Our Gift. Our Job.


Our Gift. Our Job.

Our Gift. Our Job.

By William Steding, PhD

As the snow falls softly this New Year’s Eve on our hideaway in the Colorado Rockies, I feel a welcome sense of seclusion from the outrage porn we have come to endure from the steady stream of farce and deceit pulsing through the wired and wireless reality that continues to warp our senses, and worse, corrode our values.  And yet, I can’t help but summon a cup of gratitude at having been granted the fateful gift of being born into a country that allowed me to become whatever I want: to associate as I please, to feel safe and secure, to pursue my dreams, and to enjoy the fruits of those pursuits by, in my case, living my final years in the most beautiful place in the world.  Of course, being white and male helped a great deal, but I’ll set that convenience aside for another post.
The vast majority of Americans alive today were born after the great toils and sacrifices that made the United States the world’s lone superpower.  We did not endure the sacrifices of our Founders, the horrid circumstances of the Civil War, being gassed by the Kaiser in World War I, the abject poverty of the Great Depression, or being one of twelve million Americans whose lives were imperiled or lost in World War II.  I reflect on my grandfather’s life who, born in 1890, saw more than his share of hardship and challenge; an arc of life that began in a sod hut and ended just three months before an American walked on the moon.  Our gift was to inherit a bounty of prosperity and goodwill made possible by people like my grandfather that allowed us the promise of the American Dream: to live a better life than those who came before us.  All we had to do was keep the dream alive; to keep the flame of freedom burning for those who followed us.
Fifty years ago, several brainiacs from places like Harvard and MIT were asked to envision what life would be like today.  For the most part, especially as they predicted advances in technology, they got it right.  As Jill Lepore reconciled in The New Yorker, “most of the machines people expected would be invented have, in fact, been invented,” but “most of those machines have had consequences wildly different from those anticipated in 1968.”  She illustrates further that people like Carlos R. DeCarlo, then the director of automation research at I.B.M., got the tech-side right while getting the human side terribly wrong when he argued that “the political and social institutions of the United States will remain flexible enough to ingest the fruits of science and technology without basic damage to its value systems.”  Oops.
Wealth, even while distributed on the terms of equity rather than equality—the basis of capitalism—has allowed America to become by orders of magnitude more powerful than any other nation-state on earth.  As Yuval Noah Harari reminds us in Homo Deus: a Brief History of Tomorrow, “ today more people die from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists, and criminals combined.”  Money and power can indeed be a very good thing; most Americans want more of each.  Values, however, which provide the foundation of our collective welfare, have proven a more difficult challenge.  Affluence provides a veil of delusion that, like termites in our framing, weakens the structure of civil society to the point that collapse becomes inevitable; that, as the poet W.B. Yeats warned, might produce a “rough beast, its hour come round at last” that may slouch toward “Bethlehem [or Washington D.C.?] to be born.”
The compromise of values in the fog of affluence has indeed placed the American Dream in peril.  More people are concerned about their internet speed to upload their selfies than they are the welfare of the widow living next door.  We live in a society of hyper-consumerism that appears to find satisfaction only in our next—always next—purchase. The seldom-acknowledged effect of losing our values is that we not only make worse decisions, we lose our capacity for satisfaction.  Like the opioid addict, only the next fix will do.  Further, in the cradle of affluence we lose the effects of consequence and, thereby, our commitment to truth.  Most have forgotten (if they ever knew) the self-satisfaction that is born of sacrifice, and that it is the tightly woven fabric of purpose that gives us access to grace. 
When I speak of values, I do not mean the contrivances of the Religious Right—so called “family values”—that have been employed to secure subservience and to liberate true-believers of their earnings under the hood-wonk of Prosperity Gospel.  The values I speak of are the values of the rough-hewn American character that succeeded in founding and keeping a new republic that truly believed in the sanctity of freedom, embraced with humility and secured by hard work and yes, even death.  Slowly, but surely, our prosperity has flipped these values to their evil twins: entitlement, hubris, and narcissism.  Our current (but hopefully soon-departing) president is the literal embodiment of this disease.  We must face it: he is us.  But, we can recover from our waltz with madness. 
We must recognize how we got here; the tragic compromises we made in our generational moment of weakness when we convinced ourselves of our own beauty and infallibility.  We must revisit our history of greatness—prior to our own birth—that was won at the end of a shovel, not a selfie-stick.  We must hold ourselves, our family, our friends, our community, and our nation accountable to the reality of consequence and to the standard of truth.  Only then will we be able to look our children and grandchildren in their eyes to claim we did our part to keep the American dream alive. This is our job in 2019.

Copyright ©  2018 Dr. William Steding, Ameritecture, All rights reserved.
www.ameritecture.com  |  Designing the Future of America—One Idea at a Time

Jill Lepore, “What 2018 Looked Like Fifty Years Ago,” The New Yorker, January 7, 2019.

Yuvall Noah Harari, Homo Deus: a Brief History of Tomorrow (New York: HarperCollins, 2017), front matter.

William Butler Yeats, “The Second Coming,” 1919.


Ameritecture Blog Post - by William Steding

By William Steding, PhD

The divisive tribal partisanship so many sociologists and political pundits talk about today may, in the November midterms in 2018 and presidential election in 2020, boil down to little more than an amplification of the gender wars previously explained in John Gray’s 1992 bestseller, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. A number of recent studies suggest Trump has succeeded in creating gender gaps in political preferences unseen in the history of American politics.  The numbers are stunning and the implications affect all Americans and all issues, domestic and foreign.
Gender differences in political party affiliation first occurred in the mid-1960s when men began to prefer Republicans while women preferred Democrats. The gap between preferences has widened gradually ever since, but then widened dramatically following the election of Donald Trump.  As Thomas Edsall recently pointed out in The New York Times, "The potential gender gap in congressional voting has risen from 20 and 22 points in 2014 and 2016, according to exit polls, to 33 points in a Quinnipiac Poll published earlier this month. Men of all races say they intend to vote for Republican House candidates 50-42, while women of all races say they intend to vote for Democratic candidates 58-33.  Significantly, white women, a majority of whom backed Trump in 2016, now say they intend to vote for Democratic House candidates in 2018 by a 14-point margin, 52-38, according to Quinnipiac. White men say they intend to vote for Republican House candidates 56-38 in 2018."(1)
This gap also persists not just among all races, but among all demographic age cells;  surprisingly, most pronounced among millennial males who prefer Republicans by a wider gap to their millennial female counterparts than do older age cells.  Just a few weeks ago, Pew Research published this finding, citing that "Women voters younger than 35 support the Democrat by an overwhelming margin (68% to 24%), while younger men are divided (47% favor the Democrat, 50% favor the Republican). The gender gap among voters ages 35 and older is more modest: 49% of older women favor the Democrat, as do 42% of older men."(2)
In the event you are thinking, “But wait, that’s a preference for the Republican Party, but not necessarily for Trump” you would be wrong.  Not only is Trump’s overall approval rating rock-steady (40% among all adults), a plurality of Republicans believe Trump has “changed the GOP for the better” while just 9% say he “has changed the GOP for the worse.”(3)  The Republican Party is very much the party of Trump.  Never-Trump Republicans (which I had hoped were a large and robust contingent) are, at best, outliers.
The strategic implications for this are many for both parties and for both the midterms in 2018 and the presidential elections in 2020.

  1. If you are appalled by Trump’s rhetoric and antics expect much more of it, perhaps at even greater levels than you have seen thus far.Why? Because it works well for him, politically. Men, in particular, see Trump as their best hope to preserve patriarchy. As Steve Pinker, a Harvard professor of psychology suggested in Edsall’s column, Trump is "almost a caricature of a contestant to be Alpha baboon: aggressive, hypersensitive to perceived threats to his dominance, boastful of his status and physical attributes (including his genitals), even the physical display of colorful big hair and a phallic red tie. Men may identify with such displays."(4)

  2. To achieve victory in the coming elections, Republicans would be wise to focus on men who have traditionally voted for Democrats and who may be—quietly or not—turned off by gender-based issues like the MeToo movement. (It is important for Democrats to remember that the vast majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated by very few serial offenders; painting all men with the same brush—as unfortunately many MeToo advocates do—is a politically risky proposition.) This especially applies to working class Democratic men who, despite much evidence Trump has failed on his promises to them, appear committed to support him, at least through the 2018 midterm elections. So far, these men are willing to buy into the idea that Trump’s failures are not his fault; that the media and various fantasy conspiracies have precluded him from serving their interests.

  3. Expect much more bashing by Trump of foreign leaders, especially Angela Merkel of Germany and Theresa May of Great Britain who are obvious targets of Trump’s machismo. Similarly, Putin of Russia, Erdogan of Turkey, and Duterte of the Philippines represent tough-guy proxies for Trump’s war on women. And, patriarchy and nationalism are easy bedfellows since they share a common denominator: they are both exclusionary regimes that benefit the few at the expense of the many.

  4. Race-baiting also works well for Trump, and not just among white males. Curiously, and I’m not sure how to definitively understand this yet, Trump’s race-baiting, accomplished partly through his immigration cruelties, does not seem to affect Hispanic males as one might expect. Perhaps because they appreciate more his cultural nod to machismo than his ridicule of their race, which machismo, at least historically, has been more prominent in their culture than with American Anglos.

  5. For Democrats, get-out-the-vote programs should be aimed squarely at women to take advantage of the pronounced swing of women toward the Democratic party since Trump’s election. If current preferences hold (which may even increase), the key to victory will likely be getting women to vote and, as a counter to Republican appeals to working class Democratic men, in getting disaffected Republican women to vote for Democratic women candidates. A pink-hued blue wave may affect the tsunamic destruction of the Republican Party. Playing the gender card may also, however, alienate some men (see MeToo comment above), but I suspect those vulnerable to Trump’s chest-beating may have already flipped.

  6. Democratic women candidates have a natural advantage in this gender gap-cum-chasm.But, while they would be wise to artfully counter Trump’s antics on his gender and race baiting, doing so has the potential to also solidify his support among undecided men. There is a fine line here. Success may come more easily by promoting thoughtful solutions to pocketbook issues like healthcare and the emerging economic consequences of Trump’s tariffs, which should make him vulnerable with both men and women. Being anti-Trump is clearly not enough; positive policy solutions to gender-neutral issues may be the key to tipping the electoral scales.

As Edsall concluded, "Men’s commitment to protecting their status — their dominant position in the social order — cannot be counted out in 2018 or 2020. Elections have become a sexualized battlefield, and men have repeatedly demonstrated their determination to win no matter the social cost. The outcome of the next two elections will show whether women are equally determined to fight tooth and nail."(5)

Mars and Venus indeed appear to be on a new collision course.

Copyright ©  2018 Dr. William Steding, Ameritecture, All rights reserved.
www.ameritecture.com  |  Designing the Future of America—One Idea at a Time

1. Thomas B. Edsall, “What Happens if the Gender Gap Becomes a Gender Chasm?,” The New York Times, July 12, 2018,  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/12/opinion/trump-midterms-gender-gap.html.
 2. Pew Research Center, “Voters More Focused on Control of Congress – and the President – than in Past Midterms,” June 20, 2018, www.pewresearch.org

3. Ibid, p. 11.

4. OpCit, #1.

5. Ibid.

An Open Letter to Senator Cory Gardner

February 17, 2018

Dear Senator Gardner,

How do you sleep at night, knowing that the blood of every victim of every mass shooting since your election is on your hands?  How do you sleep at night, knowing that the four million dollars you have received from the National Rifle Association is more valuable to you than the lives of American children?  How do you sleep at night, knowing that you were in a position to make a real difference by working to ban military style assault rifles and you chose to talk about (without funding) mental health instead?

