Our Republican Religious War

Why keep Trump? Why would career politicians bare their rotten souls to the world in order to keep him in office? It makes no sense when they have another Republican in line to take his place.

What is the prize with Trump? Why is he the one and only person who can carry the Republican banner?

Why disgrace themselves and their party by dishonoring distinguished veterans and career professionals? Why hear testimony that lays out sharp and clear the bribery and extortion Trump pursued with Ukraine and then pretend it was nothing? Why manipulate sound bites from witnesses by taunts and interruptions in order to feed misinformation to their hapless followers?

Now no less than in 2015, the followers cling to any slim suggestion that Trump is the best man to lead the country. Unbelievable as it may seem, all the evidence of his misdeeds then—stiffing workers, molesting women, cheating on all three wives, an endless stream of bankruptcies and financial shenanigans—and now in the impeachment hearings of his cavalier risk of national security, none of it disrupts the fond narrative that he is the Chosen One who can lead this nation toward some glorious future.

What glorious future do they envision?

It’s a story of turning back the clock and at the same time fulfilling prophecies. We’ll put women back in the kitchen without birth control — that’s keep ’em busy and out of the jobs men need. (Never mind the immediate crisis in household income…) We’ll put Bibles in every classroom and pray hourly at the nation’s capitol. We’ll end the rights of LGBTQ individuals and push back the tide of people of color, declaring once and for all the America is a nation controlled by and for white heterosexual males.

Nothing can be said, apparently, to penetrate the religious fervor of this mindset. They are the monkeys who can hear and see nothing. God works in mysterious ways, and Trump is the way, the unrecognized messiah, the one who has been selected by God Almighty to work His powerful agenda of bringing America back to its reason for existence.

This narrative was carefully constructed over decades of Republican manipulation, a frenzied backlash to the ’60s generation with their free love, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. It was outrage over legalized abortion. It was the pushback to the defiance of an entire new generation against an agenda of conspicuous consumption and materialism at any cost. The Silent Majority were sitting ducks for clever spinmeisters who needed their votes to put the corporatiers in the driver’s seat.

The rewards have continued to flow—destruction of workers’ unions, profits over people, wildly skewed income inequality, continuing devastation of the environment in pursuit of wealth, incarceration of the poor and non-white.

Trump is stupid enough to accept the risk of exposing his inadequacies but smart enough to know he’s being used. He doesn’t care that he’s the mouthpiece of larger forces. He’s in it for himself, his family, and the profits they can generate in one scam after another. He has no concept of right or wrong, no shame, no conscience.

None of that matters to the Devin Nuneses of the world. They have hitched their wagons to the myth of the Chosen One and can’t back out now. The two opposing camps of our nation, one seeking to generate public policy framed in science, compassion and forward thinking and the other seeking to generate policies of near-term greed and blind faith, have never been more clearly defined since at least the 1860s.

This is a religious war.  Even though many people of faith have not given up rational thought in order to serve their religious doctrine, those who long for Someone to rule with a strong hand are dedicated to Trump. His braggadocio stands in for strong character among those willing to compromise in order to worship their golden calf.

Will awake voters show up at the polls in November 2020? Will one side have to kill the other in blood-drenched battlefields, hand to hand combat in our streets and cities? Or are there enough people of good faith and common sense to wrest this nation’s direction back from extremists determined to ensure the prophecies of Revelations, their sacrifice to an angry God with whom they bargain in hopes of walking the promised Streets of Gold?

I ask myself, what can I do today to bring my country back to the Founders’ vision of liberty and justice for all? Quite honestly, I don’t know. I’d like to think that through better education and economic opportunity, people can learn how to think past superstitions and myths, that they would embrace rationalism and equanimity. Sadly, just last week a law was passed in Ohio that permits wrong answers to be counted as correct if the error is based on religious teachings.

Buttigieg is the Best Option

Replacing Trump will require a Democratic candidate who can reunite the people of this nation. This candidate can’t just present viable plans that address concerns about health care or immigration. He or she must show the way to bring us to common ground.

