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“If I can’t dance to it, it’s not my revolution.”*

Women’s March Photo credit: Howard Lisnoff

“If I can’t dance to it, it’s not my revolution.”*

Published at CounterPunch on December 31, 2018.

The Women’s March is not immune to the same forces that have confronted the political left in the U.S. for decades. The larger women’s movement itself, that sprang from the antiwar movement and civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, carried flaws along with its development that are not new to left political movements in the U.S.

Looking in as an outsider during the late 1960s and early 1970s, I noticed that much of the women’s movement was made up of upper-middle class professionals and well-to-do students who gave short shrift to large segments of women in the U.S. who did not have the advantages of middle-class or upper-middle class upbringing and the professional school degrees and advantages that that background afforded many in the women’s movement, particularly those in leadership roles. That the women’s movement has attempted to address some of these shortcomings in recent years is testimony to the vibrance of that movement, but the fact that most white women without college degrees voted for Donald Trump, the dyed-in-the-wool misogynist, is a an undeniable and valid criticism of the women’s movement’s effectiveness.

I have marched, along with my family, for two consecutive years at the Women’s March in New York City. It felt good being on the streets in solidarity with others, the cause was noble, but during both marches I felt that the marches were accomplishing little besides saying “Hooray for our side.” If the proof is indeed in the pudding, then the nomination and confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, with echoes of attacks against Anita Hill in the person of Christine Ford, is evidence of how the women’s movement’s power has changed little over the ensuing decades.

But now another issue has reared its ugly head as the second anniversary and third women’s march draws closer in January 2019. “Several people involved in planning the march say that at a November 2016 meeting, Women’s March co-chairs Tamika Mallory and Carmen Perez ‘asserted that Jewish people bore a special collective responsibility as exploiters of black and brown people’” (Vox, December 21, 2018). Another Women’s March leader, Cassady Fendlay, who was present at the 2016 meeting, stated that the allegations of anti-Semitism are false. Also, one leader of the march has refused to cut ties to Minister Louis Farrakhan, a leader in the Nation of Islam, who has made anti-Semitic remarks in the past. At a February meeting, at which a Women’s March organizer was present, Minister Farrakhan “espoused anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.” Farrakhan has compared Jews to termites: “I’m not an anti-Semite, I’m anti-Termite.” Farrakhan stated, in a 2014 speech, “…the satanic Jews who control everything… ” Some may say that these issues, related above, amount to guilt by association, but the strength and frequency of anti-Semitic remarks by Minister Farrakhan cannot be dismissed.

As a Jew and a member of the political left, I am still reeling from the effects of the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in which 11 people were killed by an avowed anti-Semite and anti-immigrant madman. It’s a raw wound that has been apparent since Trump and some of his supporters began kowtowing to, and facilitating the growth of far-right neo-Nazis and white supremacists. The chants of “Jews will not replace us,” and Trump’s obscene comment, “but you also had people that were very fine people” among the neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia at the Unite the Right rally in August 2017, is enough to bring images of the Holocaust to a position at the front and center of most Jews’ attention.

The Minister Louis Farrakhan issue and the Women’s March is reminiscent of an early demonstration on the Boston Common in Boston, Massachusetts following the attacks of 2001 and the U.S. mobilization for war. The first speaker to address the crowd of protesters identified herself as Palestinian, a people with whom most Jews in the U.S. feel connected to in terms of decades of persecution. But the speaker’s opening remarks targeted Jews as being responsible for just about every sin that could be imagined on the international stage. The speaker portrayed Jews as some sort of evil cabal and I knew instinctively that this demonstration and rally was not one I felt that I could get up and dance to. I left, feeling that my identity (not to be confused with identity politics) was being hammered away at by the speaker.

With all of the brouhaha associated with this new twist in the women’s movement, an alternate group… March On… is but one example in an array of groups that has sprung up to answer an alleged unacceptable turn in this necessary and vital part of the movement of protest in the U.S. It may be true that if two leftists are gathered in the U.S., they will not be able to agree on either the time of day or the season, or the fact that the sky is generally blue on a sunny day, but it seems fairly obvious that casting one’s lot with those who speak words that support intolerance and create a loss of solidarity on the left are to be avoided.

Anti-Semitism, racism, and misogyny are all symptoms of the underbelly of humanity. We need to get the connections between that hatefulness correct on the left.

* Emma Goldman

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.

