Tag Archives: current events america

The US’ Other Opiate Problem

The same incredulous question arises nearly every day:  How can Trump still have a thirty percent approval rating considering his bungling, lying, crudeness, and refusal to lead? Who would still support him after child separation, farm bailouts due to trade wars, and Putin’s obvious influence in his decision making? Who? I have my own hypothesis, drawn from my experience as a former evangelical Christian/Republican and it echoes another voice:  Religion is the opiate of the masses.

There is a backbone to the idea that religion numbs the senses of the masses. It is the belief that the bible is right, the inerrant word of God, and to doubt it is to doubt God himself. This notion is infused into church teaching.  It’s preached to little babies, “The B-I-B-L-E, yes that’s the book for me!” Then as an adult, “God said, I believe, that settles it forever.” We’ll even put ourselves through some hefty mental gymnastics to prove the argument. Confining a person’s knowledge base to only the bible acts like a spinal block to the logical, analytical areas of the mind, leaving them unresponsive and worthless.

Church leaders utilize the spinal block effects to their advantage and employ some impressive acrobatics to re-enforce the group-think. For example, Stephen Strang, founder of Charisma magazine, demonstrates his support of a lying, crude, selfish, president by tweeting that “God can use even a corrupt man.”

Here are the recent words of Jerry Falwell, Jr.

“It’s a distortion of the teaching of Christ to say Jesus taught love and forgiveness and therefore the United States as a nation should be loving and forgiving, and just hand over everything we have to every other part of the world.”

Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, but this guy says that as one of the richest, ‘Christian’ nations in the world, we shouldn’t be concerned about starving Yemeni babies. Then again, if the spigot of information is drawing from just one well, the people tuning into Falwell most likely don’t even know about the crisis in Yemen.

Check out the amusing amount of hair splitting going on about affairs that happened while in the Oval Office and affairs that happened eleven years ago before a guy became president. This is particularly galling to me as I recall distinctly the thrashing Clinton got from local and national church leaders (I was still in the church at the time). Those same people now liberally tease out some very obscure angles from which to view morality in order to justify supporting Trump. Guess what? If the mind of the flock is numb, constricted by a singular source of information, its malleability around strangely shaped ideas is inevitable.

Falwell and Graham’s grandiose proclamations are reinforced with publications such as Charisma magazine. Its stories massage the marriage of politics and religion, interpreting political developments through the pinpoint lens of evangelical Christianity. A scroll through the sites’ news feed is anemic on information and knowledge, but fat on reassurance to their reader that, despite our current mess as a nation, all is going according to God’s plan. It’s like a little booster shot of Novocaine to the soul (Televangelists are superb administrators of similar anesthesia).

The pinnacle of evangelical Christian thinking is some apocalyptic end times gig, based upon the book of Revelation. So when Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, it was a sign that god did indeed pick the right man to fulfill the role of ushering in His plan for the end of the world. You might wonder how we could buy that line of thinking. If I’m already subscribed to the mystical stories of talking snakes and partings of seas, then a drug induced hallucination including political developments as indicators of the rapture is easily plausible.

I was doing my own research outside of the church offerings by the end of Clinton’s tenure. I compared what I read in publications such as Charisma to what was being reported by outside sources that had decent track records of accuracy (WaPo, Guardian, Al Jazeera, NYT, LA Times, to name a few +  books). I found a lot of lies on the side of the church, which to me appeared necessarily invented solely to stir up fear. I observed that the wild prophesies I’d heard about Clinton simply didn’t manifest. I came to realize that having a mainline of information from just one source leaves the mind paralyzed; cut yourself off from the mainline, and the mind wakes up.

There’s not much to be done for a numbed mind and paralyzed logic. A person has to answer their own curiosity in order to shrug off the dense effects of evangelical opium. It is important to recognize the dynamic involved with Trump’s persistent portion of support, though. Evangelical mind-think is a contingency that’s not going away since it soothes the uncertainty of many a soul, we must acknowledge that. Perhaps we should stop questioning the “How?” and focus on a social coping mechanism instead: Do we ignore that faction? Engage with it? Exemplify an alternative?

