Simple proof that America is at war with itself

The Chicago Tribune news coverage following the Las Vegas mass shooting included a story quoting off-duty police officers trapped in the mayhem where 59 people were murdered and hundreds more were injured when the calculating gunman perched himself in a tall hotel to take aim with scopes and guns reconfigured as automatic weapons.

Some of the off-duty police officers had also served in the military. Those that had seen combat were still shocked by the scene of women shot through the head and people bleeding out as they lay on the ground wounded or dying from the effects of a man with plenty of ammo and deadly aim.

Combat statement.jpg“I have been in combat, but I have never seen this type of mass casualty,” said police Sgt. Michael Gonzalez.

The Las Vegas shooting may have been massive in scope, but it was just a bump in the pulse of bloody shootings taking place every day in America. There is no more denying the fact. The nation itself has become a combat zone. The United States of America is literally at war with itself.

The statistics of all the deaths caused by gun violence back this up. More Americans have now died from gun violence on home soil than all the soldiers ever killed in combat in foreign wars.

This is the direct product of the murderously blind activism of the conservative Supreme Court that wields its judgements like a weapon of the vigilante ideology favored by both the NRA and the politicians it has bought and sold. The inexcusable complaint that gun control measures are an infringement of the “right to bear arms” is disrespectful to the Constitution as a whole. When people own the right to steal the life of another human being in the blink of a trigger pull, there are no equal rights to that. There is no freedom in America.

Concealed Carry poison

The right to kill has bled into Concealed Carry laws that have poisoned the nature of freedom across the country. Think about it. The person standing next to you could well be packing the cold-hearted tool of your own demise. Say something wrong to them, or conduct some unintended slight that they judge to be a threat to their person, and they can claim the right to shoot you. Right in the head if they feel like it.

It is inconceivable that the Founding Fathers ever intended this to be the presiding scenario in America. In essence, we’ve been drawn back into an era when dueling was used to settle difference, or when gunman lined up in the street (supposedly) to draw weapons and fire. That’s what the NRA has promoted as the safest brand of citizenship in America.

Ignorant claims of so-called “responsible gun owners”

Don’t you see the ignorance of these claims? When laid bare, they have no constitutional foundation at all. They do have money behind them, and people selfish and angry enough at their plight in life to abide such foolishness. Meanwhile supposed “responsible” gun owners cower behind the controversy hoping the band of idiots at the forefront of the “more guns” debate will cover their fearful asses.

Because that’s what rampant gun ownership is all about. Fear. The United States is rife with chickenshits who feel like they can’t walk down the street or mingle with other human beings without carrying a gun on their person. This is the opposite of courageous. It is the parallel of insanity.

The bleeding and dying

That police officer who carried bleeding, dying people off the concert grounds knows now that America is a literal war zone. He saw it with his own eyes. He compared it to what he saw in actual combat, in real wars, and this was far worse.

The Second Amendment needs to be clarified. Re-balanced. We need a hard, strong definition of what a “well-regulated militia” looks like, and how it functions. We should no longer leave that to the addle-brained conservatives on the Supreme Court to decide. They have originalism blindness. They couldn’t muster their way out of a cardboard box if the writing on the inside mentioned guns in any way.

But our gutless Congress and Senate when run by Republicans is even worse. Their long term claim that government is the enemy of the people is the knife to the gut of common sense. If that’s the case, they should commit hari-kiri and get out of office. If you don’t believe in the merit of government, you have no right or ability to serve.

Cognitive dissonance

We live in a combat zone of cognitive dissonance. And innocent people are dying every day as a result. Screw the gun lobby. We don’t need any more evidence to re-write the Second Amendment, or repeal it altogether. The frightening reality is that we’ve seen  Presidents succumb to gun violence several times already. Even that conservative pet Ronald Reagan got blasted by a freeloading gunman back in the day. Gerald Ford was a target too. We lost JFK. His brother Bobby. We lost Martin Luther King, Jr. And we even lost John Lennon.

Imagine that. If Happiness is a Warm Gun, America has burn marks on its holster side.

What will it take for an admission of the combat zone that America has become? Does another President need to become a martyr for the nation to wise up? That might wake up the close-minded. The backwoods and front-office gun nuts, selfish and obsessed with weapons as a sub-culture.

It’s a sickness. An addiction. But like that soldier who comes home to find life at home too quiet, it seems the gun nuts of America fear the quietude they might face if they can’t wave a weapon in yours. That’s the worst angst they can imagine.

 

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Wheaton Crusaders still on the move

Not long ago, the Wheaton College Thunder were called the Wheaton College Crusaders. If you’ve studied Christian history at all, you know the origin of that name. The Crusades were a long series of mobile wars conducted by Europeans in part to take back control of the Holy Land. For two centuries Crusaders tried to gain control of the Middle Eastern world, only to lose ground in the end to the Ottoman Turks and other Muslim-controlled interests in the region.

But the angry religious energy of the Crusades conveniently found new targets for domination in the New World. It even gained gave itself a new name, in Manifest Destiny, the idea that Europeans were a chosen people of God who deserved to take over North America. And from there, the Christian religion was again used to justify genocide. Why not? The Old Testament was full of it.

Not too surprising

So the violent roots of the Christian faith and its actions around the world are never too surprising. Most recently, five football players from Wheaton College initiated a crusade of their own. The Daily Herald describes one phase of the incident this way: “According to records cited in the Tribune’s report Monday night, the student was in his dorm room when he was tackled by the football players, his legs and wrists wrapped up in duct tape, and a pillow case put over his head. He was placed in the back seat of a teammate’s vehicle, and as they drove, the players made offensive comments about Muslims, the report said.”

The players went on to sexually abuse their captive by attempting to insert an object into his rectum, all while continuing to insult the man and physically abuse him when resistance was offered.

Just like Iraq

abu-ghraibThat behavior resembles the actions of American military service personnel who tortured, beat and abused Iraqi prisoners during America’s invasion of that country in the early 2000s. The photos that emerged of those abuses rightly enraged the world, especially Muslim people who ascertained from reports about American soldiers specifically targeting Islamic taboos to humiliate Iraqi men and boys.

The American military was quite technically on a crusade of its own in Iraq. There was no real reason to invade that country after the 9/11 attacks. Yet the heated notion that Saddam Hussein was an immediate threat and that Muslim countries in general were a danger to the United States was used to ramp up approval of that war by Congress.

All this took place under the auspices of an openly Christian President in George W. Bush. It was his personal crusade to get back at Saddam for threatening his daddy and having the gall to stand up to America at all.

No remorse

dick-cheneyYet for all the ugly follies of Iraq, Bush and his henchman Cheney suffered few political consequences for the torture that occurred under their watch. Cheney even doubled down on several occasion about the merits of torture to subdue one’s enemies.

With that kind of attitude trickling down from our nation’s leaders and our own military, perhaps it is no surprise that a band of five Wheaton College football players should capture a young Muslim man from his dorm room to torture, injure and humiliate him. The fact that it happened at an overtly unapologetic Christian college such as Wheaton is quite in line with the behavior of hardline Christian leadership throughout history.  Quite recently the college fired one of its own professors for making a pro-Muslim comment. She had posted on Facebook: “I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” she posted on Facebook. “And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”

She was dismissed for that simple yet loving remark. And yet the five Wheaton College football players who kidnapped a fellow student, tortured and sexually abused him remain at the college. They were “strapped” with only 50 hours of “community service” and having to write an “eight page letter” as punishment for their actions.

Wheaton at fault

Now that the Wheaton College players are facing actual criminal penalties for their actions, it is time to hold Wheaton College publicly accountable for the mercenary brand of doctrine to which it traditionally ascribes. With its feet firmly planted in the evangelical community, Wheaton’s form of highly conservative, often repressive Christian teaching is the ideology fueling ugliness at home and abroad. Evangelicals swayed the vote for Donald Trump, himself a very public abuser, violent character and poor representative for what would normally pass for Christian virtues.

If it is indeed Christianity that men like Trump espouse, it is a Christianity rooted in intolerance and anger toward all other faiths. Witness its dog-whistle implementation as documented on the website God and Country, Military Religious Freedom and Christian Service. In a post titled “The Top Three Military Chaplain Fallacies,” it cheerleads unrelenting conversion as the ultimate expression of “religious freedom.”

The article says: “A military chaplain must have a true affinity for the lost (unconverted), and possess a love that is implacable for the Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen that they serve. A military chaplain must exercise their constitutional right to faithfully and expositionally teach and preach the whole counsel of God’s special and propositional revelation. Why? Military chaplains that never evangelizes (sic), soft-peddles truth, willfully omits the name of Christ in prayer out of fear of offending others instead of God, substitutes Scripture with psycho-therapy, and cares more about their career than Christ are not examples of holiness and Christ-centeredness; they are examples of hypocrisy and childish-conceits.”

Religious liberty, or the opposite? 

This is what too much of America claims as “religious liberty.” Would a military chaplain schooled in these methods of unrelenting evangelical fervor truly offer any virtue of service to a Muslim or Jewish soldier?

None whatsoever. Nor did the young men who play football for a Christian college show any respect or tolerance for a fellow student when they kidnapped and tortured him for his religious and possibly racial background.

