Keeping Hillary off the Half Dollar

In January, Hillary Clinton still possessed the benefit of the doubt. Memories of her and Bill snarling at Barack Obama in 2008 had faded, and despite her long and dreadful record, it’s always possible to turn over a new leaf. But Clinton’s ongoing response to Bernie Sanders shows why she is unfit for the presidency. Even as the frontrunner, Hillary shows no leadership ability; she, too, follows Sanders, trailing him to the left as he takes meaningful positions on issues like income inequality and campaign finance reform. Her saccharine smile says “I can do that too!” but truly she should be inspired by competition, not forced to shift uncomfortably because of it. Her recent anger at being asked about money from the fossil fuel industry illustrates her shortcomings perfectly. Confronted with a fair election, faced with her own record, she becomes defensive instead of inspired. She says something that isn’t true to blunt the inappropriateness of her rage. She enjoys the benefits of Citizens United just as they were meant to be enjoyed: as a carte blanche that allows her and other mainstream candidates to deny the corrupting influence of big money even as millions of industry dollars are spent on her behalf.

But Clinton has never shown interest in a fair contest; she moved to New York in 2000 because it was the only state in the union that might elect her to the Senate. In her 2008 bid for the White House she carried herself as though presidential candidates are anointed by the Democratic National Committee, a private organization having no constitutional roots. She dismissed the possibility of nominating Obama just as she has dismissed Sanders. She and her jolly encampment harp on her inevitability; one of their favorite terms for her is “our next president.” Having every superdelegate in your pantsuit pocket is one thing, but insulting Americans by saying they have no choice is just asking to get burned.

Clinton seems to think her sex, along with her inimitable résumé, is a golden halo; although she is a lackluster feminist, she yearns to set a historical precedent as the first female president, and casts aspersions on anyone who would deny her the opportunity. Look at her inane campaign slogan: “I’m With Her.” But do you remember Gloria Steinem, advocating for Hillary, saying girls who support Bernie are only doing it to impress the boys? Do you remember the Clintons throwing Monica Lewinsky under the bus after Bill had thoroughly exploited her in the Oval Office? According to CNN, Hillary called Lewinsky a “narcissistic loony toon,” which is at least somewhat ironic. And do you remember Hillary deliberately praising Nancy Reagan for her crusade against AIDS last month, either out of sheer ignorance or else to saint the memory of an arch-conservative? Do you remember how until 2013 she advocated against gay marriage and now she thinks it’s great? Hillary Clinton is not a feminist, she’s simply a woman, and if that’s her strongest claim to the White House, it’s not enough. Her posturing is sexist in and of itself.

Meanwhile Clinton and her handlers and her campaign staff and the last godforsaken newspapers in this country have worked tirelessly to influence public perception with rhetoric and omission rather than take a stand on important issues. Outlets like The Washington Post and The New York Times have seriously undermined their credibility by covering this race not as a democratic contest, but as a victory march beset by ungrateful and even dangerous support for Bernie Sanders. First they say “Sanders can’t win” and then they say “Unite! Or Trump will take over in November” and now they say “Bernie is fighting dirty!”

But let’s think about Donald Trump for a minute. Like Hillary, Trump has a long public record, and along with the fact that he used to be very liberal, we all know he’s a world-class hustler and con artist. One thing Trump repeats throughout his fascist babblings is true: he’s a really smart guy. He knows exactly what he’s doing. But do we? Even if he becomes more centrist and “presidential” in the coming months he’ll never win back women and minority voters. But everything he says riles up the GOP’s most steadfast supporters, which is why he can’t be denied their nomination without the whole party going down in flames. Trump’s campaign has been carefully calculated to disrupt and even destroy the GOP. Should he win their nomination, he should be an easy target for the democratic coalition and sensible independents and Republicans.

There are two things that matter to the future of the United States in 2016: income inequality and climate change. Not surprisingly, they are directly related. They both result from an economic system that gives corporations free rein. Like King George III in the colonial era, corporations exploit us with no intent of letting us gain independence. They are designed to pay laborers as little as possible, tell sell the fruits of labor for as much as possible, and to keep all the profit for themselves. As a result the middle class becomes steadily less rich and more people slip into poverty, where some resort to crime. The U.S. compensates for the criminality it engenders by imprisoning more people than any other nation on Earth, and the truly sickening part of it is, many U.S. prisons are now privately owned and for-profit. They want more human beings within their walls, for longer periods of time. Corporations control the media through advertising dollars, and control the government through campaign contributions and even “speaking fees.” They control you and me. This is not how America is supposed to work.

