A View From An Evangelical

Our friend Jeff has a new post that simply must be shared. He has connected with a member of the Christian evangelical community, albeit one who, unlike the rest, sees quite clearly what Donald Trump is, but tries to explain how his fellow evangelicals see him. This is well worth reading and pondering, for if we understand the thought processes of those who would make Trump king, perhaps we can counter them. Thank you, Jeff, and Jerry!

On The Fence Voters

A few weeks back, I was lucky enough to have an article of mine published at The Culture Crush digital and print magazine. It was called Under The Influence. Alongside my piece, another article was published by Jerry Gramckow entitled Against Interpretation. While mine dealt with how snake oil salesman have been wreaking havoc in our society for generations, Jerry’s went deep into the mind of the modern day evangelical. He should know, because he’s been in that community for 47 years. Today, I’m proud to publish a provocative post from Jerry that dives into Trumpworld from his own unique perspective. 

Jerry graduated from Multnomah University, a conservative evangelical institution, and served as an editor at two prominent evangelical Christian ministries. 

Thank You Jerry!

When The Right Thing To Do Is Wrong

By Jerry Gramckow

“There’s nothin’ you can do to turn me away, Nothin’ anyone can say. You’re with…

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The “Great” Debate …

I actually managed to watch the full debate last night without once trying to punch my computer or throw it across the room.  In fact, there were several points at which I laughed aloud, causing the girls to look at me in awe, for it is a sound they don’t often hear coming from me these days.  Typically, I think the value of the debates is far over-rated by the pundits, but it is an opportunity to see the candidates speak for themselves, see how they handle pressure under fire.  But, if I want to know what their platform is, I will go to OnTheIssues.org  which is the best place I have found over the years to get all the candidates’ platforms in one place.

What follows is only my takeaway from last night’s debate.  I have no doubt that others will have different opinions, but since I gave up two hours of my life that I can never get back, I thought the least I could do is opine just a bit.

There are six democratic candidates left from the 20+ that entered the race:

  • Bernie Sanders
  • Elizabeth Warren
  • Joe Biden
  • Pete Buttigieg
  • Amy Klobuchar
  • Michael Bloomberg

The main reason I watched this debate last night … the first one I watched all the way through … was that I wanted to see how Mike Bloomberg handled the pressure of the questions he was inevitably going to get regarding his racist profiling in the stop-and-frisk policy he implemented in New York City, and the reports of sexist behaviour toward women in his businesses.  So, let me start with my take on Bloomberg’s performance last night.

The first word that comes to mind here is: arrogant.  His body language and facial expressions said:  I’m above all of this, I’m far above all these others, why am I even here?  Not one time did he actually smile, not once did he engage in any form of camaraderie with the others, and he rolled his eyes several times when asked a question that he felt unfair, or when critiqued by another candidate.  I sometimes think that body language and facial expressions tell as much as the words that come out of a person’s mouth.

But going beyond that, Mr. Bloomberg’s responses were unsatisfying, at best.  He seemed to defend his stop-and-frisk policy, though he has apologized for it.  But an apology is just words, and as they say, actions speak louder than words.  His defense of the reasons he started the policy was a turn-off for me.  Then there was the little matter of the treatment of women in his company.  Much of what women have alleged, Bloomberg denies, and yet … and yet, those women have been made to sign non-disclosure agreements.  One must ask why.  Elizabeth Warren called on Bloomberg to release the women from the agreements so the public could hear their allegations, but Bloomberg flatly refused.  According to much of what I have read, Bloomberg’s attitudes toward women, his vulgar language and crass remarks, are no better than Donald Trump’s.  If he wants transparency, what better place to start?

There were two candidates whose fire and genuine passion stood out last night:  Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.  The media have declared Sanders the winner of the debate, but in my humble opinion, while they were both great, I’d give Warren the prize.  Perhaps this is a slight prejudice on my part, for I frankly think the time has come for us to steer away from the old, white, male image of the presidency.  Nonetheless, Warren showed us what she’s made of, and I liked it.

Joe Biden.  Sigh.  Poor Joe … by most standards, and judging by history, Joe Biden should be the #1 frontrunner.  He has the most applicable experience, he understands foreign policy in a way that not a single one of the others do, and he has good ideas.  What he lacks, though, is the persona.  He simply hasn’t got the passion, seems to have lost his way somewhere along the line.  Perhaps it is still the effects of his son’s death that have turned his world to grey, or perhaps it is the constant barrage of mindless accusations by Donald Trump that have taken the wind out of his sails.  Either way, he just wasn’t quite … there.

