Beyond Good and Evil

Dr. Ronnie J. Hastings

Archive for the tag “liberal”

American Conservatism Belies History

[Waxing philosophically right now, so……CONSERVATIVE DISCRETION ADVISED!]
Seen as a parade of good and bad (and in-between) ideas instead of a parade of good and bad (and in-between) people’s lives, history reveals definite directions of advancement over, say, the centuries since the “discovery” of the American continents. These directions are easy to detect following the rise and fall of ideas along time’s arrow using a broad time scale (The Big Picture, [Sept., 2011]). Also easily detected are peoples’ ideas discarded along the way, ideas that didn’t “make it,” that didn’t “stand the test of time,” that history “left behind in its wake.”

For instance, the two world wars of the 20th century left in their wake discarded ideas such as monarchism and fascism (and certain forms of government they imply, like theocracy and oligarchy). Another resulting discarded idea was that of empires like the Roman, the Mogul, the Mongol, the Ottoman, the Spanish, and the British. The final “victory” of WWII was the end of the Cold War in 1989 when the idea of Soviet communism collapsed. These wars sent history toward liberal democracies (or democratic liberalism) in the form of republics (Reference former Republican Steve Schmidt for this terminology.). The economy of the victors was capitalism (witness how China today is employing a form of capitalism). But non-liberals (especially American conservatives) strive against the liberal capitalism that emerged victorious by practicing a perverted capitalism (They should read their Adam Smith.), wherein not enough profits are plowed back into business as capital and too much of the profit is selfishly stagnated as personal wealth — all of which opens the doors for oligarchy (striven for by Donald Trump) and its ancillary kleptocracy (striven for and practiced by Vladimir Putin). Autocracies of many forms, including “banana republics,” however, have yet to disappear.

(If you think democratic republics are “safe,” having been given the “nod” of 20th-century history, think again. Who was the only democratically elected President of Russia after the Soviet Union? Boris Yeltsin and Russian democracy are now gone. And just in the second decade of the 21st century, Turkey has collapsed into a form of fascism Mussolini, Hitler, and Hirohito would easily recognize.)

Also left behind by history are the ideas of the Luddites and those of American Tories at the end of the American Revolution (also called loyalists). Yet these are the same ideas animating the Republican Party led by Trump. (21st Century Luddites?, [March, 2017], and 21st Century Tories?, [March, 2017]) Despite history’s harsh lessons, “Trumpies” today fail to grasp workers adapting to new ongoing technology and even to what it means to be a citizen (“citizen” being well-defined by the blood spilled in the American and French Revolutions (Egalite: A Qualified Virtue, [Feb., 2018])).

Generally speaking, American conservatism has clung to antiquated, outdated, and anachronistic ideas history has “shaken off” like water off a dog’s back, such as isolationism, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny, nationalism, sacred political states, tariffs, elitism, class hierarchy, nepotism, non-universal health coverage, and non-universal suffrage. (Citizens (I) Call For the Destruction of the Political Professional Class, [Nov., 2012], Citizens (II) The Redistribution of Wealth, [Jan., 2013], Citizens (III) Call for Election Reform, [Jan., 2013], An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 1, [Dec., 2012], An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 2, [Dec., 2012], An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 3, [Dec., 2012], Some Thoughts on Trump’s Election, [Nov., 2016], and Dealing with Donald, or, A Citizen’s Survival Guide for Trump’s Apparent Presidency, [Dec., 2016])

The xenophobic “circling-the-wagons” mentality of so many American conservatives is based upon the human tendency to take on the “us-versus-them syndrome,” which served us well when we were all hunter-gatherers (about 70,000 to 12,000 years ago). That is, “They over there don’t look like us, so there must be something wrong and possibly dangerous about them.” The “sacred” “us-versus-them syndrome” serves all religions, ancient and modern, including Christianity, well: “They don’t believe the same things we do, so we must convince them to believe as we do or rid ourselves of them.” Here in the 21st century, I think there is no longer any need of the “us-versus-them syndrome,” nor of its attendant bad ideas of nationalism and evangelism; history has passed them by. (Going Global, [March, 2018], At Last, a Probable Jesus, [August, 2015], and Towards an Imagined Order of Everything, Using AVAPS, [June, 2018])

Speaking more specifically, it even seems Trump’s administration, in the name of historically despicable and bigoted immigration laws, is now using our tax money for systematic child abuse. (I have visions of him going down to the detention centers and throwing scraps of food and rolls of paper napkins over the edge of the cages and into the flaps of the tents — similar to his condescending actions in Puerto Rico.) The June 30, 2018 protests across the nation speak loud and clear: the crying two-year old trumps Trump and all his zero tolerance.

Some of the Trump supporters who have not repudiated him and would vote for him still, despite his despicable words, actions, and inaction, such as “evangelical ‘single issue’ Christians” who turn a blind eye to his plethora of “sins” so they can have their conservative SCOTUS in the name of anti-abortion or pro-life (or immigration, or campaign finance, or some such). Pro-life is such a historically unsustainable position, much like creationism and intelligent design. These positions place their proponents at loggerheads with nature, and just like “history bats last,” “nature bats last.” As opposition to evolution is without evidence and completely useless, so is risking future babies to the horrors of genetic defects, when such risk is so unnecessary. I’m angry that sex education courses in schools and sex education at home and in places of worship do not inform future parents that already we have the medical skills in place to assure every pregnant mother she has the right to have a genetically healthy baby. Yet the pro-lifers, by denying mothers the basic right to control their reproductive cycles, force the possibility of tragedy upon families — tragedy that can with certainty be avoided. (It is like inequality of wealth forcing poverty upon countless people of minimal means, which also can be avoided.) The modern technology of human birth and “natural abortions” — miscarriages — compel history to give pro-choice the “nod.” If expectant mothers want to go ahead and take to term a baby with genetic defects, detected early in gestation, that is their choice; there is a chance in future such defects can be rectified either in womb or just after birth. But such a choice is risky, especially based upon a religious belief. (The “A” Word — Don’t Get Angry, Calm Down, and Let Us Talk, [April, 2013], and The “A” Word Revisited (Because of Gov. Rick Perry of Texas), or A Word on Bad Eggs, [July, 2013]) To cling to pro-life is like clinging to slide rules and horse collars; it is out-of-date.

And moreover, such Christians as described above risk, by clinging to pro-life, walking into the theological quicksand of redefining Christianity (“You can’t be a Christian and be pro-choice.”), just as the creationists and intelligent designers have done (“You can’t be a Christian and ‘believe’ in evolution.”). (Creationism and Intelligent Design — On the Road to Extinction, [July, 2012]) You do not have to be anachronistic to be a Christian (Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015]) Nor do you have to be historically clueless to be a Christian. (The United States of America — A Christian Nation?, [June, 2012])

Historically, American conservatives has lost their way. History is not on their side. And it is their own fault. They let their own credulity get the best of them, and then somehow become too lazy and/or too busy to vet any and all political statements. And today with the sources we have at our fingertips, thanks to the social network, it often takes only seconds to vet almost anything. Liars like Trump thrive because not enough people, regardless of political leanings, vet what he says. What do you think history will do with the “birthers?” Like the flat-earthers, history, I think, will fling them into the dustbin of bad ideas, worth only a laugh or chuckle if ever remembered.

American conservatives, unless they start reading some history instead listening to Fox News exclusively, risk, in the long run, going the path of the Luddites, the American Tories, the flat-earthers, the creationists, the intelligent designers, the pro-lifers, and the birthers. Unless they start reading some history they risk becoming pawns of revivalist fascism, organized crime, communism, nationalism, isolationism, imperialism, and/or colonialism; they risk “warping” in their heads back into 1950’s America.

RJH

Going Global

In addition to being possible 21st century Luddites and possible 21st century Tories, early 21st century American ultra-conservatives, such as those brought “out of the woodwork” by the Donald Trump administration, display other facets worthy of condemnation (21st Century Luddites?, [March, 2017] and 21st Century Tories?, [March, 2017]).  A common thread running through American ultra-conservatives very different from, say, lifting up the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as a sacred call to own as many powerful weapons as possible {Guns, “Gun Control,” and School Massacres (Part The First), [March, 2013]; Guns, “Gun Control,” and School Massacres (Part The Second), [March, 2013]; Guns, “Gun Control,” and School Massacres (Part The Third), [April, 2013]; Guns, “Gun Control,” and School Massacres (Part The Fourth) — the “Smoking Gun,” [May, 2013]; Guns, “Gun Control,” and School Massacres (Part The Fifth) — “Four Dead in O-HI-O,” [June, 2013]}, is categorically demonizing globalization.  Why?

First, I had to find out what is the consensus definition of “globalization,” when did it begin, and what is its history.  Two paired books helped me do just that:  1) 1491, New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, Charles C. Mann, Vintage Books, 2nd edition, New York, 2011, ISBN 978-1-4000-3205-1, and 2)  1493, Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, Charles C. Mann, Vintage Books, 1st edition, New York, 2012, ISBN 978-0-307-27824-1.  The two titles tell the reader a lot.  They sandwich the year before and the year after Columbus “discovered” America.  (Of course this language we learned in school discredits historical characters like Lief Erikson, and, worse, an entire people who migrated across the Bering Strait into the two continents of the New World thousands of years ago.)  Clearly they compare the “before” and “after” of the European discovery of the New World; the pair present a measure of the impact of that discovery, an impact that echoes across centuries to the present.  Mann’s major theme is that globalization as we know it today began with Columbus’ first voyage.

The year 1492 ushered in a world-wide exchange of cultures, knowledge, foods, diseases, wars, and forced labor in the form of slaves.  As technologies of transportation improved, worldwide trade and colonial exploitation integrated the planet Earth into a global market.  Projecting this sweeping historical view into the 21st century, Mann, in my opinion, suggests that the lesson of globalization is that trading with each other is better than exploiting and killing each other.  A rather obvious good lesson, I’d say.  So, why would anyone be against globalization as defined by these books?

Look again above at the grossly over-simplified list of what was and is being exchanged in globalization; not all of them can individually be labeled as “good.”  Sure, to take one many foods from South America that “saved” Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment Europe, the potato, the “spud,” became the basis of the diet of the poor, and, later, the middle class.  Yet also from the New World came venereal disease and to the New World came European diseases to which native Americans had little or no resistance.  European diseases were even more devastating to the New World people than the Black Death was to Europeans about 150 years before Columbus sailed westward. However, economies based upon world-wide trading were spawned, economies like which are expanding to this day.  For example, the gold and silver mined by the Spanish with native American slave labor in Mexico and the Andes went not only east to Europe, fueling many national economies, but also went west across the Pacific to the Philippines, where Chinese traders traded Chinese goods like silk for the precious metals; this westward movement fueled the economies of China and the Philippines, as well as that of colonial Spain.  Foodstuffs like the potato and corn (maize) also went west.  Black markets and pirate economies sprung up in the Caribbean and in the waters off China as a result.  Another example was the flow of furs and timber to Europe from colonized North America.

