I know this fellow who is a recovering alcoholic and seems like a nice guy generally, who assumes I have not listened to Rush Limbaugh, and therefore assumes that’s why I’m “still a liberal.” I’ve taken him down to the woodshed several times but he’s unrepentant. He thinks liberalism is a mistake of the mind. He’s been brainwashed completely. Like Captain Ahab pursuing Moby Dick, he’s got one thing on his mind. The White Whale of the Good Old Days must be pursued.
Iowa has failed itself. It needs a 12-step program for its politics.
As the tracks on the arms of all those involved in the Republican Iowa Caucus reveal, there is some bad stuff running through the veins of the American Heartland. Conservatism is like emotional methamphetamines to these people. It charges them up and makes them do and believe crazy things. And Ted Cruz is the leading character in Iowa’s version of Breaking Bad.
Donald Trump tried slipping his rich brand of opiates into the mix. But in the end, even his “I’m Your Hero” brand of heroinism could not satisfy the desires of conservative dope fiends high on bongs of pig shit, religion and hashpipes stuffed with layers of Right Wing ideology. Those are the drugs of choice in some parts of the Midwest, and can make farmers vote Republican even when corporate farming comes back around to steal their tractors, seed, crops and land. But the flow of monetary drugs known as agricultural welfare cannot be denied. And the Democrats are druglords and pushers as well.
Like most drug cultures, one can seldom tell the users from the sellers. They all feed off each other’s habits while denying they have a problem in the first place.
The stench of denialism out in Iowa got so bad this time around, even that religious druglord Mike Huckabee had to pack up his political Airstream and pull out of the presidential race. He’s been holed up at the Jellystone Park of American politics for just over a year now, and the camp fees from Fox News and other Right Wing Rangers were coming due.
But that’s not the real problem for the Huckster. There have been persistent rumblings from his neighbors that the rumblings and shaking come from that trailer were far from Holy Fare.
Some suggested the Devil himself had, by invitation it seems, taken up residence with Huckabee, and it makes sense. It’s quite clear the Huckster has proven willing to sell his soul all along if it will aggrandize him with his perceived church of political believers. His babblings prove the point, for they became so confusing a league of Angels could not sort them out, leading even true believers to consider whether the smoke of the Devils hot language was having hallucinatory effects on the man who can’t seem to sort fact from fiction. “I think people forget that bipartisanship is really the burden of the victor, not the loser,” Huckabee drooled. And that point, his trailer park neighbors slammed his Airstream door shut and sealed it with duct tape. And that seems to be the end of the Hucksters dream of becoming President of the United States.
His last words seem to be both a defense and an indictment of the Winner Take All philosophy that has taken over the conservative movement these days like a man with a coke and a spoon at a Studio 54 party. It’s a bad scene all around, and no one knows if the high strung whine of people with white powder on their noses shrieking about “patriotism” and “liberty” is ever going to end. it is clearly the chorus of the insane, only crazier.
Some of that noise is shrieks of fear. Because like those acts of genocide or ethnic cleansing in the Bible, everyone knows on the Right knows you take no prisoners whether you win or lose. Which means no one can afford to have political witnesses around anymore.
That explains the entire political career of men like Newt Gingrich, who sealed one of his wives into a cancer casket using her own divorce papers. That’s hardball stuff, and not every brain can take that level of stimulation and survive. But Gingrich rose again like a specte the last election cycle, and Right Wingers recognized his special brand of crazy right off. But alas for comedians and Democrats, even Gingrich could not hide the bulging veins in his political forehead, and he was cast into the opium den of irrelevance. At last.
These are the ways of the Breaking Bad men that have been running the Republican Party. Even Ronald Reagan had to deal with his rank of Right Wing Addicts in the end. They obfuscated with a trunk full of his money to deal in the arms trade with Iran to shunt money off to the Contras down South. This business of war is always ugly, and drugs often fuel the fun stuff done by mercenaries in the name of God. The only reason Ronnie Reagan himself didn’t get thrown in jail is that he was already too senile or drug-addled to realize what he’d allowed to be done in his own name. No one could bring themselves to blame Grandfather Ron for all that. Well, perhaps his own son. But that’s a different story for another day.
But speaking of Father Figures. We should recall the recent revelations about the once honorable Dennis Hastert, former Speaker of the House. It turns out The Coach had a sordid history of fondling boys and paying them to keep quiet. But when that bit of conservatively concealed chicanery came to light, it ruined the man’s reputation and his net worth. Drugs of choice (be they of substance or appetite) from the wrong side of the tracks will do that to a person. At first, there’s a power rush. Then comes the crash.
Which also explains the firey hulks of Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina, who by now are likely stuffed into smelly car trunks like burnt mummies by those political drug lords Reince Priebus and Karl “The Rover” Rove. It doesn’t pay to cross men with names like Reince or nicknames like Turdblossom. That’s always going to wind up in bad places.
Those petulant rubes Jeb and Carly have come off angry and joyous as Saturday night drunks stumbling out of the Happy Joes Pizza joint in Newton, Iowa. But then they kicked in the car door of the local sheriff, and spit on the Mayor’s wife while calling her a slut. Things got ugly fast, and muffled words were exchanged. Their campaigns are either over or owned entirely by the Syndicate as a result of their sputtering antics. Ever since Monday night they have been stuck in the back end of locked up sedans behind the Ace Hardware. They’ve both been trying to kick their way out of the trunk, whimpering for help from God, or at least some kid with a screwdriver. That’s the kind of thing that happens to traitorous mob flunkies and failed Republican candidates. The fact that they can hear each other screaming only makes it all worse. The first one out of the trunk will claim to be the victor. Because that’s what politicians do. Kick the person on the rung below you. And no excuses.
Then there are those political personalities that just won’t go away, no matter what you do, or how high on their own expectations they get. Because who knows what Ben Carson’s been smoking out there in the Iowa cornfields. From Day One, the gentleman has contradicted himself like some drunken uncle at a Thanksgiving feast. “Even if you’re Bill Gates, you’ve got problems,” Carson blurted last year. “I’m sure he would probably easily give a few billion dollars to get rid of all the problems that he has.”
And then there’s this brain-addled Carson gem: “And I’ve always said, ‘If two people think the same thing about everything, one of them isn’t necessary.’ We need to be able to understand that if we’re going to make real progress.”
Which proves that listening to Ben Carson is really like listening to Adolf Hitler on crack. Carson even said this about the United States military, which is bigger by far than the next 7-8 countries of the world combined: “What we have to stop and think about is that we have weakened ourselves militarily to such an extent that it affects all of our military policies.” Ben, go back to whatever political substance you’ve been smoking and drinking and leave us alone. We don’t care. You don’t matter. And we don’t need your brand of narcotic falsehoods running through our veins.
Ben, go back to whatever political substance you’ve been smoking and drinking and leave us the hell alone. We don’t care about you. You don’t matter. You don’t even believe in science and you’re a brain surgeon! And we don’t need your brand of narcotic falsehoods and conservative banalities running through our veins. They are poison.