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Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.

Police riot: Democratic Convention 1968 Photo credit: commondreams.org

Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.

Published at CounterPunch on December 11, 2018

Wondering which side police in the U.S. are on…. left or right, is a more certain social science proposition than attempting to guess how many angels can safely fit on the head of a pin.

For those close to protest from the 1950s through today, including all facets of left protest, the broken and murdered bodies of protesters in the civil rights movement and the Vietnam antiwar movement, and movements beyond those heady days of protest are quite telling. Guns, fire hoses, batons, tear gas, fists, planting evidence, etc., have all been used viciously by police throughout the U.S. in doing the bidding of their political and financial overlords.

The militarization of the police began, not as a coincidence, in the 1970s. Special Weapons and Tactics (S.W.A.T.) “teams” were soon in evidence, as was the gathering of so-called intelligence by police units, a fact well known to Vietnam-era protesters, the movement to which mass policing responded. The dumping of military weapons and vehicles to the police was the direct result of the massive police mobilization during and following the Vietnam War. All that was needed was a globalized economy to begin the school to prison pipeline of which the police are an integral part.

Drug Abuse Resistance Education programs (D.A.R.E.), founded in Los Angeles in 1983, have been totally ineffective in stemming the tide of drug use in the U.S.  Indeed, D.A.R.E. has seen some police act as enforcers of discipline in schools in mostly poor neighborhoods and has furthered the school to prison pipeline in the U.S.

That many individual police have authoritarian leanings and behaviors comes as no surprise. The antipathy toward people of color in the civil rights era and beyond had its roots in the mass violence in the U.S. in which police were an integral part. That a member of the Black Panther Party would relate that violence is as “American as cherry pie” is no accident.

More recently, the repression by police, and especially the white shirts of the New York City police during the Occupy Wall Street movement, was effective in countering the push to begin to address the astronomical level of economic inequality that became pronounced as a result of the Great Recession, a recession largely caused by the globalization of trade, manufacturing, and the financial chicanery of the international banking establishment.

When antifascist protesters took to the streets of Washington, D.C. to protest the moron-in-chief’s inauguration, the police were aided by the liberal class in the U.S., including some in the mass media, who think that the power grab by the far right in the U.S. will end in some kind of genteel coffee klatch.

In August 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia, police largely stood by while white supremacists and neo-Nazis beat up counter-protesters and finally killed Heather Heyer. The police response was reported by CNN in “Report on Charlottesville rally faults police over planning, failure to protect public,” (December 2, 2017).

When the police can’t get away with murder outright, they either resort to the tried and “true” technique of claiming they feared for their individual or collective safety, or as they did in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014, falsely reporting that Michael Brown was some sort of dangerous criminal on the loose. When the police can’t get away with slander and libel, they sometimes shoot people in the back, or in similar ways, and those people turn out to be predominantly either black or brown.

In June 2016, as reported in the Guardian, white supremacists and neo-Nazis were allowed to get away with only very minor charges at the mayhem resulting from a far-right rally, while California officials “pursued criminal charges against eight anti-fascist activists who were stabbed or beaten…” Readers get the picture here without much embellishment of the facts. 

What shocks in much of this again is how some liberals join the right in condemning the actions of anti-fascists while the grotesque outrage of what is actually going on in the far right in the U.S. is often seen on an equal footing with the pushback on the part of some on the left. Indeed, many revisionists on the left bemoan the actions of radical protest and protesters during the late 1960s and early 1970s in reaction to the grotesqueness of the Vietnam War, a reality that allowed the right in the U.S. to rewrite the history of that war into the “noble cause” rhetoric of Ronald Reagan.

By taking part in this condemnation and fabrication of history, with its forces of murder on the right around the world and in the U.S., the stage is set for further bloodletting. Witness Trump’s campaign rallies in 2016, when he encouraged the violent among his followers to do physical harm to counterprotesters. How far behind could mass murder and intimidation be? 

“You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.” In other words, Trump gave a wink and a nod to white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville. How hard do readers think it could be for police to pick up on this green light to align with the right while physically and “legally” punishing the left.

