From Glenn Greenwald, of The Intercept:
While there is certainly truth in the claim that Trump’s use of the suffering of soldiers and their families is politically opportunistic, even exploitative, this tactic is hardly one Trump pioneered. In fact, it is completely standard for U.S. presidents. Though Trump’s attackers did not mention it, Obama often included tales of the sacrifice, death, and suffering of soliders in his political speeches — including when he devoted four highly emotional minutes in his 2014 State of the Union address to narrating the story of, and paying emotional tribute to, Sgt. Cory Remsburg, who was severely wounded by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.
George W. Bush also hauled soldiers wounded in his wars before cameras during his speeches, such as his 2007 State of the Union address, where he paid tribute to Sgt. Tommy Rieman, wounded in Iraq.
There are reasons presidents routinely use the suffering and deaths of U.S soldiers and their families as political props. The way in which these emotions are exploited powerfully highlights important aspects of war propaganda generally, and specifically how the endless, 15-year-old war on terror is sustained.
. . .
By dramatizing the deaths of Americans while disappearing the country’s victims, this technique ensures that Americans perpetually regard themselves as victims of horrific, savage, tragic violence but never the perpetrators of it. That, in turn, is what keeps Americans supporting endless war: These savages keep killing us, so we have no choice but to fight them.
Greenwald points out that our natural sympathy for family members of brave dead soldiers is consciously reverse engineered at events such as President Trump’s recent speech, such that the heroism of the soldier appears to make the war a worthy war and the President a worthy President.
So much hypocrisy in the air, as Bill Maher points out:
The article is titled, “The psychology of greed: 3 attitudes that explain the worst behaviors of the 1 percent.” The thesis is that the upper class tend toward narcissism — and their sense of entitlement appears to be growing. The three telltale signs: 1) It’s all about me, me, me. 2) It’s all about lazy-ass people who refuse to work. 3) It’s all about waiting for the free market to work its fairy magic.
Societies worldwide are suffering epidemics of mental illness because “human beings, the ultrasocial mammals, whose brains are wired to respond to other people, are being peeled apart,” writes George Monbiot at The Guardian.
“Though our wellbeing is inextricably linked to the lives of others, everywhere we are told that we will prosper through competitive self-interest and extreme individualism.” The consequence? “[P]lagues of anxiety, stress, depression, social phobia, eating disorders, self-harm and loneliness.”
Kim Stark has made a career of talking to strangers. She made it her task to try to understand why she does that, in this TED talk. She has decided that it is better to use one’s perceptions than to use categories, such as the category of “stranger.” Using this category means that we are not treating others as fully human. There are other benefits. Some studies show that people are more comfortable opening up to strangers than to people they believe they know. We expect that people we know understand us–we expect them to read our minds. Not so with strangers, with whom we start from scratch. Sometimes they do understand us better. Maybe we need strangers, but how should we interact with them, how do we balance both civility and privacy, which are the guiding rules in the U.S. In other countries there are other rules. In Denmark, many folks are extremely adverse to talking to strangers.
Stark offers and exercise that involves smiling, and then “triangulation,” commenting on a third person or a thing. Or engage in “noticing,” such as complimenting the other person on something (and you can most easily talk to a stranger’s dog or baby). Or engage in “disclosure,” sharing a personal experience, and this tends to cause the “stranger” to reciprocate.
Stark’s main message is that we need to stop being so wary of strangers and to make a place for them in our lives.
At The Atlantic, James Hamblin follows up with his own explorations on talking to strangers.
I found this discussion of race issues by Glenn C. Loury and Sam Harris to be a lively, challenging and candid discussion.
Consider, for example, this excerpt on “structural racism”:
This is one of the reasons why I think the term “structural racism” is so compelling to many people. But I, a social scientist, find the evocation of that kind of one-size-fits-all narrative—structural racism—inadequate to getting an account of what’s actually going on.
It’s not as if there’s a bunch of white people meeting somewhere deciding to make the laws in order to repress blacks. And it’s not as if the outcomes that people are concerned about—in the example at hand, disparities in the incidence of incarceration—are independent of the free choices and decisions that are being made by people, in this case black people, who might end up finding themselves in prison. They made a decision to participate in criminal activities that were clearly known to be illicit and perhaps carried the consequences that they are now suffering, didn’t they?
