How I Became a Writer…And the Writer I’ve Become

Tags

,

David-15Sept2012-v2Most writers say they’ve always been writers. I suppose I could say the same, although perhaps not in the same way. As my writing life expands I often look at others to see what their writing path looked like. Not surprisingly, there have been many paths taken.

Many writers pursued journalism degrees. Often they started writing for the high school, or even middle school, newspaper. They went on to study journalism or English in college, sometimes getting an MFA (as in, Masters of Fine Arts). After graduation they got jobs with local newspapers, then the bigger newspapers or magazines. They were born writers, so to speak.

Others pursued writing on the side. They may have focused on some non-writer profession such as government, the law, accounting, plumbing, woodworking, or as in my case, science. On the side they wrote poetry or short stories or maybe even novels, most of which likely never was seen by any other human’s eyes. I know literal rocket scientists who work at NASA while writing science fiction and fantasy in their spare time. Some eventually give up their paying careers and pursue their writing full time. I suspect John Grisham is one of the few who have made more money as a writer than he did as a lawyer. That’s an exception. Most professional whatevers write for the love of writing, not for the money (sorry to say, most writers are not paying the bills with their writing alone).

So where am I on this spectrum? Clearly not the first. Growing up on the coast made it almost inevitable that I would pursue marine biology. I eagerly worked in the field after college until an arsonist destroyed my laboratory and changed my career path. I then worked for a series of environmental consulting firms in New Jersey and Washington, DC. No stints as a roving journalist. No MFAs. No writer-born was I. At least on the surface.

I also didn’t secretly write poetry or fiction or whatever, neatly tucked away in hidden journals or clandestinely submitted to magazines. But I also didn’t not write (double negative intended). While I recall writing some sort of poem when I was young (and like my youth, lost forever) and I did write an occasional essay (e.g., Whale of a Tale), the vast majority of my writing was technical: term papers for classes, theses for college degrees, and analyses for my consulting clients. Hardly what most people call “writing.” In addition, I wrote copious material for newsletters put out by regional scientific organizations, Abraham Lincoln groups, and the companies that employed me. Emails became a work of art, tweaked and twisted to make everything clear and anticipatory of forthcoming questions.

Throughout I slowly began to realize my “voice.” Despite the technical nature of my writing, it was understandable to a wide range of readers, something many (okay, most) technical writers have never achieved.

Which gets me to Gather. In 2007 a friend introduced me to a now defunct social media site called Gather.com. Its structure was similar to what Facebook groups have since become, without the hostage situation Facebook creates to enhance “promote me” advertising revenue. On Gather you could write articles (essentially blog posts, with all their opportunities and abuses), onto which readers could comment. It was at Gather that I discovered both my writing voice and passion for writing. I still wrote mostly non-fiction, with occasional dabbles in micro- and flash-fiction. Reality seems to be my realm.

And then there was a diversion. My last consulting firm sent me overseas to work for three years. I could still write for Gather but also, in addition to my full time job creating revenue for the already wealthy owners of the firm, I was in a position to travel. That cut into my writing time. I also began realizing the down side of social media, a realization that has become even more acute in the intervening years. Slowly my desire to enrich others waned while my desire to write waxed.

After returning stateside my urge to write grew. Tired of hearing me whine, my girlfriend encouraged me to attend a Writer’s Digest conference in New York. Long story short, I soon had an agent, a book contract, and a new career. I’ve since written three books for that publisher (all biographies for the general audience), plus published a couple of specialty e-books on Amazon. I’ve written several articles for specialty magazines and newsletters, both online and in print. I quit my job to write full time.

In my own mind I’m not a freelancer, per se, as most freelancers spend their time fishing for work writing articles for magazines, newspapers, or for companies. That kind of life is just a little too much like my old consulting career, constantly begging for new work and new clients. I prefer writing books, which requires long term research, a tremendous amount of organizational skill, and the willingness to be poor.

I do write for magazines and intend to do more such work, mostly as corollary to my book writing. I consider myself a full-time book author, so even with an increased element of freelancing in my career, I still won’t be a full-fledged freelancer in the normal sense. I also write the blog on my official author website, Science Traveler (www.davidjkent-writer.com), this creative writing and memoir blog, Hot White Snow (www.hotwhitesnow.wordpress.com), and a science communication blog called The Dake Page (thedakepage.blogspot.com). I recently started a website for the Abraham Lincoln Bibliography Project (abrahamlincolnbibliography.wordpress.com), which is where I am just beginning a project to compile all the published books on Abraham Lincoln. And while I left the consulting firms behind, my emails for the Lincoln Group of DC are still a work of art.

All writers have WIPs, aka, Works in Progress. My include an epic book on a specific Lincoln topic, a travel memoir, and editing a compendium book for the Lincoln Group of DC. In the last several days I’ve had a rather outlandish historical science fiction idea that may become my first foray into fiction. It will be my personal version of NaNoWriMo, with the first draft created from the humid air hanging over the South China Sea. If that wasn’t spreading myself thin enough, I’ve started the preliminary work on a future WIP, which will be the impetus behind an extended stay in Paris and Brussels next spring. If there is a reason behind fewer posts on my blogs, it’s because I’m busy working on longer term projects (and, maybe, just maybe, also a little procrastination and lack of focus). Such is my writing life.