I like Pete Buttigieg, though perhaps not quite as much as I did in the beginning.  A few things stood out last night, but the biggest one was his almost continual attacks on Amy Klobuchar, some of which seemed unfair, to say the least.  The media, and Pete, have made much of the fact that when asked the name of the president of Mexico last week, she couldn’t remember.  It has been blown far out of proportion, and Buttigieg seized on it last night … unrelentingly.  Heck, there are days that I cannot remember my own name, let alone the president of Mexico’s!  Buttigieg does his homework, but it would have shown humanity to have let it drop.  He disappointed me in his attacks on Klobuchar. Buttigieg has a few things in his favour with me, though, and one is that while the other five have a net worth in the millions, or in Bloomberg’s case, billions, Pete Buttigieg’s net worth is approximately $100,000.  This impresses me far more than Bloomberg’s $63 billion.

I thought Amy handled the stress of Pete’s attacks fairly well, but a few times she did seem overly emotional, such as when she said, “Are you trying to say that I’m dumb?” Far too much has been made over a bit of momentary forgetfulness, I think.  Overall, I was impressed with Ms. Klobuchar’s heart.  I believe she cares very much about people and would be a strong advocate for human rights, but I have to wonder if she’s a bit too emotional and too thin-skinned for the job of president, for more than once it seemed as if she was near tears.

As for the debate itself … two main takeaways.  First, while climate change and the environment was briefly discussed, it was altogether too brief.  When the DNC refused to hold a debate focused solely on climate change, they made a huge mistake, in my book, for this is the single most crucial issue on the ballot.  While each candidate said one of their first moves as president would be to re-join the Paris Accords, that’s about all we learned.  I want to know details!  I want to know more than the 5 minutes or so that climate change was discussed last night provided.

Secondly, I was put off and rather disgusted by the structure of the debate.  Candidates had small bits of time to answer a question, then when time was up they kept on talking, while all the others on stage were rudely interrupting, and with six people plus the moderators all talking at once, the closed captioning was useless and it was impossible to discern what anybody was saying.  I don’t know what the answer to this is for future debates, but I do wish somebody would come up with one.  It would have been far more helpful if all the candidates had stuck with giving their opinions of the issues rather than their opinions of their opponents.

Overall, I was glad I watched for I got a bit of a feel for the personas of the candidates, but as I said in the beginning, if I want to know their platforms and ideologies, I’ll turn to another venue.   Unfortunately, the infighting is doing nobody any good, and it is almost certain that no single candidate will end up with a clear majority by the time of the nominating convention in mid-July, which opens a whole ‘nother can of worms.  Sigh.

Considering Michael Bloomberg And A Worry For Another Time

Greg is the other half of On the Fence Voters, though for a number of reasons, he has been unable to post for several months. But, yesterday he wrote a very thoughtful and thought-provoking post about Michael Bloomberg’s candidacy, and he brought up some points that I think we must all be willing to consider. Please take a few minutes to read this excellent post and let Greg know your thoughts! Thank you, Greg, and it’s great to hear from you!

On The Fence Voters

I’ve heard a lot of disapproving talk about Michael Bloomberg trying to ‘buy’ his way into the Presidency, and it’s certainly understandable.  It’s true that electing our president should only be about finding the best man or woman to lead our country.  It shouldn’t be about who can outspend all the others, but unfortunately that’s what it’s come to in America.  In this election year, however, our top priority must be in nominating whichever candidate seems most likely to defeat Donald Trump. We should be thinking of almost nothing else. Money in our politics is definitely a problem but I think this time around, it’s a worry for another time.

It doesn’t bother me so much that Bloomberg has unlimited funds to spend in his campaign because I think there are simply too many other pressing concerns.  I admit I’m looking for a savior.  Most people I talk to are…

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Good People Doing Good Things — We Just Never Know

For some reason, every time I Google “good people doing good”, I’m directed back to Filosofa’s Word.  I realize that’s a good thing … an honour, really, to be among Google’s first picks … but not terribly helpful.  Still, I’ve managed to find some good people.  Today I’m focusing, as I often do, on little things that make a big difference.


Dr-Don-RiceDr. Don Rice is a Urgent Care Medicine Specialist in Lincoln, Nebraska.  On Monday, Dr. Rice decided to do something special for National Random Acts of Kindness Day, so … he helped the 80 patients that came into the clinic that day by paying their co-pay for the visit!  The average co-pay being around $50, Dr. Rice estimates he spent around $4,000 that day.  Says the doc …

“I think that we have a culture that sometimes forgets that we can have a much better world if we start being kinder to each other.”

