Last night I watched one of the most compelling documentaries I’d seen in a long time, a National Geographic biopic that traced the study and exploration of Mars, the planet on which the human species has long projected visions of other life in our solar system.
Alas, the truth of the matter is the magnetic forces that keep earth’s atmosphere and water in place were disrupted on Mars long ago, so the whole planet is fucked.
While there is evidence that water once covered significant portions of Mars, even gouging out massive canyons at some point in the planet’s geological history, all that H2O evaporated into space when the guts of the planet turned inside out, splitting a giant, visible gash in the surface while all traces of water disappeared.
Yet the Jet Propulsion Laboratory is still making plans to send people to Mars. We’ve already sent a series of amazing rovers to study the surface. These machines take massive amounts of photographs and even dig core samples to analyze rock composition. Next we’ll send a rover that will be digging through sedimentary layers to see if there are samples of fossilized life hidden below the dusty void.
Mars is a beautiful planet in its barren stolidity. There is a HiRise satellite orbiting Mars with a HiRes camera has beamed back 200,000 images of the planet from top to bottom. Along the way, it documented the movement of giant dust devils towering twelve miles high. These traced fantastical patterns on the surface.
They also likely blew the gathering dust off the solar panels of a Rover that was shutting down due to lack of power. The machine was only expected to run for 90 days anyway, so the fact that it lasted 14.5 years on Mars was an enormous gift to science. It finally died when a massive dust storm blocked out the sun so long that temperatures dropped so low it killed the rover for good. A few scientists cried over that. The rover didn’t even get a decent burial.
It really does get cold on Mars at times. At the poles, the temperatures drops to 190 degrees below Celcius. Patches of white visible on the top and bottom of the planet are dry ice formed of CO2, not water. When the sun hits them as seasons change the dry ice builds up pressure and explodes.
All this fascinated me. The photos of the surface are surreal. Massive sand dunes mix with barren rock. A mountain standing 90,000 feet tall sticks out of the surface. That’s three times taller than Mount Everest. Even Reinhold Messner would have trouble scaling that one.
An imposing place
The fact of the matter is that Mars is an imposing place. Conditions seem far worse than the moon. The worst part of life on Mars seems to be the radiation problem. Either the planet is just plain radioactive or there is nothing blocking the sun’s rays from killing people who hang out on the surface. I didn’t quite understand that part.
Scientists think they’ve found a solution to that problem in a set of giant volcanic tunnels where people can hide below the surface and even build big cities there. Seriously: that’s the plan. There are even people crawling around in caves under Spain to practice for this scenario. This is all going to take place within a generation. People will be going to Mars in the name of exploration. That’s why we’re doing it. Because human beings “have to explore.”
It just seems like such a dead end. Surely a few brave pioneers flying along for seven months to reach Mars will go stir crazy first, then be faced with a crazy landing only to try to make do on a planet as inhospitable as a bowl of Grape Nuts without milk.
I love the space program and always have. I support funding space exploration and think it’s important to the advancement of knowledge among the human race. What I love about it as well is the technology that emerges from this process.
But I also love what it tells us about our own planet. Right now, we know that our planet is heating up due to just over one hundred years of human activity that has pumped out trillions of tons of carbon dioxide. That greenhouse trap is keeping the heat of the sun’s rays from bouncing back out into the universe. It’s not a novel concept. It doesn’t take that much imagination to appreciate how and why that can happen.
The earth exists in the most delicate balance of all the planets in the universe. Our watery planet is perfect for our existence because we all evolved in sync with its biotic potential. Nothing exists randomly. Every form of life on earth remains because it has the right survival potential for current climatic conditions. We’d have to create all that on Mars. In short, we’d have to play God to our own needs.
A few years back, a chunk of black meteorite was determined to have emanated from a galactic collision on Mars. An asteroid striking that planet sent shards of rock flying into space. Eventually one of those hand-sized rocks plunged into earth’s gravity and was collected in the deserts near Morocco or some dry spot like that. It came through the hands of a collector into the realm of scientists who spliced off a piece and found traces of water inside. Eureka! Mars was once wet.
But it isn’t any more. The climate changed. The same goddamned thing could happen to Earth. What is so hard to conceive about that? Human arrogance blocks it out.
The Earth is changing right now. Droughts are getting more severe. Fires are raging everywhere. Wine plantations are migrating up mountains for growing conditions.
There are people who deny that fact because they refuse to think beyond their own selfish, ideologically clogged noses. They are the snots of economic and religious prejudice. They likely haven’t studied the look and feel of a planet like Mars, where nothing lives perhaps except a batch of bacteria at some volcanic vents. We don’t know that for sure yet. But even that form of life doesn’t offer much hope to supporting human survival. We’d have to import everything we need to make it work on Mars. It’s 140 million miles away. And it’s smaller than Earth.
