There’s No Such Thing As A “Fake Christian”; There Are Only “Christians”

Want to know what makes an atheist laugh? Hearing one Christian call another Christian “fake”. FFS, that’s what the whole Protestant Reformation was! One group of Christians calling the other group “fake“. From the vantage of point of non-Christendom? What are both groups talking about? Hey — ever Google “Protestantism sects”? There are more than you can count (if you count them all!) And then there’s Catholicism. And all the national churches and Eastern churches… And then there’s Mormonism — and its offshoots. From outside that tent, everyone INSIDE the tent is a Christian!

Look, I’m one of those Jews who’s always been fascinated by Christianity. Originally, I needed to know how and why tens of millions of people hated me and wanted me dead simply because I was Jewish.

Can we be honest? The answer you get back — why Christians hate Jews — it’s not especially satisfying.

Or logical.

Having grown up in the shadow of the Holocaust (I was born in 1959, fourteen years after the camps were liberated), I’m keenly aware where extreme anti-Semitism leads. That’s what the Holocaust was — Jew hatred taken to its most horrifying, industrial conclusion. This perverse, genocidal compulsion is based on a poorly thought-out story that was invented by Paul and the early church fathers. The former Saul of Tarsus never met Jesus. Never heard Jesus preach or teach. That’s why Paul’s version of Jesus didn’t play in Jerusalem or for anyone who knew Jesus or who actually did hear Jesus speak. That’s why Paul took his version of Jesus — and a thousand years of made-up Jewish messiah mythology — to the Gentiles (who had no background in it as Paul did and so accepted what the Jews in Jerusalem rejected).

It’s Paul — a real person — writing about Jesus — that makes me think someone “like” Jesus probably walked the earth. But, Paul revised Jesus to suit the needs of the newfangled offshoot-of-Judaism he was inventing on the fly. Paul was doing something else too — and this is where his real genius lies. The Roman world was polytheistic. Judaism was monotheistic; it rejected all of the Roman gods because, Judaism believed, only one god — Yahweh — existed. Roman gods, like most polytheistic gods, were very different in nature from the Jews’ Yahweh. They weren’t made of different material. Their lives only occasionally intersected with mortals’ lives. Though divine, polytheistic gods offered humans nothing of the divine.

Yahweh on the other hand was different. Not only was he divine, he (sometimes) liked humans (when he wasn’t flooding them out). He seemed to want to like us; we just kept disappointing him. Paul reinvents Yahweh by making Jesus Yahweh’s son. That’s not a big deal in and of itself. But then — here’s the genius part — Paul has Jesus rise from the dead, defeating death while also dying for humanity’s sins (the original sin being Eve’s)! Paul’s God (not entirely monotheistic since he can replicate by breeding with humans), unlike polytheistic gods, promises to actually DO something for humans other than just punish them. And that thing God will do for you is something only God can do — all you have to do is believe in Jesus exactly the way the Church (God’s now-infallible spokesman on earth) tells you to.

“Do unto others” has become “Do what we say — or else”. Not that the institutional church ever had the least interest in Jesus or any of his teachings. If Jesus were to return from the dead, the biggest enemies he’d have would be the institutional churches who’d race to the media to declare this “Jesus Guy” a total fraud. Oh, the irony — how it burns! Jesus taught that no one needs a corrupt temple or its correct priests in order to have a relationship with “the father”. “Talk directly to God,” Jesus taught. Anyone — atheists included — could “Do unto others” like a pro. And certainly better than any Christian.

There’s a clear distinction between “Christians” and “followers of Jesus”. My heart goes out to followers of Jesus because of what Christians have done to the brand.

Whoever Jesus really was, it’s simply a fact that he was born, lived his entire life and died a Jew. He preached Jewish thoughts to other Jews — even if Jesus’s version of those thoughts were somewhat “radical” (ignoring the Temple and its priests because they were corrupt). At the core of Jesus’s teaching — we all agree — is “Do unto others”. And “Do unto others” is a magnificent way to live Life. Imagine how much better the world would be if everyone lived that way — including (or especially) Christians. “Do unto others” is a very Jewish teaching. It’s a graceful distillation of a core Jewish concept: “Tikkun Olam”.

Every Jew (every person really) is obligated — according to Tikkun Olam — to make the world a better place for having been in it. One doesn’t have to accept this obligation (plenty of people don’t), but, if you want to live a good life, making the world better is how you’ll do it. Now, in all fairness to Christians, Christians don’t have a “culture” in the way Jews do where a way of life and a way of faith co-exist. While one absolutely can convert into the Jewish faith (a relatively rare things as Jews don’t proselytize), one can’t convert into the Jewish culture. Ashkenazis — European Jews — were excluded from European culture for 1500 years. They weren’t allowed to live with Christians. Weren’t allowed to marry them. Certainly weren’t allowed to make babies with them (though I’m sure babies made from male Christians raping Jewish women wasn’t a problem for them).

Consequently, Jews lived apart in their own villages or, as they first started to do in Venice in the early 1500’s — in “ghettos”. The word is Italian and first referred to the islands in the Venetian archipelago where the Jews were allowed to live. Living apart caused Jews to evolve a culture separate from white Europe’s. It caused Jews to evolve their own genetic disorder — Tay Sachs disease. Jews never set out to be “different”, that was something European Christianity made us.

Can we be just a little bit more honest? The way Christians have treated Jews across fifteen hundred years of history has not been especially “Christian”. Or maybe it has been — and every single person calling themselves “Christian” is, in fact, a “fake”.

This ‘Democracy Thing’ Is Waaaaaaay Harder Than It Looks

We Americans have it in our heads that we are what “democracy” looks like. Democracy has news for us: no, we’re not.

If the bottommost line there is in what sets democracies apart from other forms of government is voting — by the total number of citizens legally qualified to vote — then, historically, America has shown poorly. According to Pew Research, as of 2016, Americans were toward the bottom of the list where participation in elections is concerned. Americans used to vote in very high numbers (as a percentage). Eighty percent of eligible voters voted in the 1836 election (the first post-Andrew Jackson one where his hand-picked successor and veep Martin Van Buren pulled out a victory over the (at that point) nascent Whig Party. Until 1900, at least 70% of eligible Americans voted in every presidential election and at least 60% of us voted in off year elections. And then, a great slide begins.

I’m making a guess here. A drop off in American interest in our democracy happening right as America becomes a world power (heading into World War I) occurs at the exact same time as the Ku Klux Klan is growing in popularity? It sure sounds like a big piece of the American electorate is staying home instead of voting. We know exactly “why” those newly empowered Americans chose not to use their new power as citizens. Racism has always been at the heart of voter suppression and Republican gerrymandering. One doesn’t have to say “Democratic voter suppression” to differentiate it from Republican voter suppression because (while Democrats have been guilty of gerrymandering to gain an advantage), Democrats have never tried to suppress Republican voters. It’s simply not how any (contemporary) Democratic voter thinks; in fact, it’s entirely antithetical to what makes a Democrat a Democrat. Democrats are entirely confident in the superiority of their ideas over anything any Republican is selling. This is why modern Democrats believe in elections.

On the chart below, that’s evidenced by the presidential elections of 1932 and 1936. Franklin Roosevelt first won election as POTUS in ’32 — as the Great Depression was settling in. In ’36, FDR holds steady as the intensely progressive New Deal produces results that put Americans back to work. Then the war happens and the Greatest Generation pulls together — as the data points show. Voting lulls as the war drags on, falls off considerably after the war ends but then bounces back in 1952 because who doesn’t “like Ike”? Actually, Adlai Stevenson (the Democrat who Eisenhower defeated twice) would have been an amazing president; America has issues with smart people however. America boomed in the 1950’s. We became the engine for the world’s economy (with a tax rate that had the richest paying considerably more than they pay now (even if no one ever actually paid 91% of their earnings above $200,000).

See that sudden uptick at the end of the data set? That’s 2016. The upward trend continued. over 168 million Americans voted in election 2020. Sure, more Trump voters voted, but way, waaaaaay more Democratic voters voted, too. That trend started (to our news media’s surprise) in election 2018 when the Democratically inclined began to realize the very real existential threat Trump posed to America.

Turns out Joni Mitchell was right in her song Big Yellow Taxi: “Oh, it always seems to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone, they paved paradise and put up a parking lot”. America’s voters saw the Republican Party actively trying to take away their rights (to vote, to have an abortion, to breathe clean air) and responded in the only way they could: by showing up to vote the Republican bastards out. Ah, but Republicans don’t play by rules.

