[Click on the BLUE links for sources and further information]

 

The Vision of Christ that thou dost see

Is my Vision’s Greatest Enemy.

Thine has a great hook nose like thine;

Mine has a snub nose like to mine.

Thine is the friend of All Mankind;

Mine speaks in parables to the Blind.

Thine loves the same world that mine hates;

Thy Heaven doors are my Hell Gates.

Socrates taught what Melitus

Loathd as a Nation’s bitterest Curse;

And Caiphas was in his own Mind

A benefactor to Mankind.

Both read the Bible day & night,

But thou readst black where I read white.

 

The Everlasting Gospel, William Blake

 

Sometimes the truth comes out.  It can be ugly when it does.  Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, and Hillary Clinton each made comments on the campaign trail about those who’ve missed out on the American dream.  Each was roundly criticized for what they said.  Obama was generally correct in what he said though maybe unwise to say it.  Romney and Clinton were right in some ways, wrong in others.  Each admitted they “grossly oversimplified” the situation in an attempt to clean up after themselves.  Obama won his Presidential race.  Romney and Clinton lost.

 

Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, Bonnie artist

Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, Bonnie artist

 

You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

Barack Obama, 2008 Presidential Campaign

 

Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, Bonnie artist

Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, Bonnie artist

 

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it — that that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. … These are people who pay no income tax. … [M]y job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Mitt Romney, 2012 Presidential Campaign

 

Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, Bonnie artist

Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, Bonnie artist

 

“To just be grossly generalistic, you can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables,” Clinton said. “Right? Racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, you name it.”

Hillary Clinton, 2016 Presidential Campaign

 

Today the “Give’em hell Harry” attitude of the Trump supporters echoes from coast to coast.  In the 1976 movie Network, actor Peter Finch as the character Howard Beale goes on a rant saying:

 

“I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter.”

Followed by:

“So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out, and yell, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!’”

 

In case you haven’t noticed, Donald Trump is no Harry Truman. During the 1948 Presidential campaign, Truman gave a speech in Bremerton, Washington blasting the Republicans. A supporter yelled out “Give ’em Hell, Harry!”. Truman replied, “I don’t give them Hell. I just tell the truth about them and they think it’s Hell.” Truman is known for a sign on his desk that said “the buck stops here.” The reverse side of the sign says “I’m from Missouri. You’ve got to show me.”

 

Donald Trump’s constant refrains are “I’m not going to blame myself” whenever something goes wrong and “It’s the best (biggest, greatest, choose your superlative) ever,” when he thinks he has actually accomplished something.  He never accepts the blame for his mistakes including his inability to get any major legislation passed in the first 9 months of his term.

 

Truman and Trump differ in more ways than taking (or not taking) the responsibility for what happens on their watch. Truman’s accomplishments created much of the modern America we know: The Truman Doctrine became the foundation for American Cold War Policy, Truman’s support of the Marshall Plan reinvigorated the European economies to the benefit the both the Europeans and the Americans. Truman championed racial equality, the rights of women, challenged the Soviets and forced them to end the Berlin blockade, and passed legislation to allow immigration of 200,000 refugees of World War II. (Truman also gave America the dubious distinction of being the first and only nation to use nuclear weapons against another country. Right or wrong, Americans must live with that for the rest of history.)

What is it about Americans today that they know so little of their history and so little about each other?

How in the hell can it be that one part of a nation knows so little about the lives of the other? What great illusion in the theater of American life holds us so captive that we cannot even see those around us, much less persuade them not to vote against their own best interests? Or ours. I call this illusion the “American hologram.”

Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War by Joe Bageant

 

I credit my friend Eleanor for introducing me to the Joe Bageant book (Deer Hunting in America) that suggested the title for this post and my friend Larry who asked the question that prompted me to write this post with his question: So what is your position. The world is so horrible and that’s the way it is so we may as well live with it?

 

No, Larry, we don’t have to live with it. But putting things right won’t make anyone happy.  We will all have to take a good hard look at ourselves, at our country, and make some painful changes. For those who are comfortable, there will be sacrifice involved.  For those who are uncomfortable, unhappy, unfulfilled this will be a come to Jesus moment.  I have posted previously on this subject. [The Trolley Problem and the Winter of Our Discontent; Misery; A House Divided]  To understand the solution, we must understand what Bageant means by the “American hologram” which he writes about, why it is an illusion, and what we can do about it.

