Worshipping the wrong heroes

G. Gordon Liddy. A lifetime cheater who claimed a higher ground.

The Chicago Tribune carried a news story about the death at age 90 of G. Gordon Liddy, the well-known mastermind of the Watergate burglary that led to scandal and the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon.

Liddy said of his actions, “I’m proud of the fact that I am the guy who did not talk.”

That sort of “loyalty” leads to all kinds of misery in this world. The Tribune article contained this interesting observation. “Born in Hoboken, N.J., George Gordon Battle Liddy was a frail boy who grew up in a neighborhood populated mostly by German-Americans. From friends and a maid who was a German national, Liddy developed a curiosity about German leader Adolf Hitler and was inspired by listening to Hitler’s radio speeches in the 1930s.’

As we all know, followers of Hitler were famous for ‘not talking’ even as the regime carried through on plans for a Holocaust taking the lives of millions of people. All while Hitler claimed to be aiming the nation toward a “higher ground.”

But Liddy liked Hitler because he felt kinship with the man’s journey from frailty to power.

“If an entire nation could be changed, lifted out of weakness to extraordinary strength, so could one person,” Liddy wrote in “Will,” his autobiography. Liddy decided it was critical to face his fears and overcome them. At age 11, Liddy roasted a rat and ate it to overcome his fear of rats. “From now on, rats could fear me as they feared cats,” he wrote.

That instinct for payback against the world seems to have driven Liddy to extremes in ideology that bordered on manic. “While recruiting a woman to help carry out one of his schemes, Liddy tried to convince her that no one could force him to reveal her identity or anything else against his will. To convince her, Liddy held his hand over a flaming cigarette lighter. His hand was badly burned. The woman turned down the job.”

That refusal to join Liddy’s team was an indication of sanity. No completely rational person behaves as Liddy did in that or any other circumstance.

Manic charisma

Liddy’s crazed brand of commitment to cause and manic charisma grew a great following among conservatives as he became a popular media personality. “Liddy learned to market his reputation as a fearless, if sometimes overzealous, advocate of conservative causes. Liddy’s syndicated radio talk show, broadcast from Virginia-based WJFK, was long one of the most popular in the country. He wrote best-selling books, acted in TV shows like “Miami Vice,” was a frequent guest lecturer on college campuses, started a private eye franchise and worked as a security consultant. For a time, he teamed on the lecture circuit with an unlikely partner, 1960s LSD guru Timothy Leary.”

Liddy never hid even his most dire intentions, even illegal motives: “Liddy became known for such offbeat suggestions as kidnapping war protest organizers and taking them to Mexico during the Republican National Convention; assassinating investigative journalist Jack Anderson; and firebombing the Brookings Institution, a left-leaning think tank in Washington where classified documents leaked by Ellsberg were being stored.”

History shows that Liddy worked to subvert the legitimate dealings of government on behalf of Nixon. After serving time for his crimes, he decide to plant roots of public distrust in the government and even law enforcement agents. “In the mid-1990s, Liddy told gun-toting radio listeners to aim for the head when encountered by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. “Head shots, head shots,” he stressed, explaining that most agents wear bullet-resistant vests under their jackets. Liddy said later he wasn’t encouraging people to hunt agents, but added that if an agent comes at someone with deadly force, “you should defend yourself and your rights with deadly force.”

It is no wonder that an America fed such rhetoric for so long grew immune to the use of high-powered, cop-killing weapons such as AR-15s when men like Liddy were spouting anti-government rhetoric over the decades. Liddy normalized such violence in the minds of millions of people. He made them believe that violence equals patriotism and freedom.

Fascist roots and violent instincts

Liddy’s autocratic attitude and fascist roots fueled his violent instincts. These he spilled into the American dialogue without remorse or responsibility. We can draw a straight line from Liddy’s unhinged rhetoric to the brute nature of Trumpism and the insurrection at the Capitol driven by domestic terrorists, white supremacists and stark-raving nationalists claiming.the higher ground even while they devastated law officers charged with protecting the elected official inside.

One can easily imagine G. Gordon Liddy masterminding such a coup, just as he tried to do way back in the 1970s.Trump preached to his followers in advance of his attempted sedition, “Come to DC. It will be wild!”

Trump’s level of corruption exceeded even President Ronald Reagan’s administration, one of the most corrupt in history with a pile of indictments and convictions left behind. The leading contender for Most Corrupt was Colonel Oliver North, who engineered the Iran-Contra affair and then went on to preach in mega-churches that he’s always been on God’s side.

Generations of lies

The liar in chief Donald Trump made a career exploiting cognitive dissonance in his followers.

A significant portion of America has spent several generations worshipping the wrong kind of heroes. That political bulwark Pat Buchanan claims this backwards philosophy of elevating criminals and corrupt bigots to top-level posts is pointing the country in the right direction. In a column titled “Trump–Once and Future Kind,” he praises the ex-president for his supposed success in economic terms. “Trump succeeded in enacting the traditional GOP platform of low taxes and deregulation, producing record-low unemployment — before the pandemic hit”

But Buchanan exhibits cognitive dissonance in his failure to even mention how Trump instantly spoiled economic prospects by selfishly denying the portent of the pandemic because he feared any deleterious effects to the economy. The result was a pandemic that spilled out of control, resulting in the need for economic lockdowns at the state level to assist overwhelmed healthcare systems. Trump’s lack of vision and stubborn claim that the pandemic was not a threat––despite his own admission to Bob Woodward that it was––directly caused the downfall of his supposed plans for prosperity. Trump has no one to blame but himself for his failure as a President.

Yet Trump speciously claimed the election itself was fraudulent because he could not imagine that so many would show up to vote against his despotic lies and political deceptions.

Blame Bush and Cheney, if anyone

Trump liked to blame all of America’s problems on President Barack Obama. But actually, the endless wars and drain on the economy caused by the economic recession under Bush took every effort by Obama to reconcile. He was largely a success at that, and won a second term despite constant Republican obfuscation.

Obama could not cure all of Bush’s mess because the GOP never admitted they were the primary cause. The feckless administrative style of George Bush depended on the direction of Dick Cheney, mastermind of the doctrine that led our country into the war in Iraq under false and badly miscalculated pretenses. That cost the country $7T in Iraq alone, all while torturing and killing its residents in the supposed name of peace. That war was America’s greatest failure, worse in many respects than the Vietnam debacle fifty years before.

All this misguided saber-rattling impoverishes the nation yearly, with a military so bloated by waste that a recent investigation into its accounting procedures resulted in a “no-contest” from the accountants hired to do the job. “We can’t even begin to figure out where the money goes,” was the summary issued, and I paraphrase, but that’s the outcome.

It all comes back to the toxic misappropriation of honesty and truth by men like G. Gordon Liddy, Oliver North, Dick Cheney and Donald Trump. They are all men raised to believe in themselves as a higher power unto itself. Those who believe in them are worshipping the wrong kind of heroes.

Trump and his supporters refuse to understand: It’s his own fault

The riots and attack on the US government at the United States Capitol building are proving one thing: America really does need to be concerned about the rise of fascism in this nation.

All summer long during protests against the murder of Black citizens by police were conducted by Black Lives Matter and other social conscience groups. Some of those protests were marked by looting that harmed businesses. That was enough for Trump and his supporters to claim the two responses to police brutality were automatically related.

Other nations

The peaceful interior of the Segrada Familia basilica and Barcelona Spain in fact is a form of protest against the legalistic strictures of the Catholic Church as its architect Antonio Gaudi drew on the organic source of all creation to depict God’s glory inside a cathedral and outside on its structure. Photo by Christopher Cudworth in Barcelona, Spain in 2019.