Therein lies the problem with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as well as several lower polling candidates. They’re both wonky enough to have good ideas about solving problems. But Bernie comes across as an angry old man who has spent his life raging against the machine. In some eyes, this anoints him as the natural pick, blinding them to the reality of his negatives.

Elizabeth has worked out the minutia of her health care plan but hasn’t found a way to present herself as moderate. Her gender also limits her viability. Much as I’d like to see a woman elected president, now is not that time. She would, however, make a great vice president.

Republican postcard mailer in Kentucky governor campaign. Red-baiting.

Both Warren and Sanders are extreme enough to be vulnerable to opposition rhetoric that frames them as radicals. We’ve already seen how that will work. The Kentucky campaign for governor unveiled the plan. The good news is that the Democrat won anyway, meaning there is hope that the electorate will see past such propaganda. The bad news is that the Republican candidate for Kentucky governor was widely seen as a jerk.

Biden, sadly, has lived past his electability while the new boys in town with their fat wallets, Michael Bloomberg and Deval Patrick, are too easily dismissed despite their proven executive expertise. Neither Bloomberg nor Patrick have (and probably can’t) connected with voters on an emotional level. If by some chance any of these three become the Democratic nominee, I will of course vote for him. But I don’t think they will succeed.

That leaves Buttigieg, an openly gay man whose sexuality may be a formidable barrier for a specific type of voter. But of all the top candidates in the Democratic lineup, Buttigieg is the only military veteran; like it or not, the U.S. has a vast military commitment worldwide. His executive experience has put him on the front line of our nation’s inner city crisis. His personal life has forced him to learn how to bridge huge divides between people with opposing belief systems.

Buttigieg received a major shot in the arm last week with the publication of a Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa poll that showed him in first place in the first-in-the-nation caucus with the support of 25 percent of respondents, nine points ahead of his nearest competitor, Senator Elizabeth Warren. He has nearly tripled his support since September, when the same poll had him at 9 percent. And he’s also moved into the lead in the Real Clear Politics average of Iowa polls. (https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/11/pete-buttigieg-surge-iowa-democratic-voters-may-want-presidential-temperament/)

That he embraces his Christian faith may be scoffed at by evangelicals whose interpretation of Christian teachings paints his sexual orientation as sinful, but they stumble when faced with the reality of their “chosen one,” a president who has openly violated at least three of the Ten Commandments: You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not covet. And probably two more: Keep the Sabbath day holy. and You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Quite the cognitive dissonance, not that they’ll be aware of it.

Trump was elected by 40% of registered voters. What served him in 2016 was non-voters and third-party protest voters, collusion with Russia that manipulated the vote, and a message of hate and exclusion that excited a certain segment of the population.

Now it’s time for a message of love and inclusion that will motivate a majority of voters to hope for a better future.

Buttigieg’s message has begun to penetrate in Iowa, bringing him to the top of the polls. He’s smart, empathetic, and charming. He’s scary smart—Rhodes scholar, US Navy intelligence officer, former employee of a management consulting firm, and now serving his second term as mayor of South Bend, Indiana. His platform includes support for reducing income inequality, pro-environmental policies, cooperation between the Democratic Party and organized labor, universal background checks for firearms purchases, the Equality Act, a public option for health insurance, and preserving the DACA program for children of illegal immigrants. Buttigieg also supports reforms that would end gerrymandering, overturn the Citizens United v. FEC decision, and abolish the Electoral College.[1]

