Sunday, July 23, 2017

Labor Union Idealism versus Chicago Teamster Corruption

By: Maple Seawright

Image from Matt Michalski

   Narratives about the income gap between the 1 percent and the 99 percent, and now possibly between the 20 percent and the 80 percent have proliferated since the Great Recession. These prominent narratives have helped usher the rise of minimum wage across key cities and may have indirectly bolstered President Trump's presidential campaign. As cities suffer from de-industrialization and "gig economy" becomes an actual term to describe post modern employment, solutions bounce from think tanks, colleges, governmental institutions and even around dinner tables. Some solutions directly oppose one another, other solutions are deconstructed only to be reconstructed to fit the problems enumerated in these consistent narratives, while other solutions circulate within the channels of popular discourse.

   The focus on labor has dominated the core of many proposed solutions. The mainstream thought is that if labor conditions improve, income will invariably increase, which could close many troubling gaps such as the education gap. The closing of these gaps would assuage many other issues associated with political and social disenfranchisement. Who are the most likely experts and heroes of labor, well of course labor unions. Even labor unions  offer themselves up as solutions, with the Teamsters touting themselves as the guardian of social justice. Many videos, articles and books point to the decline of aggressive labor movements and union membership as major obstacles to improving labor conditions and sustaining the middle class. In fact many experts correlate the decline of union membership to the decline and the increased vulnerability of the middle class. The history of labor unions have been sanitized and glamorized to the benefit of their collective legacies, especially the Teamsters and in particular Chicago Teamsters. The historical figures who scorned at and sought to destroy the Teamsters may have inadvertently strengthened the movement for the present times. The scorn was often baseless, callous and ran contrary to labor realities thus rendering them useless. Ironically it may be labor union idealism , drained of constructive criticism, that could damage the movement, as the Chicago Teamsters shuffle from one corruption scandal to the next. In a sense idealism could be more dangerous than scorn as it is based on a very real historical legacy, a tool that the Chicago Teamsters now use to shield themselves from scrutiny.

   The idealists highlight what the collective labor unions can and have accomplished but the Chicago Teamster corruption runs contrary to these ideals. Idealists have neglected to address or confront that the culture of corruption throughout history has festered for decades and into 2017, cannibalizing the union just when the labor needs another movement. The union is under the threat of tearing itself apart with the disillusioned members forming a side movement, called Teamsters for a Democratic Union. David Bernt, a rank-and-file union member from Chicago, remarked that the," Members hate corruption and the givebacks and sellouts at contract time. Backed by Teamsters for a Democratic Union, the reform movement is rising to take power from ineffective and corrupt officials who are killing the unions.” Idealists claim that dedication to union membership will pay off in time with higher wages but does this accommodate reality when corrupt Teamster officials in Chicago conspire to accelerate the rise of non-unionized workers who earn 1/3 third of what Teamster union members earn. For example, In 2011 John T Coli Sr. assisted in allowing jobless Teamsters to be displaced by exploited workers to save the city money, which adds credence to the theory that union workers add less value than non union workers. Union leaders are supposed to advocate for the advancement of union workers, not tarnish their image by agreeing with the enemies of unions. 

   We learn from the idealists that most voices and forces who appear to be in defense of labor and labor unions can be trusted, because historically there was little to gain from defending an organization in war with powerful business leaders. However, according to a federal investigation individuals who were fired from the Teamsters were still allowed to remain active in the labor union. Their participation was largely unquestioned and their determination to remain visible overlooked. However it's probably because they desired to remain connected with the Teamsters, now a well financed and powerful institution. The geographical concentration and the penetration of the Teamster legacy within the hearts and minds of the people give them real power to cause economic harm. Now corrupt Chicago Teamster leaders deliberately wield this same power against labor, forcing them to be unknowing pawns for the deals made between themselves, business leaders and political figures.