Your Republican colleagues turn immediately to thoughts and prayers, letting the world see what good religious men they are.  Thoughts and prayers have not brought one victim back from the dead.  Thoughts and prayers offer no meaning to the bereaved parent, the suffering grandparent, the confused brother or the distraught sister.  Thoughts and prayers have done nothing to stop the next mass shooting.  We would be better served by a Capitol full of atheists who recognize they would have only themselves to turn to for real solutions than by this current collection of hypocrites who keep the victims in their thoughts and prayers while keeping their hands in the generous coffers of the National Rifle Association and do nothing to prevent further tragedy.

When other nations have tackled the issue of gun violence so successfully, why must we be the the one terrible outlier?  Why must we think it “un-American” to follow the example of Australia, a nation that responded to a mass shooting by banning assault weapons and creating a gun buy-back program that not only reduced the number of available guns in Australia but has so far prevented any further mass shootings.  Why must we think it a threat to our precious Second Amendment rights to follow the example of Japan, a nation that provides deep background checks, proficiency exams and frequent repeat exams for anyone who wants to own a gun?  For that matter, why must we accept that an amendment created at a time when we had single shot muskets and no standing army should now entitle individuals to have an arsenal that may be just short of nuclear, apparently regardless of their mental health status thanks to one of Mr. Trump's reckless roll-backs of an Obama era order?

You may not be able to wash the blood from your hands for your complicity in doing nothing to prevent the mass shootings that have already happened on your watch, but you actions in the future may keep the tally from growing.  We urge you to immediately act to ban military style assault weapons, as they have no other purpose than killing people.  We would urge the Congress to authorize and fund a gun buy-back program, as this nation does not need the more than three hundred million guns already present.  We would urge you to vote “no” on the bill now before the Senate allowing concealed carry across state lines.  And we would urge you to stop accepting the blood money doled out by the National Rifle Association.  No elected official should ever again be so influenced by the largesse of the N. R.A. that he or she would sell the safety of our children for thirty pieces of N. R. A. silver.

Richard Gingery, M. D.
Ridgway, Colorado

2018: Passage to Promise or Collapse?

2018: Passage to Promise or Collapse?


In my most charitable description, 2017 was a wake-up call for America; a year marked by surprise, anger, sadness and regret. In 2018, each of us must consider the blessings of the past and the challenges of the future while embracing an honest assessment of the role we must play in setting a course that reflects the values and dignity of predecessor generations. 2018 like 1776, 1865, and 1945 is one of those seminal years in American history that will determine the fundamental welfare of our citizens for the next two to three generations until we, inevitably, face a crisis of identity again.  The answer to the question, “What does it mean to be an American?” seems an abstract or, at best, rhetorical question.  Yet, in practice, it is the question at the top of the pyramid formed by our values, and beneath which our norms, policies and behaviors flow.  It defines us in every way.  Trump’s answer, wrapped in the patriotic tones of “America First,” is a deceit of epic proportions that aims to destroy the American Dream and abdicates American leadership across the globe.  No self-respecting American can sit this one out.  It is time for all hands on deck.  Trump is a cancer that is eating the soul of our republic and is an existential threat to the future of our children and grandchildren.  He, and his willing bootlickers, must be banished to the ash heap of history so that we may right the ship, which is currently listing toward peril.

On behalf of my fellow Baby Boomers, I apologize for where we are today—for allowing this monster of avarice and deceit to seize the reins of American power and influence.  Although it is true that Millennial voter turnout may have prevented Trump, they did not create him.  He is an early member of the Baby Boomer generation, born to parents who endured and sacrificed much during the Great Depression and World War II but, unlike their parents, went on to a contrary life of radical self-involvement with an insatiable appetite for consumption and aggrandizement.  We Boomers presided over the greatest period of expansion in American wealth and power with the conscience of a sociopath.  Numerous studies in presidential history argue that any sitting president is simply a reflection of the soul of the electorate, and Trump is unexceptional in this regard.  Together with Millennials, Boomers can take America back; redemption can be achieved in 2018, but the clock—both temporal and electoral—is ticking.

The identity of promise—of Global Stewardship—is denominated in the values of our founders including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without regard to race, religion, creed, or national origin.  Those who embrace these values are caretakers of the American Dream that assures everyone access to opportunity balanced by responsibility within a framework of meritocracy.  This is the ethic of greatness; of a relentless subscription to humanity and humility undaunted by fear.  Stewardship means that the days of American power acquired through coercion are over.  In the future, it will be earned by the extent to which America enables others to achieve their dreams within the context of their unique and legitimate cultures. We must engage with the world in coopetition: competing to cooperate.  It is not our duty as Americans to judge and condemn, it is our duty to protect each other and to support each other as a matter of humanity, rather than as determined through the narrow lens of nationalism.  ‘Promise’ also embraces the fiber of hope—it is prospective—that America’s greatest days lie in the future, not the past.

The identity of collapse—of “America First”—is a narrow, isolationist, and demeaning nationalism that attempts to crush the American Dream and abdicate America’s role in the world.  Its proponents believe there are more threats than opportunities in the world.  That “those people” want what we have and we must fight to protect our borders, our classrooms, our government, our military, and our churches, from the insidious encroachment of intellectuals, socialists, non-Christians, and non-white and non-English speaking peoples. Exploitation trumps stewardship while ignorance is cause for prideful celebration.  Its leaders prey on those threatened by progress with empty promises of returning them to yesterday’s greatness.  For American firsters, there are no shades of gray, only black and white; in every contest, there is winner and there is a loser.  Moreover, the ‘Collapse’ identity plays host to the conceit of a swindler whose prospects are assured by the extent to which he can divide America and concentrate power in his own hands while stealing the wealth and liberties of hard-working Americans.

These are the stakes: the two very different identities in contention for the future of America for decades to come.  This is the year—2018—when, someday, you will be asked, what did you do to protect the American Dream?  What did you do to save America and the world?  In 2018, complacency is complicity.  Unlike prior generations, it is unlikely you will be asked to leave your family to go off to a foreign land with no assurance of your return.  But, you must set aside the whining and fear and stand up for your future.  Participate by contributing through work and financial resources. Focus on flipping Congress in 2018 away from the harlots of Trump’s tribe so that we might preempt their embezzlement of America’s future.  America’s nightmare will not end by counting on someone else to save you.  The time for surprise, anger, sadness, and regret are over.  It is time to win for all of us here today and born tomorrow.  Let’s roll.

Copyright ©  2017 Dr. William Steding, Ameritecture, All rights reserved.
www.ameritecture.com  |  Designing the Future of America—One Idea at a Time

Trumplandia One Year In (and the Road Out)

Trumplandia One Year In (and the Road Out)


As a recently baptized sexagenarian, the years seem to be slipping by much faster although, thanks to Trump, the last one seems like five.  I’ll add this decelerating time-warp deception to the list of Trump swindles since that bizarre night, one year ago, when the Trump family took the stage in the Hilton Midtown Hotel in New York City.  Dazed by victory, their heads spun around the outcome no one, including them, expected allowing them to seize the American presidency and move their hoodwink-America show to the White House.  As the clock struck midnight and morning light followed, the perceived existential threat of 9/11 was transposed into the very real existential threat of 11/9: Donald Trump.  Weirdness has always been a staple of American identity, but most often is expressed as a scintillating adornment of the American condition, rather than Trump’s weirdness, which is a daily beatdown-cum-scourge imperiling the American Dream.  Alas, here we are one year hence.

The question I am asked over and over and over again is, “How and when will we be rid of this cad?”  Absent a failure of health, which is certainly foreseeable given Trump’s gluttonous behaviors and demands of the presidency, I tend to agree with Roger Cohen’s (New York Times) recent assessment that puts Trump’s reelection as more probable than any forced departure.  As for Republicans in Congress who hold the keys to impeachment, unless their own reelection is unlikely, like Senators Corker and Flake, or their own life facing an imminent end, as with Senator McCain, they have thus far been as complicit in the Trump presidential fraud as my own Colorado Congressman Scott Tipton, and Senator Cory Gardner, who undoubtedly rise every morning drinking Koch Brothers’ Kool-Aid from a faux-crystal Trump slipper.  These Republican men and women, who masquerade as standard-bearers of their party, are little more than traitors to American values and institutions.  Here’s hoping they are retired from public office at the earliest opportunity.

To be clear, there is good news on this otherwise regrettable anniversary, but before I get to that we must all accept responsibility for creating the environment that allowed Trump’s election.  Understanding the larger cultural context is necessary to change our ways to assure future Trumps do not recur.  Many have cited the Democratic Party’s failure to consider the needs of the forlorn working white segment from forgotten American zip codes, but there exist larger and more pervasive trends that allowed Trump to hijack the American presidency.  Three core principles: individualism, perfectibility, and exceptionalism, that truly made America great since its founding, have been flipped to their obverse fiendish rivals since the end of the Cold War in 1991 and the profound expansion of wealth that followed.  Here is what I mean by these principles:

  • Individualism—We have free will and we are accountable for how we exercise it.
  • Perfectibility—We have the capacity to make things better and the obligation to leave things better than the way we found them.
  • Exceptionalism (the exemplar kind)—We set the example for others to follow.

Unfortunately, one of the effects of becoming the world’s lone superpower after the collapse of the Soviet Union was the absence of a willing and able contender to keep U.S. power in check.  Indeed, winning the Cold War was a victory, but also left us vulnerable to the impulse of hubristic overreach including the temptation to violate the sovereignty of other states militarily, economically, and culturally.  In addition, in the last three decades the U.S. has enjoyed an historical expansion of wealth due, in part, to the “peace dividend” (political and economic) created by prevailing over the Soviet Union and, more so, by the transformation of the economy—led by U.S. companies—from analog to digital.  Notwithstanding the concentration of this wealth among fewer people as this transformation played out, a cultural malaise set in marked by a number of developments including hyper-consumerism, increasing obesity, anti-intellectualism, and a general inclination toward self-absorption, which created a wave of apathy and nihilism that swamped the spirit of America from coast to coast. The result is that these core principles morphed as follows:

  • Individualism became Narcissism.
  • Perfectibility became Entitlement.
  • Exceptionalism became Hubris.

Ironically, victory and affluence turned a vibrant and compassionate American society into a real-time display of Dante’s seven deadly sins: envy, wrath, lust, greed, gluttony, pride, and sloth.  People behaving badly, from Wall Street to Hollywood to Washington D.C. to Main Street, has become the norm.  And no, the evidence does not suggest greater piety would have saved us.  The fact is the destructive transformation of these principles occurred during—correlates with—the highest period of religiosity in the history of America.  Morality and righteousness may not be symbiotic after all.  Add this to the propensity, enabled by social media, to become siloed into our own self-affirming worlds and a perfect storm of intellectual and moral decline produced an electorate vulnerable—even receptive—to manipulation and fraud.  The petri dish that is the American experiment became a viable host for the cancer that is Trump. The good news is, we can lift ourselves out of this morass.  Trump did not create these conditions; he simply exploited them as any con man might.  We can be disgusted by his behavior, but we remain in control of, and responsible for, our own.

In spite of the damage done by Trump’s cadre of kleptocrats and incompetents—traditionally known as a president’s cabinet—the broader population appears to be emerging from denial, fear and despair, and organizing to reestablish the values and institutions that underpin the American Dream and American leadership throughout the world.  Unified and inspired people are the antidote to Trump.  Six thousand Indivisible chapters across the country did not exist one year ago and they are now evolving from reactive resistance to proactive agents of change at all levels of government.  Personally, I can credit the festering lesion Trump has inflicted on the American presidency for compelling me to engage anew with many Republicans, Democrats and Independents who are unwilling to stand by and watch Trump’s shit-show of avarice and deceit. “Repeal and replace”—like that touted by Republicans in the healthcare debates—is now being scrawled with Sharpies on the headshots of congressional Trumpsters who have learned how uncomfortable town halls can be, and who correctly fear the ballot box in 2018.  And while too many aggrieved citizens still sit idly by wringing their hands over Trump without getting out of their chairs to act, or opening their wallets to support, I am hopeful they will at least show up at the polls at their next opportunity to vote the bastards out.  This is no time to be a bystander in the battle for America.

