Who knew?

I’ve written before about how I like to read the writings of those with whom I disagree.  I actually started doing this in the late 90s when a friend of mine told me about the “review” of the South Park movie on a fundamentalist Christian movie review site called CAPAlert.  In casual conversation, I would describe it as a family filmgoer guide (like what you see in many newspapers to help parents understand, beyond the ratings, whether a movie is appropriate for young children), on steroids and with a fundamentalist Christian spin.  To the point that the Star Wars series is inappropriate because it embraces a religion that doesn’t have Jesus.   

CAPAlert has been dormant for more than four years now.   Stepping in to take its place is a website called Movieguide.   Apart from being a bit more generous in its assessments of movies (any movie with a clearly defined hero, is a metaphor for Jesus by their standards) it seems a decent heir apparent to CAPAlert.   

One thing that Movieguide does, that CAPAlert didn’t, is write essays regarding other matters of pop culture.  Such was the case when they wrote a short article on a recent instagram feud between Candace Cameron Bure, former child star from the TV show Full House and sister to the comparably insane Kirk Cameron, and drag queen Bianca Del Rio.  

The exchange went like this: Bure posted a picture of herself wearing a t-shirt that reads NOT TODAY SATAN.  Del Rio, who first used that phrase in a public setting, responded politely (if moderately sarcastically) by saying “If only, this homophobic, republican knew….”

Bure went on the defensive and questioned Del Rio for being “so nasty to me”.  She went on a tirade about how “loving Jesus” doesn’t automatically imply “hat[ing] gay people” (typical for people of this ilk.   She doesn’t hate them.  She just thinks that they’re just second class citizens and don’t deserve equal rights…) and accusing Del Rio for sending others to her page with equally hateful messages.  

Movieguide was effusive in its praise of her response.  I’m sure that some people were less polite than Del Rio in their comments but that goes with the territory of being famous and expressing an opinion.   Don’t you just love that they hate political correctness up until the point when someone makes a comment that they personally consider offensive?

All of that said, it’s good to know that both Bure and Movieguide are in agreement that calling someone a “republican” is apparently an insult.   

I have even less respect for Trump now

On January 29, 2017, a mere nine days into the nascent administration of Donald Trump, a US Special Operations force carried out a raid on the village of Yakla in the nation of Yemen.

While all of the details of this raid will be the stuff of investigations that, if they’ve even begun, certainly haven’t been completed. But here’s what we do know:

The initial groundwork for the raid was started during the Obama administration but Obama himself never greenlighted the mission. Donald Trump did that.

One US Navy SEAL, Senior Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, was killed in the raid, as were some number of civilians. The number of civilians killed, depending on which reports you might read, ranges from the low teens to as many as 25.

Very little, if any, intelligence was gained from the mission.

To his credit, Donald Trump was present when Owens’s body was returned to the states and to offer condolences to his family.

Now let me make it clear that any number of factors can lead to the success or failure of any given mission, most of which are outside of the control of anyone who’s not on the ground in the middle of the mission. I’ve seen some articles from the fringe political left refer to Trump as a “murderer” because of the results of this raid. If I’m being at my most polite, this characterization is grossly inaccurate.

But there’s plenty of fallout from this raid that should fall squarely on Trump’s shoulders. First and foremost is the fact that he tried to shift the blame for the raid first to Ex-President Obama and then to the generals who oversaw it. I’m sorry, Mr. Trump, but you authorized the raid and therefore it’s up to you to accept the consequences, good or bad. By trying to deflect the blame, Trump has turned this mission into more of a news item than it needed to be.

The President of the United States is often called upon to make extremely difficult decisions. This particular decision involved him serving as Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces but not all decisions need to involve that particular responsibility. Some decisions prove, in hindsight to be good decisions while others prove to be, um, not so good. (And, as I’ve written before, it’s not always immediately obvious whether it was a good decision.).

I would argue that, with regard to this particular decision, Trump was lucky in that he received near-immediate feedback that caution would have been the more advisable path. Someone with good leadership skills would have taken this miscue as cause for introspection, reflection, and a changing of tactics for the next time a similar decision might be warranted.

