All posts by Trevor Brookins

Trevor Brookins

The Socialist’s Journal: The Acquittal of Darren Wilson

Brookins Head Shot*The above title is misleading because the criminal justice system of Ferguson, Missouri raised the ante.

Instead of finding Officer Darren Wilson not guilty of any crime associated with killing Michael Brown – a result that most African-Americans would have expected, a grand jury decided that Brown’s death didn’t even warrant a trial.

The incident between Wilson and Brown, and the lack of consequences, highlights the inadequacy of the protests by people of color regarding their safety in the face of police power. In the 1950s and 1960s acts of passive resistance were very effective in changing the social status of ethnic minorities and solidifying their citizenship privileges. Unfortunately since then the blatant acts of discrimination that passive resistance is most effective at combating have been largely eliminated; marches, speeches, and sit-ins have become white noise.

Something new, something different must be done.

The fact that a change in tactics is necessary naturally leads to the question of militancy – that is: how violent should the new tactics be. This is especially tricky because non-violent tactics were so successful in the past and because the people who lived through that era are still alive to tout the social revolution of that time. But the idea of a more assertive kind of activism makes those in leadership positions, especially white people in those positions, nervous.

That nervousness comes from the fact that there are more people that have been harmed than helped by Caucasians. And the fact that there are far more people of color on earth than not. Looking simply at numbers gives insight as to why a country like France started tightening their immigration policies once African immigration increased. Hitting more close to home, the fact that Latinos are projected to surpass Caucasians as the majority ethnic group in the United States sometime in this century.

No consideration for the lives of people of color + new tactics on the horizon + a majority of non-whites = a sticky situation.

I proclaim myself to be a liberal not a revolutionary, nor do I wish harm upon anyone. So I do not write to incite revolts and pogroms. But if this is the reality that people of color must live in (where their death at the hands of law enforcement agents is not deemed worthy of a trial) we cannot be surprised if some people act violently. That is the lesson of the 1992 Rodney King riots.

And the simple fact is that a lot of negative feelings could have been avoided by simply allowing a trial to go forward. Any evidence that allowed the grand jury to decide not to go to trial could presumably also be used to instill reasonable doubt and allow for Wilson to be acquitted. I know, logically, that a grand jury made the decision (after looking at the evidence found in the investigation) and I wouldn’t advocate a change in the country’s criminal justice system.

Still something must be done about the value of certain lives in our country. And I suspect that a change in tactics is forthcoming.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.

taylor lianne chandler & michael phelps

The Socialist’s Journal: Taylor Lianne Chandler

taylor lianne chandler & michael phelps

Taylor Lianne Chandler & Michael Phelps

*Taylor Lianne Chandler recently came out as having been born intersex and as Michael Phelps’ girlfriend. And while neither of these statements by itself is particularly interesting, together they become gossip fodder.

The fact that it becomes a story when a decorated Olympian (allegedly) has a girlfriend who doesn’t fall neatly into one of the sex/gender categories society likes to use is a reflection upon society, not Chandler. On the other hand the fact that we know any of this starts with her.

There is something about those in the periphery of celebrity that turns the average person off. Perhaps it’s because we all generally recognize the talent that it takes to become a successful entertainer. And yes athletes are entertainers. But those standing next to the entertainer in the photo ops are not talented. Or at least their talent is not something the public appreciates. The jealousy these people generate is real and makes the public not want to hear from them most of the time. At the very least Chandler fits into this category of people in the public eye because of the person next to them instead of because of their own ability.

This feeling of distaste is magnified if it seems like the person doesn’t really belong. This is where the Phelps-Chandler situation becomes a bit more interesting. Chandler has been speaking as if she is/was Phelps’ girlfriend. But with no confirmation from him (he’s been in rehab for the past few weeks) she has been defending her portrayal of their relationship. Putting personal information into the public sphere is hardly ever a good idea. And any goodness is dramatically decreased when it seems like a ploy to boost one’s profile. The fact that Chandler has felt the need to defend the idea that she and Phelps are/were dating is evidence of the public’s (understandable) dislike of her modus operandi.

The twist comes in that Chandler also announced her reality as an intersex person. Although our society has made strides regarding homosexual Americans, there is probably still a hump we need to get over regarding intersex folks. This discomfort could end up making Chandler a victim of prejudice as the story plays out. This would be unfortunate for two reasons: first, no one should be subject to bias based on their personal biology; second, there is a perfectly good reason to dislike Chandler – going back to her handling of her (alleged) relationship with Phelps.

If Chandler is believed then she let Phelps know about her biological reality prior to letting the rest of the world know. And this is a good thing. At some point in a relationship people generally start revealing intimate details about themselves to their potential partner. That would include things like “I had surgery” or “I can’t have children,” things that might make Phelps seek out a different companion. That isn’t bias, that’s incompatibility. Dating is a contact sport and sometimes you’re going to get hurt.

