Category Archives: Freedom

It’s 6:27 AM. What’s Your President(-Elect) Doing?

So, the Golden Globe awards show happened. As a general rule, I wouldn’t hit a hog in the ass for an awards show. Basically, I think they’re nothing but a bunch of attention whores getting together to shout, “Look how super-cool we are! Don’t you plebes all wish you could be like us?” Every now and then, however, something amusing comes out of these publicly televised circle jerks. Sunday night was one of those times.

Meryl Streep received the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement and gave an acceptance speech that people are still talking about. It was a bit long and addressed several issues, but the most interesting part was when she took the tiny-handed toddler who is about to be leader of the free world (aka Donald Trump) to task for making fun of a disabled reporter during his campaign, saying, “Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”

Of course, the Tangerine Nightmare couldn’t let this slide and took to his favorite platform (Twitter) to respond. At 6:27 on Monday morning, he unleashed a brief and, in his mind, devastating, Tweetstorm on Streep:

There are some intriguing aspects this semi-sentient tire fire’s response: Like, it doesn’t make any sense (Streep is “one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood”???), it’s bullshit (he did indeed mock Serge Kovaleski and Kovaleski did not change his story), and, yet again, he disparaged the press for reporting what he said. But, perhaps the most intriguing part of it all (and by “intriguing”, I mean “utterly fucking scary”) is that the man(child) that will soon be commander-in-chief of the most potent and powerful military machine the world has ever seen has such a thin skin he can’t let anything go.

Think about it for a minute, Trump is just 12 days out from taking on what is arguably the most difficult job in the world and what’s he doing this close to his first day at work? Tweeting insults at an actress.  This isn’t a one time thing, either. Hell, just a few days ago, he was on Twitter gloating about how he got better ratings on “The Apprentice” than Arnold Schwarzenegger. And, let’s not forget his feuds with Saturday Night Live and the cast of “Hamilton”. How presidential.

But, hey, he’s just telling it like it is, right? I mean, who do these people think they are? Citizens in a country with an fundamental right to criticize the government and the politicians that run it? But, even if they are, doesn’t Trump have a right to defend himself from that criticism? So what if he’s putting up that defense instead of taking intelligence briefings, conducting press conferences, put together a cabinet; you know, the job he was elected to do?

Damn. This is going to be a long, long four years.

Taking on the Bad Guys.

satire def
You’d think I wouldn’t need to include this advisory on a piece that is so obviously satire. Past comments, however, would prove you oh, so wrong.

We live in a frightening world these days. Radical Islam hates our freedom and wants to convert and/or kill us all, the threat of Chinese economic hegemony continues unabated and the Russian bear is waking up from a long hibernation. All I can say is thank God  we elected a strong, tough-guy type to lead us through these trying times. And, you need look no further than President-elect Trump’s Twitter feed to that strength and toughness on full display.

Why, just the other day, he stood up to some bullies who treated his vice president, Mike Pence in a very rude mannner. It seems that over the weekend, Pence – a man noted for his anti-LGBTQ views and policies – attended a showing of “Hamilton” – a show that is noted for its support of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Things went awry almost immediately: as Pence entered the theater, the audience began to boo him. Then, to make matters worse, a cast member had the audacity to ask Pence to represent all Americans, even the gay ones. Are you kidding me?!?

But never fear, America, our Dear Leader was on the case and, Sunday morning tweeted:

trump-hamilton-tweet-1

Followed by:

trump-hamilton-tweet-2

 

That mean, old bully, Brandon Victor Dixon (the cast member who spoke to Pence), had the audacity to tell Mr. Trump:

dixon-response

How rude!

But, it didn’t stop there, beloved. Our fearless leader also took on what may be the most dangerous show in America today: Saturday Night Live. While Mr. Trump has a long-standing relationship with NBC, the network that airs the unfunny sketch show, he has only recently come into the cross hairs of the hacks who write for the obviously communistic producer/creator, Lorne Michaels. The show has consistently denigrated a man who has vowed to “Make America Great Again” in the most awful ways. Why, they’ve even stooped so low as to let him host the show! That is wrong on so many levels.

