Orbán Is Teaching, Republicans Are All Ears

On Thursday, the Republicans began their annual CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) meeting … in the nation of Hungary, not here in the U.S.  Not even in a democratic nation, but in one ruled by an authoritarian, Viktor Orbán.  One might ask why they would go to the extra trouble, extra expense, and spend the extra time holding their meetings more than 4,000 miles away.  And I might answer that it is their goal to model the United States on Orbán’s example, to establish the same sort of country that Hungary is today.  Need proof?

The unconscionable Matt Schlapp, the head of the American Conservative Union and organizer of CPAC, told NPR this week that he was bringing his event to Hungary because it “represents Christian conservative values” and American conservatives want to replicate this in the U.S. by learning from the country’s ultra-right-wing authoritarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán.

The conference’s program shows exactly what topics are important to the Trump wing of the Republican Party, with sessions entitled: “Western civilization under attack,” “In God we trust,” “The father is a man, the mother is a woman,” and “Culture wars in the media.”  Joining Schlapp and the rest of the KKK Republicans will be the truly nasty Candace Owens and her current hubby, Parler CEO George Farmer.  Oh, and guess who else will be making an appearance via video message?  The ignoble Tucker Carlson of Fox ‘News’ and Mark Meadows, former chief of staff for the twice-impeached former guy.  What a lineup, eh?  So much filth all in one place!  They may have to burn the building just to get rid of the stench.

But the ‘star’ of the show is Orbán himself, the main reason the convention is being held in Hungary to begin with.  In his opening remarks on Thursday, he said …

  • “We need to take back the institutions in Washington and Brussels. We need to find friends, and we need to find allies. We need to coordinate the movement of our troops, because we have a big challenge ahead of us.”
  • “Have your own media. It’s the only way to point out the insanity of the progressive left. The problem is that the western media is adjusted to the leftist viewpoint. Those who taught reporters in universities already had progressive leftist principles. Of course, the GOP has its media allies, but they can’t compete with the mainstream liberal media. My friend, Tucker Carlson is the only one who puts himself out there. His show is the most popular. What does it mean? It means programs like his should be broadcasted day and night. Or as you say 24/7.”

The press at CPAC is mostly home-grown, from state-run Hungarian media. Independent European and U.S. outlets were largely denied access, and CBS News was one of a small number allowed access to the conference.  Journalists from international media outlets, including the New Yorker, Vox Media, Vice News, Rolling Stone, and the Associated Press, were denied access to the event despite months of requests.

Are you starting to feel the chills going up your spine yet?  I do.

Let me tell you just a bit about Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.  He is a white supremacist authoritarian. He’s restricted Muslim immigration and LGBTQ rights while building a close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.  The former guy was a big fan of Orbán, saying …

“Viktor Orbán has done a tremendous job in so many different ways — highly respected, respected all over Europe — probably, like me, a little bit controversial, but that’s OK.”

I rarely repeat the words of the former guy, for in my book he is completely irrelevant, but I do so this time to give you an idea of the sort of person Orbán is … and believe me, he is not a good person and he is definitely NOT highly respected throughout Europe.

All of the international democracy rating agencies agree that Hungary is no longer a democracy.  During his 12 years in power, Orbán has chipped away at the foundations of Hungarian democracy. It has been replaced with an authoritarian regime that wields a cynical interpretation of the law as a weapon; the country is governed by rules like the border journalism permits, regulations that can seem reasonable on their face but actually serve to undermine essential democratic freedoms.

Elections there are free, in the sense that the vote counts aren’t nakedly rigged. But they are unfair: The government controls the airwaves and media companies to such a degree that the opposition can’t get their message out.

Viktor Orbán is an autocrat, he does not govern but he rules … and yes there is a difference, a BIG difference.  Orbán is, by any reasonable definition, a fascist, although some would argue he is merely a ‘soft fascist’.  Fascism … it’s a scary word, isn’t it?  The former guy made no attempt to hide the fact that he wanted to rule rather than govern, and he chipped away at the restraints that kept him, to an extent at least, from doing so.  He plotted not one, but three attempts to overthrow the will of the people in the 2020 election, to install himself as an unelected autocrat for … how long?  4 years?  6 years?  A lifetime?

The fact that CPAC chose to hold their annual convention in Hungary and more to the point to have Orbán as their main speaker should tell you all you need to know about the course being plotted by Republicans aka conservatives for the United States.  It’s an ugly picture my friends.  I’m not a scaremonger or a conspiracy theorist, but the Republican Party has been overtaken by a wanna-be dictator and they are falling all over themselves trying to lick his boots, to please him.  What does that say for the future of this nation?

Things Flying Under The Radar

Who … me????

