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Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Our country sits on the crossroads in history.  For the last 100 years or so, we have what many people believe to be a model for democracy.  Yes, we have had our problems with race before like slavery and the Jim Crow laws.  But, beginning in the 20th century, we have basically been a country that passed laws that protected the rights of individuals.

All of that is changing in front of our eyes, and we don’t seem to give a shit!  The Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that abortion was legal.  Since then we have seen a strong opposition to that ruling.  In the last several years, several conservative states have passed laws taking that right away from women.  They have even passed legislation in several of these states that require doctors to tell women who want an abortion false information.  The object isn’t to protect the woman’s health, it is to make them change their mind about getting an abortion.

We have seen a so-called “church,” whose name I refuse to even mention,  protest at military funerals.  They claim that the soldiers were killed as “god’s punishment” for America’s acceptance of gay rights.  When the families object to their being there, nothing is done to keep them away.

There are voter suppression laws being passed in several states.  They are not-so-thinly veiled attempts to reduce the number of people who usually vote Democratic from gaining access to the polls.  In the last election just last year, several thousand people were denied their right to vote.  In some cases, it resulted in swaying the outcome of close elections.

Now, Indiana has taken the lead in authorizing legalized discrimination.  Governor Mike Pence signed the legislation yesterday.  It is called The Religious Objections Law.  Under this law, if you own a business and you don’t like someone, you can refuse service to that individual as long as you can say you have religious beliefs that says you don’t have to serve them.

The Governor says it is not a discrimination law.  He says “this law is not about discrimination.”  If it isn’t about discrimination, what is it about?  This law has come to fruition because the courts have ruled that same-sex marriage ban that was passed by Indiana is unconstitutional.  In order to fight against same-sex marriage, Indiana came up with this discrimination law to satisfy the far right-wing and the Christian Cult.

This is the reality in Indiana right now.  If you own any business, you can discriminate against anyone you want.  Pence may disagree with that statement, but it is true.  What if I owned a business in Indiana.  I decided that I don’t like Evangelical Christians.  I can deny business to any Evangelical Christian if I simply say it is against my religion to serve them because I consider them heretics.  This law gives me that right.

The laws about discrimination are very clear.  If you own a business, you are not allowed to discriminate against anyone.  Once you open your doors to the public, you are required to serve the whole public.  That is a very simple fact of doing business.  If you own a catering service and say you will cater all events except gay events, you are breaking the law.  This Indiana Law allows you to disobey anti-discrimination laws already upheld by the Supreme Court.

There is only one thing to do.  Businesses must boycott Indiana.  As a matter of fact, Salesforce.com co-founder and CEO Mark Benioff announced on twitter, shortly after Pence signed the bill, that he was cancelling programs that require his customers or employees to “travel to Indiana to face discrimination.”

The odd part is that Salesforce.com bought Indianapolis based marketing software company ExactTarget for $2.5 billion and kept several hundred employees in Indianapolis.  I hope he has the good sense to remove those jobs from Indiana so his employees don’t have to “face discrimination.”

Also, the timing is perfect for a national outcry.  Next week is the Final Four for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.  The Final Four is being held in Indianapolis.  For once, I would love to hear the NCAA do the right thing and announce on national television that this will be the last Final Four, or any round of the tournament held anywhere in the state of Indiana.  I am not holding my breath on that one, but it would be really nice if they did.

NCAA President Mark Emmert did say in a statement:  “We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week’s Final Four are not impacted negatively by this bill.”  The law, by the way, doesn’t take effect until June.

He went on to say “Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it affects future events and our workforce.”  Sounds promising.  But, the NCAA isn’t known for always doing what is right.

Let’s look at just one example of a situation.  It is football season.  A team is due to meet Indiana University at Indiana.  One or more of their players have announced that they are gay.  What happens if the hotel the team is supposed to stay at refuses to allow the gay players to spend the night based on “religious grounds?”

Before you snicker, this is a very real possibility.  But, what if that hotel doesn’t say they won’t allow the gay players to spend the night until the team arrives?  That team will either have to find alternative quarters for the whole team, or follow the old Jim Crow laws and just find alternative quarters for the gay player(s).  What about pro-athletes?  There are a handful of openly gay players in professional sports?  Will they be denied a room when their team meets a team in Indiana?

