“Both Sides Do It” Is Racist Claptrap, Not Journalism

Both sides “doing it”…

There are two sides to every political situation: power and resistance. One either HAS the power or one is resisting the guy who does. By definition, by purpose, both sides are not doing “it”. They’re not doing the same thing. They’re doing the opposite for very specific purposes. “Ah, yes!” says the “Both Sides Do It” practitioner, “But if the resistance were to GET power, THEN they’d ‘do the same thing’!” Which means… exercise power? Abuse power? Is that the accusation? WHEN both sides get power they DO the exact same thing? Sorry, American Journalism, but you’re going to have to back that up with receipts — which you absolutely do not have. In America, Black people have NEVER had power. They’ve ALWAYS been the resistance. We don’t know how they’d behave if or when they ever became “THE” power because it’s never happened before. There’s not precedent to use as a basis for “both sides do it”.

To say Republicans and Democrats behave the same is cynicism on steroids. It’s not intellectually lazy, it’s intellectually inert. It ascribes motives to human behaviors that don’t add up, that don’t describe reality. Republicans are far better at marching in lock step than Democrats. The press is always jumping on how “divided the Democrats are” as if that’s never been the case before. No, that’s how Democrats are (that’s modern Democrats, not the Democrats of the 1800’s which became the Dixiecrats which became the modern Republican Party – per Heather Cox Richardson’s excellent “To Make Men Free: A History Of The Republican Party“). Modern Democrats began in the 1920’s. Will Rogers nailed our spirit: “I’m not the member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat”. That spirit endures. It’s kinda what happens when your tent really is open to anyone and everyone. Diversity is messy. It demands constant compromise as the group accommodates new immigrants. But the deal is, new immigrants into our system rejuvenates it with new energy, new aspirations and new ideas. It always, always, ALWAYS pays for itself.

Both sides do not use voter suppression of the other side’s voters as a campaign tactic. Democrats aren’t afraid of the marketplace of ideas because they have new ideas to solve old problems that the old ideas didn’t. A lot of those old problems were CAUSED by those old ideas. Both sides, for instance, do not and did not approve of slavery. Slavery isn’t a dead issue here in America. It’s still painfully alive. There are two parts to this monster. We see the racist part — of course we do! But there’s an economic part to the monster. It’s the economic part that birthed the monster in the first place — stolen labor. Slaves work for free.

Colonial America relied heavily on cotton, sugar cane and rice to cash flow its economy. All three crops are labor intensive. If one had to pay all the labor required a fair wage, one might not make any money growing and selling those crops. Or one might not make enough (whatever that is). But, if one could get all the labor required for free? Suddenly slavery’s on the table. The expenses of housing, clothing and feeding the slaves needs to be figured into the accounting, but you have to figure it penciled out positively for slavery. The free labor made all the expenses of slavery worthwhile.

Now, ask yourself — how do we feel about people who work for free? Who have no choice in the matter? If we’re the power, we like them. We’d like more of them. If we’re the resistance…

Though we made literal slavery illegal, we’ve done nothing to make theoretical slavery a part of our architecture. Even when Black people have been paid for their work — and allowed to accumulate earned wealth — white people found ways to take it from them. Jim Crow laws, for instance. Poll taxes that made voting extremely difficult. Sometimes, as with Black Wall Street, the Black section of Tulsa, teeming with luxury shops, restaurants, movie theaters, a library, pool halls and nightclubs that a white mob burned to the ground in a race riot that started on May 31, 1921, the “taking” was as literal as literal can be.

Both sides do not do that. Both sides don’t even think that way. Only one side does — and they’ve left behind copious receipts that any journalist can eyeball.

Of course, the trick is, you have to WANT to eyeball those racist receipts. You have to WANT to find them if they’re there. But, first, you have acknowledge that they could be there! And once you open your mind to that fact? Suddenly, that racism appears everywhere. It’s not the racism that suddenly appeared, it’s your capacity to SEE the racism — that it indeed IS there. And once your mind opens to that fact, you can’t help asking “how’d it get there?” And the answer to that is — it didn’t have to “get there” because it always WAS THERE.

“Both sides do it” is the grossest kind of generalization. It assumes that the slave and the slave master are equally culpable for the slave’s situation. It asserts that because the slave master HAS a point of view that therefore that point of view (just because it exists) must be valid — equally valid, in fact, to the slave’s point of view. Ummmmmmm, no. The slave master may have a point of view but they most definitely do not have a “point” — justification for their vile point of view.

Oh, right — I forgot — they have “economics” to back them up. If they don’t pay their labor nothing (or a ludicrous “minimum wage”), they won’t make enough money for their stockholders. And if the stockholders don’t get the return on their investment they want, they’ll take their investment dollars elsewhere — so, whatever we do, let’s not raise the minimum wage! No one can live on the current federal minimum wage ($7.25 an hour!) and no one will be able to live on the $12 an hour Republicans and dishonest Democrats like West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin insist is “all we can afford”. Horse shit. We can’t afford NOT to pay people a fair, sustainable wage.

One side in this debate wants as many Americans as possible to have the best lives they possibly can, to be as healthy as they can be, to educate their children without bankrupting their futures, to have every opportunity every other American has, to vote because it’s their right. The other side — plenty of receipts to pick through — DOES NOT!

Maybe Monotheism’s The Problem…

I have always been grateful to Hebrew School for making me the atheist I am today. I mean that in the nicest way possible. I’m pretty sure I dropped from the womb a total non-believer, but whatever lingering doubts I had about atheism being “the truth faith” were swept aside by eight years of religious education. The story that iced it for me — made following my tribe’s faith a total non-starter — was the “Abraham and Isaac” story. The three Abrahamic religions all hold up Abraham as “the first monotheist”. In actual historical fact, whoever “Abraham” actually was, while he may have been an early convert from polytheism to monotheism, he was by no means the first human to toss all the other gods in favor of just one, in Abraham’s case, Yahweh. The “innovation” in the Hebrews’ monotheistic creation was their deity’s relationship with people. Yahweh wanted one, having personally created us.