I began working on this post yesterday afternoon but had to take a break from it to fold a load of laundry.  I made the mistake of leaving the lid open on my laptop, and when I came back, there was an ‘AZAZx’ typed where I had left off, and a pop-up box asking if I wished to continue using the microphone!  BOO!!! I know it was Boo, for he’s the only one that uses the computer, but I had my microphone disabled, so how the heck did he … that darn CAT!!!  Anyway … on to the business at hand.

For the past week or so, the news has been filled with the leaked Supreme Court draft that will almost certainly overturn Roe v Wade setting women’s rights back at least 50 years, and not much else has been covered.  Even the war in Ukraine took a backseat to Roe.  Now, I am as incensed as any about this decision and plan to speak more on the subject shortly, but there really are some other things of import that we should be aware of.  One such is another Supreme Court decision that was handed down last Monday that, in my view, treads dangerously onto the concept of separation of church and state.

The case was Shurtleff v Boston and the Court ruled that the City of Boston violated the First Amendment by denying Shurtleff’s application to fly a Christian flag over Boston City Hall.  City Hall is a government building that is visited by members of all religions and those of no religion, so why should one single religion be allowed to fly a flag.  To me, the U.S. flag and Massachusetts state flag are the only ones that should be flying over the Boston City Hall.  Not everyone working there or visiting will be Christian.  Does the Court suggest, then, that Muslims, Jews, and Jains should all be able to fly their own flags at the building?  Will it soon resemble the United Nations building?  And then … does this open the door for KKK and Nazi flags, as well?  Religion and government should never mix, and the highest Court in the land, the Court that claims to understand the Constitution so well, should have realized this was a bad decision that will open numerous doors that probably should remain closed.

Already, the Satanic Temple requests Boston to fly their flag for “Satanic Appreciation Week” from July 23-29.  Good luck keeping this from becoming a free-for-all, not only in Boston but around the nation.

In other news, First Lady Jill Biden visited Ukraine over the weekend.  It is extremely rare for a first lady to enter a war zone, but then Ms. Biden, like former First Lady Michelle Obama, has class.  She entered the country from Slovakia on Mother’s Day and met Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, who had not appeared in public since the Russian invasion began February 24th.

“I wanted to come on Mother’s Day. I thought it was important to show the Ukrainian people that this war has to stop, and this war has been brutal, and that the people of the United States stand with the people of Ukraine.”

First lady Jill Biden and Olena Zelenska, spouse of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, join a group of children at School 6 in making tissue-paper bears to give as Mother’s Day gifts in Uzhhorod, Ukraine on May 8. (Susan Walsh/AP)

Quite a change from the last First Lady [sic] who wore a jacket printed with “I really don’t care, do U?” when going to visit migrant children who had been separated from their parents at the U.S. border.

And speaking of Ukraine … on Saturday, the day before First Lady Biden visited, the Russians bombed a village school in eastern Ukraine, killing as many as 60 people.  There were about 90 people sheltering in the school when the bomb hit, setting it ablaze.  More than 170 civilians were evacuated from the Mariupol area on Sunday, bringing the total to around 600 given safe passage during a week-long rescue operation.  More than 3,000 civilians have been murdered by the Russians since the initial invasion on February 24th, and it is far from being over, I fear.  Perhaps it’s time to stop allowing Putin’s thinly-veiled threats hold us hostage, keep us from ending this war before half of the people in Ukraine are dead.

Here is just one example of the reason we MUST learn the lessons of history, that we must NOT whitewash or hide true history from our young people.  In the Philippines, yesterday was election day and the people chose a new president:  Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son and namesake of the former Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos and the infamous Imelda Marcos.  Reading about the rallies and the support he has gotten made me feel ill, was eerily similar to Trump rallies and the fans were similar to Trump’s, chanting and holding up peace signs.

According to an article in the New York Times

Rehabilitating the family name has been a recurring theme. Over the decades, the Marcoses have sought to target young voters with no memory of martial law or the torture and killing of political prisoners. Fifty-six percent of the voting population in the Philippines is aged between 18 and 41, and most did not witness the atrocities of the Marcos regime — ideal circumstances for the spread of disinformation, opponents say.

Several groups have sought to disqualify Mr. Marcos’s candidacy, pointing to a 1995 tax evasion conviction and the $3.9 billion in estate taxes that his family still owes the government. Mr. Marcos, 64, has brushed off the attacks as “fake news,” and refused to participate in nearly all presidential debates. (Sound familiar?)

At a rally in Las Piñas, Ella Mae Alipao, 15, said that she got most of her news about Mr. Marcos from TikTok and Facebook, and that she did not “believe much in books.” After Mr. Marcos’s father was ousted, Ms. Alipao said, “the Filipinos found out how good he was; that’s when they realized that they should have made him president for a longer time.”

