Surviving the Trump Threat and Moving Forward

There is a question we no longer need to ask. You know what it is. It’s that question we asked Germans for decades after WWII. How did Germany allow themselves to succumb to Adolf Hitler?

We don’t need to ask any longer because we are seeing how it happened, as it happens right here. In America. In the 21st century. Trump is taking America down that same road, and all we do is watch.

Trump has a rabid core of supporters formed of neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and fake ‘Christians’ who call themselves evangelicals. He has the support of a Republican party that has lost all sense of either ethics or morality. They are dismantling the core values of the Constitution. They have already made America a laughing stock on the world stage. Now Trump and his National Socialists are taking America from laughing stock to world terror.

And all we do is watch. Because, you see, we depend on our democratic underpinnings to save the day. First the mid-terms, then the ouster of Trump in 2020. Hopefully.

*Hopefully*

Just like all those Germans in the 1930’s who were sure reason would triumph before Hitler and his Nazis took over completely. Oh, and the hopeful ones were in the majority, too. Because, you see, their democracy had two fatal flaws. It was too democratic. It really had no built-in safeguards against a takeover by a charismatic psychopath. And there were insufficient restraints on the power of a single man.

Our own forefathers made exactly the same mistakes. There are no provisions in our Constitution to keep an immoral tyrant from seeking control. And there are roadblocks sufficient to stop a determined Hitler persona from doing whatever he (or she) wants, once in office? The Congress can serve that purpose only if the President’s own party doesn’t also control both houses. The Supreme Court holds no enforcement powers. The nation’s top law enforcement officials serve at the pleasure of the President and his party. The emoluments clause has as much real substance as a Marvel comic book hero. There is no Superman.

IF the United States does manage to survive Donald Trump, these failings need to corrected by Congressional action up to and including Constitutional amendment. It needs to be done with a sense of immediacy. Yes, I have suggestions. They may need to be refined, of course.

1. Psychiatric testing for all Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidate. This can be done by a panel made up of an equal number of psychiatrists from each party. They should also all be teaching level psychiatrists at respected Universities and medical schools, not just anybody with a shingle.

2. No party shall be allowed to control both houses of Congress. The easy fix is for the Supreme Court to allot ‘extra’ votes to the minority party in one of the houses. This is not unfair. Having a single group viewpoint in charge of both houses of Congress is unfair, and dangerous.

3. Abolish the Electoral College.

4. Give the Supreme Court enforcement powers.

5 Reduce the power of the President to make war. He/she should not be able to initiate military action alone except as a direct act of defense/retaliation against a specifically identified hostile force/country in response to a clear act of hostility against America itself. This must be limited to defensive action not to include American forces invading foreign nations. Anything other than this must be authorized by Congress.

6. Once justice department officials have been appointed, the President must not be able to fire them without the concurrence of both houses of Congress.

7. The emoluments clause must be re-written and given teeth. A majority of either house of Congress should be able to instigate the opening of an evaluation. The President’s cabinet, since they have been appointed by the President, can have no part in the process, other than opening an evaluation process by simple majority.

8. No individual who has ever lobbied for industry can be placed in charge of a government agency.

9. The Vice-President cannot serve as the tie breaker in a tied Senate vote. A tied vote must send the questionable legislation to a select committee made up of an equal number of Senators from each party to reach an equitable solution.

10. The President must not have the ability to single-handedly push the nuclear button. He/she must have the concurrence of the Chairperson of the Joint Chiefs. To this end, That individual’s office must be located in the White House instead of the Pentagon.

11. Congress must take immediate action on legislation which spells out clearly that the government shall have no connection whatsoever to any religion or religious body or group.

12. Citizens United must be revisited and overturned. Congress. must take corporate and lobbyist donations completely out of American elections.

13. Congress must review every area of Presidential executive authority and determine legislation to limit it.

That Praying Bus Driver

I just read about a school bus driver in Minnesota who was relieved from his route due to leading students in prayer on his bus.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/school-bus-driver-fired-after-praying-with-students/ar-AAw9Sam?ocid=spartandhp

The article said he forced the students to pray with him. He denied that. But he did pray with them, and evidently, on occasion led them.Whether he forced them to pray with him or not isn’t the issue. He should not have been praying with them. Period. Removing him from school buses was entirely proper. It was necessary. The driver said his First Amendment rights were violated. He was wrong.

