Ugly American or God’s Chosen? You Decide…

Image Credit Charles Edward Miller creative commons via Wikimedia Commons

It’s hard to keep up with all the consequential things happening during this presidency.  In Donald J Trump’s name, decisions have been made that significantly impact the lives of Americans and the world and will continue to do so – long after he’s gone. Be it law, climate, health, trade, immigration or safety, this man rules through the power of his gut and own self-interest.  Not Democracy or knowledge. What is going on at America’s southern border exemplifies this: in separating asylum-seeking parents from their children and relishing the ensuing turmoil and conflict, in hiding behind a veneer of law-abiding reasonableness while ignoring the Rule of Law and legal precedent, our president is reshaping America in his own image. And by letting him, our country is living up to the “Ugly American” pejorative.

As his henchmen scramble to defend a proclamation that further victimizes victims, some choose to cherry-pick biblical quotes for absolution or justification.  They turn to false teachers who preach unchristian behavior in the name of Trump: “He is God’s Chosen One”, they lie. And they promise damnation if you disagree.

Maybe they should read Timothy 4:3-4, “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”  To which I say, “Preach!”

Believers are squaring off – each to their own corner of interpretation – confident that they have been led there by the Holy Spirit. But the Golden Rule is easy to understand: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”, Matt 7:12.

Doesn’t take a genius or a biblical scholar to understand Mathew’s meaning: walk a mile in their shoes.

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Graham-Cassidy is Not The Answer

image credit: Ted Eytan via Flickr

Hope springs eternal in the hard hearts of Republicans set on overturning Obamacare.  In yet another Hail Mary attempt to beat that dead-horse repeal and replace into life, hucksters …er senators, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana have written a partisan prescription potent enough they promise to cure all that ails our health-care system.  And if ridding us of the Affordable Care Act plague isn’t reason enough to back their plan?  They want us to do it for the American way of life. According to Graham, this latest iteration is “the only process left available to stop a march toward Socialism”!  Wow! Patriotism and Health-care reform?!  What??

Pre-ACA, insurance companies, and Big Pharma controlled the healthcare system purse strings.  They decided how it worked, who could get it and how much they would pay for it.  The industry cherry-picked which claims they would honor and how much they had to shell out.  The result was 46 million Americans were unable to afford medical care.  And then Barack Obama stepped in with the lofty goal of affordable healthcare for everyone!  No exceptions or pre-existing loopholes.  Talk about un-American!  Sadly, ‘round here all too often those who have get more and those who don’t get screwed.

A healthcare system that benefits the insurance companies and the healthy while leaving the poor and sick to fend for themselves or dependent upon the kindness and whim of individual states and those same insurance companies is not my idea of Democracy at work.  Considering how many times Republicans have tried and failed to overturn Obamacare (more than 60!) since it first became law waay back in 2010 ya gotta wonder when does party resolve become obdurate politics?  Or insanity?

And now, here we go again.  This sudden rush of action days before their self-imposed deadline to push through a bill, Graham-Cassidy, which will have no CBO score, is partisan and leaves way too much unsaid would be mind-boggling had we not been here before – so very many times!

Tying their plan to patriotism though, raising the specter of socialism for God’s sakes shows just how desperate they are this time around.  With fake news and fables, they are trying to conjure up a political bogeyman to scare us away from a single payer alternative.  We can’t fall for it.  Republicans, led by Donald Trump want us to relinquish the power of our voice.  They want us to acquiesce to their better judgment.  They want us to trust them.  Well, I don’t.  They lie.

We have until September 30 to stop the march back towards preexisting loopholes and lifetime caps. We have until September 30 to make our voices heard.

They Built This Country: Here’s to the American Worker – Happy Labor Day!

(I wrote this 5 years ago.  Pre-Trump.  Things seemed different then}

Labor Day then…

135 years ago, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and one of the founding members of the American Federation of Labor, Peter J. McGuire, described our country’s working men and women as those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.” Some folks say those words were uttered to encourage establishing a day of recognition for the delvers and carvers. Others credit machinist Mathew Maguire for the notion of a national holiday in honor of America’s workforce. No matter at whose behest, clearly such a celebration was an idea whose time had come.

On September 5th, 1882, the rank and file of New York’s labor movement joined together in raucous conviviality for what turned out to be the first Labor Day Celebration. Upwards of 20,000 people filled the streets of lower Manhattan that Tuesday morning, ready for a day of marching, music and all-around merrymaking! Dubbed “a day of the people” by newspapers and considered a triumph by organizers, it wasn’t long before it became an annual event celebrated coast to coast. President Grover Cleveland signed the bill that made it official in 1894. The first Monday (as was originally planned) in September was finally a federal holiday – Labor Day.

In an interesting (and oft repeated) aside – copious amounts of beer were consumed during that inaugural bash. Most ‘First Labor Day’ descriptions include references to the numerous kegs of lager placed throughout Wendel’s Elm Park – the designated site for after-parade festivities. (Those delvers and carvers knew how to party!)