But while we’re at it, let us consider (and then ignore) the barbituate level rantings of Rand Paul, a Libertarian candidate who claims to speak for the intellectual side of America, but keeps fumbling over his own thoughts. “I have a question, a question for the president: Do you hate all rich people, or just rich people who don’t contribute to your campaign? Do you hate poor people or do you just hate poor people with jobs?“
That is Rand Paul trying to sound cogent and sober. Instead his red tie looks like the thermometer for his overheated brain. Barbituates will do that, especially those of the contrarian type favored by Libertarians, where the best form of government is no government at all. Have some weed, Rand. You need it.
The rest of the Republican dope fiends are not worth mentioning, except their stories are so amusingly narcissistic they cannot help be told. They all follow in the footsteps of men such as Ulysses S. Grant, a man who drank himself to both military and political success.
Indeed, the Republican debates have been like listening to a pack of drunk farmers standing at a dive bar in some sad little town out past Ames, Iowa. They all drink and shout until they can actually stand the idea of going home to their equally angry wives. Each man claims he has the better tractor, and then they wind up making jokes about how Chris Christie’s farm implements all have flat tires because he’s so fat.
We can easily imagine the muttered joke about how Carly was rumored to be fornicating with a pig. That was a Trump special, grant you. He excels at his own brand of Down On the Farm humor. It absolutely frightens Republicans that Trump might be City Slicker dressed up in Salt of the Earth clothes, but if the Iowa Caucus process is any indication, Trump is the one who has apparently screwed the pooch one too many times. Even Republicans get angry when the family dog is butt hurt and whining.
The conservative belief system all comes down to singularity. We all know that even the worst drunks in the world can drive a car pretty well because when they get enough practice at it. If a few people die along the way, so be it. The ends justifies the means. Teddy Kennedy taught them that lesson, and the Right has learned it all too well.
But where Kennedy was selling the political drugs of family legacy and populism, the political drug of choice for Republicans is authoritarianism. And it works like a charm. Just like an overdose of Ritalin, an ADD drug designed to hype you up so bad it actually calms you down, mainlining authoritarian works by getting people to go along with whatever you tell them to think. One might argue the same thing for Oxycontin, Rush Limbaugh’s favorite chemical for many years. His drug abuse was easily forgiven and forgotten by his dittohead listeners because it was mainlined with an arrogance and authoritarianism that made it look like Rush had no drug problem at all. He was rich and had a big mouth. Thats was all that counted, or ever counts, and that’s why Limbaugh likely hates Trump. Who stole his act.
And then Ted Cruz stole Trump’s act as well. And Marco Rubio is next in line. Authoritarianism is the stuff Republicans have been selling on the street corners of Iowa towns and they are about to unleash it on the nation as a whole.
Politicals sites like The Blaze have been dealing the same thick substanc and its boutique drug is Glenn Beck, who was so high on himself even Fox News had to kick him out of the Conservative Drug Club. Now Cruz and The Blaze are hoping that this newest batch of authoritarian dopamines and the low information needles necessary to inject it will serve like crack cocaine in the veins of conservatives everywhere.
That’s what was running through the veins of conservatives in the American Heartland last night. It’s a sad sight, but like any relative given over to addiction, we can hope some country doctor kicks some sense into them. That’s how it’s always worked out in the Heartland, where drugs are often as common as Communion wafers, and just as deadly.
Much to my surprise, I opened the Chicago Tribune today to find what amounts to a confessional column by conservative stalwart Jonah Goldberg. It starts like this:
“I’ve been hearing about the impending “conservative crackup” for nearly 25 years. The term was coined by R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., the founder of the American Spectator. He meant that conservatism had lost its philosophical coherence. But the phrase almost instantly became a catchall for any prediction of the right’s imminent demise or dissolution.”
What he really means to say, but hasn’t the actual courage to admit, is that conservatism was a falsehood from the beginning of its “revolution.” That would be the attempt, since the Reagan years, to cobble together a band of dissolute believers into some sort of conservative whole. But true Christianity never really had much to do with fiscal conservatism, and the pro-gun capitalists have never really squared intentions with the anti-abortion socialists. It’s true. Conservatism ultimately sinks under the weight of its own contradictions.
That was always the problem. That conservative whole rapidly turned into a conservative hole, as in, “we keep digging a bigger one.” The entire political philosophy of the movement has been to dig a hole under government in hopes that it will sink below the surface, never to be seen again.
Reagan even proudly stated that government was not the solution, it was the problem. How anyone can say that and continue to serve as President of the United States proves that he 1) has a hole in his head 2) lacks conscience and 3) has a cognitive dissonance in his political philosophy. You simply can’t head up a government and claim it is the main problem. That’s impossible to do. With any sort of true logic, anyway.
But conservatism is not about logic. It is about ideology. And to a major extent, the hole-digging philosophy has worked wonders in taking our nation and government down a rabbit hole.
The rabbit hole is always about money. Conservatives have tried repeatedly to cut taxes. With each new wave of tax cuts, the nation has gone further into the hole.
Conservatives have even purposefully shut down the government. That threw our country into the hole with nations around the world. All that accomplishes was to sink the nation’s credit rating.
In fact everything conservatives have tried to “fix” in America has sunk its standing here at home and around the world.
The most recent Bush years resorted again to tax cuts and like Reagan, bloated military spending. That resulted in an economy running on fumes and led to a crash that was a grand imitation of the Great Depression (get the joke? A Depression is a hole.)
This time the hole created by big banks had to be filled with public money just to keep America afloat in the cesspool of speculative losses and the brain dead activities of The Fed.
But it seems that no matter how much America’s economy is sputtering there is somehow always money to buy guns, ships, bombs and jet planes. It seems the only answers conservative have to social and economic failures is to spend more money on the military. Conservatives consider the military America’s backbone, but along with the auto industry, the Bush years essentially required bailouts for both.
But conservatives aren’t all failures. Let’s not forget the thriving porn, gambling and fantasy league industries. And while we’re at it, don’t neglect the success of the sex trade and human trafficking, which experiences hard spikes whenever there’s a Republican convention in town.
Perhaps it’s no wonder that even America’s leading conservative spokesperson, Rush Limbaugh, is having his doubts about the future of conservatism (itself an oxymoron.)
The four-time divorced, prescription-medicine-addicted Limbaugh has never done a single positive thing for the nation. Yet somehow he remains a voice for conservative interests because he’s angry, impatient and selfish. That’s the calling card of any respected conservative. But right now, even Limbaugh is confused and disgusted by the present state of conservatism in America.
Jonah Goldberg quotes Limbaugh this way: “Forget the name is Trump. If a candidate could ‘guarantee to’ fix everything that’s wrong in this country the way the Republican Party thinks it’s wrong, if it were a slam dunk, if it were guaranteed, that candidate will still be opposed by the Republican Party establishment. … If he’s not part of the clique, they don’t want him in there.”
And that, my friends, is because conservatism is a longstanding failure. Anyone who seems like a threat to show up the “establishment” is deemed a danger. This is especially true for a man like Trump, whose racist, misogynist, xenophobic rants sound all too much like what most Republicans generally keep secret and only repeat in the back rooms of posh hotels or speaking engagements featuring Mitt Romney or Oliver North. That’s how the “establishment,” as it were, is accustomed to conducting business.
Now that their methods and ideology have been exposed, the hole they’ve dug is looking uglier than ever. It’s much harder to shovel people into their economic and social graves when they can see clearly what’s coming. Trump has revealed what’s in store on the Republican highway. It’s a sinkhole of angry prejudice and ego. Even his supporters aren’t sure he won’t shove them in with the rest of the stinking masses.
