A House Divided Cannot Stand

I do love it when I am labeled a liberal or a socialist, it provides those who call me such names an air of superiority. They are patriots and I am under the vice of Lenin or Stalin. Ignorance is bliss and I suggest picking up a book before issuing such declarations, but my call for knowledge will be in vain. I spend probably too much time reading social media, but one thing I have been reluctant to do is chime in when political topics get hot. They are hot these days and the question becomes how hot it too hot? There have been many times in history where things just begin to run away and people get swept up in the moment and forget their past and their future. The French Revolution was an example of how dangerous things can become, with the Reign of Terror and the extensive use of the guillotine. The Spanish Civil War when the left and right became split leading to a holocaust of half a million people – not due to race of religion but simply because of perceived political views. The Nazi’s call for aerion purity. It seems as if we are trending down this path again. As Mark Twain said, “History does not repeat itself, but it often rhymes”.

The words of Lincoln seem somehow prophetic these days, uttered during his legendary debates with Stephen Douglas as they vied for the senate seat in Illinois. The nation was torn on the subject of slavery and Lincoln stated, “A house Divided cannot Stand”. In the US political parties are more interested in becoming unified on their opposition to what the other party is proposing, rather than solving issues for American people in need. Do we need social programs or tax cuts, whatever the easiest path is selected and always by the party that holds the majority in the House, the Senate and the Oval Office. Then once roles are reversed the Majority party tries to undo what the other party did. In the end we move sideways and not forward. As a nation we tend to think in the short term and for our our own self interests. In our eagerness for self worth we fail to see what is happening around us until it stares at us in the face. The idea of the greater good has seemed to lose all meaning in our desire to protect our individual rights, however flawed that may be.

The question becomes how long can we remain in this current mindset before things begin to run away from us? They almost did on January 6th. Like it or not there were people who stormed the capitol building with the intent to kill, who in the name of violence called themselves patriots. They would have benefitted if they had a plan but instead behaved like a mob with a mob mindset. It did, however highlight a undercurrent taking place in America, something hidden to many. The insurrection never had a chance of success. There revolutionary zeal lacked leadership and its prospective leader had taken a limo home, Imagine if George Washington had crossed the Delaware in a luxury yacht. Great leaders seldom, if ever, come from the lap of luxury, Can another January 6th occur? It certainly could and if it did it would be larger, but I have yet to hear of anything imagining a brighter future or having a vision of a future America. It it does happen it will just be another globally embarrassing event, just with more blood shed.

Like a leaking water faucet we listen to the torturous slow drip of the American belief system slowly run down the drain, a drain rusted by neglect. Now it seems there are these “secessionist” movements. Not from the country, but a desire to secede from a state and create a new more American state or join a neighboring state more in line with local residents values, Whatever the reason it is not very well disguised, it is simply a power play. A desire to repress those in which they do not agree with. It is also very shortsighted in its thought process. The long term prognosis would be the disbanding of the American political system (which means the Constitution would be dead). The debate about the founding fathers, would reach a fever pitch, with the only truth being that the founding fathers are very disappointed in their legacy as they had higher aspirations.

Division sews mistrust. Not just mistrust in their government institutions but mistrust in their fellow citizens and private institutions. I find it funny and yet horrifying that the US there are those on the far right who view American universities with contempt. Yet it was those same institutions, when I went to school, who spread the ideas of Laissez-Faire and the beauty of free markets and less government. Now many of these schools are being asked to focus on STEM and preparing the US economy for the rest of this century and beyond. Our university systems is the best on the planet and the envy of the world. Thousands of students come each year to take advantage of the great education we provide. We teach not only skills but to try and expand each students thought process. As Albert Einstein said, “The value of a college education is not the learning of many facts, but the training of the mind to think”.

The current fracture in the US democracy but they are just cracks and can be repaired, but left unchecked they will grow. As these fissures in our society grow they will increasing turn to the lesser of human emotions, hate, anger, loathing etc..these emotions make us less of a people, less of a nation. Our ability to succeed will become clouded and slowly slither its way through our fingers, never to be seen again. The mutterrings of civil unrest remain, The hope is they die down, the fear being that they grow louder. We have arrived hear not overnight, but through a long journey. Are we divided? There is no question. Can we stand? If the current drip continues for another decade things will only have gotten worse and the leaks will begin to run and as they flow the water will gain strength, until the nation starts to crumble, Can we stand?

Good Night and Good Luck

Hans Henrik Hoffmann

May 24th, 2021

Categories Uncategorized

Make America Great Again

I have spent a lot of sleepless nights thinking about this campaign slogan, even now that that period of American history is temporarily behind us. Something thrust upon the American political landscape 5 yrs ago. Trying to understand its essence and relevance. The owner of the campaign theme never really provided a vision for what it means or what he wanted it to become. That required a level of deep thinking and understanding of public policy that was just not of much interest. The mantra by the mear use of the word “again” seems to refer to some past history, some point in time when America was truly great, how we define great is an open question. Regardless it resonated. It became etched in the public discourse. Maybe more importantly it speaks to an idea of America ceasing to be great. A loss in belief of American exceptionalism. Ronald Reagan delighted in thinking of America as a shining beacon of light on a hill. A place where people could come to share in mankinds manifest destiny. To live out their dreams however they see fit. To provide their children opportunities that were denied them. Yet somewhere that belief became lost to many and they became angry, very angry.