Last night (February 28, 2017), President Trump gave an address before a joint session of congress. It had its high moments and low moments, to be sure, but the lowest moment of the night was when he called out Carryn Owens, the widow of the slain SEAL from that mission. It was arguably two minutes of the most uncomfortable television I’ve ever watched.

I don’t blame anyone who gave her a standing ovation, but she clearly was still grieving over her loss, and rightly so. What I saw was someone whose wounds from a traumatic event were still fresh, praying for strength, crying. I don’t know what was going through her head and whether or not she appreciated this gesture, but when Trump doubled down and claimed the raid to be a success despite the casualties, it was clear that he learned nothing from this basic lesson in on-the-job training for the presidency.

If I were Mrs. Owens or any other member of Ryan Owens’s family, I’d be furious at being used as a prop in his speech, his totally misguided attempts to defend the indefensible. And I do question if we’d even know about this raid had Owens not died.

I don’t know if this raid would have come out differently if Trump had waited longer before authorizing it. I don’t know if I’d be writing this blog post if either Owens, or the Yemeni civilians, or both, had survived. It’s a lot harder to get a learning experience from having made a successful decision.

But Trump had a golden opportunity to demonstrate himself as being up to the nuances and complexities of the presidency — something I previously doubted. After all, when was the last time a new president’s decisions were tested this soon after he took the oath of office? (By comparison, September 11 happened nearly eight months into George W Bush’s presidency and the standoff with David Koresh’s Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, started a little over a month into Bill Clinton’s presidency and ended a month and a half later. Trump wasn’t even president for two whole weeks when Yakla happened.)

I may have previously doubted Trump’s fitness to be president. I don’t doubt it any more. I’m convinced that he’s unfit to be president.

Meet some low information voters

I make an active effort to see how some people whose worldview is not consistent with my own, view the world.   One website I visit with some frequency is a bulletin board called Rapture Ready, a group of evangelical Christians who look at the world and see the conditions of end times as outlined in the books of Ephesians and Revelation, thoroughly grounded in modern Christian eschatology.   They’re hyper-religious and ultra conservative, feeding each other’s fears and paranoia within the confines of their own protective bubble.  

The membership of this group is largely American, white, evangelical.   While some of them may not have supported Donald Trump from the outset, they are now almost universally supportive of him, largely due to his appointments.  
Several years ago I tried to create a profile for myself so I could troll them but I never got the promised confirmation email (to confirm that I’m neither a robot nor the victim of someone else’s spoofing campaign) so I simply didn’t make any real effort to follow up.  My original user name was a profane word in Russian but if I were to try it again, I’d likely use Matthew6-6 if it’s not taken.   If I were ever called on it, I’d simply explain that my name was Matthew and that my birthday is June 6, relying on them not knowing that particular verse of the Bible or how it basically tells them not to act the way they do…

There is a short thread on the board that I’d like to share with everyone.  In the interest of protecting people’s privacy I won’t link directly to it but it can be found in the “Breaking News and World Events” forum from the above link.   The original post is dated a little over a week ago, February 10, 2017.  I have copied all remarks verbatim.   The one link provided in the thread, I am also copying.  

Subject: Le Pen: If elected, French Jews will have to renounce Israeli citizenship

Poster 1: Le Pen: If elected, French Jews will have to renounce Israeli citizenship.

Link to Jerusalem Post article confirming same
Poster 2: a little animated icon in which one emoji is slapping another, with the label “Snap out of it”   That is what I would tell him.

Poster 1: quoting poster 2 and then issuing the correction “…her”

Poster 3: How typical of the nation of France to come up with such a ludicrous policy. However, this is exactly what you can expect from a nation without God. After all, this is the nation that held the French Revolution.

It’s obvious that neither poster 2 nor poster 3 actually read the linked article.   Had poster 2 actually read the article (or known about the election prior to it), he or she (I honestly don’t know the genders of any of the posters here…) would have known that Marine Le-Pen is a woman.  You literally need look no further than the first paragraph to know better.  

Poster 3 is the more interesting person here because of the way his or her opinion was reached.  This person excoriates the secular nature of France as a nation.  One truth about RR is their unflinching support for Israel because of its role in bringing about  the so-called end times.  