Onward.

David J. Kent is the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

Check out my Goodreads author page. While you’re at it, “Like” my Facebook author page for more updates!

 

Advertisements

What the Election Says About Ourselves

Tags

,

voting machineAs I wrote yesterday, the midterm elections would tell us a lot about ourselves. So what did they tell us?

It tells us that racism and bigotry is a major driver in voting, especially for the Republican party. In the final weeks before yesterday’s election, the Republican party went full out racist. They promoted white supremacy. They lied about the “caravan.” Trump even shot down his staff’s attempt to end on a positive economic message and go with a grossly dishonest and blatantly racist “closer.” More proof that what drives many Republicans, mostly white, is racism and bigotry and not the apologetic “uncertain about the economy” mantra that was never true. This is all about fear.

The election also told us that Republicans are hypocrites. The “party of family values” led by a serial wife cheater and possible pedophile voted into office a dead pimp. Yup, Republicans in Nevada voted for an actual prostitute boss who had died over a month ago. And the “party of law and order”? They reelected a guy who was indicted for 60 counts of fraud. What the Republican party did do is vote in more white males.

The Republican party, while blatantly lying about nearly everything, also worked hard to keep people from voting. The current Secretary of State for Georgia, who was running for Governor, simply tossed people from areas predominantly of color off the registration roles, then he refused to complete the registrations of people who wanted to vote, and then, just to make sure, he refused to count thousands of absentee ballots that he arbitrarily deemed had signatures that didn’t exactly match the one on file (Note: look at a batch of your signatures and you won’t find any two that are exact). In other words, he blatantly suppressed the vote of persons of color that he assumed were voting for his African-American opponent. His margin of “lead” (still being counted) is a tiny percentage of the votes that he suppressed. Meanwhile, voting machines in predominantly black districts of Georgia mysteriously wouldn’t work, or were missing, leading to long lines and disenfranchising voters (not surprisingly, no problems were reported in affluent white neighborhoods). Reports of machines switching votes (not surprisingly, usually from Democrat to Republican) were prevalent. This is what corruption looks like, and it was repeated across the United States by Republicans over and over.

How about the Democratic party? They voted in a record number of women, the first Muslim women, an openly gay Governor, and broad diversity of men and women across all color, religion, and heritage backgrounds. Democrats also elected eight new scientists to Congress. While Republicans were trying every trick to block voters from voting, Democrats were working hard to help people register and encouraging them to vote.

The election told us that the two parties couldn’t be any more different. Democrats attracted the votes of a widely diverse populace representing every facet of American life. White people, black people, brown people, Asian people, Christian/Jewish/Muslim/Buddhist people, straight people, LGBTQ people, rich/poor/middle class/working class people, the list goes on. What did Republican voters look like? Mostly white, the very rich, and those, especially rural, with no education beyond high school (there is a reason why Republicans and Trump say they “love the uneducated“). Ironically, those working and rural people are being screwed daily by the Republicans as tax cuts for the ultra rich are being used as an excuse to cut services to working and rural voters.

So we’re faced with a large sector that encompasses a shrinking proportion of the nation who are either 1) racist/bigoted, or 2) profoundly insecure about losing their privilege. One party panders to this racism/bigotry/insecurity with fearmongering and blatant dishonesty. That party uses those lies to manipulate the fears of that part of the populace to get their votes, then goes on stealing from those same taxpayers to distribute even more money to the very rich and the corporations. As shown by their policies and actions, that party believes only the worker and middle classes should pay fair taxes. That party believes that health care is something that should be available only to those who can afford the ever-increasing costs. That party believes that science is a hoax. That party fights against any policy the other party agrees to, even when it was their idea in the first place.

In contrast, the other party represents the complete range of interests of all Americans, men/women/trans, rich/poor, white/non-white, Christian/non-Christian, straight/LGBTQ, and every other characteristics by which we self-identify. That party works hard for all Americans, believing not that the rich are bad, but that they should simply contribute their fair share. That party believes in finding a path forward so that everyone can get affordable health care. That party believes that science should inform policy, not be denied when it conflicts with ideological dogma. That party believes in working within the ideas provided by its diverse members to find solutions, even accepting the valid solutions of the other party when they arise (for example, a private insurance carrier-based health care system [aka, “The Affordable Care Act”] and a market based solution to climate change [aka, “Cap-and-Trade”].

The fact that I don’t even have to say which party is which tells you everything.

So we learned a lot about ourselves. Some of it was good: The Democrats elected people who reflect the diversity of America in every respect and promised to work hard for all Americans, even those who didn’t vote for Democrats. Some of it was bad: The Republicans elected more white men and played off the fears and bigotry of its most vulnerable members, while working against those members’ interests.

What did this election tell you about you?

David J. Kent is the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

Check out my Goodreads author page. While you’re at it, “Like” my Facebook author page for more updates!

This Election Will Tell Us About Ourselves

Tags

Vote 2And we may not like what we learn.