We can turn to the nation of Spain for perspective on the relationship between protests for social justice and independence. I happened to be in Barcelona on a vacation in 2019 during the weekend when originally peaceful protests turned ugly. The issue in Spain was a call for “self-determination” by citizens of the Catalaonian region. They sought independence from the central government in Spain over issues of taxation. Catalan residents sought to secede from Spain. Right-wing defendants of Spain’s traditional national structure and constitution sought to crack down on the protests.

That’s when things turned sour in Barcelona. As reported on Reuters.com, “Barcelona town hall said 400 garbage containers were set ablaze on Wednesday and estimated that the city had suffered damage totaling more than 1 million euros ($1.1 million) in two days. Some city residents condemned the rioting. “This doesn’t represent the majority of Catalans, whichever side they are on, be they pro-constitution or pro-independence,” said Joan, a 50-year-old small-business owner.

The political issues in Spain differ from those in America, yet the cycles of protest and governmental crackdowns and pursuant violence on the part of “protestors” is quite similar to patterns in the United States.

As Reuters reported, “Young people draped in Catalan flags congregated peacefully, tossing balls and skipping rope. Later the mood turned ugly, with protesters setting fire to cafe chairs on the fashionable Rambla de Catalunya street at the heart of the tourist district.

Earlier in the day, thousands of students took to the streets, some hurling eggs at police holding riot shields. Marches from around the region are due to converge on Barcelona on Friday and unions have called a general strike for the day.

“It’s not about who is a separatist and who is not – it’s about human rights,” said Aila, a student who declined to give her family name.”

Black Lives Matter and Antifa

That sounds so familiar. Here in America, hundreds of thousands of protestors also sought to stand up for human rights. Their cause was calling attention to the series of Black people shot or suffocated by police. The incident with George Floyd in which an officer put a knee on the man’s neck until he died went viral and served to illuminate the cause of minorities around the world.

But Trump and his supporters appeared unmoved by the calls for change, and protests escalated as a result. Property damage was rampant, and a loosely organized group calling itself Antifa rose to national prominence as Trump sought to place blame for the violence on an enemy he target for derision by his supporters. That meant Trump lumped everyone together in one supposedly “evil” group that he blamed for property damage. But the people seeking social justice weren’t willing to live with that accusation. They persisted in peaceful protests. I witnessed the “rebound effect” of peaceful protestors while visiting Madison, Wisconsin this summer following weeks of unrest. The boarded up businesses were decorated with messages of love and reminders of why the protests were initiated in the first place. That may have been no comfort to businesses affected by the lockdowns, but that effect was not solely the result of protests. There was the scourge of Coronavirus that Trump refused to address. That incalcitrance toward any authority other than his own was the cause of more suffering in the United States than any protest, Antifa or not, could muster. That’s the reality Trump sought to avoid.

A Black Lives Matter sign painted on boarded up property in Madison, Wisconsin during the protests of summer 2020. Photo by Christopher Cudworth

The problem with the Trump tactic is that was successful with his supporters and his Republican allies eager to shift blame away from the President by siding with him in the depiction of all protestors as the “common enemy.” That means the original cause of the social justice protestors––justice for Black citizens and change in brutal police tactics––was effectively left behind. That is exactly how Trump likes it. His entire tactic in politics is to distract from the bad things he’s done and/or approved by redirecting blame toward anyone he depicts as the “common enemy.” In that regard, he has quite familiar company in history.

The concept of propaganda

Consider this excerpt from the Nuremberg 1934 rally, in which Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels outlines the premise and purpose of propaganda:

“The concept of propaganda has undergone a fundamental transformation, particularly as the result of political practice in Germany. Throughout the world today, people are beginning to see that a modern state, whether democratic or authoritarian, cannot withstand the subterranean forces of anarchy and chaos without propaganda. It is not only a matter of doing the right thing; the people must understand that the right thing is the right thing. Propaganda includes everything that helps the people to realize this.”

He goes on to state, “Propaganda is a means to an end. Its purpose is to lead the people to an understanding that will allow it to willingly and without internal resistance devote itself to the tasks and goals of a superior leadership. If propaganda is to succeed, it must know what it wants. It must keep a clear and firm goal in mind, and seek the appropriate means and methods to reach that goal. Propaganda as such is neither good nor evil. Its moral value is determined by the goals it seeks.”

Trump propaganda

In the case of Donald Trump, that “purpose” in mind is keeping power at all costs. That aligns with his central goal of self-interest. His policies fulfill promises to others that can help him keep power. But his actions aside from that are all about winning and protecting access to power.

The incalcitrant dictator is most at home when his frequent misdeeds are kept in the dark.

That explains his lies to cover up the threat of the pandemic in its early stages. His central goal in presenting information about the Coronavirus was to protect his image going into the 2020 election. To do that, he sought to downplay the seriousness of the virus and how many people it could possible kill. His interest was in protecting the economy upon which he believed his re-election depended. Yet his selfishness backfired as the virus raged through the American population, threatening to overwhelm hospitals as thousands died from Covid-19. The economy reeled. He raged against the lockdowns proclaimed by state governors as necessary to curb the spread of the disease.

That was Trump’s version of a “protest.” Yet it was his original inaction and refusal to engage the federal government in meaningful distribution of PPE and support for state efforts to conduct testing and reduce infection rates that led to the United States becoming the nation whose citizens were banned from traveling to countries around the world. Trump cynically and ignorantly blamed “testing” as the reason why the infection rates were so high. “If we didn’t do so much testing, there wouldn’t be so many infections,” seemed to be his reasoning.

The confusing mix of disease and outrage

So the summer months were a confusing mix of disease and outrage as American citizens endured the uncontrolled spread of Coronavirus even as Trump refused to wear a mask in public and an entire ‘protest’ movement of Anti-Maskers sprung up within his movement. They claimed that wearing masks infringed on their personal freedoms. Men like noted conservative and former presidential candidate Herman Cain refused to wear a mask in public. He contracted Covid-19 and died as a result.

That incident describes the twisted reasoning and dangers of Trumpism.

In the same way, it was Trump sending out federal troops in a fascist show of strength in Portland and other cities that led to increased resistance and more radicalized response in cities across the country. The Trump administration resorted to posting unidentified, heavily armed guards in Washington, D.C. in one of the most fascist demonstrations of governmental secrecy in American history. No one knew who those guards reported to, or what their purpose was other than to serve as a threat that the right to protest at all was under threat.

Then Trump marched across the street in the company of military personnel while flash-bangs and other deterrence methods were aimed at peaceful protestors gathered around a church in Washington. Trump held up a Bible (upside down, it appears) in clear demonstration of the religio-fascist relationship he maintains with zealously bigoted evangelicals calling for outright theocracy in American government.

Trump supporters long to point toward his “policies” as signs of his success the last four years. But even the supposed lists of accomplishments now circulating in defensive memes are rife with contradictions. His supposed Mideast accords are little more than disguised acts of Zionism and anti-Palestinian intrigue. Trump’s forceful collapse of the Iran nuclear control deal is enabling the re-establishment of that nation’s programs. HIs tax cuts did nothing for the middle class while enriching the wealthiest Americans, and his inaction on Coronavirus crushed millions of jobs while Republican Senators and Congressman fought significant relief bills to help everyday Americans. If one were to draft a program to make American lives worse rather than better, there is none better than the lack of platform resolved by the Republican Party and the sycophantic support they’ve granted their Fascist in Chief. The GOP, as I’ve previously written, simply got pimped.

Fascist takeover

This arc toward fascist takeover of American society was not lost on Trump supporters whose beliefs about American justice were formed and fomented by propaganda spouted by Trump well before the 2020 election even took place. Upon losing, Trump declared the results “fraudulent” and proceeded to carry out 60 fraudulent lawsuits that were in turn rejected by courts on the basis of no evidence to support them.

