It is with little consolation that I write the title above this article, or share the graphic that I created to describe how Trump moved from slogans to fascism. Way back when Trump announced his candidacy for US President I lit into the man for his brutish behavior well before he gained a single vote. From that time forward, I observed that Trump had more in common with the fake sport of professional wrestling than anything else. I also observed that he behaved like a pirate with his thieving, grifting ways.
Beyond theorizing about his awful character, the regular news about his behavior was far more damning that anything I conceived allegorically. He threatened to withhold pre-approved funding for military assistance to Ukraine by trying to force the President of Ukraine to generate dirt on Hunter Biden. For that offense, Trump was rightly impeached for abuse of power.
The more time he spent in office the worse it got for America and the world. Trump lied to Americans about the threat of Covid-19 to public health, a fact recorded for posterity by journalist Bob Woodward. Millions of Americans pursuantly defied medical directives to mask up and get vaccinated. Trump’s supporters worsened and then prolonged the pandemic as Covid spread and killed hundreds of thousands of people, many of who would not have gotten infected if appropriate mask precautions were taken, and many that would possibly have lived if they were indeed vaccinated.
But people kept giving up their lives for Trump, whose lies kept piling up and whose behavior became more extreme and corrupt by the day. His public support for racist and para-military organizations led to violence while his refusal to hold police accountable for brutality on Black citizens drove protests that led to even more violence from activists defying Trump’s fascist approach to government.
Thus it was not surprising that Trump welcomed the fascist attack on the United States Capitol in an attempt to block the certification of results from a legitimate election. Trump’s people brought 60+ lawsuits trying to demonstrate election fraud, and all of them failed for lack of evidence. And still, Trump’s lies turned into the Big Lie, a propagandist tactic directly adopted from other fascist regimes whose success in nationalistic populism appears to be Trump’s main playbook.
After his failed attempt at re-election due to his moral depravity and lack of personal or governmental accountability, Trump retreated to his pirate’s lair in south Florida with goods and records stolen from the US Government. Now he’s being investigated for all kinds of crimes against the nation, and his prized Trump organization just got convicted and slammed for tax evasion. That only confirms his prior fraudulent behavior with his “Trump University” which got fined $25M for lying to its customers.
But what did we expect from a proven misogynist and sexual abuser that cheats at golf and claims that he hates exercise because it will “wear down his battery.” He’s an ignorant fraud whose vision of reality is skewed by a narcissistic need to be “right” all the time even when he’s been proven completely wrong. Who else stares up at a solar eclipse?
The pain of being right about Trump all along offers no solace. His Republican Party has zero conscience when it comes to political or civil morality. They are a depraved band of pirates who claim that women should be happy they were raped and whose history of blocking environmental legislation and climate change action means they’ll willingly rape the world if it somehow keeps them in power.
And that’s why being right about Trump is absolutely no fun at all.
My son attended the University of Chicago. We both like visiting Hyde Park so we took a trip to have a meal at Medici’s (a salmon burger for me) and a walk around campus. Toward the end of our wanderings we walked through the University Chapel, one of the largest such institutional structures in the United States.
I picked up one of the plain brochures documenting the history and features of the Chapel that was originally funded by more than $34M in contributions from John D. Rockefeller. The structure was completed in 1928, one year before the collapse of the economy and the beginning of the Great Depression.
I’ve visited one other great cathedral the size of the University Chapel. That was in Barcelona, Spain, where we toured the Sagrada Familia Basilica constructed under the guidance of Antonio Gaudí. As I wrote in my recently published book, the theology behind Gaudi’s architecture unifies spiritual concepts of God with representations of creation.
“The Spanish words “sagrada familia” mean ‘sacred family.’ That concept is the central motif across the many tall towers forming the Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona, Spain. Construction of the massive structure began more than a century ago. It is scheduled for completion in the year 2026. That culminates the plans originated by late Spanish architect Antonio Gaudí, whose organic style of architecture fuses symbols of Creation’s glory with God’s spiritual transcendence as symbolized through the Sacred Family.
“A time.com2 article describes how Gaudí developed his masterwork, explaining that the architect had a grand concept in mind: “It didn’t take him long, however, to transform the Sagrada Familia’s original plans into an extraordinarily ambitious undertaking: a structure that would combine natural forms and Christian symbolism into a temple that, as Faulí puts it, “expressed meaning not only through the sculpture and other decorations but through the architecture itself.” Gaudí was not a practicing Catholic when he received the assignment. But he became increasingly devout as he worked on it, eventually coming to see the very structure as a vehicle for Christian evangelism.”
The relationship between God and creation goes into even deeper symbolism, as expressed in a piece written about the basilica on a travel website:
“An earnest and down-to-earth description on the website Culture Trip outlines the practical aspects of its design: “The central tower in the middle will reach 170 meters tall. Despite having a powerful height, Gaudí believed that nothing human-made should ever be higher than God’s work. It is no coincidence that the ultimate height will be one meter less than Montjuïc, the mountain in Barcelona, which is also the city’s highest point. There are tons of symbolism in each part of Gaudí’s structure. Aside from the religious symbols, there are two you should look out for. First, the interior pillars resemble trees, and when you look up at them, their shapes constantly change, as real trees appear to do. There is also a tortoise and turtle holding up these pillars, representing both the earth and the sea.”
Having previously absorbed the wondrous symbolism of Sagrada Familia, I was struck by the parallels found in the University Chapel. There are many sculptures of holy figures including apostles and prophets along with heroes and heroines of faith. “The whole design suggests the march of religion through the centuries,” the Chapel brochure documents.
There are also statues of political figures and coats of arms from major state and private universities in America and around the world. These secular representations meld the academic legacies of the college to other forms of philosophy, especially science, demifigures of the Poet, the Thinker, the Merchant, the Craftsman, the Builder, and the Teacher, “since the work of all is, in the broad and deep sense, religious.”
“Demifigures of Faith and Love flank the upper windows,” it is explained, “The birds of wisdom and of Inspiration, the owl and the eagle, appear near the top.”