In other words, conservatism is digging a deep and terminal highway to hell. We should never forget that Ronald Reagan, the conservative scion who started all this hole-digging, had one of the most corrupt administrations in the modern era. His Iran-Contra affair should have resulted in impeachment. Instead, he walked while his minions took the fall. America forgave the Old Man his transgressions because it seemed impossible he wanted to hurt anyone.
Mick Jagger and the Stones tried to warn us about falling for the sweet words of men like Ronald Reagan. People who seem like heroes often turn out to be the greatest offenders of all. This verse from Sympathy for the Devil seems rife with predictive merits about how the world is working these days.
Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
‘Cause I’m in need of some restraint
Yes, conservatives have long pointed to Reagan as their hero. But he was the devil in disguise. Conservatives have long refused to recognize that Ronnie the Saint dug a deep budget hole of his own through tax cuts and military spending.
Then along came the Bush family, a pack of smiling devils if there ever was one, and picked up where Reagan left off. At least Bush Sr. (Read My Lips, No New Taxes) showed some restraint by not entering Bagdad with the American army. He recognized that the Saddam Hussein was a devil with a purpose. So we walked away from that hellhole the first time.
But conservatives and the Bush family couldn’t restrain its crazed fury the second time around. Georgie (that smiling devil) unleashed eight years of conservative chaos at home and abroad. It started with a stolen election. That was followed by the 9/11 tragedy. Then a mess of a hurricane called Katrina along with an Iraq war of choice that cost America trillions of dollars. The ugliness of that scene also led to approval of torture and war profiteering on scales never before attempted. Yet Cheney succeeded in shoveling billions into the maw of Halliburton and other hellborne partnerships.
Like the American devils we are, we went to Iraq on false pretenses, and 4000 soldiers died. Many more were wounded. But perhaps that was somehow a precursor for the economic crash that followed, and millions of people lost their jobs and life savings. The hole dug by conservative ventures threatened to swallow American whole.
Yes, the conservative crackup is finally here. It is long overdue and well-deserved. Some of us have also long tried to expose the hole-digging habits of men like Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Dennis Hastert (now indicted for hiding sexual abuse and making illegal payoffs) as well as Newt Gingrich and the entire racist, gun-toting cabal that conservatism embraces. These forces of evil have undermined the very foundations of our country.
So thank you, Jonah Goldberg, for finally admitting what those of us who follow conservative politics have known all along. The conservative cause is a black hole of empty suits and people who lack the conscience to ever do the right thing. Ever.
And of course, now they have Donald Trump to blame for exposing the decaying foundations of conservatism as a movement. He’s a man of absolutely zero conscience, or perhaps less.
As Goldberg states: “There’s no shortage of reasons for why the right is at war over whether or not to take a flier on Trump. All of the various establishments and the counter-establishments overpromised and underdelivered in recent years. Congressional leaders talked a big game while campaigning but played small ball once re-elected. Cruz and his supporters accused his fellow politicians of being corrupt sellouts, and so many people believed him, they’d now rather take a gamble on Trump than back Cruz, a mere politician. Tomorrow seems closer than ever before.”
Goldberg’s lament is long overdue. But these are sad, difficult days. The hole dug by Republicans is now a permanent fixture of the American landscape. We’re all staring into the abyss together. Yet all Republicans can think to say is, “This must be your fault. We don’t know really how to dig holes.” They regard their own actions as bastard sons to be disowned and foisted on the public where profits are privatized and the losses are socialized. Then they call us the suckers for believing in the power of socialism to fix public ills.
Fearful conservatives are afraid that men like Bernie Sanders will try to fill the hole they created with public funds and tax money. Sanders (and Democrats in general, to some degree) actually want to require American corporations to stop burying money in the backyard with offshore accounts. President Obama has his chums on Wall Street, but he’s done a decent job of at least ushering America away from a perilous edge of conservative holiness, which is in truth is unholiness. But we still need to figure out how to fill this moral, social and economic vacuum created by conservative credulity.
And God Forbid we should actually try to level the playing field for the middle class. Conservatives call that “transfer of wealth” when in fact the most massive transfer of wealth in history has occurred right before our eyes, from middle class to the superwealthy. As a direct result, Americans have been falling into a financial hole by running up credit card debt while making something like 50 cents on the dollar compared to comparable worth of earnings 40 or 50 years ago.
Perhaps the best thing we can do with the Republican whole is to herd the lot of them to the edge and drive them over it with a bulldozer. Let their bloated political bodies (starting with Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, to name a few) serve as ballast until America can decide how to repair its crumbling infrastructure and bury the rotting timbers of the Republican platform.
It’s time to say good riddance to the likes of Jonah Goldberg (and his National Review, the worst rag on the earth) along with Charles Krauthamer and his shrill counterpart, Ann Coulter. We should have no sympathy for these devils, the people that have cheerleaded Republican thievery for decades. Yes, Democrats mess things up too, but usually by mistake, or by overeager hearts. By contrast, the soulless theft by Republicans is calculated, cruel and merciless. That makes for a much more abrupt and even brand of hole, not the gradual kind you get from erosion, or a flood of overeager hopes.
The only near term salvation may be that the hole dug by Republicans might temporarily reach all the way to hell. We can be sure a few of them will be welcome guests for what they’ve said and done to this nation.
If the 2016 Republican presidential race is any indication, the fresh new face of conservatism in America is none other that Donald Trump. Yet the Republican Party is eager to eat their own because Trump is not, as conservatives love to claim, truly “one of them.”
And the one who claims to be the “most conservative” of the lot, would be Ted Cruz, yet there is not a Republican alive who truly seems to trust the man. He boldly lied about the fact that he led the move to shut down the government. Even Republican “points of pride” are recent disclaimers of shame.
Going all the way back to that conservative scion Ronald Reagan, whom Republicans choose to lionize for his supposedly pure fiscal and moral virtues, Republicans have lied about the real activities of men such as Reagan in order to win voters, seize power through means judicial and otherwise, and steal from the poor. The GOP has artfully cobbled together militias and angry Christians. With this voting bloc at their calling, they are empowered to run off and conduct stray wars, while at home the murder of everyday citizens with weapons concealed and unconcealed is deemed the collateral damage of freedom. Even Donald Trump admits as much. This very week he proclaimed that he could take a weapon out on the streets and gun people down, never losing a single voter in the process. But he might be wrong about that. The dead cannot vote, and people with more guns than guilt tend to be indiscriminate. Surely a few potential Trump voters, including those that shoot themselves in the foot on a regular basis, are target fodder on occasion for the truly crazed.
Shoot first and ask questions later is the Republican legacy. We should never forget the Reagan administration’s massive band of crooks and thieves; Meese, Casey, Regan and George W. Bush, then Vice President of the United States, who chose to strike a deal with international arms dealers (shoot first!) and in exchange for big money from Iran necessary to foment calculated unrest in the Southern Hemisphere. This is how Republicans think, that the ends always justifies the means, and the means is something you don’t talk about.
So perhaps even Trump is just a little too good two-shores for them. The man speaks too plainly, and too often. He sputters racist phrases and promises to build a wall along the Mexican border. Normally topics like these are not for public consumption, but are saved for talking points at donor banquets where people with cell phones and a desire to expose the truth behind the lies have been known to disappear in the bowels of the hotel, never to speak again.