  In a recent corruption scandal, John T Coli betrayed the labor union by extorting $100, 000 in cash from Cinespace Chicago Film Studio. This ill gained money was not distributed among the members nor was the business economically harmed due to labor abuses but simply because Coli Sr. was endowed with enough power from the Chicago Teamsters to financially gain. He was willing to threaten work stoppages and labor unrest against the interest of the people. Sadly in a city that is de-industrializing as rapidly Chicago, the creative fields are exactly the type of employment that could assist in the city's redevelopment.

  The very institutions that historically victimized the labor unions now silently accept the abusive presence of corrupt Chicago Teamsters in hopes of cashing out. For example, the Chicago Teamsters contributed $35,000 to Mayor Rahm Emanuel for a 2011 campaign and to support Emanuel's second term a massive $134, 700. In 2003 the Chicago Teamsters under Coli Sr. leadership contributed $100, 000 to the Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. In fact the National Teamster base has contributed over $1 million dollars to federal candidates in the 2016 cycle. However the narrative of the victimized union leader remain, stifling any true criticism. This political clout earned Coli, Sr. an appointed seat with the Illinois Labor Advisory Board in 2015 for Governor Rauner. Now that the Teamster coffers are full, it can accommodate the combined salaries of $615, 000 for Coli and his two sons in 2012 and in 2014 Coli Sr. alone was paid more than $347, 000 solidly placing him and his family in the top 1 percent. Do idealist conceptions of labor unions offer perspectives and solutions for this troubling scenario? Unlikely. Once again the narratives are squarely centered on when the Teamster union was a humble organization, and when Chicago was the base for aggressively defending abused labor. Teamster made it's mark in Chicago when in 1905, they backed 100 day strike that costed $1 million dollars and tragically 20 lives. It was action like this that bestowed them with the legacy of standardizing better treatment across America, through increase benefits, increased pay and reduced hours. However this narrative must be balanced with other unsavory historical details and the idealists must be more flexible and less broad in their promotion of labor unions. Lastly economic harm must be formally recognized as a powerful tool that must be carefully applied and investigated. Corrupt officials must be held accountable or unscrupulous individuals will continue to infiltrate the Teamsters and spoil the organization for the inside out. 

Chicago Sun Times: Chicago Teamsters leader John T. Coli Sr. charged in extortion scheme
Chicago Tribune: City Teamster linked to a chain of corruption
Chicago Tribune: History of Great Teamster Strike Filled with Sensational Events
Chicago Tribune: Teamster boss indicted on charges of extorting $100, 000 from business
Deseret News: Unions agree to Chicago convention
Fight Back News: Corrupt Teamster leader John Coli faces federal charges for extorting $100, 000
National Leader and Policy Center: Chicago Teamster Boss John Coli Indicted for Extortion
Open Secrets: Teamsters Union, Federal Contributions
Teamster: The Early Years, Teamster History
Teamster Local 492: Teamster History Legacy Full Length
*The Jimmy Dore Show: How Amazon Crushes Local Economies  & Get Tax Breaks To Do It*
Starting at 10:46 the commentary becomes about the importance of unionizing
United States Department of Justice: Teamsters Indicted for Attempted Extortion of of Reality Television Production Company
United States District Court: John T Coli Sr. Indictment
United States District Court: Teamster Coli, Rico Complaint
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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Did Donald Trump Have a Rally or a Rowdy Tea Party?

By: Maple Seawright

The elections as a revolutionary Boston Tea Party?? You decide. Image Courtesy of the US Capitol via Flickr

   Speeches and rallies crackle with the concentrated, potent and passionate energy which pours from charismatic individuals who are invited to be the opening "performance" before the presidential candidate's speech. These individuals represent the groups and institutions who make up the candidate's cultural and ideological alliances or coalitions. These alliances and coalitions can be direct or indirect, informal or formal and official or unofficial, nevertheless they are unveiled before a mass audience to complement a presidential candidate's campaign. These opening performances can often connect with the people better because the opening performers are more entrenched within these cultural and ideological communities unlike the presidential candidates who can be a distant and unknown figurehead. These performances are meant to strike at the audience like lightening bolts setting ablaze inspiration that has the fiery power to ignite America.