Along the ribs of the Chapel are fourteen subjects; as noted: “Bird, Beast, Fish, Reptile, Sun, Moon, Star, Tree, Flower, Man, Earth, Air, Water, Fire, which, as the objects of man’s study, reveal God.”
Such wonderful parallels exist between these two great expressions of spiritual and intellectual enlightenment. The University Chapel and Sagrada Familia potently remind us that while many seek the halls of heaven in the great beyond, the presence and reality of God is best known through our daily and organic encounters with life, while we live it.
The scene outside the main entrance of the Kid Rock establishment in downtown Nashville could serve as the poster scene for the biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. People wandered the streets in various states of drunken cognizance, which is just another way of saying cognitive dissonance. Some clung to each other in human chains while acting like they were free of the burdens that bind us most. Mostly these were members of Bachelorette parties. Some wore sashes indicating their Bride-To-Be status and others debauched in sashes designating their subservient roles.
The Bachelor parties were best-identified by their Bro Behavior, stumbling along in groups of five-to-ten wide, passing through the crowds like the Dark Matter of human existence. Don’t bump into one of them or the world around you could explode. We all live on a vigilante street these days.
Outside the doors of the Kid Rock’s Big Honky Tonk and Steakhouse, a man stood holding a cardboard sign with the words “Let’s Go Brandon. Fuck Joe Biden. God Bless” in handwritten defiance as he faced the crowds, sucking on a cigarette as if it contained the elixir of life itself.
I pondered his mission and realized that he most resembled those doomsayers bearing signs about the end of the world. They’re forever warning us about the End Times, and they’re always wrong.
The Let’s Go Brandon folks think they’re clever disguising the phrase Fuck Joe Biden behind the banal cheer they bellow and brandish on tee shirts. Of all the modern-day attempts at conspiratorial political subterfuge, this one proves the fatal instincts of the terminally deceived. Following Trump has proven to be nothing but a dishonest and brutally dismissive brand of folly from the beginning of the ex-President’s campaign to his current tempestuous residency as a deposed despot clinging to the hope that he can return to office to dismiss the vast record of crime and corruptions left in his wake. That is Trump’s only hope for salvation in this world: he needs power to even feel like a human being.
Surely he’d have been one of the ringleaders in the days of Sodom, when men nearly beat down Lot’s door so that they could abuse the strangers inside. Trump loves the look of terror in people’s eyes and the fear he engenders by proclaiming slogans such as “You’re fired!” That was Trump’s form of verbal rape back in the days when he was given license to formally torture people on “reality” TV. But it was never about reality it all. Trump’s entire world is a crazily concocted contrivance of his appetites and insecurities. He wraps himself in the clothing of self-aggrandizement and prances down the avenue in a sash just like those Bachelorettes he’d love to grope and fondle, since that’s his ilk.
And that’s what I learned during a venture into the heart of Nashvegas. America is obviously possessed by a self-consuming desire to abuse and be abused. To millions of Americans, the two are not even separable concepts. And when their self-indulgently abusive nature worships at the feet of men like Trump, the threat to all of us is real. Trump caters to the desire for abuse with his downtalking style and claims of victimhood that fuel the sense of entitlement this new-age confederacy of disenfranchisement finds so appealing, and so absorbs slogans like Make America Great Again that make their conflicted spirits feel whole again.
States where Trump is popular love that style of whining deprecation. Those trucks bearing flags abusively redesigned with black and blue stripes alongside those flabby Trump banners indicate a cult-like obsession with alt-authority that dominates the Trumpian mindset. It is significant that the same tactics used by the socialist-fascist tropes of old are so effective on the religio-fascists now vexing America. Trump has convinced millions of people they are the “free thinkers” in this world when every aspect of their behavior speaks to the exact opposite mindset.
The same depressing cultural gutspeak washes over cities like Nashville and Las Vegas every damned day of the year. These places are a grand excuse to lower the moral bar as far as one wants to go, and never feel the need to apologize for it. Nashville was the city of choice for a bachelor friend of mine, and we had a dose of fun without trashing ourselves or anyone else around us. I’ll admit. We had fun. We drank some. Listened to some good music. Chatted up some ladies to pass the time and got back home by 3:00 a.m. But that’s not what many people chose to believe about “reality” when it comes to visiting Nashville or any place like it. The phrase “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas…” speaks to a brand of willing self-indulgence and truth denial that indicates a disturbing tendency lack of responsibility that can’t help spill into other aspects of life. Are we on the way to replacing the United States of America with the Untidy States of Vegas?
We all need to cut loose once in a while and lose our cares. I like a good glass of whiskey as much as the next person. We toured a distillery and learned the art of making fine spirits from grain to mash to swan-neck distillation. But there’s a lesson in how whiskey is made. The first vapors through the process are too toxic and dangerous to drink. They can make you go blind and half-crazy if you’re not careful, and kill not just brain cells, but the whole damned body associated with it. That’s what I really learned in Nashvegas, Tennessee. It seldom pays to consume the first of anything whether it comes out of a still or from the mouth of a man telling everyone else to keep still because he considers himself the biggest expert in the room.
But Trump and his people are drunk on the notion that their primary notions and instincts are good for us all. A trip through the streets of Nashvegas on a Saturday night exemplifies the madness afoot across so many sectors. This is hardly what America needs to become great again. While it’s not all about sobriety, there should always be room for sober consideration of what greatness actually, really means. And this is not it.
This isn’t so much about the core issues of morality as it is about recognizing that wherever morality is twisted into shapes of personalities eager to dismiss and abuse others, we’re facing a real danger to society. That means the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah needs to be studied more closely. The lesson never was that gay people or strangers far from home are the real threat in this world. The actual moral is that people with authoritarian domination on their minds are evidence of the breakdown of society. They are banging on the doors of civility in this nation, and around the world. It is our holy and moral duty to keep these fascist monsters at bay.