The linked article actually raises questions about the journalistic credibility of the Jerusalem Post.  The real news story is that French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le-Pen says that the only people who should have dual citizenship with France and another country, should be dual citizens with other EU countries.  By definition, that excludes Israel, and she acknowledges it as such.  

I think this is a bad idea since it drips of a modified nationalism that merely exchanges France’s borders with those of the EU, and can have horrifying implications to all immigrants in France.  

But by putting the implications in terms of Israeli citizenship rather than a greater anti-immigrant sentiment, the Post ironically risks fomenting greater anti-Semitism by claiming not that the whole policy proposal is bad, but that Jews somehow deserve preferential treatment over other non-EU members (which, let’s remember, will soon include Britain).

If either Poster 2 or Poster 3 had actually been good citizens within their worldview, they would argue not that Ms. Le-Pen’s proposal is a bad idea on its surface (as they’ve both done), but instead that there should be an exception to the policy for Israel.  

I almost want someone to let the folks at Rapture Ready know about this blog post of mine, even if it would scuttle my ability to troll them.  They claim (and try) to be informed about world events but are stuck in their own bubble and need to be broken out.  

The evolution of the Republican Party 

In 1860, a sharply divided electorate resulted in the election of the first ever president whose political affiliation was with the relatively newly formed Republican Party.  This party was generally opposed to slavery, although there were two major viewpoints within the party: those who wanted an outright ban on slavery throughout the United States and those who sought simply to prevent its expansion.   

The newly elected president, Abraham Lincoln, was a smart lawyer and canny politician, which is why the pro-slavery forces were so afraid of what he would do.   Most of the southern “slave states” voted to secede from the union (Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, and a handful of counties in the state of Virginia didn’t join their slave-holding confederates), and, as the northern army sought to prevent this separatist movement, plunged the nation into a civil war.   

The official reason for the fighting was the argument over preservation of the union or autonomy of the slave states.   And that looks good on paper, of course, but that ignores the 800-pound gorilla in the room: we essentially had to go to war to end slavery.  

The war lasted about 4 1/2 years, with heavy casualties on both sides, and ended with a demoralized south and a now-constitutional ban on slavery (the 13th amendment passed congress and was sent to the states shortly before the confederacy surrendered to the Union forces at Appomattox Court House in Virginia).

It makes for a compelling narrative to say that the north won the war because they were on the right side of history and were the ostensible “good guys”.  After all, the leaders — Jefferson Davis, “Stonewall” Jackson, and countless others — of the confederacy were skilled military tacticians who were more than capable of waging the battle and who arguably had the easier job: holding the troops from the north at bay.   

But that narrative overlooks the fact that the confederacy misjudged one very important advantage the northern states enjoyed: economics.   While the ideological differences between the northern and southern states centered around slavery, there were several other differences that, simply put, favored the north in just about any other match-up, moral high ground be damned.  

The big non-ideological difference between the two sides of the war, was the contrast between industry (the north) and agriculture (the south).   The south may have relied too heavily on its perception that the goods that it provided to American trading partners around the world, were more valuable than those provided by the north.   Indeed, it’s not a surprise (at least in hindsight) that Egyptian cotton exports surpassed American cotton exports in 1862.   

The Republican Party rightly could claim victory in the management of the war and bolstered their claims on the grounds of both moral high ground and industrial acumen.   Beginning with Abraham Lincoln’s victory, the republican presidential candidate emerged victorious in every quadrennial election from 1860 through (and including) 1928 with only four exceptions in that entire time period (1884 and 1892 when Grover Cleveland won it, and then in 1912 and 1916 when Woodrow Wilson won), although many of these elections were extremely close (especially 1876, but it’s the stuff of a completely separate essay).  

Over time, the business interests that underwrote the victory in the war, started to gain power within the party.  It’s tempting to say that they didn’t care about the needs of the newly liberated slaves.  That is a bit harsher than the reality but not entirely wrong: as history has repeatedly taught us, apathy and indifference often do more harm than active antipathy.   The former slave owners never truly stopped resenting the loss of their slave labor and, in many cases passed that resentment onto their children and grandchildren.  Meanwhile, the business leaders started to focus more on growing their business interests, at most paying lip service to the needs of the former slaves in their employ.   