     At mass political events during election seasons, the soundbites from the "performers" are like morsels seasoned with the new cultural regime and then disseminated from the stage to the audience to be consumed by their awakened senses. These morsels are digested and internalized by the emotional powerhouse, the heart, and then converted into the particular emotional energy needed for the presidential candidate. This simultaneous digestion of the morsels and the energy it provides to the intertwined political hearts will help to feed a new regime, a new national political culture which will fuel the new political machine. This consumption of the experience, fed by the alliances and coalitions, set the cultural parameters and strengthens the presidential candidate's ideological positions on key issues. Their presence is a rich illustration of what the presidential candidate unabashedly promotes and will fight to invest in once in office, by who he gives status to at his events.

Paging DC ...
    The Dallas Rally was like a rowdy, ceremonial tea party inducting Donald Trump into an official and tangible position as a powerful and vocal political and ideological outsider. His clown costume has been torn asunder to be exchanged for a new uniform, a revolutionary agenda. Now symbolically he can join the ranks of great men who are a part of a deep American historical tradition: an "outsider" whose truthful representation of the people demolished the status quo. After a heartfelt, shaken anthem, Katrina Pierson, a Steering Committee member for the Dallas Tea Party and Founder of the Garland Tea Party, sharply charged that the "Republican Party has failed its base!". Now I was taken off guard because I expected more attacks on the Democrats! The more the Tea Party polarizes the left from right, the more it solidifies the linkages within the far right and strengthens the conservative core's resolve. But then I realized that would had been too easy. We need electricity, a shock! In just one statement, she positioned Donald Trump as a double outsider far removed from the White House as possible and almost as if he were in the audience himself ...a holy distance. This statement also allowed for greater need to deal with how disappointing the left is, this is assumed, it's time to focus on the mainstream right, the GOP.

    She commented on how the Republican Party profits from the authentic and grassroots fringe through their votes and their passionate dedication to allocating resources for their projects only to be abandoned as extremist in favor of the "popular think thanks." But now, she insinuated, the outsiders should back another outsider, the fringe will have to push into the national administration and grab official power to hold the mainstream accountable. Mainstream Republicans can no longer be trusted to represent the audience. She attempted to marginalize Donald Trump from the mainstream Republicans and commented he should tear up the loyalty pledge to them. She made a battle cry, "This is not a phenomenon. It is a revolution!" She ensured, that if Donald Trump won the presidency, it would be revolutionary, another historical movement resembling the Boston Tea Party that will even outsize Barack Obama's racially historic win. 

But a revolution for whom? 
     The revolution symbolically marched in with a baby blue dress armed with a bullet point of conservative identities. The same identities who are routinely mocked and who conservative political and ideological outsiders, like the Tea Parties, feel are marginalized by the elite liberal media. Scottie Nell Hughes, the News Director for the Tea Party News Network, called out each outsider political and cultural identity (God Fearing, Gun Toting, Baby Loving, Benghazi Truth Seeking, Army Wife Loving, Border Fence Building, Common Core Fighting, One Nation Under God Pledging Mom) and conscripted their emotions into the election battle. Her proud representation of these constellation of conservative identities was like a rescue mission, breaking their chains from mainstream politics by enriching them with status. These valued social identities will collectively, once uncensored, transform from being the silent majority and boldly usher in a new culture. Her pride challenges what is means to be extreme. She insinuated this is not extremism, but the truth. Sadly in the mainstream media, the people's truth are dismissed as extreme. However, according to her, these identities and grassroots political groups are more poised for legitimate rule than the think tanks and they will decided what is truly wrong with America. Katrina Pierson had previously outlined what was "really, really bad," and explained the dire situation America is in, "Iran has a weapon and we know what they are going to do with it. We are in Texas and our borders are being invaded. We have a government that spends relentlessly and our economy is on fumes." 

