Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right

It continues to be a trial to be a mindful liberal these days.  Recently in McCordsville, a suburb of Indianapolis had a teacher send home a note asking parents to have their children stop saying the words God, Jesus and Devil. Quoting the letter it says:  

"With McCordsville Elementary being a public school, we have many different religions and beliefs, and I do not want to upset a child/parent because of these words being used,” the letter said. “If you got to church or discuss these things at home, please have a talk with your child about there being an appropriate time and place of talking about it.”

So of course the keyboard first amendment experts were there to express their outrage. But first let me say the letter from the teacher was both inappropriate and violates the students rights to free speech.  This is not a gray area, the Supreme Court and many other courts have made decisions about the right of religious expression from students in school.  If children express their faith in a manner that is not disruptive to the educational process nor is an attack on another child it is within their rights to use these words.  May it be offensive? Yes.  Is that a place for a conversation?  Maybe.  Can they be banned? No. 

But of course the simple answer has no place in our culture where anyone can pick up the megaphone of the internet so let me use mine.

1.  For the people who say we are a Christian nation:  No we are not, we are a secular nation that has a plurality of people who identify as Christian.  But written into our laws is a distinct separation of religion and government.  The founders feared the role of religion in government as that is what they were feeling.  They wanted a government of the people not ordained by God.  

2.  For those who say religion has no place in school:  Religion can exist and does exist everywhere.  The issue is who is bringing the religion.  School officials cannot engage in bringing students together in prayer, cannot say one religion is better than another, cannot preach to children nor engage in religious recruitment in public school.  However, students can in fact do all those things at appropriate times.  Students can speak of their faith at free times, can pray before tests, lunch and anytime.  Can wear religious items and ask for times to say daily prayers.  

3.  One nation under God is a phrase that was added to the pledge of allegiance in the 1950s because of fear of atheistic communism.  It is ironically a bit unAmerican to require the pledge and worse to make a statement of faith in it.  The beauty of America is that you can be any religion or none at all.  We don't want a singular religion to be forced on us.  

I can't understand why we so many people simply do not understand the idea and role of faith in our culture.  We live in a country where we explicitly don't want all crimes to also be sins against God.  We don't want religion at the center of our laws.  (yes I know they influence our laws and some crimes are also sins)  But we also don't want religion to be washed out of our public life.  In fact we must fight for all to have their rights expressed as long as they don't interfere with the rights of others.  (We don't have right to not be offended or upset).  That way we can be free, free of the oppression of a government who defines how we interact with our gods, and free to do so. 


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Perhaps the Most Impressive Thing Any President Has Done

CNN has a fetish for interviewing ignorant Trump supporters who never seem to have a critical thing to say about him.  I am not saying all Trump supporters are ignorant, though I think they are misguided.  I mean people really ignorant of the reality of Donald Trump as President of the United States.  They bring them together to ask them how they think he is doing, especially after some big news story, so like clockwork CNN will for the next few days have Alison Camerota talk to people about how great President Trump is while not knowing anything he has done or failed to do.  This morning we saw it with his speech on Afghanistan.

For years Donald Trump has said the United States should pull out of Afghanistan and let the people in the area deal with the fallout.  It became part of his campaign, a campaign that included him saying that he knew more than the generals on military matters.  But when asked what this group thinks of Trump's Afghan speech they said he was fulfilling a campaign promise.  When Camerota pointed out that in fact he promised the opposite in the campaign and came close to admitting he was wrong last night in the speech, they quickly changed the subject.  This is but one of a number of crazy ignorant statements made by the voters who support the President without knowledge what is actually going on.  Tomorrow CNN plans to ask about Charlottesville, that is going to be a cluster for sure.  But it is not uncommon for American voters to be uninformed.  What is less comfortable when it is a member of the media who simply vomits praise for no reason.

Tucker Carlson, Fox News, is a prime example.  Last week, after the events around the Nazi marchers,  there was segment on his show that tried to justify slavery.  Seriously, because Trump thought there were good people marching with White Supremacists Carlson tried to make it safe to say that by downplaying slavery as an American tragedy and evil.  But it gets worse.  During yesterday's eclipse the President of the United States look directly at the sun.  Something that we have been told for months not to do and he was shouted not to as he was doing it.  Carlson, talking about it,   said "He looked at the sun without any glasses. Perhaps the most impressive thing any president has done."

Seriously, for almost a decade I kept hearing people tell me that liberals saw President Obama as a mythical savior.  We never did.  But now, seriously, he could slap a baby (I mean he did kick one out of his rally) and there will be people who bring up that the baby spit up on someone at the grocery or church.  It is sickening thing and their voices should be ridiculed.  The other day on one of the NBC channels a Trump apologist was lying about the economy and the reporters whose beat was the economy basically explained to the sycophant that the first six months of this year, every measure of economic growth was slower than the previous 18 at least.  But of course the typical Trump supporter wouldn't believe it.

The facts are simple, if you like the President of not, he has been basically a terrible leader and has stumbled over every thing he has tried to accomplish that requires more work than signing his name.  Perhaps his turn around on Afghanistan and adopting previous Presidents' ideas and the military leadership in his cabinet.  I hope this is the start of something but I don't think I will be fooled.  He is having a campaign rally tonight, more than 3 years before the election.  He is doing this because he wants praise, so who knows what he will say, perhaps he will tell the good people in Arizona that he was just reading and it isn't what he thinks.  And that is where we are.  Tucker Carlson will report how cagey the President is and on CNN a group of Trump supporters will thank him for winning the war in Afghanistan.  

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

He Makes it So Hard.

