During this election cycle, a cry goes up from the fearful masses, “The Barbarians are coming!”. This, however, begs the question, who are we and who the Barbarians? The Oxford English Dictionary defines five meanings of the noun barbarian.
- 1. etymologically, A foreigner, one whose language and customs differ from the speaker's.
- 2. Hist. a. One not a Greek. b. One living outside the pale of the Roman empire and its civilization, applied especially to the northern nations that overthrew them. c. One outside the pale of Christian civilization. d. With the Italians of the Renascence: One of a nation outside of Italy.
- 3. A rude, wild, uncivilized person. b. Sometimes distinguished from savage (perh. with a glance at 2). c. Applied by the Chinese contemptuously to foreigners.
- 4. An uncultured person, or one who has no sympathy with literary culture.
- †5. A native of Barbary. Obs.
Let us first examine the Republican presidential candidate who began his long and odious campaign on June 16, 2015 with the statement on Mexican immigrants: 'They're bringing drugs,' crime and are 'rapists'. This seems to imply, based on definitions one and three, that he believes that Mexicans fit the model of a barbarian. Later he adds Muslims and most immigrants to his list. This sentiment has fed the fires of fear and hatred, long a smoldering sentiment, in his far right political base. If you witness the fervor of a Trump rally, listening to the pronouncements of his supporters, you can visualize people with torches and pitchforks, rushing to repel the barbarians at the gate. So that makes immigrants and Mexicans the barbarians, but not so fast.
Before some of my readers become smug, a leading liberal news site, in an article entitled , “The Alt Right: Barbarians At The Gates…” stated in counterpoint; “The alt right movement is an insurgent, racially tinged one that seeks to dismantle traditional conservative institutions to provide a political voice to an array of exiles on the far right. These include, but are not limited to, a unified array of influential hard-core racists and conspiracists, who oppose contemporary political processes, institutions, and both political parties as threatening not only national security, but the Euro-centric traditions of the nation as well with ‘white genocide.’ ”
Mr. Trump, the founder of this vitriolic feast, himself fits definition three and four of a barbarian. The bastion of center, The New York Times, supports this in op-ed by Charles M. Blow entitled “Donald Trump, Barbarian at the Debate”. Trump has planted the seeds of hate deep and watered them well. We, as good, caring and sane people, must take up the challenge to prevent the harvesting of this crop. Our first duty is to ensure that Mr. Trump never sits in the Oval Office. Our second duty, equally important, is to change the dialog between the right and left, addressing the extremes at both ends of the spectrum. Those at these limits are driven by real or perceived fears that we should address with action, not belittlement and scorn. Labeling
A Tale of Too (Many) Cities
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” at no other time in history have we been more connected to others, yet hate still flourishes. “It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,” we have the knowledge to cure many of man’s ailments, but price them out of the reach. “It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,” with the election of Obama as President we hoped that racism was a thing of the past, but the scene of black men being shot, beaten and choked to death belies this. The news is replete with overreach and callous use of authority as embodied in Ferguson, Baltimore, New York, Cleveland, Newark and many more cities we do not know.
An April 30th report from the Police Executive Research Forum, reported on St. Louis County, MO; where Ferguson is located. The PERF report found that an "inappropriate and misguided mission has been thrust upon the police in many communities: the need to generate large sums of revenue for their city governments." We see police departments in Baltimore, New York and Newark, NJ accused of imposing clandestine arrest quotas on their officers. This drives a corrosive atmosphere where police essentially harass minorities on real and imagined minor offenses; such appears to be the fate of Freddie Gray.
This problem of police brutality or misconduct is not only across the country but also in our own backyard. In a recent rally in Newark, attended by Rosemary Lontka, Deb Huber, and Vicky Stapleton from our chapter, there were three mothers and a daughter who lost loved ones from police actions. Larry Hamm, director of POP, spoke about at least five people who have died in police custody in Newark. He also stated that a civilian complaint review Board is being set up in Newark and that the ACLU has so many cases of this police misconduct that they have referred this problem to the federal Department of Justice. The DOJ issued a scathing report on Newark. They are soliciting applications for individuals and organizations to act as a Federal Monitor.
Morris County members, Rosemary and Vicky in partnership with the NAACP have participated in a program about criminal justice and policing policies. The NAACP is advocating more community involvement, body cameras, civilian complaint review boards of police activities, and legislative reform. These are just a few of the policies but these are good first steps in helping to end the suffering of wives, mothers, brothers and sisters. If we all continue to be vigilant and hold police and elected officials to the highest of standards then “It is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done.”1
 Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities English novelist (1812 - 1870)
In the 17th century, Thomas Hobson owned a livery stable in England. Afraid that his customers would always choose the best horses and wear those out, he would give a choice to take the horse in the stall nearest the door or to not take one at all.¹ Today we characterize this as a “take it or leave it” philosophy, an illusion of a free choice. The Conservatives that rule the Republican Party, following the example of Tom DeLay in Texas, have mastered the technique by gerrymandering Congressional districts. The 19th century British philosopher, John Stuart Mill, wrote of this, "When the individuals composing the majority would no longer be reduced to Hobson's choice, of either voting for the person brought forward by their local leaders, or not voting at all." ² This “I’ll make him an offer that he can’t refuse” mentality appears to be the motivation behind Conservative efforts to limit options for women. It often seems that the ultimate social goal of attacking abortion, birth control, equal pay and a myriad of other women’s issues, is to reinstate a misogynistic hegemony over women. As noted by Mill almost 150 years ago, "Those who attempt to force women into marriage by closing all other doors against them, lay themselves open to a similar retort. If they mean what they say, their opinion must evidently be, that men do not render the married condition so desirable to women, as to induce them to accept it for its own recommendations. It is not a sign of one's thinking the boon one offers very attractive, when one allows only Hobson's choice, 'that or none'....” ³ In world affairs, the Conservative reaction to threats follows a predictable pattern. We are offered Hobson’s choice between the drum beat for military action, closing borders, putting “them” in prison etc. or doing nothing, suffering defeat. This perpetual fear reflex works well on the rabid, low-information base. We must offer clear choices, real choices between our positions and the “My way or the highway” attitude of our opponents. We must not be dissuaded from voting by false Hobson’s choices that seem discouraging. We must affirm that this is not the end, nor the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning of the resurgence of progressive action.
²Mill, John Stuart (1861). Considerations on Representative Government (1 ed.). London: Parker, Son, & Bourn. p. 145.
³Mill, John Stuart (1869). The Subjection of Women (1869 first ed.). London: Longmans, Green, Reader & Dyer. pp. 51–2.