Sickness at heart

There is a sickness at the heart of a Christian faith that approaches the world with such dismissive force. It bleeds into politics, culture and public civility. It fuels racially driven prejudice based on outdated interpretations of scripture that are used by the likes of the KKK to claim that white people are God’s people. It oppresses the rights of women, of gay people, of every person born into a nation where freedom from religion is guaranteed by the Constitution just as freedom of religion is also provided.

These were not just five football players roughhousing, as the likes of Rush Limbaugh will probably say. There is sickness at heart when such rationalizations are offered. These were five young men indoctrinated to think that somehow their school or their race or their position in life gave them the right to torture and abuse another human being because they attend a Christian college whose unquiet traditions of supremacy and crusades has a long history of justifying such behavior.

That is the form of religious “freedom” to which latter day evangelicalism too often leads. And it has to be challenged. Stopped. Shouted down. And dunned from dominance of the public debate over policy and protections of civil rights.

 

You can’t “get over it” when you’re under the thumb of an authoritarian

Thumb.jpgSenior White House Policy Adviser Stephen Miller had this to say about rational resistance to the policies being imposed by Donald Trump:

“The end result of this, though, is that our opponents, the media, and the whole world will soon see, as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.”

This is clearly an authoritarian statement. It holds, at its heart, the ugly sentiments of fascism.

It is unclear why so many people who supposedly value freedom in America still seem to support the likes of Donald Trump, who cheered his advisor’s performance on the Sunday morning talk shows.

“The powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.”

Is that so? Since when does the President have the right to tell millions of Americans who did not vote for him how to think? He clearly cannot stand that notion either. As we all know, Donald Trump lost the popular vote by millions. And what is his response? He refuses to accept that fact, and went to some lengths in manufacturing his own version of reality as a result. “5 million people voted illegally,” he contended.

The real fact of the past election is that far less than 1/4 of the American people actually voted for Donald Trump. This scares the living hell out of Donald Trump. But more than that, it insults his frail yet outsized ego. That is the far more dangerous component of his authoritarian response to resistance to his policies.

Despite the harsh reality of the popular vote and its proof that Trump is not granted a mandate, he further considers Constitutional a playground for his whims. He has refused to release his tax returns to dispel potential conflicts of interest. He has stated publicly that the election results excused any such notions. He has thus claimed that his conflicts of interest are of no consequence to his presidency.

This is authoritarianism at work. And at its worst. Add in the conflation of Russian involvement in the election and pre-inaugural contact with that nation by one of Trump’s representatives, and we have a president that is operating well outside the boundaries of his authority and quite possibly, the law.

Yet Trump supporters tell his detractors to “get over it.” And that is an impossible request. One cannot “get over” the dangerous thumb of an authoritarian. We’ve seen that time and again in history. If you acquiesce to the methods of authoritarian actions and terror, the nation itself is lost.

That is where we stand. That is why we resist. This is the authoritarian thumb we must fight with all our might.

The delusional presidency of Donald Trump and the people who support him

de·lu·sion·al

[dəˈlo͞oZH(ə)nəl]

ADJECTIVE
  1. characterized by or holding idiosyncratic beliefs or impressions that are contradicted by reality or rational argument, typically as a symptom of mental disorder.
  2. Delusional disorder, previously called paranoid disorder, is a type of serious mental illness called a “psychosis” in which a person cannot tell what is real from what is imagined. The main feature of this disorder is the presence of delusions, unshakable beliefs in something untrue or not based on reality. People with delusional disorder generally experience non-bizarre delusions, which involve situations that could occur in real life, such as being followed, poisoned, deceived, conspired against, or loved from a distance. These delusions usually involve the misinterpretation of perceptions or experiences. In reality, however, the situations are either not true at all or highly exaggerated. If the delusions could not happen in reality (aliens, television broadcasting your thoughts) then a person might be considered delusional with bizarre-type delusions.

By any definition of the word, the man elected as President of the United States exhibits delusional behavior. Donald Trump either acts delusional on purpose as a means to advance his political agenda, or he is truly delusional as evidenced by his blunt denials of facts that contradict his desired outcomes or beliefs.

Donald Trump's proposed golf courseHaving a delusional person at the seat of power in America is a dangerous situation for this country, and the world at large. When a person of Trump’s stature and position cannot separate facts from fears, or fiction from fruition, the results are typically chaotic. And when a delusional leader acts out of force of personality and as a means to defy the supposed weaknesses of his predecessors, there is danger at every turn.

Recently Donald Trump ordered Navy Seals into action in Yemen. By many measures that included the death of one American soldier and five others wounded, a $75M helicopter scuttled and civilians torn to pieces in an airstrike, the effort was a hot mess that went wrong from the start. Military officials blamed lack of sound intelligence for the failure of the raid.

Yet this is how the Trump administration responded to those criticisms:

“The Trump administration’s top spokesperson called a raid in Yemen that resulted in the death of one Navy SEAL and the likely deaths of civilians a “huge success,” and rebuked any criticism of the operation as a “disservice” to the fallen SEAL.

Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, earlier called the operation a “failure.”

“It’s absolutely a success and I think anyone who would suggest it’s not a success does disservice to the life of Chief Ryan Owens,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said today during the daily press briefing.”

We’ve seen this delusion before in the Iraq War

The same delusional arguments have been made suggesting the Iraq War even in its massively chaotic and destructive first few years was also a success. President George W. Bush stood before a large sign stating MISSION ACCOMPLISHED on a warship at sea.

This was an illustration of delusion at its worst. Bush and Cheney cost America $6T in an unbudgeted military venture that produced even more terrorism and hatred for America before President Obama sealed up the envelope as required by Iraq in its negotiations and pulled most of our troops out of the country.

That’s common sense. Yet men like Donald Trump appear to want to increase the nature and scale of American aggression in the Middle East. Delusional Twitter threats made by Trump toward Iran may inflame those possibilities. So might his ugly taunts toward China. Even his nasty confrontations with allies hold potential to turn former friends into guarded enemies of our nation.

Domestically delusional

Trump is psychotic in all these regards. And on domestic policy his opinions of how to handle immigration, such as building a multibillion dollar wall along the Mexican border, are patently insane.

Yet he garners enough support from an equally delusional and selfishly motivated segment of the American electorate that his shallow dreams and public nightmares earn a certain grade of popularity. His rants against the media for “attacking him” when all they are doing is fact-checking his statements show the paranoid nature of the man. His belligerent attitude and the sociopathic tendencies of his close advisor Stephen Bannon all mimic the likes of an insane dictator bent on bring the world to its knees by any means.

Worse yet, his insanity is serving as a smokescreen for Ayn Rand-obsessed Republicans eager to gut the EPA, privatize Social Security and throw old people and kids out on the streets with nothing more than vouchers to gain health care coverage or a decent education.

These are not overreactions. Donald Trump fit the description of a delusional individual long before he became President. He has always been narcissistic beyond the normal levels of already ignorant Americans by a tenfold measure. His show The Apprentice in which he positioned himself as an angry boss yelling “You’re Fired” shows how insanely egotistical the man has always been.

Time to impeach

There is only one answer to this delusion. That is to remove the man and everyone associated with him from power. Impeach Trump for his conflicts of interest in all his continued business dealings. Impeach him for his failure to conduct himself with respect toward other nations and their representatives. Impeach him for his known and clear collusion and favoritism toward a Russian government that has been demonstably involved in hacking the American electoral process.

The reasons keep adding up. The time to impeach Donald Trump is now. Remove the delusionary egotist from office. Drain the Swamp he’s created through unqualified and unethical nominees. Yank the likes of Stephen Bannon with his apocalyptic brand of Breitbart hate from the reins of power. And finally, put that miserable sycophant Reince Priebus back where he belongs shoveling the stables of Republican horseshit.

This has gone far enough. Impeach Donald Trump now. Before it is genuinely too late. Or he declares martial law. Or hits the nuke button. This delusional President is not going to Make America Great Again. His presence is going to ruin the good work of all those who believe in civil rights, equality, liberty and justice for all.

 

The cynicism of Shock and Awhhhh

So the term “snowflakes” was invented by the Right to describe people of supposedly shallow ideological substance. That would specifically be “liberals,” and “Progressives” and all others who, for the life of them, cannot stop standing up for the civil rights of everyone that lives in America.

In a January 29 post bearing this bold title, blogger John Galt went on a rant designed to intimidate and mock those who are participating in political protest regarding the actions of Donald Trump:

Snowflakes and Suckers can Now Begin their 2nd Week of Abject Trump Panic

Regardless of there (sic) whining, stupidity, drama, and insane screaming of the left along with #FakeNews from CNN and others, Donald J. Trump is sworn in and America’s long national nightmare is over. The protesters managed to make Middle America hate them and the two leftist controlled coasts even more.

One finds two clear strains of aggression here. First, the celebration of Shock felt by those to whom Trump’s long record of bizarre and unprincipled behavior is an affront. And second, the cynical habit of branding political opponents with patronizing labels. That is the “Awhhh” portion of the strategy.