None of that stopped Trump or his fascist henchman Rudy Giuliani from continuing their attack on democratic processes. Right up to the certification of the Electoral College votes, Trump and Rudy G collared Republican Congressman, Senators, state governors and even election officials. They issued dictates and threats. When all this continued to fail, Trump called his supporters into action in Washington. He directed them to march on the Capitol in hopes that the disruption would delay or cancel the counting of Electoral College votes altogether.

The riotous mob did invade and seek to destroy the Capitol building and its occupants. They came armed with ties in hopes of kidnapping the Vice President or the Speaker of the House. Anyone they regarded as “treasonous” was a potential target. Even those tasked with defending the safety of the Capitol building were subject to fascist fury. A Capitol guard was slaughtered by “protestors” using a fire extinguisher to pound the life out of him.

It’s his own fault, not ours

The bellicose grandiosity of Donald Trump is coming back at him with a vengeance.

All of this is inescapably the fault of “President” Donald Trump, whose impeachment for attempts to corrupt the 2020 election were both justified and accurate. So was the Article of Impeachment about obstruction of justice, an action that Trump has taken multiple times and in multiple ways during his administration, all while crying out that he is the victim of a “witch hunt.”

But the witch hunt that sprung into life on January 6 was one driven by those who support Trump, and no one else. It bears echoes of the witch hunt conducted by Michigan Trump supporters who first stormed that state’s Capitol building, then conspired to kidnap the state governor.

The witch hunt also burst into murderous flames in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where a young kid inflamed by propagandistic rhetoric about the actions of Antifa, and not the cause of their concerns, shot several people to death in what his supporters immediately claimed as an act of “self-defense.”

It won’t be long before Trump makes the same claim for himself, that his supporters were acting in on his behalf, as an act of “self-defense” against the supposedly fraudulent results of the election. That is the Big Lie upon which all of Trumpism now depends. It is one Trump originated even before the 2016 election took place. It is a lie he will likely repeat until his is in his grave. He simply can’t accept the reality that Antifa exists in direct relationship to his fascist persona and the actions it has begotten.

That is the ultimate irony in all of this. Trump supporters refuse to understand that Donald Trump brought this upon America, and upon himself.

UNITED STATES – NOVEMBER 19: Rudolph Giuliani, attorney for President Donald Trump, conducts a news conference at the Republican National Committee, on lawsuits regarding the outcome of the 2020 presidential election on Thursday, November 19, 2020. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Losers prove their credulity in refusing to concede

Credulity: a tendency to be too ready to believe that something is real or true.

President Donald Trump apparently still believes he won the election. The conservative media outlet Newsmax relayed these beliefs in story published Tuesday, November 24. It states:

“President Donald Trump is vowing to “never concede,” the “most corrupt election in American political history”— despite the General Services Administration giving the go-ahead to Joe Biden to begin a transition to the White House.

Trump’s remarks came in a late Monday night tweet. He wrote: “What does GSA being allowed to preliminarily work with the Dems have to do with continuing to pursue our various cases on what will go down as the most corrupt election in American political history? We are moving full speed ahead. Will never concede to fake ballots & “Dominion.”

The Sulking Loser.

Clearly, Trump is hoping to paint himself as a heroic figure and a martyr in the face of his massive loss in the 2020 election. President-Elect Joe Biden earned exactly as many Electoral College votes in this year’s election as Trump achieved in 2016 while defeating Hillary Clinton. Trump branded that victory a “landslide” and claimed it as a mandate to do what he wanted with the nation, no matter what the laws governing his conduct and activities dictated to the contrary.

His supporters embraced the landslide mentality while crowing “elections have consequences,” never acknowledging the corrupt nature of Trump’s tactics either during the election or in the months or years to follow. His supporters were so eager to believe in their man as a political Messiah and a literal tool of God that Trump once claimed he could shoot people in the street and his supporters would not abandon him.

That’s not loyalty. That’s cult worship. All of it depends on credulity, the willingness to believe that everything that Trump says is true. In fact, so little truth has come from Trump or his administration the entire Republican Party has been forced to lie along with him or risk running afoul of his considerable ire. Political operatives at all levels and stripes have cowered as cowards while credulity swept over the nation.

The problem with credulity as a rule of thought is that it is so easily converted to fascist beliefs in the classic sense. That’s exactly what has transpired under the authoritarian rule of Donald Trump, the Con Man turned Strong Man.

Fascism (/ˈfæʃɪzəm/) is a form of far-right, authoritarian ultranationalism characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition and strong regimentation of society and of the economy which came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe.

Fascist Order.

Trump began his rule by embracing authoritarian leaders around the world. He repeatedly suggested that his own position bestowed dictatorial powers upon his person. He invited forcible suppression of his perceived opposition on many fronts, beginning with chants of “Lock Her Up” during his political campaigns. He is finishing now by trying to steal the election (while gaslighting the nation about it) from Joe Biden by attempting to overturn legitimate election results using lawyers, guns and money, whatever it takes. All those are taking the form of real threats. In Trump’s mind, the fear of losing justifies using any means to take power back from people he considers inferior to his own cabal. Amusingly, he promised to pack up and disappear if he lost the election. Well, he lost. But instead of leaving, he’s floating around in a toilet bowl of porcelain consternation while his orange face paint leaves skid marks on his legacy.

As for the strong regimentation of society, Donald Trump repeatedly Tweeted the words “Law and Order” all this year while encouraging police brutality and marching across a Washington street in the company of military leaders. All to hold a Bible aloft as if he is a warrior for God. As if, indeed. Trump is so un-Christlike there is no metaphor or allegory to draw a sufficient comparison.

And finally, let’s consider what Trump has done to the economy. Despite all claims to the contrary, Trump’s tax cuts massively benefitted the rich while leaving the middle class and poor wondering why their tax bills shot up the same year in which there was a supposed tax cut. The excuse: “Oh, well you had to let your accountant or employer know that you wanted more money taken out this year. In the long run, it will even out.” Thanks for telling us, asshole.

The Painted Pimp.

Then came Covid, and millions of people were thrown out of work in the wake of Trump’s patent denial that the pandemic was a threat at all in America. His credulity was revealed later in the year when journalist Bob Woodward published interviews with the President in which he openly admitted that the Coronavirus was a really ‘bad deal’ in terms of how it compared to annual flu and the like. Put plainly, Trump lied to the American people about the threat. He did so to avoid causing any sort of reaction that might upset the economy. That backfired when hospitals were overwhelmed as the pandemic swept across the nation and people started dying by the thousands. We’re now at 250,000 as the predicted peak season in the winter months is about to hit.

And what is Trump doing about the pandemic in the last days of his presidency? Nothing. He doesn’t care if more people die. If anything, he’s ignoring the fact of his massive failure to manage the pandemic all along.

Yet today, he did trot out to claim victory for the Dow Jones average reaching 30,000. Ironically, that performance is more of a response to the predicted stability brought about by Biden’s election victory.

Credulity reigns among Trump supporters.

But credulity still reigns in the minds of Trump and his supporters. They are so eager to believe that he could not lose, they increase their loser status with every new layer of denial.

The Urban Dictionary lays it all out in its definition for the word LOSER.

Loser A “loser” is someone who doesn’t know what they have and fucks it up.They are always making bad choices and fuck up their and everyone’s lives around them.

That is a perfect description of what the Trump era has done. Trump never knew what America is about in the first place. His Make America Great Again slogan was nothing more than anachronistic, nationalistic, racist beliefs wrapped in a security blanket of victimhood to which Trump grandly appealed with his downtalking manner and his phony-ass sympathy for the downtrodden.

King of the Losers. That is all.

He’s a fraud and the King of the Losers when it comes to understanding what it means to accept defeat with a degree of honesty and class. He makes losers out of all of us by persisting in his sociopathic game of vain heroics. The best thing that could happen for America is for Donald Trump and his family to face the fire of legal persecution for the emolument breaches, the grifting of government money, the corruption of post-election lies and the collusion between Trump and the long line of criminals associated with his sick rise to power.