But human beings, especially those from Africa, became commodities of trade to work the sugar cane and tobacco industries in the New World, later followed by the cotton industry.  Tropical diseases, such as malaria, killed off European overseers so badly, sometimes slave populations literally disappeared off the plantations into the interior to form new, independent, and undocumented societies often of blended heritage from native Americans — societies of mulattoes and maroons for example.  Because of sickle cell anemia from Africa, more slaves survived the ravages of disease than did the Europeans.

These examples are but “the tip of the iceberg” found in Mann’s books, but they are enough to clearly show that globalization is a mixed blessing; its contributions to our species often came at a considerable price of human suffering.

The more I knew about the history of globalization, the gift of hindsight compelled me to say the price mankind paid was more than worth it, given how global trade of resources back and forth across the oceans made possible the worldwide improvement of life compared with that hundreds of years ago.  Much of this improvement, like the establishment of democratic republics and the march toward universal suffrage and social justice, the rejection of monarchies, and the rejection of slavery, centers around making sure the price paid for globalization is more humane than ever before.  Yet, ultra-conservatives speak of globalization as if they wished it had never happened, even while speaking in an environment filled with comforts and advantages made possible by globalization.

Could it be that conservatives don’t know enough history to appreciate what globalization has done for us?  Possibly, but there are lots of ultra-conservatives, like Steve Bannon of Trump administration infamy, who appear very smart and well-educated.  So, the question begs itself — why, when you know the effects of globalization throughout modern history, would you despise it so?  Why are so-called liberals pro-globalization while so-called conservatives seem anti-globalization?  Those conservatives who still prefer war over trade are getting fewer and far between, as they are symptomatic of vestigial colonialism and imperialism, which began disappearing after WWI and WWII.  So it is possible a conservative might be both anti-war and anti-globalization.

I suspect the answer to the questions in the previous paragraph is found in the phrase above containing the words “mulattoes and maroons.”  Ultra-conservatives equate globalization with the mixing of races, and, as a result, become usually political isolationists.  In a word, they are racists at the core; they are xenophobic toward persons not like them.  It is true, much mixing of races came with globalization; Spaniards and Portuguese with American Indians became Mexicans, Central Americans, and South Americans; Europeans with Africans became mulattoes; Chinese with Filipinos became Sangleys, or Chinese Filipinos.  It is no accident that even in “progressive” societies like the U.S., many family trees were produced by brides and grooms marrying “one of their own.” Not that all who want to maintain a strong connection to the “mother country” are racists.  Rather, that the attachment to the “mother country” is psychologically based upon a racist xenophobia for some of them.  Ultra-conservatives have politicized this racism and politically express their racist bias by opposing globalization.  Their economics resemble that of a long-past colonialist, imperialist overseer.

RJH

P.S.  Lest you, the reader, think my linking anti-globalization with racism is but fanciful whimsy or giddy rationalization, consider how a growing number of historians and anthropologists are agreeing that the concept of “racism” was not a concern in Western civilization until it was clearly possible European and non-Europeans would be living together in an ongoing situation; that is, until different races lived together to make interracial mixing possible.  In other words, racism was not a considerable problem in Western culture until very different groups were shuffled across oceans; racism became synonymous with globalization when globalization began such shuffling, when the New World was “discovered” by Columbus.

Egalite: A Qualified Virtue

For years I’ve pondered why the French Revolution devolved into the Terror despite the fact its values (liberte, egalite, and fraternite) paralleled nicely those of the American Revolution (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness). The answer came slowly to me with further reading (Sticks and Stones May Break Our Bones, But Words We Don’t Know Can Also Hurt Us, or, Jesus Was a Liberalist [March, 2012]).  In a nutshell, the Terror destroyed the idealism of the French Revolution over the “middle” virtue, egalite, or egalitarianism.  Robespierre’s regime began labeling anyone who was different, who stood out from the crowd for any reason (greater skill at something, for instance), as being counter-revolutionary, and, as such, he/she became a potential victim of “Madam” guillotine.  In order to avoid the possibility of the “middle” virtue being elevated at the expense of the other two a la Robespierre and have such a tragic event be associated with the term “liberal,” I suggested in the post cited above the political position of “liberalist,” wherein all three virtues must be held co-equal; one or two cannot dominate at the expense of two or one.

Another horrific example of mutilating the intended meaning of egalite is the history of the Killing Fields of Cambodia, outlined from “the inside,” from personal observation, by Chenda Tom in her book He Knows The Plan, Lulu Printing, 2018, ISBN 978-1-387-47663-3.  In the 1970’s the radical left-wing Khmer Rouge group, led by the despot Pol Pot, suddenly took over Cambodia and destroyed the country’s society in the name of forcing everyone to be “equal.”  The entire population was stripped of professional and occupational designation and forced to live and work in rural camps reminiscent of the Japanese determent camps of WWII.  Khmer Rouge “soldier/overlords” allowed the sick and starving to die, as well as killing indiscriminately at any provocation they imagined, resulting in the filling of mass graves wherein countless skulls began to accumulate; over two million died, one quarter of the entire Cambodian population.  One died in the Killing Fields if one was not judged “equal.”

Over my teaching career of 40 years, both in public and private school, I was fascinated how parents expected their student children to emerge as intellectual equals, as if the high school diploma made a given student equally as smart as the next.  Many schools resisted ranking students academically, though not successfully, as colleges and universities wanted to know how applicants compared with their peers in the classroom.  Though not as egregious as the Terror or the Khmer Rouge, this resistance is also indicative of a misunderstanding of equality in the education of young minds.

So terribly can equality be distorted, George Orwell wrote the book Animal Farm as a satire of egalite and equality well before the advent of the Killing Fields.  This classic is summarized in the phrase “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Clearly, the ideal of egalite or egalitarianism needs to be qualified.

 

Our Declaration of Independence proclaims:

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are

endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life,

Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness…..”

Note the Declaration does NOT say that all Men will turn out equal, just that we all START OUT equal.  Thus our society and its sub-units, like schools, are obliged to give all of us equal opportunities and rights AT THE BEGINNING of our citizenship or school, NOT at the end.  How we end up is up to us, and our government will not, presumably, behave to give certain citizens advantages over others in the pursuit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; in other words, in terms of the French Revolution, liberte, egalite, and fraternite.  Exceptions to both American and French egalitarianism for all citizens are instances when the citizens forfeit their opportunities and rights given them at the beginning by violating the law — committing a crime, say.

It is like a race where everyone lines up at the same, fair starting line understanding there is no assurance that everyone will win; breaking the rules of running etiquette during the race will disqualify a runner or runners from winning the race.  The parents of school students I mentioned above are like spectators of the race expecting all runners or most of the runners to cross the finish line at the same time.  The Terror or the Khmer Rouge is like forcing the entire entourage of racers to step across the finish line simultaneously.  If the race is a metaphor of life, the Terror or the Khmer Rouge prevents the racers from “living.”

So, the United States’ Declaration of Independence and France’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen give the citizen a QUALIFIED equality — the right not to be handicapped at the start of citizenship and the right to achieve as much as possible without violating the rights of fellow citizens.  Chances are our crossing the finish line — making the most of our citizenship — will be a solitary one, with many ahead of us and with many behind.

Just like liberty or freedom is not absolute (We cannot do anything unlawful and/or at the expense of the liberties of our fellow citizens.), egalite is not absolute (We are equal only in opportunity and rights.).  Take advantage of your egalite if you are a citizen of the United States or France; your rights and opportunities at the start are indeed the same; how and when you cross the finish line is up to you; if you do your best, you can celebrate the finish line regardless of how your finish compares with others’.

 

As we physicists like to say, “That is the theory.”  Often theory and experiment, or theory and practice are far from being the same.  Ideally, the movement of establishing equality in the newly formed United States would begin as soon as the American Revolution ended.  Just look at the history of women and of African-American former slaves in the United States to see how far from ideal was the progress of egalite in our country.  Slavery was not abolished until 1863; women were not able to vote until 1920, after WWI; widespread acceptance of the LGBTQ community did not enjoy the protection of law until the 21st century; reparation to Native American communities did not begin until well into the 20th century; women still do not enjoy equality with men in the work force; xenophobia seems to trump xenophilia still as the reaction to immigration into the US.  The road to equality in the USA is still filled with roadblocks of misogyny, racism, sexism, xenophobia, traditional unjust entitlements, and irrational, a-historical nationalism.

As inertia-filled the movement toward equality is, the good news is that there has been reformist progress — the liberal spread of rights and privileges despite conservative resistance — in our country over the last 242 years.  I do not know enough modern French history to know how liberal reform and progress in the brain-child of the French Revolution compares, but I think France can make similar claims.  I am sure that in the long run both countries have avoided the horrors of Robespierre and Pol Pot — avoided the distortions of an unqualified egalite.  Just remember, you two countries, keep all three, liberte, egalite, and fraternite, equally important and equally strong.

RJH

 