Trump is their leader here in America. We must never forget that.
In which we study the similarities between Make America Great Again and Make Russia Great Again
We all watched the outcome of MAGA (Make America Great Again) in the United States of America. Four years of MAGA propaganda by the Trump Administration led to an insurrection against the nation by a manic mix of pro-fascist “demonstrators” claiming the 2020 election was stolen.
That was a horrific moment in American history. But the worst part of the Trump years was the support provided by the Christian evangelical community who cheered on Trump’s often lawless campaign to use the office of President as his personal stomping grounds for whatever enemies he chose to attack. All of Trump’s vengeful behavior was dismissed as necessary because he was ostensibly acting for the “greater good” by literally carrying out the will of God. According to populist notions of Trump’s rise to power, he was the one anointed to advance the idea that the United States of America is a Christian Nation under God.
That was one of dog-whistle (or God-whistle) messages driving Make America Great Again. It carried with it the promise to ban abortion and block gay people from civil rights, two key social issues to conservative Christians tied to the anachronistic dogma of the religion when it dominated American society. And this despite its demonstrated history of supporting institutional slavery and racism in the likes of ‘Christian-based’ groups like the KKK.
MAGA’s ugly underbelly
MAGA’s ugly underbelly revealed itself during Trump’s first campaign for president as he embraced racist organizations, complimenting them as “good people.” Those groups and others coalesced into the aggressive branch of MAGA whose militias broke down barriers, attacked police, and threatened to murder the Vice President, Mike Pence, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
And while all this happened, the evangelical leadership in America either remained silent or cheered on the events while justifying Trump’s reign of terror by claiming that “God works with flawed people.”
The terrifying fact of the religious rationalization is that it is now being extended, in a brutally ironic fashion, to the leader of Russia, Vladimir Putin, during his military invasion of Ukraine. And here’s the kicker: Putin is carrying out this mission for much the same religious reasons that the American evangelical community wanted to Make America Great Again. Putin views Ukraine as a necessary iconic element in the re-establishment of a Christian-dominated Russia and for all we know, the rest of Europe. This war in Ukraine is an attack on a sovereign nation that values free and fair elections just like the United States of America and other democracies around the world. But Putin wants to install his Christo-fascist version of power over the nation’s people and its resources and call it Russia+. This is Putin’s version of MAGA. So we can legitimately brand it MRGA: Make Russia Great Again.
American Christian’s support for Putin
Thus it is no coincidence that America’s evangelical Christian community and their conservative friends seem to support Putin. There are also whispers in the halls of End Times Theology that “this is the big one,” because religious zealots hoping for the end of the world and the return of Jesus Christ to rule it all pray that this is their moment of vengeance against the heathens and humanistic believers who want to solve the world’s problems, not turn them into an excuse for Armageddon.
Even Israel can’t make up its mind what to do about Russia, because Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky is himself a Jew. There are political and economic striations to consider as well, so the nation perpetually caught between Jewish and Christian interests is now stuck between the rocks of conflicting ideologies, convenient loyalties, and funding to protect its own people.
MRGA and the Taliban
But MRGA will stop for no one under Putin’s direction. His army might be exhausted by the time he overcomes Ukraine, but the people of that occupied nation will keep fighting back. The frightening truth is that if anyone else gets involved beyond sanctions, Putin has threatened nuclear retaliation, even aggression. He also took control of nuclear power plants in Ukraine, and he’s such a despot that he might just let some radiation leak to cow people to his will.
The really sinister part here is that MRGA has been cheered on by some of Trump’s high-profile fans and supporters, including Tucker Carlson at Fox News––and others. In an interview on Fox News, retired Army Colonel Douglas McGregor, who served under Donald Trump and apparently remains loyal to the cause, opined on behalf of Putin telling host Stuart Varney: “The first five days Russian forces I think frankly were too gentle. They’ve now corrected that. So, I would say another ten days this should be completely over.”
Macgregor went on to say that the war could have “ended days ago” if Zelensky had acquiesced to what Russia wanted.”
Those statements drew a rebuke from a noted Republican purist Liz Cheney: “Douglas MacGregor, nominated by Trump as ambassador to Germany; appointed by Trump as senior advisor to the Secretary of Defense, says Russian forces have been ‘too gentle’ and ‘I don’t see anything heroic’ about Zelensky,” Cheney wrote. “This is the Putin wing of the GOP.”
So we can see that the militaristic nature of the latter-day GOP willingly dismisses any notion of international principle in favor of personal opinion, purpose, and priority. It is the classic example of the “ends justifies the means” approach to gaining and retaining power.
This fealty to power when fueled by aggressive conservative and Christo-fascist instincts is devastating to the health of democracies around the world. It is also brutally ironic given the resistance in the Christian sphere to similar efforts by conservative Muslim sects to establish religious control over entire countries. The entire American occupation in Afghanistan, the “war” that lasted more than twenty years–– was driven in part by attempts to rid the country of the religiously driven motives of the Taliban, an arch-Right brand of Islam. And the United States of America failed to quell that influence.
None of this surprises us because the ugly convenience of justifying social control and even conducting wars on religious grounds is as old as civilization itself. But consider the irony: It was Jesus that resisted the legalistic control of society by the religious authorities of his day. They killed him for trying to promote a more liberal and socialistic brand of religion based on love, compassion, and a personal relationship with God. None of that was evident in the conduct of the MAGA revolution in America, whose selfish conduct resounded in the halls of Congress when thousands of fascist-minded people beat the police and raided the Capitol.
Nor is there any sign of Jesus Christ in the Russian MRGA attack on Ukraine. This is also a selfishly narcissistic and vainglorious attempt by Putin to grab respect through brute force rather than earn it by respecting international law and having the confidence to build a nation that does not depend on corruption, dirty dealings, and graft to survive. Like Trump, he’s both immensely calculating and lazy at the same time, and sure enough, Trump initially complimented Putin’s military move into Ukraine as “savvy.” God Forbid if Trump was still President. He’d probably be cheering Putin on as Ukrainians died because Trump no doubt has a chip on his shoulder toward Ukraine’s President, who stood up to his corrupt effort to bribe him into doing some political dirty work on Trump’s behalf. To Donald Trump, there is no sweeter feeling than gaining revenge, and now we can see how bad the situation would be if Trump were still in control.
