The Q of Wisdom

Twisting Philosophy into Sophistry
by Thea Halo

In a time of universal deceit,
telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
— George Orwell

In researching for this blog post I realize how difficult it is to convince anyone that what they believe is totally off the wall. It’s easy to tell someone that he/she will one day realize that what they’ve been told is nonsense. However, simply saying it isn’t terribly convincing, especially when so many others seem to share and promote those beliefs. All through history, so much of what we take as fact today, was challenged at the time, and the challengers were just as convinced that they were right as those being challenged. Even when presented with “scientific proof,” it was often futile to try and convince someone he/she may be wrong, especially if their beliefs were either tied to religious doctrine, or were reinforced by others. When religious leaders are those spreading fantasies as fact, the futility is greatly increased, and the belief is sometimes elevated to a pathological fervor.

After reading my blog entry on QAnon, I received an email from someone I thought I knew fairly well, asking me to remove her from my mailing list. She sent me a document, and pointed to a passage in it that she claimed she lives by. It states in part:

“I enjoy [Ralph Waldo] Emerson’s Essays and (in my youth) was especially intrigued by a quote on Self Reliance…… ‘To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, that is genius.’1 It felt righteous to believe that my own thoughts should be true for everyone… until I reflected on my own life and recognized that my family also believed their thoughts should be true for me. I think that true genius lies in understanding that all thinking and beliefs have merit and consideration.”

To conclude that “all thinking and beliefs have merit and consideration,” actually sounds loving and open-minded, that is if one is thinking and believing that chocolate ice cream tastes better than vanilla. But to suggest that belief in any number of realities should be accepted as true if someone, or a group of people, believe it, then we cross over into sometimes dangerous ground. If we are to become a society in which belief is as highly regarded as fact, what do we teach our children? Should various realities be taught in our schools, since teaching only one theory or reality might conflict with, or insult those who believe in a different reality?

In fact, there was a time when teaching a specific reality was not only the norm, it was vigorously enforced and, unfortunately, it was not always a reality based on fact or proven by science. For instance, believing the earth is the center of the universe was Church doctrine at the time of Galileo. Consequently, when Galileo suggested otherwise in 1633, he was brought to Rome to face charges of heresy. Had Church elders believed that all thoughts are equally valid, perhaps Galileo would have been saved from being convicted of heresy. Galileo was not only forced by the church to recant his findings, he “spent the rest of his life under house arrest in his villa in Arcetri, near Florence,” and his book, The Dialogue, “was placed on the Catholic Church’s Index of Forbidden Books, where it remained until 1835.”2

“Aristotle (384–322 BCE) provided observational arguments supporting the idea of a spherical Earth…[and] The notion that the Earth revolves around the Sun had been proposed as early as the 3rd century BCE by Aristarchus of Samos…” It took more than two thousand years before Galileo came to the same conclusions as the Greeks, after studying “the work of Nicolaus Copernicus, a Polish astronomer who had put forward the theory that the Earth was not even the center of the solar system, let alone the whole universe.”3

Darwin’s theory of evolution also went against Church doctrine. In fact, some still believe that to teach evolution is ‘blasphemy’. Many remember the “Scopes Monkey Trial” in which “a high school teacher, John T. Scopes was accused of violating Tennessee’s Butler Act, which had made it unlawful to teach human evolution in any state-funded school.”4 Scopes was actually found guilty and ordered to pay $100, equivalent to over $1,500 today.

There was also a time when almost all believed the world is flat. Some people—which includes a surprising number of famous male athletes— still believe the world is flat.5 Some people believe the bible tells them so. It does not. Should a compassionate society—one that believes everyone has a right to his/her beliefs—simply tell those believers to be careful not to go too close to the edge? And where should we claim the edge exists? In our backyard? In some foreign land? And what of those disturbing images from space that show a spherical world? Are those images, like images of men walking on the moon, just clever manipulations of technology? Some believe they are.

If all theories and beliefs are valid, simply because some people believe each theory, and everyone’s beliefs should be honored, what should be taught in our schools? And how does that effect our advancement of science? Should we have an either/or curriculum for our students? Or an either, or, or, or, curriculum? Where do facts come into the picture? Will history and science be taught as relative to a student’s beliefs?

The above-mentioned document goes on to state:

“We want to respect the thoughts of others without feeling the necessity to justify our own. There are more meaningful interests in life that can be shared and expressed… especially among those who have a lifelong caring connection. In this final chapter of our lives we hope to enjoy harmony with those we love while regarding the differences that exist… if that is still possible in this changing world.  We love our family and friends… and we all deserve the unchallenged sanctity of our own true thoughts.”

Who can argue with that? Of course we should not unnecessarily burden our loved ones… unless, of course, one’s “own true thoughts” are not actually true and they instigate a violent attack on the Capital building, in which one’s loved ones take part, because of the warped belief that one’s actions can actually overturn an election that was allegedly stolen from the former president, and any violence committed to stop certification is justified.6 Or one’s loved ones refuse to follow safety guidelines, because they believe the lie that the Coronavirus is a hoax. What then?