While America’s founders did fear someone power mad like Donald Trump would run for office, it didn’t occur to them that such a candidate’s power madness would be stroked by his political party. Then again, America’s founders didn’t count on there being political parties in America. Shit happens, ya know?

Organized human civilization began roughly eight thousand years ago — when we transitioned from being nomadic hunter-gatherers into farmers. Agriculture demands staying in one place in order to benefit from it. But, because this stationary place with its organized food production can feed more people than wandering in search of food can, villages and then towns and cities eventually grew nearby. And, once those human collectives became bigger than an extended tribe, as historian Yuval Harari points out in his brilliant book Sapiens, humans had no choice but to invent “governing”. At its core, government is simply an organizing principle by which large groups of humans can live together without killing each other. Who governs and who’s governed. That’s the bottommost line there is.

From eight thousand years ago until 1776, with a few exceptions, humans relied on the “divine right of kings” to govern how we governed. We got it into our heads that some of us were really and truly chosen by the divine to lead (and have most of the money). This is pure bamboozlement. No one’s blood is any better than anyone else’s. No tribe’s blood is superior. The only thing about which some humans can claim any sort of superiority is the pathogens lurking inside them. White Europeans were vectors for some extremely lethal pathogens — smallpox, bubonic plaguechickenpoxcholerathe common colddiphtheriainfluenzamalariameaslesscarlet feversexually transmitted diseases (with the possible exception of syphilis), typhoidtyphustuberculosis (although a form of this infection existed in South America prior to contact), and pertussis. Syphilis was the one pathogen Native Americans sent over to Europe. Europeans were especially driven by the divine right of kings because they tied their kings to their Christian faith.

But, the American experiment intrigued the Europeans. After all, we were simply the lab for an idea that the French Enlightenment had been kicking around. The idea of human beings governing themselves instead of being governed by “superiors” was radical. The big mistake the European men who founded America’s democratic government was in writing “All men are created equal” while meaning 1) only WHITE, Christian, land-owning men and 2) by meaning ONLY men. America is a fantastic idea as yet unrealized.

And that is because democracy is hard. Or, as Winston Churchill put it, “the worst form of government except for all the others”. It’s just how it is; democracy is the best of a really bad lot.

That’s WHY actually pulling off democracy is so challenging. Living in an authoritarian shithole, you can take life for granted: it’s going to suck and there’s nothing you can do about it except follow the rules, keep your nose clean and pray they never come for you. Democracy, by contrast, is a contact sport. It demands active engagement with it if it’s to work as designed. I like Australia’s approach (Australia’s participation rate is 91.89%!). Come election day in Australia, no one has to actually vote, but everyone must show up at their polling location. By law they have to show willingness to participate even if none of the candidates meet their needs.

Americans used to understand that freedom wasn’t “free”. Every one of its awesome benefits comes with a challenging obligation: you have to show up. For some people, apparently, even just that is a bridge too far.

Dear American News Media: I’m Just Here To Help!

Dear American News Media:

I’ve had a change of heart about you and me and our relationship. After using this space to criticize you relentlessly, I’ve decided to “go positive” toward you instead. Pointing out your many flaws (like when you fawn over power instead of interrogating it or cynically insist that “both sides do it”) has gotten me nowhere with you. You still fawn over power when you should be skeptical of it (and that’s because you’ve mistaken cynicism for skepticism) same as you did during the George W. Bush presidency. It’s strange though how that cynicism gets applied the moment Democrats assume the mantle of power. But, there I go again, criticizing when I mean to be giving positive re-enforcement. I see now this is going to be a harder habit to break than I realized.

Most of my notes here apply to MSNBC because I spend so much more time with them than CNN. Actually, aside from Chuck Todd’s hour of over-rehearsed tics, random twitching and “I’m being thoughtful” eye rolling, I’m pretty exclusive to MSNBC where cable news is concerned. That’s not because I love most of their on air talent — I don’t. MSNBC has a few truly exceptional news broadcasters/communicators on their team. I have zero problem with advocate journalism so long as its open about its advocacy and consistent in its morality. Nicolle Wallace evolved into a super star whose past — as the basis for her crisis of conscience — gives her point of view gravitas. She is what a “Come To Jesus” moment looks like when given two hours of cable news five days a week.

Rachel Maddow’s integrity is rock solid. Stories that seem to meander suddenly cut to the bone when seemingly disparate dots connect and a real sense of “the bigger picture” flashes to the surface.

Ali Velshi is a rock. He’s gone from being the H-POD to being a beacon of logic and humanity. I don’t know how he keeps his (second) marriage together considering his work schedule. His family’s loss is our gain. Okay — I can be selfish that way.

I’m thrilled for Joy-Ann Reid (righteous indignation + receipts = what journalism should be) and all the talented people flowing from her “space”: Jonathan Capehart and Tiffany Cross both bring intelligence, cultural insight, wit and grace to their time slots, MSNBC and American journalism as a whole.

Lawrence O’Donnell puts a great bow on most days. My only note is one I’m not sure he could do anything about. I agree with most of what Lawrence says. But then, I’m the choir. Something in me always feels like that’s who Lawrence is preaching to — people as sensible as he is. Personally, I don’t have a problem with that but it does feel like a loop. Whereas Joy-Ann Reid can persuade with her passion, Lawrence reinforces with his warm reasonableness.

Chris Hayes epitomizes both advocate journalism’s strengths and its weaknesses. Hey — bring receipts like Chris does and you can flail away. But, sometimes that flailing feels like, well, flailing. The problem though is less Chris than the entire news industry’s aversion to including ALL possible explanations for Donald Trump’s presence in American politics and his behavior.

Ari Melber has the potential to be better than he is. He seems especially resistant to drawing conclusions and connecting dots minus ironclad evidence or a literal smoking gun. He sees the legal angles clearly but, at the moment of truth, when he could step forward and boldly connect the important dots, he gets lawyerly cold feet.

For the year and change of Trump’s candidacy (he declared on June 17, 2015), the four years of his presidency and the (almost a) year since he lost re-election, our news media has framed Trump as legitimate candidate, president and former-president. He’s been none of those things — from legitimacy’s point of view. Our news media however, having succumbed to access journalism’s lure during George W. Bush’s presidency, can’t bring themselves to call anyone what they are. Hell, our news media still regularly bleeps foul language from the news because they think 1) their audience “can’t handle the truth” and 2) language isn’t part of the news. Though “journalists”, they feel how a person expresses themselves — with all the significance their word choices imply — is less important if that expression might offend certain people. That’s not journalism, it’s misguided nannying.

To blunt language is to blunt news’ impact. It’s sugar-coating at a time when the more truth we get — all bitterness included — the better!

When our news media “pussy-footed” around “pussy-grabbing”, they deep-sixed the truth in favor of “being sensitive” — but to whom? Every woman in America deserved to know exactly how Donald Trump thinks about women. If that view of women includes his thinking he can do whatever he wants to whatever woman he wants — that’s material. Look, just because someone has a point of view (and we all have points of view), that doesn’t mean their point of view has a point. A rapist (like Trump) has a point of view as he commits rape (“I’m raping because I want to and can!) but that doesn’t mean his point of view is valid where fairness and the rule of law are concerned. Mexicans aren’t rapists as a culture. Trump’s candidacy should have ended the day it started because he said that.

The fact that Trump did say it — and his candidacy didn’t end — that’s not on the Democrats, it had zero to do with them. It’s not on the Republicans either because the rest of the Republican field would have been just as happy if Trump and his campaign had imploded that day. It’s hard to say how many Republican contenders knew yet (as the Washington Post reported in 2017) that “there’s two people Putin pays — Rohrbacher and Trump”. The GOP still hadn’t embraced Trump the way they would eventually. Only the news media really “saw something” in Trump.

A cash cow.

I didn’t start out a news junkie; I’m just a humble storyteller and an occasionally successful screenwriter and film/TV producer. Something about Trump’s candidacy triggered my “Spidey-senses”. My storytelling senses, too. What stuck in my craw from the get-go was a growing perception that the news story I was living through was not the news story our news media was reporting. I started to think of it like icing and cake. The news media were all about the story’s icing when, really, they needed to be looking much more deeply at the cake. Take Trump’s relationship with Vlad Putin. To this day, our news media will scratch divots into their heads pondering why Trump is soooooo beta to Putin’s alpha.

