Dorothy Day Caucus of the American Solidarity Party A Revolution of the Heart
by Tara Ann Thieke
Single-causation does not exist in the pages of history nor does correlation equal causation. Where we dwell space and time assure a multiplicity of factors converging in every event.
Though we cannot understand the very first cause, it does not follow that we should stick only to the "how" or to the surface. Far too often emotion governs our responses; rather than untangle the knots we seize upon those immediate signifiers which bolster our personal policy preferences. Like pulling up a weed without the roots, we thus guarantee it will re-sprout in a different place.
Why is there such antagonism towards going into the roots of school shootings, especially from those who seek to address the root causes of abortion? To go after guns alone is the equivalent of only going after the provider, the defund-Planned Parenthood approach. I've been attracted to the beauty of the Seamless Garment, though sometimes troubled by the equation of matters of prudential judgment with intrinsic evils. I'm more troubled by what seems a colossal display of bad faith by some advocates: the tactic of attacking fellow pro-life supporters with the idea that "if you're not for this, this, and this, you're not pro-life."
Would we do the same to a pro-gun control advocate? "If you're not against drone bombs, the police state, or nuclear weapons you're not really for gun control. If you rely upon goods brought to you at artificially low prices because of foreign wars, you're not really for gun control. If you use any gadget with tantalum (as in your iphone or laptop), you're depending upon the blood of miners and factory workers and furthering the culture of violence." Why not take it further, as so many often do when it suits their position? "If you're not vegetarian, you're furthering the culture of violence. If you're not vegan, you're furthering the culture of death."
To some extent there is truth in these arguments: a saint connects the dots and allows God to transform their hearts through sacrifice and prayer. They see how the things of this world are opposed to the Gospel teachings. They manifest the wholeness of truth.
Unfortunately these emotional arguments aren't usually deployed to bring someone to a fuller understanding of truth, but to attack someone who disagrees. The pursuit of logical causation becomes a process of emotional hostage-taking arguments, employed with little interest in one's own hypocrisy.
If we are to bring people to the truth of the Seamless Garment then we must not reject seeking out the discrepancies and failures to connect the dots within our own worldview. We must scrutinize our motivations and actions, constantly turning away from every opportunity to blackmail an opponent. We must be aware when we ourselves are refusing to look deeper into an issue we support because the truth may upset us.
The problem is we don't want to do it. We want our own policies, which we feel virtuous and righteous about already, to be accepted completely, and we don't want to dig into the uncomfortable compromises in our own lives. And we especially don't want to take seriously someone who challenges us to go deeper on an issue where we've already made up our mind. Gun control is an easy issue for a lot of people (I highly recommend Joe Bageant's excellent book Deer Hunting With Jesus at this point. Bageant was a self-described atheist pink-o communist who passed away several years ago after returning to his hometown in rural Virginia). But the roots of violent outbreaks in our communities make us uncomfortable. What if they testify that some of our previous "solutions" don't work? What if they require us to change some of our previously held beliefs? What if we may have to change the fabric of our lives?
So those people willing to ask hard questions are dismissed. They take away the easy narrative through their suggestion that we are all implicated by the culture we have created, or at least maintain for a variety of reasons. This is how we have people doubling-down on simplistic solutions with no regards for consequences or complexities: "I've decided this is right, I'm not interested in learning more, and if you disagree with me you're evil." We've acknowledged that to end abortion we must look at it in terms of the Seamless Garment. Why are we unwilling to do so elsewhere? And why do we refuse to enter into dialogue with people who agree with us on so many things, but challenge us on others, or require our patience and goodwill?
No one is served well when we refuse to go into the layers of "why" or attack those who seek out deeper causes as being guilty of complicity. When a house is crumbling it does no good to blame the contractor for checking the foundations because he's guilty of not fixing the cracks. How can a person understand the truth of the pro-life cause if they're condemned for examining why abortion happens? How can we end mass shootings if we attack those who look at the environment which they take place in? It is a terrible thing if we allow our own sanctimony to prevent the examination of the roots of violence. If we are to create a culture of life, let us encourage those who have sought out how we enabled a culture of death.