Buttigieg’s sexual orientation may seem a daunting barrier but then, Obama was black—another daunting barrier. And Obama won and gave us eight years of coherent, intelligent leadership.

~~~

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pete_Buttigieg

No Surprises

German citizens saluting Adolf Hitler at the opening of the 1936 Olympic Games. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Before the sun rose on Wednesday July 24, 2019, before the widely heralded appearance of Robert Mueller before committees of the U. S. House of Representatives, Donald Trump and his cohort had long since established their response. The game plan had been distributed to their colleagues in the Senate and to their buddies at FOX News. Most importantly, the plan had been well-rehearsed by Republican House committee members who would have a front row position from which to attempt to undermine the hearings.

There would be no outrage, no cry over the evidence presented. Republican committee members would discreetly and not so discreetly question Mueller’s competence and motivation. They would grandstand their outrage at the ongoing travesty against ‘their’ president. There would be no acknowledgement of any facts presented either about the collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian efforts to sway the vote or Trump’s various attempts to obstruct the investigation.

Afterwards, the tactic was to shrug off the hearings, ho hum, the Democrats beating a dead horse. Oh dear, how upset they must be after all this hoorah and still Mueller didn’t hand them a smoking gun. A big fat nothing.

In truth, the Democrats never expected a smoking gun from Mueller. Their strategy for Mueller’s testimony was to create a televised iteration of the Mueller report for all the Trump supporters out here in the countryside who never had and never would read the actual report. They wouldn’t even read news summaries of the report, instead willing—even eager—to take Trump’s word for it, whatever it said.

Trump had it right when he said he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and no one would care. He took that to the bank. Get cozy with Russians endeavoring to subvert the election? No problem. Pretend it didn’t happen—they’ll believe it. Do everything possible to sidetrack the subsequent investigation? Whatever works. Nobody can prove it if Trump doesn’t talk and the testimony of key players like Don McGahn never sees the light of day.

Democrats should be credited for their effort to pull back the curtain on this shameful and arrogant corruption of American democracy. Their mistake, once again, is assuming that Trump supporters care about our nation more than they care about their boy. Trump legitimizes their ignorance with three-word sentences and double-speak. He shares their terror of “Other” whether other religion, other skin color, or other ethnicity, and they can’t chortle enough over their sense of ascendancy in a nation where religion, skin color, or ethnic background are not supposed to make a difference. A nation FOUNDED on the concept that all of us are created equal.

Democrats forgot that ignorance doesn’t recognize its own ignorance and isn’t eager to discover it.

The thread of idealism progressives have shared throughout our nation’s history has changed faces many times. It ran through the revolution even though many colonists clung to King George. It suffused the push to end slavery, to grant women the right to vote, and to form labor unions whose members sacrificed lives and livelihood to end child labor, gain a 40-hour work week, and ensure safe work environments. The same thread has continued through liberal ideas behind school integration, rights for the disabled, and a woman’s right to reproductive choice.

The same thread colors political discourse today, resisting the onslaught of racism and hate freed from its restraints by Donald Trump. It rises in the election of women, of people of color, to public office. It thrives in the hearts and minds of those who say “Vote Blue No Matter Who” as progressives seek to reclaim the dignity and honor of the presidency.

Trump and his horde of pitiful followers would rather risk the future of the nation than love their neighbors. They would rather spout hate speech than address the problems we face. There are solutions, and we can find them. Let’s keep our eye on the ball.

 

What’s the Goal?

[Note: All images posted to this article are efforts to damage Democrats and/or progressives.]

Hardly a day goes by on my Facebook newsfeed that doesn’t include a bashing of Democrats. And this by those who consider themselves liberals or progressives. This is deeply troubling.