Functionally, we now recognize that MAGA and MRGA are essentially the same thing, twisting religion to serve despotic needs. That is the Red Letter commonality between two equally fascist movements. It also bears strong resemblance to the motives behind the second World War. And that’s bad news for everyone in the world.
A HANDS-ON LOOK AT HOW WE GOT FROM THERE (2016) TO HERE (2021) UNDER THE RULE OF EX-PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP
However we define Trumpism, there is no denying its existence in the United States of America. Its effects were on full display during the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the Capitol. The question we now face is whether Trumpism should be primarily defined as a political or personal condition.
The tactics used to promote Trumpism began with the political slogan Make America Great Again. Those four words symbolized the Trump campaign’s claim that the nation was in desperate need of recovery.
The MAGA slogan worked wonders with those already convinced that Donald Trump represented something “great” about America. His purported wealth and worldwide brand delivered a pre-packaged sense of competency and vision.
Yet that is not what Donald Trump ultimately wound up selling. Instead, he saw an opportunity in convincing people that the nation had abandoned them. That gave millions of already disgruntled people the idea that they had something genuine to complain about. Whether they knew the true sources of their purported misery, or whether they were justified in their self-proclaimed victimhood did not matter. Trump tapped into their anger. That was all that mattered.
To his retinue of pledged supporters, Trump added the support of the evangelical Christian community by choosing a dogmatically zealous Mike Pence as his running mate. The implicit promise in that action was banning abortion and installing some form of Christian theocracy on the nation.
Safely delivered from political criticism by his religious associations, Trump engaged with far-less-admirable brands of populists. Specifically, he offered approval to avowed racist groups as “good people” and chortled with glee as militia groups and violence-prone police threatened to bust heads as a means to maintain order.
All the while, he continued the drumbeat against illegal immigration and repeated his warlike call to ‘build the wall.” That brand of xenophobia resonated with Americans convinced that brown people were freeloaders and stealing their piece of the American pie. Others welcomed Trump’s dog-whistle racism as justification for their own terminal prejudices. Meanwhile, the wealthiest MAGA supporters happily embraced Trump’s “I’ve Got Mine” mentality because it promised a return to tax policies favoring their economic status.
As illustrated in the Trumpism Spectrum, it is easy to trace the initial migration from slogans to tribalism, and from religious legalism to populism. All these tactics were designed to cement a coalition of committed collaborators in the Make America Great Again cabal. Anyone that criticized that cabal was accused of Trump Derangement Syndrome, a supposed mental condition that caused people to act irrationally in response to the ex-President. But that invented term was itself a form of gaslighting, an attempt to make sane people feel crazy about their grip on reality.
Adding to the mix was the rising influence of conspiracy theorists including QAnon, a willfully ignorant and semi-mysterious source of insane accusations and outright lies invented by some Internet gnome lurking on the outskirts of humanity. While Trump griped and whined about the supposed lies contained in the campaign-driven Steele Dossier, he did nothing to counteract rumors that Democrats were involved in human sex trafficking or the daily piles of Right-Wing garbage pumped out by the political right, including but not limited to Fox News.
As Trump’s presidency proceeded, he relied on an increasingly aggressive mix of propaganda to cover up his many illegal activities and political graft in defiance of the emoluments clause and bans on pursuing campaign aid from foreign governments. He was impeached twice for his corruption, but excused by Republican henchman in both the Senate and the House. A few freely admitted that he’d cheated and even broken the law on several counts. But they are power-driven hypocrites and political whores of the worst kind. They are loyal to their party and traitors to our nation.
The only place that Trump’s lies and cheating seemed to catch up with him was during the Covid pandemic when it became obvious that he was both incapable and unconcerned about protecting Americans from a deadly disease. Rather that amend his ways, Trump’s authoritarian instincts drove him to evolve from a man in a perpetual state of denial of his real performance to a man recognizing his failures. Those he feared more than anything else, and in an effort to protect himself from legal and financial jeopardy, he began to plot ways to steal the election in 2020.
This was nothing new, as even before the 2016 election Trump refused to commit his approval for results if he lost. He merely expanded on this tactic in 2020, denying in advance that he could possibly lose. When he did, he launched the Big Lie that the election was “stolen” from him. This lie was invented to foment unrest among his deplorable cabal of truth-denying bigots and zealots. It also appealed to the selfishly wealthy along with the fearful politicians that stood by him through two legitimate impeachments for corruption.
But the sickest loyalty of all is the continued support for Trump even after the acts of sedition conducted by Trump supporters at his direction. The violent, multi-front riots brutalized police officers and left people dead as a result of the insurrection. In the end, Trump invented a brand of fascism that entirely suited him, as he stood watching it all transpire on television even while his violent mob sought to capture and kill the Vice President of the United States. Trump didn’t care. Like his fast-food mentality dictates, he was “having it his way.”
That’s how we got from There to Here over the last six or so years. Looking back at the progression as illustrated on the Trumpism Spectrum graphic, it is pretty clear that it will be too hard to go back through time and fix things. Instead, we need to race forward in the near term to prevent it from happening all over again in 2022 and 2024. Trumpism is a toxic brand of hate-driven politics that was used to beat the nation over the head with an American flag. Despite his ugly pleas, we owe Donald Trump nothing in the way of compassion or compensation. He has done nothing to earn either privilege nor does he deserve it. He is no longer an American in any sense of the word. He is nothing but a greedy traitor, a perpetual con man and an abusive sociopath with nothing to offer the United States of America but an end to the great experiment that launched a democracy worthy of admiration by the whole world.
But under another four years of Trump, that great experiment would cease to exist.