For those of us who are white males, our whiteness gives us privilege. Yes, I know you were born poor (like me) and worked hard to achieve all you have achieved in your life (like me), but we still grew up privileged (like me). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with being a white male; after all, we can’t change our whiteness. We don’t have to apologize for being white, or male. No one is asking you to. White males are not under attack. Get over it. The very fact that white males feel they (we) are being somehow singled out for abuse is in itself a sign of that privilege.

Others might be shocked to discover that racism still exists in this country. Worse, it is a driving force for the Republican party in the last decade, along with bigotry and dishonesty. No, no, no, you cry. That’s not true. Um, sorry, it is true. And it’s blatantly obvious to anyone paying attention. The reason why the Republican party carps about “the wall” and “illegal immigration” isn’t because we have a meaningful solution, it’s because it riles up the white folks, most especially in the South. Oh no, now I’m accusing the South of being racist. Look around you. See the Confederate flags? They signified a group of states who committed treason, rebelling against the United States because there was growing distaste for slavery, the foundation of southern society. See the Confederate statues? They weren’t put up to honor Confederate “heroes” (who were fighting against the United States to protect slavery), they were put up by white supremacy organizations to warn “the blacks” that whites still reigned supreme over them even if “the government” outlawed slavery. See the Nazi symbols? Do you not remember we, i.e., the United States and the free world, fought an entire war to topple the Nazis? This isn’t hard, folks. White supremacy in all its forms has become the backbone of the Republican party. That conflicts with the notion that America is the home of the free (that means everyone, not just the people that look like you).

For women who voted for Trump and others in the Republican party, the past two years might have come as a shock. The Republican party has worked hard to take away the rights of women. Yes, even the rights of white women. The white male privilege extends to white women, but only to an extent. Sometimes being a woman is enough to be targeted by the Republican party. In fact, it’s been part of the Republican party’s platform for decades.

By the way, I’m not a “Democrat” or “Republican” or “Democratic Socialist” or “liberal” or “conservative” or any other lazy label that allows people to rubber stamp whatever position their tribe has been assigned. I’m a scientist, a historian, and someone who always tries to make decisions based on facts. So while I’m highly critical of the institutionalized dishonesty and corruption of the current Republican party, I would love to spend my time debating the issues and finding solutions rather than having to constantly correct the blatant lies of the Republican party. And don’t give me the dishonest “both parties are the same” garbage – this past two years has proven beyond any doubt that one party cares about all Americans while the other only cares about the rich. The fact that I don’t even have to specify which is which tells you how true that statement is.

Only by killing the current Republican party can the former “party of Lincoln” have any chance of ever be esteemed by Lincoln or anyone else. Today’s Republican party is a doomsday cult whose sole purpose as a party is to shift money from 95% of taxpayers to the 1% richest people. That’s why they intentionally created an additional $1.5 Trillion in new debt to give rich people a huge tax break neither the rich nor the country needed, then immediately blamed their own deficit on social security, Medicare, and Medicaid. They did this intentionally. And if you look back at the last several decades, the Republican party had been fiscally dishonest the entire time. Republicans build up debt and crash the economy; Democrats fix the economy and lower the debt. Today’s economy is merely an extension of the Obama recovery from the Republican crash. Proven. Obvious. No honest person can deny it. That’s how dishonest the Republican party has become. After years of telling Americans how bad the economy is, the Republican party is now taking credit for the economy they were trashing, all while having done nothing to change its trajectory.

This election will tell us whether we are a nation of racists or a nation of freedom. This election will tell us whether we believe in honesty and integrity. This election will tell us if we are honest enough to admit that we made a huge mistake and are willing to make amends and start over.

Most importantly, the decision you make on this election day will tell us about YOU. It will tell us if you are American. Yes, I said it. This election will tell us whether you believe in “all men are created equal” or that some men – and women – are worth less than other men.

We all make mistakes. This is your chance to correct it.

If you voted for any Republican in the past, you can correct it by voting for every Democrat in this election. To save the Republican party you must first kill the dishonest cult it has become.

If you are a Democrat who voted for Obama in 2008 and/or 2012 but didn’t vote for Clinton in 2016, you can correct it by voting for the Democrat in every office up for election this year.

If you chose not to vote, you can correct it by voting. Only by voting can you make change. There is a reason that the Republican party puts so much effort into suppressing your right to vote – because voting would kill their party. So the Republican party passes Jim Crow-like laws, arbitrarily removes people from the registration roles, sends out false information, lies in political advertising, and as we’ve just seen, promotes racism and bigotry to rile its voters to the polls. YOU must vote. Only by overwhelming the polls with votes can we change the Republican culture of corruption and voter suppression.

Voting is how we change things. Voting is how we correct previous mistakes. There is no other way.

How you vote will tell all of us who you are.

Vote.

David J. Kent is the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

Check out my Goodreads author page. While you’re at it, “Like” my Facebook author page for more updates!

The Republican Party of Dishonesty

Tags

,

Your vote mattersThe Republican Party is dishonest. This is proven daily. This is not some partisan screed. It’s based on many years of data demonstrated by the actions of the Republican party.

The examples of Republican dishonesty are almost limitless because almost nothing they say these days is true. Almost nothing.

