Posts Tagged With: Abe Lincoln

A HOUSE DIVIDED

In 1858, in a speech Abe Lincoln gave before a Republican convention that would nominate him for the Illinois Senate race, (an election he would lose, by the way), Lincoln proclaimed the following phrase that would live in history: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” He was, of course, talking about the issue of slavery which had so polarized the country, that civil war would break out almost immediately after he was elected President 2 years later. A civil war that would claim the lives of over 600,000 Americans, or the equivalent of 6 million with today’s population. The 1858 Senatorial race was between Lincoln and his Democratic opponent Stephen Douglas who would win the election, and it resulted in the famous Lincoln/Douglas debates, which were mostly about the slavery issue. The same 2 squared off for the presidency 2 years later, and as we all know, Lincoln was the victor in that campaign. The relevance to today’s landscape, however, is that this country is more polarized and divided, as well as mired in dysfunction, as it has been at any time since those historical events more than 150 years ago. So let us examine the different ways that the country is split into ever growing fault lines.

Let’s start with the difference between rural and city life in America, today. That’s relevant because voters in small town America tend to vote heavily for Republicans, while metropolitan areas vote Democratic almost as heavily. That Red State-Blue State thingy. It all comes down to a question of values. People living in rural, small town-America tend to be more religious and self-protectionist. It’s a matter of tradition. Bibles and guns are the mainstay of most people living in the country-side. They have been raised to believe in a literal translation of both the old and new testaments, and no force on Earth can shake the foundations of those beliefs. Of course gay marriage should be prohibited since homosexuality is a sin. It says so, loud and clear, in the bible. Likewise, all abortions should be banned, since only God can take a human life. (Although, interestingly, all these anti-abortionists seem to have no trouble with the government executing criminals.) And it’s rather difficult to pinpoint a biblical passage that strictly forbids abortions. Not that any of that matters, since most religious beliefs come from sermons being preached in churches across the nation by priests that apparently have an insider’s pipeline to God’s desires.

As for the guns part of bibles and guns-wasn’t Jesus packing heat when he gave his famous sermon on the mount. Besides, doesn’t everyone know that our immoral, communistic, atheistic government would throw us all into concentration camps without hesitation, if we didn’t maintain our own guns. And not just a handgun, but an entire arsenal of weaponry. So goes the thinking over much of rural America. Such are the beliefs that one in indoctrinated with while growing up in this country environment. Young people being raised in this setting, if they are sharper, more industrious, and more ambitious, will often leave these small towns for metropolitan areas where they have much greater economic, cultural, and entertainment opportunities. Those that stay behind are usually more content to lead the same lives as their parents did, and inherit the same set of doctrines and dogma. Thus, the Republican Party, which goes out of its way to cater to religious evangelicals, or bible thumpers, as I would call them, reaps the lion’s share of the vote in rural America.

Living in big cities almost forces people to become more tolerant. While rural America is almost solidly white, metropolitan areas usually consist of a mix of whites, blacks, Latinos, Asians, Moslems, Jews, etc. Gays are just as likely to be living in the apartment next to yours as are heterosexuals. If one is to live well in big city life, the dogma of demonizing homosexuals, or other religions or races, or women having an abortion, necessarily must become a thing of the past. Hence, city dwellers become less attached the the religious dogma they may have been raised with, and increasingly become more secular and more tolerant. They will then mostly vote for Democrats who are more in tune with their secular beliefs.

One can also look at the great political divide in this country as between white men and the rest of the populace. White men (and often married white women) tend to vote mostly Republican, because they feel their privileged status in American society is being taken away from them. With black, Hispanic and Asian populations seemingly on the increase, older white men and women believe that a time will come in the not too distant future, when they will no longer be able to call the shots. Then all these minorities will become the dominant voting bloc, which, in turn, will greatly increase government handouts and welfare payments to people too lazy and shiftless to fend for themselves. Or so goes their thinking. Thus, the GOP, which is continually trying to significantly cut the food stamp program, housing assistance, or health insurance benefits, is the party for them. Democrats tend to exhibit more empathy for for minorities or those in need of financial help. This doesn’t sit well with the current white majority.

The thing about our current political divide is that it is increasingly hardening. Less and less is there any room for political compromise, or a meeting of the minds. In this November’s election, if the GOP gains control of both the House and the Senate, with a liberal Democrat in the White House, today’s dysfunction and polarization will seem like a minor spat between family members. And all political pundits are predicting that Republicans will win big time. Then we will truly become a house divided against itself, as Lincoln warned 150 years ago. And we all know how well that turned out last time.