The Bible offers some fascinating insights into how laws should be implemented and enforced in this world. Given the passage of strict abortion laws just passed along in Texas and forgiven by the Supreme Court of the United States, it is helpful to look at how these new laws work, and why they are so ardently anti-biblical by nature.
Suits and vigilante justice
As a starting point to examine these issues, the new Texas anti-abortion laws are atypical in that they won’t be enforced in a traditional fashion. The police aren’t going to go out and round up abortion providers or medical clinic leaders. Instead, they place the power to report and enforce the law in the hands of everyday citizens. This brand of vigilante justice is unique in many respects because the Texas law opens the door for people to sue anyone who performs abortions or even “abets” the choice of a woman to pursue or receive and abortion.
To examine the verity of this brand of justice, it helps to look at a passage from the Book of John, in which Jesus deals with a street confrontation where a group of citizens drags a woman accused of adultery before him to see how he would handle her punishment.
8 Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, 2 but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. 3 As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery.5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. 7 They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” 8 Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
9 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman.10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
The prescribed punishment for women accused of adultery in those days was death. Yet Jesus did not view the woman’s accusers or the “teachers of the law” as the ultimate authority or judge of her sins. He decried their tactics.
In his actions, Jesus also challenged the legitimacy of religious rules as a whole. He was tired of watching the religious authorities of that era control and manipulate people through tradition while refusing to minister to the needy or sick that needed God’s mercy the most. He’d be just as sickened by the way that religious authorities and their political allies operate while imposing theocracy on society today.
It is highly likely that Jesus would tell the people passing laws in Texas that their vigilante laws and actions are wrong. He would admonish them, “If you must depend on the law to implement the kingdom of God, you have already failed.”
Jesus would counsel the people of Texas and the rest of the world that it is compassion they should offer women seeking abortions. The real moral argument is not about why women are seeking abortion services, but how all of us can help prevent unwanted conceptions or pregnancies. It is interesting to consider that the real sinners in the Bible story above… are the men walking away without a response about their own sins. For all we know, many of them might have been adulterers themselves. The same goes for abortions. Every woman seeking to end a pregnancy was placed in that position by a man either willingly or irresponsibly impregnating her. It is highly likely that Jesus would turn the question of pregnancy around to indict the men that are too selfish to take responsibility for their own actions.
Jesus also perhaps recognized the dangers in how men in that era viewed women as their property. The patriarchal society in those days pinned women with all kinds of “unclean” labels, such as being ostracized for normal bodily functions including menstruating. Fear and lack of understanding about women’s bodies are still a problem to this day. Until recently, many aspects of medicine including pharmaceuticals were based on men’s anatomy.
The twisted morality of men making laws about women’s bodies has persisted for two thousand years. But it is not godliness that drives their motivations. It is instead acting like God that Jesus most despised. “Let he that is without sin cast the first stone,” should be the operative morality applied to the Texas laws on abortion. The Supreme Court has several members claiming “conservative” values, mostly based on the brand of so-called Christian morality that pre-emptively condemns women seeking an abortion just as vigilantes in the street once condemned the woman “accused” of adultery. Even Chief Justice John Roberts provided a dissent against the six essentially corrupt judges engaging in judicial activism by allowing fifty years of established law (Roe vs. Wade) to be overturned in a single swipe by a batch of moral zealots acting without concern for the lives of women they are impacting.
Jesus would call out their vicious hypocrisy, especially those on the Supreme Court whose past behavior demonstrates willing sinfulness. Yet even those with seemingly less to hide should be ashamed of hiding behind the veil of “constitutionality” in upholding the Texas abortion “laws” that are nothing more than permission for bands of aggressive snitches to persecute the women who most need compassion and support in this world.
The United States of America is famous for its protection of freedoms under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, which provides more specificity than the original document.
Interpreting the freedoms spelled out in the Bill of Rights requires a bit more nuance than some people like to admit. Yet rather than admit they might be overzealous in claiming certain types of freedom for their own purposes, a host of Americans has turned the Constitution into a comfort blanket for selfish notions of what freedom is all about.
For example, the call to wear masks in public places as protection against the Covid-19 Coronavirus is in some quarters deemed a rights infringement by people claiming that their personal freedoms are denied in being asked or mandated to wear a piece of protective fabric over their faces.
The same disenfranchised crowd tends to deny the safety and value of vaccinations available to quell the spread and danger of the often-deadly Coronavirus now threatening to overwhelm health systems in an entirely new wave of the pandemic.
What do we owe the unmasked and unvaccinated, the disenfranchised and determined when their behavior endangers us all?
Some claim that it is wrong to shame or guilt those unwilling to wear a mask or get a vaccination. A Christian spokesperson Daniel Darling on the MSNBC Joe Scarborough show spoke in favor of getting vaccinated, yet went to great lengths telling viewers not to call or brand the unvaccinated “idiots” or any other derogatory term because it is counterproductive.
We’re all familiar with the long list of reasons why people refuse to get vaccinated. So-called “vaccine hesitancy” involves cultural, political, religious and individual beliefs about the safety and reliability of vaccines. The trouble with all these objections is that they avoid the central issue behind vaccine development: to protect human health and save lives.
Thus the unvaccinated, despite all their reasons and objections, remain a threat in societies where progress against the Covid-19 virus stalled because people were too fearful, stubborn, uninformed or aggressively misinformed about vaccines to protect themselves and others.
As grownups, most people develop a sense of perspective and propriety about right and wrong and its impact on personal freedoms. Even if we don’t like or agree with certain laws such as regulations on driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, responsible people respect those laws because they know that statistics clearly show the dangers of impaired driving.
That doesn’t stop some people from driving while drunk, and people die in drunk driving accidents every year. In particular, it is tragic when people too young to know the dangers of impaired driving crash and kill themselves and others. Their childish lack of judgment is further impaired by the power of drugs and alcohol to cause risk-taking behavior.
