The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – February 25, 2018

Well, two things Wrongo never thought would happen: Revived student activism, and the US winning an Olympic gold medal in Curling! Wrongo cares deeply about the former, but not so much about the latter.

The week was dominated by the continued fall-out from the Parkland shooting. The gun debate produced a rich harvest of appropriate cartoons, like showing how the NRA would re-write the Second Amendment:

The gun debate points out some GOP inconsistencies:

McConnell and Ryan try reframing the issue:

LaPierre has a message for Mitch:

NRA says only one Amendment really matters:

Trump says we should arm teachers and pay them bonuses for carrying. Think of the consequences:

Where teachers packing heat will lead:

And how would kids react to guns in the classroom?



Saturday Soother – February 24, 2018

The Daily Escape:

The futuristic Tianjin Binhai Library opened in November 2017. It is located just outside Beijing, China – photo by Ossip van Duivenbode

Another roller coaster week comes to an end, but Wrongo can’t let go of the Parkland shooting or the gun debate just yet. So here are a few observations from a devastating article in the Atlantic by a radiologist in Florida who saw the CT scans of some of the student’s wounds:

As I opened the CT scan last week to read the next case, I was baffled. The history simply read “gunshot wound.” I have been a radiologist in one of the busiest trauma centers in the nation for 13 years, and have diagnosed thousands of handgun injuries to the brain, lung, liver, spleen, bowel, and other vital organs. I thought that I knew all that I needed to know about gunshot wounds, but the specific pattern of injury on my computer screen was one that I had seen only once before.


In a typical handgun injury that I diagnose almost daily, a bullet leaves a laceration through an organ like the liver. To a radiologist, it appears as a linear, thin, grey bullet track through the organ. There may be bleeding and some bullet fragments.

I was looking at a CT scan of one of the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who had been brought to the trauma center during my call shift. The organ looked like an overripe melon smashed by a sledgehammer, with extensive bleeding. How could a gunshot wound have caused this much damage?

Still more:

The reaction in the emergency room was the same. One of the trauma surgeons opened a young victim in the operating room, and found only shreds of the organ that had been hit by a bullet from an AR-15…There was nothing left to repair, and utterly, devastatingly, nothing that could be done to fix the problem. The injury was fatal.

Had enough? Here’s more:

Routine handgun injuries leave entry and exit wounds and linear tracks through the victim’s body that are roughly the size of the bullet. If the bullet does not directly hit something crucial like the heart or the aorta, and they do not bleed to death before being transported to…a trauma center, chances are, we can save the victim. The bullets fired by an AR-15 are different; they travel at higher velocity and are far more lethal. The damage they cause is a function of the energy they impart as they pass through the body. A typical AR-15 bullet leaves the barrel traveling almost three times faster than, and imparting more than three times the energy of, a typical 9mm bullet from a handgun.

And finally:

One of my ER colleagues was waiting nervously for his own children outside the school. While the shooting was still in progress, the first responders were gathering up victims whenever they could and carrying them outside the building. Even as a physician trained in trauma situations, though, there was nothing he could do at the scene to help to save the victims who had been shot with an AR-15. Most of them died on the spot, with no fighting chance at life.

This is why these weapons must be banned. Even if America sells no more of them, it will take a generation or more, for them to disappear from general use. The sooner we start banning them, the safer the country will be. Make America Safe Again!

Now, settle back in your most comfy chair with a vente cup of Red Beard Coffee’s Buckshot Blend ($17.95/lb.). The roaster says it tastes of rich caramel and apples. Then, contemplate what you can do personally to help high school kids all across America in their effort to ban AR-15’s.

While you are sitting quietly, listen to the Irish group, The Corrs, covering REM’s hit “Everybody Hurts”.  This is from “The Corrs Unplugged”, one of the MTV Unplugged series, recorded live in October, 1999. A song appropriate to the last two weeks:

Sample Lyric:

When your day is long
And the night,
The night is yours alone
When you’re sure you’ve had enough
Of this life
Well hang on
Don’t let yourself go
‘Cause everybody cries
And everybody hurts sometimes

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.