So Trump scares the hell out those ne0-conservative trying to pressure the brain of the American electorate with a blood clot of fear. Trump is a stroke, for sure, but not the kind the vicious right prefers to cause. The Donald has aggressively exposed their purpose because he’s too rich to care, and so frequently bankrupted by his own bad habits there is nothing the man stands to lose, by losing. The mere expression of his massive ego is so egregiously un-American even the GOP recoils from its vile stench.
And that takes a lot of doing. Because back when Ronald Reagan absently presided over that Iran-Contra scandal, he was either too daft and distracted or too arrogant to care that the likes of Pat Buchanan and Oliver North were about to soil his political diapers for him. Yet even after they crapped on Reagan’s legacy, they ran around like heroes that had saved the country when all they really cared about was their own reputations and the money they could make lying to the conservative cabal about their own honor.
Which meant that a whole circuit of those feckless mega churches invited men like Oliver North to preach to the hapless masses about true patriotism. North had the gall to claim a “higher purpose” for his criminal acts, and that’s all it takes to convince the Moody Bible crowd that he had the best interests of America in mind.
One Mega Pastor, when asked why his church would invite a scoundrel such as North to address his Mega-parish, came to his defense with the classic religious veneer. “He is a man of God.” But if you actually read the Bible, you would know that even God would not the genocidal King David build a temple in His honor. “You have too much blood on your hands,” God told him.
Somehow the real lessons of faith and politics like these are completely lost on conservative believers, who simply refuse to grow a conscience because it is too heavy an object to carry around. It’s far too much bother to think about what you believe, versus throwing money at it or throwing your conscience into the offering plate as if it were a loaf of bread or some fish.
It’s been going on like this for four decades now, and America is much worse for the wear. As Hunter S. Thompson so aptly recorded in his late 1980’s essay God Bless Oliver North, “Why has every Republican president since Abraham Lincoln been so crooked that they need a brace of Secret Service men to help them screw their pants on every morning? From Ulysses S. Grant to Big Bill McKinley and Warren Harding, they were all so dirty they could barely sleep at night. Even Ike had Sherman Adams. “I need him,” he said. “And never mind his morals.”
Thompson goes on to note: “Nixon was genetically criminal. Agnew was born wrong. Ford was so utterly corrupt that he made millions by pardoning Nixon, and Reagan is beginning to take on the distinctly Spanish physical characteristics of the Somoza family, formerly of Nicaragua.”
And all that corruption only partly explains the spectre of one George H.W. Bush, who some think had a hand in killing Kennedy, and did such awful things through the CIA there was threat of folding it into the Department of Agriculture, there was so much evil shit going on. He handed that family legacy to his son George W. Bush, whose bald-faced lies in the wake of 9/11 led America into a war in Iraq that cost the nation trillions, and is still being fought in proxy fashion by none other than the CIA. It’s good for the family business, and Dick Cheney took a massive cut from the operation with his Halliburton pals. There is no corruption quite as profitable as Republican corruption. Sure, the City of Chicago has had its thugs and its Democrats stealing from the kitty. But those are puppet plays compared to the warmongering operas written by conservatives and acted out by the CIA on grand stages around the world.
Even Obama has had to face the blowback from the famed operetta Mission Accomplished, that ostensibly bright moment in recent American history where GWB stepped to the front of an aircraft carrier in full codpiece mode while crowing about American Exceptionalism.
Embarrassed by the reverberating effects of that brash performance, Obama’s theatrical ploy has been to withdraw from the theater almost entirely and let drones do the dirty work of dropping klieg lights on the heads of known terrorists. Some of those have unfortunately skidded into the audience, and that has not played well on the world stage. What we’ve learned from all this is that there is never any critical praise for the bad opera terrorism. Foreign or domestic, you almost can’t win by killing off the actors.
Which explains that farce happening out in Oregon, where a pack of apparently inbred ranchers has decided to turn on the nation in hopes of overthrowing our own government. We might, in fact, trace this tendency back to Reagan with his claim that “government is the problem. This has led to what we might call the Republican Problem, in which conservatives think it’s just fine to shut down the government to “save the nation,” as they like to claim. Or to claim that they hate government, and then do anything or everything possible, including using the Supreme Court to overturn an election, in order to grab power.
Republicans have literally turned the nation inside out an effort to shake loose every dime and turn it over to privatization and the banksters who gambled it all away leading up to 2008, and the economic crash. Then the GOP had the nerve to blame the bailout on the Democrats and Obama, when it was Bush who signed to papers. And that was just to save his own skin.
For too long we’ve allowed corrupt politicians to jump ship and sail over to Wall Street to serve as pirate consultants presiding over the transfer wealth from the middle class to the very rich. Corporate socialism has transferred trillions thanks to Republican insiders who “know how things work.”
We’ve been wondering for a couple hundred years how low we could go, and Republicans are answering that question with more enthusiasm that anyone can bear. All 16 or more candidates for the GOP ticket crow as if the Republican Problem were the very thing the United States needs to succeed. But we need look no farther back than the Reagan Era to understand how very hard Republicans have had to work to obscure the workings of corruption in favor of slogans that fit their motives for power. The Republican Problem stems from the fact that they’ve been very good at convincing people the American Problem is the government itself, and Democrats who believe in it.
But then along comes Donald Trump and nutball practitioners such as Sarah Palin, and the Republican Problem suddenly becomes very real to the American populace. Where Reagan seemed the Teflon President and the soft-spoken Great Communicator, Trump seems a bit more like chewing on aluminum foil, and Palin’s voice is the equivalent of nails on a blackboard. The Republican Problem has grown noisy and shrill, and even the faithful are hiding their heads under pillows wishing it would all go away, or be lifted from the stinking mattress by the billions Michael Bloomberg is willing to spend in order to turn the Republican Problem inside out, which is Right Side In.
I have this neighbor that is never satisfied with his cable company. For the last two months he’s had trucks from AT&T and Comcast alternately parked out front of his house. He literally calls the other company as soon as the first one finishes the hookup. The repairmen thinks he’s both nuts and hilarious. But he keeps on doing it.
He tells me his goal is to exasperate them enough to give them a lower price on his cable and Internet bill. So far, he’s got what appears to be the lowest available price with both companies. Yet he’s convinced they can go lower. “I’m gonna bug them and keep switching until they come by begging me to stop. I want cable for $50 a month. That’s what I think it’s worth. And that includes HBO. Starz. All that stuff.”
Of course, this is all a lie. I made all that up. But it would be fun to do, wouldn’t it? I mean, really? How many times has the cable company jacked your rates, yet when you call to disconnect, they offer some cheap deal to get you back on board. You scream into the phone, “Why couldn’t I get that rate when I called you two months ago?” And the rep says, “It’s only available if you drop your service.”
It’s pretty clear the cable companies only care any about their highest paying customers. Those are the folks who subscribe to every channel including the porn on-demand offerings that are literally so steamy and intense they clog the fiber optic and DSL cables attached to your house. And when they come across Direct TV, the dish shudders and shakes on the roof in a digitally orgasmic fit. That type of content is so cheesy and repetitive, yet it rakes in dough for the cable companies. And that’s the measuring stick by which they measure you in terms of customer value. Makes you feel special, doesn’t it?