Kids often don’t like to be told what to do or how to act. They tend to complain about everything from curfews to allowances, dating practices to keeping grades up. We know that even young adults behave in childish ways until they make mistakes that actually cost them a few freedoms or create other consequences.
What we’re witnessing in America right now is a massively childish and immature instinct to claim freedoms and make mistakes that really do have fatal consequences. The unmasked and unvaccinated like to claim that they are taking responsibility for their own lives and actions, but in actuality they are not. These groups of people feed upon the meme-driven defiance of their equally childish peers, cheerleading their “cause” as some kind of superior insight about the science and safety of vaccines. In so doing, they threaten to disenfranchise the rest of us by putting public safety at risk, causing Covid lockdowns and economic pain, and forcing their behavior on the world just like a child that refuses to be disciplined in anything they do.
That raises the question as to whether the unmasked, the unvaccinated and the self-proclaimed disenfranchised are owed any respect, or does the world have the right and even the responsibility toe publicly shame them into appropriate behavior.
People addicted to certain toxic substances or habits sometimes require an intervention to wrest them out of destructive cycles. Of course they often resist, even violently, for being held accountable to the people they’ve harmed and the relationships they’ve destroyed. Much of the cultural impetus for the unmasked, unvaccinated and self-proclaimed disenfranchised is fueled by politicians who seek to gain from toxic populism because it fuels their own ambitions. These same influencers need to be subjected to public intervention as well.
That takes place at the the voting booth, and we’ve seen the outcome of America’s intervention with an out-of-control President who urged the unmasked to behave like children and seems to relish the stubborn nature of the unvaccinated because so many of them view him as a model of counterculture resistance. He appeals to the disenfranchised even as he continues to the behave childishly in denying the outcome of the election that rendered him a loser, the title he most hates to accept.
Do we owe respect to that brand of behavior? The lies? The denial. The mockery of science and the medical specialists working to save lives and get America back on a good path again?
No. What we owe the unmasked, the unvaccinated and the self-proclaimed disenfranchised is a headstrong, tough love intervention in which their childishness is called to account and revealed for what it is. A toxic addiction to selfish immaturity, willing ignorance and cognitive dissonance.
Any self-respecting person should recognize the truth in that.
What now seems like ancient history, the 2000 United States Presidential election was far closer than most of us probably recall. The website 270 to win shares this succinct summary of what transpired in the wake of Bill Clinton’s two terms:
“The United States presidential election of 2000 was a contest between Republican candidate George W. Bush, then-governor of Texas and son of former president George H. W. Bush (1989–1993), and Democratic candidate Al Gore, then-Vice President.
Bill Clinton, the incumbent President, was vacating the position after serving the maximum two terms allowed by the Twenty-second Amendment. Bush narrowly won the November 7 election, with 271 electoral votes to Gore’s 266 (with one elector abstaining in the official tally).”
The election was skewed by several factors, including the distraction of Ralph Nader running for President. The nearly 3M votes he received undoubtedly stoles votes from Gore’s side of the ledger, potentially handing Gore the victory had Nader not stubbornly stuck to his efforts.
What most might recall is the long delay in vote-counting that came down to a Florida decision that handed the election to Bush and Cheney.
2000 Election Facts
Outcome of race unknown for several weeks due to dispute over close vote totals in Florida
Green Party candidate Ralph Nader received 2,882,728 votes, but no Electoral Votes
Gore won DC; however one elector did not cast a vote
One of only 5 elections (1824, 1876, 1888, 2000, 2016) where the popular vote winner was defeated
Issues of the Day: Impeachment, Presidential ethics, Good economy
To make matters worse, the controversies over recounts and the narrow margin of 537 distinguishable votes was thrown first to the Florida Supreme Court and then the United States Supreme court, where five justices nominated by Republican Presidents Reagan, Bush and Nixon all voted to install Bush as President of the United States.
Then the Shit Show began.
First, Bush and Cheney triumphantly ignored credible warnings about the 9/11 attacks handed over from President Clinton and Richard Clarke. We all know what happened then. Terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. The world watched in horror and fear, but the first thing the Bush clan did was fly bin Laden family members out of the country. As reported on CBS News, “Two dozen members of Osama bin Laden’s family were urgently evacuated from the United States in the first days following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, according to the Saudi ambassador to Washington.
One of bin Laden’s brothers frantically called the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington looking for protection, Prince Bandar bin Sultan told The New York Times. The brother was sent to a room in the Watergate Hotel and was told not to open the door.
Most of bin Laden’s relatives were attending high school and college. The young members of the bin Laden family were driven or flown under FBI supervision to a secret place in Texas and then to Washington, The Times reported Sunday.”
Bush and Cheney did the big power play of attacking Afghanistan to get at the vigilante member of the bin Laden family. They failed. Then Bush admitted, “I am not that concerned about him” In fact, bin Laden escaped into Pakistan to hide out for another decade or more before being hunted down and killed during the Obama administration.
All the while, American forces rooted around in Afghanistan trying to quell the influence of the Taliban, who were essentially blamed for the 9/11 attacks when actually, it was just one rich hermit and a band of willing mercenaries that carried out the dirty work of killing thousands of Americans on a bright fall day in New York City on 9/11.
Lying all along
So the Bush-Cheney regime never had the story right or a plan in place to exit Afghanistan if nothing was being accomplished. The Taliban might have been chased into the hills, but did not disappear. When American killed one Taliban leader another one simply slipped into place. As all this warlike activity transpired, warlords sucked up skidloads of American dollars while our troops tried not to get killed. Thousands did. Tens of thousands more were wounded. And still we stayed.
That was not even the worst part of life after Gore lost to Bush. Because one of the pet projects of the illegitimate President was to attempt a Middle East takeover with an invasion of Iraq. The United States attacked that nation based on falsified information about weapons of mass destruction of which international inspection teams found no evidence. Even General Colin Powell got sucked into the Post-9/11 fray and lied to us all about what was really going on in Iraq.