I am open to suggestions…

Frankie

 

Advertisements

Presidential Robbery

There’s a fleecing going on – our tax dollars pay the bill to Trump Org. for the room and board of our national security detail that goes with protecting the president, at his own  properties. There’s a grifting going on – the corporate elite pay higher membership prices at Mar-a-Lago, where they have exclusive access to the president and his high ranking aides.  While these material slights are by no means benign and even have profound impact upon the way our government is currently functioning, they are far from the biggest robbery our president is committing: that is the robbery of our emotional security.

Emotional security, and a sense of belonging, are the second most important needs to be met in order for us to become fully actualized, or operating at our full human potential according to the wisdom of Abraham Maslow. Most of us get this first as infants and children, by parents who are attentive to our needs and provide us at least a constant roof and food and familial support. As adults we seek out partners, social groups, or strong friendships to provide a sense of belonging and emotional support.

There’s a similar sense of security we obtain as citizens and it’s as intangible and immeasurable as belonging to a family. Under the guises of the idea of the social contract, we pay our taxes to the government and it provides national defense as well as a functioning infrastructure. This relationship has allowed a majority of people to feel safe about the future and its ability to provide opportunities. It has enabled us to take personal risks in art, science, education, politics, and economics. We know the infrastructure, or scaffolding, is sustained by our tax dollars through the government and historically, that scaffolding has been steady, mostly secure, and highly profitable overall.

We’ve been robbed of that by Donald Trump.

Instead of worrying about overspending on Christmas, several hundred thousand federal workers are right now worried about how they’ll make their mortgage or rent in three days. Instead of the comfort of a plump 401k account, many baby boomers are wringing their hands over lost money, because of capricious Trump tweets. Instead of knowing that federal agencies will pick up the pieces after a natural disaster, he threatens to shutdown the government. Rather than assuring his audience that our nation is safe, he stokes fear by creating an immigrant caravan crisis that is nonexistent.

As we progress in years we learn that money is one thing but peace of mind and health are priceless. It’s the most astonishing thing, then, to realize our president is robbing us of our national peace of mind and security. It’s even more maddening because it’s a deliberate choice he’s making. it’s deliberate pain he’s inflicting upon his citizens, it’s a deliberate robbery of our sense of security.

Maybe there’s a German word that describes this kind of poor, selfish leadership. I can’t seem to fish the right adjectives from the English language.

Here’s to turning this ship around…

Frankie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chief (in name only, he


Another Sort of Soldier

I’ve ignored my yard, my dogs, my husband, and my house. I’ve done more than most, not as much as some.  I am exhausted, bone tired, ready for a long winter’s nap.

I am only one of millions of us who have been working like another sort of soldier to protect our democracy and freedoms. These soldiers are as dedicated to the truths of  democratic principles and the Constitution that protects them as any that patrol our borders and skies. They understand that our democracy is at risk and every single vote this election counts.  They volunteer time and donate their money to Democratic or Progressive Congressional candidates running for office this year.

These sorts of soldiers wear tennis shoes instead of boots. They carry clipboards insteadboots to shoes of ammunition clips. But there’s still an order of command, there’s still a clear objective, there’s still the need to carry water and wear sunscreen (some of us even arm ourselves, with pepper spray, depending upon the territory).

These soldiers knock on doors, make phone calls, table at libraries, and have tough conversations with neighbors who might have a different political yard sign.  They’re the sort of soldier who arrives every Monday night, for weeks, to write post cards to fellow voters encouraging them to vote. Soldiers that spend hours on end tediously printing out precinct maps and lists, then organizing them. Dutiful ranks that transport campaign materials to rural districts. The kinds of soldiers that drives for hours to campaign for a candidate outside their district, for the sake of flipping the House.

Let me be clear:  The armed forces that serve on our front line and daily put their life in danger deserve all respect and gratitude. I do not claim that the sort of soldier I reference here requires the same. I am simply pointing out that there is indeed a different sort of soldier that works diligently to protect our democracy. They do, at least, deserve a whispered thank you in the corner of the room.