None of the characters in the Abraham-Isaac story made sense to me — even when I was a kid. Yahweh the god is petulant and petty. He’s powerful enough to create literally everything in existence, yet out-of-his-mind-neurotic because humans keep screwing up. Are there any other worlds out there this Yahweh character feels compelled to keep flooding and destroying because he got one of the pieces wrong? How many generations of human — after Adam and Eve — did it take for people to forget Yahweh created them? Why would Yahweh — creator of everything — let a single human get that wrong to begin with? If Yahweh created everything, why would he countenance the creation of other gods — even if only inside peoples’ minds? And, what kind of father is Abraham? He’s a couple hundred years old (per the text) and wants, more than anything, a son with his wife Sarah (whose baby-making machinery was equally old, but never mind!) He has a son with Sarah’s maid Hagar (Ishmael — the foundational character in Islam’s story) but it’s not the same. Finally Sarah bears Abraham the son he’s always wanted.

And, what does this loving, doting, adoring father do one day — with the son that he loves more than life itself — when the voice in his head says, “Hey, Abe — grab your kid and a sharp knife: we’ve got some business to transact”, what does Abe do? He takes that child he loves more than life itself to the place the imaginary voice in his head told him to. If the voice says “sacrifice your son”, that’s what Abe’s doing, no second thoughts. If not for the intercession of an angel — who offers up a goat as a sacrifice to replace Isaac (and what did the poor goat do to get hauled into this bloodbath?) — Abraham murders his own child, end of story.

I remember thinking back then “And the point of this story is…?” I grasped but couldn’t then articulate the perversity of monotheism and its strange “asks”. To accept monotheism, you have to accept Yahweh. And, to accept Yahweh, you have to accept a deeply flawed human creation. Only a human would think Yahweh, as written, is much of a deity. I bet among actual deities, Yahweh couldn’t get hired to bus tables at the Deity Café. He certainly wouldn’t get invited to sit down with them and play in any of their reindeer games. Yahweh’s too puny.

Or, is Yahweh too clearly what he is — a human creation? That’s an important distinction if we’re discussing the Creator Of Everything. Who created who first? Considering as Yahweh wasn’t the first god a human ever invented and wasn’t even the first god that the Hebrews followed (they also followed ElBaalAsherah, and Astarte before the cult of Yahweh over-rode all the other gods and the Hebrews settled on Yahwh as their “Hear, Oh, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one”.

Here in the west, we tell ourselves that monotheism was an evolutionary step above polytheism. It was in the sense that monotheism emerged after polytheism as a new way to see the world. But is monotheism an “improvement” the way evolving webbing between our fingers would make us better swimmers? Did monotheism’s creation in the human mind produce improvements to human life for having been created? One could argue yes. In praise of monotheism, great buildings rose. Great art was made. Much thinking has been directed towards it. But, one could also argue that monotheism has been a curse.

It all comes down to Yahweh. As written, Yahweh has it in for his human creations. He tried once already to wipe us all out via flood (if you accept the stories as reality — a dubious thing to do). Apparently the new humans that rose after Noah were no better than the rotten humans that preceded Noah. Yahweh felt they were so rotten that he’d have to create a mechanism to “absorb” all that human rottenness, dispose of it somehow and then permanently redeem these creatures who constantly disappoint him. Yahweh created a “son”. But, not just a son — a way (if you believe in that son just the right way) to beat the thing that scares humans most: death.

The Jews ultimately evolved Yahweh into a creature who commanded them to make the world a better place for them having been it. The Christian world evolved Yahweh into a bully who insists you believe in his son — and his son’s ability to conquer death — or he’ll kill you.

Jesus taught you don’t need a temple or its priests (or a church and ITS priests) to have a relationship with God. And, by the way? Do unto others. But that’s not how the Paul heard it or sold it. He downplayed the “Do unto others” part and cranked up the dogmatic rules involved in beating death by believing in Jesus. To Paul’s credit, his invention was sheer genius. It’s longevity speaks to that. Christianity isn’t a religion you embrace if you want to “Do unto others” (you can do that without it), it’s one you embrace if you want to “live forever”. That’s the “good news” inside every Christian’s “testimony” — a dubious path to eternal life.

Once taken up by a believer, monotheism can morph into authoritarianism faster than any other belief system. How can it not? Where’s the check on Yahweh’s voice? It’s not like Yahweh walks in the door a rational character. His only real innovation is the ability to reproduce with humans. And what does Yahweh have in mind for his child? Death. If the mythology is going to work — if Jesus is going to be proven the actual “messiah” — then a bunch of things have to line up (at least in the telling). To begin with, Jesus has to die because Eve disobeyed Yahweh when she ate from the tree of knowledge thus committing the “original sin”. On top of that, Jesus also has to come from the priestly line and then from King David’s line to boot. Plenty of gymnastics to pull off there.

Plenty of dogma, too. Spirituality demands zero dogma. Religion relies on it exclusively to suck you in and keep you in. Monotheism relies upon the most rigid dogma of all — because it’s deity is so rigid (even at his most “forgiving”). “I am the Lord, your God and thou shalt have no other gods except me!” Gosh, Yahweh, when ya put it that way

What if the monotheist’s core assertion is wrong? What if there is a deity of sorts out there, but it’s not named Yahweh and the deity’s on a completely different mission than the knowledge-challenged Yahweh? What if Yahweh was as real as Harry Potter or Voldemort? Here’s the problem — if I base everything I think on a false premise — if Yahweh isn’t “the guy” despite what Yahweh cultists insist (what if Buddha cultists are right instead?) then literally everything that I do because I believe in Yahweh rests upon a flawed foundation. My core reason for doing anything is based on nonsense.

