A shift into the dark?

I am not American. However, I recognize the United States of America for providing a model for democracy around the world. No, its democracy is not perfect, but it is earnest. In principle, it seeks on numerous levels to work against tyranny, to empower its citizenry. The execution of these has been far from perfect, but the ideals have been sound.There is a status post on Facebook that individuals are copying and pasting. It essentially outlines every step that the new president of the United States of America has taken since his inauguration. I do not know the sources personally, so I am taking other people's word that these things actually happened.The thing that is worrying about the list is that the majority of these cases consist of actions that are fundamentally anti-democratic, that explicitly reduce the ability of Americans to self-expression, that muzzle the right to free speech, that increase the possibility of a tyrant beginning a process of domination in a nation widely regarded as the birthplace of democracy. Further, is it my imagination, or does the turn to violence, or the condoning of state-accepted violence, have a definite fascist cast.I want my friends and family who support Donald Trump to tell me why this is not the case, please.The list is as follows: (I've changed the stars to numbers so that we can see the length of the list).

  1. On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the DOJ’s Violence Against Women programs.
  2. On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.
  3. On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities.
  4. On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
  5. On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Minority Business Development Agency.
  6. On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Economic Development Administration.
  7. On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the International Trade Administration.
  8. On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
  9. On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.
  10. On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Legal Services Corporation.
  11. On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ.
  12. On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Environmental and Natural Resources Division of the DOJ.
  13. On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  14. On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Electricity Deliverability and Energy Reliability.On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
  15. On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Fossil Energy.
  16. On January 20th, 2017, DT ordered all regulatory powers of all federal agencies frozen.
  17. On January 20th, 2017, DT ordered the National Parks Service to stop using social media after RTing factual, side by side photos of the crowds for the 2009 and 2017 inaugurations.
  18. On January 20th, 2017, roughly 230 protestors were arrested in DC and face unprecedented felony riot charges. Among them were legal observers, journalists, and medics.
  19. On January 20th, 2017, a member of the International Workers of the World was shot in the stomach at an anti-fascist protest in Seattle. He remains in critical condition.
  20. On January 21st, 2017, DT brought a group of 40 cheerleaders to a meeting with the CIA to cheer for him during a speech that consisted almost entirely of framing himself as the victim of dishonest press.
  21. On January 21st, 2017, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer held a press conference largely to attack the press for accurately reporting the size of attendance at the inaugural festivities, saying that the inauguration had the largest audience of any in history, “period.”
  22. On January 22nd, 2017, White House advisor Kellyann Conway defended Spicer’s lies as “alternative facts” on national television news.
  23. On January 22nd, 2017, DT appeared to blow a kiss to director James Comey during a meeting with the FBI, and then opened his arms in a gesture of strange, paternal affection, before hugging him with a pat on the back.
  24. On January 23rd, 2017, DT reinstated the global gag order, which defunds international organizations that even mention abortion as a medical option.
  25. On January 23rd, 2017, Spicer said that the US will not tolerate China’s expansion onto islands in the South China Sea, essentially threatening war with China.
  26. On January 23rd, 2017, DT repeated the lie that 3-5 million people voted “illegally” thus costing him the popular vote.
  27. On January 23rd, 2017, it was announced that the man who shot the anti-fascist protester in Seattle was released without charges, despite turning himself in.
  28. On January 24th, 2017, DT tweeted a picture from his personal Twitter account of a photo he says depicts the crowd at his inauguration and will hang in the White House press room. The photo is of the 2009 inauguration of 44th President Barack Obama, and is curiously dated January 21st, 2017, the day AFTER the inauguration and the day of the Women’s March, the largest inauguration related protest in history.
  29. On January 24th, 2017, the EPA was ordered to stop communicating with the public through social media or the press and to freeze all grants and contracts.
  30. On January 24th, 2017, the USDA was ordered to stop communicating with the public through social media or the press and to stop publishing any papers or research. All communication with the press would also have to be authorized and vetted by the White House.
  31. On January 24th, 2017, HR7, a bill that would prohibit federal funding not only to abortion service providers, but to any insurance coverage, including Medicaid, that provides abortion coverage, went to the floor of the House for a vote.
  32. On January 24th, 2017, DT ordered the resumption of construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline, while the North Dakota state congress considers a bill that would legalize hitting and killing protestors with cars if they are on roadways.
  33. On January 24th, 2017, it was discovered that police officers had used confiscated cell phones to search the emails and messages of the 230 demonstrators now facing felony riot charges for protesting on January 20th, including lawyers and journalists whose email accounts contain privileged information of clients and sources.From News and Guts*credit for compilation: Karen Cornett-Dwyer
  34. On January 24th, 2017 DT threatened martial law by 'sending in the feds' to Chicago.