The challenge now is to move from anti-Trump to pro-American Dream; to reestablish American values and exert those now-quaint norms of honesty, humility, and service such that individualism, perfectibility, and exceptionalism once again supplant narcissism, entitlement, and hubris.  This means shifting from defense to offense; to become proponents rather than just opponents.  As true patriots, we must rally around the flag of the American Dream and put forward declarative and realistic proposals that clearly illustrate the benefits of our candidates and policies to a vast majority of Americans, not just those who share our ideological silos.  This is hard and honest work, which is kryptonite to people like Trump and his pathetic sycophants.

As my former fellow Texan, Barbara Jordan, wrote:

Are we to be one people bound together by common spirit, sharing in a common endeavor; or will we become a divided nation?  For all of its uncertainty, we cannot flee the future.

One year later, we know what we are dealing with in Trump.  This is no time for fear; this is no time for indifference.  We must challenge ourselves and our leaders to become, once again, ardent advocates of the American Dream.

Copyright ©  2017 Dr. William Steding, Ameritecture, All rights reserved.
www.ameritecture.com  |  Designing the Future of America—One Idea at a Time

Get Off Your Knees America!

Get Off Your Knees America!

Get Off Your Knees America!

By William Steding, PhD


Unintentionally, the defiance first exhibited by Colin Kapernick and later adopted by more than two hundred fifty NFL players, coaches, and owners (although with evolving and wide-ranging purposes) has provided Donald Trump with a new opportunity to dog-whistle his white nationalist base and feed his insatiable megalomania.  Trump’s consistent aim—to divide the country and consolidate power in his petite pasty palms—has actually been bolstered by those who laud the kneelers while patting themselves on the back as if they too are modern-day revolutionaries.  Rise up America, this is no time to be on your knees.

Setting aside the profound naiveté of those who are surprised they were so easily cast as unpatriotic—as anti-American—by Trump and his fellow lapel-pin patriots, expressing defiance during the national anthem is an epic strategic failure.  That is not to say the kneelers are less patriotic than Trump, however, true patriots are those who embrace the symbols, norms, institutions, and laws of the United States, and who stand and fight to preserve them from any existential threat, even when that threat is the president of the United States.  True patriots do not reject America’s symbols; they redefine and magnify American values to forge a new more inclusive identity.  No American in contemporary history did this as well as the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

King understood that to succeed he had to unite people in support of a higher interpretation of American values and pursued his aims within and in support of the nation’s laws and institutions, always in a non-violent manner even while being jailed, abused, and eventually assassinated.  King’s dream—that changed America and the world—was sought with a transcendent sense of grace while never bowing his head (unless in prayer) and certainly never kneeling in defiance of the flag or the national anthem.  He stood tall against the tyranny of racism and delivered America to a much better place.  He even succeeded in getting a good ol’ Texas boy and president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, to relinquish political control of the southern states to the Republican Party (where they have remained ever since) in order to enact the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

King’s approach carried significantly more risk, and could not have felt nearly as rewarding as players who kneel in defiance while television cameras amplify their celebrity.  But, King recognized that in the end success depended on being seen as the greater patriot than those who perpetuated the sadistic and exploitative postbellum frameworks of Jim Crow.  His updated version of American identity offered a more genuine interpretation of Thomas Jefferson’s aspiration “all men are created equal.”  Perhaps most importantly, however, was the way King saw himself as a servant rather than a celebrity.  He explained in one of his lesser-cited sermons, “The Drum Major Instinct” that greatness was born from service.  Drawing on the lessons Jesus gave his disciples, King said,

If you want to be important—wonderful.  If you want to be recognized—wonderful.  If you want to be great—wonderful.  But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.

Vanishing the existential threat Trump poses to the United States will require a great deal more effort than kneeling during our anthem.  It requires a level of service and commitment that establishes a higher level of patriotism and elevates American values to forge a new identity.  Rather than averting our eyes and praise away from our flag we must hoist it high to preserve the American Dream and to reignite respect throughout the world.  It is our anthem and our flag, not Trump’s.  As the saying goes, failure is not an option. Every day in every way we must stand up for a better America that serves the interests of all Americans in a thoughtful and compassionate manner.  Do not fail wishing you had done more; do not look back and wonder how could this happen?  Rise up now for yourself, your family, and the promise of the American Dream.

Copyright ©  2017 Dr. William Steding, Ameritecture, All rights reserved.
www.ameritecture.com  |  Designing the Future of America—One Idea at a Time

The Old Guard vs. the New Wave: Power Struggles in Rural America

The Old Guard vs. the New Wave: Power Struggles in Rural America

The Old Guard vs. the New Wave: Power Struggles in Rural America

By Wyatt Hurt


As the sun rises in the western half of Colorado, it shines down on the desert landscape of Mesa County, the lush green Rocky Mountains of Pueblo County, and the steep slopes of Durango. Rich in geographic contrasts, Colorado’s third congressional district is politically diverse as well.  Blood-red areas like Mesa, Delta, and Montrose Counties have ensured Republican victory since 2010, but the swing district also has liberal havens like Pitkin, La Plata, and Eagle Counties. These contrasts combined with enormous geographic size—the district covers nearly 50,000 square miles, 164 zip codes, and 34 incorporated cities—make Representative Scott Tipton’s (R – Colo.) job a difficult one. In a part of the country where voters deeply distrust the political establishment in the best of times, the 2016 election caused the established political structure to rapidly transform.

While the rest of the country enjoyed relative economic prosperity, Colorado’s third was left behind. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that in 2015, 84,000 residents, or 12 percent of the district, did not have health insurance. Average household income is only $50,010 per year, and 11 percent of families live below the poverty line. Less than a third of the population has a Bachelor’s degree or higher. The area’s economy relies almost entirely on natural resource extraction, an industry which is slowly dying, weakened by low oil prices. As a result, the 2016 populist wave was particularly strong in rural Colorado. In the Democratic Caucus, Bernie Sanders won between 60 and 70 percent of the vote in every county in the district. 

Since 1990, the district has switched hands three times, with both parties obtaining solid margins when elected. The politically-turbulent area mirrors the nation as a whole: just like the United States, the 2016 election caused the established political structure to implode. However, while national media focuses on insurgent candidates, there is another, more compelling force at work: an insurgent political revolution is changing the way politics is organized structurally.

Conservative Revolt

On October 12, 2016, the insurgent group Mesa County Deplorables (a play on Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” gaffe) shocked the Mesa County political establishment and broke away from the Mesa County Republican Party. As one organizer of this group complained to a local news station, “It’s worse than that [the Mesa County Republicans] are useless. They’re actually trying to sabotage Donald Trump from getting elected.”

While elites may have been shocked, the group saw a groundswell of support from everyday citizens frustrated by the local Republican Party’s inaction. With no budget, a group of four disenfranchised Republican operatives organized the ‘Deplorables’ on Facebook, eventually accumulating nearly 1,000 members. They adopted as their mascot a Photoshopped Revolutionary War-era painting that shows George Washington carrying a Trump campaign flag. The group bled patriotism and worked themselves into a frenzy, posting headlines like “List of debunked groper allegations by corrupt media against Donald Trump,” and “George Soros RIGGED Voting Machines In These 16 States! Is YOUR State on the List?” 

But this group is not a bunch of uneducated farmers rallying together. Matt Patterson, one of the founders, is a journalist and has written for Forbes Magazine. Marjorie Haun, another founder and a well-known Colorado political operative, has worked for successful state Senate campaigns. Their first event, a women’s march, happened in October 2016 and despite being organized in just five days, was attended by nearly 100 women. They later organized an inter-faith forum on the importance of conservative Supreme Court justices (though only Christian faiths were represented). They even welcomed Trump when his campaign held a rally at the Grand Junction Regional Airport, attracting over 10,000 supporters. 

Following Trump’s election, the Mesa County Republican Party elected Laureen Gutierrez, one of the members of the Mesa County Deplorables, as their chairwoman. Their revolt against the political establishment complete, the group disbanded. In an interview with the HPR, Haun explained: “How can we have the time, or the means, or the money that the liberals have? We don’t have George Soros funding us. But the other thing is that we can’t be constantly antagonistic and angry because we all have regular lives. We have jobs and families. We aren’t focused on 24/7 resistance like the liberal groups which are springing up today.”

Progressive Frustration

After the election, a different kind of insurgency rose up. On a local level, angry progressives felt cheated by neighbors who voted for Trump, by the political system, and in many cases by the Democratic National Committee and Clinton. After Trump’s inauguration, four former congressional staffers wrote the “Indivisible” guide on resisting the Trump agenda, and groups formed across the country to put that guide into action. One of those groups was D3 Indivisible, bringing the resistance movement to the district. It began when four progressives who co-own a yoga studio in the small town of Ridgway hosted a meditation session and community gathering after the local Women’s March on Washington. The group believes it is counterproductive to assign members titles or promote individuals in the press; when interviewed for this article, one of the founding members asked only to be identified as a spokeswoman for the group. 

As she told the HPR, the founding members were shocked when they held their first public meeting—in a town of 900 people, over 100 crammed into downtown Ridgway’s historic Sherbino Theatre. The group’s momentum has not slowed, and organizers were impressed by the level of talent that exists in their small community. The group has active issue committees, composed of volunteers who research current legislation and policy, making recommendations on what positions Indivisible should take. They also send out daily action alerts on how citizens can easily get involved, and developed a sleek and modern website which helps people take civic action. Five months in, their momentum is not slowing, and meeting numbers are growing, not shrinking. They are currently planning an organizing summit, where future organizers, volunteers, and candidates will be trained by professionals on how to take political action. “This is something which has never been done before,” the D3 Indivisible spokeswoman said. “We don’t totally know where we’re going yet, and that’s okay. For the first time in a long time, we are witnessing the birth of a new political structure.”

Many members of Indivisible are Bernie Sanders supporters who felt party leadership cheated them out of a candidate who could have beat Trump in the general election. The Mesa County Democrats perfectly demonstrate the divide in local liberal politics. The previous chairwoman of the party, who served through the 2016 election, was an “old-school Democrat.” Strongly religious, an ardent supporter of Clinton, and disdainful of Bernie Sanders, she struggled to lead the local party in a Sanders-loving county. After the 2016 election, many local progressives wanted her to resign immediately, and the November monthly meeting was contentious to say the least. 

That changed when Jeriel Brammeier, a well-known 26 year old political operative and activist in Mesa County, was elected chairwoman of the Mesa County Democrats. Currently serving as a community organizer for a grassroots progressive activist group, she got her start in politics after becoming pregnant in high school and organizing a campaign to bring healthy relationship and teen pregnancy awareness into her school district. The election of an activist outsider as chairwoman closely parallels the Deplorables’ rise to power in the Republican party. 

“I was not necessarily jumping up and down with excitement to be the Chair of the Mesa County Democrats, but no one else stepped up who I felt could bring in new people who were disillusioned with the local party and build bridges,” Brammeier told the HPR. “The gap between Clinton and Sanders voters still exists in our local party, but it is closing, and I’ve worked to bring people from both campaigns into the leadership of the party.” She no doubt has a hard task in trying to unify the fired-up progressive wing of the party and the more moderate Democrats who provide much of the funding for the party. 

Brammeier is currently working to transform the local party into something which mimics D3 Indivisible and other progressive groups on the rise. “Grassroots participation is so important, because democracy is supposed to be about the people, and not for the leaders,” she said. “For me, I didn’t look at this leadership position as a top-down approach; I looked at it as an opportunity to listen to what people want, find common ground, and move towards common goals.”

On a local level, it seems that both the Republican and Democratic parties, upended by insurgent groups, are reforming their leadership styles and working to build bridges with those who have traditionally felt disenfranchised with the party system. 