High School Kids Might Be the Real Justice League

The Daily Escape:

Sedona, AZ – 2017 photo by joanwood01

“There is no justice. The rich win; the poor are powerless. We become tired of hearing people lie. And after a time, we become dead, a little dead. We think of ourselves as victims – and we become victims. We become weak; we doubt ourselves; we doubt our beliefs; we doubt our institutions; and we doubt the law… If we are to have faith in justice, we need only to believe in ourselves and act with justice.”
— The closing argument by Paul Newman’s character in “The Verdict” (1982)

Imagine that: Act with justice. Belief in justice is part of believing in democracy. If you lose faith in one, you will lose faith in the other. Those who have refused to give up, like Dr. King, and those who marched for civil rights and then, who marched to end the Vietnam War acted with justice.

Fast forward to today, those Florida high schoolers, who are schooling politicians, are following in those footsteps, attempting to act with justice. They are trying to live up to the founding ethos of the US.

Can the pursuit of justice that gave us successes in civil rights also fuel success in the long, impossibly hard struggle to Make America Safe Again?

Making it Safe from too many guns in the hands of too many Americans?

Before Parkland, Wrongo was about to write off the possibility that gun control activism would achieve much of anything. That we were doomed to remain the world’s most “exceptional” country when it comes to guns.

America thinks that it’s worth it to have a more dangerous society in order to have strong Second Amendment rights. The Second Amendment Absolutists, including the NRA, Trump and the GOP, think the lives we’d save if we had stricter gun controls aren’t worth the freedom that owning guns buys them.

And the rest of us don’t oppose their viewpoint strongly enough to affect change.

Then along came these high school activists. They have become our last, best hope of blunting the Second Amendment Absolutists. Where did these Florida shooting survivors find their activism and organizing? Can they carry through to a place that their elders haven’t been able to reach?

What is refreshing about the students from Stoneman Douglas is that we are hearing about their lived experience.

This has a gravitas far beyond what is handed down from the Beltway. The gun discussions have been mostly led by politicians and lobbyists. But that is being eclipsed by voices with first-hand experience surviving a mass killing. It’s their intimate experience, plus the passion they are bringing that encourages the rest of us to dig in, and help bring about change.

They seem to know that their ground swell of political activism strikes fear into the hearts of politicians. They seem to know that they can make gun control a major issue in the 2018 mid-terms.

They are proving more resilient and savvy than many of us would have given them credit for on the day of the shooting. It isn’t their responsibility to fix the world, but since they have a place in it, and a voice, perhaps they can spur some real change.

They are forcing politicians like Sen. Rubio (R-FL) back on their heels. They are forcing the NRA into PR mistakes. Remember this?

Come mothers and fathers throughout the land

And don’t criticize what you can’t understand

Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command

Your old road is rapidly aging

Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand

For the times they are a-changin‘ – B. Dylan

At the CNN Town Hall on Wednesday night, it was obvious that the NRA’s Dana Loesch and Rubio both knew that these students were far beyond their command. But that doesn’t mean we should sit back, and expect them to do it alone.

We have to stand up, help them, and certainly vote in huge numbers.


A Well-Regulated Militia

The Daily Escape:

Sunrise, Mt. St. Helens – 2018 drone photo by russeltrupiano

We live in a country with about five percent of the world’s population, but we possess nearly 50% of the world’s civilian-owned firearms. More guns, more civilian deaths, it’s that simple.

A primary reason that we have more guns is how the meaning of the term “Well Regulated Militia” was mis-appropriated by Second Amendment (SA) absolutists. The Propaganda Professor is writing a series on the SA. His work is always worth a read. Previously, he wrote about the Right to Bear Arms. His second column is about the Well Regulated Militia. The Professor asks:

The purpose of the Second Amendment was actually to guarantee a “well-regulated militia”. But what exactly does that mean? Just what is/was a militia, anyway?

