Saturday, January 29, 2022

Why Moving Towards the Light is More Important than Ever

 This country, founded on a belief in human equality, the power of democracy and the rule of law, is in serious crisis and moving inexorably towards the darkness. After only 232 years since the birth of the Democratic Republic in 1789, the democratic system as outlined in the Constitution has been seriously threatened especially following an attempted coup by its former President on Jan 6 of the year 2021. The near successful attempt to undermine the peaceful transition of power by a mentally unbalanced demagogue and blatant white supremacist is troublesome in its own right.

However, it seems that a major political party not only has essentially refused to condemn this overt attempt to subvert the very basis of a democratically-aligned government but has made it clear through both rhetoric and actions its determination to undermine the electoral process. Through its unrelenting attacks on the truth; and through its violent and corrosive language in which the members of the opposing party – that clearly holds the majority – are labeled as the enemy, it has become quite evident that the democratic process is held in contempt.

These are indeed dark times when the forces of bigotry and repression, of ignorance and violence, of hatred and fear are encouraged and seen as values to be lauded. These are indeed dark times when white supremacy is regarded as a political philosophy to be embraced and emulated. These are indeed dark times when truth is supplanted with outrageous falsehoods and intellect and science are held suspect.

This nation has failed to come to terms with the violent reality of its past. Part of this violent heritage was the near genocide of the native peoples of North America for the primary purpose of uprooting them from their land and their way of life so as to make room for white settlers who wished to forcefully occupy all available land and exploit its vast and untapped resources. There has been and continues to be a refusal to acknowledge the great injustice of the enslavement of the peoples of Africa captured and forcefully exported from their land and their people so as to exploit their labor .and deprive them of their inherent humanity. This incomplete accounting does not include the totality of violent aggression directed at immigrant populations over the life of the nation.

A significant aspect of this past is the many wars of aggression fought around the world so as to impose and protect economic and political hegemony especially in regard to poorer nations. More often than not these conflicts left millions of needless and avoidable deaths and unimaginable destruction.

This unabashed history of intolerance, hatred and violence has left innumerable injuries that fester within the body politic and have seriously impacted the collective psyche of the American people. As a result, fear, uncertainty, insecurity, and suspicion have festered within the population making it susceptible to the vitriol and toxic polemics that reverberate throughout the culture. This has given rise to a crazed environment where hundreds of millions of guns and weaponry are now in the hands of the general public. A consideration of the inevitable outcome of this mass possession of instruments of death is difficult to contemplate.

We are a people in crisis. A route out of this path into the darkness is to turn towards the light. This shift in direction involves a number of key transformations. A first priority must be a return to the truth and the concomitant rejection of the lie in all its manifestations. Secondly, the reality that science has clearly demonstrated that needs to be fully embraced is the fact that all peoples of the world regardless of the color of their skin, place of origin, sexual orientation, gender, etc. are members of the same species – Homo sapiens – all worthy of the same rights and privileges and entitled to the same treatment under the law. A necessary corollary of this truth is the fact that race is an artificial construct that has no reality outside this mistaken perception. A true ascendence to this reality would deny bigotry, prejudice and feelings of racial superiority any standing.

One of the key components of such a shift in attitudes and general mindset is the necessity of discarding delusional thinking that has led to the acceptance of crazed philosophies and expectations that have no true relationship with reality. Freeing ourselves of the burden of this thinking would allow the nation to begin to confront real issues such as climate change, that in the absence of remedial action may eventually engulf us.

Finally and most importantly, we need to discard the blinders that have kept us trapped in a world of our own creation where we have come to believe that we as individuals are the center of existence and therefore fail to recognize and appreciate the wondrous diversity that surrounds us. We are, after all, a part of the fabric of existence; all of humanity and nature deserves to be heard, nurtured, supported and appreciated. This, to me, is the essence of love.

