Voodoo Is Not What You Think

Throughout the decades, Vodou (the spelling most scholars use) has been the most misunderstood religion after Wicca. Most of the fear, hate, and misinterpretation has been the result of racism and lack of knowledge about this belief system – Hollywood has always portrayed Vodou as a dark, often violent religion in such movies as Angel Heart, The Serpent and The Rainbow, The Skeleton Key, and Voodoo (the same as has been done with Wicca and other non mainstream systems of belief).

Vodou is actually a healing religion, one of ancestor worship and music and spirit intermediaries and energy. It’s not about good versus evil, turning your enemies into zombies, or dancing with snakes and sacrificing chickens and drinking blood from skulls or black chalices. It’s not an organized religion with church leaders, worship buildings, bishops, or even a book like the Bible or Koran. In fact, Vodou has always been practiced in secrecy – firstly, due to the slaves having to hide the truth of their serving the deities they’d brought over from Mother Africa from their White masters who forced Christianity and Catholicism upon them; secondly, because the religion has been misinterpreted over the years and practitioners fear bringing it into the mainstream as a result of misunderstandings.

Because slaves came from all over Africa, voodoo doesn’t come from a single African tradition but several. Plus, over time, voodoo adopted some of the traditions of other religions, especially Catholicism. Slaves were forced to practice Catholicism by their masters, so some of those rituals and symbols became central to the practice of voodoo.In addition to involving ancestor worship, the voodoo practitioner creates important relationships with spirits.

Voodoo believes in one god,” Leslie Brice, independent Vodou scholar, said, “but they believe that this god is too remote and too far away from human life.” So instead of seeking help from god directly, spirits, who act as intermediaries, are the key points of contact. These spirits, known as lwa, have various characteristics, Brice said. Which lwa are right for a specific person would be revealed through ceremony.

There is a lot of room for how people practice and communicate” with the lwa, Brice said. On an individual basis people might create personal altars and contact the spirits by making offerings, such as the pouring of libations or meditation.

There are no voodoo churches; worshipers congregate in “houses.” Details of rituals and the service of spirits might vary from house to house, she said. There are stronger spirits that believers invoke that are supposed to have great powers, Brice said. Some houses don’t work with the strong spirits, she said. But “it’s not a question of good and evil. It’s about energy and how it is used.”

Particular objects are also an important part of communicating with the lwa, said Brice, who is also an art historian. She was first drawn to the religion because of the vibrant nature of the religious objects used in ceremonies. “Voodoo really makes artists out of the practitioner,” she said. – Lexington Herald Leader

My cousin gave me a copy of Voodoo For Dummies and I found it extremely interesting. I credit the book for giving me a better insight into Vodou, though I already had a less negative stance towards it after having covered the religion for a paper that I did in university for the class Myth & Religion. I feel that if a lot of White people practiced Vodou, a more positive image would manifest.

Just as there are differences within other faiths, there is great variation within Voodoo beliefs and practices. In places and times where conditions are very desperate, Voodoo is often focused on survival. In my New Orleans community, many Voodooists feel that part of religion is service to their community, so there is an emphasis on healing and social activism. We also have many artists and musicians in our community, further reflecting New Orleans’ unique cultural spirit.

If Voodoo is just another religion, why does everyone think it’s scary?

Racism clouds our view of Voodoo. It is rooted in slavery and intricately connected to this hemisphere’s political and social evolution. Voodoo was first practiced in America and the Caribbean by slaves of African descent, whose culture was both feared and ridiculed. Slaves were not considered fully human. Their religion was dismissed as superstition, their priests were denigrated as witch doctors, their Gods and Spirits were denounced as evil.

One of the only successful slave revolutions in modern history occurred in Haiti in the late 1700s. Slaves of African descent overthrew European rulers and took control of the country. Many slaves were Voodooists, and some of their military leaders were priests who inspired and organized their communities to fight for freedom. The Haitian Revolution provoked fear in other European and American colonies that were reliant on vast numbers of slaves as plantation labor. The imagery and vocabulary of Voodoo (and other Afro-Caribbean religions) became threatening and ingrained in those cultures as something horrifying, associated with bloodshed and violence. It was brutally repressed in most places. It became taboo.

Over time, American culture became fascinated by this mysterious tradition and began to depict it in movies and books as sensationalized horror. “Voodoo” practices were dreamed up by Hollywood; most of the disturbing images fixed in our minds are something we saw in a movie. Hollywood created a mythology that we have taken as truth. “Voodoo” has become part of modern folklore as something evil that can hurt us. – Huffington Post


Reagan Revolution Thru President Obama

Since Ronald W. Reagan was elected president in 1980, the United States has been through many up periods as well as down periods. Reagan, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, all implemented tax cuts that favored the wealthy, while ignoring or generally not doing much for middle class and poor Americans. Bill Clinton was firmly conservative as far as economics, but very liberal in social issues. Barack Obama, the first African American president, has had a tough job and with the formation of the Tea Party, has gone from popular to the butt of many conservative and racist jokes. The following paragraphs will highlight many of the upswings in American politics, economics, society and culture, as well as the downturns.