The president-elect’s feud with the late-night comedy show kicked up a notch after Saturday night’s disgraceful portrayal of him when, as any strong leader would,  he let them know what he thought:

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Noted presidential disrespecter Alec Baldwin tweeted back:

baldwin-response

What? Television shows are free to mock the president and we’re supposed to be okay with that? Before anyone starts quoting the First Amendment at me, I’m pretty sure that criticizing elected officials isn’t what the Founding Fathers wanted to protect.

Yes, friends, our new president certainly has the right stuff to protect and defend our nation from all the threats arrayed against it. I don’t know about you, but I feel better already.

Planned Parenthood, Abortion and Me

 

Confessions of a Reluctant Pro-Choice Advocate

Just to warn you, this post is going to be a little more weighty than most of what you’ll read on The Progressive Redneck. I figured I’d make that disclaimer since the title implies that it’ll be the sort of light-hearted romp I usually throw up on the internet. But, with all the fuss over those propaganda “creatively edited” videos concerning Planned Parenthood, abortion has once again taken a major place in the public debate. Up until last night, I had pretty much lurked in the background, posting a meme or liking someone else’s post on the subject. Honestly, it’s not a debate I like to get caught up in because it doesn’t really go anywhere. And, there’s the fact that I feel a little dirty when it’s all said and done.

Like some of my friends, I am reluctantly pro-choice. I’m guessing that’s a statement that requires a little explanation. That’s going to be hard, because I’m not sure I fully understand it myself, but I’ll give it a shot. I use the qualifier “reluctant” because, let’s face it, some of the pro-choice arguments are rather callous ( a fetus isn’t alive, it’s just tissue; it’s human, but it isn’t alive, etc). Then, there’s the fact that I am a father of two children and there’s nothing that influences your belief on abortion quite like holding a life that you helped create. I’m also a product of my upbringing, growing up in a time and place (the South of the 1960’s and 70’s) where abortion was accepted as the law of the land grudgingly, if at all. Lastly, I am a Christian and Christians have a long history of opposing abortion.

But, I am pro-choice because there is no scientific consensus on when life begins. Now, you might think that would push me the other way, but it doesn’t and it’s my Baptist faith that’s the reason. As a historical Baptist, I believe in something called “soul freedom” (aka “soul competency” or “soul liberty”). “Soul freedom” is the concept that each person has the right to choose what their soul (or conscience, if overt religious language is a problem for you) decides is right and they are responsible only to God once that decision is made. Personally, I believe abortion is wrong and it’s something to which I could never be a party (except in certain cases). But, in the absence of scientific proof that life does begin at conception, soul freedom means I cannot in good conscience force others to accept my belief. That is a matter to be decided between each individual and God.

There is a second reason that I am pro-choice and that is that criminalizing abortion and closing down facilities won’t stop the practice; if anything, it will only make the situation worse. Right now, we are seeing renewed Republican efforts to defund Title X of the Public Health Service Act because groups like Planned Parenthood provide abortion services. Of course, federal money can’t be used for abortions, but it can and does help organizations provide a myriad of services to women who either can’t afford or can’t get to other facilities, things like birth control, cancer screenings, counseling, etc. The largest of these groups is conservative bugaboo, Planned Parenthood (FYI, abortions comprise about 3% of what they do). Now, Planned Parenthood could possibly find other funding streams and continue to operate, but many smaller organizations couldn’t. That translates to a lot more unwanted pregnancies which, in turn, translates to more abortions. In other words, defunding Title X to stop Planned Parenthood from performing abortions is a self-defeating proposition.