By Brent Dean Robbins, Ph.D.
Along with the entire nation this past week, I was brokenhearted to read the accounts of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida. The death of 17 students by the hand of a young sociopath marks yet another senseless act of violence in our nation’s schools. The shooting, which took place on February 14th of 2018, was one of 30 school shootings within the past year alone.
Analyses and commentary in the news have included the usual opportunist calls for politically polarized solutions to gun violence -- from increased gun control to enhanced security at public schools. Yet, somehow it seems, within the mass media at least, I could find no commentators questioning the fundamental premise of compulsory schooling or public schooling, the virtues of which are merely taken for granted without systematic examination. Nevertheless, it seems obvious to me, at least, that our schools are failing our children, not only by exposing them to increasing incidents of senseless violence and loss of precious young lives and teachers, but also by creating the very conditions that seem to foster the resentment of young people prone to violence.
In my two decades of experience teaching college students at various universities, I find that students have been largely stripped of their love of learning by the time they exit the dehumanizing and reductive systems of education into which we abandon our children. Students seem to acquire habits of learning that involve rote memorization and a binge and purge style of learning designed for achievement of test-taking. The focus on testing and individual achievement in schools fosters competition to excel in a wide range of activities that leave little time for play, fostering of relationships, or collaborative endeavors in meaningful projects beyond resume building in preparation for the college or job market.
Rather than a process of discovery that might foster intrinsic motivation to gain wisdom and knowledge for the sake of transcendent ends – namely, love of truth, beauty and the good life for their own sake -- students are encouraged, instead, to take up learning as mere means to an end. Education has become oriented primarily toward the acquisition of credits and grades in a fruitless and vacuous quest for achievement defined largely in terms of extrinsic and ultimately empty ends such as competition with peers, striving for social status, and/or material wealth. Education geared toward such extrinsic motivations fosters narcissism, sociopathic behavior such as rampant cheating and other forms of academic dishonesty, and especially among the many who fail to excel in comparison to their peers, such learning environments foster resentment and hostility, which sow the seeds of violence.
The current call to increase security at public schools will inevitably ramp up efforts to transform places of learning into prison-like cells within which our children will be further dehumanized and scrutinized as potential killers. Today, most schools already resemble prisons more than environments built to nurture learning, and the current rhetoric in response to the most recent shooting indicates that this situation will likely only worsen in the coming years. Most especially in urban public schools in which the most vulnerable and impoverished children can be found, the education system has been transformed into a school-to-prison pipeline, where the poor, racial minorities and the disabled are disproportionately at risk of punishments that ultimately lead to incarceration.
Over six years ago, my wife and I found ourselves increasingly distraught as we observed our oldest son grow increasingly despondent as he entered the third year of grade school. Our son had always expressed an early and pervasive love of learning and was especially drawn to reading books well beyond his years. At home, and among family and friends, he was an expressive, talkative young man who never tired of sharing his deep curiosity of the world. Yet, increasingly, we observed our son lose interest in school and become increasingly alienated from his peers. We acutely felt an emotional distance encroaching as he began to withdraw into himself. An acute crisis led us to withdraw him from school, and we decided, against our prior intuitions, that he would be better off homeschooled. It felt dangerous, like we were risking the future of our beloved child.
Within a very short period of time, I watched in amazement as my young son returned to us, little by little, and his intellectual curiosity and acumen developed in leaps and bounds. My wife developed a curriculum centered around his interests in art history, through which we introduced him to the history of Western civilization, and took every opportunity to develop his skills in reading, writing and mathematics as he engaged in pursuit of educational projects that drew upon his deepest interests and allowed him to put the values of our family at the front and center of our child’s education. The transformation was incredible to behold, and today, at 14, our son is already excelling at college courses where he is achieving higher scores than his peers well advanced beyond him in age.
We joined several home school co-opts where both of our sons had the opportunity to develop close and enduring relationships with peers and where they took genuinely exciting and creative courses taught by parent volunteers. Our boys had the chance to interact with children of a wide variety of ages, and from a diverse set of backgrounds, and those relationships and experiences have proved to be enduring, enriching, and enlivening experiences well beyond anything they would have encountered in formal schooling.