Mr. Marcos has made similar comments: “I’m not going to vindicate my father’s name because his name doesn’t need vindication,” he said in 1995. “I am so confident that history will judge him well.”

The current dictator calling himself ‘president’ is Rodrigo Duterte, a cruel person who has been linked to more than 1,400 ‘extrajudicial’ killings, as well as many other acts against humanitarian values.  That young lady’s statement above speaks volumes, shows us what happens when true history is withheld or whitewashed.  Are we headed down that same path?

They Are Not Just “Your” Kids!

A recent column by Frank Bruni brought to my attention something that … for whatever reason … had not occurred to me in this whole education “cultural war” anti-CRT, anti-LGBTQ school curriculum battle.  DAMMIT, Ron DeSantis and others who would deprive our children of an education … WE THE PEOPLE … all of us, even those of us who no longer or never did have school-age children, PAY for the schools AND we rely on the schools to turn out well-educated, well-rounded young people who can make this country — the world — a better place for us all!  DeSantis and the bigoted parents who do not want their children to learn that the U.S. is and has always been a racist nation, DeSantis and the homophobic parents who are scared shitless that little Johnny or Susie may eventually realize that … hey, it’s okay to be different …  DeSantis and those narrow-minded parents are ruining the future of this country, ensuring the next generation will repeat the mistakes of the last!!!

Whew … glad I got that off my chest.

But seriously … every working person in this nation pays taxes … taxes that go to pay teachers, to build, renovate and maintain school buildings, pay bus drivers and buy buses, desks, and other equipment.  Why should only parents and governors have a say in whether our children are educated or indoctrinated?  Parents:  Your children are my children’s future and the future of every person in the country!  For you to determine that they should be shielded from our past is to say that you want the racist, homophobic ideology that has often been prevalent in the U.S. to continue.  You say you don’t want your children to “feel guilty” over such issues as slavery and Jim Crow … well, I never felt guilty when I learned of these things as a child and later a teen, I just felt that I wanted to do better than past generations had done.  Isn’t that what we need?  Do you hate Blacks and Gay people so much that you want your children to grow up sharing your hatred?  Do you want to see hundreds more Black men murdered as George Floyd was in Minneapolis in 2020 because you were too ashamed to allow your children to learn the truth?

If a parent wishes their children to learn only the happy-happy-joy-joy parts of U.S. history, then they can either find a private school that shares their views, or they can homeschool their children, but the do NOT have the right to inflict their narrow-minded views on every child in the nation!  Parents who wish to teach Christianity or Islam or Judaism to their children have plenty of time off campus to do just that, but those parents do NOT have the right to cram it down the throats of children whose families believe differently or do not place the same level of importance on religion as they do.  There is a reason that the U.S. Supreme Court declared in 1962 that prayer in schools is unconstitutional … because not all of us believe the same, and that is our right, as well as the right of our children!

Ron DeSantis owes this nation an apology, for he has attempted to make the whims of a few into the law of the land.  And why?  Because he hopes to stir the pot enough to win the presidential election in 2024.  He would destroy our future for his own personal gain, just like another similar ‘man’ who was twice-impeached and voted out of office two years ago.  These, my friends, are not the sort of politicians we need in our government, for they pander to the few and disregard the majority.  They would turn this nation into ashes tomorrow if it gave them the ego-boost, the power they so crave.  DON’T LET THEM DO IT!!!  Protect our children, protect our nation, get rid of the clowns who care naught for either.

Michigan State Senator Mallory McMorrow, who few people outside of Michigan have ever heard of, defended herself after being accused by a colleague of supporting pedophilia, being a ‘groomer’, and more because she stood up for teaching children the truth, and for being open and allowing children to express themselves.  This clip is well worth the time spent to watch Ms. McMorrow’s rebuttal.

The future of the world, if the world is to have a future, depends on teaching today’s children to be better than we and our forbears were, teaching them to care for the earth and ALL its inhabitants!  Instead of banning books, we should be banning bigots like Florida’s Governor DeSantis and all those who agree with his hate-filled ideology.

When Religion Promotes Hatred & Violence

There are those who would say that since I am not a Christian, I have no right to comment on the religion or its adherents.  In most cases, I would agree with them, but … it seems I just cannot keep my nose out of this one.  In no way am I criticizing Christianity or its followers as a whole, but rather certain elements that are doing more harm than good to this entire nation, and that are giving Christianity overall a bad image, a reputation that Christians won’t find easy to live down.