Or the wrong god maybe… .

The bottom line is this: religion itself is inert until a human being picks it up and puts it on. The “armor of Christ” that the Apostle Paul urged Christians to wear only becomes real and fully active inside a believer’s head. Even a “loving God” needs to be defended to the death.

I take it back. It’s not monotheism that’s made a mess of the world, it’s monotheists.

Are There More Atheists Out There Than We Think?

Step One: define “atheist”. Step Two: since, one way or another, everyone can be seen by someone else as an atheist, “yes”. There are way more atheists in the world than we acknowledge. In fact, some of the most theistic people we all know, are, in their way, the most a-theistic, too. But there are plenty of people who don’t think much about God one way or the other. Granted, these people aren’t one-hundred-percenters. They’re more “agnostic” really where God is concerned. But, just as they’re not “faithful” atheists, neither are they full-fledged theists. I’m old enough to remember when being an atheist or claiming you were one put you into instant conflict with almost everyone you knew. The more theistic would look on me with pity — and a degree of scorn. I was told more than once that I “couldn’t be an atheist” — that it was “impossible” because a world filled with atheists — having no God to guide them — would surely destroy itself via violence. As if God hadn’t written the book on how to destroy the world via violence.

From a polytheist’s point of view, all monotheists are atheists. A Christian who believes that Yahweh (the character we call “God” has a name — “Yahweh”; “god” actually is his job description) is the only god, must first deny every god in the polytheist’s pantheon. Unless the polytheist also believes in Yahwheh, the denial of all his gods makes the monotheist an atheist. From the polytheist’s vantage point, a person who believes in Yahweh rejects the gods that exist and, instead, believes utter nonsense. In fact, Romans did consider Christians “atheists”.

As I said above, some of the most ardent theists are, in fact, the most atheistic people of all. Take televangelist Kenneth Copeland and his Kenneth Copeland Ministries. For reference, if you haven’t already (and even if you have), it’s good to let Brother Kenneth remind you himself how a “man of God” and a “total charlatan” can be one and the same person.

Every televangelist has a dirty, dirty secret. They share it with an awful lot of churchmen. The entire Catholic hierarchy is based on this notion — that no one actually believes IN God, they believe they ARE God. If God speaks through YOU and not some “ordinary” person because YOU “studied ‘his’ texts (never mind how those texts got to us and the editorial perspective they represent), it’s because YOU think you’re special in the eyes of God. When you look in the bathroom mirror — that is who you see staring back at you: God. You may look heavenward with your prayers, but the answer to your question always has your voice in your ears. Or a demagogue’s. Because the demagogue is speaking just like your God speaks.

If you dig deep enough into most every theist, at some point — as they parse their version of God from their neighbor’s (their neighbor is misinformed, you see — that’s why they go to a different church), you’ll have to confront one cold, hard fact: THEY think THEY have it right. God has made it clear to them that they hear God correctly. God is “love”, not the crazed, blood-lusting mania that other guy thinks God is. But, how do they know? The crazed, blood-lusting guy seems pretty convinced that the Voice of God in his ears is the Voice of God. How does any theist know for sure that their version of God is the version of God?

Unless they’re just guessing they’re right — and living with the uncertainty — they’ll have to take ownership of being the alpha and omega themselves. They are the actual source of the tree of knowledge, the actual piece of prohibited fruit and the serpent, Eden being a product of their imagination. Or some other human’s that they’ve adapted as their own. That’s how a church works. It imprints its version of God onto yours, conforming yours to theirs. Either accept their version of God or risk being called a heretic (with all the fun that comes with it).

In a sense, any version of God (“Yahweh” or otherwise) that conflicts with another risks being atheistic because of what it’s denying. A white supremacist’s version of God cannot co-exist with the magnificent creature leaping and dancing inside the head of a choir member at any AME church. Those Yahweh’s do not look the same. They don’t “think” the same either.

The good news for all those theists about to confront their own atheism? They’ll find way, way more sympathy for them than if they were traveling in the other direction. Atheists live dogma-free lives (at least where religion is concerned). They may trip themselves up in myriad other ways dogmatically, but they won’t hobble themselves over Yahweh. They’ve heard “the good news” and the good news is they ain’t buying. Believe anything you like. It’s not bringing you back from the dead. It just isn’t.

The problem, as always, is less the religions people invent than it is the religionistas who practice those religions. Even a message as simple, elegant and (most importantly) DO-ABLE as “Do unto others” couldn’t survive churchification. Paul certainly didn’t think much of “Do unto others”. He may have used that to open the sales pitch but he closed the deal with “…and if you accept MY version of Jesus then you, too, can defeat death!” The history of the Christian Church (from the point of view of those outside it) hinges on “accept MY version…”.

Jesus’s core message doesn’t require an ounce of dogma to follow: “Do Unto Others”. That’s probably why Paul and the early church fathers rejected it. But then, Paul and the early church fathers also rejected Jesus’s teaching that no one NEEDS a church. The only church one needs, said Jesus, is Jesus. Temples and their priests are all corrupt. Skip em — and go directly to the Divine Source. Skip the dogma, too. If you’d just do that one thing — unto others — you’d be the perfect student and follower of Jesus.

Or has that never been the point?

