Tag Archives: religious right

Make America Great Again – What Does It Mean?

way, sign, signal, symbol, self, conflict, disagreement, clash, quarrel, difference, warning, notice, sky, blue, white, black, words, my, your, self-centered, self-interest, self-seeking, egotistical, outside, outdoors, day, arrougant, proud, pull, tug, war, argue, fight,

Depends on who you ask.

If you ask a self-identified conservative, by definition that person will value the preservation of long-established traditions. The valuation of what was supersedes valuation of change, even in the face of problems that require change for resolution. Within this crowd, you’d likely find a few who don’t believe anyone has been to the moon.

The success of Trump in his presidential bid relied on his ability to push hot buttons on various conservative issues. His campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” claimed America was no longer great due to changes wrought against the wishes of conservatives. He alone could fix it.

Still waiting for the how.

Progressives, on the other hand, see the slogan and his subsequent win as a threat to hard won changes that have addressed many of the nation’s problems over the last fifty years. Included in the hard won changes has been the end of the Cold War, which if Trump’s ham-fisted approach fails to lighten, could easily reignite.

None of which worries a majority of conservatives who see the threat of Armageddon as fulfillment of God’s promise. Bring it, they whisper in their prayers.

Meanwhile, it’s the mundane stuff keeping the conservatives foaming at the mouth. Take, for example, the issue of welfare. Conservatives would prefer to eliminate aid for parents with dependent children, food stamps, and other support programs for the poor. Except for their Uncle Bob who only has one eye and is dying of Hepatitis C. Uncle Bob needs a government handout because without it, the Christian shame of a kinsman dying on the street means Bob would have to move into the back bedroom.

Bob’s not the only one who can’t take care of himself. Government provides food, shelter stipends, and medical care (until the Affordable Care Act gets blasted into last year) for handicapped, terminally ill, and mentally ill citizens as well as parents of minor children earning less than poverty wage. All those slackers need to get a job!

Progressives have tried to deal with the real problems faced by their fellow man. For example, before 1960, persons with mental illness lived in institutional settings. Patients with depression or autism lived alongside persons with various psychoses, truly a ‘snake pit’ environment. Aided by the advent of new psychoactive drugs and outpatient counseling, sanitariums were closed and most patients were released to the general population.

The mentally ill weren’t the only ones who triggered massive welfare efforts. The aged had gained Social Security decades earlier, but it was the late 1960s before Medicare came into existence. Then there were the rest who’d previously been left to die in unheated shanties.

The ‘needy’ had always been among us. But from the late 19th century to World War II, the industrialization of agriculture caused more people to move from the countryside to cities. Previous support networks of families and neighbors and local churches were disconnected from those who needed their help. That along with a tremendous increase in population resulted in the present welfare system.

It’s not like progressives saw a vision of ever higher taxes to support an ever increasing horde of needy. Their solution has been to spend more money in addressing the roots of poverty and ignorance: better schools, one-on-one casework to determine needs, more job training programs, more and better preschool options, higher teacher salaries, and health care for every person.

It should go without saying that a person who is mentally or physically ill can’t work. But one of the fondest dreams of conservatives is to kill Obamacare, aka the Affordable Care Act.

There’s no apparent effort to connect the dots.

The conservative ‘great again’ solution is to cut programs. They envision a pastoral scene where neighbors care for neighbors and local churches hand out food baskets. They cling to their fantasy because it’s simple. It worked a hundred years ago, so it should work now. Of course they’re not eager to revert to outdoor toilets, kerosene lamps, and horse and buggy.

Nothing about the modern world and its problems is as simple as conservatives want to make it.

If you ask evangelical Christians, ‘great again’ means turning back the clock to a time when a woman could not terminate a pregnancy without risking her life. Evangelicals do not accept that women have the Constitutional and moral right to determine what happens inside their own bodies. For many conservatives, a woman’s use of any form of birth control is questionable. Women belong in the home, not in the workplace competing with men, coming home with perhaps a larger paycheck and the ability to pack up and leave if he doesn’t treat her right, and pregnancy helped keep her there.

In the conservative Christian view, granting women these rights did not solve problems but created them. The fact that over 5000 women died annually from illegal abortion doesn’t faze them—it’s the fetus that matters.