Which was awful, but still no reason to invade that nation on claims that it had anything to do with 9/11 or that Iraq posed any terrorist threat to the United States. Yet still we attacked. Saddam Hussein was captured, tried and sentenced to death. But all that America could find to do in the wake of that murderer’s death was to round people up and torture them in the same prisons used by Hussein to persecute his own countrymen.
The Iraq War Crimes Adventure also welcomed mercenary forces from guns-for-hire companies such as Blackwater and Halliburton, both of which reportedly direspected American troops and committed war crimes of their own on occasion.
The Brookings Institute reported: “But there were two problems: Despite its mission of guarding U.S. officials in Iraq, Blackwater had no license with the Iraqi government. Secondly, the murky legal status of the contractors meant they might be considered exempt from Iraqi law because of a mandate left over from the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S. governing authority in Iraq that was dissolved more than two years prior.”
The relative lawlessness that led to billions of dollars wasted in military expenditures, torture and war crimes in Iraq seemed not to bother the Bush regime. It was our soldiers that paid for this folly with their health and their lives. Men like Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld famously dismissed our military’s lack of preparation for the Iraq venture by stating, ““You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”
Such was the unapologetic approach of Bush and Cheney to everything they encountered. As America squandered trillions in its treasure on extended, fruitless wars, the world’s climate was busy heating up due to global warming. The Republican control of the Oval Office, Senate, Congress and the Supreme Court ensured that no legislation would pass to help counter the rolling effects of carbon dioxide polluting the atmosphere. Al Gore published a book warning that America had better look out for its true enemy, which was climate change, but conservatives mocked him as pedantic and hypocritical.
Now the government in Afghanistan has collapsed and the Taliban rushed across the nation taking over provincial capitols and finally, the national government in Kabul gave up and ran off. None of the Afghani troops “trained” by American forces over the last two decades put up any resistance. The entire Bush-Cheney debacle collapsed before the world’s eyes. Meanwhile, climate change is burning up the world with July 2021 registering as the hottest month in all recorded history.
It would have been so much different had Al Gore not been blocked from serving as President of the United States. He won the popular vote. In all likelihood, he even won the Electoral College vote if politics had not been played in the queasy state of Florida.
We could have avoided 9/11. Most certainly, the former VP is a prudent man who understood the threat of terrorism in real time, not as some abstract distraction to be avoided by the likes of Bush and Cheney. America might well have taken steps to ward off climate change as well. At least we’d have a start of some sort.
Lies and racism
Instead, we were forced to suffer through eight years of blatant lies and ractist attacks against President Obama, who also happened to rescue the nation from the collapsed economy wrought by the many abuses wrought upon it during the Bush years, when the price of health insurance alone climbed by 96%. When Obama pushed for the Affordable Health Care act, Republicans attacked the concept as unconstitutional and socialist. But much like Al Gore, Obama had American’s long-term interests in mind.
Trump was nothing more than a feckless version of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, combined. He exhibits the same bumbling inability to communicate effectively, instead engaging in a “downtalking” approach soaked in the ideology of victimhood. He pats his supporters on the head with patriarchal cynicism and glee, also welcoming the adoring affections of hypocritical evangelical supporters eager to trade their religious ethics for access to power.
Trump devastated the country with hapless tariffs, greedy tax cuts and rampant golfing excursions that cost the country hundreds times more than the meager $360K (or whatever) salary comes with the office. Where Obama was serious, considerate and collaborative, Trump was specious, angry, and bullying.
That approach appealed to his deplorable political base, which included openly racist populists and whorishly sycophantic political operatives within his administration that to this day claim that a legitimate election was stolen through some outlandish method for which there is zero evidence. That led to a massive insurrection in which the core of governance in the United States of America was under attack by a fascist mob urged on (and gleefully witnessed) by Trump and his minions.
But then, there was zero real evidence for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. There was zero evidence that Rush Limbaugh was ever honest or right about anything in his life. There was zero evidence that torture was necessary or desirable in Iraq. Zero evidence that Guantanamo was a good way to hold supposed terrorists when many were simply people caught up in the military horrors executed upon Iraq and Afghanistan.
There is zero evidence that anything the Republican Party has done the last twenty to forty years has benefited the United States of America in any way. There is less than zero evidence that the party proper has any intention of admitting to its incompetence, cruelty, or the many criminal indictments and convictions of its political representatives during the Reagan, Bush II or Trump administrations.
Yes, this country and the whole world could–and should–have been much different if Al Gore had become President. Instead, we’re left with a nation torn apart by domestic terrorists, gun proliferation, racism on the rise, and attacks on the Capitol by lawless vigilantes acting on the urges of a twice-impeached ex-President who lied so often in office that the entire world was gaslighted by his dangerously narcissistic psyche.
His toxic brand of rule led to more than 600,000 Americans dying from Covid-19 infection in a country where it was perfectly possible to prevent such tragic loss of life. But Trump lied to the nation about the threat, obscured its potential contagiousness, and mocked those wearing masks to prevent its spread. Even to this moment in time, his ardently deluded supporters refuse to wear masks and are contracting the Delta variant and dying in the hospital while begging to be vaccinated.
But it’s too late, in most of those case. It’s almost too late to recognize the pandemic that is Republican policy and the anti-government plague it has wrought on the country. As President Joe Biden noted, we have a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” That symbolizes the delusional nature of gaslighting tactics dating all the way back to President Ronald Reagan and his anti-American claim that government must be shrunk down to nothing in order to serve the people better. He was a liar just like the Bushes and the Cheney’s and the Trumps. The McConnells and the McCarthys are just as bad, along with the Fox News and Tucker Carlson crowd. It’s sickening.
None of this would have happened if Al Gore had become President. None of it.
Driving down the country road that leads to our house, I witnessed a grey squirrel perched on the double-yellow line in the middle of the asphalt. It stopped, twitched its tail a few times, yet neglected to move. Finally, as my vehicle approached at 35 mph, he darted toward the far side of the road and then shot back suddenly in front the car.