Recent Supreme Court Decisions and their Deleterious Impact Upon Democratic Institutions of Government

 With some few yet important exceptions – The Warren Court for example (1953 – 1969) - the decisions of the United States Supreme Court over the history of the Republic have echoed the demands of wealth and power and have been supportive of the status quo especially in regard to preserving the hegemony of the ruling class. A striking example of this was the Supreme Court decisions during the so-call Progressive era (1896 – 1916) that repeatedly undermined worker’s rights during a time when workers were terribly exploited as the nation was shifting from an agricultural-based society to an industrialized one. This period was noteworthy for widespread social activism and political reform.

Recent rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court especially by the Court’s composition with a majority of conservative right-wing appointed justices clearly show a disturbing trend towards a more repressive and decidedly less democratic republic.

The focus in this talk will be on decisions made by majority conservative justices regarding the issues of gun control, voting rights and campaign finance that have seriously jeopardized public safety, endangered equal access to all U.S. citizens to the polls, and ensured the unfettered and unregulated access of wealth and affluence to seats of government.

Gun Control

In District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the decision by the Court was narrow in its application by affirming an individual right to keep handguns in the home for self-defense. Justice Scalia, writing the majority opinion emphasized that, “the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. [It is] not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” However, the fact that the Second Amendment to the Constitution was used to justify this decision, laid the groundwork for the decisions that were to follow.

In McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010), regarding handgun ownership the Supreme Court held, by a vote of 5–4 that the Second Amendment not only applied to federal jurisdiction as in D.C. but to state and local authorities as well.

The Second Amendment states that, “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”

It is hard to imagine that the framers of the Constitution ever intended this amendment to suggest that all private citizens have the constitutional right to be armed beyond the strict boundary of a “well-regulated militia.” This to me, exceeds the limits of common sense and reasonable thinking. As a nation, we have enough evidence to clearly see the real and horrific implications of having an unregulated dissemination of firearms with unimagined firepower to ordinary citizens. This problem has been further compounded by the reality that much of the armaments possessed by the general population are military-style weapons designed to kill with astounding accuracy and precision. Many of these weapons are also in the hands of self-styled personal militias holding extremist jingoist views in a highly polarized political atmosphere filled with outrageous views with little relationship to the truth. This overall situation does not bode well for the future. The Supreme Court rarely recognizes its responsibility regarding the impact of its decisions.

The Supreme Court seems oblivious to the fact that a majority of Americans would like to see further efforts to expand gun control. Yet, in spite of these realities, the Court continues to be willing to hear cases that may further erode the nation’s ability to control the tragic outcomes that are a direct result of the wholesale ownership of weapons.

Voting Rights

On June 25, 2013, in the case of Shelby County v. Holder, 570 U.S. 529 (2013), the United States Supreme Court held that it is, “unconstitutional to use the coverage formula in Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act to determine which jurisdictions are subject to the preclearance requirement of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.”

The tragic and immediate impact of this decision was to essentially neutralize the Voting Rights Act (1965). The rational of this court was that the social and political conditions that existed in 1965 were no longer extant and that the need for such provisions were no longer necessary. Almost immediately following this decision, many states under Republican Party control, especially in the South, began crafting legislation designed to limit access of minorities to the polls.

The issues presented before the Court in Brovich, Attorney General of Arizona v. Democratic National Committee (2021) were the voter-restriction laws passed by the State of Arizona. One banned the collection of absentee ballots by any person or group other than a relative or caregiver and the other law threw out ballots cast in the wrong precinct. A federal appeals court had thrown out these provisions on the basis that, ‘they had an unequal impact on minority voters and that there was no evidence of fraud that would have justified their use.” Also these were passed in Arizona under the false and misleading notion that the 2020 Presidential election was fraudulent and stolen. This widespread lie was never substantiated by any court of law in response to a literal flood of suits filed by ex-president Donald Trump in many judicial venues. In addition, election officials throughout the nation added testimony to the overwhelming conclusion that the election was fair and beyond reasonable reproach. It also should be remembered that Donald Trump won in 2016 despite the fact that he received a minority of popular votes - three million fewer votes than his opponent.

