With yesterday’s arrest of Josh Duggar on federal charges of child pornography, this family of “19 Kids and Counting” fame is once again under the spotlight. Age 33, Josh along with his wife have so far produced seven children, following in his parent’s tradition of gene reproduction without regard, apparently, to the need to actually parent those children, an allegation supported by Duggar’s continuing sex crimes.
As a teen, Josh molested four younger sisters and at least one friend of theirs. Members of their church, the sprawling First Baptist Church of Springdale, Arkansas, along with an officer of the Arkansas State Police (now in prison for child porn) helped Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar cover up these insidious crimes until the statute of limitations had run on any potential prosecution.
On the heels of that scandal in 2015, Josh’s rough treatment of a woman he hired for sex hit the news along with the revelation that he had joined a dating service dedicated to married men who wanted to hook up.
“A few months after apologizing for his “wrongdoing” in the child molestation scandal, Duggar has confessed to cheating on his wife Anna, developing an Internet pornography addiction (which he later removed from his statement) and signing up for two paid subscriptions to Ashley Madison.”
Is it finally time to examine the roots of such disgusting behavior? Is it time to look at the repressive nature of evangelical Christianity that lies not only at the foundations of Josh Duggar’s offenses but also of the innumerable cases of youth ministers and preachers and multiple other respected positions of these churches who find themselves embroiled in sexual misdeeds?
Other such abuses appear with crushing frequency not only in Northwest Arkansas but across the country where evangelicals embrace their collective ignorance. Previous posts regarding this issue include a report on earlier Duggar shame as well as the rape of a six-year-old girl rehomed by Republican state representative Justin Harris, owner of a childcare center in the small town of West Fork. [See Footnote]
These are not isolated incidents. Hardly a week goes by without the report of another minister or youth leader or congregational member caught in one or another sex crime. The Washington Post spotlighted the problem of sexual abuse within the evangelical Christian community in a 2018 article:
“Across the United States, evangelical churches are failing to protect victims of sexual abuse among their members. As the #MeToo movement has swept into communities of faith, several high-profile leaders have fallen: Paige Patterson, the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, was forced into early retirement this month after reports that he’d told a rape victim to forgive her assailant rather than call the police. Illinois megachurch pastor Bill Hybels similarly retired early after several women said he’d dispensed lewd comments, unwanted kisses and invitations to hotel rooms.
“…The sex advice columnist and LGBT rights advocate Dan Savage, tired of what he called the hypocrisy of conservatives who believe that gays molest children, compiled his own list that documents more than 100 instances of youth pastors around the country who, between 2008 and 2016, were accused of, arrested for or convicted of sexually abusing minors in a religious setting.”
While on the surface church members who embrace the teachings of Christ might seem the least likely to commit such abuses, it seems that the fundamentalist religious power structure and their teachings lie at the heart of these perversions. Just as Catholic priests (and nuns) have been found disproportionately likely to sexually abuse young children compared to the rest of the population, evangelical Christians hear the same unnatural lessons from the mouths of their preachers. Sex is sin. Touching yourself (otherwise known as masturbation) is sin. But if you sin, God will forgive you (so, in essence, there’s a backdoor if Satan overcomes you…).
Attempting to live outside the demands of the biological bodies we inhabit is nothing but an elaborate game of whack-a-mole. The need pops up no matter how sternly we might try to suppress it. The stronger the urge, the louder they preach, the more likely the urge will slink off sideways into situations where the risk of being discovered is least likely to surface. Little kids can be intimidated into silence. Little kids are gullible, easily convinced that this diddling inflicted by an older person is somehow okay. Little kids are innocent, therefore they don’t taint the abuser in a sexual act the same way an older experienced sex partner might.
Then there’s evangelical power structure of an authoritarian god who delegates his authority to the male who then is enabled to rule over lesser beings like women and children. Those under this male authority can be subjected to his abuses, and those abuses can be covered up on his edict, making sexual abuse very tempting to repressed males.
But the roots go deeper still. The way this religious authority works is to demand adherence to a set of rules. This is the opposite of teaching people how to think or take responsibility for themselves. After all, if you ‘sin,’ it’s not really you, it’s Satan.
Children brought up in this belief system are often forced into homeschooling or church schools where they are taught not to question. Despite humanity’s crowning glory of cerebral function, intellect is switched off in favor of rules. Parents of Josh Duggar are a perfect example of this willful ignorance, refusing to obtain secular psychologist help when their oldest child’s incestuous fondling came to light and instead keeping it in the church family.
“The roots of the Judeo-Christian sexual prohibitions, as well as the sexual prohibitions of religions such as Islam, spring from ancient Jewish tribal law. During early times wives were considered “property” and laws were specifically codified to protect three things: livestock, wives and dwellings–an order or importance that seems clear in Jewish law. Beliefs among different groups ranged all the way from the approval of prostitution, homosexuality, sex with slaves and liberal views toward divorce, to 180-degree shifts in each of these areas.”
“One of the myths of ‘evangelicalism’ is it inoculates the young against ‘sin’ and keeps them pure, compared to the alternatives. While anecdotal stories can be told this simply is NOT statistically true for most evangelical young,” reports this author in a first person exposé.
“It sure wasn’t true at the evangelical school I attended or in the church. In fact, the worst of the bunch was the pastor’s son. Yet the pastor publicly claimed his son was pure and virginal even though he absolutely knew that was a lie. In reality, the son was going through a large number of the teenage girls at the time and it wasn’t all consensual. His wife, who I knew somewhat, later said in an interview they were having sex and the pastor knew it the whole time but lied from the pulpit. ‘Dr. Hyles’ lying was blatant just like David’s. David was a blatant liar. He told lies that he couldn’t possibly get away with. The problem is that his dad has set himself up so good, that everybody doubts everything because that’s how they have been taught.’ But the preacher dad also lied about his own affairs, as did his son-in-law who seduced an underage girl when he took over as pastor.’”
In another article, the relationship between sex crimes and extreme religious beliefs is set out in stark terms.
“While outwardly decrying abuse, extreme religiosity may breed it. In a sample of first-year students at a southern U.S. university, researchers found ‘significant relationships between religiosity and victims of child sexual abuse by both relatives and non-relatives. Persons sexually abused by a relative were much more likely to be affiliated with fundamental Protestant religions.’ A 2006 study of religiosity among Australian men incarcerated for serious sex offenses discovered that those who maintained religious involvement from childhood to adulthood had more sexual offense convictions, more victims, and younger victims than other groups, including atheists. Among Jewish men in an Israeli prison, ‘religious Jews … were more likely to be in for sex crimes,’ according to other research.”
Tragically for all concerned, the evangelical response to the realities of natural sexual desires is to frame sexual misbehavior as a crime of Satan rather than a predictable outcome of their theology. Josh Duggar is the product of his family’s extreme religious beliefs, not an anomaly. It may be a relief to his seven children that he is currently being held without bond.
Never before has the heavy hand of religion gripped so hard in its effort to control a state government. The Republican majority of the 2021 legislative session has strained to enact every conceivable moral judgment on the state’s citizenry, promising that a large sum of taxpayer dollars will be tossed into the maw of federal courts defending the church’s agenda.
Since many of these laws intrude into the private homes, bedrooms, and bodies of Arkansans in violation of their Constitutional rights, they will—hopefully—be overturned.
Established by Jerry Cox in 1991, the Family Council is again the force behind another disgraceful session, wielding its medieval outrage over Republican legislators who can’t seem to see beyond the church hymnal. It’s as if science never existed, which is exactly what the Council wants. The Council’s agenda could not be more conspicuous: strangle the privacy and individual rights of the people of Arkansas through the enactment of laws that move social norms backwards a century or more.
“The Family Council is a conservative education and research organization based in Little Rock, Arkansas. Our mission is to promote, protect, and strengthen traditional family values found and reflected in the Bible by impacting public opinion and public policy in Arkansas.”
Purportedly a 501(c) 3 nonprofit, the Council lists its areas of concern as Abortion, End of Life Issues, Stem Cell Research, Human Cloning, Physician-Assisted Suicide, Same-Sex Marriage, Religious Liberty, Homosexuality, Gambling, Judicial Activism, Education Choice, Home Schooling, Divorce, Taxes, and Healthcare.
Seven of these fifteen ‘areas of concern’ are very personal, private matters, yet the Council has convinced legislators they have the right, yea, even verily the responsibility, to wade in and slam a fist down on the dinner table.
What follows is taken from the Council’s website.
“What a week at the Arkansas Legislature!
“The legislators stood strong and enacted H.B. 1570, a really good bill protecting children from dangerous gender-reassignment procedures. Lawmakers did this despite immense pressure from liberal groups across America.”
Following ‘a brief look back at the week,’ the Council gets down to passing judgment on the legislation passed so far:
Good Bills Passed So Far
H.B. 1570 (Prohibiting Sex-Reassignment on Children): This good bill by Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R – Springdale) and Sen. Alan Clark (R – Lonsdale) prohibits sex-reassignment procedures on children. The bill also prevents funding of sex-reassignment procedures performed on children. This bill will protect children from being subjected to surgeries and procedures that can leave them sterilized and permanently scarred. The bill has passed the Arkansas House of Representatives and been sent to the senate. See how your state representative voted here. See how your state senator voted here. Read The Bill Here.
Act 562 / H.B. 1402 (Abortion-Inducing Drugs): This good bill by Rep. Sonia Barker (R – Smackover) and Sen. Blake Johnson (R – Corning) updates Arkansas’ restrictions on abortion-inducing drugs like RU-486. It outlines requirements that abortionists must follow in administering abortion-inducing drugs, and it prohibits abortion drugs from being delivered by mail in Arkansas. It also updates current law to ensure doctors who perform chemical abortions are credentialed to handle abortion complications and can transfer the woman to a hospital if she experiences complications. The bill has passed the Arkansas House. See how your state representative voted here. See how your state senator voted here. Read The Bill Here.