Distinct Parallels

Both conservative and liberal grassroots groups feel political change is needed—the establishment system doesn’t work for them. “The system is broken,” the spokeswoman for D3 Indivisible told the HPR. “Politics right now is so far from anything that’s real and is driven by money. People who are participating in our group and becoming more active are very creative and exhausted of the status quo. People do not want to compromise their morals, and want to operate within their values.” Haun, speaking for the Deplorables, agreed, and told the HPR that, “The constant press attention, fancy luncheons, and being in a big city makes politicians lose sight of their own constituents.”

Though both groups are frustrated with political parties, they are daunted by the prospect of running their own candidates and campaigns. D3 Indivisible is working to run a progressive candidate in the congressional race against Tipton. Their spokeswoman repeatedly told the HPR that Indivisible was uncomfortable with the idea of compromising with an establishment Democrat. However, with no budget, no political infrastructure, and very little experience, an independent candidate winning seems unlikely even to grassroots groups. 

Brammeier concurs, and believes that Democrats have a role to play in both electing candidates and enacting societal change: “I don’t think that an independent candidate could win—both Republicans and Democrats in this area see an independent as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, as an undercover candidate for the other side.” Brammeier added that established political parties are the only ones with enough infrastructure and resources to effectively run successful candidates. She also understands the concerns of progressive groups like D3 Indivisible, and her experience in being a part of these groups shows: “Hopefully they don’t feel like they have to compromise with the Democratic candidate. We want to find a socially progressive candidate that satisfies a broad range of progressive people.”

The divide between rural and urban areas can’t be overstated, and grassroots groups in CD3 spend a lot of time trying to close the gap. Pueblo, the largest city in the district, has approximately 108,000 residents—compared to Denver’s 2,000,000. Denver, the state capital, is five hours away, and the journey requires travelers to cross sometimes treacherous mountain passes. State officials rarely visit western Colorado more than once a year, and even lobbyists from the area rarely visit the capital in person. Brammeier, Haun, and the spokeswoman for D3 Indivisible all discussed their respective groups’ strategies to overcome this divide and increase their political capital.

Frustration with this divide often leads even those who hold elected office to see themselves as being isolated from the establishment. Haun told the HPR, “I don’t think that anyone in this district, elected official or not, is part of the establishment. The establishment is in Denver and in Washington, D.C.” All three Mesa County Commissioners, who each raised tens of thousands from establishment Republicans, worked with the Mesa County Deplorables. Scott McInnis, a Mesa County Commissioner, was so concerned about missing an upcoming Trump rally that he apologized beforehand, telling the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel: “Don’t let my absence mislead you, I’m a strong supporter of Trump.”

McInnis was at one point a U.S. Representative and candidate for governor of Colorado. These elected officials, paid six-figures every year to run the government, stood arm-to-arm with the angry grassroots to say that they were tired of politics as usual, ready to upend the establishment and bring government back to the people.  

The Divide

In an era where dialogue is dominated by a narrative of political division, isolation from the state capital encourages groups in western Colorado to attempt reconciliation with the other side of the aisle. Haun expressed interest in understanding progressives, telling the HPR: “I want to know what their background is and what experiences have driven them to support these policies.” On the other side, D3 Indivisible is reaching out to county Republican parties to see if they can collaborate on certain issues. However, it is hard to imagine Republicans working with an Indivisible group, as demonstrated by countless posts in the Mesa County Deplorables Facebook group, as well as Haun, who told the HPR that she firmly believes George Soros and his allies are funding D3 Indivisible: “They’re all a part of this ‘new left.’ Maybe they don’t get paychecks, but you look at their website and their infrastructure, and it’s clear that there’s a lot of money involved. It wasn’t easy for us conservatives when Obama was elected, but we weren’t focused on 24/7 resistance like the liberal groups which are springing up today.”

While liberal and conservative politics have both seen their power structures fundamentally shift, they remain bitterly opposed in policy terms. Haun summed up the divide: “I’ll always be a Deplorable. America is defined by its red county areas. When you’re overseas, and you talk to a German, they talk about John Wayne. They don’t talk about Michael Bloomberg. We need to remember that spirit and that rugged individualism that is still very much alive.”

Those on both sides of the aisle have seen the power structure of local party politics fundamentally shift. Grassroots organizers from both parties formed their own groups to pressure for political change, and have succeeded in gaining real political power. While all groups are attempting to close the political divide, idealism is quickly overtaken by significant policy differences. At least for now, it seems that unity evades Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District.

Who Will Save the American Dream?

Who Will Save the American Dream?

Who Will Save the American Dream?

By William Steding, PhD


As Trump tramples the American Dream in favor of his despotic nightmare, no one party or candidate has emerged as its savior.  The Democrats best effort at fashioning a new narrative has given us the limp ‘n lame “A Better Deal” while the progressive icon, Senator Elizabeth Warren, decries a “rigged system,” both weirdly attempting to sound more Trumpy than the other (see my recent post “Democrats, It’s Time to Wise Up,” August 15, 2017).  Whoever develops a narrative wrapped around the tenets of the American Dream—under attack since the rise of the Tea Party and under siege during the Trump presidency—will likely do very well in 2018 and beyond.  However, to date, Trump’s opposition has become so disoriented with the horrors of his presidency it is either strangely emulating him as in the case of the Democratic Party leadership, or so narrowly focused on particular issues and interests as to be blinded to the strategic imperative of crafting a more powerful narrative to capture the support and enthusiasm of enough Americans to seize power and affect change.

The American Dream is a very simple proposition, first put forward in 1931 during the Great Depression by historian James Truslow Adams in his essay, “Epic in America.”  Adams wrote,

[The American Dream is] that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. [It is] a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.

Perhaps the American Dream is being ignored as a rallying cry because it is too obvious.  Perhaps Trump’s opponents are taking it for granted.  But, it is exactly what Trump is attempting to destroy in his pursuit of fascist power, and it is precisely what needs to be employed to unify Americans against the hackneyed recklessness of Trump’s Republican Party.  “Make America Great Again”—Trump’s fraudulent appeal to the American voter—can and should be defeated by the simple elegance of “Caretakers of the American Dream.”

While Trump advocates exclusion, uniformity, regression, supremacy, stasis, exploitation, indifference, dominance, authoritarianism, segregation, fear, division, and hate; the opposition is eerily silent about inclusion, diversity, progress, equality, development, empathy, democracy, integration, courage, unity, and love—the characteristics that underpin the American Dream.  The opposition is so appalled it appears confused, or at least distracted, which is, of course, exactly what Trump wants.  And, each and every progressive issue and interest fits nicely under the umbrella of the American Dream as it embraces fundamental American ambitions, including “the pursuit of happiness.”  Fairness, equity, and justice are at the Dream’s heart as civil and human rights, healthcare, immigration, and respect for science and the environment fit comfortably in its shadow.

The British scholar, Lawrence Freedman, argues in his epic study, Strategy: a History (2013) that strategy is “the art of creating power.”  Trump and his Republican Party have waived the flag in support of white economic nationalism to create theirs.  It is time someone or some party started waiving the flag to save the American Dream, where our power as a nation truly resides.

Copyright ©  2017 Dr. William Steding, Ameritecture, All rights reserved.
www.ameritecture.com  |  Designing the Future of America—One Idea at a Time

The Silver Lining in Charlottesville

The Silver Lining in Charlottesville

The Silver Lining of Charlottesville

By William Steding, PhD


Good news: as of this writing, Trump’s concern for the statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson being removed or vandalized from parks in the U.S. has been averted; that is, as long as we ignore the droppings of resident pigeons.  More good news: the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which prohibits “abridging the freedom of speech,” is doing its job.  Yes, it’s ugly and even scary to observe what some of our fellow Americans believe they should say or do in expressing themselves, but that is part and parcel—the risk and cost—of an essential element of freedom in America. Unfortunately, some folks missed the lesson that having a right does not make whatever one wants to say or do also right.  The wannabe Nazis, KKK, and other cretin white supremacists in Charlottesville provided a disgusting and jarring spectacle that offends the hearts and minds of the vast majority of Americans, none more than a generation of Americans who risked their lives to defeat Hitler, or carried the heavy burden of bringing civil rights to a country that to this day struggles with the simple notion of fairness and equality.  When the images of Charlottesville spread, which seemed like a colorized newsreel from the early 1960s, it felt like more than a half-century of progress in America suddenly dissolved.

In the aftermath, however, what is clear is that these events revealed more than they actually dissolved.  As Michelle Obama said at the Democratic Convention in 2012, “Being president doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are.”  And, the First Amendment has enabled our president to reveal, once again, that we made a terrible mistake in allowing his ascent to an office once held by Washington and Jefferson.  Any remaining questions regarding Trump’s fitness to hold the office—at least among reasonable and moral Americans—were settled this week.  He must go.  Those who marched in Charlottesville waving Nazi flags and chanting, “Jews will not replace us,” must be similarly shamed, shunned, and hopefully rehabilitated.  Being scared or fearful of them is unacceptable.  They are the ones who are afraid; behind the veneer of hate lurks weakness and cowardice.  The true patriots are those who marched against them; those who understand that fear has no place in the heart of a patriot.

This chapter in American history will, I hope, be over soon.  Those rights of freedom we hold so dear will have, once again, allowed the country to move forward to assure that we all, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, or origin, are deserving of admiration and respect.

Copyright ©  2017 Dr. William Steding, Ameritecture, All rights reserved.
www.ameritecture.com  |  Designing the Future of America—One Idea at a Time

Democrats, It's Time to Wise Up

Democrats, It's Time to Wise Up

Democrats, It's Time to Wise Up

By William Steding, PhD

As we move into the second half of Donald Trump’s first year as president, the lists of unprecedented things—from Trump’s seemingly limitless lies, to the tally of bizarre actions by his cabinet members, to the volume of leaks from the White House that appear to require the tensile strength of a fire hose—the greater and more curious development may be the Democratic Party’s abject failure to seize the moment and bring anti-Trump energy to bear on consolidating power.  Not since anti-Viet Nam War movement and Watergate in the late 1960s and early 1970s have so many Americans been apoplectic about our national leadership.  And yet, the Democrats, Progressives, Liberals, Berniecrats, or whatever name is claimed, seem bereft of a compelling plan to exploit the craziness that has metastasized throughout the lymphatic system of the Republican Party.

Earlier this month the Democrats, led by Senator Charles Schumer of New York, attempted to brand a new plan with the slogan “A Better Deal.”  The announcement was so lame—so painfully weak and inauthentic—it reminded me of Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis’ fateful 1988 ride on top of a tank wearing a helmet meant for a much larger man.  Further, it mirrors Trump’s transactional disposition in an attempt to suggest the Democrats can out-Trump Trump.  The ultimate irony may be that the Democrats need look no further than the Republicans to learn how to win; yet they are so addled by their inability to look beyond narrow self-interest in favor of a big inclusive narrative, so reluctant to work within the political system to harness its power, and so intoxicated by years of throwing back shots of nihilism that they may squander this generational opportunity Trump has so assiduously delivered.

The lack of a tight, compelling, and over-arching narrative that provides a large tent to attract enough people to truly affect change is the first and probably the most egregious failure of the Democratic Party today.  Democrats are adept at listing all the things they want, but weirdly deficient in their capacity to articulate those needs within a belief system—a narrative based in why (as opposed to what, how, where, and who).[1]  Their many attempts to bring like-minded people together often quickly devolve into a resource competition between particular interest groups concerned with economic inequality, healthcare, environment, immigration, women’s rights, etc. The Republicans on the other hand have, for decades now, wrapped themselves in ideas and beliefs rather than dialing too far down into the detail of policy until, of course, they assemble enough power to implement change.  This strategic disposition has served the Republicans very well: they control the majority of state houses throughout the country, and all three branches of our Federal government.  Their narrative has the American flag as its central symbol—they own patriotism even while many of them barely qualify as more than lapel-pin patriots.  They speak of beliefs, not wants or desires; of a limited role for government, of fundamental values that emanate from the Constitution (and the Bible), of a country that sets the example for the world as opposed to the Democrats who compile lists of grievances in search of “a better deal.”