And that includes the whorish evangelicals, the sycophantic GOP and the suburban women praying to God he’ll point them out in the crowd.

What GOP stands for these days

I looked up the history of the acronym GOP as a shorthand for the Republican Party. The Wikipedia page on the Republican Party says this:

“The term “Grand Old Party” is a traditional nickname for the Republican Party and the abbreviation “GOP” is a commonly used designation. The term originated in 1875 in the Congressional Record, referring to the party associated with the successful military defense of the Union as “this gallant old party”.

I’d always thought it stood for Grand Old Party, which is just as lame. But these days, the Republican Party is anything but Grand or Gallant. So the old terminology is moot. I propose that we give the GOP a new set of more accurate terms to replace its traditional claims to grandness or gallantry.

GOP and dying wishes

The option I propose, given the Republican Party’s tactics over the last fifteen years or so, is a far more accurate description of how the GOP operates. We’ll get to that in a moment.

But first, we need to understand the nature of the most recent hypocrisy. That is the installation of a third Supreme Court justice by decree of Donald Trump. We all recall how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell self-righteously claimed that no President up for election within the year should be granted the right to nominate a Supreme Court judge. So McConnell blocked Merrick Garland’s nomination, only to invite Trump’s last-minute nomination of a constitutional originalist to replace the recently deceased Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose dying wish was that her replacement would not be named until after the election.

The GOP has for decades been whining about so-called “activist judges” on the Supreme Court. Their concerns have focused on the idea that supposedly “liberal” justices are legislating “from the bench” by voting in favor of civil rights, economic parity, corporate responsibility and environmental justice in America rather than dragging the nation back to an interpretation of the United States Constitution before slavery was outlawed, women had the right to vote and America was a population of just 2.5M people. But here’s a fact that matters: The country is 130 times larger today according to the United States Census Bureau. We have fifty states, not just a few. We are a diverse nation thanks to immigration over dozens of decades and a couple centuries. The Constitution as it was originally written was never sufficient to cover all that change. The Founders knew that, which is why the power to commend Amendments to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were implemented. To ignore that wisdom is to kick the Founder right in their constitutional nuts.

Yet that’s what some in the GOP love to do.

Changing America

The idea that America is the “same place” as it was 243 years ago is an example of the controlling, abusive notion that all the Amendments and beneficial changes in law and policy installed since that time are meaningless affectations adopted by a whimsically feckless population of liberals.

Ironically, this country would not even have the Second Amendment if things had stayed fixed in place as Constitutional originalists would have it. On that subject, perhaps they’re correct that amendments can be used for ill-suited purposes. After all, America does not seem capable of managing “A well-regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state…” Now we’re being gaslighted by vigilante militias and the GOP, both who claim to represent an originalist interpretation of the Second Amendment that ignores that opening phrase in favor of the latter, “…the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

That is the gaslighting tactic (a lie by selective judgment) upon which activist interpretations of the Second Amendment now depend. As a result, Americans are literally being gaslighted to death by rampant gun violence in the streets, doctrinally motivated mass shooters armed to the teeth, and self-professed militia members playing soldier while claiming self-defense.

Why do all these people deep-down claim to want to arm themselves? Many claim that their armory is to prevent the government from having too much power. Here’s a sobering fact: more Americans have died from gun violence on American soil than all the soldiers killed in wars on foreign soils.

That means we are being gaslighted by the idea that guns are the path to safety in America. The people who make that claim (through the NRA, and other bodies) form one of the GOP’s pet voting blocs. Some equate even the idea of personal freedom with gun rights.

Yes, our country had to fight for its freedom to gain liberty from the rule of England. Guns are useful tools in war. That’s what they were invented for. That’s why a well-regulated militia truly is necessary for the security of a free state.

But it is principles, not guns, that form the true foundations of freedom.

Liberalism and democracy

It was liberalism and the determination that America should be independent from the rule of a king that established the country in the first place. There is also the issue that the nation’s Founders recognized the danger of establishing or enforcing a state religion, so the Separation Clause was written specifically to avoid the rule of one religion over the country.

These days the Christian evangelical community persists in claiming that the United States of America is a “Christian nation,” founded on “Christian principles” and therefore subject to the directives of theocratic directives from whatever source they might be issued. This is another form of gaslighting, a way to “manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.”

Crazy times

These are crazy times we live in. To perpetually insist that something is true that is not true, especially by accusing those most affected by that untruth of being wrong, is psychological abuse. So is being a bully over every issue that confronts you. That is what the President of the United States does every single day of the year.

That is also the central tactic of the GOP these days. Choose any principle; be it racism, feminism, gay rights, environmental protection, even the rights of an individual in comparison to a corporation, and the GOP finds a way to flip those concerns around as a means to gaslight people into submission. Crazy times indeed.

Racism and the GOP

When it comes to racism, the GOP inherited the originally vicious views of Southern Democrats and turned into a voting bloc first exploited in dog-whistle fashion by the grandfatherly visage of President Ronald Reagan. The Southern Strategy persists through the era of President Donald Trump, whose open appeal to racists to gain votes for his re-election includes patronage and Retweets bragging that there are “good people” on both sides of the debate over civil rights in America. He doesn’t bother to explain what kinds of “good people” want to persecute blacks and send American citizens “back to Africa” or whatever racist taunt they choose to exhort, but Trump doesn’t care about such details. He is happy to gaslight principled citizens into questioning their own good judgment by wondering what the President means by describing angry white citizens as “good people.”

Blacks and police brutality

The scourge of police brutality toward black people in America is so longstanding and frequent that movements such as Black Lives Matter emerged to heighten awareness of the problem. But conservatives gaslighted the issue by pumping out alternative slogans such as Blue Lives Matter and All Lives Matter. Rather than address and acknowledge that 200+ years of racial suppression continues in this nation, the opponents of full civil rights for people of color selfishly claim persecution for themselves.This is gaslighting at its worst.

The GOP encourages this attitude of denial with its support of Trump and the specious slogan Make America Great Again. Those words are a dog-whistle act of gaslighting unto themselves. They insinuate that the advances in civil rights, environmental protection and religious equanimity established by the Constitution are illegitimate.

Constitutional originalism is gaslighting

Now the Senate has installed yet another constitutional originalist in the Supreme Court. This is an outright act of the sort of judicial activism against which the GOP has railed for decades. It is gaslighting in its most extreme political form.

That is what the GOP stands for these days: Gaslighting Over Principle.

We’re stuck with it for the time being, but there will come a moment in history when the tables turn again. That may come sooner or later. But gaslighting does win the day on November 3, the country as we’ve known it for 243 years will cease to exist, and we’ll all be subject to the violent instincts and abusive advances of a highly conflicted man and his dysfunctionally self-absorbed family.

That’s the choice we’re making on November the third. We can let ourselves be gaslighted into insanity, or we can stand against the GOP and its lying tactics, sycophantic whorishness and cloying lust for power, black eyes and all.

The White Beard Factor is killing America

An associate on Facebook sent me a link to the ravings of a so-called “Christian activist” Scott Lively. I clicked through and right away saw what the guy was going to be like. He had the full white beard of so many nationalistic arch-patriots claiming Jesus as their Savior with hate in their hearts.

It used to be true that these guys were relatively harmless. Typically they stood out in the front of the house yelling at kids and dogs to stay off their yard. That was their fortress against the world. Probably a little whisky in their morning coffee, a quick read of a few pages in a greasy Bible, and out they’d go to stand in the morning sun playing pocket pool with their saggy nutsack waiting for some errant kid to wheel a Sting-Ray bike across the turf grass.