Jerry Cox visits with Capitol Police officers ahead of a press conference in support of H.B. 1570, the SAFE Act.
Act 560 / H.B. 1572 (Informed-Consent to Chemical Abortion): This good bill by Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R – Springdale) and Sen. Scott Flippo (R – Mountain Home) outlines the informed-consent process for chemical abortion. Arkansas’ current informed-consent laws for abortion are geared primarily for surgical abortion procedures. H.B. 1572 will help ensure women get all the facts about chemical abortion — including its risks, consequences, and pro-life alternatives. This will help save many unborn children from abortion. The bill has passed the Arkansas House. See how your state representative voted here. See how your state senator voted here. Read The Bill Here.
Act 462 / S.B. 289 (Conscience): This good bill by Sen. Kim Hammer (R – Benton) and Rep. Brandt Smith (R – Jonesboro) protects healthcare workers’ rights of conscience. Arkansas’ current conscience protections are narrowly focused on abortion, abortifacients, and end of life decisions, and they protect only a limited number of people. S.B. 289 helps broaden these protections for healthcare workers. See how your state senator voted here. See how your state representative voted here. Read The Bill Here.
Act 498 / S.B. 85 (Abortion): This good bill by Sen. Cecile Bledsoe (R – Rogers) and Rep. Joe Cloud (R – Russellville) requires an abortionist to show an ultrasound image of the unborn baby to the pregnant woman before an abortion. Currently, Arkansas law says an abortionist must offer to let the woman see the ultrasound image. Research indicates that some women are less likely to have an abortion once they see an ultrasound image of their unborn child. That means pro-life bills like S.B. 85 can help further decrease the number of abortions in Arkansas. Arkansas Right to Life is the chief proponent of this bill, and we fully support their efforts. See how your state senator voted here. See how your state representative voted here. Read The Bill Here.
Act 309 / S.B. 6 (Prohibiting Abortion): This good law by Sen. Jason Rapert (R – Conway) and Rep. Mary Bentley (R – Perryville) prohibits abortion in Arkansas, except in cases when the mother’s life is in jeopardy. Family Council worked closely with Sen. Rapert to pass this good bill that could save the lives of thousands of children and give the courts an opportunity to overturn decades of bad, pro-abortion rulings. See how your state senator voted here. See how your state representative voted here. Read The Bill Here.
Act 226 / H.B. 1116 (Simon’s Law): This good bill by Rep. Jim Dotson (R – Bentonville) and Sen. Bart Hester (R – Cave Springs) is named in honor of an infant in Missouri who died after doctors put a Do Not Resuscitate order on his chart without his parent’s knowledge or permission. If passed, it would help protect children in Arkansas from being denied life support or having a DNR placed on their medical charts without parental consent. The bill has passed into law. See how your state representative voted here. See how your senator voted here. Read The Bill Here.
Act 392 / H.B. 1544 (Pro-Life Cities Resolution): This good bill by Rep. Kendon Underwood (R – Cave Springs) and Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R – Branch) affirms the right of municipalities in Arkansas to declare themselves pro-life. H.B. 1544 outlines some of the findings and language that cities can put in their pro-life resolution. The bill also clarifies that Pro-Life Cities can install signs or banners announcing that they are pro-life. The bill has passed the Arkansas House and the Senate City, County, and Local Affairs Committee. See how your state representative voted here. See how your state senator voted here. Read the Bill Here.
H.R. 1021 (Home School): This good resolution by Rep. Cameron Cooper (R – Romance) recognizes and celebrates 35 years of homeschooling in Arkansas. The resolution passed the Arkansas House on a voice vote. Read The Resolution
H.B. 1882 (Privacy): This good bill by Rep. Cindy Crawford (R – Fort Smith) and Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R – Branch) protects physical privacy and safety of Arkansans in showers, locker rooms, changing facilities, and restrooms on government property. Read The Bill Here.
S.B. 662 (Prayer): This good bill by Sen. Ricky Hill (R – Cabot) and Rep. Cameron Cooper (R – Romance) establishes a Day of Prayer for Arkansas Students annually on the last Wednesday of September. Read The Bill Here.
S.B. 388 (Abortion Facilities): This good bill by Sen. Dan Sullivan (R – Jonesboro), Rep. Joe Cloud (R – Russellville), and Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R – Springdale) requires any facility that performs abortions to be licensed by the Arkansas Department of Health as an abortion facility, and it prohibits abortions in hospitals except in cases of medical emergency. S.B. 388 will help ensure that every clinic that performs abortions follows all of Arkansas’ laws concerning abortion facilities. This has the potential to save many women and unborn children from abortion. See how your state senator voted here. Read The Bill Here.
S.B. 527 (Abortion Facilities): This good bill by Sen. Ben Gilmore (R – Crossett) and Rep. Mary Bentley (R – Perryville) requires abortion facilities to have transfer agreements with hospitals, and it fixes a flawed definition in a pro-life law passed in 2019. Read The Bill Here.
S.B. 463 (Abortion Facilities): This good bill by Sen. Blake Johnson (R – Corning) and Rep. Tony Furman (R – Benton) requires the State of Arkansas to report abortion data to the federal Centers for Disease Control. It also tightens Arkansas law concerning abortion facility inspections, and it requires abortionists to file certain documentation when the woman is a victim of rape or incest. The bill has passed the Arkansas Senate. See how your state senator voted here. Read The Bill Here.
H.B. 1830 (Religious Freedom): H.B. 1830 by Rep. Jim Dotson (R – Bentonville) protects the right of public school students to express a religious viewpoint in class assignments the same way they could appropriately express a secular viewpoint in an assignment. See how your state representative voted here. Read The Bill Here.
S.J.R.14 (Religious Freedom): S.J.R. 14 by Sen. Jason Rapert (R – Conway) and Rep. Jimmy Gazaway (R – Paragould) amends the Arkansas Constitution. It prevents the government from burdening a person’s free exercise of religion. The measure is similar to Arkansas’ state Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Family Council strongly supports this good amendment to the Arkansas Constitution. Read The Bill Here.
H.J.R.1024 (Religious Freedom): H.J.R. 1024 by Rep. Jimmy Gazaway (R – Paragould) and Sen. Jason Rapert (R – Conway) amends the Arkansas Constitution. It prevents the government from burdening a person’s free exercise of religion. The measure is similar to Arkansas’ state Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Family Council strongly supports this good amendment to the Arkansas Constitution. Read The Bill Here.
H.J.R.1025 (Life): H.J.R. 1025 by Rep. Jimmy Gazaway (R – Paragould) amends the Arkansas Constitution. It says that the sanctity of life is paramount to all other rights protected by the constitution. It states that Arkansas citizens, acting as jurors, have the sole authority to determine the amount of compensation or civil penalty imposed because of injuries resulting in death or resulting from acts that create a significant risk to life. H.J.R. 1025 will help prevent the State of Arkansas from placing a price tag on human life. Family Council strongly supports this good amendment. Read The Bill Here.
H.J.R.1010 (Casino Gambling): H.J.R. 1010 by Rep. Joe Cloud (R – Russellville) amends the Arkansas Constitution to remove authorization of a casino in Pope County. This is a good amendment that will help curtail casino gambling in Arkansas. Family Council supports H.J.R. 1010. Read The Bill Here.
H.J.R.1011 (Casino Gambling): H.J.R. 1011 by Rep. Joe Cloud (R – Russellville) amends the Arkansas Constitution. It changes the casino amendment that authorizes casino gambling in Pope, Jefferson, Garland, and Crittenden counties. Under H.J.R. 1011, the Arkansas Racing Commission would not issue a casino license in Pope County unless the voters of the county approve conducting casino gaming at a local election. Family Council supports H.J.R. 1011. Read The Bill Here.
S.J.R.16 (Boys and Girls Athletics): S.J.R. 16 by Sen. Alan Clark (R – Lonsdale) would amend the Arkansas Constitution to require public schools to designate their athletic teams as “male” or “female,” and require student athletes to compete according to their biological sex. This would prevent boys who claim to be girls from competing in girls’ sports at school — and vice versa. Family Council supports this measure. Read The Bill Here.
H.C.R. 1007 (Abortion): This good resolution by Rep. Jim Wooten (R – Beebe) and Sen. Jason Rapert (R – Conway) recognizes January 22 — the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade abortion decision — as “The Day of Tears” in Arkansas. The resolution acknowledges the 61 million of unborn babies killed in abortion in America over the past five decades, and encourages Arkansans to lower their flags to half-staff on January 22 to mourn the innocent children who have lost their lives. Read The Resolution Here.
H.B. 1429 (Home School): This good bill by Rep. Mark Lowery (R – Maumelle) and Sen. Ben Gilmore (R – Crossett) makes it easier for a student to withdraw from a public school to home school. The bill reduces the fourteen-day waiting period currently in Arkansas law for families wishing to transfer out of a public school. It also makes technical corrections to the home school law. Read The Bill Here.
[My note on Arkansas home schooling policies: There are no educational requirements for parents/guardians who provide a home school for their child(ren). The law does not give the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education or the school district the authority to review or monitor a home school student’s work. Home schools are not accredited by the state. There are no grades, credits, transcripts, or diplomas provided by the state, education service cooperative, or by the local school district for students enrolled in home school. Parents are not required to test their students.]
[Additional note: Home schooling allows parents to teach religious beliefs while leaving out those pesky topics like history, civics, and science.]
