Divide and Conquer: The Bipartisan Plan to Break America
Both Republicans and Democrats blame the poor on each side, creating a terrible dissonance in our politics and in our nation's psyche.
Van Jones is a social entrepreneur, CNN political contributor and host of The Messy Truth with Van Jones. Famous for his heart-felt election night coverage, Jones showed up as “the voice of reason” for people in red states and blue throughout the volatile 2016 political season. In response to much civil unrest and energy post-election, Jones launched the #Love Army -- a values-based movement that is working for an America where everyone counts.
Jones has founded and led numerous social enterprises engaged in social and environmental justice, including The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Color of Change, and The Dream Corps.
Jones is a Yale-educated attorney. He is the author of two New York Times best-selling books, The Green Collar Economy (2008) and Rebuild the Dream (2012). The second book chronicles his journey as an environmental and human rights activist to becoming a White House policy advisor.
He was the main advocate for the Green Jobs Act. Signed into law by George W. Bush in 2007, the Green Jobs Act was the first piece of federal legislation to codify the term “green jobs.” During the Obama Administration, the legislation has resulted in $500 million in national funding for green jobs training.
In 2009, Jones worked as the green jobs advisor to President Barack Obama. In this role, Jones helped to lead the inter-agency process that oversaw the multi-billion dollar investment in skills training and jobs development within the environmental and green energy sectors.
Jones has been honored with numerous awards and spotlighted on several lists of high achievers, including: the World Economic Forum’s “Young Global Leader” designation; Rolling Stone’s 2012 “12 Leaders Who Get Things Done”; TIME’s 2009 “100 Most Influential People in The World”; and the Root's 2014 "The Root 100." In 2017, Van Jones signed a management deal with Roc Nation, becoming the first political commentator & activist in their family. Jones lives in the Los Angeles area with his wife & two children.
Van Jones: When people ask me how we got here, how did we come apart in the first place, I don’t blame any one politician or party.
There was a bipartisan elite consensus in the 1990s into the 2000s that really wrecked the middle class potential aspirations in the country. Both political parties said we could have these trade deals and they would be great for everybody. It was great for some people, but the industrial heartland just got kicked in the stomach. Both political parties said we could deregulate Wall Street let the banks do whatever they wanted to and it led to this massive crash that wiped out about a trillion dollars worth of wealth, millions of homes were lost. Both political parties said we could build prisons everywhere that would make the country better. It didn’t. Both political parties said we could get in these wars overseas and everything will work out fine. It hasn’t. So when you have repeated elite failure at the top of both parties a rebellion in both parties is justified and that’s really what you saw in 2016. You saw the Bernie Sanders rebels and frankly the Black Lives Matter rebels on the left and then you saw the Trump rebellion on the right. And as a result the political establishment got dumped on its butt and that is the context that you then have to try to figure out a way forward. Unfortunately when you have this level of elite failure and crisis people can either turn to each other or on each other.
Some forces in American society really seem intent on having us turn on each other and I would put Steve Bannon in that category, I would put Donald Trump in that category that they see a path to political power, at least for themselves, and maybe for some part of their constituency, that’s based on having people turn on each other. So turn on the immigrant communities, turn on the Muslims.
The Muslims are the most bizarre group for us to be attacking, American Muslims. They have the lowest crime rate of anybody in the United States; they have the lowest divorce rate; highest level of entrepreneurship; one of the highest levels of female education in the country. American Muslims are awesome. In fact they should be used as a propaganda weapon against the idea that America hates Muslims because American Muslims are killing it here, but we’re supposed to be mad at them, we’re supposed to be mad at the dreamers, Black Lives Matter. Turn Americans against each other and as long as your block is big enough to win gerrymandered elections then you get to be in power that’s the Bannon/Trump strategy. Now once you get in power you can’t get anything done, but who cares. When you have more failure and more dysfunction you can blame more people and stay in power. And so this is I think a very, very dangerous development mainly because it means that conservatism, which is a noble tradition in our country that has a lot of positives to say for itself, I’m a liberal so I think I can be objective there, there have been some great conservative leaders and contributions has now been hijacked and turned into anti-liberalism. Well anti-liberalism is not conservatism, it is a political strategy to attack certain constituents to defame certain ideas for the sole purpose of keeping your base riled up to keep you in power. And anti-liberalism is not a basis to govern a country, that’s on the right. On the left you have another set of failures in the aftermath of all this, which is a simple failure of progressives to recognize the ways that we have sometimes accidentally created a market for a Donald Trump because there’s a style of politics that’s become fashionable on the left that would rationally lead you to conclude if you are a straight white male conservative from a red state that you are no longer a part of the moral concern of progressives, that you are an other, you’re kind of an outsider, maybe even the enemy and that what you needed to do is to own your privilege and to give up a lot of standing in power that you shouldn’t have. And when you have that approach it really opens a door for a Donald Trump to say well these guys don’t like you, I do. These guys don’t want you, I do. These guys see you as unworthy, I see you as worthy. These guys want to put you down, I want to lift you up.
And we have an opportunity I think as progressives to draw our circle a little bit bigger again and just to make sure that it’s not just that we have the policies that would help white working class folks, we’ve always had the policies, but we also have the politics that says we need you, you’re a part of this, we want to lift you up, the America we’re trying to build actually will have more success and more good things for you in it than the country we have right now. It will also have more good stuff for the Muslims and the transgender folks and the Latinos and black folks, but you are a part of that parade of people that we want to see thrive and win in America. To the extent that you don’t hear that a lot from progressives you can’t then be mad when those folks don’t vote for you or when they vote against you. So both parties have fallen victim, I put more fault on one than the other, but both parties have fallen victim to a very easy mistake of just drawing your circle too small and pointing your fire at, frankly, poor people in the other party. So you see the Republican Party say “oh those dirty Mexicans and those black folks and those people” and that becomes a way to cheaply rally your base. And then sometimes on the left you see liberals, “those stupid red state voters, those hicks, those racist and bigoted Trump people blah, blah, blah,” sometimes not taking into account that some of those Trump voters may have some legitimate grievances or anxieties that we don’t talk about with much empathy or much sympathy or with much skill anymore and so both parties I think have to look in the mirror.
Log on to just about any comment section or Facebook thread and it won't take long to see some sort of political argument break out. Those on the conservative right tend to blame Mexicans, blacks, and what they perceive as "takers" (i.e., the poor). But while the Left likes to think that it is above that kind of finger-pointing, nothing could be further from the truth. The Left demonize white and rural in both party messaging and in policy: it's a very easy argument to make if you just tally up Hillary Clinton's travel—or lack thereof—to white, rural areas during the 2016 election. So how do we break the cycle? Van Jones shows us the mirror, and we may not like what we see in it. Van's latest book is Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together .
If you're lacking confidence and feel like you could benefit from an ego boost, try writing your life story.
In truth, so much of what happens to us in life is random – we are pawns at the mercy of Lady Luck. To take ownership of our experiences and exert a feeling of control over our future, we tell stories about ourselves that weave meaning and continuity into our personal identity.
Researchers hope the technology will further our understanding of the brain, but lawmakers may not be ready for the ethical challenges.
- Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine successfully restored some functions to pig brains that had been dead for hours.
- They hope the technology will advance our understanding of the brain, potentially developing new treatments for debilitating diseases and disorders.
- The research raises many ethical questions and puts to the test our current understanding of death.
The image of an undead brain coming back to live again is the stuff of science fiction. Not just any science fiction, specifically B-grade sci fi. What instantly springs to mind is the black-and-white horrors of films like Fiend Without a Face. Bad acting. Plastic monstrosities. Visible strings. And a spinal cord that, for some reason, is also a tentacle?
But like any good science fiction, it's only a matter of time before some manner of it seeps into our reality. This week's Nature published the findings of researchers who managed to restore function to pigs' brains that were clinically dead. At least, what we once thought of as dead.
What's dead may never die, it seems
The researchers did not hail from House Greyjoy — "What is dead may never die" — but came largely from the Yale School of Medicine. They connected 32 pig brains to a system called BrainEx. BrainEx is an artificial perfusion system — that is, a system that takes over the functions normally regulated by the organ. The pigs had been killed four hours earlier at a U.S. Department of Agriculture slaughterhouse; their brains completely removed from the skulls.
BrainEx pumped an experiment solution into the brain that essentially mimic blood flow. It brought oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, giving brain cells the resources to begin many normal functions. The cells began consuming and metabolizing sugars. The brains' immune systems kicked in. Neuron samples could carry an electrical signal. Some brain cells even responded to drugs.
The researchers have managed to keep some brains alive for up to 36 hours, and currently do not know if BrainEx can have sustained the brains longer. "It is conceivable we are just preventing the inevitable, and the brain won't be able to recover," said Nenad Sestan, Yale neuroscientist and the lead researcher.
As a control, other brains received either a fake solution or no solution at all. None revived brain activity and deteriorated as normal.
The researchers hope the technology can enhance our ability to study the brain and its cellular functions. One of the main avenues of such studies would be brain disorders and diseases. This could point the way to developing new of treatments for the likes of brain injuries, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and neurodegenerative conditions.
"This is an extraordinary and very promising breakthrough for neuroscience. It immediately offers a much better model for studying the human brain, which is extraordinarily important, given the vast amount of human suffering from diseases of the mind [and] brain," Nita Farahany, the bioethicists at the Duke University School of Law who wrote the study's commentary, told National Geographic.
An ethical gray matter
Before anyone gets an Island of Dr. Moreau vibe, it's worth noting that the brains did not approach neural activity anywhere near consciousness.
The BrainEx solution contained chemicals that prevented neurons from firing. To be extra cautious, the researchers also monitored the brains for any such activity and were prepared to administer an anesthetic should they have seen signs of consciousness.
Even so, the research signals a massive debate to come regarding medical ethics and our definition of death.
Most countries define death, clinically speaking, as the irreversible loss of brain or circulatory function. This definition was already at odds with some folk- and value-centric understandings, but where do we go if it becomes possible to reverse clinical death with artificial perfusion?
"This is wild," Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times. "If ever there was an issue that merited big public deliberation on the ethics of science and medicine, this is one."
One possible consequence involves organ donations. Some European countries require emergency responders to use a process that preserves organs when they cannot resuscitate a person. They continue to pump blood throughout the body, but use a "thoracic aortic occlusion balloon" to prevent that blood from reaching the brain.
The system is already controversial because it raises concerns about what caused the patient's death. But what happens when brain death becomes readily reversible? Stuart Younger, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University, told Nature that if BrainEx were to become widely available, it could shrink the pool of eligible donors.
"There's a potential conflict here between the interests of potential donors — who might not even be donors — and people who are waiting for organs," he said.
It will be a while before such experiments go anywhere near human subjects. A more immediate ethical question relates to how such experiments harm animal subjects.
Ethical review boards evaluate research protocols and can reject any that causes undue pain, suffering, or distress. Since dead animals feel no pain, suffer no trauma, they are typically approved as subjects. But how do such boards make a judgement regarding the suffering of a "cellularly active" brain? The distress of a partially alive brain?
The dilemma is unprecedented.
Setting new boundaries
Another science fiction story that comes to mind when discussing this story is, of course, Frankenstein. As Farahany told National Geographic: "It is definitely has [sic] a good science-fiction element to it, and it is restoring cellular function where we previously thought impossible. But to have Frankenstein, you need some degree of consciousness, some 'there' there. [The researchers] did not recover any form of consciousness in this study, and it is still unclear if we ever could. But we are one step closer to that possibility."
She's right. The researchers undertook their research for the betterment of humanity, and we may one day reap some unimaginable medical benefits from it. The ethical questions, however, remain as unsettling as the stories they remind us of.
- Prejudice is typically perpetrated against 'the other', i.e. a group outside our own.
- But ageism is prejudice against ourselves — at least, the people we will (hopefully!) become.
- Different generations needs to cooperate now more than ever to solve global problems.
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