Disunited States – Reflection on the Morning After

Where does one begin to unpack the factors that contributed to yesterday’s attempted overthrow of the nation’s governing structure? What comes to mind is the profound effect the circumstances of our birth have on how we learn to see and understand the world. Our “positionality.” The time and place of birth matter greatly. Our status in the nations or societies or cultures which we inherit from our parents and ancestors affect the rest of our lives, often in ways we may never see or understand.

Sometimes, those of us born into the liminal space between differing ancestries and cultures learn at an early age how to see the world from differing vantage points. We directly witness the consequences that racism and classism had on our parents and grandparents. At an early age, we begin to question the values and governing structures created by a ruling class that not only allowed an attempted coup to materialize on January 6, 2021, but were also the actual architects that purposefully imposed oppressive structures and policies designed to preserve the power of the Anglo- and European-American capitalist elite.

It’s easy to assign blame for yesterday’s events on “thugs,” “neo-Nazis,” “White-nationalists,” or “domestic terrorists.” It’s easy to blame demented Donald Trump who, himself, is merely a product of a materially privileged, morally bereft, and emotionally abusive childhood. And it’s easy to blame the racism that runs rampant through the nation’s criminal (in)justice systems. Yet through the lenses of those on the margins, none of these simplistic explanations and reactions come anywhere close to explaining or addressing the root causes of yesterday’s events.

What do we expect from the soul of a nation built on genocide, enslavement, and unearned entitlement based on gender, the claim of property “ownership,” and ancestry? Why should it be surprising when the legitimacy of the governing structure of such a nation is challenged by those who inherited their positions on the margins and view themselves as victims of its unfair system?

In a very real sense, all of us have been socialized to accept and internalize our congenital place in a given society. Every aspect of the social values and institutions we encounter is affected by our positionality – our birth, where we live, how our parents parent us, the quality of nutrition, care, and education we receive. We are constantly reminded about our place in the social order. Myths of meritocracy encourage a largely unattainable false hope that we can achieve increased social status if we work hard enough. We are rarely, if ever, encouraged to question the legitimacy of the values or institutions that constrain our life possibilities, though.

The work and resources of people on the margins are essential for the continuing existence and comfort of the parasitic elite. The issue of how to control the vastly more sizeable percentage of the population that is marginalized has been accomplished through a capillary network of discriminatory practices in every aspect of people’s lives by their ability to pay. Education is a crucial dimension in the socialization process. Those who are lowest in the social structure are the least likely to receive an education that prepares them to think critically and aspire to professional careers (other than sports) or leadership positions. 

When confronted by events like the one we all just witnessed, I am grateful for a framework that can be used to think critically about the differing ways cultures have conceptualized conflict and operationalized their values in the social structures and institutions that evolved over millennia. A simple question illustrates how profound differing views can be. Does a society seek to help heal individuals and damaged social relations or does it seek revenge by punishing individual offenders? Rupert Ross’s work offers a fascinating contrast to consider.

Contrast between Ojibway/Cree and Euro-Canadian Cultures

Adapted from the work of Rupert Ross (1992). Dancing with a ghost: Exploring Indian reality. Markham, Ontario, Canada: Octopus Publishing Group.

The most important of Ross’ (1992, pp. 165-184) observations from my perspective is that way he characterized cultural differences in fundamental beliefs about human beings. In his role as an Assistant Crown Attorney in Ontario, Canada, he had an opportunity to work with Ojibway and Cree tribal communities and described their belief that children were born in a state of “original sanctity.” In contrast, as a Euro-Canadian, he argues that the cultural view held by most non-Native Canadians is a belief that people are born “in a state of original sin.” He goes on to point out how these differing views resulted in distinctive ways of dealing with conflict that were linked to very specific goals. Simply stated, one culture focused on isolating and punishing deviant individuals and the other cultures were interested in healing individuals and their relationships with others.

The United States is once again at risk of repeating mistakes its made in terms of how the nation responds to conflict. The quick avenging call to action is being sounded to punish the “bad” people. I feel a sense of responsibility today to type these words even though they are unlikely to be read by the people who are in greatest need of wise counsel.