Someone should write a saying about how pictures speak a thousand words — and then hand it to our news media. “Both sides do it” journalism however gives every piece of information equal weight — and they refuse to “judge” information or the people supplying it. That’s how liars spewing lies about climate science can be the same as climate scientists presenting conclusive data. Before being shamed into cutting the shit, our news media regularly presented climate science and climate denial as if both points of view had equal merit. Even if they didn’t mean to do that, our news media presented both points of view on screen as a fifty-fifty proposition. That’s what it says visually when two people argue, both with 50% of the screen — both points of view could be true.

This still happens every time our news media presents a Democrat’s point of view and then — for balance — a Republican’s. If the Democrat says “we need to these programs to help these people and we calculate it will cost this much, the Republican replying “That costs too much” isn’t an actual reply to the question. The people the Democrats are trying to help still need that help. That’s empirically true regardless. If it will cost x dollars to help them then the proper framing is “We need this amount of money to help this amount of Americans accomplish equity — a thing we know America needs to deal with”. “Costs too much” means “I’m choosing NOT to help all the people who need help”. The question is “why?” Where should that money go instead?

Our news media loves a horse race because races are easy to call. You just sit there and watch the horses run. But, America’s in a very strange place right now. There are horse races being run — and our news media is reporting on them (the “Will Joe Biden get his agenda passed by Congress” story is nothing but a horse race in our news media’s hands). But these races are happening while the race track is burning down around us. And the Republican Party set the fire.

I know for a fact that I’m not the only member of the cable news audience baffled by cable news’ inability to aggregate the story we’re all living through. Example: the news media itself kept track of the number of lies they believe Trump told in public. 30, 573 was the “official” tab according to the Washington Post on January 24, 2021. Those were lies told while Trump was POTUS. The WaPo, as far as I know, stopped keeping track; we have no idea how many lies Trump has lied while being former-POTUS. Whatever that number is, it’s a record. Yet, few in the news media framed Trump as a liar first — though, considering the amount of lying and Trump’s willingness to lie about everything no matter how small and demonstrably false — that, too, is baffling. You’d think that, after even just 10 percent of those lies — thirty-five hundred or so — you’d stop assuming Trump was ever telling the truth since there’s clearly no evidence of it while there’s ample and growing evidence that he lies.

Our news media still publishes Trump’s lies without framing them as such even while knowing that that’s what they are. Oh, sure — they do tell us they’re lies — but, if we see it from Trump’s point of view (knowing he’s lying), the point of the exercise isn’t to prove you’re not lying, it’s to blanket the world with the lie so as to turn the lie into “the truth”. Even when acknowledging Trump’s dishonesty, our news media continues to work to his dishonesty’s advantage.

Geez! I wanted to be positive here and, instead, I’ve criticized again. Did I mention yet what a hard habit this is to break?

Here — I’ll try to be positive. Kelly O’Donnell is someone I’ve been unkind toward in the past. And she epitomizes exactly what I’m talking about. Kelly (can I call you that?), I want to make amends because — hey, we’re both in show biz, right? The news biz IS show biz and the same principles that make my storytelling work also make yours work.

I mean this from the bottom of my heart (for what that’s worth): I want to help YOU, Kelly O, be the best storyteller you can be! Here’s a clip of Kelly O from August 17, 2017 after a terrorist attack in Barcelona. It’s early in the Trump presidency; his lying as POTUS is still newish (compared to his lying as candidate). But — context — Sean Spicer didn’t get up in front of the White House Press Corps and lie about the size of Trump’s crowd size for his health or because he really wanted to. Journalists like Kelly O’ had personally witnessed not just that Trump lied but that he lied about stupid things. And,, remember, this is well after “Mexicans are rapists” (a lie) and “pussy-grabbing” (another lie — his denial).

A storyteller adding information builds a platform from which to base the next part of the story. The goal is to tell the whole story, of course, by connecting dots as they become reasonably connectable. Once you’ve established that a person is a liar (inside your own head), how can you tell that person’s story as if they aren’t a liar? The fact is they could be and an honest telling of their story starts there — not after you’ve presented the lie. Context IS everything.

https://www.msnbc.com/deadline-white-house/watch/o-donnell-appears-it-is-incorrect-information-being-tweeted-by-trump-1027064387879

At the 1:07 mark, Kelly O’ reads a tweet Trump put out.

She then qualifies the tweet: “Especially in that last sentence,” says Kelly O, “That seems to be the voice of the president more than a staffer on his behalf”. “That seems to be” is Kelly O’ inserting herself into the story — putting herself into Donald Trump’s head because, I guess, she has such insight into how Trump thinks. Though Trump to that point had showed zero capacity for empathy, Kelly O’ makes him empathetic regardless as if he must be empathetic just because he’s POTUS and Kelly O’s reporting on him. But Kelly O senses there’s more to it. Good for her!

“But, then a curious follow up tweet,” Kelly O’ continues, “…where the President says” (and she reads the tweet) —

Kelly O reminds the audience that this echoes a story Trump told on the campaign trail (a place where he lied repeatedly of course and said outrageous, offensive things) even though, as president, Trump had access to copious information that proved the story wrong. Historians have found no basis in fact for this, Kelly O says, spinning a blatant lie into “it appears this is incorrect information being tweeted by the President at this time”.

Think about the difference between these two presentations of the same thing — a lie. One presents the lie as a lie. The other is Kelly O’ dancing around until the word “lie” can’t really be discerned anymore. No one lies by accident. They’re deliberate by definition and Trump deliberately lies as readily as he breathes. Yet Kelly O editorialized a Trumpian lie down into something Trump could have done accidentally. That’s really dishonest. And, when you consider what Trump did subsequently?

That makes Kelly O an enabler.

Ah, hell — I did it again! I’m so sorry, Kelly O — I really didn’t mean to criticize. You’re a nice person — anyone can get that just from watching you. From everything I’ve read, your colleagues like you. From your industry’s point of view, you’re at the top of your game. That doesn’t mean you’re AT the top of your game. Or maybe it does and the thing we’re comparing it to — the news industry’s game — has a “top” most industries wouldn’t brag about. What it means is that from mediocrity’s point of view, you fit right in.

You are tasked with covering the biggest, most compelling, most consequential story of our collective lifetimes. Our democracy’s survival hinges on you getting your job right. So far, you’ve let us and democracy down hard. But the game ain’t over yet! Hell, MSNBC itself has news assets that both see and perfectly articulate what’s happening to us. For my money, Jason Johnson and Elie Mystal are both Jeremiah’s we should be listening to religiously.

In my dreams, a day will come when I can step back from being a news junkie. Fascinating as it is, it’s exhausting. But, I know this: if the day comes when I can stop obsessing on the news, it will be because Progressives (the only adults in the room now) have finally cleared out all the dead wood — the stale, regressive, repressiveness of our racist right wing. When the day comes that we’re no longer under threat, I will relax. Finally.

I’ll miss a few of my regulars when that day comes: Nicolle and Rachel especially. But, as for the rest of you? I’ll assume you’ve gone off to greener pastures — and jobs you might actually be good at.

“U” For “Unvaccinated” IS The New “Scarlet Letter”

In the month since I first published this post (then it was “Should Be The New Scarlet Letter” vs “IS”), the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant has become its own little pandemic here in America — among the belligerently unvaccinated.

Remember Hester Prynne? In Nathanial Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”, Hester is forced by her intensely religious Puritan community to wear a scarlet letter “A” as punishment for having committed adultery. To the sin-hating Puritans, adultery wasn’t just deeply sinful, it was virtually unforgivable.

Jump forward several hundred years to now. America has made peace with all sorts of sins. Even the Arthur Dimmesdale’s of the world — in the person of religionista, pastor, former Liberty University president and super proud cocksman Jerry Falwell, Jr — have come out from hiding. Jerry Junior isn’t just unashamed of his adultery, he’s openly boastful about it!

Jerry Falwell Jr., president of the Christian and conservative Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., posted this photo on social media Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020, with the caption: “More vacation shots. Lots of good friends visited us on the yacht. I promise that’s just black water in my glass. It was a prop only.”

That expression on Jerry-Junior’s face? It’s shouting “Hey, see the smile on this young lady’s face? I put it there!”

These days, we’re more likely to force someone to wear a scarlet “A” because they’re a raging Asshole. Which brings us to anti-vaxxers — another “scarlet A”. Were it not for anti-vaxxers and their relentless spew of bullshit into the info stream, America would have gotten atop the coronavirus already. We probably wouldn’t be talking about “booster shots” because we would have achieved herd immunity within our borders. All that excess production would have already gone into making vaccine for the rest of the world — and, perhaps, that would have spared us the Delta and Mu variants and everything before and in between. Our economy would be more settled, its improvements more sustainable and reliable. And, instead of still dying in droves, Americans would be helping to restore our image across the globe as the main engine of the world’s recovery.