The “hologram” as I understand it consists of several myths that most Americans hear and believe throughout their lives: America is the greatest country in the world … Free enterprise capitalism is the best system economic system … the rags to riches stories of Horatio Alger are within reach to every American who works hard and lives responsibly … the smallest government is the best government … internal checks and balances keep the system fair and honest … your failures are your own fault … the rich are rich because they deserve to be rich through their own efforts … you can be rich too … and so on.

All these myths embody some truth or they would not be believable. We must acknowledge that.

 

Even with the global Great Depression, the United States performed brilliantly in the first three-quarters of the 20th century, with incomes and education mostly rising and inequality flat or falling — and gains were broadly shared by poor and rich alike. High school graduation rates surged, G.I.’s went to college, and the United States led the world in educational attainment.

Nicholas Kristof, Reagan, Obama and Inequality, New York Times, January 21, 2015

And, then came Reaganomics, the canonical bible for so-called conservatives today.

 

Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, artist unknown

Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, artist unknown

 

While true in part, none of the myths is absolute. That is why they are myths. There has always been a large and growing underclass in America whose life experience puts the lie to the “American hologram”. These are the people Obama, Romney, and Clinton referred to in their speeches. The only reason these folks don’t revolt is that they live inside the hologram. But that also keeps their hope alive.  Because they are short on time and energy and knowledge and just trying to make ends meet, few ever manage to achieve the American Dream.  The system is stacked against them and they know it even if they refuse to admit it because of the relentless campaign to convince them that any failures are their own fault.  Once in awhile like last November they revolt, blindly perhaps, but for genuine reasons.  The illusion is kept in place by politicians who are actors by trade or purveyors of reality TV.

 

Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, Jack Haye artist

Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, Jack Haye artist

 

In 1967 as a naïve undergraduate student in economics I read a book, The Poor Pay More: Consumer Practices of Low-Income Families by David Caplovitz. The book could have been written yesterday (think mortgage crisis). Whether through predatory lending practices, a healthcare system out of reach for much of the population, retail outlets and grocery stores that provide inadequate choice at high prices to those stuck in poor neighborhoods, a biased criminal justice system, and so many other silent and invisible ways of disadvantaging the poor, they continue to pay more today if they can afford to pay at all. Yet many don’t see it this way. Why?

Bageant puts it bluntly in his book:

Working people do not deny reality. They create it from the depths of their perverse ignorance, even as the so-called left speaks in non sequiturs and wonders why it cannot gain any political traction. Meanwhile, for the people, it is football and NASCAR and a republic free from married queers and trigger locks on guns. That’s what they voted for—an armed and moral republic. And that’s what we get when we stand by and watch the humanity get hammered out of our fellow citizens, letting them be worked cheap and farmed like a human crop for profit.

Bageant, Deer Hunting With Jesus

 

Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, artist unknown

Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, artist unknown

 

The American hologram is propped up with a slew of imaginative memes. Basic human rights have been relabeled entitlements while common decency and respect for the truth have been tarred with the terminal disease of political correctness. Scientific facts are repackaged as theories. Having an education, once a matter of pride, now makes one an elite or worse an apologist for the establishment. Accepting a hand up when you are down and out by no fault of your own turns you into a Reagan welfare queen. The truth becomes fake news while reality is transformed using alternative facts.  If you say things over and over enough, some people will believe them.

 

Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, Efroym artist

Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, Efroym artist

 

 

“I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct,” Trump answered, to audience applause. “I’ve been challenged by so any people, I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either.”

Donald Trump during the Republican debates

 

Take that, snowflakes, and retire to your safe spaces and shut up! The memes are a great way to convince voters that policies don’t matter, style matters. Trump’s brash style is lauded by his supporters while his actual policies that seldom exist in more than generalities are ignored. “Fans praised the way Trump talked much more often than they mentioned his policy proposals. He tells it like it is, they said. He speaks his mind. He is not politically correct.”

 

Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, Roy Hoggard artist

Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, Roy Hoggard artist

 

“We will win the war on terrorism when we elect a man with the stones to use our nukes.”

Bageant in conversation with someone from his hometown, Deer Hunting in America

 

It’s this Rah Rah nature of team sports and unbridled patriotism that pits us against the rest of the world. The Marshall Plan would never fly today (unless offered to oil-rich countries or packaged as part of the war on terrorism). When I was in high school, the father of one of my good friends, a doctor in our small town, taught us this little ditty to use as a cheer against our opponents: “Ree Rah Ree, kick’em in the knee; Ree Rah Rass, kick’em in the other knee.” I doubt very many today would worry about saying “ass” instead of “other knee.”