Two major historical turning points of these years were that a great many Americans turned away from support of social programs, favoring small government instead; and the rise of multicultural issues, populations, and immigration in the US. The other two major turning points in recent history that have affected modern economics, culture, politics, and society are the collapse of the USSR and communism throughout Europe; and the rise of Islamic extremism in the Middle East as a result of America’s continued affairs in that region, mainly in support of Israel and Middle Eastern oil.

One of the main effects of the Reagan era was the ending of the Cold War, the demise of which Reagan is credited with hastening. Reagan termed the USSR the ‘evil empire’ (a name Islamic extremists no doubt would give to America these days, if they have not already done so). A committed capitalist, Reagan was totally against communism and instituted policies that clearly favored the rich (as he himself was). His deregulation policies cut funding for many programs that helped the poor, which made the disparity between the classes more evident. (As Governor of California, Reagan shut down most state mental hospitals, sending thousands of mentally ill people to the streets to become homeless.) Reagan amped up the arms race, took a hard-nosed stance with the leaders of the Soviet Union, and dismissed AIDS as a ‘gay disease’ – which it mainly was in the beginning.

The rise of the ‘New Right’ is another affect of the Reagan deregulation policies. Even today, we must listen to the daily conservative ranting of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, and Michelle Malkin, etc, all of whom are well-off with publishing deals, TV & radio shows, and other media successes. Reagan’s successor, George H. W. Bush, was left to ‘clean up’ after the former president, for Reagan’s policies did create some long-time issues including the S&L crisis, which caused a price tag of almost $500 million that American taxpayers had to foot. (People tend to have forgotten that during the days of the ‘Blame Obama’ game.)

America’s continued support for Israel and the greedy quest for oil are just two of the reasons 9/11 occurred, and the war in both Afghanistan and Iraq are a never-ending struggle (and financial burden) to this day. The Soviets abandoned Afghanistan in 1988 – as did the US – unable to exert any control over the government and country. Osama bin Laden rose to prominence as a result, hailed as a Middle East Savior who had kicked out the devilish Soviets. America’s involvement in Middle Eastern affairs as well as bin Laden’s plans for restoring Sharia law throughout the Muslim lands (which he felt were becoming too Westernized and needed to return to their Islamic values), also were reasons why America was attacked and the wars in the Middle East in which the US became involved, started.

Even though the Taliban was driven from power in a mere two months, the US is still present in Afghanistan in an attempt to help the nation gain a democratic form of government. However, it is not working and my opinion is that the US government should remove all troops from Afghanistan and Iraq and let those two countries do whatever they can in order to form a new government. George. W. Bush feared that Iraq had gained weapons of mass destruction and that there was connections between Hussein and bin laden (both allegations of which were eventually proven false). But America butted into Iraq’s business anyway; Hussein was tried and hanged, and still, American soldiers are losing their lives in these two countries. America’s main concern with the Middle East is oil, not to mention backing Israel in its ‘apartheid’ form of rule, and Americans will keep footing the heavy bill – in losses of both money and American life – to support American interest in this miserable, battle-weary region.

AIDS – acquired immune deficiency syndrome – once known as ‘the slim disease’, ‘gay cancer’, and ‘gay compromise syndrome’, among a few others – was first discovered around the mid to late 70s, though it didn’t burst out into the general population until the early to mid 1980s. At first, it seemed that the disease really was one confined to the male homosexual population. However, it was not long before other groups began to appear in the media as suffering from AIDS: IV needle users, female prostitutes, hemophiliacs, and Haitians (a fact that nearly shut down the tourism industry in Haiti). This group was called the 4-Club along with homosexuals (UV needle users, for the most part, tend to be addicted to heroin, hence the 4th ‘H’. Some substituted ‘hookers’ for hemophiliacs.)

On November 4, 2008, Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States, winning more votes than any candidate in history. He took office at a moment of crisis unlike any America had seen in decades – a nation at war, a planet in peril, the American Dream itself threatened by the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression. And yet, despite all manner of political obstruction, Obama’s leadership helped rescue the economy, revitalize the American auto industry, reform the health care system to cover another twenty million Americans, and put the country on a firm course to a clean energy future – all while overseeing the longest stretch of job creation in American history. On the world stage, Obama’s belief in America’s indispensable leadership and strong, principled diplomacy helped wind down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, decimate al Qaeda and eliminate the world’s most wanted terrorists, shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program, open up a new chapter with the people of Cuba, and unite humanity in coordinated action to combat a changing climate.

