It Is No Longer Accurate To Call White Nationalists Extremists.

While those who espouse white nationalism may seem extreme to Democrats and to many independents, it has become clear that they now represent the mainstream of the Republican Party.

Don’t believe me?

Perhaps you will trust Miles Taylor, the former Chief of Staff of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) during the Goerge W. Bush and Donald J. Trump administrations. A former Republican himself, he says that fully 50 percent of today’s GOP voters believe in Replacement Theory, the racist theory that Democrats are encouraging the illegal immigration of people of color in order to reduce white Christian Americans to minority status.

Once a theory propagated by only the most twisted racists on the very fringes of society – the KKK and neo-Nazis – it has been elevated from the sewers by Trump and mainstreamed by Fox News along with rightwing radio pundits, social media, and various Internet celebrities. The violent results of their hateful rhetoric have accelerated throughout the last 5 years, beginning with the “Alt Right’ March in Charlottesville and culminating in last week’s racist shootings at a Buffalo grocery store.

Of course, those who have incited such hatred refuse to claim any responsibility. And, though they may well briefly tone down their rhetoric, they will soon return to full-throated racism.

To underscore the ties between the GOP and racial terrorism, CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) will hold its annual conference in Budapest, Hungary. Why? Because Hungary’s dictator, Viktor Orban, espouses the same racist replacement theory as much of the GOP. Indeed, so does Russia’s resident dictator and Trump supporter, Vladimir Putin. Which may explain why 25 percent of the Republican congressional caucus voted against more military aid to help Ukraine defend itself against Putin’s invasion.

Moreover, according to Taylor, 50 percent of GOP voters believe in the cult-like conspiracies espoused by QAnon, including the preposterous belief that Democrats are pedophiles and that Democratic leaders and A-list Hollywood celebrities are running a child sex trafficking ring.

Finally, Taylor notes that 70 percent of the GOP think the 2020 election was stolen despite all evidence to the contrary. Not even Trump’s hand-picked Attorney General nor the Trump-appointed judges and justices believed in the claims of widespread voter fraud. Of course, there were a few notable cases of individual voter fraud. But they were Trump supporters who returned ballots for dead family members. And, of course, there’s the case of Trump’s Chief of Staff who illegally registered to vote in two states.

Nevertheless, the GOP and many of its candidates continue to espouse the “Big Lie.” At the same time, GOP governors and legislatures are working overtime to ensure they control upcoming elections. By that, they don’t simply mean they want to win the elections. They are taking steps to rig them by any means necessary.

Taylor says the DHS determined the biggest national security threat is domestic terrorism. I would amend the threat to include the GOP.

The Frightening Descent Of The Court We Once Held Supreme.

Many of us grew up with great respect for the highest court in the land. We did not always agree with its rulings. But we always respected them because we knew they were considered judgments based on the law.

The current version of the Court is different. Very different.

Contrary to the protestations of Alito, Roberts, and Thomas, the Court has been made highly partisan. Certainly, there have been periods of partisanship in the past. But none quite like this. It began when Republicans were enraged that Robert Bork was not confirmed by a Democrat-led Senate due to his role in firing the Special Prosecutor assigned to the Watergate investigation. Never mind that the Senate’s refusal to confirm Bork was justified, Republicans threw an absolute hissy fit that continues to this day.

Republicans became further incensed when Democrats contested the nomination of Clarence Thomas based on Anita Hill’s credible allegations of sexual impropriety. The fact that the ethically challenged Thomas was married to and influenced by a far-right extremist and activist was lost in the controversy. And we’ve been paying for that oversight ever since.

As it became clear that the Court’s rulings dramatically lurched to the right, Thomas, Scalia, and Alito all portrayed themselves as “originalists.” They seem to view the Constitution as a static document that should be viewed from the perspective of 1788 when it was ratified by the original 13 states.

Yet these “justices” always seem willing to reinterpret the Constitution to benefit Republicans.

In recent years, Republicans have accelerated the Court’s descent into blatant partisanship. The GOP-controlled Senate blocked hearings on Garland’s nomination to replace Scalia for purely partisan reasons claiming that, since it was eleven months before a presidential election, the decision to fill the Court’s vacancy should be left to the next president. Then, when Trump won, the GOP began searching for judicial nominees who would be willing to bend the rule of law to benefit the Party and to overturn Roe v Wade. They rammed through three Supreme Court nominees, the last just weeks before the 2020 presidential election.