So I’m an advocate for taking a harder look at what we’re doing to life on Earth while we study what the prospects for life on Mars really are. Sixty years ago people imagined their might be Martians living there, and great cities awaited to be discovered. What we’ve discovered instead is a burned out sphere with rocks that look like a dumped out bag of granola and cinnamon. The bad news is that they’re not any more edible than Mars is livable.
Let’s focus on what the biblical notion of dominion really means to the human race. We’d better take care of what we’ve got, or Life on Mars will be all we have.
a man who controls prostitutes and arranges clients for them, taking part of their earnings in return.
This week marks the start of the Republican National Convention. In a story posted on the Marketwatch website, it was noted that some unusual shifts in normal convention and nomination procedures have been implemented basically by direction of President Donald Trump. The story notes: “The Republican National Committee will go without a traditional policy platform at the upcoming GOP convention, saying instead that it “will continue to enthusiastically support the president’s America-first agenda.”
In a statement issued Sunday, the RNC said it adopted a resolution Saturday to go without a platform due to the difficulties presented by the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced the convention to significantly scale back.
“The RNC has unanimously voted to forego the Convention Committee on Platform, in appreciation of the fact that it did not want a small contingent of delegates formulating a new platform without the breadth of perspectives within the ever-growing Republican movement,” the RNC said.
The irony of that last sentence should not be ignored. Claiming that the RNC “did not want a small contingent of delegates formulating a new platform without a breadth of perspectives” is beyond absurd. The RNC is doing one thing: the will of the President. He is their pimp and their controller. He arranges their clients and takes a portion of their earnings for himself.
Nothing more need be said about the nature of the Trump administration and its behavior. The Republican Party entered into a relationship with a pimp, and they’ve now been pimped.
The town of Crystal River, Florida sits at the mouth of its namesake ninety miles north of Tampa. The river empties into the Gulf of Mexico where its mouth widens into a brackish bay rimmed with marinas, waterside homes and canals reaching back toward land. These channels have long attracted sea cows, these days known as manatees.
The local economy of Crystal River feeds off the presence of these large, watergoing mammals. They are a tourist attraction in nearly all seasons, with tour boats taking curious adventurers out in the bay on warm summer days to peek at manatees in their natural habitat.
Some people don’t get it
But people left to their own devices sometimes fail to grasp the impact of human contact with a such seemingly benign beast. And in some Florida locations, people seek to love them a bit too much. In a story reported on Smithsonian.com, “As Florida native Ryan William Waterman just learned, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission takes its manatee safety seriously. After posting several photos on Facebook of himself and his two young daughters playing with a baby manatee, Reuters reports, the authorities arrested him. According to the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act, it is illegal to molest, harass, disturb or—as Waterman found out—hug a manatee. Federal laws also protect the species, which is listed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature‘s Red List.”
The eager father didn’t just touch a baby manatee. He lifted it out of the water, posed his daughter sitting on its back, and then returned it to the water. Wildlife officials noted that the animal was experiencing what appeared to be cold stress from having been removed from its native habitat.
Don’t abuse the manatees
The Florida Wildlife Commission website describes the consequences of abusing manatees. “Manatees are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978. It is illegal to feed, harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, annoy, or molest manatees. The state of Florida has also established regulatory speed zones to protect the manatee and its habitat. The zones are located where manatees live or travel regularly or seasonally. Anyone convicted of violating state law faces maximum fines of $500 and/or imprisonment of up to 60 days. Conviction for violating federal protection laws is punishable by fines up to $100,000 and/or one year in prison.”
There seems to be a general respect regarding safety of the animals near Crystal River. Motorized craft cruising out from the canals make their way slowly through No Wake zones. Between them, a daily flow of of vacationing kayakers paddles around a point in the bay to reach a once-secluded clearwater springs called Three Sisters, a massively popular tourist attraction.
Rush hour at Three Sisters
The water in the spring is indeed Crystal Clear. But kayaking into the pool on a summer day is like navigating a rush hour intersection on the Gold Coast of Chicago. Kayak traffic bottlenecks at the entrance of Three Sisters where three or four embedded stanchions force people to navigate between them. Those impediments keep people from ramming into each other. Inside the lagoon people run their boats up against the shore despite signs posted by the National Wildlife Refuge system not to do so. They also stand on rocks below the surface despite other signs warning them not to do so. The smell of cigarettes wafts across the water as families parked on large super rafts roll about laughing and talking at the top of their lungs.
Girls laced up in stringy swimsuits with naked butt cheeks mix with rotund men in soaked tee shirts lolling about uncomfortably in colorful kayaks. A few handsome young paddleboarders make their way into the cove as well. There are people of every nationality and language chattering away as if the crystal waters were nothing more than a local suburban swimming pool. Of course, there is not a manatee to be seen.