For one thing, what other party has a chance of stopping the Republican power play that has brought us Trump? Some of my friends who post these tirades against Democrats like to believe that the Greens, or the Democratic Socialists, or Libertarians are a viable alternative to Democrats. To that I say, what are you smoking?

No third party has won a presidential election since … uh, never –

The last third party candidate to win a state was George Wallace of the American Independent Party in 1968, while the last third party candidate to win more than 5.0% of the vote was Ross Perot, who ran as an independent and as the standard-bearer of the Reform Party in 1992 and 1996, respectively; the closest since was Gary Johnson in 2016, who gained 3.3% of the vote running as the Libertarian nominee. The most recent third party candidates to receive an electoral vote were Libertarian  Ron Paul and Yankton Sioux Nation independent Faith Spotted Eagle who received a vote each from faithless electors in 2016.[1]

You’ll note that among those names of third party ‘winners,’ not one of them has become president.

Not that this bit of logic holds any sway with rabid anti-Democratic Partiers who insist on calling themselves progressives.

Note the not-so-subtle bow tie signaling the likelihood this man is gay.

Oh, I get it. We’re tired of not getting the reforms we’ve championed for a generation. Corporations have become more empowered, not cut down to subhuman status where they belong. We need universal healthcare, an end to the drug war, and foreign policies that do not involve our military in 150 countries around the world. It’s a long list of disappointments for a generation of idealists.

Never mind the advancements Democrats have achieved in reproductive rights, gender rights, labor rights, healthcare, and minority rights, to name a few.

The visceral anger voiced against Democrats seems to stem from many sources. Sadly, one of the loudest voices in that anger is that of people who see themselves as progressives, perhaps most notably those who supported the failed campaign of Bernie Sanders. An entire industry of conspiracy theories has sprung up to explain why Bernie did not win the Democratic nomination rather than Hillary Clinton. The most popular of these theories is that she and her henchwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz somehow changed votes in key states in order to cheat Bernie out of the nomination.

There has never been a shred of evidence that anyone changed votes or didn’t count votes in the Democratic primary elections which ultimately gave Clinton the nomination. Intense scrutiny by multiple interested parties has concluded that no laws were broken. The “yeah, but” claims rise from the Ever Faithful Bernie Supporters who argue that Bernie didn’t get a fair shake, no matter whether laws were broken or not.

But there’s a larger context that is more important than what happened at the DNC and is getting lost in the back and forth over joint fundraising agreements and staffing power. The Democratic Party — which is a different and more complex entity than the Democratic National Committee, and which includes elected officials and funders and activists and interest groups who are not expected to be neutral in primaries — really did favor Hillary Clinton from early in the campaign, and really did shape the race in consequential ways. ..The irony is that Sanders was a prime beneficiary of this bias, not a victim of it. The losers were potential candidates like Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Warren, or Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper — and, thus, Democratic primary voters, who ended up with few choices in 2016… [2]

A similar conclusion by the Washington Post stated:

Clinton received 3.7 million more votes than Sanders did — and it is questionable that this was due solely to the timing of debates. For this reason, there is an important difference between the DNC’s preferring one of the presidential candidates and its rigging the nomination process.

In short, two things can be true simultaneously: The DNC tried to help Clinton’s campaign, but this did not have much impact on whether Clinton won the nomination.[3]

These details and scores of other similar conclusions carry no water for the Bernie faithful. Every possible conspiracy against Bernie is held aloft as his supporters do their best to undermine the Democratic Party. “Oligarchy” is the buzz word for this angry cohort–any wealth that supports Democrats is evil.

It’s not just that the DNC subjected itself to unfavorable opinion doing what other political parties have done since the beginning of time. It’s that key figures from Clinton on down have been singled out for hate campaigns, arguably incited in part by Russian propagandists who have seized on any and all means to eviscerate the progressive movement in the U. S.