So what is exactly the revolutionary agenda? 
    According to Scottie Nell Hughes, the revolutionary agenda is to "make America great again" by "representing the people to the government, not the government to the people." But how? Katrina Pierson enumerated on how Donald Trump "knows how to run a business, that know that we have to get back to the rule of law and handle illegal immigration and to bring back what we've lost and all witnessed recently, we have to restore the Judeo-Christian foundation of this nation." Wait back up .... restore the Judeo-Christian foundation of this nation? There it is! The new national political and cultural regime will be founded on re-establishing the rule of the Judeo-Christian identity. From that, a war like mentality (due to the framing of the invaded borders like we're Romans under siege from the barbarians) and anemic social support from the government as Scottie Nell Hughes screams "hard work equals good life." This culture will be represented overseas since Donald Trump was deemed the ideal leader who will not bow down to world leaders whose countries kill Christians ...a valued, cornerstone identity for this new culture. 

     Donald Trump approves the Christian identity being the guiding force for politics and policies as he invited Pastor Jeffers to the stage and openly thanked him for support. These identities can make America great again ..without the need of successful people paying "one three of their hard working dollars to the federal government". The activation of the silent majority will make America great again, not sleek government policy. This is identity politics supercharged! To get people energized to vote, Donald Trump is being characterized and celebrated as a political incorrect, tough man who can champion these identities. Once in office they won't have to undergo a disappointing identity crisis but can remain untainted, intact and undiluted by the mainstream. By not having to be represented by a mainstream GOP presidential candidate, they can maintain their unsoiled and uncorrupted outsider identities and usurp the White House through Donald Trump from the outside in. Even more Donald Trump is a winner, so the outsiders don't have to suffer as a perpetual losers.

Will the Outsiders be Disappointed?
     To be fair, neither of the women mentioned their affiliations with the Tea Party, in fact Katrina Pierson focused on her identity as a mother and announced she was not representing a group. However they did declare overt Tea Party sentiments and they support Tea Party identities. Now will Donald Trump actually be a strong Tea Party candidate and stamp their ideology, by verbatim, into his policy? I doubt, nor is the Tea Party necessarily requesting this. This was mostly about consolidating the ideological outsiders and confirming that he is not a social climbing outsider grasping to be embraced by the mainstream. Once again he is proving that he doesn't need the mainstream unlike other politicians because he is a winner without them; he has his own prestige and money from business. His social status and resources are from business so he can afford to be a powerful political outsider.

Left with More Questions
    I'm interested in how Donald Trump will broaden or narrow his definition of political and ideological outsiders. Will he support all these outsiders to broaden his possible electorate and if this happens will these outsiders collide and clash or feel betrayed. How will Donald Trump balance this and will people who are officially a part of a political group be willing to continue to hide their direct affiliations and only advertise their sentiments? Can all these outsiders be represented by one person and will the balancing act dilute his appeal? This will definitely be interesting!

related entries:
Presidential Election Seasons and Political Culture ....Don't Let Apathy Cause You to Tune Out!
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Sunday, September 6, 2015

Is Donald Trump Really the Popular Candidate...

By: Maple Seawright

Image Courtesy Gage Skidmore via Flickr.

The Figures are Off
Media and news outlets are clamoring for a generous sip of the turbulent yet refreshing revenue streams in this heated presidential election season. Ironically as the election season inspires viewers to approach the media with dutiful civic intent and gather objective information, media outlets are motivated to profile political affairs with less delicacy. The ridiculous resembles an irresistibly profitable siren call. Brute force methods are collectively employed by these media and news outlets to generate sustained interest in the presidential elections and then selfishly funnel this interest into their specific channels. The growth imperative, incentivizes attracting and prioritizing demographics who constitute a new, energetic (and less critical) market. This priority is the gateway in prioritizing insanity and parading the infamous. For example, a flurry of articles from media ( from a broad spectrum of ideologies, but all driven by the profit motive) have descended by the supposedly bizarre triumph of the Trump. Although these articles continue to spin around Donald Trump like salaried entourage, the media feigns surprise at his sudden surge in popularity. 