On the first trip up the canal leading to Three Sisters, my wife and I missed the entrance. We paddled past the large waterside homes to a place where the clear water grew quite still. Even the sea breeze did not reach back into those spaces. It was quiet for the most part, with a few other kayaks sitting calmly as couples talked quietly. One noted that they’d actually seen a water moccasin snake a few meters back. At the far end of the canal we paddled through a u-shaped culvert beneath a local street. Finally the canal hit a dead end behind a Mobil station. Such is the condition of nature in the State of Florida.
That twenty-minute period of paddling was the most peace to be found during a two-hour paddle trip. But on our way out of the canal we approached a family of mixed ages piling off their kayaks and rafts to swim in the water. They paid no attention to our approach, neither the young or old, including one intrepid little spright with water wings and a lifesaving vest.
We waited patiently for them to cross the canal and slipped between the next round. A young father or uncle among them exclaimed how warm the water had gotten where they were swimming. In most pools, we know what that means. Someone just pissed in the water. But this warmth was likely the product of the sun striking the water at that point in the canal. Things warm up quickly in that case. That is one of the reasons why the manatees like the canals during seasons when the surrounding waters generally get cooler. Apparently one of the most popular manatee winter resting spots is the cooling pond nuclear power plant up the coast. The animals reportedly show up by the hundreds, bumping one another as they share the warmth.
All along the canal where we paddled there were manatee protection signs at almost every residence warning boats to drive at a slow speed. There were also signs instructing swimmers to stay off the stone walls rimming the canals because those were private property.
At the moment we paddled past those stone walls, the young father or uncle swimming around with the kids clambered onto the edge of one of the walls with one hand. He was likely bracing himself afloat to support one of the tadpole swimmers of which he was suddenly in charge. All of the family members bore shiny black hair and brown skin. Their accents suggested a Latino origin of some sort.
Suddenly a voice roared from a bit further down the canal. “Stay off the walls!” a man hollered. “That’s private property!”
The young man quickly hollered an obscenity back at the man. The approaching kayaker was clearly a man in at least his sixties with white hair and wrinkling pale skin. He paddled urgently toward the swimmers with a spaniel perched on the front of the boat. “I will take your head off with this oar!” he yelled ahead.
“I will mess you up, bitch!” the young man screamed back. The invectives continued as we paddled toward bay. There was no empathy from either side of the argument.
It was fair to assume that the man with the dog on his kayak was a local resident looking after the rights of those who live on the canal. His job would have been endless that day in August, because there were thousands of people on the move, a watery rabble one might say, paddling in and out of that canal and the Three Sisters lagoon.
It all makes for a lawless environment as a whole. There are no lifeguards inside the cove. There is no one monitoring boat traffic in or out of the canal. A motorized pontoon boat even traversed the narrow waterways where children swam. Out in the bay, there was a local sheriff out checking boat licenses . But he was busy with the big stuff, not paying attention to the little stuff taking place in the smaller channels.
Flags of glory
Many of the pontoons and motorboats parked along the canal wars bore large TRUMP 2020 flags. One lone craft bore a pair of Anti-Trump flags mounted to the back. One wonders if those neighbors are friendly with one another or not. It hardly seems likely.
The entire scene was a manic mix of American freedoms and personal rights. Like so many American waterways and streets and alleys in America, the nation is currently running on premises of vigilante justice.
That is why the conflict between the angry kayaker and the defiant swimmer escalated so quickly, and was so jarring to witness. It seemed a microcosm of everything wrong with America right now. The white guy clearly approached the situation too aggressively. That elicited an equally disrespectful response from the Latino guy swimming with his little relatives. Both felt they were protecting something dear to them. Yet both were in some respect exhibiting behavior that was immensely out of line with the scope of the situation. But everyone was somehow trying to make a point, and everyone was losing in the process.
That type of overwrought reaction seems to describe the American scene as a whole. The environment at Crystal River is uniquely symbolic of how American consumerism mixed with self-centered recreation, rabid patriotism, and abuse of the environment combine to create a warlike atmosphere even in the most historically significant of places.
We paddled back to return our kayaks only to find two women in black and white swimsuits standing waist deep in front of the beach where a batch of young men waited for us to return our little crafts. The two women seemed oblivious to the fact that they were standing right in the way of a commercial enterprise trying to do business. Neither of them wore a mask, either. Their arms were crossed and their expressions showed concern over some topic they were discussing. This selfish lack of self-awareness seems to be rampant in the world today. It happens at grocery stores where people focused on choosing green beans ignore other customers. It happens on the roads where drivers putz along in the left lane determinedly unconcerned that their presence impedes all other traffic. And it happens in the Congress and Senate where politicians preoccupied with their own ideologies refuse to turn an ear to anyone else.