 

Ethnography, the view from the ground, The Washington Post, & Trump voters

No, it's not your typical discussion of numbers, etc. I'm sharing this link (I've pored over many!) because it uses the techniques we use as anthropologists to understand the perspectives of people considered to be "other". It looks at how engagement itself can become a road to empowerment. The end of the article, which quotes part of an interview with Kathy Cramer, a University of Wisconsin researcher, is the best part. It recalls the impact of the Sustainable Exuma research in Exuma, which relied on getting to know the various players as human beings as well.I'm going to buy her book, The Politics of Resentment

Thank God I was as naive as I was when I started. If I knew then what I know now about the level of resentment people have toward urban, professional elite women, would I walk into a gas station at 5:30 in the morning and say, “Hi! I’m Kathy from the University of Madison”?

I’d be scared to death after this presidential campaign! But thankfully I wasn’t aware of these views. So what happened to me is that, within three minutes, people knew I was a professor at UW-Madison, and they gave me an earful about the many ways in which that riled them up — and then we kept talking.And then I would go back for a second visit, a third visit, a fourth, fifth and sixth. And we liked each other. Even at the end of my first visit, they would say, “You know, you’re the first professor from Madison I’ve ever met, and you’re actually kind of normal.” And we’d laugh. We got to know each other as human beings.Source: A new theory for why Trump voters are so angry — that actually makes sense - The Washington Post

President Trump

It's impossible to let this day pass without writing something about this title. I let Brexit go by because, well, I was stunned; I said my piece on the Bahamian gender referendum because I was disappointed. But not to say something about this election, which was historic, yes, and not the way I had wanted, would be a travesty.So let me say this: yes, I am disappointed. Profoundly so. But can I in all honesty be anything else? I am not an American. I could not vote. I had to leave it up to the American people to do their democratic duty, and they did it. As with Brexit, as with the Bahamian gender referendum, people participated in the democratic process the one way they were able. They had one vote, and they used it. And into that vote they channelled everything that they felt about themselves, their times, their nation.I'm entitled to think that, as with us on our referendum, as with the British on Brexit, the American electorate as a collective got it wrong. The world is heading in one direction and the voters in each of these three nations have chosen not to look that way. Rather, they all turned to look behind them at the world we are all leaving behind, while time inexorably moves us somewhere entirely different. The journey forward for all of us will be taken blindly: we're looking back. We're passing through twenty-first century reality and its challenges remain unseen.I don't think that this is accidental at all. I also don't think that it could have been avoided. Because what is happening across the world is that people are voting against their status quo. They are entirely aware, on a molecular level, that things have changed, that the ground has shifted beneath their feet, that the world they find themselves in is not the world for which they are prepared. But because their leaders have been unable or unwilling to articulate these changes, or perhaps even to acknowledge them, they are voting for a return to the past, or for a maintenance of an obsolete system. In Britain, the voters sought to withdraw from the collective of Europe in search of lost (possibly imperial?) times; here in The Bahamas, the voters chose to maintain legal inequalities between men and women in an effort to negate or neutralize women's real power in our nation; and now, in the USA, voters are electing to "make America great again"—this greatness being exemplified in the shaking of a big stick, the glorification of white skins, and the subordination of the female.But in not one case were the voters given a constructive choice. I'm pretty sure that those people who, like me, wanted different outcomes will rise up indignantly at this idea. What's not constructive about Hillary Clinton/the European Union/equal rights for women under the Bahamian constitution? But in imagining these things to be positive because we believe they are, considering them unquestionably as being absolute goods, we miss the point. For democracy is not about absolute and opposite goods. It is about dialogue and discussion—about true debate. If democracy is government by the people for the people, then all the people need to be involved in it somehow.What was critical and revealing about these three contests in 2016 was that there was very little debate involved. There was plenty of talk, and a lot of argument. There was plenty of threat and plenty of ridicule and lots of tearing down but very little building up. Democracy was not at work throughout the process. These elections were crafted the way reality shows are crafted: emphasizing the extreme differences in the matters (many of them, like the bogeyman immigrant and the spectre of gay monogamy, semi-fictional inventions) for the entertainment of the public rather than engaging in the full implications of the choices to be made.  The media in each case focussed more on the sensational surfaces of the contests than on the long-term implications of their outcomes.In every case, the contest went thus:

  1. an issue—two referenda and one presidential election—was fought on a national scale;
  2. the stakes in each were historically critical;
  3. the issues were presented in a binary fashion as though the contest was a clash between absolute good and absolute evil, without any attempt to find common ground between the two options;
  4. the stakes were not discussed in any historical or global context, and the implications of potential outcomes were not presented in any thoughtful or measured fashion.