This Democratic penchant for issues rather than ideas is deeply ingrained in the DNA of the Party and on display recently by one of their standard bearers, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, at the meeting of Netroots Nation progressives in Atlanta on August 12th.  She ticked off her list of popular progressive issues then struggled (and failed) to place them within an inclusive over-arching narrative, or vision, astonishingly borrowing Trump’s tired trope that “the system is rigged!” as her preferred punch line.  She railed against a common target of Democrats—the evil of corporate power—even while a more abhorrent evil, neo-Nazis and white supremacists, were marching and killing in Charlottesville, Virginia.  She managed to touch every special interest in the room while fundamentally failing to provide them with a reason to come together under a transcendent value system that might unite them in something more than hating Trump, power, and wealth.  She may have improved her own political prospects for 2020, but she did nothing to move the Party onto stronger footing.  She and Senator Schumer are squandering the opportunity provided by Trump.

The second strategic failure of the Democrats has also reached legacy status: the propensity to fight a system from the outside rather than penetrating it and accessing its power to achieve transformative objectives.  Michael Tomasky, columnist for The Daily Beast and editor of Democracy: a Journal of Ideassummarized this condition best recently in The New York Times where he argued,

One key difference between the right and the left in this country has been that the right has worked an inside game while the left has mostly remained outside the system.  That’s how it has been since the late 1950s, when the modern conservative movement was first organizing itself and its leaders made the conscious decision to work within the Republican Party.  The Republicans of that time were full of centrists and liberals.  It wasn’t a club die-hard conservatives wanted to join, but they did.  They decided rather than fight the power, they wanted to become the power.  And, of course, they have.

Meanwhile, Democrats are not only unsure of what to call themselves today, they easily succumb to the simplicity of factions—of self-identifying with what they want in the moment rather than a larger ideal—unable and often unwilling to find common ground within their own party, by and between their many myopic, and frankly selfish, leaders.  This is exacerbated by another anti-system sentiment that perpetually keeps power beyond their grasp: low voter turnout among 18-44 year-olds.  This modality is highly unlikely to provide a path to power within a system that will endure well beyond the life of their current concerns and desires.

The third strategic impediment to the success of the Democratic Party is its penchant for nihilism.  While the Republicans proudly espouse an exemplar strain of exceptionalism—that America is the chosen land for people who themselves have been chosen to lead the world to a better place—the Democrats tend to wallow in a nihilistic broth of self-pity.  Jimmy Carter became (in)famous for his “national malaise” jeremiads, and was subsequently easily defeated by the sunny disposition of Ronald Reagan’s “morning in America” that offered Americans absolution from the sins that concerned Carter.  Occupy Wall Street may have been the movement that established the residency of this condition in the modern Democratic Party.  Begun as a leaderless movement with no particular objective other than raising awareness of economic inequality and revealing that Wall Street is governed by (surprise!) greed, their followers accomplished nothing in terms of change but painted the Party as a home for downtrodden Millennials who believe they have no chance of success in a game that is—wait for it, of course—rigged!  Perhaps this is a revelation for some, but people are not generally attracted to negativity and cynicism.  Rather, people want to be associated with winning teams; they want to be for something—proponents—rather than against everything—opponents.  It’s much more fun to have the ball and play offense than it is to look at others playing with the ball and hoping someday to join in the fun.  Republicans understand this, while Democrats, to their great peril, find bewildering comfort in whipping themselves with the repudiation that accompanies failure.

The nearly six thousand Indivisible groups around the country, representing the new progressive core of the Democratic Party, took their initial organizing framework from the playbook of the Tea Party.  That proved to be a wise adaptation from a group that has become a stronghold within the Republican Party.  Democrats, Progressives, Liberals, and Berniecrats would do well to revisit other strategic aspects of Republican success to capitalize on what Trump hath wrought for the GOP.  Tactics follow strategy, not the other way around.  Ignoring these lessons may produce the unthinkable: Trump’s second inauguration.

[1] For more on this type of narrative building, see my essays in the “American Identity” collection at https://ameritecture.com/category/american-identity/.

Copyright ©  2017 Dr. William Steding, Ameritecture, All rights reserved.
www.ameritecture.com  |  Designing the Future of America—One Idea at a Time

Joint Statement Regarding Domestic Terrorism in Charlottesville

Joint Statement Regarding Domestic Terrorism in Charlottesville

Joint Statement Regarding Domestic Terrorism in Charlottesville

We are appalled at the violence and bigotry displayed by white nationalist groups in Charlottesville this weekend. We commend Sen. Cory Gardner for calling this incident what it is—domestic terrorism committed by white supremacists. 

While we should condemn white nationalists when they are in the streets shouting racial slurs and intimidating threatened communities, it is equally important to condemn those whose language is more subtle and who hold positions of power in our country. When known white nationalists such as Sebastian Gorka, Stephen Miller, and Steven Bannon have official positions in our White House, it is no wonder that violent extremists feel emboldened. When Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is confirmed as Attorney General by every GOP member of the Senate, despite his well-known history of racist policies, the problem is not “fringe,” but rather an established part of the Republican Party. 

We call on all members of Congress to not just make vague statements condemning “hatred and violence,” but to take this opportunity to reflect on how their own policies and rhetoric may contribute to a culture of racist violence and to demand better of their party and our country. 

We stand firmly with the activists doing anti-racism work in Charlottesville and throughout the U.S. Our thoughts remain with the victims, their families, and loved ones. 

Indivisible Denver
Indivisible Front Range Resistance
Colorado Springs CAN
CAPE Denver
Indivisible Douglas County CD4
Indivisible CD6
One Broomfield Indivisible
Greeley Indivisible
Jeffco CAN
Indivisible Grand Junction
SoBo Rise
Ark Valley Women United
Indivisible Longmont
Highlands Ranch Indivisible
Boulder CAN
Fillmore Street Group
Together We Will Colorado
Indivisible Centennial/Arapahoe West
Indivisible NOCO
West Metro Resistance
Pueblo Indivisible Southern Colorado
Grassroots East Boulder
Indivisible Boulder
Indivisible CO7
District 3 Indivisible Colorado
Citizens for Hope CS
Indivisible Pueblo

Healthcare and Politics: American Healthcare and the NRA

Healthcare and Politics: American Healthcare and the NRA

By Richard Gingery, M. D.

    If a new virus struck more than 100,000 Americans a year and killed nearly a third of its victims, the nation's medical establishment, including the National Institutes of Health and the Communicable Disease Center, would go into high gear seeking a preventative or a cure.  Others in the medical community would be weighing the cost of treating so many victims.  Other researchers still would be trying to understand the underlying pathology of the epidemic.

    Sadly, we do face an epidemic, but it is not viral.  This country is dealing with an epidemic of gun violence.  Every day in this country 315 people are injured or killed by firearms.  Of that number 222 will be shot and will survive while 32 will be murdered and 58 will die from suicide.  Three others will die as a result of legal intervention, accident or an unknown motivation.  The ones who die become a problem primarily for our legal system, but the 222 survivors will be rushed to an emergency room where they will be triaged and many or most will be sent on to surgery.  They will face a painful and costly hospital stay and perhaps years of recuperation.  The medical community would like to be able to reduce the magnitude of this epidemic, and they would like to do so in a time-tested scientific method involving the collection of data and the application of the most effective methods of prevention.

    However, the leadership of the National Rifle Association is not quite on board with any program that would treat this epidemic of gun violence as we would treat other epidemics.  Over the years the N. R. A. has taken a number of steps and backed a number of laws to keep the medical community from examining and treating the epidemic of gun violence.  In Florida they backed a law to keep doctors from speaking to their patients about guns in the home and gun safety around children.  Fortunately, the law was eventually overturned, but not before making a lot of doctors gun-shy about speaking about gun safety in the home.  The N. R. A., twenty years ago, backed legislation to strip funding for gun violence research from the budget of the Center for Communicable Diseases.  While that legislation did not ban research outright, that legislation was followed by the Dickey amendment which expressly forbade the CDC from spending funds to “advocate or promote gun control.”  The original legislation and the amendment have stifled research on gun violence for twenty years.

    Now I know that the average member of the N. R. A., knowing that half of all suicide deaths are caused by firearms, would do all that he or she could to make certain a depressed relative had no access to firearms.  I know that more complete data about our gun violence epidemic would allow us to develop better screening tools to intervene and perhaps prevent that suicide attempt or that homicidal rage.  I know that the Florida pediatrician who talked to a family about gun safety around children is not now and never was a criminal, even though that pediatrician could have lost his medical license before the Florida law was overturned.

    Over the years we have heard much from the NRA in defense of the “sacred right” to bear arms.  They have pronounced that the only way to stop a “bad guy with a gun” is with a “good guy with a gun.”  This flies in the face of an FBI report which analyzed 160 active shooting situations between 2000 and 2013.  Most of those active shooting situations ended when the perpetrator killed himself, fled the scene, or was stopped by law enforcement.  Twenty-one of those situations ended when unarmed civilians stopped the shooter and in only one shooting was an armed civilian involved.  Clearly this whole area needs more medical research.  In the meantime, why is the NRA leadership so fearful that research, too, has them grabbing for their political guns?

Healthcare and Politics: American Healthcare and Diabetes

Healthcare and Politics: American Healthcare and Diabetes

By Richard Gingery, M. D.

Diabetes mellitus, a Greek term which loosely translates as “sweet-tasting urine,” is a terrible disease.  There is no good historical record telling us who got recruited as lab techs in Hippocrates' day, but even 2,500 years ago they recognized that people with diabetes had such high sugar levels that sugar was literally spilling over into the urine.  For most of those 2,500 years people with diabetes knew only that they had been condemned to a short life in which they were extremely hungry, extremely thirsty and their days and nights were punctuated by frequent urination.  They were much more light-headed than their non-diabetic neighbors, and they passed out frequently.  Children who developed the juvenile fomr of diabetes had only months between onset of the disease and death.

Diabetes went from being a death sentence to being merely another chronic disease in the 1920s.  In that decade Fredrick Banting and his colleagues discovered and isolated insulin.  In a move that pharmaceutical companies today find complete anathema, Banting licensed the patent for the grand sum of $1.00 as a “gift to humanity.”  And it was!  Before long the American Diabetic Association began giving out 20 year survival pins.  Then they moved it up to 30 years, then 40 and finally 50 years.  After that point survival became the norm with diabetes and the pins disappeared, all because insulin, this cheap and easily made product, was the key to treating diabetes.

Nearly a century after the discovery of insulin, this “gift to humanity” has become more of a gift to the pharmaceutical industry.  Between the years 2010 and 2015 nothing very significant happened in the nature of the treatment of diabetes.  No amazingly new insulin forms hit the market.  No “cure” emerged for diabetes.  Delivery methods have changed a little, going from syringe to pen to pump, but the insulin inside is the same.  But what did change is the cost.  The average price of insulin and other diabetic products rose between 127% and 325% in that time.  Humulin insulin, the most popular form on the market rose from $258 for a month's supply to $1100 per month.

Diabetes is not a rare disease.  When I was in medical school, studying under Hippocrates' watchful glare, I was told that one American in five would get diabetes at some point.  The obesity epidemic of more recent years has pushed that number higher.  So what will millions and millions of Americans do when they are confronted with ever higher prices for their diabetic supplies?  Some will have the means to carry on with an uninterrupted therapy.  But many, if not most, will face a real dilemma.  Diabetics who are already on Medicaid will be fine for now, but if the Republicans succeed in their deep cuts to Medicaid, that safety net will disappear.  If Republicans succeed in bringing back “affordable” health insurance that no longer covers prescriptions, or if diabetics join the ranks of the 23 million who may become uninsured under the Republican healthcare plan, diabetics may face bankruptcy, or they may try to stretch out their medications because of the high price (an especially bad idea with diabetes) or they may simply go without.  They could try importing their insulin from Canada, but Canadian pharmacies have already been warned that selling cheaper insulin to Americans is illegal.  