This image and the article attached was posted on Facebook by a progressive friend of mine who apparently never questioned the source. The image has been altered to make Pelosi look evil. Not surprisingly, the origin of this post is the Free Beacon, an extremist rightwing group. http://freebeacon.com/politics/pelosi-trashes-inconsequential-democrats-new-leadership-following/

But why do otherwise intelligent liberal/progressive voters suddenly despise the Democratic Party?

It’s as if they don’t understand that the party is made up of local committees peopled by hard-working volunteers who elect local representatives to go to state conventions where decisions are made about the position of the party in that state. At the state level, delegates are elected to carry out the party’s wishes. These people then go to the national convention where they become active voters on the party’s platform and formalize the primary vote into an elected candidate.

So we’re pissed that the Democrats lost and want to blame anyone within range. That anger is directed not only to Clinton, but to party officials like Tom Perez and Democratic Congressional leaders.

Is it Bernie’s fault for taking advantage of his outsider status to undermine Clinton’s support?

Is it the DNC’s fault for allowing Bernie to run as a Democrat?

Is it Hillary’s fault for her pattern of support for big money interests and political maneuvering and being Bill’s wife and whatever you want to say about her work as Obama’s secretary of state?

Was Hillary a flawed candidate? Yes—she’s the perfect example of an empowered woman lacking the charisma that political figures must have.

Did unconscious gender bias impact her campaign? Of course it did. Women are supposed to be nurturing and submissive, not aggressive and powerful. Did this cognitive disconnect cause her to seem dishonest, i.e. not a ‘real’ woman?

Would Bernie have won the election if it weren’t for the bad acts of the DNC?

Personally, I think it’s highly unlikely. Even with the full support of the Democratic Party, Bernie would have suffered massive campaign assault for his embrace of socialism, even if it was/is ‘democratic socialism.’ It’s the word ‘socialism’ that makes this position vulnerable, not necessarily the policies it espouses. It’s too fine of a point to expect a majority of voters to understand the difference between communism, socialism, and democratic socialism.

Bernie’s continuing call for raising taxes wouldn’t have helped either. Whether his identity as a Jewish American would have been a factor remains unknown, but it is worthwhile to note that a Jew has yet to be elected to the presidency. Not to be forgotten, also, is his out-of-wedlock son and a honeymoon visit to the Soviet Union in 1988.

It’s easy to romanticize a curmudgeonly white-haired man who says all the things the left wants to hear. But it’s foolish to lose sight of the real question here. Losing sight is what put Trump in office.

Yes, the Democrats have done plenty to provoke progressive ire starting with the devastating 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago where the party’s powerbrokers allegedly encouraged Mayor Daly’s assault on protesters, undermined the candidacy of Eugene McCarthy, and defeated the anti-war effort. The result was the election of Richard Nixon.

Similar angry disenchantment with the Democratic Party came into play when Bill Clinton not only did nothing to advance progressive causes like marijuana legalization but also managed to get caught messing with an intern. Then there were Hillary’s actions as Obama’s secretary of state that caught her in the web of controversy in big money, corporate maneuvers, and foreign debacles like Benghazi. Evidently neither Clinton recognized the potential for their enemies to use such activities against them.

Which is another big complaint about the Democrats — we’re not mean enough, not vicious enough, in fighting the oligarchs/conservatives/fascists of our day.

But none of that compares to the harm caused by Republican administrations, a list that needs no repeating here.

Nothing would please our adversaries, foreign and domestic, more than to convince us not to support Democrats.

What matters is the outcome. With the help of hate toward Democrats, we now have Trump.

Two factors must rule the end game in any political contest: (1) Which is the more progressive choice and (2) Which more progressive choice has an actual chance of winning. Compromise, whether we like it or not, is the bedrock of politics.

The choice is simple–move forward toward a better future (progressive) or step backwards toward a mythical ideal past (conservative).

 