Such choices were a payback to evangelicals – people who can’t tell a zygote from an embryo from a fetus – for supporting the GOP’s ever-present culture wars against school integration, against interracial marriage, against contraception, against gay rights, against gay marriage, against sex education, against racial equity and, of course, against abortion.

Despite angrily denying their obvious partisanship, conservatives on the Court have made their partisan views public as featured speakers at numerous Republican and conservative “Christian” gatherings. And the leaked opinion by the Court’s five conservatives as expressed by Alito is the most obvious display of partisanship yet. They have gone out of their way to impose the beliefs of evangelicals and the GOP on all American women. Further, Alito’s draft opinion sets the stage for taking away other rights, including all of those at the heart of the GOP culture wars.

His opinion, if adopted as is, would enable his cult (aka the Republican Party) to transform the nation in ways unlike any previously experienced in American history.

For example, prior to Roe v Wade, women were seldom prosecuted for having an abortion. Those women who could afford it, would ask their doctors for a procedure called a D&C to terminate their pregnancies. Those who couldn’t afford such niceties would either seek a dangerous abortion in some back alley or take things into their own hands by employing coat hangers or acid. Or they might simply throw themselves down a flight of stairs. Apparently, that was seen as punishment enough by the Puritan crowd, since only the abortionists themselves were charged with crimes.

But, in this era of theological and ideological vengeance, it seems that no punishment for women is draconian enough. According to the current GOP anti-abortion bills, women will be arrested and jailed for terminating a pregnancy. So, too, will anyone who advised or enabled them. And every woman who has a miscarriage will be under suspicion.

What’s next on the GOP agenda? Burning women at the stake?

Why You Should Take Tyrants At Their Word.

In the 1970s and 80s, after looking at the nation’s changing demographics, Republicans embraced southern racists still angry at having lost the Civil War and furious with forced integration of schools. Around the same time, they also crafted a deal with far-right evangelicals – people like Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, Kenneth Copeland, Jim Baker, John Hagee, and Pat Richardson. The deal was that this so-called “Moral Majority” would deliver votes in exchange for the GOP embracing their cruel and hateful ideas, including a ban on abortion.

This unholy alliance resulted in the daily picketing of clinics, harassment of women seeking abortions, distribution of home addresses and license plates of clinic personnel, the bombing of clinics, and the murder of abortion providers.

Through it all, the GOP platform and most GOP candidates called for an end to abortion. They began stacking the courts with anti-abortion judges and they prayed for the deaths of liberal and moderate Supreme Court justices. They passed draconian laws in GOP-led states like Texass that would imprison women for having an abortion, even if they traveled to another state where abortion is legal or if they ordered abortion pills online.

Most of the GOP’s current or pending laws make no exception for victims of rape and incest. They have made it clear that they will not help feed the children of forced births. They will not provide them with healthcare. They will not even agree to pay for improvements to our already over-stretched and disastrous foster care system.

In reality, the GOP is pro-birth. Not pro-life.

And given the fact that a significant majority of Americans, including Republicans, favor reproductive freedom, this is truly tyranny by a minority. Yet many of you, much like the cancer stricken notorious RBG who refused to resign when a Democratic president could appoint her successor, failed to act. You simply assumed they couldn’t take away a woman’s reproductive freedom.

It took them 50 years but, through a combination of legislative tricks to steal a SCOTUS seat and to hypocritically fill another one, they have apparently succeeded. You didn’t need a crystal ball to see it coming. They told you what they would do if they gained control of the Court.

And if you take these same people at their word, they won’t stop there.

They have openly talked about banning contraception, gay marriage, inter-racial marriage, LBGTQ rights, and affirmative action. They have tried to take away public school funding, Social Security, and Medicare. Even the freedom to practice religions other than Christianity, the right to assemble, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the rights of certain minorities to vote are on the line.

It doesn’t matter that most Americans disagree with Republicans and evangelicals on these issues. They have a plan to seize permanent control of our government. They may have failed on January 6, 2021, but, if you listen to them, they haven’t given up. The only way to stop them is to vote while you still can – in the midterms and beyond. To end this pending nightmare and the collapse of our democracy, they must be convincingly and overwhelmingly repudiated.