However New York Times, revealed a minor crack in this mysterious momentum... According to the Civis Analytics data among those who regularly cast ballots in primary elections, Trump is at 16 with Ben Carson at 11 and Bush at 10 percent ...less than dominant. But in the demographics that is media is aggressively catering to, less frequent voter and unaffiliated voters, Trump captures 18 of voters unaffiliated with a party and 22 of Republicans leaning adults who did not vote in the 2012 general election. They can be attributed to the bulk of Trump's surge. Although I appreciate the media efforts to generate long term interest in the elections and I'm sensitive to their revenue needs, I'm disheartened that integrity is sacrificed in favor of interpreting political affairs that meet viewership goals. Perhaps the polls numbers don't tell the who story and are being manipulated to manufacture a narrative that conveniently generates controversy. 

Donald Trump's superficial sound bites about illegal immigration carved out a stage for both parties to safely and boldly perform ideology. The Democrats were able to champion an opposing position and openly chastise him for being racist. While the Republicans confidently planted themselves in a position polar to the Democrats and shame them for being too soft to be patriotic. This performance, freely broadcast throughout the media, impelled party solidarity. Donald Trump's personalized outlook on illegal immigration were devoid of any abstract concepts and invited both parties to interpret his statements based on narrow and demagogue like conceptions their ideologies. His blasts about illegal immigration silenced other complex issues that risked fracturing parties such as the heated debate over the Patriot Act. Illegal immigration is a complex issue that is interconnected with a host of other issues such as globalization, poverty and the market's need for a cheap, controlled and marginalized labor. Yet his soundbites attacking identities, a personal aspect of someone, were removed from an economic or political context and instead he disassembled illegal immigration into an one dimensional issue. This would increase the ease to form a hearty opinion about and that is reinforced by prior sentiments about those particular identities. This bestows possible voters with the internal resources and intrinsic will to confidently vote. In addition, there is broader incentive during election seasons to recklessly simplify complex issues in hopes of demarcating demographic who will  be predictably loyal to your candidate and an irritate army of vocal enemies who will produce an urgency to vote against.

So Is Donald Trump a Popular Candidate?
The first question is whether Donald Trump is a candidate. Yes a baffling question! Officially Donald Trump is a candidate but his treatment by the media and both parties and even how he strategically represents himself, suggests that he is not a multidimensional candidate holding stances on a collection of convenient and ... inconvenient issues. But instead a one dimensional figure representing a complex issue that has been conveniently disassembled into a one dimensional opinion, a pseudo issue. In fact Donald Trump is not even really representing a pseudo issue but according to the New York Times, emotions such as anger, or as I term angst and disenchantment with the system. Donald Trump is presenting himself as a powerful outsider who can give a one dimensional voice to the multidimensional multitudes whose frustration are mounting from all angles. 

Donald Trump could had embarked on his campaign trail saddled with another bold, controversial and obviously conservative personal opinion however illegal immigrants were suited to the task. For example, abortion who had been too risky since it is framed as both a woman's and moral issue. This splits a gender (identity) across political lines and risks destroying cohesiveness. Instead lambasting illegal immigration endeared him to the Republican Party and even working class Democrats, since it is an issue that has been framed as a purely economic issue caused by the unsavory other who can easily disposed of. But surprisingly, no word on disposing on the powers that drew up the NAFTA agreement or businesses that continue to hire illegal immigrants. 

Donald Trump can connect with raw yet suppressed poignant emotions about government in a manner that appears dangerous for candidates but his figure status (heightened by his celebrity) shelters him from the full impacts of his behavior. Now he appears more appealing and stronger in comparison to the candidates who are playing it safe and balancing their stances on a number of issues. The core problem is that people's angst is not one dimensional but developed from three dimensional sources, experiences and perspectives. They will be disappointed if this complexity if stuffed into a one dimensional pseudo issue, represented by a one dimensional figure who is actually representing the one dimensional emotions of an archetypal outsider.  A whole candidate, represents people who are affected by a myriad of complex and interacting issues, who have contradictory outlooks, beliefs, opinions, histories and yet even emotions.Unfortunately the media's  sacrifice of integrity could have ripple effects. Other candidates may be tempted to mimic representing pseudo issues to capitalize on emotion. Although the poll numbers appear to reflect cold hard reality they are most likely inflated. 