 

 

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THE KOCH BROTHERS

It was probably, mostly true a century and a half ago, when Abe Lincoln stated in his famous Gettysburg Address, that this was a nation “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Back in Lincoln’s time, candidates could often run for political office on a shoe-string, and money didn’t come close to dominating the political landscape to the extent it does today. So there was a semblance back then, that the democratic process truly ruled America. Now, a 150 years later, we know that this is no longer the case. Today, if anyone desires to run for a political office higher than local dogcatcher, he or she will need fistfuls of cash just to get out of the starting gate. And the higher the office, the more money required. In the 2012 presidential election, the 2 major party candidates managed to blow through a cool billion dollars, just so one of them could occupy the oval office. So I thought it might be interesting to look at who is providing all this cash, since these are the people that really run America.

When the two major parties have their political conventions every 4 years to nominate their candidates for the office of the presidency, thousands of delegates swarm onto the convention floor with great hoopla. There’s a lot of noise, singing and shouting, horn blowing, balloons, and endless speeches demonizing the other party’s choice, while, of course, praising their own guys. There is endless pontificating and merriment, all of which is televised for the home viewing public. What TV viewers don’t see, however, are the large, black limousines that pull up to side or back entrances and off-load a bunch of usually older men in dark suits, (they’re almost always men), who are then escorted to luxury quarters somewhere in that convention center. These are the rich men that really run America, and there’s no way they would mix with the rabble on the convention floor. But they show up to make sure that the multi-millions they’ve stuffed into various candidates pockets is a wise investment and money well spent. Sometimes these billionaires don’t even bother going to the convention center; but, instead, rent out luxury suites in nearby 5-star hotels, from whence they can watch the  convention proceedings on large-screen TVs.

Besides the regal furnishings in these quarters, the world’s finest booze is on display for their drinking pleasures. Imported caviar and other delicacies are available if they get hungry. There are also likely the best cigars, illegally imported from Cuba. So these men settle into plush recliners, with their 30-year-old scotches in hand, and watch to see that the candidates they’ve bought and paid for, deliver the goods as directed. Each party has their own contingent of such billionaires, which is the only reason that political contests remain somewhat competitive. But chief among the billionaires that run America are 2 men in their seventies, known as the Koch brothers. (Their name is pronounced coke, as in diet coke.)

Charles and David Koch are major industrialists that privately own a series of enterprises, most of them in the chemical and energy fields, that have given them the enormous wealth it takes to buy the candidates that will rule America. These 2 men not only own politicians, but they also invest heavily in a slew of right-wing initiatives such as anti-abortion and anti-gay rights. To give an example of their political philosophy, David, the younger brother, ran as the Libertarian candidate in 1980, on a platform of abolishing Social Security, Medicare, the FBI, the CIA, and the public school system. He lost, of course, but in the process, poured $500,000 of his own money into his campaign. After that, the 2 bothers acknowledged that the best way to achieve their goals was to invest heavily in the Republican Party, as well as other various far-right causes. Currently, the Koch Brothers teamed up with an organization called Freedom Partners, which has poured $236 million into far-right operatives such as the Tea Party Patriots, that have been vehemently advocating for the de-funding of ObamaCare. The brothers were estimated to have given Mitt Romney $86 million for his 2012 mis-adventure. They have also supplied millions to organizations in California that fought the legalization of gay-marriage in that state. When Republican Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, was recalled because of his efforts to repeal state workers collective bargaining rights, the Koch brothers infused Walker’s campaign with sufficient funding to ensure his re-election. Governor Scott Walker, successfully bought and paid for.

The Koch brothers have also spent tens of million of dollars fighting EPA rulings on limiting carbon dioxide emissions, as well as campaigning for unfettered energy usage from coal, oil and gas.The list of organizations receiving big-time Koch funding reads like a who’s-who of far right-wing looney-tunesville activities. So why is this germane now in 2014. Because starting this past January, the Koch brothers have already heavily funded  GOP ads running in supposed “red states” where Democratic senators up for re-election later this year. These TV ads focus heavily on the poor initial  rollout of ObamaCare and its continuing mishaps. The GOP believes that ObamaCare ills are the holy grail to achieving Republican domination in both the Senate and House; and the Koch brothers aim to provide the cash infusion to make that happen. At this point in time, it appears that they will achieve their goal.