When I started this blog so many years ago I thought the title would be a signal that not all you read can be believed and even what you see is hard to believe.  But today I stand shocked and struck down.  I have been cultivating in my head a post that I hoped I had time to write tomorrow morning, trying to be level headed and challenge those that think the answer to the ignorant violence of the Nazi marchers is to vandalize and destroy the monuments you hate.  Spray painting statues and pulling them down is no way to protest.  We can talk about how a community wants to remember its history.  I actually have a lot to say about remembering the ugly past we as a nation must not forget and talking about how some people see that as a heritage.  I don't believe we should build monuments to traitors, but I also understand that the Civil War was a war fought by a country that was a new experiment that struggled with where do the rights of the people lie.  Slavery, was a disgusting component of the war leading our modern sensibilities to reduce the discussion to that but it was much more than slavery that led farm boys to take up arms against the federal government.  So when a southern looks at Stone Mountain or a Robert E. Lee statue, I have no idea what they are thinking but I can't assume they long for a time of slavery again.  Some people do.  Some of them marched in Charlottesville. Many others think of a nostalgia that they understand is complicated.  A time and place that we can't understand fully.  To them the heroes of the confederacy might be like the uncle who drops his pants in the living room at Thanksgiving and never fully zips up after the meal.  He is embarrassing, he is wrong, but he is still your uncle.

I also wanted to say that it is okay to criticize the President of the United States for not denouncing the Nazis right away.  I was part of the angry calls for him to stand at a microphone and attack those that spew such hatred and some doing it in his name.  Name them for what they are, not the wishy-washy both sides.  So he did, and I saw many say "that's not enough".  Let's face reality I thought.  This guy is not intelligent and highly emotional.  He reacts like a toddler or a drunk guy in a bar. So even when he reads a statement I don't believe he believes it, but I wanted to say the act of calling them out was a step in the right direction.  But I can't defend that move any more.  Because this afternoon he took it all back.

While telling us how smart and excellent his statement on Saturday was, where he said that the hatred was on many sides, he decided that the left was just as much to blame as the right.  That he couldn't condemn the Nazis because he didn't know the facts.  Well Mr. President the facts are simple.  A group of people marched in an American city calling for the death of blacks and Jews.  They carried weapons and torches, the beat on and chased away people at prayer and yes, there was an anti-fascist demonstration that attacked the Nazis.  That is true, but you see when someone threatens to eliminate you I think it makes sense to respond with anger.  But here is the thing.  Today the President said

“You had some very bad people in that group. You also had some very fine people on both sides,” 

No, no you don't.  There are no fine people on the side of the Nazis, none.  If you call yourself a White Nationalist, if you chant "Jews will not replace us" and "Blood and Soil".  You are not a fine person.  If you call a woman murdered by one of your minions "a fat slut" as the internet voice of the groups that gathered did of the young woman, Heather Heyer, the you are not a fine person.  If you think that you are superior to other humans because the circumstances of your birth, you are not a fine person, and if you believe that only you and those who think like you have a place in this country you are not a fine person.  Mr. President can you fine me one fine person.  If only he were more like Abraham arguing for Sodom and Gemmorah in the Torah, looking for 10 righteous people.  But for the President it isn't about finding 10 righteous people.  It appears some part of him believes that many minorities are inferior, criminal, dangerous and he attacks them and has for as long as I have known of his existence.  Today, the President of the United States called some Nazis fine people.  Let that sink in.  A woman is dead, the worst of the worst are emboldened, and our President is attacking the media instead of the terrorists who descended on a small town with the intention of causing mayhem.  This is wrong.  This is simply wrong.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

A little piece of you The little peace in me Will die For this is not America

Today, in Charlottesville a person died of the disease of hate.  A group of neo-Nazis, who have been emboldened by certain members of the Republican party and the Trump White House organized a protest.  Last night they marched with tiki torches shouting racist and anti-Semitic slogans.  Today they wanted to rally against the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee.  This devolved into violence. Violence promoted as the right wing protesters brought guns, ball bats, and other weapons.

Now I know some will say it has nothing to do with the President or the GOP, but you would be wrong.  They themselves see themselves as being given more support by this President and the fake the self-professed Nazis serve in his White House.  Members of the GOP also have met with and defended many of the leaders of this protest.  Even after the death of someone, the President couldn't bring himself to condemn the neo-Nazis and used the mushy statement of "violence on many sides". My dad fought for his life against people who supported the ideology those who were protesting today claim as their own.  It is unAmerican, it is hateful and it is wrong.  The President should fire anyone in his administration who wallows in the swamp that these people use people swim in.  But people are running with the 'both sides' argument.  The counter-protesters came to stop the anticipated violence and while some engaged it should be noted that some clergy at a prayer vigil were beaten by others carrying flags of groups the American people fought and died stopping.

This is not America or at least not my America.  The dog whistles and bull horns of the Trump campaign and administration have called to those members of society that are driven by hate and ignorance.  Today, I fear, is the first of many of these kinds of clashes.  It is time for action.  The President must purge himself of those close to him that in their history have given a forum to these hateful people (Bannon) or is a member and proudly wears the symbol of a neo-Nazi organization (Gorka).  In fact Gorka said the other day that we are too hard on white supremacists.

Today we mourn the dead person who got up this morning and decided to stand on the side of the angels and of America.  I don't know that person, but they are a hero whose name should be remembered.  The terrorist who killed that person should be charged as a terrorist and made an example of for his actions.

This is a shofar blast, an alarm clock, a fog horn...we are called to action.  If our leaders won't we must.  Stand up to hate.

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