This time, I didn’t hit the squirrel. But sadly, I have run over a few squirrels in the past. You can’t tell what they’re going to do sometimes. The situation only gets worse on roads where multiple vehicles are approaching the same squirrel in the middle of the road. The rodent darts one way, then the other. The cars veer to avoid hitting the squirrel and almost run into each other. But so many times, in so many places, the squirrel zips under a vehicle wheel and winds up twitching and half-dead on the road.
I’ve looked hopefully into the rear view mirror on a few occasions to see if the squirrel I ran over got away. You don’t always hear if they were struck or not. I wince recalling the sight of a squirrel writhing in pain back in my lane. It always feels terrible t kill something like that.
Do squirrels deserve it?
Some people might say, “Well, the dumb squirrels deserve it. They shouldn’t live so close to the road.” Okay, bad choices do have consequences. That’s somewhat how evolution works. Squirrels that don’t survive to breed another year do not get to pass on their genes to the next generation. Over time, perhaps we’ll have squirrels that are better at avoiding cars. Perhaps we already do. That’s one aspect of natural selection.About 15 to 25 percent of young squirrels survive during their first year in life. How many die under car wheels is not exactly known. The colloquial answer is sufficient: Plenty.
Squirrels evolved in a world where there were no roads. No traffic. While they evolved as a species 40-50 million years ago, they’ve only had one hundred years to adapt their behavior patterns to speeding cars. Their world revolves around finding food. And while their instincts clearly tell them to avoid something large charging at them, nothing like a two-ton inanimate vehicle was around just two hundred years ago to change their habits.
Avoiding (or courting) trouble
As human beings, we generally suppose we are smarter than squirrels. We supposedly know how to read situations and avoid trouble. If we see something large or threatening charging at us, our ability to reason tells us how to avoid it. The brightest among us know enough to anticipate danger and take measures to protect our own safety. Anti-vaxxers are not that smart.
Somer types of human squirrels choose to deny that trouble exists even when it is bearing down upon them. They might even see other squirrels dying on the road of life and yet still they stand there, twitching their tails like there is no tomorrow. Some arrogantly assume that God will protect them from disease better than medical science.
Behaving squirrelly during the pandemic
Hundreds of thousands of people died from Covid-19 before a vaccine was available to help ward off the threat of death. Those deaths were not their fault. They were in part the fault of a bloated Fox Squirrel of a human being with an orange face and a penchant for barking up the wrong tree.
Fortunately, scientists did anticipate this danger well in advance of the Coronavirus. They’ve been working on cures for Covid and other strains of illness that jump from animal populations to humans. They are smart squirrels whom dumb squirrels like to malign for avoiding the Deadly Highway of Ignorance.
Science works wonders
The science behind the vaccines to fight this virus was years in the making. What remained was to target the vaccine to combat the specific virus we needed to beat. That involved a technological methodology in one of the vaccines that acts by sending a chemical message to the infected cells that sets off an immunity reaction. Pretty genius. Thank God for smart human squirrels who want to keep people from being run over during pandemics.
This wasn’t the last pandemic the world will face. Our anthropogenic intrusion on the wilds of the world is bringing us into closer proximity with a diversity in diseases that once stood out of reach. When those diseases make the jump to people, millions of humans are effectively “in the way.” They are at risk of being run down by Ebola or any number of infections attacking our systems.
Getting vaccinated makes sense even to chipmunks
Smart people know enough to get vaccinated when helpful medicines become available. In areas of North America where people are vaccinated, the death rates caused by Covid plummeted. In fact, Illinois recently had zero deaths from Covid infection, the first day in well over a year where that was the case. Being humble enough to know when an issue is bigger than you are is a real life saver. Even a chipmunk knows that.
But in areas like Missouri where a large population of “Show Me State” occupants still refuse to get vaccinated, people are getting mowed down like herds of squirrels too stubborn to get off the road.
A numbers game
This is a numbers game, you see. The people choosing to ignore the threat of impending disease are like squirrels living next to a road where traffic speeds by every day. They may make it safely across many times, but eventually, they will get hit.
They hear terms like herd immunity and think it means they are invincible in the face of a virus threat. They do so without realizing that a vaccine provides herd immunity if they’d only take the shot and stop believing in squirrelly theories about the government or Bill Gates is intent on sticking chips in their bodies or turning them into magnetic devices somehow.
It takes a squirrel-sized brain to believe in conspiracy theories over proven medicine. That means anti-vaxxers are still standing out in the middle of the Pandemic Highway screaming “We want our freedom! No one can make us get vaccinated!”
Truth is, they have a rather stark choice to make. They can get the vaccine, or risk getting run over by the Mack Truck of Covid. Then, their fuzzy conspiracy tales won’t matter one bit because they’ll be dead.
Let’s hope that reality sinks into everyone’s squirrelly head.
This blog fits here too. “Personally, I don’t think the United States has ever been any different. There is a strain of obstinance––the “wrong kind of pride”––woven into the American populace from the beginning. The wrong kind of pride is responsible for horrific moments in history such as proliferation of slavery and a secession in an attempt to protect it. The wrong kind of pride also fuels white supremacy, anti-Semitism, anti-feminism and anti-gay bigotry. The wrong kind of pride drives religious hatred, wars of choice and resistance to truth of all kinds.”
The single most frustrating aspect of living through this pandemic is the persistent strain of obstinance evident in so much of the population.
Obstinance: is a characteristic of being impossibly stubborn. Like a bull that won’t budge, obstinance keeps people from going with the flow.
We’ve seen obstinance from people refusing to wear masks.
Obstinance from people refusing to get vaccinated.
Obstinance by arrogant people gathering in social gathering without masks to create super-spreader events.
It’s been one bit of obstinance after another.
Obstinance is mostly a matter of false pride. Clinging to a belief that is tightly held, often for all the wrong reasons.
Like mask-wearing. Was it ever a question of personal freedom? Is asking people to wear a mask any different than asking them to wear pants in public? It’s not. But people chose to fight the idea of masks rather than…