Rice says the random act was inspired by a kind family friend, who died from cancer.

“Even though she had two types of cancer, was always giving to other people, so we thought it would be fun to do this in her honor.”

A relatively small thing?  Sure … but maybe for some people that extra $50 meant they could have a bit extra with their supper or buy their child a much-needed new pair of shoes.  You just never know, do you?

Thumbs up to Dr. Don Rice!!!


If you lived in Idaho Falls, Idaho, you probably saw a good bit of snow last week.  You might also have looked out your window and seen …shoveling

Yep, those are some of the members of the Idaho Falls fire department out shoveling driveways and sidewalks for the town’s residents.  One resident, Eric Nelson, said …

“I actually thought my wife was the one that did it and she thought I did it. We didn’t realize until I thanked her for it later that night and she said she thought it was me. Totally surprised.”

Again, just a little thing, but … these guys didn’t have to do it … they could have stayed warm and cozy in the firehouse until a call came in, but instead they chose to help people.  And maybe … just maybe, they saved an elderly person from slipping and falling on the ice and breaking a hip.  We’ll never know, will we?


Raj Singh owns his own taxi service in Roseville, California, and one day last week he got a call to pick up an elderly woman – 92 years old, to be exact – for she needed a ride to her bank.  When he started chatting with her, she told him she was about to withdraw $25,000 to settle a debt with the IRS.  Well, as you can imagine, warning bells went off in Raj’s head!

As Singh talked to the woman, trying to find out more, she told him that someone had called her and asked for the money. When he asked if it was a family member, the woman grew silent.  Singh finally got her to agree to let him call the number to the person who was posing as an IRS employee.

“We called this number again and I asked the man, ‘Do you know this lady?’ He said no. I knew something was wrong.”

When Singh pressed the man, saying the woman was 92 years old and she was nervous, the man hung up on him. After repeated calls back, Singh said the number blocked them.  Despite that, Singh said the woman still didn’t believe him, so he came up with another idea.

Raj knew she was being scammed, but … how to convince her?  Finally, he talked her into letting him stop by the police station.  Singh spoke with an officer in the station, who then spoke with the woman, and the officer was finally able to convince her that she was being scammed.

Singh took his passenger home, her bank account saved. A week after the potential scam was thwarted, Singh said he got a call asking him to come back to the station where officers gave Singh a $50 gift card to thank him for what he did.Raj-SinghRoseville police posted on their Facebook page …

“We love this story because several times throughout, Raj could have just taken his customer to her stop and not worried about her wellbeing. He took time from his day and had the great forethought to bring the almost-victim to the police station for an official response.  His quick thinking saved a senior citizen $25,000 and for that, we greatly appreciate his efforts.” 

Another one of those ‘little things’, but this one saved an elderly woman … perhaps her life savings.  We never know, do we?


And lastly, I came across this story on a friend’s blog, Nuggets of Gold and thought it made a great addition to this post.  Thank you, Miss Joy Roses!

Jayme Woolley is 16-years-old and attends Axtell High School, just outside Waco, Texas.  Now, guys buy flowers on Valentine’s Day for their girls, but Jayme … well, he went a step or two further.  Young Jayme bought a flower for every girl in his school between 6th and 12th grade!

Jayme’s mom, Amy Gordon, posted a photo on Facebook showing 170 roses lying across their living room floor.flowers-1On the 14th, Jayme waited by the entrance to Axtell, placed the flowers in silver tins and handed them out to each girl as they walked into school.JaymeNow why did he do that?  Because, he said, he wanted to make every girl at Axtell High School feel special.  Wow, huh?  And maybe, just maybe, one of those girls was very much in need of a bit of love, needed just for a moment to feel special.  We just never know, do we?


Remember, folks, if you see a chance to be a good people, be one!  You just never know what a difference a small act of kindness might make in someone’s life.

Something To Think About

I have spent the last three years warning that Donald Trump was a wanna-be king, that he would turn the presidency into a dictatorship, given half a chance.  It seems that now, three years into his reign, others are seeing it, too.  Max Boot’s column in The Washington Post last Saturday sums it up well.

This is how democracy dies — in full view of a public that couldn’t care less

By Max Boot, Columnist

Feb. 15, 2020 at 7:00 a.m. EST

Max-Boot

The French philosopher Montesquieu wrote in 1748: “The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy.” We are seeing his warning vindicated. President Trump is increasingly acting as a tyrannical (and erratic) prince. And yet much of the public is so inured to his misconduct that his latest assaults on the rule of law are met with a collective shrug. Public passivity is Trump’s secret weapon as he pursues his authoritarian agenda. “I have the right to do whatever I want,” he says, and the lack of pushback seems to confirm it.

