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Est. April 5, 2002
November 09, 2017 - Issue 717

American People
Watching the Horse Race,
Not the Fire Behind Them


"Corporate-run media outlets are, and should be,
blamed in large part for the concentration on the
horse race and not on the issues important to society,
but the biggest share of the blame goes to the
politicians, whose concentration on continuing their
flow of money from corporations and the rich prevents
them from addressing the dire need of the people to
see a little slice of the federal discretionary budget."

The reportage of this week’s election shows clearly that the American electorate is once again concentrating on the horse race of electoral politics, rather than on the issues that will affect or change their lives for the better.

It’s as if voters across the board are glued to their TV sets to see who wins and who loses the races for everything from mayor, to governor, to state legislatures, to the House and Senate. While these have some significance, the issues can, and are, ignored by most people, as they watched the returns come in.

In the meantime, the issues such as universal health care, the so-called Republican “tax reform” bill that is still in the works, the destruction of environmental regulation and laws, and the wholesale privatization of most agencies of government go unaddressed. In other words, the entirety of the Trump program is to destroy the “administrative state.”

The railbirds are standing on the edge of the track, watching the horses run, as the grandstand behind them is burning, threatening the lives of 40,000 other fans sitting in the seats. So goes the across-the-board race between the Democrats and the Republicans. By most measures, there is some difference between the two major parties, but not much. Included in that grandstand fire are some of the most important issue facing the people and the planet to date: rampant racism in the structures of society and government, public and universal education deterioration, no housing program, no jobs program, bloated military budgets, destruction of the environment by elimination of oversight by government agencies such the Environmental Protection Agency, and perhaps one of the more important issues, bipartisan opposition of the only sensible health care program (some kind of universal health care), such as Medicare for All (H.R. 676).

Corporate-run media outlets are, and should be, blamed in large part for the concentration on the horse race and not on the issues important to society, but the biggest share of the blame goes to the politicians, whose concentration on continuing their flow of money from corporations and the rich prevents them from addressing the dire need of the people to see a little slice of the federal discretionary budget. It could be the focus on entertainment such as casinos, sports, television, movies, and reality TV programming that keeps the people from demanding their share from their politicians. But also, the blame can be placed on the education system, from kindergarten to post-graduate level institutions. And by that is not meant privatization of education, because we’ve seen the result of that: At least one politician who, carrying a law degree from one of the fundamentalist universities and law schools, declared that the earth is only 6,000 years old. The U.S. can do without that kind of pseudo education and the people should demand that public universal education be expanded and improved and a halt put to the privatization schemes of the Trump Administration and the GOP.

Above all of this is the continuation of the old Jim Crow laws into the new millennium, through use of extrajudicial killing of unarmed (sometimes armed) black men and boys with near impunity. Until this is overcome, there will be little done in confronting the other issues.

What to do about that in the era of mass incarceration (mostly of black and other minorities)? The answer is to keep on fighting the good fight for equality and an end to oppression in all its forms, in such groups as Black Lives Matter and the NAACP, along with so many others, new and old-line.

But, while the horse race of electoral politics occupies the minds of most Americans (because that’s what they see on television), there are those in the black community who have become aware of the fundamental issues and are doing something about them: healthy food (to overcome “food deserts” in both urban and rural areas), protection of the environment to bring clean water to all and healthy soil to produce the food, as well as clean air to breathe, so working on small farms to produce all the food to feed the current and future population. There are many such entities, small farms, in places like Detroit and other urban settings, as well as other parts of the country, especially across what is called the Black Belt South.

Over three decades, the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association (BFFA), headquartered in Tillery, N.C., has been one such champion of small farms and the preservation of black-owned land, wherever it is found. Many young black men and women whose parents or grandparents migrated to the northern cities for work in the then-busy factories 75 or 80 years ago, have discovered their roots in the South and are beginning to return to the places where they not only are beginning to learn to farm their own land, they are staying to rebuild communities like Tillery. For them, the struggle to produce food for those communities is linked to the struggle for civil and human rights in every part of the U.S. As always, there is the struggle against oppression in most areas across society.

Just recently, however, groups (GRAIN, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, and the Heinrich Böll Foundation) that research such things have reported that three meat companies emitted more greenhouse gases last year (2016) than all of France and nearly as much as some of the biggest oil companies, like Exxon, BP and Shell. The named three companies are JBS, Cargill, and Tyson, although there are others. The groups say, “Twenty meat and dairy companies emitted more greenhouse gases in 2016 than all of Germany, which is by far Europe’s biggest climate polluter. If these 20 companies were a country, they would be the world’s seventh largest greenhouse gas emitter.”

To avoid climate catastrophe, they warn: “The only solution to feeding the planet while effectively fighting climate change is a rapid transition to food systems based on food sovereignty, small-scale peasant and pastoralist producers, agroecology, moderate meat and dairy consumption and local markets.” Without this change, the modest progress agreed upon at the Paris climate summit will not be reached by 2060 and ecological collapse is predicted to occur. Young black farmers are aware of this and already are practicing the solutions that GRAIN suggested this week. There are not enough of them, but the numbers are growing.

People should not need to be reminded of these things, but the danger is that there is an administration in Washington and others at other levels of government that do not recognize the reality of climate change, but in fact, fight against even discussing climate change. There is not that much time left to deal with this issue and, therefore, the people must go around the obstructionists and do it themselves.

What is happening in the world and to the earth underlies all the other issues. If we can no longer survive on the planet, the other issues are moot. And, don’t look for a rationale for ignoring this potentially deadly problem on the part of the corporations, the rich, and their (majority of) politicians in government at all levels. Nothing will stand in the way of profits, except the people, and they need to take leadership in every case where their “leaders” are failing them. It’s why several states are preparing to comply with the Paris climate agreement, even though the Trump Administration refuses to recognize the danger.

This is not to say that the fights on all the other issues should be slowed, but that the vital fight to save the biosphere, the planet, needs to be kept in the forefront of every mind. As the military and “defense” budget keeps growing, programs for the people and those geared toward saving the environment and whole ecosystems keep falling by the wayside. That can’t be allowed to happen.

While the mainstream media outlets try to keep the electorate’s mind on the horse race of electoral politics, the people are allowed to know less and less about the issues that can, and often do, make a difference between life and death. The railbirds need to take their eyes off the horses on the track, turn around, and have a look at the conflagration in the grandstand. Now, it’s time to do something about the fire. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a long-time former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.




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David A. Love, JD
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