The goal, as you can tell from the Shock Blogger above, is to always present Progressive resistance to the politics of Shock as hopelessly out of touch with reality. Hence the claim that “The protesters managed to make Middle America hate them.” That is a broad-based assumption if there ever was one. I live in so-called “Middle America” where cornfields inch up to the yards of suburbanites. Just beyond are tiny towns struggling for survival. I went to high school in those cornfields. Dated the daughters of hard-ass farmers and hung with their conservative sons who found ways to score coke and pot and hold giant parties in the barn when their parents were away.

Middle America

I’ve remained friends with plenty of those former classmates over the years. Some of those associations were helped along by social media such as Facebook. But as the primaries and election rolled forward in 2016, it was shocking to realize how shallow the political views of so many Middle Americans can be. These were my friends, but they either bought into the Shock and Awhhhh! mentality wholesale or proved somehow incapable of separating fact from fiction. Few seemed alarmed by the real dangers presented by a man such as Donald Trump.

In a New York Times feature about Women who voted for Trump, in their own words… that shallowness in critical thinking emerges, and it reveals why Trump was successful. Said one woman:. “I do read things on occasion that he tweets and I think, oh my word. I wish I could have had 10 minutes with him. Listen, Donald, you need to straighten up and stop with this foolishness. What he said about women was disrespectful. But I don’t get offended like some people do. You get through the bad and you focus on the good. Basically these were our choices, and I felt he was the better choice, and I had to overlook the negatives and focus on the positives.”

Overlook the negatives? Focus on the positives?

Here’s another opinion from one of the women interviewed by the NYT:

“I feel very, very badly for the people who are very scared for their way of life. From what I’m understanding, he’s only really wanting illegal immigrants that have committed crimes to be deported, which I agree with. I feel bad for the lesbian and gay and transsexual community that fear for their way of life. From what I understand, he says he’s not going to mess with that.

Somebody called me a racist because I did vote for Trump. Hold on, you don’t know me. Doesn’t that make you a racist by calling me a racist when you don’t know me? I’m looking for a brighter future for me and my children, and honestly I felt l like our country was kind of at risk if we did elect Hillary.”

Feeling bad

She “feels bad” for people who are scared for their way of life. Yet she goes on to absolve Trump of  possibility ill intentions. “From what I understand, he says he’s not going to mess with that.”

If these are the weak reasons she expresses for choosing Donald Trump, what is the likelihood that she would speak up if her candidate actually did so something offensive? Like ban Muslims? Shut down immigration?

What is Trump and his henchmen engaged in a Shock and Awe onslaught against the protections included in the Affordable Care Act, or the Environmental Protection Agency, or any number of other sanely conceived programs that are hated by Alt-Right conservatives whose only object, it seems, is to hate the government. And now they run it.

The brand of blind trust and naive notions given over by so many voters to Donald Trump is exactly what he wanted. And he laughed at the fact that it was happening. Middle Americans sold their freaking souls in this last election.

Endorsing hate

That endorsement has unleashed a brand of zealotry for which men such as Stephen Bannon have been preparing for years. It is their plan to implement policies rife with bigotry and political dismissiveness.

But to make matters worse, the hate and fear of this ideology has successfully been wrapped in the eternal blanket of religious confessional language. This is how great nations come to ugly ends.

That’s how it works. Zealotry is all about shocking your opponents into submission and branding those who resist with dismissive terms such as “snowflakes” so that the submissive, shallow minds of those clutching to fears perceive them as the weaker option.

And it’s working.

This is the cynicism of Shock and Awhhhh.

 

 

On Jesus and job security

IMG_6341.jpgIn the last forty years or so, conservative Christian ideology surged to the forefront of American culture. In an arc ranging from Jerry Falwell to Ralph Reed to Franklin Graham, the face of conservative Christianity has been enormously white, pandemically virile and potently political.

Through it all, moderate Christians have stood in relative silence watching their namesake religion waved like a black flag from a pirate ship. Progressive Christians have been slightly more vocal, and with the advent of social media actually found channels by which to challenge the backward contentions of conservative Christianity.

Predatory faith

But it has not been enough to keep a huge chunk of the country from falling victim to a predatory branch of the faith that has fomented dangerously false ideas. These included the widespread apocalyptic fervor centered around predictions of the End Times extrapolated from the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation. There is also the greed-soaked contentions of the so-called Prosperity Gospel and its steroid-level injection of motivational speaking. Finally, there is the belief that despite its propensity for legislating against civil rights, courting racism and acting like bullies on every issue it confronts, the Republican Party in America is supposedly the true representative of God’s wishes on this earth.

Conservative Christianity has sided with the bullies of this world because it suits the Crusading mentality of its aggressively militaristic past. Despite all sorts of past failings and ancient travesties in the Middle East, Christian Conservatives still see that region of the world as some sort of pathway to heaven.

Symbol of sacrifice

The true narrative of the Bible is that conservative religious zealots are never the true path to anything. Jesus did every damned thing he could to educate the Chief Priests of his day, and they still tossed him over to the Roman for crucifixion. That symbolic sacrifice of self and speaking truth to the politically powerful should ring true with real Christians. But Christian conservatives refuse to see themselves in the warped power structure of the Pharisees or the demands of the Romans, whose Emperor was considered a god.

If Christian conservatives can’t recognize themselves and their abuse of power and twisted Gospel in the biblical narrative, then it means the modern role of Jesus falls to someone else. That should be the more liberal (and thus more Christlike) wings of the Christian Church.

Taking up the mantle

Thankfully the Catholic Pope Francis is taking up that mantle. Tellingly, his statements on the real meaning of Christianity have been met with resistance from both religious and political conservatives throughout the world. Pope Francis has had to fire the most zealous and troublesome conservatives under his authority. He also fired those priests and cardinals whose consumptively grand habits were direct imitations of those conservatives priests back in Jesus’ day who wandered around in elegant dress while spewing false righteousness at every turn.

But what the Christian Church really needs is a revolution from within. That is, liberals and moderates must take up the cross and engage in direct theological confrontation with conservatives that have turned the Christian faith into a political ideology focused almost completely on denial of modernism, science and cultural change.

Job security

The reason this has not happened is likely to do with job security. Thousands of good Christian servants in this country do great things for their local flocks and the world at large. But without more radical confrontation of the conservative dogma dominating public discourse in America, pied pipers such as Franklin Graham and Pat Robertson will continue to lead millions of authoritarian lemmings over the edge of theological cliffs to a daily spiritual drowning.

But if organizations such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America do not speak up more soundly on behalf of the true liberal heart of faith, this nation does not stand a chance in the face of the fascist conservatism that has evolved around authoritarian brands of religion. That will have been a sacrifice of opportunity when it is needed most. Where, for example, is the public voice of the Lutheran Bishop, the closest thing Protestants have to a Pope? Is the public relations department of the ELCA that bad that we can’t hear from a good Protestant in line with the heritage of Martin Luther himself?

All about money

Perhaps this is all about membership and money, and challenging more conservative sects within the ELCA could result in splintered relationships and abandonment? Well, so be it. The Disciples of Christ wandered dirty streets recruiting believers from scratch. And if they were confronted by those who would not hear them, Jesus instructed them to brush the dirt off their feet and move on.

Whether moderate and liberal Christians have the guts to speak out and challenge the false doctrines of conservative Christianity or not is a question for the ages. These are historic times. One wonders if intelligent Christians with a heart for Jesus actually have the guts to stand up to hardline zealots who care only to win the day and the favor of the rich and powerful of this world.

Greetings from the Fun House of an Ungrateful America

barack-obamaLast evening while having an earnest conversation with two women about the importance of gratitude during periods of grief and loss, we discussed how it had contributed to healing. One had recently lost her mother after seven long years of caregiving. The other admitted that she had not lost anyone close to her in life.

As the conversation broadened to discussion of life’s challenges in general, the woman who had not lost anyone close to her raised her hand and said, “Maybe you won’t agree with me, and I don’t know where you stand on this, but I feel like the new regime is going to make things better for all of us.”

She is a sweet woman. Well-meaning in every way. So I bit my tongue at the “new regime” comment and did not attempt any sort of reconnaissance on the matter.

But people never used to use the term “new regime” as a positive. The definition of the word “regime” alone should be a warning sign: a government, especially an authoritarian one.

So how did we get to the point where the idea of an authoritarian government seems like a good idea?

New Regime

It was not lost on me that her allegiances toward the “new regime,” as she put it, might be lacking some sort of insight. Her family is quite well-to-do. I’ve gotten to know her husband fairly well, and he is a good man as well. He works hard and has earned the grand style of living in which they can comfortably engage.

These were not people for whom the 2008 recession destroyed their income. Perhaps their investment portfolio sagged for a while, but it came back. The economic recovery under President Obama required public money and a restoration of consumer confidence to take hold. Those attributes are not easy matters over which to preside as a President.

Health matters

UkraineTo make matters worse, President Obama’s opponents sought to undermine his leadership well before he even stepped into office. Mitch McConnell, the stodgy Senator from Down East, swore that the principle goal of the Republican Party would be to make President Obama a “one-term president.” And then the GOP-led Congress obfuscated every initiative Obama tried to start. The success of Obamacare was undermined by a long-term negative campaign against the Affordable Care Act. That began before it was signed into law and continued through fifty attempts to repeal it in Congress.