On humid days, their aviator glasses would fog up, requiring a quick rub session using the cantilevered fabric of a shirt hanging from their profuse gut. If the lawn was deemed safe from intrusion for the nonce, they’d pick up their sprinkler-soaked copy of the Wall Street Journal and sit on the front porch with a pistol in the milk crate just in case the n****** decided to waltz into town.

I’d like to say that I hate to generalize, but I really don’t. When the cliche fits, some people get to wear it. Just take a look a this Scott Lively guy and read about his views. Then study that White Beard and tell me you haven’t seen it on a thousand angry mugs in a thousand photos of Trump rallies. These are the rapid consumers of Fox News who tune into local AM Radio stations to listen to tripe from the likes of Salem radio and Rush Limbaugh and even that faux-kindess stuff from the Moody Bible Institute and evangelicals across the nation.

The White Beard Factor is real. These guys consider America their front lawn. They’ve got the pistols and the sagging nutsacks to prove it, and they’re just itching for a chance to swing into action.

Lacking that, they’re in full support of an angry bastard who covers his face in war paint and sports a radical combover to rival the aging vanity of every White Beard in the country. These are men of a certain age whose toxic masculinity oozes from their brains. On one hand they’ll yell at the kids on their lawn and the next wink at their porch buddy with a creepy smile and say, “She’ll be a hot one in a couple years.”

This is how the White Beard Factor works. It utters its fears, spews its anger and claims all it can see as a personal possession. And it is killing America one conflicted soul at a time.

The lifelong lessons in the death of Herman Cain

“God loves irony.”

Herman Cain at a Trump rally, sans mask.

That’s what I wrote on a Facebook post in a group calling itself Christians Against Trump. A person in the group was objecting to people crowing about the passing of the conservative businessman and politician, Herman Cain, who died from Covid-19 after attending a Trump rally. He’d boasted about the refusal to wear a mask on his Twitter account.

Cain was making the bold claim that PEOPLE ARE FED UP with wearing masks, yet he’s now dead from contraction of the Coronavirus. One cannot be sure that he caught the deadly bug while sitting in the audience cheering on Trump. But the quid pro quo is compelling nonetheless.

Herman Cain also considered himself a mouthpiece for God. He connected his religion closely to his politics. During his campaign for President in 2012, he made a direct connection between his 9-9-9 tax proposal and his ardent belief in the Almighty. “If 10% is good enough for God,” Cain proclaimed, “9% ought to be good enough for the federal government.”

Scriptural warnings

Given these almost scriptural musings about the nature of life and government, one wonders if Cain understood the fuller meaning of scripture that warns us against putting the Lord our God to the test. (Matthew 4:7)

Going out in public without a mask during a worldwide pandemic seems to be a keen way to put the Lord to the test. Yet it is a popular meme with some religious folks. There is no escaping the fact that Herman Cain tested the power of his faith and it didn’t work out that well for him.

A common sense approach

That’s the problem with banking on religion to protect us from all kinds of evil. God still expects us to use common sense. The Book of Genesis starts out with a test of that sort to warn us against getting too cocky about the support of God in this world. Even after Adam and Eve are told not to take fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, they engage with a legalistic serpent who shows up with a promise that they can be like God, knowing good and evil, if they take matters into their own hands. “You surely will not die,” the Serpent promises them.

But a harsh lesson awaits. The Serpent’s promise is only good in the short term. The deceivingly religious Serpent has tricked Adam and Eve into thinking they have immunity from their own actions. Such is the case, it seems, with Herman Cain and millions of other religious believers who too easily neglect the lessons of their own scripture. While claiming to represent the Will of God, they eagerly take fate into their own hands.

The legacy of Herman Cain

There is more to the conflicted legacy of Herman Cain than his unfortunate death. HIs life as a businessman is depicted as a classic “up by the bootstraps” lesson about corporate perseverance. He rose through the ranks of several fast food companies to bring Godfather’s Pizza to renewed profitability. But when President Clinton pursued a plan to require employers to support health insurance for employees, Cain complained that plan would make it impossible for companies “like mine” to stay in business.

In a textbook example of conservative victimhood, Cain stated “For many, many businesses like mine, the cost of your plan will cause us to eliminate jobs. What will I tell those people whose jobs I will have to eliminate?”

Two bad choices

That tactic of offering up two seemingly bad choices to defend an ideological premise of conservatism under the banner of capitalism is a classic conservative ploy. What Cain refuses to consider or mention is why employers are even involved in the business of dispensing healthcare in the first place? Conservatives love to ignore such topics, leaving businesses across America responsible for the major headache of paying premiums and managing our healthcare system in the increasingly expensive triage of combatants vying for profitability. These are healthcare insurance companies, healthcare providers and networks, and Big Pharma. All of these lobbies want to protect their own interests, and corporate politicians gain big donations by doing so.

And the rest of America is left living a lie of bad choices. The United States barely ranks in the Top 40 worldwide in terms of quality and affordability of healthcare. So much for American exceptionalism. The fight against the Affordable Care Act was not about constitutional rights or Death Panels or any number of conflated reasons concocted by the Republican Party. It was about the selfish interests of all these profit-pursuing entities trying to slice pieces of meat from the other. And the GOP plays the role of butcher by trying to cut people out of the ranks of the covered.

Purposeful blindness

Herman Cain’s purposefully blind approach to resolving health care needs in America is the entire premise of the Republican Party’s non-plan to protect the health of everyday Americans. For decades, millions of people living outside the bubble of corporate-sponsored health care went without coverage. And worse, those with pre-existing conditions were essentially banned from pools of favorably-priced health insurance even if they tried to buy it on the open market.

The Republican approach to health insurance was, and remains, a death warrant for anyone who works for a man like Herman Cain. So we must ask, how does a supposedly God-fearing Christian man come to a place in life where he aggressively opposes the needs of people who work for him? It turns out scripture has something to say about that too.

Up-from-the-bootstraps

That “up-from-the-bootstraps” mentality favored by conservatives is more about selfishness than it is about solutions. It’s the “tough luck” school of thought that Jesus combatted in the religious authorities whose love of tradition moved them to invent laws and rules and restrictions that stood as stumbling blocks for those trying to reach out to God for spiritual sustenance. Instead it became a transactional religion run by people in positions of power and authority who got to call the shots, even to the point of sentencing people to death if they were accused of doing something wrong.

That’s the lifelong lesson of Herman Cain in a nutshell. His supposed love of personal responsibility was actually a politically dismissive ideal that cost him his own life in the end.

But as scripture tells us time and again, God loves irony. It teaches so many lessons.

The schoolyard bully and his toadies have had their day

In the famously entertaining––and mildly politically incorrect––holiday movie “A Christmas Story,” the bully Scut Farkas terrorizes the Ralphie character and his friends. Scut clearly derives perverse pleasure from tormenting his victims.

Ultimately, Scut pushes Ralphie a step too far and the bespectacled child boils over with rage and frustration at the bullying he’s been dealth for too long. In an instant Ralphie piles into Scut and begins pounding away. Farkas is so surprised by the return of force that it renders him defenseless. The blood pouring from his nose testifies to a long overdue payback for all the threats and arm-twisting he’s imposed upon the neighborhood.

But Scut Farkas does not work alone. He depends on his toadie Grover Dill, a snotty little brute in an annoying oversized cap, as emotional support for his abusive ways. The empowered little monster Grover Dill relishes opportunities to frighten and dun the neighborhood kids into submission. Yet even in victory, after supposed “victory” has been won, when Grover tries to punch Farkas in a friendly way, the insecure bully can’t handle even the slightest resistance. Instead he bludgeons his little buddy even harder to maintain dominance.

The relationship is an example of sick co-dependence.

Eventually, their bullying ways catch up with them. Farkas gets pounded by Ralphie and the toadie Grover Dill gets shoved aside. He turns and runs away crying how unfair it is to be treated like that.