To Run or Not to Run, That is the Question

Recently I turned down an opportunity to have my name put on a Democratic ballot for an office whereon a Republican is running unopposed. This is part of the Democratic strategy in Texas to eventually turn the State blue, a strategy I see as the Texas plan to organize the Resistance to Trump on the way to getting our country progressive again. Why would I turn down participating in a cause in which I believe so strongly? As the new year 2018 ushers in, to try and answer this question would be cathartic to me personally and perhaps interesting or entertaining to my readers.
As I told Dr. Jon Reese in my “no thank you” Facebook post, I appreciate the flattering thought that young activists in the Democratic Party would think me worthy. But I cannot run for any public office without the full, enthusiastic support of the love of my life, my wife Sylvia. Briefly, Sylvia simply cannot function as a politician’s wife; she avoids the give and take of differences of opinion, belief, position, and philosophy. This is not to blame her at all for my declining. The better reason for my not running is the subject of the rest of this post.
Let me quote at length from my reference to Jon, the post Sticks and Stones May Break Our Bones, But Words We Don’t Know Can Also Hurt Us, or, Jesus Was a Liberalist, which I posted on my website www.ronniejhastings.com in March of 2012:
“Beginning as far back as high school, I have been called or labeled a progressive, a liberal, a pinko, a communist, a socialist, a fascist, a Nazi, a Democrat, a secular humanist, a scientific revolution freak, a political revolution freak, an agnostic, an atheist, a Christian, a Texas-phile, a Texas Aggie, a Marxist, a liberation theologian, a Southern Baptist, an anti-cleric, a nuclear physicist, an arrogant high school teacher, a great teacher of math and physics, an unqualified math teacher, a painter of Texas flags on barns and sheds, a history freak, an American Civil War buff, an unintentional expert on Cretaceous fossil fish teeth, a barbed wire artist, a country redneck, a designer and builder of porches and decks out of composite materials, a male chauvinist pig, a land owner, a student of comparative religion, a gadfly, a Teutonic freak, a Napoleonic freak, a lover of ’66 red Mustangs, a coon hunter, a rock mason using only unaltered, natural-shaped rocks, an optimist with rose-colored glasses, a member of a sneaky group of pranksters, an amateur dinosaur track hunter, a militaristic war-hawk, an Obama-phile, a dinosaur freak, a rock-and-roll freak, a painter of the Lake Cisco dam, a heavy metal music freak, a cancer survivor, an anti-creationist, an evolutionist, an anti-intelligent designer, a hippie, a PhD, an absent-minded professor, an empiricist, a philosophy-phile, an epistemology freak, an incurable screamer of rock songs in karaoke bars, a beer connoisseur, a protester of stupid rules, a feminist, an insatiable reader of non-fiction books, a war gamer, a lover of all things Cisco, Waxahachie, or College Station, an astronomy teacher, a fanatical football and baseball fan, a driver of tractors and trucks, and a writer of ‘improbable histories.’” Since then I’ve been called on social media an “intellectual” and an “idiot.” I’ve even recently been called “narcissistic” because I had the “gall” to write my take on the origins of Christianity, which I wrote to my personal intellectual and emotional satisfaction (also found on my website); I didn’t write it to convince or convert anyone — I thought it might help others to do something similar and give me some feedback (Talk about cathartic! I highly recommend it.).
Now, imagine someone with all these labels, given sincerely, or as a joke, or anywhere in between, running for public office! An opponent could just go down the list throwing mud, and my campaign would be spent putting out “brush fires” caused by one or more of these labels. Even if my wife was an enthusiastic supporter of my campaign, I had all the campaign money I needed, and I had a great and massive PR staff eager to do battle with all the barbs that would be hurled, it would be exhaustive, even if fun, with little time, effort, and money available to get my message and position out to my constituents.
And I am to blame for being such a nightmare candidate.
Yeah, I admit I’ve spent most of my life cultivating my image as being hard-to-label. I never sweated the contradictions with which I was described, as I’ve always figured that if it was important for someone to know the real me, they would approach me and I would be happy to oblige them. It all is based upon the fact I’ve never known anyone, living or dead, like whom I would want to be; I’ve always been comfortable in my own skin, never envious of anyone; I’ve never worried much about what others might think of me. Instead of having heroes in my life (The only exception I’ve claimed is the great Brave slugger Hank Aaron.), I’ve cherry-picked attributes from other people’s lives which I admired and tried to make those attributes my own.
Example of cultivating my image: As a Senior in high school, I was reading a copy of William L. Shirer’s “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” a paperback copy with a big honking swastika on the cover in the athletic field house while waiting on a washer of players’ clothing to finish up. In comes a visiting team to use the field house and gazes suspiciously at my reading selection. When asked if I was a Nazi, I answered in a non-committed way, and my good M-4 buddy Bob Berry and fellow athletic trainer/manager, who knows me very well and who arrived upon the scene, did not blow my ambiguous cover toward the strangers.
Example of cherry-picking attributes: Despite the causes they fought for, I always admired the strategic and tactical skills of such leaders as Hannibal, Stonewall Jackson, and Erwin Rommel. Such admiration (bolstered by the fact they are all studied in classes of military strategy in all countries) has nothing to do with my admiration or condemnation of the causes for which they fought.
Little did I know that I’ve lived a life making me a maverick political candidate, a candidate making maverick politician John McCain look like a “yes” man. Psychologically, I suppose, it all stems from the fact I am an only child not wanting ever to be like anyone else, and relishing the thought that I am seen by others as being different. I really think that the more perplexing I seem to others, the more different I am to them. I don’t think this is narcissistic at all, as self-deprecation and self-denigration have always been tools at my constant disposal; I think I take criticism from my friends well; I could not have executed the things I’ve done without both their encouragement and their criticism.
Put succinctly, a candidate needs to sow the seeds of transparency; but I have a tendency to sow the seeds of opaqueness — of being hard to figure. Looking at me is like looking through a glass darkly; my waters are muddy — you can’t see very far. I hold my cards close to the vest. Good candidates make listeners and readers clap; I would more than likely make them scratch their heads.
I feel comfortable with self analysis, unafraid of what I might find. For instance, I’ve discovered recently why I like the game of American football, and the reason is not pretty. It’s the violent collisions of blocking and tackling. Give me a game of rugby over a game of soccer any day! I never played the game of American football and I tried to keep my sons from playing it; I don’t want to violently collide with others — I want to (voyeuristic-ally?) watch others do it.
In that vein of self-analysis, as I also told Jon, I consider myself an independent, not a Democrat or Republican; I am democratic, not Democratic. And, this stems from the fact I tend not to be a “company” guy, a “party” guy, or a “team” member. Needless to say, I am not a “yes” man; if anyone wants my respect, they must earn it; I do not give respect just to anyone. In spite of the fact I’ve never voted for a Republican candidate for President in my life, I’ve never supported every plank of any Democratic platform. Should I serve as a Democratic office holder, I would never support an issue the party touts if I did not personally agree with it. An office itself is no more worthy of respect than the person occupying it at any particular time. The American Constitutional political ideals establishing the office ARE worthy of perpetual respect. I support many causes and organizations, always tentatively, but am most loyal to the M-4, the group of high school buddies formed while we were in high school, as well as my life-long friend Dr. Bill R. Lee. (See Fun Read on my website.)
I am a septuagenarian, a peer of Bill and Hillary Clinton, and of Donald Trump — a “baby-boomer” forged in the three fires of the three social revolutions that exploded in the 1960’s — 1) civil rights movement, 2) women’s movement, and 3) anti-war movement; I was inoculated by all three revolutions, and all three “took.” Religiously, I use the phrase by Thomas Jefferson, “I am a sect of one.” I think the same thing could be applied to me politically, “I am a party of one.” I don’t know of anyone who agrees with me in the areas of religion and politics. And, again, I don’t try to convert or evangelize any to my views, but I do try unashamedly to get all to think and research. But, and here is where I hope my difference makes a difference: It’s OK if no one agrees with me. I’ve laid out my positions on religion, politics, and philosophy on my website if anyone wants to label me with “applicable” labels. (See Sticks and Stones…. referenced above, my five-part series on the origins of Christianity, and my six-part series on Perception Theory, all on the website www.ronniejhastings.com) I can be accurately labeled; you just gotta read what I’ve laid out for any to consider.
For anyone wanting a candidate, I, again, am probably your worst nightmare.

 

However, living as long as I have, I am not a political virgin. 1) I was in student body politics throughout high school in the 1960’s through the Student Council, including multiple class presidencies, and Vice-President and President of the student body. 2) I was department chair for both the science department and the math department in Waxahachie High School. (‘70’s through ‘90’s) 3) I was on the Texas State Textbook Committee during the ‘90’s, including the chair of the physics committee, selecting textbooks for all Texas public schools in the subjects of biology, chemistry, and physics.
In these capacities, it must be said, I was accused of falsehoods, which I politically handled through a combination of humor and self-denigration. Contact me if you want details on these events. Like the Farmers Insurance commercial, “I’ve seen a thing or two.”
If my political experiences could be of help in the progressive movement in local, State, or national politics, I would be more than happy to serve behind the scene as an adviser and strategist.
If a miracle occurs and my wife changes her mind and becomes the ideal politician’s wife and if a second miracle occurs and somehow some savvy political caucus discovers I’m not going to be controversial after all, then I would consider running in a local school board election or running for the Texas State Board of Education, both positions in which I would relish fighting for a couple of my all-time political passions — rights of students and reform of teacher certification.

 

Whew! Sorry for the lengthy self-analysis………I think I feel better…………………….
RJH

21st Century Tories?

With American conservatives in power in the wake of the 2016 US Presidential election, the sharp dichotomy of political divisiveness from this election makes comparison of who makes up the two sides very easy.  21st-century American conservationism is bound to the post-both-Bushes Republican Party and to the populist “know-nothing-like” Tea Party (i.e. Freedom Caucus) movement largely populated, embarrassingly, by members of my own generation, the generation of Baby Boomers, born during and just after WWII.  Older modern-day Republicans and modern-day old populists, on the average, are made of those relatively unaffected by the three-pronged social revolution in America during the 1960’s:  Prong 1, the civil rights movement, Prong 2, the women’s movement, and Prong 3, the anti-war, anti-govt. movement.  In my opinion, President DJT, a member of my generation, embodies the oligarchical and plutocratic branch of modern American conservatism giving big business a very bad name.  Mix together these ingredients, and you have the definitive recipe of early 21st century American conservatism.  In this post I would like to make the historical comparison of this conservatism with a group we studied in American history known as the Tories of the 18th century.  (I could use “right/left” to describe the American political dichotomy, but herein I have obviously chosen “conservative/liberal.”)

The American Revolution was a close affair, whose outcome was in doubt for many years.  As I have said elsewhere (The United States of America — A Christian Nation?, [June, 2012]), American colonists rebelling against the British crown and Parliament won by two decisive factors (besides tactical and strategic opportunism and plain old luck):  a) the fledgling upstart nation made itself a secular, not a sacred, cause, and b) the French crown furnished the colonist cause with vital military and financial aid.  What contributed more than anything to the Revolution being so nip-and-tuck and up-in-the-air was the large population of colonists who did not support the rebellion, those who remained loyal to Parliament and King George III — those who became known as Tories or Loyalists.  There were not only patriot militias in the Revolution, there were Tory militias.  At Revolution’s end, at least three fates awaited these Americans who opposed the rebellion.  1)  Those who could afford passage made their way back to England, joining the likes of Benedict Arnold, 2) those of more modest means made their way to Canada (Today, many residents in the lower peninsula of the Province of Ontario between Lakes Ontario, Erie, and Huron are descendants of Tory families who crossed either the lakes or the Niagara River.), or 3) many Tories went “underground” with their “true” patriotism and gradually became indistinguishable within the new society of the United States.  Almost all identified Tories faced violence and/or threat of violence as the Revolution concluded; many never tasted liberty and justice until they left the USA; “the spirit of ’76” could not tolerate anyone deemed “traitorous.”  Even the bastard son of Benjamin Franklin was a Tory New Jersey governor, incarcerated during the Revolution, and he eventually moved to England in 1782, away from his father.

Clearly, 18th-century American Tories fit the “original” definition of conservatives — those who in principle oppose change in their lives, usually because they live more comfortable lives than others around them.  This is why conservatives often are the rich and powerful.  The original definition of liberals identified those who, like the conservatives, wanted for themselves and their families, money, power, property, and happiness; but liberals were not against change in their lives if that change meant others could also have the money, power, property, and happiness both liberals and conservatives enjoyed.  This is why liberals are often connected with the idea of “spreading the wealth,” which, contrary to conservative political mythology, does not mean “robbing Peter to pay Paul;” liberals know that enough new wealth can be created, in principle, to allow all who work to live as comfortably as they.  Succinctly, conservatives have always tended to exclude others, while liberals have always tended to included others.

The Tory position toward the American Revolution was obviously conservative; the Patriot position toward the American Revolution was obviously liberal.  Only subtle differences in these “original” definitions are still around here in the 21st century.  Today conservatives fear change will be at their expense, with complete disregard to today’s inequality of wealth, which causes the inequality in wealth of the 18th century to pale in comparison.  Liberals have struggled to learn change must not be at the expense of any one of the three principles from the French Revolution (another liberal rebellion), liberty, equality, and brotherhood (liberte, egalite, and fraternite, or LEF for short). [The French Revolution, despite virtually the same ideals as its American counterpart, devolved into the Terror when equality was emphasized above those of liberty and brotherhood.  Because of this liberal “black eye” concerning the Terror, I’ve proposed those who sustain all three ideals of LEF in perpetual equal importance be called “liberalists” instead of “liberals,” but, so far I’ve not gotten many “takers.”]

