This Is A Moment In Time Where Magical Thinking Could Kill Us…

…that is if we follow Magical Thinkers and their bottomless capacity to believe utter nonsense is real. I draw a very clear distinction between ‘spirituality’ and ‘religious faith’ because there IS one. Even a humble atheist can feel a sense of awe as he or she gazes out at the cosmos — feels its vastness and mystery yet his or her own tiny existence as part of it, too. That’s ‘spiritual’. It’s dogma free. It’s the feelings without the bullshit explanation for them.

Religious faith demands a suspension of disbelief from the ground up. Religious faith is an attempt to explain that awe everyone feels (even the atheists) with a story — pulled, let’s be honest, from some person’s ass. Okay — from their imagination. Same difference really. I say that as someone pulling something from my ‘ass’ right here, right now. What I am doing here is no different in its ‘inspiration’ from whatever those scribes felt thousands of years ago when they first began to scribble their thoughts onto parchment.

I’m not entirely sure why Christianity still co-brands with Jesus. The institutional Christian churches long, long ago dispensed with Jesus’ core message: ‘Do Unto Others’. Instead they’ve all taken up variations on a theme — justifications for their own existence & continuation. Jesus didn’t ‘invent’ Christianity. If such an actual human ever existed, he was born, lived his whole life and died a Jew. What he preached was Judaism and nothing but. A counter-institutional brand of Judaism — but Judaism (it so happens most Judaism welcomes those who question).

Paul invented Christianity. Most of the New Testament is Paul setting up the ‘Church’ — its larger community — and its fundamental concepts. Those concepts did not include ‘Do Unto Others’. They included the mythology to justify Jesus (a character more than a person in their minds) as the messiah character described in the Jewish texts – themselves nothing but mythology, the product of human imagination. In the context of stone cold reality — things that actually happened vs things that actually didn’t and never could — Paul was building a sand castle atop a sand castle.

We stand at a moment in History where our ability — as a society and a culture — to discern what is from what isn’t — will determine whether we pull ourselves out of this death spiral or simply fly into the ground — and lose our Democracy and every last bit of ones freedoms. That’s not hyperbole.

As of last night, we became ‘aware’ that the FBI was hip to Donald Trump’s treason when he fired James Comey. They’d had inklings but refused to listen to those inklings. A failure of imagination. And a failure because of Magical Thinking — that it just couldn’t ‘be’. That the FACTS ON THE GROUND couldn’t be ‘facts’. That what WASN’T was ‘truer’ than what WAS.

When Comey was fired — and Trump repeatedly acted in ways that screamed how guilty he was — that, finally, was enough for reality to overcome the ‘walls’ that had been put up around The Truth by Magical Thinking. I hope we all agree that this cannot be our process going forward. We need to see Magical Thinking for what it is: prettified BULLSHIT.

If America is going to pull itself out of this — correct it’s course — and restore itself to its core — enlightened — ideals, we need to do it with our eyes wide open. We need to take the spiritual messages from religion — ‘Do Unto Others’ — and remind ourselves that all the other stuff was written by clever, imaginative men (it was probably all men) who didn’t know anything about the world they lived in beyond what they could see with their naked eyes.

If the men who wrote the foundational texts of any religion had the knowledge (that’s knowledge as opposed to bullshit) available via the internet today, they would have written their foundational texts WITH that knowledge. The core message would have still gotten through, one hopes, but wrapped up in a better-informed knowledge-base of how The World actually operates — and why.

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Does Anything Epitomize Conservative Thinking Better Than ‘A WALL’?