With the contrasting experience of my sons in homeschool, and as I watched the news reports of yet another school shooting, I was struck by an insight I hadn’t considered before. Public schools are the only place where the state can coerce a person – an innocent person, that is – to remain in the same room or building with a sociopath, even if the students and/or parent do not consent. Even in a work setting, one can leave and find another job. But if one is poor, or cannot afford private education, the options are few.
In my utopian world, poor folks and those with more means would band together to create their own home school co-ops and take education into their own hands. They’d use their social capital and the power of mutual aid to produce a system of education for the people by the people, instead of a system that works for corporate interests mediated by centralized state control.
Such projects could afford parents to work together to create a genuinely enriching learning environment geared toward the intrinsic love of learning and the development of social virtues. Rather than emphasize extrinsic motivations for learning, learning could focus, instead, on exploration of intrinsically motiving ends – the pursuit of truth, beauty and goodness for their own sake. Equal emphasis would be placed upon the cultivation of social virtues necessary to foster a generation capable of collaborative and creative learning, compassionate rather than competitive relationships necessary for problem-solving, and egalitarian values necessary to build healthy, thriving communities. Parents in collaboration with one another, and without the imposition of state bureaucracy, are uniquely capable of teaching our children the kind of social virtues necessary for the work we can do together in organically structured networks, in which the community can be empowered to such an extent that centralized, formal systems of state power would no longer appear so necessary in order to create a better world – a world, perhaps one day, we can only hope, violence may become unthinkable.
by Charlie Jenkins
There are no easy answers.
Things are reaching the point where even many avowedly feel-good media sites can't help but notice how rapidly the Official Line on a given topic shifts from 'controversial' to 'It Is Decided, You May Not Dissent Or Else.' Some have even described it as 'creepy,' in spite of the fact that American political discourse (note: this is in no way implies political realities before the current time were not horrifying in their own ways) crossed the line from ‘creepy’ to ‘terrifying and Lovecraftian’ sometime back in the 1930s. This isn’t anything new: since the creation of our national media, American political consensus has always ricocheted rapidly from one position to the complete opposite without pause for breath or self-reflection.
Here are three examples:
-The Hollywood blacklist and McCarthyism. In the early 1950s it was considered subversive to criticize them; by the late 50s it was beyond the pale to even make a hint at possible support for them.
-In 1973 the countercultural consensus affirmed the Viet Cong was good and the North Viets were America’s friends. In 1975 they annexed the South of Vietnam and instituted mass terror there. The consensus immediately switched over to being anti-Viet and pro-Khmer Rouge.
-In 2002 the media was on the side of the War on Terror and the Afghan War. In 2003 they covered the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq breathlessly. Once the deed was done the consensus immediately switched over to the whole ‘Stop The War’ efforts.
The timing of these examples isn’t coincidental, either. During the 1950s the propaganda machines constructed during the 1930s and 1940s reached the upper limit from which they have never since come down, having obtained a monopoly over the collective worldview of Americans. People lost the ability to distinguish fantasy from reality, and the horrors of the previous decade were painted over with feel-good utopian dreams. Probably nothing demonstrates this better than Wernher von Braun (who used thousands of slave laborers at the Peenemünde test facility) designing the ‘Rocket to the Moon’ ride for Tomorrowland in Disneyland. His companion, Heinz Haber, received some perfunctory scrutiny, but who remembers that these days? This total detachment from reality is so pervasive that you have conservative commentators like Bill Whittle castigating the movie Tomorrowland as liberal propaganda. On what grounds? Well, because he went to Tomorrowland as a kid and “socialism” isn’t the way to that promise, “capitalism” is the way. This is essentially a mainstream figure in Conservatism.Inc explaining we need to defeat socialism to be able to achieve a sci-fi universe.
‘But the 60s counterculture! The SDS! The revivification of agonizing about fascism and the Holocaust!’