The image at the top of this post shows two cents: the so-called Indian Head and the Lincoln. The Native American figure is not just anyone; she’s a woman, she’s a symbol, and she has a name: Columbia. She appeared on the cent for 116 years; Lincoln has been on it for 107. While the tradition of a noble women conferring respectability on a country’s coinage predates the United States, Columbia once provided to us a beautiful symbol of ourselves, long before she briefly appropriated the ceremonial headdress. In 1909, Abraham Lincoln was the first historical figure to appear on a United States coin, and now our pockets and purses are full of mens’ heads. Even the heraldic eagle has been removed from the quarter in favor of honorary dioramas. This is the best ideal we aspire to now: fame, or at least enough influence to leave a mark and thus be remembered. We used to aspire to something greater: justice for all. Despite the fact that he’s a democratic socialist, Bernie Sanders offers a return to our foundational roots, the chance to re-assert our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, rather than the right to liberalism, and the pursuit of security. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, probably wants her profile on the half dollar.

The global ecosystems that nurtured us as a species are withering all around us; climate change is not only raising sea levels, it’s precipitating mass extinction that will likely lead to our own. Even if some of us survive, we won’t be human anymore, we will evolve into something else—hopefully something that can metabolize ash and plastic. Our pollinators are dying, the last big animals on Earth will no longer be wild, and ocean acidification may wipe out the food chain.  There will be so many of us and our new smartphones that we will starve, or else live on bread and jellyfish and soylent whatever. Capitalism has played a valuable role in the development of our economies; but the hard truth is that our economies must not be developed any more, they must be stabilized, streamlined, and even diminished. Democratic socialism is the future, and it is also the present, as some European countries exemplify. Personally I like being human, and I think every human being has the right to be grateful for their existence, and that is why I will vote for Bernie Sanders. I encourage everyone who still has a say in this primary to do the same. It is time to demand that our policies are determined by science and not by for-profit interests.

I understand that you make think of Hillary as your ally, I understand that many in Congress and the executive branch have worked with her and respect her, I understand that she herself is friends with many on Wall Street and around New York; she and her family have made connections everywhere. I don’t think Clinton is a bad person. But I know she has never been a leader.

This election is the opportunity of a lifetime. It’s about more than personal loyalty. Bernie Sanders has offered America the possibility of a political revolution. Without it, we will run the risk of a real one. That’s my two cents.

Advertisements

Don’t Teach Your Young to Attack the Planet

Life has been growing on Earth for about 4 billion years, and during that time there have been a handful of mass extinctions that have wiped out a large percentage of complex lifeforms.  Asteroid impact, volcanic eruption, climate change, anoxia, and poison have dispatched untold numbers of once-successful species to total oblivion or a few lucky fossils.  Species also die off regularly for much less spectacular reasons, and altogether about 98% of documented species no longer exist.

Cry me a river, you say, without all that death there would have been no gap for vertebrates, for mammals, for primates, for humanity.  The tyrannosaurus-less world we awoke to find ourselves on had regained an incredible array of plant, animal, fungal, and microbial diversity, exploiting and even seeming to celebrate every ecological niche on the planet.  Our ancestors, a small population of soft, slow-moving meatbags, lifted their hands from the ground and set about smashing, shaping, shooting, burning, cutting and eating their way to the top.  Although human tribes spread to inhabit every continent except Antarctica, the limits of the world remained unknown, no less to tribal cultures than to pre-Columbian Europe.  There was always the promise of more land, more meat, and more resources for the taking—perhaps not within easy reach, but somewhere near the horizon.

Even after Europe discovered the “new” world, attitudes of conquest and dominion were rarely given second thought.  Manifest destiny drove United States citizens from sea to shining sea, eradicating all kinds of biodiversity along the way.  We not only disregarded the finity of plants and animals, but of a remarkably diverse race of peoples who lived in equilibrium with a world they recognized as precious. But after the West was won, the global balance of power shifted very quickly.  Industry, technology, and medicine led to unprecedented health and fecundity.  Global population exploded exponentially.  There was nowhere left to go.

Now it is humanity that strives toward limitlessness while the world seems to dwindle, inexorably, under our feet.  Like a dark cloud of volcanic ash circling the globe, we stifle and kill species on a massive scale in not much less sudden a fashion.  Even when we keep our hands clean, we contribute to global warming, pollution, and deforestation just by maintaining a modern lifestyle.  We are a mass extinction event, and we are still unfolding.

But as we know, mass extinctions are not the end of the world, and on the contrary, they offer new beginnings for life on Earth.  Whether humanity remains a part of that life remains to be seen.  Complex, intelligent life has evolved from rudimentary beginnings before and can do so again.  And as one of the largest biomasses on the planet, humanity could speciate in the wake of ecological collapse and fragmentation.  How we evolve could surpass our wildest dreams.

But I like being human, and I consider our world a beautiful place, one worth savoring and not throwing away.  Unlike any natural disaster we have the gift of agency and choice, of intelligence, foresight, and decision.  We are coming to terms with a small world that is getting smaller, and we will surely react and adapt to this knowledge as best we can.  But no outcome is inevitable.  All action and inaction will have an impact.  If we want to remain who we believe ourselves to be, we must choose to respect life, to value and foster diversity, to just take it easy once in a while, to control our primal appetites, and to change our very nature.  Only by choosing to change, rather than having to change, can we truly stay human.