The contentious nature of the election of 1876 was only settled when the Republican Party agreed to end the reconstruction of the south in exchange for being able to declare victory. After all, the business leaders didn’t really care one way or another for reconstruction.  Some might have even seen it as an unnecessary expense anyway.   

By the time Theodore Roosevelt ascended to the presidency following the assassination of William McKinley by anarchist Leon Czolgosz in 1901, the Republican Party focused less on civil rights and more on business and free market interests.   While Roosevelt himself was quite progressive on these matters, especially given the time period, his successor, William Howard Taft, was more of a pragmatist.   It’s why he vigorously prosecuted corporate monopolies under the Sherman Antitrust Act and prompted Roosevelt to come out of retirement, paving the way for Wilson’s victory in 1912.  

Wilson, only the second democrat to be elected president since Lincoln won the presidency more than half a century before, won re-election in 1916 on a platform of how he kept us out of the war that gripped Europe, despite the pleas for help from our allies.   As often happens with wars, though, by the time it ended, the world as a whole became a very different place from what it was when the first shots were fired.   We entered the war after the Germans sank the cruise ship Lusitania and, at about the same time, the Russians pulled out of the war, having fallen victim of a revolution that created many far more pressing needs at home.    

And the rise of socialism in Russia, complete with the upheaval aimed at the upper classes in the larger cities (especially Moscow and Petrograd) was more than enough to shake the wealthy businessmen and women who by now were both the power brokers and core constituency of the Republican Party.   The earliest “red scares” date to the 1920’s during another decade of Republican control over the White House.   And they played to the fears quite deftly: they could appeal to the ultra-religious by pointing to the official atheism of the Soviet regime and to the wealthy by pointing to the official economic policy.   We still see both of these fears in the rhetoric of the modern Republican Party, nearly a century later.  

The stock market crash on October 29, 1929 created the worst economic crisis in American history, now popularly known as the Great Depression.   Numerous factors made this economic downturn worse than previous ones but the increasingly globalized economy was certainly a factor.  (And if we thought things got bad in the US, that’s nothing compared to Germany, still hurting from the aftereffects of the war a decade earlier.   Stories of how a comfortable life savings one week became insufficient to buy a loaf of bread the next are not much of an exaggeration from the realities of what led to the rise of Hitler.)

When Franklin Roosevelt swept into the presidency in 1932, he rode a sentiment that correctly viewed the wealthy as having created the crisis but put the suffering on the middle and lower classes.   In purely economic terms, the lines separating the two parties had become well-defined.   The democrats focused more on workers and the republicans focused more on the wealthy.  

I recently wrote about how it’s impossible to predict the long-term consequences of any individual decisions made.   If FDR hadn’t sought a third term as president in 1940 (on a platform not unlike Wilson’s in 1916), we might not have the 22nd Amendment today, which limits a president to a total of ten years in office.  Since it came into effect, only 1980 stands out as an exception to the rule of eight years in the White House by one party followed by eight years of the other.   (And although this is unknowable, there is evidence that an event five years earlier is the reason why FDR sought a third term: the assassination of Louisiana governor Huey Long; had Long lived, FDR might have stood aside for Long to run in 1940.)

After the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War, the republicans revived their anti-communist rhetoric, and it became much louder than it had been in the 1920s.   Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy personified this step-up in rhetoric.    With McCarthy, the very words “communist” and “socialist” became insults, extending far beyond the economic implications of these terms.  

(Side note: this is the stuff of another essay, but the true beauty of Karl Marx’s theories, is that he applied Wilhelm Friederich Hegel’s dialectic philosophy to history in purely economic terms.   He wasn’t wrong with the assessment of history even if his predictions for the future were overly idealistic.)