Republicans who voted over 50 times to repeal affordable health care for Americans are on the campaign trail claiming they are trying to protect health care and pre-existing conditions coverage (while simultaneously proposing bills that will do exactly the opposite of what they say). Republicans believe they can openly lie to their constituents and their voters will still vote for them.

Republicans claimed their massive tax breaks for the rich would pay for themselves. They didn’t; instead they created an additional $1.5 Trillion in debt for no reason (the rich and corporations have been enjoying record profits for years so no stimulus was needed). Republicans claimed those tax breaks for the rich would “trickle down” to the 95% of Americans who didn’t see any substantial increase in their paycheck. That isn’t happening; instead, inflation has wiped out any meager gains while corporations have used their windfall to buy back their own stock, which creates ZERO jobs and artificially inflates their stock prices, which the CEOs and Boards put in their pockets and special financial loopholes open only to them to avoid taxes.

After creating this huge additional deficit, the Republican party now blames the debt on social security, Medicare, and Medicaid. That’s a lie. They know they created the debt by giving money away to the ultra-rich, and they knew that they would use the debt they created to attack the PAID-FOR programs that help all Americans and have ZERO to do with debt creation.

The Republican party has been lying for years. They promoted the racist attacks on President Obama, the misogynistic political attacks on Hillary Clinton, the dishonest attacks on NFL athletes, and more. They did this intentionally and cynically to manipulate the most racist and misogynist and extremist elements of society. There’s a reason that the Republican party is the party of Neo-Nazis, the KKK, and white supremacists. You may claim you’re not a racist, but if you are a Republican, you are the Party of Racists. This isn’t a partisan opinion (I’m neither a Republican nor a Democrat); this is proven daily by Republican party actions.

The Republican party has been attacking affordable health care for Americans since the beginning even though “Obamacare” (which they invented to avoid using its official name, “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”) is a Republican plan. The Democrats had wanted universal health care but that was a political non-starter. President Obama pushed for a “public option,” that is, in addition to private insurance plans there would be an option for people to pick a government plan (similar to Medicare). That too was getting nowhere. So President Obama and the Democrats signed on to a Republican health care plan similar to one signed by Republican Mitt Romney in Massachusetts. The Republican party pushed for the plan, forced Democrats to concede to its major provisions, and then when it was clear it would pass, dishonestly attacked their own plan to keep President Obama from “getting a win.” They continue to try to sabotage their own plan.

Similarly, the Republican party has been intentionally dishonest with respect to climate change and the Cap-and-Trade plan that almost passed. After promoting and even campaigning on doing something about man-made climate change, the Republican party decided to attack it and deny the science. A plan was in the works early in President Obama’s first term. Democrats preferred a Carbon Tax type of plan, which again was a non-starter among the Republicans who were now denying even their own past positions. Republicans insisted on a “market-based plan” called Cap-and-Trade. President Obama agreed such a market-based mechanism would be a good start so openly supported it. What happened? Again, the Republican party started attacking their own plan, calling it “Cap-and-Tax” because they had for decades turned Americans against any kind of taxation. [The irony is that the Republican party is all for taxes, but only for the working, middle, and poorer classes, not for the rich or corporations.]

How about the Supreme Court? For eight months Mitch McConnell refused to even interview President Obama’s pick for the Court even though everyone agreed Merrick Garland was a moderate. He simply refused to fulfill the Senate’s Constitutional obligation to engage in confirmation hearings. Then, after the shocking result of the 2016 election, McConnell rushed through a vote for the Republican party’s choice for the Court, a man with a definitive right leaning history (not to mention the son of a Reagan appointee who had to resign as EPA Administrator because of corruption). Then when Justice Kennedy resigns from the court (with a suspicious back room deal that led to Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh), Mitch McConnell attacks Democrats with a claim of “unprecedented obstruction” just because they are asking for the 95% of Kavanaugh’s prior partisan record with the Bush administration and Ken Starr, the man who went after Bill Clinton (and found nothing). The Republican party refused to release the records, thus forcing a vote based on virtually no information. But it didn’t stop there. During a hearing in which Kavanaugh issued a highly emotional, hyperpartisan screed filled with falsehoods and dishonest conspiracy theories, not to mention repeated blatant lying, the Republican party simply ignored evidence of both Kavanaugh’s wrongdoing and unfitness for the court and voted him in anyway. That’s simply dishonest and Anti-American.

Virtually every one of Trump’s cabinet picks has either been forced to resign because of corruption or remains in office despite blatant corruption. All were picked with the intention of trying to dismantle the agencies of which they are in charge, a clear violation of their oaths of office. Several of Trump’s closest advisers and inner circle have been involved in criminal and/or treasonous activities. Many have already been indicted. Trump himself is an unindicted co-conspirator as of this writing (anyone reading this a few years hence might find that he is in jail).

The Republican party has engaged in unconstitutional (as found by the courts) gerrymandering that has allowed them to get more congressional seats despite receiving fewer votes than Democrats. The Republican party has for many elections actively engaged in voter suppression, from throwing out absentee ballots to arbitrarily voiding people’s voter registrations to putting into place a series of Jim Crow-like obstacles to voting. All of these disproportionately, and intentionally, target voters who are more likely to vote for Democrats. These resulted in hundreds of thousands of voters being disenfranchised in states where only a few thousand votes turned clear Republican losses into “wins.” In the 2016 presidential and congressional elections, the Republican party willingly got support from Russian hackers to affect the vote.

