Monday, August 31, 2020


Attention must be PAID. (And “paid for!”) 

The time to invest in the US in an equitable way has come, if it’s not already too late. 

Far too many “whites” (especially without a strong education) lack effective concepts to deal with what’s “enraging” them. Their grievances hinge on the word “respect” which for “whites” is POISONED by what’s legitimate about the awkward cut of the phrase “white privilege”. 

”White Privilege” is a lie. It’s a FALSE sense of security and esteem instilled by systemic brutalizations and denigrations (enforced by terror and violence) of those considered non “white”. 

“Whites” with more resources linked to security and self-esteem MAY understand this bitter “privilege” as a historic dynamic. They may understand it as a devious force supporting invidious distinctions BETWEEN “whites” as well as the gore dripping chasm between “Black” and “White.” 

People with more resources do not experience the term as the same kind of unnerving threat (or lacerating mockery) it is for those with less. The ways “white privilege” actually WORKS in US society does make it a cruel, threatening taunt to FAR too many “whites ” regardless of wealth or income. 

Wealth and income represent only one crucial dimension of the resources supporting security and self-esteem while “white” Americans increasingly experience the insecurities and pathologies associated with having no wealth and uncertain incomes. (Pathologies we’ve been encultured to associate with “Blacks.”) This is NOT the kind of “equality” we need, but leveling based on “sharing the deprivation” is the boogeyman long used to keep us ignorant and divided.) 

Education in its broadest sense represents another set of dimensions related to security and esteem. It goes beyond formal schooling and skill credentials. Education’s links to human potential are similar to those of healthcare and community. And such opportunities are not simply economic. Nor are they always clearly linked to what can be easily measured or observed. 

To avoid (or reverse) a bloody cataclysm, we MUST invest heavily to reverse regional inequalities that go far beyond the neglect of inner cities. And FAR beyond education. Every part of the US outside of top tier cities and college towns suffers from a wealth drain engineered by international monopolies and oligarchy. 

Infrastructure investment MUST address the broadest possible range of resources involving security and self-esteem for everyone. SOON! (#JoeBiden) It must instill a quest for excellence less focused on comparisons to others than to a wide spectrum of stepped propensities associated with helping OTHERS achieve their potentials in their own ways in a material and social environment that can be sustained. 
A strong education is not based on any single narrow sense of skills. Neither is basic literacy. Nor is a strong education limited to the developmental ages of childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. Nothing is central to it. Not even schooling although the most basic forms of schooling, literacy, and numeracy will always need sustenance. 

The crisis of a pandemic and necessary physical distancing can open new opportunities to reimagine education in a broader context of social and material supports. These supports do involve technology as well as healthcare and nutrition while recognizing them all as only parts of a broader set of necessary infrastructures. We can find new ways to integrate each into community, family, and national life while we nurture it all with committed and essential resources. We can be human without being human “capital”. 

 A strong education is a process of building understandings of how one’s self, one’s relationships, one’s communities, and opportunities are shaped by human culture and how one can best use one’s capacities to improve that culture to be more responsive to everyone’s needs. A strong education is based on stories (all partly myths). That’s so because our propensity to tell and believe stories is one of the fundamentals of our humanity. But a strong education must include ways of consuming and telling BETTER stories however we are constrained to create and understand them using numbers, words, images, models, simulations, or performances. 

What happens to capacities that are neglected or squelched? 

What happens to a raisin in the sun? 

What is a conspiracy theory or a cult but a pathology of our storytelling capacity?

We (including you reading this now) can start by criticizing two stories set up to awkwardly conflict with each other. One is “White Supremacy” and the other is “White Privilege.” What we can’t honorably do is deny the Everests of data and experience showing how Blacks in the US have been terrorized, brutalized, and diminished by all our institutions. We can’t honestly entertain stories pretending this injustice is a relic of some imaginary past. Then we might see how this ongoing travesty has diminished us all, and how it still might destroy us. 

