Letters To The Editor 1/27/2019

January 27, 2019

Scapegoating poisonous

Editor: Martin Luther King Jr. Day keeps getting more relevant, urgent and critical.

King became a symbol for a better nation and world. That idealized world hasn’t been realized. Many remain in confusion and despair.

Suicide rates dramatically have increased, along with “diseases of despair” such as substance abuse and gambling. When community breaks down, we care less about ourselves and fulfilling our social contract of mutual responsibility to each other.

We resort to primitive tribalism: racism and unhealthy forms of nationalism. We delude ourselves in thinking we can circle wagons against “the other.” There are healthy forms of tribalism and nationalism and they are beautiful achievements.

Rene´ Girard, a philosopher of social sciences, theorized that the fundamental unity of human societies has been through scapegoating. Early human communities learned to suppress conflicts with each other by focusing negatively on one individual. Humans were sacrificed. Communities felt “cleansed of their sins.” Peace and harmony ensued until conflicts and sacrificial scapegoating resumed.

Scapegoating, according to Girard, was how societies controlled interpersonal conflict and violence, which otherwise would have destroyed them. Importantly, sacrificial rituals facilitated violence among the crowd. We see examples of this at political rallies. We saw it in the 1930s in Europe. We see it there again, as well as here.

Scapegoating is unconscious. If the participants are aware of the victim’s innocence, the mechanism falls apart. It is vital, therefore, to realize that scapegoating occurs. Wealth inequality dramatically has increased in recent decades. A few dozen people reportedly own half of the world’s wealth. We face cascading environmental and political crises. Scapegoating has evolved to a political strategy. It works.

If citizens are too divided, we cannot advocate effectively for our common welfare. The stakes are critical.

King was killed by commingling scapegoating and violence. Our response to our current collective crises must be courageous, intelligent, compassionate and strenuous.





Constitutional affront

Editor: In May 1787 delegates met in Philadelphia to establish a new nation.

Having thrown off British tyranny in a war, in drafting the Constitution, they attempted to keep tyranny in check by dividing three functions of government — legislative, executive and judicial powers — among separate and equal institutions, Congress, the presidency and the Supreme Court. Under the Constitution, Congress levies taxes and makes laws. The House appropriates funds from the Treasury.

The Constitution directs that the president enforces laws, oversees federal government operations, commands the armed forces, appoints federal officials, makes treaties and prepares an annual budget. But the president may not appropriate Treasury funds.

President Trump shut down the government to try to force the House to appropriate money for a wall along our border with Mexico. He said he would reopen the government when the House provided money for his wall. He agreed on Friday to a compromise to reopen the government.

This position was extortion, a naked attempt to usurp the fiscal prerogative of the House, upsetting the checks and balances in the Constitution. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi stood firm against the White House, refusing to negotiate with Trump until he ended the shutdown and reopened the government. Negotiations while the government was shut down only would legitimize his unconstitutional attempt to gain access to the nation’s purse strings.

The House must pass a bill defining extortion of funds from Congress as an impeachable offense. Every representative in the House must support it, because they all have sworn to support and defend the Constitution. Once it reaches the Senate, senators must support it for the same reason. If Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won’t let the Senate vote on it, he must be removed from office for dereliction of duty.

Our Constitution is under attack and the president is the enemy. The stakes are higher than ever before in our history.




Monumental inspiration

Editor: In June 1923, three students from Technical High School in Scranton were accepted into our military academies.

It was a great accomplishment for these three young men. William Bartosch and Theodore Kalakuka were accepted into West Point and Noble Lowrie went to the U.S. Naval Academy. They studied and worked hard in school.

Our public schools in the 1920s had to overcome many obstacles. The kids attending them and their parents also had many hardships to overcome. But through determination and hard work they made a good life for themselves and their families.

Our kids today have many opportunities awaiting them in America. But you need to work hard, study and be determined to succeed. Do not focus on the negative news about our city or school district. There is much going on in our schools and our city that is positive and you can have confidence that if you do your part, opportunities will present themselves.

Kalakuka went on to be a great American hero in World War II and his story is a remarkable one. Lt. Col. Kalakuka will be named on our Scranton Veterans Memorial Park Monument, which will sit on Scranton School District property just outside Scranton Veterans Memorial Stadium. There are many excellent role models for our young people to learn about who will be named on the monument. I do not have information on Bartosch or Lowrie but I bet they also were successful in their careers.

Young people of Scranton, work hard and be determined in your endeavors. Overcome obstacles and strive for success. Do not focus on what the school district is doing during this recovery ordered by the state. Instead, set your goals and work hard to achieve them.





Editor’s note: The writer is a retired Scranton School District teacher.