Sometimes the decisions they make have enormous negative consequences for other black people. Do we want to inquire about what’s going on in the homes and communities and backgrounds from which people are coming who are the subjects of this racial inequality? Or are we to assume that any such deficits or disadvantages that are causally associated with their involvement in lawbreaking, and that are related to their own community organization, structures of family, attentiveness of parenting, and so forth, are nevertheless themselves the consequence of white racism? Black people wouldn’t be acting that way if it weren’t for white racism. If there were greater opportunity, if the schools were better funded, if it hadn’t been for slavery, the black family wouldn’t have… So forth, and so on.
[more . . . ]
I completely agree with Bill Nye on the issue of “race.” We should all reject the concept of “race.” It is wholly and completely unscientific. We are all of the same species: We are all human beings. Yes, we humans come with different skin colors and we have various features that differ based on our ancestry, but we are all human. In rejecting the concept of “race,” I would urge that we maintain and vigorously enforce laws that protect people from other people who foolishly continue to believe in “race” and act on that foolish belief. If we keep clinging to unscientific unsupported notions of “race,” though, we will FOREVER be divided for an idiotic reason, regardless of how well-intentioned our belief in “race.” Unfortunately, the belief in “race” has long been widespread; and it has long been institutionalized and repeatedly used as a tool for oppression, power and financial gain. Rooting it out of every little corner of the planet will be an immense task requiring that people listen closely to those who do careful science on this issue, and then do their utmost to recognize that every person is of the same species.
Nye does not reject that there are such things as social tribes but warns that they can be destructive: “There have always been tribes . . .but what we have to appreciate now is that we live in a global community. Tribal loyalties are fun when it comes to the Superbowl but they are not relevant when it comes to our future. We are all in this together.”
We can fully recognize the need to protect people from racism and racialism while rejecting the concept of race. In my view, we should all be fighting a two front war. Deny the existence of race while at the same time protecting people from the ravages of racism. To anticipate objections to this post, yes, race is social construct that is as real as any social construct. But it is inevitably and ultimately a destructive social construct. It’s time to dismantle it while carefully protecting people from bigots.
We can fully recognize the need to protect people from racism and racialism while rejecting the concept of race. In my view, we should all be fighting a two front war. Deny the existence of race while at the same time protecting people from the ravages of racism. I thought I made this clear. Yes, race is social construct that is as real as any social construct. It is an ultimately destructive social construct. Time to dismantle it while protecting people from bigots.
I’m too impatient to wait for those who embrace “race” to wear each other out with insults, wounds and killings. I’m certainly not willing to wait for an interplanetary diaspora. I want the stupidity (and consequent mistreatment of innocent human beings) to stop NOW. There is no need to wait any longer. We can get entirely rid of the notion of race while yet embracing friendships, communities, extended families and extended ancestry, as well as 80,000 types of diversity rooted in real life things. And let’s keep in mind that ALL of us have ancestry that undeniably extends to the same place: Africa. We are all ultimately African. Starting now, let’s seek diversity only in meaningful things, such as the content of our character.
It will take many people immense effort to break out of the racialist matrix. One of my early steps out was reading about Star-Bellied Sneetches, a book demonstrating that even young children understand the problem. The concept of race is poisonous–used for mischief wherever it is used What I propose is that we embrace people while rejecting race.
this topic really frustrates me because we are all victims of this “race” scam yet we all continue to cling to this empty dangerous concept that you can use a smattering of physical characteristics to judge an entire person. And why is it that a President who has a “white” mother and a “black” father end up being called “black” or “African American”? Are we that low on brain wattage that we oversimplify like this? Why do so many of us cling to race? Ask cui bono, to whom does it benefit? It benefits many in many ways. For some it provides evidence-free victimhood. For others, an instant community. For others, evidence free scapegoats. And for most of us, “race” is a concept born out of laziness – we don’t want to do the hard work of really getting to know each other
Path dependence plays into this issue big time. If people had been getting along, oblivious to skin color or other trivial physical characteristics we associate with “race,” and if someone came along and suggested, “Hey, let’s start generalizing about what kind of person we are dealing with on the basis of ‘race,” a totally unscientific and incoherent concept that I have invented based on trivial physical characteristics of humans. As people with geographically correlated trivial characteristics intermarry over time, it will become more and more absurd to determine who is of what race. I propose in fact, that a President who has a “white” mother and a “black” father will be deemed “black,” and this will invite people to treat him/her with unwarranted presumptions as to what kind of person he/she is.” If someone had made that proposal in this hypothetical scenario, it would (or at least, in an intelligent world) SHOULD be immediately rejected as absurd, divisive and dangerous.
My conclusion: the only reason we continue to divide people by “race” is because ignorant people from long ago started doing so, and they did it for horrible reasons related to power-mongering and economic advantage.