While worshipping in the church of the Politically Incorrect, the Republican right has not dispensed with their peculiar version of Christianity. Christian fundamentalist schools are championed to dumb down the population, to create fodder for the endless wars required to support our oil consumption, and to denigrate egghead theories like global warming. According to those in the know, God was very clear in Genesis 1:26 that we could do any damn thing we wanted to the environment: And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. No mincing of words there.

Donald Trump is not just popular with the “great unwashed masses” or as my mother would have called them (and herself) the “hoi polloi”.

 

“The fact is there are several Trumps in places that people call home. There is a Trump inside most of us, too, who is kept hidden and who comes to life when a character in the physical world, who has nothing to lose, speaks his little mind.”

Manu Joseph, Donald Trump, Subramanian Swamy: Right, Politically Incorrect

 

So, what to do?

There are no easy solutions (yea, I know you hate that) to the problems faced by those underclassed, underrepresented folks described in Joe Bageant’s book. What solutions there are require time and money, patience and foresight, and courage. The polar opposite of the “hoi polloi,” the “high mucky mucks,” on both the right and the left are threatened by any changes in the system that might undermine their relative position, so they tend to keep their mouths shut. Liberals don’t really want to pay more for their mocha lattes and conservatives are loath to admit they’ve had any help at all establishing their businesses. And, the average Joe basks in the sunlight of his simple, narrow view of life because he’s a tough guy that “don’t ask favors.”

 

Hank shares his father’s professional pride, rigid conservatism and purpose in life: ‘To work and eat and sleep and screw and drink—that’s all there is.”

Sometimes A Great Notion, Ken Kesey

 

Suppose there was a list of things that could help? Would anyone listen? Would anyone consider changing the rulebook? This list might include such things as providing adequate healthcare for free or at a price affordable perhaps on a sliding scale; free or affordable education through college including vocational education and training; living wages; decriminalization of drug addiction and mental health care for those who need it; a universal basic income in response to outsourcing of jobs and replacement of jobs by technology; a recognition that economic rewards are the result of good luck and bad luck as well as hard work and skills and a recognition that inequality should not be increased beyond “some” reasonable bound by passing on fortunes from generation to generation.  And that’s just a step in the right direction.

“Whoa! This is TOO radical’” you say. “Socialism or worse, communism. Bernie Sanders light.  We certainly don’t want to live like those lazy Europeans.”  Or do we?

It’s hard to know how most Americans would know much about lifestyle alternatives since most haven’t seen any.  Less than half of all Americans have passports and fewer still use them to travel outside the promised land of the “American hologram.”  Those who might benefit the most can’t afford the trip.

 

Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, Roy Hoggard artist

Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, Roy Hoggard artist

 

So, how does this “greatest country in the world” compare to all the others? The United States has more people in prison and the highest percentage of people in prison than any other country in the world.

Consuming is the great American pastime. If you can’t have what you need, buy what the advertisers say you want. Americans use more stuff per capita than any other country in the world. And, because of that we have a higher impact on the world environment in terms of pollution, global warming, and depletion of resources.

 

Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, Roy Hoggard artist

Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, Roy Hoggard artist

 

“With less than 5 percent of world population, the U.S. uses one-third of the world’s paper, a quarter of the world’s oil, 23 percent of the coal, 27 percent of the aluminum, and 19 percent of the copper,” … “Our per capita use of energy, metals, minerals, forest products, fish, grains, meat, and even fresh water dwarfs that of people living in the developing world.”

 

Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, Sandra Lindstrom artist

Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, Sandra Lindstrom artist

 

Over the years many economists have pointed all this out, sometimes satirically, but most Americans don’t read such dribble. (For example, Thorstein Veblen’s classic Theory of the Leisure Class or J. K. Galbraith’s The Affluent Society, or Robert Frank’s Luxury Fever.)  “Traitors and scum,” scream the super brains on talk radio.)

 

As we liberals now begin to inveigh against the loss of personal freedoms in the new corporate American state, a much larger freedom has already been lost: the freedom from ignorance.

Bageant, Deer Hunting in America

 

This sad state of affairs reminds me of the old joke:  “What’s the difference between apathy and ignorance?”  “I don’t know and I don’t care.”

And, our own President tells boldface lies day after day while the people laugh at his spunk and choose not to care about the truth at all.

We do have a reasonably high literacy rate in America but not as high as Russia, Canada, Japan, or Israel. Of course, the economic, political and practical advantages of reading depends on what you read. The Left Behind series and Fifty Shades of Grey are unlikely to help us compete in the math and science created world we live in today.

President Trump’s Education secretary, Betsy DeVoss, is doing her best to push us back down the curve.