Too bad about the “forces of darkness” within our midst.

Pathogens are by far the most potent weapon on the planet. Throughout human history, pathogens have relentlessly culled the human herd without us even fully understanding how they were doing it to us. The native population of North America wasn’t conquered by European guns or steal. European pathogens did all the hard work. The guns and steel were there for the mop up operation.

Let’s be crystal clear: anti-vaxx sentiment is based on zero science and a clear misunderstanding of how people need to approach science. Because anti-vaxx sentiment doesn’t need science to undergird its call to action, it can recommend anything. It can advocate for utter bullshit because nothing is there to check its work — and point to how bullshitty it is.

Hester Prynne’s community had nothing whatsoever to fear from Hester. Adultery was not going to spread like a virus (although, to be fair — though it wasn’t their intention — if adultery didn’t spread like a virus, venereal diseases, crabs and pubic lice sure did including syphilis — the one potent pathogen the New World sent back to the Old). Perhaps in the Puritans’ worst nightmares, adultery had the potential to do what pathogens can. There’s a big difference between nightmares and reality though. And Colonial Americans weren’t strangers to the harm pathogens could do. George Washington — following the science of the time — had the Continental Army vaccinated against smallpox. We’ve known what pathogens do and how and why for a couple hundred years now. We KNOW how to protect ourselves from them; that should be the basis for OUR “morality”. Sex as the basis is simply too complicated and hypocrites are everywhere.

Hester is a strange mix of sexually liberated woman and mousey good-girl gone wrong. Anti-vaxxers are zombies. The pathogen has already eaten their brains and now is using the anti-vaxxers as their ride while they come for the rest of us. That’s why we NEED to make every single anti-vaxxer wear that “U” they seem so proud of right there on their person. Let’s tattoo it across their foreheads — it won’t be the ugliest tat on any of their bodies.

President Biden led the way, making vaccinations mandatory for federal employees and the military. Even big corporations appreciated on a granular level how devastating the pandemic’s been to their bottom line. Our consumer economy depends almost entirely on people buying things. Poor people can’t buy anything and rich people — they pretty much have everything they need. They’re not the market products and their manufacturers rely on for long term health. That’d be the middle class. America succeeds best when its middle class is healthy and thriving. That, really, is the whole point of Joe Biden’s progressive agenda. It ain’t “socialism”, it’s a robust middle class driving a socialized capitalism that understands it MUST have limits because integrity matters. And so does having a habitable planet with a habitable environment.

It ain’t vaccinated people stalling the economy — preventing people from getting back to work and their lives back to normal — it’s the unvaccinated. Money is everyone’s bottom line. You threaten our wallets and pocketbooks long enough and you will get our attention. That is the massive pile of shit anti-vaxxers (and, in turn the Republican Party for thinking it could ride the anti-vaxx movement to permanent political power) stepped in. And, if your bullshit threatens our kids?

“U” for “Unvaccinated” IS our new Scarlet Letter.

I bet they’ll not only wear their Scarlet Letters, I bet they’ll compete with each other to make THEIR scarlet “U” bigger than everyone else’s. What point is there in being just “full of shit” when you can be the “fullest” of shit?

Just like Hester was stigmatized, so too should every “U” wearing anti-vaxxer. That U should be why they can’t get hired, get get loans, can’t get service at a restaurant and can’t get former (now vaccinated) friends to return their calls. Pariah-hood is almost too good form them.

I’m torn about what to think of the “former” anti-vaxxer putting his new-found faith in modern medicine on social media as he dies painfully from the very disease he boastfully claimed couldn’t hurt him. America has a strange history of willful ignorance. The “Know Nothings” were an actual political movement starting in the 1850’s. They were anti-Catholic, anti-Irish, anti-immigration, populist and xenophobic. They were neutral on slavery (which makes them pro-slavery by default). Their answer to any question was simply “I know nothing”. Though the movement died within a few years, the sentiment zombied on.

Maybe that’s what the Scarlet “U” actually signifies: the zombification of a third of America. They’re not just unvaccinated; some part of them is “undead”. Oh, great — another “U”.

Recipes For Disaster: A Republican Cookbook

The Republican Party wants to force feed permanent minority rule down America’s throat. They couldn’t care less what this will do to America, American democracy or the majority of Americans. The only thing that matters to them is separating every non-white American from their right to vote — like a chef separating an egg yolk from the egg white. This chef has no use for the yolk because it’s “colored”. In fact, if the Republican Party were to publish a cookbook, it’s a guaranteed fact that every recipe in it would be made entirely from inorganic, artificial ingredients that taste like crap, have zero nutritional value and work on our body politic like poison. Every last recipe would be toxic.

The meal the GOP wants to serve up America is a meal America does not want. We don’t want its hatred, its ignorance, its determination to politicize everything or its treachery anywhere near us. We despise how Republicans cook our books and think only white ingredients count. Here then, is a sampling of the Republican “Cookbook For America”, their “recipes” for our future. If ever there was a good reason to stick one’s finger down one’s throat and puke something back up, this is it.

Mitch McConnell’s Southern Fried SCOTUS Hash

When is a SCOTUS seat too fresh to fill? Is it when there’s a year left in a president’ term (as Barack Obama had when he tried to nominate Merrick Garland to fill Antonin Scalia’s seat) or can you fill a SCOTUS seat whenever — even if it’s mere weeks before the newly elected (by a landslide) POTUS takes over? Is it Kosher to shop only judges recommended by the Heritage Foundation when, clearly, those judges couldn’t pass a smell test?

Republicans love turning everything possible into hash. Democracy, for instance, makes a fine hash. So does religion. What makes Mitch’s version of SCOTUS hash especially noteworthy is its distinct Treason Turtle overtones. Some day, Mitch’s name will replace Benedict Arnold’s as the epithet Americans use when they want to call someone a “traitor”.

Kevin McCarthy’s Treason Tidbits

From all reports, Kevin McCarthy wasn’t automatically a fan of Donald Trump’s Treason Platter when he walked in the door and announced to a meeting of other Republican leaders that “There’s two people I think Putin pays — Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!” Clearly, Kevin wasn’t entirely sure what he was serving up. Did the rest of the Republican leadership have the same warm feelings toward treason as Kevin did?

To Kevin’s delight, it turned out EVERYONE IN THE ROOM loved Trumpian treason just as much as he did. In fact, then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan insisted that in order to keep the treason tidbits coming, they would have to collectively agree not to talk about their tidbits outside that room. “That’s how we know we’re family,” said the Speaker Of The House, apparently unaware how strong the treason was on his breath.

Kevin’s not alone among Republicans in his adoration for treason tidbits. Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson famously went to Moscow with seven other Congressional Republicans and had dinner there July 4, 2018. Apparently it was an awesome meal! The vodka was iced cold, the borscht was incredibly fresh and the treason was piping hot. It all went down perfectly for every Republican there, dining. They they returned to America and began to shit out the poison — all over the rest of us.

Think of Kevin’s dish as a pu-pu platter made of actual poo.

Republican Rig-atoni

This Trump-inspired recipe doesn’t require any preparation, any ingredients or any even a serving dish to put it in. The whole point of Republican rig-atoni is to insist even before an election’s taken place (as with the Republican-inspired recall in California) that the election was “rigged”. By insisting that every election is rigged — even the ones they win — Republicans hope to create an environment where the flavor of mistrust dominates.

Republican rig-atoni goes perfectly with a rich bullshit sauce.

Barbecued Rights, Texas Style

There’s nothing a Texan loves more than barbecue and there’s nothing a conservative Texan loves more than barbecuing other Texans’ rights — especially if those Texans are other than white, male and Christian. Texan Republicans have had trouble however getting some of their barbecued rights out of the kitchen. “Lib-tard” judges keep sending it back cos it’s not even half-baked.

Ah, but leave it to Texans to get creative about barbecue. They cleverly took “official” judges out of the mix (because official judges can get sued in court and stopped) and made ordinary people not only the “judges here but, in a way, the jury and executioners too. A few other states — having sampled what Texas did — are trying to open their own “barbecued rights” stands.

The goal is overcook everything. Flame it past the point of recognizability. Or logic. Or law.