The prototypes for U.S. President Donald Trump’s border wall are seen behind the border fence between Mexico and the United States, in Tijuana, Mexico January 7, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes – RC1B258D6BC0

We stand on a precipice — one of many precipices we seem to end up standing on here in The Age Of Trump — being held hostage by Donald Trump’s campaign slogan ‘Build The Wall’. It’s absurd on it’s face. If you tried to WRITE this — as a script or a novel — you’d bomb because no one would buy it as a premise. It’s too absurd, ya see…

“Build A Wall” began its life (as most things Trumpian do) as an exercise in cynical marketing. During the 2016 campaign, Roger Stone & Sam Nunberg suggested a way to easily remind Trump to rant about ”illegal immigration”. They proposed a cheer line: “Build The Wall”. The icing: “Mexico Will Pay For It”.

‘Build A Wall’ & ‘Mexico Will Pay For It’ were never ever ever based in reality. They never ever EVER were connected to any sort of actual policy beyond pure unadulterated racism. They were mneumonics — memory devices designed for a narrow-minded, forgetful, but deeply racist OLD MAN — Donald J Trump. The wall is a metaphor for everything Trump.

It’s a metaphor for everything CONSERVATIVE, too. To call building a wall — and thinking it’s actually ‘defense’ — is Medieval. It’s more ancient than that actually but — for the sake of kindness, we’ll call it Medieval. As we learned today — Trump’s wall can be chewed through by a common saw that anyone can by at Lowe’s (shop them instead of Home Despot — the guy who owns Home Despot is a Trumpian).

Turns out the word ‘impenetrable’ & ‘wall’ don’t go together…

Donald Trump wants us to ‘buy’ that his wall is ‘impenetrable’ just because he says it is. That’s how authoritarians ‘think’. A thing is so just because I will it. The way sycophants work is they say ‘Yes, it is!’ regardless of the truth. That’s CONSERVATISM right there. Conservatism is the willingness to deny every bit of WHAT IS because you want it to be HOW I WANT IT — regardless of how inaccessible the one place is from the other.

This is Trump’s Wall – post ‘sawzall’…

Conservatives have built a metaphorical wall in their minds around a notion of ‘How It Was’. That’s what they want to CONSERVE — just as their name says. They don’t WANT to go into the future (they certainly don’t want to Progress there…), no, they want to stay in the past — in a place the they’ve CONSERVED.

The overwhelming majority of Americans don’t want to conserve what was since it was weighted so heavily against them. That would be women & People of Color & the LGBTQ Community & Immigrants to the country & Asylum seekers & Frankly, Anyone Who Isn’t White-Christian-Male. WE want what this country can BE far, far more than what it WAS.

To that end, we lend our talents, our passion, our tax dollars, our hopes. Our citizenship comes with great privileges but also awesome responsibilities. A lot of us see it as our duty — as citizens — to help steer this Nation toward the place where as many Americans as possible enjoy the fruits of our common ‘struggle’. That’s not something to conserve — it doesn’t exist yet. But it’s at the very CORE of the American Promise: Come, Give Us Your Best, Work Hard — And We Will Share Our Bounty With You As You Share Yours With Us.

That’s what Conservatives want to KEEP OUT. That’s the thing they want to WALL against. The Truth is, walls don’t keep out Human Progress. Oh, they can delay it a bit — but no wall has ever truly kept human beings captive.

Only a fool conservative would think so.

What Republicans Forgot: INTEGRITY Matters

Regardless of how we’re all physically ‘born’, we all arrive in this world with 100% of our Integrity intact. Whether or not we get to the end of our lives with it STILL intact — that’s entirely up to us.

The ‘thing’ about Integrity is, it’s an ‘all or nothing’ proposition. Ever meet someone with 99% of their Integrity? What’s up with the 1%?

Our Integrity is iron — yet destructible as gossamer.

When set and kept at 100% it should be seen as inviolable. An impenetrable Force Field of Righteousness, built on facts & open-eyed analysis of those facts & The Truth. That’s the iron.

The gossamer is anyone turning off the Force Field to entertain offers. Even if you opt to ‘stay pure’ — you entertained offers. You even allowed for the ‘appearance’ that you were for sale. Integrity can never ever EVER be for sale. Integrity popped — like a soap bubble. Made of gossamer.