Yes, the bully and his toadie(s) have had their day. It’s long past time for America to knock that furry cap off the head of the neighborhood bully .The same goes for collectively pathetic, small-minded band of toadies too. There’s no reason why everyday Americans should have to put up with this brand of insecure brutality, nor the misogyny and racism, the economic graft and bribery, the fraud and the fecklessness. The lies. The treason. The selfish denial of genuine threats while inventing fears to manipulate the toadie masses.

Let’s send these bullies and their sick little band of angry sycophants scurrying away like the roaches and leeches that they are. And wipe those shit-eating grins and angry looks off their stupid faces. Scut Farkas and Grover Dill have to go, red hats and all. We don’t have to live like this. Just ask Ralphie.

Why Trump Haters are for the birds

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Cedar Waxwing. Photo by Christopher Cudworth

Recently a long-ago classmate from high school showed up on Facebook. He Friended me and began complimenting bird photos that I posted to my wall. The connection for the first few weeks seemed genuine. He’d never been a nature guy to my knowledge but had lived next to a forest preserve back in the day. Perhaps his upbringing near the wilds had emerged as a deeper interest in his retirement.

He posted photos of his own, images of birds and such around his property. Then one day a cryptic post appeared on his wall. It was rife with jingoistic and politically flirtatious language that was all too familiar to me.

 

Bald Eagle Flight

Bald Eagle. Photograph by Christopher Cudworth.

He claimed at the moment to have a neutral stance on the state of the nation these days. Perhaps he was an Independent of sorts? Even a Libertarian? Over the years plenty of that cropped up in social media too.  And then there are the supposedly objective among us, who view all politics and government as the scourge of life. “They’re all crooks,” goes the line.

Meanwhile, the comments kept coming about nature and birds and such. He knew that I was a birder way back in middle school and high school, earning the not-so-complimentary sobriquet “Birdman” from friends who found the hobby ridiculous. So I continued our friendly repartee and helped him identify some species that showed up at his feeder from photos that he’d posted.

Trump shrug

Then came the Purple Post. My new-old-friend had decided to “lift the veil” on his political affiliations and made a statement to that effect with a closing statement: Vote Trump 2020.

I wasn’t shocked. But I was disturbed. My concerns were specific and real. If he claimed to love wildlife and the environment so much, how could he possibly support what Donald Trump has been doing to our country’s laws and regulations that protect clean air and water, conserve both common and endangered species, and honor key acts governing even archeological and paleontological resources?

The list of attacks on these protections is long. I call them the Trump Killers, because he’s presided over legal and political attempts to kill every one of these laws. Here are the major policies that Trump and the Republicans have set out to kill, or have killed already.

Trump KIllers

The point in posting this list is to help people connect the dots between the wildlife my supposed Facebook Friend loves to enjoy and the laws that provide protection and habitat for these living things to survive. That’s a simple enough concept, right?

Yet in Trumpian fashion, his love for Trump is so ardent yet so shallow that he likely has no idea that any of these actions are being taken. He lives near one of the few habitats where Kirtland’s warblers breed in Michigan. Birders have worked to help protect that and many other species. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act alone is designed to protect hundreds of species that travel to our country during spring and fall. Does he even know why such laws are important? Doubtful.

Too many Trump supporters appear to come from a background where science is considered a worthless opinion. Some of that stems from religious prejudice wrought from an evangelical mindset based on biblical literalism and its intellectually retarded offspring, creationism. Some 35% of Americans tend to abide in that worldview, and the consequence is that men like Trump and his greedy Republican allies grant carte balance to industrial polluters and environmental abusers because, it is claimed, the human race has dominion over the earth.

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Eastern Bluebird. Photograph by Christopher Cudworth.

That is the absolute brand of cognitive dissonance at work in Trumpism. It aggressively fails to recognize the connection between these environmental and resource acts and our nation’s contribution to their survival. In other words, Trump supporters completely refuse to connect the dots between the things that actually make America great and the things Donald Trump does to destroy them. And if you question their passive-aggressive practice of posting provocative Pro-Trump memes and then whining when you challenge them, the first instinct is to gaslight all those with the gall to present evidence of the President’s own lies and contradictions of his own statements. They want to make you feel like it all never happened. “You must be crazy,” is the implication.

And sure enough, when I commented on my friend’s Purple Post, he immediately made a baiting statement that he “knew I’d be first to comment.” In other words, he was taunting me and others. Just as predictably, his Trump-loving friends chimed in with memes supporting Trump and ridiculing those who don’t “get it.”

And finally, one of those Trump Lovers branded me a Trump Hater.

Trump Maga Hat

That’s the “go-to” dismissal for all Trump supporters. It implies an irrational hatred for the President. It directly aligns with the so-called Trump Derangement Syndrome that Trump supporters use to paint those who oppose them as radical leftists who oppose true American virtues. But it’s interesting how many terms it actually takes to insult those who oppose Trump.

The hypocrisy in all this is quite evident. If a Trump supporter loves birds and wildlife but does not understand that the President is doing everything he can to gut laws protecting those resources, that’s plain stupid and irresponsible. And if a Trump supporter claims to value civil rights yet wants to deny those rights to gay people or people of color, that’s an insult to the entire notion of what civil rights mean. And if Trump supporters claim to love life yet refuse to limit access to weapons capable of slaughtering dozens of innocent people in minutes, then they are lying to us all.

That is the dynamic that exists across the entire spectrum of  Trump policies. Claims to virtue counteracted by repression of those whom the Trump world hates. And Trump himself is the most consistent lawbreaker. From breaching emolument laws on conflicts of interest to pressing foreign countries to interfere in our nation’s elections, Trump has flaunted our Constitution and its foundational premises. He refuses to respect the rule of law and at the same time uses it to punish those causes he considers his enemies. He is the most hateful acting of all Presidents, fueled especially by hatred for Barack Obama, whose legacy he has steadfastly and vengefully tried to erase.

bobolink

Bobolink. Photo by Christopher Cudworth

But it’s the birds that illustrate this whole hatred thing the best. Many of those laws listed above were actually implemented with collaborative approval by Republican Presidents and members of Congress and the Senate. But Trump hates them all. The real Trump Hater, in an active sense, is Trump himself.

So I’ll not abide the insults and the targeted claims that I’m somehow “deranged” for opposing the nasty things this President is imposing on our country. They are hateful in every respect, a testimony to the selfish and shallow fraud of a human being whose grasp of even the most simple concepts is at best questionable. Yet he calls himself a genius and brags about his intellect, all while gutting the purposes of our public education system, our civil rights and our heritage as a haven for the desperate and the poor. Donald Trump is the most hateful man on earth right now, and his supporters love him for it. Yet they call us Trump Haters.

Orange Donald

LAS VEGAS, NV – APRIL 28: Chairman and President of the Trump Organization Donald Trump yells ‘you’re fired’ after speaking to several GOP women’s groups at the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino April 28, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Trump has been testing the waters with stops across the nation in recent weeks and has created media waves by questioning whether President Barack Obama was born in the United States. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

That’s a sickness of mind and an ugly testament to the twisted mentality required to vote and approve the actions of a President who is a bully, a despot, and a fascist in every aspect of his demeanor and conduct. In other words, he is a man genuinely worth of hate, but his supporters instead grant him a brand of worshipful love that resembles a cult.

Cardinal and Evil

So we supposed Trump Haters are for the birds, and many other good things in this world, including civil rights for all, a fair and equitable economy that does something other than shovel money to the wealthy, a foreign policy that respects rather than manipulates and brutalizes our allies, a nation free from religious oppression as guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, and a country where guns are not the final word on respect for law.

But those who love Trump apparently hate all these things, and hate the world as well, because they’re willingly glad to destroy it in order to keep their man in power.