In times of great challenge and change, President Obama’s leadership ushered in a stronger economy, a more equal society, a nation more secure at home and more respected around the world. The Obama years were ones in which more people not only began to see themselves in the changing face of America, but to see America the way he always has – as the only place on Earth where so many of our stories could even be possible. – Barack Obama

In the end, we are left with a huge mountain of debt – trillions owed to communist country China, where most of our manufacturing jobs have gone due to low labor wages and cheap taxes – and due to the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; yet the American government still has money to send in support of Israel and Egypt and other nations that despise Western principles, whilst ignoring the poverty, crime, and despair of the American people. Will Trump rise to the occasion? He certainly has not so far, a year into his presidency.

World War 2 Through The 1970s

The following paragraphs address what I believe are the most important issues, turning points, and acts through the decades that followed the Great Depression up until Richard Nixon became president. These are some of the most tumultuous years in our young nation’s history.

In my opinion, the biggest turning points of this period in American history are World War Two, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War. World War Two led to American creation and use of the Atomic bomb, which was dropped upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki with enormous loss of life for Japan. It also established the United States further as a world force to be reckoned with, sending the country to the forefront of international politics, financial and technological dominance, and as an enemy of communism.

The ‘Cold War’ began when America tried to force its capitalism and ‘democracy” upon the world at large (while Southern Whites lynched African Americans and tried to keep them out of their schools, from using their water fountains, public restrooms, etc). You could say Americans did not practice what they preached. How could a nation be expected to instill the thought of freedom and democracy among other nations while at home, some of their own citizens were treated worse than dogs, consigned to ghettos, unable to advance in life simply due to the color of their skin? America also had to best the USSR in every way, be it military, world dominance, of democracy versus communism, and nuclear weaponry.

The Vietnam War has to be one of the worst chapters, and one of the most protested wars, in American history. One reason America entered the war is because the leaders of that time feared that the Soviets would expand their communism into this insignificant Asian country and from there, into others. Apparently, if Vietnam fell to communism, that would imperil vital US interests. If the Vietnamese became Commies, Oh Lord, all of Indochina would…and that would be threatening to America and her Asian interests. Communism must be fought, therefore America had to intervene in Vietnam to save Asia. Repercussions still abound from US involvement in this little Southeast Asian land.

Modern American society, economics, politics and culture are affected still by the various movements of the 60s & 70s as well as the great 50s explosion of television and the automobile, which began to be made more accessible to the middle and lower classes, and not just the rich. Even today, Civil Rights are being violated (as in the case of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African American teenager shot and killed by George Zimmerman, which has echoes of the Emmett Till case of 1955); the Gay Rights Movement has now expanded to include marriage between those of the same gender, though 30 states have banned marriage between same sex couples; and ethnic groups, including the largest visible group in America today, the Latinos, are also demanding more and more rights.

Television is more popular than ever, with ‘reality TV’ shows leading in what passes for entertainment in these United States and other countries such as Britain. One may even watch popular TV shows on the Internet, available on websites like YouTube and Hulu. As for the automobile, even with fuel prices rising, Americans are reluctant to part with their cars. In many areas, due to lack of or limited public transportation, owning private vehicles is a must. If there was to be a major gas shortage this country would be in serious trouble.

Having watched – and participated – in the brutality known as ‘The Great War’, as one European nation after another crumbled and attacked each other, Americans had little desire to involve themselves in another European battle over European interests. Why should Americans help them win their wars? There was also a current of anti-Semitism running through many Americans at the time. American Jews of that era were not as affluent, and well-connected, as American Jews of today, so they didn’t have as much ‘say’ in politics as modern Jews.

Even though they tried to get President Roosevelt to do something to help the Jews of Europe, America never really did anything…and most people outside of Europe, especially beyond the nations where the Nazis had taken over, did not know of the concentration camps, or did not believe in their existence, even when Jewish refugees began streaming into the USA, Britain, France, and other lands. There was also the fact that the Great Depression had basically stripped Americans of any concern for others, they were out to see themselves through this horrible financial disaster. To top matters off, a great many prominent Americans, such as aviator Charles Lindbergh and automaker Henry Ford, were anti-Semites with profound respect for Hitler and the Nazi Party. Ford even penned a book entitled The International Jew, The World’s Foremost Problem.

Rosie the Riveter helped, but the fact that the workforce of America was drained due to men enlisting in the military also aided women in becoming employed outside the home. In fact, working women increased to more than 40% by 1945, with over 20 million women employed, often in such areas as aircraft works, shipyards, and other labors usually performed by men.