Bad Bills Filed So Far
S.B. 622 (Hate Crimes): This bad bill by Sen. Jimmy Hickey (R – Texarkana) and Rep. Matthew Shepherd (R – El Dorado), commonly being called a “hate crimes law,” outlines vague, protected classes in state law. This bill is so ambiguous that it’s impossible to know just how far-reaching this legislation may be. S.B. 622’s protections for religious liberty are not adequate. The bill does not contain sufficient safeguards to prevent cities and counties from enacting their own, more stringent hate crimes ordinances. It does not do enough to protect free speech or prevent thought-policing. Read The Bill Here.
H.B. 1685 (End-of-Life Care): This bad bill by Rep. Michelle Gray (R – Melbourne) and Sen. Breanne Davis (R – Russellville) guts the intent of the Arkansas Healthcare Decisions Act. It lets healthcare workers who are not physicians work through end-of-life decisions with patients and family members. It does not require healthcare workers making these decisions to have appropriate training in end-of-life care. It makes it easier to deny a dying person food or water. Family Council strongly opposes this bad bill. Read The Bill Here.
H.B. 1686 (End-of-Life Care): This bad bill by Rep. Michelle Gray (R – Melbourne) and Sen. Breanne Davis (R – Russellville) guts the intent of the Physician Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment Act. It lets healthcare workers who are not physicians complete Physician Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) forms. It removes an important provision in state law that says a POLST form is not intended to replace an advance directive. It inadvertently prevents consulting physicians — such as palliative care physicians — from completing POLST forms with patients. Family Council strongly opposes this bad bill. Read The Bill Here.
S.B. 655 (Sex-Education): This bad bill by Sen. Greg Leding (D – Fayetteville) and Rep. Megan Godfrey (D – Springdale) implements Planned Parenthood-style comprehensive sex-education in public schools in Arkansas. Read The Bill Here.
H.B. 1869 (Gambling): This bad bill by Rep. Aaron Pilkington (R – Russellville) would legalize internet gambling and Keno under the Arkansas Lottery. Read The Bill Here.
S.B. 3 (Enacting Hate Crimes Legislation): This bad bill by Sen. Jim Hendren (I – Gravette) and Rep. Fred Love (D – Little Rock) enacts hate crimes legislation by enhancing penalties for crimes committed against certain protected classes of people listed in the bill. The bill is virtually identical to H.B. 1020. Family Council has opposed hate crimes legislation for more than 20 years, and we oppose this bill as well. Read The Bill Here.
H.B. 1020 (Enacting Hate Crimes Legislation): This bad bill by Rep. Fred Love (D – Little Rock) and Sen. Jim Hendren (I – Gravette) enacts hate crimes legislation by enhancing penalties for crimes committed against certain protected classes of people listed in the bill. The bill is virtually identical to S.B. 3. Family Council has opposed hate crimes legislation for more than 20 years, and we oppose this bill as well. Read The Bill Here.
H.J.R.1008 (Initiatives and Referenda): H.J.R. 1008 by Rep. DeAnn Vaught (R – Horatio) amends the Arkansas Constitution. It requires initiatives and referenda submitted to voters via petition drives to be approved by at least 60% of the votes cast on the measure in order to pass. However, it would not require constitutional amendments submitted by the General Assembly to be approved by 60% of the vote. Family Council opposes this measure. Read The Bill Here.
H.B. 1228 (Public Drinking): This bad bill by Rep. Lee Johnson (R – Greenwood) and Sen. Breanne Davis (R – Russellville) would let cities in dry counties approve public drinking in “entertainment districts” if the city contains a private club that serves alcohol. Under Arkansas’ “entertainment district” law, alcohol can be carried and consumed outdoors on city streets and sidewalks around bars and restaurants, if approved by the city council. The bill has passed the Arkansas House of Representatives, but has not been approved by the Arkansas Senate. See how your state representative voted here. See how your state senator voted here. Read The Bill Here.
H.B. 1066 (Alcohol): This bill by Rep. Aaron Pilkington (R – Clarksville) would let microbrewery operators ship beer directly to private residences anywhere in the state of Arkansas or to residences in other states that allow direct shipment of alcohol. The bill may not contain sufficient safeguards to prevent alcohol from being delivered to someone who is under 21. Read The Bill Here.
H.B. 1148 (Alcohol): This bill by Rep. Frances Cavenaugh (R – Walnut Ridge) and Sen. Missy Irvin (R – Mountain View) overhauls Arkansas’ local option election law concerning alcohol. The bill reduces the threshold for taking a county wet or dry via a petition drive. Liquor stores in wet counties would be able to continue operating even if the county voted to go dry. The bill would make it easier for some cities or towns in a dry county to be wet while the rest of the county is dry. Read The Bill Here.
S.B. 510 (LGBT Counseling): This bad bill by Sen. Greg Leding (D – Fayetteville) and Rep. Tippi McCullough (D – Little Rock) would prohibit healthcare professionals from helping children overcome unwanted same-sex attraction and gender confusion. However, the bill would permit pro-LGBT counseling that encourages children embrace a different sexual orientation or gender identity. This is a bad bill that hurts healthcare professionals and endangers the welfare of children. Read The Bill Here.
H.B. 1697 (No-Fault Divorce): This bad bill by Rep. Ashley Hudson (D – Little Rock) and Sen. Greg Leding (D – Fayetteville) permits no-fault divorce in Arkansas. Under current law, couples in Arkansas can divorces in cases such as infidelity, abuse, following a lengthy separation, and other circumstances. H.B. 1697 would permit divorce due to irreconcilable differences, discord, or conflict of personalities regardless of if the husband or wife is at fault. Read The Bill Here.
Other Legislation to Watch
H.B. 1069 (Contraceptives): This bill by Rep. Aaron Pilkington (R – Clarksville) and Sen. Breanne Davis (R – Russellville) lets pharmacists dispense oral contraceptives to women without a prescription from a doctor. Family Council previously opposed this bill. However, Rep. Pilkington has filed amendments to the bill. His amendments address objections Family Council raised against H.B. 1069. Family Council is neutral on this bill. Read The Bill Here.
S.B. 32 (Alcohol): This bill by Sen. Jane English (R – North Little Rock) and Rep. Karilyn Brown (R – Sherwood) would let retail liquor permit holders — such as liquor stores — deliver alcoholic beverages to private residences in the county where the store is located. The bill may not contain sufficient safeguards to prevent alcohol from being delivered to someone who is under 21. The bill has passed the Arkansas Senate and the Arkansas House. See how your senator voted here. See how your state representative voted here. Read The Bill Here.
H.B. 1341 (Alcohol): This bill by Rep. Karilyn Brown (R – Sherwood) and Sen. Jane English (R – North Little Rock) permits on-premises consumption of alcohol on Christmas Day. Currently, Arkansas law generally prohibits bars and liquor stores from selling alcohol on Christmas. This bill would allow alcohol to be sold for on-premises consumption in bars and restaurants on Christmas. It would not let liquor stores sell alcohol for off-premises consumption. Read The Bill Here.
H.B. 1522 (Marijuana Transportation and Possession): This bill by Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R – Springdale) and Sen. Cecile Bledsoe (R – Rogers) prohibits a person from being under the influence of marijuana in public or at a marijuana dispensary or marijuana cultivation facility. It clarifies that it is unlawful for a person to use marijuana by inhalation in a place where marijuana is prohibited by the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016. It also imposes penalties for possessing more marijuana than Arkansas’ medical marijuana amendment allows. And it makes it a crime to transport medical marijuana into Arkansas from another state. See how your state representative voted here. See how your state senator voted here. Read The Bill Here.
S.B. 389 (Parental Review of Sex-Education): This bill by Sen. Bob Ballinger (R – Ozark) and Rep. Mary Bentley (R – Perryville) requires public schools to notify parents about sex-education material and give parents the option of opting their students out of the class or activity. See how your state senator voted here. Read The Bill Here.
 Some bills pertaining to non-personal/privacy concerns are excluded from this article.
The Republicans are right. The impeachment enacted yesterday isn’t just about what Trump did with Ukraine. Yet that alone is certainly enough to justify impeachment, no matter what these desperate men and women might say. If we ignored everything else he’s done to deserve impeachment, Ukraine might not seem enough.
But Trump has violated his oath and disrespected the office since the day he stepped into the White House. He refused to release his tax returns, although he promised to do so. He refused to divest himself of financial interests and intentionally violates the Emoluments Clause (Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution) that restricts members of the government (including the president) from receiving gifts, emoluments, offices or titles from foreign states and monarchies without the consent of the United States Congress.
He disgraces the highest office of our nation by openly insulting members of Congress, his political competitors, and otherwise behaving like a school yard bully. He treats his Cabinet members and honorable members of agencies of the executive branch like personal lackeys to be ignored, cursed, and dismissed at his tyrannical whim. He has carried out the duties of the presidency largely through Twitter and off-the-record meetings and phone calls, allowing no one to monitor or document his deeds. He has met with the leader and various representatives of our primary global enemy, Russia, without allowing journalists or national security agents to oversee his actions.
His “foreign policy” has been built on personality rather than strategic planning. His disregard for established professionals in the state department and his willful ignorance of history and established protocols has resulted in enormously harmful blunders such as the withdrawal of support for the Kurds in northern Syria while his allegations of doing so in order to “bring our troops home” have proven patently false. He has put the future of our nation at risk.
Every day in his term of office has been a new circus of blatant lies, insults, and pathetic displays of his lack of knowledge, lack of decency, and lack of awareness that he lacks anything. He strolls through the processes of government like a bull in a china shop, oblivious to the traditions of the presidency or the protocols of cooperation and diplomacy at home or abroad. By his own admission, he gives little attention to the demands of his job but rather claims “executive time” for watching hours of television and playing golf.
Trump’s assault on the media alone is worthy of impeachment. Amendment I of the Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
If Congress is not to abridge the freedom of the press, it should go without saying that president also should not.