Yesterday’s workforce (like today’s) was dependent on immigrant labor.  The flags of many nations decorated the park that day, reflecting the varied ancestry of the American Worker. Picnic-goers satiated their hunger with culinary specialties from around the world: Irish stew, German bratwurst… This was the America J. Hector St. John Crevecoeur had written about in “Letters from an American Farmer” more than a century earlier.

And now…

And more than a century later? The day is no longer dedicated to the wage-earners. Instead, it has morphed into a long weekend celebrating the end of summer. There are fewer parades, and Labor unions don’t play the part they once did in American life – but we still have picnics. And drink lots of beer. According to marketing charts compiled by Nielsen, we will quaff over 60 million cases of the malted grain beverage this weekend!

Source countries, taking a decidedly southerly turn, have changed both the complexion of the U.S. labor-pool and the flavor of our fetes. When the person next to you is of Hispanic or Asian descent you can expect some delicious menu changes at gatherings: Cuban black beans and rice, Mexican salsa, Asian sesame chicken wings… fiesta-fare guaranteed to make your mouth water!

The world may be a different place – but some things are still the same: we are still the melting pot society whose virtues were extolled long-ago by poets and playwrights. We are still the glorious sum of all our parts: America. The destination of dreamers the world over!

As we say goodbye to summer fun this weekend and turn our thoughts to fall, let’s raise a glass and give a toast to all the delvers and the carvers, past, and present, who gave us all this grandeur to behold.

Trump Is No Boy Scout

image by Sgt Anna-Marie Ward via Wikimedia Commons

That was some speech POTUS gave at the 2017 National Scout jamboree.  The quadrennial celebration of the Boy Scout brotherhood draws thousands of Scouts from across the country, all eager to mingle, swap patches, and indulge in 10-days of wholesome fun and entertainment.  They are Boy Scouts after all.  Starting with Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937, presidential incumbents have always spoken at these gatherings (Barack Obama videoed his message in 2010) – in a bipartisan manner.

But today Donald Trump is the president of these United States.  For the first time in eighty years The Commander-in-Chief eschewed tradition, and instead of speaking to these boys about Scout values and their power to affect positive change in our country and the world, this man focused his words entirely on himself.  And his business and political prowess.  He spoke about his White House win and his enemies.  He told them it was the responsibility of his subordinates to see that his plans succeeded. The buck does not make it to him.  He joked with these children about the punishments he would dole out if they failed.  “Tom you’re fired,” he said to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, evidently tasked with killing ObamaCare.

In a speech rife with partisanship and braggadocio our leader gave the boys a lesson in the importance of being loyal to Donald J Trump.  Working the crowd of one-day-voters like the con man he is, Donald whipped them into a patriotic frenzy that ended with them chanting “USA, USA!” by including them in the ‘grown-up’ conversation.  He thanked them for their votes?? by saying his election was “an unbelievable tribute to you and all of the other of millions and millions of people that came out and voted for ‘Make America Great Again.’”  He talked about another businessman’s travails – William Levitt – that included descriptions of a ‘fast life on a yacht.’   “You know Life,” he said conspiratorially, wink-wink to the Boy Scouts, “You’re Boy Scouts.”  The parable ended with its subject presumably in disgrace and at a cocktail party “where all the hottest people in New York were…”?!

The thing is, watching those kids laugh, and cheer…seeing their raucous response to Trump as he demeaned Hilary Clinton, Democrats and anyone else who dared to oppose his vision chilled me to the bone.  I remember seeing videos of similarly aged and moved crowds – cheering for a different man.  The red armbands those youngsters wore now make me think of red caps.

 

Happy Fourth of July, America!

Image by: Anita Mishra / Wikimedia Commons

On July 4th America will celebrate its Independence Day.  241 years ago, Tuesday a group of English colonists determined to rule themselves and declared freedom from that perfidious Albion from whence they came.  Breaking the chains of religious oppression that had bound them in their birthplaces those Pilgrims crossed the ocean in search of a better life.  They became the first (but not the last) immigrants to arrive on these shores in search of their dreams.  Risking their lives for nothing more than the promise of a New World the early settlers were a beacon of hope for the tempest-tossed.

Today, those grown weary of the wars and violence and poverty of their homelands hear the call of Lady Liberty and chart their courses still for America. Ha!  Jokes on them – we are not the welcoming committee our forefathers had.  Where they were greeted warmly by the indigenous Patuxent People with offers of food and assistance we begrudge the new immigrants everything – especially their hopes for a better life.  We criminalize them and turn them away – no matter the horrors they are trying to escape.

Using rhetoric that plays well to modern-day fears of terrorism and gang warfare this Administration has removed the welcome mat and wants to build walls on our borders.  But by reducing complex security matters to a simple us vs. them equation – The only way for us to be safe is to keep them out – we are in fact setting the stage for more and more acts of violence.  Rather than making us safer such efforts succeed in only making us more vulnerable.  Hard-hearted immigration policies might resonate with the New Nationalists, but they are also music to the ears of extremists and true believers everywhere who echo them in their calls to arms.