Yes, it’s the stupid habits of other consumers habits are that make things so damn difficult for the rest of us. When cable companies see how much they could really make if more people were stupid enough to sign up for every service they offer, they can’t help but get greedy.
This is the exact same process we’re seeing with politicians today. We’ve spoiled them with multiple terms and corporatized elections for so long they could give a rat’s ass what the everyday person thinks about their voting record. We pay their salaries, but the big lobbyists pay their bills. And that’s the literal truth of how government now works.
I’ve seen the nickel and dime effect at work as well. Because it’s not enough for big companies to gobble up big profits from monopolized industries. They’re after every nickel you’ve got. I’ve worked on direct marketing programs for telecommunications companies. There are entire departments of people dedicated to somehow getting five more cents per household on a monthly basis out of a consumer base of 2,000,000 customers. Do that 12 times a year and you’re another couple million dollars ahead.
So you can imagine how the dollar signs are ringing in the world of cable TV. But the real battles over money are fights we never see. These are all conducted behind the scenes, with content providers choking the necks of cable distributors and vice versa. It’s like a UFC match where both competitors have each other in a choke hold and both have one arm extended and are about to snap it off.
That’s why it would be so funny for consumers like us to actually begin pecking at the big cable companies and call them every other day to switch service. Drive them nuts. It would be like tickling the arm pit of a UFC fighter caught in a chokehold and ready to tap out.
It would be cosmic justice if millions of consumers did this. Played them for the consuming fools they think we are. God would be on our side on this one. Let the meek inherit the earth and let the middle class have reasonably priced cable TV.
That would be heaven on earth, would it not?
“There are bonfires on a lot of hillsides tonight, the sound of drums and wild hooting, people with serious scores to settle muttering at each other in the darkness. The yahoos are out there, and they think their time has come.” –Hunter S. Thompson, from the book Generation of Swine
At opposite ends of the country, the yahoos have indeed come home to roost. Out west in Oregon, a band of selfish firebrands is dining on Cheetos and having the nerve to complain about the number of dildos they’ve received in the mail from truly disgusted Americans. The message and the gifts are real, but the yahoos won’t admit how fitting those dildos really are. Someone’s about to get fucked over. And it’s not real Americans.
Real Americans understand that public lands are just that: public. That means no one gets to use or keep that land all to themselves. Or graze cattle for free. Or take over a wildlife sanctuary and cut down fences in some sort of barbed protest against the fact that a nation like America really exists, and it has laws, and breaking those laws does not mean you are a patriot. It means you are a forceful, deceitful pack of dicks. And hence the dildos. Enjoy them fellas. You earned them.
Meanwhile, back East where it is barbed comments, not barbed wire, that represent the fencing in Washington politics, we have the Queen of All Yahoos endorsing Donald Trump for President. That would be Sarah Palin, whose own daughter could have used a few dildos to block all those pregnancies in her campaign for abstinence over real sexual education.
But that’s how the Palin family rolls. Their opinions matter far more than the truth. Yet even Fox News, where the very name of the network is an oxymoron, and where all supposed news is dispensed inside conservative condoms to protect the Righteous Right from the ostensibly poison sperm of truth and reason, could not endure the bukkake being spit out from Sarah Palin’s mouth. So they fired her.
Which should be a lesson to Donald Trump, of all people. He’s fond of firing people as a publicity stunt for his own manhood. This is a man who admits to lusting after his own daughter, and whose bankruptcies are as frequent as his financial triumphs. Yet he’s leading the polls as the Republican nominee, and Sarah Palin just endorsed him.
The cognitive dissonance of all this brain-fucking deadness is clearly evident to people with conscience and morality. But those that have already sold their souls to the devil of Right Wing unconsciousness are more than happy to have cartoon figures like Donald Trump and Sarah Palin do their talking for them. Trump comes packaged with prejudice while Palin can’t read the back of a cereal package without confusing the grapes with the nuts. They’re a perfect pair, if political apocalypse is what you crave.
That’s why the so-called Militia out in Oregon is so fascinating. Those folks are also caricatures of true patriots. They’re standing their ground in what they consider their neighborhood with the same violent vigor one George Zimmerman used to gun down Trayvon Martin.
This is all happening because the Republican Party, which has long been an evil caricature of what it once stood for, has had stunning success making laws in complicity with a public that truly gives a rat’s ass about what the Constitution actually says. That’s how we got Stand Your Ground. Citizen’s United. And conveniently ignoring the entire first phrase of the Second Amendment. That’s a trifecta of shit bad lawmaking.
The Supreme Court, our nation’s highest court we might add, is ruled by five conservative yahoos in black robes who spout ridiculous justifications for gun laws (Antonin Scalia) or say nothing at all about anything (Clarence Thomas) before voting in line or in league with the other three yahoos, whose names don’t really matter except to say that they’re all (to a man, we might note) politically activist judges.
For all the judicial intelligence they’ve demonstrated, you could replace them with a trio of highly prejudiced, book-burning, creationist, Klan-joining PTO leaders from the Deep South and get the same goddamned results.
Despite this credulity, the yahoos as a movement have spread their seed and stock across America like a turd-covered blanket. And the frightening reality is that millions of Americans appear ready to wrap themselves in that stinking garment and give thanks to the Lord for the warmth of purpose it provides. Never mind that 50% of America has not a penny to its name and owes $20,000 on the Discover card, they’re getting 5% Cash Back in Rewards! That’s how the modern American economy works. That’s trickle down economics in a nutshell.
But any pig farmer on earth can tell you… that when you’ve stood around in the hogslop long enough, it cease to smell. That is the only logical explanation for the populism and popularity of a man like Donald Trump. Or any of those Republican candidates. But here’s the truth about Trump: He looks as happy as a pig in slop, does he not? That explains his skin tone perhaps.
And now that backwoods pig princess Sarah Palin just waded right in with him. And as Donald himself would say, “This stench is terrific!”
Which means the best treatment of all for those Oregon yahoos would be to load up an armored cement truck (we can have on government contract by Oshkosh, the military machine manufacturer) with a couple thousand pounds of raw, stinking manure. Then back it up to the window of that hog slop of a protest the “militia” is conducting out at Malheur and let the shit absolutely pour inside that building. It will find its own equilibrium, and if those yahoo bastards happen to drown in it, that will be cosmic justice of the first order. Of course, they might also float to the top with the piles of dildos they’ve received, thereby proving our original point. We can clean the stinking mess up later but first we’ve got to take action.
That holds true for the Trump and Palin Shit Train as well. Even Great Britain got involved by holding sessions in Parliament to call bullshit on the Trumpster, who is either purposely making a mockery of democracy or having too much goddamned fun to admit it.
When all this is said and done, we all know that Trump will go on being Trump. You can wallow in a lot of shit and still come out clean when you have that kind of money behind you.
Palin, by contrast, will have to live with the stench of yet another failed campaign on her record. She’s already been seen drinking her way through several video manifestos. That’s what yahoos do, you see. They drink and scream and huddle in their cars making viral stench consumed by millions of people with shit for brains.
Yes, Hunter S. Thompson was right. There are bonfires on the hillsides tonight. The yahoos are out there, and they think their time has come.
Starting today, let’s give them all the shit they all deserve.