The list goes on. Republicans claim to be the party of fiscal responsibility, but since Ronald Reagan have done nothing but create more and more debt while taking money from the working and middle classes to give to the rich. Republicans claim to be the party of family values, yet have no problem with the serial affairs of the current resident of the White House (not to mention that the main Republicans who impeached Bill Clinton for lying about an affair were themselves actively having affairs at the time; one was a pedophile preying on young boys). Republicans claim to be the party of law and order, yet Republican presidents have voluminous indictments in office and Republicans in Congress are routinely indicted for violations of the law. The Republican-run Congress that spent years investigating made-up controversies (none of which led to any action) refuse to even look at the blatant corruption and violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution by Trump.  Republicans claim to be strong on our military, but only in giving more and more money to defense contractor corporations while they have actively cut every veteran program they can get their hands on. Republicans claim to be more patriotic, yet have repeatedly cozied up to Russia’s Putin, the Saudi Arabian Sultans, and every other strongman dictator in the world while attacking our long-time allies and partners. In short, if the Republican party says it, it’s probably the exact opposite of the truth.

In fact, the list of Republican dishonesty is so long that I can’t come up with even one position they promote that is not dishonest, or even true. The Republican party is THE party of dishonesty, of racism, of bigotry, of misogyny, and of corruption. The Republican party has institutionalized dishonesty and corruption.

The Republican party has, in all respects, become Anti-American.

If you’re a progressive who didn’t vote for Democrats because “both parties are the same” or you thought Hillary Clinton was “not progressive enough,” just look at where we are now. If Clinton had been elected progressives would be arguing for universal health care; now we are all desperately trying not to be without ANY affordable health care. If Clinton had been elected we would be arguing about how fast to move toward a progressive future economy based on renewal resources; instead our future economy is being decimated by Republican debt and short-sighted theft of money from taxpayers to the ultra-rich, who put none of it back into the economy. If Clinton had been elected, ALL Americans would be moving toward greater economic and social opportunity; now we are faced with losing 50 years of civil and human rights.

So no, both parties are not the same. And haven’t been for many decades.

Republican voters must ask themselves if they will continue to support a party that values no one but the ultra-rich, a party that has continually attacked the white working class as much as it has non-whites. Sure, you’ve always voted Republican, but this isn’t the Republican party you thought you’ve been voting for. The Republican party has become dishonest in philosophy and in action. Honest Republicans can work with a Democratic party they disagree with. No one honest can work with a Republican party that has so institutionalized dishonesty that it has become Anti-American. The only way to save the Republican party is to rescue it by getting rid of this bastardization of it.

What are Americans to do? The entire concept of democracy as defined in our nation is under attack, and it is under attack from within. In his Lyceum address of 1838, Abraham Lincoln said:

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer. If it is ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be out lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.

We must all, as Americans, without any partisanship, vote to correct this trend. We must vote Democratic in this election whether you agree fully with the Democrats running or not. If you’re a Republican, vote Democratic to return us to the conservative principles of our Founders. If you’re a Progressive, vote Democratic for a chance to move forward and not backward. If you’re an Independent, vote Democratic for the survival of our nation. Once the dishonesty of the current Republican cult is ended, the Republican party can once again become part of honest political discourse. For that to happen it must first die and return America back to all Americans, not just the rich ones and the blatantly racist and dishonest ones.

“Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history,” Lincoln said. “The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation.” We must act.

Vote Democratic in this election. This isn’t partisan hyperbole, this is the only way to save America.

David J. Kent is the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

Check out my Goodreads author page. While you’re at it, “Like” my Facebook author page for more updates!

The White Bully Pulpit

Tags

,

voteI was bullied as a teenager, but that’s not what this post is about. It’s about this quote:

With us the two great divisions of society are not the rich and the poor, but white and black, and all the former, the poor as well as the rich, belong to the upper class, and are respected and treated as equals, if honest and industrious, and hence have a position and pride of character of which neither poverty nor misfortune can deprive them.

John C. Calhoun, a pro-slavery political firebrand from South Carolina, spoke these words in the United States Senate on August 12, 1849. The words are rather clear, but in case the meaning is missed, here’s the short paraphrase:

If you can convince the poor white man that he is better than ANY black man you can keep him on your side even though he remains poor.

This is how the South conned millions of poorer white people to support a war for slavery and racism even though most of those poor southerners did not have the means to own slaves themselves. The lowliest white man is superior to any black man. This is what white supremacy is all about.

It’s also what today’s Republican party is all about. As an Abraham Lincoln scholar I began noticing the overt rise of this philosophy back in 2007 when Barack Obama was running for President. The “tea party” came out of the woodwork, arguing that they were like the patriots who threw tea into Boston Harbor in 1773. After someone pointed out that they had the historical reference backwards (the British had actually given tax breaks to a huge British tea corporation and tried to make the populace pay for it), the “tea party” invented a backronym “T.E.A” to suggest “taxed enough already.” Besides being dishonest, it was ridiculously false. The Obama-pushed stimulus bill (officially the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) had just given substantive tax breaks to 95% of Americans, so “taxed enough already” was a ruse.