The action taken by the bus service here is entirely appropriate. Students have the right to pray individually or among themselves. However, the bus driver leading the prayer was in clear violation of the separation between church and state. This is a critical pillar of our Constitution that must be safeguarded at all costs, for the good of the entire citizenry. It had to be addressed, and was. The driver, by the way, was not fired.
During the forty years that I taught theatre, students frequently asked to hold prayer circles before play performances. I never advocated it. I never suggested it. But if they told me they wished to do it among themselves. I always allowed it. I never participated. I made clear to them I couldn’t do this, and I distanced myself. That is the way it must be handled.

Religion is perhaps the most acutely personal aspect of any human being. No particular faith has any right whatsoever to be endorsed by the government, or individuals in government positions, over any other. In the school setting, a teacher or school official must not participate in religious activities during, though it is acceptable in many places for clubs, initiated and conducted by the students themselves, to meet as an after school activity, with a student-requested staff member who agrees to be present for supervision only. The public schools cannot be, and must not, be in the business of advocating any particular religion over any other.

Christians who claim they are ‘under attack’ are crying wolf. Please. They are not in any way under attack. Do they still have the right to pray in their churches and homes? Yes they do. Have any Christian churches been closed down by city/county/state/federal agencies for practicing their religion? Of course they haven’t. Are Christians still free to “witness” for friends and others on behalf of their faith? Yes they are, as long as the people they are witnessing to agree to it. This claim of being attacked is based on one thing only, their not being allowed to enforce their own religions beliefs on others in a multi-cultural, multi-faith society. 

BUT 1: The state does not advocate for any particular religion. That is the only way the state can fairly represent all faiths. It is unreasonable, unethical, and improper for Christians to expect to be given preference.
BUT 2: Business owners operate under a state/local license that empowers them to offer their goods to the public. This means ALL the public. It does not give them the right to refuse service to those with whom they disagree, whose skin or nationality or sexuality is different from their own, who wears their hair oddly, etc. It’s a simple—and absolutely vital— matter of civil rights, which are guaranteed to all citizens. Baking a cake or making a pizza for someone who’s ‘different’ does not indicate agreement, comradeship or partnership with them. It’s nothing more than the matter of meeting the responsibility of being licensed to sell to the public. Anyone who thinks that refusing service to someone whose skin color or lifestyle is different from their own is one of their civil rights, is grossly mistaken. The buyer’s civil right to buy a cake, etc., easily overrides the business person’s assumed right to insert the prejudices of their personal religion into the public obligation which is part of their license. Again, the government doesn’t deal in religion. It deals in civil rights. These must be safeguarded for all of its citizens.
BUT 3: The First Amendment of the Constitution does not expressly give, nor does it imply, permission to violate the separation of church and state. It does not allow one person’s religion to eradicate the civil rights of another person. It does not make one person superior to another in the conduct of business due to their religion. Period.

The founding fathers of our country, who were mostly Christians, saw the danger of mixing government and religion. They did everything they could to prevent it.  Regardless of what Christian zealots like to think, the Constitution did not—and this was by design—establish the United States as a Christian nation. Our country is a country of many religions, just as it is a melting pot of many cultures and traditions. None has the privilege to enforce itself over others.

Christians who complain that they are “under attack” because they are, in actuality, seeking and being denied special treatment under 1, 2, or 3 above, are behaving like petulant and badly behaved children who don’t get their way. It’s time they realized that. Neither God nor Jesus ,at any time, gave them special permission to consider themselves any better than others. Otherwise, they make end up making their imagined “war on Christians” a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

A- Religion is personal, and cannot be enforced by one faith upon another.
B- Society is governed by laws and mores for the well-being, the “…life, liberty and pursuit of happiness,” of all the people.

Never the twain shall meet. Amen.