So much bad has happened since Trump was unjustly acquitted by the Senate of two articles of impeachment on Feb. 5 that it’s hard to keep it all straight.

Trump fired Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman for complying with a congressional subpoena and providing truthful testimony about Trump’s attempts to extort Ukraine into aiding him politically. Also ousted was Vindman’s brother, who did not testify. This sends a mob-like message: If you turn stool pigeon, your family gets it, too.

Trump’s ongoing quest for retribution has also claimed Jessie K. Liu, who was abruptly removed as U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia and replaced by a close aide to Attorney General William P. Barr after prosecuting Trump loyalists, including Michael Flynn and Roger Stone. Now Liu’s nomination to a senior Treasury Department position has been withdrawn. Next on the chopping block may be Elaine McCusker, the Pentagon official who tried to tell the Office of Management and Budget that Trump had no right to withhold aid to Ukraine. The New York Post reported that her nomination to be Pentagon comptroller will be withdrawn. (McCusker denies the report.)

While punishing those who dared to tell the truth, Trump is protecting those who assist his coverup. He inveighed against the request of federal prosecutors, following normal sentencing guidelines, to give Stone a seven- to nine-year prison sentence for witness tampering and lying to Congress. Trump also attacked the judge overseeing Stone’s case and the forewoman of the jury that convicted him. The Justice Department then asked for a reduced sentence. Four prosecutors resigned from the case in protest, and one quit the Justice Department.

Even Barr was driven to denounce Trump’s public interference in the legal system, saying that the president’s tweets “make it impossible for me to do my job and to assure the courts and the prosecutors and the department that we’re doing our work with integrity.” In response, Trump asserted that he has the “legal right” to determine who gets prosecuted — technically true but hardly in keeping with American tradition.

Barr’s protests ring hollow given how eager he has been to subvert his own department on Trump’s behalf — for example, by mischaracterizing the findings of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Barr has appointed one prosecutor to review Flynn’s conviction and another to investigate the FBI and CIA personnel who uncovered the Russian plot to elect Trump in 2016. The New York Times reports that the latter prosecutor, John H. Durham, has raised alarm in the intelligence community by appearing to pursue a theory, popular among right-wing conspiracy mongers, “that the C.I.A., under its former director John O. Brennan, had a preconceived notion about Russia or was trying to get to a particular result.”

Anxiety about attempts to politicize justice will only grow because of a Post report that Trump was furious that the Justice Department did not file charges against former FBI director James B. Comey and former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe — even though there is no evidence that either of these men broke any laws. After learning that his enemies were not being indicted, The Post reports, “Trump has become more insistent that Durham finish his work soon,” because he “wants to be able to use whatever Durham finds as a cudgel in his reelection campaign.”

As Justice Department veteran David Laufman writes, “We are now truly at a break-glass-in-case-of-fire moment for the Justice Dept.” But does anyone give a damn? Democratic lawmakers are, to be sure, perturbed, but it’s easy (if unfair) to write off their outrage as mere partisanship. Republican members of Congress, as usual, either have nothing to say or offer ineffectual expressions of “concern.”

And the public? I don’t see massive marches in the streets. I don’t see people flooding their members of Congress with calls and emails. I don’t see the outrage that is warranted — and necessary. I see passivity, resignation and acquiescence from a distracted electorate that has come to accept Trump’s aberrant behavior as the norm.

A recent Gallup poll found that Trump’s approval rating among Republicans — the supposed law-and-order party — is at a record-high 94 percent. His support in the country as a whole is only 43.4 percent in the FiveThirtyEight average, but he is still well positioned to win reelection, because most people seem to care a lot more about the strength of the stock market than about the strength of our democracy. This is how democracies die — not in darkness but in full view of a public that couldn’t care less.

*Note to readers:  Since this article was published three days ago, Trumps approval rating according to the FiveThirtyEight average has risen from 43.4% to 43.9%.