Lying instantly destroys Integrity. Allowance for lying destroys Integrity. Acceptance of lying destroys Integrity. One always has to ask ‘WHY?’ Why lie to begin with? Why’s the Truth ‘problematic’?

In the case of the Republican Party — they’ve been lying to us because they recognized as the Reagan years ended that electoral politics would not favor them going forward. The demographics were already trending completely against them (had more Americans voted regularly, that distinction would have been clearer a lot sooner). The only means to keep power for a few more generations was via the Judiciary.

Or — the Kochs reasoned apparently — one could rewrite the Constitution and make White Christian Male hegemony PERMANENT. To do that they’d need 37 states — so they could convene a new Constitutional Congress. That was very definitely in the Koch Bros sites. The last election — where Democrats took back 7 statehouses — destroyed that plan; the Kochs were within ONE STATEHOUSE. For reals.

The majority of Americans do not want what the Koch Bros want. That’s probably because the majority of Americans are not white, Christian men. But, of course, ya can’t exactly sell that come election time. So the Kochs find themselves politicians — Republicans — who are willing to lie.

And there goes their Integrity.


What WASPS Look Like

I grew up in a bubble.  

It’s true.  Pikesville, MD (just outside northwest Baltimore) was so predominantly Jewish that clever (non-Jewish) people called it ‘Kikesville’.  Get it?

My public high schools — Pikesville Junior High & Pikesville Senior High — were so predominantly Jewish that even the non-Jewish kids took the Jewish holidays off because they knew — school was going to be a ghost town.  Virtually all of my friends were Jewish (not all but close to it).  We tribalized inside the bubble based on which of the major synagogues your family belonged to.  Most of us were reformed or conservative Jews.  The orthodox among us were the outliers. Wait — you don’t eat steamed crabs?  What the hell is wrong with you?

In Baltimore, there was a strong Irish Catholic presence.  Evangelicals hadn’t taken hold yet so the Mainstream Protestant pool was bigger.  Most Protestants aren’t WASPS.  WASPS aren’t just followers of some variation of the Protestant faith, in their minds, they’re its originators — their families go that far back. WASPS are as insulated a culture as Jews can be with one huge difference.  Lots of Jews seek to assimilate.   WASPS don’t ever.   To them, they’re the thing everyone else wants to assimilate INTO.  To them, they are the Gold Standard.  They ARE White Culture.

My closest brush with WASPs & WASP culture was when I got accepted to the Gilman School — where some of Baltimore’s WASPiest WASPS sent their progeny.  I begged my parents not to send me.  Gilman was an all-boys school (a very, very GOOD school) and that seemed an impossibility to me.  I wanted to take my chances with public school like all of my friends (fortunately for me, the Baltimore County School System was pretty good).  WASPs were an alien culture to me even then.

When I arrived at Vassar College, WASPS were among the first shocks to my system.  We’re not talking big, knock-you-on-your-ass shocks, we’re talking ‘the-world’s-more-complicated-than-you-thought’ shocks. 

Quick sidenote: The other culture I ran into that shocked me as I had NO concept of it whatsoever was California Culture.  My first college gf was from Marin County and her wild high school escapades were actual wild high school escapades with naked hot tub parties and drug dealers that made our high school escapades look… well, like high school escapades.

WASPS did everything differently. They thought about food differently for instance.  If my housemates and I were throwing a party (I lived off campus most of my time at Vassar), the Jews in the house always overbought food while the WASPS always overbought liquor.  Who cared if there was nothing to eat so long as the booze kept flowing.  THAT was foreign.

WASPS prayed differently, of course.  And they spoke differently.  They stood differently and engaged with you differently.  In ‘Annie Hall’, Woody Allen nailed the differences between WASP families and Jewish families perfectly with a split screen of two families (one each) at dinner.  The WASPS are all very well-mannered, quiet, always speaking in turn while the Jewish family talks over each other like a tic.  Something of that deep-seated English fear of embarrassment remains at the core of most WASPs.