Nothing will have a bigger impact on Indiana and this stupid law than the NCAA announcing immediately that they will hold no tournaments in the state due to this law.  Maybe that will make Indiana repeal this discriminatory law.

The only way to fight this kind of discrimination is through economic power.  If a state wants to legally discriminate against a segment of our citizenry, they should not be granted anything that would bring money into its economy.

Major sporting events like the NCAA tournaments, the Super Bowl, and others should not take place anywhere inside Indiana.  Wouldn’t it be great if the Indianapolis 500 was held without anyone attending?  Major corporations should sever their ties to Indiana.  Convention organizers should avoid Indiana like the plague.

At least two groups have announced that they were going to reconsider plans to events in Indianapolis because of this law.  These groups are the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Gamer’s Convention.  I hope both go elsewhere.

But, that is not enough.  Every person who lives in Indiana and opposes this law should boycott any business that is willing to discriminate against someone based on “religious grounds.”  Any business that openly discriminates against anyone does not deserve to remain open for business.  Boycott them and shut them down!

I have family in Chicago.  When I travel home to visit, I must pass through Indiana.  I promise you that I will make sure I have enough gas to get through the state and I won’t stop to eat.  I refuse to give any of my money to their economy.  I hope all travelers who need to pass through Indiana do the same thing.

If these things happen, the economic impact will be severe.  Not only to businesses who openly discriminate using this law as cover, but to the tax rolls in Indiana as well.

Since several other states are already looking to Indiana as the model to follow with similar laws, it is time to fight back.  By showing the economic implications of such legalized discrimination, maybe those other states will think twice before following suit.

To show just how much this law is legalized discrimination, Pence was asked if he would follow Illinois’ lead and add sexual-orientation to the state’s civil rights law.  He responded “That is not on my agenda.  I will not be pursuing that.”  Therefore, no one can argue that this law is anything but legalized discrimination sponsored by the state of Indiana.

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Actually, that question can be asked of all of the media.  You may or may not have heard about this incident.  It occurred at the New Orleans Airport over the weekend.  We all know that if a Muslim had done the attacking, it would be headlined around the country as an “act of terrorism.”  But, the attacker wasn’t a Muslim, so we haven’t heard the term used even once.

Last Friday night, Richard White, a 63-year-old former Army serviceman carried a duffel bag holding six homemade explosives, a machete, and poison spray into the airport. He approached the TSA security checkpoint, and then sprayed two TSA officers with the poison. He then grabbed his machete and chased another TSA officer with it.

He was then shot and killed by the police. After the incident, a search of Mr. White’s car by the police revealed it contained acetylene and oxygen tanks, two substances that, when mixed together, will yield a powerful explosive.

I have read several pieces on this attack, and no one ever mentioned it as an “act of terror.”  It certainly looks on the surface as an act of terrorism.  But, no one ever called it that.  As a matter of fact, within hours of the attack law enforcement was quick to chalk this incident up to the attacker’s alleged “mental health issues.”

Mr. White has been retired for some time and living on social security and disability checks.  Further, he was reportedly a devout Jehovah’s Witness.  Interviews with his neighbors, however, don’t even give a hint that he had mental problems. They described White as a “meek” and “kind” man who a few had spoken to just days before the incident and everything seemed fine.

Now, maybe Mr. White does suffer from some “mental issues.”  But, I still find it funny that no Muslim involved in something like this can possibly suffer from “mental issues.”  If Mr. White was a Muslim, you would be certain Fox News would have plastered their headlines with “Terrorism” for weeks on end.  But, since it wasn’t committed by a Muslin, Fox News is somewhat quiet about the incident.

Furthermore, the police never even looked into whether or not Mr. White had some sort of grudge against the government.  Nor, did they investigate whether or not he expressed any anti-government sentiments prior to the attack.  After all, he did only attack TSA officers.  He did not attack any of the passengers waiting in line with him.

We have seen conservatives attack the TSA in the past.  They have argued that the TSA is only interested in taking away our liberties.  For example, Alex Jones’ Infowars website is filled with anti-TSA articles claiming that the TSA’s goal is not to prevent terrorism but to “harass” travelers and get into “our pants.”  Glen Beck warned in the past  that the TSA was potentially becoming President Obama’s “private army” with the goal being to take away our liberties.