Sharpen Your Claws — Gonna Need ‘Em

At first, I thought it was somebody’s idea of a joke … a stupid, sick joke.  But, the more I read, the more I began to wonder, so I kept digging.  It appears there is no joke … and I am sickened, disgusted, and enraged.  What, you ask, has me spluttering and cursing now?  An event that will take place in Orlando, Florida, on May 1-3.  The event is a 3-day convention called “Make Women Great Again”.  Yep, you heard right.mwga-posterHere’s a snippet from their intro on the website …

“Women today are being taught to act more like men. Where has that led us? Skyrocketing rates of broken families, a documented decline in female happiness since the 1970s, endless social and dating dysfunction, and America at the #1 spot in the world for single motherhood. No longer will you have to give in to toxic bullying feminist dogma and go against your ancient, biological nature as a woman, the men have arrived to help #MWGA.

EXPERIENCE a miraculous three day (and night) event with iconic 100% pure male speakers gathered from the worldwide manosphere community to help you dramatically improve your life as a woman and total femininity.”

Feel your hackles raising yet, my friends?

All the speakers will be men, and tickets are sold only to women … for a price of … $1,999!  Oh, but wait, for a limited time, if you bring a friend, you can get a ‘buy one, get one free’ ticket.  I would not spend twenty-five cents to attend this misogyny party!!!

Among the male speakers are Anthony “Dream” Johnson, who bills himself as the first president of the “Manosphere,” and Alexander J.A Cortes, a fitness guru who famously enraged the internet by tweeting out a list detailing “How to be a beautiful woman” by wearing more pink, shaving and being thin, among other attributes. Also on the lineup is far right activist Stefan Molyneux and ol’ Mike Cernovich of Pizzagate fame, who has argued that there’s no such thing as rape and who also won Filosofa’s Idiot of the Week award back in 2017. mwga-hatsMore topics from their website include …

THE WAR ON MOTHERHOOD

America is officially the #1 country on the planet for unwed single motherhood after a dramatic rise in recent decades. “Single Parenthood” of any kind is just another way of saying “broken family.” Statistics conclusively show that this is absolutely devastating for children, as well as mothers. Poverty, crime, mental health issues, and overall decline in well being is rampant today in America and the West in this context, thanks to feminist anti-motherhood propaganda. Generations of women have been lied to with “you can have it all”, a clever way of tricking them into de-prioritizing motherhood until ~90% of their eggs are dead by 30. This has led millions of women down a path of endless heartbreak, dead-end relationships, and left children at significantly heightened risk of birth defects via geriatric pregnancies. Today, we are witnessing the slow motion collapse of intentional motherhood and intact family formation.

BEAUTY AND THE OBESITY

Over 80 million women in America today are overweight or obese. These epidemic level numbers are no secret in spite of endless hyper-fit photoshop pictures of Instagram celebrities at ridiculously low body fat levels. Nevertheless, being sick and obese (a recognized disease in modern medicine) is not beautiful. Taking good self-care of your body is beautiful in process and outcome. Men admire healthy, fit women. They are after all sizing you up for reproduction, and your decisions will be passed on to your children through the choices you make via epigenetics. At The 22 Convention, you’ll learn how women have been lied to about “body positivity” and how you can embrace #beautypositivity right away!

THE WAR ON LOVE & ROMANCE

At incredible speed, the saying “Where did all the good men go?” suddenly became “Where did all the MEN go?” Believe us, men are saying the same thing in reverse today. The truth is that both positive masculinity and femininity have been under relentless attack for decades. Both have taken catastrophic social, cultural, personal, and philosophic damage for tens of millions of people. The result is a depolarized mess where men act like women, women act like men, everyone’s confused, and nothing “works” anymore. At The 22 Convention you’ll learn about the drivers behind this bizarre and stupid social experiment, what you can do to heal the damage and pain it’s caused you, and how to find awesome men and build healthy relationships.

And they say the ways in which they will make women’s lives better are …

  • Raise your femininity by 500% (I wonder if this includes a lobotomy?)
  • Get pregnant and have unlimited babies (oh yeah, like there aren’t enough children starving in this world, and the world isn’t already overpopulated!!!)
  • Beat the competition – become the ultimate wife (barefoot and pregnant?)
  • Make fitness great again (says the 300-pound, beer-guzzling couch potato man!)

To my women friends who live in Florida … please organize a protest outside the venue on the first day of this abominable ‘convention’!  To my men friends … don’t get no ideas!

I’m thinking … perhaps I should write a bit about how to “Make Men Great Again”?

Check out the trailer for this ‘convention’ …

This sort of thing … I can honestly say that I don’t think I know a man who would condone this bullshit.  It is right-wing, misogynistic and a lot more adjectives I could apply.  It is a sad sign of how some in this nation still view women, though, and I take that seriously.  There was a day, not so very long ago, when women in this nation could not vote, could not own property.  A day when women were often not hired if they were of child-bearing age.  A day when women earned only a portion of what men did for comparable jobs.  And still, in this the 21st century, women are having to fight for the right to make her own medical decisions, control her own body, and in some cases be treated as an equal in the workplace.  Women are still considered by many to be second-class citizens that should be dominated and controlled by men.  How many decades now have we been fighting for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment?  Nearly half a century, my friends.