I therefore argue that in 21st-century America, conservatives are modern-day Tories.

This “Tory” argument is another approach in my earlier critique of American conservatism:  An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 1, [Dec., 2012], An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 2, [Dec., 2012], and An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 3, [Dec., 2012].  Ancillary to these three posts are suggested changes in the modern American political system aimed at both conservatives and liberals:  Citizens! (I) Call For the Destruction of the Political Professional Class, [Nov., 2012], Citizens! (II) The Redistribution of Wealth [Jan., 2013], and Citizens! (III) Call for Election Reform, [Jan., 2013].

One of many parallels one can draw from this approach is how in America attitudes of the rich and powerful toward the poor and disenfranchised has remained remarkably unchanged for about 240 years.  In the colonies, British aristocrats in the form of colonial governors, many of the rich “landed gentry,” and rich British and American merchants tended more often than not to “look down” upon the poor peasant class of small farmers and workers, and especially down upon African-American slaves.  Concern for the bettering of the lives of those struggling to live was not a priority of Tory-like conservatives.  Today, oligarchs and plutocrats of many ilks have a similar lack-of-concern; or, as I like to crudely and rudely (some would say unnecessarily) say, conservatives, on the average, don’t give a shit about others beyond their own; liberals do give a shit about others.

I personally witnessed conservative disdain toward those not considered “of their own” in the small west-central town of Cisco, Texas, in which I grew up; this disdain by conservatives was like a pervasive xenophobia — uncomfortable with, dismissive of, and mistrusting of those who were “different” than they.  The rich and powerful, usually town folk and large land owners, tended to “look down upon” poor town folk, small land owners, poor to middle-class farmers and ranchers, and generally anyone who lived in the country outside town; conservatives tended to classify people according to the size of their bank account, the amount of property they owned, and on which side of the city limit line they lived.  There were very philanthropic, well-to-do people in my home town, but to me they seemed “few and far between,” although I grew to recognize them as part of the “Cisco liberals.”  I saw conservative disdain by the rich “from both directions” or “straddling” this social judgement because I lived in a lower-middle to middle-class neighborhood in town and, simultaneously, “lived” on the farms and ranches of both sets of my grandparents outside town.  I was fortunate that this unique perspective of my growing up never ingrained into me to “look down” upon anybody.  But I sure sensed others “looking down” and sensed being “looked down upon.”  All I had to do to be so sensed was to wear my “country” working cloths downtown.  It was fun to project myself as a city boy sometimes and as a country boy at other times, but I soon grew to understand that what would not be fun is to become as those who “looked down upon,” or, who were, as I know now, modern American conservatives — who were, in words of this post, modern American Tories.  I rejected the social bigotry that was obviously germane to the conservatism I knew; it took me a long time to figure out what that rejection meant I had become, but eventually (with the help of the social revolutions of the 1960’s and the political definitions above) I realized I was a liberal.

The attitude I’ve developed toward American conservatives as described above was encapsulated years ago when my wife’s maternal grandmother said, as she was encouraged to be impressed by the gubernatorial mansion in Austin, Texas, “Well, that doesn’t make him any better than we are!”  At that moment I knew I had politically married into the “right” family for me.

I think I see why conservatives, modern-day Tories, fall prey to the social bigotries of their society.  They simply parrot the bigotry of their parents and grandparents so doggedly they fail to see that what they politically preach is racist, inhumane, xenophobic, anti-Christian, greedy, sexist, misogynistic, selfish, and/or “blue-bloodied.”  As I’ve told many of my generation who voted for and support Trump, they themselves may not be social bigots, but by their vote and support, they have “hitched their wagon” to the basest of these forms of social bigotry, because of Trump; they are guilty by association.  While it is certainly true that both conservatives and liberals can be bigots, my experience has seen more social bigotry in the former than in the latter.

Lest I be accused of being too “black/white,” compartmentalized, or simplistic regarding the conservative/liberal duality, I fully acknowledge that instead of two separate parts of the political spectrum, the spectrum is a blend of the duality.  And all along the spectrum individuals can be as free from social bigotry as possible, as Jesus taught.  Just like men can have female attributes and women can have masculine attributes, there are liberal conservatives and conservative liberals, both groups hopefully being bigotry-free.  For a long while I have considered myself to be a social liberal and a fiscal conservative, and I’ve met others who feel the same way.

Nonetheless, it seems logical that  since the rich and powerful are few in number, a new-comer to the earth might, looking at the American political situation, predict that conservatives would never be put into office by the voting electorate.  But, since we have approached closer than ever to universal suffrage during the 20th century in America, conservatives are in office as much or more than liberals.  Part of that can be explained by corruption, as conservative oligarchs, like the Koch brothers and Cisco’s Wilkes brothers, can attempt to “buy” elections by having more campaign money than some liberals, but that is not the full story.  Conservatives have co-opted the political tactics of aristocracies, monarchies, and church leaders to convince the poor and disenfranchised-from-the-“American dream” that they too can become rich and powerful like the conservative rich and powerful.  And certainly that is possible, but it is like telling all junior high football players they will be able to play in the NFL; odds are they will not play in the NFL; likewise odds are most Americans will not become rich and powerful.  The odds are better to go from poor and destitute to rich and powerful in the United States than anywhere else in the world, I agree, but to suggest that is common is to be cruelly misleading.  The ease of that transition from poor to rich is the myth of conservatism, as it gets the demographically non-conservative to vote for the conservative, to vote against their own best interests; voting for liberals is to vote for those who are interested in the demographically non-conservative climbing to the same demographic as the well-to-do liberals and conservatives; liberals tend to see the “American dream” as potentially attainable, as difficult as it is to realize, for all who work to develop fully their personal attributes.  When in office, conservatives usually work to see that it will be even more difficult for the poor-through-middle class to climb the socio-economic “ladder,” by funneling wealth so that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, like in pre-Revolutionary France.  Thus, conservative politicians and their supporters are often culpable of using the myth of conservatism like propaganda to which every fascist could relate.  A corrupt, bigoted American conservative, as the Trump era has shown, can sink to the autocratic depths of fascism and communism.

Hamstringing even slow, healing change among the modern American Tories is their almost reverent deference to authority, authority of any sort.  It is like the divine right of kings turned into 21st-century jargon.  The election of Trump among his supporters brought phrases like “We should respect the office of President always, and therefore, anyone in that office.”  I think the framers of the Constitution were so “gun shy” of kings, queens, kingdoms, theocracies, and aristocracies of all ilks, for very good reasons, they knew that any office created by the Constitution is never at any given time any better than the individual occupying it.  So the expulsion of Nixon in the wake of Watergate should not be viewed with tragic sorrow, but with great pride, as the system set up by the Constitution providing the peaceful transfer of power, even in times of crisis like Watergate, allowed the American people’s elected officials to preserve the dignity of the office of President for future Presidents.  In that spirit, Thomas Jefferson taught that one of the most patriotic things a citizen can do is to be critical of all elected officials.  Those of us howling about what Trump is doing to the dignity of the office of President are doing so out of the spirit of patriotism, the “spirit of ’76,” the bane of Tories past and present.  Bottom line, patriots:  elected officials must earn our respect, not be given it!

Germane to this myopic, almost blind, deference to authority practiced by modern-day Tories is the conservative tendency to not only defer to authority, but to believe everything authority tells them.  The insanity and danger of this tendency was what the third prong of the social revolution of the 1960’s cited above was all about — don’t just believe what the government tells you; vet and check out what they are telling you for yourself.  Today this is so much easier to do with cyberspace media (internet, etc.) than it was back in the 1960’s.  In other words, grow a “metaphorical pair,” a spine, a courageous, confident skepticism!  Parts of this conservative tendency to believe are intellectual laziness and ease of distraction.  Formally educated or not, every American citizen can become an informed voter, but it takes effort, and in my experience, it also takes time, like enough time to read and reflect on a novel like War and Peace.  Vital to an informed electorate is the ability not only to distinguish between fact and opinion, but also to recognize distraction from evidence.  From the time of the original Tories and even much, much earlier, conservative and liberal authorities have “gotten away” with corruption and scandal because ill-informed voters cannot follow the “scent of the trail.”  Once a voter learns such guidelines as “what evidence supports this,” “follow the money,” “what did he/she know and when did he/she know it,” and “where have we seen this before in history,” the trail will get hotter and hotter if there is actual corruption and scandal.  Therefore, my fellow American citizens, don’t be like a Tory, be like a hound on a hot trail or a shark in bloodied water.  Hold all politicians’ (conservatives’ or liberals’) “feet to the fire.”

One final warning concerning a thankfully few number of “ultra” conservatives — the horrible state of mind to which irrationally committed conservatives can stoop, in which they are un-phased by facts; the ideology in their heads “trumps” (pun intended) the evidence “staring them in the face.”  These are conservatives who seem to have the attitude, “Don’t confuse me with the facts.”  — a complete refusal to consider evidence.  At the close of the Watergate scandal, many conservatives still believed Nixon was innocent and/or he was framed!  This example reminds me of a story I used to tell my students in class to warn them of the “insanity” of irrationality and abandonment of “common sense.”  Briefly, the possibly apocryphal story (to me “apocryphal” means “if it’s not true, it ought to be”) went like this:   In Belton, Texas, years and years ago, a con man collecting money from his “marks” supporting the development of his “perpetual motion” machine, using a prototype with which he was publically “wowing” his credulous audience, was eventually exposed by skeptics who found a hidden battery/wire boost of energy to keep the prototype moving.  The money was recovered and returned to those who had been conned, but a few refused their money because they still believed in the con man!  Whether from fear of embarrassment or lack of the ability to understand the significance of the battery, those who refused to take back their money chose their faith in a crook over the facts before them.  I personally experienced the same phenomenon years ago when I got a Biblical literalist, creationist friend of mine to admit that, no matter how much evidence I placed before him, he could NOT admit that he possibly could be wrong!

It is not hyperbole to state that it is possible that modern-day American Tories, today’s American conservatives, can sink to this depth of mental bankruptcy and intellectual indecency; this depth is like “credulity on steroids!”  I’ve not yet met anyone of liberal tendencies who seems in danger of such depth.  I am relieved to say that the overwhelming majority of my conservative friends also seem not to be in such danger, so I want by this to warn them not to be associated with such danger.  In fact, let me exhort the entire political spectrum, conservative or liberal, to “call out” anyone on that spectrum who has sunk to this depth, anyone who, in terms of the “farm/ranch lingo” of my upbringing, has gone, politically speaking, “bat-shit crazy.”

 

I think history is on the liberals’ side.  Post WWII’s emergence of progressive political ideals in Western Europe, North America, Australia, Japan, and other nations has marked the transfer of more political power into the hands of the electorate than into the hands of the elected; this despite conservatives’ everywhere “dragging their feet” against this transfer; remarkably and thankfully, our vote is mightier than the sword or the dollar.  Consequently, history’s political compass points in a direction constituting anathema to 18th-century Tories, and, therefore, anathema to 21st-century Tories.  It is the “good sort of anathema” towards which to steer the future.