The election of 1952 is an interesting one.  The slow evolution of the Republican Party to what it is today took a bizarre turn that year.   Both the democrats and the republicans tried to recruit popular World War II general Dwight David Eisenhower to be their candidate and he chose the republicans because he wasn’t sure he liked the direction the democrats were moving in.  I don’t think this has much to do with the “Dixiecrat” revolt four years earlier when the more racist elements of the Democratic Party walked off the convention floor, but it definitely enjoyed the fruits of the aftermath.  Between 1948 and 1964, the KKK and other white supremacist groups had no political home, and this was good for both parties.  

But in the 1950s, the seeds were sown for the more undesirable elements to be welcomed into the GOP.   Sure, the business wing of the Republican Party saw the Soviet Union as an economic threat, but channeling this into something supported by the masses was … difficult to say the least.   Enter Billy Graham, who linked the economic platform of the USSR to something more easily feared by the populace: atheism as state religion.   

The United States has always had a bizarre relationship with religion.   In the realm of jurisprudence, we learned the hard way that the proper way of conducting a trial is to put the burden of proof of guilt on the accuser, not rather than putting the burden of proof of innocence on the accused.  Religiously-based witch hunts more than a century before our independence proved this.   The US constitution is a truly godless document as the only references to religion involve how there shall be no religious test for office and how the government can’t stop you from worshipping as you see fit.  Thomas Jefferson wrote of the “wall of separation” between church and state, and the Treaty of Tripoli, negotiated during the presidency of John Adams, says that the US “is not in any sense a Christian nation”.

But there’s no denying that the majority of residents of this country are Christian and, as is true for any group that enjoys the privileges of the majority, it can be difficult to draw lines that separate the privilege from official government sponsorship.  It’s why they push back so hard when they sense losing their privilege.  

The 1950s saw a significant amount of blurring of the line between government and religion: the addition of “under god” to the pledge of allegiance and choosing “in god we trust” as the official motto.   See my recent essay on the Johnson Amendment for more on that topic.   But moves like that are highly symbolic and it’s fair to say that moves like these are more symbolic than anything with regard to actual day-to-day governing.  

When (democrat) Lyndon Johnson wrangled congress to pass the Civil Rights Act in 1964 (a brave move, considering that it was an election year), he reawakened the racists in the deep south.  Indeed, he figured that this move cost the democrats the votes from that region for at least a generation.   He was right, unless you count the fact that he underestimated the amount of time.  

It’s fair to say that the election of 1968 may have been one of the worst choices Americans ever had to make.   Two incredibly flawed candidates who would have lost to a more energizing, inspiring candidate on the other side.   The chaos outside of the democratic convention in Chicago only underscores this.   Later that year, folksinger Phil Ochs reflected that “the saddest thing about Chicago — it was exhilarating at the time but incredibly sad afterwards — was that something truly extraordinary died there, which was America.”

You can hear a recording of this quote on the album There and Now: Live in Vancouver in the spoken word intro to the song “William Butler Yeats Visits Lincoln Park and Escapes Unscathed”.  We can debate the accuracy of this statement but there is a truth to the fact that the so-called “establishment” effectively emerged victorious over those who sought to upend it.   

But Nixon emerged victorious in 1968 and with his victory came a renewed influence of Billy Graham.   The 1973 Roe vs Wade Supreme Court decision served as a mobilizing force for the religious extremists within the Republican Party.   This emboldened other members of the religious right, namely Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, culminating in the takeover of the southern baptist convention in 1979.   

In 1980, the Republican Party was still smarting from the corruption Nixon had ushered in and needed a charismatic populist who would appeal to the business wing, the religious wing, and the relatively newly emboldened racist wing.  They found it in an actor who had been president of the Screen Actors Guild during the Joseph McCarthy “witch hunts” of the 1950s, who later went on to be governor of California.   Ronald Reagan gave enough red meat to all three of these groups and it’s no surprise that many republicans today idolize him despite the damage he did to the country.   

For a truly fascinating read, check out the Wikipedia entry on Ronald Reagan in music.  Protests against Reagan didn’t have the same effect on the greater populace as the protests of the 1960s primarily because the 80s were a time of peace while the 60s were a time of war.  

Bill Clinton once looked back on the hippie movement of the 1960s, complete with civil rights actions and the liberation from prior roles and expectations and remarked that if you thought this was a good thing, you’re probably a democrat and if you thought this was a bad thing you’re probably a republican.   