My sincere hope is that nobody shows up for this ridiculous conference, that no woman in her right mind is fool enough to pay $2,000 to be put into a male-dominated mold.  What they really mean, rather than ‘Make Women Great Again’, is ‘Make Women Slaves Again’.

Black History Month — Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1928 … her given name was Marguerite, but her older brother nicknamed her “Maya”, derived from “Mya Sister”.  Her parents divorced when Maya was just three years old, and when she was eight, she was sexually abused and raped by her mother’s boyfriend.  She told her brother, her brother told the rest of the family, and the man, whose last name was Freeman, was arrested.  But, though Freeman was found guilty, he was freed after only one day in jail.  Incensed, an uncle or uncles, it is unclear whether it was one or more, beat and kicked Mr. Freeman to death.  Says Maya …

“I thought, my voice killed him; I killed that man, because I told his name. And then I thought I would never speak again, because my voice would kill anyone.”

And she spoke not a word for nearly the next five years.  Angelou credits a teacher and friend of her family, Mrs. Bertha Flowers, with helping her speak again. Flowers introduced her to authors such as Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Douglas Johnson, and James Weldon Johnson, authors who would affect her life and career, as well as black female artists like Frances Harper, Anne Spencer, and Jessie Fauset.

maya-angelouDuring World War II, Angelou moved to San Francisco, California. There she won a scholarship to study dance and acting at the California Labor School. During this time, Angelou became the first black female cable car conductor in San Francisco.

During the 1960s, Maya and her son spent several years in Ghana, where she became an administrator at the University of Ghana, and was active in the African-American expatriate community. She was a feature editor for The African Review, a freelance writer for the Ghanaian Times, wrote and broadcast for Radio Ghana.  It was in Ghana that she met and became close friends with Malcolm X during his visit in the early 1960s.  Angelou returned to the U.S. in 1965 to help him build a new civil rights organization, the Organization of Afro-American Unity; he was assassinated shortly afterward.

Maya remained a civil rights activist, and in 1968 Martin Luther King asked Angelou to help organize a march.  She agreed, but before the plan could reach fruition, Martin Luther King was assassinated – on Maya’s 40th birthday, as it happened.  For many years thereafter, Maya refused to celebrate her birthday, but sent flowers to King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, on that day. maya-angelou-2Maya Angelou went on to become one of the greatest writers and poets of our time. Despite having almost no experience, she wrote, produced, and narrated Blacks, Blues, Black!, a ten-part series of documentaries about the connection between blues music and black Americans’ African heritage, and what Angelou called the “Africanisms still current in the U.S.” for National Educational Television, the precursor of PBS.  Also in 1968, she wrote her first of seven autobiographies, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, published in 1969. This brought her international recognition and acclaim.Maya-caged-birdIn 1993, Angelou recited her poem On the Pulse of Morning at the presidential inauguration of Bill Clinton, becoming the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961.

I came across this quote by Maya regarding writing …

“I make writing as much a part of my life as I do eating or listening to music. I also wear a hat or a very tightly pulled head tie when I write. I suppose I hope by doing that I will keep my brains from seeping out of my scalp and running in great gray blobs down my neck, into my ears, and over my face.”

And now I know what I’ve been doing wrong all this time — I must wear a hat from now on when I write!!!maya-angelou-4There is so much more I could tell you about Maya Angelou, who died in 2014, but there are many, many great books both by and about her.  What I do want to share with you, though, is one of her most famous poems, Still I Rise.  Just as with Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech, I cannot listen to her recite this without a tear coming to my eyes. In this, she writes about racism and slavery,  about rising above hatred – something that is just as relevant today as it was when she first published it in 1978.

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Maya Angelou died in 2014, at the age of 86.  Among other, former President Bill Clinton and then-First Lady Michelle Obama both spoke at her funeral.