RJH

Dealing with Donald, or, A Citizen’s Survival Guide for Trump’s Apparent Presidency

As promised, here’s some suggestions that have popped up to use the next four years or so, and, amazingly, the man in these suggestions has not been inaugurated yet. For starters, some preliminary comments:

a) Lest we citizens not exactly thrilled with the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election be accused of being closed-minded, we must perpetually allow for the possibility, no matter how minuscule it may appear, we will need to show support for any actions by the new administration that meet our approval. None such have appeared thus far, in my opinion, but, then, for us eternal optimists, hope springs eternal.

b) Any specific causes or organizations I cite herein are merely personal suggestions that work for me. The reader should substitute and/or add the name or names of his/her preferences for mine, if desired.

c) We must banish thoughts of doing everything we can to discredit Trump, else we become no better than the grid-locking Republicans in Congress and elsewhere who held our nation hostage for petty political purposes during Obama’s two terms. Again, if Trump does well, let’s be supportive. For the good of our country, we must hope he does well.

But the sad reality is, he’s been our President-elect a little over a month now at the time of this writing, and there is little or no encouragement for us to be optimistic. Logically, we need to play it safe and assume the worst, else we are guilty of not being prepared for whatever may come. This is a suggestive guide for being so prepared from my point of view.

The philosophical modus operandi when dealing with Donald is to think of history as a parade of great ideas, not a parade of great men/women. Since none of us, living or dead, was or is perfect, thinking of history this way saves us frustration and disappointment whenever an individual’s imperfections become apparent. As Presidential candidates go, Trump is one of the most imperfect in a long, long time. I’ve not seen one like him since Nixon.

Wielding history in this way, American history is on “our” side. Donald is not only a narcissistic, grown-up, and greedy playground bully, he can be compared to the likes of mega-maniacal Nixon, to past fascist dictators like Hitler and Mussolini, and to present fascist-like dictators like Putin (Apparently now Putin is the richest individual on the planet.). If he (Trump) actually tries out some of his ideas (e.g. the wall) while in office, Dr. Rick Covington’s suggestion that they could be compared to some of Mao’s idiotic and tragic policies would be well taken. Obviously, to use history in this way, we must know our history; we cannot “brush up” on American and world history too much in the days to come.

Nixon was forced to resign when threatened with impeachment for his part in the Watergate break-in; “Tricky Dick” was a criminal and clearly in violation of his oath of office. Trump is already setting himself up to become in violation of his oath of office, in my opinion, by essentially taking the same position as the Russians on the hacking scandal (Can you say “treason,” boys and girls?), and by deliberately clinging to conflicts of interest (refusal to publicly release his taxes, violation of the emoluments clause) once he is in office, in clear violation of Constitutional requirements of the President. If the possibility of impeachment grows after he takes office, we must be patient, for, if I remember my Watergate history correctly, it took months for the pressure on Nixon to build up to where he found himself “painted into a corner.”

“Gird your loins” with the history of elections of Presidents who did not receive a majority of the popular vote. Personally, I think comparing Trump with Rutherford B. Hayes is quiet rewarding. In the election of 1876, Republican Hayes received 47.9% of the vote compared to Democrat Samuel Tilden’s 50.9% (Compare these numbers with Trump’s and Clinton’s percentages, taking into account the third-party percentages.), yet in the shameful “Compromise of 1877” a deal was cut between the two parties wherein Hayes could be President in exchange for the Republicans removing federal troops from the South, thereby ending Reconstruction and ushering in the systematic disenfranchisement of former slaves, the infamous “Jim Crow” laws. Incidentally, as I’ve discussed with Dr. Jon Reese and others, we can assure that the President-elect is always the one who receives the majority popular vote nationwide (without having to amend the Constitution): As several States have already done, have the State’s Electoral College (EC) set of voters pledged to vote for the candidate receiving the national majority vote, a result that can be reliably known today by the time polls close in Alaska and Hawaii. The EC vote would then be a redundant affirmation of the whole country’s choice. Clearly, this would have elected Al Gore in 2000 and Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Hayes’ administration followed upon the heels of U.S. Grant’s corrupt administration, helping to perpetuate the infamous “robber barons” of the late 19th century (You know, the villains in the newest Lone Ranger movie starring Johnny Depp as Tonto.). These characters notoriously rode tax breaks toward destruction and rape of the environment, all in the name of profit. Sound familiar? Trump appears to be a modern-day version of a robber baron, giving big business in particular and business in general a bad name. He is “in bed” with the huge oil and gas industry (e.g. Exxon-Mobil) so snugly, he clearly is anti-environment. In other words, he not only doesn’t care about our rights, he doesn’t give a crap about our planet. Those who worship at the shrine of money, mammon, and capitalism need to be reminded there are lots of “filthy rich”examples much better than Donald, like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and Oprah Winfrey.

I’ll always be amazed at the rabble who insist we need a business person in the White House. History doesn’t bear the weight of that argument, in my opinion; greedy capitalists tend to morph into Scrooges. The robber baron lesson means in a Trump administration we must support those from whom the robber barons steal — the poor, the hungry, refugees fleeing one or more of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and the infirm. Give to humanitarian and charitable organizations like UNICEF, the Red Cross, the Red Crescent, the Clinton Foundation, St. Jude, Shriner’s hospitals, Make-a-Wish Foundation, and Jimmy Carter’s Habitat for Humanity, to name but a few. As individuals, we usually can’t afford to give to all, but at least we can give to one.

Trump is of my generation, so we all need to know how to assess members of my generation, the so-called “Baby-Boomers.” Only part of my generation “took” to the “3-pronged” social revolutions of the 1960’s — 1) the Civil Rights Movement, 2) the Women’s Movement, and 3) the Anti-war Movement. I graduated high school a “male chauvinist pig” in 1964 and emerged from undergraduate school at A&M in 1968 “inoculated” by all three prongs. Another member of my generation, Hillary Clinton, over about the same period of time, morphed from a “Goldwater Girl” to working for voters’ rights for the disenfranchised in far south Texas. But I’m afraid too many of our generation did not “take” to the revolutions, and Donald Trump was certainly one of those. I’m guessing over half of my generation merely replaced their parents and/or grandparents, emerging from the revolutions unchanged and longing for the “good old days” of the 1950’s. We know Trump’s dad dealt with housing for blacks in New York City following Jim Crow laws. Moreover, Trump’s financial successes appear to be the result of “daddy bailing him out,” rather than the result of Trump’s business acumen. In other words, Trump in the 21st century still apparently believes the world is still “ruled” by rich white men, as it practically was back in the 1950’s before the revolutions. So, when dealing with my generation, individually find out if he/she “took.”

As a person “stuck” politically, morally, and socially in the 1950’s, Trump cares for no one’s rights but his own. Consequently, he seems capable of bigotry based solely on xenophobia, in my opinion. Our support of organizations directly defending the rights of us all, especially if we are not white, male, rich, and Protestant, is now of greatest importance. I plan to join and support the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). For women’s right to make their own choices about their lives, I want to support Planned Parenthood. I also want to lend my support to Sanctuary Cities who give succor to desperate immigrants looking to America for their salvation. In all situations wherein anyone’s civil rights are being denied, we must speak up, not tolerating such denial ever. Just the fear of losing one’s basic rights can devastate lives; recently a student I was tutoring spoke of a friend of the LGBT community sobbing in fear over the 2016 election’s outcome.

What about the younger generations than mine, which I will call the generations of my children and my grandchildren? Why would they vote in 2016 against their own best interests, or not vote at all? Many seemed to squander their vote on a hopeless third party (Look where that sort of thing landed Iceland recently in a many-partied election!), or they believed Trump actually cared about the working class. I think these voting patterns showed the inability to recognize propaganda — the inability to not only think critically, but to think skeptically. Even young children can learn to recognize truth not from authority, but from evidence. Basic education should universally include course work demanding critical and skeptical thinking skills, like well-taught science and math classes. I support good strong civics curricula which emphasize the principles upon which our Constitution was based, and I support high school philosophy courses wherein students are taught to question everything they are taught. This is why I feel compelled to support science education groups like the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). Students should not only be able to distinguish between propaganda and political reality, they should also need to distinguish on their own science from pseudo-science.

Moreover, we need to keep hammering home the idea of free higher education for successful students in state colleges and universities, just like public education is “free” to the “customer” in the classroom. If lottery, gaming, and horse racing revenues were plowed into higher education, plans such as the one put forth by Bernie Sanders and embraced by HRC could easily be paid for. The idea is admirably based on merit, rewarding successful academic work; whether a student gets funded for the next semester depends upon meeting the standards of success in all courses in the previous semester.

Then there were those “one-issue” voters who voted against Hillary or for Donald as if their “favorite” issue was the only plank in the party’s platform, or the only concern of the party’s policy makers. Many of these myopic voters seemed to me to be evangelical Christians whose one issue was abortion, or the make-up of the future Supreme Court. These voters need some sort of rationality therapy wherein a party’s total platform is scrutinized to produce a “political spectrum average.” This “plank average” comparison, I think, would show any open-minded citizen that for decades the Democratic party’s average is by far more humane, uplifting, Christian, tolerant, safe, and supportive than the Republican party’s. It is part of our job to provide this therapy in elections to come.

To keep, in a Trump administration, our country from being too much under Russian influence, yet not restart the Cold War, we need to foster broader understanding of Russia and of our allies and adversaries overseas. Thanks to the glaze with which the greed of business can coat clear thinking, Trump is rightly already called, in Lenin’s words, “a useful idiot” for Putin’s Russia. It is Russia’s young populace we need to be concerned with. Read in the December 2016 issue of National Geographic about today’s young Russians and how suppressive of young minds Putin is, not only in the best tradition of Stalin, but also of Hitler and Mussolini. If Trump and his cronies continue to act like “Putin’s puppets,” Putin might well get away with his crimes in the Crimea, Ukraine, and Syria. We have to rally citizens to work to strengthen NATO, not undermine it. Germany’s economic and social leadership in Europe today should be a blueprint worthy of our consideration.

In dealing with Russia, we must remember this is a country that did not have a Renaissance, a Reformation, or an Enlightenment, as we had in the West (and which explain our rise toward democratic and universal suffrage). It is too late for Russia to have a Renaissance or a Reformation, but, just like Islam could use a Reformation, Russia could surely use a vigorous, modern version of the Enlightenment. And we cannot be the agents of these necessary changes; Russians have generate their own Enlightenment, just as Muslims have to generate their own Reformation.
We need to make sure our fellow citizens are familiar with the words “kakistocracy” and “kleptocracy.” (Look them up, and thanks to Karolina King for pointing the first out to me.) The gloomiest statement we can make right now about Trump is that he is busy assembling a kakistocracy (of which he is the head) toward a government functioning as a kleptocracy — all to the demise of what most Americans hold most dear. Talk about our Founding Fathers spinning in their graves!