Even after the conservative Supreme Court ruled Obamacare constitutional, the GOP continued to whine and complained about the program because they considered it an expansion of government. Every shortcoming of the ACA was highlighted while benefits such as providing coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, a vital provision for millions of Americans, was ignored by the GOP.

Bitter complaint

And while the program had problems getting launched, millions of Americans that previously could not gain access to coverage were now enrolled thanks to subsidies to reduce the cost of insurance. This operative directly resembles the provisions offered to employees of corporations that provide health insurance. The principles are the same, but the GOP bitterly complained that the subsidies were one more form of handout to a populace they considered lazy or unworthy of such support.

Health insurance companies were not exactly collaborative on the Obamacare front. Newly developed plans that offered coverage for fairly priced premiums were eliminated after just a year. More expensive plans were forced on those insured under the original program, or enrollees were shoved into HMOs and other cost-savings programs. Rather than responding with gratitude for all the new business Obamacare delivered to their plates, insurance companies shortsightedly dumped plans they deemed unprofitable.  The recoil from this  turned much of the populace off to the idea of

Ingratitude afoot

This reaction symbolizes the manner in which much of conservative America responded to economic reform led by President Obama on a number of fronts. The necessary re-tooling of the auto industry, in which several major American automakers were on the brink of bankruptcy, was directed by a team assigned by President Obama to fund and support automakers in a program in which they could pay back low-interest loans. This saved millions of valuable jobs and car companies paid off their loans within several years of the public investment. This was a success by any measure, yet Republicans grumbled into their suit collars that public money should never have been used for such purpose. A few conservatives even insisted that America’s car companies deserved to die, and should have been left for the free market to swallow up.

Forgotten travesties

Thus the Darwinistic notions of free-market ideologues show little concern for the well-being of everyday Americans. And even some of those everyday Americans seem to have long forgotten how bad things really got in 2008 when millions of people were thrown out of jobs. The Bush administration had made a royal mess of the country on multiple fronts. With two wars raging and the echo effects of 9/11 still rattling the world with Osama bin Laden at large and Bush admitting that he’d forgotten all about him, America had good reason to feel insecure.

Eight years later the economy has been showing signs of reasonable growth. Eleven million jobs were created during President Obama’s tenure.

Yet unions have still been under attack by conservatives such as Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker, who gutted collective bargaining with public employees in his state. These attempts at reducing labor’s influence and voice have been replicated in other public and private sector industries as well. President Ronald Reagan can be credited with setting the domino effect in motion, a cause that has reduced the earning power and security for millions of middle-class Americans.

Transferring blame

Yet the GOP has successfully blamed President Obama for failing to restore middle-class jobs lost to the migration of capital overseas, where manufacturing operations of global companies have shifted in pursuit of cheaper labor.

Republicans preach loyalty to the working populace, and Donald Trump cynically has promised to restore jobs in coal-mining and manufacturing. But look at the real results. His grandstanding effort at the Carrier plant in Indiana is symbolic of the fecklessness of his methods. More than 800 jobs still migrated to Mexico, and Carrier got a $7M tax incentive in the process. If anyone but Donald Trump had “executed” the deal, he would have called them names and castigated them for weak negotiating skills.

Fun times or Fun House?

fun-house-1.jpgSo the world is in for some real fun times with Donald Trump, who stumbled into victory because the GOP successfully browbeat Hillary Clinton about emails and Benghazi to the point that regular working people could no longer tell truth from fiction, and remained cowering in their homes for fear of being hit with another round of stinking lies disguised as truth. America has been duped into the Fun House that is Donald Trump’s world. Facts don’t matter. Opinion reigns. And lies win the day. It’s a frightening world where no one knows where to turn for sanity.

The GOP is responsible for the insanity. Eight years of solid, considerate and even visionary leadership of President Obama was turned into one long and constant smear campaign accusing him of dividing the country. The GOP leveraged the voice of racism against Obama by accusing the President of being racist himself. This is a classic GOP trick used against candidate John Kerry in Swift Boat debacle. Democrats seem feeble in the face of such turnabout lies. And too many Americans think the Fun House is a nice place to live. It excites them. “Trump says what I think!” they enthuse.

Outside the Fun House

The rest of America just grows numb. And that’s how the GOP likes it. Bullies want people to stand down, show no resistance and to stand up only when told.

The numbness only wore off when Donald Trump arrived with a cold shot of anger and public ingratitude toward the Obama administration and its rescue of the nation from the abyss created by Bush and Company. This message appealed greatly to conservatives who preferred to forget all about the Bush years, the tragic wars of choice that stole and maimed their sons and daughters, and the terror of 9/11 created by negligence or worse yet, calculated ignorance toward the real threat of terror.

These realities were much too hard for conservatives to admit, and for moderates to imagine. Despite all that Obama had done to rescue the economy and restore some sense of consistent national identify and avoid speculative wars, conservatives branded him weak and mocked his intelligence as dithering academic indecision.

In other words, ingratitude became the word of the hour.

Milking it

Trump milked that ingratitude for all it was worth. His campaign slogan Make America Great Again took ingratihillary-clintontude to the heights of arrogance. He didn’t just imply that Obama was a failure, and accuse Hillary of even less leadership ability, he lied for affect, and knew he’d never be called to account because the cash-hungry press was all too happy to take big advertising dollars in exchange for broadcasting Donald Trump’s ingratitude.

In the face of this ungrateful tsunami of selfish anger and belligerence, Hillary Clinton sought to reason with the American people. But there is no reasoning with people possessed of such selfish, fearful instincts. The rich had been indoctrinated to think that Obama was a failure while the poor were told that Hillary Clinton held no hope or concern for them.

Middle class disaffection
Neither were the middle class left to guess for themselves. To that audience, Trump applied a different tactic. He went out to black audiences bragging that a black President had done little to make their lives better. There was an element of truth to the accusation, but it was Republican prejudice that made it so difficult to gain progress for black folks in America, not Obama’s complacency.

The gains made for the immigrant and LGBT community were dog-whistled to death by Donald Trump. His slogan Make America Great Again was a spurious call to roll back policies tolerant of minority needs. This message resonated with white Americans eager for any leg up in society. Those that lived in small towns or flyover communities abandoned by corporate America thought they saw a glimmer of light in Trumps seeming favoritism toward the originally powerful white community. The KKK ate that message up, and Trump did not deny it. Thus the mood of ingratitude was flipped inside out and preached in speeches that praised the power of politically incorrect speech as a sign of greatness, not shame.

Deplorables
Hillary Clinton branded this trend “deplorable,” and she was absolutely correct about that. The long smear campaign directed toward Obama as a supposed “elitist” was instantly shifted toward Clinton. Trump’s dark directors saw that as an opportunity and turned populist with the message. Thus the ingratitude of the Alt-Right and angry Independents of the nation earned a full voice because the GOP used the “deplorables” remark as propaganda to make it seem as if the Democratic Party was against them all the time.

And that’s how Donald Trump came to be President. His appeal was not to the “forgotten” masses, as the popular narrative goes. Instead, Trump leveraged a basic selfishness, ingratitude and fear born from the cold fact that the last conservative administration had been such a gastric failure that it shit all over the hopes and dreams of everyday Americans.

That’s why Trump succeeded in throwing so much shit around. The ungrateful always appreciate revenge for the transgressions they feel were directed against them. They took great pleasure in seeing the shit created by Bush and company being thrown right in the faces of Obama and Clinton.

Nice people deceived

gettyimages-461656522-e1436299461791Even nice people were deceived, and placed their confidence in the seeming likability of Donald Trump, with whom they were familiar from TV, and who seems harmless and happy on the surface, like a magician or a clown on WGN TV.

But Trump is the King of Ingratitude. He’s never happy with anything anyone says about him. Even Time Magazine’s Person of the Year Award was an insult to him, and he complained that he was not named Man of the Year.

So you see, an ungrateful, ultimately selfish America got exactly what it wanted when Donald Trump was elected to office. Only 25% of the American population voted for the man, but with help of the Russians and the FBI, enough voters in electoral states were scared off from voting at the last minute that treasonous ingratitude won the day.

This is the ugliest period in American history, ever. When President Kennedy said the words, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” he was not intimating that the nation should be used for selfish purposes. Yet that’s what Donald Trump is about to do, enrich himself at all of our expense. It’s what he does best, and has done it for years. He’s a proven fraud as evidenced by his settlement payout for so-called Trump University. But the ungrateful masses stuck by him because they view him as the Victim of the Press, not the Whore of Babylon that he truly is.

Ingratitude is the New American Way. And welcome to it.

 

Why “Drain the Swamp” displays Donald Trump’s ultimate ignorance

Swamp.jpgSure, the phrase “Drain the Swamp” is a common metaphor. But those words actually expose long-held beliefs about the environment that have proven to be disastrous for many Americans.

First, some history. During the settlement of the North American continent, agriculture and development struggled to overcome an environment that often seemed overwhelming. From prairie soils that refused to be broken by the blades of wooden plows to wetlands that defied attempts to rid the land of water, it was a tough go on many fronts.

And that is how the term “drain the swamp” came about. Failing all other attempts to tame such environments, many swamps were “drained” using underground tiles or drainage ditches to shunt water elsewhere.This was done because swamps were considered of little use for the purposes of growing crops or cultivating any sort of civilized purpose.