While I find ‘evangelicals’ to be particularly narrow-minded and offputting, my current target is two specific evangelical pastors, men of the cloth who are supposed to be preaching peace, love, and all that sort of stuff, but instead are promoting hatred and violence.  I might not care if they were one-offs, if nobody much was listening and most people took their rantings with a grain of salt, but as it is, both seem to have a fairly large following and thus they have the potential to inflict great harm in this nation.  And in that, I find justification for offering my two cents worth.

The first is Pastor Mark Burns who is running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from South Carolina’s District 4.  Now, I have a problem with Burns’ platform, with some of his recent statements such as …

  • “We need to replace God at the center of American politics. The separation between church and state was not designed to keep the church out of the government, it was designed to keep the government out of the church.”
  • “I will fight to restore law & order, election integrity, secure our borders, protect our God-given & America 1st agenda!”
  • “Life begins at conception, marriage is defined as between one man and one woman, our right to keep and bear arms is INHERENT, given to us by God almighty — NOT by any man.”

Feeling sick yet?  This is the type of rhetoric that is often used by the Republican Party these days to rile the uninformed masses, to play to their religious beliefs, and as I said, if he only attracted a handful of people, I wouldn’t waste my time writing about him.  But he has a fairly large following and he has the support of the former guy which, sadly, counts for a lot among some fools.

Mark Burns lied through his teeth about both his military service and education, lies that were easily disproven and he later admitted to them, but used the pathetic excuse that he was attacked because he is “a black man supporting Donald Trump for president.”  Oh yeah … minor detail, he still claims to believe that the election was stolen and that Trump is the rightful president.

But what raises my hackles is that he is urging his supporters to commit violence.  Our friend Scottie did a post on this with a couple of relevant videos a week or so ago, but in summary, Mr. Burns, while speaking at a rally in Oregon, told the audience to smash the car windows of anyone they believed was ‘antifa’.  Now, I am 100% against fascism, so that makes me an antifascist, but I am not a member of any group called antifa, and from everything I’ve read, it is a very small, unorganized group that gets far more credit than it deserves.  But to the point, when a candidate running for office advises violence, he should be removed from the ballot.  When a religious ‘leader’ calls for violence, he should be thrown out on his ear.  Instead, the crowds love him.  There is something pathetic about that.

The second is Pastor Greg Locke whose message is one of hate rather than peace and love.  Locke is a white supremacist and pastor of Global Vision Bible Church in the small town of Mount Juliet, Tennessee.  He participated in the events of January 6th at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., and the Proud Boys white supremacist organization often provide security at Locke’s events, if that tells you something.  To me, it speaks volumes, but even more so are Locke’s words.  He is against the COVID vaccine, saying …

“If you’ve had the covid-19 shot, I’m telling you you’ve got poison in your veins. We call out the covid-19 vaccine out right now. Keep that demonic spirit out of you right now in the name of Jesus!”

Just words, you might say, but when words are believed, as Locke’s often are, they can cause great harm.  How many people, listening to Locke’s words, have died of COVID because they believed his spiel?  He has a large online presence … he claims millions of followers, but even if it’s only thousands, he is a dangerous firebrand.  Two months ago he held a massive book burning, throwing in copies of such beloved books as the Harry Potter series among others.  He promotes hatred against the LGBTQ community and against people with mental disabilities.

I find it disturbing that according to an article in The Washington Post

“Locke has a social media following of 4 million across multiple platforms, and attendance at Sunday services has grown from 200 before the pandemic to more than 1,000, spilling out of the church building and into an enormous climate-controlled tent, which Locke calls a ‘canvas cathedral.’”

Again, the real danger is that so many people, for whatever reason, listen to and hang on Locke’s words – words of hate, words of dissent, words that incite violence against any and all who view the world through a different lens than Pastor Locke.

I don’t know the solution to counter the hate of both of these men, Mark Burns and Greg Locke.  I only know that they are a threat to us all in one way or another.  The 1st Amendment that guarantees free speech enables them to spread their message of hatred and violence unchecked, and those without the ability to think and reason may well become their private army against the rest of us.

A Few Thoughts …

A few days ago, our friend Roger and I were chatting, and he happened to mention an old movie that I saw way back in the day, Inherit the Wind (1960).  I could remember very little of it, so I went to Wikipedia to be reminded of the story … oh yeah … it was based on the Scopes Monkey Trial, formally The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, in 1925 in small-town Tennessee.  I decided to watch the movie again, having forgotten most of it in the 50 years or so since I first saw it.  I’m glad I did, and I highly recommend it.

This movie has some of the best acting of all time.  Spencer Tracy, Frederic March, Dick York (of Bewitched fame), and Harry Morgan (of Dragnet and M*A*S*H fame) outdid themselves in this one.  But it wasn’t only the acting.  It was the film itself, the message, that cost me a couple of nights’ sleep.  It was seeing, or rather being reminded, of the cruelty of the human race, of man’s closed minds when it comes to views that do not match his own.