 If it’s not too late.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

The Dark Side of Non Violent ACTION

Over the course of the Civil War, the Commanding General of the United States Army was, in order of service, Winfield Scott, George B. McClellan, Henry Halleck, and finally, Ulysses S. Grant who, unlike his predecessors, gave the traitorous enemy no quarter until, of course, he met Lee at Appomattox. And everything has been peppermints and roses ever since, EXCEPT . . .
"Demonstration, Legislation, Reconciliation"
That was the formula. That was the progression the Reverend Al Sharpton took to heart when he started preaching in New York at the age of fourteen. He learned it from Martin Luther King who was murdered.

Demonstration, Legislation, THEN reconciliation. This REMAINS the formula and the progression we MUST pass down to the next generation and which they must hand on further down the line into the unknown. We must pass it down, no matter what happens to us because we have not yet won.

The proof that one truly believes is in action. You have to join every other movement for the freedom of people. --Bayard Rustin
"County by county. City by city. You tell us what kind of police force you want." -- Andrew Cuomo

It is by no means clear that the ongoing protests in reaction to the murder of George Floyd will lead to any meaningful change. It is by no means clear that the bulk of the white protesters might not “outgrow” their current activism as they are trudged into the organizations and institutions of US capitalism. Anyone who dismisses these concerns is someone profoundly ignorant of US history, no matter how many books they have read or classes they have taught.

But some people still call out for “reconciliation”! Are they well meaning?

Some people say NOW is the time we should forget about racism and heed the ringing plea of poor Rodney King. Are they serious?

Just “move on!” they tell us. Are they for real?

“We don’t see it,” they say. They have interrogated themselves and subjected themselves to a sincere examination. And they find no fault with themselves or with “America!”

It is beyond ignorant to deny the existence of White Supremacy Racism. It is beyond vicious. Ignorance can no longer be the vile shield and ugly bludgeon of seething, self consuming hate. Denying the reality and potency of White Supremacy is like denying the existence of the Covid virus. It is stupid. It is disrespectful. It is dangerous to deny such powerful realities because they are “myths”.

People who stay home (and wear masks when they have to go out) are trying to save lives. Those who don't, don't care. That is the BEST that can be said of them. The first wave of the current deadly viral infection has not subsided except in one state: Andrew Cuomo's New York. Another surge is likely. And if it comes, no state will be immune. But who would SERIOUSLY propose we should not take measures against the virus? Who would seriously claim we should take no action? (That’s a trick question of course.) And the vicious myth of White Supremacy is much more deadly, much more insidious, and much more prevalent than any microbial virus. The myth of White Supremacy proves the power of grand and dominant myth which transcends and infuses so many institutions far removed from police precincts.

The dead bodies with their breath crushed out of them are only the tip of a momentous iceberg. The school children punched in the face or whose heads were stuffed into plastic bags are only the cutting edge.

New York’s governor has required every locality to have a community discussion about policing and then to turn that into a legislated ordinance. How many communities will be happy to leave their police departments just the way they are? How many protesters will be willing or able to participate in the grinding discussions face to face with business leaders and police chiefs?

Democracy is mostly a grind. It’s mythology of glory is too easily expropriated by self dealers, too easily monopolized by the powerful, and too easily perverted by it’s enemies. It’s a myth worth reclaiming, worth reinvigorating. Let’s hope it is not betrayed. No doubt, it is a myth that will survive even if not one additional police department is reformed inside or out of New York.

Demonstrate, Legislate, Reconcile

The protesters on the street are living in democracy. More than that, they are enlivening it, giving democracy a chance at new life, but they are only partly right when they chant “This is what democracy looks like!” They represent only the first stage of democracy. Legislation must follow. And THEN reconciliation.