SA absolutists say that “militia” means all citizens, because they think that’s what was meant when the SA was written. There are flaws in this claim. They quote George Mason, a Virginia delegate to the Constitutional Convention:

I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for a few public officials.

Sadly for them, that wording isn’t included in the actual Amendment. And at the time, it’s unlikely that Mason meant all of the people. The Professor:

Consider that the Second Militia Act of 1792 (passed only a few months after the Second Amendment was written) designated the composition of the militia as being: every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States, resident therein, who is or shall be of age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years…

So, if you are an original intent person, today’s “militia” would consist only of white males between 18 and 45. The Act says they should be outfitted with:

…a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch, with a box therein, to contain not less than twenty four cartridges, suited to the bore of his musket or firelock, each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of powder and ball…

The definition of militia has changed over the years. In 1862, a new Militia Act finally eliminated the race restriction; but it still pertained only to men of a certain age.

In 1903, the Dick Act established the National Guard as the official “organized militia” of the US. It said those who were not Guard members were to be called the “unorganized militia“.

The SA absolutists have twisted this, saying that “unorganized militia” means anyone who wants to carry a gun for any purpose. Thus, all civilians are a part of the “unorganized” militia and therefore covered by the SA. That is debatable, but the most important thing about the militia was not who qualified as a member, but its purpose for existing. The Professor points out that the Acts of 1792 make that clear:

That whenever the United States shall be invaded, or be in imminent danger of invasion from any foreign nation or Indian tribe, it shall be lawful for the President of the United States, to call forth such number of the militia of the state or states most convenient to the place of danger or scene of action, as he may judge necessary to repel such invasion…

The Acts of 1792 make it clear that the militia was designed to be an organized armed force supplied by the states to execute the laws of the nation. Nothing in the Militia Acts say citizens can be armed for “defending” themselves against the government.

The purpose of the militia is further defined by the term, “well-regulated”. The gun rights people say it derives from a 1698 treatise, “A Discourse of Government with Relation to Militias” by Andrew Fletcher, in which the term “well regulated” was equated with “disciplined”.

But “well-regulated” in the dictionary has other meanings, and they all apply to a military unit, such as a militia.

Since militia members in Revolutionary days were conscripted for service, it implies that the militia membership was a civic obligation. It isn’t a few guys running around in camo gear on Saturday.

Finally, the Professor points out that militia, like military, is derived from the Latin word for soldier.

The soldier is part of an organized body, and is well-regulated in virtually every possible sense of the term.

It’s not Joe Six-pack and his AR-15.


Monday Wake Up Call – February 19, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Gun Protest on Sunday in Ft. Lauderdale FL.

Trump linked two events last week, the shooting in Parkland, FL, and the Mueller indictments of 13 Russians for meddling in our election process, failing at both.

First, the Muller investigation. Trump suggested Saturday that the FBI failed to stop the Florida school shooting because it’s spending too much time on the Russia investigation:

We can agree that the FBI was derelict in investigating the tip about Nikolas Cruz. However, we can’t say that the Parkland shooting, or any other for that matter, could have been stopped. The Feds can’t foresee the future. This was another Trump ploy to discredit the FBI and the Mueller investigation as its work begins to bite deeply into the issues it was formed to investigate.

Trump tweeted on Sunday that the investigations into Russian meddling are creating chaos and divisions in the US. He said: “They are laughing their asses off in Moscow. Get smart America!”

On Sunday, David Frum said this in the Atlantic: (emphasis by Wrongo)

It’s worth thinking about what a patriotic president would have done in Trump’s situation. He would be leading the investigation himself. He would be scouring his own campaign—doing everything in his power to reassure the country that whatever the Russians may or may not have done, his government owed Putin nothing… Above all, he would be leading the demand for changes to election laws and practices, including holding Facebook to account for its negligence.