The 6-3 vote was consistent with the so-called “conservative” values of the majority in the Court. Justice Alito wrote the majority decision angering his “liberal” colleagues. The rationale for this decision was that the state laws should be reinstated in that the impact on minorities was, “relatively minor.”

In the majority decision Justice Alito wrote that, “Just because voting may be "inconvenient for some, doesn't mean that access to voting is unequal.” He also stipulated that the courts should consider what voting rules were like 1982, when the relevant provision of the law was enacted. He stated that, at that time almost all voting was in person and on Election Day, and "the mere fact that there is some disparity in impact does not necessarily mean that a system is not equally open or that it does not give everyone an equal opportunity to vote."

Again, we have the Supreme Court disseminating judgments that apparently ignore the real political and social realities of the present and the conclusions drawn by the majority of the nation’s people. The Court demonstrates an apparent disregard for the essential aspects of a supposed democratic society and seems to possess no real desire or inclination to support the underlying and essential characteristic of any democracy – the unimpeded right of every citizen to vote. Without this right, the nation runs the risk of being subject to the tyranny of the minority – a minority that would not have access to the power of formulating national policy if the right to vote was equally enforced. The reemergence of Jim Crow is not in the nation’s best interests.

Campaign Finance

In Citizen’s United v. FEC (2010), The court held that “the free speech clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent expenditures for political campaigns by corporations, including nonprofit corporations, labor unions, and other associations.”

This decision essentially swept away all the progress that had been made in regard to campaign finance reform that had been enshrined in laws and regulations. This spurious, ludicrous, and far-fetched application of the free speech amendment to the U.S. Constitution is difficult to fathom.

According the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

This amendment clearly addresses the right to free speech. There is nothing in the body of this amendment that anyway refers to money or finance. This application of the free speech amendment to this decision effectively implies that wealthy individual, corporations, and institutions apparently have greater access to free speech than ordinary citizens. It also establishes, promotes, and encourages the effective control over the nation’s political infrastructure by the country’s monied interests.

As we all recognize within the current system, politicians and elected officials spend a vast portion of their time in government soliciting funds for their campaigns. They inevitably become beholding to wealth and power often at the expense of the common good. The evidence of this relationship is readily apparent. It also explains how legislation on many levels of government are crafted with the “assistance” of lobbyists who represent those who can enrich or impoverish politicians who do their bidding or who defy their interests.

In the examples set forth above, I have attempted to demonstrate how the Supreme Court has repeatedly made decisions that counter the very essence of a true democracy suggesting that the Court majority has very little interest in democracy and is far more vigilant and resourceful regarding the interests of wealth and power.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

The Plight of the Native American Peoples of the U.S.

 It is a disturbing and unavoidable reality that the westward expansion of the United States during the early stage of its development as a nation was accomplished at the expense of the native populations that occupied these coveted lands.  These native populations were conveniently viewed as less than human and treated accordingly, resulting in their near genocide.  As a result, they were violently displaced from the land they held as sacred for the sake of the unimpeded and ineluctable occupation by white settlers.

To this day, no substantive apologies have ever been offered and no attempt at restitution made to help ameliorate the suffering that has been imposed on these native peoples and their descendants.  The following is a description of the tragedy imposed upon Chief Joseph and his people - the Nez Perce.

Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce


was known to his people as "Thunder Traveling to the Loftier Mountain Heights."

The Nez Perce occupied an area of Oregon referred to as the Wallowa valley in Eastern Oregon. These people were first exposed to white settlers during the Lewis and Clark expedition (1804 – 1806). They were treated with kindness, consideration, and compassion. On this first encounter they were impressed by the technological advances and capabilities these strangers. To some members of the Nez Perce people, they were regarded as superior being whom they wanted to emulate. This embrace of these newcomers, however, would prove to be of relatively short duration.