Democracy, the idea that a people can collectively rule themselves, may itself be a myth. But it is a living myth. It was a laughable idea in Athens, until they made it work for a time. It was absurd when Diggers and Levelers fought for it — with and against Cromwell during the English Civil Wars. And then they were crushed. But their ideas survived among some of the fighters in the American Revolution, enough for a bit of its spirit to be cautiously enshrined in the Philadelphia Constitution ratified in 1789 by nine of the thirteen former colonies. A seed barely sprouted, democracy is a living myth insinuating itself delicately and tremulously into law and custom. Though it’s tendrils are often crushed or poisoned, democracy is living myth, blindly staggering into the future, creating itself from nothing but air and the soil of humanity. Democracy, like Albert Camus’ vision of man is “impossible”. That’s why it is a myth which *may* never die.

“The South Shall Rise Again!”

Other myths live too, fueled by hatred and resentment. What is White Supremacy Racism but a myth based on a racial hierarchy crafted to justify slavery and colonialism? Myths fueled by greed and fear and spite have long lives too.

That’s why we need to look at the mythology of hate and the symbols of White Supremacy. And that’s why we need to crush them without mercy. And THEN maybe we can find reconciliation.

The myth of Nonviolent Resistance is something fostered by our immaturity. That’s because most of us learn about Martin Luther King the way we learn about democracy. We only learn these things as school children who must be protected from the darker aspects of democracy (the darker aspects of us). We have an overly bright vision of nonviolent resistance too.

If we think about the dark side of nonviolent resistance as led by Dr. King, we might see Bull Connor’s fire hoses sending children sprawling. We might cringe to remember Bull Connor’s police dogs with gnashing teeth lunging into the terrorized faces of cowering innocents. But Bull Connor didn’t ask those children to be on the street. Dr. King and his advisors did. They knew Bull Connor was an idiot and what he would do. And they knew what the images of Bull Connor’s violence would do.

It takes a form of ruthlessness born of desperation. Are we that ruthless? Are we that desperate?

When protests started in reaction to George Floyd’s lynching, I was afraid that the demonstrators would be portrayed as rioters and that trimp would win. It didn’t happen. Not yet. But it still could. trimp might be a moron, but he has formidable backing in high and low places. Both mindlessly and calculating, they will seek to turn the tables. They will seek to turn the tide.

The LEAST sophisticated enemies of democracy are well practiced at turning our words and our values against us. They are not about to stop now. THEY are desperate. We must keep them on the defensive lest they gain an advantage from OUR excess of enthusiasm or from OUR prudence and circumspection. We must keep them off balance and force THEM to make mistakes.

We should attack the symbols of the Confederacy on all fronts. We should be relentless. We should be non violent. We should be uncompromising.

We should rip open the history of the symbols and the men. We should tear down the smugness of ignorance regarding HOW and WHY such monuments were erected and why they are still celebrated.

We should be relentless. We should be non violent.

Non violence is not about being nice. We should own our dark side and put it to decent use. We should be non violent, but we should know what we are doing. We should not fear provoking a backlash because that backlash is already brewing. There are cowards and hair on fire idiots out there seething now. These cowards and weaklings have guns have not balked at brandishing them in state capitals. The most dangerous person with a gun is a coward and weakling. We should know this and take it into consideration. We should be nonviolent. As gentle as lambs and as wise as serpents.

We should not believe ANY victory is guaranteed. The US has not used mass murder in the sense of outright bloody massacres in our streets since 1937 when the practice pretty much died out. But it was a practice carried out by public and private armies on a regular basis for half a century after the Civil War. We may have forgotten, but we have not healed. Even after the US stopped wholesale massacres against its own people, it continued to passively or actively support bloody attacks on democracy all over the world. It continues to do so right up until this day. It continues even now to slaughter, choke, strangle, beat down, and shoot at its citizens on a steady basis, killing on the level of retail.

Cowards and crazies have won before. It happened in Italy and Germany before the last world war. Is it somehow possible that maybe enough of us will believe in the impossible NOW and push on to rip out a source of deadly infection represented by confederate mythology? Maybe enough of us will believe we can lawfully attack the very heart of White Supremacist HATE and destroy its symbols. None of us should believe that new symbols of hate won’t be quickly invented even if we were somehow successful now. But that might be the next generation’s battle.