~~~

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_third_party_performances_in_United_States_presidential_elections

[2] https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/11/14/16640082/donna-brazile-warren-bernie-sanders-democratic-primary-rigged

[3] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/11/04/no-the-dnc-didnt-rig-the-democratic-primary-for-hillary-clinton/?utm_term=.2a736b57ee42

MEAN (and stupid)

gatesofhellwriting

There are six definitions of the word ‘mean’ as an adjective, according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary.  Trump voters fit all of them. Stupid, too.

There may be a day when I can philosophize about the outcome of this election, but today is not one of them. I’m deeply angry that the progress we’ve made as a culture has been stopped with the stated objective of turning back the clock. I’m terrified that my sick and dying friends will lose health care. I’m heartbroken that friends who married same sex partners may now face complete loss of their legal rights. And so much more.

The election of white trash to the White House rode on the backs of evangelicals who were willing to ignore Trump’s adultery, profanity, sexual assault, lack of respect for women, intellectual poverty, and pathological narcissism in order to accomplish one of their long term goals: make abortion illegal. In doing so, they believed they could put the genie back in the bottle and return women to their rightful place in the home, barefoot and pregnant.

Meanness: penurious, stingy, characterized by petty selfishness or malice. Eager to judge women who face one of the most traumatic and difficult decisions of her lifetime. Willing to sacrifice her life in order to save a fetus.

Stupid: given to unintelligent decisions or acts. Assuming that a radical right appointment to the SCOTUS somehow guarantees that Roe v Wade will be overturned. Ignoring that a woman’s right to privacy in this matter has been upheld many times even by conservative justices.

Stupid: slow of mind. Not understanding that women have always aborted unwanted pregnancies and always will, whether or not the laws of the nation allow them access to legal medical care.

In a Pavlovian response to four decades of careful brainwashing, evangelical voters convinced themselves that God wanted Donald Trump elected, that Trump was blessed, taken to the bosom of God, forgiven his sins, and worthy of being elevated to the nation’s highest office. Preached illegally in the nation’s tax exempt churches, this sermon echoes off the lips of evangelicals.

After all, Trump must be blessed by God because he’s rich. Bow down to the rich man who was born with a silver white-supremacist spoon in his mouth.

Giddy in their hallucinations, evangelicals dismiss questions about Trump’s character. Believe he never really molested women, never incited violence. Because we all know that a seventy-year-old man rich guy who never took responsibility for anything in his life is going to suddenly become completely different. Because, well, God.

Stupid: slow witted or dazed state of mind

Mean: lacking distinction; a poor shabby inferior quality or status.

Meanness characterizes much of the Trump base. Arrogant in their narrow-minded thinking—I don’t care what anybody says, I’m right. Proud of their willful ignorance—Don’t bother me with facts, my mind’s made up. Enshrined in the character and mindset of now Vice President Pence who refutes the scientific theory of evolution and wants to force women to fund funerals for miscarried fetuses. Yes, the epitome of male privilege.

Stupid: thickheaded imperviousness to ideas

According to exit polls, Trump was pretty much elected by older, married, small town, white, conservative Christian males making $50,000 or more. These are the men who hate women having power and parity. They hate Hispanics and Blacks for thinking they’re somehow equal. They’ll do anything to try to recapture that Elysian field where they rode tall in the saddle and the world was theirs for the taking.

In the narrow primitive view of this group of men, every freedom won by the disabled, women, minorities, or gays directly threatens their righteous authority. Their God-given authority. Because for these spiritually impoverished men, without someone to look down on, how could they possibly stand above?

Because after all, granting women reproductive rights took control of women away from men.

Because after all, God Himself is a white male.

Stupid: lacking intelligence or reason.

Mean: worthy of little regard; contemptible.

The election of white trash to the White House sprang from a cesspool of hatred toward anyone not like them. Hate spawned by ignorance ignited by fear. Names hard to pronounce. Unusual appearances. Hatred of anyone not white, not Christian, not heterosexual or clearly gendered. Hatred of anything they don’t understand.

Anything that doesn’t look like them in the mirror.

There’s a tight correlation between the mindset of Trump voters and the fact that the states they represent rank near the bottom in per capita income, economic growth, and citizen rights and near the top in teen pregnancy, poor health, and persons with addiction and/or disabilities.

People who have little to no experience with the operations of government—at any level—are the ones who claim government is corrupt, the ones who believe that dismantling government will solve their problems, that electing a sleazy real estate developer on his third wife will somehow make all their dreams come true.

These are the same brilliant lights who never learned about the balance of powers, the history of political parties in the U.S., or the background of any nation past or present. They’re arrogant, ill-informed armchair quarterbacks looking for quick and easy targets for their discontent.

Stupid: resulting from unreasoned thinking.

Not making enough money? Must be the government’s fault. Couldn’t possibly be that your skill set simply doesn’t match up with jobs that pay a hundred grand a year. Couldn’t possibly mean that the world has moved forward and you need to retrain to fit the new job market.

No, better to stop the world and go back. How far back? Back to horse drawn wagons?

Not happy with social changes that disrupt your comfort zone? Those g**damn government bastards. Couldn’t possibly be that other humans have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness just like white guys—yeah, those minorities, women, and weirdos who freak you out.