We CANNOT resolve conflict by assigning one-sided blame. How many of us have reached out to try to understand those who have differing values and political views? I am not suggesting it’s easy, believe me. I have participated in activities to find common ground on polarizing issues with people whose views were diametrically opposed to mine. Sometimes the best we could do was to civilly agree to disagree. The positive outcome, though was that no one was harmed and nothing was destroyed in the process.

I have no desire to assign blame to anyone. Perhaps it’s the researcher in me. I just want to understand what we need to do differently as a society to help all people feel they are valued members with a vested interest in our collective, peaceful survival on a world we all need to take care of. I want to do what I can now to help us make that transition.

*

*

May we take time to reflect and choose the wiser path to peace and healing.

46 thoughts on “Disunited States – Reflection on the Morning After

Add yours

  1. Dear Carol,

    Thank you for sharing us your thoughts on these complex issues. Having studied social science and behavioural science, I particularly like and agree with you about the following paragraphs:

    In a very real sense, all of us have been socialized to accept and internalize our congenital place in a given society. Every aspect of the social values and institutions we encounter is affected by our positionality – our birth, where we live, how our parents parent us, the quality of nutrition, care, and education we receive. We are constantly reminded about our place in the social order. Myths of meritocracy encourage a largely unattainable false hope that we can achieve increased social status if we work hard enough. We are rarely, if ever, encouraged to question the legitimacy of the values or institutions that constrain our life possibilities, though.

    The work and resources of people on the margins are essential for the continuing existence and comfort of the parasitic elite. The issue of how to control the vastly more sizeable percentage of the population that is marginalized has been accomplished through a capillary network of discriminatory practices in every aspect of people lives by their ability to pay. Education is a crucial dimension in the socialization process. Those who are lowest in the social structure are the least likely to receive an education that prepares them to think critically and aspire to professional careers (other than sports) or leadership positions.

    When confronted by events like the one we all just witnessed, I am grateful for a framework that can be used to think critically about the differing ways cultures have conceptualized conflict and operationalized their values in the social structures and institutions that evolved over millennia. A simple question illustrates how profound differing views can be. Does a society seek to help heal individuals and damaged social relations or does it seek revenge by punishing individual offenders? Rupert Ross’s work offers a fascinating contrast to consider.

    I would like to inform you that the table showing the “Contrast between Ojibway/Cree and Euro-Canadian Cultures” is far too grainy and illegible to be read properly. Given the importance of this table, you might indeed like to consider uploading another image with a higher resolution.

    Speaking of critical thinking and many other complex behavioural, sociocultural and political issues, I have recently published a detailed post entitled “Misquotation Pandemic and Disinformation Polemic: Mind Pollution by Viral Falsity” at https://soundeagle.wordpress.com/2020/12/19/misquotation-pandemic-and-disinformation-polemic-mind-pollution-by-viral-falsity/

    I would be delighted if you could kindly submit a comment to my said article, as I am very keen and curious to know what you think or make of it.

    By the way, I would like to wish you a very happy New Year. May you find 2021 very much to your liking and highly conducive to your writing, reading, thinking and blogging!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Sound Eagle, and for the feedback about the table. I didn’t plan on writing anything today, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to complete anything on my to do list until I shared a message that felt important in as timely as fashion as possible. I am grateful to know you found it so despite the grainy table.

      Normally, I would have spent time trying to fix it, but that would have taken time I don’t have today. I will be putting my blog on hiatus for at least the next few weeks to focus on the research course I will be teaching in a few weeks. I have learned that teaching online takes a lot more work and time, leaving little room for anything else.

      As much as I would love to have the time to spend perusing and reading your lovely site, I simply can’t right now.

      Again, thank you for your thoughtful comments.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Dear Carol,

        I understand your predicament. Thank you for your clarifications.

        May you thrive and excel in your upcoming online course(s). Given your dedication and punctiliousness, your students will benefit a great deal from your thorough preparations ahead of time.