Even a simple atheist can “Do unto others”. All things considered, as a guide to “how to live a better, happier, more successful life”, there isn’t any better advice. Ah, what atheists could teach Christians about how to be better Christians…

“Responsible Gun Ownership” Is A Myth

I’m not arguing the second amendment here. It exists. What it actually says and intends us to do as a result — that’s an argument for another blog post. The fact that any discussion about guns in America automatically becomes a discussion about language shouts volumes. But then, Americans are good at putting lipstick on pigs, thinking “All men are created equal” while institutionalizing slavery, and selling utter nonsense as “religions” that other Americans gobble up as gospel truth. We’re culturally acclimated to seeing one thing as its opposite — take Manifest Destiny. WE still tell ourselves that was a “good thing”. It wasn’t. In fact, Manifest Destiny wasn’t even a legitimate idea based on legitimate thinking. It was a myth — invented by white people to justify their terrible behavior. “Responsible gun ownership” exists in that context — a myth invented to justify… well, in this instance, not “terrible behavior”. But, behavior that can lead to terrible things happening.

It all starts with people believing a myth is real.

I’ve fired a gun before. In fact, I really enjoyed riflery the six years I got to do it when I was a kid going to sleepaway camp. I got a few NRA badges to prove it! Back then (this was the mid 1960’s), the NRA was still a “gun safety organization” and the thing I remember most from my six years of riflery, aside from the fact that I wasn’t half bad at it, was the constant refrain of gun safety, gun safety, GUN SAFETY. More than anything, the NRA-backed training I got back then imprinted the idea that guns can kill you. Even if you do everything right, there’s always the possibility that you could ONE thing wrong and you or someone could get hurt. That’s why you have to be hyper vigilant. You can never let your guard down whenever a gun is out of its locker. You have to be “responsible”.

See, I was taught “gun responsibility”. I believed in it. Just like everyone else in America, I got it into my head that while some people will only ever use guns to do bad things, most people (who just so happen to be white), only every want to use their guns to do “good things” — like hunt (debatable as a “good thing” — it certainly isn’t good from the hunted animal’s point of view) or target shoot (a perfectly good thing!) or defend themselves (a perfectly dubious thing). It’s inside that last thing — “self defense” where most of the “responsible gun ownership” mythology lurks.

For starters, it assumes something very, very dark about the rest of America — outside that gun owner’s front door. Whereas, in most other countries, it’s assumed you don’t need a gun to protect yourself from your neighbors and fellow citizens, in America, it’s “normal thinking”. Of course danger awaits outside your front door! Of course you need a lethal weapon to defend yourself — the threat outside is hell bent on murdering you! That excuse gets played regardless of which direction crime statistics are headed. The urge to “defend one’s home and hearth” isn’t based on statistics. It’s based on fear. In America, that fear is based on racism. The whole “good guy with a gun” vs “bad guy with a gun” quietly casts the good guy as almost certainly white and the bad guy as almost certainly Black. Hmmmmmm… now where could such an idea have come from?

Racism touches or has touched almost every facet of American life. Guns are no different. The whole point of our gun laws, at present, is to feed racist fear. If we could magically remove racism from peoples’ brains, here in America almost every bit of the incentive to own a weapon would evaporate. My upper middle class Jewish family — politically very liberal — still succumbed to racist fear during the riots the followed Martin Luther King’s assassination. Though Pikesville — where I grew up — was miles and miles from the parts of Baltimore that erupted in violence, my parents (and others), went out and purchased guns. They were afraid of angry Black people (angry for a very legitimate reason) coming to our neighborhood and being violent. No such thing ever happened. Did it occur in any of the angry protestor’s heads to do such a thing? Probably — but, so what?

It’s a testament to how good white people are at diving and conquering everyone else that Blacks and Jews — two groups with way, way more in common than not — could be set against each other like that. The overwhelming majority of Jews arrived in America after slavery was gone. Jews were never considered “white people” in Europe. Jews occupied the first “ghetto” — in Venice, Italy — to which they were segregated starting 29 March 1516.

Quick side note — the “ghetto” (it’s an Italian word), was a swampy island connected to the rest of the city “…by two bridges that were only open during the day. Gates were opened in the morning at the ringing of the marangona, the largest bell in St. Mark’s Campanile, and locked in the evening. Permanent, round-the-clock surveillance of the gates occurred at the Jewish residents’ expense.[fn] Strict penalties were to be imposed on any Jewish resident caught outside after curfew.[fn] Areas of Ghetto Nuovo that were open to the canal were to be sealed off with walls, while outward facing quays were to be bricked over in order to make it impossible for unauthorized entry or exit.[fn]

Jews fled Europe because of racism. They hoped for a better life here where (hopefully) racism wouldn’t constantly destroy their communities and steal their wealth. Fortunately for the Jews, America was already doing that to Black people by the time the Jews got here. And, while not considered white by most Europeans, Jews were just “white-adjacent” enough in America that white people didn’t make a point of taking their wealth as white people had historically in Europe. While Jews prospered, Black people struggled — as the Jews had in Europe — but also with the additional burden of slavery; Reconstruction’s failure kept slavery on the table.

You don’t have to dig down too far inside just about an gun law in America to find the fear it rests upon. And that fear is of former slaves getting guns and coming for payback. That’s the base justification. It’s irrational. It’s unspoken. But it’s there.

Ever notice how “normal” it is for right wingers and militia types to show up at right wing rallies armed to the teeth — even INSIDE government property where they’re using their arms to literally threaten legislators? Were those people all “responsible gun owners”? No one got shot that day. Good thing, I guess… are we then to measure the relative success of “responsibility” by lack of body count? No one died, all the gun owners acted “responsibly” this time. Is that it?

The difference between a “responsible” gun owner and an irresponsible one is the unexpected event. Take Nancy Lanza — mother of 20 year old Adam Lanza, the guy responsible for the Sandy Hook school shooting. By all accounts, prior to that event, Nancy Lanza was a “responsible gun owner”. I bet Nancy Lanza thought of herself as a “responsible gun owner”. Until the day she wasn’t — the day her son murdered her with her with one of her own weapons before heading out the door and murdering 26 MORE people at Sandy Hook Elementary School, 20 of them CHILDREN.