Well, just to focus on that last point, what was revivified during the 1960s was a sanitized and mythologized version of the Holocaust, just like the sanitized and mythologized versions of the war as whole. What people remember are Auschwitz and Anne Frank and Josef Mengele and Nuremberg and Wiesenthal, whereas the reality absolutely cannot be even *slightly* appreciated without the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and Aktion Reinhard and the Trawniki men and the Ypatingasis būrys and the Odessa and Bucharest pogroms. Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau are two separate places, one a physical location in space and time, the other existing purely on the spiritual plane, in the realm of the Great Manichaean Struggle between Good and Evil.
So if the 60s and 70s were largely captured by a spirit of phony #wokeness, then consider what came next. I've heard many compare US politics in the 1930s as being far more similar to politics today than to the political atmosphere of the 1920s. And, extending that, there seems to be an idea that politics from roughly 1979 to 2003 bears more resemblance to the 1950s than to our current milieu. It was a more innocent age, before Gitmo or Abu Ghraib or Stop The War. The neocons actually had power, and weren’t mocked or reviled. Everyone lived in the shadow of Reagan and Brzezinski and the Gorbening and Yeltsining. It was the great age of US intervention and democracy-building, with interventions in Granada, Panama, Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, both Iraqs, and Afghanistan. You had the UN-sponsored coalitions and protectorates not just in Bosnia and Kosovo, but in Cambodia, Somalia, and East Timor. The fall of apartheid, the fall of Suharto! The Oslo peace accords! The democratization of Africa and Latin America, the opening of China, reform in Russia! The End Of History!
But of course the Official Discourse Of Politics during this period was extremely naive and childish and full of, well, derp. It’s not just Bush’s ‘compassionate conservatism’ and everything about Clinton; the 1992 campaigns had hardly anything to say about the Los Angeles riots, undoubtedly the most important event of that year. Joan Didion put it down as the Focus Group Effect, the attempt to make politics and public relations ~*~scientific~*~, and it’s no coincidence she was the one to come up with the term ‘Vichy Washington.'
The tide has turned again, and the 'halcyon' days are behind us. Instead there is the advent of insistence that “what the people want” is some kind of ‘political revolution’, whether Feeling the Bern, or, I don’t know, more free market reforms; getting 'back to the constitution' or something, and America appears on the verge of more 1960s and 70s- style #wokeness. Only the great Jacksonian beast that is American democracy appears to be bucking under the activists; yet, this isn’t the 1830s, this isn’t the 1930s, this isn’t the 1960s. This an era where the US has already achieved apex predator status, has no serious competition, but now has several centuries worth of technical glitches and declining social trust. At some point, that reality has to come home to roost – the question is, can the body politic believe in anything beyond themselves (individually or collectively) enough to transcend total nihilism when it does?
By Zeb Baccelli
Are we able to accept that at least a few dozen kids a year will have the desire and the will to commit mass murder against their peers, but will simply lack the means to carry it out? That’s the unspoken message I hear after every school shooting when the right calls for more armed guards and teachers and the left calls for more gun control. If these measures would reduce the body count (and that's a big “if” which remains to be proven), it would indeed be a welcome improvement on the current situation. But to me, the scariest part of these attacks is not that an attacker isn't killed more swiftly by school staff, or that an attacker doesn’t have to resort to a pipe bomb or plowing people down with a car. The scariest part is twenty years after Columbine we’re still raising kids who want to murder their classmates and likely die in the process. The February 14 attack in Parkland, Florida forces us to face this reality once again.
There are three levels where we can address social problems like school shootings: the causes, the enablers, and the preventers. Armed guards and teachers would be preventers. It's questionable whether armed teachers or guards are actually effective; Parkland did have one armed guard but he did not encounter the shooter during the attack. And having a plethora of adults able and ready to kill students at a moment’s notice would have numerous costs, not all financial. But even if it did work to prevent shooters from accomplishing much, is that enough? Are we alright with a couple kids a year coming that close to mass murder, but instead killed by staff in front of their classmates on school grounds?
So what about the enablers? Guns are the most visible one, but the school itself gathers hundreds of targets into one location. If we got rid of guns would these killers turn to pipe bombs, car ramming, knife attacks? In principle I have no objection to gun control, though I question the effectiveness of efforts to limit access to guns. But perhaps we should also think about decentralizing schooling and not having these visible targets exist in the first place.
