A Nation of Intolerance

We live in a time of division in the United States, it is not that we simply disagree with one another, we genuinely do not like one another. The entire point of the 2016 election was not to unite but to divide. To pit one party versus the other. This was the brainchild of Trump strategist Steve Bannon and like it or not, it was successful. For quite some time now the political status quo has been under fire and to a degree I get it. How many politicians over the last 30 years have gone to small to midsize middle American cities and said we are bringing jobs back to America, both Democrats and Republicans, and 4 years later that audience is still waiting. In the meantime small town American cities begin to crumble, into a opioid laden haze. The young leave to the big cities if they can, others stay and wallow away into despair. Regardless of political the promise we can all see the impact of automation on manufacturing and know there will be far fewer jobs upon their return. The American public is smarter than it sometimes is given credit for.

We seem to see a new extreme each week. Governor Ron Desantis, a shrewd politician, has seized the Trump mantel of late and is looking to divide us more along party lines, with the infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill. While Governor Gregg Abbot of Texas wants fellow citizens to be informants for his anti-abortion agenda (for all the rhetoric of democrats being socialist this is right out of the East German playbook). These are moves that target a specific base, an angry base. It is popular in certain circles and abhorred in others, these moves are wedge issue. Designed to raise the American blood pressure to a boiling point, We are in a time where democracy is in peril in the United States, if democracy dies the US Constitution is dead. Many would disagree with that last quote and argue we need to return to the constitution, but I would say we never left it. We continue to adhere by the constitution and follow the guidance as laid out to America. The US Constitution is 7 article’s and the Bill of Rights is 27 Amendment’s (actually 25 as 18 & 21 cancel each other out). It is not long so please read.

We started down this path of division under President Ronald Reagan when he killed the Fairness Doctrine. The Fairness Doctrine stemmed from a 1949 policy meant to cover the radio industry. As a condition for a federal license, station owners were required to “afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views on issues of public importance.”  In short you had to give both sides of an argument an equal voice. In killing the doctrine he created far right media personalities like Rush Limbaugh. Over the next 40 years the radio was littered with hatred of government. Indoctrinating the country with false narratives. Any enlargement of government was immediately labeled “Socialism”. Infringement on our rights. Confusing the US with Stalinist Russia (between 20 million and 40 million Soviet citizens died during Stalin’s reign), is an odd and ill informed view of history. Rush Limbaugh taught his followers to hate government and if people did not buy in, to hate them to. Which is why Rush Limbaugh was known as the Prince of Hate (I actually crowned him that, but he would be proud of it). If we all hate our government what do we have that is left? When do we storm the capital building in the name of patriotism….wait that already happened, led by a new George Washington in a Buffalo outfit.

The left is not innocent in this debate, they have drifted away from their roots with the US working class, the labor unions. They have in many ways become “too educated” and are rightly viewed as elitist. It really started in the Clinton administration, when democrats were viewed as not in step with the Republicans on the economy and started to take what was then a more progressive view. They would start rolling back laws like the Glass-Steagall act in 1999, disastrous consequences came later. In the meantime more than the GOP they would talk passively to their “previous” base of labor, offering promises built on dreams. They drifted away and labor needed a new leader and found it in Donald Trump. What labor really wants is protection from the free market capitalists, who disown them as soon as a better “business” opportunity is provided, like off shoring of jobs. To ease their pain here is some opioids. Big ideas led to empty promises . What was wanted was a steady income with benefits so people could live life comfortably. Something capitalism is not in step with. Capitalism lied to America but we have already bought in so it is too late.

We talk of the liberal media as if the huge conservative media is innocent. Watching the cable networks there is plenty of hatred to spread, whether you want Rachel Maddow or Tucker Carlson there is plenty of things to make you angry before you go to bed, to cause your blood to boil and send your mind racing, which ultimately results in lost sleep (something I value more as I get older). The issue is not the liberal media or the conservative media, it is media in general. What annoys me though is there is a lot of great journalism happening right now. There are people asking hard questions, doing in depth research, hitting the road and spending large amounts of time away from there home to get to the truth. For many that truth can be hard to hear

Capitalism is not what it is cracked up to be and is as much a cause for American pain as it is prosperity. It was Milton Friedman who said, “The only social responsibility a corporation has is to maximize profits”. Maximizing profits come down to three little statements: Balance Sheet, Cash Flow Statement and Income Statement. We have gone on the war path to eliminate anything that slows the free flow of capital. Creating financial tools to allow a select few to prosper. Hedge funds are all the rage for making a new class of billionaires. Ask then how many jobs they created you are likely to get a blank stare High Frequency trading is another business that frankly should be banned, but instead it made billionaire’s who we are taught to idolize and seek advice from. What advise can they give, “you want to get rich kid, game and cheat the system”. Don’t worry if you get busted you will only get a couple years in a country club and when you get out your money will be waiting.