Admittedly, though it was little known at the time, swamps also held breeds of mosquitoes that brought fever germs to the populace in many forms, including malaria. So the deep-seated dread of swamps one of mystery and fear.

The genuine swamp

Much of those fears depended on a poor understanding of why and how swamps actually operate, and also why they exist. Swamps are defined as largely still waters rife with thick trees and impenetrable vegetation. In the last 400 years, ecologists have grown to understand that swamps play a critical role in many aspects of the natural world.

From a human perspective, swamps are critical holding areas for floodwaters. They serve as retention ponds when water overflows the banks of rivers or lakes. These holding ponds also serve to filter out muddied or silt-heavy water before it discharges back into streams, lakes and even oceans. Swamps also provide vital habitat for many commercially valuable species of ducks, geese and other species of waterfowl, birds, reptiles, mammals and insects.

American swamps

Swamps along the Mississippi River and other major rivers perform all these functions and more. Before water ever flows over the banks of such rivers, it fills the backwater swamps and often that prevents major flooding elsewhere.

Yet the metaphor to “drain the swamp” persists in defiance of the critical role that swamps play in American ecology. It insinuates that all such environments are bad places undeserving of our attention or even existence on the face of the earth.

The term “drain the swamp” also advances an anachronistic view of the environment as a whole. It implies there is still inherent evil in creatures such as snakes or even turtles that live in swamps. This draws on ancient notions about demon spirits living within such creatures as depicted in the serpent who was Satan’s disguise when tempting Eve.

Evil notions

Even people associated with swamps and marshes have been punished throughout history. When Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein objected to political resistance from Kurds living in that nation’s southern marshes, he set about to have the marshes drained under the guise of “agricultural improvement.” This crime against humanity was also a crime against nature. The two tend to go together. And it is people who cannot separate the benefits of nature from the impositions of human nature that commit such crimes.

Thus use of terms such as “Drain the Swamp” actually represent a confused, angry and fearful belief system. Typically, this emanates from people too self-absorbed, insecure and incurious to find out the value and function of places such as swamps or marshes. Thus these places serve as the ironic totems of ignorance for all those who deplore them.

Real-life threats

So it makes sense that if Donald Trump’s worldview depends on such metaphors for his popularity, he will draw a less sophisticated brand of voter, someone who cares not to look past the slap-happy approach of communication.

It is thus predictable that men such as Donald Trump cannot get their heads around real-life threats from the environment such as global climate change. Someone who still thinks of swamps as dangerous, demon-filled places cannot grasp that it is environments such as swamps and forests and grasslands that actually provide a positive balance to the equation of how much carbon dioxide is drawn from the atmosphere versus how much is being poured in by human activity.

One of the most important environments to this purpose is the Amazon in South America. But the carbon sinks of old-growth woodlands in the Pacific Northwest and to some degree, forests in the American Northeast all play vital roles in counteracting anthropogenic (manmade) climate change.

Naive terms

But Donald Trump doesn’t believe in that. He clearly views the world in desperately naive terms, and is all too happy to leverage that ignorance into popularity with those who view the world in the same way. This is exacerbated by those who interpret and promote a poor understanding of religious metaphor as well. That is how essentially worthless claims that creationism is a “science” persist. For creationism contends, among other things, that serpents could once speak with fork-tongues that two of every kind of animal on earth were once stuffed into a boat to preserve thousands upon thousands of species of animals from perishing in a worldwide flood. This would have required that some species such as blind salamanders from the North American continent would have crawled across thousands of miles of land and cross oceans as well to reach the safety of a tiny ark in a largely desert environment of the Middle East. That single notion itself is absurd,

That single notion itself is absurd, yet it is creationists who contend that nature is too complex to have come about on its own. Never mind that impossible stories with no explanation other than divine intervention somehow are supposed to constitute “science.” For fundamentalists of religious and/or political nature, it is absurdity that is more acceptable than complexity.  Naive terms are the most dangerous of all, it seems.

Simpletons and hillbillies

And so we arrive at a point in history when the world is about to be run by a band of absurd simpletons whose clipped ideologies rely on forcing naive terms and notions on the rest of us. This is the shallow worldview that Donald Trump and his argumentatively conservative cabinet are about to foist upon the world to replace, as Trump likes to think of it, a swamp consisting of nuclear physicists once assigned to manage the Department of Energy and our nuclear program.

Trump instead has hired a Texas hillbilly named Rick Perry to take over that position. A man with no experience who once proposed eliminating the very department he is now assigned to manage. And so it goes across the board in Trump’s candidate. He has replaced competence with ignorance, and experience with ideology.

What Donald Trump fails to understand about swamps he fails to understand about the world in general. That is, complexity does not in itself represent evil, for it often holds answers that can be revealed over time. But simplicity, when it exhibits a poor understanding of the world, can often turn into a dangerous assumptions and worse, a sinking morass where there once seemed to be solid ground.

From the Founding Fathers to a Dumbed Down America: How we got here

IMG_1259.jpgAs a nation, America was formed in reaction to the abuses of highly conservative British rule built around strict control of trade, slavery and empire.

The Declaration of Independence led to the American Revolution, soon followed by drafting of the United States Constitution. This was accomplished by the intellectual leaders we call the Founding Fathers. These intellectual leaders embraced the principles of The Enlightenment, questioning traditional authority and applying rationalism to the planning and conduct of human affairs.

The United States Constitution was thus formed around principles of human equality, freedom and personal autonomy. These also happen to be the defining characteristics of liberalism, defined as:

A political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties; specifically : such a philosophy that considers government as a crucial instrument for amelioration of social inequities (as those involving race, gender, or class).

The American Experiment

Yet despite these intellectually liberal foundations of the American experiment, a significant portion of the (newly) American populace, including those in Northern states, was never convinced of the Enlightenment philosophy and the demands it required of them in terms of human equality and social tolerance. There were still too many people who preferred the benefits conferred by conservative white rule.

This abiding belief in white superiority had long driven European nations to engage in imperialism and colonialism. And as a result, its premise was still very much alive in much of the populace following the American Revolution. Thus a continuing form of colonialism occurred through secession of the Southern States, where slaveowners denigrated the intelligence of their human slaves by branding them 3/5 of a person as the Constitution held, while simultaneously claiming that their plantations could not survive economically without their labor. In states where slavery persisted as an institution because it was not under federal control, black people were regarded primarily as property and considered unworthy of full citizenship.

Founding Failures?

So it was that the Founding Fathers were unable to implement the full dimension of Enlightenment philosophy when taking part in the formation of a new American nation. In other words, they failed in some respects.

For those that might argue the Founding Fathers did not “fail” in any way, but acted in kind with the morality of the day, or were inspired by God beyond human comprehension to author the Constitution in its fixed way, we must immediately confront the notion of constitutional originalism. This is how the late Justice Antonin Scalia described such “originalism,” as he puts it: “The Constitution that I interpret and apply is not living but dead, or as I prefer to call it, enduring. It means today not what current society, much less the court, thinks it ought to mean, but what it meant when it was adopted.”

No other statement in history better encompasses the lie of American conservatism that drives anachronism to the forefront of modern existence. Because even the Founding Fathers recognized that originalism was a lie from the outset. Why else would they build a steam valve into Article Five in order to allow the nation to produce amendments to the Constitution? If the United States Constitution were, as Scalia claims, a “dead” document rather than one made alive by further enlightenment, then the Founding Fathers were liars and cheats.

Thus the notion of constitutional originalism is an absurdity created by conservatives to force the narrative of law and morality toward anachronism. Consider the evidence: thirty-three constitutional amendments and 27 ratifications have been produced in American history. The nation has clearly evolved to advance the cause of social progress and equality. By contrast, men such as Justice Scalia advocated the diehard conservative’s notion that the “good old days” were automatically better than the current era. His claim was that America was perfected at its birth. But it was not.

Proclamation proof

Consider the fact that it took until the late 1800s to correct one of the largest inherent flaws in the original Constitution. That’s when President Abraham Lincoln was finally able to advance the Emancipation Proclamation, an act was specifically intended to apply pressure from the federal government on Confederate states to free black people from slavery.

The South’s argument for maintaining the institution of slavery was the classically conservative claim that paying its labor force a fair wage would lead to financial ruin for plantation owners. That line of argument would persist throughout the Industrial Revolution, with companies taking unfair advantage of workers laboring under unsafe conditions for pitiful wages. Only through union strikes and liberal support did labor organizations finally establish policies for a fair work week, overtime and fair wages.

Robber barons and labor

Yet conservatives to this day seem unconvinced that fair labor practices are good for America as a nation. The so-called “Robber Barons” of the late 1800s and early 1900s were committed to exploitation as a fundamental principle of American wealth and privilege. As described on AboutEducation.com, “The concept of laissez faire capitalism, which dictated no government regulation of business, was promoted. Facing few impediments to creating monopolies, engaging in shady stock trading practices, or exploiting workers, some individuals made enormous fortunes.”

And so it goes well into the 21st century. The evidence is clear that if American businesses could still gain access to slave labor, they would do it in a heartbeat. So it has occurred. Global companies have shipped manufacturing and production operations overseas where cheap, often uneducated labor forces are easily accessible.