Dear Christian Right Wing

Dear Religious Right Activists

Dear Christian right wing activists. You have the right to practice your cult beliefs in your own lives. It would be nice, however, if you stopped trying to claim that God is on your side, and murdering people you don’t like, on your behalf.
You have been trying to control how the rest of the world — you know, all of the millions and billions of the rest of us who don’t agree with your personal array of bigotries, racist intolerance and blind arrogance — for far too long now. Over the centuries, we have learned who you are. You are a cult of not very bright, closed minded, fearful people who want to think that you are the only ones in the entire universe who might, maybe, possibly, be deserving of God’s grace.
I’ve got some news for you. God is not your personal buddy. God does not care to cozy up with you on your sofa, munch popcorn, and guzzle Bud Light while watching Chuck Norris movies. God never suggested that your personal views and preferences of society, race, sexuality and a thousand other things should rule what he created. In fact, God never advised anyone, as far as I can tell, about his/her/its own gender, sexual preferences or favorite color. Period.
All of those wonderful folks in your Bible who claimed that this was bad, that was good, this other thing was somewhere in the middle? The ones who claimed to be “inspired” by God? They were just passing along the personal social rules and preferences of their time. That’s what the Bible is, more than anything, you see. It is a book of beautiful stories, uplifting thoughts and poetry, attempts to understand and explain events of the day, and — this is important, so pay attention — fear, and threats ‘in the name of God,’ to keep people in line according to what the authors of various bits of content believed was right. The laws of that day as the locals saw them.
The Bible you hug so tightly served to legitimize and make official the racist and sexual prejudices of its time. Today, cultists like yourselves use it to give legitimacy to your own racism and sexual bigotry. You shout out the biblical criminality of people who aren’t like you, and happily ignore every “rule” that you don’t like. Strange, isn’t it, how people do that.
God never said anything about sexuality, or race, or even morality, unless you accept the wisdom of Moses in the Ten Commandments. And how many of you fine “Christian” purists really pay attention to the ‘commandments’ that are too personally bothersome for you to obey? Hmmm?
God was not and is not an old fifty foot tall white man with a long beard. Jesus wasn’t a white boy from Arkansas. And Jesus never, ever, said homosexual or transgender or black or brown people were bad. Jesus taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves, and he did NOT specify that they have the same skin or sexuality as us, or that they think exactly the same as us, or act just like we do. Those things were in the minds of the people who voiced their own bigotries and pretended that God told them so. And they got written down and became part of the Bible. What better way, after all, to make sure people obeyed than telling them the community leaders were, modestly of course, Inspired by God? Please. Do you know why there are so many different sects of Christianity itself? It’s because of people being “inspired by God” to see the Bible differently. Hell, half (or more) of the bloodshed that’s been committed on this earth was due to somebody thinking they were “inspired by God.” Boom.
But you say you were personally touched by God, or an angel, during a moment of crisis? Of course you could have been. The power that controls the universe is immense beyond measure. I once felt the presence of that power myself when I reached out for it. It spoke to me and reassured me and gave me strength when I was ready to abandon hope. But that reassurance, that presence, didn’t tell me to go forth and proclaim that those who liked chocolate ice cream would go to Hell. And thank God for that.
This is also a good time to remind you that the earth is not flat, the sun does not revolve around the earth, and the planet is a lot older than five thousand years or so. The earth, and humans, are also probably not the singular apple of God’s eye. We are but the most minute specks in the universe that surrounds us. There are likely three hundred billion or so star systems in our galaxy, likely three or four hundred billion galaxies in God’s universe, and quite likely forty or fifty thousand planets in our Milky Way Galaxy hosting life forms equal to humans in terms of development, some of them possibly far older and far more advanced, and I certainly hope much wiser than us. We don’t know of them only because of the vastness of the galaxy.
In case you wondered, I believe in God as much as you extreme right radicals. Probably more, because I discovered God for myself. I didn’t just read it in a book. But I discovered a God that is neither Baptist or Methodist, Catholic or Protestant, Islamic or Judaic. God is so much bigger and more amazing and powerful than you, or I, can begin to imagine. If God really showed up at your house, I imagine that simple act would wipe out life on this earth. And it wouldn’t mean that God the Creator was mad at anybody. It would just mean that the power and force of this entity we refer to as God is more than any measly human or piece of planetary real estate could survive up close.
You know, we humans are a pretty rotten bunch. As a species, we are the scurviest of the scurvy. We rape, torture and murder each other, and every other species on the planet. We kill other species for the sheer fun of it. Do you really think God supports you, or any of us, in that? And we are destroying the life giving qualities of the home we were given. I can tell you from personal observation that you on the extreme right excel in that department. So we don’t take care of ourselves, or other species, or the planet itself. And it seems to me those were probably the three biggest jobs we were given. Or do you really think homo sapiens were created to lie around naked under the trees for their entire lives playing backgammon with the snakes? Really? I mean, REALLY?
We all need to change our ways, and fast. And the best way to do that, actually the most meaningful way we can do that, is to come together. We, yes this means you, have to realize that God doesn’t have the slightest interest in our skin color or our genitals or who we marry or if we prefer the Patriots over the Raiders. I think God is unhappy about a lot of things. Number one on the list the way that we behave, toward each other and toward the planet we very likely were assigned to care for.
So again, Christian evangelicals and extreme right beasties, please just shut up. Look deep within yourselves and ask some very self critical questions. Go outside at night. Look up at the Stars. Think about how truly enormous all of this is, and how small you and I are. Your attempt to reserve the creator for yourselves alone and spread your personal bigotries and hypocrisies by blaming them on God has to be pretty high up there, too. God isn’t yours. God didn’t put you in charge. If you really want to do some good — which I doubt more every day — start by realizing that you are not God’s police, that everyone does not have to be like you, because that’s arrogant to the point of sickness. You are part of what God created. Quit trying to turn it around. You are not above it. And yes, God inspired me to tell you this.