So what was the real reason for the growth of the “tea party,” which subsequently took over the entire Republican party, which is now the “Trump party”?

Robert Reich, who formerly worked in the administrations of Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton, put it this way when talking about bullying behavior:

Trump used this anger [i.e., working class whites upset over being left behind by the economic recovery] to build his political base, channeling the frustrations and anxieties into racism and nativism. He encouraged Americans who have been bullied to feel more powerful by bullying people with even less power: poor blacks, Latinos, immigrants, Muslims, families seeking asylum.

Keep in mind that Trump is a billionaire who got that way because he father gave him hundreds of millions of dollars in cash and connections when Trump was a toddler, then more when he was a teenager, then even more as a twenty-something. He’s been a terrible money-manager. He’s also thoroughly corrupt, a misogynist, and his only intellectual capability (according to his own cabinet and co-workers) is knowing how to swindle people. Hardly the kind of guy you would turn to if you were angry at the current economic system. Trump immediately put in place “his best people,” i.e., billionaires who have been caught swindling the public treasury and destroying human health and worker protections while immediately increasing the public debt by over 1.5 Trillion Dollars. Huge tax breaks were given to the 1% while tiny tax breaks to normal people were immediately negated by increased costs and plans to water down social security, Medicare, and other programs that benefit 95% of Americans (and which the 1% don’t need so don’t care about). 

Think about that. The Republican party and Trump have done exactly what we expected them to do – steal from the working and middle class and give to the rich and the corporations. There simply is no honest way to rationalize putting such people in power based on the “taxed enough already” talking point. Rich people got richer, the non-rich white people who voted them into power got poorer. And they will get poorer still when the Republican party follows through on its promise to disband programs that help workers, the middle class, and the poor, all while increasing the profits of the very rich.

The above might seem to be an aside, but it isn’t. The Republican party and Trump always favor the rich and take away from the rest of us. Always. Proven over the last 30+ years. This isn’t a secret. This is what they always do. The Democratic party, while it has had it’s share of historical embarrassments, has for those last 30-50 years been the party of the working class and the middle class. Without the hard work of the Democrats and activists, the economic position of the middle and working classes would be even worse. The actions taken by the Republican party since they gained power in all three branches of government has proven that they always hurt the working and middle classes and the poor while grossly benefitting the very rich, all at taxpayers expense and while Republicans run up the national debt. Abraham Lincoln, who would be considered way too liberal and progressive for today’s far right “conservative” movement, pointed out the problem with the “divine right of kings” such as the corporate and billionaire classes that the Republican party currently represents: “You toil and work to earn bread, and I’ll eat it.” This is today’s Republican party.

So if the economic rationale for the majority of white people voting Republican is invalid, and it is, then why did working and middle class whites vote for the party that cares only about the 1% and against the party that cares about 95% of Americans?

See John C. Calhoun.

Now, I want to thank the few privileged white people who have bothered to read this far. That shows intellectual and personal honesty on your part. Many white people stopped reading long ago. Many would get to the Calhoun quote, swear that they are not racist or bigoted in the slightest way, and run away without reading or thinking any more about it. I see this in any discussion, where “conservatives” refuse to have an honest discussion. I see this in social media, where people who once thought government debt, playing golf, lying, and any hint of improper conduct was grounds for immediate attack, yet now either say they aren’t important or conveniently ignore these formerly abhorrent atrocities as not worth comment. Talk about a double standard.

For the record, I’m not calling all white people racist. But some of us are. Maybe even the majority of us. Ah, but you’re not, you insist. You have a black friend, or a Muslim friend, or know someone who is Hispanic. You’re not racist. You’ve never ever said anything remotely racist.

True. Maybe. At least not overtly. But racism isn’t just about screaming obscenities at minorities (be it racial, religious, economic, gender, preference, political, whatever). You don’t have to march with Nazis or the KKK to be a racist. Sometimes you just have to be white and believe that you’ve achieved all you’ve ever achieved on your own and that if others (“others”) would just apply themselves and work harder they could achieve their dreams too. I know many of us think this because many of us have said this. Repeatedly.

See the problem with this? As a white man growing up in a white world I wasn’t arrested just for walking down the street. I wasn’t pulled over just for driving a nice car. I wasn’t followed around stores. I never felt that the job I didn’t get was because everyone who worked there was white and I wasn’t. I wasn’t tossed out of college for having a bad semester. No one questioned my capabilities because I didn’t go to Harvard. [Okay, this one might have happened.] No one assumed the worst simply because I wasn’t white, or was overtly non-Christian.

