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Al Ghurba

by on March 15, 2020

Al Ghurba

…the land of strangers…

by Marco M. Pardi

There is only one sort of genuine socialism, the democratic sort, by which I mean the organization of society for the benefit of the whole people.” George Bernard Shaw

All comments will receive a response.

While clouds of evil coronavirus obscure the thoughts in the minds of a growing number of Americans another cloud is gathering in the background. This cloud, arguably more deadly than covid 19, is both visible and audible; the problem is in its sinister ability to appear harmless, even benevolent. It is the cloud of disinformation, misdirection, and outright lies developing in the infected lungs and dissolving psyches of what is still mistakenly called the Republican Party as it prepares to solidify its hold on power in the Fall and bury the last vestiges of a democratic society.

Let’s be clear from the start: There is no international law governing what a state can call itself. Thus, we have The Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Do we really think these places are democratic? Of course not. I have frequently pointed to those State level societies which call themselves Communist and explained how true communism has never existed at higher than the Band level (up to about 80 members) of society. Yet, major population blocs have labeled themselves communist and some still do even as it is evident they are simply totalitarian states.

We in the Untied States are now moving into another era of misunderstanding and mislabeling: we are approaching another round of Presidential elections. One side of the traditionally two sided contest is already set; no one dares to challenge the supremacy, indeed the sanctity of the aging wannabe Mussolini doppleganger currently in the Casa Blanca. On the other side the contest seems to have come down to two aging possibilities: Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.

Biden seems to be MOTS, More Of The Same while Sanders labels himself a democratic socialist. Probably intended to soften the term socialism, democratic socialist, like democratic republican (the U.S. calls itself a democratic republic), is a bit of an oxymoron. Each of them implies citizen participation in decision making but that participation can go only so far. The democratic socialist elects the government which makes the overarching, large decisions and the democratic republican elects the representatives who do the same. They are mirror images of each other with the exception of how intrusively they regulate and control such factors as private ownership.

But even such societal idols as the right of private ownership are hazed over. In the U.S. no one disputes your right to own a car; but there is a multitude of regulations governing how you can use that car. And this split between the right to own and the right to use symbolizes a fundamental reason why socialism, by whatever label, cannot succeed in a society like the Untied States. That reason, the very essence of what makes the U.S. what it is, is never stated in terms of why socialism would fail. That reason is: Diversity.

A fundamental defining element of a culture is language. According to the U.S. Census Bureau there are at least 350 languages spoken in the U.S. Many of these speakers do not yet speak English. Some never will.

Some sources say there are as many cultures in the U.S. as there are in the world. I have some experience with these as, during my career with CDC my degrees in Anthropology and my facility with languages brought me continuous domestic and international assignments for which linguistic and cultural skills were mandatory. In situations wherein I had neither the language nor a suitable lingua franca upon which to rely I employed basic anthropological tactics to communicate. But even then it was imperative that I knew to gear those tactics to what was culturally acceptable and appropriate.

My point here is that, far more fundamental than the “Conservative”, far-right fear mongering over what socialism would mean to your (read: their) bank account, socialism can work only in societies characterized by a strong sense of solidarity. Rudely put, people care about others who look and sound like themselves. People are willing to forego, even contribute a certain amount of personal capital for others they presume to share their values, life experiences, ethics, and dreams. But when that term – other – takes the form of Other the situation changes dramatically.

Consider this small example. You are driving along an Interstate highway. You have not seen a State Patrolman in hours, if at all. Over a rise in the land you see a disabled car on the road shoulder, a woman and two young children standing by it. They are Black. Further along you see another disabled car on the shoulder, and a woman and two small children standing beside it. They are White. Which group will be the first to experience a motorist stopping to be of help, or even a cellphone being lifted to report the problem? Now replay that scenario and put the woman in a hijab.

The U.S. has several federal and state laws regulating behavior which could be construed as discriminatory. We can regulate actions. We cannot regulate feelings. When idealistic people who dream and expound on the marvels of socialism cite examples such as the Scandinavian countries they fail to recognize, much less speak of one central characteristic: although they have small minority populations within them, they are overwhelmingly homogenous.

Unfortunately, people like Bernie Sanders who wave the flag of socialism, albeit sweetened with “democratic”, hand the most powerful tool possible to their neo-fascist opponents: a direct and personal threat to how people feel. Time and again we have seen how elections are won on feelings, not on considered intellectual choices. The 2016 presidential election was not won by the neo-fascists – aka Republican Party. It was won by the expert manipulation of feelings conducted by very highly trained Russian operatives, masters of reaching into the depths of the human psyche no regulations can touch. They know how to easily coax the unsophisticated American voter into conflating socialism with communism, socialism with loss of personal capital, and loss of personal freedom. As the saying goes, They know where, when, and how to push all the right buttons. And the domestic neo-fascists have studied and learned these lessons well.