Telling the rest of the world that you let your (alleged) boyfriend know about your biological reality is not part of the standard dating procedure. As much as I would applaud Chandler for telling Phelps, I would jeer her telling everyone else. My negative reaction multiplies if this were part of a plan to curry sympathy from the public in an attempt to guilt Phelps into staying in the relationship.

Being treated like everyone else means being called out for sharing too much information. And I’m sure being treated like everyone else is what Chandler would want.

So keep your business to yourself.

Trevor Brookins

Trevor Brookins

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.

Trevor Brookins

The Socialist’s Journal: Gay Blood

Brookins Head Shot*Throughout the history of the United States being homosexual has not been an easy task.

Let me qualify that statement. You could have a completely normal existence as a homosexual person so long as you were willing to pretend you weren’t gay and you conformed to gender norms. The problems came when gay people attempted to portray their true selves and refused to conform to what was expected of people of their gender.

The partial list ranges from being forced to marry and forced to procreate (in years gone by), to being forcibly enrolled in ex-gay camps and being denied the ability to adopt children (in recent years). Of course the list of restrictions on people living openly gay, but also fulfilling, lives has been dwindling in the last few decades. Since the 1960s homosexual Americans have successfully asserted their ability to have committed relationships and live openly with partners, have careers, and join our military forces. Of course none of this is remarkable except for the fact that these goals being achieved by an openly gay person was noticed and remarked on because it represented a change in how our society viewed and accepted homosexuals.

Another one of these milestones is about to be reached. Openly gay men have been essentially excluded from giving blood since the 1980s because of bias.

Like so many other scenarios when bias exists, in this case the discrimination was based in fact. It was also motivated by a public health fear. During the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s gay men contracted the virus at a higher rate than the population in general. Because the virus can be transmitted by blood, safeguards were put in place to prohibit gay men from giving blood.

This perspective may have made sense in 1985 when there was still much to learn about HIV/AIDS. On the other hand I remember growing up in the 1990s and 2000s as a teenager and young adult and hearing repeatedly that HIV/AIDS is growing fastest among heterosexuals females. And yet no ban was issued against women. Basically gay men have been being singled out even though there are other safeguards in place to stop blood banks from storing and supplying patients with infected blood.

Recently the Food and Drug Association has announced that is reconsidering its ban on gay donors. That would be the right thing to do. As long as there are tests for all donated blood gay men should be able to get their trial size juices after donating. As long as it can be proven that to be gay is to necessarily be a carrier of HIV/AIDS gay men should be able to get the little snack packs of Fig Newtons.

Can you tell I like the goodies I get after donating blood?

I frequently see solicitations for blood donations. I give multiple times each year. The body is great at replacing what I give. But that doesn’t mean that the blood supply couldn’t use an extra pint or two. Once this ban is replaced it will help with public health by increasing the blood supply as well as remove another silly road block to gay men having dignity.

A win-win situation if ever there was one.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.

Trevor Brookins

The Socialist’s Journal: Midterm Elections

Brookins Head Shot*One of the things I learned as an advertising executive is how many ways companies package the same product and service to people with different bells and whistles.

Bonuses, special offers, sales, throw-ins, and the like are frequently just another way of giving you things that were already part of the thing you bought but now it sounds better because it has the words “upgraded tier discount” attached to it.

Of course this works because people love a sale. And unless you’ve been paying attention, most of us don’t have any idea if we’re getting a good deal. Unfortunately this applies to politics as well. Folks can choose an incumbent because of inertia; folks can choose to unseat an incumbent simply because the challenger sounds new and fresh and is offering a great deal. Neither method is sound reasoning.

Last Tuesday the Republican Party gained control of the Senate. This could be because the states in which Republicans gained offices were truly dissatisfied with the Democratic incumbent’s record. Or it could have been because folks in those states were dissatisfied with President Obama and took it out on the Democrats they could vote against. History tells a different story though. That after six years in office a president’s party is likely to lose a handful of Senate seats. This trend is true irrespective of the party in the White House so it seems like it is a case of folks voting for change because of the shiny new packaging.

I hope this isn’t the case.

I have documented the many ways I disagree with conservatives in this space. However I take a wait and see attitude regarding the upcoming shift in the Senate. Hopefully folks voted for conservatives because they truly believed in the concepts and programs being promised. We probably won’t be able to determine that until policies are enacted (or not) and the people who voted for those conservatives express their pleasure (or not). If you were promised X and your new Senator fails to deliver X, I await the grumbles, rallies, and voter registration drives to unseat them.

I also hope that, Republican led or not, Senators will work together to produce and pass legislation that address issues facing the country. I would be very disappointed if Democrats (who will only be outnumbered 53-45) undertook the stalling tactics employed by Republicans when faced with liberal legislation in the past few sessions. That’s not the way to run a country or win the vote of thinking Americans.