Since Reagan, two Presidents Bush further emboldened the religious right and their racist peers.   Indeed, the power brokers in the so-called Bible Belt do their best to disenfranchise minorities and have been since the end of the civil war.  It’s just been a question of which political party they affiliate with.   

And now Donald Trump sits in the White House, his closest advisers not even hiding their racist, anti Semitic, neo-Nazi sentiments.   He may have his day, and he will do a fair bit of damage to the country.  But what emerges from the ashes may be stronger, kinder, and more humane than anything this great nation has ever known.   And maybe, in the process, the Republican Party will finally disavow the racist, sexist, theocratic notions to which they currently cling.   That’s my hope.  

Weltschmerz

Donald Trump took the oath of office today at noon, becoming the 45th president (44th unique president) of the United States of America.  I didn’t hear his speech but I did read it afterwards.   All things considered, it wasn’t a horrible speech, as speeches go.   He seemed to hammer on the points that endeared him to the people who voted for him: the economy is in the tank, crime is unbearable, the military is weak, and all of the other things he said on the campaign trail without a lick of evidence to support it.  

(Note that with regard to the economy, there is a nugget of truth to the pronouncements in that far too many people are working their asses off only to enrich the already wealthy and still have trouble making ends meet but the solution to that is not tax cuts for the rich, as he and his team have proposed.)

I do think there’s something disingenuous about proclaiming to have responded to the will of the people when he actually lost the popular vote, and badly.   Indeed, if the popular vote at all levels actually worked out to the actual results, we’d be celebrating our first female president and a democratic majority in congress.  But that’s not the way the constitution and the congressional districts are designed.  

So we enter into a period of uncertainty about the future of the nation.   As a straight, white cisgender male, I know that I will be all right.   That’s my privilege talking.   But it’s not me that we should be worried about.   It’s all of my friends who don’t share in that privilege: my female friends, my trans friends, my African American friends, my gay, lesbian, and bisexual friends.  Those are the people for whom I worry.  

The word that is the subject line of this essay is a German word for the pain, angst, or anguish of watching things happen around you and how little control you might feel you have.   It literally means “world pain”.   I think it fits.  

A couple of weeks ago, there was an article in the New York Times about why rural America voted for Trump.  It’s interesting reading, to be sure, but there was one characterization of the difference between liberals and conservatives that I, as a liberal, take exception to: it said that conservatives view people as inherently bad and liberals view them as inherently good.   I disagree with such a facile, oversimplified view of humanity.   I think we have the capacity for doing both good and bad deeds.  While there are some bad people in our prisons, most of our inmates aren’t so much bad people as people who’ve made mistakes.  There’s also no shortage of bad people who are running free, maybe even serving as the president of the United States.   I think it takes a lot of work to bring out the best in many people but it can be done.  

And that’s what’s next on the docket.  Bringing out the best.  I shall hold out my hand to anyone who might want to join me.   It’s time to show the people in that article who characterize liberals as lazy, that we’re not afraid to roll up our sleeves and get to work.   

I guess I really am a hippie at heart

After the rally a couple of weeks ago in Philadelphia, I wrote that there have been two Harry Chapin songs bouncing around in my head. They’re both calls to action in their own way: we have more in common than not and that working together — even when that work will be difficult — is the best way to truly improve things.

When I mentioned this to my 12-year-old son, he suggested that I put together a playlist of protest songs, songs that call people to action or raise awareness of issues worth addressing. I thought that was a good idea.

It didn’t take me long to assemble this playlist from my music library. I had to break one of my rules for making a playlist for one like this. Normally, I don’t do any more than one song per artist, but that wasn’t going to fly this time. There’s a fair mixture of covers and original versions of the songs, although only one song is actually repeated in the playlist: Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” appears right alongside of Eddie Vedder’s amazing cover of that same song.

There are — as can be expected with songs that are angry at the status quo — multiple tracks on this playlist with objectionable language, including one that uses a word I never actually use in its title.

