Dear America: Can We PLEASE Stop Coddling Corruption?

I will never forget that feeling of dread that kicked in the instant that Donald Trump was declared the winner of election 2016. It wasn’t just losing an election. This felt different from just losing an election. It felt different, in fact, from Antonin Scalia stepping outside all precedent to MAKE George W. Bush president. That, if we’re honest with ourselves, was incredibly corrupt. Scalia inserted himself between We The People and our choice — the majority’s choice — in order to send America in the direction HE wanted us to go instead of the one WE wanted to go in. That is the essence of corruption. Corruption authored “Bush v Gore”. We paid the price. We’re still paying it and will continue to pay it into the future because that’s what happens when corruption “wins”. But, the fact is,, corruption doesn’t have to win. At any and every point along corruption’s route, we can stop it.

In a sense, America opened shop already corrupt. Well, the white, Christian men who founded America aspired to a great idea that “All men are created equal” but could not overcome their own misguided, misinformed tribal prejudices. They corrupted this grand idea by making it exclusive. By “All men”, they meant them. Just them. And yet — at the same time, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson (the slave-owning outlier here) were insisting that “E Pluribus Unum” become our national motto. Out of many, one.

The “many” are hard to corrupt. The “one”, on the other hand…

All corruption begins with the getting of money. Modern humans lived for two hundred thousand years as hunter-gatherers, accumulating nothing. There wasn’t much to be greedy over. The agricultural revolution bound us to the land. Its output had value both to the community and the individual growing what the community needed. Supply and demand were invented. The natural hierarchies that evolved over the course of our hunter-gatherer years became monetized — literally. Work evolved from being a strictly communal enterprise (hunting, gathering, child-rearing) into being “an enterprise”. Who “owned” the land that was being farmed? Who “owned” that farmed output? After a while, bartering couldn’t keep up — especially as the scale increased. As cities grew (grew more populated), so too did the need for another form of equity that people could trade in place of straight good-for-goods swaps. Enter money.

Money itself has never been “the root of all evil”. It’s THE WORSHIP of money. The compulsion to acquire wealth beyond all real need. Greed is a mania. The greedy become convinced that money will protect them from all of Life’s hardships and challenges. To a degree, the greedy are right. Having money gives one options that NOT having money doesn’t. I say this from experience, having been both comfortable and bankrupt.

My family probably wouldn’t have gone through a bankruptcy following the 2008 financial meltdown if we’d been forced to sell our house instead refinancing it to the point where keeping it was beyond our reach. Each of those refi’s was based on a lie — that we could afford to pay the escalating mortgage. But, corruption starts with a lie. Our financial system was lying (because it was corrupt) and rather than look at my situation honestly (which is what I should have done), I bought into the “hope” that “somehow”, I would turn my situation around and make everything whole. I wasn’t being greedy so much as being stupid. I knew damned well I was lying on those forms. I was going along with the corruption because (I thought — wrongly) that it was benefiting me. In the end, it did not. My participation in this corruption did far more long term harm to me personally (and to my family) than any sort of short term good.

But, that’s if I’m being honest with myself.

The first step toward releasing corruption’s hold on us collectively is to acknowledge its hold on us personally. No one has to run to the FBI to confess anything. We just have to be honest with ourselves.

Once we grant that corruption has touched us personally, it gets easier to see it touching other people — and how those other people either are being victimized by corruption or are becoming victimizers. The eaters versus the eaten. Some people take to corruption naturally like ducks to water or Republicans to bullshit. At corruptions heart is the rubbish notion that any person gets rich because of something they alone have done. The same idea wants us to believe that some families have magical, “royal” blood that makes them and their spawn better. They even get it into their heads that money and power flows to them from the divine.

If that never happened — if a sky deity never actually anointed said family then their assertion that such a thing happened is a lie. Anything that furthers that lie is corrupt. In time, we bake all that corruption of the truth into our cultural architecture. The point is, it’s not shocking that we coddle corruption. We grow up with so much corruption already normalized that it’s a wonder we still know what the truth is.

When Mitch McConnell gets up on his Treason Turtle hind legs — as he did yesterday — to burble about how he “doesn’t believe” all the Republican attempts to restrict voting are racist, he’s lying through his turtle beak. He’s being corrupt. But then, EVERYTHING Mitch McConnell does is corrupt. Literally. The fact that Mitch keeps winning elections in a state where he’s less popular than cancer, suggests that Mitch and corruption know each other well. Yet, instead of sitting in prison, Mitch gets to stand in the way of America’s future. And, instead of marching to Mitch’s front door with torches alight and pitchforks raised, we shrug. “What can we do?” we sigh. “The people of Kentucky elected him.”

But, did they? What if that’s never been the case and the solution to the Mitch McConnell problem has always been a “simple matter” of calling Mitch out for the corrupt criminal he is?

It would help, of course, if our news media would stop coddling people whose corruption they’ve already reported. To treat Mitch McConnell or Kevin McCarthy as honest actors is, in itself, dishonest. But then, our news media — having reported on Trumpian corruption for four plus years STILL refuses to see Trump himself as corrupt as if Trump was an anomaly of honesty surrounded by corruption. They scratch their heads relentlessly as they wonder what binds the GOP to Trump despite the fact that he lost them the White House, the House and the Senate. They blame the base and fear of being primaried — as if was all about the horse race and not the horses doing the racing. It never occurs to our NEWS media to blame the corruption.