There have been several excellent books on how we got to this point in American History, Evan Osnos book “Wildland: The Making of American Fury” and Arlie Russell Hochschild’s book “Stranger in a Strange Land” come to mind. One thing is consistent is it took decades to get here and there were many reasons that impacted both black and white America. Simple was the increasing view of the corporate bottom line being all powerful and that the stock market represented American health. If GDP was good the country was good. GDP is actually a poor measure, its a reflection of how much a country produces in goods and services, the easiest way to increase the number is to increase the population. Which is why economists are often concerned about Japan’s GDP, but that is silly as Japan’s population is aging and shrinking. We are in a society where the speed of transaction to the speed of consumer satisfaction has increased to breakneck speeds, but in doing so it is leaving vast swaths of America behind. Government programs that could help have been stripped away. Every tax cut is programs taken away and trickle down economics is really struck down economics as people struggle to stand and live again. Hidden behind it all is a culture of wealth that says your lives were never worth much, frankly they are not worth saving. Here are some opioids to lessen your pain.

Good night and Good Luck

Hans Henrik Hoffmann

March 23, 2022

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Drifting to Acceptance and Intolerance

My wife and sister in-law were sitting in the sun at the Last Frontier Saloon in Fall City, WA basking in the sunlight much like a cat does lazing about in so many peoples windows. In a prime state of relaxation. They are chatty pair and when they saw a man wearing a “Sturgis” T-Shirt, where they both have been they turned it into a opportunity to have a conversation. At first cordial, it took a U-Turn as the man used it as a political platform. His hatred of our state governor, money being wasted on meth addicts, to be frank not anything that is not being espoused these days. There certainly is a group who despise Washington State Governor Jay Inslee , but in 2020 he easily won the election over Trump candidate Lauren Culp (56% – 43%). Is this different than any other time in US history? Perhaps. The final nail on the man’s coffin or enlightenment is he is moving to Idaho, where he can now be free. Freedom is a fickle things these days, not defined by the constitution but by whomever at that moment may be interpreting it, to suit their ends.

Recently I watched a documentary about ” The American Redoubt” by an English news crew. It was exploring a right wing group of people many who had moved to Idaho seeking a life more in line with their values, very Christian in their beliefs. They have broadened there geography to include Montana, Wyoming and the eastern parts of Oregon and Washington. You always have to be careful with film, because they may film a group of people close up and crowded, giving you the impression it is a mass movement, only to discover it was 50 people. The American Redoubt is adept at playing the blame game as you can read at their online news site, the Redoubt News, which is scary given the amount of misinformation, not to mention individuals with questionable backgrounds (Matt Shea). There are lot of people moving to Idaho and not surprisingly they are white, middle aged and pissed. Looking for answers, looking for peace but look into their heart you will only find anger.

Conspiracy theories have become prevalent in America. Used as a means for action, regardless it seems of how far out they may be. It has gotten to the point there are so many to keep track of, we had Pizza Gate, QAnon, Stop the Steal, seems like dozens of COVID conspiracies etc..and the funny thing is I am a fool if I do not believe at least one of them. In some ways we are like Russia in the way we are manipulated by these ideas. In Russia, where homosexuality is not condoned the common refrain is save the children from pedophiles, turning the whole debate on its head and make all gays pedophiles and use their children as propaganda against them. Next thing you know in the states we have QAnon and Pizza Gate. Apparently we have a bigger pedophile problem. We as a society seem to revel in being in “the know”. The government is lying to us, like we are in an episode of the “X-Files”. Throughout history mankind has been susceptible to conspiracy theories especially when you make the target audience the victim. Rush Limbaugh is beaming down from heaven with his approval of the ridiculous, the absurd, the conspiracy. The victim card worked for Hitler and seemingly in can work anywhere, where a segment of the population is desperate enough for an answer that does not involve themselves.

There is a part of America that is afraid. They see a country they thought they knew drifting away. What once was “Hotdog’s, Baseball and Apple Pie”, is shrinking away. In the digital age things are moving faster than many can comprehend. Not just socially but economically. Change has always been a big part of the American experience, but now we see that change more in racial divides. When you throw up data that says by 2050 white people will not be the majority the United States, many people become terrified, which is why it did not take but a simple shove to revive white nationalism in the United States. It would be easy to dismiss these groups as racists and therefor not active or welcome participants in democratic process, but that would be a poor choice. They are growing and no one is giving them reason to turn away. They have a solution, but if you did deeper into the view. it will involve a great amount of bloodshed, that cost never has a positive outcome.

Going back to Idaho I hear of a lot of people saying I am going to move to Idaho as it is more in line with my values, rather than fight for their beliefs at home they choose the easy route and move to a place viewed as safe. It strikes me if we continue this path we will move away from red states vs blue states to deep red states vs deep blue states, the difference being you are no longer welcome when crossing from deep blue to deep red. We live in an era, as NY Times Columnist David Brooks defined it, of explosive distrust: It is not that we view opposing views as wrong, we view them as illegitimate. When all this happens you have taken away a fundamental tenant of American democracy: Freedom.

Good Night and Good Luck,

Hans Henrik Hoffmann

May 9, 2022

Categories Uncategorized