        When you do find some spare time in the future, I hope to have the honour and pleasure of reading your thoughts and comment on my said post after perusing it in situ, as I always cherish your views and deem them in very high regard.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello, Carol. Here in Blighty, there is an oft used saying, ‘If Americ’s got it, it won’t be long before we get it.’ As a rule, this refers to trends of fashion or the weather, but of late the saying relates to more sinister topics such as gun laws and civil unrest.
    In my past, World events have seemed a Universe away, and that, together with living on an island as led to complacency, making me guilty of putting my head in the sand.
    I want to keep it there until this storm as blown over, but recent events make that impossible.
    We’ve got some pretty lousy water lapping at our shore at the moment, and it won’t dissolve and disappear; if left unchecked ripples will become waves.
    Your words are wise; your ways are the way forward. I could write forever on this subject, Carol, let’s hope that common sense prevails.
    Since it’s introduction in the 1960s, I’ve never known the meaning of the initials DDT. It was supposedly the save all solution to our needs, but it did more harm than good and had to be got rid of. A bit like the DDT America has to deal with:)
    Let’s hope Joe can grab the wheel and steer the ship into calmer waters.
    Take care, Carol.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Ah, Mick, how I love the way you weave ideas and words together to open eyes and touch hearts. Thank you for sharing such powerful and important reflections about the dangers we all collectively face. Like you, I hope “common sense prevails” and Kamala and Joe will be able to bridge divisions that separate people so healing can begin.

      Again, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with a storyteller’s voice laced with lighthearted humor. Sending my gratitude and best wishes to you. 💜

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Carol, thank you for this thoughtful and thought provoking post. The contrast between Ojibway/Cree and Euro-Canadian Cultures that you included inspires me to explore more of Rupert Ross’s work.You reminded me of the many (often unconscious and unrecognized) factors that influence our perceptions and behavior and how unhelpful our unexamined response can be.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments, Joan. Although I felt compelled to write and post this reflection, I wondered if it was wise to do so…

      I do recommend Ross’s work highly. His account reflects the insights of a respectful, observant, and open-minded outsider who truly wanted to understand the profound cultural differences he noticed. His work also suggests how the values of First Nations people can be used to transform the way they are treated by the judicial system in Canada.

      There is another book you might find intriguing as well, “A hundred little Hitlers: The death of a black man, the trial of a white racist, and the rise of a neo-Nazi movement in America” by Elinor Langer (2003). An excerpt from Howard Zinn’s review notes, “Telling this troubling story of murder and racism in an American town, she compels us to think beyond that, to wonder about the future of justice in our country.” Although I read Langer’s work a long time ago, I distinctly remember her compassionate portrait of the man convicted of murder and how she highlighted the complexity of issues that involve the clear interconnections between whites who experience socio-economic inequality and racism. I was reminded of her Langer’s work when I saw the demonstrators.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi. Still, I think that Wednesday’s events are 100% Trump’s fault. For over four years he has created an alternative set of “truths” in order to build political power, even though he knows he’s lying thru his teeth. He’s masterfully calculating in that regard. And he was able to poison the malleable minds of millions in so doing. Trump is evil. Trump is an enemy of democracy.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you so much for your important and honest comments, Neil. I do agree with your assessment of Trump. But I honestly don’t believe he would have been elected in a country that did a better job educating the population. James Loewen (1995) makes a convincing case about the failure of public education in his book “Lies my teacher told me: Everything your American history textbook got wrong.”

      Let me ask you a hypothetical question. “What if the public educational systems had done a better job over the past, say, 100 years to teach history honestly? That’s the question I asked myself when I looked and the red and blue county-level election maps for the US. It’s a question I asked when I drove through struggling northern Minnesota towns before the 2016 election that were dotted with Trump signs. It’s a question I asked when I had to deal with anti-Indian prejudice in the border towns that surround reservations or when I taught courses on diversity in universities.