It is Spencer Tracy’s final words in the movie that provoke thought.  Speaking of his antagonist, Matthew Harrison Brady (Frederic March), as he speaks to newspaperman E.K. Hornbeck (Gene Kelly) he begins …

“A giant once lived in that body, but Matt Brady got lost because he looked for God too high up and too far away.”

And with those few words, I was reminded of the evangelical movement here in the U.S. today.  Is it possible that a person can believe in God or Allah or Buddha without adhering to a religion?  What, after all, does religion do?  It provides rites and rituals that manipulate people, that dictate what they must believe and how they must act.  And it expands … it attempts to mold all people into its set of values.  If a religion proclaims that homosexuality is wrong, then LGBTQ people must be either converted or exorcised from society.  If a religion teaches that white people have a higher value than all others, then Blacks, Hispanics, Middle Easterners … well, more than half of the world’s population must be set apart, given lesser roles in society.  If a religion teaches that women are lesser creatures than men, then women must be subjected to being ruled, told what to do and how to act, by men.

Religion, from what I’ve seen, promotes exclusion and hatred … hatred toward those who are considered to be somehow ‘different’, whether by the colour of their skin, their gender, or simply the fact that they don’t buy into the story of the world being created in just six days.

A personal story … when I was married, I lived in a small town in Virginia and my best friend was the wife of my husband’s cousin.  As our friendship progressed and we learned more about each other, she invited me to join their church.  As a non-believer and anti-religionist, I politely declined … no criticism, just a polite, “Thanks, but no thanks.”  Well, when she told her husband Danny, my husband’s cousin, he told her that she must ‘convert’ me, or if she couldn’t do that, she must stop being friends with me.  That, my friends, is how religion works … it segregates humans into cults or clans where only those with the exact same features and beliefs can be a part of their world.  There is no room for new ideas, new thoughts … you either fit in or you’re out.

Inherit the Wind takes place in a small town where the majority of the people are of the same church; they think alike, and new ideas are not welcomed.  The teacher in this case (York) was caught teaching Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and it was this that landed him in the courtroom, fighting for the right to teach credible science, fighting for his right to be a teacher.  That’s all … he only wanted to open kids’ minds to other ways of thinking, to new ideas.  Rather like some of today’s teachers who only want to teach acceptance of Black people, Middle-Easterners, and LGBTQ people, but some in this nation are so scared of losing that white supremacy concept they found in church that they refuse to allow young people’s minds to be opened.  They feel threatened by new ideas, or even the teaching of history.

I think it is possible to believe in a god … whether you call it God, Buddha, Allah, Jain, or any other … without being religious.  There is much wrong in the world today … our environment is in decline, people are starving all around the globe, democracy is in decline, and people need/want to be able to believe that there is purpose in life, that somewhere, somehow, there is order in the chaos.  I get that.  But religion is only adding to the problems when it seeks to exclude certain people or ideas, when it seeks to close minds rather than open them, when it seeks to hide the truth from future generations.

Rewriting History

So, considering history … if we determine to no longer teach about slavery, about Jim Crow … what will we replace it with? We cannot simply ignore the fact that Black people existed. Young people aren’t stupid … don’t you think they will ask questions? And what about books and movies like “Gone with the Wind” and “To Kill a Mockingbird”??? Will we destroy all copies of those? What do we replace the now-illegal facts of history with? Our friend Michael Seidel has written an excellent, thought-provoking post … thank you, Michael!!!

Michael Seidel, writer

In the Smithsonian Magazine’s excerpt of Narrative Tension, Inc.. From the forthcoming book Making History: The Storytellers Who Shaped the Past by Richard Cohen to be published by Simon & Schuster, Inc. Printed by permission, Richard Cohen writes this:

‘Around the same time, between 1934 and 1936, the Politburo, or policy-making body, of the Russian Communist Party focused on national history textbooks, and Stalin set scholars to writing a new standard history. The state became the nation’s only publisher. Orwell had it right in Nineteen Eighty-Four, where the Records Department is charged with rewriting the past to fit whomever Oceania is currently fighting. The ruling party of Big Brother “could thrust its hand into the past and say of this or that event, it never happened—that, surely, was more terrifying than mere torture and death.”’

He is writing about the old U.S.S.R., the Soviet Union, and how…

View original post 442 more words

Let’s Revive Common Courtesy!

Today is National Common Courtesy Day, according to the National Day Calendar folks.  According to their website …

National Common Courtesy Day on March 21st serves as a reminder of the behavior that keeps society from melting into a sea of madness. In addition, the day brings awareness to how crucial common courtesy is in our lives and provides examples to help us improve.