So we sat idling in our kayaks for a couple minutes as the women stood hip deep in the water. We hoped they would notice that we were trying to come ashore, but after watching the kayak guy flip out at the swimmers back in the canal, our appetite for confrontation of any kind was gone. Thus we sat there patiently until someone trying to launch their kayak from shore less than politely asked them to move out of the way. Faced with the nose of a plunging kayak, they did move a few feet to the side. That’s when we quickly paddled our boats ashore. This is what America has come to. We’re all daily witnesses to casual abuse by force selfish distraction.
That’s the same force of will that once produced motorboat gashes in the backs of manatees swimming innocently in the canals of Crystal River. The laws passed to protect them actually serve to protect people from themselves in this world. There’s a vital lesson for America in that bit of history.
Manatees and the law
On shore, we returned the laminated bay map to the the kayak workers on shore. The back of the card also contained warnings against touching or abusing manatees in any manner. “Do not jump on their backs,” the card stated. “That has happened.” The card also listed a number of other stupid things that people have done to manatees over the years. Those antics were clearly the behavior of people acting selfishly and without regard for the well-being of the manatees. Like the man who dragged the baby manatee ashore, there are so many people in this world stuck in their own frame of reference it is getting difficult to know who can be trusted to act with civility, and who cannot.
Too many people assume that the law does not apply to them. Or, they believe it is their right to interpret the law according to their own selfish terms. Some folks seem to think that the act of flying a flag or defending a wall entitles them to act out their aggressions. The same goes for wearing a badge or claiming some status; be it race, religion or nationality, that confers them special status.
On the other front, there are many people taking insult too quickly. Some assume that prejudice is automatically at work and that a genuine threat is at hand when some of what goes on in this world is the direct product of cultural misunderstanding. Identity is one of the most powerful of all emotions, and when those come in conflict with each other, look out. It is all the product of human tribalism, and the craftiest of politicians know how to leverage those forces to gain votes and popularity.
That is why the nation is at such risk right now. If people can’t understand something as basic as leaving a peaceful manatee alone in its element, we are doomed to behave like ugly brutes on land as well. This is particularly true when our leaders can think of nothing better to do than make fun of the appearance of a creature such as a manatee rather than appreciate the wonder and uniqueness of their existence. But that’s where we’ve come in the last five years, and America as a concept is sinking as a result. When people feel powered to disavow the need for decorum, driven forward by inspiration from people with ugly spirits and angry hearts, it’s not just the manatees that are at risk. It is all of us.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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 definition of a cancel culture is a society in which the past or present acts of a person are used to undermine their credibility to silence their voice and even end their career.
While the term “cancel culture” is fairly recent, the concept of canceling someone out based on supposedly scandalous behavior or wrongful ideas is as old as human history. And it has been a particular weapon of religion for thousands of years.
The most prominent example in religious history is the cancel culture of religious legalism that followed a man named Jesus around to dig up dirt on his teachings. Religious authorities fearing for their own positions in society and eager to defend their notion of “tradition” gathered everything they could find on Jesus to conduct a severe cancellation of his message and ministry.
They succeeded in the short term by collaborating with political forces in the Roman world to conduct a cancel culture trial, mocking his claim to be “King of the Jews” while casting blame for calling himself the Son of God. The religious authorities did everything they could to cancel Jesus, and he notably offered little resistance to their aims. That led to the crucifixion now celebrated by the sign of the cross, a holy symbol to Christians the world over.
Many Christian denominations love to lay claim to that cross as a symbol of their salvation. Yet these same Christians in many cases choose to aggressively ignore the cancel culture habits of those who brought that event about.
Legalistic culture wars
As a result, the most powerful branches of the Christian tradition became the one thing Jesus most despised about religion. By the third century A.D., the institution of Christianity was dominated by religious legalists whose adherence to rules and regulations were no less severe than the people who conspired to crucify Jesus in the first place. Anyone that did not adhere to the tenets of Christian religion could be “cancelled” and banned from society outright.
Christianity took cancel culture mentality to its extreme, engaging in pogroms and purges against all those who opposed its authority. The principal target was the Jews, on whom literalistic Christians placed blame for the death of Jesus. That was a necessary and calculated leap in gaslighting the world to distance themselves, at least in terms of perception, from their legalistic forefathers.
The worst cancel in history
Thus the greatest lie in all of human history took over a religion that started with disciples wandering two-by-two and town to town.
As it gathered political power, Christianity became a force for evil through a cancel culture carrying out inquisitions, crusades, witch hunts, and torture to enforce the authority of its traditions and its gathering wealth.