Trump is an abomination, inept and unbalanced, and his removal from the office of president should have been accomplished in his first year – and could have been if not for the desperation of Republicans who even now, after endless demonstration of his incompetence and ill will, cling to him without any consideration for the welfare of the nation they’re sworn to protect. That they continue to hold support from a segment of the American population demonstrates not that they’re doing something right, but that a segment of the American population is just as pitiable as their elected representatives.
Pity their willful ignorance. Pity their narrow view of their lives, of the world, that they would begrudge food for the poor, a helping hand to anyone not of their skin color. Pity their selfishness, the animosity that shrinks their souls. Pity their daily existence in its privation of spirit and the dissipation of any opportunity to fulfill their human potential. Pity the shallowness of their lives that they fail to seek information that might disturb their preconceived notions.
Pity them, their elected representatives and their president for the overwhelming fear that drives their anger, their bluster and lack of vision, their refusal to see the promise of a future without hate.
We as a nation should impeach anyone who fails to look up to the light on the hill inherent in our nation’s vision, who fails to bring us closer within our diversity, who plays upon our fears and singular weaknesses instead of encouraging, building up, and affirming our potential. That is our duty to each other, the sacred promise of our nation’s founders that we can do better, that we must do better. We learn from our mistakes, build on our failures, work to fulfill the potential a democracy offers us as a people.
As guardians of the future, we must vanquish the darkness and all its emissaries including Donald Trump, a man ruled by ignorance and fear.
A flood of state laws restricting abortion rights have moved us toward the Twilight Zone, a place where a woman no longer would hold agency over the functions of her body. But that genie is out of the bottle. Women will not give up their hard won freedom.
What are these state laws? Some require the doctor to give a woman information about reversing the procedure (part of the emotion strategy) or show her an ultrasound of the fetus (for an extra charge, part of the money strategy). Some ban abortions if a fetal heartbeat can be found (part of the medical strategy). Still other state laws have come in through the back door by restricting when or how abortion clinics can operate, or which medical personnel can provide abortion services (part of the access strategy).
Special interest zealots have pushed laws banning abortion if the fetus shows signs of Down syndrome. Other laws would ban abortion after six weeks or 12 weeks or some other arbitrary period which in many cases would cut off access before the woman even knows she’s pregnant or before prenatal testing could discover genetic or development abnormalities.
But wait. Before progressives stroke out over all this, keep in mind this is part of a long struggle over women’s rights that’s been going on since the beginning of time. Women are not going to accept a step backwards.
I grew up in a time when women weren’t supposed to enjoy sex. It was only men who might indulge in multiple partners while retaining their sterling reputations. In fact, experience with multiple sex partners enhanced a man’s reputation. As the receptacle of male seed whether through premarital or extramarital sex, rape, or marriage relations, women were left to deal with the problem of conception and unwanted pregnancies. The child might be put up for adoption, or for those wealthy enough, a quiet vacation overseas lasted long enough to dispose of the entire issue.
Women weren’t supposed to enjoy sex because receiving male seed and laboring to give birth was the punishment for tempting Adam to defy God’s order not to eat that forbidden apple. Of course Adam wasn’t responsible for what he did with the apple, a perfect metaphor for the male’s lack of responsibility for impregnating a woman.
That’s the story, in a nutshell, of the current furor over abortion rights. Men have to relieve their needs. Women have to clean up after them. If she chooses to abort, conservatives want the procedure to be high risk, out of the hands of medical professionals and back in the alleys so that the price she pays might be sterility or death.
The advent of modern medicine and the pharmaceutical industry gave women birth control pills. The basic research for the pill became possible when Russell Marker discovered that generations of Mexican women had been eating a certain wild yam — the Barbasco root, also called cabeza de negro — for contraception. It was from these yams that Marker was able to extract the progestin that Gregory Pincus combined with estrogen to formulate the first birth control pill. That was the 1950s.
It took another twenty years to clear regulatory and legal hurdles so that women could use the pill for contraception. At first, doctors wouldn’t prescribe it to unmarried women. A court case brought by Planned Parenthood finally cleared the way for all women to gain access to the pill.
In 1973, the Roe v Wade decision granted women the legal right to control what happened inside her body. The Court ruled 7–2 that a right to privacy under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment extended to a woman’s decision to have an abortion, but that this right must be balanced against the state’s interests in regulating abortions: protecting women’s health and protecting the potentiality of human life. Arguing that these state interests became stronger over the course of a pregnancy, the Court resolved this balancing test by tying state regulation of abortion to the third trimester of pregnancy.
Women still have to get a doctor’s prescription to obtain the pill. And religious and conservative groups have murdered doctors, burned clinics, and passed a long string of state laws to fight the Roe v Wade decision. One explanation of this opposition is explained as follows:
Birth control (BC) allows us to separate sex from its “true nature” as a solely procreative act that should be only happen in a heterosexual marriage for the purpose of (or, at least, with ‘openness to’) making babies. When we teach people about BC, allow them easy access to it and condone its use, it divorces sex from this purpose and allows it to become an activity for anyone, regardless of marital status, to partake in for fun, bonding, pleasure, etc. Essentially – because it allows people to have premarital sex without the proper, natural, consequences.
Then, as more people have sex without wanting kids, there is a higher chance that someone will have an unwanted pregnancy as all BC has some failure rate. If all women just practiced abstinence until they were married (which is the only moral and correct path), there would be no abortions…
Never mind that many married women who already have children seek abortions for obvious reasons—more children to feed, clothe, and care for never mind providing suitable education so that each child has a realistic chance at success in life. It also ignores the terrible outcome of fetuses with extreme physical or genetic abnormalities and/or of high risk to the mother’s life.
That is all God’s will, according to the fundamentalists. But so is infertility and that doesn’t keep religionists from seeking artificial insemination. So are cancer and heart attacks and broken bones.
But aside from problems of conception amid the pleasures of sex, the ongoing culture war between conservatives and progressives is about male power and control. Conservative male testicles have been shrinking ever since the female genie emerged from the bottle, since women gained the right to vote, own property in her own name, or seek a divorce. But those little ‘nads have really shriveled since the pill and Roe v Wade.
Under patriarchal beliefs, women were created to serve men, produce his children, and see to their upkeep. This view of women undergirds the current Republican agenda and accounts for evangelical support of a president unfit for office but willing to grant their agenda in order to gain and stay in power.
Thus we have current efforts in various red states to draw the circle tighter around abortion. It’s their belief that the new lineup of SCOTUS justices will find one or more of these state laws as a staging point to overturn Roe. The die is cast. The conservatives finally will have their showdown.
But wait. Does anyone think for an instant that women will shrink back into the shadows and submit to a renewed reign of male authority?
If so, quickly disabuse yourself of that idea. Women will continue to access birth control and abortion, even if the entire industry has to go underground. After all, people drank like fish during alcohol prohibition and smoked marijuana during 90 years of reefer madness.
I usually look forward to the Friday evening PBS NewsHour when Mark Shields and David Brooks have a brief time to discuss current news. Not so last night, when both men voiced their dismay over the current effort in Virginia to extend abortion rights through the 3rd trimester.
Neither the so-called liberal (Mark Shields) or conservative (David Brooks) qualified their remarks with an acknowledgement that they were men and didn’t know what it meant to experience pregnancy. Neither one admitted that they had no idea what might force a woman to make such a traumatic decision. They both growled about “infanticide” and “what is this country coming to.”
It doesn’t take much intellect or time to discover the reasons a rare late term termination might be needed. All you have to do is read the stories of women who have faced such a terrible choice. But first, let’s get something straight.
Women who go through months of pregnancy are not under any circumstances going to decide on a whim to terminate. Hormonal-driven instinct commands the woman to do everything possible to protect that soon-to-be child. But sometimes hard facts and common sense dictates she make a heart-wrenching decision.
Here’s one woman’s story:
The day of the MRI finally arrived. She was 35 weeks, 0 days. By the end of it, Kate and her husband had the hardest answers they’ve ever received.
Their daughter had moderate to severe Dandy-Walker malformation. But that wasn’t the only diagnosis; Laurel also had a brain condition in which fluid builds up in the ventricles, eventually developing into hydrocephalus and possibly crushing her brain. She had a congenital disorder too, in which there was complete or partial absence of the broad band of nerve fibers joining the two hemispheres of the brain.
What this meant was Laurel was expected to never walk, talk, or swallow. That was if she survived birth.
Kate asked her doctor: “What can a baby like mine do? Sleep all the time?”
“Babies like yours are not generally comfortable enough to sleep,” the neurologist said.
“That is when it became very clear what I wanted to do,” she says. “The MRI really ruled out the possibility of good health for my baby.”
After seeing the ultrasound at UVA, Lindsey noticed the growth had enveloped half of Omara’s face and spread around her neck to the back of her head. When the doctor entered, they expected the worst. Again, the term lymphangioma came up. But so did cervical teratoma. Only an MRI could determine decisively, but whether it was malignant or benign, it could be fatal to the baby.
“You could just tell the energy in the room was like: you should end it, it’s not going to turn out well,” she says. The doctor told them they could terminate the pregnancy since Omara’s chances of survival were slim. Matt and Lindsey were crushed by the prospect. They wanted to fight.
Twenty days after seeing the first signs of trouble, they learned that Omara had an aggressive form of lymphangioma growing out of her neck. The diagnosis came in the form of a dense two-page MRI report. The fast-growing, inoperable tumor had grown into her brain, heart, and lungs. It had wrapped around her neck, eyes, and deep into her chest. It was so invasive, it was pushing her tongue out of her mouth.
Her chances of living to the age of viability or birth were slim. Lindsey and Matt made the heartbreaking decision to follow through with an abortion at about 24 weeks. They were just a few days away from it being an illegal termination.