Now the critical thing about the democracy we currently inhabit is this. Ultimately, the only power an individual has comes down to his or her ability to cast a vote. We have constructed systems in which the individual voice is reduced to a single moment in time, a moment when a choice is made, and that choice, in every case above, was a choice between two irreconcilable opposites.Voters vote they only way that they can. They make a choice. But they do not make free choices. They choose the thing that seems most right to them, most right for them, but they have no control over the ultimate outcome.The collective result, in every case I have mentioned, has been a step away from equality, from kindness, from civility, from generosity. In every case I have mentioned, the result has been a shrinking of self, a turning away from greatness.It's been protectionist. It's been risk-averse. It's been desperate.It has not been great.Let me make my position perfectly clear here. I am not seeking to belittle what has happened. I'm seeking to understand it on my terms, to recognize that in every case that has dismayed me, people have used their democratic right in good faith. And they have had the absolute right to do so. That they chose differently than I would is immaterial. That they chose differently from what will help them survive in the twenty-first century, though, is critical. And it raises the question. Why did so many people make choices that will not help them in the world we are entering? What went wrong?My conclusion: it's not their choices that were wrong. It's the system that made sure these were the only choices that were available. It is a system that divides those who disagree by a chasm that seems only crossable by violence and destruction.  It's a system that suggests that "democracy" has nothing to do with self-governance for the common good, but rather consists of a battle between two demonized adversaries, in which the winner takes all and the loser is crushed.So am I happy that Trump won this election? In no way. I have absolutely no confidence that the persona that he performed on the campaign trail has any resemblance to the man he actually is, and I think that we are all, Americans and the world alike, about to be royally screwed, God's will notwithstanding. But do I think that the "American public" were wrong for voting for him? Not at all. Each individual voted the only way they could: for themselves, for what they believed was the greatest good (for them). The outcome was beyond their control.Brexit, the Bahamian referendum, the American election: it's not the voters who are at fault in any of these events. It's the way we perform "democracy" that is the problem.

Back to the Referendum

Eighteen months ago, I was invited to write an article for Global Voices about the proposed referendum on gender equality in The Bahamas. It was published in October 2014, a month before the referendum was initially scheduled to take place. That the referendum didn't take place is common knowledge now; it was postponed to allow "public education" to take place. Well, it's now back on the national agenda, and I'm not sure how much education has happened. So I am now going to publish what I wrote back then in its entirety in an attempt to inform the discussion we are now having with some facts.The Commonwealth of The Bahamas is amending its 41-year-old constitution. I’m using the present continuous tense, because the amendment is a process, one that began some twelve years ago in 2002. Back then, a constitutional referendum was held and failed—the proposed amendments to the Constitution were rejected by the general public. But the need for amendment has persisted, and ever since 2012 a constitutional referendum has been imminent.The main issue at hand is the question of equality between the sexes under the constitution. The most striking instance of inequality in our constitution is that between men and women in relation to their ability to pass on Bahamian citizenship, but, as the most recent Constitutional Commission has noted, the inequalities in the current constitution are manifold. This Commission has narrowed them down to the following categories: inequality between men and women, between children and between married and single people. To this we can add inequality based on place of birth.The last item on that list notwithstanding, the Constitutional Commission has drafted four bills which, if passed by the two Houses of Parliament and agreed to by the general public, will make Bahamian citizens more equal than non-Bahamians by seeking to address the first three inequalities.Put simply, the main inequalities are as follows:- Married Bahamian men and unmarried Bahamian women automatically pass their citizenship on to their children at birth.

  • Bahamian women cannot pass their citizenship on to their overseas-born children at birth, if they are married to a non-Bahamian.
  • Single fathers may not pass their citizenship on to their children, as the constitution defines children born out of wedlock as not having a father.
  • The non-Bahamian wives of Bahamian men are afforded the right to be granted citizenship upon application.
  • The non-Bahamian husbands of Bahamian women are afforded no such right.