Then, in 2012, Senator Rand Paul lashed out against the TSA for what he viewed as the agency’s improper treatment of him. In fact after the incident, Paul penned an op-ed denouncing the TSA, writing that “it is infuriating that this agency feels entitled to revoke our civil liberties while doing little to keep us safe.”

Ted Cruz who announced his candidacy for president yesterday is famous for saying that the President can’t make himself to say the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism.”  Well here is an example of what some would call “radical Christian terrorism,” and Mr. Cruz is silent on the issue.

Conservatives, trying to show some concern for Muslims often say that “every Muslim is not a terrorist,” but “every terrorist is a Muslim.”  Considering that this story received no coverage about it being even possibly an “act of terrorism,” makes it easy to understand why the average person may believe that nonsense.

Mr. White’s attack is not the first attack on TSA either.  In October 2012, Paul Ciancia traveled to LAX, where he took out a rifle from his bag and shot two TSA officers, killing one. Ciancia had written anti-government tracts in the past and was—to little media fanfare, and none from the right-wing media—actually charged months later with an “act of terrorism.

Because of this twisted mindset, we are more unsafe today than we were ten years ago.  The fact that we will only use the word “terrorism” if a Muslim commits an attack, and refuse to recognize “terrorism” committed by Christians who are U.S. citizens makes homegrown terrorists even more dangerous.

As I wrote before, terrorism is terrorism.  It doesn’t matter who the terrorist is.  We need to recognize that fact and stop apologizing for the non-Muslims who commit “acts of terrorism.”  But, that will take away the right-wing’s us against them narrative.  Maybe that is why none of them covered this incident as an “act of terrorism.”

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Well it is official, sort of.  Ted Cruz has announced that he is running for President in 2016.  At least he tweeted that he is running in 2016.  It is probably appropriate that he is the first to officially announce his candidacy.  I just wonder how many “birthers” are going to come out of the closet about his citizenship.  If one truly believes that you must be born inside the U.S. to run for President, they now have someone who was definitely not born inside the U.S. or even one of its territories.

But, that is not what this article is all about.  I said it is appropriate that he be the first to announce because he is the one who shouts the most about “liberty.”  Especially about “religious liberty.”  But of course, when he talks about “liberty” he doesn’t really mean personal liberty to be enjoyed by everyone.  He means only those “liberties” that fall into his definition of what “liberty” is all about.

Unfortunately, “religious liberty” has become the rallying cry for bigots of all shapes and sizes.  I am even going to go so far as to say the terrorists have picked up the rallying cry of “religious liberty.”  People like Ted Cruz who constantly cry about “religious liberty” continuously prove my point.  They are not interested in real liberty.  They are interested only in the parts of “liberty” that allow them to hate, disrespect, and discriminate against anyone who doesn’t agree with their twisted view of society.

Last week this came more to light when Jeb Bush said that we should “respect” those who wish to be involved in a lifetime same-sex marriage, but we should also have to the right to discriminate against them if we “hold religious beliefs” that do not agree with same-sex marriage.  That is the real issue here.

I would love for someone to logically explain to me how we can “respect” others all the while we are allowed to discriminate against them.  You won’t hear a logical explanation because there isn’t one.  Oh, people will talk about how if you own a business it is your right to not serve anyone based on your “religious beliefs.”  However, that is a fallacy, too.  Once you open your doors to the “public” you must serve all of the “public.”  You cannot pick-and-choose who you are going to serve.  The Supreme Court has already ruled many times that is discrimination, and that is illegal!

This “religious liberty” fantasy that Cruz and his followers are trying to inflict on society is all based on a lie.  The right to believe what you wish does not allow you to discriminate against a fellow citizen in the conduct of normal daily business or life.  This lie has grown out of the absolute hatred of the Cult towards same-sex marriage.

Since recognizing same-sex marriage is becoming more mainstream, the Cult is trying to make it legal to discriminate against same-sex couples in the name of “religious liberty.”  If this is allowed to continue, who will be the next group that “religious liberty” will go after.

Will we return to the days when it was illegal for a black to marry a white because someone’s “religious belief” doesn’t recognize it?  Are we going to base our immigration laws on what religion is allowed to immigrate into the country?  Will County Clerks be allowed to discriminate against people of different faiths getting a marriage license because that clerk doesn’t believe in inter-faith marriage?