Escapism is Our Business
Instead of being judged as a weak political candidate he appears to be strong and powerful outsiders, a convenient escape from politics primarily due to his business background (as if one professional identity makes him wholly divergent from other political actors). Once again he is not being held accountable by the critical lens used for political candidates but through the forgiving and ambiguous lens for a businessman. Hilary Clinton is deservingly mired in a political scandal and has been silently branded and dismissed as corrupt. We understand that political corruption is violating the public interest for personal gain. Clinton moved her server from the place of public interest to a private place for private interest. However, Donald Trump is not as deeply scrutinized because pursuing private interest is the capstone in business. His methods for becoming successful in business will clash with how to be a successful president, but people believe that his business skills can be neatly transferred. He has been implicated for being involved in a scam by endorsing fake colleges but this has not been fodder for the media that consumes his image. As a politician would it be acceptable that he has admitted to taking advantage of the bankruptcy laws? Economic survival within a capitalistic economic order is rooted in self interest so this coincides with business, while for politicians economic gains seems contradictory thus Wall Street Journal pointing how Hillary Clinton charges $250,000 for speeches, takes donations from countries that whip rape victims and support Keystone. All these actions seem contradictory for a politicians.

Once again Donald Trump the candidate is concealed but his popularity rests on him not actually being a candidate and especially not a political candidate. For example Jan Mannarino, commended Donald Trump to New York Times stating, "Even if he doesn't win, he's teaching other politicians to stop being politicians. He comes on strong. He could say it gently. But I think no one would listen." Or As Tom Krzyminski revealed to New York Times, "We don't need a politician for president; we need a businessman". That's what we need to get out of the mess we're in." Business cloaks him from scrutiny just as Obama's freshness did unlike Clinton and other political candidates who have years to make horrible mistakes that permanently tarnish their image. 

Will Donald Trump ride this wave to the presidency only to disappoint the electorate once in office, like other one dimensional figures ? Only time will tale.
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Friday, August 28, 2015

Presidential Election Seasons and Political Culture: Why You Should Resist Apathy

By: Maple Seawright

Key components to the emerging national political culture are developed from national political events, such as this 2008
Democratic Convention, which created collective experiences and memories. Image Courtesy of PBS NewsHour via Flickr

                                                             Don't Flip the Channel!
     The pull and tug of warring organized interests on the fragmented political processes and institutions, fray the delicate social fibers that structure the stability and functionality of national government. The invisible arena of competition, which is disproportionately accessible to the privileged interests who possess the disposable resources to economically enrich the actors within government, is the avenue to access the visible arena where organized privileged groups contend to harness the political processes to service their long term agenda. In these seemingly chaotic contests information circulates in the exclusive invisible arena. Consequently knowledge and intellectual barriers are too magnanimous for the low resourced populations (without disposable income to risk involvement in these destabilizing contests) to overcome. These realities form the basis and context from which the underrepresented and unrepresented, unorganized majority determine that national government lacks efficacy. Thus they dismiss political affairs and their participation in national government is preemptively neutralized from this presumption that participation is futile. Furthermore, for the unorganized majority, the law may appear dangerously out of sync with their needs, or carelessly infringe on daily life or even oppress elements crucial for survival and expression. But this reproach of and disengagement from national politics and government, especially during presidential and national congressional election seasons, fuels the vicious cycle of information depletion and deepens the intellectual incapacity to effectively engage. 

     Presidential election seasons are the fertile grounds from which the culture of the next national government bloom. Critical awareness funnels rich deposits of information from this reservoir of culture to those who remain tuned into political events. The elected national government establishes the new cultural regime, which is openly represented by the president elect and majority party in congress. However the president elect’s cultural regime is more concentrated and visible than the majority party in congress. Each presidential candidate present vocal stances on an assortment of salient and contested national issues that have symbolic and historical implications. This portfolio of public stances and statements form the national political culture that the elected national administration will usher in once in office. Although these macro issues appear too distant, impersonal or one dimensional to have nuanced relevance in your complex daily life, the candidates' position on these broad macro issues indirectly set the culture for how micro issues will be viewed and then handled. Remember the macro, or national has the prestige and resources to impose its cultural will on the micro or local. The national political culture also shapes economic and social possibilities. This national political culture directs which people are to be hired into the new administration, and these people are connected to others who embody the new cultural regime. These relationships and networks will penetrate this cultural regime into society by reaching into distant places and spaces. 