Guest Post: Top Ten Reasons You Had a Cook Out Fail | Big Wayner's BBQ Blog

David Koch’s Overly Rich Vanilla Sauce

David and his brother Charles used to run the biggest, most well-funded conservative kitchen of all then Charles croaked and now it’s just David overseeing the Koch Industries Corruption Kitchen. The Kochs borrowed most of their recipes from Ayn Rand. That’s a problem because not only couldn’t Ayn Rand cook, she couldn’t write either. I bet even her typing sucked. But conservatives love Rand’s cooking because it’s so old fashioned. A good batch of libertarianism smells of smug, white self-satisfaction. You’ll smack your lips as you eat it, thinking “Hey, you’re not the boss of me!”

Vanilla sauce is all about its whiteness. Step one — remove all color except white. Whisk in more whiteness than let it settle. Whiteness doesn’t like to be shaken or stirred (though it loves erupting violently). It just wants everyone to be exactly how they were back in the 1850’s — when whiteness dominated America, when “All men are created equal” meant just white (Christian, land-owning) men. Republicans dream of the day when they can coat everything forever in vanilla.

Everyone Has Their Point Of View But Not Every Point Of View “Has A Point”

Does a raging, racist a-hole have a point? We know they have a point of view; they’re happy as hell braying it. But do these guys have a point to make? Do they? Is their racist, ignorant point really one we should take seriously?

Consider the professional criminal. He knows what he’s doing is completely against the law yet breaks the law anyway. The possibility of punishment is just part of the cost of doing criminal business. As the professional criminal — let’s say he’s a car thief with his eyes on your car — deliberately commits a crime (stealing your car) — he has a point of view in this scenario. So do you — now, a car thief’s victim. But the only point the car thief is making here is that your possession can be his. It’s a bully’s way of thinking. Your point of view is a crime victim’s. From the rule of law’s point of view, a wrong has been done you. The rule of law then has a “good point” to make here. Justice must be done. You, the crime victim, also have a “good point”. The injustice was done to you and that injustice needs to be fixed in whatever way we can. As for the perp? He’s the odd man out. The only one here who’s “point” was “bad”. In a court of law? His point describes a criminal.

How the hell did we get to a place where any point of view — regardless of how bad (meaning counter productive, incorrect or just plain illegal) — can be held up as being equally valid to a good point of view? The answer’s the same as why our news media used to present climate science and climate denial as equally valid points. Our news media all did that but no one did it with less self awareness and more counter productivity than our TV news media. At some point, when this is far enough in our rearview mirror that democracy can breathe a little more easily, we will have to give the news media its report card. A few will have passed the course with honors. But only a few. The overwhelming majority of American journalists have failed America completely because they drank the “both sides do it” Kool Aid.

“Both sides do it” insists that journalists be completely “neutral”. Theirs is not to judge anything. If the person in front of them is a cannibal, it’s not for the “both sides do it” journalist to judge the cannibal for being a cannibal. Cannibal and human victim have equal points of view here. The eater and the eaten are exactly the same. The cannibal’s point is as valid as his dinner’s.

The press is quite clear on what the Republican Party are doing to America. Between the breaking news (that’s always breaking) and the talking heads with their hair very much on fire, the point gets made over and over again: the Republicans are no longer interested in democracy because democracy is no longer interested in them or their ideas. The Republicans have a political problem on their hands that the Democrats don’t. Having become almost exclusively a white grievance party, the Republican agenda is focused on retaining power that a rapidly diversifying America is actively voting away from them. E Pluribus Unum (Out of many, one) is not a political cause, it’s a cultural safe space. It is the real promise of “All men are created equal” (so long as we understand that “all men” means literally “everyone”).

“Both sides do it” journalism insists that since Republicans do everything for political reasons, Democrats must therefore do everything for political reasons, too. So, when a Republican suppresses a Democratic voter’s ability to vote, the thinking goes, both the vote suppressing Republican and the suppressed Democratic voter are BOTH behaving politically. That is utter bullshit. The Republican is openly violating the Democrat’s Constitutional right to vote. They’re committing a literal crime albeit for a political purpose. It’s a crime all the same.

The Democrat here is NOT behaving politically regardless of what “both sides do it:” journalism says. Just like the car thief’s victim isn’t behaving like a criminal when they go to the police, neither is the suppressed democratic voter acting politically when they report the crime being committed against them. But, because our news media assumes both sides do everything for the very same reasons, they fail to see the Republicans’ actions as criminal (since, perversely, the Democrats’ reaction isn’t!) In this instance, they’re flipping “both sides do it” back onto itself. If the Democrats aren’t criminals then neither are the Republicans.

I was sexually molested twice, when I was fourteen, by the religious director of the large northwest Baltimore synagogue where my family belonged. I’ve written about it here. Those criminal acts rippled across my life for forty-five years, causing profound havoc. Fortunately, this demon no longer haunts me — in large part because I stopped seeing it in a “both sides do it” way. I held myself responsible for having been molested. I equated attacker and victim. That, I can tell you, was a bullshit point though it was my point of view.

If I had been so lucky as to have seen my attacker prosecuted for what he did, and if my attacker had been put on trial, both our “points” would have been presented at trial. My point would have been from the victim’s point of view — and it would have been valid. My attacker? What “point” would he make to try and impress the jury that he didn’t do anything wrong? That a fourteen year old boy wanted his attention? The fourteen year old boy would absolutely refute that. That the fourteen year old boy deserved it? The adult version of that boy can tell you absolutely that he did not. The only point my attacker can have or make is that, as he stood behind me on those two occasions, he decided to go with his urges — despite the fact that he knew those urges were wrong and, in fact, illegal.

Stone cold fact: not every point of view has a point. Let’s tweak that to “not every point of view has a VALID point”. And, when our news media — towing the “both sides do it” line — gives validity and credence to points of view undeserving of that validity, they empower bullshit and give bullshit the very real potential to completely overwhelm Truth. That’s how you get a Nazi Germany. A North Korea. A Vladimir Putin.

A Donald Trump and the entire Republican Party.

The Republican Party Is What Happens When Bad Ideas And Thinking Metastasize

The reason Republicans have to rely on gerrymandering, voter suppression and terrible legislation to win elections is because nobody except them will vote for their ideas. To be clear, the only problem Republicans see looming in America’s future is diversity and the loss of political power that diversity will cost them. They see a loss of political power as a “cost” rather than as what must happen if America is ever going to live up to its full E Pluribus Unum potential as the greatest experiment ever in human self government. The fact is, conservative America doesn’t want America to live up to that potential. They want “All men are created equal” to mean what it meant to the country’s white, Christian, land-owning founders — just them and only them. That is originalism. A very bad idea (because it’s bullshit). Originalism isn’t the idea itself, originalism is the bad idea’s manifestation out here in reality. The idea is a toxic cocktail of racism, bigotry, misogyny, magical thinking and outright bullying. Want to know what happens to someone who swallows this idea?

Look around. You can practically smell the cancer.

This awful idea — that America is some white peoples’ homeland (aside from the Native American population white peoples’ pathogens obliterated) — flies in the face of reality. Europe is white, Christian America’s homeland. And, while the organizing principles that knitted themselves into our Constitution flowed from the French Enlightenment, some of those principles also flowed from pure, unadulterated greed. The entire southern economy was built on stolen labor — slavery. That is what slavery is ultimately, stolen labor. A slaver wants a slave to work for zero pay. Sure, the slaver will have to feed, clothe and house the slave, but (the fact that slavery thrived in America proves the point), those costs must have been negligible compared to the profit one could make off the actual slaves themselves.

To this day, people will argue — thinking it’s a good argument — that, without slavery, the south could never have had an economy and thus neither could Early America. First, that means America can only happen with slavery in the picture. Bullshit. Most of Europe got rid of slavery and built their economies just fine without it. They may have enslaved the lower classes indirectly and in a thousand other ways, but, at least they quit buying and selling humans in public. Republicans don’t want Americans learning Critical Race Theory because, being conservatives, they want America to live in the past but they don’t want America to examine the past (because then they wouldn’t want to live in it). If conservatives really believed that getting all Americans to live in the past was a good thing, they’d package it that way.

Conservatives are very good at packaging things. Being cynical, they understand how to direct message. The world is black and (especially) white to them. Whatever they feel matters more than any fact ever could. Therefore, the Truth is whatever they say It is. If, they say “Mission Accomplished” then whatever the mission is, as far as the Republicans are concerned, that mission is as “accomplished” as it’s ever going to be. Of course, the mission wasn’t accomplished. We should never have invaded Iraq — another awful idea. We should never have changed our objectives on the fly in Afghanistan.