The crazies have put their man on the moon and want to keep him there

 

man_in_the_moon_

One of the interesting things about being a content creator in the marketing world, as I am, is the things you learn from translating often complex concepts into communications people can understand.

A few years back I wrote a series of whitepapers for a company that handles requisitions and distribution of healthcare supplies for hospitals across the Midwest. They often step in as a third party partner to take the burden of managing those logistics off the back of the hospital so that administrators can focus on the actual healthcare side of things.

Pandemic pressures

We’re all learning the importance of these services as the Covid-19 pandemic continues its spread across the United States of America. The federal government, state governments, and local authorities all got involved procuring and distributing healthcare supplies to healthcare companies in desperate need of them.

One wonders if the company for which I wrote that content has seen an increase in demand for their services, or if they’ve been cut out of the deal entirely We’ve witnessed fights at the highest levels of government over whose responsibility it is to manage the process of manufacturing, ordering and distributing supplies critical to the treatment of Covid-19 and protection of all the people working in the healthcare world.

Where does a third-party system fit in all that craziness?

Making connections

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When healthcare becomes a political topic, we seldom seem to make connections about the systems necessary to make a “good healthcare system.” It’s all about ideology instead. Some decry the idea of a “socialized” or national healthcare system in favor of the profit-driven model we have now. But when systems quickly break down and supplies are in short demand as they obviously are during this pandemic, it makes you wonder if pride in the quality of our healthcare system is not somehow misplaced.

In testimony before a national committee assessing our government’s response to this pandemic, Rick Bright, the recently ousted vaccine official, stated that grave danger exists because the United States is not prepared or responding well to the challenges caused by this virus. “The world is confronting a great public health emergency which has the potential to eclipse the devastation wrought by the 1918 influenza which globally claimed over 50 million lives,” he said. He proceeded to advocate for a coordinated national response, as opposed to President Trump’s choice to that burden onto state and local authorities. Trump has crazily bounced back and forth between the two, claiming one moment to own all authority while at the same time blaming state governors for their poor handling of the supply and demand of PPE and other needs.

Emergency rooms

As I write this I’m sitting in an emergency room tending to the needs of a person close to me. I’ve been in dozens if not hundreds of waiting rooms like this over the years while serving as a caregiver to family members and friends in need of support. I have close friends who work in the healthcare systems of this country. Some are administrators while others serve as doctors, nurses, and many other specialties. I also have friends who work in healthcare communications and public relations. All of these people are great at what they do.

But I’m not so sure our overall healthcare system is great at what it does. And when a national crisis like this strikes, we lack a legitimate collaborative mechanism to coordinate efforts in the face of genuine threats. This essentially qualifies as a coarse example of willfully broken trust on behalf of an ideology that stipulates, at many levels, that healthcare concerns are a question of individual responsibility and a system based on the Ayn Rand mantra of “every man for himself.” In many ways, that amounts to an approach in which women are cut out of the equation of making decisions about their own healthcare needs.

Patient advocacy

That doesn’t even account for people with healthcare issues at hand. I’ve witnessed firsthand what it means to advocate for a patient with what the health insurance industry categorizes as a “pre-existing condition.” It was painful and often dehumanizing to realize that the person you love is considered a liability by everyone you encounter. From the employer offering the insurance to the companies issuing it, that pre-existing condition caused people to shuffle us around like checkers on board.

I’ve also seen medical mistakes up close, such as the time a batch of chemotherapy was wrongly applied by a nurse and leached out through a hole in the abdomen to leave a chemical burn on her stomach. We probably could have sued over that incident, but we were so grateful to be getting treatment at all that the idea of rocking the boat was not an option. Plus we didn’t believe in that course of action. Our doctors and nurses were responsible people. Mistakes can happen.

Perfection is not what medicine is all about. Likewise, no healthcare system will ever be perfect. Yet there’s a new awareness of how medicine is supposed to work in this world, and what it means when it doesn’t. We’ve also become aware that denying that a problem or a pandemic threat exists does not solve anything. It makes things worse. Delays response. Causes panic and fear. Costs lives.

Yet somehow, quite crazily, many people seem to prefer denial over credible response.

Billing games

Perhaps it’s time we took more pride in what healthcare is supposed to do rather than what it costs to do it. All the exorbitant billing games played by healthcare providers, administrators, and insurance companies are wasting billions on what amounts to a massive blame game in which everyone battles over the proceeds from the price of a procedure while no one wants to admit what it legitimately should cost. I say it’s time to take healthcare insurance administration out of the hands of the companies forced to administrate it. The corporations and non-profits of this world don’t need that hassle. It confuses their mission and causes nothing but headaches for all involved. That’s why a public option is the best thing that could ever happen to the world of business, especially small businesses where keeping employees insured is a massive burden.

Medical insurance is itself a crazy proposition. I’ve seen medical bills for a chemo treatment sporting a tab of $44,000. Later I learned that its true cost was a fraction of that. The provider and insurers haggle over that big bill and eventually settle on some sort of money exchange. How is that a remotely intelligent way for healthcare to be administrated? It is not. The healthcare industry knows this. But competitive factors keep everyone locked into a profit-making model dependent on actuarial systems designed to limit treatment. That’s the pre-existing condition of the healthcare industry as a whole.

Risks and rewards

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I know doctors that hate the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare because they perceive it as an administrative burden and a potential limit on their profits for their profession. Physicians take on a ton of risk between the costs of their education, the insurance for their practice, and the fixed operating costs of running their business. And because it is a business, they are not fond of regulations impacting all these factors that affect their specific situations.

So we should respect those concerns and reduce those burdens through an intelligently designed cooperative between government and free-market healthcare providers. We already have successful models for public/private partnerships in facilities such as Argonne National Laboratory where real science takes place and is available for use by businesses that can use that research in commercial and other applications. This is America, people. We can make these things happen.

Stubborn claims

But it’s the stubborn claim that government is a bad thing that has damaged public trust over the last forty years. Remember when our country had actual pride in the fact that we were the first nation to put human beings on the moon? Now the public dialogue seems to be dominated by a brand of people who insist that it never happened, or that the earth is flat, and that the theory of evolution is the scourge of humankind. Their distrust of government aligns with a distrust of science founded in the radical notion that both are trying to pull the wool over their eyes. We’ve witnessed that radical worldview in calls to “Fire Fauci” and the actions of armed protestors storming the capitol in Michigan to demand concessions from that state’s governor.

These outcomes are all products of conspiracy theories invented to grant ownership of reality to distrusting souls eager to defy and deny reality. The fact remains that the administration of government, medicine, and science all take hard work to do. The entire premise of Make America Great Again was the solutions were simple. Yet Trump himself has had to repeatedly admit, “Who knew healthcare could be so complicated?”

It takes commitment and costs money to do healthcare, science, and government right. It is astounding to realize how quickly Republicans reacted with major stimulus funding when they realized how badly Trump and their entire party had botched response to this pandemic. Of course, their instincts are always to throw money at the people who need it least. That’s why every Republican President since Eisenhower has presided over recessions, sometimes multiple in number under one administration.

The needle and the damage done

Orange Donald too

Meanwhile, the Democrats want to grant assistance to millions of people cast out of work by the effects of a pandemic made far worse by the delay caused by Donald Trump’s feckless denial there was ever a problem in the first place. The press has needled Trump over his many contradictions on the subject, and Trump has responded by claiming he “knew all along” that the pandemic was going to be bad. Yet that’s an even worse admission of guilt. If he knew, why did he not act rather than claiming it would all disappear “like a miracle?” That belief system sits well with people who saw Trump as a Magic Man in the first place.

But this dumbing down of our country to satisfy the conspiratorial urges of a willfully disenfranchised and selfish populace needs to stop. Now. We all know where that starts. Some just refuse to admit it. They’ve put their own man on the moon and want to keep him there because he talks about hoaxes and gives credence to alternative views of reality. But the evidence of this folly is the pain we’re seeing from the crippled concept of supply and demand in the healthcare industry today.