“And then she developed the greatest voice on the planet. God loaned her His voice. She had the voice of God, and He decided he wanted it back for awhile.” — President Bill Clinton

“For me that was the power of Maya Angelou’s words, words so powerful that they carried a little black girl from the South Side of Chicago all the way to the White House.” — First Lady Michelle Obama

During her lifetime, she won Grammy Awards for three spoken-word albums, was a civil rights activist, streetcar conductor, Calypso singer, dancer, movie director and playwright.  She left behind a legacy that will not soon be forgotten.maya-4

♫ Abraham, Martin and John ♫

Most nights when I post my music post, I am feeling in the need of something upbeat, or something Motown to calm my frazzled nerves and remind me of a seemingly happier day.  Tonight, however, I am feeling more … introspective.  Looking back at what might have been … and what was.  So, instead of light and happy, or sad and sappy, tonight I give you …

A tribute to the memory of four assassinated Americans, all icons of social change: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, and Robert F. Kennedy.  This song was written in response to the assassination of King and that of Robert Kennedy in April and June 1968, respectively.  More than 50 years … can it really have been so long ago?  I remember it … truly as if it were just a few weeks ago.  As I listen to this song, I cannot help but choke … remembering … the hope these men brought us … how I wish they were here today … 😢

The original version was recorded by Dion Francis DiMucci, better known simply as Dion.  Although the song has been recorded by many of my favourites such as Ray Charles, Kenny Rogers, the Brothers Four, Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan, Whitney Houston, and Smokey Robinson, to name a few, the Dion version remains my favourite.  And so, I bring you, in honour of four truly great men whose lives, because they were great, because they worked tirelessly for equality for all, were cut far too short …

Abraham, Martin And John
Dion DiMucci

Has anybody here seen my old friend Abraham,
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lotta people, but it seems the good die young
But I just looked around and he’s gone.

Has anybody here seen my old friend John,
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lotta people, but it seems the good die young
But I just looked around and he’s gone.

Has anybody here seen my old friend Martin,
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lotta people, but it seems the good die young
But I just looked around and he’s gone.

Didn’t you love the things they stood for?
Didn’t they try to find some good for you and me?
And we’ll be free,
Someday soon it’s gonna be one day.

Has anybody here seen my old friend Bobby,
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
I thought I saw him walkin’ up over the hill
With Abraham, Martin and John.

Songwriters: Richard Holler
Abraham, Martin And John lyrics © Regent Music Corporation, Stonehenge Music

Discord & Dissension — Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Discord & Dissension Part I Intro

Discord & Dissension Part II (a) How Did We Get Here?

Discord & Dissension Part II (b) How Did We Get Here?

Discord & Dissension — Part III — Where Do We Go From Here?

Discord & Dissension Part IV(a) Voting & Voters

Discord & Dissension Part IV (b) Voting & Voters

Discord & Dissension Part IV (c) Voting & Voters

Discord & Dissension Part V Corruption

Discord & Dissension — Part VI — Disinformation

 

Discord & Dissension — Part VI — Disinformation

This is the sixth installment of mine and Jeff’s project, and in case you’ve missed any of the previous posts, we will also be publishing a Table of Contents in just a few minutes that we will keep updated and link to at the end of each future post.  As I mentioned last month in the introduction to the project, as situations change, we will roll with the punches and adjust our focus.  The last 9 days have brought about great change … Trump was acquitted by the Senate, basically being told that whatever he chooses to do, they have his back.  He turned the State of the Union address into a three-ring circus, fired a military hero and a devoted ambassador for no reason other than they did their duty by speaking the truth under oath, has interfered with the rule of law in the sentencing of Roger Stone, has proposed a budget that rewards the wealthy while punishing the disadvantaged, and who knows what tomorrow brings.

The point being that … in the hundred or so comments I answer each day, I sense your frustration, your discouragement, and believe me … Jeff and I have both been there in the past several days.  But we cannot allow ourselves to focus on the negativity, cannot allow ourselves to lose hope or lose sight of the goal.  If we stop fighting, then we lose automatically, without ever knowing if we might have made a difference.  So, join us in picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off, and going on to fight the good fight for just short of nine more months.

A few weeks ago, I tried to answer the question, “Where do we go from here?”  I concluded that the goal is two-fold:  vote Trump out of the Oval Office and begin to heal the ‘great divide’.  Neither of these goals are going to be easy, folks, and the GOP and others’ propaganda machines are going to make it even harder.

The GOP, or Republican Party, has been actively working to skew the odds in their favour since before the 2016 election.  The Russian interference that triggered Robert Mueller’s investigation was not, as Trump would have you believe, a ‘hoax’ nor a ‘witch hunt’, but was rather a coordinated effort on the part of Russian President Vladimir Putin to launch a propaganda machine demeaning and denigrating Hillary Clinton, while giving rise to Donald Trump.  The Russian propaganda machine has not taken a break since the 2016 elections.  According to FBI Director Christopher Wray …

“That is in some ways an even more challenging area, not the least because it never stopped. It happened in 2016 and it’s been continuing ever since then. It may have an uptick during an election cycle, but it’s a 24/7, 365-days-a-year threat.”