Bad ideas flow from Republicans like pus from a wound. Trickle down economics? Bad idea. Tax cuts for the wealthy? Bad idea. Refusal to admit climate change is real and it’s being sped up by human activity? Bad idea. Making church and state the same thing? Bad idea. Poll taxes? Bad idea. Separate But Equal? Bad idea. Slavery itself? Horrible idea! Segregation? Bad idea. Refusing women the vote? Bad idea. Citizens Unlimited? Bad idea. Making Donald Trump their 2016 nominee despite knowing Russia owned him (as GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy himself put it: “There’s two people I think Putin pays — Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!”) Bad idea. Obstructing justice on Trump’s behalf? Bad idea. Taking part in the January 6 insurrection? Bad idea.

I could go on… and on… and on.

As the Reagan years waned, the Right Wing Money saw diversity’s handwriting on the wall of America’s future. That terrified them because it meant that after 200 years of bamboozling the rest of America into believing that “All men are created equal” referred only to them, the rest of America was done with being bamboozled. America has always been a great idea poorly executed because white people selfishly held America back. Fortunately, that bad idea has run its course.

The only real idea conservatives and Republicans have in their heads is permanent minority rule. That would be originalism’s natural, organic conclusion: the “originals” get to run America forever just because they say so. Talk about a crap idea! That is what has been metastasizing all along in real time. Unable to get the Constitution itself to go along with their bullying, Republicans in Texas devised a way for ordinary citizens to do the hard work of keeping women in their place. Republicans in the rest of America have already seized on this cancerous idea and begun to metastasize it even further. They want to make this cancer even more cancerous still.

What makes this idea even worse — from the conservative perspective — is that the short term gains (putting women in their place) will be superseded by electoral oblivion when those same women show up en masse to vote out every Republican they can. It is a very bad idea to take away anyone’s rights; they’re not going to take it well — or take it PERIOD. The Republicans probably expect to slowly squeeze the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness out of America but they’re going to be shocked by what America does.

In all the places where authoritarianism and fascism succeeded, it did so in homogenous environments like Germany where everyone (fascists and non fascists) were German. Their families were German (or proto-German) for a millennium at least. Their whole culture was homogenous. Same goes for any place where authoritarian power ruthlessly asserted itself: it’s always done so in a relatively homogenous culture. That’s not the case in America. For the first time ever in human history, a nation has been slowly building itself using other nations to supply the people. That’s the whole point of America and the American dream: anyone from anywhere can come here and — provided they’re willing to put in the sweat equity — reinvent themselves and their futures. In America, the past is NOT prologue.

The world has flocked to America — bringing its great ideas with it. America is what happens when great ideas flourish. But, our present is what happens when a bad idea — permanent minority rule — tries to bully a good one: diversity. The best way to deal with a cancer is to either radiate it out of existence or excise it outright as soon as possible. That is exactly what America must do.

Because it’s a really good idea.

“U” For “Unvaccinated” Is About To Become The New “Scarlet Letter”

Remember Hester Prynne? In Nathanial Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”, Hester is forced by her intensely religious Puritan community to wear a scarlet letter “A” as punishment for having committed adultery. To the sin-hating Puritans, adultery wasn’t just deeply sinful , it was virtually unforgivable. Jump forward several hundred years to now. America has made peace with what we used to call “sin”. In fact, we’ve gotten damned good at “sinning”. Even the Arthur Dimmesdale’s (he’s the town preacher who’s knocked up Hester) have openly thrown in their lot with greed and lust and gluttony. What is a proud cocksman like Jerry Falwell, Jr if not a prideful version of Arthur Dimmesdale? Jerry Junior isn’t just unashamed of his adultery, he’s openly boastful about it!

Jerry Falwell Jr., president of the Christian and conservative Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., posted this photo on social media Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020, with the caption: “More vacation shots. Lots of good friends visited us on the yacht. I promise that’s just black water in my glass. It was a prop only.”

That expression on Jerry-Junior’s face? It’s shouting “Hey, see the smile on this young lady’s face? I put it there!”

These days, we’re more likely to force someone to wear a scarlet “A” because they’re a raging asshole. Which brings us to anti-vaxxers — another “scarlet A”. Were it not for anti-vaxxers and their relentless spew of bullshit into the info stream, America would have gotten atop the coronavirus already. Though it would still be raging in most of the rest of the world, we would have achieved the herd immunity needed to get our lives and our economy headed back to a new kind of normal. There would have been bumps along that road too. Witness Israel and New Zealand and Australia — places that have fought the coronavirus as intelligently as people can.

Pathogens are by far the most potent weapon on the planet. Throughout human history, pathogens have relentlessly culled the human herd without us even fully understanding how they were doing it to us. The native population of North America wasn’t conquered by European guns or steal. European pathogens did all the hard work. The guns and steel were there for the mop up operation.

Let’s be crystal clear: anti-vaxx sentiment is based on zero science and a clear misunderstanding of how people need to approach science. Because anti-vax sentiment doesn’t need science to undergird its call to action, it can recommend anything. It can advocate for utter bullshit because nothing is there to check its work — and point to how bullshitty it is.

Hester Prynne’s community had nothing whatsoever to fear from Hester. Adultery was not going to spread like a virus though, ironically, the madness behind such close-minded religious thinking did spread with viral intensity Perhaps in the Puritans’ worst nightmares, adultery had the potential to do what pathogens can. There’s a big difference between nightmares and reality though. And Colonial Americans weren’t strangers to the harm pathogens could do — even if they weren’t clear that the harm in question was being caused by such a thing as a “pathogen”. But, we, on the other hand, DO know that pathogens exist. We DO know what pathogens do and how and why. We KNOW how to protect ourselves from them; that should be the basis for OUR “morality”.

Hester is a strange mix of sexually liberated woman and mousey good-girl gone wrong. Anti-vaxxers are zombies. The pathogen has already eaten their brains and now is using the anti-vaxxers as their ride while they come for the rest of us. That’s why we NEED to make every single anti-vaxxer wear that “U” they seem so proud of right there on their person. “U” for “Unvaccinated” must become our new Scarlet Letter.

The good news? It’s already happening. France and Italy have already begun culling the unvaccinated from the rest of us. Can’t prove YOU were vaccinated? You can’t eat in restaurants or attend any group entertainments like soccer matches or concerts. In a way, an unvaccinated person’s LACK of a “V” (for “vaccinated”) is the new scarlet letter. But, hey — like I said — the unvaxxed don’t see their unvaccinated status the way Hester saw her adulteress status. I bet they’ll not only wear their Scarlet Letters, I bet they’ll compete with each other to make THEIR scarlet “U” bigger than everyone else’s.

What point is there in being just “full of shit” when you can be the “fullest” of shit?

Both France and Italy are, currently, facing pushback from the unvaxxed. Riots erupted in Paris yesterday. As the unvaccinated get sick and become a smaller and smaller minority, their ignorant way of thinking will achieve true pariah-hood. They will deserve it.

Pathogens really don’t care what magical thinking motivates any human to NOT protect themselves from the pathogen. Their existence is simple: they need us. Their entire purpose is to get inside us and reproduce. That it kills us is beside the point. Before we expire, the pathogen will have used us to infect countless other humans — replacing their silent scarlet “U” (for “unvaxxed”) with a whole other kind of marker: a headstone.

Who In Their Right Mind Would Vote Republican When Voting Republican Gets You Killed?

Politics in America make little sense because too much of our “common wisdom” thinks everyone does everything for entirely political reasons completely divorced from any desire to actually govern. That “common wisdom” is deeply cynical and deeply conservative — as all “common wisdom” is, coming, as it does, from either long held knowledge or just long held traditions pretending to be knowledge. I don’t know if American politics have always been this cynical (I suspect it has been) but the presence of cynicism also marks the presence of a very real divide. The much LARGER group — on the other side of that divide? They aren’t cynical. They don’t think the worst of everyone. They absolutely experience the same intense gravity from the same tribal pull but, having lived in a diverse culture, they recognize that E Pluribus Unum is the cure for all that. Out of many, one.

Please, let’s be straight up here (like it was a question): only one side in this “conversation” we’re having about America’s future sees diversity as a threat to their hegemony. White people have held political power (and, hence, da money) from the get-go. That’s not because the great idea they spun said that’s how it was supposed to be (the great idea says, literally “all men are created equal” and not “all men who look exactly like us”), that’s because the MEN who crafted these founding documents were flawed (of course they were flawed — they were the male of the human species!). They came from a Northern European culture that mistook the advantages their pathogens gave them as cultural superiority. It wasn’t Christian virtue that laid low the heathens of North America, it was small pox. Thus is cynicism born.