…our child came with technical terms like hydrocephalus and spina bifida. The spine, she said, had not closed properly, and because of the location of the opening, it was as bad as it got. What they knew — that the baby would certainly be paralyzed and incontinent, that the baby’s brain was being tugged against the opening in the base of the skull and the cranium was full of fluid — was awful. What they didn’t know — whether the baby would live at all, and if so, with what sort of mental and developmental defects — was devastating. Countless surgeries would be required if the baby did live. None of them would repair the damage that was already done.
Other severe fetal abnormalities which might occur:
anencephaly, characterized by the absence of the brain and cranium above the base of the skull, leading to death before or shortly after birth.
renal agenesis, where the kidneys fail to materialize, leading to death before or shortly after birthlimb-body wall complex, where the organs develop outside of the body cavity
neural tube defects such as encephalocele (the protrusion of brain tissue through an opening in the skull), and severe hydrocephaly (severe accumulation of excessive fluid within the brain)
meningomyelocele, which is an opening in the vertebrae through which the meningeal sac may protrude
caudal regression syndrome, a structural defect of the lower spine leading to neurological impairment and incontinence
lethal skeletal dysplasias, where spinal and limb growth are grossly impaired leading to stillbirths, premature birth, and often death shortly after birth, often from respiratory failure
One women described being in labor before the doctors discovered her baby had no skull (anencephaly). Data of such malformed fetuses show that:
7% died in utero
18% died during birth
26% lived between 1 and 60 minutes
27% lived between 1 and 24 hours
17% lived between 1 and 5 days
5% lived 6 or more days
These are cases referred to in recent remarks by Ralph Northam, Virginia’s beleaguered governor, as newborns who would be made comfortable until they die of natural causes.
Let me state unequivocally that the ONLY person(s) who should be involved in a decision about abortion is the woman, her partner, and the physician. No one else can possibly understand all the elements involved in such a decision, nor does anyone have any right to a say in the decision. Certainly the government has no right to decide who is born.
These are not only difficult decisions based on a woman’s ruined hopes of giving birth to a healthy child, but also difficult because of outrageous costs involved in keeping a deformed baby alive. Massive expense accrues daily when survival means intensive neonatal care for which most parents are ill-equipped to pay. The expense then falls to the medical community and in most cases is passed off to the government where taxpayers foot the bill.
Why? What is the benefit to taxpayers in keeping alive for a few hours/days/weeks – or in some cases, years—semi-human beings who can never function as a human being? In many ways, we’ve created this problem by advancing science and medicine to a point where extraordinary means can keep a newborn alive when nature would have terminated its life at birth. In many cases, both the mother and fetus would have died.
We as a nation need to get past the idea that every fertilized egg is going to become a normal person.
If you are allowed to abort a fetus that has a severe genetic defect, microcephaly, spina bifida, or so on, then why aren’t you able to euthanize that same fetus just after it’s born? I see no substantive difference that would make the former act moral and the latter immoral. After all, newborn babies aren’t aware of death, aren’t nearly as sentient as an older child or adult, and have no rational faculties to make judgments (and if there’s severe mental disability, would never develop such faculties). It makes little sense to keep alive a suffering child who is doomed to die or suffer life in a vegetative or horribly painful state.
We need to encourage women to seek medical opinions in every pregnancy and make use of prenatal testing to the greatest possible extent. When a fetus is found to be compromised, expectant couples should be encouraged to abort instead of shamed for even considering it. Abortion should be available through every gynecologist in every part of the nation.
Already fifty percent of Medicaid dollars are spent on children, many of whom were born with severe defects that can never be cured. These children won’t grow into normal adulthoods no matter how much they’re “mainstreamed” in public schools or how much special treatment they receive. Yet somehow this subject never comes up in discussions about the federal budget and the mushrooming costs of Medicaid.
Is life without mental function “human life”? Is life without capabilities beyond those of a six-month-old “human life?” An advanced civilization should seek quality of life, not quantity. As science and medicine learn more, we become more able to sustain life even in the most vegetative state. At a point where “life” can be created in a petri dish, it’s time we talk about what human life means.
Above all else, we need to respect the individuals confronted with terrible decisions about their potential offspring and let them decide what is best. It’s their DNA, their future. They have the right and responsibility to decide. No one else can.
A lot of talk among those on the left focuses on ending war. I’ve heard plenty of Lefties say they didn’t vote for Hillary because she supported war. As if that had any bearing on reality, since so does Trump.
At any rate, I’m seeking input from anyone who can offer a thoughtful analysis on what the U.S. gains in war and why removing ourselves from those situations would be good or bad.
Why is this important? Consider this:
The Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs reports that by the end of the 2019 fiscal year, the U.S. will have spent $5.9 trillion on military spending in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and other countries, as well as veterans’ care, interest on debt payments, and related spending at the Homeland Security and State Departments.
It’s not just about the Middle East. We support military forces around the globe.
The 2015 U.S. Department of Defense Base Structure Report states that the DOD has property in 587 bases in 42 countries, the majority located in Germany (181 sites), Japan (122 sites), and South Korea (83 sites). The Department of Defense classifies 20 of the overseas bases as large, 16 as medium, 482 as small and 69 as “other sites.” (Now up to over 800.)
These smaller and “other sites” are called “lily pads” and are generally in remote locations and are either secret or tacitly acknowledged to avoid protests that might lead to restrictions on their use. They usually have a small number of military personnel and no families. They sometimes reply on private military contractors whose actions the U.S. government can deny. To maintain a low profile, the bases are hidden within host country bases or on the edge of civilian airports. (Citation)
So let’s take this region by region. Wikipedia gives details on our involvement in the Middle East where we are actively engaged in the following locations:
Afghanistan – the reason we went there was to retaliate for 9/11 and destroy the Islamic insurgents known as the Taliban. Not sure why we care what happens now in Afghanistan but I do hear there are important rare earth deposits we’d like to monopolize. Yes, of course the Taliban still exists but anyone who has taken even a cursory glance at Afghan history will know that no one ever wins in Afghanistan.
Iraq – the reason we invaded Iraq had to do with the false claim they had developed weapons of mass destruction. The only credible excuse I’ve heard is that Cheney had vested interests in the oil fields on behalf of his company Halliburton. Also, Halliburton was contracted for billions of dollars in field support during and after the ‘war.’ Pretty sure we can all see now that Bush’s ill-advised invasion created a crisis for most religions in Iraq which had previously been more or less protected by Hussein’s tolerance policies. The invasion also created an environment where the long-festering religious conflict between Sunni and Shia Islamists could flare into violence and spawn extremists like the Sunni Al-Qaida.
Yemen – we’re supplying arms and ‘advisors’ to Saudi Arabia (and of course money) for its support of the old regime of Yemen in the face of a rebel takeover. Supposed Iranian support for the rebels reportedly triggered Saudi involvement in this Yemeni conflict. So why does the U.S. think this is so important that we are supporting Saudi brutality and genocide in Yemen? Is it just about Iran? Or the shadow of Russia behind Iran?
Libya – we stuck our nose into Libya because we wanted to get rid of Kaddafi. Now there is chaos and devastation as dueling factions fight for control. What the hell was the strategic expectation in nations like this and Iraq where decades of strongman rule had carved out a relatively peaceful nation? Is our goal simply to create devastation and turmoil in the entire region in order to help Israel remain powerful?
Syria – U.S. ‘advisors’ on the ground in Syria are dependent on Kurdish fighters in this ongoing cluster f**k that began as an uprising by educated Syrians against their dictator Bashar al-Assad. (Evidently despite our partnership with the Kurds, we’re too afraid of retribution by Turkey to advocate for Kurds to have their own homeland.)
Early on, our involvement in the Syrian civil war had to do with atrocities Assad committed against his own people, but then things became more complicated with the rise of Al-Quida/ISIS/ISIL in the war zones. At this point, as far as I know, we’re only trying to get rid of ISIL and allowing Assad to perpetuate his genocide against Syrians who want him out of power.
Israel — Although we are not directly involved in military activities between Israel and Palestine (and other Arab nations who formerly controlled the area where Israel was given land), we’ve funneled trillions of dollars into the formation and sustenance of Israel. I have yet to understand this investment, other than a) sympathy for what Jews suffered during WWII; and b) the usefulness of a fierce U.S. ally in the region.
For the record, I’ll ask why anyone thinks a nation based on religion is a good idea. Catholics live all over the world. So do all other religions. Where is the State of Methodists?
Why take away land from people who have lived there for hundreds of years (Palestinians) and create an ongoing crisis just because Jews once claimed it as their homeland? That was back around 30 BC before the Romans took over. Since then, Jews were a minority in that region, only 10-15% of the population by 614 AD. Jews fared no better after the start of the Crusades when invading European Catholics installed Christianity. In 1517, the Muslim Ottoman Empire conquered the area and ruled until 1917 when the British took over.
So based on what existed 2,000 years ago, the Jews should once again have Israel? By that logic, should all other current nations be subject to occupation by the people who ‘owned’ the place 2,000 years ago? The mind boggles.
Is our involvement in the Jewish state mostly about U.S. Christians, Jews, and Biblical prophecies? Why is Israel important to the U.S., to the extent that Israel receives the following?
P.L. 115-141, the FY2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act, provides the following for Israel:
$3.1 billion in Foreign Military Financing, of which $815.3 million is for offshore procurement;
$705.8 million for joint U.S.-Israeli missile defense projects, including $92 million for Iron Dome, $221.5 million for David’s Sling, $310 million for Arrow 3, and $82.3 million for Arrow 2;
$47.5 million for the U.S.-Israeli anti-tunnel cooperation program;
$7.5 million in Migration and Refugee Assistance;
$4 million for the establishment of a U.S.-Israel Center of Excellence in energy and water technologies;
$2 million for the Israel-U.S. Binational Research & Development Foundation (BIRD) Energy program; and
The reauthorization of War Reserves Stock Allies-Israel (WRSA-I) program through fiscal year 2019.