Why are Trump’s reactions so off the mark? Why is The Donald so defensive about something that is of ultimate importance, the integrity of our election process? Shouldn’t that be of great interest to anyone who has sworn to defend the Constitution?

Second, students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School rallied in southern Florida to protest how the lack of gun regulations affects their lives. One student, Emma Gonzales, told the crowd:

In February of 2017, one year ago, President Trump repealed an Obama-era regulation that would have made it easier to block the sale of firearms to people with certain mental illnesses…Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa was the sole sponsor on this bill that stops the FBI from performing background checks on people adjudicated to be mentally ill and now he’s stating for the record, ‘Well, it’s a shame the FBI isn’t doing background checks on these mentally ill people.‘ Well, duh. You took that opportunity away last year.

Here’s what Grassley actually said after the Florida shootings:

We have not done a very good job of making sure that people that have mental reasons for not being able to handle a gun getting their name into the FBI files and we need to concentrate on that.

Grassley twists himself into a pretzel, trying to blame the FBI for what Grassley himself did. Who has these ethics?

Another Parkland student, Cameron Kasky, told CNN that many Republicans are only concerned with things like weddings cakes at same-sex weddings:

There is a segment of this society that will shrug this off and send their thoughts and prayers but march for hours over a rainbow wedding cake…

High school kids in Florida are standing up to the President and the Congress. Teenagers are unerring in calling out hypocrisy. Their tolerance for it is lower than that of adults, too. This may be the stone that starts the landslide against the Second Amendment absolutists in Washington. Let’s hope so.

Time to help those Florida teens wake up Trump and Congress. Wake them up to the need to ban assault weapons. To have background checks for all gun buyers, to have liability insurance for every gun owned. To help them wake up, here is Pearl Jam with “Jeremy” from their 1991 debut album “Ten”. The song was inspired by a newspaper article Eddie Vedder read about a high school student who shot himself in front of his English class:

Sample Lyric:

Dead lay in pools of maroon below
Daddy didn’t give attention
To the fact that mommy didn’t care
King Jeremy the wicked
Ruled his world

Jeremy spoke in class today
Jeremy spoke in class today
Clearly I remember
Pickin’ on the boy

Seemed a harmless little fuck
But we unleashed a lion

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.


Sunday Cartoon Blogging – February 18, 2018

Friday brought Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russians for “information warfare against the United States of America“. The best part was that the special counsel’s work was totally under the radar, and there were zero leaks.

And thus far, nobody on the right is claiming Mueller’s indictments are “fake news”.

One interesting takeaway was that Russian cells were formed to establish phony Facebook, Twitter and other accounts that pushed divisive politics in the US. We already knew this, but we didn’t know specifics: At one point, a supposed Islamophobic group protested outside a Texas mosque, and it was met by a pro-Muslim counter-demonstration. Both demonstrations were called for by fake Russian sites. These sites eventually had hundreds of thousands of followers. They spread false memes, including that Clinton supported Sharia law.

Russian sites that were disguised as a part of the Black Lives Matter movement argued that African-Americans should not vote. While it is impossible to show cause and effect, Clinton underperformed with Black voters.

The jury is still out on the extent of Russian influence, and we may never know if it mattered. Still, it is way past time for the Democratic Party to own up to its own failures, rather than continually blaming the Russians, Bernie Sanders, the Green Party, or the deplorables.