If we truly want to stop abortion, there is another way: a concerted effort to make abortion unnecessary. How would that work? By providing comprehensive sex education in place of the failed abstinence-only model, making sure contraceptives are readily available to anyone who wants/needs them and ensuring that all families in this country have a roof over their head, food to eat, decent healthcare and a good education. It should be our goal that every person in this country (citizen and alien alike) not only survives, but thrives. If we did these things, abortion would eventually become a practice resorted to only when the life of the mother is at stake or in cases of rape or incest. But, then it wouldn’t be a political hot button that could be used to divide the masses. God knows we don’t want that. 

Good Job, Florida

Good job
Oh, Florida. It was nice while it lasted, though.

Recently, The Daily Show aired a piece about the fact that in many states, women do not have the option to terminate the parental rights of their attacker if they become pregnant as a result of rape. Yes, beloved, in 21 states of this great nation, it’s possible that a woman could have to co-parent with her rapist. That’s just fucked up. Interestingly, one of the states that does have legislation to prevent this is Florida. Good job, guys. And, as Daily Show correspondent Sam Bee pointed out, that’s not something you get say very often.

If that has you worried that the apocalypse is upon us, rest easy; Florida returned to its true form this week when their House of Representatives passed HB 7111. Titled “Conscience Protection for Actions of Private Child-Placing Agencies”, this bill protects private child-placement organizations from prosecution and civil suits if they refuse to place a child in a home that “would violate agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies”. So much for that “Good job, guys”.

Of course, this bill says that agencies won’t have consider any home they feel violates their “written religious or moral convictions or policies”, but we know who they’re really talking about: the “gays”. Yes, because all gay people in the world have but one desire: to corrupt children with the idea that everyone should be able to love and live with the person that makes them happy. What an insidious idea.

Interestingly, unlike legislators in other states, the conservative proponents of Florida HB 7111 don’t make any bones about the bill’s purpose: discrimination. House Democrats tried multiple times to attach nondiscrimination amendments, but were rebuffed at every turn. One, that would have prevented the state from funding organizations that engaged in discriminatory practices, was met with this comment from sponsor of the bill, Rep. Jason Brodeur (R): “This amendment does the exact opposite of the entire bill. I would ask that you vote it down.” You have to admire his honesty, even if you hate what he’s being honest about.

Now, almost all of the current bills/laws centered around “religious freedom could very easily  come back and bite the proponents in the ass because it’s unconstitutional to make them applicable only to Christians. That means they could be used by Jews, Sikhs, Hindu’s and Muslims(?!?) to deny service to good, Christian folks. But, the Florida law has another apparently unforeseen consequence: it could open the door for discrimination against groups other than the dreaded “gay menace”. And, while in all too many parts of the United States, it’s perfectly okay to shit on people who are LGBTQ, it’s much less socially acceptable (not mention illegal) to discriminate against African-Americans, women (of the single, straight variety; lesbians, of course, are fair game) and other minorities. I wonder what would happen if a religiously conservative child-placement agency  refuses to place a child with a mixed-race family because they consider “miscegenation” a sin (these sects still exist).

One of the founding principles of this country is religious freedom. It was so important to our founding fathers that they included language guaranteeing it in the U. S. Constitution. I am fully in favor of the idea that every individual in this nation should be able to practice the belief of their choice in the way they see fit. What I’m not in favor of is people using freedom of religion to treat others like shit for whatever stupid ass reason they can come up with. If you want to be a fucking bigot, be one openly and don’t use God and the Bible to escape responsibility for your actions. That’s despicable.

What Freedoms Are You Restoring?