In considering the above arguments, it’s easy to see how any philosophical saying—like that of Ralph Waldo Emerson—can be twisted to conform to one’s intended purpose, making them seem to have weight. Here’s another:

“Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Imagine that: “To be great is to be misunderstood.” And apparently, one is in good company… Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton. So believing CNN’s Anderson Cooper eats babies simply shows how great one is for believing something others deny, including Anderson Cooper, the alleged baby eater himself.7 Or one believes, as Michael Flynn apparently does, that “vaccines contain Communist microchips” and men … “say they’ve had sex with space aliens.”8

Or believing men walking on the moon, and the attack on the World Trade Center Buildings were simply hoaxes, even if the buildings ceased to exist in less than two hours after the world watched planes crash into them. More recently, “California wildfires were intentionally set by a Jewish space laser.”9 Cool! I want one of those. Soon there will be denial that Perseverance Rover landed on Mars.10

Ralph Waldo Emerson tells us: “Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.”

Is Emerson really advising people to simply go forth with any crazy notion or scheme he or she can dream up and follow it, because doing so shows the courage of a soldier?

If any theory or belief is valid, why bother to teach anything in our schools other than a trade? Why waste time on courses in science and philosophy? Why assign literature and the writing of essays, or teach critical thinking? Why bother to teach students to read? Why try to develop vaccines for the CoronaVirus if it’s just a hoax? In fact, why believe there is such a thing as reality? Perhaps we are all living in our own dream. Why wake us up? It’s nice in here. I finally have people who agree with me, so I’m no longer alone.

Yes. Even philosophy can be twisted for one’s own ends. That’s the danger of half an education. That’s the danger of failing to teach students how to actually think and decipher what they are reading or hearing, and to actually search for answers. As William Arthur Ward reminds us: “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”

That is what we need more of… the great teacher who inspires students to go out and find the answers… to not simply rely on the easy answers that someone hands out like popcorn.

Here’s one to chew on:
It is as fatal as it is cowardly to blame facts because they are not to our taste.
— John Tyndall

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  1. For the entire quote see: https://genius.com/Ralph-waldo-emerson-self-reliance-annotated.
  2. Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac for Saturday, February 13, 2021. Galileo’s book was called Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems.
  3. History of the Center of the Universe. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_center_of_the_Universe
  4. Scopes Trial. Wikipedia
  5. Joey Haverford, 10 Celebs Who Actually Believe The Earth Is Flat (10 Who Believe Worse) The rich and famous believe in some seriously wacky things. The Travel. Published November 05, 2018. https://www.thetravel.com/10-celebs-who-actually-believe-the-earth-is-flat-10-who-believe-other-things/
  6. Jesselyn Cook, I Miss My Mom’: Children Of QAnon Believers Are Desperately Trying To Deradicalize Their Own Parents. Huffpost. February 11, 2021.
  7. Catherina Gioino, A Former QAnon supporter apologized to CNN’s Anderson Cooper for thinking he ate babies in a shocking clip aired on Saturday night. The Sun, January 31, 2021.
  8. Nick Robins-Early, Michael Flynn’s Wild Ride Into The Heart Of QAnon. Huffpost. February 21, 2021.
  9. Jonathan Chait, GOP Congresswoman Blamed Wildfires on Secret Jewish Space Laser, Intelligencer. Jan. 28, 2021.
  10. Nasa Science, Mars 2020 Mission Perseverance Rover.

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Thea Halo is the author of Not Even My Name; a former news correspondent for WBAI in NYC; and a former member of both the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) and the International Network of Genocide Scholars (INOGS). Ms Halo’s historical papers are published in a number of Academic books: Genocide in the Ottoman Empire; Sayfo 1915: An Anthology of Essays on the Genocide of Assyrians/Arameans during the first World War; and an upcoming anthology on the Genocide of the Pontic Greeks (during the first World War in Ottoman Turkey). You can view one of her presentations at the Boston State House @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzBfcE4PjTM

Scoundrels, Toadies, and Spineless Miscreants

Welcome to Donald Trump’s Republican Party

by Thea Halo

Top of the list of Scoundrels, Toadies, and Spineless Miscreants is Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader who delayed the trial of Donald Trump—or DT1 as he’ll henceforth be referred to here—until DT left office, so McConnell could acquit DT based on the trial being held after DT left office. Can anything be more cynical than this blatant ploy by McConnell in order to justify his dereliction of duty?

Not only was there overwhelming evidence that DT instigated the attack on the Capital, McConnell was unequivocal about DT’s responsibility. “There is no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,” he said, and added that DT watched the events unfold on television. McConnell said, “A mob was assaulting the Capitol in his name. These criminals were carrying his banners, hanging his flags and screaming their loyalty to him.”2

McConnell called DT’s behavior ‘a dereliction of duty’. However, history will remember McConnell for his own dereliction of duty in voting to acquit. His children and grandchildren will most likely remember him for both his duplicity and his cowardice in refusing to follow his conscience and his oath of office.

To thank McConnell for his vote—or perhaps for his subsequent unequivocal indictment— DT, or ‘the other guy,’ as Biden now calls him, called the Senate minority leader “third rate” and “one of the most unpopular politicians in the United States.” He also called McConnell: “a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack.” Surely McConnell must have expected such a generous thank you from his master.