Progressives sought solutions to the outrage suffered by atheists, Jews, Muslims, and followers of other faiths forced to hear Christian prayers announced over the intercom as a resonant baritone voice intoned the supplication. Whether in government meetings or public buildings, Christian beliefs and imagery dominated. The solution seemed simple enough—allow no advocacy or public recognition of any specific religion in commonly shared venues. Nothing of this restrained an individual from praying silently or at home or places of worship.

This small step toward consideration for others infuriates those who want to force Christian beliefs upon the entire population and declare the United States a “Christian nation.” Never mind what it says in the Constitution. As Vice-President Elect Pence says, God comes before country.

Allahu Akbar, ya’ll!

For men and women who desire and love those of their own sex, progress means allowing them the same rights under the law as enjoyed by all American citizens. Legal challenges affirmed the right to privacy in matters involving with whom and how sexual relations might occur. They affirmed the legal rights of marriage, of employment and housing and commerce.

To the evangelical right, ‘great again’ means reclaiming a time when nobody talked about homosexuality and if they did, they whispered. To legitimize such perceived deviation by granting rights to homosexuals is a moral outrage. And now transgender? Bathrooms? For this segment of voters, blocking such ‘progress’ is a dictate from God Himself.

For many conservatives, making American great again means going back at least to the 1950s if not the 1850s when African Americans knew their place. And that place wasn’t at the lunch counter beside respectable whites. It wasn’t at school mixing with white children. It wasn’t in interracial marriages.

Make America Great Again! Go back to a time before we knew so much, before incomprehensible terms like ‘climate change’ didn’t haunt the daily news. This topic alone creates great unease among the segment of the nation’s voters who never understood—or in many cases never accepted—basic scientific principles.

Because government has been the vehicle by which social progress has been required of everyone, conservative hatred centers on government. Government, not the need to care for the poor, not the need for fair and equal education, not the rights to liberty and justice for all, is the reason they have to sit next to a Muslim on the airplane.

Enshrining ignorance as a value is yet another gift of the religious right. Blind faith in God working magic and sufficient prayer time means no personal responsibility to think or learn or take action. Just keep having babies and ignoring evidence that much of the world’s current ills derive from overpopulation.

Real life-threatening problems face the people of the world. Tearing up treaties and trade agreements doesn’t solve them. Ignoring science doesn’t solve them. Removing environmental regulations doesn’t solve them. But at no time in the campaign or now in his appointments has Trump described a single solution to a single problem. He has so little intellectual grasp of his newly-acquired responsibilities that he plans to spend weekends at his penthouse. Because in his world of delegating to underlings, being president is a 9-5, M-F occupation.

If that.

In this dark hour, progressives cling to a promise that has gained momentum since this nation was founded, that we as Americans value and strive for equal rights, welcome the downtrodden to our shores, and treat all humanity as our brothers and sisters.

It’s the Golden Rule conservatives have forgotten.

Progressive: making use of new ideas, findings, or opportunities. Liberal: given in a generous and openhanded way; broadminded, not bound by authoritarianism, embracing ideals of economic freedom, greater individual participation in government, and institutional, political and administrative reforms.

Progress is forward—unless the future remains in the hands of conservatives.

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A Year Later — Justin Harris

harris

Last year I blogged about a “State of Perversion” in Arkansas. The news broke with a sensational expose by the Arkansas Times on our local state representative Justin Harris. Now a year from his outing, this seems an appropriate time to check on how far we’ve come. (Or haven’t.)

Here, in part, is what I wrote:

“Justin Harris is serving his third term in the Arkansas Legislature where he has introduced conservative measures ranging from abortion restriction to denying funding to the state’s department of human services under the campaign promise to reduce government spending. He and his wife own and operate a preschool in his legislative district town of West Fork, a largely rural constituency with a high percentage of fundamentalist church followers. Alongside the alphabet and fingerpainting, Mr. Harris’ school teaches religion.

  • UPDATE: Since the scandal broke, Mr. Harris announced he would not run for another term. However, he refused to resign, meaning he continues to serve at the state capitol until January 2017. Even more disgusting has been the utter and abject failure of any Republican legislator to criticize Mr. Harris.

“In 2012, Harris found himself on the hot seat after a formal complaint was filed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Seems Mr. No Government Funding had his hand in the public till by obtaining grant funding for his preschool. Over a million dollars had flowed into his coffers, courtesy of a state agency charged with providing tax monies in support of preschools that addressed the needs of ‘underserved’ youth…

“Mr. Harris mounted a vigorous and outraged defense of his right to all that money. He brought in a team of attorneys from Arizona who specialized in defending schools who want to teach Jesus on the public dime. Subsequently, the ABC program promulgated a set of rules specifically addressing the issue of religious instruction. It is unknown whether the ‘solution’ was put forth by the Arizona attorneys, modeled on rules operating in other states, or sprang from a singular Arkansas process, but the novel approach defines an ‘ABC day’ as a set number of hours of purely secular instruction. Whether religious instruction occurs before the ABC day commences or after it ends would not be the state’s concern.