20 years ago I took my impressionable son to a Junior-A hockey game at the newly built Fox Valley Ice Arena. As an associate creative director at a local marketing agency, I’d designed the logo for the team, which was painted 50 feet wide under the ice.
To be sure, I understood little about the actual game of hockey. My experience playing it as a kid was limited to whacking around a farm field ice rink with a bunch of friends. I didn’t really know the rules to the game. Heck, I didn’t even know there were three periods in the contest. After two periods I’d gotten up to leave, figuring the game was over. A friend turned to me and said, “Where you going? There’s a whole ‘nuther period.” So we sat back down in the slightly cold arena and waited for the affair to continue.
There had been scuffles between the players thus far in the match. At one point one of the local team’s players fell over the boards into the box of the opposing team. All the players on that side began jabbing the other player with their sticks. It looked like the attack of a band of crazed goons. And indeed, hockey has long celebrated goonery as a tradition in the sport.
The fight game
Five minutes into the third period, a real fight broke out. Two players squared off just below our seats. Their punches flew and one began to win the tussle. Sweaters were stretched. Fists landed. Then one player began to bleed. Profusely.
A bright red puddle of blood flowed out over the ice. Their skates kicked it up in the air as they continued fighting. Finally the referee entered the fight zone and began to break it up. But the damage was done. My son turned to me and asked, “Dad, do they always have fights in hockey?”
At that period of time, the game of hockey seemed all about fighting. When I mentioned the incident we’d witnessed to so-called “real” hockey fans they all laughed and said. “That’s why we go! Isn’t it awesome?”
Now, it wasn’t awesome. At best it seemed unfortunate. We’d been getting into the game and learned a little about hockey. Perhaps we’d have become fans. But not so.
Change has come
I’m not some naive pacifist. I had my share of fights early in life and had done my share of damage to others on the athletic field by that point. But I still wondered why hockey felt the need to let fighting remain such a large part of the action.
Fast forward 20 years. My daughter’s interest in hockey took off the same year the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup. Our family enjoyed many games that year, and grew to appreciate the fast, relatively clean brand of hockey played by the Hawks and some other NHL teams. It seemed the game was changing for the better.
Yes, there were still a few fights that broke out. But in the last few years the fighting in NHL hockey has been reduced and nearly eliminated. Hockey has actually become more exciting and watchable as a result. The league even seems to want to protect its players from the effects of concussion. In other words, it is still a sport of strength and speed, but it has eliminated some of the unnecessary brutality.
The paradigm of reduced fighting in hockey may be unpopular with diehard fans longing to see two players beat the hell out of each other. But as in football, the recognized effects of concussions and CTE on pro players is becoming a sensitive issue. Why put athletes of additional risk of life endangerment and brain debilitating if you can prevent it?
Hockey is taking simple measures to make the game safer for all. Either by proxy or intent, the game of hockey as a sport is actually more interesting without the fighting. Throwing down the gloves and tugging on each other’s sweaters always was a childish, immature way to settle actual differences. Playing just as hard and scoring more goals as a result makes the net game more exciting. The game is using its brain to make important changes that protect the players and in some ways, protect the sport as well.
So let’s imagine the same scenario, yet with a different “sport.” That would be guns. Millions of Americans own guns, and most of them never shoot anyone. Yet 30,000 people a year die from gun violence by suicide or murder, and many thousands more are wounded.
Yet many gun owners seem to think they don’t have any responsibility for these statistics. Using their brand of logic, it would mean that all the hockey players who play the game and do not get into fights have no responsibility for the fights that do break out. Yet we also know that the game of hockey, especially at the pro level, condoned the hiring of “goon” players whose main job was to act as an enforcer for the rest of the team. If one of the star players got hit too hard, the goon would head out on the ice to inflict punishment on the opposing team.
The same principle used to hold true in baseball, where pitchers would purposely throw at the head of a batter if it was judged that some transgression had taken place by the opposing pitcher. It was called getting plunked.
So these quid pro quo acts of violence were supposedly part of the gamesmanship of each respective sport. Fans selfishly cheered such violence, just as they cheer hard hits in football. The players enforced these regimens of accepted violence by refusing to protect themselves. Some played through game day concussions or multiple series of concussions. Football is now having to deal with the consequences and public image of these savage habits.
Paying the price
Because society ultimately does pay a price for escalations of violence. The ravaged brains of former football players and the death of children in America have a parallel relationship. Either we take the most steps possible to prevent such damage or we do not.
We’ve seen for years the debate over gun violence take oppositional forms. Gun advocates say it’s not their fault that criminals get guns and use them to murder. Gun control advocates simply want gun laws that do the most possible to keep guns out of the hands of unstable people.
But the “goons” in this case take a heavyhanded approach to gun advocacy. The NRA is the lead goon, hired by millions of gun owners to promote an interpretation of the Second Amendment that condones business as usual. This is the parallel to pro hockey. The goons know that to keep their job, they have to keep fighting. Those who benefit from the protection of the goons care not to question either the methods or the outcomes so long as their personal rights are protected.
The collateral damage to all this goonery is the lives of innocent people. Many have been slaughtered in elementary schools, movie theaters and college campuses. There have even been shootings on military bases. Of course, the irony there is that military personnel are not typically allowed to wander a military base bearing arms.
As reported on The Blaze.com in a 2013 story, “The question of why military members aren’t armed on base garnered attention back in November 2009 when Army Maj. Nidal Hasan opened fire at Ft. Hood and killed 13 people. He was sentenced to death on August 28. Now, nearly four years later, many are asking the same question.
So what’s the answer? It appears this “gun-free zone” type policy can actually be traced back to Department of Defense (DoD) Directive 5210.56, signed into effect in February 1992 by Donald J. Atwood, deputy secretary of defense under President George H.W. Bush.”
So let’s be clear: the policy to allow carriage of concealed weapons in modern society actually runs against the nation’s own Department of Defense dictums issued by a Republican President. And since that time, and to make matters worse, arguments for the proliferation of guns in public places has been expanded by Supreme Court rulings emphasizing the right to bear arms over the supposedly balanced call in the Second Amendment for a well-regulated militia.
The goons are winning
In other words, the goons are winning. The goons rule the game of gun laws and aren’t going to relinquish their roles easily. There is too much money to be made by promoting rampant gun ownership, because that’s how goons keep their jobs.
Do you get what’s going on? Our own military, an institution that nby profession trains and licenses personnel to handle guns, sees the common sense of limiting that right on its own grounds. As also reported in the story about DoD policy on TheBlaze.com: “The controversial directive states that “it is DoD Policy” to “limit and control the carrying of firearms by DoD military and civilian personnel. The authorization to carry firearms shall be issued only to qualified personnel when there is a reasonable expectation that life or DoD assets will be jeopardized if firearms are not carried,” it says.
Ahead of the game
The military is, in other words, “way ahead of the game” when it comes to proper regulation and use of guns. By contrast, civilian America is being forced to live as if there is reasonable expectation of “war on the streets.” This is a self-fulfilling prophecy if there ever was one. We’re left with the sad claim that guns actually make America “safer.”
By that brand of logic we might arrive at the conclusion that the fights in hockey actually make the game safer. But that’s exactly the logic being used by America’s “gun goons” to make the case that guns are necessary for freedom.