2-2-15-NCPW-cartoonSo, last week, Indiana governor Mike Pence signed the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoraion Act into law. This piece of legislation isn’t a one-off thing particular to Indiana, though; there are similar bills pending across the country, including my own state of North Carolina. Supporters claim the laws aren’t meant to discriminate against people who are LGBTQ, but to protect believers 1st Amendment rights. Okay, if that’s the case, I have a few questions I’d like answered:

  1. If they’re only about protecting “religious freedom”, why did these laws only start to proliferate after the courts began striking down laws preventing same-sex marriage? And, like the Indiana law, why are most of them (if not all) sponsored by law makers with a long history of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and legislation? Maybe it’s like the voter ID laws that have been passed and any discrimination that results is just a “happy” accident.
  2. How are business owners going to know if someone’s “lifestyle” violates their religious beliefs? Are they going to have a questionnaire for potential customers to fill out before they’ll do business with them? Say, here’s a nifty idea: we could issue everyone badges or patches that show whether they’re gay or straight, believer or infidel, etc. You know, like yellow stars or pink triangles.
  3. If you’re in the wedding business, why in the world would turn away LGBTQ couples? Their money spends just like straight couples and as people who have historically been prevented from marrying that are now marry the hell out of each other, they’re going to be walking into your shop shouting “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!!!” Not taking it because of what you think the Bible says about the subject doesn’t seem like a very smart business move to me.
  4. And, if you’re in the wedding business, do you deal with folks on their second/third/fourth wedding? If so, how do you reconcile that with this little tidbit: “I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” I suppose you might ask them if their previous marriage ended because their spouse was stepping out, but that’s a pretty awkward conversation, isn’t it? You could add an item to your pre-service questionnaire that would take care of it. Or, better yet, get divorcee’s their own badge. Like maybe a scarlet “D”? Or, another letter, I’ll leave that up your imagination.
  5. Are you afraid they’re going to “gay” things up? What do you think happens when people get an LGBTQ couple gets married: they walk down the aisle in assless  chaps and turn the church fellowship hall into Studio 54 (or, whatever it is that straight people think “the homosexshuls” do for fun)? If so, I think you need to get out more, if only because that “Studio 54” reference is incredibly dated.
  6. What are you going to do when a Muslim refuses to serve a Christian, claiming it goes against their religious beliefs? Because that’s a possibility the way many of these laws are written. I’m sure you’ll take it well and won’t complain that it’s discrimination, cry about the imposition of Sharia law or anything like that.
  7. Exactly what religious freedoms are you restoring? I’m really curious about this one because, from what I can see, the authors of these bills are all Christians and here in the U. S., Christians have a pretty sweet deal. I hate to break to you, but other folks marrying the person they love is not a violation of your religious liberties. Not being allowed to marry that person? That’s another story.

I’m not sure where to send this list, so I’ll just leave it here on the internet. I’m not holding my breath waiting for answers, though.

“Contemporary” Isn’t A Cuss Word

Is it an either/or proposition?
Is it an either/or proposition?

I am so sick of people laying part of the blame for the church’s decline at the feet of “the contemporary worship experience”. I’m talking about people like Steve McSwain, who said in his article Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore that “It’s been the trend in the last couple of decades for traditional, mainline churches to pretend to be something they’re not. Many of them have experimented with praise bands, the installation of screens, praise music, leisure dress on the platform, and… well… you know how well that’s been received.” To Mr. McSwain I would say that “trying to make a stained-glass atmosphere pass as the contemporary worship place”((which may be the dumbest description of the issues surrounding contemporary worship I’ve ever heard)) is less a problem than a shallow worship experience. And, that can happen anywhere.

When I was a kid, my family were faithful Methodists, attending Rehobeth UMC almost every Sunday. This was in the late  60’s to early 70’s when contemporary worship was something that only happened in youth and young adult groups. Sunday morning, though, was decidedly traditional. Service started at 11 AM, right after Sunday school, and consisted of hymns, creeds, the Lord’s Prayer, a sermon and a benediction. Frankly, it bored the living shit out of me. Why might that be? Because, no one bothered to explain why we did it. I’m not sure that even the adults understood the “why” of it all, thinking it was just what you did in church.

