I have been noticeably absent from my column for about 8 weeks. For those who look forward to my weekly rants, I apologize. For those who breathed a collective sigh of relief, tough. I’m back. I would, however, like to offer an explanation. Simply, I got tired. Oh, I never tire of writing and always have an opinion, but have wrestled with a level of frustration I’ve never before encountered in the American psyche because I realized we are a nation at war – with each other. Forget the Middle East. Iraq. Iran. Afghanistan. Syria. Forget them. Look around you. We are a nation of people who can’t stand one another. We can’t stand a fair portion of our fellow Americans. I grew up during a time of black American Civil Rights, Roe v Wade and the advancement of all Americans. I lived through what I think, in many ways, was one of the most noble periods of our history because so many people were being treated as equals like never before. The word “nigger” disappeared from polite conversation. Women could no longer truly be treated as chattel with the advent of sovereignty over our own bodies. Everyone knew a member of the LGBT community and no one really thought anything about it. We were collectively maturing as a nation where it was generally accepted that all people really were created equal and opportunities shouldn’t be based on color, gender, sexual preference or social station. Good times.
So, when did it all change? Oh, it had been brewing for some time, thanks to the carefully orchestrated John Birchers and groups like them who had been waiting for the perfect moment to set their best laid plans in motion. I can tell you the exact day, the exact hour and the exact moment it all came to a crescendo: September 11, 2001 at 8:46 am, when five hijackers flew American Airlines flight 11 into the North Tower of The World Trade Center. Everything that has happened to this country since has been connected in the collective spiderweb of the American conscience. That was the moment fear set it and it became acceptable to openly hate Muslims. No matter the irrationality of lumping anyone who even looked Middle-Eastern into that broad group. It worked for their purposes of creating the perfect divide and conquer strategy in America – and it worked beautifully.
The American Crisis is a pamphlet series by
18th century philosopher and author Thomas Paine, originally published from 1776-1783 during the American Revolution. Paine signed the pamphlets with the pseudonym, “Common Sense.”
These were written as a way of inspiring the colonists, written in a language that even the most common man or woman could understand and were representative of Paine’s Liberal philosophy. Paine wrote them to inspire the American colonists, clarified the issues at stake in the war and denounced those who would advocate a negotiated peace with England. The first volume begins with the famous words “These are the times that try men’s souls.”
These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.
Okay. That said, I’ve been seeking out a little “Common Sense”. But every time I see the word “patriot”, I throw up in my mouth a little and I find that sad. The word used to mean “someone who stands by America”. Now it means, “only people who think like me and if you don’t like it, you’re a Nazi who should either be imprisoned or shipped out of the country”. I despise false equivalencies, the old “both sides do it, so it’s okay”. There is some of it from both sides, though anyone who tells me it’s done with equal frequency or fervor is blind or lying.
Case in point: Last night I was engaged in a conversation where we were discussing a Christian Fundamentalist talking head who had stated for her listeners that “the Church must fight against homosexuality like slavery“. One man announced that all Christians needed to get out of the country. I stepped in and agreed that while this radio host’s remarks were ignorant, not all Christians were like that and shouldn’t be unfairly grouped in with the crazies. I was referred to as being as bad as a “Nazi sympathizer” with some sort of Pollyanna complex. I believe he meant to say I was suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, sympathizing with my captors, but hey, why pass up a good Nazi analogy?. While I’ve been frustrated with the Christian Right and I believe our national policies have been held hostage by them, I do not personally feel like I’ve been held hostage by them. Few people have voiced their frustration with the religious radicals in this country as I have, but we need to keep some perspective on this. Most of my friends are Christians. Most of them know I am not a Christian. They do not judge me and they know better than to try to convert me. I am loved for all my flaws by them. They do not use the scriptures to preach hate against anyone. I will not condemn them because of their beliefs and I will defend them against anyone who uses hyperbolic rhetoric to lump them in with the Right Wing Nut Jobs – just as after 9/11, all people of Middle-Eastern descent were labeled “terrorists”. As for my Pollyanna complex? I can’t ever recall playing “The Glad Game” in this column or anywhere else. I am nothing, if not a realist.
This is what polite conversation has devolved into, thus my frustration with thinking there was a point in trying to make sense of it through casual conversation or vehicles such as this piece of literary real estate. Fortunately, I woke up this morning, realizing there was a point to trying to address it. I’ve spent the last eight weeks immersed in American history. I’ve read profound works by great American thinkers. I’ve watched documentaries on the lives of pioneers in American thought. I’ve looked for a common thread among all of the people who made a difference in our collective grand experiment that has been this country and I found it. They all loved the idea of an America where all men and women, young and old, black and white, gay and straight, rich and poor… had access to a piece of the American dream. They worked and fought and wrote and protested because they wanted to make things better for other people, and if they managed to gain something personally from that, it wasn’t a bad thing. These people fought for entire segments of American society with no power, not just a privileged few, and they did it without taking something away from someone else.
But that’s really the crux of it, isn’t it? Americans have been convinced that everything is zero sum game. “If we allow gays to marry, it will destroy traditional marriage.” Horse shit. There’s no such thing as traditional marriage. Two people who love one another being allowed to marry, visit one another in the hospital, gain fiscal parity and be treated with human dignity doesn’t threaten your marriage at all. It means we won’t allow you to discriminate against them based on your bigotry and ignorance. Nothing more, nothing less. Giving them full citizenship and equal protection under the law doesn’t diminish your civil rights or equal protection under the law. It takes nothing from you.