The resultant effect of this overseas job migration is that a wide swath of American workers now have difficulty finding jobs. Meanwhile, union organizations in both the public and private sector have under full attack since Ronald Reagan committed the first real slam with his scab replacement of union air traffic controllers. The basic motives behind such attacks are philosophically conservative. Because unions represent workers that fall on the supposed cost-side of the equation rather than the profit side, labor interests supposedly run counter to the stakeholders seeking a return on investment.

New age slavery

So it was no coincidence that so many companies turned to immigrant labor when it became available in America. Massive waves of Mexican immigrants meant cheap labor for businesses willing to hire them. In some respects, this formula for cheap labor worked best when Mexican laborers were in fact illegal immigrants, allowing American companies to essentially operate “outside the law” by hiring a workforce with literally no voice in the American system. Thus the ultimate “dumbed down” labor force came into being.

Some Mexican laborers literally worked in slave conditions, proving that the mindset of those willing to exploit labor beyond basic human rights had not much changed in American culture. Fortunately, new age slavery did not require a second Civil War to create social justice because American workforce law has evolved from the day and age when slaver was an acceptable practice.

Yet to this day, the conservative whine about paying America’s workforce a fair wage continues to this day. The economic benefits of a well-paid, stable and even well-educated middle class are clear. America’s greatest periods of economic health have come about as a result of a flourishing middle class. Yet conservatives still whine that economic ruin will come to the nation if companies are forced to pay a living wage to the American worker.

Familiar ring

To this day conservative warnings about pending “financial ruin” are still trotted out whenever government proposes regulations are proposed to protect human or environmental health. Regulations typically are created in response to some form of documented abuse. Laissez faire capitalism has frankly done a terrible job of regulation on its own. Without environmental laws, the air in America would still be polluted by lead in gasoline, smog from cars without sufficient auto emissions equipment, and water laced with heavy metals and chemicals produced by all sorts of industries. The environment was essentially a slave to the whims of polluting industries before the 1970s and formation of the EPA by a Republican president, no less. Conservatives have railed against its influence ever since

No one can doubt the clear benefits of the EPA’s effect on environmental quality. Air and water quality in America is far better than it was 40 years ago. And there is still work to do, particularly in standards of auto and industrial emissions as they affect anthropogenic climate change (global warming.) Yet conservatives claim it’s all a hoax, or that self-regulation would be far better for the economy than living by governmental regulations.

It all has the same familiar ring conservatives foisted on the world at large since time began. “Nothing’s wrong. Let business and the free market take care of things. And all will be good.”

Age old discriminations

Under the same broad umbrella of willful ignorance, conservatives have fought against cultural progress and civil rights. Women were long denied the right to vote because it was left out of the original Constitution. This could hardly be called a surprise, because prevailing attitudes of the day aligned with a longstanding social order of patriarchy inherited through generations dating back to the earliest forms of recorded history, including the Bible.

Yet over these same two full millennia, human society has learned that some aspects of the Bible, especially practices and traditions been disproven or outmoded by science and medicine, are no longer considered sacrosanct. Ancient laws pertaining to every problems such as molds and infections, diet and women’s menstruation no longer need to be abided. We no longer need the guidance of Leviticus and Deuteronomy to dictate medical practices. Our knowledge of modern medicine and human physiology discredits such practices, so they can naturally be confined to the philosophical graveyard of ancient scriptures.

In fact, the conservative tradition of taking holy scripture literally vexes the world more than any other issue. Muslim traditionalists and conservatives have likewise turned the Quran into a book of war against the world. This puts the faith in direct competition with biblical literalists on the Christian and Jewish side of theology. Yet technically, all three faiths share some of the same scriptural traditions. Even some of the same leading characters! Yet because conservatism dumbs down the approach to scriptural interpretation by imposing literalism over its interpretation, the world must face a constant war between these faiths.

But it need not be. Clearly the habit of scriptural literalism produces misguided, even dangerous beliefs about the present age. That means we need to confront attempts to intellectualize biblical literalism as a belief system superior to all others.

None other than Jesus Christ would tell us the same thing.

What would Jesus do? 

In keeping with the conservative orthodoxy of times past, some Americans still seek to present the Founding Fathers as a band of religiously political conservatives who fully intended to create a Christian nation. This is a particularly popular view among American conservatives who love to fuse their political and religious views into one.

Yet this contention is as false as saying that Jesus began his ministry to raise money and build a new temple in God’s name. Because just like the Founding Fathers who broke with conservative rule to free the Colonies from British rule, Jesus lashed out against the leading conservatives of his day. These were the Pharisees (Chief Priests) who used religion to rule over the people and the Sadducees (wealthy classes) who through their riches gained influence and control over the social order.

When Jesus came along he told people to defy this power structure. As a preacher filled with spirit, Jesus sought to free people from the legalistic confines of conservative religion. His liberal take on the right path to God was not well-received by the religious orthodoxy of his time. Jesus wanted to enlighten people to a more liberal notion of wholeness through grace. But the religious leaders preferred the dumbed down version of faith in which people simply followed the rules, paid the fees and thus purchased their place in the heavenly kingdom.

When Jesus questioned this “dumbed down” version of faith, he met considerable resistance from the powers that be, who aggressively questioned him and then had him killed. The same brand of response is evident among conservatives today, who lambast Pope Francis today for statements that do not align with conservative doctrine. The patterns never, ever change.

Sad truth

It is a sad truth that civic and spiritual leaders in the modern era who follow the example of Jesus Christ in standing up to conservative dogma face persecution as well. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one such intellectual and spiritual hero who stood up to the harsh face of ignorant white racism in the American South.

Dr. King advocated peaceful protest, but it was violence that took his life. So it goes with all such sacrificial personalities, including John F. Kennedy, another intellectual leader of 1960s social revolution who challenged Americans along the lines of the liberal call to action originated by the Founding Fathers: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

Yet Kennedy was similarly cut down for his idealistic philosophies. Many believe there was a conservative conspiracy to kill the president lest he resist aims for wars against communism. The conservative wish is always, it seems, a wish for a warrior king who uses force to solve problems. In Jesus’ day, many such zealous people were wishing and hoping for a powerful ruler in the mold of King David to come back as their Messiah and conquer the enemies of Israel. Ultimately, a zealot amongst his own disciples, disillusioned by the passive approach to spiritual victory, betrayed Jesus to the authorities. To zealots with a military vision of the Messiah, Jesus seemed like a phony, someone unable to deliver on the promise of freedom of any sort.

True freedom looks different

While he was no warrior or earthly king, Jesus was also no liberal wimp. The Bible repeatedly shows him railing against the chief priests and wealthy classes of his day. He castigated the “keepers of the law” for their hypocrisy in forcing their conservative form of religion on the Jewish people. Let us also recall that the fiscally conservative experiments of the past were disasters among the populace as well.

At the time of Christ’s arrival, the holy temple of God was a privatized organization, charging people for the right to worship. The chief priests also imposed strict, highly conservative rules about the correct practice of religion. If these were disobeyed, the worshipful were cast out. These practices were based on literal interpretations of scripture.

That’s why Jesus spoke out against it. His example is the very reason why Americans should do the same with today’s hypocritical conservatives who twist the words of God to their own political or economic advantage.To push home his point about the difficulty the wealthy truly faced in living moral lives, Jesus mocked the wealthy classes for their arrogant claims to their high status in society. “It is easier,” he warned in full hyperbole mode, “for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the wealthy to get into heaven.”

To confront this attitude of entitlement he saw in the rich, Jesus praised the contribution of a poor woman who gave a far great portion of her actual income to the temple. Then Jesus went on to encourage people to store up spiritual treasures and knowledge rather than earthly wealth. The liberal and intellectual prize that Jesus offered the world was a wealth of spiritual knowledge rather than gathering up treasures on earth.

To make his point that the conservatives of his day were out of touch with God, Jesus branded them “hypocrites” and a “brood of vipers.” This was the same accusation pointed at them by the hyper-liberal pastor known as John the Baptist, who lived the wilderness, ate locusts and honey and preached from the organic soul of creation that one should be “born again” into the world by immersion in that classically fluid material known as water.

There was nothing at all conservative about either John the Baptist or Jesus. They did not abide by the “dumbed down” version of compliant faith in which everyone is expected to just “go along to get along” and earn their place in heaven. Of all the people he encountered, Jesus was the harshest with his own disciples. He admonished them for preferring the “dumbed down” version of faith they claimed to follow.

Are you so dull? 

Yes, it’s true. Jesus’ own disciples had trouble understanding his liberal methods of instruction. They specifically questioned his use of parables to teach people about the kingdom of God. “We don’t understand these parables,” they told him.

Jesus showed a bit of frustration at this response, and challenged them, “Are you so dull?” Or, in an alternate translation, he asked “Are you also without understanding?”

In other words, Jesus expected a modicum of intellectual integrity from his disciples. He called them to follow him, but also expected them to “follow along” as he imparted real knowledge of God’s kingdom to everyday people. This he did by calling up examples from nature itself to teach about the nature of creation and the character of God. His method of delivery was to us organic metaphors such as a mustard seed to teach spiritual lessons. By growing from a tiny seed into a tall tree, the mustard seed represented the true growth of faith in this world. A complex concept, for sure, yet communicated in such simple terms that it amounted to genius.