After Mueller indictments, Trump and friends now have some ‘splaining to do:

Mitch, Paul and the rest of the GOP think they have zero responsibility for gun violence:

The issue is always the guns:

American Exceptionalism was on display again last week:

Pledge of Allegiance needs new words:

Blockbuster Black Panther movie may help beyond entertaining us:


Too Many Guns

The Daily Escape:

“Don’t tell me tomorrow isn’t the appropriate time to debate gun violence. If you’re a political leader doing nothing about this slaughter, you’re an accomplice.” – Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT)

Can we get politicians to deal with gun violence? Politicians like to reframe the problem, like saying that we need more “good people” with guns. But, there were two armed police officers stationed at the Parkland FL school. Upon hearing that, the gun absolutists might argue: “If only the teachers and students had their own weapons, it probably would have worked out just fine…

At Trump’s inaugural, in the “American Carnage” portion of his speech, he said that “Your child isn’t going to be shot” on his watch. But after 18 shootings just this year, it’s clear that Trump has no plan to stop gun violence. Attacks like this can’t be eliminated, but Trump could have done something, other than blame the students and neighbors who didn’t turn the shooter in. That, and last year, he made it easier for mentally ill people to buy guns.

And we are getting numb. The LA Times editorial asks: (emphasis by Wrongo)

When does an epidemic stop being an epidemic and become just a basic part of regular life? It’s been 19 years since the nation was horrified by the carnage at Columbine in suburban Denver. It’s been just over five years since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Quick: What was the most recent mass shooting incident (at least four wounded) at a school before the one on Wednesday? Here’s the sick part: There have been so many school shootings that it takes a bit of work to answer what should be an easy question.

Who remembers clearly the particulars of the last school shooting? Not Wrongo, and probably not you. We have grown weary of being outraged after so many shootings. We’ve become numb to the sensations of outrage and pain for the victims and their families. It’s official. Guns have more rights than humans in our 21st Century America.

We have to control guns if we want to turn the tide. Consider this chart from the Tewkesbury Lab that graphs gun deaths by gun ownership:

There is a clear relationship between gun access and gun violence, and the US clearly has the most gun violence and the most guns. We might ask why some countries are above the trend line, and others are below it. When your country is above the line, your citizens not only own more guns per capita, they also have a harder time keeping their guns pointed away from other people.

Trump and Congress should have a goal of minimizing the risk of gun deaths. The best way to accomplish this is reducing access to guns. If you want to reduce your personal risk from gun related violence, you can move to a state or a country where gun laws are stricter and cultural norms surrounding guns are more progressive.

If you can’t or don’t want to move, you need to work to pass stricter gun laws where you live.

Politicians can argue about details, but the fundamentals are clear. It is like smoking. If you want to reduce smoking, you make it harder and more expensive to smoke. Only the tobacco industry and the politicians they had purchased really argued with that logic.

Why should it be different with guns?

We are unique in our worship of guns. The Second Amendment provides a big blanket of excuse for gun lovers to wrap themselves in, but Second Amendment rights shouldn’t be superior to the right of your kid to return home from school alive.

We need to control the number of guns. We also need to figure out how to change our acceptance and glorification of violence. It is young men like the kid who killed 17 in Parkland FL, who avoid mental health advice, because they don’t want to look weak. They are the same ones who are perpetually angry. They pick up a gun, and they let their gun do some punishing. And guns do that quickly and efficiently.

We have to stop them. Republicans are owned by the NRA. So first, we need to regain control of the House and Senate. We also need to have the gun control legislation ready for when that time comes.

We need better ad campaigns ads that spell out about what America loses with every shooting.

We can’t stop every wacko from harming people, but we can sharply reduce the percentage of wackos that have guns!


A Strong Proposal For Changing Our Gun Laws

The Daily Escape:

Lauterbrunnen, near Bern, Switzerland. Photo by Scott Hafer

Thought for today:

“The right thing is usually not hard to do. And if it is, it’s still the right thing.” – Jason Hirschorn

Pam Keith is a Democratic candidate for Florida’s 18th Congressional District. She was a Navy officer, and lawyer. She has a great take on what to do with guns in America. Here is a series of tweets by Pam:

(The Baker Act allows the holding of mentally-ill people against their will)

WTG Ms. Keith, all are good ideas! Outlawing “bump stocks’ should be added to this list, and it seems that the House is likely to do just that. Will we ever get the National Rifle Association (NRA) out of the business of dictating which gun legislation is, or isn’t acceptable?