This brings me to causes. Mental health issues are a common denominator with school shooters, but so is alienation both at school and at home. Again I'd suggest decentralizing schools and really radically revamping the school system to make it more humane. School staff act "in loco parentis," but for legal, cultural, and economic reasons they do not and cannot act like real parents. Your math teacher will not give you a shoulder to cry on or take you away from the other kids for a game of catch or an ice cream if they see something is wrong.
From a very young age we remove children from a familial environment and put them into an institutional one. Over half a kid’s waking hours are spent in this unnatural environment where the adults have a very limited responsibility to engage him on a superficial level, and where peers who have no responsibility or interest in his well-being have a far more dominant role in determining his socialization. It's an unhealthy and unnatural set up.
So when a child like the Parkland shooter acts weird and scary, the other kids make him a pariah and joke how he'll be the next shooter. The adults may have a parent-teacher conference or two, perhaps giving a detention if he acts out. At home the parents have been encouraged by the culture and simple human weakness to consign the raising of their child to the school, and the child's school life is opaque to them unless he is unusually talkative and self-aware. Meanwhile modern technology and recreation culture continue to drive a wedge between parents and children, and of course modern life fractures any larger community so everyone feels like the kid across the street is none of their business. Decentralizing schools and putting them back in the hands of parents and communities would help reform the social support network that catches kids suffering from mental illness and alienation before they reach the breaking point.
As a society we need to address these root causes, and as a party we should be looking for policies that enable and encourage solutions at the root. I strongly believe in policies that make schools smaller and closer to the parents and community. We need more charter schools, private schools, and homeschool cooperatives aided by the state in obtaining funding and resources. And for a public option, have decentralized neighborhood public schools rather than regional mega-schools.
by Anthony Resnick
Another mass shooting, and again in a school. Another round of recriminations. Another call for more gun control. And, as seems to be increasingly the case, another wave of tying the call for greater gun control to ridicule of those offering thoughts and prayers instead of joining the call for gun control.
Personally, I think greater regulation of firearms possession would be a good thing. I share the scorn for the NRA and the contempt for politicians who seem paralyzed by its political influence. However, tying these sentiments to a condemnation of the offering of thoughts and prayers is wrong and, ultimately, deeply destructive.
There are two general formulations to the anti-"thoughts and prayers" sentiment. The first is "forget thoughts and prayers, do something about our gun laws." This is mostly directed at Republican politicians who make public statements of thoughts and prayers but stand in the way of new gun control legislation, but it can also be directed at anyone offering thoughts and prayers instead of calling their legislators. The tying of offering thoughts and prayers to action on gun control legislation is a non sequitur. Nobody is claiming that the reason we shouldn't enact new gun laws is because thoughts and prayers are sufficient to reduce gun violence. Politicians oppose new gun laws because of a mixture of ideology and political calculation. That opposition should be met with persuasion and building political pressure on the other side of the equation, but everyone, regardless of their politics, should be encouraged to respond to tragedy with sympathy.
The second form of ridiculing "thoughts and prayers" is along the lines of "your thoughts and prayers literally do nothing." This is wrong for at least two reasons. First, it is based on a childish view of religion, as if the purpose of prayer is to bring about some earthly outcome. Second, even if you don't believe in a higher power, things like saying "please," "thank you," "good morning," and "I love you" also "literally do nothing", yet (for now) nobody is arguing that we should do away with basic human decency altogether.
The ridiculing of "thoughts and prayers" is not just wrong, but destructive. Several years ago, following the Senate's failure to pass gun control legislation inspired by the Sandy Hook school shooting, I wrote an essay arguing that the "politicization" of tragic events is appropriate. My argument then was that minimizing human suffering is an appropriate aim of public policy, and the wake of mass suffering is an appropriate time to talk about whether any changes in policy could have avoided or minimized that suffering. I stand by that argument, but it is incomplete. It is incomplete because it leaves out just how much of our world is beyond the reach of public policy, and how much power we have to collectively shape the world in ways that have nothing to do with who we elect and what laws they enact.