In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, courtesy is described as a: behavior marked by polished manners or respect for others: courteous behavior b: a courteous and respectful act or expression.

Common courtesy can be as simple as saying “please” and “thank you” when asking for and receiving a service, gift, or assistance. Kindness and courtesy go a long way and are noticed by others even if you do not realize it. Letting someone in front of you in traffic is easy. Hold open a door for someone or give a person a hand with his groceries. Give up your seat on the bus to someone who might need it. Introduce yourself to the new employee or kid at school and take the time to introduce them to the rest of the crew.

All simple, common-sense things, right?  For some, yes, for others … not so much.  In today’s climate of political and social unrest, common courtesy often appears to have left the room.  I do see examples of common courtesy on the rare occasions I am able to leave my house.  I was having trouble with the digital card reader a few weeks ago when I was checking out at Kroger with just a handful a few groceries, and while the cashier was giving me dirty looks and rolling her eyes, a gentleman behind me stepped up and helped me get the machine to register my card.  I thanked him profusely and he actually tipped his hat to me!  But more often what I see is quite the opposite of courtesy.  Take a look on social media … any of it … Facebook, Twitter … and see some of the things written there.  Last week I saw a post calling for the execution of Dr. Anthony Fauci on Twitter, and worse yet, numerous people … thousands of them … were supportive of that post, including one of the readers of this blog!

Road rage and gun violence have increased during the last two years, since the start of the pandemic.  WHY???  Is it really the fault of the car in front of or behind you that you must wear a mask, or that your favourite restaurant has closed, or even that you’ve been laid off from your job?  Does that gun solve your problems?  Hardly.

Every day we hear about people being rude to servers in restaurants, cashiers in stores, and there has been a spate of airline passengers having to be restrained by duct tape, or a plane having to detour from its destination because crude passengers, aware of but fighting against mask regulations, have physically assaulted airline staff or other passengers!  These things, my friends, is NOT who we are … or at least not who we should be.

I’m not sure when the notion of ‘common courtesy’ began to be tattered and worn.  I think the years of the former president played an enormous role, and of course COVID and the associated restrictions also contributed.  But to be honest, Americans have never won the contest for common courtesy even before the “Reign of Trump”, so Trump and COVID merely served to exacerbate the situation.

And a bunch of today’s politicians certainly aren’t setting an example!  Some have promoted and encouraged violence against any and all who disagree with them, while others follow and promote conspiracy theories.  At least two that I’m aware of made last year’s Christmas cards from photos of their young children all holding guns!!!  This is in direct opposition with the concept of ‘common courtesy’!!!

I typically think the ‘National Days’ are propaganda, meaningless and trivial although sometimes good for a few laughs, but this one, a day set aside to think about and renew our determination to treat others with respect and courtesy, is one that I think should be observed more than once a year … like, maybe every day?

We can make our voices, our opinions, heard without raising our voices, without abusing others, without name-calling and cursing.  We can hold open a door, step aside, help someone who is struggling, even if they don’t believe the same as we do.  We can be staunch defenders of certain values and beliefs, and still be kind, still treat others with decency and respect.  And who knows … if we help somebody today, maybe … just maybe … that person will in turn help somebody else, and thus a movement is begun.  Okay, so maybe I’m being a Pollyanna, but folks … this violent hatred we are seeing all around us simply must 🛑STOP🛑 … and what better way to start the ball rolling than by making a concerted effort to observe National Common Courtesy Day?

Guess Who Else Was There On January 6th?

Bill Press is one of my favourite author/commentator/journalists around today, and his most recent column is about one group of people who willfully attempted to overthrow our government just over a year ago.  Please note that Press is not talking about the majority of Christians in this nation who are decent people and use their religion for good, rather than evil, but rather about the minority who are using the term “Christianity” to justify their bigotry, their hatred of ‘other’, and their intention of turning this nation into something it was never meant to be.

January 6: Blame the Christians! 

It’s understandable, but regrettable: the media was so busy reporting on the possible invasion of Ukraine, it buried an astounding bit of news about the actual invasion of the U.S. Capitol on January 6.  

Watching the violence at the Capitol that day, you were probably as puzzled as I was to see members of the mob carrying signs that said: “Jesus Saves.” Well, now we know why. A 60-page report, just released by the Freedom from Religion Foundation and the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, reveals the prominent role played leading up to and on January 6 by conservative Christians.  

It’s not just the Proud Boys, Three-Percenters, Oath Keepers, and Q-Anon responsible for planning and carrying out the insurrection, it’s also evangelicals marching under the banner of “Christian nationalism.” According to the report, belief in Christian nationalism was used to “bolster, justify, and intensify” the January 6 attack on the Capitol – and is still being used today to downplay what happened on January 6. 