I recognize that President Obama campaigned on a platform of Change in 2008 and it is possible that many people voted for him based on that principle alone. Number one: anyone doing that voted for the wrong reason (even if I liked the outcome). Number two: anyone doing that wasn’t paying attention because Obama was clear in the changes he wanted to lead the country in embracing. The signature change in the United States during his tenure (universal health care) was always a priority he touted. And now that we can look back and definitively state that a vote for him was not a vote for a blind vote for some nebulous idea like change, instead it was a vote for a concrete change like being able to afford health care coverage even in low paying blue collar jobs at small companies.

Let’s hope we can look back a few years from now and say that these incoming Senators were not elected just because they were fresh blood but instead because they actually had ideas and programs that they thought benefited the country. Let’s understand those ideas and programs and let’s weigh their merits.

We as a people deserve nothing less.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.

Trevor Brookins

The Socialist’s Journal: Sears Closings

Brookins Head Shot*Sears recently announced that it would be closing somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 Sears and Kmart retail locations. This is the perfect example of the dark side of capitalism.

Sears has made poor strategic decisions over a number of years so in a sense this was inevitable. If the people who are in charge don’t do their job well, it is almost impossible for the rank and file of a company, and the company overall, to be successful. But this situation also highlights the way in which capitalism encourages the wrong kind of decision making.

The great thing about capitalism and the freedom of thought and decision making afforded people in our country is that with the right idea anyone can prosper. The origin of the Sears company is that they had the right idea: supplying people with tools they could not otherwise afford or get their hands on. Over the years this basic business model was expanded on until a Sears retail location today gives shoppers the ability to buy exercise equipment, get an eye or ear exam, take family photos, buy clothes, buy appliances, and of course tools. My local Sears even carries mattresses.

Sears basically ignored their core business to focus on expansion. Two things were working against Sears though. Other retailers were better at providing goods and services in the retail location form; the managers at Sears were picking the wrong stuff to diversify with (real estate for example).

My preferred economic system of socialism would not necessarily prevent the failure of Sears in this instance. But capitalism encourages the kind of decision making where an entity plays a game in which the odds are fixed against it. Normally Sears, the big company that it is, would benefit from stacked odds. But as we all found out with the real estate bubble of the last decade, no one has been in a no lose position with real estate in recent years. Capitalism fosters an environment where industries flourish under false pretenses and people feel they must become involved or get left behind. Sears fell victim to this mindset.

As I said socialism is not a panacea for this kind of point of view. But it does mitigate against the profit motive becoming too dominant while allowing for people with good ideas to prosper.

It could be that Sears is destined to fail; no business remains viable forever and over 100 years is a hell of a run. Nevertheless their downfall was hastened by their greed – the main ingredient in capitalism.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.

Trevor Brookins

The Socialist’s Journal: The Next Wave of NBA Coaches?

Trevor Brookins

Trevor Brookins

*Most of the time sports are just about having fun. On any random Saturday there are a million basketball games, baseball games, soccer matches, races, etc. between friends and acquaintances that contribute absolutely nothing to society.

But sometimes sports mean everything. Sometimes sports are an ethnic group being allowed to participate at the professional level after a half century of exclusion; sometimes sports are the working class breaking the capital class’ stranglehold on wage negotiation; sometimes sports are a nation of people having a collective consciousness regarding a match seen as a proxy battle between nations. This season for the NBA sports become the stage upon which women will take another stride forward in American society as Becky Hammon coaches professional male basketball players.

On the one hand the San Antonio Spurs have a reputation as one of the smartest franchises in professional basketball. They have been on the forefront of advanced analytics; they have more international players on their roster than any other team; their coach has pioneered minutes limits for the main players. So their hiring of a female assistant coach could seem like just another smart move on their part and be brushed under the rug.

On the other hand it is a fact that Hammon will be the first female coach in major professional American sports. So her mere presence is noteworthy enough to warrant extra attention. Her ability to complete the tasks assigned to her will help determine if she keeps this job, but given the franchise’s track record it would seem talent evaluation in non-traditional forms is their specialty.

Hammon’s assistant coaching career could be the match that sparks the next wave of innovation and hirings throughout the league. Plenty of former NBA players coach in the WNBA because of their qualifications as astute basketball tacticians and winning pedigree. Hammon possesses the potential to flip the narrative in the other direction. This is not to say that women should be given jobs simply because they are women (although I wouldn’t be surprised if this does happen), but it is to say that men should stop getting these jobs simply because they are men. Too many coaches (assistant and head) in the NBA are recycled even when there is no history of winning or innovation.

Professional sports are probably the last section of society in which it is rare to see women leading men. Hammon is the first step to changing that fact.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.