Even language of the debate over guns rights is concussively rife with violence. As reported in a story on on CNN.Com, “Wayne LaPierre, the nation’s most visible gun-rights advocate, rallied supporters on Saturday for a renewed fight against gun control, saying membership is up since the Newtown massacre, and calling the effort to stop new limits a “long war” and a “fight for everything we care about.”
In other words, Wayne LaPierre outright confesses that his job is waging a war on everyday Americans. And to that point, more Americans have died on American soil from gun violence than all the soldiers that have ever died in wars on foreign soil.
In other words, the goons aren’t just winning the war. They are committing genocide on the American people by proliferating guns. There are almost as many guns in America, 300,000,000, as there are people. And they’re proud of that fact.
And they won’t give up easily: “The National Rifle Association’s executive vice president vowed in remarks at the group’s national convention that “we will never surrender our guns.” He implored members to step up their outreach to members of Congress as part of a fight against “elites” and others who “use tragedy to try to blame us, to shame us” into compromise and who “want to change America, our culture and our values.”
Yes, it’s the fear of change that drives so much violence in this world. And please don’t stop the genocide, because it’s fear that motivates gun owners to purchase weapons in the first place. It’s a perfect circle of illogical justification and cognitive dissonance.
Statistics lead nowhere
Gun proponents have been pointing to statistics that show gun violence is going down over the last 30 years. That does notchange the fact that there are still 30,000 people dying in the streets every year, and that is far more than any civilized nation on earth.
And, despite the claims of the gun goons, there is absolutely no proof that the presence of more guns has led to less shootings. CNN notes: “Researchers have studied the decline in firearm crime and violent crime for many years, and though there are theories to explain the decline, there is no consensus among those who study the issue as to why it happened,” the researchers say in a summary.
Packs of goons
We do know one thing for sure. America is faced with veritable packs of goons running around claiming the government is out to get them and coming to take away their guns. Every time there is a new mass shooting, gun sales shoot up across the nation over fears that the new rash of violence will lead to more restrictive gun laws. That has never happened, but it doesn’t stop groups like the NRA from leveraging such fears into fundraising campaigns. It also serves the purpose of gun manufacturers, whose profits depend, if you follow the straight line logic of gun sales in response to mass shootings, on loss of American lives.
The most fearful gun goon squads actually call themselves militias. They are not “well-regulated” according to any interpretation of the Second Amenment. A pack of these goons is currently occupying a wildlife refuge in the state of Oregon. If the government intervenes, they will have accomplished their self-fulfilling prophecy. In hockey terms, that’s like a goon punching the referee in the face.
That’s how insane the game of gun control has gotten in this country. We’re being governed and manipulated by collaborative bunches of goons that insist personal gun rights supersede all other efforts to establish law and order in the country. Even when children die, and mass shootings continue, and America continues to lose more lives to gun violence than any other civilized nation on earth, the gun goons keep shouting that their own personal liberty is at risk. It is both a lie, and it is insane.
So the question remains. Do you want to be governed by NRA goons and their political henchmen? Or do you want to take responsibility as hockey has done, and has football is about to do, and begin the process of making “the game” safer for all to play? Should you really have to carry a sidearm everywhere you go in America to “feel safe?” Or is that notion the product of goons who are terminally insane over the notion that guns equal freedom?
Truly, there is no excuse for the blood being spilled on the ice of our everyday existence. Old School thinkers want to codify their vigilate version of reality and let the goons do the work of protecting their Wild West fantasies that more guns will keep the peace. Even the violent games of hockey and football are being forced to change to protect their respective sports and the players who engage in them.
And likewise, the United States Military changed its policies for “gun ownership” on its bases long ago. There is no such thing as “concealed carry” for military personnel.
Yet America with its insane interpretations of the Second Amendment refuses to acknowledge that violence as a way of life is harmful to all.
The January 11, 2016 edition of the Daily Herald covered the continuing story of a Wheaton College professor put on leave for statements of support about the Muslim faith: “Roughly 100 Wheaton College students filled the steps of Edman Memorial Chapel Monday to call on administrators to reconcile with political science professor Larycia Hawkins, who was placed on administrative leave last month and could be fired for saying Christians and Muslims worship the same God.”
Well, it rather fits with the school’s tradition to be divisive about the schism between Christian and Muslim faiths. It’s only been a few years since the college changed its own mascot name from the Crusaders. The institution clung to a medieval theology tradition for a little too long. But echoes of its ideology apparently still remain.
Knowing quite a few good people who graduated from Wheaton College, which is 10 miles from my home, it might seem wrong to pick on the place. But my personal history with intolerance from the institution goes back more than 40 years. That’s when a Wheaton College student as a Campus Life director at our high school pulled me aside after a weekly meeting to issue a harsh bit of advice about my pursuit of answers about Christianity. “You’ll never be a Christian if you keep asking questions like this,” he told me in a hissed whisper.
Ten years later, as I’ve shared in other posts about that encounter, we met by chance at a McDonald’s restaurant and made up on the spot. His tears and apparent anxiety on seeing me were motivation to initiate a discussion. We reconciled. That’s what real Christians do.
But that’s not what all so-called Christians do. In many years of church service and volunteer work, it has been common to find people at angry odds. Some of these have been pastors and youth group leaders, choir directors and board members. The list goes on and on.
Still, you don’t expect to see a public spat over theology to erupt in the form of the situation at Wheaton College. Tossing a professor out of her job for expressing the basic fact that Christians and Muslims worship the same God? That’s just being a bully.
Of course, the world’s culture has always been full of such bullies all the way back to the ministry of Jesus Christ, who was consistently forced to face down the threats of priests who aggressively asked if he worshipped the same God. And by the time Jesus claimed he was the Son of God, those priests tore their robes and screamed “Blasphemy!”
That’s because the institutional call for power and authority supersedes all other judgment. Which explains why Wheaton College has gone all authoritative on this issue of a shared history with the Muslim faith. The god they’ve worked so hard to define as their own has no room for other interpretations or even a metaphorical understanding of what it means to live in the Kingdom of God.
Instead, the college is acting on its binary instincts for literal possession of the truth. These are sourced from the narrow-minded interpretations of scripture that lead to belief systems such as creationism and other fundamental attempts to reduce the Bible’s truth to theological memes and sound bites.
And now that their selfish motives are exposed, they will likely recoil behind claims of persecution as fundamentalist factions always do. Anyone that questions their underachieving yet overreaching version of religious doctrine will be accused of attacking the Christian faith itself.
Meanwhile, other more liberal (and more rational) believers in Christ with courage to challenge the Wheaton College meme and fealty to a literalist version of God will be accused of corrupting the one true faith. That’s how conservatives religious leaders worldwide are likewise responding to the liberal (and liberating) actions and words of Pope Francis. You literally can’t win with these people. Hatred for change leads the day.
Those of us that have long tracked these defensive responses to theological challenges recognize a religious House of Cards when we see one. It’s all about feelings of betrayal and revenge with these people. At Wheaton College, there will likely be demands for retraction and perhaps the appearance of an extension of forgiveness to professor Larycia Hawkins. But we all know the truth. The zealots who run the arch chapters of faith are incapable of greater understanding or change. Wheaton College may be a fine institution, but they simply urinated on their own feet when it comes to enlightened behavior. If that pisses you off to hear someone say, then you should take a close look at your own soaking wet shoes.