This is not the first time McConnell deliberately and publicly violated his oath of office in order to toady up to DT and his supporters. The Atlantic reported that during DT’s first impeachment trial McConnell said: “Everything I do during this, I’m coordinating with White House counsel. There will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this to the extent that we can. …”3

Next in line for the top list of Scoundrels, Toadies, and Spineless Miscreants is Senator Lindsey Graham who made a similar confession during the first impeachment of DT: “This thing will come to the Senate, and it will die quickly, and I will do everything I can to make it die quickly. …I am trying to give a pretty clear signal I have made up my mind. I’m not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here.”4

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that DT was not the only person to ask Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to throw out ballots to help Trump win the election. “Raffensperger accused Graham of asking him to throw out valid ballots in the Peach State during a recent phone call.”5

For the latest impeachment trial, Graham walked the same crooked path as the last. He acknowledged DT could have done more to stop the riot. Yet Graham told Fox News his advice to the Republican Party is: “if you want to win and stop the socialist agenda, we need to work with President Trump. …We can’t do it without him. … I’m into winning.”6 In other words, Graham is fine with lying, cheating, riots, death and anything else DT is guilty of, because Graham is guilty of some of the same crimes. His sole purpose is to win.

According to lawmakers who were later briefed on the expletive-laced phone call with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who begged DT to call off the attack on the US Capitol to no avail, DT said to McCarthy: ‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.’”7 Yet even McCarthy voted to acquit.

During the impeachment trial, Rep. Herrera Beutler recounted Rep. McCarthy’s call to DT.8 About DT’s refusal to stop the assault, she said: “That line right there demonstrates to me that either he didn’t care, which is impeachable, because you cannot allow an attack on your soil, or he wanted it to happen and was OK with it, which makes me so angry.” Herrera Beutler added, “I’m trying really hard not to say the F-word.”9

Only seven principled Republicans honored their oaths of office: Sens. Bill Cassidy (La.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Mitt Romney (Utah), Ben Sasse (Neb.) and Pat Toomey (Pa.).10  They will go down in history as examples of how principled members of our congress should perform their duties to the American people, even knowing there would be backlash from loyal DT supporters.

In fact, “The Louisiana Republican Party’s executive committee voted unanimously to censure Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) for casting a ‘guilty’ vote…”11 Even more dramatic, “Eleven members of Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger’s family sent him a vitriolic letter accusing him of being a member of the ‘devil’s army in light of his criticism” of DT. They wrote: “Oh my, what a disappointment you are to us and to God. We were once so proud of your accomplishments. Instead you go against your Christian principals and join the Devil’s army… you have embarrassed the Kinzinger family name.”12

What more proof do we need that the phenomenon of DT is a cult—and perhaps a kind of mass hysteria—when a family is willing to reject and denigrate a distinguished member of the family for being loyal to his oath of office and for performing his constitutional duty?

It is doubtful that the 43 Republican members of Congress who voted to acquit, truly believed that DT was innocent of the charges brought against him. They are the ones who have actually stained their legacy and joined the Devil’s Army. And they and their families will have to live with that. Unfortunately, so will we.

According to news sources: “Feeling emboldened by the trial’s outcome, he [DT] is expected to reemerge from a self-imposed hibernation at his club in Palm Beach, Florida, and is eyeing ways to reassert his power.”13 Good Grief! What’s next?

What does this say about out government? It’s rather terrifying to know that we are being led by this array of miscreants who place their own interests ahead of those of the American people and the Constitution, to which they swore an oath.

To add to the theater of the absurd, Texas state Rep. Kyle Biedermann (R) shared on Facebook, “The federal government is out of control and does not represent the values of Texans. That is why I am committing to file legislation this session that will allow a referendum to give Texans a vote for the State of Texas to reassert its status as an independent nation.”14 Good idea!

Perhaps Democrats should also file a petition to form their own nation. Republicans can do the same. Blue Nation/Red Nation. Purple Nations can be divided down the middle. Then the Republicans—who seem to condone any and all of DT’s acts—or are too frightened to hold him accountable—can revel in their adoration of him in their own nation with no pesky interference from the Democrats, or as Lindsey Graham calls them, ‘Socialists’. And Democrats can finally begin to form the just, compassionate nation they claim to want, based on the principals more closely aligned with that old ‘Socialist,’ Franklin Delano Roosevelt, with no filibusters from the Republicans to stop them. Perhaps that’s the only way each party will finally see whether the world they had so long envisioned for themselves and the American people is the right one.

To take this sad farce to its extreme, perhaps there should be a wall dividing Red nations from Blues to make sure no one cheats by taking advantage of the policies of the other nation. McConnell and Graham can beg their master, DT, to make Mexico pay for it.

Yes, Ms Herrera Beutler. We are all “trying really hard not to say the F-word.”