Women also served in the military during this time. In 1942, the US Army formed the WAC (Women’s Army Corps), followed by the WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Services) which was created by the US Navy. Over 85,000 women volunteers served the WAVES during the Second World War, in such areas as defense, hospitals, communications, and even intel ops. More than 350,000 women served in the Armed Forces, some as Air Force Service Pilots (who in 2010, were finally awarded the Congressional Gold Medal). Women having to serve in the military led to the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act of 1948, which allowed women to serve in the military whether war or peace reigned.

African Americans made great strides towards Civil Rights starting with the creation of the Fair Employment Practices Committee, which President Roosevelt hastily supported due to the demands of A. Philip Randolph, who threatened to bring a march of more than 100,000 Negroes (as African Americans were then called) upon Washington DC. Roosevelt was afraid a race riot might result, so he gave in to many of Randolph’s demands; the formation of the FEPC helped African Americans in many ways, including increases in wages, anti-discrimination in hiring as far as federally-contracted jobs, etc. However, the military remained segregated until Truman took office years later. In 1955, Emmett Till was lynched by two White men and their alleged Negro accomplices (for whistling at a White woman), and Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a White man, sparking the great Montgomery Bus Boycott. These two incidents lit the fires of the Civil Rights Movement.

Civil Rights breakthroughs continued into the 60s and 70s. Martin Luther King, Jr, the Freedom Movement, and the Freedom Rides of the 1960s kept Jim Crow, segregation, and the plight of African Americans during this volatile time, in the news. Martin Luther King, Jr preached non-violence and love as a way to combat hate. Schools were integrated, usually with the presence of the National Guard. Church bombings (one of which killed four innocent young Negro girls), MLK’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, lunch counter sit-ins (the first of which happened at a Woolworth’s in Greensboro, NC, by four young A&T students), and KKK violence (they murdered 3 civil rights activists in Mississippi, an act documented in the film Mississippi Burning, among many others), are acts and images that remain with us to this day.

Black Power and the Black Panther Party, founded by Stokely Carmichael in 1966, gave rise to activism by African Americans, and a more aggressive way of combating the loathing and prejudices of White Americans. The rise of ‘identity politics’ and the Black is Beautiful movement brought about positive changes for African Americans, many of whom for the first time began to feel good about themselves, happy with their texture of hair (Afros became very popular during this era, rather than men  ‘conking’ their hair and women ‘pressing’ or ‘relaxing’ theirs), and feeling strong in their blackness.

From around 1964 through the war’s end, protests, peace marches, and anti-war rallies grew like a hairball in the belly of a cat. The SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), members of the hippie movement, artists, intellectuals, writers such as Norman Mailer, and even Martin Luther King, Jr, all were involved in protesting the war in Vietnam, either on moral, democratic, or other principles.

This war was costing Americans upwards of $25 billion per year, and the cost in lives (by late 1967, there were more than 15,000 American casualties and over 105,000 wounded) was incredible. Every month, more than 40,000 young men were drafted and military commanders were demanding even more. More than 50% of voters polled by Gallup revealed that Americans were losing faith in President Johnson, as these polled voters disapproved of how Johnson was handling the war. In the end, Johnson decided not to seek reelection. Richard Nixon won against Hubert Humphrey, claiming to restore “law and order”, a subtle dig at the anti-war protesters as well as the riots following King’s assassination. Nixon stated that the “silent majority” of Americans were being drowned out by the small faction of those against the war.

Demonstrations grew even more, particularly after US draft lottery was put into effect. Four students at Kent State University were killed when members of the National Guard fired upon the group of protesters, who are against the invasion of Cambodia. Publication of the “Pentagon Papers” in 1971 revealed formerly secret details on the conducting of the war, and American military and government involvement. In January 1973, Nixon proclaimed the end to US involvement in Vietnam following a particularly strong mandate against the war.

Medicaid, Medicare, and Job Corps are just a few of the programs the Great Society, envisioned by President Johnson and implemented during his presidency, that continue today. Some of these programs do benefit those who otherwise would not be able to afford to buy groceries, get needed medical check ups, and training to become employed citizens.

Johnson got more than a dozen acts passed during his time in the White House, but I will list only a few of those here. One of the most important, and one of the first he signed into law, was the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Other very important acts include the Criminal Justice Act (1964), The Food Stamp Act (1964), Older Americans Act of 1965, Voting Rights Act (1965), Housing and Urban Development Act of 1965, Amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act (1965), and the Child Protection Act of 1966.

It is unfortunate that the “Great Society” Johnson envisioned has yet to materialize. Perhaps in the near future, our nation’s leaders will realize that harmony, peace, spending needed funding on domestic programs, and being more considerate of other countries is far more important than wars, who has the most sophisticated weaponry, and being the most capitalist of all capitalistic societies.