Preaching Evil And Hate.

Preaching Evil is the title of a new Peacock documentary about FLDS leader, Warren Jeffs. But the title could well be applied to hundreds of televangelists and evangelical Christian pastors, as well as fundamentalist Imams, Rabbis, and leaders of various other religions and sects who use their platforms to preach hate against others. There are no better examples than the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, who has blessed Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and the white conservative “Christians” who encourage their followers to discriminate against people of differing faiths, races, and sexual preference.

Of course, none of this is new.

Most of the world’s violence has long been based on religious differences and misunderstandings. The Roman Catholic Church ordered the torture and murder of millions during the Inquisition. It ordered the slaughter of the Templars, the Cathars and the Huguenots. And its desire to conquer and convert “heathens” was behind the genocide of indigenous Americans.

Religious discrimination led European Christians to tolerate the imprisonment of Jews and the resulting death camps of the Holocaust. Southern Christians condoned the KKK with the Christian symbol of the cross integral to the terrorists’ gatherings and lynchings. More recently, religious differences are at the heart of the on-going conflicts in the Middle East, in India, Pakistan, and Myanmar.

Even when religions haven’t encouraged and committed genocide, they have dismissed others’ creation beliefs as myth. And they declared those they didn’t understand as infidels, witches, or demons.

To be clear, I believe that all people have a right to worship however, whatever, and whoever they please, as long as their worship does not encroach on the rights of others. As long as they respect the beliefs and customs of others.

And I do believe that organized religion can be positive.

I was raised in a small-town church where I was taught the Golden Rule and where most members tried to follow it. The church was a gathering place of joy for weddings, anniversaries, and other celebrations. It was a place where anyone could go to seek aid and guidance. It was also a place where locals gathered in support of those mourning a loss. Those kinds of churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques still exist. But they are being overwhelmed by the political and the crazies.

Surveys have shown that the number of people who attend church is declining in the US and elsewhere – likely the result of the crimes and excesses of religions: the violence, the sexual abuses of children, the hateful discrimination of the LGBTQ community, the misogyny which has led to attacks on a woman’s right to abortion, and the belief that you can still go to heaven despite your sins as long as you confess them and proclaim your faith in Christ.

Yet, somehow, evangelical Christians and megachurches are exerting more power than ever. They captured the Republican Party and celebrated one of history’s worst philanderers and conmen in order to force their beliefs onto others. In effect, many US churches have become little more than political clubs. And because they are tax exempt, we are all helping to pay for their clubhouses and their efforts to spread hate.

The Internal Revenue Service has a long-standing rule prohibiting churches and charities from engaging in politics by defining a 501(c)(3) organization as one “which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.” It’s long past time that the IRS enforced it. Indeed, it also should be applied to campaigning on behalf of the GOP’s continuous culture wars.

That won’t solve all of the problems with organized religions. But it would be a start.

The New Know Nothings.

In the mid-1850s, there was a political party referred to as the Know Nothings. Officially called the American Party, its followers feared that the influx of Roman Catholics from Ireland and Europe would push “real Americans” aside and take over the nation, giving control to the Vatican.

But with regard to racism, misogyny, and lack of knowledge, that movement pales in comparison to today’s Trump-led Republican Party fueled by the Gen X and Millennial generations (adults under the age of 56) – those who comprised the majority of the insurrectionists on January 6. Not surprisingly, they are also the largest group of Qanon believers.

Why?

Apparently, it’s tied to a lack of education, a reliance on online sites as their sources for “news,” and a fascination with conspiracy theories. For example, a nationwide survey released on Holocaust Remembrance Day found that 1 in 10 respondents under age 40 did not recall ever hearing the word “Holocaust.” Nearly half could not name a single one of the German death camps. And this alarming lack of knowledge extends far beyond the Holocaust.

Less than half of those surveyed identified Afghanistan as the country that provided al-Qaeda with safe haven prior to 9/11 despite the fact that the war in Afghanistan was our longest war. And only slightly more than half of those surveyed could identify Iraq on a map.

Though it wasn’t part of the survey, I’m sure the same would be true if you asked Americans to pick out Ukraine on a map.

And it’s not just world history and geography that seem to flummox Gen Xers and Millennials. In my own limited survey of people at a county fair in rural Minnesota, I found that almost no one could name the original 13 colonies, the year the Declaration of Independence was signed, or the 3 branches of our federal government.