Assuming we want changes to our interpretation of the Second Amendment, we must force enough Republicans in Congress to listen, and act. We have control, if we choose to use it.

Or, we can accept the occasional mass slaughter as the “price of freedom” as Bill O’Reilly says we must. The Second Amendment is neither inviolable, nor sacrosanct. We have built this edifice of carnage on the most willfully misinterpreted 27 words in the Constitution. Ms. Keith’s ideas could help save lives, without impacting the rights of responsible gun owners.

As the opening quote says, doing the right thing, even if it is hard to do, very hard, it’s still the right thing.

We could stand idly by, and accept that random, indiscriminate mass slaughter is our new normal.

Here is a musical interlude by the Wailin’ Jennys singing “Light of a Clear Blue Morning” from their soon-to-be released album, “Fifteen”, a series of covers. Here, they are covering Dolly Parton. They turn the tune into a reminder about resilience and hope in each new day. This is particularly appropriate given the Las Vegas mass murder.

They sing in perfect à cappella harmony. Inspiring and beautiful:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.


Saturday Soother – June 17, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Mt. Fuji, Japan- photo by Takashi Yasui

The news and the pundits are non-stop in their analysis of the shooting in DC that critically wounded Republican Congressman Steve Scalise and 3 others. Much has been written, but Wrongo likes what Charlie Pierce wrote the best:

Violence doesn’t “intrude” on everyday life in America. Violence is a part of everyday life in America. A little more than a week ago, five people were shot to death in warehouse in Orlando. Is a warehouse in Orlando less innocent than a Virginia ballfield? Is a disgruntled worker taking his mad vengeance less of a demonstration of a country unhinged than a home-inspection specialist who fried his brain over politics? Is somebody who wounds over politics a worse murderer than someone who kills because he got fired? I admire the ability of anyone who can make that measured a moral choice.

On the whole, people shouldn’t get shot. They shouldn’t get shot in the streets. They shouldn’t get shot in school. They shouldn’t get shot in the workplace. They shouldn’t get shot while carrying snack food in the “wrong” neighborhood, and they shouldn’t get shot while they’re trying to surrender. They shouldn’t get shot while dancing in a nightclub. And they shouldn’t get shot on the ballfield on a spring morning.

In the main, one victim is not more “innocent”—and, thus, of more value—than any other one. Their occupation shouldn’t matter. Their politics shouldn’t matter. There is a violence inherent in the country’s history and there is a wildness present in its soul and, on occasion, both of these surface more clearly than is usual. Technology has made the violence more lethal and the wildness more general. The uniquely American conflation of innocence with hubris is a luxury we can no longer afford.

OTOH, according to Heather Digby Parton:

Meanwhile, 93 people on average are shot and killed every day in America, many of them in incidents involving multiple victims. More than 100,000 people are struck by bullets every year. President Donald Trump was right to speak about “carnage” in America in his inaugural address. He just didn’t acknowledge that the carnage is from gun violence. According to the gun safety website The Trace:

Using data from the World Health Organization, researchers found that America accounted for 82 percent of all firearm deaths among 23 comparable nations in 2010. Ninety percent of women killed by guns in the study were in the U.S., as were 91 percent of children under 15.

There is no solution for this that will fly politically in this country. The gun-toter, and the no guns crowds are already spinning their version of the narrative to the crowd that sits in the pews directly in front of them.

America just has to accept that this is perhaps the most concrete way in which America is exceptional, and,

It is difficult to get to a soothing place on this Saturday, with all that has happened. Also, my brother died a year ago this week. Back in the late 1970’s he was (very) down on his luck, and each weekend, he would come to visit Ms. Right and me to get fattened up for the coming week. He would walk into the house, grab the album “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and play its opening track, Funeral for a Friend”. There would be no talking until 11 minutes later when it ended:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.