It was not longer after this initial encounter, that the NEZ Perce was visited by Christian missionaries.  An exposure to the ways of the white man as exemplified by the lifestyle of these missionaries led many Nez Perce to convert to Christianity.

Joseph’s father, Tuekakas, as chief of the Nez Perce was a convert and as a consequence, Joseph was exposed at an early age to the ways of these foreigners.

Although the homeland of the Nez Perce was remote and hard to reach served as a significant barrier to encroachment by white settlers, this protection was disrupted by two significant events in the early history of the U.S. republic. One was the California Gold Rush of 1848 and the other was Homestead Act of 1862 that granted up to 160 acres of land to those who would establish residence and make the land productive. This act resulted in the settlement of about 1.6 million on land mostly West of the Mississippi.

Although many individuals migrated to California In search of gold, few became rich. When the dream of becoming rich weathered, many were attracted to the West as a place to settle. As a result, these miners began to encroach upon the land of the Nez Perce.

In addition, the push to settle in the vast lands of the West promoted by the Federal government through the enactment of the Homestead Act was thwarted by the presence of Native American populations that were already resident. In the fact of this reality, the government attempted to come to some kind of peaceful arrangement with these populations through the instrument of treaties. However, there was no real incentive to honor the provisions of these treaties, since the newly formed American nation possessed a superiority in numbers and military capability. The historic record is replete with examples of the abrogation of these treaty arrangements.

When Joseph became chief following the death of his father, he naively believed that the U.S. was sincere in its efforts to find peaceful arrangements and would be true to treaty obligations. It is important to understand that the Nez Perce had a strong body of spiritual beliefs in which the land and all that resided upon it were considered a sacred and sustaining aspect of existence and could not be owned, purchased, or exploited. In this light, the attitudes and politics of the white settlers and the US government were inexplicable.

The turning point came In 1877 as a result of the conference held between many of the indigenous tribal leaders and General Howard representing the US government. The meeting was held at Fort Lapwai. It was Howard’s intention to use this opportunity to issue an ultimatum to those Native American leaders invited that they must leave their land and move to designated reservations. They could do this freely or be forced to migrate. The outcome of this conference demonstrated once and for all the unwillingness of the US government to honor its treaty obligations when it was not in its interest to do so. The ultimate conclusion was that Howard issued his ultimatum that the Nez Perce must either move out of their homeland to a reservation defined by the US government within thirty days or be forcefully driven out. When Chief Joseph attempted to suggest that this abbreviated timeline was impossible to adhere to, his entreaties were ignored.

Rather than accept this ultimatum, Chief Joseph fled with his people – there goal was to travel to Canada and remove themselves entirely from jurisdiction of the US government. This represented a 1400-mile trek (see map below) while constantly being pursued by the US army. This was a brave yet futile effort that resulted in the death of many hundreds of his people. He ultimately surrendered in 1877.


Following the final defeat of the Nez Perce at the hands of the US army, Chief Joseph gave a very poignant and unforgettable speech on October 5, 1877, upon his surrender to General Howard who had been pursuing him and his people for many months in their vain attempt to flee to freedom in Canada. His speech is shown below.

"I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead. Toohoolhoolzote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say, 'Yes' or 'No.' He who led the young men [Olikut] is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are — perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever."

It is a testament to his timeless courage and unshakeable conviction that there is a town in Oregon (Joseph, Oregon) near Wallowa Lake named after him and the Nez Perce Memorial National Park was created in the same region that is also the site where he is buried. Of course, whether or not the descendants of the Nez Perce will ever be justly compensated for the grave injustice perpetrated against their people is an open question.

The story of this remarkable human being is an extraordinary one.

Chief Raoni Metuktire


Chief Raoni Metuktire is the chief of the Kayapo people who populate a region of the Amazon forest.    It is this vast region in South America that represents a highly important resource that plays a central role in the stability of the global climate especially with the added threat of climate change that is a direct result of human activity.

The Amazon forest has been threatened for decades due to the unabated incursion of commercial development that has had a devastating impact on the the region – threatening the delicate ecological balance that sustains this natural system.  As a result, the livelihood, safety and security of the indigenous peoples that populate this region have been under continued assault.