The Republican Party, seeing electoral extinction in their near future, hitched their wagon not only to Trump but to Russia. They KNEW before they nominated Trump how completely Vlad Putin owned him. They even talked about it out loud. “There’s two people I think Putin pays,” said Kevin McCarthy upon entering a room of GOP leaders A MONTH BEFORE NOMINATING TRUMP in 2016, “Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!” In response, then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan made everyone present promise to keep what Kevin McCarthy thought a secret. “That’s how we know we’re family,” he reminded them.

He might as well have added, “That’s how we know we’re all corrupt”.

Everyone in that room accepted the corruption. It’s incumbent on us however to just say “no”.

This Atheist’s Problem Isn’t With Jesus — It’s With The Institutions That Have Perverted His Simple “Do Unto Others” Message

I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again and again: atheist though I am (and always have been), I consider myself a very real “Fan Of Jesus”. That’s not a contradiction. Jesus was a person (it’s debatable, agree, but let’s go with it). Christianity is a faith based on that person. But loosely. Very, VERY loosely. Jesus was born, lived and died a Jew. His audience was Jewish — as Jewish as he was. They knew all the same mythology, texts and rituals. Jesus only ever spoke of and about Judaism. He did not invent Christianity. That happened quite a while AFTER he died. He did not advocate for Jews breaking away from Judaism — not even remotely. If anything, Jesus wanted the purest form of Judaism he could get to — just the Jew & God. That was the Temple Jesus aspired to be part of, freed from the priests and their corruption.

Institutions, Jesus rightly said — they’re corrupt! That’s why you render unto Caesar that which is his but keep “the good stuff” for God. Seems like, to Jesus, a corrupt Roman government was as corrupt as the Temple institution. Certainly neither represented God’s interests. Hey, I’m just spitting back the story that’s been spit at me — but freed from the strange perspective that belief lays on people. In my podcast “The Faitheism Project Podcast” (which I highly, HIGHLY recommend but then, I would — I’m biased), Presbyterian minister Randy Lovejoy and I begin our conversations about faith, unfaith and the world we live in with the understanding that spirituality and religion are two different things — that religion is but one way some people address their spirituality. That the awe I feel as I gaze up at the universe we all live — the “connectedness” I feel to it and to everyone and everything — that fits the definition of “spirituality”.

Why is that an important distinction?

In America, the religious right commandeered “spirituality” in that particularly “Hey, have ya heard the good news!” way they have. Before Christianity, people saw “god” differently. Even after Paul invented Christianity and it flourished — other people saw “god” differently (and still do). As before, many saw “gods” not just “god”. To a polytheist — as sincere in her faith as any monotheist — a monotheist is pretty much an atheist — because the monotheist has denied pretty much every single one of the polytheist’s gods. True fact — The Romans viewed early Christians as “atheists” for that very same reason.

Hey, as Forrest Gump would put it: “Atheists are as atheists do”. Didn’t know you were “in club”, did ya, Christians? Hey, no worries — in this club, we don’t judge the way they do in your club.

The thing about many, MANY atheists — we didn’t become atheists because we’re lazy. Many, MANY of us have thought long and hard about it. Many, MANY of us think about it literally every damned day. It’s that important. Why, it’s like a matter of “faith” to us — and, like the “faithfulliest” of the “faithful” do, we, too like to touch base every day because this is the foundation for all of our thinking, for our behavior, our morality. How we see ourselves and our place in the universe — the benefits and responsibilities of being here — yeah, atheists need to stay connected to it. It’s who we are.

For an atheist, “doing unto others” is the most natural instinct there is. Humans are social animals. Our success as individuals will be determined by our success in the group. Measured by it, too. It’s pure survival instinct, hard-wired into our DNA. Jesus’s “Do unto others” is a more direct way of putting the core Jewish directive “Make the world a better place for having been in it”. How shall I make the world a better place, Lord, if I want to live the best life I can — accepted by the group and as part of the group?

“Do unto others”. Got it.

“Do unto others” is perfection because, in those three words is a whole concept of how to live successfully as a social creature. Have good bonds with everyone — the rest will follow. When things aren’t going well — the group will be there for you! When you’re succeeding — you pay your good fortune back to the group. It doesn’t have to be money.

Ah, money…

The root of all evil. Rather — the WORSHIP of money: that’s the root of all evil. Money’s just a thing. Greed is how some humans react to money. It’s like how most people “handle their drink” while alcoholics cannot. Their biochemical craving for alcohol literally destroys them — destroys those they love, too. Greedy people are like “power-drunks”. Greedy bastards glug money like a guy with the DT’s chugging a quart of rotgut. They’re answering a sickness. That’s an important distinction, too.

Money also brings power, of course. The people with the most money always seem to have the most power. I guess that’s why someone wrote down: “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

Money, greed and corruption. That’s what Jesus preached against. I dare ya — point me to a church institution that isn’t — even in some small, money-related way — CORRUPT. As they say in Maine, “Ya can’t get there from here.”

Jesus ain’t the problem. Never, ever was. Those who claim their violence is righteous because they do it in Jesus’s name — that’s more like the problem. It wasn’t Jesus who triggered them. How could “do unto others” trigger violence? Where did such a message that “faith in Jesus” meant taking up arms and killing people come from if it didn’t come from Jesus?

It’s a trick question. “Onward Christian Soldiers” didn’t write itself. But, hey — a Christian did.