“Freedom!” is what the Founding Fathers cried as they declared their Independence.  Are they rolling in their graves now to see that lofty promise become a siren song for today’s downtrodden?  Maybe.  By choosing to forget the immortal words of hope from Emma Lazarus’s “The New Colossus” etched on the Statue of Liberty, by trying to side-step the guarantees of our Constitution when it proves inconvenient we are turning our backs on what it means to be American.  We are ignoring the very reasons we came to be.

This Fourth of July, as we celebrate the birthday of our nation, perhaps we should take a moment to reflect on all those who came before us – from all those other places – and how they made America great.

Out of Many, One Nation

Image By Dbenbenn /Wikimedia Commons

On the surface at least, I have a lot in common with James T Hodgkinson: I too lean to the left and support Universal Healthcare and tax hikes for the rich.  I hate Donald Trump, and I think the GOP leadership are for the most part spineless sycophants who have sold their souls and America to the Devil (and Russia), just to line their own pockets or pass their own pet projects.  I have a Bernie Sanders bumper sticker on my car that I refuse to take off – I’m still holding out hope.  I post on social media and a blog, where admittedly I have a “barely there” presence with few followers, but I enjoy having a place to voice my opinions.

I am also firmly against all forms of violence.  I want to change someone’s mind when I opine online – I have no desire to hurt them.  When it comes to our politicians, I want to impeach Our Glorious Leader (or make him quit) and vote the opposition party out of office.  I do not want to scare anyone…Or harm them.  And I don’t want anyone else to either.

Democrats have been accused of ignoring the Middle Class.  I see Republicans now ignoring the Poor.  It seems like neither side has done a good job of including everyone in their visions.  Both have put their energy into one demographic – whichever is their core –, and in the process, they have damaged America.  Politics now is all about “us vs. them”.  The Parties pay lip service to the idea of these United States (emphasis on United), but the partisan message is “If they’re not with us they are against us.”  Basta!  Enough!

We need to do more than just speak out against assaults like the one today against the GOP Congressional baseball team.  Acknowledging our differences is only a first step… Are we prepared to tune into the other side?  To listen to their concerns and give them credence?  If we cannot do that, it is just going to be the same old same old.  And we will get the same results:  Another senseless act of violence that didn’t have to happen.  Real change won’t occur until we can honestly say to each other, “I hear you…And I care.”

Politics should not define us. Or separate us.  It is our differences that have always made us great!  America is a melting pot.  Our diversity is our strength.  Why can’t we accept that?  It is time to let go of political prejudice.  We are one Nation under God…

Donald Trump Lies. Why Can’t The Republican’s Admit it?

Image By Mike Maguire / Wikimedia Commons

If you see something say something.  Isn’t that what we are supposed to do?  In this age of terror attacks and hate crimes, bullies can lurk anywhere.  Even in the Executive Branch.  But saying something can be fraught with misunderstanding.  Free speech doesn’t just cover our right to speak our mind – it’s a tool some use to spread fake news and intolerance.  I mean, even the term politically correct has been reduced to semantics with its original meaning of sensitivity to our differences lost.  So, when you are the first in the Royal Court to point out the Emperor has no clothes on, you deserve credit.

I applaud Jim Comey for saying out loud and under oath what everyone else around him knows: The President is a liar and cannot be trusted.  The former Director of the FBI has spoken truth to power in a public way and the rest of the GOP can either stand with him now or go down in history as being complicit with this White House’s chicanery.

Donald Trump is not a complicated man – he is what you see: an obstreperous old fool who has pushed his way onto the world stage with weird hand-wrestling displays and blustering speech, thinking all along he is the smartest person in the room.  At his core though, he is nothing more than a common con man.

When I hear Speaker of the House Paul Ryan brush off Trump’s repeated attempts to influence an ongoing Federal investigation with a “He’s new at this”, comment…  When I see a giddy Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gloating about the prospect of affecting our country’s future by pushing through Trump’s nominees for US Court vacancies – with or without Democratic support…. I feel, to paraphrase Mr. Comey, a little sick to my stomach.

What is going on??  America has become a caricature.  Half our politicians don’t even pretend to care about the hypocrisy of their words anymore. They shrug and deflect and carry on…. with their own special interests.  Impervious to facts and common sense.  This presidency is their ticket to whatever the hell they want.  For now.

The Grand Old Party has been denied power for so long, finding themselves in the driver’s seat once more is all they care about.   No matter the man responsible for this good fortune lacks the integrity, intelligence or psychological make-up to live up to the challenges of being the leader of the free world.  If it means they can fulfill their own narrow agendas, so be it.

All they need to do is withstand the tweetstorms and dropping shoes and the silent majority that is now The Republican Party thinks they can have it all…for now.  They’ll worry about the costs later.