The very idea of “E Pluribus Unum” makes “originalism” bullshit. Originalism is itself a pathogen. It’s the racist mis-step at America’s founding given a deceptive branding. Think about what originalism is really insisting — that how America IS should reflect only what its white, Christian, male founding FATHERS were thinking when they drafted our founding documents. We must accept their world and their world view warts as our world view regardless of any or all changes to our knowledge or thinking caused by our subsequent history. We must accept that this country’s founders understood the “Pluribus” of E Pluribus Unum to be exclusively white people. Originalism is an attempt to excuse and justify racism. It is pure cynicism (as racism is).

But, our news media — lacking perspective — doesn’t see originalism as racism. They see originalism (as they see racism) as a legitimate opinion even if (in the case of racism), it’s an opinion the racist insists isn’t his. It may be an opinion journalists pooh-pooh as offensive — but, considering that their measure of a racist is whether or not a racist owns his racism — that’s really all the current journalistic culture thinks racism is — an unfortunate opinion about other people that good people shouldn’t have. “Common wisdom” therefore says you can ask someone “Hey, are YOU a racist?” and whatever their answer is — that’s the truth we should all accept about them. They would know if they’re a racist, right? And they’d be honest about it!

This is how cynicism “thinks”. From the inside. It’s a rabbit hole constructed entirely of bullshit. And all bullshit is ultimately toxic.

Outside that cynical rabbit hole filled with “common wisdom” and bullshit, that’s where the rest of us live. We watch our news media report on that rabbit hole like IT was reality. We watch them constantly get our story wrong because they’re not reporting our reality.

As with most cynicism, a nugget of truth gets colored all one way. Americans do not vote en masse in mid-term elections the way they do in presidential elections. Except when they DO vote en masse in mid-terms as Americans did in 2018. They also vote en masse — contrary to “common wisdom” — in special elections like the one in Georgia that put two Democrats in the Senate. Our news media really didn’t see that coming because they — being cynical — thought the worst of Georgia’s electorate. When our news media tells us what terrible voters we are, we tend to behave like terrible voters. When they tell us we’re good voters, well — they’re usually behind that curve.

Why did Americans lose their civic pride? Why did Americans stop educating themselves about their own government when their form of government DEMANDS their participation — and therefore their education in HOW to self-govern? Self governing still doesn’t come naturally to human beings. It’s something we have to work at — hard. But you have to keep reminding yourself of all the steps it takes. It’s not unlike playing tennis. Want to have a good ground stroke? It’s all about the fundamentals regardless of the ball coming at you. If all you do is react to the ball — rather than attack it fundamentally, the will will own you. Your ground stroke will be late and it will suck.

Democracy is a contact sport that demands our involvement if we want it to work. And the overwhelming majority of Americans WANT democracy to work. We don’t understand the question, in fact. In fact, we don’t want — and did not vote for — the authoritarian alternative the Republicans and their Russian pals imposed upon us in 2016. Here again, it’s the originalists who are dancing with Russia because even though Russia is a hostile foreign government, all-white originalism lines up with all white Russia and Vladimir Putin’s dreams of a renewed Crusades to take back the Holy Land. Think that’s nuts? It’s for real. Ask Steve Bannon. It’s why Bannon had no issue with Donald Trump hitching America’s wagon to Russia’s: because Steve’s bizarre, Jesus-was-a-white-guy version of Christianity says this must be.

Ah, but the “common wisdom” — even though it heard Bannon and reported on Bannon and even talked about Bannon in their talking head discussions — says this is “just how it is!” Of course certain Republicans think like this and, when in power, of course they do everything they can to manifest their craziness in our reality. Can you feel the cynicism?

Through nearly a year of Trump’s candidacy, four years of his presidency and, now, nearly nine months of his post-presidency, our news media has treated this abomination as if it was normal. As perverse and outlandish as Trumpian pronouncements could be, our news media — rather than saying “Hey, that’s really perverse and outlandish — I’m digging in my heels right here!”, shrugged their shoulders and willingly moved on from “Mexicans are rapists” to “Pussy grabbing” – and then to “But, her emails!” because THAT, suddenly, became the story. As we know, there was zero “there” there. And it’s not as if our news media rushed back to their previous outrage to defend either Mexicans or women or any American.

A lot of “common wisdom” stays that way not because it’s wise but because people keep repeating it. “Common wisdom” doesn’t know what to do with people being woke because “common wisdom” — being conservative — cannot tolerate wokeness; all new information threatens the old information’s validity. If some of that “old information” is “white guys are superior to everyone else and therefore deserve to govern and have all the money”, well, you can see how those believing it would be mightily threatened by those who don’t. That, in a nutshell, is America’s dilemma. The rich white, Christian men are unwilling to share power or money. Like Charlton Heston’s gun, it will have to be plucked from their cold, dead fingers. Metaphorically speaking, of course

From the moment our news media finally agreed that Joe Biden fairly and squarely beat Trump — while taking back the Senate — they’ve pointed to the “common wisdom” that off year elections are always catastrophic for the newly elected president. Yes, that’s based on plenty of history. But none of that history is remotely like now.

That’s another of “common wisdom’s” blind spots — the assumption that nothing ever changes. That we live in a constant whose circumstances repeat endlessly. That is the world conservatives dream of. It’s the world they want to bamboozle us all into thinking “is”. It isn’t. Human beings evolve and change and adapt. And they get woke, too.

The moment Trump became potus, America changed. Rather, change was forced upon America and either we were going to accept that change — a right wing power grab aided by a hostile foreign power actively engaged in a cyber war against us — or we were going to reject it. This is the stone cold realpolitik reality. A fearful white minority is trying to hold onto power forever via permanent minority rule. Elements of this fearful mindset have been actively suppressing Democratic voters and gerrymandering elections for a generation at least, the point being to deny the diverse majority its rightful vote and voice.

Only white people could possibly look at the current political landscape and think “do nothing”. Literally every other group is more keenly aware than ever of the threat white people pose to them and to the very notion of America. But, alas, that sentiment, true as it is, flies in the face of the “common wisdom” that says 2022 is an off year election so therefore give it to the Republicans because that’s how it always is.

Yo, America’s news media — trust me on this: nothing about the Trump candidacy, presidency or post presidency is or was normal. That’s not “just because”. It’s because Trump entered the political stage already an international criminal compromised by other international criminals. The Republican Party itself KNEW before they formally nominated Trump that this was true. They said so out loud amongst themselves. As current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy put it in 2016 at a leadership meeting held a month before the party nominated Trump: “There’s two people I think Putin pays – Rohrbacher and Trump – swear to God!” That, American News Media, is not NORMAL. Doing nothing in the face of such an accusation by one’s own party? NOT NORMAL!

In fact, cynical. To report such a story — as the Washington Post did a year later, its reporter having heard the RECORDING of the meeting — and not follow up until the question gets answered: why did everyone in that room of GOP leaders agree to keep this terrible information “in the family” rather than call the FBI to report it? Want to know how every Republican in the room could persist and how our news media could report it and not become laser focused on getting to the bottom of it? Cynicism.

If our news media were doing the job imagined for them in the Constitution, they’d be We The People’s final line of defense against unbridled political power. They wouldn’t be political power’s propagandist of choice. That’s what access journalism (the brand practiced too often during the Trump years) creates: news compromised by the access required to get that “news”. It becomes “sales” instead.

I dare the news media to point at one positive benefit voting Republican could do for anyone except for indulging their hatefulness and ignorance. Would voting Republican in Florida or Texas or South Dakota alleviate the pandemic’s onslaught on those mask and vaccination mandate-free states? No, in fact, continuing to vote Republican will exacerbate this tragedy. Yet, cynically, our news media insists that — because 2022 is a mid-term election, Americans will “naturally” pull the lever for Republicans because “we need something different!” or “the other party is more motivated”. True, Trumpanistas may feel motivated — but that’s only if they’re not dying from COVID-19 as more and more now are. To assert — because “common wisdom” — that stupid, sick Americans will show up en masse while healthy, woke Americans won’t is to mis-read the landscape even worse than the news media did in 2018. If you go back and look at the “video tape” of 2018, our news media were determined that Donald Trump was going to win that night big.

He did not. In fact, the exact opposite happened, “common wisdom” notwithstanding.