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  1. DT stands for Delirium tremens, a rapid onset of confusion usually caused by withdrawal from alcohol. However, here DT will stand for Delirium Terrors, a rapid onset of confusion and rage caused by the loss of the presidency to Joe Biden, the man DT claimed was the “worst candidate in the history of presidential politics.” 
  2. Grace Segers, Cassidy McDonald, McConnell says Trump was “practically and morally responsible” for riot after voting not guilty, CBS News. February 14, 2021.
  3. Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes, The Remedy for Mitch McConnell, The Senate majority leader seems uninterested in fulfilling his constitutional duties. The Atlantic. December 16, 2019.
  4. Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes, The Remedy for Mitch McConnell, The Senate majority leader seems uninterested in fulfilling his constitutional duties. The Atlantic. December 16, 2019.
  5. Colin Kalmbacher, ‘What We in the Legal World Call a Felony’: Lawyers Condemn Lindsey Graham, Call for DOJ and Senate Investigations. Law & Order. Nov 17th, 2020. Also see: Andrew Prokop, Lindsey Graham’s controversial call with Georgia’s secretary of state, explained. MSN VOX. 11/18/2020.
  6. Hayley Miller, Sen. Lindsey Graham Brushes Off Trump’s Election Lies: ‘I’m Into Winning.’ Huffpost. February 14, 2021.
  7. Dustin Gardiner, Trump, Kevin McCarthy had expletive-filled call as rioters stormed Capitol. MSN. San Francisco Chronicle. February 19, 2020.
  8. Nicholas Fandos, Herrera Beutler Says McCarthy Told Her Trump Sided with Capitol Mob, NY Times, February 13, 2021.
  9. Jamie Gangel, Kevin Liptak, Michael Warren and Marshall Cohen, New details about Trump-McCarthy shouting match show Trump refused to call off the rioters, CNN. February 12, 2021. https://www.cnn.com/2021/02/12/politics/trump-mccarthy-shouting-match-details/index.html
  10. Sara Boboltz and Dominique Mosbergen, 7 Republican Senators Explain Why They Voted To Convict Trump, Huffpost. February 13, 2021.
  11. Eric Quintanar, Louisiana GOP Censures Bill Cassidy Over ‘Guilty’ Impeachment Trial Vote. The Clarion. February 13, 2021.
  12. Caroline Kelly, New York Times: House Republican shunned by family members over Trump criticism, CNN. February 16, 2021.
  13. Jill Colvin, Trump Looks To Reassert Himself After Impeachment Acquittal. ABC News. February 15, 2021.
  14. Marina Pitofsky, Texas lawmaker to file bill calling for vote on secession from US. MSN. December 10, 2020.

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Thea Halo is the author of Not Even My Name; a former news correspondent for WBAI in NYC; and a former member of both the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) and the International Network of Genocide Scholars (INOGS). Ms Halo’s historical papers are published in a number of Academic books: Genocide in the Ottoman Empire; Sayfo 1915: An Anthology of Essays on the Genocide of Assyrians/Arameans during the first World War; and an upcoming anthology on the Genocide of the Pontic Greeks (during the first World War in Ottoman Turkey). You can view one of her presentations at the Boston State House @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzBfcE4PjTM

In Praise of Compassion

A New Deal—Conservatives vs Liberals

by Thea Halo

Justice will not be served
until those who are unaffected
are as outraged as those who are.
— Benjamin Franklin, (1706-1790)

When did we become a country in which so many citizens seem to hate each other and reject compassion? Perhaps it’s time to remind everyone that the Constitution begins with the words: We the people. It doesn’t begin with, We, some of the people. And although many like to compare themselves to Abraham Lincoln, as Donald Trump has done on numerous occasions, they seem to forget that Lincoln freed the slaves and his Gettysburg address famously ends with the words: “… government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Lincoln did not end with: …government of some of the people, by some of the people, for some of the people…

Many who consider themselves Conservatives seem to hate the notion of ‘Liberalism.’ So perhaps we should explore a society ruled by Liberals. If we look at history—our history—it was under Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s government—a government many called ‘Socialist’ at the time—that Americans were saved from the most economically devastating era of our nation’s history, i.e. The Great Depression. In a few respects at least, it’s comparable to what we’re living through right now during this Pandemic, although then it was far worse. Rich and poor alike were affected, although the poor and middle classes are always the most affected.

The banks were failing and on the verge of collapse. A few investors even leaped from rooftops when they realized their entire savings were gone when the stock market crashed. There were runs on the banks by a multitude of people who most certainly would have lost their entire life savings. The banking crisis threatened to destroy America’s economy. FDR confronted his greatest challenge on his first full day in office.

“Declaring a ‘bank holiday,’ he temporarily closed all the nation’s banks. Then he called Congress into special session to pass emergency banking legislation. Treasury officials feverishly began work on the Emergency Banking Act. Rushed to Congress four days later, it was approved within hours. The Act gave the government authority to examine bank finances, provide needed capital, and determine which banks were fit to reopen. The healthy banks were authorized to reopen on March 13. But would people trust them? On March 12, FDR went on nationwide radio to reassure Americans. His appeal worked. The following morning, when the banks reopened, depositors lined up to return their money. The banking crisis was over.”1

FDR’s temporary Emergency Banking Act was followed by the 1933 Banking Act, or Glass–Steagall Act, which established the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). It was signed into law by Roosevelt on June 16, 1933.2

At the time of the Great Depression, some people were feeding their children from what they could glean from garbage cans. There was no work for millions of Americans. Long lines at soup kitchens were a common sight. Songs were written with words such as:

“Once I built a railroad, I made it run
I made it run against time.
Once I built a railroad, and now it’s done.
Brother can you spare a dime?”3

Farmers also suffered. The ‘Dust Bowl,’ made worse by inefficient farming practices, devastated both the farmers and the economy. Many Americans seem to forget that almost every American whose family lived in the US during the Great Depression, including the families of some of our Politicians, were saved by the policies of that so-called Socialist, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

While fighting his own battle with the effects of Polio, FDR jumped into action and enacted some of the most sweeping programs in our nation’s history. And who was to pay for them? The wealthy. Roosevelt, known as The Great Communicator, famously said:

“We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace—business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred.”4

Today one might conclude that we are back where we started. As long as our politicians are forced to raise millions of dollars in order to run for office, “business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, [and] war profiteering,” have surely taken over government interests.

Although FDR was a wealthy member of the ruling class, he set to work designing programs for struggling Americans. FDR created work programs that put millions of Americans to work, and it was work that benefited the entire society, i.e building roads, managing the forests, building walls in Central Park and the Brooklyn Navy Yard. My stonemason father was given work on those two projects. Although they may seem like small accomplishments to some, they stand in my memory of him as part of his lasting contribution to his new country. He is long gone, but the walls he helped build still stand.

“In the first six years …WPA employed about 8,000,000 workers. Monthly earnings for all types of workers averaged $41.50 in 1935 and $50 in 1939. The New Deal paid special attention to the nation’s dispossessed youth. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) put approximately 2,750,000 idle young men to work to reclaim government-owned land and forests through irrigation, soil enrichment, pest control, tree planting, fire prevention and other conservation projects. The young men earned a dollar a day, and they had to send part of their wages to their families back home.”5 In 1930, $1 was equivalent in purchasing power to about $15.60 today.

Even school children benefited from the New Deal. “Through the National Youth Administration (NYA) the government made it possible for 1.5 million high school students and 600,000 college students to continue their education by providing them with part-time jobs to meet their expenses.”6 Even artists were hired to create public works.7

FDR also set up a commission to teach farmers how to better manage their farmland by teaching them better plowing methods that would reduce the erosion of the soil during wind storms. And FDR created “the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which produced and sold cheap electric power and fertilizer in a seven-state area (about four-fifths the size of England), whose farms were among the nation’s poorest and least productive, and where only a fraction of the inhabitants possessed electricity to light their homes and operate their equipment.” The TVA soon forced the privately owned power companies to substantially lower their rates.8

One of FDR’s most lasting initiatives, is Social Security, an essential safeguard that many claimed was threatened during Trump’s presidency. Imagine working for your entire life at a low paying job, or even a mid-level job, only to find yourself unable to pay your rent or feed your family when age made it difficult or impossible to continue working. Without Social Security, those who weren’t fortunate enough to have worked at a job that ensured a pension—as members of congress enjoy—or hadn’t been able to save for their old age, were poverty stricken when they could no longer work. Social Security gave the elderly the dignity to go on without the embarrassment of becoming beggars.

First Lady Eleanor was also a first rate activist. The “First Lady successfully advocated for expanded roles for women in the workplace, the civil rights of African Americans, and the fair treatment of Asian Americans, and championed the rights of World War II refugees.”9 Eleanor famously said: “A woman is like a tea bag — you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”

FDR’s New Deal initiatives were extraordinary achievements during an extraordinary time in our nation’s history. FDR didn’t ask if the recipients of his initiatives were Republicans or Democrats. He didn’t ask to which social class they belonged. They were Americans in need at a very desperate time. That’s all FDR needed to know.

On July 30, 1965, another Democrat, President Lyndon B. Johnson, signed Medicare and Medicaid into law. Medicare and Medicaid guaranteed that elderly Americans and low-income Americans would have access to medical attention regardless of their ability to pay.10

Those who call themselves Conservatives should also ask themselves why they are so opposed to programs that help their fellow Americans and, in fact, help themselves. Republicans often cite government deficits as the reason for cutting social programs. However, according to a study published in the New York Times, the annual non-farm growth under Democrats was 4.8% as opposed to 1.0% under Republicans. The G.D.P. was 4.6% under Democrats as opposed to 2.4% under Republicans.11

In fact, the deficit history of the last 40 years tells a powerful story as to who is more fiscally responsible, Democrats—with their more liberal policies—or deficit-minded Republicans.

“Reagan took the deficit from $70 billion to $175 billion. Bush 41 took it to $300 billion. Clinton got it to zero. Bush 43 took it from zero to $1.2 trillion. Obama halved it to $600 billion. Trump got it back to a trillion.”12

Being opposed to social programs is tantamount to “cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face” as the saying goes, since social programs actually help all Americans in big ways and small. Some even argue that they help the rich and middle classes more than they help the poor. Consider the poem called A Quiet Life by Baron Wormser, which is only partially reprinted here. It so aptly explains all that went into the simple act of boiling an egg.