Chief Raoni has been involved in the preservation of the remaining rain forest that is home to his people for decades and has repeatedly risked his own safety in the pursuit of this illusive goal.  Although there is no official record of his birth, it has been assumed that he was born around 1932 in a village called Krajmopyjakare, otherwise known as Kapot.  This village resides in the midst of he region referred to as the Mato Grosso in Brazil (see map below).


 The Kayapo are a nomadic people; as a child he lived in many locations.  At the age of 15, Raoni participated in the rites of initiation as a warrior and wore a labret – an ornamental disk in their lower lip that was gradually replaced by larger disks an ultimately reached the current size after four months.

In 1954, Raoni met the Villas Broas brothers – Orlando, Claudio and Leonardi were Brazilian activists that drew attention to the plight of the indigenous people of Brazil and ultimately succeeded in getting the upper Xingu legally protected.  He stayed with them for a year, learned Portuguese and was greatly influenced by them.

It was in 1973 that Chief Raoni began a friendship with noted French film maker, Jean Pierre Dutilleux, that ultimately led to the release of a documentary film entitled Raoni that was presented at the 1977 Cannes festival.  This gave the Chief Raoni and the plight of his people worldwide exposure.

He used this exposure as an opportunity to expose the threat the deforestation posed on the rain forest ecosystem and the plight this posed to the indigenous populations of this region.

In 1989, Chief Raoni, enlisted the help of Sting, a popular British rock band to broadcast his message.  It was the first time he ever traveled beyond his homeland of Brazil.  The resulting impact of all these events aroused enough global support that a vast tropical reservation was create in 1993 that encompassed the Mato Grosso and Para states in Brazil.  In addition, Chief Raoni won the support of such notable individuals as French President, Mitterrand and the former French President Chirac, The king of Spain, Juan Carlos and Pope John Paul II.

Chief Raoni Metuktire remains a charismatic and influential leader in support of the indigenous peoples of the rain forest and an outspoken proponent of a sustainable planet.

Gordon Hirabayashi


We have previously examined the life of Fred Korematsu, above, and have seen the degree of his courage in opposing the involuntary internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. There was yet another individual, Gordon Hirabayashi, who openly defied Order No. 9066 that forcefully relocated so many Japanese-Americans, brutally uprooted them from their lives and livelihoods and for many their property as well.

Hirabayashi was born on April 23, 1918, in Sandpoint, Washington to Shungo and Mitsuko Hirabayashi who emigrated from Nagano Prefecture, Japan – a farming community. Shungo came to the United States in 1907 and was later to marry Mitsuko in 1914. It was an arranged marriage that was not uncommon in that era. Both Shungo and Mitsuko had studied at the Kenshi Gijuku Academy in Japan where they had learned English and eventually converted to the Christian religion. Rather than joining a conventional Christian mainline church they became followers of Kanzo Uchimura (1861 – 1930) who was responsible for founding the Mukyokai movement in Japan. The emphasis of this mode of Christianity proposed a non-liturgical approach to religious practice. It became known for its non-church services.

In 1891, Uchimura gained notoriety when, as a teacher at the First Higher School in Tokyo, he refused to bow before the signature of the emperor affixed to a copy of the new Imperial Rescript on Education. He later changed his mind and from a sickbed sent a colleague to bow for him, but the affair effectually ended his educational career. The Mukoyokai movement was pacifist in its orientation and stressed that behavior should reflect belief. It was apparently this ideology that inspired Hirabyashi to act in a way that lived up to his beliefs.

Once in America, Hirabayashi’s parents were instrumental with others in forming the White River Garden Corporation. In order to accomplish this, the Japanese-American members had to use a white intermediary on account of the fact that the Washington State Constitution had incorporated an alien land law in its founding documents in 1889. In 1921, this law was amended to make it impossible for aliens ineligible for citizenship to hold major shares in a corporation, hold property or hold any major interest in lands delegated for agricultural use. Because of this legal stipulation, the White River Garden Corporation lost its case in the Washington State Supreme Court and the farmland was ceded to the State, but the families involved were allowed to stay on the land and rent it from the State.