Vote smart this election. Take it from this historian, your democracy depends upon it.

Yours,

Frankie

(photo credits: marine times, visualventuring.com)


Hate in the time of Carr Fire

I finally get it.

Carr fire map: What started the Carr fire - has it reached Redding? | World | News | Express.co.uk

Express Co UK

People have been upset by the collective hatred aimed at Trump. I’ve been diplomatically claiming that we’re mistaking hatred for righteous anger at seeing him demoralize our Intelligence Community, attack the fourth estate, and marginalize our allies – among other things. Then someone pointed out to me that righteous anger can easily turn to hatred if conditions worsen.

It was indeed a quick turn from the righteous anger I felt towards Trump to plain old hatred when the same day it was announced that the Carr fire progressed to one of the top ten worst fires in California history, Trump threatened to shut down the government if he didn’t get the border wall funded. At a time when citizens have lost everything and are forced to rebuild their lives, they need a leader who offers emotional support as well as the promise to help them with things like sound infrastructure and functioning agencies, Trump offered threats and bully tactics instead.

So yeah, I hate Trump too these days. I detest the evil of greed and selfishness he exhibits. I abhor his complete nonchalance at annihilating a positive national budget. I despise the pathological lying. I hate the evil apparent in behaving like a dictator who only welcomes those that pledge their fealty or massage his ego. I loathe the evil of tearing apart families and using their lives as leverage for jingoistic policy making.

I’m not normally a hater. Those who know me will attest that I am naturally optimistic and trusting toward my fellow humans. When evil raises its ugly head so blatantly and with such devastating consequences however, all the righteous anger I possess morphs into absolute hatred.

I am okay with hating evil.

I totally get it now.

 


Hypocrisy to shining Hypocrisy

You’ve been educated on government money, your family made its wealth on government money, but nowadays you’ll be damned if the chump in the next low-rent neighborhood gets a dime of it to help his family out of a hole.

What’s with the double standard of displaying your hatred towards someone because of the color of their skin or the language that they speak but if I call out the evil that rips off our taxes and decimates our democracy you claim that I am the one ‘full of hatred’?

It’s okay for your great grandparents to have migrated here from religious persecution but it’s not okay for a young woman with two babies to come here to escape gang violence and abuse.

Somehow you defend a president who lies daily and had multiple affairs when just a couple decades ago you were impeaching someone for less, and crowing about morality all the while.

It’s puzzling that you justify taking away food money from children and the disabled when the founder of your religion fed the multitudes without condemnation and healed the sick without judgement.

Your declarations of the sanctity of life sound more like clanging symbols since you chose to be silent when the scalpel that separated innocent children from their parents was employed.

You care about the national budget only when the opposing party is in the White House.

You’re all about supporting that thin blue line but more than willing to allow the shredding of your Intelligence Community.

You say you’re all for freedom then go on to deny half the population the freedom to care for their own bodies.

“God can use even a corrupt man!” He can’t use a corrupt woman, I guess.  Nor can he forgive her any sin, apparently. Neither can he even spare a mustard seed of compassion for her, it would seem.

You say your race is superior, yet live in a land that was never yours to begin with, a land that had to be bleached by your ancestors with smallpox blankets and muskets.

You claim to follow a god of love and compassion but trod on the poor with criticism and shame.

You sing of goodness and brotherhood crowning our nation from sea to shining sea;  your two-toned life has given us a nation of dazzling hypocrisy instead.

 


Champion

Today we are Champions of children capriciously imprisoned

And parents whose hearts have been shattered.

We willingly stand in the gap, as Champions do,

Between those who lead and those who can’t speak

Demanding absolute justice and compassion from our elected.

It’s really not so much to ask.

Today we are Champions.

We acknowledge that this fight is not over

We understand that a Champion follows through

One action begets another, and then another

And we commit to the last motion and the final moment.

Tomorrow we’ll be Champions.

While marching in unison is right and resonates

It is only the pre-game show, it’s only the first step.

