it mildly.
In an April 2015 two-minute video, Democrat Hillary Clinton announced her anticipated second run for president. With Democratic candidates Sanders and Clinton set, the race for the Republican nomination became a wild free-for-all. Another Bush from Florida entered the race, Jeb Bush, along with no less than 15 others, including the TV-reality star and business mogul Donald Trump. From that point on, the fiery “You’re Fired!” TV personality turned the campaigns into polarizing, even comical, reality shows. Soon after, as if to get in line for the next blockbuster show, rapper Kanye West proclaimed he would run in the 2020 presidential election. Why not! Come one, come all. No experience necessary.
In November 2016, what can only be described as a stunning outcome, Trump won not the popular vote, but the Electoral College vote to become the 45th President of the United States. Yes, the rest of the world was shocked, not shocked, and Vladimir Putin and Russia loved it.
In late 2016 the Brookings Institute spoke about Trump’s economic team forecasting doubled long-term GDP as “unrealistic.”
“Labor force growth is slowing to a crawl. The population is aging, the dramatic advance of women into the labor market is waning, and male participation has been declining for decades. We will be lucky if the labor force grows by 0.5 percent a year. That means labor productivity growth would have to grow by 3 percent a year. Over the past decade, it grew by just over 1 percent. So the Trump administration seems to be assuming that they can more than double productivity growth. So, is a near-doubling of the GDP growth rate realistic? No. But even if it were, it would be less important than ensuring that whatever growth we have is more equally distributed. But let’s assume we can bump up the growth rate. Even then, unless something is done to ensure that growth is more broadly distributed, the average American is unlikely to benefit very much. This lesson was reinforced recently by the release of new data showing that, on average, if you were born in 1940, you had a 90 percent chance of being better off than your parents, but the odds fell to 50 percent if you were born in the 1980s. Both lower growth and rising inequality contributed to this depressing story for today’s younger generations. In addition, the study—by Raj Chetty and colleagues—found that more equally distributing growth would be more effective at improving the average person’s life chances than simply restoring GDP growth to its golden years’ rate. In fact, in today’s lopsided economy, it would take a growth rate of more than 6 percent to revive the income trajectories experienced by middle class children in 1940.”
But don’t fret too much America. There are some very bright spots from 2015-16!
A shattered chromosome cured a woman of her immune disease then reassembled. This is known as chromothripsis, possibly paving the way for therapies against a variety of human diseases. 2015 saw the dawn of gene editing, the rise of immunotherapy and the first hints of a drug to slow the pace of Alzheimer’s disease. NASA’s Kepler telescope found 1,284 new planets of which nine could plausibly support human life. About 800-million years ago a slight genetic mutation lead to multicellular life on Earth. An ancient molecule known as GK-PID was discovered to be the reason single-celled organisms on Earth started evolving into multicellular organisms we have today. In mathematics a new prime number was discovered, further expanding and enhancing encryption programming: the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search. Then perhaps one of the biggest headline for medical science in 2016 was made by the Stanford University School of Medicine! Stem cells injected into stroke patients re-enabled patients to walk again.
Finally and on the faith vs. science debate, cavefish were found that could walk up walls. This showed similarities to four-limbed vertebrates. The New Jersey Institute of Technology discovered a Taiwanese Cavefish that is capable of walking up walls with the same anatomical movement as any present-day amphibian or reptile. And in the state of Utah, the Black Dragon Canyon rock-art debate was finally solved! Due to pterosaur fossils being found in the area, young-Earth creationists — who believe our planet to be only 6,000 to 10,000 years old — have relentlessly cited the rock-painting as proof that humans and the winged reptiles had walked the region together. Archaeological chemist Dr. Marvin Rowe using “a photographic enhancement program known as DStretch and a technique called x-ray fluorescence,” completely debunked the creationist’s claim of the art.
There were many, many more major breakthroughs in medicine, history, and science for 2015-16 that simply could not all be listed here. Apologies.
The reviews are mixed about 2017. No surprise, right? It’s only January.
However, from a U.S. economic standpoint, the fiscal outlook for America’s “new POTUS” plans are not promising, says the Brookings Institute, and “it is likely to get worse soon.“
“The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates that Trump’s tax and spending proposals – the latter including replacing the Affordable Care Act, modifying Medicaid, boosting military spending, and enacting savings in non-defense programs – imply that the debt will rise to 105 percent of GDP by 2026. The CRFB report leaves out any estimate of increased infrastructure spending, which Trump has said he would like to increase by roughly $1 trillion over a decade. Including that would add further to the debt figures.”
From a political standpoint, never before has the spirit of true, pure equality for ALL Americans been so threatened (e.g. 2016: Cries for Mutiny), arguably weakened the last 2-3 decades. Racism and hate-crimes littered our nation’s news media and if 2015-16 is any barometer, it isn’t going away anytime soon in 2017. For here and now and the sake of time, I am going to focus on sex-gender identities only.
Notwithstanding the obvious growing social trend of sex-gender equality across many states, the political-Conservative representation and processes, for various reasons, progressed at snail-paces. It took the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court, after four pivotal landmark decisions—Lawrence v. Texas (2003), United States v. Windsor (2013), Hollingsworth v. Perry (2013), and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015)—to make same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. Can you say it took not an act of Congress, but the gavel of the Supreme Court to finally follow its majority of people!?