Given his unique Christian upbringing, he began to take a pacifist stance in regard to the growing conflict that was embracing Europe and Asia. By 1939 following the German occupation of Poland, the United Kingdom had declared war on Germany. As a consequence of these events, Hirabayashi as a young man registered with the Selective Service as a conscientious objector and joined the Religious Society of Friends, the Quakers, known for their long-standing pacifist theology.

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, it was becoming quite evident that the United States domestic policy had begun to focus on Japanese-Americans as possible being a potential threat to domestic security. Finally, with the promulgation of Executive Order 9066, the military was given the responsibility of implementing the forced migration of Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast to hastily constructed internment camps.

Realizing that his constitutionally mandated rights were being violated, he made the momentous and courageous decision to resist. When the time came requiring him to register for relocation, Hirabayashi turned himself in to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). His strategy was to create a test case as a way to challenge the underlying constitutionality of the federal mandate that ordered the forced incarceration of an entire group without due process of law. He had an underlying faith in the democratic system. He received a substantial amount of legal help and was eventually represented by Frank L. Waters. He was also supported by the American Friends Service Committee and Norman Thomas (1884 – 1968), the noted pacifist and leader of the Socialist Party of the United States for many years.

On May 13, 942, Hirabayashi wrote the following letter (see the image below) –

On May 28, 1942, Hirabayashi was indicted for violating Public Law 505 that made the violation of the mandated curfew imposed upon Japanese-Americans a federal crime. He was subsequently arraigned on June 1, 1942, at which time he pleaded not guilty based upon the legal argument that both the exclusion law and the curfew denied him basic constitutional rights as a citizen of the United States.

He ultimately lost this case and was sentenced to serve his allotted time in confinement at a road camp and ended up at a camp outside of Tacoma, Washington. When Hirabayashi’s legal team appealed this conviction to the Supreme Court, Hirabayashi v. United States, the justices by unanimous vote upheld his conviction on June 21, 1943.

He served his remaining time in a prison in Tucson, Arizona. There he met Hopi draft resistors and other pacifists like himself who refused military service on the grounds of being conscientious objectors. This experience reinforced his determination to resist.

Following his release from the federal prison in Tucson, he was faced with yet another challenge to his determination to resist what he believed were unconstitutional infringements on his personal liberty. He received a form from the Selective Service that came to be known as the “loyalty questionnaire (Form 304A). It was entitled, The Statement of United States Citizens of Japanese Ancestry

Since this form specifically singled out citizens of Japanese descent, he refused to fill it out and returned the blank form with a letter detailing his view regarding his view of the legitimacy of the questionnaire. His submission was ignored, and he was subsequently ordered to proceed to the CPS camp for induction. He refused induction. And was charged with Selective Service violations. In court, he represented himself, and was found guilty and was sentenced to one year at the McNeil Island Penitentiary.

After his release and following the end of the war, Hirabayashi completed his studies in sociology and with his advanced PhD degree, he taught abroad in Beirut, Lebanon, Cairo, Egypt, and Alberta Canada where he finally retired in 1983.

Ultimately, his wartime conviction was vacated by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1987. This decision represented a repudiation of the extra-legal treatment of the Japanese-American population during the war.

In 1999, Hirabayashi was recognized for his courage and conviction in the face of the assault on his basic freedoms as a citizen of the United States by the renaming of the site of the Tucson Federal Prison in his honor to the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site. In 2002, a kiosk was created that honored not only Hirabayashi, but also the forty-one Nisei draft resistors that were also sent to prison.

Hirabayashi died on January 2, 2012 and was subsequently posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama – a fitting acknowledgment to his contributions in living up to a central ideal of democracy – equal treatment of all under the law.