Few knew that the Bill of Rights was comprised of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. Yet almost every respondent could recite half of the 2nd Amendment. (But, frighteningly, only the second half.)

No one could name who wrote our Declaration of Independence or the reason why we went to war with the British. No one could name our primary ally in the Revolutionary War (the French). No one could name the primary British ally in the Revolutionary War (the Germans). No one could name our opponent in the War of 1812. No one could name more than two of our nation’s founders. And no one knew that the White House was built with slave labor.

And, if you consider that as depressing as I do, it gets worse. A recent survey found that an astounding 54 percent of Americans read below a sixth-grade level! And based on the posts I see on social media, I would venture to guess that most Americans’ writing skills, including grammar and spelling, rank below that.

As a result, they become the perfect targets for disinformation from pathological liars like Trump, and unscrupulous media like Newsmax and Fox “News”.

Since our Constitution has enshrined freedom of speech and freedom of the press, we can’t censor those who take advantage of the gullible, the misinformed, and the poorly educated. If we want to change politics and improve our nation’s future, it becomes obvious that our only really choices are to limit the insane amounts of money used to elect our leaders, and to rebuild our public education system.

America First? Hardly! More Like Me First.

Trump followers would have you believe that their movement is determined to Make America Great Again. To rewind the clock and return America to the mythical, utopian state of their ancestors. A state in which everyone looked like them, worshiped like them, and thought like them. A state that welcomed immigrants to the Great Melting Pot but only if they were white and their origins were in Europe. A state in which Americans were free to say and do whatever they wanted without regard to the feelings of others.

But it should be obvious that the movement is less about what the nation’s Framers envisioned and more about selfishness, authoritarianism, celebrity, racism, and fraudulent religious beliefs.

As evidenced by those who attacked our Capitol on January 6, 2021, at the heart of the movement are bullies and aspiring bullies of the Millennial and Gen X generations. These are people who spent their formative years surrounded by the material excesses of capitalism and being told that they were special. Many never learned to genuinely compete for anything. Instead, they were given participation trophies for just showing up.

They are the first generations to grow up playing computer games, surfing the Internet, and posting as trolls on social media. Indeed, that’s where they get most, if not all, of their information. Rather than trust journalists, scientists, experts, and government officials, they place their trust in YouTube videos, Instagram, anonymous Facebook groups, Internet influencers, and rightwing media hosts – evidence and facts be damned.

They grew up watching “reality” TV where they learned admire power, cunning, and vanity. As a consequence, they are inordinately impressed by wealth and celebrity, expecting that one day they, too, will live the lifestyle of the rich and famous. They populate mega-churches where they worship the almighty dollar being told that, if they only pray enough, all of their dreams will be fulfilled.

Unfortunately, for many, their expectations tend to be far greater than their work ethic.

Having failed to achieve their grandiose goals, they have immersed themselves in a sea of grievances directed at those they believe have denied them their due. They are certain their lives would be better if not for immigrants and people of color cutting in front of them to claim the degrees, jobs, positions, and stature they have long considered their birthright.

Asked to participate in three ill-conceived and unwinnable wars, some volunteered and came home even more damaged than before – angry, belligerent, and racist. So, when a narcissistic, lying “reality” TV star and conman came along telling them that he would Make America Great Again by ridding the nation of immigrants and returning their birthright, they happily embraced him. Not just as a celebrity and politician, but as a god – a reincarnation of Jesus himself.

And it’s not only the quest for material things that drives these MAGAts. They are utterly obsessed with personal freedom.

They spend thousands on weaponry, ammunition, and body armor to prepare for the coming “storm” as foretold by the mysterious and fictitious Q. They walk around with a Bible in one hand and a copy of the Constitution in the other having read neither. They falsely believe that the Constitution guarantees them the right to do as they please without regard for the rights or the safety of others. They are contemptuous of education, science, and expertise. They support law enforcement as a means of controlling others. But when police try to hold them accountable for their own lawlessness, they consider it an unconstitutional intrusion by big government and the “Deep State.”