What Would They Think of Blacks Today?

If Marcus Garvey, Walter White, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr, W. E. B. Du Bois, and a host of others were alive today, what would they think of modern Black Americans? I know they would feel vindicated that after so many years of lynching, second class citizenship, struggles, tribulations, and being loathed, Black people in America have come far and done more than blacks in many other countries, including Britain and Canada and other bastions of White supremacy (excluding Australia, New Zealand & South Africa). You can forget about Black-run nations, because they tend to be dictatorships and Black people in authority have little or no use for the Black underclass, same as wealthy Whites here in America have no use for the poor Whites who help them grow richer by the day.

I also know that they would be ashamed of Black people as well, because for every two steps forward, we keep taking a step – sometimes two or three – back. What are the ways in which Blacks have grown backward rather than forward?

1. Rap/hip hop music

2. High number of school drop outs, whether high school or college (when they bother going to college, that is)

3. High number of Black males in prison

4. Staggeringly high Black -on-Black crime rate

5. High teen pregnancy rate (possibly surpassed only by Hispanics)

6. Allowing the continuance of a White dominated society

There are other ways but they are minor compared to those aforementioned issues. Rap/hip hop music, or culture as some term it (though how anyone can call that nasty, disgusting, despicable, hateful stuff ‘culture’ is beyond my comprehension), makes Blacks look like shallow, materialistic, boozing, drugging, and partying fools. Far too many Blacks drop out of school – to do what, sell drugs? – and then not very many go on to college, and especially not Black men. Just because one is born with an IQ lower than the average does not mean one cannot make a success of oneself using education rather than penning goofy, misogynistic rap songs or playing sports. Not everyone will succeed at that. Look at the top 10 actors…how many of them are actually Black Americans? Maybe one or two, but I would say one if that. Dazzle them with your knowledge, whites are more apt to be swayed by fancy degrees and such than fancy footwork. ‘

As for Black men being in prison, why do you think they’re in those places? Selling drugs, killing each other, raping women, stealing, and assaults. Violent behavior, in other words. To be totally honest, I am scared of most Black men – that is why I don’t date them – because of the violent world in which they live in. I’m afraid to be caught in the crossfire. Yes, I know that not all Black men are like that, but where I live, they are either drug dealers, drug users, alcoholics, lazy bums trying to live off women, or just plain losers. I know I am not where I want to be successfully as of yet, but I will not be with a man who is going to drag me down, either. I’d never again date a Hispanic guy, either, for the same reasons. I would much prefer to remain single.

Black girls continue to get pregnant and pop out babies in order to remain on state aid rather than get jobs and be a positive contributing member of society, more so than other ethnic groups outside of Hispanics, who seem to breed like rabbits.

Whites continue to enjoy their privileged lives and dominate others, from every magazine (outside of Essence, Ebony, Jet, etc) on the newsstand, to the inane, scatter-brained realty TV shows, to hiring decisions, to Hollywood, to corporate America, and politics.

I am sure if the Black leaders of the past were alive today, they would feel satisfied at some of the rights we have gained in America since the Civil Rights Movement. But I know that they would also feel embarrassed that Blacks, despite being better off than any Black people in Africa, Europe, Latin America & elsewhere, still are at the bottom of the societal totem pole. And unless we shape up our act, we always will be.

India, Water & Soot

According to a professor & author named Griffiths, India needs to include a larger percentage of the citizenry in its rapid growth. A vast number of the billion + population lives on less than $2 a day, and even while India produces more engineers than the United States, it has a literacy rate of just 61% – which is much lower than even China’s.
In 2003-2004, more than $90 million (of $158 million) was siphoned off to aid rich families, whilst the poor that needed the funding were left to struggle. Government corruption is now being punished, thanks to the Right to Information Act of 2005, which replaced the Official Secretary Act of 1923 that made it so much harder to punish corrupt government officials. Political interests with heavy clout still stand in the way of future progress in India, however, and until that changes, progress will continue to come at a very steep price.

Water has historically meant ‘the difference between life and death, prosperity and poverty, health and sickness, progress and decay, etc’, as stated by Griffiths. It is an unfortunate fact that most of the world’s population continues to face a severe shortage of water, with water-related diseases an enormous threat around the globe. Environmental damage has hurt the water supply, and the growth in humanity worldwide is also to blame, among other factors.

Though the earth is nearly ¾ covered with water, a mere fraction of that water is fit for human ingestion. 70% of this water is used in agriculture, 22% in industry, and 8% in domestic use, according to UN statistics. Meanwhile, 800+ million people do not have access to clean water for drinking; 2.5 billion are without adequate sanitation. Every year, a mind-boggling 1.8 million humans – 90% of them children – lose their lives due to diseases resulting from poor hygiene and unclean drinking water. What are we to do to prevent this needless deaths?