Unfortunately, learning why we did it and where it all came from didn’t help. In my opinion, there is no amount of explanation and understanding can make “Onward, Christian Soldiers” suitable for a Christian worship service. The creeds are no better. The Nicene Creed came out of the Council of Nicaea, which was the beginning of the Empire’s attempts to tame, co-opt and, ultimately, usurp the Christian faith. The Apostle’s Creed, adopted in 390 CE, followed in the Nicene Creed’s footsteps. Both shifted the focus of following Christ from a very real practice of love and community based in the here and now to a supernatural belief system that was all about the afterlife. I understand keeping in touch with tradition, but is that really a tradition worth keeping in touch with?

In the first paragraph, I said that a shallow worship experience could happen anywhere and it can. By the same token, a deep and fulfilling worship experience can also occur anywhere; and, that includes a contemporary service. I know this because it happens for me almost every Sunday. If it was left up to me, I’d probably sleep in a bit and go to the later traditional service, but my son, Parker, prefers the earlier contemporary gathering, mostly because he finds the hymns difficult to sing and thinks the liturgy makes little to no sense. But, we both agree that we have yet to attend a service of either kind at College Park that is shallow.

My point is that the depth of a worship service is more about content than format. The opinion of liturgy snobs notwithstanding, you can be involved in a fulfilling worship service that doesn’t isn’t traditional. In fact, some of the deepest, most spiritual worship experiences I’ve ever had occurred at the Wild Goose Festival and that’s about as non-traditional as it gets. Instead of pushing whatever we might think is the proper way to worship, why don’t we concentrate on improving what is offered, no matter what form that worship might take. Who knows, this approach could help to stop the church’s ever-increasing slide toward irrelevance. It certainly couldn’t make matters worse.

We Are Awesome!

    Just to make sure everyone understands this for what it is.
Just to make sure everyone understands this for what it is.

waterboarding-lego-240x300On Tuesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee released the Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program, (aka the CIA Torture Report) and it’s generated a little controversy. And, by “a little controversy”, I mean “people have lost their damn minds”. Liberals are up in arms because officials and agents of the United States authorized, condoned and/or used “enhanced interrogation” techniques on detainees((I know the word “detainee” is sounds a little stilted. But, calling them that instead of “prisoner of war” (which is really what they were)  made it easier to do all this evil stuff to them)). Conservatives, on the other hand, are saying “Why are we upset about this? They did what they had to keep us safe.”

My god, all this uproar because few towel-head camel jockey’s weren’t treated with kid gloves? Boo-frickin’-hoo. Some of you, evidently, don’t remember what it was like in the aftermath of 9-11. We were scared shitless that another attack was coming any day and gave our leaders carte blanche((not really, they kind of just took it)) to do whatever it took to keep us safe. And, these great Americans did just that. Did it actually work? Who knows? Who cares? Now, stop clouding the issue by asking for facts, damn it.

So, the CIA used interrogation methods that would make a Gestapo officer proud. So what? It’s not like they were using these measures on Americans((aka, white people)). I really don’t understand what all the fuss is about. In case you’ve forgotten, the individuals subjected to these methods helped kill 3000 Americans and wanted to kill plenty more((Well, some of them did. Others, not so much. But, why waste time splitting hairs like that?)). Excuse me if I don’t really give a damn how we “gathered information” from these murderous assholes.  Again, why are we even having this discussion?

I’ll bet you’re going to tell me that torture doesn’t work, that we didn’t get anything through these techniques we couldn’t have gotten otherwise. That’s a dirty lie put forth by Democrats to besmirch one of the greatest American presidents of all time: George W. Bush((starting two wars, trampling our constitutional rights and wrecking the economy makes you “great”?)). You’ll never hear a Republican spewing that garbage. Well, except for John McCain((who spoke passionately about the report)) and Ronald Reagan((who signed the UN Convention Against Torture)). Besides, this wasn’t really torture, it was “enhanced interrogation

Of course, there’s also the argument over the legality of the program, which has been called into question more than once. Well, let’s put that to  bed right now: both the CIA and Dick Cheney assure us everything was on the up and up. What more do you need than that? I’ll bet some of you are thinking “Isn’t it possible that Cheney and the Agency might have an ulterior motive for saying this((like avoiding jail, maybe))?” You cynical asshole. How dare you impugn the honor of these great Americans who have sacrificed so much to keep you safe. I’ll bet you have a Commie flag in your basement/garage.