Many hate Boomers, the generation of their parents, who they feel reaped the rewards of the American Dream while leaving them to struggle on their own. And they have a particular dislike of their political enemies as evidenced by their chants of “lock them up” and their threats to exercise their Second Amendment rights. On social media, they circulate falsehoods and preposterous stories that portray their “oppressors” – Democrats and “the libs” – as the embodiment of evil. They convince themselves that their opponents are cannibals and child sex traffickers who drink the blood of their innocent victims, that the 2020 election was stolen, and their hero is still the legitimate president of the United States.

Given their autocratic and anti-American beliefs, there can be no giving in to their view of America. There can be no compromise. We cannot permit these people to destroy our democracy and everything our ancestors fought and died for. Indeed, in the coming months, we may be forced to fight for democracy again. When Trump and his crime family are inevitably found guilty of their many felonious and treasonous acts, their supporters may once again turn violent as they did on January 6, 2021. We must be prepared for that likelihood.

But overcoming their violence will not alone end the threat. The only way for that to happen is for those of us who believe in democracy to vote. To soundly, and repeatedly, defeat Trump and his entire slate of Republican fascists at the ballot box.

When It Comes To Illegal Immigration, We Reap What We Sow.

The USA is one of the largest importers of illicit drugs on the planet. It is also the world’s largest exporter of guns, accounting for more than 41 percent of international small arms trade in 2020. While those two things may seem unrelated, they are the primary factors leading to the flood of refugees and immigrants trying to cross our southern border.

“How so?” you may ask.

Most of those behind the illicit drug trade are members of criminal cartels in Mexico, Central America, and South America. As the drug trade has grown and become increasingly profitable, the cartels have become increasingly violent. They are not only at war with each other. They are at war with law enforcement and the military. And the citizens of those countries are caught in the middle, often being forcibly enlisted into a cartel to avoid being raped and/or murdered.

Such wars require weapons. Lots of weapons.

To obtain them, the cartels recruit gun traffickers from the US where military-style guns – everything from semi-automatic handguns to 50 caliber sniper rifles – are readily available. Thousands of them are hauled across the border into Mexico every year. And, since the Border Patrol is primarily focused on what’s coming across the border into the United States, there is little chance the traffickers will be caught.

The result is a vicious cycle. The more drugs we use, the more guns the cartels need to expand their business. And more guns equal more violence. Add in the effects of climate change resulting in severe droughts and starvation within some of those countries, and you have a perfect storm leading to a tidal wave of refugees. Of course, some say none of that should matter. The citizens of those countries should either rise up against the cartels or, if they really want to enter the US, they should get in line and apply for legal entry. But that line is extraordinarily long. It can easily take up to 25 years to legally gain entry.

Many of the applicants would almost certainly be dead by the time they received a visa.

So, ask yourself: What would you do if you were an innocent family faced with such circumstances? Would you stay and face almost certain death? Or would you try to protect your family by trying to flee to safety?

Of course, it is possible to reduce illegal immigration as so many Americans wish. But that won’t happen as a result of border control. No wall can stop it. Real change requires two things: Gun control to reduce the cartels’ access to weapons of war. And programs to decriminalize and reduce the demand for illicit drugs.

In other words, don’t hold your breath.

America At War With Itself.

Some say that if our nation fails, it won’t be the result of a foreign attack. It will, instead, be the result of our own undoing. No, I’m not necessarily referring to the threat Donald J. Trump and his supporters pose to our democracy. Certainly, they are a very real threat. But a far greater threat is the aftereffects of the NRA having loosened our nation’s gun laws, which have resulted in an increasing number of Americans killing each other and themselves.

According to GunViolenceArchive.com, there were 44,868 US gun deaths in 2021 – 1,225 more than in 2020 and 5,306 more than in 2019. In fact, according to Snopes.com, there have more gun deaths in the US since 1968 than there have been in all of America’s wars combined!

And it’s likely to get worse.

In 2018, Small Arms Survey reported that US residents owned more than 393 million guns – 120.5 firearms for every 100 Americans. And rightwing anarchists (aka the GOP) have been stockpiling weapons and ammunition at an ever more alarming rate in anticipation of going to war with our own government. Their purchases rose sharply following the election of America’s first black president. And they have ramped up again following the electoral defeat of Trump.

