Dear Sisters and Brothers,
The Board of the Puget Sound Adlerian Society stands firmly in support of Black Lives Matter and the unprecedented, ongoing, spontaneous, and massive peaceful demonstrations against systemic, authoritarian police brutality and the criminal justice system unjustly targeting people of color. We deplore the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Sean Reed, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray–the list goes on and on.1 We therefore declare specifically that Black lives matter.
These protests have grown out of 400 years of systemic, institutional racism and the continual disproportionate violence perpetrated upon Black, indigenous and other peoples of color due to our country’s original premise of being built on the exploitation of these populations for the benefit of white Europeans and their descendants. Exploited people inevitably rise up to overcome the “minus” of their oppression to strive towards the “plus” envisioned in ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Adler taught that such striving is universal. Our mission as Adlerians is to support such striving. It’s called encouragement.
It is patently misleading to characterize these protests as violent. Such a narrow focus ignores the message, and only contributes to the inflammatory, heavy-handed police response. We do not support, condone, or excuse incidents of looting, destruction, and violence. However, let us not be distracted by these incidents. For they are minuscule in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of courageous people demonstrating peacefully for justice.
The current stage is set with the background of COVID-19 that disproportionately harms people of color. The foreground is set with a vastly more menacing plague of another sort: the unprecedented rise and growth of authoritarianism in our government. Authoritarianism within our social, institutional and political structures is the foundation of systemic racism and sexism. Many of those in government now follow the precipitous path of authoritarianism, along the way corrupting what hard-won measure of democracy and reform we have achieved so far in this country. They either enable, comply with, or actively perpetrate racism, oppression, and the systematic voter suppression we now see rising to levels unbeheld since the era of Jim Crow.2 This plague gravely threatens systemic reform and the end to violent and racist policing. It guarantees the continuation and expansion of racism, inequality, poverty, and militarism. To remain silent is to be complicit.
The President and his administration, perhaps a third of the House, half of the Senate, and one third of the Supreme Court are not conservative. They are reactionary and authoritarian. On June 1 the President acted out his desire to use “overwhelming military force” by violently suppressing a peaceful protest by ordering peaceful, lawful, demonstrators to be dispersed using tear gas, flash-bang grenades, rubber bullets, and threats of violence so that he could strut and fret on his stage, to pose for a photo while hypocritically waving the Bible as a prop. This was uninvited and unwelcomed, in the churchyard of St. John’s Episcopal Church, whose clergy had just been supporting and ministering to the demonstrators.3, 4 Fascism is indeed presenting itself in America literally waving a Bible and carrying the flag.
Another example of this authoritarian call for violence and militarization against demonstrators is the recent op-ed piece of grossly misleading propaganda written by Senator Tom Cotton and published in the New York Times entitled “Send in the Troops”.5 He too advocates military intervention in the protests which he mischaracterizes as being dominated by rioters –an insidious and ominous pattern indeed. Silence implicitly supports such propaganda as well as the President’s absurd threats to “dominate with compassion”, his repeated racist expressions, and his threats of violence. Silence is now unconscionable.
This rapidly developing political crisis carries us to a place we know not. Major changes, either on the useful or on the useless side of life, are set to unfold in the immediate future. Alfred Adler’s “ironclad rule” that the nature of human evolution is the development of “Social Interest”6 applies over the long duration. We hold faith that the arc of history indeed bends toward justice. Still, the progression of that arc spans many generations and often deviates from justice. Each time it deviates, many more are subject to terrible suffering. We are at a juncture in the United States where the arc of history points again toward justice, but it just as likely will sharply deviate even farther than it recently already has towards injustice. Which way depends on what we do now.
Domination, oppression, and exploitation rely on intimidation and psychological, emotional, economic, and ultimately, physical violence –the interrelationship that the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. described between materialism, racism, and militarism. For over a century Adler, Dreikurs, and many other Adlerians continue to address this on a personal level, sometimes on a familial level, and sometimes on the broader sociopolitical stage. Now it is time for us to follow our values, “walk our talk”, and muster our courage to speak out loudly and publicly against this rise of authoritarianism and oppression before it becomes too late for such words.
The PSAS Board