“Abortion is murder and every baby, created in the image of God, should be given full citizenship from the moment of conception.” Wow. Stupid should hurt. First, let’s take your Imaginary Friend out of the equation because you can’t prove your Sky Daddy is real and that pretty much makes that part null and void. Second, a fetus, until it reaches the point of being self-sustaining, is nothing more than a parasite to its host, especially if the host doesn’t want it there. If a fetus was conceived on purpose, or is, at the very least wanted by the host, then that’s pretty much the decision of the host and can be viewed as a welcome guest. Until then, I don’t see as where it has any effect on you personally, so I’m not sure why you’ve felt the need to interject yourself into the lives of others. Third, now you want to give the parasite full citizenship, including the right to property, from the moment of conception? You realize that you’re now playing the zero sum game. If you give the fetus full citizenship, you have reduced the host to the status of slave. Essentially, no woman capable of conceiving should be given full citizenship under the rules you’re setting. Pretty nice rules – especially if you have a penis. I noticed that the other half of the equation, the sperm donor doesn’t lose his citizenship or his civil rights, just the incubator. Fetal heartbeat laws and laws designed to imprison women who miscarry, only serve to criminalize gender. In case the Christian Fundamentalists are reading this, and some will, screw you. You’ll never end abortion. You’ll only end safe abortion. Women will die and while I know you believe they deserve that end, I can’t begin to count the ways you’ll burn in the hell of your own making when your life is over. Until then, I can’t imagine how a woman’s personal painful decision not to become a mother has a single direct effect on your life. I have tons of advice for you, but it all begins with minding your own business. Her abortion takes nothing away from you.
And to the gun fetishists out there, please don’t think I’d forgotten you. All of your talk of the “jack-booted thugs coming for your God-given guns” if we pass a universal background check law and outlaw extended clips is complete and utter bullshit. Your fallacious, “slippery-slope-first-they-got-my-extended-clips-and-I-said-nothing” argument is a total crock. Your talk of tyranny and patriotism and your fear talk about ‘the Gub’mint’ comin’ fer yer guns’ and putting us all in FEMA Re-Education Camps’ is useful if for no other reason than it shines a light on the people who shouldn’t be permitted to own guns, namely, YOU. Making it a little harder for convicted felons and crazy people to own guns isn’t a bad thing. It doesn’t take anything away from you and if it saves a single life, then why are you so against it? Oh, because you’ve masturbated to all of those survivalist magazines and videos of Ted Nugent telling Hillard Clinton to suck on the end of his gun? Well, take heart, ye of scarce sanity, no one is coming for your guns, though I’m not so sure they shouldn’t. Your interpretation of the Second Amendment is creative at best, completely wrong and dangerous to yourself and others at worst. Don’t be afraid of the background checks. Be afraid when the government demands mental health screenings. After this country has to endure 20 dead babies at Sandy Hook Elementary School, there’s only one move left: Checkmate. No matter what you say, background checks and outlawing extended clips takes nothing from you, and if you believe it does, seriously, get help.
And finally, to the people who try to convince us that voter fraud is such a problem in this country (*hint – it’s practically non-existent), that they would rather disenfranchise millions of legal voters to prevent just one person from casting an illegal vote, we’re on to you. We know why you want these laws and it has nothing to do with voter fraud. It has to do with poor people and women and minorities and old people having power through the vote. Your ideas are so unpopular, you have to cheat to win elections. You’ve been paid off by the elite few who can afford to pay off politicians, you’re actually willing to participate in the disenfranchisement of millions of Americans… for money. Voting is now and should always be about ideas, not the unfair distribution of power and taking away the last bit of power from the weakest among us. If all their vote takes away from you is money, then you’re in the wrong line of work.
JUSTICE SCALIA: Well, maybe it was making that judgment, Mr. Verrilli. But that’s — that’s a problem that I have. This Court doesn’t like to get involved in — in racial questions such as this one. It’s something that can be left — left to Congress.
The problem here, however, is suggested by the comment I made earlier, that the initial enactment of this legislation in a — in a time when the need for it was so much more abundantly clear was — in the Senate, there — it was double-digits against it. And that was only a 5-year term.
Then, it is reenacted 5 years later, again for a 5-year term. Double-digits against it in the Senate. Then it was reenacted for 7 years. Single digits against it. Then enacted for 25 years, 8 Senate votes against it. And this last enactment, not a single vote in the Senate against it. And the House is pretty much the same. Now, I don’t think that’s attributable to the fact that it is so much clearer now that we need this. I think it is attributable, very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement. It’s been written about. Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes.
I don’t think there is anything to be gained by any Senator to vote against continuation of this act. And I am fairly confident it will be reenacted in perpetuity unless — unless a court can say it does not comport with the Constitution. You have to show, when you are treating different States differently, that there’s a good reason for it.
That’s the — that’s the concern that those of us who — who have some questions about this statute have. It’s — it’s a concern that this is not the kind of a question you can leave to Congress. There are certain districts in the House that are black districts by law just about now. And even the Virginia Senators, they have no interest in voting against this. The State government is not their government, and they are going to lose — they are going to lose votes if they do not reenact the Voting Rights Act.
Even the name of it is wonderful: The Voting Rights Act. Who is going to vote against that in the future?
I have a few questions for Justice Scalia… If the Voting Rights Act is nothing more than a “racial entitlement”, then logically, I must ask:
Are laws against rape nothing more than “gender entitlements”?
Are laws against pedophilia nothing more than “youth entitlements”?
Are laws against dangerous working conditions nothing more than “labor entitlements”?
It turns out there’s been a change of dress code for the Ku Klux Klan… when appearing at the Supreme Court, black robes are the accepted couture for their duly appointed representatives.
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