For FY2019, the Trump Administration is requesting $3.3 billion in Foreign Military Financing for Israel and $500 million in missile defense aid to mark the first year of the new MOU. The Administration also is seeking $5.5 million in Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) funding for humanitarian migrants to Israel. (Citation)
Note: This problem will NEVER be solved as long as Israel continues to bully its way into more and more Palestinian land. The least we can do is withdraw from the drama and let them all kill each other.
Oh, and there’s this: The top five source countries of U.S. petroleum imports in 2017 were Canada, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Venezuela, and Iraq. Hmm.
As for other places in the world where our troops are involved in local violence and imperialist ambitions, consider Africa where U.S. forces are stationed in over 20 locations.
When U.S. troops were ambushed in Niger last October (2017), the widespread reaction was surprise: The U.S. has military forces in Niger? What are they doing there?
Yet in many ways, the Niger operation typifies U.S. military missions underway in roughly 20 African countries, mostly in the northern half of the continent. The missions tend to be small, they are carried out largely below the radar, and most are focused on a specific aim: rolling back Islamist extremism. (Citation)
Might I humbly submit that Islamist extremism in Africa didn’t exist until American evangelists started messing with native African beliefs and European/American colonialists swept in to exploit the natural resources.
Or how about Asia where we have maintained a heavy military presence since BEFORE World War II. A Wall Street Journalreport from May 2017 states that “the Pentagon has endorsed a plan to invest nearly $8 billion to bulk up the U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific region over the next five years by upgrading military infrastructure, conducting additional exercises and deploying more forces and ships.”
In Central and South America, the U.S. has a long tradition of meddling with our neighbors’ affairs. Through our C.I.A. and black ops, we have assassinated, deposed, and otherwise destroyed Central and South American governments we didn’t like primarily for their socialist or communist leanings. U.S. policymakers evidently failed to consider the benefits of socialist policies in largely rural countries where most arable land has been taken over by multinational corporations for use as food crop plantations or grazing land for cattle production, or in some cases mining, oil production and other natural resources.
These practices have left the average native citizens without a place or occupation by which to support themselves, creating the need for governments to level the playing field. Instead, any government that has hinted it might take back land for its people has been ruthlessly eradicated.
… the U.S. military school initially called School of the Americas, now called the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), [has fostered graduates] who have tortured and murdered citizens of their countries who opposed their governments’ oppressive policies-in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile, Argentina. Some of the most notorious of these murderers that sought asylum in the United States in the 1980s are now being extradited back to their home countries, particularly to El Salvador… (Citation)
(Anyone still wondering why these migrants keep arriving at our southern border?)
Is it naïve to think that in a time of a mushrooming global digital community and escalating economic challenges due to climate change that we could start to look at new world order that’s beyond war?
What exactly does the U.S. stand to lose by stepping back from armed conflict?
Well, there’s the money. The combined arms sales of the top 100 largest arms-producing companies amounted to an estimated $395 billion in 2012. The five biggest exporters in 2010–2014 were the United States, Russia, China, Germany and France, and the five biggest importers were India, Saudi Arabia, China, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan. (Citation) In the top ten arms producers, eight are U.S. corporations. Among them, they provide 831,000 jobs, one of the primary justifications for perpetuating the industry of war.
Then there are military jobs. For FY2018, these were the following budget items:
Personnel costs: $141B
Family support: $10B
The VA: $178B
That’s a total of $329 Billion. For 1.4 million jobs. That’s $235,000 per job. Per year.
The total number of deaths and the amount of human suffering is incalculable.
To Christians who support war in support of Israel or otherwise, I’ll ask what Christ meant when he said to turn the other cheek. Etc.
Is violence ever justified? Is war ever moral? Is it really kill or be killed? Are migrants seeking refuge a threat requiring military action?
Have we come so far and still remain, at our core, savages?
What’s missing from the debate about our borders? The reason why.
People don’t just pick up and leave their ancestral homes and extended families without a good reason. In so doing, they face a dangerous and expensive journey in search of a new home. Yet despite the risks and hardship, these folks feel they have no choice.
What we hear is news about brown-skinned folks mobbing our borders, crossing rivers and sneaking into the promised land. We see them standing in lines, tear-stained kids’ faces, our media swamped with shouting heads about illegal immigration. Build a wall! Trump yells.
What does any of that do to solve the problem?
The problem is ours. It is we who have caused this, maybe not us individually, but us as part of a Western culture’s willingness to overrun and exploit anyone weaker than us in order to enrich ourselves.
As reported on the PBS Newshour last night, most of the current surge of immigration comes from three nations: Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. These are collectively among the most violent, poverty-stricken areas of the Americas. To fully understand the terrible state of affairs in these countries, one must go back several centuries to the Spanish conquest when everything of value was stolen from the people. Since then, land ownership by rich plantation owners and all-powerful foreign corporations has removed people from their traditional way of life and left them with nothing but poorly paid jobs, if that.
The role of the United States intensified during the 20th century as socialist ideals filtered into Latin America. People embraced the idea of taking back the land from foreign interests and the wealthy power brokers in their country. The U.S. took an active albeit secretive role in destroying such efforts, as described in an article in the May 2016 issue of The Nation:
…the active role Washington played in the “dirty war” in El Salvador in the 1980s, which pitted a right-wing government against Marxist guerrillas. The United States sent military advisers to help the Salvadoran military fight its dirty war, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in economic and military aid.
The United States went well beyond remaining largely silent in the face of human-rights abuses in El Salvador. The State Department and White House often sought to cover up the brutality, to protect the perpetrators of even the most heinous crimes.
In March of 1980, the much beloved and respected Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero was murdered. A voice for the poor and repressed, Romero, in his final Sunday sermon, had issued a plea to the country’s military junta that rings through the ages: “In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: stop the repression.” The next day, he was cut down by a single bullet while he was saying a private mass…
Eight months after the assassination, a military informant gave the US embassy in El Salvador evidence that it had been plotted by Roberto D’Aubuisson, a charismatic and notorious right-wing leader. D’Aubuisson had presided over a meeting in which soldiers drew lots for the right to kill the archbishop, the informant said. While any number of right-wing death squads might have wanted to kill Romero, only a few, like D’Aubuisson’s, were “fanatical and daring” enough to actually do it, the CIA concluded in a report for the White House.
Yet, D’Aubuisson continued to be welcomed at the US embassy in El Salvador, and when Elliott Abrams, the State Department’s point man on Central America during the Reagan administration, testified before Congress, he said he would not consider D’Aubuisson an extremist. “You would have to be engaged in murder,” Abrams said, before he would call him an extremist.
But D’Aubuisson was engaged in murder, and Washington knew it. (He died of throat cancer in 1992, at the age of 48. Abrams was convicted in 1991 of misleading Congress about the shipment of arms to the anti-Sandinista forces in Nicaragua, the so-called “Iran/Contra” affair. He was pardoned by President George H.W. Bush, later served as special adviser to President George W. Bush on democracy and human rights, and is now a foreign-policy adviser to GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz.)
Then there was the murder of three nuns. The Nation’s article continues:
No act of barbarism is more emblematic of the deceit that marked Washington’s policy in El Salvador in the 1980s than the sexual assault and murder of four US churchwomen—three Roman Catholic nuns and a lay missionary—in December 1980, a month after Ronald Reagan was elected president.
The American ambassador, Robert White, who had been appointed by President Jimmy Carter, knew immediately that the Salvadoran military was responsible—even if he didn’t have the names of the perpetrators—but that was not what the incoming administration wanted to hear.
One of Reagan’s top foreign-policy advisers, Jeane Kirkpatrick, when asked if she thought the government had been involved, said, “The answer is unequivocal. No, I don’t think the government was responsible.” She then sought to besmirch the women. “The nuns were not just nuns,” she told The Tampa Tribune. “The nuns were also political activists,” with a leftist political coalition (Kirkpatrick died in 2006).
This history and the criminality of U.S. behavior in El Salvador is but one of many similar circumstances across Latin America. Our violent suppression of activists like Che Guevara and other native leaders occurs time and again. We’ve been unwilling to allow local people to reclaim their lands, now largely functioning as an extended plantation for multinational agri-business.
El Salvador has always been a largely agricultural country and despite recent shifts agriculture has continued to be a mainstay of the economy. Conflicts and peasant uprisings over the land date back more than four centuries, to the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores. Since the last 19th century, the most fertile lands have been concentrated in few hands, “An oligarchy known as las catorce (the original fourteen aristocratic families, which has later expanded in number) and used to grow coffee for export, forcing small-scale farmers onto marginal quality lands and making their subsistence increasingly precarious. In the second half of the twentieth century, an alliance of conservative civilians (dominated by las catorce) and military officers ruled the country until the late 1970s.
“A vicious circle was created whereby concentration of land by the wealthy furthered inequality, which led to land degradation and caused conflict that finally escalated into full scale civil war in 1980.” The long civil war decimated the environment, a result of the government’s “’scorched earth’ strategy designed to decimate the insurgency’s base of support in the countryside.” 
This destruction resulted in large-scale migration to urban areas which has placed further stress on the country’s delicate ecosystem. A long term result of the war and the ensuing shift in demography has been continuing conflicts over land and the ecological impact of its use near urban areas.
“… the real cause of the civil war in El Salvador is the issue of agrarian reform. The oligarchy tries to prevent it at all cost. The party of the landholding elite has close ties with the death squads…,
Its topsoil depleted, its forests all but gone, its water and air polluted by chemicals, livestock, and human waste, El Salvador is a picture of where we’re headed. It’s the canary in the coal mine, a predictor of Western hemisphere futures where overpopulation, lack of environmental protections, and concentration of land ownership are allowed free rein.