Being an outsider, I found WASP culture fascinating — especially its latent (as opposed to its blatant) Antisemitism.  The Catholic Church’s history of Jew-hating was a flashing electronic billboard of cruelty, brutality and blood lust.  WASPs on the other hand — at least where I grew up — kept their Antisemitism a little cleaner.  It was so hard-wired into their culture that you could miss it.  But it’s there — even with your friends.  

Look — we’re tribal creatures, every last one of us.  Strange as it may sound, I don’t mind my friends being Antisemitic if, at least, they own that it’s there in their makeup.  Jews making jokes about Jews is one thing.  Someone else making jokes about Jews — just cos they can count Jews among their bff’s — that’s always going to be a dicey, ‘it was in the tone of my voice’ proposition.

After college I shared a cute little carriage house in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn with two dear friends, both WASPs.  A few days after I moved in, we had an Easter party for lots of our friends — and I made the ham.  I was genuinely touched when my two WASP friends and housemates praised my Easter ham for its authenticity.

I had assimilated successfully into them, you see — at least, as far as I was going to be allowed to assimilate…

 

What Did YOU Do In The Culture War, Daddy?

There are times — at the beginnings of wars usually — when one side knows a state of war exists while the other side doesn’t.  Pearl Harbor comes to mind.

On the morning of December 7, 1941, the residents of Hawaii — Pearl Harbor in particular — slept soundly in their beds, unaware that they were moments away from being bombed, strafed, shot at and in every way attacked.  Japan was at war with them.  Japan knew it — they, unfortunately for them, did not.

That’s pretty much how the Left has been reacting to the Culture War the republican party declared not just on the Democratic Party but on the majority of Americans, too.  We’ve been almost oblivious to it.  We’ve heard the war-like chatter in the background but we’ve never taken it seriously.  We damned well better — because the war Newt Gingrich talked his side into launching years ago has finally established significant beachheads in American Culture.

newt-gingrich

Michelle Cottle nails it: “In his zeal to cripple Democrats, Gingrich poisoned the public against the entire American political system. ”

In Newt’s own words: “You have to confront, delay, and undermine and impose failure in order to move the public.”

Newt made it his absolute goal to impose FAILURE on his perceived enemy — everyone who wasn’t HIM.  That included the CULTURE in which the rest of us live.

Right Wing Culture is a lot like what Astrophysicist Neil deGrsse Tyson calls the ‘Diminishing God of the Gaps’ — the place you go to when you reach the end of what you ‘know’.  Right Wing culture — once thought to be a significant part of American Culture is now understood to be a fringe element at best (and shrinking rapidly).  Right Wing Culture is that thing everyone with a sense of humor laughs at.

It is a fact of life that Right Wing Culture has no sense of humor.  Oh, it can laugh all right — at other people.  Especially if they’re suffering some sort of misfortune.  Then they turn hilarious. Right Wing Culture is sanctimonious.  It believes it understands the divine; it believes the divine has chosen it to be its representative here on earth.  Right Wing Culture is seriously delusional.

Right Wing Culture honestly believes that IT is American Exceptionalism — that its very whiteness and maleness and Christian-ness is exceptional.  It’s wrong of course.  America’s DIVERSITY is what makes it EXCEPTIONAL.  That kind of broad diversity never happened before in one country.  It produced remarkable — no, EXCEPTIONAL — results.

White Christian Male culture is the exact opposite of exceptional.  Aside from rage and grievance, it can’t point to a single thing it’s added to the conversation.  Being weak and having few weapons at its disposal, White Christian Male Culture counts on drawing us near enough to sneak in a dirty low blow to neutralize us.

They’re going to be disappointed this time.  A lot more of us are woke now.  We’re paying attention.

And — as much as we can — we’re doing the thing that cuts Trumpists & Religionistas & RW Culture Warriors deepest:  We’re laughing at them.