There’s also an interesting history lesson to be had here. Direct references to certain wars and political figures are peppered throughout the list. It gives me the opportunity to talk about things my kids probably haven’t really learned about in school yet. That includes four straight songs about The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Speaking of objectionable language, one thing I neglected to mention when I wrote of being bullied in high school, is that the song “Working Class Hero” by John Lennon was one of the things that helped me cope during my suspension from school that year.

The emotions of this playlist are laid bare to anyone who will listen. Even though I’m quite familiar with all of these songs, I didn’t quite expect the sheer level of emotion I felt when I actually sat down to listen to it. Whether it’s Harry Chapin singing about “how together, yes we can create a country better than the one we have made of this land” or Phil Ochs’s spoken word tale of how he felt after the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968: “Something truly extraordinary died there which was America.” There’s some fear, some hope, some empowerment, some calls to action. In defense of the weak, the poor, the downtrodden, the needy. War, poverty, injustice, and hatred are among the themes covered in this list.

I probably will add songs to this playlist over time but at least for now, it’s a good one. Here’s what I put on this list. What other songs belong here?

Song Title Performed By
Revolution The Beatles
Bulls on Parade Rage against the Machine
I Ain’t Marching Anymore Phil Ochs
The Parade’s Still Passing By Harry Chapin
We Shall Overcome Bruce Springsteen
This is Why We Fight The Decemberists
Give Peace a Chance John Lennon
Another Age Phil Ochs
Zombie The Cranberries
The Luck of the Irish John Lennon
Sunday Bloody Sunday U2
Sunday Bloody Sunday John Lennon
I Don’t Like Mondays The Boomtown Rats
Days of Decision Phil Ochs
It’s Good News Week Hedgehoppers Anonymous
The Times They Are A-Changin’ Bob Dylan
Holiday Green Day
The Hands that Built America U2
What Made America Famous? Harry Chapin
Bound for Glory Phil Ochs
This Land is Your Land Woody Guthrie
Little Boxes Pete Seeger
In the Ghetto Elvis Presley
Southern Man Neil Young
Ball of Confusion The Temptations
What’s Going On Marvin Gaye
Blowin’ in the Wind Bob Dylan
The Rising Bruce Springsteen
Dover John Flynn
Goodnight Saigon Billy Joel
I Kill Therefore I Am Phil Ochs
Masters of War Eddie Vedder
Masters of War Bob Dylan
When the War Came The Decemberists
Two Tribes Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Hitler’s Brothers Paula Cole
Mussolini’s Head Greg Greenway
Universal Soldier Donovan
Where Have All The Flowers Gone The Kingston Trio
That’s What I Want to Hear Phil Ochs
I Wonder What Would Happen to this World Harry Chapin
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee Buffy Sainte-Marie
Old Man Trump Woody Guthrie
Power and the Glory Phil Ochs
Exhuming McCarthy R.E.M.
Woman is the Nigger of the World John Lennon
Only a Pawn in their Game Bob Dylan
Chimes of Freedom Bob Dylan
Remember When the Music Bruce Springsteen
Song for Myself Harry Chapin
Abraham, Martin, and John Dion
Pride (In the Name of Love) U2
Love Me I’m a Liberal Phil Ochs
I Ain’t Afraid Holly Near
Imagine John Lennon
One Man, One Woman, One Vote Greg Greenway
Working Class Hero John Lennon
William Butler Yeats Visits
Lincoln Park and Escapes Unscathed
Phil Ochs
It’s the End of the World As
We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
R.E.M.

If you want to be a hero, well just follow me………

A robo-call

This past Saturday, I came back from a nice day out with my kids, to find a call waiting for me on the answering machine, transcribed verbatim herewith:

Hello, this is Jerry Falwell Jr, calling to urge you to go to the polls on November 8 or better yet, vote early by mail or absentee ballot. I believe Jesus was instructing us all to be good citizens and to vote when he said “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” I hope you will elect candidates who will defend the right to life, our religious liberties, the second amendment, and the state of Israel. The stakes could not be higher with the balance of the Supreme Court for the next generation at risk. Please urge your friends and family to vote as well. Thank you and god bless you.

Paid for by Faith and Freedom Coalition. Callback number 770-622-1501.