Trump’s eager rallying cry against evil gangs—in particular MS-13—barely skims the surface of the real problems facing El Salvador and, by default, the rest of us.
The Mara Salvatrucha gang originated in Los Angeles, set up in the 1980s by Salvadoran immigrants in the city’s Pico-Union neighborhood who immigrated to the United States after the Central American civil wars of the 1980s.
Originally, the gang’s main purpose was to protect Salvadoran immigrants from other, more established gangs of Los Angeles, who were predominantly composed of Mexicans and African-Americans.
With over 30,000 members internationally and its power concentrated in the so-called ‘Northern Triangle’ of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, MS-13 is a cautionary tale for us all. But that’s not the full picture for El Salvadorans:
The defense ministry has estimated that more than 500,000 Salvadorans are involved with gangs. (This number includes gang members’ relatives and children who have been coerced into crimes.) Turf wars between MS-13, the country’s largest gang, and its chief rivals, two factions of Barrio 18, have exacerbated what is the world’s highest homicide rate for people under the age of 19. In 2016, 540 Salvadoran minors were murdered—an average of 1.5 every day.
While a majority of El Salvador’s homicide victims are young men from poor urban areas, the gangs’ practice of explicitly targeting girls for sexual violence or coerced relationships is well known. Since 2000, the homicide rate for young women in El Salvador has also increased sharply, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization. To refuse the gangs’ demands can mean death for girls and their families.
This explains why increasingly the people surging north to U. S. borders in search of safety are single young people and especially young women. It also exposes the ignorance and immorality of the Trump Administration’s recent decision to no longer accept gang violence as an adequate reason to offer sanctuary to immigrants and of its plans to reduce foreign aid to El Salvador. As further evidence of the administration’s deaf ear to the very real crisis of the region, it has reduced the immigration quota for people from the Caribbean and Latin America from 5,000 to 1,500.
A recent letter to the editor here in Arkansas perfectly portrays the bizarre mindset of certain Christians. The author wrote not about morally-bankrupt Trump, nor about people dying from chemical warfare and barrel bombs, nor about the continuing horror of mass shootings in our gun-mad country. No, that wasn’t the source of this woman’s righteous indignation.
She’s upset about a comic strip.
I wanted to express my outrage at the blasphemy and sacrilege in this cartoon [Wumo]. This disgusting disregard of Christianity expresses all the evils in troubles in our world today… A holy family, Christians, as [a previous letter writer] said, is fair game for those who want to bully and disparage those with whom they do not agree. (Satan is working overtime.)
People should be very careful when targeting others, especially those of us who will indeed make a stand for our God and his precious son, our lord and savior Jesus Christ. Our beliefs and our love for spiritual and heavenly knowledge and healing far supersedes anyone or anything this world (earthly) has to offer.
The letter writer, a woman from Marion, Arkansas, goes on to demand the comic strip be removed from the newspaper. She concludes: “Christians are offended.”
Oh, my. Where to begin?
Might one suggest that she and others of her ilk SIMPLY NOT READ WUMO?
I mean, does that not seem the logical choice here? I go to the comic pages pretty much every day, but I only read four. Those are the only ones I enjoy. Perhaps this Christian extremist doesn’t understand the concept of enjoyment but rather flogs herself through a daily exercise of holy suffering by reading comics that enrage her.
This would be highly amusing to the rest of us if it weren’t for the awful reality that such people have no idea how ridiculous they are. They are convinced that the world must operate by their rules and anything that draws their personal censure is surely Wrong.
A long list of human tragedy unfolds from this viewpoint. The Inquisition springs to mind, an endeavor of the Catholic Church beginning around 1100 AD and continuing in various forms for the next 600 years. Any form of “blasphemy and sacrilege” could result in church leaders taking offense similar to our letter writer.
Sometimes it was difficult to guess, as any of the following were considered serious crimes: changing bedding on a Friday, not eating pork, dressing in certain ways, wearing earrings, speaking in foreign languages, owning foreign books, casual swearing, criticizing a priest, or failing to show due reverence to the Inquisition… People were executed for failing to fast during Lent, for homosexuality, fornication, explaining scientific discoveries, and even for professional acting..
Or, in our case, publishing a cartoon.
Generously, inquisitors utilized various forms of torture to provide the greatest possible opportunity for the accused to confess his or her sins. Serious effort went into the invention and construction of torture devices including the infamous ‘rack’ and various other gleeful methods of inflicting pain.
When a suspect was convicted of unrepentant heresy, the inquisitorial tribunal was required by law to hand the person over to the secular authorities for final sentencing, at which point a magistrate would determine the penalty, which was usually burning at the stake although the penalty varied based on local law.
Historically, other than the necessary torture required to bring a confession from those blasphemers in order to declare them guilty and then burn them at the stake, religious extremists have demonstrated a fervent interest in killing anyone who doesn’t agree with their point of view. Is this what the letter-writer threatens in her statement that: “People should be very careful when targeting others, especially those of us who will indeed make a stand for our God.”
What exactly is she suggesting? Would her “stand for God” include Inquisition-style discipline on the newspaper publishers or the creator of the Wumo comic strip?
Sadly, we don’t have to look far, even today, to find exactly that kind of violence bestowed upon those who draw the critical attention of religious authorities. Syrian cartoonist Ali Farzat dared to make fun of certain leaders in his cartoons. Assailants hunted him down and used clubs to break his hands. Chinese censors called for a “severe punishment” for a star TV anchor over jokes he made at a dinner party mocking the People’s Republic of China’s founding father, Mao Zedong. Then there was the Islamist terrorist attack on the French satirical weekly publication Charlie Hebdo which resulted in the deaths of twelve people. Their justification? Charlie Hebdo made fun of Allah.
There’s a reason we Americans treasure our right to free speech. We can criticize our leaders, laugh at Saturday Night live skits, and even poke fun at entrenched religious views, all without fear of having our hands broken or being burned at the stake. Somehow in all her years of life, this letter writer missed out on all but the first part of First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
All this brings to mind the question of why certain religious types find it imperative to force their point of view on everyone else. Is that they are so insecure in their beliefs that they’re comfortable only if they’re certain everyone around them believes the same thing? Isn’t faith the foundation of religious practice, the assurance that no matter what happens, God’s got your back? Wouldn’t that pretty much cover being the only Christian in a sea of infidels? Why so insecure?
Is it that they see it as their duty to convert the rest of the world to their belief system? This certainly seems to be the case, a duty not only to police the statewide newspaper’s comics section for blasphemy but also to righteously demand enforcement of their judgement against a comic deemed offensive. After all, “Christians are offended!”
Do these folks not understand that this exact attitude is responsible for most of the world’s suffering? Most of the wars? Most of the violence currently taking place in the Middle East?
Education is a wonderful thing. But in a state where parents merely need to sign a form to withhold their kids from public schools and then indoctrinate them with whatever folderol fits their world view, people like this benighted letter-writer proliferate, aided and abetted by fundamentalist preachers who don’t hesitate to cast judgement despite the Biblical edict against judging.
Matthew 7: 1-3
Judge not, that you be not judged.2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
National educational standards exist for a reason. They put us all on a more-or-less level playing field where we all understand the basics of our rule of law, our history as a Western culture, and yes, even the good bad and ugly of religious traditions. Public schools also help us learn to exist in a multicultural, multiracial world where even cartoonists like the creator of Wumo possess as much right to their opinions and creative efforts as the person who goes to church every time the door opens.
It’s a sad testament to the modern evangelical movement that such intolerance is not only accepted but encouraged. This letter writer seems oblivious to the irony in her remark about being “fair game for those who want to bully and disparage those with whom they do not agree…” That would be a thought to reflect on.
 Letters to the Editor, Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Saturday March 31, 2018. 7B
Thursday afternoon I got a phone call. I had forgotten it was the day before the anniversary of Roe v Wade, immersed as I was in my current writing project. Usually I hang up as soon as the pause-click-click tells me it’s a solicitor.
The woman said her name was Grace. This time I said “Hi, Grace.”
“How are you?”
“I’m fine, how are you?”
“I’m calling on behalf of the Right to Life. We need to stop the killing of unborn babies.”
“Oh,” I said, instantly furious. “Well, you can stop right there. I’m Pro-Choice.”
I hung up.
Then I spent the rest of the evening thinking of what I should have said.
Oh really, Grace? Are you referring to an embryo or a fetus? Do know what an embryo looks like or that 67% of abortions occur before eight weeks? So in this image of a human embryo, is this the chicken or egg phase? When you have eggs for breakfast, are you eating a chicken?
So are you in favor of government forcing women to have children? Is that part of your ‘smaller government’ plan? Smaller except the part where the Fetus Police want to control what’s going on INSIDE YOUR BODY?
Gee, Grace, how exactly would you suggest the government keep women from terminating unwanted pregnancies—should they require them to check in monthly for a pregnancy test? Then if they’re pregnant, the government can keep them in a Safe-For-The-Unborn-Baby Compound until the baby is born, thereby preventing any ‘home remedy’ abortions. Women wouldn’t be allowed to leave, so taking care of other children in the home or providing meals/laundry service for their husbands would have to stop, not to mention finishing school or keeping a job.
So you’re in favor of forcing women to produce children they don’t want? Tell me, Grace—do you think those women will be good mothers to those children? Did you know that 70% of abortions are performed on women making 200% or less than the federal poverty line of $11,670? Did you know that this same group of women, without health insurance, are far less likely to have access to birth control? Did you know that children from families with annual incomes below $15,000 were over 22 times more likely to experience maltreatment than children from families whose income exceeded $30,000? Did you know these children were almost 56 times more likely to be educationally neglected and over 22 times more likely to be seriously injured? Did you know that childhood poverty is closely related to the later incidence of crime? Think of prisons, Grace, more and more prisons built to hide away children forced on poor families by the lack of access to birth control.