The Wildlife is Almost Gone. We Will Be Next.

Date: 10-30-2016

 

 

Goodbye to Wildlife and Soon Thereafter to Humans

This is not something anyone will want to hear. I may get blasted for this post more than any other I have made. But the conversation has to begin. We cannot avoid it just because it makes us feel bad.

To the Millennials of the world, it is my very sincere belief that if you have not already had children, you should consider not having any. And certainly, any children still below child-rearing age should think very seriously about avoiding child birth. I make this suggestion because I don’t think you will want your children, or their children, to face life in the world we, as in ourselves, as in human beings, are about to leave them.

A new report from the World Wildlife Fund via CNN tells the story better than I could. By 2020, they tell us, two-thirds of the planet’s wildlife will be gone. This should not come as a surprise. If it does, then you just have not been paying attention. The full import of this is that human beings are in the process of destroying all other forms of life on the earth, except perhaps bacteria, viruses and amoeba. Instead of turning back or even stalling the process, we have accelerated it with every generation and continue to do so. And that means that we will drive ourselves to extinction within the foreseeable future.

The assault on the environment also continues We undermine and poison our land and our rivers and our air with massive amounts of pollution.  (Thanks to Republicans and sheer greed, the United States sponsors the attack and contributes to it massively.) Scientists tell us that the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is now at levels not seen since dinosaurs roamed the earth. In our own nation, profit motive and greed prohibits any meaningful movement toward restoring or even delaying the denigration of the environment and the assault on other species. It’s the same in other countries to only slightly lesser degrees.

The world’s nations, led by the United States and Russia, continue to expand ever deadlier nuclear arsenals and force all life on the planet to teeter daily on the very edge of a radioactive apocalypse that would not only kill all of us (take your choice, quickly from the blasts or slowly from radiation poisoning).

Animal murderers all over the world, from poachers in African nations to so-called “sport” hunters in America, continue to kill wildlife for fun and profit. I use the word murderer because there is no other name for people who enjoy killing animals because they would go to jail for killing humans.

Our Government, and virtually all others, allows the killing and polluting and assault on the planet, and ultimately ourselves, to continue unabated, because they are owned by the profiteers, the richest and greediest among them. The largest, most organized civic groups capable of raising their voices with sufficient strength to possibly make a difference, the religions, stay quiet. Christians in America who believe their religion is so special, stay quiet. They say things like, “Well it’s God’s will,” a convenient way of blaming the Almighty for their own catastrophic lack of responsible behavior.

Worst of all, by far, today’s adults, like the adults of all previous generations, make big, grand, and empty talk of preserving the world, from the water and the skies to the wildlife with which we share it. We pronounce that we must save it for our children and their children. We declare it with our mouth, and prove we don’t mean it with our actions.

In short, homo sapiens, which I have for a long time referred to as an extinction level event on a worldwide scale, are destroying virtually all other life forms, and will invariably pronounce extinction upon itself in the process. You don’t want to hear it. It may ruin your day. You’d rather have your fun and your comfort, your license to kill and pollute, today, and those children you speak of so grandly and sanctimoniously can damn well worry about themselves.