The right kind of pride has everything to do with conscience and credibility and nothing to do with crazy claims of conspiracy.

 

 

 

Biblical literalism is costing America dearly right now

Michigan gun protestors

For the last four decades, highly respected polls surveying opinions about religious beliefs have shown that between 30-40% of Americans embrace a biblically literal worldview. That belief system embraces the idea that the Bible story with its six-day creation narrative with animals and human beings fashioned out of nothing is more credible than the demonstrable cause-and-effect outcomes of material processes.

The resulting worldview of creationism also insists that every living creature but a few were wiped out in a global flood and that even the continents were tossed around like toys in a bathtub.

Those premises form a stubborn bulwark against multiple scientific principles ranging from plate tectonics to the theory of evolution.

One-third of America

So it’s time to stop and think about that: almost one-third of Americans do not accept science and instead embrace an alternate view of reality based on a literal interpretation of an oral tradition drawn from beliefs first formed some six thousand years ago. And by no coincidence, many of those same Americans hold the belief that the earth itself if no more than 6-10,000 years old. Some still believe the earth is flat, that sicknesses are caused by demons and that humans once shared the planet with meat-eating dinosaurs.

So it’s not hard to see why so many Americans fail to see the Coronavirus pandemic through a factually clear lens. It is preferable in their minds to deny science and medical information out of habit and fear that it could corrupt their minds and lead them away from God.

Cult thinking

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There are entire organizations and even political parties devoted to the propagation and support of the biblically literal worldview. These range from the apologetically driven Moody Bible Institute to the Answers In Genesis “ministry” with its Creation Museum and Ark Encounter, both facilities dedicated to literal depictions of the Book of Genesis and its array of anachronistic characters. It is little more than a cult of denial, but it is enormously popular in a nation where the irony of religious freedom has produced a generation of patently stubborn idiots.

One in three people who walk into those museums buys that information wholesale. They hear it preached to them from pulpits and consume it through multiple media channels from their local radio stations to the megaphone of Fox News, where dog-whistle anti-science rhetoric claiming the falsehoods of science include calculated PR campaigns and scripted attacks on the impacts of climate change and even basic environmental regulations.

The real alarmists

Let’s be blunt: Americans convinced the earth was created in six literal days are incapable of grasping the public relations sophistication of a story such as a piece published on Fox News from the Heartland Institute, who claimed, “Not surprisingly coronavirus alarm has pushed most other issues and concerns out of the news ⎯ much to the dismay of climate alarmists,” said Steve Milloy of the Heartland Institute. “But the alarmists aren’t taking displacement by coronavirus lying down. In fact, many climate alarmists are trying to use coronavirus as a means of advancing their agenda. They are trying to surf it.”

This fearmongering approach is a common tactic that hearkens back to the earliest forms of propaganda employed by the Christian church to keep people in line. The original alarmists were always religious authoritarians. Traditionally it is the threat of life in hell that religion uses to scare people into believing what they’re told, and without question. Today’s religious leaders and politicians have adapted that approach while targeting science as the enemy of God to convince millions of people that even sound medical advice cannot be trusted.

The love of money religiously abided

Toss fears about the economy into the mix and the fearmongering takes on a whole new level of existential threat. It’s easy to scare people with the idea that someone else is trying to take your money. Climate change deniers and now Coronavirus blamers both claim that scientific warnings about these real threats are all about a money grab and/or an excuse for trying to install a worldwide government.

The sick fact is that even our own government is depicted as a threat among those claiming that basic scientific recommendations about disease control and social distancing are an infringement of liberties. That’s how a gang of gun-wielding domestic terrorists wound up inside the Michigan state capitol building demanding a meeting with the Governor. Their version of truth in action was vigilante lawlessness. In one fell swoop, they demonstrated that aggressive denial of science, common sense and rule of law can all be exacted upon society at will. Disturbingly, the President of the United States approved of their actions, instructing the Governor of Michigan to capitulate to their will. Trump knows that to appeal to “his base” he must cater to the most extreme factions with approval or risk having that 30% of cultlike Trump supporters abandon him.

Trickle-up effect

So we can see how the grassroots belief in biblical literalism and its associated denial of science and truth is costing America right now. President Donald Trump openly embraces evangelicals who deny science and even invent or propagate conspiracy theories that direct blame away from their pet President. All the better to avoid the truth that it was incompetency and delay by Trump right here in America that allowed the Coronavirus to get such traction.

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True to form and in keeping with the “science of denial” common to biblical literalists, Trump at first refused to acknowledge the threat as real (just like climate change) then downplayed its likely spread (though he was informed on a regular basis of the reality of the threat) and has now turned to claim his response has been a dynamic success, when in fact death projections are now reaching more than 200,000 Americans.

The goal now is to outstrip the failure by reframing “success” through the use of denial to convince willing supporters that Trump and team have done a good job. That means preventing any testimony by actual scientists and medical experts at hearings designed to examine America’s response to the pandemic. Just like the Senate’s denial to allow witness testimony about Trump’s corrupt activities in Ukraine, the Republican goal right now is to bury facts under propaganda. This is fascism at work.

LiveScience.com published a fascinating profile of fascism on its website that describes it this way: “Robert Paxton, a professor emeritus of social science at Columbia University in New York who is widely considered the father of fascism studies, defined fascism as “a form of political practice distinctive to the 20th century that arouses popular enthusiasm by sophisticated propaganda techniques for an anti-liberal, anti-socialist, violently exclusionary, expansionist nationalist agenda.”

Fascism, socialism and the public good

Of course, the parallel need of any fascist government is to find an enemy upon which to direct its ire, thereby focusing the fears of its constituents on that target rather than allowing the facts of its own authoritarian power grab to be known. So the Trump regime and its allies are conveniently trotting out “socialism” as that enemy by depicting social programs such as Social Security, Medicaid, and even the US Post Office as socialistically repressive forms of government that must be eradicated. Of course, Trump also eliminated the Pandemic Response Team in 2018 in order to eliminate costs.  This is where belief in a vastly reduced government can have real costs.

As documented on Reuters.com: “In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Beth Cameron, former Senior Director for Global Health Security and Biodefense in the NSC, wrote, “When President Trump took office in 2017, the White House’s National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense survived the transition intact.

“Its mission was the same as when I was asked to lead the office, established after the Ebola epidemic of 2014: to do everything possible within the vast powers and resources of the U.S. government to prepare for the next disease outbreak and prevent it from becoming an epidemic or pandemic. One year later, I was mystified when the White House dissolved the office, leaving the country less prepared for pandemics like covid-19” ( here ).”

Comparable habits

The habits and patterns of denial are so comparable between Trump and the 30-40% of Americans that deny science it is entirely logical to place blame for the spread of Coronavirus on the one-third of the American public that embraces anachronism over science in the modern age. That is proof that biblical literalism is both bad theology and an irresponsible belief system. What God in heaven or on earth would have us choose to disregard or ignore information valuable to the protection of human welfare and even the entire planet? That is a God reduced instead to the petty aims of human selfishness. That is the sin of which Jesus accused the religious authorities of his day, who demanded respect for their country club lifestyle while people suffered in the streets.

These days it is inexcusable to embrace corrupt traditions such as Biblical literalism because it is so easy to find out the facts and know better. Instead, we are being forced to live in an age of lies, misinformation, propaganda and outright fascist attempts to undermine truth in favor of political and religious power in America.

That is the real and original pandemic of untruth with which we’re trying to contend today. Those brutes on the steps of the Michigan capitol are just one illustration of its effects. The other is the painted face and combover lies of a President who can’t face the fact that he’s a fraud, an incompetent, and a bully. That brand of evil threatens to kill us all.