One moment Nancy Lanza was as responsible a gun owner as anyone and the next — a gun violence victim. Killed in her own home by her own gun. Trying to see how the “self defense” angle fits here. No one broke in to do this to her. She set herself up for failure — and then, she set up the very community she loved and was part of for even worse failure.

And pain.

The full measure of a gun owner’s “responsibility” doesn’t occur when their gun is sitting safely inside a gun safe. The gun was not designed to do that. If you really want to know how responsible a gun owner is, you have to measure their responsibility when the gun’s outside its safe and in their hands — where it always has the potential to do real damage just by operating within its design specs.

In their defense, most gun owners will never have happen to them what happened to Nancy Lanza. But none of them can guarantee that they won’t. They can’t.

And the second they tell you they can? They’re acting irresponsibly.

White Perspective Is A Bully’s Perspective

We get it — the idea of power sharing horrifies you; it always has. That’s why you’ve worked ceaselessly — regardless of whether you went by the label “Dixiecrat” or “Southern Democrat” or “Republican” — to prevent anyone NOT white from participating in American democracy — a thing you yourselves abhor. The problem with democracy — from an autocratic point of view — is that you can’t trust voters to vote for you and your ideas; they probably get that you’re a power mad fraud. Democracy is a marketplace of ideas. As we all know, crony capitalists don’t want a free market for you, they want a free market for THEM. Hell, conservatives (the political wing of crony capitalists) now openly admit that they MUST cheat in order to win elections which is WHY Republicans suppress Democratic voters but Democrats NEVER even think of suppressing Republican voters. Democrats don’t have to do that — because their ideas sell just fine in the marketplace.

The right wing money understood a while ago that the more America diversified, the quicker their hegemony would end. The more Black people voted — the quicker white hegemony would end. It’s not as if Black voters are insanely liberal as a group. They’re not. To begin with, they’re not monolithic. No group is — including white people. But there’s a difference. Because they’ve been the ones holding all the political power and wealth in America, white group-think has far greater real world (realpolitik) weight than anyone else’s. We do not now stand on a level playing field. We never have and every time we treat it like it is, we’re grossly mis-representing reality.

White perspective (born of white culture) always assumes it’s superiority over everyone else. For instance, white perspective tells itself it “discovered” America. That assumes that prior to white, Christian Europeans arriving on these shores that the America was a virgin land, filled with darkness, ignorance and savagery — all waiting to be saved by them. No, actually, it wasn’t. As historian Charles C. Mann points out in his excellent “1491: New Revelations Of The Americas Before Columbus”, “… the pre-Columbian Indians were not sparsely settled in a pristine wilderness; rather, there were huge numbers of Indians who actively molded and influenced the land around them. The astonishing Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan had running water and immaculately clean streets, and was larger than any contemporary European city. Mexican cultures created corn in a specialized breeding process that has been called man’s first feat of genetic engineering. Indeed, Indians were not living lightly on the land but were landscaping and manipulating their world in ways that we are only now beginning to understand.” Native Americans founded, lived and thrived in actual cities in North America while Paris and London festered in the mud, struggling to rise above their humble beginnings.

Historian Jared Diamond brilliantly summed up European “superiority” as “Guns, Germs & Steel” (the title of his excellent history of how the white man’s germs, mostly, reduced North America’s native population so completely that defeating the survivors militarily was remarkably easy. That wasn’t the Europeans plan — not at first; in time they’d realize how effective blankets infected with smallpox can be in controlling Indian population size. It is what happened however.

For what it’s worth, the Indians did pass syphilis — one of their native infections — to the white man.

The first thing every schoolyard bully does is reduce whoever he’s bullying to something less than a human. Bullies can’t bully their equals (they’re all afraid they’d lose) and they certainly can’t bully their superiors. That leaves people the bully feels superior to. And off they go! Bullies see everyone not them as one kind of cockroach or another. Once you’ve stopped seeing other people as people? Bullying them is easy. Who cares if you “hurt their feelings” — to the bully, the bullied’s feelings are there TO be hurt. That’s why bullies bully — hurting other people gets them hot.

Another thing that happens when you reduce other people to “less-than-people” status. You negate their history. White people denied the value of Native American history before they introduced Christianity to them. Who cared what savages thought? Who cared where savages came from or why they had the traditions they had. Cockroaches don’t have “traditions”. White Americans have also negated Black history. That’s why some white Americans think they should be free to “opt out” of Black History Month.

Negating a peoples’ history also negates their wealth. White America’s greatest crime against Black America is slavery of course. But, slavery, remember, is first and foremost STOLEN LABOR. That’s the point. You can’t amass wealth if you can’t acquire it to begin with. And you can’t acquire wealth if you never get paid for your labor — the thing you have to sell.

In the American south, slave owners justified slavery by saying they couldn’t profitably engage in growing rice, sugar or cotton if they had to pay the labor needed to PICK those crops a living wage. Or any wage whatsoever. The costs of buying, housing, clothing and feeding slaves was understood as the “costs of doing business”. In fact, slavery was NEVER a good economic model for those businesses. But then, white people will believe anything if it involves denigrating Black people.

We all know what the Trump insurrectionists were thinking. They told us. We know what they wanted — and still want. Being the ultimate bully, Donald Trump can’t conceive of losing. But, Trump’s bullying has an extra dimension to it: treason. This is no secret to Trump’s republican co-bullies. Current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy famously told a roomful of Republican leaders a month BEFORE they nominated Trump to be their POTUS candidate “There’s two people I think Putin pays, Rohrbacher and Trump… swear to God!” The reason the entire Republican Party has gone along with this insanity is because they’re all guilty of treason.

White people need to step back for a bit. If they don’t do it of their own accord, their stepping back will be done for them and probably not nicely. No one likes being bullied. Especially not bullies.