I also hear liberals whining about how the Detention and Interrogation program betrayed the very ideals our nation was founded on. So? Why should I care if some raghead son of a bitch enemy combatant is roughed up a little? Big whoop ((hey,  it only makes more terrorists who execute hostages in terribly gruesome ways)). It doesn’t really affect me, so I don’t care((it actually does, but not in an immediate enough fashion that I notice it)).

I’ll bet you namby-pamby, wussified “progressives” think we should have asked these murderous bastards((some of whom were conscripted at gunpoint and held under armed guard)) nicely for the information we needed, then patted their heads and kissed them on both cheeks. Seriously? We were at war, people! The security and safety of this “shining city on a hill” was threatened and you seem to think we should’ve followed some crazy set of rules that put us at a disadvantage((even though we did help write those rules)). To steal a line from Barry Kripke: “Awe you cwazy? This is a stweet fight. The stweet has no wules.”

You may be wondering how I, as a Christian, can countenance the oppression and persecution of an entire race/religion due to some amorphous threat to my security. Right about now, you’re thinking “Jesus said to turn the other cheek when someone strikes you and to love your enemies”. Well, that was easy for him to say, since he wasn’t dealing with a culture dedicated to the subjugation and control of all aspects of his people and land((of course, the Romans always had the Jews best interests at heart)). I’ll bet he wouldn’t have said that crap if he’d faced what we did after 9-11.

Look, here’s the bottom line: We Are Awesome! Therefore, everything we do is awesome and that includes torture, enhanced interrogation techniques or whatever the hell you want to call it. Did we sell our national soul for the promise((not the actuality, just the promise)) of safety and security? Probably. But, the very idea makes me uncomfortable and I’d rather not think about it.

The Bookmobile

 

Greensboro Public Library bookmobile circa 1936
Greensboro Public Library Bookmobile circa 1936

Growing up in rural North Carolina during the 60’s and 70’s, reading was a big deal for me. Back then, it was still one of the chief forms of entertainment since cable television was pretty much unheard of in my neck of the woods. And, while the internet existed, it wasn’t available to peons like us. So, books were important. In the earlier days of my childhood, getting books often meant going to the library. That required a trip downtown, as the Greensboro Public Library didn’t have branches until the late 70’s. Considering that my family only had one car until I was 10 years old, trips downtown didn’t happen all that much. Of course, that only made a visit to the library so much better. But, just because we didn’t make it into town all that often doesn’t mean reading material was lacking. There was also the Bookmobile.

For those of you to young to remember, the Bookmobile was basically a library on wheels that brought books to people who might otherwise not be able to get them. The one I remember was a converted city bus fitted with shelves filled with books. It had a route and came to various neighborhoods on a regular schedule. It appears the Bookmobile is a thing of the past in this digital age where anything you might want to read is just a click away. That’s more than a little sad because the Bookmobile was awesome.

Back then, a visit from the Bookmobile was more than just a chance to get something new to read; it was a social event that bought the community together. We would gather at a friend’s home on Old Randleman Road and, while the mothers socialized((i.e. shared the latest gossip)), we kids engaged in our own form of socialization, usually involving a ball of some sort. As a rule, a game was struck up as soon as we had enough people to play and lasted until the Bookmobile arrived. At that point, any and all play came to screaming halt((it did for me, anyway. I’ve always preferred a book to ball since a book didn’t require a level of coordination that still escapes me)) and we all made for the door. I always wanted to be first in line because space was limited and only a few people could browse the shelves at any given time((waiting has never been my forte)). Plus, I wanted first crack at whatever books were available. The thought of someone getting to a Freddy The Pig book I hadn’t read before I did  was almost more than I could bear. But, no matter what I was able to get hold of, I was ecstatic: I had books to read. Whatever else happened was small potatoes compared to that.