These efforts to suppress or cancel other cultures were “successful” in the sense that they led to the death of millions of people at the direction of the church. Entire nations succumbed to the brutality as claims of providence were veiled behind facetious terms such as Manifest Destiny to justify the cancellation of any culture that stood in front of the Christian Way. The same perverse mentality was used to justify slavery, and the Bible served as the tool to cancel others as well. From homosexuals to women, from immigrants to scientists, Christianity has embarked on cancel campaigns against all of them.
The Holocaust cancellation of Jews
Even that despot Adolf Hilter recognized the irony of these behaviors by the Christian religion. When asked about his vendetta against Jews, he stated, “We are not doing anything to the Jews that the Christian religion has not been doing for 1500 years.” Christians sought to “cancel” all Jews that refused to convert and confess Jesus as the Messiah. The same rage and cancel wars were brought against other religions and cultures as well. From the shrines of Islam to the huts of indigenous tribes in far flung regions of the earth, Christianity sought to cancel those faith systems outright.
The greatest lie in history is that Christianity as a religion was somehow an “improvement” over the legalistic traditions favored by the religious authorities whom Jesus came to resist in the first place. Too much Christian history involves bloodshed and merciless domination of cultures around the world. Let us recall that even King David was denied the right to build a temple to honor the Lord because, as God warned him, “You have too much blood on your hands.” God may work with flawed people, but in the end, there is still conscience to consider.
That brings us to modern times, in which the President of the United States is backed by a Christian cabal all too eager to conduct culture wars to impose their worldview on the nation it claims as its sole possession. With dismissive aplomb, the President engages in daily attempts to cancel out voices and destroy the careers of his perceived opponents. Some of these people served in his own administration. He hailed them for their service when they joined, yet assailed them mercilessly if they left. From his personal attorney Michael Cohen, the “fixer” who did Trump’s dirty work, to men such as former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Trump praised them for perceived loyalty. But when they part ways, the sociopathic side of Trump uses Twitter to cancel those he sees as disloyal. All the while, Trump engages in well-documented corruption and collusion with despots around the world.
And predictably, Trump has in his corner a phalanx of highly calculating religious zealots who view it as their right to cancel anyone they deem enemies to the cause. As noted, this approach has a long, sordid history.
John Lennon was right
One of the biggest demonstrations of Christian cancel culture occurred when John Lennon of The Beatles made an accurate yet widely misunderstood statement about the nature of popularity. He wisely stated, “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that; I know I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now. I don’t know which will go first – rock & roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.”
Lennon was right. Across the mainstream denominations in America, Christianity is shrinking because much of the religion and its legalistic foundations are anachronistic. That’s what makes so many religious authorities fearful of future irrelevance. Yet we should recall the response back when Lennon made those cogent remarks. All across the Bible Belt, buzz-haired teenagers and screaming girls threw records onto bonfires in an attempt to cancel The Beatles on the spot.
Fifty years later, The Beatles are more popular than ever. The timelessness of their music and the importance of their social commentary during a time of great social change has grown in significance with the passing years. A deranged fan jealous of Lennon’s fame and talent canceled his anti-hero’s life with a bullet to the head, a haunting reminder that the artist once wrote a song titled Happiness is a Warm Gun.
Smoking guns and gaslighting
So the Christian haters of John Lennon ultimately got their way. How ironic it is that so many hard-Right Christians seem to love and embrace their weapons as much as they love Jesus. Thousands of people die each year from gun violence in America, their lives cancelled by a twisted interpretation of the Second Amendment that ignores the requirement for a well-regulated militia in favor of a selfish claim to bear arms at any cost.
How ironic it is that a religion in its most conservative form celebrates the value of law, yet when it comes to protecting the lives of millions of people in history, it has dismissed the most important law of all, Thou Shall Not Kill in favor of a worldview that says it’s okay to cancel the lives of anyone who stands in the way of imperial or populist religious power.
Christianity is gaslighting the world by claiming loss of religious freedom when its own agenda for millennia has been aimed at canceling the freedoms and rights of people who don’t share the same belief system.
In my forthcoming book Rescuing Christianity from the Grip of Tradition, the issue of religious legalism is dissected and traced back to the earliest words in the Bible, where the Serpent in the Garden of Eden first adopts the Word of God to serve its own purposes.
You know the phrase. “Stupid is as stupid does.” That means even seemingly smart people can believe and do stupid things.
By a factor of 8 to 1 the United States of America is leading the European Union in the number of new cases of Coronavirus. The EU has 445M people and the US only 330M, yet we’re kicking their ass when it comes to spreading a virus that is spread through airborne droplets. For these reasons, health officials recommend that people engage in simple practices such as social distancing, wearing masks, washing their hands and staying away from crowded places like bars, beaches and political rallies.