We greet each other, we behave toward each other in the civilly prescribed manners, but we live in al ghurba – the land of strangers. And the voting booths will soon prove it.

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  1. jkent33 permalink

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts Marco. I enjoyed your comparison of what we are currently experiencing in our communities. There is no way to avoid labeling what we are currently seeing. The division is visible in every aspect all around us. I’ve purposely constructed my lifestyle to reflect on diversity. It was obvious to me failure to confirm to one group was not going to make me happy. Fortunately this has never been an issue to maintain my self engineered lifestyle. What has been an issue for me in the past years was my defiance to accept the GOP. Their desire to accept what they are told without question annoys me like never before. Mainly, because their acceptance of the lies being broadcast by the media has started to now reflect on my quality of life. In the interim, I live under the hopes that in the upcoming days the occupants of the WH will be changing reflecting on the wishes of those who share my sentiments.


  2. Thank you, Jerry. The regime is certainly practicing the Divide and Conquer method. And, it’s working. But as I’ve pointed out, people who look to existing examples of socialism – no matter how you dress it up – working well ignore the profound homogeneity of those societies. The very characteristic which defined this country is the characteristic which set it on a path unlikely to lead to socialism, and more likely to lead to the fractured state we see around us.


  3. Ironically, the current regime is blatantly racist, xenophobic, and intolerant of “other religions”. When the Führer publicly moaned, “Why can’t we have more immigration from Norway?” we knew exactly what he meant. The senior policy advisor, Stephen Miller, a seeming reincarnation of Adolf Eichmann, advocates an immigration policy and a re-examination of already granted Naturalizations which would – though it likely will never happen – bring exactly the kind of homogeneity that would warmly welcome socialism, the exact opposite of the fascist state they are creating.The Father of Fascism Mussolini himself referred to Hitler as a barbarian over his treatment of the Jews and other minorities. .


  4. What a strange world in which we find ourselves. Until just a few weeks ago, it was my chosen task to try to explain to others the differences between various types of government, not just capitalism versus communism, but also socialism and fascism as well. My brother-in-law thinks Bernie Sanders is a communist, while my husband’s best friend believes that anyone anti-Trump is an idiot. Of course, he also thinks that Covid-19 is either a conspiracy or a hoax.

    A conspiracy theorist might tell you exactly that; if it were just in this country, I might wonder if it were a play by the current regime to take over every factor of our lives. Every day brings some new restriction; both the Canadian and Mexican borders are basically on lock-down, and people are being told to stay in their homes.

    Do you find it the least bit sinister that the government wants to give us money during a time when there is so little on the shelves to buy, and ever more places to spend our cash are being closed. I’ve never been one for conspiracies, but extra cash in their pockets will certainly help some people to look kindly on the current regime come election time. It’s not that it’s a bad thing, or that it hasn’t been used before, but I have to wonder which is more dangerous, the virus, or the government which now controls us so completely.


    • Thank you, Rose. I will not offer a direct diagnosis, but I would remind you that the hardest person to argue with is a fool. They are unable to see your point.

      While the virus apparently did not originate here, that doesn’t mean there aren’t those who would take advantage of it to enact their political ends. We seem to be seeing that now. The clear attempt at buying the votes in November may become moot if and when the regime finds a way (there is a legal loop-hole) to suspend presidential elections in the Fall and cement the dictatorship into place. Your closing question is a good one. I’ll take my chances with the virus before I’ll let down my guard against this regime.


      • I have worried for some time about the possibility that Trump might find some excuse for which to declare himself dictator for life; now that he has given himself wartime rights(?), how far away might that now be?


        • Thank you, Rose. It turns out there is a legal opportunity to do this by simply postponing the elections with no set date specified. The Congressional Research Service looked into this in 2004 when G.W. Bush was considering this for himself. The relevant findings are as follows:

          “The authority to postpone an election would appear to be a natural corollary of the power to set the time for an election. The authority to set the date of elections appears to derive principally from two constitutional provisions. Article I, §4, cl. 1 The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of choosing Senators. Article II, §1, cl. 4 The Congress may determine the Time of choosing the [Presidential] Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States. The text of the Constitution does not appear to contain a constitutional role for the Executive Branch in such decisions.”