Ironically, when it comes to being bullied? Bullies hate being bullied more than anyone.

Dear Lindsey Graham: Believe It Or Not, The Truth WILL Set You Free

I’ll be honest with ya, Lindsey, I’ve never been a fan. That said, I’m still willing to reach across the aisle, as it were, and offer you a hand — but it comes with advice and you have to take the advice BEFORE you get the hand. You need to come clean, Lindsey — about everything that’s dirty about you — and, to judge by the world-weary, hang-dog, red-rimmed, haunted & hunted look in your beady, racist eyes, there’s even more rotten in the state of Lindsey Graham than there is in the state of Denmark. We can all speculate (and, I’ll confess, I have endlessly) on WHAT some of your secrets are. What is Donald Trump holding over you that caused you to flip from “I think he’s a kook!” to… well, geez, Lindsey, we can pretty much smell Trump’s DNA on your breath every time you exhale. Seriously, Lindsey, you keep taking shamelessness to bold new heights — every day.

That, stone cold truth, will NOT set you free.

No one has done the one-eighty you’ve done, Lindsey. Worse, no one’s been more head-scratchingly blatant about it with zero rational explanation to smooth it away. Considering as you’re a prominent member of a corrupt, criminal organization that used to do business as the Republican Party, we’ll have to assume it’s all part and parcel of the same clumsy attempt to overthrow the will of the American people and install permanent minority rule in place of democracy. I have to wonder what would happen if your old pal John McCain were to return from the dead and walk in the room. Never mind the miraculousness of it, you wouldn’t be able to look him in the eye because he knows the truth about who you are and what you’ve done.

Betcha we ain’t talking about you swimming naked in the Senate pool again, are we, pal?

Let’s get this “straight”, Lindsey: I could not care less what your sexual orientation is. Remember — I want the Truth to set you free. Whatever your true sexual nature is, you need to embrace it fully. You need to stop pretending that the thing you are is offensive to anyone — especially you. I contend that your terrible behavior flows directly from the hypocrisy you live every day simply by denying who you are. Now, perhaps the problem runs deeper than just your orientation. Perhaps your problem has to do with the “particulars” of what you require in a sexual partner.

Perhaps there’s an ideal “age” in your mind. An “innocence” you like to have “made less innocent”. Perhaps it’s just the sight of pubic hair on a sexual partner that disturbs you. I’ll be honest, Lindsey, something about your sexual pathology sets off the alarm bells in my head. But, hey — I’m a little hyper-sensitive that way. At 14, I was sexually molested twice by the religious director of the synagogue where my family belonged.

I denied that it happened to me for 45 years — denied it to myself. Once I did break down (literally — on the bathroom floor) and confess? The truth hurt. I’ll admit it.

The truth about what happened to me — and that I denied it for so long — and the emotional distance it put between me and the world hurt worse than almost any other psychological pain I’ve ever experienced. The secret eventually produced a decade-long depression that convinced me the world would be better off without me. That my family and children would ultimately see that too. That was bullshit but, then, depression robs you of perspective. Depression — caused by denial of the Truth — convinces you that bullshit could be true… that bullshit is true. Spoiler alert: bullshit is NEVER true. It’s bullshit!

We need YOU under oath, Lindsey. We need you spilling your guts. We need you offering up contrition like no one’s ever been contrite before. We need you whispering then choking back then agreeing and finally chanting the Truth about who and what you are like a mantra — “I’m guilty! Yes, I have done all these terrible things! I own every last one of them and deserve the punishment — whatever it is — coming to me!” Those words will hurt to say, Lindsey, no two ways about it!

But, in the aftermath, after the Trumpian dust settles, there will be a moment of absolute clarity for you, Lindsey. I promise. That moment is guaranteed. You may experience that absolute freedom from behind prison bars, but the freedom inside your head will transcend your physical location.

The Truth WILL set you free, Lindsey. So, please — be free. If you know what I really mean…

Anti-Semitism Will Endure Until The Last Christian Stops Thinking “The Jews Killed Jesus”

I’m biased, so excuse me, but blood libels are flat out stupid. Blood libels based on invented stories? The stupidest of all. And, it turns out, the deadliest. It’s hard to describe to a Christian — even Christian friends — what that experience is like. For starters, my tribe has NEVER declared war on their tribe. My tribe has never sought to convert their tribe. My tribe has never accused their tribe of poisoning the well — so, let’s kill them all! My tribe has never stuck their tribe in ghettos — starting with the one in Venice, Italy. My tribe has never subjected their tribe to an Inquisition or a Holocaust. Every one of those terrible things happened because their tribe had it in for my tribe — and the reason they had it in for us is because “the Jews killed Jesus”. Even if this story — which takes “ludicrous” to bold, new heights — were true, it STILIL makes no sense since the whole POINT of Jesus being here was for him to “die for our sins”. I don’t think Christianity becomes a world religion if Jesus dies an old man in his bead surrounded by loved ones.

Jesus did not invent Christianity. He was born, lived and died a Jew, thinking Jewish thoughts, preaching Jewish ideas to other Jews. They were somewhat radical ideas — because they discounted the role of the temple and the temple priests — in other words, THE CHURCH. Jesus discounted the need for a formal, institutional church. “Speak directly to the father!” But, most importantly, Jesus taught a core Jewish principle — Tikkun olam: it is every Jew’s obligation to make the world a better place for having lived in it. It starts with “doing unto others”.