Make America Safe?

Wrongo has tried hard not to write again about the murderous and divisive actions taken against police over the past few weeks, but it seems impossible. From the NYT:

The twin attacks — three officers dead Sunday in Baton Rouge, five killed on July 7 in Dallas, along with at least 12 injured over all — have set off a period of fear, anguish and confusion among the nation’s 900,000 state and local law enforcement officers. Even the most hardened veterans call this one of the most charged moments of policing they have experienced.

Never one to let bad news pass without blaming, the Pant Suit criticized President Obama’s response:

FireShot Screen Capture #104 - Trump

Monday kicked off the GOP Convention. The theme for the first day is “Make America Safe Again”. In case you thought that despite the recent spate of cop killings, you live in one of the safest places on earth, the Trump team is out to scare you up good.

The central theme of Trump’s campaign is that he plans to protect you: From scary Islamic terrorists, from scary immigrants who steal jobs, rape and pillage, and from scary black men with guns.

This resonates with many Republicans who are in the grip of overpowering nostalgia for the1950’s. Republicans see this as a time of stable marriages, respect for authority and economic dynamism. They are not alone: Democrats see it as a time when most men could leave high school and walk into a well-paid job, with pension and health-care benefits, which would allow them to support a family and retire comfortably.

There was much to like about this era of 25₵ gallons of gas, sport coats and cars with tail fins, but it is far from the whole story. It forgets the specter of nuclear annihilation that was ever-present. It forgets that women had little chance of a career beyond the typists’ pool, or that society forced African-Americans to the back of the bus.

Feminism, the civil-rights movement and economic progress in other countries swung a wrecking-ball at the society of the 1950s. But, to regret its collapse, as many Tea Partiers and Republicans do, is also to wish those improvements had never happened, which is absurd. Life was NOT good for the working person in the 1930s and 1940s. Even in the halcyon days of the 1950s -1970s, life was not good for women, people of color, gay people, and others.

Republicans see our politics and our culture decaying, so we see the sharpening Trump “law and order” rhetoric, and the success of the Tea Party in setting our national political agenda.

An alternative view to Trump’s is that Obama’s eulogy for five Dallas police officers a week ago was an eloquent plea to Americans to acquire “a new heart” – a new empathy toward others across the racial divide. And rarely has a president talked so bluntly about the limits of his ability to bring about the changes he seeks. Mr. Obama:

It is as if the deepest fault lines of our democracy have suddenly been exposed, perhaps even widened…Faced with this violence, we wonder if the divides of race in America can ever be bridged…We must reject such despair…I’ve seen how inadequate words can be in bringing about lasting change. I’ve seen how inadequate my own words have been…I confess that sometimes I, too, experience doubt.

In an era of partisan polarization, the problem isn’t merely a deficit of leaders capable of binding us together; it’s a shortage of citizens willing to listen. According to the Pew Research Center, only 14% of Republicans approve of Obama’s conduct, compared with 80% of Democrats. That’s a record high in polarization – except that the previous record held by George W. Bush, who was supported by only 23% of Democrats. Trump is exploiting that.

When we zoom out from the “Make America Safe Again” meme, we remain in a competition between divergent views. We will not even start on the road to consensus until two conditions are met:

  • Our solutions strive for the preservation of a value called “the greater good”.
  • Our solutions rely on the preservation of a value called “in good faith”.

We have never changed ethics by legislation, although we can impact behavior.  What we have to change is whether or not we as a society will accept the greater good and good faith as inextricable parts of our society.

But as long as there are those among us who can defend the rights of people to use a weapon of war to kill policemen and children, or people who threaten the careers of the elected representatives who stand up to them, we will be seeing this happen again and again, and we’ll be stuck asking the same questions over and over.