There is something ugly about forcing the hands of frightened angry cowards. Of course, that’s something that Black people, female and male, young and old, do every day just by walking down the street or driving down the road. Maybe we can afford to spare ourselves that ugliness for now?

Maybe not.

Joe Panzica is the creator of Democracy STRUGGLES! The Bloody Slideshow.  He is also the author of the unpublished Saint Gredible and Her Fat Dad's Mass and is working on a second novel: I Want to be Evil.

ERASE the Confederacy!

Of course the US can never "erase" the Confederacy any more than Germany can ever expunge the memory of Hitler or the Holocaust.  

Those memories should be preserved but only to inspire horror and disgust which is all they deserve and all they ever deserved.

Why did it take us so long to realize this?

In Germany, they do not allow memorials to Hitler or any of his henchmen. Why should we allow statues of Confederate traitors and slavers to have places of honor anywhere in the US? What does it say about us that we honor them or that we suffer them to be honored?

Until very recently I thought Confederate monuments might be placed in museums where they could be preserved as history in an appropriate context.

Seemed like a decent liberal compromise . . .

Maybe . . .

But what if those corners of the museums turned into racist shrines for hate and fascism?

How do we “compromise” with hate?

How do we “compromise” with ignorance?

How do we do that when it is all around us and inside us?

White Supremacy racism is like a virus.

We can’t see it but it affects everything we see, everything we do, and everything we think or say.

White Supremacy racism even infects “Colored” people with the worst kind of hate and disgust, SELF hate and self disgust. And it is the worst kind of self hate and self disgust because it is constantly enforced from the OUTSIDE even as it simmers or erupts in the inside. It is enforced on the outside too many times in too many ways by media images, by brutal police, by ignorant sales people, by harried passers by, and even by very “nice” teachers.

And it keeps on happening, with no easy "cures" or solutions.  The pain will endure for generations to come even if we could KILL the infection. But is that a reason not to?

And we wonder why we are having a difficult time deciding what to do about a steady stream of vicious lynchings that happen so regularly and just won’t stop?

Would it help if we understood that people of "color" are not the only ones damaged on the outside and on the inside by White Supremacy?  (Some people might be too deeply dug into their hatred.)

How do we compromise?

The haters know how to turn our values regarding compromise, free speech, and justice against us. They know how to turn those values against themselves and twist them into ugly mockeries.

What traumas led them that way?

How do we compromise with a virus?  How do we compromise with hate?

Some people might say even if we got rid of every emblem of the Confederacy on every state flag, people would still nurture hate in their hearts. Those people know what they are talking about and are probably right.

Some people say that even if we smashed every Confederate monument, it would only inflame their hatred. Those people know what they are talking about. Those people are probably right.

We should do it anyway. Even if new symbols of hate and spite and ignorance are forged in their place. We should do it anyway.

Get rid of them!

And be vigilant for the next wave which will surly come, which is surly surging already now.

Get rid of them.

And brace yourself.

Joe Panzica is the creator of Democracy STRUGGLES! The Bloody Slideshow.  He is also the author of the unpublished Saint Gredible and Her Fat Dad's Mass and is working on a second novel: I Want to be Evil.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

“Very Interesting” (Tom Cotton’s Fascist Op-Ed)

I was outraged by Tom Cotton’s op-ed, but not by the Times’ decision to print it.

My reasoning: if a US Senator is advocating fascism, I want to know about it. And I want all other Americans to know about it too. I want THE WORLD to know about it.

But I don’t expect my opinion to be the final one any more than I would give the last say on this matter to anyone else. And that would be true even if people like Cotton were successful in overthrowing the Constitution and intimidating most people into an official silence for some dismal period into the miserable foreseeable future.

Anyone laughing at that prospect, this concern? Anyone think it’s “Funny, Snowflake?”