The issue, however, is complicated by several other requirements that make the passing on of citizenship from parent to child less straightforward. Primary among these is a clause which addresses the institution of marriage. Under this clause, unmarried Bahamian mothers are defined as “fathers” for the purpose of passing on their national status to their babies. This particular clause also nullifies single Bahamian fathers’ ability to pass on their citizenship.The four bills drafted to amend the constitution seek to rectify the situation. They are designed to promote equality for children, among men and women, and to enshrine the principle of equality throughout the constitution. The first of these seeks to award the children of both Bahamian men and women citizenship at birth. The second entitles all non-Bahamian spouses of Bahamian citizens to Bahamian citizenship. The third allows single Bahamian fathers to pass their citizenship on to their offspring. And the fourth bill seeks to enshrine the principle of equality between the sexes in the constitution by adding the word “sex” to the list of categories under which discrimination is prohibited.On the surface, this seems a simple enough task. It is complicated, however, by a public discussion which has focused mainly on the fourth amendment—the one which is, in its own way, the simplest of the proposed changes: the adding of “sex” to the categories prohibiting discrimination.The current categories include race, place of origin, political opinions, colour, and creed, but exclude sex. The opponents of this amendment have construed the word “sex” as relating to sexual orientation, and have gained much traction in the eyes of the public by claiming the constitutional amendments are designed to permit same-sex marriage. If this Article is amended, their story goes, Bahamians will be giving the government permission to allow same-sex marriages to take place. These arguments obscure the principle of equality between the sexes and make this clause appear the most controversial—which also makes it the most threatened as the time for the referendum draws near.And there are other questions of inequality that have not been addressed. Most notable among them is the question of birthplace and its effect on the awarding of citizenship to Bahamian children. There are two elements at work here. The first is the fact that birth on Bahamian territory is no avenue to citizenship if neither of one’s parents is Bahamian. The most that a person born in the Bahamas is entitled to is the right to be registered as a citizen upon making application at the age of 18.The second, more difficult challenge, is the kind of citizenship one is granted if one is born abroad to Bahamian parents. One peculiarity of the current constitution which has not been put forward for amendment, is that children born to Bahamians abroad, even if they are classified as citizens, have no automatic right to pass their citizenship on to their own offspring. In other words, children born to Bahamians studying or working abroad, or giving birth in another country for reasons of health, may be classified as Bahamian citizens. However, if they themselves have children outside of The Bahamas, those children are not Bahamians at birth, and have no right to claim Bahamian citizenship whatsoever.The issue is complicated, and most Bahamians are not aware of this stipulation. Most of the discussion relating to citizenship and our constitution has focused on the next generation—on our children. We have not yet thought about our grandchildren. What the current situation does ensure, though, is that not one of us, whatever the outcome of the referendum and whatever amendments are made to the constitution, can be confident that our grandchildren will be Bahamians at birth.Let me bring this home. In my family, I have cousins who were born abroad because their Bahamian father was studying in the UK at the time of their birth. They are Bahamian. Their children, though, unless they are born in The Bahamas, are not.Similarly, I have a nephew who, once again, was born in Canada when his Bahamian father was studying. He is a Bahamian, but his children, unless they are born in The Bahamas, will not be.Finally, I have another young cousin who was born in Miami while his parents were there getting medical treatment for their older son. That cousin, even though both his parents are citizens, will not be able to pass on his citizenship unless his children are born in The Bahamas.And none of these issues even begins to address the question of statehood for the many children of undocumented immigrants (most of them of Haitian origin) in The Bahamas. Most of those children currently have no national status at all. It is a situation which must be addressed, but which has not been touched upon in the present referendum.So critical is this question of citizenship that a 2013 Report on the constitution recommended appointing a second commission altogether to focus exclusively on the issue of statelessness in The Bahamas, as the commissioners did not feel they could give it the necessary attention. No such move has yet been made.The constitutional amendments are long overdue. They will go some way to equalizing the granting of Bahamian citizenship to children, and to even out the distinction between male and female, married and unmarried, that currently exists. But they are only a beginning. Serious issues of inequality remain, and the climate in which the discussions regarding the referendum is taking place has grown fraught with misdirection. The popular interpretation that the addition of “sex” to the categories where discrimination is prohibited is an endorsement of same-sex marriage plays into a deep-seated homophobia in Bahamian society. But it’s also worrying for another reason: it is entirely possible that this relates to homophobia only tangentially, and is in fact a strategic move to campaign for constitutionally-sanctioned misogyny without openly admitting that fact.

Einstein: The Negro Question (1946) | On Being

Einstein: The Negro Question (1946) | On Being.In 1946, Einstein wrote the following with regard to white Americans' prejudice against Blacks. I believe we need to challenge ourselves today to consider the way in which we think about and treat people who migrate to our society from Haiti -- and their children and grandchildren as well.

It would be foolish to despise tradition. But with our growing self-consciousness and increasing intelligence we must begin to control tradition and assume a critical attitude toward it, if human relations are ever to change for the better. We must try to recognize what in our accepted tradition is damaging to our fate and dignity—and shape our lives accordingly.

I believe that whoever tries to think things through honestly will soon recognize how unworthy and even fatal is the traditional bias against Negroes.

What, however, can the man of good will do to combat this deeply rooted prejudice? He must have the courage to set an example by word and deed, and must watch lest his children become influenced by this racial bias.

I do not believe there is a way in which this deeply entrenched evil can be quickly healed. But until this goal is reached there is no greater satisfaction for a just and well-meaning person than the knowledge that he has devoted his best energies to the service of the good cause.

Much of the discussion I hear about "illegal immigrants", which clothes itself in trappings of patriotism and concern for Bahamian sovereignty, has plenty in common with the racist rhetoric directed by whites against blacks. I long for the day when we can discuss the issue of immigration without using the rhetoric of racism to do so.