From the social and scientific standpoints then, the future in America has wider glimmers of hope. Since 1991 the work of doctors and scientists — like Dr. Simon LeVay and medical/university colleagues across Massachusetts and New York with their supporting universities and clinics through 2001 — has led to the progression and evolution of tangible better understandings of sex-gender dynamics. For example, in 2006 the Council for Responsible Genetics reported:
“We are sexual beings, yet this does not mean that we are born homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual. Our sexual expression can change over time, towards different people, through different experiences. A lack of understanding about this type of human variability often leads to a perspective that our genes define who we are.
…Yet a narrow focus on the variability of sexual expression threatens to cloud the issue altogether. Without giving proper attention to the mutability of human sexual expression, questions regarding its origins and character cannot be answered. Without giving proper attention to the mutability of human sexual expression, questions regarding its origins and character cannot be answered.”
“For men, new research suggests that clues to sexual orientation may lie not just in the genes, but in the spaces between the DNA, where molecular marks instruct genes when to turn on and off and how strongly to express themselves.”
In individuals, said[UCLA molecular biologist Tuck C.]Ngun, the presence of these distinct molecular marks can predict homosexuality with an accuracy of close to 70%.
Researchers working in the young science of epigenetics acknowledge they are unsure just how an individual’s epigenome is formed. But they increasingly suspect it is forged, in part, by the stresses and demands of external influences. A set of chemical marks that lies between the genes, the epigenome changes the function of genetic material, turning the human body’s roughly 20,000 protein-coding genes on or off in response to the needs of the moment.
“Our best guess is that there are genes” that affect a man’s sexual orientation “because that’s what twin studies suggest,” said Northwestern University psychologist J. Michael Bailey, who has explored a range of physiological markers that point to homosexuality’s origins in the womb. But the existence of identical twin pairs in which only one is homosexual “conclusively suggest that genes don’t explain everything,” Bailey added.”
—Scientists find DNA differences between gay men and their straight twin brothers, by Melissa Healy – LA Times, October 2015
Stepping back from any one tree and examining the genetic or epigenetic forest strongly suggests that ancient and long-standing social-theological traditions of strictly an unbending binary paradigm in post-modern Europe and modern America are fast fading into fallacy. For the future growth of higher human virtues and education, this is great news!
This very month one of the most iconic American magazines, National Geographic, released their double-issues on the gender revolution. Since I can remember over the last 25+ years, this bold highly controversial step by a world-renown organization is long overdue in the U.S.! It paints the reality of the changing social stigma of sex-gender identity bringing it to our public squares to define the correct precise terms so misunderstood, and looks closely at the cultural, political, social, and most importantly the biological aspects! These are must copies for your personal library.
Topics the magazines cover include Helping Families Talk About Gender, Girls, Boys, and Gendered Toys, the power and influence of our society’s binaryColor Code on American children, a deeper look into children’s animated films of popular characters: Who’s the Fairest?, a detailed graph of Where In the World Are Women and Men Most-and Least-Equal, candid first-hand reports from 9-year olds around the globe of How (in their countries) Gender Affects Their Lives, Rethinking Gender: Can Science Help Us Navigate?, and then the lengthy article, Making A Man: How Does A 21st-century Boy Reach Manhood? that I found astonishing. And those articles and graphs are merely the first-half of the first magazine!
“Enveloped by the men of his family and Hasidic faith, Levi Tiechtel celebrates his 13th birthday at his bar mitzvah in Queens, New York. For millenia, Jews have been performing this ritual, which commemorates the[supposed]age when a male becomes accountable for his own actions and sins.”
—Making A Man: How Does A 21st-century Boy Reach Manhood?, January 2017 National Geographic, pp 86-87.
From 800 BCE Sparta to 1930 Italy and United States, “cultures have devised[not genetics or epigenetics necessarily]myriad practices and rituals to make boys into men. The methods — often secret and sacred — vary widely and continually evolve, says cultural anthropologist Gilbert Herdt. But they also share some universal themes that broadly reflect a community’s values and the roles its men are expected to play.” At such a young malleable age, in several cultures around the world, America included, it makes the decision to conform or not conform daunting or near impossible until perhaps an older age of increased independence and exposure to the world’s endless variety.
The Possible-Probable Forecast
Based on what I’ve written in this post and previous posts, my life experiences as an 8th-generation Texan as well as American, my 28-year futebol-soccer career across 4-of-the-6 inhabitable continents exposed and engrossed to a multitude of native cultures, the copiousness and curse of the internet, and my unconventional journey from young agnostic, to evangelical-fundamental Reformed theology with church leadership and practice, back toward a Freethinking Humanist today… and now an evolving, learning, and hopefully teaching social-sciences from basic chemistry to Quantum Physics, I would say the next 2-6 years in the United States looks promising through several lenses on the social and scientific fronts, but ominous on the economic and political battlefields. Why?
After 241-years as a nation and about 182 for Texas, we have nurtured the freedom to continually push the envelope of social refinement and scientific exploration, granted in pockets of the country, while also nurturing the fear of change and the consumer rewards of self-reliance and exclusion. When we examine the entire American forest over the lifetime of our nation, we stand at a pivotal ridge on our future’s horizon. Either we embrace a bigger global community, reverse the return or nuisance of old uncivilized ideologies which have crept or will creep back in, and instead keep pushing the scientific thresholds… else we risk increased fragmentation, polarization, and socioeconomic collapse in a few more generations, if not sooner.
I hope my seat behind this windshield and the view through my/our rearview mirror is different or temporarily malfunctioning! (half laughing, half nervous)
Tell me your thoughts and suggestions below. Whether you are American or not, I’d like to read them.
Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always