Yes, you heard that right. A certain brand of “Christians” came to Washington, openly and proudly, to overthrow the government – all in the name of Jesus. Or at least in the name of the demented, upside-down brand of Jesus they’ve invented to justify their extreme right-wing politics.  

If you’re not familiar with “Christian nationalism,” you should be. I believe it’s one of the most serious threats to our democracy today. It’s especially serious because it cloaks itself in the guise of religion when, in fact, it’s nothing but an extreme-right political movement whose leaders, like evangelist Franklin Graham, pretend to worship Jesus while actually worshipping Donald Trump.  

Christian nationalism can be summed up in four major beliefs. One, America was founded as a Christian nation. Two, Christianity, therefore, is our official state religion and deserves special protection. Three, our founding documents were divinely inspired. Four, the only true Americans are Christian, culturally conservative, natural-born – and white. Christian nationalism is nothing but white nationalism with a smiley face. There’s no room in their narrow world (or small minds) for Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, or people of color.  

Christian nationalists used to operate below the radar, but they sure didn’t on January 6. It’s like they wanted the whole world to know they were there, even if they were operating in the most un-Christ-like fashion. People carried crosses and other Christian symbols. Outside and inside the building, T-shirts and caps proclaimed: “God, Guns, Trump.” One of the men who erected the gallows on the Capitol lawn wore a sweatshirt reading: “Faith, Family, Freedom.” Washington police officer Daniel Hodges told Congress how shocked he was, while being assaulted by the mob, to see one of his attackers holding a flag with the slogan: “Jesus is my Savior. Trump is my President.”  

On one level, it was like a religious revival. On another level, it was what it was: a lawless, seditious, blood-thirsty, armed mob, which did $30 million in damage to the Capitol, mauled approximately 1,000 police officers, threatened to murder the speaker of the House, the majority leader of the Senate, and the vice president of the United States, left four people in the crowd dead, and five police officers who died in the days and weeks following. And all this in the name of Jesus? God forbid!  

At the risk of stating the obvious: There is no action more un-Christ-like than the violent attack on police officers and members of Congress we experienced on January 6. And there is no one person on the planet more un-Christ-like than Donald J. Trump. In every way, as anybody who has read the Gospels knows, he’s the very antithesis of Jesus Christ. Donald Trump is the anti-Christ.  

Writing in Christianity Today the next morning, January 7, Anglican priest Tish Harrison Warren lamented: “The responsibility of yesterday’s violence must be in part laid at the feet of those evangelical leaders who ushered in and applauded Trump’s presidency.” Fortunately, there are other Christian leaders today who renounce Christian nationalism. In addition to Warren, they include Rev. William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign; Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners; and Rachel Laser, CEO of Americans United. Their message is simple: God is love. True Christians do not assault police officers, attempt to murder political leaders, or worship a congenital liar and serial adulterer.  

Meanwhile, I’m not sure what Jesus was doing on January 6, but I know one thing for sure: He wasn’t in front of the Capitol chanting “Hang Mike Pence!”  

(C)2022 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Weighing In On Whoopi’s Oopsie

I’ll probably regret this, but I’m going to weigh in on the Whoopi Goldberg controversy.  For those who may be unaware, here are the facts of the matter at hand:

On Monday, during a discussion on The View about a Tennessee school board’s decision to ban the Pulitzer prize-winning Holocaust graphic novel Maus, Whoopi Goldberg made this comment …

“Let’s be truthful, the Holocaust isn’t about race, it’s not. It’s about man’s inhumanity to man, that’s what it’s about. These are two groups of white people. You’re missing the point … let’s talk about it for what it really is. It’s about how people treat each other. It’s a problem. It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white, Jews … everybody eats each other.”

And thus began the uproar with many calling her remarks anti-Semitic and calling for her head on a platter.  Now, before I tackle this, let me just note that I was born into a household with a Jewish father and a Catholic mother and was raised in both religions in my early years (quite possibly this explains why I am a non-believer now).  Many of my most beloved relatives were Jewish and although I believe in no religion and do not consider myself Jewish, I am definitely not anti-Semitic.  That said, I am a realist and I thrive on facts.

If one looks at the facts of what Whoopi said, she is correct.  Judaism is not a race, it is an ethnicity, it is a religion.  Condemnation of Jews, attacks on Jews, are a form of ethnic hatred and religious bigotry, but are not racism!  What Whoopi said may not have been the most sensitive or politically correct thing to say, I’ll give you that, but technically she was correct … every form of bigotry is about “man’s inhumanity to man”, but not every form of bigotry is racism.

