The Mason Missile, October 21, 2014

Greetings!

As we are still in the month of Tishrei, the month of Rosh Ha-Shona and Yom Kippur, along with Sukkot and Simchat Torah, I wish every one a happy, and prosperous new year.

A bit of a brag-Reconstructionist Press, the publishing arm of the Reconstructionist movement of Judaism, had a contest for people to submit a haiku for the new year. I submitted, and I WON! The prize was a new Machzor, the prayer book for the High Holy Days. That is a valuable lesson, to do those things, try a contest-who knows, you might just WIN.

One thing I’m being careful about is what in the Jewish tradition is called loshan ha-ra, speaking negatively about a person-even if that person is yourself. In spite of the silly old “sticks and stones” rhyme, words do indeed have a real affect on a person’s mind and behavior; verbal abuse is just as devastating as physical abuse. Let us be careful about speaking negatively about others, and especially about your own self.

I have remained active in the Moonstone Arts Center (moonstoneartscenter.org), operated by Larry Robin, owner of the late, lamented Robin’s Book Store. The localized arts communities are the incubators of much important cultural activity, and they must be supported. Their web site is moonstoneartscenter.org.

I was appalled by the unilateral action of the School Reform Commission, meant to supervise Philadelphia’s school system, to void the contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT). That body has demonstrated terrible arrogance in its dealings with the public; I remember watching a news clip of a session of the commission in action-citizen’s were demonstrating, chanting, holding placards, while the commission went about its business as if the public they are supposed to serve were NOT there. It’s a good sign, though, that students from the Creative and Performing Arts High School, the Science Leadership Academy, and the Franklin Learning Center went on strike in support of their teachers, showing these kids take their education seriously-they want to be prepared for the adult world.

Election time is upon us; I go by the words of my dear late mentor and father figure, Harry Hyde Jr., “Vote as you please, but please vote.” Efforts to take away the right to vote, by reactionary Republicans in state legislatures, and under the control of the Koch brothers and other plutocrats, have passed laws that would only allow certain types of identification to be allows inside the voting station, such as current driver’s licenses and, in some states, hunting licenses; many low-income people and students don’t have any such ID’s, and thus they would be barred from voting-IF we give up, which, from everything I’ve seen, we have not done, and never will.

There remains among white people in less urban areas the subliminal message of racial hostility, which is one of the appeals of the voter ID laws. I recall the “Southern Strategy” of Richard Nixon, who used the leftover racial hatred of southern whites, angry with the Civil Rights movement, to get elected and reelected President. This was the strategy expounded in the book The Emerging Republican Majority by Kevin P. Philips, and after Nixon’s passing this strategy was treated like political wizardry; instead of trying to unify the country and heal national wounds, reconcile one another in this country after the Civil Rights movement and Viet Nam, the tactic was to have “decent” people hate “those freaks and weirdoes.”

There was also the element of nostalgia, a longing for a better time in the past-whenever that was-before all the upheaval and the drugs and the rock and roll, before “those people“ made themselves known and asserted their rights. People have to understand that those halcyon days when you can beat up anyone you like because they are of this or that demographic, or deny them a job, or evict them from a house, are long gone. This is all covered by Rick Perlsteins’s history of the late ‘sixties-early ‘seventies Nixonland.

The so-called “left-liberal biased” news media, instead of challenging the Nixon Southern Strategy, or the idea that the social programs of the Great Society was merely “throwing money at problems” and did nothing to alleviate poverty and created a “culture of dependency,” repeated them until it became a popular gospel in the mews media and thus in public discourse. In spite of the conservative propaganda, the news media is comprised of larger and larger media corporations consolidating each other, and so no alternative voices can get through, except in the limited, localized way of locally based alternative presses. The news media, being comprised of large corporations, thus defers to the conservative viewpoint, since it is the most socially acceptable, being based on things as they “always” have been, thus being commonly accepted belief.

But history does not stand still. In 2004, the news media looked at the religious right movement defeating referenda in several states that would have approved same sex marriage; this proved, said the commercial media, that Americans are overwhelmingly conservative in their “moral” values and are not motivated my economic issues. Now, ten years latter, we have same-sex marriage approved in the majority of states (including Pennsylvania) and the District of Columbia.

This came about through the tireless work of activists over several decades, working in their local communities, advocating on specific issues and developing political skills and interpersonal networks-and planning for the long haul, further down the road from the next election cycle, a thing the news media does NOT do, preferring to treat presidential races like football games or horse races-spectator sports, and not opportunities to change governments or affect public policy.

Please remember this as you vote. Your vote, and your participation in the system, does count. Bye!

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