      When I looked at the Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol, I saw folks who were similar to the folks I have worked with in northern Wisconsin, or from small towns in Illinois, from farming or remote rural communities. They didn’t have the advantages of the excellent educational opportunities I had, even as a mixed-ancestry woman from working-class roots.

      Many of Trump’s House, Senate, and Cabinet enablers, though, seemed aware of the danger he posed but went along for the lucrative ride anyway. Would they have been elected by a populace that was better educated? I also think about the added role the media and social media played in perpetuating conspiracies and enflaming emotions.

      There’s one final question I have as I think about the documentary about Edward Bernays, “The century of the self” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnPmg0R1M04). Who benefits by manipulating people on the margins to fight with each other over the crumbs that are left after the pie is consumed by those who already have more than they need?

      Again, thank you Neil. I appreciate your honesty and perspective a great deal. I just wanted to share a bit of the background that compelled me to share this post. 💜

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Yes, I certainly can’t argue with your analysis. America has a very tainted history, and many people won’t acknowledge that. Many refuse to believe that. I’m sure that much of the blame falls on educational systems. It’s an extremely complicated situation. Similar situations are found all over the world.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I am deeply grateful that you shared your important perspective, Neil. It gave me an opportunity to provide a better explanation of the reasons I felt the compelled to write and share this reflection. Sending my best wishes to you! 💜

          Liked by 2 people

  5. Governmental systems that are set in place ruling the land require respect and regard.
    Changing those systems set in place now begins from within them.
    You and I (or any of us) may disagree with the systems and want to see them changed.
    It must happen lawfully within those systems.
    Thank you very much Carol for sharing your kind thoughts

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Much to reflect on here, especially how we try to make sense of it all without focusing blame on individuals. It makes me think about a few months ago when my group here was talking about “atrocity-producing situations” – that is, situations that are structured, psychologically, to bring about the behavior. And yes, it’s all right there in the structure of WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and so-called Democratic) societies just as you’ve outlined. Thank you.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for sharing such important insights, Diane, along with a powerful way to describe the power structure! Your discussion group sounds like such a valuable way to stay connected and dialogue about crucial current issues in ways that raise awareness. Sending my gratitude and best wishes. 💜

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Carol, please don’t bother reading this till you are ready to end your break from the blog. But I wanted to share a list prepared by my friend and colleague Robin Chancer who is concerned with de-colonizing the therapeutic relationship. She was addressing this to psychotherapists, but it applies to social workers, and, really, to everyone. This is her summary of WEIRD values and assumptions.

        • Emphasis on individualism vs. community belonging

        • Autonomy vs. interdependence

        • Mind/body Cartesian split

        • “Head” heavy: patriarchal emphasis on linear thought, reason, logic

        • Codependence vs. differentiation paradigm of relationships

        • Heavy emphasis on developmental models

        • Minimized impact of politics and history🡪 illness as a personal aberration rather than a response to a harmful system

        • Assumption that therapist is neutral, ahistorical

        • Focus on individual pathology and coping

        • Centrality of the medical model, illness caused by biological factors more than historical or spiritual ones

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you so much for sharing these principles, Diane. I was curious about WEIRD after I read your comments and tried to find out more on the internet. All I found were definitions of weird…

          I look forward to reading these thoughtfully as soon as I can. Classes start in less than 2 weeks and I have a lot of editing and new development to do to try to make the research course more online friendly. I also have to figure out the new online platform the college is using this year. It may take a while given the extra work online teaching already requires.

          I am deeply grateful you shared these! 💜

          Like

        2. Thank you, Diane! I look forward to being able to read this thoughtfully.

          (The online platforms for both of my classes just went “live” last night after I posted syllabi and information for the first four weeks. Classes start this Friday and Saturday. I still have to load information for the rest of the weeks, a frustrating process on a new online platform, and write directions and grading rubrics for 3 new research assignments that I hope will be a better fit with online classes than the ones being replaced. I suspect it will be a while before I catch up.)

