Words I can agree with

Admittedly, John McCain is one of the Republicans I find myself agreeing with from time to time.

We are secluding ourselves in ideological ghettos. We have our own news sources. We exchange ideas mostly or exclusively with people who agree with us, and troll those who don’t. Increasingly, we have our own facts to reinforce our convictions and any empirical evidence that disputes them is branded as ‘fake.’ That’s a social trend that is going to be very hard to turn around.

 

Source: John McCain Makes An Appeal For Civility And Humility https://www.npr.org/2018/05/01/607193169/john-mccain-makes-an-appeal-for-civility-and-humility

 

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Heaven on Their Minds

I don’t pretend to understand the evangelical movement. They criticize politicians and celebrities left and right but then look the other way when someone like Trump comes along. The guy has had two affairs that ended two marriages and seems to have had multiple affairs in marriage number three. He owns casinos and strip clubs. He jokes about assaulting women. He has been in porn movies and “adult” magazines. Yet they tout him as a “family values” candidate and their best hope for bringing Christian values back to America?

I’m reminded of a line from the song “Heaven on Their Minds” from Jesus Christ Superstar.

All your followers are blind

Too much Heaven on their minds.

They seem to focus on theoretical promises and not on his behavior. They seem willfully ignorant of his actual actions. They don’t pay attention to the importance of how he treats people in his life……wait. Nevermind. This is the same way they view Jesus. I get it now.

I mean the guy joked that his wife might be the next person to leave the White House. Just last month, at on official dinner with his wife, Trump says during his speech “Now the question everyone keeps asking is, ‘Who’s going to be the next to leave? Steve Miller or Melania?’ That is terrible, honey, but you love me, right?” I mean seriously, he’d replace her just as fast as anyone else and I’m not entirely sure he would be particularly heartbroken about it. I doubt “family values” evangelicals would care much either. Trump would turn on Melania like he has his other ex-wives and blame her. The evangelicals would pray for her and Trumpeters would post memes of her.

Evangelicals are, like many Americans, have fallen for the prosperity gospel. They seem to think that financial success (or at least someone who claims success) must be “living right” and under “God’s grace.” They are quick forgive transgressions by even the worst of the megachurch leaders in their billion dollar mansions.

The Tumpeters (an overlapping group with the Evangelicals in most cases) worship on the alter of brand recognition and celebrity. They can’t name a success business venture of Trumps (partially because there are so few). Just like other reality stars, they don’t know why he is famous, just that he is. They voted for a reality show President and now seem excited over the reality show the White House has become. America no longer looks like a semi-stable world power. We look like a reality show. It’s only a matter of time until other countries also start forgetting what we are famous for in the first place.

 

 

 

 

 

A new kind of underground

I have to wonder if we are facing a new sort of underground. One where the intellectuals are the minority. Where the emotional narrow-minded ones are the ones that control our society while the rest of us are forced to sit like a Kermit the Frog meme sipping our tea and watching.

I have faith though that this won’t happen. Intellectuals, moderates, and realists might get run out of the government but thanks to the internet (the 21st Century version of a free press) they still have a voice. You don’t need to look any further than the Alt National Park Service to see this. (It’s a meme from their page in the headline of this story.)

I have no doubt that if the internet were to be run by the emotional narrow-minds then the resistance would find new ways. Dark webs, black emails, file drops, and when all else fails, handed off flash drives full of data.

If history has shown us anything, it is that intelligent realists find a means to survive, thrive, and resist. They may move a bit and shift constantly, but they push society even when they have to do so with hidden forces.

Half-hearted about half-mast

The Governor has ordered flags around that state to be lowered to half-mast on Friday in honor of Reverend Billy Graham whose funeral is that day. I have debated if my neighbors will notice if I don’t participate and leave my flag all the way up. I’m debating it for two reasons:

  1. Billy Graham doesn’t fit the guidelines of who we are supposed to honor with half-staff. Then again, a lot of people don’t. I think we are getting a bit too liberal with the half-staff. I’m all for recognizing national tragedies and the passing of major elected officials. I feel like Billy Graham’s death is less of a national tragedy and more of the death of that old awkward uncle that everybody is secretly thankful they won’t hear from anymore.
  2. You’ve probably figured out already that I’m not a big fan of Billy Graham. It’s not just a a theological difference. It is a moral and civil rights difference. The guy openly and actively opposed same-sex marriage. He believes his religion dictates women should be homemakers. Graham denied his daughters a college education because they might turn into “career women.”

I googled and checked to see if Democratic governors had issued calls to half-staff their flags. The couple I checked had done it as well. So it isn’t just a Republican thing.

I think Friday, my flag will staff at full-staff in my own quiet little act of defiance. Even if my neighbors don’t notice.

Welcome to the Party! [No moderates allowed.]

Just a short note to compare two different stories.

In Vincennes, Indiana, Major General Rick Stevens (Army, retired) tried to register as a Democratic candidate for a state legislature position. The Chair of the Knox County Democratic Party won’t approve his application. While he was in the military Stevens identified as Independent. Since he didn’t vote in the last election (he was on an assignment in Washington DC), supports the military, the second amendment,and is a moderate on immigration the chair isn’t convinced he is really a Democrat. There is apparently a strong stance against moderate Democrats in Knox County. Only far-far left are allowed. For more, check out: Potential candidate, party chair at odds over application

Meanwhile, the Republicans in a “here, hold my beer” sort of way have said “We’ll take it to the other extreme and let anyone be a Republican!”