What about the internet? Doesn’t it bring the facts to ordinary people? Here is how Joe Bageant puts it: “my faith in the Internet’s information democracy wilted when I once suggested to a friend facing eviction that we Google “renter’s rights” to learn his options, and watched him type in “rinters kicked out.” (Then too, when we bumped into the banner on a site reading JENNIFER LICKS THE HUGE MAN’S SWORD, we both got sidetracked.)”

Inequality in America is higher than it’s ever been. Many people in the richest country on earth are just getting by. But, there is one measure on which we lead the charts, obesity. So much bread and so many circuses handed out by the Caesars on cable TV and we eat our junk food tethered to our mobile devices while we remain immobile and transfixed by the glitz of looking at each other’s family pictures and laughing at each other’s tweets.

Some of my American friends have expressed their concerns about my numerous trips to Mexico. “What about all those ‘disappeared persons’ down there,” they ask, the rapists, the criminals?  The fact is, by some measures we have more ‘disappeared persons’ here in America than the entire population of Mexico. Call them what you will. These are people who are unhappy but don’t know why and blame whoever or whatever, everyone except themselves and their masters in corporate America.  They keep the American hologram intact. Maybe it’s time you looked into a mirror. Are you one of them?

 

Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, Jack Haye artist

Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, Jack Haye artist

 

The myths of the “American hologram” have morphed into toxic versions such as “greed is good”, more is better, consumerism is patriotic, massive inequality simply reflects differences in skill levels and productivity, any attempt to level the playing field will only decrease efficiency, good luck and bad luck play no role in economic outcomes, there is always a private solution that is better than any government solution, and so on.

“Give’em hell Harry,” a genuine call to arms that resulted in two decades of growth and prosperity that were widely shared has morphed into the juvenile screed of the current commander in tweet: “I am very, very rich,” “I’m really nice,” “I’m very intelligent,” “I know more about ISIS than the Generals.”

I’ve gone on long enough.  The “American hologram” is where we in America live today.  It is an illusion that we and our leaders choose to believe while ignoring the facts.  It may have once been true but it is no longer true.  The rest of the world is moving ahead and we are moving behind.  One way of responding to the problem is to elect Donald Trump to Make America Great Again.  We have done that and so far the results are less than good.  We have regressed even further.  The other answer, already mentioned, is long and hard and expensive (healthcare including mental health and education for all, decriminalization of drug addiction, a universal basic income, recognition of the importance of luck both good and bad, and recognition of the disincentive of inequality that has gone amuck are just a few of the things we should consider).

 

Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, Roy Hoggard artist

Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, Roy Hoggard artist

 

Forget Trump.  Forget Republicans, Democrats.  You have to step outside the illusion, the American hologram if you are going to demand change, real change that will improve your life.  Get up.  Stand up.

 

 

Get Up Stand Up

Bob Marley, Peter Tosh

 

Get up, stand up
Stand up for your rights
Get up, stand up
Don’t give up the fight[x2] You, preacher man don’t tell me
Heaven is under the earth
You a duppy and you don’t know
What life is really worth
It’s not all that glitter is gold
And half the story has never been told
So now we see the light
We gonna stand up for our rights
Come on
Get up, stand up (Brothers)
Stand up for your rights (Come on)
Get up, stand up (Sisters)
Don’t give up the fight (Don’t give up the fight)
(I’m begging you to)
Get up, stand up
Stand up for your rights
Get up, stand up
(I say don’t give up the fight) Don’t give up the fight
Cause you know most people think
A great God will come from the skies
Take away everything
And left everybody dry
But if you know what life is worth
Then you would look for yours on earth
And now you see the light
We gonna stand up for your rights
Come on
Get up, stand up (Don’t make the push you ’round)
Stand up for your rights (Don’t let them hold you down)
Get up, stand up
Don’t give up the fight (Don’t give up the fight)
I say get up, stand up
Stand up for your rights (Don’t let them hold you down)
Get up, stand up
Don’t give up the fight (Don’t give up the fight)
We’re sick and tired of this game of technology
Humbly asking Jesus for his mercy
We know, we know and we understand
Almighty Jah is a living man
You fool some people sometimes
But you can’t fool all the people all the time
And now we see the light
We gonna stand up for our rights
Come on
Get up, stand up
Stand up for your rights (Come on now brothers)
Get up, stand up
Don’t give up the fight (I say don’t give up the fight)
(Don’t let them push you ’round)
I say get up, stand up
Stand up for your rights (Come on now sisters)
Get up, stand up
Don’t give up the fight (I say don’t give up the fight)