Why Can’t the Majority Get What They Want?
Written by: 
Joe Morris Doss

Almost every American feels that he or she lacks agency; we all seem to share a feeling that we have very little say in what is going on and that we are relatively helpless to do anything about what bothers or concerns us. At the Threshold is offering a series that is intended to examine that frustration. We began by recognizing how globalization is remaking the way the world works, especially the way worldwide interconnections are so new and operate so very differently. We will come back to that, but the recent events demand that we divert from that path to examine another crucially important reality that causes us to feel scared, sad, and out of control. We can’t get what we want; it is the wealthy and the powerful who get what they want instead.

A majority of Americans want gun control. The extent of gun control that is desired varies, but overall the public wants to institute enough control to make it harder for someone to get a gun for the wrong reason. Even people who use guns for sport are, as a majority, in favor of some forms of control. Yet, we cannot so much as obtain a meaningful vote on the subject in Congress.

Those in society who are on the front lines in the fight against violence, crime, terrorism, and the actions of the mentally imbalanced are the police, law enforcement officials and institutions, and the military. These are the “experts” on guns, who have first order responsibility to counter the danger of guns and whose fundamental purpose is to protect the public from the danger of guns. These are the people who are most in danger when guns and weapons are in the wrong hands. Among the officials and the institutions with responsibility as public servants, these are the least subject to direct political pressures, and who don’t need to kowtow to the phony slogans of the IRA and arms manufacturers, or pretend to ignore the fact that gun control has worked everywhere else around the world. Yet, these people and these institutions distance themselves from gun control as a political “issue.”

Our hearts go out to police officers who are killed, and it is painful to see the sincere grief they express for their fallen comrades. But should this not mean that the police understand more than others the need for preventive protection rather than limiting themselves to after-the-fact responses and willingness to take the bullets in street firefights. Is it possible that the police do not see the need to protect themselves by controlling the proliferation of guns and weapons of war? Can they really think it is someone else’s job to rid us of the danger of guns? Where is Wyatt Earp when we need him?

The same holds true for officers of the court, who are willing to send people to jail but unwilling to prevent the need to arrest and imprison them for the use of guns. The military is the biggest purchaser or arms and munitions. Where are they when we need their expertise and their power regarding the manufacture, sale, and trading of armaments that appear on the streets even though they are, supposedly, only designed only for troops in armed combat?
Gun control is the immediate issue to which we must point, but there are many other issues about which the will of the people is frustrated. Why do the wealthy pay a far lower tax rate than middle-class workers? Why, in the face of the gradual awakening of the vast majority of citizens to the dangers of climate change, have even modest environmental reforms been defeated time after time, and why is there so little attention being given to development of alternative forms of energy? Why have protections for employees been devastated? Why are so many people so obviously choosing to vote against their own and their family’s economic interests?

The ugly reality is that in the America of today a small minority of very wealthy people, and certain massively powerful industries, have enough money to get what they want instead of what the people want. In fact, their wealth is such – and thus they enjoy so much more “free speech” which others cannot afford – that most of the time there are plenty of voters who can be convinced that what they should want, is what they are told to want. A network of excessively wealthy people with extreme and inevitably self-serving views are bankrolling support of personally held beliefs, such as the notion that taxes, government regulation of business, and any control of gun sales are violations of freedom. These wealthy and politically motived movers and shakers are shockingly successful, and they are likely to continue to be successful until our political and judicial system finds some way to remove the controlling power of money in politics.

This insight deserved far more attention than can be granted in this space. For a revealing, almost sure to be a shocking, revelation of the problem we suggest the best selling book Dark Money, by Jane Mayer (an investigative reporter on the staff of “The New Yorker”).


The Confusing New World
Written by:
Joe Morris Doss

The vote by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union has caused all of us to sit up and pay attention to new realities. No one is confident of predicting where that decision may lead, but we all know that important things are going to be different. The fact is, this crisis is due in large measure, perhaps decisively, to the way everything is already changing from what we know and assumed to be relatively permanent.

Even though we know better, we still tend to see history as leading up to now, and somehow feel that this is fundamentally the way it will be – adding in the improvements and rough bumps in the road – world without end. Most of us picture Western history roughly in terms of a movement from the primitive life of tribal hunting and gathering, to agriculturally based ethnic communities that began to settle in defined territories, to a civilization of empires, to some dark ages, that in turn gave rise to rule by feudal lords, and then built to the establishment of princedoms and finally monarchical nations having ethnically homogeneous populations, to culminate in nation-states, increasingly governed as liberal parliamentary democracies, finally forming an international community of nations that hold a rather broadly based common vision of international law and human rights. From here it should be onward and upward with that!

But of course history is always on the move and suddenly we are starting to feel like we are on a runaway horse without a good grip on the reins or a saddle with stirrups. We are in the beginning stages of a technological revolution, which for the time being we might term “the digital age.” But we are also in the crisis of going from a world order grounded in nation-states to, well, whatever globalization is going to become. Already we have gone beyond the straightforward and exclusive governance by governments, and the populations within national territories are less and less defined by a homogeneous ethnic identify.

Governance now occurs, not only through governments that are accountable to the people of a state, but through decisions made and actions taken by market agents (such as multinational corporations, social entrepreneurs, and micro-financiers), inter-governmental organizations (IGOs), and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Some facts to ponder:

  • As of 2010, there were about 200 nations that have relations with one another;
  • 130 of the countries were unable to feed the population, and had to rely on the generosity of outside resources, many if not most provided through NGO and IGO operations.
  • There were close to 100,000 multinational corporations that constantly negotiate with governments and one another;
  • There were at least 50,000 transnational NGO’s (Non-governmental Organizations) that consulted on international laws and treaties and intervene in conflict zones to provide assistance to regimes and peoples in need (There was only one as of 1970: Common Cause, a watch-dog organization in the US made famous for the Watergate Reforms)
  • Of the 100 largest economic entities in the world, half were companies. At the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, corporations had their own pavilions alongside countries;
  • HSBC had 20,000 offices in 83 countries, 300,000 employees, and 150 million customers.
  • More than 100 countries have external voting rights for citizens of other countries in diaspora and 11 reserve seats in parliament for them.
  • In 2006, people of the US (not the government) sent $192 billion to the developing world – most of it in foreign investment, portfolio capital, foundation grants, and philanthropic giving.

A random list providing some sense of NGOs:

Americans for Informed Democracy, World Economic Forum, CARE, Save the Children, Mercy Corps, US Committee to Expand NATO, Clinton Global Initiative, Peace Corps, U.S. Overseas Private Investment Company, Global Business Council for HIV/AIDS, International Campaign for Tibet, Lighting a Billion Lives, Open Society Institute, The Soros Foundation, International Crisis Group, International Rescue Committee, National Solidarity Program, Business for Diplomatic Action, The Business and Human Rights Resource Center, Human Rights Watch, Transparency International, AccountAbility, LeapFrog Investments, The Self-Employed Women’s Association, Kiva, World Wide Water, Clinical Directors Network, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, Institute for OneWorld Health, Habitat for Humanity, International Union for the Conservation of Nature

Only governments, and international organizations founded by governmental accords and agreements have the traditional sort of direct accountability to a population that provides legitimacy of power.

Businesses are directly accountable only to shareholders.

NGOs are accountable to standards set by donors, charities, customers, and their own competition. The legitimacy they are granted depends on their authority of expertise, impartiality, representativeness, and transparency of operations.

The ability of NGOs, as well as businesses, to leverage technology and capital enables them at times to bypass governments altogether.

It is a confusing, churning international picture, within a hot house of rapid change and newly arising realities: new powers, failed states, multinational corporations, organized crime, cyber crime, drug cartels, terrorism, powerful families, increased percentage of wealth in the hands of a decreasing percentage of individuals, vast amounts of inherited wealth, religious radicals, humanitarian philanthropists, powerful and independent organizations, and on and on.

Technology and money, not sovereignty, seems increasingly determinative of who has authority and calls the shots.

No wonder we feel that little ol’ us lacks agency. “Grab a ‘hold and ride,” seems more like the order of the day.

But, stand by, more coming.


Where Is the Leadership of The Military and Law Enforcement in Protecting Us Against Guns in the Wrong Hands?
Written by: Joe Morris Doss

Shame on you, Officials of Law Enforcement!

Shame on you, Leaders of the Military!

Trained officers who use guns professionally, and lead men and women who use guns professionally, know what these killing instruments are for and what they are not for.

Why are you not standing up and demanding that society rid itself of the wrongful use of guns through controls you know very well how to set up and employ?

Why are you not leading the rest of us in the establishment of laws that limit the use of guns to what you as professionals understand to be intentions that are suitable and right?

We take note that you do not allow anyone to go onto military posts with a gun – including soldiers – with the singular exception of military police. Yet, you say nothing as criminals, drug dealers, gangs, and kids walk the streets of American cities, towns, and villages with guns in their pockets – as innocent citizens are killed in our land each and every day.

The truth is that you have the standing, authority, and respect to succeed in providing the leadership needed for gun control. Why do you fail us?

You talk about providing leadership, but you fail to provide it at the most fundamental level of your professional aims. You claim that the very purpose for your existence is to protect citizens, but you fail to do the single most obvious thing you can to actually protect us – prevention of violence. Prosecutors and judges, people throughout the system of criminal justice, claim that they are working for our protection – including putting away human beings who use guns wrongfully – and yet do nothing about having the guns themselves put away.

Enough!

You are guilty. You are in neglect of your duty.

You are called upon to turn about and act in accord with your purposes as law enforcement and military leaders. You are called upon to demand laws that effectively protect the innocent people of the United States from the foolish proliferation of weapons of war and crime!


The Sound of Glass Cracking in the Proverbial Ceiling
Written by: 
Joe Morris Doss

Put aside the matter of choosing for whom you personally will vote. The fact that each of us will have the opportunity to vote for a woman has to be recognized as a highly significant moment in American history, and it is my hope that all Americans – Republicans, independents, and Democrats alike – are, at least to that extend, proud of our democracy. Equality is hard to come by for some categories of persons, and throughout history, women – more than half of the human race – have suffered inequality that should now be viewed as shocking. The day is coming, and this nomination is a big step forward, when all forms of discrimination against women will be unacceptable.

I offer my viewpoint as a white male who knows something about authority and power that seems to come without necessarily being earned. I am a husband and a father, and therefore someone who realizes the need to empower women at a very personal level. I am a leader of the church, and therefore committed to the welfare of all of her members. I am a theologian and therefore someone who understands the religious and moral issues relevant in the quest for equality and justice. I am an attorney and therefore someone who is familiar with the Constitutional and legal issues at hand. But I offer you my personal perspective on discrimination against women especially as a pastor.

The first thing I have to say is really outrageous. That is, it is outrageous that it has to be said at all: Every human being is equally a child of God. Women are equal to men, and to one another, and women are due nothing less than that recognition and that standing. It simply is not enough to acknowledge that, it has to be constitutionally established and made effective within our legal, political, social, and religious spheres.

In fact, I have an outrageous question: If Mrs. Clinton is elected, should she be paid at the same level as her husband when he was President? Noting that most women holding the same job as a man do not receive equal pay, it is an outrageously meaningful question, and one that must be removed in the only way possible.

The next thing I have to say to you as a pastor is very important but seems too little considered. Those of us who participate in a system that discriminates are the people most in need of being freed from it. Martin Luther King spoke as a pastor to those who cannot see the harm to themselves in prejudice and actions of discrimination. From a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama, he shed the light of reality on fellow clergymen who wanted to avoid the struggle of their day in obtaining equality for all human beings:

“In a real sense all life is inter-related. All are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be…This is the inter-related structure of reality.” 

Finally, I want to say how obviously this nomination makes the case against discrimination within the institutional life of God’s church. The church is intended to be the pioneer for justice in society, but when it comes to women the church is being dragged kicking and screaming into the inevitable realization that it is its own worst enemy. The faith community in which I have a formal role as a bishop, together with most of the mainline protestant churches, has been and remains guilty enough, though decisions have been made to begin correction of our path. But when one sees the determined prejudice and discrimination against women in the very largest of our communities, ranging from the fundamentalist evangelical churches to the sacramental Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, one is staggered by the realization of how far the Christian church is from the way of our Lord. We must call each other to reform whatever is required in order to fully include women in all of the life of the church, including all leadership roles, into which they are baptized!

The model for Christians is Jesus himself, and despite the failures of his church down through the centuries of patriarchal domination, despite the way certain parts of his church still oppress women in his name, Jesus himself treated women exactly as he did with men. We see that he surrounded himself with women; He not only gathered them and associated with them, he made them part of his inner circle. We see how much trouble he got in because of his interaction with women. He was declared unclean and unworthy of leadership in that patriarchal society. We see that the first person he appeared to after the resurrection was a woman and it was this woman he chose as his first apostle to send with the news and spread it as The Good News.

Matters like racial bigotry and the oppression of women was, and for some Christians remain, examples of religious conscience. It is the religious conscience that has to change! The inequality of women and all offenses against justice must be prohibited in the church as well as in law. For where justice is violated we may find religious beliefs, but we will not find God.