    This cultural regime becomes the template from which policy springs. This culture guides what is possible for powerful institutions to do without scandal or regulation. Across the population, the social norms derived from this national political culture determines what is acceptable or unacceptable, since it shapes perceptions on what behavior is justified or condemned. This culture confers social status to individuals who adhere to its principles. This culture even chooses which issues deserve to be bestowed status and the types of institutions to be awarded with recognition and funding. It determines what protests can be silenced or become a platform for the public policy agenda. For example, a candidate's public and macro stance on abortion implicitly, declares what would be deemed acceptable nationally which spirals down to local issues. A resounding yes or no for abortion symbolically represents a yes or no for an assemblage of related issues. The related issues depend on how the main issue is framed by the nation's current political culture, and currently abortion is increasingly being framed as a women's issue as opposed to a moral issue. This stance would also impact seemingly unrelated and intricate issues such as protecting obscure endangered species, if teacher assistants are viewed extraneous expenses and terminated en masse, whether there should be a curfew on sidewalks connected to bars or if the local library suffers defunding. 

     In Franklin D. Roosevelt's address to Address at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 22, 1932, his stance to solve the Great Depression by departing from tradition and engaging in “bold, persistent experimentation” set the precedent for the expansive New Deal which impacted large segments of society and changed the course of America. The Republican Party's Platform of 1948, pledged to enact, "a vigorous enforcement of existing laws against Communists and enactment of such new legislation as may be necessary to expose the treasonable activities of Communists and defeat their objective of establishing here a godless dictatorship controlled from abroad." This helped to set the precedent for the McCarthyism Post World War II Red Scare and provided justification for the invasive investigations of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. The Red Scare jumped from the political arena and infiltrated society, affecting Hollywood, thousands who lost their jobs and millions others desperate to conform and evade persecution. State of Union Address is also a key piece that highlights the new culture and provides the template of what is to be ushered in. 

   So although the presidential and national congressional elections seem distant, its effects will grip even the most peripheral localities and issues, most obviously by influencing who is elected in local and state government. It shapes perspectives on life and materializes the sentiments of the people. The macro and micro reinforce and evolve with each other.

Donaldson, Gary A. (2004). The Cold War Comes Home. The Making of Modern America: The Nation from 1945 to the Present. pp. 40-44.

Smith, Jason Scott. (2014). The New Deal at the High Tide, 1934-6 & Society and Culture in the 1930s. A Concise History of the New Deal. pp. 62-123.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Ozymandias Analysis: Percy Shelley Challenges Human Conceptions of Power

By: Maple Seawright

Image courtesy of Mark Scott via 500px

What Does Honorable Power Mean to Percy Shelley?

    In Ozymandias, Percy Shelly unabashedly scrutinizes the power bestowed to humans who are embellished with glory, titles, and high social status by illustrating how its inherently transient state embeds vulnerability. Shelley characterizes invulnerable, yet moral power as being able to survive and even transcend the ravages of time. Time is identified as one of the most powerful natural forces. Although time resides in the shadows of Shelley's explicit narrative, it graces the center stage visually as we witness the glorious power of the king delegitimized, dethroned and disempowered into a subject of time. Time's purity uplifts it as the obviously wise, respected and trusted character despite its consuming power. Therefore a likely candidate who is entrusted to deliver time's lesson is a traveler from an antique land, a character who has a relationship with time. 

    Shelley challenges the notion (which has numbed society to deceptive spectacles of power that obscure vulnerability) that seemingly noble figures whose power succumbs to time, unquestionably deserves the authority to compel concentrated human effort that conjures reverence and awe. Time uses its position to transgress against this human intellectual tradition by ruthlessly and fearlessly exposing this power as fruitless. Time, a trusted and moral authority poses a question to humanity, do these figures deserve to navigate our motives and be the recipient of our heartfelt obedience. Time advocates for the nameless forces and untitled sources who are depleted of social status and yet add timeless value to be recognized as deserving.