As if to place an exclamation point on those facts, several months ago, I began receiving unwelcome emails from a company selling kits with all the parts needed to assemble ghost guns (guns without any identifiable serial numbers). To make matters worse, many of the parts are made from polymers that can’t be picked up by metal detectors. The Ohio company’s sales pitch is “build and carry,” another way of saying you won’t need a permit or background check to carry our guns. And since many of these gun kits are being purchased anonymously using cryptocurrency, they are virtually untraceable, giving a whole new meaning to the words “conceal and carry.”

It should come as no surprise, then, that nearly 24,000 ghost guns were recovered from crime scenes between 2016 and 2020.

Perhaps even more worrisome is the fact that ghost guns have been embraced by the far-right antigovernment crowd, which has been stocking up on them in its preparations for the coming “storm” – a euphemism for civil war. But if the war comes, it almost certainly won’t be in the form of an all-out attack against government troops. Having learned from asymmetrical warfare in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the failed January 6 insurrection and previous federal takedowns of domestic terrorist groups, the seditious “militias” such as the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and Boogaloo Bois are more likely to use a series of so-called lone wolf attacks to accomplish their goals. That will make it far more difficult to prosecute their organizations. And their use of encrypted communications and ghost guns will make it more challenging for law enforcement to track down the perpetrators.

Combine such easy access to untraceable guns with the NRA’s constant attacks on gun restrictions in cities and states and the threat of gun violence grows exponentially. Indeed, as I write this, there’s a case before the US Supreme Court that could overturn Washington, DC’s ban on carrying guns outside the home within our nation’s capital. To emphasize the growing threat, Everytown for Gun Safety recently released the results of a new study on gun deaths. The study found that California, Hawaii, New York and Massachusetts – the states with the strictest gun laws and some of the most densely populated cities – have the lowest rate of gun deaths. By contrast, the states with the most permissive gun laws – Louisiana, Missouri, Wyoming and Mississippi – have the highest rate of gun deaths.

More guns equal more gun deaths? Who would have thought? (Sarcasm very much intended.)

Of course, all of this should come as welcome news to America’s foreign enemies. Indeed, they might be encouraged to reduce their military budgets and hold off on any terrorist plans in the works. After all, why bother to attack our government when it’s already under attack from within? Why waste resources on planning to kill Americans when they can just sit back and watch us kill each other?

The Ongoing Theft Of Generational Wealth From Black And Brown People.

As we mark the 100th anniversary of the massacre on Tulsa’s Black Wall Street, it’s important to understand how little has changed in the past century.

First, it should be noted that the Tulsa massacre was only one of at least 40 similar attacks on people of color, not including the genocide of Native Americans. We should also recognize that all of these acts were committed by the white majority population inflamed by sensationalized stories in a biased media. And, though smaller in scope, the attacks are still happening – by white supremacists, by the police, and by our flawed criminal justice system in which the poor, especially people of color, are pushed to accept plea bargains under threat of draconian sentences.

Further, as in Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood, most people of color have been robbed of their ability to accumulate generational wealth.

For example, Native Americans have had their lands stolen and treaties broken. They have been robbed of mineral rights. They have been denied sufficient funds to build proper schools and infrastructure. The courts have continually denied them the ability to block the destruction of sacred lands, including burial sites. And, as the result of recent legislation, they have, once again, been robbed of the right to vote.

Similarly, Asians have been victimized by periods of violence, as well as legislation such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the government-ordered Japanese Internment of World War II which resulted in stolen property and wealth. And, though we rely on Latin American immigrants to harvest and prepare most of our food, they are mistreated and denied reasonable compensation for their work under constant threat of deportation.

Yet many Americans, indoctrinated by rightwing media and unwilling to recognize such theft, would have you believe that the reason so many people of color live in poverty is that they lack the work ethic of Caucasians. That they’re all too willing to live off the taxes from “real” Americans. They simply can’t understand or admit that much of poverty is the result of a biased and unfair system in which the wealthy white majority makes the rules. For example, the current Mayor of Tulsa refuses to acknowledge that the victims of the attack on Black Wall Street are owed reparations. Yet his own ancestral family came to wealth and prominence off the backs of nearly 1,000 slaves!

If we are ever to achieve racial equality, it must include an acknowledgment of our historical misdeeds and their impact on the present. Our actions must go beyond embracing the 1619 Project designed to teach children the truth of our history of slavery and racism. We must go beyond affirmative action. Beyond criminal justice reform. We must stop the GOP attempts to restrict voting rights for people of color. And we must agree on some form of reparations. We must pay for our sins.