Now that we’re home, we’ve got to call our leaders,

Remind them that children need their parents.

We’ve got to sacrifice a latte once a week

For a candidate that will bring dignity back to the Democracy.

When it’s all said and done we’ll be Champions.

We’ll vote so hard that we’re exhausted, but that’s okay.

‘Cause Champions push through even when they’ve nothing left to give.

They know that others depend upon them,

And there’s only one possible outcome:  victory.

Bomb us with a twitter storm, pollute our air with lies.

Our resolve is only strengthened, our conviction just more clear.

We are Champions today and forever,

For families and democracy,

We will not be deterred.

#Resistance

 

 


Insomniac Citizen

 

I CAN’T SLEEP

My arms ache in solidarity with those mother’s whose babies were snatched from them without mercy.

I CAN’T SLEEP

The evil that sponsored yellow armbands not long ago is resurrecting itself in the form of yellow wristbands.

I CAN’T SLEEP

Rules that keep greedy bastards from cannibalizing our economy have been erased. I dread another economic bubble burst and the damage it will bring.

I CAN’T SLEEP

We have a president who spits in the face of everything good and decent our forefathers fought fiercely to employ.

I CAN’T SLEEP

We are raising an entire generation of children who are afraid to go to school for fear of being shot by one of their own, and our leaders do nothing to change that.

I CAN’T SLEEP

One-third of our government is refusing to act as a check and balance to the blatant destruction of the Constitution it swore to uphold.

I CAN’T SLEEP

The right of my sisters and I to make our own choices about our bodies is more and more abusively restricted by hypocritical men.

I CAN’T SLEEP

I am unable to fathom how a patriotic stand for justice and right can be so vilified by my fellow citizens.

I CAN’T SLEEP

Some of my brothers are engaging in Gestapo practices while wearing an American flag on their arms and I C E on their backs.

I CAN’T SLEEP

All of these torture my instincts and rub raw at my humanity. My conscious moves me to action. I can’t sleep, neither can I sit still.


Heroic Democracy

Joseph Campbell enlightens us on the cycle of the hero story in his work “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.”  He explains that most cultural heroes (even Jesus) share common themes and they definitely follow a pattern of rise-fall-rise again but stronger.

I suggest that US Democracy is in a moment of its own heroic cycle.

There are some commonalities between US Democracy and Campbell’s exemplary heroes: Born of a meager background, thirteen colonies with not much else but trendsetting ideas and a strong sense of independence, carved themselves into a nation unlike any other of its time. Then follows a slow rise to prominence in the international limelight where its tenants of equality have been accepted by some, rejected by some.

Ironically, it’s the hometown that usually brings down the hero, so it is with our Democracy.  Our own leaders have aided the crucifixion of Democracy through inaction. Where the legislative branch normally checks and balances the executive, Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have refused to intercept the blatant degradation of ethics by our current president and appear to happily allow a hostile, foreign nation to implant its fear mongering talking points into our national narrative.  Similar to Pontius Pilate, they have washed their hands of the issue, enabling the mob to raise Democracy up for a brutal death.

We now live in a moment of uncertainty where our hero has disappeared and many of us feel lost, hopeless, and betrayed. We huddle together in supportive groups, planning what next steps should be taken, eager to carry on the timeless ideas of Democracy, even while it struggles to overcome.

According to Campbell, heroes typically languish for a time in some dark depths before they are able to rise to greater heights, usually with the aid of some helper or assistant. While two short years of destruction and mayhem without Democracy may seem brief to some, we should deem it enough – we really don’t have the luxury of floundering (See Timothy Snyder’s “On Tyranny”).

We really do have the luxury of hope, however. There are helpers arriving in droves to ensure a resurrection.  There are those running for office, local and nationally, who bring the ideals of Democracy with them. There are those who work tirelessly to knock on doors, make phone calls, write letters, or offer their voice in some manner.  There are special elections won by citizens who espouse Democracy and its inherent equality.  There are donations of five or ten or hundreds of dollars going to women and men unwilling to cede to the Oligarchy, willing to bring Democracy back from the grave.