For some people, my literary zeal is hard to understand. More than once in my life, people have asked why I love to read so much. I can think of two reasons: first, my parents understood the importance of reading and made it a priority in our household. Before I learned to read, my mom or dad read to me every day. After I learned to read, they always made sure that books were always available and encouraged me to read. Second, reading was an escape. I’ve told you that my childhood wasn’t exactly rosy; between being a certain s.o.b.’s whipping boy and huge nerd, I needed a way to step outside my reality in order to keep sane; books gave me that opportunity. And, not just while I was reading them, either. I spent many an hour inserting myself into the stories I read to further escape the shittier things in my life. It’s something I still do to this day.

I love technology and the idea that I can download books for free from the library or a certain website that shall remain nameless((in deference to some of my author friends who have “issues” with them)) is absolutely amazing. In fact, I think the ready availability of books is the best thing the internet has done for the world. But, at the same time, I can’t help but feel a little sad for the passing of things like the Bookmobile and paper books((face it, e-books are the wave of the future)) because many of my favorite memories involve books (or getting books) and, in my humble opinion, young people are missing out on something special. But, it’s up to them to make their own memories and it’s up to me to understand that their memories are going to different from mine. Is it hell to get old? Maybe, but it beats the hell out of the alternative.

Veteran’s Day 2014

DF-SC-84-11899Yesterday was Veteran’s Day and, just like always, I was inundated with “support the troops” pictures, posts and other such nonsense. Yes, I said “nonsense”. It’s nonsense because the phrase “support the troops” doesn’t mean a damn thing. As Noam Chomsky said

“…the point of public relations slogans like “Support Our Troops” is that they don’t mean anything […] that’s the whole point of good propaganda. You want to create a slogan that nobody is going to be against and I suppose everybody will be for, because nobody knows what it means, because it doesn’t mean anything. But its crucial value is that it diverts your attention from a question that does mean something, do you support our policy? And that’s the one you’re not allowed to talk about.”

Of course, none of us really wants to hear that. And I’m sure more than one person will discount everything I say here because I’m quoting Chomsky, a man many on the right consider a communist and even a traitor to the United States. That’s bullshit, of course. People have a remarkable ability to minimize someone with temerity to point out uncomfortable truths. And, Chomsky is a master at that. But, no matter how you try to marginalize the man, his message rings clear.

I wish the same could be said of the “support the troops” meme. That tired, old cliché rings hollow, if at all, because spewing it is about all we do to support the troops. I mean, seriously, if we actually supported the men and women who serve in our military, would we continue to elect politicians who have no problem sending these fine folks off to sacrifice life and limb in foreign adventures calculated to enrich a select few?((Don’t get haughty, Democrats. All too many of you have, at best, acquiesced (and, at worst, endorsed) these adventures)) And, after they return from rendering the service we claim to be so thankful for and supportive of, would we sit idly by while those craven politicians use their benefits as a political football, allow the Veteran’s Administration to become the place where hope goes to die and ignore skyrocketing suicide rates, all the while plotting the next adventure that will squander the lives of these dedicated military professionals? I think not.

If we truly supported the troops, we’d acknowledge the fact that the bulk of our armed forces are poor/working class kids with limited options and do everything in our power to give these young people a chance to improve their lot in life without giving up so much. We’d make affordable education a priority, along with decent jobs and living wages, instead of keeping them poor to ensure a ready supply of cannon fodder.

Finally, if we truly supported the troops, sending them off to war would be our last-ditch effort in dealing with our world’s trouble spots. We, the people, would rise up if the government tried to use our sons and daughters as hired muscle for “Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers“. The linked quote comes from Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler, who also said “There are only two reasons why you should ever be asked to give your youngsters. One is defense of our homes. The other is the defense of our Bill of Rights and particularly the right to worship God as we see fit. Every other reason advanced for the murder of young men is a racket, pure and simple.” Name one time in the history of this country when either of those two items were the criteria for one of our wars. You can’t, because we haven’t.