Repairing A Broken Police System.

Though evidence of the breakdowns in policing have been constant (Daunte Wright, Caron Nazario, George Floyd, Breona Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, etc., etc., etc.), change has been painstakingly slow. So, what can we do to prevent unnecessary deaths and provide equal justice under the law? To begin, let’s look at the reality of policing in the US:

1 – Only 6.7 percent of police calls involve a possible crime. The vast majority of 911 calls involve welfare checks, trespassing, homelessness, drug abuse, and mental health issues.

2 – It requires relatively little training to receive certification for law enforcement in the US. Although some police departments require a college degree in criminal justice, others simply require candidates to complete basic training. Much of that training consists of classroom work and military-style discipline (inspections, marching in file, and firearms training). There are no national standards.

3 – US police officers receive less training than many of their international counterparts. In Germany, for example, recruits are required to spend up to 4 years in basic training. By contrast, US recruits may receive as little as 20 weeks of basic training.

4 – The focus of policing is on solving crimes more than preventing them. The old-fashioned beat cop is increasingly rare. Further, many officers do not live in the community they serve. As a result, police departments often don’t reflect the racial, ethnic, and gender make-up of their communities.

5 – Despite what we see on TV and in movies, police solve relatively few violent crimes. According to Pew Research, in 2019, police solved just 45.5 percent of the violent crimes reported to them and only 17.2 percent of property crimes. Only one-third of reported rapes are solved.

6 – Law enforcement is less dangerous than many other professions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, logging, deep sea fishing, piloting aircraft, roofing, waste collection and recycling, truck driving, farming, construction, and even landscaping are more dangerous. Working as a law enforcement officer ranks 19th, yet most police officers are armed to the teeth.

Now let’s look at how we can change policing to become more effective and less costly:

1 – Create a separate department to respond to non-criminal, non-violent calls. There are several successful alternatives to police. In Eugene, Oregon, a program called CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) has operated successfully for nearly 30 years. 911 calls are triaged. If the call does not involve criminal behavior, the dispatcher sends a two-person team that consists of a medical professional and a mental health professional. The focus is on de-escalating situations and providing needed help rather than the threat of incarceration.

2 – Improve hiring and training of officers. Institute national standards for all law enforcement. Those standards should require the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree. They should also include a battery of psychological tests plus training in de-escalation, and race relations. Additionally, they should include training for non-lethal responses to offenders who are armed with weapons other than guns.

3 – Improve training of dispatchers. Dispatchers should be skilled in triaging and clearly preparing first responders for what to expect. Poor communications can lead to poor results. For example, a 911 caller reported a young man pointing a gun at passersby but noted that it could be a toy, a detail not relayed to responding police officers. As a result, a young boy was shot and killed while playing with his airsoft gun.

4 – Reduce the number and lethality of weapons on the street. Thanks to the NRA and gun manufacturers, police must assume everyone they encounter represents a deadly threat. Fewer guns will result in fewer deaths of citizens and police. It would also help police to solve violent crimes by demanding registration of all guns and ammunition so they can be tracked to the perpetrators of crimes.

5 – Rely on technology for most traffic control. Using so-called redlight cameras to control speeds and most other traffic violations will prevent racial profiling and relieve police officers from many of the encounters that can turn deadly.

6 – Refocus prisons on rehabilitation of inmates. Prisons should not be mere warehouses for offenders or finishing schools for criminals. They should offer more programs to prepare prisoners for their return to polite society. It is well-known that such programs can reduce crime and recidivism.

7 – Expand mental health facilities and destigmatize mental health issues. Suffering a mental health crisis is not a crime. It should be treated like any other health problem.

8 – Eliminate or reduce poverty. Poverty is not a crime. But it, too often, leads to interactions with law enforcement, such as failure to pay traffic fines, failure to purchase licenses and required drivers insurance, as well as homelessness. In too many cases, it leads to drug abuse as a form of escapism resulting in encounters with law enforcement.

9 – Decriminalize the use of illicit drugs. Substance abuse is a medical issue and/or a mental health issue that cannot be solved by law enforcement.

We cannot know if implementing such measures will solve all the problems. But we do know what doesn’t work – the system we have now.