          Sending my gratitude and best wishes, dear friend. 💜

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Rosaliene. I appreciate your thoughtful comments. I agree with your point that there is a lot about, hopefully before we respond to this tragic situation. Rash, vengeful responses, from my perspective, will merely perpetuate or cause additional suffering. Sending my best wishes to you, dear friend. 💜

      Like

  7. I don’t know where to begin, Carol. I agree with much of what you wrote, especially the thoughts about original sanctity vs original sin. And the value on healing vs punishing.
    At the same time, your president has an evil, charismatic power and if you look at who is arrested/ fired for participating in the riots, some seem well educated people in responsible roles. Then look at his enablers in Congress and Senate: most have law degrees.
    All to say, in a society which harshly punishes the weak and vulnerable for small crimes, the mighty and powerful must be punished to stop their criminal or publicly dangerous actions.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your your thoughts and feeling about this tragic and alarming situation, Cynthia. I agree with your assessment of the president’s repeatedly “evil” behavior and actions, and the culpability of the supporters and enablers who hold positions of power. I also agree with your assessment of the of the criminal (in)justice system in the USA. It is yet another tool designed by the elite propertied white male founders of the nation to control and oppress “the weak and vulnerable for small crimes.”

      I honestly don’t know how to effectively deal with “the mighty and powerful” offenders in this situation. I believe that punishing them harshly in a very public way, like the conflict that erupted during the French Revolution after Louis XVI was executed by guillotine in a public spectacle, will only further inflame anger among the president’s supporters. Thousands, if not millions of them. News yesterday and today suggest that this is the case. Many are threatening a more militant appearance in the capitol for Biden’s inauguration.

      Unless leaders model compassionate ways to deal with tragedy and conflict in this situation, I fear nothing will even change. And tomorrow, we need begin changing the way we educate children. We need to teach them the truth about history and inequality and help them develop the skills to think critically. I have witnessed the effects of an educational system that fails to do so, especially in rural communities where the majority of the president’s supporters reside.

      I am deeply grateful for your thoughtful comments and honesty, Cynthia. I have tried to reply in a like manner to share why I felt compelled to write and post this reflection while honoring the legitimacy of your perspective. Sending my best wishes to you. 💜

      Like

      1. I do appreciate where you’re coming from. Thank you for grappling instead of settling for easy answers. I grapple too because I strongly believe in forgiveness but I recognize its limitations in certain situations where the people involved see reconciliation and healing as worthless.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you thank you THANK YOU for this! Too often I see friends red and blue alike just blaming the other without once considering history or any other context. They just look at the other side and start yelling. If there’s anything I can teach my students, it’s the importance of listening to the other side and finding places of common ground. This American culture has been poisoned by the “go big or go home” sort of athletic philosophy that winning is everything and even a small concession is failure. A society cannot thrive under this mindset.

    Gosh, I hope that makes sense. I’m trying to gather my thoughts in this early grey hour while Bash digs through toys at my feet. Hope you are still well, despite the world.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah, Jean, thank you for your kind words and your astute, down-to-earth analogy of some of the most insidious values this culture passes on though education and media – individualism, competition, and winning at any cost.

      I often wonder about the unconscious effect principles emphasized in the Declaration of Independence have on people’s values and behaviors – “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” I don’t see how any of these relate to seeking common good, caring for others, or taking care of the earth for future generations.

      Thank you for taking to to comment despite so many competing responsibilities. Sending my gratitude and best wishes, dear friend. 💜