My point is that we, as whites, especially white men, live in a white-majority world in which the default value is white, Christian, and largely, male. Everything else is devalued. White Christian males have had the power in this nation since its inception (whether that Christianity is true faith or faked for personal benefit). Not only the power, but the forced “inferiorism” of non-white, non-Christian, and still to some extent today, non-male. The entire society is set up to benefit, or at least privilege, white men. That same society devalues and disadvantages non-whites and non-Christians. It isn’t always overt, and sometimes not even intentional, but it is there. Meanwhile, despite priviledge cries to the contrary, there is no attack on white men, no attack on Christians. None. All non-whites want is for the “all men are created equal” and the U.S. Constitution to apply equally to them. “They” aren’t taking any rights from us, “they” are simply asking that those same rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution in theory, be accepted in practice.

Back to John C. Calhoun. Calhoun and the white aristocracy of the South had for many decades threatened secession from the Union. The entire reason for those threats, and eventual secession, was to protect and expand slavery. They admit it. The Confederate Vice-President Alexander Stephens explicitly stated that the Confederacy was all about white superiority and subjugation of the black man. Every seceded state stated as their rationale for breaking their constitutional bond with the Union the desire to protect slavery and keep the “inferior” in their place. The Confederate constitution was a carbon copy of the U.S. Constitution except that it explicitly added their belief that slavery was right and that whites were superior to blacks. Those were the only changes. They were fine with the guaranteed rights; they just wanted those rights to apply only to white men. The Confederacy was explicitly focused on the principles of slavery and white superiority. [It certainly wasn’t “states’ rights” since slaveholding states were actively trying to violate the rights of other states, not to mention they invalidated states’ rights even within their own confederacy.] Any suggestion that the Confederacy wasn’t born of racism and treason is false, as proven by the words of the Confederacy itself.

So Calhoun argued that “they” (the slaveowners, aristocrats of the South, like-minded racist of the North) must band together against “them” (black slaves, abolitionists, “black Republicans”) to protect their white superiority.

To this day the white middle class and the white worker class and the “evangelical Christians” often vote against their core beliefs and their best interests. Most white women do the same. They do so because being white is still considered more beneficial than being non-white. And without any sense of the irony, they do so while claiming that being white provides no special benefit.

I grew up white Christian in an almost universally white Christian small town in New England. I spent most of my career working in professional companies whose professional staff was almost all white. I attended scientific and history conferences that were largely white, although some diversity has begun to creep in over the last decade. Not once did I ever think of myself as privileged. And yet this last decade has repeatedly proven me blinded by my own privilege as reality demonstrated that very fact. I know now that if I hadn’t been white or hadn’t been Christian I could have easily ended up facing the same societally-enforced restrictions and biases that non-white, non-Christians have been facing for the entire duration of this country.

I love this country and I have no intention of moving elsewhere. I’ve traveled to many others, including countries that Americans have historically hated (at least until our recent love affairs with our biggest enemies), and the complaints we whine about here pale in comparison to real issues in some of those other places. This is my country, and to borrow the phrase bastardized by racists, I want my country back again.

Not the country where whites can lynch non-whites. I want the country that believes in “all men (and women) are created equal.” I want the country where the U.S. Constitution applies to ALL Americans, whether they were born here or moved here. I want the country where we all, as Abraham Lincoln said, have an equal “right to rise.”

From Robert Reich again:

This bullying game has been played repeatedly in history, by self-described strongmen who pretend to be tribunes of the oppressed by scapegoating the truly powerless.

Trump is no tribune of the people. He and his enablers in the Republican Party are working for the moneyed interests — the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson and other corporate and Wall Street chieftains — by cutting their taxes, eliminating regulations, slashing public services and allowing them to profit off public lands, coastal waters and privatized services.

To overcome this bullying game we need those with common gripes to band together, their combined power enough to create meaningful change. American workers did this when they formed unions to fight for better working conditions (e.g., getting rid of child labor, insisting on health and safety protections, achieving reasonable pay and work weeks). Likewise, American women did this to gain the right to vote, to become educated, to hold jobs. Now workers are being left behind again as billionaires are given tax breaks for pushing paper around the back room of banks while not creating any actual jobs here at home. The days of making money by building bigger factories are gone; now the rich make money by shipping jobs overseas or, even more likely, by trading derivatives that have huge upside to them while putting the risk largely on the American people. Giving more money to the rich doesn’t create jobs, it diminishes them. Republicans know this (it has been proven over several decades and repeated failures) but they lie to the American people anyway because it helps the very rich, who donate billions to Republican politicians.

So we must disavow Calhoun and Trump’s philosophies. Our economic enemies are not our fellow workers, be they white, black, brown, Muslim, immigrants, or refugees. Our enemies are the plutocrats who now own all three branches of government. And we don’t defeat them by disparaging government itself; we do so by getting rid of the party that has a proven track record of caring only for the 1% economically, and the white supremacists socially. We do so by getting rid of the party that engages in corruption and Anti-Americanism. The party that aggressively acts to reduce the number of people voting through unconstitutional gerrymandering, illegal voter suppression tactics, and intimidation.

Every election counts. Make sure you are registered. Make sure you vote.

[P.S. I’m not a Democrat, so don’t try to write this off as some sort of partisan screed. I would love to spend my time arguing with Democrats about this issue or that (as I have done in the past), but the Republican party has so institutionalized dishonesty, corruption, and Anti-Americanism that we can’t have the honest discussion we need to have. It’s time for all of us – especially us white men (and women) to be honest with ourselves and with our country.]