What a person desires in life
is a properly boiled egg.
This isn’t as easy as it seems.
There must be gas and a stove,
the gas requires pipelines, mastodon drills,
banks that dispense the lozenge of capital.
There must be a pot, the product of mines
and furnaces and factories,
of dim early mornings and night-owl shifts,
of women in kerchiefs and men with
sweat-soaked hair.
13

The wealthy should ask themselves if they could have achieved their wealth without the labor and inventions that went into the products and services that helped them achieve their wealth.

Politicians who object so strongly to immigration and programs that help the poor and middle classes, should ask themselves how much wealth their own ancestors brought with them when they first came to the US. One of Trump’s plans on immigration would have greatly cut down on visas for immigrants without advanced skills.14 However, Donald Trump’s own grandfather was banned from returning to Germany because he fled to avoid the national draft. The Independent reports that Trump’s grandfather: “started working as a barber in the US, before going on to run a restaurant, bar and allegedly even a brothel — enterprises that made him wealthy.”15 Donald Trump’s mother, who billed herself as a domestic, or maid—again hardly considered skilled labor—fled poverty in Scotland to find a better life in America.16 Had she been denied entry, Donald Trump would not exist, since it was in America, working as a maid, that his mother met and married Donald Trump’s father.

It was not always easy for the new arrivals. Many Americans resented each new wave that came from other countries. Yet, all except Native Americans came from someplace else during the last 400+ years, often at a time when so many were struggling just to put food on the table. That means many were destitute when they arrived. Think of the Irish who fled Ireland because of the Irish Potato Famine, also known as The Great Hunger. The Irish Potato Famine was not caused by the Irish who suffered the blight.17 Around one million Irish died in Ireland during that time, and about two million fled the country to find safe haven. Around one million Irish arrived in America, most of whom were probably destitute. The same search for safety and a better life holds true for Jews who arrived in the US during or after the Holocaust. And it holds true for Greeks and Italians, and so many others who fled abuse, poverty, wars, and famines in their native lands.

It would be interesting, and perhaps a profitable project for the US government to estimate how much it would cost to help alleviate some of the problems in the South and Central American countries from which so many migrants or refugees flee. They flee from poverty and violence. They don’t walk thousands of miles with their children in tow—with no guarantee of acceptance—for the fun of it. As British Somali poet Warsan Shire wrote in her perfect poem called ‘Home’: “No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.”18 If we wish to lessen the onslaught of these disparate people, perhaps we should ask if there is something the US could do to make it desirable for them to stay safely in there own countries. The remedy may cost less then a wall that is not only unfinished, but many claim is ineffective.19

The inscription at the bottom of the Statue of Liberty doesn’t say: Give me your rich White Scandinavian professionals who hope to rake in millions in America. It famously reads: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”

Yet today, some of the offspring of those “huddled masses” and “wretched refuse” have raked in millions, and some of their offspring hold important positions in science, industry, education, the arts, banking, and government, thereby contributing to the wealth and prestige of the nation.

Of course, there must be sensible immigration policies. However, sensible immigration policies shouldn’t translate into abusive immigration policies where children are taken from their parents and put in cages, while their parents are deported with no known contact info for reuniting the family in future.20

It would also be interesting to know whether the parents or grandparents of those members of Congress—who are so adamantly against social programs—lived through the Great Depression and whether the policies of that old ‘Socialist’ FDR helped them survive, and even prosper. We do know that Mitch McConnell’s great great grandfathers owned 12 slave.21 Yet Mitch McConnell was famously opposed to reparations for the descendants of slaves.

Without humane programs such as those initiated by FDR, America would be a much different place today. Because of the Coronavirus Pandemic, the US is once again at one of those crossroads. It’s now up to President Joe Biden and VP Kamala Harris to undo some of the failed policies of the previous administration. And it’s incumbent on the Republicans in Congress not to make this a partisan fight. Everyone in congress took an oath to uphold the Constitution. The country does not belong to one party or the other. It belongs to the American people.

Let’s help them get it right.