Election security bills were passed by the House of Representatives, but have since languished in the Senate, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to even bring them to the Senate floor for consideration.

But it isn’t only foreign influence that we have to worry about, for much of the propaganda comes directly from the GOP and a plethora of conservative groups.  Consider this example:  The day before the February 3rd Iowa caucuses, Judicial Watch, a conservative advocacy group, put out a report claiming that “Eight Iowa counties have more voter registrations than citizens old enough to register.”  It was a lie, one quickly debunked by Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, but not before the lie had been spread via Fox News’ Sean Hannity and other right-wing media sites.

Iowa-Hannity Iowa-Facebook

Voter fraud is a recurring myth favored by right-wingers, but there are other tactics, such as finding a chink in a candidates armour, real or made up, and using it repeatedly, embellishing on it, to denigrate that candidate.  Of the top candidates, we’ve already seen what Trump’s accusations against Joe Biden … accusations that have long since been debunked … have nonetheless played a role in Biden’s polling plunge.  Bernie’s chink, of course, is that he is a democratic socialist, which will play well with those who do not even understand the concept of democratic socialism.

Politics has always been a dirty game … smear campaigns, mudslinging and outright lies are certainly nothing new.  But, with the rise of social media, these tactics are magnified a million-fold, and every time you log onto Facebook or Twitter, you are likely to be exposed to some form of disinformation.  Facebook collects data on you, based on your friends, what you post, what you comment on, and any personal data you include in your profile, and then they use that data to target what advertisements you see.  My advice is to include nothing in your personal profile, and to use a strong ad blocker at all times, but especially when spending time on any social media site.  There is an app called Facebook Purity that will quite effectively block any and all ads, along with other annoying things Facebook throws in your face.  I highly recommend it.

While, after the fiasco that was the 2016 election, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook promised to do a better job of monitoring political ads and false accounts, he backtracked last year when he plainly said he would allow false and misleading ads to continue on the platform, arguing that his company shouldn’t be responsible for arbitrating political speech.  Facebook-trump-adsMy earliest memories are of political advertisements in newspapers and on television in the early 1950s, and more recently social media has become the platform of preference, but this year there’s yet another venue … your cell phone.  Yep, folks, this year, according to Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale, texting will be at the center of Trump’s reelection strategy.  I highly recommend you install a call blocking program if you don’t wish to be disturbed multiple times a day.  Mine is set to block all calls that don’t come from a number on my contact list, and since my contact list includes only 4 people, I no longer get many such calls.  I do, however, see a list of the ones blocked, and I notice the number has increased of late.

Besides being a major annoyance, though, the disinformation campaign, the propaganda machine, poses a significant hurdle to a fair and honest election.  You are savvy enough to know, if you see an ad or what appears to be an actual news story saying that Elizabeth Warren has a harem of young males she keeps locked in the attic of her home for her personal pleasure, it’s fake.  But some will believe it.  Remember Pizzagate, where the rumour was spread that Hillary Clinton and John Podesta were running a human traffiking and child sex ring in the basement of a pizzeria, Comet Ping Pong?  Someone believed it enough to go shoot the place up!

Remember my post from yesterday with the Founding Fathers singing a song to the tune of American Pie?  Creative use of technology, wasn’t it? Well, that was harmless, but some aren’t.  Take a look at this simple, doctored photo of Stacy Abrams that was used by her opponents in the Georgia 2018 gubernatorial race …

Just as social media has increased the spread of disinformation, technology has taken it to a new level.  I would ask that you take just a few minutes … 8 of them, to be precise, to listen to this interview on NPR radio (there is a transcript attached, if you prefer to read the interview)  with McKay Coppins, a writer for The Atlantic, about an article he published earlier this week on the topic of the GOP propaganda machine.  It is very enlightening, and if you would like to read his entire article, which is lengthy, but well worth the time, you can do so here .

As Mr. Coppins said in the interview, even he found himself questioning what was real and what wasn’t, so I think it’s important … nay, crucial … for us all to be hyper-aware of the information that bombards us from all directions most every waking moment these days.  If something sounds off … check it out, don’t just assume it’s correct, even if it’s from a credible source.  Let’s all help stop the flow of propaganda … this election will be enough of an uphill battle, without people being manipulated.

Next week, Jeff will be back with Part VII of our project … stay tuned!