David J. Kent is an avid science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

Check out my Goodreads author page. While you’re at it, “Like” my Facebook author page for more updates!

 

Tiger Woods Wins PGA Championship – Golf is Back

Tags

,

Tiger WoodsTiger Woods won the PGA Tour Championship at Atlanta’s East Lake Golf Club yesterday, his first PGA win in over five years. And the golf world rejoiced. Golf is back.

That seems a weird thing to say given there are many stellar young golfers out there and Tiger is, well, old. I don’t say that it in a mean way. Chronologically he’s closer to playing in the senior tournaments than he is to his heyday as the greatest golfer on the planet. But that’s the point. In many minds, including my own, Tiger is still the greatest golfer on the planet even though he hasn’t won a tournament in those five years. He’s struggled through debilitating back injuries and surgeries, not to mention some personal drama and poor judgment. So he’s had an excuse for not playing well – or at all – much of the last five years.

This year has been different. He seems less erratic, more consistently in the running, than in the immediate years before. Is he in his top form? Of course not. Will he ever be? Probably not – he’ll be 43 years old in a couple of months and the combination of age and wear-and-tear on his body will keep him from being the player he was in his prime. That’s just nature. But Tiger Woods is playing well this year, and barring any major physical (or judgmental) issues, he should be in contention more often than not.

Now, the “golf is back” rejoicing idea. In truth, the golfing world has mixed feelings about Tiger Woods once again being the focus of media attention. On the one hand it brings awareness to the sport; on the other hand, it distracts that attention away from other players. But this is what makes Tiger so special. Some players have a presence that dominates the public perception. Tiger is one of them.

Growing up I was never a golf fan. Spending several hours watching various people whack a ball toward a hole while former golfers whisper pointlessly in a constant drone was not my idea of excitement. Then along came Tiger Woods and suddenly the sport was exciting. When Tiger fell into his injury and personal issue grounded obscurity, golf receded from my realm of interest. When I heard that Tiger was back into decent form, golf was back for me. I think that is true for many people.

Unlike many sports nuts that know every detail of their home teams, their players stats, and what endorsed products they are to buy, I’ve been more inspired by individual players. My teams are the New England teams – Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins, Celtics – with my interest level depending on the season and how much thrill or anxiety they are producing at the moment (e.g., yesterday was a rather depressing day in sports enthusiasm as both the Sox and Patriots got skunked). But when it comes to inspiration, it’s the players that matter more than the teams. The players that inspired me most are all from long-gone days, a function of the window of imprinting that sets fans on their favorite team/player for life. Even though there are current day players I admire, I always fall back to those that were my original inspiration, that I felt helped better me as a person.

Baseball was Carl Yastrzemski – Yaz. In one of his final games with the Boston Red Sox he hit a home run into the bleacher seats at Fenway, just a few rows from where I was enjoying the game with friends. He was a quiet man who led by example.

Tennis was Arthur Ashe. Forget other notables like John McEnroe, whose arrogance and obnoxiousness more than destroyed any benefit of his talent (IMHO). I liked Ashe for his quiet dignity, his skill focus. He was a great player and a great man.

Basketball was John Havlicek, followed immediately by Larry Bird. Both were skill players who won by leading their team, not hogging the ball.

Hockey was Bobby Orr. In my early teens my mother made me a ceramic lamp. The base was a generic hockey player that could be painted into whatever player you wanted. Mine was, of course, Bobby Orr. [For the record, she also made me a small ceramic bust of Abraham Lincoln, which despite not being a sports star has many of the same qualities I’m talking about.]

There is a pattern here that I never thought about before writing this. All of the players who were my idols were on the quiet side. They led by their example, not by their mouth. Naturally they mostly are from Boston-based teams, a function of the aforementioned imprinting. Within that framework, I was drawn by the quiet skill rather than the boisterous box office appeal.

There is one rather striking oddity in the group of my boyhood idols. My pro football idol growing up was O.J. Simpson, who played most of his career for the dreaded Patriot rivals, the Buffalo Bills. I admired his elusiveness, which seems ironic now. Sure, he was fast, but he was successful because he could elude tacklers. In my possibly delusional mind at the time I could relate to his ability to change direction as opposing players tried to take him down. I wasn’t nearly (or even close to being) as big or as fast, but I imagined myself being as quick in avoiding contact. Alas, O.J. has fallen.

And so had Tiger, although clearly to a much lesser extent and not nearly for so egregious an offense. But after the revelations of his personal life surfaced I admit I turned away from him. As those judgment issues faded from public view and the focus turned to his physical ailments, I found myself pulling for his recovery and return to golf. During these past years of his absence I completely lost any interest in watching the sport. Now that Tiger is back, golf is back. To me at least.

My hope is that Tiger will once again become the player of quiet skill that leads by example rather than by hype. I know that hype is what brings in the big endorsement deals, but I do believe there is a more important place for those who are great because of what they do rather than by being showy. It’s the quiet leadership that I admire.

Welcome back, Tiger.

[Photo credit: https://twitter.com/twlegion]

David J. Kent is an avid science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

Check out my Goodreads author page. While you’re at it, “Like” my Facebook author page for more updates!