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  1. Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, Saving the Banks. http://www.fdrlibraryvirtualtour.org/page05-02.asp
  2. 10 Major Accomplishments of Franklin D. Roosevelt: https://learnodo-newtonic.com/fdr-accomplishments
  3. Edgar Yipsel Harburg (born Isidore Hochberg; April 8, 1896 – March 5, 1981) was an American popular song lyricist and librettist who worked with many well-known composers. He wrote the lyrics to the standards “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” (with Jay Gorney), “April in Paris”, and “It’s Only a Paper Moon”, as well as all of the songs for the film The Wizard of Oz, including “Over the Rainbow”.[1] He was known for the social commentary of his lyrics, as well as his liberal sensibilities. He championed racial and gender equality and union politics. He also was an ardent critic of religion. Wikipedia.
  4. history.com https://www.history.com/topics/great-depression/new-deal
  5. Harry Kelber, How the New Deal Created Millions of Jobs To Lift the American People from Depression, The Labor educator, May 9, 2008.
  6. Harry Kelber, How the New Deal Created Millions of Jobs To Lift the American People from Depression, The Labor educator, May 9, 2008.
  7. WPA Art Collection. US Department of the Treasury. https://home.treasury.gov/about/history/collection/paintings/wpa-art-collection
  8. Harry Kelber, How the New Deal Created Millions of Jobs To Lift the American People from Depression, The Labor educator, May 9, 2008.
  9. Anna Elenor Roosevelt, https://www.eleanorroosevelt.org/ The Japanese internment camps remain a blight on FDR’s legacy.
  10. CMS. gov. https://www.cms.gov/About-CMS/Agency-Information/History
  11. David Leonhardt, Good morning. Why has the U.S. economy fared so much better under Democratic presidents than Republicans? The New York Times. February 2, 2021.
  12. Daniel Funke The Poynter Institute’s PolitiFact, July 29, 2019. According to The Poynter Institute’s PolitiFact, these figures are only slightly off. https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2019/jul/29/tweets/republican-presidents-democrats-contribute-deficit/
  13. A Quiet Life” by Baron Wormser, from Scattered Chapters. © Sarabande Books, 2008. Seen on The Writer’s Almanac, with Garrison Keillor, June 2, 2008. https://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php%3Fdate=2008%252F06%252F02.html
  14. Margaret E. Peters, Why did Republicans become so opposed to immigration? Hint: It’s not because there’s more nativism. The Washington Post. January 30, 2018.
  15. Harriet Angerholm, Donald Trump’s grandfather was banished from Germany, records reveal President-elect’s relative pleaded to stay in the country — but was refused. Independent. Monday 21 November 2016.
  16. Michael Kramish and Marc Fisher, Trump Revealed: The Definitive Biography of the 45th President. Scribner; Reprint edition (January 10, 2017.
  17. Mark Thornton, What Caused the Irish Potato Famine? The Libertarian Institute. Mar 18, 2017
  18. https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/home-433/
  19. K. Grace Hulseman, Trump’s Border Wall Is an Expensive, Ineffective Application of Eminent Domain, Center For American Progress. April 25, 2019. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/immigration/news/2019/04/25/469026/trumps-border-wall-expensive-ineffective-application-eminent-domain/
  20. Parents of 545 Children Separated at the Border Cannot Be Found, New York Times. October 21, 2020.
  21. Yaron Steinbuch, Mitch McConnell’s ancestors owned slaves: report. New York Post. July 9, 2019.

Thea Halo is the author of Not Even My Name; a former news correspondent for WBAI in NYC; and a former member of both the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) and the International Network of Genocide Scholars (INOGS). Ms Halo’s historical papers are published in a number of Academic books: Genocide in the Ottoman Empire; Sayfo 1915: An Anthology of Essays on the Genocide of Assyrians/Arameans during the first World War; and an upcoming anthology on the Genocide of the Pontic Greeks (during the first World War in Ottoman Turkey). You can view one of her presentations at the Boston State House @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzBfcE4PjTM


The QAnon Phenomenon

by Thea Halo

When did we become a country where millions of (presumably otherwise intelligent) people believe in conspiracy theories which are so absurd that one has to wonder why those believers aren’t locked up in some exclusive ‘Made for QAnon’ loony bin? We could blame it on Donald Trump. However, simply having Trump as president seems to have given his QAnon followers license to go wild. It’s as if Trump swung open a magic door into the vast unknown and told his followers, “go on in. The universe is the limit there! Let your wildest fantasies run free! I’ll be here to save you from all your most outlandish fantasies when they come true!”

Here are a few of those fantasies/conspiracies:

“An Evil Cult Is Ruling the Planet.”
“Donald Trump Is an American Hero.”
“The Democratic Party Has Sinister Intentions.”
“Barack Obama armed North Korea with Nuclear weapons and he’s Satan.1

And, of course, there was Pizzagate. “Proponents of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory falsely claimed that emails contained coded messages that connected several high-ranking Democratic Party officials and U.S. restaurants with an alleged human trafficking and child sex ring.”2 One ex-QAnon believer confessed that he actually believed CNN’s Anderson Cooper ate babies.3

A new book is also circulating that claims: “Democrats murder and eat children and that the government created AIDS, polio and Lyme disease [and] the world is run by a Satanic cabal led by Hillary Clinton.”4 When asked about QAnon, Donald Trump answered that QAnon conspiracy theorists: ‘like me very much’ and ‘love our country.”5 Apparently that’s good enough for Donald Trump. If they love him, they could do and say what they will.

Some reports claim the QAnon insanity began in March 2016 during the Obama Administration. Donald Trump formally launched his presidential campaign on June 16, 2015. The second alleged QAnon launch date of 2017, would have been after Donald Trump became president.

While Trump’s popularity and all of those QAnon conspiracies might make for some decent sci-fi films, they are reminiscent of mass hysteria. It’s the kind of hysteria that took place when a few school kids in Tanzania began to laugh as a joke. But then the laughter began to spread and those laughing couldn’t stop. At least 1000 people, including parents, fell victim to the laughing sickness when the laughing children returned home. “Now we call it Mass Psychogenic Illness.”6

There have also been ‘epidemics’ of ‘dancing mania’ reported in the Middle Ages,7 and “In the early 14th century in northern France, nuns at a secluded Catholic convent began meowing like a cat. Within one week, all the nuns at the convent started to meow and purr.”8 Many other cases of mass hysteria have been reported.