There is something deeply unhealthy about a country where, with such regularity, people are moved to kill as many of their fellow humans as possible. The many causes and symptoms of this sickness are far beyond the scope of this essay and far beyond my capabilities to diagnose, but responding to great suffering primarily with righteous condemnation strikes me as one of the symptoms of this sickness -- many magnitudes different from mass murder, but not entirely unrelated. I suspect that the "forget your thoughts and prayers" half of the formulation does more harm than the "pass better gun laws" could ever do good.
We need better gun laws. We need better mental health services. We need campaign finance reform that doesn't allow the side that's able to raise the most money to dominate a particular issue. But if our politics (in the broadest possible definition of that term) has decayed to the point that we cannot pursue those goals while putting everyone's basic humanity at the center of all that we do, then I despair for how far even the best laws can take us.
By Amar Patel
Since the beginning of humanity men and women have had to work. Our earliest ancestors hunted and gathered to survive. Scientists speculate the reason you want an afternoon nap so badly is because for far longer than farming has been a way of life, people would work all morning to obtain food after which they would feast around noon. They would follow this meal with a long nap. After the nap they would eat the remaining food and prepare to sleep for the night. Without refrigeration or cupboards they could store little foodstuffs for any length of time. This continued for many generations, imprinting the behavior into our DNA through natural selection.
Then came farming and domestication of animals. Along with consistent food sources we found ways to store grains which would ensure food through difficult crop seasons. This didn’t lessen the amount of work people did. It only changed it.
As society progressed and specialization began, other occupations sprouted up. Towns became cities and massive farms produced enormous amounts of food so that few people needed to work their own land and had non-agrarian jobs. It seems to me that the purpose of a job seems to be to do it long enough so you don’t have to do it anymore. Then you can rest and relax.
The thing about rest is you have to work first. Technology is driving society to a point where many people will not be able to find work and/or we just won’t need them to do it. It may not happen in our lifetimes, but I can conceive of a time where automation will relieve the necessity of labor. What then? Can we rest and relax all the time?
I think we need to address this future now. We need to educate people about S and S, solidarity and subsidiarity. Solidarity is the idea that we should act to benefit our common goals and interests. Subsidiarity is an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. Currently our daily lives revolve around work that occupies most of our time and attention. We make money to support our families, obtain choice for entertainment, etc., but the main goal is to eventually retire and not work. What if the goal of work could be to create a better world around us? What if we could collectively agree that by improving our local community we would have a greater comfort than we could enjoy in our insulated bubble?
Unfortunately, I don’t think this could happen organically. Culture acts in exact opposition to both solidarity and subsidiarity. Despite technology allowing for greater connection between neighbors we end up with less. Look at the popularity of Netflix and similar binge streaming channels. I am guilty, like most, of entering a cave of entertainment on many nights where one show turns into four and I get to bedtime having accomplished nothing. My own children have built connections with their devices that rival relationships with peers. The world steps more into isolation while we all hunger for connection.
What are S.M.A.R.T. goals the American Solidarity Party could have with respect to these issues? They need to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Limited. I propose that we should stick to the most centrist of issues and focus on local resource structuring. Three specific goals I would put forward are supporting of pregnant women through their delivery and for a transition time after birth, coordinating the efforts of local food banks and shelter to reduce hunger and homelessness, and provide after school support for poor children to improve educational prospects. We should be able to measure how many people are helped, how many people are contributing, and what cost it takes for the action to be implemented. The documentation of these results should be shared in order to promote similar action in other locales. None of these goals require massive capital outlay. They require volunteerism and the passion of hopefully a growing number of individuals who want to make a difference in their communities. The difference made would be relevant as it would target the neediest and most vulnerable of our neighbors. There should be hard targets set for how long programs have to take root. It would be acceptable to reassess timelines if agreement exists that original plans were too optimistic but dates should be set for goals to be completed.
If we could focus on these issues and make connections we could create the voice for solidarity by utilizing our communities to show subsidiarity in action. Make a difference in the neighborhood under the flag of ASP to really show others what we are about.
Tara Ann Thieke