Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Conservative Mind - Where Ugly is Beautiful


It's official. I have become a hater. I've really tried not to let it happen. I've watched the "other side" become meaner and meaner as the decades have gone on. I thought the Republicans couldn't get any more venal and self-serving after impeaching Bill Clinton but I was wrong. That was child's play. They were only cutting their teeth on Clinton, practicing for their Academy Award-winning role as Obama loathers. Yes, they called Bill terrible names and published the sordid details of his sex life on the internet for all the world to see (for the good of the country, you know....yeah). But, to be fair, Clinton knew they were after him and gave them the ammunition to shoot him with so although I thought it was terrible for America, what they did, he had to take some of the blame.

So, then we had eight years of Bush and those oh-so-fiscally-prudent Republicans spent money like it was going out of style. Wars, entitlements, Wall Street, tax cuts - deficits be damned! And by the time it was over, the economy was in shambles and we had become a nation that took its principles and threw them out the window like so many dirty diapers. Gleefully, we went to war in Iraq for no reason, although we were already at war in Afghanistan. I guess we just wanted to get back at Muslims after 911 no matter whether they were the right ones or not. We tortured and imprisoned whomever we pleased without bringing charges. Who worries about a little thing like evidence - 911! And, of course, we did all this with our volunteer army because we didn't have the guts to reinstate the draft and make everyone contribute to the cause of "keeping America safe". We sent the same guys (incidentally, when a Hoosier says guys, it is genderless) back over and over again. Big surprise that they are committing suicide in record numbers after 5, 6, 7 tours in a war zone and we only just now passed a tiny bit of funding to try to help....and even that was damned hard to get through our dysfunctional Congress.

As we usually do, we elected a Democrat, Barack Obama, to put our house back in order....and he has. But who could have foreseen the kind of destructive, hateful, vicious tear the Republicans would go on in response to a black president. It's been as if they believed all monitors were off their words and their behavior. "Wag the dog" was bad enough with Clinton, the implication being that he was too caught up in sexual peccadilloes to mind the country but with Obama, they just come right out and say it: traitor...socialist....communist....Muslim...non-American...America hater...Hitler.  There's is nothing they can think up that is too bad to call this president, or his wife, nothing. They are like a car with the gas pedal stuck and no brakes....full speed ahead. "Hey," says Rudy to King of the Birthers, Donald Trump, "listen to this...I can up the ante on that!"

Vacations, pointing, words used or not used, Michelle encouraging school kids to exercise and eat healthier, tan suits, going or not going to funerals, golfing.....nothing is too mundane (and no matter how many presidents have done the same) to elicit outrage from the right.

They lie with impunity. Rudy says Obama has never said America is exceptional...except, yes, he has. There is video evidence if anyone cares to look and listen but of course, they don't. They just go right on, with Fox News and the poisonous right-wing web sites parroting the accusations...and even doubling down on them. For the most part, Republican politicians sit on their hands or shrug as if to say, "well, maybe".

Their most recent meme is that Obama has done "nothing" about ISIS. What a feckless president he is. Now the King of Jordan, there is a president! Forget that Jordan is following US! America is the major contributor of planes, money, bombs, intelligence, drones, helicopters and missiles in the war against ISIS. Remind Republicans of that and they just ignore you and repeat that he has done nothing or even if he has done a little something, he's done it using the wrong words, by God! They so wish we had a strong leader like Putin. Or, yeah, BiBi Netanyahu....that's their latest hero, to the point of inviting him to speak to a joint session of Congress without conferring with our own president, a disrespectful gesture never done before, because it's all about sidetracking the diplomatic talks with Iran regarding their nuclear weapons program, which will end in March in any case, but they can't wait that long because, geez, what if Obama pulled it off! BiBi is, of course, up for re-election soon so it isn't just about Iran but the Republicans mucking around in another country's choice of leaders....because, you know, screwing up our own elections isn't enough.

So I have watched my country getting farther and farther off the path of what I always thought America stood for. I've watched hatefulness and ignorance take over an entire party. I've watched them with their fiscal cliffs and sequesters and government shutdowns and threatened defaults and credit downgrades and filibusters. I've watched them throw cheap little hissy fits as their supporters egged them on. I thought they might step up and try to govern when they won in 2014 but so far, we've gotten more of the same. This Friday at midnight, the Department of Homeland Security will run out of money if Republicans can't find a way to fund it. Seriously, with terrorist threats around every corner, they are going to let the Department of Homeland Security go broke? Really?

I've watched, heart-broken, as we've gotten more and more vicious. Muslims? Nuke'em! Young refugees? Scare'em first, then send'em home? Kids who came here as children, went to school here, know no other country and are contributing to this one? Deport'em. Unions? Bust'em! Uninsured Americans? Tough shit! Minimum wage workers who can't afford to feed their families? Who cares? Young black males getting shot and/or incarcerated in record numbers. Ah, they're thugs, it's what they deserve.

Take science out of schools and put God back in. Don't let gays get married. Don't let minority and poor people vote. Don't let women control their own health and families. Don't let towns and landowners control their own destinies. No, you can't ban fracking, no you can't refuse to let oil companies pour poisons in your rivers, no you can't deny a pipeline going through your property. Apaches, we know we gave you that land but you know what, we're re-taking it and giving it to the mining companies.

I used to enjoy the back and forth of debating with my conservative friends but no more. It's like debating with someone in an alternate universe - an alternate universe where up is down and good is bad and ugly is beautiful.



Monday, February 16, 2015

What Does Your God Expect?