So Grace, since I’ve got you on the phone, maybe you can explain to me how you plan to stop abortion. Ending unwanted pregnancies has been going on for thousands of years. Maybe you didn’t know that. Maybe you thought that it was only after the passage of Roe v Wade that women started having abortions. Maybe you didn’t know that throughout the ages, women have decided who will be born—not men, not governments, not churches. Women are the ones responsible for selecting future generations. I bet everyone alive today came from a woman sometime in the past who terminated other pregnancies. Even you, Grace, probably have a grandmother back in the mists of time who decided to limit the number of children so she could take proper care of the ones she already had.
I’ve got some abortion statistics for you, Grace, showing women’s reasons for obtaining an abortion.
74% felt “having a baby would dramatically change my life” (which includes interrupting education, interfering with job and career, and/or concern over other children or dependents)
73% felt they “can’t afford a baby now” (due to various reasons such as being unmarried, being a student, inability to afford childcare or basic needs of life, etc.)
48% “don’t want to be a single mother or [were] having relationship problem[s]”
38% “have completed [their] childbearing”
32% were “not ready for a(nother) child”
25% “don’t want people to know I had sex or got pregnant”
22% “don’t feel mature enough to raise a(nother) child”
14% felt their “husband or partner wants me to have an abortion”
13% said there were “possible problems affecting the health of the fetus”
12% said there were “physical problems with my health”
6% felt their “parents want me to have an abortion”
Shall we discuss some of this data? You’ll notice that almost all the reasons for abortion have to do with lack of birth control. What is your position regarding birth control? Do you agree that birth control and all related information regarding human reproduction should be taught by middle school level? Do you agree that birth control should be freely dispensed at middle school level to any student who requests it? How about churches dispensing free birth control so there aren’t so many precious Unborn Children being aborted?
Did you know that only 1.3% of pregnancies are aborted after 21 weeks and generally only for medical reasons?
Grace, did you know that President Obama’s Affordable Care Act mandated that all employers were required to provide 100% coverage for all birth control methods? The only exception came after religious groups refused to provide such coverage and took their argument to court where they won the right not to provide coverage.
Maybe you can explain that for me, Grace. If the horror is abortion, why is there such outrage about preventing unwanted pregnancies? Because that really doesn’t make sense.
I mean, yeah, I get it. I know the unspoken thought. People aren’t supposed to have sex unless they want a child because sex isn’t for enjoyment. Sex is a duty to produce another generation—period. Because the only reason we’re on earth is make more of us. So if you’re having sex for fun, to feel good, then you’re doing it wrong and God will smite you.
It’s true that in all this, it’s the woman who suffers. I’m guessing that has to do with eating a forbidden apple. That’s on Eve. So she’s the one who has to suffer, all part of God’s loving plan to make people do what He wants them to do, which is, evidently, to keep having babies.
By the way, Grace, I don’t know how old you are, but if you were around in 1987, that’s the year the world population reached five billion. Now picture where you were and what you were doing in 1987 and imagine twice as many people. Because that’s where we’ll be in another thirty years. Twice as many cars, twice as many houses or twice as many people living in one house, twice as many big cities. Twice as many people grabbing that last loaf of bread.
It’s true that much of that population growth won’t be in the U.S. or Europe. The growth will mostly occur in Africa, you know, that “shithole” place where people already born are starving and killing each other. And Asia, of course. Those are the places where humanitarian agencies bring in food and provide medical care, including birth control. So the moral stance of this ‘Christian’ administration is to cut off financial support for any humanitarian health care group that offers abortion counseling along with birth control. So if a woman wants to obtain birth control, she can’t get it because someone in that same facility is answering questions about or providing an abortion.
That’s so perfect. So genius. So in keeping with the goal of stopping abortion.
It’s the season of giving, of looking back and looking forward as one year ends and another begins. What better time to consider a fresh outlook on drugs?
Here we are amid the Opioid Crisis, the latest in a long line of similarly heralded events sparking fear, outrage, and call for action. One hundred years ago, it was the Cocaine Crisis quickly followed by the Marijuana Crisis, then the Heroin Crisis. By the late 60s, it was LSD that elicited our fear and loathing.
Doomed to fail from the start, the so-called Drug War was about ‘just saying no’ alongside arming our friendly local cops with military weapons. What we’ve since discovered is that ‘saying no’ meant not talking about it, and that’s a direct route to where we are now. Even worse, we failed to recognize that a war on drugs was actually a war on Americans who use drugs. Now we have embattled inner cities rampant with gun violence and police who dress/act/think like commandos.
What we as a society desperately need to realize is that DRUGS ARE NOT THE PROBLEM. Substance abuse is a SYMPTOM of a much larger and more insidious problem. We’re self-medicating for existential despair.
Existential philosophy arose in the 1950s and early 60s as a way to discuss the unique condition of modern man. Due to mechanization and urban living, the ancient traditions that have helped us cope no longer apply. We are isolated from Nature and its rhythms and lessons that used to sustain us. We are isolated from the sorcery and magic we used to believe was God. We are isolated from our fellow man, often living alone or in nuclear family settings instead of tribal or extended family groups. And most difficult, we are isolated from ourselves, distracted from our thoughts and feelings by constant chatter and material diversions. This is, briefly, the four-fold alienation that describes modern existentialism.
Exacerbating the problem of our modern age are the failures of education, lack of job opportunities, lack of self-esteem, and poor health.
Public or private, schools are missing the target for many youngsters who desperately need logic and critical thinking. Trades we’ll always use, from plumbers to carpenters to seamstresses, are not taught nor are the fundamentals of operating a self-owned business.
Our culture fails to offer a buy-in for young people who need to know they matter. Public service options in avenues other than military are few and far between. Self-esteem has been relegated to displays of material wealth even when no such wealth exists. Debt to last a lifetime is the price we pay for these trappings of social status.
Even more critical is our declining health. Not only are fast food and prepared meals low in nutrition, they’re more expensive than basic foods prepared at home. We’re overeating and starving at the same time, piling on calories in sugar and fat while missing out on the micronutrients, vitamins, and proteins that lead to an uplifted mood and greater energy. No one is advertising chard sautéed with garlic.
Yet the greatest fraud about drugs is perpetuated by the very industries that bear the name of ‘drug manufacturer.’ Since the 1950s, the insidious promotion of drugs by companies like Pfizer, Eli Lilly, or Merck (to name a few) has increased proportionately to the nation’s substance abuse problem.
Slick advertising convinces consumers that with one magic pill, all of life’s ills will go away.
Television especially holds out the false promise. The suffering victim is cast in a muted gray-tone atmosphere while around them everyone else is blissful. With the magic pill, suddenly the victim joins the bliss, bathed in golden light. Meanwhile the precautions about negative effects from the medication are described in a hurried low monotone that fails utterly to overcome the visual imagery.
The message? Consume a drug and your life will be better.
It’s a message that’s not lost on the audience, young and old alike. Who doesn’t want to be part of that golden bliss? Who doesn’t want to live without pain, without worry? All you have to do is take a drug.
It’s exactly this message that has led to the current opioid crisis. It’s not that doctors are overprescribing, although some are. It’s not that manufacturers falsely claimed that OxyContin and its family of synthetic opioids are safe to use, although some undoubtedly did. It’s that all of it is part of a bigger scam wrought upon the American citizenry—that the inevitable aches and pains of life can be made painless.
When we read about the pioneers and ‘old timers,’ we’re aghast at what they endured. No indoor plumbing? No central heat? No food unless they grew it? We marvel at their toughness, their ingenuity.
Yet amid all the labor saving devices and easy consumer goods, we find ourselves without any test of our endurance or strength. We spend too much time in activities that show us nothing at the end of the day. How can we prove ourselves without any proof?
We’re looking for adventure and new horizons. Our natural tendencies as humans drive us toward activities that may result in trauma, pain, or even death. How do we turn back the very features of our make-up that have brought us out of the caves?
The hazard of certain drugs that lead to laws against them is the fear that persons under the influence will harm us. By escaping rationality through intoxication, people may unleash violent tendencies. No abused substance in history lives up to this threat more than alcohol, but our failed war on alcohol should have taught us important lessons about the harm such policies cause.
The need for a national conversation about drugs is long past due. All drugs. Pharmaceutical advertisements should be banned, particularly those requiring a prescription. After all, why are we encouraging people to decide what drugs they need instead of allowing doctors to do their job? Profits for pharmaceuticals should be heavily taxed despite the persistent whine that the money only funds research.
… evidence that Gilead itself uses its profits to “innovate” is thin at best. In 2016, the company reported profit of $13.5 billion. It spent $11 billion to repurchase its own shares, and about $2.5 billion on stock dividends.
Drug manufacturing ranks among the most profitable industries in the world.
Until we set aside our conditioned response to the drug problem, we cannot solve this escalating crisis. We are throwing people away by failing to address fundamental issues that lead people to hide in a drugged haze. We are throwing them away a second time when we stigmatize their drug problem by involving them in the criminal justice system. Or when we force them into a drug court program with limited resources and over-dependence on 12-step programs and which fail to address underlying conditions such as inadequate nutrition.
Treatment programs generally fail in many ways partly because they are set up to create profit. Instead of looking to make money off of people suffering from addiction, we should be looking for ways to express our collection compassion and concern. We should make sure that intake is immediately available for any and all comers, that they’ll be offered a safe setting full of comfort and light, that individual counseling is the best money can buy. When we invest in our fellow man, it’s a win-win for everyone.
So I urge you to give it some thought and talk about this over the holidays as you meet with friends and family. Enjoy that glass of wine as you celebrate the season. Acknowledge the difference between use and abuse. Love your neighbor as yourself. Be part of the change we so desperately need.