    The introduction of the traveler from an antique land hints that the poem encapsulates a message that gifts knowledge to humanity. The trust conferred to the traveler by time and Shelley was not earned by titles but by his identity which is intertwined with and defined by nature. In this instance the traveler is defined by unbiased land and time. We can assume that the mature traveler is unencumbered with loyalty to a specific land or its ruler but instead welcomes being inundated by a diffusion of unnamed sources and forces; intriguing characters, rich customs, befuddling yet riveting interactions and consistent exposure to viewpoints that diverge from the character's own. The traveler is not beholden to a culture but is rejuvenated by exploration and collecting contrasting experiences. The word antique suggests that the traveler has access to ancient wisdom enriched with competing experiences that escapes most people who are comfortably settled or even unwillingly trapped in their culture.

    A universal theme crystallizes as Shelley mocks social status and nobility by visually presenting bold and ironic contrasts. In the vast, uncompromising terrain we witness elements of nature, stone, standing confidently in a landscape that terrifies even the most adventurous souls. However the human consciousness of the standing stone with legs adds life to this barren desert devoid of human life. In contrast to the confident almost conscious and living standing, there is a half sunk shattered visage that lies like a corpse slayed by thirst. The deafening cold command and image of an arrogant sneer contradicts the visage's defeated half sunk position and exposes its power as a mirage. The vastness of the landscape evokes its everlasting presence and in it the stone stands. The sneer communicates that the shattered figure assumed his legacy would inevitability inflame the imaginations of future generations. But instead the vulnerability of lying in the sand isolated from human civilization or admiration amongst the powerful nature who detract from his power betrays this confidence and reveals it as hollow. 

    The visage's demand for our allegiance is undermined by Shelley as he abruptly shifts the lyrical lens to the anonymous sculptor, another timeless character. Shelley muddles which character is the main subject of the poem. The passions of the deadened figure are immortal due to the timelessness of the stone and the sculptor's abilities. The visage is half sunk and its withering legacy slowly engulfed by the terrain but the artist's hand has reached from the depths of gaping destruction, gripped the surface and stamped life into the lifeless. But who is lifeless, the stone or the human the stone was sculpted to represent? According to Shelley, the sculpted stone is animated. He challenges our conceptions of life and what the living consumes by declaring the sculptor's heart, his love for the art, fed the living almost deified stone. The sculptor's heart livens the living stone, not the figure who deadens the stone. This anonymous and unrecognized power was commissioned to accurately portray this figure but now this portrayal mocks him. This same art recedes and offers critical evidence against this figure's power.

   The pedestal indicates that the sculpted stone is in direct competition to the standing stone. However the stone, this element, stands out as the most powerful since the memory of the human is feasible solely due to the stone. Then there is the visual contrast between the words announcing the social status as kings or kings, the name of the figure Ozymandias and the bold proclamation "look on my works, ye mighty and despair" versus the visual emptiness where nothing beside remains. There is double mockery, the mocking of the Ozymandias and even the other kings and who this figure envisions as mighty. The rivalry between “powers” is dead. The king's verbal legacy is forced to live through sculpted stone since his works, visible evidence of his immense power is invisible. The decay of the colossal wreck visually represents titled human power. It is not the desert that is barren but the great works of a great figure as boundless and bare.

    Percy waited until the end of the poem to reveal the identity of the half sunk figure deliberately. Nobility and prestige are such normalized emblems in society that if Shelley had preemptively exposed the wrinkled sneer as connected to a title, the ridiculous scene would have been justified and the meaning of the poem blunted. The reveal or ironic climax of the poem raises more questions, as we grapple with contrasts between the timeless and the decaying. Then the drama falls to the stable, level and unassuming sand that stretches far away until forever. The vast space also symbolizes time. Percy ends the poem demonstrating that true invulnerable yet virtuous power can defy and even become time. The lone and level stand has no pedestal but its presence commands. The collective forces and sources have true power, not necessarily a single figure on a pedestal.

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