Lessons never learned

Yet his more conservative opponents, those chief priests whom he branded a “brood of vipers” for their legalism, was convinced that the literal interpretation of scripture was the true path to God. They accused Jesus and his band of merry men of breaking those rules by eating with “unclean hands.”

But Jesus tossed that ugly bit of control freak conservatism right back in their faces, telling them that it is what comes out of men’s hearts that matters, not what literally emerges from their asses as a result of eating a certain way. Jesus objected to their asshole rules of conservatism because he knew these were stupid attempts to control the thinking of all those under their jurisdiction. Jesus saw this as the “dumbing down” of all those who sought to believe in the higher ways of God.

Yet conservatives never seem to learn from their own bad habits. The Catholic Church basically repeated the same mistakes as the Pharisees all over again. This evolved through the same sort of legalistic faith practices centuries later. Again, it took a liberal such as Martin Luther who nailed the 95 theses to the doors of the Catholic Church, to protest against the “privatizing” of God’s kingdom when the church was basically charging people for admission to heaven. Notice that it took the insertion of some intellectual wisdom by Martin Luther to break the bond that conservatism had on the practice of faith.

We may need yet another reformation in both civic and spiritual form to break the bonds of dumbed-down conservatism all over again.

American reformation

Along the same lines as the Protestant Reformation, the United States has seen fit to reform its own Constitution. This has transpired through a long series of amendments. Those amendments associated with granting full civil rights to blacks and women have succeeded. Yet the amendment calling for Prohibition of alcohol ultimately failed because, at its core, it was essentially a breach of freedoms. It was a dumbed down version of social engineering. And it failed. The same holds true with conservative efforts to ban abortion, govern birth control and control women’s health rights in general.

Neoconservatism still acts like the priests in Jesus’ day, swearing to the heavens they know what God wants while claiming that government should never impinge on the lives of the American people. Yet that’s the contradiction conservatism cannot seem to resolve. Thus a form of cognitive dissonance and defiance of common sense lies in the heart of all conservative instincts. To maintain a conservative worldview, once must engage in a form of time travel between past and present to justify one’s response. Reconciling this dichotomy of mind is not an easy endeavor. And it always fails.

The path toward progress and freedom

The path toward progress and personal freedom is seldom driven by conservative policies, which are by nature anachronistic, and therefore a “dumbed down” response to advances in social, cultural and spiritual understanding. Thus there has been a long campaign on many fronts to battle all progressive policies with conservatives battling to control the intellectual narrative across an entire spectrum of policy and thought leadership categories. What follows is a description of these categories and how conservatives seek to “dumb down” the populace in America in order to maintain control, impose hierarchal structures of patriarchy and corporate control, and deliver favoritism to those whose own privilege would otherwise be at risk.

Anti-intellectualism/Anti-Academic: Anti-intellectualism is hostility towards and mistrust of intellect, intellectuals, and intellectual pursuits, usually expressed as the derision of education, philosophy, literature, art, and science, as impractical and contemptible.

Anti-intellectualism is being fostered by neoconservatives eager to undermine social and cultural change separate from that favored by traditional institutions such as the Christian Church. This has been attempted by conservatives by seeking to defund support for higher education, the arts and sciences as so-called “biased” sources of information.

Anti-Academic (Education) opposed to education, especially public education in favor of privatized, for-profit or home-schooling, specifically local choice in curriculum. 

In the same breath, conservatism loves to hate academic institutions that promote liberal and free-thinking. This has resulted in an attitude of distrust toward schools of all types that teach to a progressive or advancing curriculum based on science, instigation and critical thinking. We are thus faced with a dumbing down of America by those who are:

Anti-Science, being against a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws:, or resisting the systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation

Being Anti-science is the belief that science cannot be trusted even when it is delivering facts about the material world. In more recent years, the Anti-Science cabal has partnered with industrial and economic interests that find science pertaining to the dangers of pollution and climate inconvenient to profit motives that typically privatize the profits and socialize the costs of such ventures. Thus the Anti-Science crowd tries to discredit the findings of objective science by funding project

Anti-Liberalism Cultural derision aimed toward a political or social philosophy advocating the freedom of the individual, parliamentary systems of government, nonviolent modification of political, social, or economic institutions to assure unrestricted development in all spheres of human endeavor, and governmental guarantees of individual rights and civil liberties.

The primary methodology of anti-liberalism is to use the term as an insult separate from its true definition. This isolation from its roots as the foundations of American democracy and the Constitution presents liberals as “the other” in American history, when in fact it has been conservatives that have most doggedly fought against the principles either laid our or neglected for inclusion in the original Constitution.

Constitutional Originalism: In the context of United States constitutional interpretation, originalism is a principle of interpretation that views the Constitution’s meaning as fixed as of the time of enactment. The originalist enterprise, then, is a quest to determine the meaning of the utterances, the meaning of which can only be changed by the procedures set out in Article Five of the Constitution.

One of the devastating effects of Constitutional originalism is the interpretation of the Second Amendment to mean, in exclusion of the opening phrase, “A well-regulated militia,” to mean that no restrictions can be placed on gun ownership.

Political Correctness: Political correctness (adjectivally, politically correct, commonly abbreviated to PC) is an ordinarily pejorative term used to criticize language, actions, or policies seen as being excessively calculated to not offend or disadvantage any particular group of people in society.

Political correctness is now being wielded as a weapon against all those who seek to control hate speech. The goal is to let anyone say any dumb thing they like, even racially or religiously offensively slurs, under the name of freedom.

Religious fundamentalism: in any form of a religion, especially Islam or Protestant Christianity, that upholds belief in the strict, literal interpretation of scripture, strict adherence to the basic principles of any subject or discipline, and exclusion of other worldviews. 

Religious fundamentalism and constitutional originalism fall under the same dull umbrella of literalism, which means that no interpretation but the simplest, most dull-headed meaning must be true. This is an insult both the Jesus, who did not believe in fundamentalism as a rule, and to the Founding Fathers, such as Thomas Jefferson who changed his own beliefs during his lifetime on both religious and political matters, and not conservatively.

Biblical Creationism: Creationism is the religious belief that the Universe and life originated “from specific acts of divine creation.” For young Earth creationists, this includes a biblical literalist interpretation of the Genesis creation narrative and the rejection of the scientific theory of evolution.

As derived from religious fundamentalism, the belief in a literally interpreted Book of Genesis leads to a confining and dumbed down understanding of the physical universe.

Neoliberalism: Neoliberalism (or sometimes neo-liberalism) is a term used by scholars in a wide variety of social sciences and critics primarily in reference to the resurgence of 19th century ideas associated with laissez-faire economic liberalism beginning in the 1970s and 1980s.

Neoliberalism is simply the return of dogmatic beliefs in laissez-faire capitalism and other such selfish takes on how the world works.

Anti-Modernity is being against the quality or condition of being modern “an aura of technological modernity, a modern way of thinking, working, contemporariness.

This has taken the form of conspiratorial takes on the reality of the space program and American flights to the moon. Any form of technological advance is suspect. Yet like the Amish, anti-modernist will often rationalize exception if it favors their needs or wants. Proving its general stupidity.

Anachronism: a thing belonging or appropriate to a period other than that in which it exists, especially a thing that is conspicuously old-fashioned: an act of attributing a custom, event, or object to a period to which it does not belong.

Otherwise known as “thinking backwards” to a time when things were supposedly better, but typically were not. It is the height of cognitive dissonance to make such claims, yet stubborn minds find it comforting.

Asceticism: severe self-discipline and avoidance of all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons. 

Otherwise known as repression, which always seems to backfire when politicians in denial of being gay or claiming to be pillars of marital righteousness wind up having affairs that destroy their public claims. It’s just stupidity any way you look at it.

Racism Tribalism the state or fact of being organized in a tribe or tribes.the behavior and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own tribe or social group: prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior: the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

This dumbed down version of identity is on display every day in American.

Discrimination: Age, Disability, Equal Pay, Genetic information, Harassment, National Origin, Pregnancy, Race/Color, Religion, Retaliation, Sex, Sexual Harassment

The ultimate insult of culture is discrimination of any of the grounds listed above. Yet people claiming that protests against all such discrimination is being “politically correct” exhibit the dumbed down version of social interaction that conservatives seem to love to advocate.

And there you have it. From the Catholic Church claiming that the earth was the center of the universe to creationists claiming that the earth is only 10,000 years old, conservatives have been on the wrong side of facts, and aggressively so, for all of recorded history.

Advent of the Neocontrarians

 

despicable-me-advent-calendar

The Despicable Me Advent Calendar

 

This is the Advent season for people of Christian faith. Many children enjoy the process of opening windows on their Advent Calendars. Starting December 1st, the Advent Calendar marks with anticipation the arrival of the traditional day celebrating the Birth of Christ.

 

This year, Americans are experiencing a different kind of advent. With a new President about to be Born Again in January, the process of naming cabinet members has been taking place the last few weeks.