Make no mistake as you read this, I am not a pacifist. I want to be, I yearn to be a pacifist. As a follower of Christ, I believe I am called to be a pacifist. At the same time, I am realistic enough to realize the world we live in requires that “rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm” so that we can sleep peacefully. Until we finally eliminate the need for those “rough men” (and women) to stand ready, we should try actually supporting them for a change instead of mouthing meaningless platitudes. At the very least, we could stop actively shitting on them. I think they might appreciate that.

Halloween Isn’t Scary Anymore

It's funny now, but these guys used to scare the shit out of me.
It’s funny now, but these guys used to scare the shit out of me.

So, it’s Halloween again. This is Parker’s((my son)) favorite holiday, He really gets into it, decorating the house, coming up with ever-more elaborate costumes and watching Halloween-related movies (think more Corpse Bride and less Friday the 13th). I, however, am not such a fan. Why, you ask? Because a big part of the whole Halloween ethos is fright and, nothing of Halloween can hold a candle to the charismatic craziness of my youth

When I was a kid, WFMY-TV used to run what they called “The Halloween Spook-tacular” on Halloween night. They would show old horror movies like Frankenstein, The Wolfman, Dracula, etc. back to back on Halloween night starting at 8 PM. The first couple of years, I had problems going to sleep after watching them. Then, I got drug into the all that “spirit-filled”((there really wasn’t much that was spiritual about the bunch I was involved with)) weirdness and monster movies from the 1930’s quickly became laughable.

That’s not to say there weren’t things that frigthened me, though. Just the thought of The Exorcist scared the shit out of me because, in my 12-year-old brain, demon-possession was a real possibility. Don’t look at me like that, if you heard with all the tales of possession and exorcism that I did at that impressionable age, you’d have reacted the same way. Though I didn’t actually watch the movie until I was an adult((I wasn’t allowed. Hey, my parents had some limits)), I saw clips and heard people talking about it and, I kid you not, I spent many a sleepless night worried that Legion((the only demon name I knew back then)) or one of his buddies would jump into my body and make me do awful things.

That wasn’t the only thing that terrified me, though; Ouija boards were also the stuff of nightmares. That’s right, the mere mention of a toy from the 1890’s frightened me beyond belief. Why would I be so afraid Parker Brother’s famous board game? Because one of the many bat-shit crazy speakers I heard growing up told harrowing tales about them, that’s why. He claimed Ouija boards were gateways to possession and inhabited by demons. He said that, if you had one, you needed to destroy it the minute you got home and the only way to do so was to burn it. But, he cautioned, you needed to be careful when you did because the satanic presence would not “go gentle into that good night”. He claimed that one person threw theirs into a fire and a ten foot long tongue of flame came out after them. Another, he said, let out a blood-curdling scream as it burned. To this day, Ouija boards freak me out. So much so that I can’t even watch the trailer for that new movie based on them.

I do not understand the steady diet of fear that some Christians seem to relish. As you listen to it, you begin to wonder if they really believe their own press that Our God is an awesome God because it sounds like Satan has a definite edge in the competition for our souls. One of the selling points of following Jesus is to find peace and freedom from fear and, I’ve got to say, I never found either when I believed all this crap.

Of course, the people who spew this bullshit are using an age-old tool for evangelism: scare tactics; i.e, if I can’t use reason to convince you to believe in my god, I’ll scare you into it. Here’s the thing about that, if the god you’re presenting is so shitty that you have to scare me into believing in him, that god is not worth my time((Yes, I used lower-case letters on purpose there)). If you want me to believe, don’t tell about  a god that uses humans as pawns in a nip-and-tuck battle with evil, tell me about one who is loving and forgiving. Because, that’s a God I want to believe in.