Part two: Anti-Semitism has mutated in some strange ways since you left the planet.
Hello, Mr. Berg, wherever you are.
Another nice day here in your old town, Denver.
I don’t know how the Internet works in your part of the universe, but if you have access, check out this YouTube clip. The speaker, Sacha Baron Cohen, just received an award from the Anti-Defamation League. His acceptance speech takes aim at some of this decade’s biggest enablers of anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia and Islamophobia.
Though I have never met either one of you, it seems that you and Cohen would click. Like you, he believes in being direct about the threats posed by white supremacy. And damn: the guy is funny. Also like you, he knows how to dig at the truth beneath the surface and look for uncomfortable laughter. He strikes comedy gold finding new ways to view prejudice.
Forward societal progress appears to have stalled, Mr. Berg. More humans need to be serious about the rise in hate crimes.
You saw the hippies of the ‘60s become the yuppies of the ‘80s. Looking back at that era, my boyhood/teen years, wow—it’s amazing we didn’t combust from that combination of hair spray and moral vapidity. Here’s the crazy part though: unlike modern times, educational institutions in the 1980s still had more power to foster the pursuit of knowledge and nurture young folks’ natural intellectual curiosity. The populace didn’t demonize intelligence like it does nowadays.
Weird, huh? In many ways, the era of Valley Girls and Gordon Gekko feels smarter than 2019 America. The top 1% of income earners get away with their behavior because of an uneducated populace who remains ignorant largely through little fault of their own. Quality education became tough to come by after you died. This happened on purpose.
As the nineties became the new millennium, the worst of the eighties’ trickle-down-economics yuppies helped pave the way for today’s financialization. America’s rentier class only cares about their own capital gains…and paying as little taxes as possible on those capital gains. Reagan helped those fellas a lot. Capping Social Security contributions, gutting social welfare programs, privatizing public institutions—Reagan’s supporters took all of those gifts and then demanded more. Those bros pushed income inequality numbers even higher and the plan is to continue. The poor are getting poorer. Companies that lay off staff and push employees to rely on government food stamps and healthcare—opportunities like these have become the gold standard for investors.
Unpack that last bit: people who take every step they can to shirk any tax responsibilities also look to invest in companies that put their employees on taxpayer-funded public assistance. Those people inspired a vignette in my first book.
I don’t know if the country is going full-on fascist, per se. Most of the time, the collective vibe feels more like the result of a fascism fetish running rampant though the shallow minds of men pursuing get-rich-quick schemes.
Our current president supported the Vietnam War, but dodged the draft. As the US began to invade Iraq in 2003, then-Vice President Dick Cheney (another draft-dodger) secured a no-bid contract worth tens of billions for his former company, the defense contractor Halliburton. Many white men like these two on the Right nowadays. Chickenhawk natures meshing with Nazi tendencies. Insidiousness rules the day and white privilege outranks ability.
I love the movie Cabaret. This past decade had moments where I felt a kinship with ordinary Germans in the early 1930s.
It makes me sad to point out that in Colorado, reports of hate crimes increased 16% from 2017 to 2018. There’s a synagogue near your old condo, a block from East High School. I walk past it all the time. Last year, somebody defaced the front of their building with a swastika. Just last month, Pueblo’s oldest synagogue was targeted. The wannabe bomber got caught beforehand…and wouldn’t you know it? He’s an unabashed white supremacist. Yes, the state founded by the KKK still shows its roots.
Team Reagan ushered in a whole new type of white nationalism—something more insidious than the racism shown by lower-class white folks who might have lacked educational opportunities. True, racism always had ties to the economic gains of a privileged few, but the modern supremacy fostered by the top income earners exists so they can line their pockets further, buy government to rewrite laws in their favor—and pay as little taxes as possible in the process. Technology adds another facet; it works in their favor as companies automate and remove humans from the equation. Since your time, CEO pay has increased more than 1000% while typical worker wages rose just 11%. Also, there are fewer black CEOs at Fortune 500 companies, its lowest point since 2002.
Ya think these two factoids might be related to each other?
These days, the combination of racism and vulture capitalism in the power-brokers and decision-makers stands out. We elected one of these men as the President of the United States.
70% of the unpaid taxes are owed by America’s top earners. But our laws have been so weakened that the IRS finds it easier to audit lower-income folks. Top earners exploit white fear to take more money. They voted themselves more tax cuts a few years ago and now the deficit has exploded. And guess what? They want more tax cuts for themselves. But wait! There’s more. Offshore accounts haven’t been lucrative enough, so the rich have pushed Congress to pass laws creating more tax shelters domestically—no need to hide your money in the Cayman Islands when there’s Delaware and Nevada.
Financial fraud that was frowned upon in your day gets smiled at now. Broke white guys idolize rich white cheapskates. (Actually, they deep-down hate them, but…shhhhh…we don’t talk about that.) This criminality grows even more strange when you see that its benefactors also seem to be increasingly paranoid—to the point where their irrationality can’t be ignored.
With your take on the world, I bet you’ll get a kick out of this story. A futurist got asked to meet with some billionaires. He had spoken to executive teams about trends before, so he took the gig not thinking much of it. Instead of wanting to talk business though, the men in the room were panicking. They had set out to build post-apocalyptic bomb shelters. Only…it began to dawn on them that their piles of gold coins might not be worth anything post-armageddon. The plan to surround themselves with armed guards could be problematic if these guards no longer bowed before the altar of late-stage capitalism. So these rich men had been strategizing ideas like shock collars and food rationing for the people they would potentially employ—and wanted to run their thinking by this futurist. Imagine being this man, a professor with multiple degrees, walking into a room of high-net-worth individuals and hearing them spout batshit-crazy nonsense like they’ve been hitting the pipe for a few days straight.
Mr. Berg: normal, everyday Americans should not needlessly stress because the 1% is losing their grip on reality and wants to play Rich Man’s Road Warrior.
Exploiting racial fear helps to deflect the conversation away from the unethical extraction of wealth. Besides good ol’ American Civil War-era racism, top earners also rely on anti-Semitic tropes that date back to Biblical times. Whatever it takes to take a buck, right? Gullible white Americans eat every bit of it up with a side of nostalgia, reminiscing about the old days while the 1% steal their futures.
An often-used term now is “the Deep State”. This term gets thrown around Right-wing circles and it’s nothing but a thinly-veiled Jewish slur. The 1% have grown crafty in the past few decades. They blame-shift effectively. Poorer whites embrace white mens’ financial dishonesty, then pivot to spout hate about the “deep state” and its leader, George Soros. The rich white men who automate their jobs are “frugal” and any Jewish person—no matter their net worth—is “cheap”.
I wrote about this two-faced phenomenon in my blog series, Bros: America’s new Jews. (II, III) These days, white men looking to take financial advantage of the country find it easy to use Jews as their scapegoats.
Denying the Holocaust has become too acceptable.
While this might have been true in your day as well, most of the World War II generation has since died off and we adults in this second decade of the new millennium are failing when it comes to passing along that knowledge to younger folks.
Like I said, synagogues in your state have been targeted.
I’ll close this post with a quote from a history professor in the 1940s. He had a PhD and traveled the world looking for artifacts. His name was Indiana Jones.
“Nazis…I hate these guys.”
To be continued.
Check out my new sci-fi series.
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