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Carol, I have been reflecting on this all morning. What a powerful piece. Speaking truth in times like these is, sadly, a courageous act. So, thank you, one more time, for sharing the truth about so many of the foundational issues which have finally (and not unexpectedly) erupted this week. What kept coming to me was the concept of “duality” or “dualism” that permeates our existence and has been inculcated over a very long time, generations to be sure. I feel strongly that until and unless this country faces its deep roots of white supremacy and finds a way to take responsibility for the damage done (which continues pervasively today) to all who are non-white, any healing or moving forward or attempts to form a “more perfect union” as envisioned by the imperfect founders, will be difficult at best…or will fail miserably. Thank you for this thoughtful, reflective piece. I will continue to reflect. Your students continue to benefit from your caring and dedicated stewardship. And so do all of us – those among us who take the time to read what you offer in this space. May we all be blessed in our steps forward.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your important thoughts and insights, Carrie, I believe that public education has played a crucial role in supporting and perpetuating racism through historical misinformation (perhaps deliberately so) and the repression of critical thought about structural inequality and oppression. One only needs to look at the distribution of red and blue on county-level electoral maps from the last election to see the impacts poor quality education has had in rural areas. I also believe that teaching historical truth could be an important part of the solution, although that would take generations to implement and many more to see how well it works.

      The diversity of a Biden/Harris team and the diverse cabinet and department heads they plan to nominate are both a strength and a weakness in times like these. It inflames the fears and anger of whites who not only feel they have been marginalized and demeaned by labels such as “deplorables,” but who actually have been ignored for far too long. Only time will tell what comes next.

      I also have been wondering about something Jane Addams and the women of Hull House did during tumultuous unionizing times in Chicago in the late 1800s and early 1900s. They participated in weekly community discussions open to the public where all were invited to share their concerns. All perspectives were welcomed. It helped relieve tension and reduce violence. My colleague tells me she and a friend used to do something similar here. In COVID times, this is not the best idea but it’s worthwhile to consider how it might work in a relatively virus-free future..

      Again, thank you for your kindness and for sharing important insights, dear friend. 💜

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you Carol for being a voice for calm, reason, and compassion. If we are ever to heal and build an inclusive society, I agree we must build from a more compassionate position, viewing people as inherently good. And when they act out, it is a sign of needing to heal them and our systems, not punish. May wisdom and compassion prevail.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Thank you for sharing!.. “When we begin to build walls of prejudice, hatred, pride, and self-indulgence around ourselves, we are more surely imprisoned than any prisoner behind concrete walls and iron bars.” (Mother Angelica)… 🙂

    Until we meet again..
    May the dreams you hold dearest
    Be those which come true
    May the kindness you spread
    Keep returning to you
    (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I fear the United States will try to restore order by finding a common enemy. One that appeals to the good will of both the left and right of a divided political spectrum and supported by the media, who has proved itself to be able to spread discontent. Bush did this, so did Obama. Trudeau does it where I live. This may sound harsh, but I hope the conflict stays within your borders until the discontent is discovered futile.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, finding an external enemy to blame is a repeating pattern for the US, Bob. Mr. T. has been setting one up for a long time, but hopefully no one will be stupid enough to follow through.

      Only time will tell how this current crisis will ultimately turn out. The frustrating part for me is the fact that I have been looking forward to the last of Mr. T. for months and clearly that’s not going to happen any time soon. I think Canada is safe, though, unless he has a golf course there, too…

      Like

  13. I was really shocked to see the events unfold as they did Carol – though perhaps I shouldn’t have been. The Brexit vote over here showed very similar divides, in terms of people feeling that they had been left out of something they were entitled to. It’s funny you highlight the ‘original sanctity’ part of the table, because that’s the bit that really jumped out at me. I’m not a Christian, but being brought up originally as a Christian (albeit in the quite reserved Church of England), that concept of original sin has obviously gone deeper than I know, because it made me a little emotional to think of that concept of original sanctity. I really hope that the divide can be breached and that this doesn’t open the way for even worse to come.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much your your thoughtful comments, Andrea. Like you, I hope that the violence ends, but there’s much reason to be concerned about the days ahead in the US and the world. Still, I need to turn my attention to developing the details for courses that begin in less than two weeks.

      I am deeply grateful to you for the insights you shared, and send my best wishes to you along with my hopes for kinder times in the future of all of us. 💜

      Liked by 1 person

  14. You speak my mind. I always say that the national leader is merely an emblem on the car hood or bonnet, it’s those who drive the car who are more culpable, and the voters are part of the crew too. We all need to assess our role and commitment to each other because we are truly interdependent.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: