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Forgiving the Butcher of Auschwitz

Eva Kor at Auschwitz: Forgiving Dr. Mengele

A Letter to My Spiritual Director

Dear Marcia,

Last week I saw a remarkable documentary called “Forgiving Dr. Mengele,” featuring a Holocaust survivor from Terre Haute, Indiana named Eva Kor.

I knew of her work prior to seeing the movie. Several years ago she started a small museum in a strip mall, devoted to documenting Mengele’s so-called medical experiments on 1400 groups of identical twins at Auschwitz. Eva and her sister Miriam were among his victims.

They both survived and were liberated by the Russians in 1945. But they lost every other member of their family.

Other museums, the big famous ones, try to be comprehensive in telling the whole story of the Holocaust. Mrs. Kor’s CANDLES Museum in Terre Haute focuses on the twins.

CANDLES stands for Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors.

I found it so remarkable that someone would start a Holocaust Museum in a small Indiana city like Terre Haute that I’ve made a couple of small donations over the years. I don’t care if it is in a strip mall, it’s an important witness right where it is. It’s one thing to know there’s a big, prestigious museum in Washington, D.C., which you can visit while you’re taking in all the other national monuments. It’s another thing to go out of your way to an obscure town where there’s a real live survivor who tells her story and others’.

One could say that because Eva and Miriam were twins, they were kept alive for Mengele’s experiments instead of put to death immediately. But the experiments in fact were forms of torture. Miriam was injected with something that eventually killed her in middle age. Eva was also sickened to the point of death while still in the camp.

However, even as a child she was incredibly strong-willed, and stayed alive to protect her sister. She utterly refused to die.

Another Holocaust survivor who later became famous wrote that the decision to survive at all costs is what made the difference between living and dying. Dr. Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist who wrote of his Auschwitz experience in Man’s Search for Meaning. It’s considered one of the most important books of the 20th century.

I read it a few years ago; it’s very moving. Part of its enormous value derives from the fact that it was published in 1946 right after the war, while his memories were most acute – not that he ever forgot what happened to him. How could a person forget?

But I also felt, reading it decades later, that the publication date was almost a shortcoming, because he hadn’t had time to reflect on his experience. The memoir portion of the book is less than a hundred pages, then he goes on to expound about a psychotherapeutic approach he termed logotherapy, “of the word.”

Sixty-five years later in 2010, Eva Kor has had time to reflect; to build a life, marry a fellow Holocaust survivor, settle with him in Indiana, raise two great kids, earn her own money as a real estate agent (that’s how she knew when the strip mall space became vacant) and establish her small unique museum. She hasn’t forgotten a thing.

While Dr. Frankl focused in later years on the healing of others as his work, Mrs. Kor wondered how to heal herself.

That is the point at which her story and mine begin to overlap; at which her story and that of millions of others begin to overlap.

We have, nearly all of us, experienced huge trauma in our lives. True, this “does not compare” with being a victim of Mengele at Auschwitz; nothing compares to that. No one gives prizes to the most traumatized among us. But if they did, Auschwitz survivors would win.

USA Today had an article the other day reporting that 60% of American adults say they had a “troubled” childhood. This was defined as having experienced physical or sexual abuse, or suffering parental separation such as divorce. (I kind of snort at the last one, but okay, it’s not up to me to define what’s traumatic for a kid. I was glad when my parents were divorced.)

I’m not sure how to take that 60% figure; is it high or low? What about the traumas of adulthood – war in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan? What about parents whose children are murdered, or otherwise die young?

Trauma is the human condition, but it’s especially devastating when it happens to children. They are powerless. Their minds form vivid impressions. They never forget.

They spend the rest of their lives trying to make sense of what happened to them – trying to overcome it somehow. A few manage this, but most don’t.

I haven’t either, until now, thanks to Eva Kor.

As you know my particular trauma was domestic violence committed by my father. I’m not going to detail it here but it was terrifying; my father tried to kill us several times. I feel like I spent my whole childhood trying to talk him down. Later I became a social worker, talking other people down.

We know about child sexual abuse that it warps a kid for life. The same is true of violence. The experience takes root in the soul and grows inside our bodies, even if we physically survive to adulthood.

The domestic terrorism committed by my father ended up killing my brother Steve, who died of alcoholism in 2001.

It’s come close to killing me of the same thing.

The crucial aspect of alcoholism and other addictions is that they are self-inflicted. “You can stop if you want to.” Well, yes, now help me want to!

How do we heal a broken child? How does that child heal herself?

Eva Kor discovered, over six decades of personal growth and reflection and hard work and fun and depression and unadulterated sadness that the only way to heal herself was to forgive the Nazis, especially Dr. Mengele.

This has made her very controversial among Holocaust survivors. Many of them believe (and the movie illustrates this, no holds barred) that they cannot and must not forgive – because forgiveness would mean that what happened to them, all the monstrous enormity of it, would disappear.

They believe in a world of Holocaust deniers that they can’t let that happen.

In the process they empower the Holocaust deniers and cripple themselves. A very brave woman in the film, who is furious with Eva Kor and her forgiveness, unwittingly reveals that her whole life has been ruined by the trauma. Even her children tell her she’s incapable of smiling or enjoying anything; she recounts this, which she knows is true, but still refuses to let go, because it would mean it never happened – and she knows it did. Her life’s whole meaning is insisting that it happened.

She is trapped by the emotional decisions she made as a child in 1944. And we have to honor her for them; it all happened just as she says.

In the same way we now have people coming forward all over the world, testifying about their sexual and physical abuse at the hands of Catholic priests and nuns, oftentimes decades after it stopped.

Our hearts go out to them. How do you heal a traumatized child?

How do we help them put two ideas together that seem so opposed? Yes, it happened, and yes, now is your time to live and thrive?

My brother Steve never managed this, smart as he was. He didn’t have to drink himself to death, but that was his way of protesting what our father did to him, and to us.

Unfortunately this procedure never hurt our dad one bit.

People seem to have just a few responses to trauma; I see it in my own family. One is denial; that was my mother’s favorite way, and oh, did it make me furious with her in time. She should have protected us kids, and she didn’t. Nor would she ever talk about it, much less apologize.

My oldest brother escaped. Moved to Colorado, built his own life, never dealt with his father again. In the process he also abandoned his two younger brothers. As the youngest, I was still in the home with my mother and father, dodging bullets, knives and other weapons. But at least Dick survived.

A third way involves revenge; make the Nazis pay. That’s the secret motivation of Jona Lake, the Holocaust survivor in the film who is so enraged by Mrs. Kor’s Nazi amnesty. Ms. Lake secretly wants the Nazis to apologize on a grand scale (just as Catholic sexual abuse victims want the Pope to do) and to pay through the nose.

But Nazis and popes don’t apologize, and neither did my dad. Ms. Lake is the one who is paying instead.

The third way, motivated by revenge, is connected to the fourth way, which is to turn the trauma inward through self-destruction. To a child this is a way of honoring oneself, insisting it did happen – “as you can plainly see by my alcoholism/suicidalness/failures in life.” Unfortunately it’s emotionally crooked and never punishes the perpetrators.

Still, this self-destruction has always been my way, paradoxically, of honoring the child I once was and still am. I’m just like Steve – except I’m not; he continued to be enmeshed with our father, rescuing him from his many scrapes and problems, for decades after I gave up.

Steve was also the first of us to die; it was so needless, but no one could prevent it. He was determined to prove that what happened to him really happened. But the object of his affection and hatred never apologized.

Since Steve’s death I’ve also found out he emotionally abused his wife and daughters. I didn’t believe it at first but now I do. His daughter Annie told me a few stories and I immediately recognized the pattern; yup, that was Steve. Fortunately I never did that kind of thing, I made myself pay instead of anyone else.

The only way to heal from childhood trauma is to forgive the Nazis. Eva Kor is right, as difficult a thing as it is to do. Otherwise the trauma just eats at you forever.

She did get one Nazi to tell the truth; Dr. Hans Munch, a Mengele associate, was the only one acquitted of war crimes at a trial in Krakow in 1947. As the movie shows, he’s still traumatized by guilt – so no doubt Eva’s forgiveness matters greatly to him.

Jona Lake is wrong; Eva Kor has devoted her life to truth-telling about the Holocaust and getting others to do the same.

Until I was 50 I didn’t even know what forgiveness was. I knew that Jesus ordered it strongly (“seventy times seven”) but I didn’t know how to go about it. I was caught up just like Ms. Lake in that childhood bind; forgiveness would mean it never happened.

In time though I forgave my parents. I could see, by examining my life and theirs, that my thinking was childish and unrealistic; Nazis don’t apologize, so what’s the point of destroying myself? Besides, my parents didn’t actually succeed in killing us, just scaring us to death. Maybe “they did the best they could,” though Lord-have-mercy that’s the best they could???

I learned to forgive them. But I still couldn’t stop hurting myself. Was it habit? Was I warped, even ruined? Why didn’t forgiving my parents make me better?

Now, having watched the movie, I know the answer. I had someone else to forgive. I thought it was just my parents but no, not at all.

Not by any stretch of the imagination. Forgiving my parents was the crucial step, but only one of two – and I didn’t know who my other abuser was.

But I found out last week, in prayer that soon had me writhing on the floor, unable to stand, screaming and crying to God.

Afterward I was a total wreck. No energy, no life left in me, all I could do was sit and watch the boob tube with my dog. I never watch TV, but that was all I was capable of.

Who else did I have to forgive?

If it seems far-fetched to you that these distant personages have had such a direct impact on my life, consider: I’ve been a Gay activist since 1974. I was full-time as the editor and publisher of Ohio’s Gay Newspaper from 1985-1994, covering politicians, serial killers and killer-thief-hustlers, arsonists who torched a house for people with AIDS in Canton, on and on and on; let me add this billionaire asshole, who wrote anti-Gay discrimination into the city charter of Cincinnati:

Carl Lindner Jr.

Consider too what the ultimate goal is of bigots: to make Gay people (Blacks, Hispanics, Jews) internalize in their minds the inferiority they set out to enforce on our bodies.

Among the "King's Speeches": "I thought men like that shot themselves."

I don’t think I over-identify with GLBT people; I think I identify with them.

So I had a major piece of forgiveness to do – and after watching Eva Kor’s movie, I am suddenly set free.

I strongly suggest, if you need soul-healing, you watch “Forgiving Dr. Mengele.”

It will be wrenching, but you will find, no matter how old you are, that it takes away your taste for self-destruction.

Even better, go to the CANDLES Museum in Terre Haute and ask Eva Kor to show you around. Yes, she’s still alive, giving speeches, teaching students, exchanging hugs with children and living her life in freedom.

I’m headed there this spring and you’re invited.++

Jeff Sharlet’s Book ‘The Family’: Governance by Fratboys

Today I received a copy of Jeff Sharlet’s 2008 book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. It’s about the secret, amorphous, mysterious cabal of American and international politicians (think Uganda and its famous “Kill the Gays” bill) that to some extent controls Congress, the White House and foreign governments.

Somehow the author managed to worm his way into the innermost reaches of this secret-but-open group of up-and-comers, businessmen, lobbyists and elected officials. He says he wasn’t trying to produce an exposé, he was just a student of religion (half-Jewish, half-Episcopalian) trying to sort things out. He was not trying to act like an investigative reporter, but that’s what he’s turned into.

I’ve only read a few dozen pages, but already the names are dropping like December snows: Ronald Reagan, Chuck Grassley, Jimmy Carter, Billy Graham, Trent Lott, the CEO of Raytheon. This group is not, in Hillary Clinton’s famous term, “the vast right-wing conspiracy” you might have been expecting. It’s all informal, easy as the breeze on your shoulder. There’s no real organization (except there is); big money changes hands, but it results from social networking, not grand plans. Those who have money pass it on to those who need it, and soon there’s a new institute, a new list of talking points, a new initiative to save the world for Jesus Christ, portrayed here as a capitalist street fighter who doesn’t care if you’re religious or not, as long as you obey him. Indeed, calling yourself a “Christian” is considered off-putting, so you should just obey.

Do they study the Bible? Not really. Pray a lot? No. Go to church all the time? They’re too busy.

Liberals can easily imagine a rogue’s gallery of fat-cat theocrats getting together to control the world; but Sharlet dubs their movement “American fundamentalism,” as opposed to the Christian kind, because while they’re certainly devoted to the Nazarene, they are most distinguished by their desire to extend and entrench American power over other nations. That’s why Africa’s so interesting to them, even though they know that dominating that continent of chaos (and natural resources) will take a very long time.

The book isn’t what I expected – which may be a strength of the book. Because what the author reveals isn’t just a good-ole-boys network of the well-heeled, well-connected and well-dressed, but a casually inept group of fratboys with no utter clue.

How else did Sharlet get in without being thoroughly investigated?

Admission depends on being “recommended” by someone inside, but the criteria are lax in the extreme.

Within days of gaining entrance to a “Family” outpost in the Virginia suburbs of D.C., Sharlet witnesses a new Congressman, Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kansas), being “tutored” by Doug Coe, the head of the outfit, as another Congressman looks on, dabbing his lips with a red bar napkin reading “Let Me Call You SWEETHEART… I Can’t Remember Your Name.”

I can barely imagine the fireworks if even a few women I know got hold of this.

Patriarchy and sexism are built into this “Family,” ’cause the Bible said so, y’know? The treatment of women that Sharlet describes is so backwards-’50s that even Ricky Nelson’s mother would complain.

But the guys are totally oblivious.

Mr. Coe, the grand poobah, is fond of comparing his amorphous “cells” of testosteroned athletes to Communists, Nazis and the Mafia – all of whom relied on secrecy. He’s frank in admiring organized crime, because the “made men” never talk. Thus they endure beyond all efforts to root them out and put them in jail.

The people they remind me of are the Ku Klux Klan.

I wonder why on earth any politician, regardless of party or ideology, would risk associating himself with these amateur fratboys. But the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

It’s not by accident that the Family’s tax-free “church”-cum-boardinghouse on “C” Street in D.C. has been the scene recently of one sex scandal after another; Sen. John Ensign, Gov. Mark Sanford, Rep. Chip Pickering. These Gay-hating politicians feel no restraints on their own sexual misconduct; the group encourages it with its condescending view of the female sex.

No property taxes; this Republican boarding house on C Street is a "church."

“I’m too drunk to remember you, so Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” Of course there are dim-witted (and sometimes religious) women who go along with this.

Why shouldn’t Sanford, Pickering and Ensign screw around? They have a whole army of street-fighting Jesus action figures standing behind them. Political struggles come and go, invariably provoked by the “enemy,” who might be Satan or Al Qaeda or some Muslim guy sightseeing from Duluth.

Tom DeLay, Jim DeMint, Pete Domenici; Bob Taft, Randall Terry, Clarence Thomas. Ed Meese, Dick Lugar, Joe McCarthy; Ted Haggard, Sam Brownback, George W. Bush. There’s nowhere you can go and escape these people. The Constitution grants them the free right of association and the practice of religion, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.

But jeez, they’re vulnerable; would you want to belong to the political equivalent of the Mafia?

The fact that all these guys do is a testimony; belonging is a lot better than not – and Jeff Sharlet, Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann (and Josh Thomas) do not begin to have the clout of that house on “C” Street.++

Rumblings at the Foot of the Spiritual Volcano

Kilauea, Hawai'i.

I went to see my spiritual director Tuesday for our monthly meeting. It was good; it always is. But it left me with some spiritual rumblings down deep somewhere – and rather than blowing my top it might be better to open up a little vent further down the hillside so I don’t cover everything I touch with red, angry lava.

I think I can do this without knocking over Leonardo’s house, so let’s see what happens.

She asked me a question, whether there’s a church I can go to close to home, a place that would feed me spiritually even if it isn’t everything I want it to be.

This is because I’m an Episcopalian and there aren’t many churches around here. To get to my home parish I have to get up two hours early and cross the DMZ; that is, the time zone line between Central and Eastern Time drawn three miles south of my house. I’m on Chicago time, while most of Indiana’s with New York. So I don’t go to church very often, only for the biggest services of the year, which are held the night before.

I’m a night person; I love the dawn when I see it but it doesn’t happen that often.

Her question, asked out of love because she knows I live in isolation and need to be part of a community, provoked a complex response, including this puzzlement: why does a person go to church at all?

I don’t assume that the readers of this blog go to church; my Gay Spirit Diary is open to everyone, churchgoers or not, believers or not, Gay or not. Keep reading if you feel like it; maybe you’ve got rumblings too.

Marcia is an ordained Presbyterian minister who for many years was the chief pastor of a prominent downtown church in the next county over from me. Then at some point things changed and it was time for her to go. I don’t know what the issue was, I’ve never asked, I’m not sure I care to know. Maybe someone decided she was too liberal; maybe she made a mistake. I don’t really think so, but it’s possible; I’ve never asked and she’s never said. I’m not going to pick at that scab. I only know that she is wonderful to me, joyful and loving and deeply faithful.

She has recovered nicely, has a part-time job as an adjunct professor of art at the local Catholic college, does “pulpit supply” on Sundays all over the area, produces marvelous paintings and is married to a smart, sexy guy who’s becoming a friend of mine. Ote (pronounced Otie, short for Otis) is a marathoner, an ex-farmer, a gourmet chef and all-around piece of work. I like having these particular heterosexuals in my life.

However, Marcia is left without a regular worshiping community, and so am I. We don’t get fed very often. Her question Tuesday afternoon left me wondering, Why is it we go to church? What motivates us to rise up out of bed, shower and dress and drive?

Could I find most of what I’m looking for in a congregation on this side of the time zone? Do they have to be Episcopalians, or will other Protestants or Catholics do? Is there anyone else around here who would satisfy me, speak to me, or is my only alternative trekking down two clock-hours (50 miles, but still, two hours) to my home parish? What do I get when I go there?

Do I go for the people? No, never have. They are not my “church family.” I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced a church family. Perhaps I’d like to, but I never go to church because of the people who might be there.

I go because of God, not my fellow travelers on the Way. I’ve never gotten much of anything from them – and maybe I’ve never given much either.

When I go to church the transaction’s between me and Him-or-Her. I go to encounter God, not to socialize, though it’s wonderful to meet people afterwards. I’m an Episcopalian because they help God encounter people more directly than any other church I’ve ever been to.

After that, coffee hour’s a real bonus; all these people who got up out of bed, dressed and drove for the same reasons I did. I like them; we understand the world the same way.

God does as much or more for them as s/he does for me. Of course I love meeting them! Church is a gathering of people who believe God loves peace, not war; justice, not oppression; inclusion, not exclusion. I love Episcopalians, and in my national tour two years ago I had a fabulous time. North and south, east and west, urban, suburban and rural, I was always at home with Episcopalians.

I don’t want to be triumphalist here; we are terrible sinners and we know it. It helps that we understand sin as corporate as well as personal. “Sin” is less who you fuck than who you screw.

And we have the gift of preaching clergy who seldom fail to point out who, as mostly privileged White Americans, we are failing to treat as God’s own loved ones.

One of the things I like best about my church is that the People are Biblically-grounded, that we try seriously to conform our lives to the faith and ethics Jesus laid down; that we consider the worship of God as high and transcendent art, demanding the best of us and lofting us to heaven in music, Word, preaching and Sacrament, in which we experience great joy. I can go to any Episcopal church in the world, whether we speak English, Tsalagi, Spanish or Haitian, and have a fabulous spiritual time because I’ve connected with God.

I don’t know any other denomination like this. I’m sure the same thing happens in congregations worldwide, regardless of labels and hierarchies, but with time and reinforcement, the Brand Name has come to matter to me. You always know what you’ll get at a Holiday Inn.

To Marcia’s question, challenging my denominationalism, I replied, “Maybe the ELCA, but there aren’t any here; all the nearby Lutherans are Missouri Synod (anti-Gay).”

How could I associate myself with churches that are anti-Gay? I can’t. With churches that think women are supposed to be subordinate to men, because of out-of-context interpretations of St. Paul? I can’t. With churches that think some White European is an infallible authoritarian pope? I can’t. With Methodists who seldom do sacraments despite Jesus’s clear direction to “Do this”? I can’t. For 1500 years the only Sunday service was Holy Communion, but Methodists are once-a-monthers, or once a quarter! I can’t.

So I heave a big sigh, and wonder why anyone goes to church. Because of the people, the “church family?”

I suppose if I got to know them and suppressed all my objections, I’d find that Disciples (with their lay administration and tossing the unused elements out to the birds) and Pentecostals (with their fixation on speaking in tongues) and Catholics (who pay no attention until the sanctus bell wakes them up) and Presbyterians (who think fucking matters more than screwing) are wonderful people. But I don’t go to church because of the people. I go to meet the one true God.

So despite Marcia’s excellent question, and the possibility that I may yet find a church family closer to home, I have to think of why I go to church at all, even though I rarely rouse myself to do it:

I don’t go for “Bringing in the Sheaves.” I don’t go for the shredded carrots in lime Jell-o. I don’t go for the Bible study, because half of it’s lies anyway. I don’t go for the coffee hour at the Episcopal church, pleasant though it sometimes is.

I go for the sacrament, and the immersion (baptismal) experience of the liturgy; for the high art of music that transports me, words that blow my mind and make me more than I used to be.

I’m Anglo, I’m a WASP, and by God we do words better than anyone else on earth.

God spoke Jesus into being as the Word; he didn’t speak English but we’re scrupulous interpreters. We don’t need to press our own agenda when he’s eloquent in any language.

Thus Marcia and I are left a bit bereft in this life, but hoping in the future. We do not have local congregations we feel part of. We’re sort of orphans here.

We could become volcanoes, but it’s better for us to open up and vent a little before we blow our tops.

Meanwhile there’s a lot to be said for finding Christ in a congregation, not in theology or liturgy or ritual, but in the living faith of real believers, trying to conform themselves to the Way of Christ even as they resist and resist and resist.

Marcia asked, “What should we talk about next time?”

“Fear,” I said, and I meant it. I know I’m being stupid to be afraid of the One who loves me – but I’m mortal, and it’s natural to me to be afraid of merging with the divine.

I’m afraid I’d stop being Joshua, though the evidence is clear that the result of the merger is that I would become more like Joshua.

If Christ ever saw me as I really am, I’d probably blow my top.++

Mt. Mayon, the Philipines.

Government of the Rich, by the Rich, for the Rich

Unlike his predecessor, the sphinx Alan Greenspan, the current Fed chairman actually speaks to the public.

Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, was on the “60 Minutes” teevee show last night, explaining why the Fed is spending $600 billion to buy U.S. debt, an untried strategy he hopes will prevent deflation – falling prices and wages like Japan experienced in its “lost decade” of the ’90s, and the U.S. went through as the 1929 stock market crash deepened into the Great Depression.

Economies spiral up and they spiral down; growth that’s too fast means that prices keep rising while wages don’t keep up. That’s called inflation and it’s bad, because a worker’s dollar doesn’t buy what it used to. Growth that’s slow or non-existent puts pressure on prices, including labor; employers cut paychecks, and even though a loaf of bread might turn a few cents cheaper, workers have less money to buy bread. That’s called deflation and it’s every bit as bad.

Steady growth that balances out prices and wages is the ideal, and that’s what Bernanke and the Fed are trying to achieve. However, his TV interview indicates this is a very tricky time for the world economy. Fed chiefs never go on TV; the last guy, Alan Greenspan, perfected the low art of using long words to say absolutely nothing in public. He didn’t have to; he was the chairman of the Federal Reserve, one of the most powerful men in the world.

So Bernanke’s appearance was fairly remarkable – less because of his immediate message about the $600 billion ploy, than because he also had to answer other questions from his interviewer, Scott Pelley of CBS News.

Bottom line:

• Unemployment is going to stay sky-high for years. (This cannot be good news for President Obama’s re-election plans.)

• The recent recession is over according to the economists, but another one, a double-dipper, can’t be ruled out.

• Education is key to an individual worker’s employment prospects; college grads have a 5% unemployment rate, while high school graduates are twice as likely to be unemployed. (Meanwhile states are cutting education funding and school districts nationwide are laying off teachers.)

• The Federal government’s budget deficit must be brought down – but not this year while so many people are suffering and deflation is the real scare.

Pelley couldn’t get Bernanke to condemn the Republican plan to extend the Bush tax cuts for millionaires – but the Fed chief did sound a mild alarm about the destruction of the middle class. To me, that was the most important part of the interview.

Excerpt from The New York Times:

When asked about rising inequality in the United States, Mr. Bernanke offered a response that was likely to be embraced by liberals.

“It’s a very bad development,” he said. “It’s creating two societies.”

One rich, one poor.

The Times chose to couch this inappropriately, in my view, as a call for revamping U.S. tax policy to eliminate what Bernanke called “inefficiency” (and the rest of us know as deductions, tax breaks, subsidies and giveaways), so that overall rates can be lowered and more money can be raised. The Times’ analysis is Beltway-speak, as Bernanke appeared to endorse parts of the regressive platform of Obama’s own Blue Ribbon Panel in Charge of Screwing Americans, featuring such winning proposals as raising the retirement age Till You’re Dead.

It’s entirely possible to eliminate the deficit without screwing the middle class, but you’ll never hear that out of a Blue Ribbon Panel, because rational solutions don’t conform to the current media blare.

Still, Bernanke went on about the widening gap between rich and poor, now the largest inequality in the developed world and the worst in U.S. history:

Mr. Bernanke added: “It leads to an unequal society, and a society which doesn’t have the cohesion that we’d like to see.”

That to me is the point; we’re losing our middle class, and even the Fed chairman knows that’s a grave danger to America and the entire world.

So sort the wheat from the chaff; I wouldn’t give you a copper penny for the Simpson-Bowles blue ribboneering, for Beltway obsessions or faulty Villager-speak. The chairman of the Federal Reserve has admitted we’re destroying our country.

And we’re doing it under Barack Obama just as we did under George W. Bush. The incompetence of the Current Occupant is astonishing to me; I’m sorry I ever promoted him, but that’s water under the bridge now. What shall we do? Where do we go from here?

It leads to an unequal society.

I’d happily blame all the usual suspects, not just Obama but McConnell, Murdoch and Limbaugh, if not for the fact that both parties and a majority of voters have arranged all this exactly to their liking.

We’re now governed by the same corporations whose TV commercials we lap up like dogs at the feed trough.

The USA is no longer a democracy, it’s a plutocracy. The Fortune 500 runs everything, having bought the entire Congress.

And why not? It was there for the plucking, since Americans decided 30 years ago (shortly after the Watergate scandal) that we wouldn’t be caught dead financing political campaigns with tax dollars.

Who does that leave to pick up the tab? The people with money.

Democrats are as eager to spread their legs for campaign cash as Republicans are. So this is the result, government by Halliburton, Exxon and Archer Daniels Midland.

It’s simply “the free market at work” – the same people who’ve screwed you over and over and taught you to like it.

Nor is this a new phenomenon; the basic alignment of political parties today in the United States actually dates to 1896, when William McKinley sold the Republican Party’s soul to Wall Street while William Jennings Bryan pleaded with voters not to crucify workers on a “cross of gold.” It’s ancient dusty stuff from the history books, and if you’ve never heard of it no one can blame you all these years later.

But the die was cast, the storm was unleashed, and now we are inheriting the wind.

It’s December 2010 and Mitch McConnell effortlessly jumps through mental hoops to argue for extending tax cuts for millionaires, while middle class people are losing their homes by the millions.

Obama and the Democrats will go along with this, to get unemployment benefits of $250 a week extended yet again for the New Poor. It’s already been, what, two years since we shed ten million jobs?

Campaigning for the House and Senate is expensive work; D’s are as eager as R’s to sell their souls. There’s only one political party in America now, the Corporate Suckups; the libs and the cons may caucus separately, but for the most part they agree that whatever Murdoch says goes.

On the margins of political life – say, if you’re Gay or Hispanic, Native or Muslim or Black, military or female, sick or disabled – it matters very much whether the D’s or the R’s control Congress and the White House. But it doesn’t matter much to anyone else. So what if 80 House seats changed hands? So what?

The Voters are parked on their couches watching Unreality TV and soaking up corporate propaganda, thinking it’s entertaining. They don’t care that rich people are making big bucks selling them worthless products and inedible, dangerous food, as long as it all looks glamorous, numbs their brain cells and makes them smile.

At the close of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Ben Franklin said we chose not a monarchy but a republic – “if we can keep it.”

We still have the outward form, but it looks to me like the republic is lost.

Americans are resilient, and in extraordinary times we’ve achieved amazing things. I hope we never lose that capacity. But I don’t see anyone leading us in any direction but corporate hell.

I hate to say it, but as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, this is the middle class’s own fault. They’re afraid of change (Gays in the military! Same-sex marriage!) and easily seduced to vote against their own best interest, thus enriching the wealthy to exploit them every damn time.

It leads to an unequal society.

And Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage.++

We invented this character; now we get to live with the results.