Maquina Lectora

Notes of a curious mind

Tag: USA

“What is happening in this country? That’s the most important question” – The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

James Baldwin was one of the most captivating speakers, one of the most important voices of the civil rights era.  He died 30 years ago, in December 1987 but he remains one of the most powerful and insightful writers in American history.

The Fire Next Time is an astounding autobiographical account written as a letter from Baldwin to his nephew, James. It goes back to Baldwin’s teenage years as Christian minister and his departure from the church and the church culture. He recounts a dinner/meeting he had with Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam, an African American political and religious movement which supported the creation of a separate state for African- Americans. He pictures America as seen through the eyes of the black people, the difficulties of black life in a white dominant country.

“What is happening in this country? That’s the most important question”, he says.

“I have always been struck in America, by an emotional poverty so bottomless, and a terror of human life, of human touch, so deep that virtually no American appears able to achieve any viable organic connection between his public stance and his private life. This failure of the private life has always the most devastating effect on American public conduct and on black –white relations. If Americans were not so terrified of their private shelf, they won’t never become so dependent on what they call “The Negro Problem”. This problem which they invented in order to safeguard their purity, has made of them criminals and monsters and it is destroying them.”

Is James Baldwin still relevant today?

During his speech in the famous 1965 Cambridge debate with William F. Buckley, Baldwin mentioned Robert Kennedy’s statement that “it is conceivable in the next forty years a Negro to achieve the same position that my brother has.”

“It sounded like a very emancipated statement”, said Baldwin, but the real question, he added, is not when there will be the first black president in America. The crucial question is what country he is going to be president of.

In 2008, Barack Obama became the first black president of the United States. How did this change things for African Americans?

In a beautiful and emotional letter to his son, 50 years after Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, Ta-Nehisi Coates, exposes America’s racial dilemma. He shows just how much the country’s racist past is still very much alive today, and how much it affects the way the black Americans think about themselves and their lives.

 “The Story of the Negro in America, is the story of America. It is not a pretty story.”

Baldwin is lively and bold, passionate and deeply humane. He does not mince words. He condemns the American dream as a nightmare. He points out the contradiction of the United States as the leader of the free world while the battle for racial justice continued at home.

“If we – and now I mean the relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious blacks, who must, like lovers, insist on, or create, the consciousness of the others – do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country, and change the history of the world. If we do not now dare everything, the fulfilment of that prophecy, recreated from the Bible in song by a slave, is upon us: God gave Noah the rainbow sign, No more water, the fire next time!”

Take yourself to see Raoul Peck’s powerful documentary  I Am Not Your Negro,  a portrait of James Baldwin. It is narrated by Samuel L. Jackson and the words are from Remember This House, Baldwin’s unfinished book about the three freedom-campaign activists, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers.  Very highly recommended.

Reaganomics vs. the Modern Economy by Michael Douglas Gilbert

Modern economy is different and more complex from primitive economy, says Michael Gilbert in his book “Reaganomics vs. the Modern Economy: The Conflict that divides America“.  The defining characteristic of the modern economy is the ‘impossibility of true self-sufficiency.’  Today we cannot go out and supply ourselves with food, clothing and shelter. In order to survive, we need to buy our necessities with money from a store, to interact with the marketplace. This kind of economy does not bode well for the economic theory known as ‘Reaganomics’, a term used to describe the economic policies of President Ronald Reagan that promoted tax cuts, slashing of government spending and the deregulation of domestic markets.

The prevailing view is that the high oil prices stemming from OPEC’s cartel’s oil embargoes in the 1973 has caused the stagflation that inflicted so much damage to the US and world economy. But, Fed Chairman Arthur Burns argued in his book “The Anguish of Central Banking” in 1979 that the inflation appeared to be the result of a plethora of forces:

“the loose financing of the war in Vietnam, the devaluations of the dollar in 1971 and 1973, the worldwide economic boom of 1972-73, the crop failures and resulting surge in world food prices in 1974-75, and the extraordinary increases in oil prices and the sharp deceleration of productivity.”

Whatever the forces that caused the 1970s recession, the dominant view is that it was Reagan’s policies that ended it.  Michael Gilbert does not agree with this view. The improvements in the American economy in the 1980s, he says, “has nothing to do with Reaganomics”. It was the market forces – a market correction that would take nearly ten years – that worked beautifully to end stagflation in the United States and the rest of the western world. In other words, Ronald Reagan was lucky and the misconception that somehow he turned the economy around has distorted US’s economic policy. Furthermore, it is responsible for the attack, shrink, shut down and underfund government.

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Bernie Sanders: Outsider in the White House

I become interested on Bernie Sanders after the first presidential democratic debate and since I didn’t know much about him, I bought this book to learn a few things about his political background and views.

Verso, first published this book in 1997. Outsider in the White House is, in a way, Sanders’ political autobiography. It gives an overview to who Bernie Sanders is, discusses the state of the American progressive politics and tells the story of the then – congressman’s successful 1996 re-election campaign. The updated (2015) edition also includes an afterword by John Nichols.

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