In a small town in Rhode Island during the 1968 presidential campaign, just outside of the local Eugene McCarthy for President campaign office, teenagers, who routinely congregated both inside and on the sidewalk outside of that office, were routinely harassed by police. On one night, a young man was arrested by police and beaten at the local police station for the crime of being outside of the campaign office and being brash. No matter that the young man was the son of a prominent local businessman. The latter made no difference to the police who acted with complete impunity even then. On the federal level, the national police, the F.B.I., had long been involved in its formal counterintelligence program (COINTELPRO) that included spying, harassment, and facilitating murder as standard operating procedures against protest and protesters. 

It is both a quaint and outdated idea that police will be neutral arbiters of the administrative branch of governments. It is most often the case that police will act in tandem with the judicial branch with violence and mass incarceration often being the predictable outcome.

Whether it was the police riots at the Democratic nominating convention in 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War, or a simple traffic stop, or incidents of police wilding, the authoritarian nature of policing in the U.S. is apparent. That such generally unchecked and ultimate power over life and death on the streets of the U.S. often leads to deadly results need not come as a surprise to a government and people with a growing political right and in many cases the extreme right.

Indeed, the left’s admirable commitment to nonviolence is remarkable in the face of such repression.

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.

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The Day I Almost Went to Prison for Life

Photo credit: Boston Globe (the other current recreational marijuana facility)

The Day I Almost Went to Prison for Life
Published at CounterPunch on November 29, 2018

Larry and I took the bus from Augusta to Atlanta, Georgia on a Friday night in November 1969. We were at the halfway point of basic training at Fort Gordon and the first weekend pass was our reward for surviving the rigors of military training during the Vietnam era. We were both in the National Guard, and unlike some others in our training unit, we would get to go home in the early spring following the completion of both basic and advanced training in our military specialty.

I was completely against the Vietnam War, but that is not the subject of this essay. I read Martin Luther King’s Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? as the bus sped along the roads to Atlanta through the night. My first stop in Atlanta was at what would become King’s temporary tomb next to the church where he preached along with his father: Ebenezer Baptist.

In the evening of that Saturday, Larry and I were going to unwind, and since beer was about all we could get at the basic training PX, we would go out in search of some grass in the hippie enclave of Atlanta on Peachtree Street. It didn’t take long for us to make a connection, and we returned to our hotel and rolled a few joints and smoked them.

Soon after finishing the joint, I began what seemed like a paranoid trip. Looking back over forty-nine years I can be a bit more objective and conclude that it probably were forces that had little to do with the marijuana that put me in the mental state I experienced. I had trouble breathing and the room was doing all manner of distortions. Had I noticed Larry, who was uncontrollably smacking his lips, I probably could have concluded that it may have been a combination of basic training, homesickness, and whatever particular personality traits were at play that were causing such a strong reaction.

I told Larry that I was heading to a hospital to get checked out and away from the confines of our room and he accompanied me. The taxi that we hired took us to a hospital where we were quickly tossed out onto the sidewalk, the staff adding that this was a private facility and we were not welcome there.

We took a second taxi and landed in a public hospital, in a unit, or rather a large holding room, where what seemed to me to be a large number of people who were dealing with similar reactions from a variety of drugs and/or alcohol. While we waited, a man who was confined to a wheelchair in handcuffs began writhing violently and screaming… Within seconds, the wheelchair where he had sat was turned into small pieces of wood, detached wheels, and unrecognizable metal objects. I completely freaked out at that sight and the police were called and both Larry and I were put in the back of a cruiser.

At that point, Larry began giving me dirty looks and said that his license to practice law in California could be revoked given our current situation. The cop driving the cruiser said that we would end up in prison for life for our offense of smoking pot and we had better come clean and direct him to the people on Peachtree Street who had sold us the marijuana he now held as evidence of our criminality.

By this point, I was coming down from the trip and knew better than to turn anyone in for anything, and in any case to try to tell the difference between the folks who sold us the stash and the others who were walking along the street in the hippie district of Atlanta would have been impossible. Satisfied that we couldn’t help the police locate the people who had sold us the pot, we were dropped off at the door to our hotel and I spent the rest of the night, before falling asleep, dealing with Larry’s glares after he was brought so close to professional ruin. The police never asked for our names and we were never arrested or charged. We were simply intimidated and finally let go.