Diabetes, as an agent of premature death, may soon have a chance to make a comeback in the United States.  I find myself pondering why pharmaceutical companies can't figure out that they stand to make more money if they allow their customers to live to a ripe old age rather than bumping us off early because we can't afford their product.  As other countries regulate prices in their various systems of universal healthcare, so could we if we could only harness our collective anger at our non-system of healthcare which seems driven by a profit motive that ignores the fact that our lives are at stake.

Why Run for School Board

Why Run for School Board

By Roger Sagal

Encouraging participation in a school board is not the easiest thing to do.  The work can be time consuming, it requires homework, its unpaid, you spend evenings in meetings, and you tend to receive more criticism than praise.  The job doesn’t exactly sell itself.  Did I mention it’s not paid?

So why would anyone do it?  Well, a few reasons.  First, if you want a quality local public education system for your children you need a quality local school board, which requires quality people to fill the board.   Is there a correlation between a high functioning, competent school board and a high functioning, competent school?  Yes.  And the converse is true: there is a correlation between a low functioning school and low functioning school boards.  

Second, serving does have its rewards.  For me, the most rewarding part of being on the board was hearing from students about what they were doing and learning and hearing from teachers about what and how they were teaching.  I came away from my time on the board with a renewed appreciation for the teaching profession.  One of the things that I take pride in is the efforts our board made to improve communications and trust between the board and the teaching staff.   My hope is that we succeeded in some real measure in pushing a vision where everyone, from the board to the administration to the teaching staff to the students considers themselves part of the same team.  

Third, if you do have an interest in how our public education system works, how it is funded, and yes, what roles our local school boards play in it, then you have no better seat to study it than on a local board.   In Colorado, there is a constitutional mandate of “local control” by local boards of public education.  In my short experience serving on a board, I was surprised by how much decision making of the board was dictated by authorities outside the board, such as the federal and state education laws.   But just think of the fascinating discussions you can have with your fellow board members about the issue of “local control”!  You can kill hours of your life hashing this stuff out and boring the souls out of most other sentient human beings.

Mostly, the reason why people should serve on the board is that the system requires people to step up and serve.  Everyone involved with the school has a vested interest in making sure the board is filled with intelligent, caring, wise people who can deliberate with other board members to make the best decisions possible regarding the public education of our youth.  If it’s your turn (and you know who you are) then don’t leave it to someone else. Step up. 

Some additional factors that I hope give you some inspiration to run for the board:

  1. In Ouray County, people really do care about public education.  And that’s a really positive thing. Speaking for Ridgway, I was amazed and appreciative of the huge amount of effort our parents and other stakeholders give to our schools, through the donation of time, effort, interest, and money.  It is a cliché to say that the public school is the lifeblood of a community, but it’s nevertheless true here.   In a community that is apathetic about its schools, I would think serving on a school board would be really difficult.   That is not a problem here.  Sure, you hear from people when they don’t like something that’s going on.  But it’s because they are invested in the school, in the community, and in the quality of our education system.  That’s a good thing.
  2. There are problems that need solving, and you get to be a problem solver if that is your thing.  Maintaining teacher retention is a problem. The lack of affordable housing in our communities for teachers and staff is a problem.  The “negative factor” in state funding is a problem.  Oh, and our federal education system is now led by a person who holds the concept of public education in contempt and has spent her career dismantling public education.  These problems need dedicated, smart people to solve them, and the solutions must come from the local level.  But they can be solved.       
  3. There will be real budget shortfalls coming down the pike that need to be addressed.  The federal government as currently situated appears to want to gut funding for public education.  There will be real consequences to this, and we will feel it in our schools and in our community.  We need people on the board who will make intelligent, tough decisions regarding how we will be allocating our resources with less and less money coming to us.  If you have that particular skill set, you are needed.
  4. Sometimes there are cookies and stuff at the meetings.  Sometimes.

Here are some things that should not discourage you from serving:

  1. The time you need to dedicate to the job.  Yes, it’s a time commitment.  Especially at the beginning because the learning curve is steep.  Some times of the year are busier than others. But it should not be overwhelming at all. If you have a good administration working with you and helping you, you can save lots of time and focus your energy on the important stuff that boards should be focused on.   Administration appreciates good, smart, functioning boards because it makes their lives easier.   Boards depend on good, smart, functioning administrators because they make the board’s work easier.
  2. The conflict factor.   I doubt there is a school board anywhere that hasn’t had some conflict it had to deal with.  I doubt that there is a school board anywhere that at some point didn’t have to hear from some angry constituents at a public meeting.  I served at a time where the conflict factor was particularly high for a time.  It wasn’t fun, but I think the school came through pretty well. It’s cyclical.  There are periods of stability and periods of transition at every school.  The more stable your board is, the more stable your school will be.
  3. The politics.  School board should not be political.  In my experience, the board (thankfully) was not political; at least it was not ideological.  While the boards I served on had severe internal disagreements about policy, personnel issues and the like, everyone understood and advocated for a strong public education system.  There was no rift that I could think of that was clearly driven by partisan politics.   If you believe that school board should be political, partisan, or driven by some ideology that you wish to impose on the board or the school, do us all a favor and stay home.

A good public education system requires good people to serve at the top.  It’s that simple.  If you have talents, putting those talents towards your community school is admirable and worthwhile.  

Roger Sagal is a member of the D3 Advisory Board and a former Ridgway School Board Member.

The Chosen Ones

The Chosen Ones

The Chosen Ones

By William Steding, PhD

The following is Dr. Steding’s keynote address at the D3 Summit in Ridgway, Colorado on July 21, 2017.

Recently, I watched an interview of Elon Musk, the great inventor, entrepreneur, and American immigrant from the 2017 TED conference.  He discussed the many seemingly outrageously optimistic objectives he has for everything from building a new tunnel system for commuters under Los Angeles to his new line of Tesla cars.  If you haven’t seen him interviewed before, he is a very kinetic individual.  His eyes, which flutter and dart from one idea to the next, reveal the intensity of his ambition and the size of his intellect.  Toward the end of the interview when asked why he pursues so many objectives with such confidence and abandon, Musk’s eyes settled, and he did something we rarely see him do, he paused. He paused, took a deep breath, and simply answered: “I’m not trying to be anyone’s savior … I’m just trying to think about the future and not be sad.”  That simple and heartfelt response really resonated with me when I think about the future of America, and I suspect many of you here today share Musk’s sentiment: when we think about the future of America, we just don’t want to be sad—for ourselves, friends, family, neighbors, town, state, county, country and world.

Today we should also remind ourselves that there are many reasons the United States is the envy of the world. We actually do things right most of the time. As Winston Churchill once suggested, we get things right after trying everything else first.  Americans are imaginative, optimistic, hopeful, caring, hard working and always have an unshakable desire to do better in the future.  And yes, American’s are also precocious, arrogant, and even grotesque, a perplexing combination often creating confusion around the world.

We believe we can make ourselves into whatever we want, unencumbered by where we were born or whom our daddy is. Our ancestors do not define our stake in the world. Our self-image is largely prospective. This uniquely American condition requires, at its very core, that we be individually capable of exercising free choice and willing to accept the consequences of those choices, including electing folks who will represent us in a fair and respectful manner.  In short, we must exert our political will.  Otherwise, we end up with elected officials who want to “take America back again,” which is foolhardy to suggest and frankly impossible to accomplish because, as Roger Cohen, columnist for The New York Times and new resident to Ridgway wrote recently, America is always “ceaselessly becoming.”  Those who peddle fear, anger, and intolerance only act to reveal their own shortcomings and their own misunderstanding of what truly makes America great.  Those who embrace hope, summon courage, and engage with empathy for their fellow citizens must unite to stem the tide of vitriol and secure the future of an America that preserves the prospect of the American dream for future generations.

·      I believe that the values of the vast majority of Americans will prevail over those who espouse win/lose, zero-sum thinking, wrapped in deceit and fear.

·      I believe we will return as exemplars of self-restraint and moderation, rather than zealous missionaries of consumptive duplicity.

·      I believe we will renew our commitment to diversity and find a way to keep the gates of America open.

·      I believe we will educate our children to know more than we do—that we will succeed in enabling their dreams.

·      I believe we can and will rein in the effects of climate change and eliminate the use of fossil fuels altogether, perhaps even in my lifetime.

·      I believe we can engineer a system that protects and rewards merit balanced by empathy and mitigate the pernicious effects of concentrated wealth and its natural progeny plutocracy.

·      I believe we can be good stewards of a globalizing world and that we will continue to be welcomed in the capitols of the world as those who enable and lift the lives of others—who compete to cooperate.

·      I believe we will honor our American heritage and come together to relight the city upon the hill, rather than strut down the path to irrelevance.

But it all depends on the will of the people, of the will of folks like you, the self-chosen ones who have accepted the responsibility to rescue our imperiled union and the values of liberty and justice for all from those who wish to turn back the progress made by now seven generations of great Americans.

It is our collective political will that will successfully navigate this period of crisis and transform our identity from superpower to global stewards; that the nation of Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, and Hamilton will not become an isolated, self-centered, and decaying archetype of liberty.  And while there is never a clear roadmap toward a certain future, history suggests that Americans will do what they have always done: combine seemingly disconnected and disparate ideas and materials into new inventions and innovations to create previously unimaginable solutions to our greatest challenges.

Your future and the future of this country are in your hands.  And, although the challenge seems daunting at times, you and your family, neighbors and friends have the power.  I want to turn now to something you’ll need on this journey—to exercise your political will—and that is what I call transcendent courage.

There are five elements of transcendent courage:

1.     The first is the capacity to see things as they are, which comprise what I call your truth.  The truth in transcendent courage is based in the simple reality that we know what the right thing is to do.  The difficulty comes in listening to and honoring our sense of truth (allowing its transcendence) against the pressures of competing influences. Those who possess transcendent courage are the most innocently (or unapologetically) honest among us.  They live in their truth all day, every day.

2.     The second element of transcendent courage is the capacity to subordinate consequence to the necessity of action; consequences are inconsequential.  Fears are faced down.  The prospect of immeasurable burden is accepted with grace and dignity. Risk, ridicule, and loss are accepted as the inevitable partners of a courageous life, one which, above all, honors (its truth.

3.     The third element of transcendent courage is selflessness.  Many people define their lives by their service to others.  They measure their self-worth by the extent to which they make others smarter, healthier, happier, and safer.  Teachers, doctors, clergy, police, firefighters, paramedics, military, and community volunteers come readily to mind.  By their very nature or life choice, people who spend their time serving others have a significantly greater propensity to possess transcendent courage.  Service to others teaches us the intrinsic value of selflessness.  It isolates the influence of adoration and compensation from consideration.  It gives us the opportunity to embrace our humanity and feel connected to community while enhancing our self-esteem.  Selflessness produces that warm feeling many call peace.  Selflessness is the liberation of the soul from the oppression of our desires.

4.     The fourth element of transcendent courage is self-acceptance.  Are you comfortable in your own skin?  Do you like you?  Have you resolved with yourself who you are?  People who have access to transcendent courage accept who they are and live lives bounded by dignity and imbued with grace. They are at peace with themselves, in the present.

5.     The fifth element of transcendent courage is the transmission of strength.  I’d like to tell you about Sara.  I met Sara at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas at the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders where she was being treated for an aggressive form of leukemia and where I was a volunteer.  Sara was five when she started her treatment and like most five-year old girls Sara liked everything as long as it was pink, purple or somehow related to Barbie. Sara had pale, crystal-blue eyes and strawberry-blonde hair, always gathered with a satin, clip-on bow. She loved to have her nails painted and preferred patent leather shoes. Soft and shiny was her style, which meant that both silk and fleece could be mixed in the same outfit without offending her aesthetic sensibilities. Sometimes she looked like a kid who had dressed herself while standing in her closet, blindfolded. Everyone who spent just five minutes with Sara loved her, including me. Sara is the most courageous person I have ever known.  During Sara’s three years of horror battling leukemia I never saw her cry out, whine or complain.  I will never forget the last few days before Sara’s death. Sara was the first one to accept what was coming. She helped everyone else through the painful anticipation of losing her. She smiled every moment she was awake. She never expressed concern for herself. She only wanted to make sure her mother, father, and little brother would be okay.  Sara’s legacy is the strength she transmitted to those around her.  Her courageous behavior made anyone who was in contact with her a better and stronger person. This is the fifth and final element of transcendent courage. Those who act courageously enhance the lives and behaviors of everyone around them.

