Speakout is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. Speakout articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.
As the pendulum swings in a politically polarized and disillusioned electorate, many Americans yearn for a reliable and firm foundation for governance of the nation. Each January, we have an opportunity to remember the prophetic wisdom of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and consider his words and actions as a beacon across our conflicted landscape. In the last 15 months of life, King spoke repeatedly about war and the role of the US in the world. His words on war are often forgotten in an effort to sterilize and domesticate his legacy. One of his major addresses was in Los Angeles in February 1967.
Meryl Streep's denunciation of Donald Trump at the 2017 Golden Globes focused on his mockery of a disabled reporter, and provoked a Twitter reaction from Trump to the "over-rated" actress: "For the 100th time, I never 'mocked' a disabled reporter (would never do that) but simply showed him "groveling" when he totally changed a 16-year-old story that he had written in order to make me look bad. Just more very dishonest media!" But it's Trump, not the media, who was being dishonest. Trump was willing to lie over and over again in an attempt to pretend that he had never done this.
A crisis persists across the nation. Public higher education funding in Oregon, as well as in other states, remains low. Dismayed university presidents reacted to Gov. Kate Brown's proposed 2017-19 budget for its flat fundingof the prior biennium's $667.3 million. In their January letter to the governor, the presidents warned that unless the Legislature improves her budget by an additional $100 million, students will face tuition hikes. They wrote: "To keep tuition increases below 5 percent at most universities, and also preserve current financial aid and student support services, state investment in the Public University Support Fund (PUSF) will need to increase by at least $100 million above the Governor's Budget."
I've noticed members of the Christian left trying to redefine the evangelical church. I have also noticed that the Christian left never seems to gain any traction. They publish one book after another, they speak up and speak out, but they simply can't change the conversation. The best evidence was the Christian evangelicals' 80 percent support for Donald Trump. That's unity in a voting block like no other. I'm not sure any Democrat stood a chance against that kind of number. In fact, for 40 years, the Christian right has dominated the political landscape and taken control of the Christian voice.
On January 1, 2017, the Mexican government issued a 20 percent increase in gas prices as a result of President Enrique Peña Nieto's efforts to deregulate the petroleum industry. Protests quickly erupted all over Mexico, with demonstrators blocking highways and confronting police. In Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, protesters blocked the train tracks near the Arizona-Sonora border, stopping international trade. On Sunday, January 8, 2017, hundreds of people showed up neardowntown Nogales, and after some protesters began throwing rocks at riot police, the police responded by firing rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.
Civilian control of the military is a long-established hallmark of democratic governance. It clearly can exist without democracy, but democracy -- as the embodiment of popular sovereignty -- can't exist without it. The Trump presidency ahead promises -- perhaps counterintuitively, perhaps not -- to be a crucible that will test the limits and lengths of civilian control in this country as never before in recent memory. The result could well be a fundamental redefinition of the concept as we have come to know it: that of a deferential military dutifully executing direction from civilian authority without visible resistance, without itself becoming a threat -- real or perceived -- to those in power.
The 2010 Supreme Court ruling Citizens United v FEC with its brilliant if disingenuous moniker, has become the whipping boy for a covert, decades-old effort to convert American democracy into a political marketplace. A leaked memo from 1971 illustrates how Justice Lewis Powell laid the groundwork that may mark the end of the American Experiment in self-government. "There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide." There is a real "pick me up" from our second President, John Adams. No one wants to believe such a dire prediction, but it is rare that democracies last more than 200 years.
Being stuck in traffic is a daily fare in Baghdad. While checkpoints have been dramatically reduced in recent times, and the number of concrete walls appear markedly decreased, traffic jams still defy description. It doesn't help in the least that everyone is leaning on their horns. A half-a-million taxis roam around Baghdad spewing pollution as they look for potential fares. Proposals to counter this problem have been put forth to authorities, for example, the creation of taxi stands throughout the city. All attempts to remedy this problem seem futile.
Donald Trump has blatantly disregarded his supposedly "populist" campaign and promises to "drain the swamp" of money in politics. He has shown himself as a self-promoter, con man and the most unpopular presidential candidate in modern political history. According to Wall Street Journal/NBC News polls, he was viewed positively by just 29 percent of voters in mid-October 2016, and only 41 percent in mid-December after the election. Trump's cabinet picks give us alarm that his administration will be deeply connected with Wall Street and big money.
Trump's recent tweets about expanding the US nuclear arsenal and "let there be an arms race" have aroused fears across the world -- not only here in the United States. Over the past year, we have also learned that Trump lies out of every side of his mouth, and that what he says today may not apply tomorrow. Like a chemist, I find myself deeply concerned about what happens when three elements that are fundamental to Trump's personality are combined.