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.

NO, It’s Not Okay

*Miy response to all of those well-meaning (and not so well-meaning) people telling me not to ‘overreact.’  Just relax, ‘they’ say, and it will be okay.  No. It won’t. Not without a fight.

Benjamin Franklin was asked, “Well Doctor, what have we got, a Republic or a Monarchy?” To which he replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” In that reply is a warning, that we must be ever vigilant and prepared to fight to keep the Republic our Founding Fathers crafted.

Don’t tell me to relax. Don’t tell me I’m overreacting. Don’t tell me it will be okay.

No reason for alarm? The nature of Donald Trump has been exhibited consistently throughout his career, displayed by his own words and actions. The word sociopath has been applied to him not just by myself, but by observers including psychologists, based on his behavior and what comes out of his mouth.

No reason for alarm? He wonders why we do not use nuclear weapons. He does not believe in global warming, the perils of our streams and rivers and animal life, the dangers to the environment, and selected as a running mate a man who is a creationist and believes homosexuality can be ‘cured,’ a man who actually believes in forcing ‘therapy’ upon the LGBT community.

No reason for alarm? Donald nurtured and received the support of the kkk, white supremacists, a criminal foreign national with his own agenda, Julian Assange, who helped Trump’s campaign with very selective, stolen and doctored private emails.

No reason for alarm? Donald Trump asked for and benefited from the assistance of one foreign nation, Russia, whose leader he admires, and is celebrated by one of the most repressive regimes on earth, North Korea. He is celebrated by Syria’s regime and by ISIS.

No reason for alarm? Trump has the support of a vindictive religious extremism and reaches out to it.

No reason for alarm? Germany was also a democracy before the citizenry invited Adolf Hitler to take over. The German government had checks and balances, though they weren’t as strong as those in the United States. The German people relinquished their checks and balances little by little, until Hitler had enough power to cancel the rest of them.

No reason for alarm? Religious extremism and white supremacy now control our Presidency, as of January, 2017.

No reason for alarm? That same religious extremism and white supremacy also controls both houses of our Congress, and has cowed the moderates within the once Republican party. There is no effective voice of reason existing within their party.

No reason for alarm? This religiously extreme white nationalist supremacy group now has it within their reach to also control the Supreme Court.

No reason for alarm?
Checks and balances. The Executive, strike one.
Checks and balances. The Legislative. Strike two.
Checks and balances, The Supreme Court. Strike three and out.

No reason for alarm? If you are really trying to tell those of us who study history, those of us who know that this Republic exists for everyone or it exists for no one, to sit back and relax and it will be all right, you are either one of the people behind the curtain, or delusional, or simply in a state of extreme hope because you are afraid to face the possibility of the Republic collapsing within itself.

No reason for alarm?
“Well Doctor, what have we got, a Republic or a Monarchy?”
“A Republic, if you can keep it.”
In that reply is a warning, that we must be ever vigilant and prepared to fight to keep the Republic our Founding Fathers crafted. I choose to believe there is every reason for alarm. I choose to keep that Republic. I choose to fight.

No reason for alarm? You might want consider choosing to wake up.

Musings on the New Fascism in America

Re: This Disastrous Election and the Fall of the Constitution. Mother Liberty Cries Today.

The morning after November 8, the newest day that will live in infamy, someone texted to me “You’re disappointed. I get that,” then went on to chastise me a bit, in a kind and caring manner. Allow me to correct their initial assumption.

I’m not disappointed. Don’t even think I’m disappointed. I get disappointed when the Cardinals lose. I get disappointed and upset when Mizzou loses. And loses.  And I then make bad jokes about it.  That’s disappointment.  This election is far different from that.
I am not disappointed. I am afraid. I am afraid for my, and your, America. I am afraid for my children and their children. I am afraid for the people of the world who depend on the strength and freedom and example that is America to support and help them through their own darkness and who now fear us.
I am not disappointed. I am mad as hell. I am beyond angry. I. am. furious. I am furious at the hateful people who think that if you’re black or brown or anything other than white you are second class, that you don’t deserve the same rights as white people.
I am enraged at people who think that LGBT people don’t deserve the same rights as ‘straight’ people. I am enraged that supposedly Godly people choose to denigrate and persecute and relegate to the shadows people who are not just exactly like them. I am livid that these people try to blame God and Jesus for their hatefulness and prejudice and persecution of people who are not members of their personal club.
I am livid that these people claim it’s God’s will when a woman dies in childbirth or gets raped or a child is born with horrible defects that ensure a lifetime of misery, but don’t care to consider it’s God’s will when a pregnancy is aborted for the mother’s health or to prevent a tragedy.
I am angry and horrified to realize that I live in a country where more than half the people ascribe to beliefs and hatefulness and persecution that can only be described as those of a Christian Taliban. Tulsa, say hello to Aleppo.
When these ‘people’ who claim God and Jesus as their own personal puppets, and try to force everyone in the country to accept and obey their own personal distortions, install as our President a man who has no scruples, who has been shown to be an abuser of women and of all those who fall under his power; a hot tempered bully who has no respect for anyone or anything but himself and has been shown to be devoid of any character or morality whatsoever, I am terrified. I boil when I see my country being overcome by the practitioners of exclusion, of hate and bigotry and racism, to the cheers of the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
I shake my head and wonder if some people were out of the room when logic and reason were distributed, when I hear someone say, as they vote for a tyrant in waiting, “Well, you know, maybe a change is good.” A change from ‘love your neighbor,’ to ‘beat the hell out of your neighbor if they are not exactly like you,’ is a good change how, exactly.
And I know we are lost when I see how many people in the aftermath are willing to just sit back, flip the channel to a rerun of a ‘reality’ show, and blithely proclaim “Oh, it’s okay, I’ll just be quiet and float along with it until the next election.” 
I am in dismay for our Republic and for all of the nations in the world that depend on us for their hope, our help, and  our example. I marvel darkly at the ignorance and self-satisfaction of people who wanted this, and now say, “Oh man up.  You just lost an election. It’s not a big deal.” I know then that I’m having a conversation with someone I never want to have behind me. I know I’m talking to someone who champions the bullies and the exclusionists and thugs.
Because it is a big deal. Because it was not just another election, it was an election that put every great ideal our country rests upon at risk.  Because it was an election that instantly changed the world from one looking up to us,  to one peeking fearfully at us from behind their drapes with their lights turned off. Because it was an election that refuted freedom and equality and chimed in the believers of repression, bigotry, racism, and a single-minded,  extremist, hateful  arm of Christianity: The Christian Taliban. And because other Christians helped it to happen. Because it was an election that assured there will be a lot more room in that streets of gold in the Heaven Christians profess to believe in, because the other place suddenly looks a lot more attractive. Because huge numbers of those supposed Christians just looked Jesus in the face, and spat. Because it was an election that warned us you can just look at the photo above and change the names to Trump, and McConnell, and Ryan, and Pence and their cohorts. Good Christians all. Because now, once again, a hate and intolerance and brutal pettiness which we thought we had moved beyond, has risen again and threatens to consume us. Because millions of good Americans and immigrants now fear for their lives and their neighbors have ordained it.

Because even as you sip your beer and check the TV guide and sagely say it couldn’t happen here, it’s starting to happen here. France may want its statue back. I couldn’t blame them. But no, I’m not disappointed.