Yet to dwell on this gloom to the point of fear, desperation, and/or resignation is too myopic of us. As I like to remind myself, “We’ve come a long way, baby!” to get where we’ve got to today! Remember things like when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 1908, women could not vote and African-Americans as well as Latinos could not play major league baseball. If you don’t have one yet, develop a perspective both broad and deep; such can be both personally and perpetually enlightening and encouraging.

As Delores Covington has rightly pointed out, we must always remain vigilant. Thomas Jefferson is usually given credit for statements like “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.” Moreover, Jefferson also reminded us that one of the most patriotic things we can do is be critical and skeptical of our government, which sounds oxymoronic. But TJ is right on point. WE are the government, a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Self-criticism, both individual and public, is vital. One could say the particulars of this “survival guide” are suggestions on how to be critically vigilant, and, therefore, patriotic.

Clearly, the “vigilance point” above applies to ANY Presidential administration. To be vigilant would be just as important if HRC (or anyone else) had won the election.

Speaking of Thomas Jefferson, not only was he one of the first advocates in our country for public education, he was one of the pioneers taking the first steps toward universal suffrage, in the form of being an advocate for the “common man vote,” where a male got to vote regardless of how rich he was and/or how much property he owned. His concern responding to criticism of the common man vote was that an uninformed electorate might vote in an incompetent, dangerous person into public office; hence, his strong advocacy for public education. The 2016 election possibly might be seen as the election of Trump by an uninformed electorate — Jefferson’s fear might have been born out. Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America expressed concern that the United States could be ruled by the “tyranny of the majority,” which is of little concern, in my opinion, if the majority is wise enough to respect the rights of the minority. Given that Trump was elected, however, by a minority of the electorate, uninformed or not, his particular election could also be seen as portending the “tyranny of the minority,” de Tocqueville turned upside down.

Over the years of too many Republican administrations, I have been energized by political protest music, like that of our new Nobel Laureate, Bob Dylan, and by songs like “Cult of Personality,” by Living Colour and “The ‘Fish Cheer’/I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag” by Country Joe and the Fish, as well as the instrumental National Anthem by Jimi Hendrix. All of you, I’m sure, can add your own inspiring music examples.

And don’t forget to be grateful for the great humor that will undoubtedly evolve from the Trump administration, as wonderfully illustrated by SNL. All political comedians and all us wanna-be-comedians are going to have a field day! To quote the Lennon/McCartney lyric from “Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite, ”A splendid time is guaranteed for all!” Example: Who does Donald Trump think was the greatest job creator ever? Adolf Hitler! Hitler not only gave us the Volkswagen, he eliminated unemployment in Europe for years!

RJH

Presidential Election 2016 — NOT Choosing the Lesser of Two Evils

I am trying to project myself forward to Election Day in November emerging from the voting booth having voted for Donald Trump.  I can only imagine emerging in that scenario in an extreme state of self-loathing.  How could I live with myself after that?  Certainly not with a clean conscience!  I understand the President of Mexico comparing Trump with behavior reminiscent of Mussolini or Hitler; El Presidente is not alone.  I am no expert on fascism, but I do know enough (See Mrs. Lois Adling, Mrs. Edward Lee, and the Big Afternoon [June, 2012] &  The Flag Escapade — Phase I [August, 2013]) to recognize demagoguery, cult of personality, propaganda, the police state, flip-flopping on issues to accommodate the immediate audience, and pandering to the vulgar, violent, and uninformed.  And like Mussolini and Hitler, Trump is like a “whiny little bitch” (to use Bill Maher’s words), spreading fear, insecurity, and intimidation wherever he goes.  (He had to be a playground bully when he was in grade school.)  Moreover, Trump admires the heavy-handed despotic governments of Russia and North Korea; Putin knows all he has to do is flatter Trump and Donald will roll over like a puppy to get his tummy scratched; DJT is like “Putin’s Puppy.” And, as if this is not enough, Trump would have a religious test for entry into the country, and, perhaps, and ideological one as well, using, presumably, something he calls “extreme vetting.” (My granddaughters know what that means — torture.) I join Mr. Khan at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia in asking Donald Trump, “Have you ever read the US Constitution?”  Trump must have been asleep in his American history, world history, civics, and government classes and had someone else take his exams for him!

Trump’s base of support is sadly all too familiar to me — all I have to do is look in the mirror.  His base is what used to be called the Tea Party, mostly made up of old white farts like me.  Trump’s base is made up primarily of my generation with whom the three-pronged social revolution of the 1960’s — 1) the anti-war movement, 2) the civil rights movement, & 3) the women’s movement — did not “take.”  That all three “took” with me marks me as one of the fortunate of we “Baby Boomers,” we “children of the ’60’s.”  I’m truly sorry more of my generation did not become politically informed, enlightened, and “savvy.”  We should know better than paying attention to a whiny little bitch.

My mirror also reminds me Hillary Clinton is also a “child of the ’60’s.”  But all three prongs of the revolution “took” with her also; she is also one of the fortunate.  I would have voted for her just on the basis she declared herself a Beatles fan.

Those for whom the 3-pronged revolution did not “take,” like Trump, are anachronistic — living in the past, longing for the “good old days” of the 1950’s in which we Baby Boomers grew up.  Ah, yes, the 1950’s, when white males “ruled,” Jim Crow laws were the norm, and you couldn’t even own your household telephone; people like Trump, in my opinion, long for the days depicted in the annual movie classic A Christmas Story.

Hillary Clinton and I know the world can never return to the 1950’s.  White males are not the majority in power today, as our national demographics indicate it should be.  She began as a “Goldwater girl,” and was smart enough to “see the light” early on.  Her record parallels the optimism of JFK’s Camelot years, LBJ’s vision of a war on poverty, Jimmy Carter’s faith in American ideals, her husband Bill’s golden touch with the economy, and Obama’s ability to transform society toward a just universal suffrage on the wings of a surging stock market.  She is the same person today as she was so many years ago before she married Bill and was registering Latino voters in far south Texas.  Witnessing from the other side of her marriage the inner workings of the White House, serving as a US Senator, and serving as Secretary of State, no living politician has had more preparation to lead than she.  I agree with those who say that never in the history of the US has there been a person more qualified to be our President than Hillary Clinton.  On top of all this, she is a grandmother.  We’ve needed the wise hand of a bright, gifted grandmother in the Oval Office for centuries.

Yet, the election is cited as the choice between two terrible alternatives, two evils, if you will.  Clinton is demonized (Trump calls her “crooked,” a “liar,” and even a “devil.”) as if she is as culpable in awful social prejudices as Trump.  But Trump appears racist and misogynous, while she appears tolerant and inclusive.  Why is this?  My generation, Trump’s base, is full of what we called back in 1960’s “male chauvinist pigs.”  And my generation is famous for passing down anti-women bigotry to its sons and grandsons.  A few years ago, when Hillary was running for the Senate, I was standing in line waiting to be transported to my seats at a Texas A&M University football game, when I overheard a couple of men in their late 20’s or 30’s trying to outdo each other in accusing Hillary for sins that seemed to exceed those blamed on her husband when he was President.  The only reason I could see these two sinking into such fanciful hyperbole is that they were scared, scared of a smart and powerful woman.

The liabilities of Trump to me are personally and politically unethical, and detractors of Hillary want her to have the same kind of liabilities.  That simply doesn’t wash, in my opinion.  Hillary’s liabilities, from the days of Whitewater to today’s accusations around servers and foundations seem strained and “spun” to sound much worse than they turn out to be under adjudication.  Millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent (in my opinion, wasted) on Whitewater and on Benghazi and on her e-mails as Secretary of State, trying to find “dirt” on her — all to no avail.  Yet, her political enemies assume she HAS to be guilty, as if she is held to some other standard than the rest of us.  Hillary’s only “sin” is that she is a smart, powerful woman.  She intimidates so many men, so many “male chauvinist pigs,” just as Margaret Thatcher and Angela Merkel did and does.

On the other hand, a failed businessman like Trump (check into his bankruptcies) only needs to be gently “spun” and out will fly dirt on his outsourcing business to foreign countries, his hiring of alien workers on his projects, and his refusal to pay contracted companies for work claimed unsatisfactory to the point the companies are forced out of business.  He is a bad example of a businessman; imagine how bad a President he would make!  So many of my generation think we need a businessman as President.  That is almost insane to me; we need a statesman and a leader of fellow elected officials, not a businessman.  Our Constitution is about a unique social experiment of democratic government operating as a representative republic, not about business.  Hillary is that statesman (stateswoman?) and leader we need.

Hillary is her own person; she would be intimidated or manipulated by no one, so powerful and smart is she.  She will never be fooled by flattery, like you-know-who, like “Putin’s Puppet.”  I remind you just how far-sighted and wise she is.  Had she not forgiven him and divorced Bill over the Monica scandal (nothing impeachable about all that; Bill Clinton did not violate his oath of office), she would never have been able to run for President.  This country has not progressed enough to accept a divorced woman as President like we’ve accepted a divorced man (e.g. Ronald Reagan) as our leader.  She has always known that and has risen above such double standards.  Her personal example, as well as her career, is a beacon of hope, inspiration, and encouragement to young girls and women worldwide, not least of which are my two granddaughters.  It is my hope that Hillary is the harbinger of a day when in the US we have universal suffrage and equal rights for all.  I want my duo of precious young women to have every reason to expect equal pay for equal work, to see in their lives the same opportunities as their male peers.

 

I think I agree with Dr. Rachel Maddow with her historical analysis on MSNBC about the “rise” of Trump.  His emphasis on the immigration issue is a dead give-away.  When in our political history the two-party system falls apart or is severely weakened, what arises is an alternative party or movement, usually from fringe or “secret” societies, riding into influence via xenophobia, via “blaming our troubles” on aliens and foreigners in our midst — on immigrants.  In the 1850’s the Whig Party collapsed, giving rise eventually to the modern Republican Party (the party of Lincoln, a former Whig).  From the ashes of the Whig Party rose for a short time the “Know-Nothing” party (arising from secret ultra-patriotic societies, who became named for their common response to political questions — “I know nothing!”).  The Know-Nothing Party scapegoated in Massachusetts immigrant Catholics (mostly Irish), while in California the Know-Nothings scapegoated Chinese immigrants.  In the wake of World War I (the 1920’s), when Republicans ruled the road to Prohibition and the Great Depression (Harding, Coolidge, & Hoover), the racist KKK movement scapegoated African-Americans as well as newly arrived immigrants from Europe and Asia, accumulating for a while an alarming amount of political acumen.

Post “W” Bush Republicans weakened themselves via their conservative policies so severely, anti-government societies such as the Tea Party pushed the Republican party so far to the right, their champion, a narcissistic demagogic businessman, was able to steal the Republican Presidential nomination from “establishment” Republicans, including from a Bush brother named Jeb.  Remarkable, sure, but remarkably bad for the country, as was the case in the 1850’s and in the 1920’s.  Note how Trump was reluctant to immediately repudiate the endorsement of former KKK Imperial Wizard David Duke.  The source of the endorsement and Trump’s reluctance to repudiate both make sense in light of Dr. Maddow’s historical reminders, for — who are Trump’s scapegoats?  You got it — immigrants, this time illegal immigrants primarily from Mexico and Central America.  When it comes to xenophobia in American politics, it seems, what goes around comes around again.  If so many lives were not lost or ruined due to racial and national xenophobia, it would be almost laughably ludicrous, given the fact that, outside Native Americans, we all in the US, if you go back far enough, come from immigrants of some sort (If you go back enough millennia, even the Native Americans were immigrants!)  Right-wing bigoted scapegoating of immigrants is laid bare as Americans turning on proto-Americans (new arrivals becoming American citizens).  Saturn eating his children, as depicted in Goya’s painting, comes to mind.