Not happy that your religion doesn’t rule the nation? Couldn’t possibly be that the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution specifically to keep religion out of government.

Yet while foaming at the mouth about putting God back in ‘Merica, all these Christian folks can’t wait to terminate the Affordable Care Act. Go back to the good old days when insurance companies could deny coverage for pre-existing conditions, when sick people lost their homes and everything they owned because they couldn’t afford health care. When the poor simply died without medical treatment.

What are the poor anyway but failed humans obviously unloved by God. Who don’t try hard enough. Who have something wrong with them. They don’t deserve to be helped.

Let’s elect Trump because he promises to end the ACA his first day in office.

There’s nothing Christian in denying sick people legal access to health care. It’s simply mean to do so.

But let’s go back to a nation ruled by prejudice when women, blacks, gays, Mexicans and anyone else outside the white male norm could be beaten or murdered with impunity. Let’s get rid of the idea that each person possesses inherent rights. Let’s make America great again.

Mean: “Ignoble, abject, sordid mean being below the normal standards of human decency and dignity, suggests having such repellent characteristics as small-mindedness and ill temper, lack of some essential high quality of mind or spirit.”

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.

 

First, We’re Democrats

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An emerging narrative from Bernie supporters alleges that the Baby Boomer generation ‘shit all over’ the younger folks and now it’s time for us to step out of the way. The militant rhetoric evidently serves as a potent recruiting tool. Too bad it’s completely bogus.

Yes, there are some of the Sixties generation who tuned in, turned on, and then made a U-turn in the middle of Main Street to become some of the greediest, most soulless people on the planet. But a few rotten apples did not spoil the whole barrel. The rest of us accomplished amazing things for which we have yet to receive any credit.

To you newbies dissing the Boomers, shut the f*** up and think about this: that yoga meditation that you enjoy? We brought you that. Your baby delivered by a midwife? We gave you that. Those organic salad greens you just bought at your local supermarket? Yeah, us.

The reason you male members of the Bernie True Believers haven’t been drafted and sent to the Middle East with a rifle in your hand is that we forced an end to the draft. We were the generation that lost nearly sixty thousand of our brothers and lovers in Vietnam and spilled our own blood in the streets to make it stop.

You female members of the Bernie True Believers are empowered to be out there on the streets with your political action groups largely because we burned our bras and filled university and government buildings with our sit-ins demanding equal pay and equal rights. We didn’t settle for an apron and dust mop. We elbowed our way into the mainstream.

We pushed our reproductive agenda and got a Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion. We celebrated our freedom to choose with new technology like birth control pills, so that whatever child was born was a wanted child. We pushed aside the obstetricians with their convenient forceps deliveries and anesthetized mothers and birthed our babies into darkened rooms where the fathers were part of the experience. You were floated in warm baths and held to our breasts in a revolution of childbirth every bit as radical as any Bernie slogan.

We demanded clean food free of pesticides and additives and organized our own food cooperatives. We trucked in hard-to-find organic produce and flour. Many of us went back to the land to raise organic beef and grow our own gardens where our children could eat fresh peas straight off the vine.

We cast aside centuries of misogynist religion to embrace the greater spiritual power of the Universe. Did you think your yoga studio appeared out of the Fifties like Athena sprang from the forehead of Zeus? No—we traveled to India. We read the books. We followed the gurus in order to reframe our embrace of the Divine.

We shared our dorm rooms, our jobs, and our farms with gay men and lesbians, strenghtened their public arrival with our acceptance in spite of the brutality that they encountered in the rest of society. We opened our homes to African Americans and other minorities and joined in their protests. We saw all people as our kinsmen.

We are the reason you can access acupuncture and Asian medicine, holistic practitioners, therapeutic massage, and the proliferation of alternative medicines that spread before you today like a feast-laden table. We sought out health in a world filled with sickness, in world where ‘medicine’ fulfilled all we knew about healing.

We took our children to protests, meetings, and hearings. You played outside in the sunshine while we stuffed envelopes and called friends. We changed the world without social media or computers.