Purdue University’s Christian Hempelmann told the Chicago Tribune:

“It’s psychogenic, meaning it is all in the minds of the people who showed the symptoms. It’s not caused by an element in the environment, like food poisoning or a toxin. There is an underlying shared stress factor in the population… It’s an easy way for them to express that something is wrong. Mass hysteria begins with a few people experiencing symptoms of severe stress, such as fits, headaches, or nausea. When these manifest, they become rapidly magnified throughout the rest of the stressed population, driven by our innate tendencies to imitate and follow others with whom we closely sympathize.”9

And that is apparently the key… “…driven by our innate tendencies to imitate and follow others with whom we closely sympathize.”

On the surface, the stress that caused QAnon seems to be an astonishing Republican fear of Liberalism, exaggerated, or perhaps born, when a Black man occupied the White House, and accelerating when one of his cohorts, Hilary Clinton, threatened to take his place. The Black Lives Matter movement seemed to have exacerbated the fear that African Americans, and perhaps the offspring of Latino migrants, would become the majority and would one day replace Whites to lead the country.

It appears that many believe Liberalism and Socialism—another boogieman term thrown out by the Trump crowd—is a form of Communism. However, it’s becoming more clear that they are simply code words to disguise the racism hidden in the right wing agenda. Socialism and Communism are now often used when Trump supporters want to convince a Liberal of the dangers that await them if Trump is no longer president. Do they actually believe Trump was saving us from Communism, and that Communism is just around the corner if the Liberals take over? Perhaps those who are not smart enough to get the joke believe that. Or perhaps some of those who spread that fear hope others won’t be smart enough to guess what the use of those terms disguise.

The cult of Trumpism is also reminiscent of mass hypnosis.

“Donald Trump, in his presidential … race, speaks directly to the voters’ imagination. This is nothing more, or less, than political hypnosis. The ‘hypnosis hypothesis,’ even better than Byron York’s ‘brief theory of Trump’s outrageousness,’ may explain Trump’s persistence as the Republican front runner.”10

One of the most distressing aspects of the cult of Trump is that his followers would rather give up family and friends, and those in their community who actually make a difference for their community, than give up their belief that Trump, a total stranger, is somehow their savior. As Illinois Republican congressman, Adam Kinzinger said on NBC’s Meet the Press, after voting to impeach Donald Trump for the Capital assault, “all of a sudden imagine everybody that supported you, … your friends, your family, has turned against you. They think you’re selling out.” Kinzinger was even told he’s “possessed by the devil.”11

What will these people do when they wake up and realize they’ve been duped, although that realization may be years away, if ever? After all, even the death of over 400,000 Americans under Trump’s watch during the Pandemic made not a dent in his popularity for most. He still received over 63 million votes in the last election. It seems his supporters have an answer for everything. That they worship him because “he’s a businessman and not a politician” is in itself amusing, as black as that humor is. Since when does a businessman accused of tax evasion and other tax crimes, with multiple bankruptcies under his belt, and a claim related to allegations of rape pending in the court, somehow become more honorable than a politician? Judging by the behavior of some of those in congress, that’s not saying much.

It’s as if Trump is the second coming of Christ for some of his supporters. No sacrilege seems off limits.

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  1. Rick Loomis, What Is Qanon? Here Are 5 Core Beliefs of the Shocking Conspiracy Theory, CNN.com. September 26, 2020.
  2. Pizzagate conspiracy theory. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pizzagate_conspiracy_theory
  3. Catherina Gioino, A Former QAnon supporter apologized to CNN’s Anderson Cooper for thinking he ate babies in a shocking clip aired on Saturday night. The Sun, January 31, 2021.
  4. Shawn Langlois, ‘QAnon’ book claiming Democrats eat children is climbing the Amazon charts, Market Watch. March 5, 2019.
  5. Courtney Subramanian, Trump says QAnon conspiracy theorists ‘like me very much’ and ‘love our country’, USA Today, August 19, 2020.
  6. Rose Pomeroy, When a Village Started Laughing… and Couldn’t Stop, Real Clear Science. February 10, 2013.
  7. Dancing plague of 1518, Wikipedia.
  8. Khalid Elhassan, 12 of History’s Most Baffling Mass Hysteria Outbreaks. https://historycollection.com/12-historys-baffling-mass-hysteria-outbreaks/
  9. Rose Pomeroy, When a Village Started Laughing… and Couldn’t Stop, Real Clear Science. February 10, 2013.
  10. Ralph Benko, Donald Trump, Political Mass Hypnotist? Forbes, November 28, 2015.
  11. Myah Ward, Rep. Kinzinger: They claim ‘I’m possessed by the devil’, Politico, January 31, 2021.

Thea Halo is the author of Not Even My Name; a former news correspondent for WBAI in NYC; and a former member of both the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) and the International Network of Genocide Scholars (INOGS). Ms Halo’s historical papers are published in a number of Academic books: Genocide in the Ottoman Empire; Sayfo 1915: An Anthology of Essays on the Genocide of Assyrians/Arameans during the first World War; and an upcoming anthology on the Genocide of the Pontic Greeks (during the first World War in Ottoman Turkey). You can view one of her presentations at the Boston State House @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzBfcE4PjTM