Arthur J. Jones will be running for a seat in the Illinois legislature. The Chicago area Republican party apparently has no concerns about his Republican-ness. Jones has been involved in anti-Semitic and racial issues for years. He’s marched in full Nazi uniform, billed himself as “the White People’s candidate” and called the Holocaust, “the biggest, blackest lie in history.” He is also against interracial marriage and school integration. At this point, he is the only Republican on the ticket, which recognizes the Republican’s commitment to only far-far right candidates and certainly no moderate Republicans. For more check out: Holocaust denier likely to appear on ballot for GOP for Chicago-area congressional seatl

In a world without moderates, we only get what we have now…….a dysfunctional congress subject to temper tantrums and publicity and leaders who are more concerned with grandstanding and being on the news than actually doing their job.

 

The White House: America’s new reality tv show

Regardless of how you feel about Donald Trump, I will give him credit for consistently doing one thing that he is really good at doing. He grabs headlines. And he’s managed to be a top story (if not THE top story) in every major news outlet around the country since he took office. And even many other countries.

The White House has become America’s new favorite reality tv show.

You’re fired!

And you’re fired!

I didn’t do that.

Well maybe I did but it didn’t mean anything.

Maybe I said it did at the time.

You only know because someone leaked it! We have leaks!

Ok, maybe I said it!

But you weren’t supposed to write about it!

Look at Crooked Hillary!

Remember how bad Obama was!

You’re fired!

I don’t know if that makes America “great again” or not but we do seem to have become the leading source of the world’s entertainment.

I would love it if someone could go back and compare Trump’s first six-months in office with Obama’s and see who made more front page news. Who signed more executive orders. Even who tweeted more. (Sorry, I love data.)

There are still so many unfilled positions in the government but Trump can’t seem to fill them since he spends all his time shuffling his main staff around.

I’m willing to bet that if you worked for Trump and had that much turn over and lack of productivity on your staff (remember all those promises he hasn’t filled yet…….) he would have fired himself long ago.

Hands down, my favorite moment in this reality show was last week when he said he said he had consulted with “my Generals and military experts” on transgender troops.* Apparently “his” Generals and experts are not the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs…..you know….our Generals and military experts. Like most things, Trump has his own apparently.Our Generals and military experts seemed blindsided by it. I can only imagine the reaction Mattis had to this.

But Trump seems consistently pleased with himself. No matter what 24 hours news station he turns to, he is the top headline. And anytime he isn’t, he just takes to twitter and jumps right back up there.

We are only half way through Season 1. Three more seasons to go.

*Even the relatively conservative RAND corporation has said the the benefits of allowing people who are transgender to serve out weighs any additional accommodation issues. Oh, and you know, it’s the right fucking thing to do.

Shouting people down is not the same as free speech

I have watched it play out on campus after campus this past year. And it has begun to creep into off-campus protests and events as well including local government meetings and civic events. Somewhere along the way, we have confused shouting people down with free speech. When it is rather the opposite. It is suppression. I am specifically talking about the idea that free speech means being allowed to stand in someone’s face and scream at them or disrupt and shut down an event.

Let me set a ground rule before I start. I don’t believe all ideas are equally valid. I don’t even think all ideas are worth giving air time to or listening too. However, all people, have a right to their own ideas. They have a right to gather together and discuss their ideas with like minded people. And to a certain extent, the government should not be involved in suppressing those rights. In fact, this is the very thing the has built progressive America into what it is today. I have an even bigger concern when the legislatures start weighing in with free speech bills and legislation that are clearly punitive to one side or idea.

The majority of the context I am speaking about is with higher education. Let me begin by telling you a secret. [whispers] There are conservative students, faculty, and staff in higher education. And that’s okay. A certain vocal minority within the left has convinced themselves that higher education, particularly large, public, liberal arts colleges, are bubbles of pure untouched left wing thinkers whose only limitation is the moderately left leaning administration.

Then when some small conservative group (or any group with an idea they find questionable) gets together – regardless of cause – they immediately want to hound them, suppress them, shout them down, and drive them from campus. This is not freedom of speech nor the free exchange of ideas. This is mob mentality, intimidation, and suppression. This is not what we claim our institutions value.

Three years ago, at my nearby college, the largest campus religious group invited a nationally known anti-GLBT speaker. The speaker is a strong advocate of being able to “pray the gay away”. Almost no one noticed. This year, that same group, has noticeably limited their advertisements about who they are inviting and has actually started employing security for their meetings. The largest. campus. religious. group.

This sort of “majority rules” “mob-intimidation mentality” that forces people to think and act like the majority wants them to act is dangerous – be it left, right, up, or down. And the truth is that it isn’t really a majority. It is another minority (for now). But it is a minority to whom the largely left-of-center campus is sympathetic. And as such, few seem to perceive the danger in this and many are willing to tolerate it. Though few are around to actually watch when dozens of shouting people surround one or two lone people and scream them down. The intimidation and fear is real and intentional. But afterwards and beforehand, the crowd wants to label it “free speech.”

I worry about this as the military has previously been a target of visceral free speech. The Martin Niemöller statement of “First they came for the socialists….” sticks in my head. So now, me, a social liberal, religious progressive, and social justice advocate, has to say we’re going too far. (Maybe it’s not “too far,” maybe it is just the wrong direction?)

I was proud of our local college when they did not let an invited speaker get suppressed by those who proudly boasted of their intent to disrupt the event and shut it down. Even though some students, faculty, and locals made it cost a fortune and made it get ugly. Yes, I found myself being proud that we let a conservative speaker with some ideas that resound of racism and bias come speak. That part hurts I admit. I’m not proud that we invited him but I’m proud that our students who invited him were able to hear him. I was not proud that some in our community’s plan to protest it was to shut it down. Too often the majority has ruled by intimidation and suppression. We can’t allow this to be the way our emerging progressive majority acts if want to claim to be inclusive.