We sacrificed days, weeks, even years of our lives in the fight to save our forests and oceans, our waterways and air from pollution. We fought for the whales and the wolves. We wrote letters, stood in cold wind and glaring sun with our signs, took up residence in trees. The environmental protection you may take for granted came about because of us.

We had help from older generations. Some of them fought to the end just like us. We’re still fighting. Many Baby Boomers are active in Bernie’s campaign.

Whatever disconnect exists between what the Boomers accomplished and the platform from which you launch your tirade is not because the Boomers failed. The disconnect derives from the same power brokers who manipulate every new generation into following certain paths. We called it The Man, The Machine. Their message? If you want the new car, the nice house, all the toys, then you’ll toe the line. Pass the drug tests. Conform.

The history of any war is written by the victors. In the still-simmering culture wars, the corporations want you to see us as the enemy. You have to dig deep to uncover the fullness of what I’ve said here in a few words. You want to change the world? Join the club.

Just keep in mind that because Bernie says all the right things doesn’t mean he’ll lead you to victory. Maybe you’ve never heard about our work for McGovern, walking door to door, keeping faith that we could usher in a New Age. In 1968, we never saw Daly’s henchmen coming or the disaster that would befall the Democrats as a result of that convention. We didn’t anticipate the backlash, all the haters and religionists ready to answer the clarion call of the corporate machine. We invested our future in the hope and change promised by Democrats and watched in horror as Richard Nixon won two terms.

Maybe you never understood what happened to our next great hope, Jimmy Carter. It’s instructive to review how he lost to Ronald Reagan:

  • Carter later wrote that the most intense and mounting opposition to his policies came from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, which he attributed to Ted Kennedy’s ambition to replace him as president. Kennedy surprised his supporters by running a weak campaign, and Carter won most of the primaries and secured renomination. However, Kennedy had mobilized the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, which gave Carter weak support in the fall election. (Wiki)

Or the loss of Al Gore not because George W. Bush was such a stunning candidate, but because the Democratic left wing blindly flew to support Ralph Nader and his pie in the sky oblivious to the very real possibility that by splitting the progressive vote, a Republican would win. Perhaps some of this language will sound familiar to Bernie fans:

  • Nader’s campaign rejected both parties as institutions dominated by corporate interests, stating that Al Gore and George W. Bush were “Tweedledee and Tweedledum.” A long list of notable celebrities spoke [in his favor]. The campaign also had some prominent union help… (Wiki)

FYI, that could happen again. All the visceral emotion you’re feeling now about us, about Hillary as our ‘representative,’ you’re feeling that for more reasons than you may realize. For over two decades it’s been the Republican end game against a woman they’ve always known could be a successful president.

If their first-wave tactics work, you’ll bring Bernie a successful nomination. Then they’ll begin their second wave, this time against Bernie: Socialism. Higher Taxes. Universal Healthcare. Lions, tigers and bears, oh my! In November, a Republican candidate will win.

You may live in a bubble where pot is legal, polyamory is accepted, and social progress is a straight line from here to there, but you haven’t faced the reality that 70% of the population still identifies as Christian. A third of those folks are evangelical, meaning they will show up and they will vote no matter what you do. They are the active force behind the Republicans, agitated and directed by the corporate money masters.

Your disdain for the Baby Boomers is the result of their careful plan. You like Bernie? So do I. Want to make him president? Go for it. Just keep in mind that if Hillary wins the Democratic nomination, you’ll have a choice. If the Machine is successful, you’ll be so angry at the Boomer generation and Hillary in particular, you’ll not vote for anyone but Bernie.

By indulging your cleverly fomented rage and refusing to support a Democratic candidate other than Bernie, you will play right into the hands of the machine. Another Nixon-Reagan-Bush waits in the wings.

So cultivate your anger with knowledge. Wake up to the real history of the Boomer generation. We had big hopes too. But just because all our goals weren’t completely met doesn’t mean we’ve failed. We’ve moved the ball forward. We welcome you to the fight.

But don’t forget–we’re not the enemy.