Of course, the Democrats have their share of billionaires who provide funding for their causes, such as George Soros, for example. The truth is that both parties are hopelessly compromised by their base voters. The Democrats are compromised by relying on big labor unions and environmental extremists to provide for their cash requirements. The Republicans are compromised by their base of bible thumpers, i.e., all the anti-abortionists, anti-gay rights, anti-immigration extremists, as well as billionaires who feel it would be really neat to make the wealthy even richer at the expense of the middle and lower classes. The ship of state in the U.S. will never right its course until a third party is formed to represent the overwhelming majority of people that don’t fall into those categories. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening, especially not in my lifetime.

 

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COINCIDENCE OR DIVINE INTERVENTION

When you’ve lived as long as I have, and have so many more years behind you than in front, you begin to dwell on what the future might hold. In other words, is there really an afterlife, or is our short time on this planet all she wrote. And what a short time it is. Even if you make it to 100, (less than a quarter of one percent of the world’s population does), it’s still like throwing a thimble-full of water into the ocean. The universe is estimated by astro-physicists to be 14 billion years old. But that’s  just when it’s believed that matter first appeared on the scene.  Actually, since both space and time are infinite, the universe always was and always will be with us. In any event, when you live in a seniors community as I do, where people seem to pop off like fruit-flies, you begin to muse about what life after death might look like-assuming, of course, there is such a thing. It would be nice if Skype could extend its technology to the next dimension so we can get a glimpse of what to expect, but apparently, that’s still not doable. Thus we have to look for clues elsewhere.

One place that might give us some info would be examining the lives and deaths of certain U.S. presidents. For example, our second and third presidents, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. At a time (over 2 centuries ago) when most people didn’t make it past their forties, these 2 men lived extraordinarily long lives-Jefferson made it until 80, and Adams all the way to 91. But the unique aspect of their deaths was that they both occurred on exactly the same day. And that day was July 4, 1826- EXACTLY 50 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. (Actually, that infamous document was signed by various delegates to the convention hall in Philadelphia throughout the entire summer of 1776; but July Fourth was settled on as the official date of independence.) Jefferson died first, in the morning hours. Shortly thereafter, Adams, lying on his death bed, supposedly uttered the words-“Jefferson lives.” Was he seeing a vision of Jefferson crossing over into the next dimension? Now what are the odds of these 2 figures, so prominent in the American Revolution, both dying on the same day, and that day being exactly 50 years from our first Independence Day. The odds would have to be in the gazillions. One would need a super computer to calculate all the variables. To make this scenario even creepier, our fifth president, James Monroe, died exactly five years after that, on July 4, 1831. Was all this just coincidence, or as the religionists might say, there was a divine intervention playing out.

For those of you going with the gazillions to one theory that extreme coincidences do occasionally occur, lets take a peek at the lives and deaths of two more U.S. presidents, namely Abe Lincoln and John Kennedy.  Lincoln was elected president in 1860 and Kennedy in 1960, exactly 100 years later. Both men were assassinated while in office with gun shot wounds to the back of the head. Lincoln was shot while attending a play at Ford’s theater, while Kennedy was shot while riding in a Lincoln town car manufactured by Ford. Both men had wives that lost a child while in the White House. Lincoln was advised not to go to Ford’s theater that fatal night by an aide named Kennedy, while Kennedy was advised not to travel to Dallas by his secretary named Lincoln. Both men were succeeded in office by their southern vice-presidents named Johnson who were born exactly 100 years apart. Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Lincoln was born in 1808 while Lyndon Johnson who succeeded Kennedy was born in 1908. Amazing how these “coincidences” just keep piling up.

So what should we make of all this. Are these just a series of random events occurring in an empty universe, or is there a larger force at work. And if there is a spiritual force pulling the strings behind the curtain, what message exactly is being sent. No one really knows. The religionists would say that one must rely on his or her faith in God and leave it at that. Belief in the invisible man, as the late comedian George Carlin put it. But here in this seniors community where I live, and where Death, with his black shroud and scythe, who is seen constantly flitting among the bushes or peaking out from behind a tree, and who has taken up permanent residence, such questions continue to percolate.

The strange incidences I discussed above, plus the after-life experiences of some people who were clinically dead for several minutes before being revived, would seem to indicate that something larger is at play beyond our brief stay on this planet. Of course, there are those scientists who claim that those near-death-experiences were just the colorful fireworks of a dying brain. But I think that it’s likely that our brief lifetimes here are to prepare us for the road ahead for the rest of eternity in another dimension.I believe that life on this planet is pretty much the way Shakespeare portrayed it in Macbeth, as follows: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It’s a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

 

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