Can you believe that soot from the stoves of developing countries is melting the glaciers? Yet that is exactly what’s causing this problem, according to Dr. Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a leading scientist in climate. Emissions of carbon dioxide in places like Kohlua, India – where carbon dioxide emissions are not monitored as they are in America – are near zero. However, soot, which is known as black carbon, from thousands of such villages, is now emerging as a major contributor to changes in the global climate.

In Asia as well as Africa, cookstoves manufacture the larger share of black carbon. Replacing these primitive stoves with solar-powered stoves, for example, would greatly reduce these emissions. If not, by 2020, glaciers in Himalaya could lose 75% of ice, states Prof. Syed Iqbal Hasnain, an expert in glaciers from the Indian state of Sikkim.

Progressive Era Through The Great Depression

The years of the Progressive era through the Great Depression are some of the most turbulent in American history. There were many changes; some were long-lasting while others were merely temporary. Let us examine some of the changes that effected American society, politics, economy, and culture at that time as well as those that have lasted through today.

Women achieving the right to vote and the New Deal, particularly the Social Security Act, are the two major historical turning points of these two periods in American history. Women had been fighting for suffrage for some time with the point that if Black men, only recently freed from bondage, could be allowed voting privileges, so should White women, who had never been slaves (though women suffered from the ‘yoke’ of male supremacy).

The Social Security Act was an important one and one of the lasting legacies of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. This Act provides for Americans of retirement age, after they have spent most of their lives working and paying into the Social Security system. However, at the time this program was put into use, no one had any foreknowledge that one day in the future, it would become an issue whereas Americans paying into the system could not be guaranteed Social Security when they retire, which possibly could happen with the present working generation.

Wyoming was the first state in the nation to grant women the right to vote, and partly this was because two male lawmen – William Bright, a legislator of the territory, and secretary of the territory, Edward M. Lee, who stressed that it was unfair for his mother not to be able to vote when African American men were allowed to – argued for it. Also, there was the belief that it would bring more women of marriage-age to the territory because most Western states at the time had a dearth of available women, as opposed to men.

In California, women wage-earners got a lot of attention and many, like Maud Younger, were able to bridge the gap between economic and racial lines. Ms. Younger actually helped to organize the first union of waitresses in San Francisco, becoming known as the ‘millionaire waitress’ by doing so. She was recruited by Alice Paul to help get voting rights for women passed, though Ms. Younger’s ‘Equal Rights Amendment’ has never been won even to the present (she passed away in 1936). When male voters went to the polls in 1911, they unanimously gave women in California the right to vote; thus, it became the biggest and 6th state to do so at that time.

Manifest Destiny and White Supremacy were part of the reasons the United States had to compete with European powers in a race for colonies, which were always in developing nations. Because European countries already had divvied up the Continent of Africa for themselves, America looked to the Far East and Latin America for expansionism. The Spanish American War was mainly an excuse, in a way, to get involved in imperialism, which showed itself often as the ‘White Man’s Burden’ of which Rudyard Kipling, an Englishman born in India and a supporter of British imperialism, wrote.

When America became involved in the Spanish American War, it did so to prevent Spain from owning a colony close by the United States – the multiracial island of Cuba. Spain ruled Cuba but the Cubans were tired of the rule, which did nothing for them and even caused their lives to be insufferable. The Cubans yearned for independence. The US saw this as their opportunity to gain some colonies and declared war with Spain. Eventually, the US forced Spain into conceding to America’s demands and before you could say ‘imperialism’, the United States had gained control of all of Spain’s former colonies, including Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. The Filipinos, however, did not want to be ruled by the Spanish or the Americans, and they fought for control of their country with all of their might. Unfortunately, they lost to the might of the US; many atrocities were committed by both sides during the war for Filipino independence. The Treaty of Manila in 1946 finally led to the Republic of The Philippines, when America finally gave in and relinquished its hold over the island.

Consumerism and popular culture had a profound affect on the American economy. Consumerism is another word for materialism, and by 1929, every 5 out of 6 cars were owned by Americans! People began buying on credit, companies advertised more for their products, even using celebrities of the day to endorse material goods. In fact, more than half the money consumers spent on products went to pay for advertising.

Popular culture not influenced today’s culture, society, etc, but had an affect on consumerism too. Jazz became quite popular in the US (as well as abroad). African Americans were prominent in Jazz music, with names such as Duke Ellington and Count Basie being well-known even today. Film and pro sports had a lasting development within American society, culture, and economics as well. It is my opinion that music, movies, and sports have also influenced American politics.

Consumerism and popular culture definitely have left a permanent mark on American society, economics, politics, and culture, and during the ‘Boom and Bust’ years, affected the economy in a major way.