          “Presidential Elections While the power of Congress to regulate Presidential elections is not as extensive as the power over House and Senate elections,7 Article II, §1, cl. 4 does provide that Congress may determine the “time” of choosing presidential electors. The Congress has established this date, by statute, as the “Tuesday next after the first Monday in November, in every fourth year succeeding every election of a President and Vice President.”8 Although the Congress does not have the explicit authority to regulate other aspects of Presidential elections beyond time, case law does indicate that the Congress may have powers extending beyond establishing the time of choosing the electors. For instance, the Supreme Court has allowed congressional regulation of political committees which seek to influence Presidential elections, arguing that such legislation is justified by the need to preserve the integrity of such elections. In Burroughs v. United States, 9 the Supreme Court reasoned that: while presidential electors are not officers or agents of the federal government, they exercise federal functions under, and discharge duties in virtue of authority conferred by, the Constitution of the United States. The President is vested with the executive power of the nation. The importance of his election and the vital character of its relationship to and effect upon the welfare and safety of the whole people cannot be too strongly stated. To say that Congress is without power to pass appropriate legislation to safeguard such an election from the improper use of money to influence the result is to deny to the nation in a vital particular the power of self protection. Congress, undoubtedly, possesses that power, as it possesses every other power essential to preserve the department and institutions of the general government from impairment or destruction, whether threatened by force or by corruption.10 The power of Congress to protect the integrity of the Presidential election, combined with its authority to set the time of election, would also seem to provide the Congress the power to postpone elections because of a national emergency.”

          While suspending the presidential election would be a tough sell in the House, it is certainly possible. The Republican Senate would overwhelmingly pass it the day they receive it.


          • Dana permalink

            Marco and Rose, I can personally attest the so-called stimulus of $1K or so is already making the current regime seem heroic. I don’t feel the least bit excited about the possibility of receiving these funds. I know there are many already in desperate situations from the virus. But for me, the idea is distasteful because I feel it is mostly a pollitical stunt. Does the current administration care at all for anyone living below the poverty line? I think we all know that answer.


            • It’s not only a political stunt, it’s a bad political stunt. It is an insult on a par with Let them eat cake. $1K will go almost nowhere in today’s economy.


  5. Dana permalink

    Marco, thanks for another post that raises critical points.

    I have no problem with the age of either potential candidate. What I do take issue with is identity politics. It seems too many tend to support what is familiar or recognizable. Biden is recognizable from the Obama years. Nothing will change if he is elected.

    Yesterday I asked someone who votes Republican why they are Republican. I didn’t receive any satisfactory answers. In fact, they are actually voting against their own best interest in at least one area. Since I have always done mostly the opposite of anything my parents did or “taught,” I’m continously stunned that anyone my age still cannot think for themselves. They vote as their parents did and do. Some may also may vote for candidates who look like them….. if we are basing votes on melanin as well.

    This person did mumble something about being pro-choice in cases of rape or incest. Gee, thanks. And I heard the weak, tired statement that abortion shouldn’t be used as “birth control.” My response to that is always the same – that would be some pretty expensive, invasive “birth control” at $1K or more per procedure.

    I was convinced I was supporting the perfect candidate and that the future was promising. You warned against this type of optimism in at least one blog. Though I don’t think it was directed at me, I’m grateful when my rose-colored glasses are yanked off. Optimism and cheer have been among my coping and self-preservation tactics for most of my life. Sadly, they don’t work as I wish they could in an election.


    • Thank you, Dana. As a social scientist you know how difficult it can be to determine why someone makes the choices they do. I think we agree that people operate more on feelings than on considered thought. So, debating from a position based on thought against someone who is based on feelings is a pretty useless exercise. But understanding, appealing to, and shaping feelings is a specialty of this regime. They learned the lessons from the 3rd Reich very well.


  6. Dana permalink

    Hello RT. I’m Dana Seiler and I’m Marco’s friend and former student.

    I fail to see how your comments were only “dissenting.” They had absolutely nothing to do with the content of this particular post.


  7. Dana permalink

    Hello RT. I’m Dana Seiler and I’m Marco’s friend and former student.

    I fail to see how your comments were only “dissenting.” They had absolutely nothing to do with the content of this particular post.


    • Thank you, Dana. Your response is accurate and much appreciated. Marco


      • Dana permalink

        I don’t ever want to speak for you, Marco, but I will always fiercely defend you.



    • Dana permalink

      RT your comments were unclear and strange. I was puzzled over them since they were only an attack on the writer himself. And because you didn’t use your name (including your last name), you could be anyone – even a troll.

      Not a single comment was thoughtful debate or critical analysis of anything specific he wrote. I know Marco welcomes respectful discussions about the actual content, even when readers don’t agree with him.


  8. Dear Readers: I apologize for the unpleasantness over the last 24 hours. An individual posted comments which were simply baseless and uninformed personal attacks. In no way could they be considered to be “dissent” as they had no relation to the substance of the original post or any other post. Since this behavior is a violation of the terms of usage for this paid site the offending comments were removed. The management of the site is aware of and helpfully participating in these developments.

    I hope you are finding the site informative and worthy of considered exchange. Marco


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