Still agreeing that Cotton’s op-ed should have been published doesn’t mean I disagree with every criticism of the Times. Yes, the op-ed was newsworthy. And yes, I’m glad that Cotton betrayed himself this way. But The New York Times exerts immeasurable influence. They must be held accountable. Is the primary question one of context?

The op-ed is still being published on the Times website, but now with a disclaimer indicating that it never should have been. (Interesting...) Then there’s the confession that it *could* have been published some note of “context”. I suppose one version of fairness would have every op-ed “contextualized” in some way.

But what way?

I’m thinking of the late Arte Johnson on the old show “Laugh-In”. Much opinionating (including the one you’re reading now) could justifiably be contextualized as “Interesting, but stupid.”

How should they have contextualized Cotton’s? “Interesting, but scary.” “Interesting but disgusting?” “Interesting but outrageous?” “Interesting but fascist?”

Interestingly, when Arte Johnson make his LAUGH-In comments, he was usually lurking behind a shrub dressed as a NAZI German soldier.

Very interesting . . .

But here I am, making light of (AT LEAST) two problems.

One, a US Senator is unafraid to outwardly call for a fascist clampdown, knowing he has the support of 40% of the US population when FORTY PERCENT was the final ceiling on electoral support for Hitler’s party (before it could outlaw legitimate elections).

The second is the thorny problem of WHAT TO DO about this clear and present danger of fascism keeping in mind that what public officials say in public is often tempered compared to what they say in private. (And then there’s the question of how what they say and think and hear influences what they DO...)

But, oops! There is a third problem too. Or is this really the first one? It’s the problem of what the Times did - or what it should have done. Just how should the press and “the media” (including the “social”) handle the attacks on fact, truth, and democracy from people in official positions of great power who are supported by others who control vast resources. How should they “mediate”?

Interesting, but not so funny.

But some of us can’t help but laugh at what we cannot understand, or encapsulate into a clear principle or ringing slogan. (That doesn’t mean we should hold those who don’t find laughter to be soothing as contemptible, as “snowflakes”.

Yes, the Times could have refused to publish the op-ed (as such) while reporting fully on the contents of its submission with ample quotes from Cotton’s essay as well as plenty of counterweights from people with more commitment to the Constitution and to the concepts of democracy which give any “the rule of law’ its legitimacy. A false controversy over “free speech” would ensue in the right-wing press. (Isn’t it now? Who can keep up?) But that only “solves” the problem in hind-site. Or, probably not.


Other dilemmas are bound to impact us soon, probably many of them all at once.

What else is new?

Democracy can only improve by criticizing itself. Democracy can only survive by relentlessly interrogating itself. The enemies of democracy see this correctly as a weakness. The supporters of democracy see it as a weakness too, but we also claim (without conclusive evidence?) that this particular weakness is also its prevailing strength. (Interesting, but . . . ?) We have NO CHOICE but to claim this contradiction as a mysterious and empowering paradox. (kinda like the “Trinity”?) We have no choice but to be (“strangely”?) inspired by it. It may stink of blind faith, but it is only the admission we can’t see EVERYTHING clearly.

We need to help each other. (Snowflakes and hard hats. Liberals and conservatives. Cool cats and hot heads. Woke or groggy.)

Let’s hope enough of us clearly see the threat posed by people like Cotton (and Barr, and trimp and so many others). And let’s hope we keep faith.

How we keep the faith, if we do, will be beyond “interesting”.

It’s going to be a “fascinating” ordeal. (No outcome is guaranteed.)

And keep in mind that “fascism “doesn’t really rhyme with “fascinating”, and that fascism also like the Spanish Inquisition in that “NOBODY” ever “really” expects it.

Joe Panzica is the creator of Democracy STRUGGLES! The Bloody Slideshow.  He is also the author of the unpublished Saint Gredible and Her Fat Dad's Mass and is working on a second novel: I Want to be Evil.