It is my opinion that the 18th and the 23rd Amendments (the first starting off the years of Prohibition, while the latter ended it) have had tremendous impact on today’s society, economics, politics, and culture. There are even today counties in many states that are ‘dry’ (Utah in particular) and /or where the sale of alcoholic beverages are restricted. People are going to do what they want, and when it comes to habit-forming behaviors, such as smoking, drinking, and illegal drugs, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Liquor accounts for huge sales today, and drunk driving is one of the woes of a drinking society. Hundreds are killed each year in accidents involving drinking and driving. People want to drink – it’s one way of numbing one’s problems, though they are still there when one becomes sober. When law-makers try to limit or cut out liquor sales, the public doesn’t like that. Not very long ago, there was an issue regarding liquor sales in a county here in NC. While the 18th Amendment contributed to crime and lawlessness when people couldn’t buy liquor, the 23rd Amendment has impacted politics, culture, and economics as far as the sale of liquor, alcoholism, and dry counties are concerned.

Another turning point was the establishment of the FDIC under F. D. R. shortly after the Banking Act of 1933 (which he had little to do with). The FDIC was meant to be a temporary measure created to give relief to Americans with savings in banks which were on the brink of failure. Under the FDIC, one’s savings were protected if a bank suddenly went under. The number of bank failures declined once the FDIC went into affect. Congress made the FDIC a charter in 1935.

The 16th and the 19th Amendments were two legislative changes that have had a lasting influence on American society, economics, politics, and culture. The 16th Amendment gave the US government the power to collect taxes on citizens’ incomes. An income tax law was passed during the Civil War but the law expired in 1872 – though it was reenacted two more times before finally being passed – and was even pronounced by the US Supreme Court as unconstitutional in 1895. Even today, many people refuse to pay taxes on their income, declaring it ‘ unconstitutional’. However, it has been an Amendment since 1913 so to not pay income tax is really against the law.

Giving women the right to vote has had a great influence as well. Imagine modern politics without any input from women! It would be a disaster. Women may have a reputation for being ’emotional’ but really, men think more with their emotions than do women. With men in charge, capitalism is the order of the day, followed by greed, materialism, war, and imperialism. Had women been allowed more rights before 1919, this nation would probably be more inclined towards nurturing and a feminine culture, rather than an aggressive, masculine culture. At any rate, the 19th Amendment was one of the most important ever, and it truly empowered women more than any other Amendment.

Surely, the Progressive years through the era of the Great Depression and World War Two were the more fascinating in our nation’s history. There were dozens of reformations and people truly wanted to make a difference in American society. The middle classes became more in tune with the working classes, rather than being more inclined to ‘side’ with the wealthy. Poverty was fought against, there were many who tried to bring an end to the brutal crime of lynching, and while white supremacy was one of the bases for American Imperialism, citizens of the United States seemed to have a genuine interest in fighting for equality for all. Even the advent of consumerism did not serve to make people wholly selfish, as modern Americans appear to be. The 1890s through the 1930s were obviously years of change, reformation, influence, and growth.

Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Wall Street was a movement that began September 17, 2011 in Zuccotti Park (renamed Liberty Square by the protesters) in the heart of Manhattan’s Financial District. It grew to include more than 100 cities across America and over 1,500 cities around the world.

From a moral standpoint, Occupy Wall Street’s concerns were that the wealthiest 1% of people control more than 40% of the nation’s riches, and that they have a moral responsibility to share these financial resources with the 99% who make up the middle and lower classes. In fact, most world religions teach their adherents to aid the poor with a certain percentage of their income (usually 10% in Christianity).

Economically, people with lower incomes pay out more in yearly taxes. The 400 richest people in America pay around 18% of their income in taxes, while the bottom of the 1% – professionals such as lawyers, doctors and others – pay out 23%. So while the rich generally do pay more with income taxes (39% of their income), the 99% actually pay more in revenue taxes.

From an ethical view, Occupy Wall Street favored a Utilitarian stance, rather than Rawlsian or especially Lockian. While it can be argued that there good points as well as bad involving Utilitarians and their theories (which can be said of any philosophy or view), the worker participation standpoint is one that should be endorsed by the Wall Street Occupiers; indeed, most of the protesters did favor this approach to economic distribution.

If there were more worker participation in our capitalistic society, CEOs and other greedy types, sitting on their thrones as the worker (barely paid a living wage and doing all the grunt work) ekes out a living, will not amass fortunes at the expense of said worker. Salaries of CEOs have skyrocketed, with the typical CEO salary of $12.9 million being 380 times more than what the average worker takes home. But many Americans feel that this capitalist system is great even at their own expense – how can anyone justify capitalism when it merely enables the wealthy to fatten their coffers further, as the average worker goes more into debt? Those not making a living wage are forced to obtain food stamps, Medicaid, and other aid just to make ends meet. How any struggling taxpayer can claim that capitalism is just and affords ‘everyone the opportunity’ is sadly mistaken and don’t know all the facts.