Stupid by example
But some people are too stubborn and stupid to abide in those simple recommendations. They’re even stupid enough to conflate them as infringements on their personal liberties. And for their example, the can cite none other than the President of the United States, who aggressively refuses to wear a mask in public.
Upward spiral of death
As a result, cases of Coronavirus infections are soaring in multiple states. Deaths are following the upward curve as well. Much of this rise is due to serial stupidity on the part of Americans refusing to abide by the most basic precautions. Many are politicizing the wearing of masks as a government mandate.
Despite the surge in infections, Vice President Mike Pence insisted in late June 2020 that things are looking great and that the virus is abating. Yet even the Governor of Texas admitted that he’d done a stupid thing by allowing people to crowd into bars and other compromising situations.
The Real Problem
But that’s the real problem. A massive number of Americans is unwilling to compromise to protect their own health, or the health of others. So I’ll say it right here, loud and clear. These people are stupid.
Being stupid is traditionally defined as “having or showing a great lack of intelligence or common sense.” In the case of people whining about wearing masks, they’re the stupidest people of all.
Two kinds of stupid
As we surmise from the definition above, there are two kinds of stupid. There is lack of intelligence, and there is lack of common sense. That’s what “stupid is as stupid does” means. If you let your brain succumb to stupid advice, that makes you stupid. If you’re too dumb to know common sense when you see it, that’s unfortunate, and sometimes tragic.
Stupid and proud of it
At this point, America is overrun by people exhibiting both kinds of this stupidity. Some display their stupidity in claiming that their man Trump has done a “good job so far” on the pandemic. But the EU and the rest of the world figured out how to do far better than the US when it comes to keeping their populations safe. Only the US is stupid enough to continue down a path of stupid behavior and even stupider political support for a massive failure in leadership. People are being stupid and proud of it.
Forrest Gump versus Donald Trump
If we were to compare the relative decision-making capabilities of Forrest Gump with Donald Trump, whose advice would you most likely be inclined to take? The simple man whose love of common sense made him wealthy and loved? Or the conflicted man whose love of himself bankrupted his own company multiple times, led to a $25M fraud against his own University, got impeached for pursuing illegal political gain and denied the threat of a pandemic and continues to pretend it doesn’t exist?
Let’s put it bluntly. Based on everything we know about the corrupt and fatal actions of Donald Trump, anyone who supports the man has to be stupid. That might be a question of basic intellect, or just as likely a case of willful stupidity. Either way, it’s a tragedy for America.
The resistance to wearing masks in response to the Covid-19 pandemic starts at the top in America. President Donald Trump refused to wear a mask even in a factory where personal protective equipment is being manufactured. After he left, the company was forced to throw out the entire day’s production. He’s done this stunt more than once, as has his Vice President Mike Pence. That’s how little the President and this administration cares about the personal safety of anyone––or anything––that he encounters. Yet he had the gall to make his Tulsa rally attendees sign a waiver exonerate his campaign from any liability in the that people got sick. Talk about cognitive dissonance.
His example is emboldening his supporters to follow suit and protest wearing masks in public, which they apparently regard as both an inconvenience and a broach of their personal freedoms.
But if masks are such a problem for people to wear, why don’t we just do away with the inconvenience of wearing some as restrictive as pants? So many obese Americans seem to have a problem fitting into them in the first place.
Others simply don’t seem to get the concept of what pants are all about. Take this woman whose garments leave nothing to the imagination. She seems to feel that actual pants would get in the way of her right to express herself in public.
So perhaps we should all follow this woman’s example and ditch the pants as well as the masks in a display of personal freedoms and the right to dispense with social conventions altogether.
You might argue there are morality issues associated with not wearing pants. But that doesn’t stop this woman, does it? If she turned around it is quite certain there would be more to find out about her anatomy when her genital outlines are there for all of us to see. Who’s to say she doesn’t have a right to do show her stuff? It’s her body. Her right.
Or, you could argue that the social convention of wearing pants is a matter of personal and public hygiene. But come on! Flopping our genitals and ass cheeks on public seating isn’t really that much of a problem, is it? Would it really bother you if the man sitting next to you in a restaurant has his junk on display while you have your dinner? This is America, people! Trump wants us to be free!
As it stands, I’m in favor of wearing masks in public for all the right reasons. In the event that I am asymptomatic for the Coronavirus, the mask provides a layer of protection for others. And if there are people walking around spreading the virus in my direction, the mask helps prevent that from reaching me.
I carry my masks around with me in the car. Sometimes I start toward a store and forget to take the mask along. In that case, I go back and fetch it, strap it over my ears and go about the business at hand. Yet somehow this simple routine is too much to ask for millions of Trump supporters who think that the risk of contracting Coronavirus is “fake news” thanks to the President. He’s whipped them into a frenzy of “protest” against the entire concept of masks.