Perhaps Wheaton will wait for their shoes to dry before tromping on anyone else. But like the Crusaders of Olde, they are always gearing up for the next fight on another day. They’ll tell themselves they are defending God when in fact all they are defending is their own anxieties over the certainty they claim to hold, but are never quite able to defend in the public sphere.
All forms of religious fundamentalism are a House of Cards. Christian. Muslim. Jewish. The list goes on. But our interpretation and application of scripture should not be so brittle and arch, so literal and parched of meaning.
But that’s how some people seem to like it. It’s very hard to show them anything different. More typically they’re proud if a bit confused at how tall their House of Cards has actually grown. Which explains the likes of Joel Osteen or Franklin Graham.
But that confused wonderment at the seeming works of God do not make it an any stronger brand of faith in the end. Mega-churches and TV preachers may attract plenty of so-called believers, but there is often plenty more air than substance blowing through those structures. So it’s worth giving them a blow or two to see how they stand.
As it currently stands, the United States has approved Concealed Carry gun laws for all 50 states in the Union.
That means people who take a course and own a gun can carry that weapon around in public places.
Well, that’s not entirely true. There are signs on libraries and churches and many other public facilities banning guns of any sort from entering the building.
That’s because people who run those buildings know that people with guns can’t really be trusted. The very assumption that a gun is necessary to move about in public places is a breach of the American spirit of equality and democracy. It is an expression of belief that our system of government (that being democracy) has failed in some patent way. If you don’t feel safe in America without a gun, then the American experiment, as it has often been called, has truly failed.
So many guns
But that’s not because there are not enough guns to go around. As reported on The Blaze, a right-wing website run by noted conservative Glenn Beck, “According to the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey – the leading source of international public information about firearms – the U.S. has the best-armed civilian population in the world, with an estimated 270 million total guns.”
And as a direct result of that figure, America has the most gun violence of any nation in the world.
These brands of cognitive dissonance dominate the debate over what constitutes effective gun policy in America. As a Pew Research study stated, “Although a measure to expand background checks on gun sales failed in the Senate last year, Americans who live in a household where they or someone else is an NRA member overwhelmingly favored the idea of making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to such checks. About three-quarters (74%) backed these expanded checks compared with 26% who opposed them. But far fewer people in NRA households supported proposed bans on assault-style weapons or high-capacity ammunition clips.”
This study shows that the gun lobby largely supports background checks, which would potentially help prevent mentally ill or disturbed people from owning weapons. Yet NRA households refuse to recognize the relationship between military-style weapons and the ability to conduct mass shootings. This is a breach of faith in the public trust.
That is why the gun lobby cannot be trusted on its own to govern how guns are sold, distributed and regulated in America. There is a disconnect between gun ownership and public safety. Surely this is reflected in the seeming denial of the first phrase of the Second Amendment, which in its completeness states, “”A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
The refusal to accept the first part of that phrase in favor of promoting the more selfish second clause is what makes it impossible to trust the gun lobby to its own devices. The rest of us really don’t trust that the gun lobby has America’s best interests at heart. Emphasizing the selfish right to bear arms over the priority to manage a nation’s collective security as a free state is a breach of trust. Justice Antonin Scalia wrongly led the charge to emphasize the individual right to bear arms as sacrosanct while denying any connection between the collective safety of the public clearly delineated in the opening phrase of the Second Amendment.
This was the direct expression of judicial activism. Conservative judges put selfish interests ahead of the collective safety of everyday Americans. Effectively, they ruled in favor of vigilantism over public safety.
That’s why we don’t really trust your guns, or you. That’s why libraries and schools and churches have installed signs with a red slash across the image of a handgun. You’re not allowed to carry those guns into public places because no gun owner be automatically trusted to show good judgment in the public interest. The gun lobby’s willing misinterpretation of the Second Amendment proves that. 30,000 deaths a year by both murder and suicide are proof of that.
But members of the gun lobby will likely stand by their selfish interests over the public good until it is their own sister, child, spouse or friend who gets shot in the head.
Ask Martin Luther King, Jr. if you like. Or John F. Kennedy. Robert F. Kennedy. Even Gerald Ford or Ronald Reagan. All were public officials trying to do good in this world who were assaulted by gun owners flaunting the public good. Some died. Others survived.
It is America itself that is now bleeding and suffering from gun violence. But the gun lobby does not seem to care. And can’t be trusted to ever do so.
During a New Year’s Day party, while talking with a young man and his father, conversation somehow turned to nature and conservation. We were standing by a large bonfire in freezing temperatures. Smoke puffed and billowed from the fire as the father, obviously excited to share his worldview with me, began to explain the difference between “predestination” and “preordination.”
“It’s not just semantics,” he claimed. “Predestination is very different from preordination.”
He went on. “All the world and history are preordained,” he explained. “God has mapped out everything in the past, the present and future. There isn’t a tree that falls in the woods that can change the course of history.”
Now, I will admit I typically ask for these types of conversations. Ever curious about the beliefs of others, and concerned for the manner in which faith is so casually used to justify all sorts of abuses in this world, I took the bait.
“What about free will?” I asked him.
Just then someone interrupted the conversation. That agitated him, because he’d just delved into his principal point, and he wanted to drive it home like a stake through my theological heart.
God is a control freak. That was his point.
What really matters?
My mind rushed through the implications of preordination. If all is preordained, then nothing we do as human beings can ever matter. “Science is wonderful,” he admitted. But it’s apparently useless. Still, he was proud of the fact that his son had been courted by schools for biomedical engineering. The kid walked away from scholarship offers. He’s working as a manager of an eldercare facility. “I like older people,” he smiled. “And I want to go into physical therapy to help them.”
The father was not finished with his soliloquy. “Evolution tries to explain things,” he observed. “But for what purpose? God already knows all that.”
I challenged him on that point, pointing out that Jesus seemed to have no problem incorporating nature into his parables as tools of exploration and instruction for his ministry. His highly symbolic parables based on nature’s wonders were a key tool to help people understand the nature of creation, which is reflective of God’s nature.
“Jesus would have had no problem with the theory of evolution,” I maintained. “He wanted everyone to learn from nature. And when his disciples didn’t get that, he call them as “dull” or “stupid.”
That seemed to catch him off-guard for a minute. But he quickly got back on his preordination horse and kept riding.
So I interjected again. “There are bookends to preordination and predestination that essentially defy the teachings of Christ,” I instructed. “The literal interpretation of Genesis and the reverse literalism of Revelation are literary tools for people to control the narrative of the Bible. Those are not the methods of God or Christ. In fact, Jesus chastised the religious leaders of his day for being so legalistic about faith and turning it into law for their own control and benefit,” I counseled. “There is far more truth to be discovered and known through metaphorical means. That’s where God resides, and how Jesus taught. He should be an example for us all. The Word and the world are living things. It’s up to us how we engage with God and creation. What really matters is the choices we make. That’s a more responsible way to act and it respects the gift of grace.”
At that moment, the flames seemed to rise a bit in the reflections of his eyes. He was burning to prove himself right. Just then someone threw another log on the fire. A stream of sparks shot up in the air. I took a sip of my beer and walked away from the heat of the flames.
The world is a pretty cool place if you let it be. The alternative is a bit like hell, because it turns out that it’s not God who is the control freak. It’s the character we know as Satan. He never wants to let you think for yourself.