I believe the latter half of the 21st century will further speed this process because the human species is incapable of behaving in any other way than it does. We are speeding the destruction of the world’s life forms as never before. I think we will be seeing the beginning of the final agonizing slide of our end during the last half of this century. Any children produced between now and then, your children, my children, and certainly their children, will know little but suffering. So much for preserving the world for them, eh?

Mankind was placed here on a marvelous world full of teeming, magnificent life. A world of incredible beauty and variety. A world capable of supporting almost infinite life. I believe we were to be, could have been, caretakers and benefactors of all that is here. Christians like to brag that God gave mankind dominion over this wonderland. And we take that word, ‘dominion,’ to mean license instead of responsibility, freedom to abuse and destroy rather than responsibility to nurture. We keep insisting, so many of us, that we have the only such amazing world as this in the universe, even as we continue to do everything we can to destroy it. Yay, us. We have done nothing but abuse this world and eliminate its other life forms, not to mention our fellow man, since our first breath of life as a species. We do it for profit, and for fun. Even as we see clear and undeniable evidence that we are destroying all that is around us, everything including the very things we need to live ourselves, we continue to do it. Our motto, the real one, not the good sound bite version, is ‘live for today and the hell with tomorrow.’ So much for our children and their children. We claim intelligence. We prove daily that we are the most ignorant and selfish and unintelligent and detestable life form on the planet.

Take a very hard look without your rose colored glasses. The writing on the wall is telling us we will have reached the endgame by the end of this century. At the rate we are going, we humans, our motto by the time the next century arrives will have changed to “try to get through today for tomorrow will be worse.’

I’m not spouting biblical predictions. I’m talking about scientific reality that scientists have warned us about for decades. God, whichever one you believe in, is not coming for us, and will not bother to save us. We have earned the finality we are bringing upon ourselves. We have no one to blame but ourselves. We are the villains. Pray to God if you want. I think you’ll get an answering machine message. We like to boast that we were made in God’s own image. If you were God, would you bother to answer a phone call from people like us in the twenty-first century?

And so I’m suggesting you do not pass on the terminal stages of our existence to children, for them to live and suffer through the death throes of the species. I would not choose to subject the children of the future to the world that will be theirs as our species spirals into oblivion.

Oh, I know the adage, the one that says hope springs eternal, hope for some miraculous redeeming actions or discoveries. But that can only happen if our species, as an entirety, can suddenly, and I mean within the next decade, become something that we have never been, and that is a responsible and conscientious people.

And you say, oh, but what can I do?  The answer is to revolt. I don’t mean grab your gun. I mean revolt with your presence. The only thing that has a chance of saving our species for our children and grandchildren is a chorus of raised voices. A gathering, growing, staggering collection of voices, a coming together of people and religions joining the activist voices that are already out there. I’m talking about the raising of a chorus of voices to stand against the destruction of wildlife and the environment for fun and profit, a wall of voices with the will of all the people behind it, saying ENOUGH!

ENOUGH willful killing. ENOUGH willful assault on the air and the oceans and the rivers. ENOUGH with  fuels and conveniences and entertainments and easy comforts at the expense of the very air and water that sustains us.  ENOUGH destruction.

We can accomplish amazing things, we homo sapiens, when we really want to. We are  capable of discoveries, and some have been made recently, that go a long way to treating, if not fully curing, the environment. We are capable of technologies that can clean our waters, our air. We have it within us. But it can only happen under one condition.  We have to really want to, for our children and their children. We have face the fact that if we don’t follow through, the future is bleak, for our children and their children. We have to accept, to truly UNDERSTAND, that this is the most important thing in our lives more important than our next gas guzzling car or land destroying all terrain vehicle or ocean cruise oil pipeline, if this wondrous Earth is to remain one that will nurture humans, and other species, in the future, for our children and their children. We have to get it through our thick, selfish, grasshopper heads that ‘dominion’ is a responsibility, not a license.

And if we can’t….or won’t….do that, then we have to quit pretending that we give a damn about the future of our children, and their children, and just not have any, because the earth of the near future won’t be a fit place for them.