“Since then, Mr. Harris has expanded his operation and state funding approaches a million dollars annually. His students arrive as early as 7:30 a.m. and leave as late as 6 p.m. The ABC day begins at 9 and lasts until 3. Before and after, it’s all about Jesus.

  • UPDATE: An exchange of information with Americans United for Separation of Church and State reveals that under current federal guidelines, states can use tax dollars in this way. Apparently there’s no compelling interest in establishing a viability test where a school would have to prove that its religious instruction could exist separately without the use of tax dollars. In the case of the Harris school, if tax dollars didn’t support the rent, utilities, and salaries for operations, the school would cease to exist. Repeated questioning of DHS money managers produced zero interest in developing or implementing such a test.
  • Likewise, we can hardly expect much interest for reform among current members of Congress who quake in fear of the Religious Right. Closing a loophole that recruits so many young minds to their way of thinking is simply not to be considered even if that loophole stands in clear violation of the U. S. Constitution.

“Soon after the flap over school funding, the Harrises…decided to adopt little three girls whose dysfunctional family had lost custody. The girls were fairly well adjusted in a foster home, but the natural mother allegedly made a personal plea to Justin Harris. This arguably admirable effort left many to question Harris’ quick use of the girls in a family portrait promoting his re-election campaign (a violation of adoption policy), the nearly $30,000 tax break that came with the adoption, and the monthly stipend allotted to Harris in the form of state support. Clearly, the adoption wasn’t all about benevolence.

“Firmly fixated on the adoption idea, the Harrises refused to listen to DHS field agents who reported that the girls would not be suitable in the Harris household. With all the arrogance befitting a person who believed God directed his acts, Harris apparently used his elected office to pressure DHS to approve the adoption. Local caseworkers opposed to the adoption mysteriously changed their recommendation after their boss advocated on the Harris’ behalf. That Justin Harris held a powerful position in the legislative committee which controlled DHS funding seems never to have been examined as a possible contributor to this department head’s advocacy, which resulted in a local juvenile court judge granting the adoption. Unfortunately, because the case involves adoption, DHS has not released any information.”

  • UPDATE: Unfortunately, nothing is known to have changed regarding inappropriate legislator influence over DHS activities. But the incident does reveal the ugly underbelly of an organized evangelical movement to adopt children. The objective is two-fold: provide a viable argument against abortion rights for women and brainwash vulnerable youngsters to extremist religious views.

“Within a year, the Harrises decided to ‘rehome’ the girls to another family. By early 2014, one of the girls had been raped by her new ‘father,’ Eric Cameron Francis. Later that year, Francis would be convicted of multiple counts of child abuse and is currently serving time. As it turns out, Francis had been an employee at the Harris preschool and his wife was good friends with Mrs. Harris. Not surprisingly, Harris chose to stay quiet about his role in placing the victim in the Francis home until a reporter from the Arkansas Times connected the dots. The story went public in March 2015.

“When the adoption/rehoming scandal broke, Harris held a press conference as reported by the Arkansas Times. He presented himself and his family as the damaged party.

“…He said one of the girls — the implication was the middle sister — had to be medicated to stop hurting her sister, and that he was advised by therapists to treat her RAD [Reactive Attachment Disorder] by removing toys and other belongings from her room.

  • UPDATE: Harris never publicly accepted responsibility for the harm inflicted on these girls. While his initial reaction seemed to portray him and his wife as the aggrieved parties, his last public statement on the issue included a comment to the effect that he felt sad about what happened to the girls…as if he personally had nothing to do with it.
  • ABC News produced a close-up on the Harris adoption scandal. The report failed to address the ignored caseworker input and accepted at face value the excuse of Reactive Attachment Disorder. In response, a statement from a collective of mental health professionals criticized the ABC report and refuted RAD as a legitimate diagnosis.
  • On a more promising note, however, the girls are reportedly well adjusted in their new post-Harris adoptive home. And newly-elected Governor Asa Hutchinson saw fit to accept the resignation of the head of DHS and has hired a new person to fill this slot. He has also instigated a complete revamping of the department.