That appeal to selfish ignorance fits the entire mentality of the Trump regime. Recently Trump insisted that the rise in Covid-19 cases is only the product of increased testing. This is precisely what Trump said about the issue. “Cases are going up in the U.S. because we are testing far more than any other country, and ever expanding,” Trump tweeted Tuesday. “With smaller testing we would show fewer cases!”
A June 23 CNBC story reports: “Public health specialists have repeatedly said the data does not indicate that increased testing accounts for the recent surge in daily new cases. 20 states currently have a positivity rate above 5%, according to John Hopkins University data, and that includes Arizona, which reports that 21.15% of all tests are coming back positive.”
The division that Trump creates among Americans and even within his own party is based on the breathtakingly stupid premise that personal freedoms are at risk in being asked to wear a mask in public. In what must be the height of irony, the Trump-driven protestor pictured above essentially steals language from the Pro-Choice movement on women’s reproductive rights to apply them to the idea that wearing a mask is an infringement of liberty and government intrusion on a woman’s body.
Here is the problem: The Trump movement thrives on this brand of cognitive dissonance. For those who don’t grasp exactly what that means, here’s the definition: “the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.”
They’re taking direction from a man who claims to be a truth-teller and authentic, yet paints is face orange everyday and engages in daily vain attempts to cover his balding head with an elaborate combover that blows around in a high wind. This is all significant. His face paint rubs off on his shirt collar. His lies rub off on the Constitution. He’s a fraud from head to toe, evidenced by the settlement of $25M against his own Trump University for bilking students out of money for sham courses that had no value except the shallow premise of the Trump name.
He has no shame. And despite his claims, he has demonstrated even less merit as a CEO or a President or even a dogcatcher. As Mark Twain once wrote, “All it takes is ignorance and confidence, and success is sure.” That is the Trump tactic in a nutshell, and his supporters eat it up. His tactics are clear. He takes no responsibility for all the bad things he causes and yet loves to claim credit for anything that works, including the economy that is a straight-line product of the restorative actions taken by President Obama following the Bush-led recession. These facts are clear to anyone with a soundly functioning brain. But just like Trump, denial and willing ignorance is preferable to his supporters as a means to claim authority and control over society.
And by the way, under the direct influence of Trump’s reign, an employment crash not seen since the Great Depression took place in 2020. If Trump wants credit where credit is due, he need look no further than the job statistics in which another 1.5M new unemployment claims were filed again this last week in June. Trump is a disaster for America by every measure; economy, environment, employment and education, to name just a few. It’s all because he’s a professional con man, and nothing more.
That brings us to his denial of the Coronavirus pandemic that is now directly responsible for more than 121,000 dead Americas. The United States has only 4% of the world’s population and 25% of the known deaths related to this pandemic. This is all Trump’s fault. He caused this with his delays and continuing denial that Covid-19 is a persistent, lethal disease that requires social vigilance to contain. Other countries have managed that. New Zealand wiped out the virus in its nation. Now the European Union is considering a ban on American visitors abroad. This is all Trump’s fault. He has turned the United States of America into a banana republic, complete with a narcissistically fascist dictator who paints his face like a vain clown afraid of showing even his crocodile tears.
But this mess is also the fault of his stubborn, death-defying supporters who can’t separate the least bit of fact from fiction. The real problem now is getting this sociopathic monster out of office. Already he’s propagandizing the upcoming election to put any result into question. This is the type of dog-whistle manipulation of the American public at which Trump most excels. Whether it is media reporting of his many lies or the investigation of Russian involvement in the 2016 election, Trump plays the victim and gins up his supporters because they revel in the notion that what used to make America great was the type of religiously-driven racism and social control that persecuted others for cultural advantage, and when that got boring, it was all done for sport.
Trump is the reason why bloviating bastards and stubborn bitches are waving flags and crying foul over the simple request to wears masks in public. But if masks are an affront, so is wearing pants in public, and we know from where that selfish instinct emanates. The Emperor himself is wearing no clothes, and his worshipful cult cheerleads his waltz down the naked travails of history.
A few years back while riding my bike in the country, I saw a green vehicle parked by the side of the road. The writing on the side said, “CONSERVATION POLICE.”
With an interest in the environment and especially our parks and natural areas, I stopped to talk with the officer at his vehicle. That probably doesn’t happen all that often. I noticed that he was a bit guarded in his demeanor. So I opened with a question, “Do people know what you do?”
He seemed to realize that I was either curious or genuinely knew the answer to that question. He smiled and said, “Between you and me, about seven out of ten people want to know what the Conversation Police do.”
Training and commissions
That speaks to a lack of knowledge and a level of paranoia that exists in society toward the police. As a writer I followed up on our talk by contacting the regional office for the State Conservation Police and wound up interviewing two officers, one a woman and the other a man, about the distinctive nature of their jobs.