Most people who read my writing know that I consider myself an agnostic in that I neither confirm nor deny that there is a Creator and if so, whether he/she/it cares about us on a personal level. The farther NASA's telescopes take us into the vastness of outer space, the more difficult it becomes to think we are as important as we like to believe. If there is a Supreme Being, does s/he really take note of a single sparrow falling? Or even of the entire sparrow species disappearing? Is he (which term I'll use from now on for the sake of convenience and since almost all religions seem to agree that this Intelligence must certainly be male) even concerned with the whole planet, for that matter?

I wonder about these questions quite often and sometimes I try to talk to religious people about them but they usually won't deign to discuss them with me. Maybe they don't have satisfying answers either and that's where faith comes in.

But faith? Christians believe they have true faith and so do all the others but is your faith simply a product of the circumstances of your birth? If you had been born into a Sikh family in India and taught from the time you were born that the Sikh faith is the one true one, wouldn't you believe that just as sincerely as you believe in Christianity now? Do Christians think they would have gone against the grain and become Christians even if they were taught absolutely nothing about that religion? And when I say Christians, I'm not picking on just them, I mean every member of every religion.

All religions believe in miracles and it does seem as if what appear to be miracles do happen from time to time but why? How does God choose who is to be honored with a miracle? I often see prayer requests on Facebook and I usually send positive thoughts that way, in case it helps. But does it? Does the number of prayers you get make a difference? Doesn't that make it a popularity contest? We all vote on the contestant we want to recover from leukemia?  Surely, that can't be right. Sometimes, miracles even seem to happen to animals - when a baby buffalo is saved from the crocodile in the nick of time. Why did god decide to intervene in that particular instance and not in thousands of others?

Between them, Muslims and Christians make up over half of all the earth's people who claim to be religious. I would guess they are also the two most violent and insistent that others adopt their own beliefs. Perhaps there are some just as bloodthirsty but we don't hear about them because they are too small to make much of an impact on the world.

Christians and Muslims have been warring with each other (and warring among themselves) for as long as they have existed. Unfortunately, since they are both rooted in the Middle East, these wars often involve territory both sides consider their Holy Land. From the Crusades until the present day, Christians and Muslims have looked upon each other as opponents and enemies.

But it's even worse than that. Different denominations within each religion hate each other as well. Sunnis versus Shia....Catholics versus Protestants. People of faith want to believe that religion is a force for good but just as often, it has been a force for cruelty and death.

It's not what people believe that is the heart of the problem, it's what they've convinced themselves their god expects them to do about those beliefs that send things spinning out of control. Your god may tell you that homosexuality is an abomination or infidels are evil or the idea of an infallible Pope is nonsense but does he expect you, personally, to try to right these wrongs? Unfortunately, many religious people do think that. It's not enough that you live a good Christian or Muslim life by your religion's standards but you must also be your brother's keeper - or sender-to-hell, as the case may be.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Conservatives, Join the Rest of Us in Reality!

Do conservatives not understand what we are doing in Iraq and Syria? Are they unaware that we are spending $7.5 million per day to fight ISIS (and that it sounds as if we are preparing to up the ante considerably). Do they not realize that US/Coalition Forces have hit ISIS targets over 1000 times? Has it escaped their notice that the U.S. is the leader in the war against ISIS? Are they oblivious to the fact that while 40 nations contribute in some way to the fight against radical Islam, America is far and away the biggest provider of money, men, material and planning?

I keep reading these memes on Facebook from conservatives about how America just won't help those poor countries being overtaken by ISIS because, well, because our president is a coward...or maybe he's secretly a Muslim sympathizer in league with the extremists. Yeah, that could be it.

Are you fucking kidding me? Where is that coming from? Is that what Fox News tells you or the right-wing blogs? Because it is so totally and stupidly wrong that I literally have to catch my breath when I read such drivel.

If you want to be upset with someone who isn't committed to this fight, be upset with your own chickenshit congress people who haven't even found it within themselves to so much as debate what should be done and put their butts on the line by taking a vote.

No, first they were on vacation when all this began and you certainly wouldn't expect them to cut their vacation short as exhausted as I'm sure they were from all the days they worked in 2014. (The House's calendar showed they would work 113 days but I don't think it amounted to that many in the end).

Our current engagement against ISIS in Iraq and Syria is being fought under the authorization Congress gave Bush to go to Iraq after 911. It is long out-of-date and it is doubtful that it even provides the legal authority the president needs to do what he's doing. But, OH, MY GOD, imagine if he wasn't doing it? What would they be saying then?

Congress could remedy all this at any time, of course. They could give Obama a new expanded authorization or they could shrink it if that's what they feel is called for.

But, instead, they want to scream and shout and moan and groan and call everything he does wrong while leaving it completely up to his discretion to make the decisions even though they say they don't trust him.

And, of course, their biggest bitch is semantic. They don't care so much about the actual physical costs of what we're doing, they care that Obama doesn't call ISIS by the name they want him to use, which is Radical Islam.

Because as a world leader, he's trying to be careful. He doesn't want to tar an entire religion with one brush because of what a minority of extremists perpetrate, just as Christians would not want their entire faith to be lumped under one heading because of acts by radical Christians.

And remember that some of the Coalition countries are Muslims themselves...and the countries we are fighting ISIS in are also Muslim. The pilot who was just burned to death by ISIS was Muslim, for God's sake....and the man we think organized his burning was born a white English Christian.

What Obama understands is that there is no one-size-fits-all here.

So, you know, conservatives who don't believe Obama's America is helping fight ISIS, maybe you ought to try reading from sources that report actual facts for a change.