Fast forward forty-nine years later when I will get up before dawn, three days from now and drive a little over an hour to a retail marijuana shop in Northampton, Massachusetts on the first morning that recreational marijuana will be sold legally east of the Mississippi River. It’s not that I’m a pothead or major druggy or anything like that… Maybe I still would rather have an occasional beer as I recall Phil Ochs in Outside of a Small Circle of Friends: “Smoking marijuana is more fun than drinking beer, But a friend of ours was captured and they gave him thirty years.” I haven’t smoked marijuana since that night in any substantial way. Nixon supported the spraying of paraquat on marijuana fields and that freaked me out for a number of years. A next-door neighbor grew stuff that would have taken a barn full to make someone high, so I really have been disconnected from it all.

I’ll stand in line on Tuesday morning and an educated guess is that police will be directing traffic rather than looking to arrest anyone. Some might say that by doing this I’m subsidizing the marijuana industry and they may be right to a degree, but it means something to have voted for the recreational marijuana ballot initiative in 2016 and to be able to take advantage of a people’s movement in an angry and imperfect world that includes the untold thousands in jail for nonviolent drug charges and some people who have been murdered for similar reasons.

The way it actually turned out

Frigid weather, snow, rain, and Thanksgiving kept me from traveling to Northampton for six days. When my wife Jan and I finally arrived, the line was long and it took about an hour and a half to get into he marijuana facility.

Outside, while waiting, a young man stood in back of us with a friend and he seemed to know nearly everything there was to know about marijuana. Once inside, it took almost no time to make a purchase and the person who took our order and checked us out was friendly and remarked, “I’m glad that folks from your generation could see this happen,” I thought, if he only knew the story that stood behind his observation. Once outside of the facility, walking back to our car, someone on the street behind us said, “I wanted to come to see the social scene today.” It was, indeed, quite a scene as the cliche went during the 1960s and early 1970s.

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister

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We Still Don’t Get it on the Left

Ku Klux Klan 1921-1922 Photo credit: Library of Congress

We Still Don’t Get it on the Left

The messages via email began arriving in my inbox as midterm election results were still undecided in places such as Florida and Georgia. Some of the emails came from MoveOn and all of the appeals were in support of two local demonstrations/vigils to be held in support of Jeffrey Sessions who had just been fired by Donald Trump. Imagine leftists and liberals holding vigils for a racist whose last official act as attorney general was to make it impossible for the Justice Department to investigate local police departments. Here’s a guy who heaped praise on the Ku Klux Klan, but opined that their only flaw was that some members of that group smoked marijuana.

The Guardian ran an article, “National populism is unstoppable-and the left still doesn’t understand it” (November 8, 2018), by Matthew Goodwin, co-author of National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy, in which he makes many cogent observations on the sweep of right-wing movements in several so-called liberal democracies in the West:

So what is really going on? National populism is revolving around four deep-rooted societal shifts: the “four Ds”. First, there are high levels of political distrust, which are being exacerbated by populist leaders who paint themselves and their followers as victims of a political system that has become less representative of key groups. Second, many people have strong and entrenched fears about the perceived destruction of national cultures, ways of life and values, amid unprecedented and rapid rates of immigration and ethnic change. Accompanying this distrust and fear are anxieties related to deprivation and the loss of jobs and income, along with a strong sense that they and their ethnic and social group are being left behind relative to others in society.

Finally, many political systems in the west are having to grapple with a new era of dealignment, in which bonds between voters and traditional parties are breaking down, and hence the path for new political challengers is much more open.

Many of Goodwin’s points have been made by other writers and social scientists using different assessments and terminology, but the outcome is the same in society after society with profound effects on the rest of us and the entire planet. They—populists of the far right—want simple or easy answers to difficult questions and they are sometimes eager and ready to use violence to achieve their ends.

While many pundits celebrated the results of Tuesday’s election as a stopgap against Trump, he hardly skipped a beat getting back to his hate-filled rhetoric and actions against immigrants and dropped a passing comment about praying for the victims of the latest national gun outrage in California.

Back to Goodwin: He’s accurate in his assessment that the far right juggernaut carries in it seeds of the culture wars that began in response to the movements for change in the 1960s across the globe. I don’t think that they’re stoppable at this point and the Sword of Damocles of nuclear war and the destruction of the natural environment hang in the balance. And while we’re waiting for this almost inevitable debacle, let’s get out there for Sessions!

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.