[I would feel remiss not mentioning here that European anti-Semitism and Nazi race theory were based upon similar racial and national xenophobia as described above, even though they were not a direct part of American xenophobia.  Nonetheless, it would seem too naive to assume some seeds of scapegoating from the legacy of Nazi Germany did not find fertile US soil in the 1930’s and 1940’s, contributing (as examples of radical political methodology) to the rise of McCarthyism and Neo-Nazism in the latter half of the 20th century.  Without sounding too conspiratorial, these seeds could, therefore, be possibly culpable in the remarkable theft of the Republican nomination by Donald Trump here in the early 21st century.]

 

As a scientist, seeing Trump being anti-science (on issues like global warming), like the Republican Party platform, is, sadly, expected and not surprising.  Hillary Clinton is certainly not anti-science.  No elaboration here, in my opinion, is needed.

 

This Presidential election is more a “no brainer” than in 2008 and in 2012.  Like we did eight years ago, let’s make history!  Vote Hillary Clinton!  I’m with her!

RJH

 

The United States of America — A Christian Nation?

Especially now in the 21st century, you seem to hear it more and more; with every Presidential election it raises its ugly head; in the Obama administration, it is one of the mantras one hears from the Obama-bashers. What is it? The declaration that the USA is a “Christian nation.”

What amazes me is that it is said so unthinkingly. Most who spout it, from the leaders of the Tea Party to the well-meaning Church member in the local community, it seems to me, know not of what they speak. I feel like spouting a paraphrase of Luke 23:34 “Forgive them; for they know not what they say.”

It seems declaring us a Christian nation is said as if that is saying the same thing as we are a nation of Christians. Of course, these are two very different statements. It is an unfortunate muddling of two things; those who call us a Christian nation seem oblivious that “ne’er will the twain meet.”

That we are, and have always been, a nation most of whom are of some Christian persuasion is obvious. I am not taking issue with that one of the twain. That fact has nothing to do with the proposition that “we are a Christian nation.”

Anyone, in my opinion, who declares we are a Christian nation must have been asleep in history class, high school and/or college. What part of “religious world history” do these people not understand? Time after time after time, history has shown us that to mix religion with state, church with government, is not only poisonous, it is downright dangerous; sooner or later, innocent people start to die. A Christian nation is an example of a “sectarian nation,” a nation in which secular and religious law and tradition are so intertwined, a crime is heresy, and heresy is a crime. Moreover, patriotism is pious and piety is patriotic. People in power in such a nation, whether clerical or not, sooner or later believe they possess power because it is God’s Will, and, when they exercise power, they are doing God’s Will. Hence, to question them is to question God’s Will. Get the picture? In a sectarian nation, there is no check on what political power can do, for the political power is seen as God’s handiwork.

It is the same old, sad, tragic, terrible story with sectarian nations, regardless of the scale and regardless of the time: the Papal States of central Italy (754-1870), Florence under the priest Savonarola (1452-1498), The Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), English Parliamentary Commonwealth (1649-1660) [under Cromwell 1653-1658], Salem Witch Trials in Puritanical Massachusetts Colony (1692-1693), the Spanish Inquisition (1480-1834), and Pre-Revolutionary France under Louis XVI (1774-1789). These are but a handful. Add more from Christianity to these, plus add those under other major world religions, and the list becomes legion. I urge you to look up and add your own examples.

Surely, those who want to add the USA to this list of sectarian governments must do so out of ignorance. But they are, for the most part, not ignorant people. They simply confuse the religious beliefs of the individual believer and the beliefs of a group of believers. The dangers of a sectarian nation, history seems to teach, can be avoided if the religious experience is delegated to the individual, not to the group, not to the congregation, not to the denomination, not to the sect, not to the order, not to the Church. Jesus spoke to individuals and collections of individuals, not to groups of one accord, not to nations.

It is merely my humble opinion, but, if Christians only took Matthew 22:21 to heart — “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” — there would be none of this spouting off about the USA being a Christian nation. Jesus, to me, seems to be saying “Keep church and state separate in the hearts of each believer.” In other words, separation of church and state is a personal matter, as is belief and faith, not a matter of the state or group.

But because so many think Jesus was wanting to establish a church, a group, our founding fathers had to couch separation of church and state in terms of groups, in political terms, if you please. This is where the perpetrators of our being a Christian nation seem to have also been asleep in American history class.

Let me give you the following names: Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, Washington, Paine, Madison, and Monroe. These men paid attention to the church/state atrocities of history “across the pond” in Europe (not to mention in Salem, MA), and proceeded to find a way to found a secular state, as opposed to a sectarian state, a state in which church and state are separate, where religious belief and practice is a matter for the individual, not a matter for the group, as Jesus taught.

It all began with the Declaration: It was written, as I hope all of you know, by the first three on the list above, Jefferson being the principal author. Jefferson’s first draft read “…we hold these truths to be sacred,..” and Franklin persuaded him to change it to “…we hold these truths to be self-evident..,” setting a secular, as opposed to a sacred, tone to the matter at hand. Both Adams and Jefferson agreed.

The “matter at hand” was the winning of the Revolution against the British. I submit to you that if the American cause had been couched in any sectarian language, as opposed to the secular language in which it was couched, I do not think we could have won. Let me explain: religiously, the thirteen colonies struggling to win their independence from the greatest empire on earth at the time was a plethora of denominations and sects: Puritans, Baptists, Catholics, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Quakers, and Deists, just to name a few of the larger groups. About the ONLY thing all thirteen colonies could be brought to agree upon was winning that independence, and, even then, we know a significant part of the population, known as Loyalists or Tories, did not even agree upon that.

Think what would have happened if there was some kind of sacred clause to the cause! We would have spent as much or more time arguing and fighting among ourselves (think how easily congregations split up over the most trivial of matters) as we would fighting the British, and, I think (pardon the expression) we would not have had a prayer! As it was, we barely won anyway, even with this secular insight our founding fathers had the genius and foresight to employ. In other words, the ONLY cause we could have agreed upon was a SECULAR one. From the beginning, then, we had to be a secular nation. No one of the founding fathers knew this better than Paine, even though he used Biblical references to reinforce his points in his writings, just as I have done in this posting; read Common Sense, written for the revolutionary cause during the fighting. And the only way to fairly be a secular nation is to treat all religions, Christian or not, the same, REGARDLESS of the individual beliefs of the citizens. That is, we had to fight the Revolution under the guidance of a fair and even separation of church and state; if God was evoked, He had to be evoked by the individual, not by the group or by the cause — all in the name of solidarity and to avoid sectarian in-fighting.

I submit we barely won, in the end, primarily because of two reasons, neither of which has to do with God or religious belief: 1) separation of church and state, providing unity on the battlefield, and 2) French military and financial aid.

When it came time to write the Constitution, separation was seen as so obvious, it was not given explicit language except in the Bill of Rights. Only later was separation spelled out, such as in the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (Jefferson, 1786) and in Jefferson’s letter to the Baptists (Jefferson, 1802). Also, Jefferson showed we could not be a Christian nation when he treated the conflict with Barbary pirates in North Africa as a secular one and not one of conflict of religions (1803).

But I’ve heard the argument about all the religious references, especially the Ten Commandments, on state monuments and buildings, both on the national and State level, as evidence we regard ourselves as a Christian nation. And, what about “In God We Trust” on our money?

The last six Commandments are social mores, the first four are theological. To follow the last half-dozen is tantamount to following the “golden rule,” the basis of all laws of social conduct world-wide, and, consequently, the basis of laws of jurisprudence everywhere, including the USA. (Every society has laws against murder, theft, rape, etc.) Every moral code, religious or not, contains this basis in its sacred texts or honored writings. As I have elsewhere argued, it might as well have been the Code of Hammurabi (Babylonian, 1780 BCE — or BC), which predates the Mosaic Code as its precursor, and, therefore, predates Judeo-Christian Scripture. Time honored codes, regardless of their religious contexts, are acknowledged for their inspiration of modern laws, and say nothing about the truth or acknowledgement of the religion embedded in the original code. This is analogous to the physicist Murray Gell-Mann using the Buddhist Eight-Fold Way as inspiration toward his ordering of elementary particles; his usage was no endorsement of Buddhism, just as the modern use of the Mosaic Code is no endorsement of Judaism or Christianity.

Individuals are free to religiously interpret the use of the codes any way they want, but they do not have the right to interpret by ignoring historical facts.

As for the inscriptions about trusting God on money, it seems but a weak attempt to imply a widespread religious consensus in our country, which is something we have NEVER had. Since there is nothing crammed down one’s throat — the money does the same thing with or without the writing on it — it seems harmless and pointless enough. If I lived in Canada or Australia, I would not appreciate the image of the Queen on the money I used, based upon my personal convictions, but, since allegiance to a monarch is not forced as I use the money, it seems harmless and pointless enough. In other words, separation of church and state seems not violated to me, as it is an individual, private response or non-response to “In God We Trust” involved, not a group requirement. The same goes for prayer in public places — leave it up to the individual and I have no problem; force it on a group without their consent, and that is a problem violating freedom to believe and freedom from belief.

There seems to be a “softening” of the separation of church and state in our country in recent years, especially among what is sometimes called the Republican Right, or the ultra-conservatives. To me this is anti-American, un-patriotic — an insult to our founding fathers and their great ideas that made our country great from the get-go. I grew up in the Southern Baptist church, a denomination, which, along with the Northern Baptists, was the champion of separation of church and state, going all the way back to the legacy of Roger Williams. (Remember it was to the Baptists Jefferson wrote the letter in which was coined first the words “separation of church and state.” [1802]) Until recently, how a Baptist church member voted was a matter of personal conscience and choice, a matter the church stayed out of. Until recently… I was shocked during one of Ronald Reagan’s campaigns when after a church service at the First Baptist Church in Cisco, Texas, when I was visiting a service there, we returned to our cars to find under our windshield wipers circulars admonishing believers to vote for “God’s candidate,” RR! I was saddened that it seemed I was about the only one shocked and outraged — were these people who slept in their Sunday School classes? Even the Baptists seem to be “softening” on the issue of separation; they are selling out on one of their most cherished and important Baptist and Protestant birth rights!

Here’s another situation I recall in the high school in Waxahachie several years ago. The school approved Gideons handing out Bibles to students wanting them as they entered school in the mornings. Now, Waxahachie is probably one of the most Christian-riddled big towns around, as shown by the fact most thought nothing of this action. Several of us teachers wrote a letter reminding the schools they were setting themselves up for entanglement with separation of church and state. All it takes is one that is different, say, a member of the Church of Satan, or of the religion of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or of Islam, or of Buddhism, or of Hinduism, etc. requesting the same privilege as extended to the Gideons, permission to pass out their literature alongside the Bibles. Should the school have denied that permission (what a vast majority of the citizens would have prefered, I’m sure) and continued to allow the Gideons permission to offer Bibles, they were sure to be sued in a suit they (I apologize again.) did not have a prayer to win. Long story short, the school decided they did not want such a case against them, and the Board voted to have no religious material of any kind handed out on school grounds. Off school property, where they have a permit to do so, any material could be handed out, but not on public school grounds. It was another case where always separation of church and state means all religions have to be treated absolutely the same; no religion is better or worse, regardless of the individual religious preferences of the state’s population.

So, you think we are a Christian nation? Pray that we never become so.

Vigilance is the price of liberty, and liberty means freedom to worship as we please, and freedom from having to worship, if we so please. Wanting us to be a Christian nation is a sign of ignorance, lack of historical perspective and insight, incredible, dangerous naiveté, or equally dangerous inhumane religious zeal (or a combination of these). It could be a sign of one of Jefferson’s fears — an uneducated electorate, a situation against which we must work to avoid. We must be vigilant to see people make the distinction between their own personal religious convictions and the political power of mass religious zeal. Our very identity as the United States of America may well depend upon it.

May God bless the United States of America by never allowing us to become a Christian nation, or any kind of sectarian nation. Oh, yeah, and thanks to the founding fathers I listed above, and thanks to Hammurabi for the early start!

RJH

Sticks and Stones May Break Our Bones, But Words We Don’t Know Can Also Hurt Us, or, Jesus Was a Liberalist

The Long List of names I have been called and of labels directed at me for attempted attachment keeps growing.

Beginning as far back as high school, I have been called or labeled a progressive, a liberal, a pinko, a communist, a socialist, a fascist, a Nazi, a Democrat, a secular humanist, a scientific revolution freak, a political revolution freak, an agnostic, an atheist, a Christian, a Texas-phile, a Texas Aggie, a Marxist, a liberation theologian, a Southern Baptist, an anti-cleric, a nuclear physicist, an arrogant high school teacher, a great teacher of math and physics, an unqualified math teacher, a painter of Texas flags on barns and sheds, a history freak, an American Civil War buff, an unintentional expert on Cretaceous fossil fish teeth, a barbed wire artist, a country redneck, a designer and builder of porches and decks out of composite materials, a male chauvinist pig, a land owner, a student of comparative religion, a gadfly, a Teutonic freak, a Napoleonic freak, a lover of ’66 red Mustangs, a coon hunter, a rock mason using only unaltered, natural-shaped rocks, an optimist with rose-colored glasses, a member of a sneaky group of pranksters, an amateur dinosaur track hunter, a militaristic war-hawk, an Obama-phile, a dinosaur freak, a rock-and-roll freak, a painter of the Lake Cisco dam, a heavy metal music freak, a cancer survivor, an anti-creationist, an evolutionist, an anti-intelligent designer, a hippie, a PhD, an absent-minded professsor, an empiricist, a philososphy-phile, an epistemology freak, an incurable screamer of rock songs in karaoke bars, a beer connoisseur, a protester of stupid rules, a feminist, an insatiable reader of non-fiction books, a war gamer, a lover of all things Cisco, Waxahachie, or College Station, an astronomy teacher, a fanatical football and baseball fan, a driver of tractors and trucks, and a writer of “improbable histories.”

To this, since the latest of my Facebook postings and the formation of my website, have been added 1) an intellectual, and 2) an idiot (This last one brings me full circle, so to speak; this is exactly what I was called as a freshman in high school!). I must be doing something right!

Let’s see, today is Wednesday, so if I were to call myself something for the day (for it would change each day, you see), I would say I am a dealer of ideas. (Some of you are old enough to remember the old black-and-white movie and TV series “Dr. Fu Man Chu” — “They say the Devil deals in men’s souls; so does Dr. Fu Man Chu!” They say the Devil deals in ideas; so does Dr. Ronnie J. Hastings!

Let me take one of the ideas suggested by the list above, say, “liberal.” Problems occur right off the bat, because what Americans mean as liberal and what Europeans mean as liberal are slightly different things, and the difference, I think, is crucial. The word “liberal” was first used in reference to the Whig political agenda in Britain in the early 1800’s. It was not incorporated into American politics through the American Whig party, necessarily, but, rather, through American suffrage, grassroot, and populist movements of the 19th centrury.

The original political definition of “liberal” grew, in my opinion, out of the successes of the American Revoluton and the French Revolution, both in the 18th century. There was nothing conservative about these two revolutions! What I would suggest as “liberalism” was actually born out of these two pivotal events, embodied by the words “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in the case of America, and “liberte, egalite, and fraternite” in the case of France (liberty, equality, and brotherhood). The Reformation ,the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment had combined to spark the minds of America’s founding fathers (Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, and Paine) and to set up the political landscape of revolutionary France just prior to 1789, defining the terms “liberal” — those who sat on the “left” side of the chambers in France — and “conservative” (aristocratic) — those who sat on the “right” side of the French chambers. Liberalism, as I will call it, is the equal balance of all three (liberty, equality, and brotherhood [humanity-oriented]) and is the political ideal to which I think history is showing us to aspire. Liberalism has existed in this ideal form in America only in the short interval from Washington’s first term to Jefferson’s first; it existed in France only from the moment the Revolutionary government was formed to the institution of the Terror.

I am not sure we’ve witnessed any equal balance since, at least not in the USA. We have not truly reaped the benefits of liberalism. All systems of government seem to have the three words out-of-balance in some way. Some easy-to-see examples will suffice: the French Terror exalted equality at the expense of freedom and brotherhood; Marxist-Leninist communism exalts an inequality at the expense of freedom and brotherhood, ironically the same as monarchies, fascist-regimes, and “Christian” regimes such as the Papal States and Cromwellian England. Modern-day socialism makes a similar mistake as did the Terror: pushing equality at the expense of individual freedom and of genuine brotherhood – only without the beheading; unfortunately, in my opinion, that is what most Americans today call “liberal.” It is essentially a misnomer. So, to be clear, I am pushing “liberalism,” not whatever is labeled “liberal,” like socialism. Perhaps, to avoid being mired in the prevailing view of “liberal” today, those who are of the persuasion of “liberalism” should be called “liberalists” instead of “liberals.”

The original definition of conservatism was to work for no change, to keep and defend the status-quo. Those already with power and wealth, the aristocrats, and later, the capitalist rich, had no need for change, for they deemphasized equality and brotherhood; they paid attention only to the “liberty” part. Today American conservatives interpret “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as “my freedom, my entitlement, and who-gives-a-shit about my neighbors.” American conservatives whitewash over this “official” OK for selfishness, greed, and inhumane treatment by appealing to the myth that we are a Christian nation, which, in their myopic minds, means the poor, needy, and working have-nots will be taken care of by Christian charity (remember the solicitors of Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, and his response to them?) (Incidentally, Christian charity through the organized churches cannot begin to meet the growing need of social services in our country.) Conservatives, as a result, are champions of some form of elitism: the smarter, the richer, the powerful, etc. etc. are better than the others. I know the book was about communism, but the conservatives of today remind me of the pigs in Orwell’s Animal Farm, remember? — “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” Conservatives, in my opinion, give only lip service to liberte, egalite, and fraternite, covering up their treason to the liberalist ideals that our forefathers ingeniously envisioned with feigned Christian piety, which is another treason — the treason betraying separation of church and state and the freedom to worship and the freedom from worship.

The progressive march of history is clear: conservative political philosophy cannot be sustained. With the price of the blood of millions since the 18th century, the imbalance of monarchies has failed and been dismantled, the imbalance of fascism has failed and been dismantled, the imbalance of communism has failed and been (almost everywhere) dismantled, and the imbalance of Latin American regimes of tyranny against personal liberty has failed and been dismantled. Guess what is going to happen in future to the imbalance of dictatorships, kingdoms, and sectarian states that still survive!

Look at this progressive march in the United States: universal suffrage finally became a reality, but it took into the 20th century to achieve it (Now, white males are joined by females and descendents of slaves at the voting polls.). The privileges of US citizenship are given without the shackles of discriminatory qualifications. (It doesn’t matter if you are blue, covered with green polka dots, and worship an anthill in your back yard, you have the same rights, privileges, and opportunities as the rich, powerful, and influential in this country.) For all this, you must pay a price, but a price well worth it, I believe: US citizenship means you have to work, you have to pay taxes, and you have to be a patriot in your new country — and, conservatives tend to overlook this, your freedom is qualified — you cannot climb the ladder of success at the expense of others! Your gain should not be someone else’s loss.

The three-pronged revolution of the 60’s (anti-war movement, Civil Rights movement, women’s movement) is all liberalist in spirit: perpetrated to extend (instead of restrict, as the conservatives want to do) all of the following — 1) power over your personal affairs, 2) influence in the leadership of your country, 3) your rights as a working, tax-paying citizen, 4) your rights not to be victimized by any form of discrimination, 5) your rights to educate yourself as far as your mind will take you, and 6) your grasp upon the promise of the liberalist, revolutionary agenda of our Constitution and Declaration.

So, when I go to the polls to vote for President, I vote for the candidate closer to the ideals of a liberalist, closer to the ideas upon which our country was founded. To vote for a political conservative is to me tantamount to voting against the ideals of the American Revolution; it would be literally un-American!

And, incidentally, to me it would be anti-Christian. Note that all the unflattering references I had above to Christians and Christianity had to do with church and those who attend church. They had nothing to do, in my opinion, with the teachings of Jesus. All those years I sat in Sunday School and in the church pews revealed to me how little emphasis, in the long scheme of things, was placed upon the teachings of the one supposed to have founded the church in the first place! Turns out, when you read the “red letters” of the four Gospels, or, better, the Jefferson Bible, what Jesus is supposed to have said doesn’t have much to do with the church, with organized religion. Jesus spoke in liberalist terms. The Sermon on the Mount translates almost verbatum into liberalist philosophy. Laws were made for people, not people for the laws. What is best for your fellow man trumps all other needs. The Golden Rule — so universal! Principles that can only be called humanistic are our guides, not some theology propping up some social class of clergy and a string of fancy buildings. He was a revolutionary in the truest sense of the word. Jesus’ adversaries were the representatives of the established religion of his day. Any Son of Man can become a Son of God. I have discussed all this with minister friends of mine (names withheld here for obvious reasons), and in private they cannot disagree with me on most of these points.

Jesus was a forerunner of the liberalist principles of our founding fathers. He was a liberalist way before the liberalist “time” in the 18th century. The American Revolution was fought for purely secular, not sectarian reasons; when the French aristocracy fell under the blade of the guillotine, so did the Church and its clergy. One of my favorite quotes from a French film was “There can be no church in a true republic.” I don’t think we should burn down all the churches — I think we should stop giving Jesus credit for them; such credit insults Him.

If all or part of this moves you to do so, get back with me. All I ask is that you try to do a little more than just add to the Long List of names and labels.

RJH

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