Those of you who marched on January 21st of this year are really no different than those who tossed tea into Boston Harbor launching the American Revolution for independence, or the abolitionists who fought to redeem America from its original sin of slavery, or who fought fascism in the 1930s and 40s, or those who rallied to the side of civil rights and against the Viet Nam War in the 1960s. You are the true patriots, the chosen ones to protect and assure our future.

At D3 we have adopted an ethic—a manifesto—of “six words to write on the wall” to guide our efforts.

1.     Authentic.  Keep it real, and keep it true. In periods of crisis there is not enough slack in the system to reward work that is almost right.  Only the real stuff wins. The question is, what is the fundamental value you wish to express in its simplest form?  Seek to promote values that are pervasive and durable throughout the system, product, policy, or personal regimen.  Once identified, set them like cornerstones to support everything you do.  The best example of authenticity I can offer you is Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. who launched a civil rights revolution with fewer resources than any of us has today.  He had no money, no weapons, no statutory power, and no technology—no Internet, social media, cellphones, or even fax.  But, he had authentic beliefs and convictions that resonated with millions of people, expressed as his “Dream.”

2.     Resilience.  Here is a not-so-newsy flash: you, your family, your company, your community, your city, and your country will suffer a blow or blows as we unwind from the current crisis in the chaotic and messy climb toward a new more settled state.  Crises, like forest fires, are indiscriminate.  Even if you avoid catastrophic damage, collateral damage is a certainty.  Many herald schemes of sustainability and independence, but they are just part of this larger objective of resilience.  To survive we must have the ability to bounce back.  In our personal lives, this means we have to be mentally and physically fit, and have access to sufficient financial and human resources. Have go-to folks that can bolster your efforts in those areas where they are stronger than you.  Take personal responsibility for your lot, however you define it.  When the blow comes take the hit, dust yourself off, and get ready to hit back.  Make yourself a hard target.

3.     Gonzo.  Honor the ethic given us by the late Hunter S. Thompson.  In shorthand, gonzo means that you should write all the rules down so you know what not to do.  Channel your inner Gonzo.  The vast majority of rules, policies, and structures were adopted to protect those in power, not to protect or serve you. In the ascent from crisis, those who set aside tradition and define their world in their own terms will be profoundly successful and yes, much happier.  When you face the inevitable admonishment “you can’t do that” or “that isn’t allowed,” simply respond: watch me.

4.     Transcendent.  Rise above the rabble.  Don’t be drawn into the muck of ignorance that is so-often the marker of organizations and factions whose survival depends on the condemnation of opposing perspectives. Be wary of ideologies and theologies that practice judgment and condemnation.  They are debilitating.  Retain your free will.  Read often and deeply; look for character, structure, and meaning.  Pursue knowledge beyond your comfort zone.  What does the artist know or do that might benefit the scientist?  This is the best way to nurture the power of an opposable mind.  An opposable mind is always open to new ideas that create solutions no one else has thought of—that transcend the moment.

5.     Stealth. High profiles are dangerous in periods of crisis.  Humility and self-restraint are clearly preferable to hubris.  There are many people who enjoy health, wealth, and happiness who never stick their head in front of the camera. Be like them.

6.     Grace.  There are many definitions and interpretations of grace, so let me start by suggesting the grace I speak of is when the proper balance of virtues are combined with other elements and resources to produce something beautiful.  A state of grace then is the modality that produces beauty, whether it is an object, product, service, idea, or writing.  Pierre-Auguste Renoir often argued that the most durable things in the world are those that are beautiful.  Grace is the capacity to bring everything together in such a way that people say wow that is beautiful, or amazing, or just plain cool.  I am suggesting that grace is when you bring authenticity, resilience, gonzo, transcendence, and stealth together in just the right way to assure your destiny—which is indeed a truly beautiful thing.  Then, you are in a state of grace.

In my final comments today, I’d like to share a poem by William Ernest Henley, written in 1875 and subsequently published under the title, Invictus.  I use it as a source of strength and inspiration when the world seems daunting.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

“We the People,” is arguably the most powerful phrase ever written in the history of humankind.  But remember this: no one person has the authority to decide who “the people” are, yet each one of us bears the responsibility of making the “we” happen.

Go forth to engage and unite with a calm sense of resilience to establish a new America whose influence is gained not coercively, but referentially by empowering people throughout both America and the world.  This is not a fearful America, nor is it bounded by bigger walls and bigger guns.  It is an America that believes in itself and its traditions of inclusion and empathy, and of its passion for education, innovation, and leadership.  This America views dynamism and creative destruction as prerequisites to continued greatness, rather than a “great” that can only be found in a romanticized Rockwellian past.

Our future will be determined by the decisions and actions of individual Americans every day.  Like water carving a new gorge in a mountain of stone, it will be the collective will of the people, expressed in their nearly imperceptible movements that will set the course of the future.  I believe that the loudest, most angry, and most fearful among us will not prevail; it will be the actions—not rhetoric—of the vast majority of us who decide how to behave as Americans that will lead America into a bright and prosperous future.

Thank you very much.

D3 Summit in Ridgway Draws Over 100 Participants

D3 Summit in Ridgway Draws Over 100 Participants

District 3 Indivisible Colorado, a non-partisan resource hub and action platform for Colorado’s third congressional district, is thrilled to announce the first ever Congressional District 3 Summit on July 20-22 in Ridgway, CO. In an effort to promote progressive policymaking & leadership, the first-of-its-kind summit will feature seminars on effective organizing, voter outreach, vital rural issues, and campaign strategies led by local, state and national facilitators. Also in attendance will be gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis, three current and potential candidates for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District seat in 2018, and over 100 progressive leaders from around the district and state.

Jared Polis, whose opening remarks will kick off the July 21st day-long workshop, is currently the Colorado District 2 congressional representative and is campaigning to replace term-limited Governor John Hickenlooper. While attending Princeton University, Polis co-founded American Information Systems, an internet-access, web hosting and application service provider. For his subsequent ventures in e-commerce, Ernst and Young named him “Entrepreneur of the Year” in 2000. Polis’ platform will focus on getting the state to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, providing free access to full-day preschool or kindergarten for children three and older, and encouraging companies in Colorado to provide stock options to employees.

The afternoon “Candidates’ Forum” will be an opportunity for constituents to hear from three current and potential candidates for the 2018 congressional election. Bob Baer, potential candidate, is an American author and former CIA case officer who was based primarily in the Middle East throughout his long career. As well as being Time’s intelligence columnist, Mr. Baer is a frequent commentator and author on issues pertaining to international relations, U.S. foreign policy and espionage.  He has contributed to Vanity Fair, The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the History Channel and CNN. Baer has also written several books including “See No Evil” and “Sleeping with the Devil,” which were the basis for the Academy Award-winning film, Syriana.

Diane Mitsch Bush, who officially declared her candidacy on July 6 in Pueblo, Colorado, is currently a State Representative for Eagle and Routt Counties and has held this post since 2013. She has focused on: the expansion of economic and educational opportunities for District 26, increasing funding for schools, helping small businesses grow and creating jobs, renewable energy and protecting the environment via air and water quality, wildlife habitat and public lands. Additionally, she has worked to improve infrastructure by creating state tax incentives for affordable housing, increase funding for highways, and bring high speed broadband to rural areas.

Potential candidate, Chris Kennedy was elected to Grand Junction City Council in 2015, on which he still serves. He owns Kennedy Telecommunications Services, LLC and hopes to help the region become “technologically innovative, economically diverse and a must-see destination.” Following a career in the military, Chris began his path in technology. His priorities include infrastructure, fairness to all businesses, support for the arts and support for improving education, among others.  Mr. Kennedy is also an accomplished tenor sax player, graduating from Berklee College of music in Boston, MA.

Additional guests and speakers include Gail Schwartz, 2016 CO District 3 Congressional candidate, as well as member of Indivisible National’s Organizing Team, Kunoor Ojha. Prior to working with Indivisible, Kunoor, age 26, was the Bernie Sanders campaign’s top student organizer and Campus Director, and was then hired by Hilary Clinton to serve as her National Campus and Student Organizing Director.

The Summit is dedicated to helping District 3 leaders and voters effectively represent and advocate for their communities. Summit workshops will cover key concepts and tools for activists including Understanding the Activist’s Journey: how power works, and the role of stories. Tools and concepts will be provided for building a grassroots movement that bridges the gap rather than deepens the divide, as well as an A-Z manual on voter outreach - from voter registration and targeted conversations, to messaging and data driven plans. Participants will be given an opportunity tohear from a panel of campaigners and elected officials on communication strategies for different issues and audiences in Voices of the District, and will learn ways to build strong organizational power for 2018. Other topics include:Digital & Earned Media for the Win, Building Volunteer Power, and how to understand and engage Millennials as volunteers and voters.

Over 100 leaders from Indivisible, progressive, environmental, social welfare, education, political and other diverse advocacy groups have already signed up to attend. D3 is committed to serving as an umbrella for regional entities to gather and disseminate information, raise public awareness, organize coordinated political actions that further responsible and intelligent public policy, and to function as a public, inclusive platform to unite our diverse communities.

The Summit begins at a “Meet + Greet” on Thursday night. Immediately following, participants are encouraged to head to Hartwell Park for Ridgway’s free Concert Series featuring the musical talents of Eilen Jewell and Carrie Rodriguez, and presented by the Town of Ridgway and Pickin’ Productions. Friday will make up the bulk of the workshops. On Saturday, local D3 members will share some outdoor adventures with out of town guests, to enjoy the beauty of the San Juans and to create further opportunity for discourse.

Advance registration for the D3 Summit is required. The last day to register is July 16, 2017. Lodging assistance will be provided on an as-needed basis.


District 3 Indivisible Colorado Summit 2017

Thursday, July 20 – Saturday, July 22, 2017
Ridgway, CO USA

Summit Registration $25, Friday Lunch $15

Potential D3 Candidates Gauging Interest + D3 Summit

Potential D3 Candidates Gauging Interest + D3 Summit

By Justin Criado and Jessica Kutz Daily Planet Staff

Former CIA officer and Ophir resident Bob Baer spoke to the public about the possibility of running for the state’s 3rd District Congressional seat in 2018 during an event Wednesday night at the Wilkinson Public Library’s Program Room. 

Baer, a New York Times best-selling author and CNN contributor, said he plans to hold more public question-and-answer sessions along the Western Slope over the next couple weeks to gauge the public’s interest. 

“I would consider running for Congress if I have a coherent message which people agree that’s convincing, and I would run. That’s basically where I am the next couple weeks,” he said. “…At the end of three weeks of this, I will know if there is any (support). I just don’t know (now).

“I used to overthrow countries for a living. Changing the 3rd District may be harder than overthrowing countries, but I’m willing to give it a try.”

Telluride resident Sarah Holbrooke introduced Baer to a group of about 25 citizens at the library. People wandered in and out during the event. 

“We want to get him out in front of some people now to hear his thoughts and also (the public’s) thoughts,” she said. 

Baer spoke about his background growing up in Aspen during the 1960s and his unlikely path to a 21-year CIA career (he applied for the job as a “prank”). The job placed him in war-torn countries in the Middle East and beyond. 

“I lived in one war zone after another, and what I watched was society’s collapse, whether it was Peru or Cambodia. I watched civil war. I watched the process. I watched the default to nativism to racism to violence, the whole thing,” he said. 