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Wake-up From the Nightmare

Protest March, January 21, 2017. Photo credit: Howard Lisnoff

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As We Approach the 2018 Election

Protest March January 21, 2017 Photo credit: Howard Lisnoff

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The Neoliberals Are Complicit in This Train Wreck

Photo/illustration credit: publicdomainpictues.net

The Neoliberals Are Complicit in This Train Wreck

Published at CounterPunch September 11, 2018

I get a kick out of many Democrats. Readers would think in reading Barack Obama’s September 7, 2018 speech at the University of Illinois, that all we have to do is go out and vote for Democrats and we’d be on the way to restoring our troubled, but exceptional democracy (“Barack Obama: You need to vote because our democracy depends on it” Guardian, September 8, 2018). What an absolute crock of shit!

The former President states that “democracy has never been easy,” but that “November’s elections are more important than any I can remember in my lifetime.” Then he continues by stating that progress in America has been “fitful… incomplete” and that progress has been achieved by “acts of heroism and dedication by citizens, by ordinary people…”

He follows by serving up a litany of the Republican’s “threats to our democracy” that just about everyone who is not hiding in a fallout shelter already knows. He also castigates young people, who in the last midterm election voted at the rate of “One in five.”

How can the sane parse this exceptionalism-in-trouble narrative? Well, let’s begin with the former President. He completely ignored those in need during the economic debacle (read Great Recession) of 2007-2008. He bailed out the fat cats who have steadily increased their share of wealth in the U.S. and have now been lavished with even greater gifts from the dunce Trump. He left the rest of us to foot the bill and sucked the equity out of the homes of millions of people, a significant number of whom were his staunch supporters and depended on home equity for their financial footing.

Next, look to U.S. militarism for an answer to where the so-called nation’s treasure is being dumped. Obama went along with endless U.S. wars to get along with the power elite. He expanded the war in Afghanistan. Now there’s a lost cause if ever there was one!

In terms of public schooling in the U.S., Obama tried to install a kind of meritocracy among schools by ignoring schools in poor areas and giving a part of the small share of federal funds that go toward public education to those districts capable of mounting competitions for that money that was sort of like the gladiatorial fights of ancient Rome.

Obama was the consummate neoliberal, and when a black professor’s (Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.) rights were egregiously violated by police in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he had a beer fest at the White House.

And the greatest existential threat of our time, environmental destruction, got short shrift from Democrats. Again, it was tinkering around the edges of disaster.

The former President ends his speech at the the University of Illinois, stating that “Change happens. Hope happens.” “And that can be the legacy of your generation.”

I would like to be as sanguine as the man I voted for for President, but the reality on the ground is that government by the few and the wealthy has been on a long march to oblivion that began with the jettisoning of the values and programs of the New Deal during a Democratic administration (Truman’s) and has accelerated ever since with its worst expressions through the “Great Communicator” Reagan, right up until the white supremacist Trump. It’s no accident that a right-wing, low-functioning clown now occupies the White House and the neoliberals and those with great wealth with a lust for domestic and international violence put us in such extreme jeopardy. It may very well be too late to salvage anything like the quaint democracy that Obama invoked in Illinois. Those who pull the strings won’t let a socialist or social democrat past the threshold.

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.

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The Long Road to Far-Right Extremism in the U.S.: It didn’t Have to End This Way

Photo credit: huffingtonpost.com

The Long Road to Far-Right Extremism in the U.S.: It didn’t Have to End This Way

It’s not difficult to take a long view of the trajectory of political, social and economic life in the U.S. that has led to the extremist right-wing society in which we now live.

Some may argue correctly that elements of right-wing extremism were always present in U.S. society. Whether it was slavery, or the long march to militarism that began at the beginning of the 20th century (actually, much earlier, but it became highly mechanized in the 20th century), or an economy that catered and enhanced the wealth of the few, these forces moved all of the questions and the policies and attitudes of the government and lots of people toward the right and against the self-interests of the majority.

The debacle I now see has led to gross income inequality, extreme militarism, and hatred of the other and all began to coalesce and grow following the Vietnam War. When protest shifted its emphasis toward identity politics rather than identification with the common good, then the road was clearly marked for disaster and only some took the exits marked sanity.

Those familiar with U.S. history will object and rightly state that the removal and murder of Native Americans and the institution of slavery began before the establishment of the nation state The forces of the extreme right, however, took root in the 20th century. The Cold War put extremism on steroids! September 11, 2001 was extremism’s final nail.