But it’s not just that Democracy will be revived, but that it will be revived stronger, more resilient, more powerful. You see, in every story, resurrection empowers the hero to  greater strength than it had before. If we can get it right this fall, if the #Bluewave2018 becomes a reality, then Democracy will have returned with a vengeance, ready to stand up to those from the outside who would delight in our complete demise, ready to send them running.

Fellow citizens, I submit that we are poised to see our hero, Democracy, rise from the ashes and shine brighter than before.  It is important to understand, however, that each of us is a needed helper to the cause.  Encourage one another, elucidate the good and right, get out of comfort zones and talk with each other, and we can resurrect our Democracy from the depths of darkness to be stronger, more vibrant, and more effective.

Yours, in peace.

Frankie


“Lord of the Flies” Adapted by Paul Ryan

Stands on the corner,"homeless - please help" sign

cardboard sign in hand.

Dirty clothes, ragged shoes,

I bet you stink to high heaven

You worthless piece of shit.

Weak for falling so far,

Where’s your self-respect?

You’ll get nothing from me,

Not even a moment’s compassion.

You don’t deserve it

If you can’t help yourself.

Not my fault your boyfriend is an alcoholic,

and you’d rather be homeless.

Doesn’t matter that you’re mentally ill,

Don’t care that you got fucked up in the war.

I got problems too,

But you won’t catch me begging.

So move on bum, outta my town,

off my corner, away from my view.

Your presence disturbs,

Your reality pricks,

your desperation smells.

You are my intolerable spectre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Gun Talk

I had a conversation with a colleague the other day and he gave me the old “Guns don’t kill people, people with guns kill people.  I could set a gun on my desk right there and it wouldn’t kill a single person.”

Maybe, but I am certain I could never ignore a benign gun on a desk like I could ignore the tape dispenser or the sticky note pad or even the dagger-shaped letter opener. If I spot a gun on his desk, you can bet that I am going to approach him from a different perspective. I’m not going to be able to respect him based upon his intelligence, his level of articulation, or his knowledge; all of that would be eclipsed by the respect I had for the gun. Maybe he and I are cool and wouldn’t get to a point where we would reach for the weapon.  But what if a third party came into the setting?  What if derelict student came in, was having a bad day, and went for the gun?

What if none of those things happened and our interaction was uneventful? There remains a difficulty:  My experience with him would be eternally tied to that singular impression, and it’d be difficult for him to earn my respect based solely on his character.

Representative Ralph Norman made this hypothetical scene a reality the other day when he placed his .38 on a diner table during a meeting with his constituents. ” ‘I merely proved a point that guns themselves are not the issue,’…Norman said that having a loaded gun in the room should, if anything, have made people feel more safe.”  The point he actually proved was that energy of human interaction changes the second a gun is introduced. Instead of meaningful debate and a news story about discussion points, the emphasis was wholly on the presence of a gun. Everytown, an advocacy group seeking to end gun-violence in the US, was represented by Lori Freemon: “I had looked forward to a respectful dialogue with my representative about common-sense gun violence prevention policies. Instead, I felt unsafe when he insisted on showing us his loaded gun and keeping it out on the table for much of our conversation.”  The presence of a gun inherently invites the potential for harm and we will intuitively react by shutting out every other detail. There was no way this group of people could have a diplomatic discussion about the issue.

Consider another angle. Let’s compare two people arrested on attempted robbery charges.  All things being equal, if one of those is found to have a gun in their possession during the attempt, whether it was revealed or not, the consequences will be much worse than the one who merely had a knife or axe or baseball bat.  If it were just that  “guns don’t kill people” then it seems logical that both imagined perpetrators would be treated the same in a court. That isn’t the way it works. Because the presence of a gun exponentially increases the possibility and probability that someone will be harmed, even our courts treat the presence of a gun with stricter sentencing.

I’m done hearing the argument that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”  When just the mere presence of a handgun changes the way people interact with one another, it’s time to start heeding the valid notion that guns do kill, even if it is the respect I could have garnered for you otherwise.

#Enough.

Frankie