The Apostle Paul never met Jesus. He never heard Jesus speak a word in person. Any knowledge Paul had of Jesus was entirely Paul’s own creation. For Paul, Jesus’s significance wasn’t what he taught — “Do unto others” — it was the possibility that Jesus might could fit the part of “messiah” that derived from mythologies going back a hundreds of years! When the Jews (some of whom had actually known Jesus) rejected Paul’s version of Jesus, Paul took his version of Jesus to the gentiles. The gentiles had even less knowledge of Real Jesus than Paul did. And, unlike Paul, they had zero background in the Jewish mythology Paul was trying to manipulate so as to make Jesus play as “messiah”.

The majority of the New Testament is Paul’s various communications with the early church communities he, himself, was establishing, mentoring and instructing. I take nothing away from Paul’s achievement. But, let’s be clear — Paul wasn’t selling Jesus the actual Jewish guy who preached a radical message of “you don’t need a church just talk directly to God and, above all, do unto others”. Paul was selling a completely different Jesus who had to be connected to King David, had to be born in Bethlehem, had to be this, had to be that. More importantly — Paul was selling a Jesus who rose from the dead.

Jesus defeating death — that’s what Paul believed he was selling. And if “you”, Paul preached, “Believe in the Jesus I’ve imagined, then you too can defeat death just like my imaginary Jesus did!” But, you have to believe in Jesus exactly the way Paul and the church tell you to. That ‘s the catch. Fail at any of the dogma and, apostate that you are, you’ll be spending the rest of your afterlife in actual hell.

Can I tell you something? When an angry Christian comes at you — spouting the “Judas betrayed Jesus so therefore every Jew is guilty for all eternity” line? There’s literally nothing you can do or say to change their mind and stop them from hurting you. The harder you try to point out the flaws in the story, the angrier you make them and the more vicious they get because now you’re denigrating their rubbish. How dare you!

One could toss everything the church teaches and still be a fan of Jesus. Even a humble atheist can “do unto others” and trust me — most atheists DO “do unto others”. That’s what’s most frustrating! Jesus has been entirely decoupled from his message and turned into a mascot. He’s Ronald McJesus selling absolution happy meals — hey, can we super size that for ya? The church did not build itself pitching “do unto others” lessons. It captivated the world because, for the first time, a deity offered up something of real value to human beings: eternal life. A way to beat death.

Paul baked his rejection of his mother faith into Christianity’s architecture. He left home and never looked back. But, he also pointedly helped invent a brand new mythology, based loosely on the old Jewish stories. Jews did not by and large proseletyze. Back then, Judaism was the religion practiced exclusively by the Jewish tribe. If you were born a Jew, you practiced Judaism. If you weren’t born a Jew, you didn’t. Jews didn’t take their idea of a monotheistic god out to the gentile world because it never occurred to them to do it. Yahweh (the God character’s actual name, “God” being his job description actually) wasn’t the gentile world’s god, it was the Jewish tribe’s god. The gentile world, the Jews understood, already had their own gods and didn’t need Yahweh.

Paul changed that. In his mind, the world needed Jesus if it was to defeat death. People needed to “hear the good news” that if Jesus could rise from the dead, so could they!

The Holocaust wasn’t some aberration. It was two thousand years of gentiles hating Jews “because they killed Jesus” put on industrial strength steroids. Why kill just a town of Jews (cos they killed all the children to turn their blood into matzohs) when you can kill a whole city’s worth? The Holocaust was two thousand years of accumulated history. Two thousand years of Jews being treated as pariahs, of Jews being looked at like they were cockroaches. Of Jews being murdered by white people who hated them just because they were Jewish.

To judge by its actions, the Christian church has never cared whether or not any of its adherents actually did unto others. They care deeply however about keeping people in line — about getting adherents to “do what they’re told to do” — even if it’s to terrorize, maim, kill, abuse or torment the very people Jesus called his family. Hmmmmmm… maybe this isn’t about Jesus after all.

Maybe it never was…

Question: Is Liz Cheney Or Marjorie Taylor Green The “Real” Republican Party? Better Question: Who Cares?

Yesterday, the Republican House membership met behind closed doors to choose which direction to point their party toward: old school Republicanism (that pretends it wants small government & more freedom for the individual) or utter chaos. On the surface, chaos won with a standing ovation. But, when they took the vote using secret ballots? Conventionality won. Uh oh — that means more than a few of those standing and applauding chaos were lying. Who could possibly have seen that coming?

Republicans — true to their whiteness — love exclusivity. When it comes to being a Republican — or an American or a Christian — Republicans tend to see themselves as the epitome. They are the true faith and all not like them are apostates. In their minds, they are the ideal members of a any club of which they are a member. What are we poor outsiders to make of it then when TWO white, Christian Republicans claim THEY represent “the true faith” and the other does not?”

Belonging — and not belonging — are very important concepts to Republicans. It’s a characteristic that sets them apart from Democrats. When you allow for diversity, you also have to allow for all the different ways that different people are. “Belonging” to the group becomes more nuanced because how you demonstrate your “belonging to the group” will reflect who you are and why you have chosen to belong to the group. Democrats can’t march in lockstep the way Republicans do. Ironically, Republicans spout their love for the individual over the group but, really, what they love is the individual’s ability to make money in whatever way he wants to. While getting rich however, that individual better do what the group tells him to do. Or he won’t be in the group anymore.

These same Republicans — who will tell you who the real Republicans are — will also tell you who the real Christians and the real Americans are too. It’s them, of course. “Real” Christians (them) see Jesus as the “Do Unto Others” Happy Meal McMascot misrepresenting a church menu of crushing, judgmental “Do What We Say Or Else” dogma. They do the same thing with patriotism. Americans look like them. Anyone else is a pretender. They’re good enough to fight and die as volunteers in our army but letting them vote — now, that’s going just a little too far.