In the “common wisdom’s” defense, it’s easy to keep in your pocket, even easier to pull out and put down on the table. No one ever was called out because they went with the common wisdom. Until now. There’s a terrible “come to Jesus” moment in our news media’s future. We The People will absolutely prevent the Republican Party from destroying American democracy because doing that is in our best interest while succumbing to the GOP’s authoritarian power grab isn’t. Life’s really that simple. While, sure, fascism overcame even the “good Germans” as it took over Germany, Germany was almost entirely homogenous. Everyone succumbing to Hitler’s totalitarianism was German going back a thousand years. Going along to get along with the tribe was hard-wired. Fascism didn’t work as successfully in France because the French — after a thousand years of becoming French — don’t act the same way.

America presents an entirely different set of circumstances especially since the majority of Americans are NOT part of the same tribe, or even the same culture. Our culture is still very much in its formative stages in large part because something like America — where all these cultures come together, some blending, others not — has never happened before in human history. E Pluribus Unum never happened before. And E Pluribus Unum is what’s now woke and waking up more and more.

Our news media doesn’t see it because they still don’t see us. They’re corporate, most of them, don’t forget. They step on set having been educated in a corporate way of thinking (“both sides do it”) and relying on playing the corporate game to keep the money flowing. They’re invested in the “common wisdom” without even knowing it. And, so, they report what (maybe) was as if it was what “is”.

Cynicism cannot tolerate perspective just like perspective cannot tolerate cynicism. Americans cannot tolerate Republicanism the way our bodies cannot tolerate the coronavirus. Like that deadly virus, Republicanism’s goal is to invade a citizen’s soul like a virus invades their cells, turning them into it. The cure is simple: vaccination. Up here in the political sphere, that manifests as information. Perspective. Why would anyone vote for Republicans when voting for them produces nothing good (not even for them)?

They wouldn’t. A news media with perspective would report it that way.

The Horror… The Horror…

At the climax of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” and Francis Coppola’s take on it “Apocalypse Now”, the character Kurtz (an ivory trader in the book, a renegade military officer in the movie) knows he’s about to die. Kurtz says “…in a whisper at some image, at some vision… a cry that was no more than a breath: ‘The horror! The horror!’.” It’s both Kurtz’s understanding of what’s about to happen to him but also his clear, sudden understanding of everything that brought him to this horrible moment. In the book, Kurtz is dying from natural causes, witnessed by the book’s narrator, the obsessed Charles Marlowe. In the movie, its protagonist Captain Willard, who’s been sent up the Mekong River to assassinate the renegade Colonel Kurtz is about to complete his mission. “The horror… the horror”.

It’s hard not to watch what’s happening in Kabul right now without feeling those words.

The echoes with the end of the Vietnam War are inescapable. The reason it all feels so familiar — terrible images of desperate people scrambling onto or clinging to aircraft aside — is that the reason we were there was, at its core, indefensible. Back in the 50’s and 60’s, our fear of communism caused us to make a veritable ton of bad decisions. Yes, yes, the Soviet Union was a real and dangerous nemesis. But, our black and white view of the world missed all the colorful detail that might have helped us be a little truer to our ideals and savvier on the ground. Alas, we brought a sledgehammer to a brain surgery. We’re good at capturing hearts and minds with our sales pitch, utterly awful at fulfilling the promises made.

There is a reason for that. It’s not “just because”. Nothing is ever “just because”.

The Republican Party has become in pretty much every way America’s Colonel Kurtz — a formerly respected member of the firmament gone completely renegade. If we set aside Afghanistan for the second, the GOP has disappeared upriver on virtually every other topic as well. Voting rights? The Republicans are against them. Getting vaxxed? The GOP would rather die. Literally. Racism? That’s one of the few things this “Party Of Lincoln” is good at — being racists. Then, of course, there’s the issue of Russia. Talk about “The horror… the horror”. But for Russia, Donald Trump would NEVER have become POTUS. Russia literally made Trump president with the Republican Party’s approval and active participation.

The horror… the horror.

Even as he raced to take Regeneron because, though vaxxed he came up Covid-positive, Texas governor Greg Abbott was suing school boards in Texas for insisting on mask mandates. The horror. The horror.

From the get-go, a Republican led America got Afghanistan and the Taliban all wrong. The Taliban, first and foremost are Pashtun, the largest ethnic group (at 48%) in Afghanistan. Afghanistan itself is only a country because the English drew borders around it while thinking they could fuse this intensely tribal place into their empire. Afghanistan got the better of them as it did the Russians and now us. The Taliban are Pashtuns who follow an especially stringent version of Sharia Law (the name “Taliban” means “student”). Western sensibilities dislike the Taliban’s dogmatic approach to women especially. That’s all well and good but waging culture war against other countries is tricky, dangerous and almost always doomed. Especially when you try to do it as an invader.

The Taliban are not natural allies of terrorists or terrorism. In the aftermath of 9-11, when America was saber-rattling at the Taliban’s door because the Taliban were protecting bin Laden, the Taliban were simply following a basic rule of their culture: you do not betray your guests. That’s not say you don’t deliver them to the justice they deserve if their guilt can be proven. That’s really what the Taliban were doing when we demanded the Taliban turn over bin Laden. They were doing a delicate dance, balancing their cultural against justice a thing their faith demands. The Taliban were, in fact, willing to give us bin Laden. All they wanted in exchange was satisfying proof that 1) bin Laden was guilty as charged and 2) they could therefore hand over bin Laden without damning themselves for all time.

We refused to let meet them halfway. That was because neocon chicken hawks like John Bolton wanted to invade Iraq and take its oil. Afghanistan was only ever a means to an end for the GOP. A justification to maintain America on a war-footing and in a war head space. Those things benefit defense contractors and anything that benefits a defense contractor benefits corruption.

We wasted a trillion dollars pretending we could turn the Afghani army into something it could never be: a viable democratic country with a modern economy. Hell, we haven’t yet mastered how to be a viable democratic country ourselves. Worse, we wasted that money as if were oblivious to the fact that our “enemy” was of the same nationality as our allies. Our original mission ended After we chased bin Laden from Afghani territory. Again, please remember — while we were insisting to the world that the Taliban was harboring a terrorist, in point of fact, they were doing something else entirely. They were trying to be both true to their culture and true to justice. We refused to give them any space in which to work.

Let’s also not forget that Donald Trump — working on Russia’s behalf — screwed every relationship we had in Afghanistan’s part of the world. We did not betray the Kurds, Donald Trump betrayed them — because Putin told him to. When Trump held his meetings with the Taliban, he was doing it again, this time betraying all the Afghanis who aided us. Trump set the pull out in motion. Trump set a deadline on our being there. And Trump oversaw the Afghani military’s cutting deals with the Taliban to surrender their superior forces to the Taliban. Make no mistake, the Biden Administration had virtually zero say in what’s happening. They had almost zero say in “when”. This freight train was coming at us fast. This was light at the other end of this tunnel.

The Democrats in this scenario are every bit Martin Sheen’s Captain Willard — repeatedly bumping into corruption as he heads up river to take out (what he sees as) ultimate corruption — Colonel Kurtz. Donald Trump both manifests and embodies every bit of Republican corruption. He’s greedy, cynical, power-mad and over-brimming with hate. He’s racist and bigoted and misogynistic and utterly ignorant on top of it all. He’s like a black hole sucking all the light toward his singularity — a point of such concentrated corruption that, if you were to be dragged over its event horizon, you’d vanish forever into its corrupt maw.

Our version of “taking out Kurtz” must be via criminal justice. We can’t wait for any more elections when we know the Republicans are already well down the road to tainting every election. The point of the exercise isn’t to strengthen democracy or assure any American’s right to vote. It’s to undermine our democracy’s integrity entirely. Can ya blame the Republicans? It’s hard to win elections legitimately if no one wants to vote for you or your ideas. That’s what made the GOP go renegade in the first place. For all their other flaws, their eyesight’s not bad. They could clearly see the handwriting on the wall — demographic extinction.

Virtually everything the GOP has done the past five years has been aimed squarely at ending the greatest experiment ever in human self-government. They do that as an extreme minority (and as an extremely small one) working in direct contravention of what the majority 1) want and 2) VOTED FOR.

Captain Willard understands: there’s no taking Kurtz hostage and marching him home for prosecution. We won’t have that luxury. We’ll have to keep Kurtz alive and talking until the prosecution is fully up on its feet.

It will not be easy. Or satisfying. Or even necessarily democratic.

But, damn, how we already need it.