The economy underwent seismic changes in the 1970s. The stage was set for globalization and the movement of industries and jobs and money to where the costs of labor and production were the cheapest. Witness the plethora of cheap and accessible goods existing side by side with increasing environmental destruction that is one of the obvious costs of a global economy. The U.S. became an Amazon and mall economy with masses of jobs flowing overseas with the deindustrialization of the U.S. The working class was split along a color line as was witnesses by the barbarism of the reaction to civil rights in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. White workers began to identify with scum like George Wallace. Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan garnered more and more votes from the white working class, and particularly among disaffected male members of the working class. Recall the vicious attack against Vietnam antiwar protesters in lower Manhattan in May 1970.

The return of white working-class voters to the Democratic Party has been touted over the last few years, but witness the majority of these voters who supported Trump, who then immediately attacked those voters’ interests, in the 2016 election.

Next, people had to accept endless wars following the horror of Vietnam and the existence of what is called the Vietnam Syndrome. As an aside, my military experience during that era notes that I have Vietnam Syndrome, as if it were a condition a person could contract, rather than a principled stand against the horror of war fought on behalf of the few and the wealthy. Ronald Reagan began the long march toward the acceptance of extreme militarism with his low-intensity wars in Central America and his asinine plan to militarize space through his so-called Star Wars spending debacle. Next, George H.W. Bush, the ass-grabber-in-chief (the U.S. electorate that does actually vote certainly elects “classy” people), talked openly about ending the Vietnam Syndrome through the first Persian Gulf War following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Readers will recall that Iraq’s plans for aggression were initially ignored in 1990 and the U.S. “turkey shoot” that followed was swallowed hook, line and sinker by most in the U.S. The false story about invading Iraqi soldiers throwing newborn infants onto the floor in a hospital in Kuwait was debunked, but the U.S. public has a short memory and those lies had their intended effect. The rest of the long march to extreme militarism is now history. Witness the mass media’s recent treatment of the late Senator John McCain and the glorious bipartisan sendoff of a person who unquestioningly and ceaselessly beat the drums for endless U.S. wars on a global scale. Only a society primed for insanity can celebrate someone who sang about bombing a country with which we were not at war and posed no immediate danger to the U.S.

This discussion has not included the horrific attacks of September 2001, but those attacks found their inception, in part, through the U.S. support of militant jihadists in Afghanistan in the 1980s as a foil to Russian involvement there. Neither is the fact that the oil giant and militaristic Saudi Arabia was the home country to two-thirds of the September 11, 2001 murderers, or Saudi Arabia’s funding of extreme religious militants. These issues are off of the radar screen of the mass media and most of the public in the U.S.

Militarism is as old as apple pie and the viciousness of Andrew Jackson’s wars against Native Americans and Native American removals, Theodore Roosevelt’s militaristic machismo and murderous disdain for those deemed enemies of this nation, and Woodrow Wilson’s messianic vision of U.S. militarism, complete with its attendant attacks against antiwar activists and civil liberties, all have contributed to the the simmering pot of U.S. extreme militarism. Observers of U.S. history didn’t have to be present on the killing fields of Kent State and Jackson State in May 1970 to know what the outcome would be in terms of the government’s perceived right to kill its own children.

Finally, there is the horrific reality of extreme racism in the U.S. Racism has always been part of U.S. society with the horror of slavery, Jim Crow, and the prison-industrial complex that followed on the heels of the civil rights movement and its victories in the middle of the decade of the 1960s. Police murders of black people are a hideous footnote to the long history of racism in the U.S., as is the gun industry and lobby that has convinced some white males that they have to be armed to protect against the “threat” of black people.

Racism’s stepchild, anti-Semitism, had its most egregious expression in the August 12, 2017 murder of Heather Heyer during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. In Virginia, both neo-Nazis and white supremacists gathered and gave the racist and anti-Semitic Trump more fuel for hate by stating that there were “fine people” on both sides of the rally, meaning that both Nazis and counterprotesters were equally “fine” people: “You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”

The move toward economic globalization that began in the 1970s required that a huge segment of unneeded U.S. workers had to be put somewhere and that place increasingly became prison. The U.S. now has the largest percentage of its population in jail among major industrial economies. People of color then became prime targets of the prison-industrial complex that had its racist roots in Reconstruction following the Civil War. Racism had its most obvious expression in the Trump campaign for president and his presidency, with its constant demonization of immigrants. Hillary Clinton’s categorization of people of color as superpreditors, in reference to the ongoing and useless drug wars in the U.S., was yet another bipartisan expression of racism, as was Bill Clinton’s successful attack against the social safety net and his support of sending more people to prison. The latter is part of the bipartisan nightmare of U.S. politics!