“Harris said he sought DHS assistance at that time but was given none. He said he thought he’d found the ‘perfect solution’ in handing the girls over to…Eric Cameron Francis. Eric Francis is serving 40 years in prison on charges of raping the child.”

  • UPDATE: Justin Harris has continued to hire questionable employees to care for the vulnerable young children attending his preschool. A school bus driver failed to notice that a child remained on the bus. The child was not discovered until early afternoon. Fortunately, the temperature remained fairly mild that day and the van was parked in the shade. The child suffered no ill effects. Nevertheless, the driver was prosecuted. The Harrises fired the driver immediately upon discovery of the incident and accepted no responsibility even though the school failed to abide by its own protocols in checking attendance which would have discovered the missing child.
  • Additionally, word has leaked out that another male employee was fired in December 2015 for inappropriate contact with the students. Seems the Harrises might need to employ better screening methods for prospective employees other than learning whether the candidate regularly attends church.

“Within a month of the revelation that Arkansas DHS had no rule or restriction on the rehoming of adopted children, the state legislature passed a law making rehoming a felony. Harris voted for the bill, in essence making himself a retroactive felon. He resigned from the chairmanship of the public health committee, but failed to yield his legislative seat. He has also refused to accept any responsibility for the little girl’s sexual abuse. At the peak of this fiasco, his school billboard proclaimed that ‘God Himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.’”

  • UPDATE: Happily for all of us in South Washington County who must drive past the Harris pre-school on a daily basis, the school’s outside billboard has remained empty of Godly exhortations since the beginning of the 2015-16 school year, with the exception of a brief period during Christmas.

“Throughout the intense scrutiny on Harris and his failure as an adoptive parent, a considerable body of information has come to light about ongoing religious activities at his preschool. Although random spot inspections by the state theoretically rule out the chance of illegal religious activity during the ‘ABC day,’ reports from former teachers and others allege that children who misbehave are routinely taken to the office where they are prayed over to ‘cast out demons…’

  • UPDATE: There’s been no official (or unofficial) statement from any elected leader or state agency on the use of prayer to cast demons out of misbehaving youngsters. Why would it be so difficult to issue a blanket policy statement about the negative impact on young minds of promoting the belief that demons might inhabit a person or that such demons, rather than oneself, is the party responsible for misbehavior?

“…While firmly denying funding to DHS based on his campaign promise to reduce government spending, Mr. Harris (as legislator) fought for government handouts to fund his religious school in spite of the fact that he knew he was breaking the law by teaching religion in a tax-supported program. As an elected person who held himself up as an example of Christian righteousness, he should have been the first person to recognize he was crossing the line between church and state as delineated in the U. S. Constitution. Instead, assuming he understood the thrust of the Founding Fathers’ intent, he no doubt privately justified his behavior with his belief that God willed it…

“This kind of simplistic medieval thinking lies behind the ability of political handlers to capture votes from the evangelical demographic. The compelling argument is that demons rule the ‘other’ party, that gay marriage, abortion, and other private activities are the proper province of political action, and only by voting for Mr. Righteous can we satisfy the will of God.

“There are many features of modern life that scare the hell out of those who simply cannot understand science or other changes increasingly widespread in the world. Our technology and culture have evolved faster than our mental or physical state. Everything is too fast and too complicated. It’s only been a hundred years since picking peas and saddling a horse served as the requisite skill set to get through life.

  • UPDATE: Which brings us to the candidacy of Donald Trump. Although no one would claim that Trump is a model of evangelical righteousness, he embodies another characteristic evidently more important to the religious right: the ability to dominate. Of almost equal importance is Trump’s wealth, which evangelicals view as God’s gift to a righteous man.
  • Just as the religious right’s concept of a Supreme Being embodies power and arrogance, so does Trump. By reflecting back the anger, fear, and blind hatred toward those unlike themselves, Trump approaches the brink of gaining the Republican nomination for president. The collusion of willful ignorance and the result of years of religious education (versus education based on logic and fact) now stands before us.

One final encouraging note: Justin and Marsha Harris’ West Fork home is up for sale. It may be asking too much, but one can hope that at least this one preschool operation will be taken over by an educator, not another evangelist, and that the children there will learn rational thought along with their ABCs.

Finally, we’re pleased to note that Mr. Harris earned the top ‘dick’ award for 2015.

Coming soon…an update on the Duggar family’s equally outrageous 2015.