Utilitarianism may work in theory, but in practice…well, that may be another story entirely. With the 1% controlling nearly everything in this country, how can the 99% get their voice heard? One way is through protest. The US government would have to undergo a serious overhaul in order to change things for the good of all people and American society. It can be done. It’s not impossible.

Government has a program for big businesses. It is known as ‘corporate welfare’. Corporations receive millions, even billions, of dollars in subsidies, bail outs, cash grants, guarantees, and loans from the government every year. Many also receive special tax breaks on top of that. Some of these same corporations have outsourced American jobs to India, China, Mexico, etc, yet still get breaks from the US government, and mostly at the expense of the American taxpayer. This does not hurt the rich and the powerful, it hurts the average worker, those from the lower to middle classes. Indeed, corporate welfare is a true case of the 99% aiding the 1%. Yes, there are a lot of people existing on Welfare but not all of these people are lazy, deadbeats, and losers. Some people must go on public aid just to get by. Ditto for many of those existing on Social Security and disability benefits. Republicans and others complain about the ‘Welfare State’ yet how many of these same individuals complain about corporate welfare? Who should receive aid, the poor and needy, or the greedy, often corrupt corporations?


Almost 100 billion dollars a year. That is what the American taxpayer wastes on subsidies to Big Business. That is how much corporate welfare costs the ‘little guy’. One terrible result of corporate welfare is ‘crony capitalism’, where it’s not what you know, but who you know that gets you the biggest subsidies, cash grants, etc. The lobbyists are in DC making sure the voices of the corporations are heard – who’s looking out for the US taxpayer? The government doesn’t always pick ‘winners’ for its subsidy programs; oftentimes, ‘losers’ are picked – such as the case was with Solyndra.

Both money-hungry corporations as well as the government, are responsible for the inequality in income. But with distribution of wealth, how can anyone state unequivocally that a fruit picker should receive the same wages as a surgeon? What is really wrong with this society is the emphasis placed on entertainment. Entertainers are some of the highest paid individuals in the world, and more than half of them aren’t even that gifted in their chosen field. Why should footballers, basketball players, and basbeball pros get millions of dollars a year? Why is so much value placed upon these people, who aren’t scholars, scientists, doctors, etc? Why should an actor get $10 million per movie
(or more), or a singer receive millions over the course of a 5-year contract? This is where alarming disparities in incomes show, between those in the entertainment field and people with careers that help save lives, improve human suffering, and other work that benefits humankind. What does a player for the Dallas Cowboys does for humanity that is life-changing? What does an actress give back to the suffering masses that is so great? Not a thing. Distribution of wealth is a tricky subject and one that I prefer not to tackle but…inequality in income is not. There is simply too much of the latter.

Higher taxes for the wealthy. Forgiveness of student loans. Healthcare for all. Prosecution of those who engage in financial fraud. What do we want most of all? Jobs, of course. But with the richest 1% of Americans holding all the power (along with the 57 members of Congress among them), it will be a tough row to hoe. There are more than 230 millionaires in Congress, and they are not going to vote against their own ilk for the likes of the people. That is simply how it is. How many welfare recipients do you know who have the means to make things happen? How many receptionists, cashiers, burger flippers, maids, nurses, or teachers can do anything to cause significant social changes in America? The so-called ‘lower’ classes of any society have always been powerless; to make money, you need money ,and to hold any power, you must also have money. Without money, you are powerless, voiceless, and penniless. In a capitalistic society, you have that many strikes against you. Even the government is against you, for the government will side with ‘Big Business’ over the average American. That’s just the way a capitalist system works and if you think this country is truly a democracy, think again. Say the ‘Pledge of Allegiance’. What is America called in that pledge? A republic, right? That’s exactly what this country is – a capitalist republic.

While the protests did have meaning, what many Americans fail to realize is that our economy is shifting towards what one analyst has termed ‘a creative economy’. This means that there will be an abundance of service jobs (which is already happening) as a result of the ongoing pursuit of financial capitalism, C-suite capitalism, entrepreneurial capitalism, and managerial capitalism – and this in turn will transform the American economy into that of a ‘Third World economy’, according to one source. Look around you. What do you see? Already, America has the look of a ‘Third World economy’. Why else would there be so many dollar stores, discount outlets, and horror of all horrors, Wal-Marts in every town and city from California to Maine? We are sick of the wealthy, the ruthless corporations, the lying politicians, and the capitalism that benefits the 1% at the expense of the 99%. I know I am. – Occupy Wall Street