I have no idea how this group got my phone number, so I’m acting on the assumption that they just called everyone. I consider Mr. Falwell’s father one of the most repulsive people to ever walk this earth, and, as far as I can tell by the public pronouncements of the man whose voice graced my machine, he himself isn’t much better.

I question whether anyone actually believes that that particular passage in Mark 12:17 actually meant for people to go out and vote. Yes, I know that a lot of Christians have used this particular chapter and verse to justify the notion that separation of church and state is somehow biblically sanctioned (despite scores of contradictory passages). But even that interpretation is more reasonable than what Mr. Falwell said in the recording in question.

If we take the Biblical reference here to be a statement of fact, then Jesus was telling his followers that he wasn’t there to overthrow the Roman occupation. Jerry (if I may call him that) conveniently left out the “Render unto God what is God’s” from that same chapter and verse.

I do defend a right to life. It’s why I’m pro-choice and vote for pro-choice candidates when I can. I think I’ve written enough on that topic that I don’t need to rehash it here. I do think it would be interesting to know, though, the reasons why women who have abortions, have chosen to have them. That ought to humanize the decision a little bit more and maybe cause those who would insist on an absolute ban on the procedure to realize the wrongheadedness of their position. (Especially in a climate that offers neither preventative measures nor post-birth assistance.)

I also defend religious liberties. I must draw the line, though, on things that Mr. Falwell and his ilk try to do, when they seek to impose their religious viewpoints on others. It’s why I have been saying since 2004, when Pat Toomey challenged Sen. Arlen Specter for his senate seat in Pennsylvania, that I can’t in good conscience vote republican until such time as the party exorcises itself of the demons of the religious right.

I recently wrote about how the second amendment seems to hold a unique place in the American fringe right in terms of their adherence to the constitution. Without downplaying its importance on a grander scale, it’s nowhere near as important as the rights guaranteed by the first, fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth, and fourteenth amendments to the constitution. And it’s the right enumerated within the constitution that actually requires a person to purchase something in order to exercise that right. (Unless you count the right to an attorney a “purchase”, and a strong argument can be made that it is, at least in the current environment and the way it actually works, rather than the idealized theory behind it.)

And yes, I support the state of Israel and its right to exist, but, much like the religious liberty point above, there is definitely room for criticism of the state when it oversteps its bounds. And I have no qualms whatsoever about say that Benjamin Netanyahu may be one of the most dangerous people currently living. (I think he might be competing with Vladimir Putin for the title, and I think Kim Jong-un might be gunning for that title, but he’s not quite there yet.

The Supreme Court can always make good and bad decisions. We’ve seen how the conservative-dominated court has given us some very bad decisions. In recent years, Greece v Galloway, Burwell v Hobby Lobby, and Citizens United v FEC are all laughably ridiculous rulings on their face. We need justices who would, in the event of a new challenge, overturn them.

It’s funny. Sometimes I’ve asked myself if my current (low) opinion of the Republican Party is somehow analogous to the ridiculous sentiment expressed a few months ago on the Christian film review site Movieguide, when they reviewed the Dinesh D’Souza hack piece Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party, when they spoke of the documentarian’s “battle to find out how the Democratic Party became so evil.”

I’m not a fan of the word “evil”. It has connotations and implications that do little to further rational discourse. I do not consider the Republican party “evil”. Just misguided for providing a voice to those whose opinions belong in the dustbin of history. It’s not a new phenomenon; indeed, we can point to Ronald Reagan in 1980 for first allowing the party to have a platform that comes from the Religious Right and the natural descendants of the John Birch Society. Back in the 1960’s, their views were rightly ridiculed. Now in 2016, they are attending Donald Trump rallies.

Messrs Falwell, D’Souza, and scores of other individuals need to be reminded that their ideas are so regressive, so anachronistic, so incongruent with both what America should be and is, that the only path forward is a complete repudiation of what they stand for. And the best way to do that, is through our votes.

So, I agree with Mr. Falwell about one thing: get out there and vote on or before November 8. And show him and his ilk that his brand of hatred, tribalism, and morality have no place in the America of 2016.

Here’s the recording of that call if you’re interested in hearing it.