Growing up in the US in school you often learned about the serenity that seemed to surround the 1950’s. It was portrayed in popular TV shows like “Leave it to Beaver”, “My Three Sons” and “the Dick Van Dyke Show” to name but a few. Life was simple and literally black and white. The President was WWII hero Dwight D Eisenhower, who played a lot of Golf while acting as President. The American Family took on a definition on Husband, Wife, Two kids, 2 cars, a house and a TV. On the global scene America had a thriving economy with well paid front line workers at Ford and General Motors. These were union scale jobs and unions were strong at the time. The middle class was thriving. America emerged from WWII a nearly unmatched global power. It was a dream land for a dream time, but as in history things get put on pause. There were undercurrents of discontent. Jim Crowe still thrived. Technology was creating weapons of mass destruction that would annihilate the planet for centuries to come. As history has taught us, as simple as the fifties seemed the horizon foreshadowed what a was to come

The sixties arrived and change was in the air. The wars we had won were now in the past and new wars emerged, but not as black and white as WWII were it seemed to be good versus evil. We were now fighting perceived idealogical battles for the soul of the planet. America became torn as the battle versus Jim Crow raged in the streets. Violence would mar much of the sixties. Assassinations of many a great man – JFK, RFK, MLK and Malcom X. The Vietnam War, something we managed to inherit from the French tore at the fiber of the nation. The summer of love, The Beatles, Divisive politics and much more happened. If we are trying to make America Great again this is probably not where we would likely want to go back to. It was a period of social and cultural awakening. I

The Seventies were dull and that is about all I can say about that. Sounds like Forrest Gump. There was continued upheaval but it was the beginning if the end for the labor movement in the US. The free market economists had been making noise for sometime and though corporate CEO’s were receptive to their message, they had neither the will or strength to radically alter the status quo. The economists were left with one choice, go to the halls of power and convince those that mattered: The politicians. Milton Friedman became a god as did Michael Porter. Less Government regulation and market driven solutions. Manufacturing in the US was doomed at this point. It’s path set in motion it would only accelerate in the next decade. The idea of the American middle-class would begin to fade revered more as fantasy than reality.

The Eighties came about with the rise of conservative politics, led by a former Hollywood Actor, Ronald Reagan. It gave life to the idea that government is evil. The idea as a nation we needed less government. We were all introduced to Supply Side Economics and the Laffer Curve. It is interesting part of history in that there is no signature Reagan piece of legislation, no military activity. The biggest issue facing America was it’s battle with Soviet Union and the escalating tensions of the Cold War. The economy did well under Reagan and if anything it led to a rising belief that Americans vote with their wallet, a shallow endeavour but a belief that has held to this day. Is this where Americans want to get back to? It’s interesting MAGA supporters were tried and true Democrats, but Reagan set in motion what would eventually kill them, the destruction of organized labor. The Reagan legacy lived for 30 years after he left office, but now his star has begun to dim as the conservative movement is being replaced with something more radical. Reagan viewed America as a shining beacon of light on a hill. A welcoming nation. The new veneer is you can visit but please do not stay.

Since the end of the cold war we have slowly become adrift as the simplicity of what is right versus wrong has dissipated and though for years we led the world when problems arose the responsibility began to weigh on the average American. Part of Make America Great was now it’s time to isolate. America would cede its leadership role in the world stage. This was not stated in the campaign of 2016, but it was implied. If you need assistance you are welcome to pay for it, but the era of protection as a charity was over. By default we were creating a global power vacuum. As history has shared many times before power vacuums rarely remain vacant. It turned out there was a country waiting in the wings to do what the Soviet Union could not: split the west. China, a country with its own global aspirations has begin to assume the void left by American unreliability in the wake of the last four years

If history has shown us one thing it is that empires do not last forever. The seeds of destruction are usually self inflicted. Arrogance has a price. American exceptionalism is on the decline. A lot has been written and discussed on how empires fall due to taking on too much debt. Financing is a bit different these days than it was even fifty years ago. The knowledge of being considered a global power affects citizens of an empire. Being powerful impacts people’s psychological being. An example would be Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has called the destruction of the Soviet Union a disaster. He still longs for respect and relevance on the world stage on his terms. I along with millions of others grew up in a time when the United States was riding the success of being the deciding factor in ending two world wars. But in the Russian mindset that desire to return to something more concrete and more stable stable time, where the world feared and respected her.

I have no idea what “Make America Great Again” means outside of the fact that it does not want the status quo to remain the same, but status quo’s are meant to die. If America is one thing, it is always evolving and trying to improve. We live in an era driven by fear. Where people digest information that makes them feel relevant, too often that relevance comes at the cost of playing the part of the victim. The government screwed you. White people screwed you. Illegal immigrants screwed you. Tech companies screwed you. I have news for you, no one ever succeeded by playing the victim. The Rush Limbaugh’s on the world were not helping you they were playing you, playing the victim. Cut your taxes and you will be free, 50% of the US Stock Market is owned by the top one percent, they thank you very much for their tax cuts. If we increase the US minimum wage we will hurt US Companies. Is it fair to ask who is helping the 34 million in poverty in the US (A number higher now due to COVID) – when you are poor a tax cut will help by additional groceries, it will not lift you out of poverty. It does enable the billionaire’s to buy a new mansion. Maybe this is what MAGA is, maybe it is something else. After listening to if for over four years I find us no closer to this illusive “vision”, whatever it may be. Perhaps my one suggestion is look to the future and not to the past. Reflecting on past greatness is for historians, but we live in the present and it is how we deal with issues that confront us now, that will determine if America will continue to be great tomorrow.

Good Night and Good Luck

Hans Henrik Hoffmann

May 11. 2021

Categories Uncategorized