What I learned is that State Conservation Police go through training to become fully commissioned state police officers. They also go through additional training for the specifics of their job in policing natural areas, parks and other situations in urban, suburban and country settings.
I learned that it’s not an easy job. I also learned that the police with whom I talked at the managerial level were open to the idea of communicating the breadth of the job handled by state conservation police officers. It’s true that many people do not understand the roles and challenges of police officers at the local, regional and state level.
Urban and exurban realities
After learning more about policing the wilder areas of our state and writing an article about it for a suburban lifestyle publication, I met a man that served as a police chief in a highly urban area west of Chicago. It was a tough town according to reputation. He’d spent many years rising through the ranks to become the Chief of Police. In classic police fashion, he was not overly communicative about the nature of his job. But after talking for an hour, I dared ask him a question that I’d long wanted to pose to a police officer in his position.
“What do police actually think about the problems of gun control?”
It was admittedly a question phrased in a liberal context. Yet he answered with sincerity. “We think it’s a mess,” he confided. “There are too many guns out there.”
One could immediately jump to a number of conclusions from that statement. Gun proponents might state that there are too many illegal guns in the urban environment where the officer was stationed. It is easy to ascribe patent gun violence to gang-bangers and such. That carries with it the implications of race. Yet the police officer with whom I spoke was himself African-American. He’d probably seen plenty of violence and law-breaking from people of all races and backgrounds.
But the culture of policing in America depends on guns as safety and protection for the officers. The result has been that as America’s volume and capacity of the weapons on the street has escalated, so has the need for police to arm up and defend themselves. When placed in circumstances where guns may be present or called into action, police are at risk in every situation from a traffic stop to breaking up a block party to watching prisoners in hospital settings.
So it’s really no surprise that people are being gunned down by the police. The sad, sick part of the equation is that the paramilitary structure of the police force with its hierarchy of command places police in a position of protecting their own as would any other form of unit committed to a battlefront. That’s what the United States of America has become. A nation at war with itself, and the police are supposed to act like the United Nations forces in blue helmets trying to keep the peace.
And frankly, it is too much to ask
The police are clearly being asked to do too many types of things. From traffic control to domestic violence, handling mental illness in the public space to tracking down crime and violence, the police are expected to multitask like no one’s business. And frankly, no organization can handle that many options and be efficient and effective.
That’s especially true when the paramilitary structure demands loyalty, rigidity and compliance on the front end. Surely discipline is important to public and private policing. But discipline alone is too easily compromised when social or work pressures enter the picture. That’s when people become more concerned with covering their ass and keeping things quiet if things go wrong, rather than opening the subject to inquiry and consideration.
That is how an officer decides to kneel on the neck of another human being long enough to kill them. And why fellow officers stand aside or even support that effort. There is too much tribalism built into the paramilitary model of the police forces of this country. That is not to say that the police are necessarily to blame. Who wants to risk their lives in a country where there are more guns than people? The perversion of the Second Amendment into a free-for-all of gun rights and vigilantism has turned policing into a losing proposition from the start.
The opening phrase of the Second Amendment holds the solution, too long ignored and debased by the likes of the NRA and its patsy politicians, that reminds us that, “A well-regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state…” should not be dismissed as an unnecessary burden on the nation. More people have died from gun violence in the United States than all the soldiers killed in American wars on foreign soil. The nation is in the long grip of a gun violence pandemic and mass shootings that only abated for a bit once a disease pandemic came along to force people off the streets and out of the cycle of blasting each other to bits.
The POTUS and domination
The worst part of all this vigilante addiction to guns and force, and the paramilitary approach to society, is that the President of the United States even views our nation’s military as his personal police force. In a fascist response to public protests over the killing of multiple black victims by police, Trump proposed sending tanks into Washington, DC and other cities to “dominate” those he considers out of order. It is no surprise where Trump likely got the idea, as he put in a call to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin before launching the idea of this proposed assault on American society to protect his own racist agenda. Trump’s murderous instincts have included instructing police not to be too soft and to knock heads when doing their jobs. This is not the message America needs to hear.
Cities across America are now considering “defunding the police” which is an unfortunate term at best. The real goal is to restructure the approach and obligations of America’s police forces. The best place to start is changing the system from a hierarchy of paramilitary command to a more collaborative model similar to organizations where decision-making is more effectively crowd-sourced and includes contributions from all levels of an organization to hold everyone accountable and provide support where needed from top to bottom for police everywhere. Of course, the “tough guys” mentality of police work would resist this model as impractical and too soft. But what’s the better alternative? Remaining at war with the public in fear for the lives of the officers on the front lines, or acting with conscience and proving the Blue Lives really do matter?
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.