Kim Godwin, president of ABC News, immediately suspended Whoopi for a period of two weeks, even though she apologized both online and during Tuesday morning’s episode of The View.  I see nothing … absolutely nothing … that is anti-Semitic in Ms. Goldberg’s remark.  Insensitive?  Probably.  Anti-Semitic?  Hardly.

Race is defined as “a category of humankind that shares certain distinctive physical traits.”  You recognize a Black person you see on the streets by the colour of his skin and sometimes other physical traits, but one cannot point to a person and say he/she is Jewish, for there are no physically defining characteristics.  That is why the Nazis forced Jews to always wear a gold Star of David on their clothing, so they could recognize them as being Jews.  By definition, Judaism is a religion, a set of beliefs and people can either choose to believe or not.  Think about that for a minute.  If you are Black or Asian, you cannot simply decide not to be Black or Asian anymore.  However, you can and many, like myself, do decide not to be Jewish or Catholic or Protestant or Buddhist.

Whoopi Goldberg might have done herself a favour if she had thought before she spoke, however she is not an anti-Semite and is not, as far as I can tell, a bigot in any way, shape or form.  She apologized and I’m guessing it is a topic she will broach much more cautiously in the future.  Just something to think about, because with so many forms of bigotry becoming more prevalent in this, the 21st century, it can be mind-boggling.

As I’m sure this is a topic that may drive some degree of discussion and disagreement, I considered closing comments.  Instead, since I do encourage a healthy sharing of various viewpoints, note that I am leaving comments open, but will promptly remove any comment that is disrespectful of anyone or any group.  Got that?

Things That Make Me Scratch My Head 🤷

The U.S. has a LOT of problems right now:  our democratic principles were very nearly shredded on January 6th 2021;  racism and homophobia are on the rise as is violent behaviour; the gun culture is out of control with more than 2 million guns being sold in a single month; there is zero cooperation between the two sides of the congressional aisle, thus NOTHING is being accomplished for We the People; hatred is on the rise in our society with people attacking store clerks, airline personnel and each other for no good reason; a pandemic is killing around 2,000 people in this country per day; Putin is threatening to start a new World War with his troop buildup on Russia’s border with Ukraine; and the list goes on.  But guess what the hot topic today is among some?  Cartoon character Minnie Mouse’s new attire.  Yep, you heard me right …

Welcome to the 21st Century, Minnie!!!  In honor of its 30-year anniversary, Disneyland Paris announced that Minnie would be getting a new fit for the occasion. Stella McCartney has designed an ink blue patterned pantsuit to be worn by the individual playing the character at the park during the festivities, and Candace Owen’s right-wing heart is terribly bent out of shape because of it, saying from her stand on Fox …

“This is why people don’t take these people seriously. They’re trying to destroy fabrics of our society pretending that there’s issues.”

Um … excuse me, but I really don’t understand what the problem is.  A cartoon character changes clothes and that is destroying the “fabrics of our society”???  Perhaps I’m a bit slow, but … what does it matter and how the Sam Hell does it affect the “fabrics of our society”?  What is destroying our society is people who have zero tolerance for those who don’t look, act, or think in precisely the same way they do!

Along similar lines, Fox host Tucker Carlson stated on air last week that the famed M&Ms characters were being made less sexy to the point that “you wouldn’t want to have a drink with any one of them.”  So what, Tuck?  I wouldn’t have a drink with you if I were dying of thirst!

And in other news …

For those who may not have noticed, we have a pandemic going on … been going on for two years now.  Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church, may not have gotten that memo, however.  A couple of weeks ago, the Pope made the following comments when speaking to an audience …

“We see that people do not want to have children, or just one and no more. And many, many couples do not have children because they do not want to, or they have just one — but they have two dogs, two cats … Yes, dogs and cats take the place of children. Yes, it’s funny, I understand, but it is the reality. And this denial of fatherhood or motherhood diminishes us, it takes away our humanity. And in this way civilization becomes aged and without humanity, because it loses the richness of fatherhood and motherhood. And our homeland suffers, as it does not have children.”

Now, although I am not religious and have no affiliation with any religious organization, I once respected Pope Francis, felt he was on the path to make positive changes within the Catholic church.  But his statement is quite simply one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard, especially given the timing!  We are not only in the midst of a deadly pandemic that has taken the lives of nearly six million people worldwide, but we are experiencing the devastation of the environment that is causing shortages of food and potable water, not to mention breathable air.  If people are choosing to adopt a puppy, kitten or even an aardvark rather than contribute to the overpopulation of the planet, then give them a thumb-up instead of shaming them!  We do NOT need more people on Planet Earth, but there are thousands, maybe millions of pets in shelters who DO need a good home!