The “modern” Republican Party — if we use the party’s foundational documents as a guide (I highly recommend Heather Cox Richardson’s excellent “To Make Men Free: A History Of The Republican Party” to guide you) — are not Republicans. The Party of Lincoln — just going by its own principles — has swapped names with the Democrats. Abe Lincoln, if he were to rise from the dead, would NOT join the modern Republican Party; he wouldn’t recognize them as “Republicans”. But then, if Jesus were to pull of the same magic trick — and rise from the dead for real — he wouldn’t hang out with most people who call themselves “Christians”. Jesus would be baffled, to begin with, that there even are Christians. To him, any followers would be Jews since Jews are the only people he ever preached to — or expected to preach to. Jews even back then did not proselytize.

But, Republicans proselytize. They insist THEY are “the good news” — haven’t you heard? They proselytize their patriotism the exact same way. And their party loyalty.

Asking “who’s a better Republican” is exactly like asking “who’s a better pirate?” Honestly? Who the hell cares? A pox on all their pirate ships!

One Doesn’t Have To Buy An Ounce Of Dogma To “Do Unto Others” — One Just Has To DO IT

Imagine inventing something amazing, world-beating, life-changing — and not knowing it. To be clear: The Apostle Paul did not invent the idea of “Do unto others”. That is a core directive that every Jew understands as their obligation — to make the world a better place for having been here. As most people understand simply because we’re social creatures, If you treat others as you’d have them treat you — you’ll make the rest of your work a thousand times easier. “Do unto others” is “How To Live Successfully As A Human In One Easy Lesson”. It’s golden, as messages go. Best part? Literally anyone can do it — regardless of anything else they think or believe. It’s the most universal message there is…

SECOND most universal message apparently. The church’s other universal message: “no one wants to die, right? Well, WE have a way for you to BEAT death!” In order to do that however, it was going to get tricky. Doing unto others is one thing. Not dying is something else entirely — and there are rules one must follow if one wants to get it done. Hello, dogma!

In a sense, the hook is “Do unto others and you, too, can defeat death!” except it’s not “doing unto others” that buys you the “defeat death” ticket. It’s believing. That’s the church’s pitch: if you’re willing to accept that what we’re telling you is absolutely true — that by believing in our version of Jesus — to the letter — you, too, can “defeat death” and “live forever’ in a place called “heaven” where you and everyone you love can live happily and blissfully ever after!

That, really, was Paul’s invention — which sold amazingly well to the gentile world (who had no background in the Jewish mythology Paul was building upon but also changing so as to make Jesus fit better into it). It helps to know this as you look at Christianity and its effect on every life it’s touched — believer and non-believer. The Jews weren’t trying to sell their idea to the world. It didn’t occur to them that the world even wanted it. Most Jews do not proselytize because Judaism is culture and faith. You can’t convert into a culture per se; you have to be “born” into it. Jewish faith and culture are deeply related of course but one doesn’t have to buy into the faith to be deeply touched by the culture. A Jew wouldn’t ask “Have ya heard the good news?” because she’d be too busy “doing unto others”.

If the “good news” those professing Christianity spread was how to better “Do unto others”, that’d be awesome. It’s not however. It never was. The deal always is buy what we’re preaching first in order to get the magic. Accept the dogma to get the bone. Sorry, but I’m on a strict no dogma diet. I guess I’ll have to live without the bone.

In the meantime, I’ll content myself by doing unto others.

Cake v Icing

I love me a good metaphor. Listening to some people argue, one gets the clear impression that they couldn’t care less about cake. They’re all about the icing. The color of the icing especially. They’ll insist that nothing can happen if the icing on this cake isn’t red — a very particular kind or red, too. Only a cake with that kind of red icing will satisfy them, never mind that the cake itself is one hundred percent poison. People who problem solve or see the world from the icing’s perspective only never solve their problems. Worrying about the icing instead of the cake is exactly like putting the cart before the horse — except it’s worse — because the cake might not even exist yet.

Go try icing a nonexistent cake here in reality.

And, while you’re here in reality, take note: drop-dead beautiful icing can cover a cake literally made of shit (the eating of which would cause you to drop dead). A pig in lipstick is still a pig. Even if the lipstick’s his color.

By the same token, a transcendentally good cake could be slathered in unappetizing beige-green slime that tastes only of sugar while, beneath it, a symphony of complex, compelling flavors awaits. Covers don’t always accurately represent their books either.

Our news media are all icing eaters. You can tell by the way they report; they might as well have bits of icing between their teeth. It’s easy to report “Today, the icing is green!” Much harder to dig into “But the cake beneath it smells rotten — why is that?” When Donald Trump began his run for the presidency by announcing that “Mexicans are rapists” (interesting accusation coming from a serial rapist), our press should have pointed out that fact — and what it said about “the cake” — about WHO Donald Trump is and always has been as a human being. Only a bigot and a racist would think, never mind say such a thing.

Instead, our news media, after grabbing for the smelling salts while clutching their pearls, allowed Trump to move on from “Mexicans are rapists” to “pussy grabbing” — the new color of Trump Brand Icing. But, then, they quickly moved on from that to “her emails” color icing.

In doing that, our press normalized things that should never have been normalized. They stopped caring about the cake entirely — and that the cake was clearly marked “poison”. All they could conceive of was what they could see: icing. That’s why our press still asks racists if they themselves think they’re racist or not. How the hell would they know? They’re racists! The same applies to beauty and its place in the beholder’s eye. The beholder gets to decide if what they’re beholding is “beautiful” or not. The beautiful person’s too close to themselves to judge. They’re automatically biased!

Racism and bigotry epitomize the love of icing over any appreciation of cake. A racist disregards 99% of the human in front of them when all they see is the color of the Black man’s skin. In a way, it’s the least important detail about the Black guy. Who he is, what he’s capable of, what he can contribute to the greater good have zero to do with the quantity of melanin in his skin. If ever a thing was pure icing on a human being, it’s their flesh tone.

And icing… sometimes, it just misses the point entirely.