Against all reason

Almost without exception, each new cabinet member named by Donald Trump to head a government agency has preached beliefs that run contrary to the purpose for which the agency was originally designed. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was originally established by President Richard M. Nixon, a Republican in the year 1970. Those of us alive during that era recall the massive environmental problems our nation was experiencing. Air pollution was choking cities and acid rain had begun to sterilize lakes east of the Rust Belt. Bald eagles and peregrine falcons were dying off thanks to DDT poisoning that made their eggshells too weak to sustain normal brooding. Rivers were on fire in Ohio, and vicious levels of heavy metals, toxic chemicals and nuclear energy byproducts were regularly leaking into the ground, air and water.

Thus our nation saw fit, with bipartisan support, to fix the problems our industrial activity was causing. We passed laws to take the lead out of gasoline. And over the years since, the auto industry has been pushed to improve gas mileage in the vehicles it produces. Some said this was impossible, impractical and economically unfeasible. But they were wrong. Modern vehicles use less gas and emit less noxious fumes than they did forty years ago.

The other direction

All these improvements in protecting the environment have paid dividends in protection of human health. Still, the battle is never won. There are still many significant challenges in environmental pollution that remain threats to the human race and other living things on earth. At the top of this list is anthropogenic climate change, manmade global warming. Governments around the world recognize the dangers of this threat to human health and the stability of the world’s economy.

And yet, President Elect Donald Trump called on a fellow named Myron Ebell to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team. Ebell prides himself on being a “climate skeptic,” one who does not believe that climate change is even occurring, or that it is manmade.

He is, in other words, a contrarian. Or more accurately, he is a Neocontrarian. This is the Post-Modern version of a contrarian. Armed with opinions that ostensibly trump facts, Ebell is the type of person who seeks to impose his ideological will on the world despite all evidence to the contrary. This is how the website Whatsupwiththat describes the appointment of Myron Ebell to head up the EPA:

Choosing Myron Ebell means Trump plans to drastically reshape climate policies.

Donald Trump has selected one of the best-known climate skeptics to lead his U.S. EPA transition team, according to two sources close to the campaign.

Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, is spearheading Trump’s transition plans for EPA, the sources said.

The Trump team has also lined up leaders for its Energy Department and Interior Department teams. Republican energy lobbyist Mike McKenna is heading the DOE team; former Interior Department solicitor David Bernhardt is leading the effort for that agency, according to sources close to the campaign.

Contrary opinions

This is the peak of his Myron Ebell’s supposed wisdom: that he holds an opinion contrary to 95% of established scientists around the world. He abides with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which has proven itself over the years nothing more than a shill for whatever business feels threatened by any sort of regulation.

That means that no matter how much pollution or other dangers a company might choose to pump out, the Competitive Enterprise Institute will take their side and defend them to the death. This is the philosophy of Neocontrarians in a nutshell.

And as such, Myron Ebell chose a fellow Neocontrarian to run the EPA. This is what the Los Angeles Times had to say about the selection. “Donald Trump’s meeting earlier this week with Al Gore gave environmentalists a glimmer of hope. They’re feeling a lot less hopeful now that Trump has selected Oklahoma Atty. Gen. Scott Pruitt to run the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt disputes the scientific consensus on climate change, is an ally of the oil industry and has tried to block President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. If Pruitt is confirmed, here’s how it could play out in the states.”

Flattening public education

The EPA is not the only government agency that Trump’s new wave of Neocontrarians is assigned to run. Trump also chose billionaire Betsy DeVos, a strong believer in charter schools and for-profit education, to act as Education Secretary. She is a devoted Neocontrarian when it comes to the education of children, preferring to diversify against public schools than qualitatively seek to improve the existing public school education system. Hers is the Winner Take All, free-market philosophy in which vouchers are distributed to families left to find the right education opportunities for themselves.

In other words, she’s an advocate of “trickle-down education,” in which those most equipped to avail themselves of the best educational opportunities will profit while those less equipped to seek or make those choices will be left behind. That’s how the free market works when it is unregulated. It is positively Darwinian at its source, which is ironic given the typically strong resistance to the theory of evolution among those who typically advocate for “school choice” based on so-called values-based learning, or Christian home-schooling.

It has long galled such ideologues that public schools actually teach science rather than fanciful notions such as creationism or so-called “intelligent design theory.” Even the names of those ideologies are contrarian.

Nothing trickles down when education as a system is flattened like a pancake and public schools are deflated in both funding and philosophy. Yet this is the approach of Neocontrarians to all sorts of ethical standards in government, science, medicine and the environment. Ever since President Ronald Reagan spouted the Neocontrarian Mantra, “Government is not the solution to our problems. Government is the problem,” Neocontrarians have rushed to dispel any notion that government has a positive role to play in our lives.

In and out of control

When that daft and devout Neocontrarian George W. Bush took office with his henchman and turgid Neontrarian Dick Cheney at his side,  the United States went for a wild ride of Neocontrarian speculation on the role, or dispensation, of governmental responsibility.

The Bush administration was exposed for its lack of attention on national security when the 9/11 attacks occurred. The Bushies wanted to run things their own way, and significantly ignored warning signs of terrorist attacks because they did not want to listen to any of their predecessors, or even their own internal source Richard Clarke.

And from there, the Neocontrarians took advantage of the fear rushing through the populace to contrive a war of choice in Iraq, which fit the documented ideology of Neoconservatives who wanted to reform the Middle East around their own ideas of free markets and Western democracy, only to have it blow up in their faces. Literally.

Then the floodgates of Neocontrarians opened even further with the sponsor of torture in the very same jail cells used by Saddam Hussein to torture his own people. This was the height of cognitive dissonance, torturing Iraqis under the guise of saving them from Saddam, yet Neocontrarians in the media sought to defend it at all costs.That mean little suckup Sean Hannity and his bludgeoning cohort Rush Limbaugh preached torture as truth seeking.

Think about the contrary nature of that philosophy for a moment. When Senator John McCain protested against use of torture because he was himself tortured during wartime, some Neocontrarians mocked him as weak. This is the problem with Neocontrarian philosophy. It quickly unhinges from fact in order to support beliefs that are typically devoid of proof or common sense.

Trumped by nonsense

Donald Trump is expanding this tradition of Neocontrarianism as if he invented it. But that’s not certainly not true. Trump is merely expanding the Neocontrarian tradition to suit his own lack of moral, political or ethical direction. The fact that he Tweets with anger at every criticism or perceived transgression is evidence of this massive insecurity. And as such, his choice to assign Neocontrarians to every single position in his cabinet is an indication of his boldly inferior, incurious approach to life.

His own misogyny and aggressive treatment of women is the direct product of his own Neocontrarian worldview. “No one respects women more than me!” he claims. And how contrary is that? In other words, he’s lying to himself in order to bolster his own lack of self-esteem.

And that’s what Neocontrarian is, and what it does to this world. By advocating views that are completely contrary to pure and visible evidence, it wrests power from those seeking to abide by fact, and make decisions based on reason, not ideology or wishful thinking.

Longstanding contrarianism

We see the effects of Neocontrarianism in the aggressive defense of ideologies such as creationism, the religious belief that scripture is a better foundation for science than experimentation and rational examination of physical evidence.

We have dealt with the consequences of Neocontrarianism time and again with the economy as it collapses under one Republican regime after another that advocates cutting taxes on the very rich, and allowing regulations to fall lax so that financial greed runs amok and crush the foundations of economic stability.

This is the Advent of an entire new level of Neocontrarianism. It is highly unlikely it will be any more successful than the ugly attempts in the past to ignore fact and foist opinion on the world. Every new day we’ve opened a new window in the Advent Calender of Neocontrarianism and it always a strange reveal. How else do you explain the appointment of Linda McMahon?

“U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said on Wednesday he will nominate professional wrestling magnate and former Senate candidate Linda McMahon as his choice to head the Small Business Administration.Trump’s announcement said McMahon would be a key player in his effort to generate stronger job growth and roll back federal regulations.McMahon, 68, is a co-founder and former CEO of the professional wrestling franchise WWE, which is based in Stamford, Connecticut. She ran unsuccessfully for a U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut in 2010. She was an early supporter of Trump’s presidential campaign.”

Questioning the fake world

I wrote this somewhat controversial piece a year or so back that disturbed many people. It played on the fact that conspiracy and suspicion often drive the Alt-Right view of the world. Hardly an event has taken place over the past five years, ranging from  mass shootings to terrorist attacks on American soil that has not been postulated by the Alt-Right as a government attempt to manipulate public opinion on issues ranging from gun rights to abortion.

Now we’re being led by a man whose entire political philosophy is based on Alt-Right contrarianism. Which is why he feels so confident naming a woman who helped run an entertainment franchise based on fake wrestling that makes millions off the false dramas created to cater to the lowbrow tastes of the flyover voters that put Trump in power.   with a combover and orange makeup into the Hall of Mirrors of

I’m not going to apologize for calling this all a big, fatass mistake. We’re being led by a Neocontrarian narcissist  with a horribly vain combover and a coat of orange makeup. It all feels like a bad, horrific dream from which American cannot wake up.

And so, we cannot possibly expect proponents of the Neocontrarian philosophy to be self-analytical and realize the disturbingly false core of their belief system. This is the Advent of fascism as an American value system. It will be up to all of us to call them on their lies disguised as policy. And it could be a strange, strange trip indeed.