He said there’s a clear division in America, given the latest presidential election and ensuing circus. 

“What really disturbs me is I’m seeing we’re really a divided country. I’m seeing the precursors of these divisions getting worse,” he said. “…We are a country that’s heading down the wrong road.”

The lack of jobs and health care were two topics he touched on during the 40-minute event. 

“What I know is that you have disaffected people, whether it’s millennials that can’t get jobs or people in Grand Junction or anywhere else,” he said. 

Though he hasn’t made a decision just yet, Baer is scheduled to be one of three potential candidates attending what’s billed as a “District 3 Summit” in Ridgway on July 21. 

The summit is organized by D3 Indivisible Colorado, a chapter of the national Indivisible organization that arose in the wake of the presidential election. The group promotes a progressive political agenda. 

Other potential candidates set to attend the event are Chris Kennedy, who previously served on the Grand Junction City Council in 2015 and is the owner of Kennedy Telecommunications Services LLC, and Diane Mitsch Bush, who is currently a state representative for Eagle and Routt counties. 

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez — who has held the District 3 seat since he was elected in late 2010 — has also been invited to join the summit. Tipton defeated Democratic candidate Gail Schwartz, a former state senator, handily in November.

Erika Gordon, spokeswoman for the organization, said she has not yet heard whether Tipton will attend.

For those who think it is a bit early to be vetting candidates for the 2018 election, Gordon said not so.

“The sooner that you can announce (a candidate) the sooner you can start building support and raising money and developing a campaign,” she said. “It is definitely not too early. 

“We want to find the right candidate.”

Gordon said the impetus for organizing the summit was to unite groups in the region who are all working toward the same goals. 

“We really need to get everybody in the same room. We need to know the people that we are communicating with in Durango, Alamosa, Pueblo and the San Luis Valley,” she said. “We need to meet each other.”

Apart from the panel of potential candidates, the summit includes a series of workshops aimed at equipping participants with activism techniques and ideas. Topics range from how to reach voters, communication techniques for bridging the political divide and how to engage millennials, among others. 

“We wanted to create a toolkit for people to take back to their towns and their organizations so that they can feel empowered to be better activists, better organizers and better leaders,” Gordon said. 

According to Gordon, the summit is expecting between 100 and 150 participants.

On July 20, the summit will kick off with a Meet and Greet at Provisions Café in Ridgway at 4 p.m. The July 21 event takes place at the 4-H Center starting at 8 a.m. Registration is $25.

For more information or to register, visit d3indivisible.co/d3-summit. The summit registration deadline is July 16.

This article was originally published by the Telluride Daily Planet on July 6, 2017

A Stoic’s Guide to Surviving Trump

A Stoic’s Guide to Surviving Trump

A Stoic’s Guide to Surviving Trump

By William Steding, PhD

Regardless of your political affiliation, it is difficult to observe the chaos in the White House without grave concern for the presidency and the country. Our smartphones flash and vibrate with each new ejaculated Trump tweet that emanates from the alternate reality he has created, which defies both logic and basis in objective fact.  Like all presidencies, the modus operandi of the administration reflects the president’s persona, which in Trump’s case is utterly valueless and prefers deceit and diversion to maximize distraction as a veil for incompetence and avarice.  A mayhem maniac who could explode at any moment has succeeded no-drama Obama; Trump’s wick seems always lit.  However, like the presidents who preceded him, Trump too shall pass. America and the world will survive as long as those of us with a conscience and reasoned intellectual vigor stand and resist this deviant.  And, to survive Trump, ancient philosophers—particularly the Stoics—offer valuable practices founded in the following eight disciplines.

1.     See things as they are and question the givens, starting with the realization that—fundamentally—the United States and the world are in the best shape ever.  All presidents occasionally lie and all, at one time or another, promote fear to consolidate their power.  Trump has, however, excelled among his predecessors in combining deceit with fear, making it the dominant modality of his presidency.  The truth, however, is that the world and the country have never been wealthier, healthier, or more safe.  As historian Yuval Noah Harari argues in his latest book, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, for the first time in the history of humankind famine, plague, and war are no longer meta-threats in the global system.

More people die today from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals combined.  In the early twenty-first century, the average human is far more likely to die from bingeing at McDonald’s than from drought, Ebola, or an al-Qaeda attack.[1]

Furthermore, to debunk one of Trump’s favorite claims, non-immigrant American citizens are incarcerated at twice the rate of documented immigrants, and three times the rate of undocumented immigrants.  In science and engineering, immigrants far excel non-immigrants in educational achievement.  If piety is your metric, immigrants claim religion at a rate 18% higher than non-immigrants and start businesses at twice the rate on non-immigrants.[2]  Hardly the drug-dealers, rapists, and terrorists Trump continues to warn us about.  Do we have problems?,  absolutely, but upon close examination we find that we do not have capacity or capability problems today, as we have throughout history, we have distribution problems that can be affected through mustering political will to deploy policies of sustainable redistribution.  A stoic always pauses to check and crosscheck claims (especially of politicians) to assure truth is the basis of every interpretation and every decision.

2.     Be fatalistic about the past and optimistic about the future.  A stoic maintains a vigilant focus on the future, while accepting the past as it is.  Stewing about the past, as Trump continues to do over losing the popular vote, the pitiful turnout at his inauguration, and his continuing penchant for blaming all things on Obama, debilitates him and his capacity to succeed in the future. Trump is also addicted to fame and fortune, which stoics view with contempt as they threaten the attainment of tranquility.  Stoics do not fall into these traps.  Furthermore, stoics maintain that if one pursues a virtuous life, consistent with the constraints of nature, tranquility is assured.  I will add to this stoic discipline the aim of transcendence—particularly in politics—that compels one to rise above partisanship and serve the masters of truth and nature above the pettiness of partisan rancor.  Transcendence requires a sense of selflessness and the dismissal of popular anxieties promoted by pundits and politicians who are more interested in self-aggrandizement than in improving the welfare of their fellow citizens.

3.     Visualize the worst outcomes to allow healthy management of expectations and to understand the circumstances and pathways that enable unwanted outcomes in order to prevent or minimize their realization.  Stoics refer to this discipline as negative visualization. Ask the question, what is the worst that can happen?  Experience, albeit prospectively, all the consequences—physical, financial, emotional, etc.—of a loss.  This discipline allows one to reconsider and recalibrate expectations in a manner that may be more aligned with reality since, as humans, we tend to over-expect our successes and under-estimate weaknesses and threats, not to mention the impact of unknown variables.  Proper negative visualization also paints a picture of those pathways that lead to failure or loss, which allows the stoic to identify early warning indicators and disrupt any advance toward undesirable outcomes.

4.     Attack your own thinking with an opposable mind to understand your vulnerabilities and to anticipate your opponents’ responses.  I am fairly certain this is a discipline that is impossible for Trump to grasp; there is no evidence that he considers his vulnerabilities or looks beyond his first glandular reflex.  Further, his bullying nature virtually assures he has no one near him with the confidence to assist him with an opposable mind, let alone question his thinking.  This is his (unwitting) recipe for disaster as president.  The stoic, on the other hand, can argue all points of view to not only assure her own clear and comprehensive thinking, but to understand the arguments, strategies and tactics that might be waged against her.  This is what I also refer to as whole-minded thinking: employing all parts of the brain in all directions and from all perspectives.

5.     Expend energy and resources on the few things (less than 20%) that matter—the key result areas—that assure success and contribute to a state of invincibility.  Identifying the 20% is accomplished by first identifying those things which qualify as key result areas.  Key result areas are those objectives that, once accomplished, also mitigate other concerns or achieve other objectives; the proverbial “two birds with one stone” actions.  Once you know the key result areas, you must also ask if those involved (a person, organization, company, etc.) respond to intelligence; that is to say, will it or they behave in a responsible manner?  If it/they don’t, you are wasting your time; don’t beat your head against a wall—pursue your objectives through other avenues or organizations.  Although empathy is essential to our humanity, one must also have the courage to discard and isolate those with nefarious or misguided aims.  In my life, I often credit this stoic discipline as a key element in my own success and well-being.  In the Trump era, this means targeting those objectives that are more local and provide measureable impacts on your community (however you define that realm).

6.     Practice solitude and meditate to create a sense of tranquility and solemn determination.  Quiet time is essential to our physical, mental, and emotional well-being.  As the French Renaissance philosopher Michel de Montaigne wrote, “We must reserve a little back-shop, all our own, entirely free, wherein to establish our true liberty and principal retreat and solitude.”[3]  Solitude allows, among other things, the capacity to process the world in the whole minded fashion (suggested in discipline #4, above), providing the conscience and sub-conscience to reconcile the world (and one’s place in it).  The stoic, Seneca (4 BC to 65 AD), viewed meditation and solitude as a daily exercise where one sits quietly and alone to, in effect, de-brief one’s self about one’s day.  What was accomplished? What was lost?  And, most importantly, what was learned?  Whether you meditate in a ritualistic fashion consistent with Eastern religions, or simply take a long walk while thinking deeply about yourself in your world, you must dedicate yourself to some alone-time in order to not only make the best decisions, but to know yourself completely and honestly.

7.     Commit to a duty of service based in humility.  The ultimate aim of stoics—virtue and tranquility—can only be achieved by those who are engaged in their community with the aim of leaving things better than the way they found them. Mahatma Gandhi is credited (after substantial paraphrasing) with the prescription “Be the change you want to see in the world,” which is a clear call to this form of exemplary service.  America’s historical proclamations of self-reliance and self-directed lives provide a fanciful myth, but the reality today is an America (and world) that is much more interdependent than the American frontier romanticized by Frederic Jackson Turner in his The Significance of the Frontier in American History.  This binding of one’s self to one’s community is what Marcus Aurelius described as contributing to “the service and harmony of all.”  Trump’s “America First” treatise completely ignores this stoic discipline and his behaviors are hardly aligned with any sense of humility.  It is, therefore, now more than ever, essential that we each accept our role in service to others, looking for no greater reward than the welfare of our neighbors and the betterment of our communities.

8.     Avoid anger at all costs to drain the power of your adversaries.  Stoic philosophy’s most closely held commitment is to rationality, which further requires that we remain mindful of “what is and what is not in our power.”[4]  What is always in our power—regardless of the causes or effects of any events—is how we react to any particular occurrence or outcome.  Angry reactions almost always have the same effect: to empower the offender at the expense of the offended.  Trump is experiencing this lesson in the hardest way possible.  (I suggest “experiencing” because there is no evidence thus far of learning.)  Lashing out, whether via tweet or verbal bullying is draining his credibility and legitimacy as president.  Watch as bureaucrats, members of Congress, the media, and foreign leaders increasingly dismiss his angry outbursts.  More so than at the beginning of his presidency, he now is ignored and dismissed by his targets both near and far.  His anger has made him increasingly irrelevant.  In effect, he has transferred his power to the targets of his anger much in the same way we do if we react angrily to those who attempt to degrade us.  Dismissing offensive behavior with indifference retains power in the hands of the offended; it takes the weapon out of the offender’s hands reducing them to be strangled by their own insolence.  And, it maintains our processing of such events within the realm of the rational and away from disabling discountenance.

Notwithstanding Trump’s very temporary role as an American president, and his behaviors and decisions that defy his duty to serve our great country, the United States and the world are doing very well if one simply observes the facts.  Employing stoic disciplines can defeat Trump’s behaviors and practices.  We must be diligent, patient, cool-headed, and most of all engaged in our communities, country, and world to assure our triumph over this roguish fool.

[1] Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (New York: HarperCollins, 2017), p.2.
[2] See Bret Stephens, “Only Mass Deportation Can Save America,” The New York Times, June 16, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/16/opinion/only-mass-deportation-can-save-america.html?_r=0.
[3] Montaigne in Anthony Storr, Solitude: a Return to the Self (New York: Ballantine Books, 1988), p.16.
[4]Massimo Pigliucci, How to be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life (New York: Basic Books, 2017), p.174.