It’s not hard to stand back and look at the long road to oblivion that this society has been traveling. The political, economic and social landscape didn’t have to turn out this way, but it did.

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.

He is author of Against The Wall: Memoir Of A Vietnam-Ear War Resister.

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The Old Need Not Apply

 

Photo credit: psmag.com

 

The Old Need Not Apply

Published at CounterPunch on September 5, 2018.

Employment discrimination is as old as this nation. In their turn, blacks, Latinos, Jews, women and others have all seen employment opportunities that needed to have been somewhat buttressed by the strength of their resumes and experience given short shrift.

With older workers, unemployment is no mere chimera. The Center on Aging and Work at Boston College cites research from Kosanovich and Theodossio  in “Trends in long-term unemployment” (2015): “The incidence  of long-term unemployment increases with age.” Those 55 years old and older looking for work for 27 weeks and longer had a 44.6 percent unemployment rate. Talk about age discrimination!

The first premise of a job search has almost universally been that “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Given that American Exceptionalism falsely holds that we are living in a meritocracy, most know better. When the shoe leather hits the streets most already have learned a different lesson. There is a startling contrast between job searches and job offers for those who are old. A good guess is that if a perspective employee lied in a resume and listed a phony and younger year of birth, that that person would get many, many more interviews. Of course, that person would be rejected once he/she showed up for an interview for obvious reasons. Employers can blatantly discriminate against prospective workers, but a job applicant can’t lie on a resume.

I began looking for work a few months ago. In terms of the jobs I was applying for—library supervisor, academic advisor, test administer and test administration supervisor, I naively thought that my prospects were excellent since I possessed a solid resume of work experience, education, and a myriad of community volunteer experiences.

What a shock when I began receiving stark email rejections or no rejections at all… just  silence in some cases. Sometimes silence feels better than a lie like emails stating that you were one of an amazing array of highly qualified applicants. This was all very, very frustrating because I’ve got skills that would enable me to actually be of use in the work environments for which I had applied. I could actually help people, but that often doesn’t matter to employers.

Since names are named here and facts matter, let’s start with a school in northwestern Connecticut that caters to the elite who happen to be of a particular social, economic and political class (and usually of the same religious persuasion looking at the school’s list of notable graduates). That prep school’s online application was tortuous to complete. When a person has an extensive work history and education, the time it takes to fill out one of these kinds of applications is astronomical. For that effort, I received a form letter rejection a few months after applying for the job via email touting the pool of candidates. Readers might think that all of the professional talent of the world is centered around the Litchfield Hills of northwestern Connecticut.

Next, I applied for the library job mentioned above. The hours were bizarre, but hey, I’ve got time on my hands and lots of library and research experience, so I thought I was a shoo-in for at least a first interview. Wrong again, and in this case I didn’t even receive the form email congratulating me for being an unseen and uninterviewed genius.

The list of applications does go on, but after three, maybe there was some magic there. I received an offer to come for an interview from a company that has a contract with the government to administer standardized tests at three grade levels for the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the data from which the “nation’s report card” for education is gathered, which actually is quite useful data for studying trends in education.

Here I struck it rich and it appeared that the interview would be just a formality. I also received an email of interview guidelines and was somewhat shocked to read that the dress requirements for the work were somewhat like those for my freshman year in college many decades ago. I would have to dress as if I was to attend a semi-formal dance or dinner each morning and be at a classroom desk fifty miles from my home at 7:00 AM each day. And now here’s the kicker: All of these requirements and the educational experience to administer these tests would garner $13.15 per hour. That’s right readers, your eyes are not deceiving you… $13.15 an hour. I calculated that I would probably wreck a car with that daily roundtrip commute during the winter months that can be quite severe here, and I would have pocket change left to show for those Herculean efforts.

Pretty amazing conclusions can be easily drawn here, and in the current anti-worker and anti-union environment many won’t be shocked in the least. All of this reminded me of a make-work job I had while I was in high school. I got the job through family connections and the work involved the daily sweeping of the floor of a huge U.S. Navy warehouse on a naval base in Rhode Island. The place was humungous, but that was all that was available because the young don’t exactly have great job prospects in this society either.

Howard Lisnoff is freelance writer.

He is the author of Against The Wall: Memoir Of A Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).

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