The right and the cult want you to believe that religious beliefs trump the constitution.  They want you to believe that if their beliefs say you can discriminate against someone, you have that right.  They want to impose their “religious beliefs” on you as the law of the land.

But, I remember when Catholics were discriminated against in this country.  I remember the outcry that the right and the cult had when John F. Kennedy first ran for office.  I remember his speech about religion and politics.  I remember how he had to assure the country that his religion would not interfere with his responsibility to “defend the constitution.”

Now, the same things that the right and the cult were so worried about when JFK ran for office is their rallying cry.  Religion trumps the Constitution as long as it is “their” religion.  The same people, and groups of people who were so worried about JFK instituting Catholicism on the country, now want to institute “evangelicalism” on the country.

“Religious liberty” can be very dangerous buzz words.  Just for the sake of argument.  Let us assume that someone from ISIS is a citizen in this country.  That person kidnaps a “Christian” and kills him because he won’t convert to Islam.  That same person says he is acting under the banner of “religious liberty” to justify his killing.

I don’t think that anyone would try to argue that this killing falls under the guise of “religious liberty.”  Some of you will argue that this is an absurd comparison.  But is it?  Where do you draw the line when you talk about “religious liberty” being the basis for discrimination.  Murder is one of the most horrific examples of discrimination and intolerance.  Our history is rife with murder for the sake of discrimination.  Religious murder is just as horrific.

Yet, under the banner of “religious liberty” it may be considered by some to be justifiable.  If a person truly believes that they are acting in accordance with deep religious beliefs when they murder another person then say is was legal under the banner of  “religious liberty,” how can Cruz or anyone else who discriminates under the same banner argue against it?

Some will argue that this analogy is ridiculous because there are laws against murder.  There are laws against discrimination, too.  Yet under the banner of “religious liberty” you are willing to break those laws.  Even worse, make breaking those laws legal.

It really doesn’t matter how you slice it.  The common thread is that “religious liberty” has become nothing more than a rallying cry for bigoted people to express their hatred for anyone who is different from them.  They have forgotten, and/or want to erase, or at least change the words on the Statue of Liberty.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

With the announcement of Ted Cruz as a presidential candidate, we are going to hear a lot more about “religious liberty” in the coming months.  That will definitely be one of the major planks in his platform. But when you hear him, and others, talking about how it is “religious liberty” that allows you to discriminate, ask them a couple of questions.

How is it possible that people who profess a belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ who tells us to “love your neighbor as yourself” can convince themselves that he really didn’t mean “every neighbor?”  How can they justify that the person they claim to be their “savior” said “judge not lest you be judged by the same standard” didn’t mean “don’t judge everyone?”

I am positive that you won’t get a logical response to these questions.  That is because these people who claim “religious liberty” in the name of discrimination aren’t Christians.  They are bigots who have hijacked religion for their own nefarious reasons.  Listener beware!

 

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It has been said that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  This has become a true statement, especially when it comes to race relations in America.  Throughout our history we have seen everything from slavery to legalized segregation to the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s.

Today we sit 50 years removed from the civil rights movement.  50 years ago this past weekend we witnessed the Selma March.  We saw the marchers being attacked viciously by police of the time.  We witnessed similar beatings during other civil marches.  We saw “freedom riders” be murdered simply because they wanted to help blacks gain the right to vote.

Those times were filled with violence against protesters seeking the same civil liberties that were afforded to others but denied to some because of the color of their skin.  We saw four little girls killed when their church was bombed.  We witnessed the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy.  Worse we witnessed those caught committing acts of violence walk away free because of a corrupt judicial system.

I was in high school during much of these troubled times.  I saw first hand the hate and violence perpetrated against people.  I witnessed the hatred even among my own neighbors.  No, I did not grow up in the deep south, I grew up on the South Side of Chicago.

It was during this time that I began to seriously question religion.  I saw so-called Christian Preachers teach that segregation was “God’s Will.”  I heard comments on the church steps after mass by my own neighbors complaining about the “blacks.”  The “N” word was used regularly.  I questioned how could someone spend time in church praying and still harbor such hatred.

I attended a private high school in a predominantly black neighborhood.  When Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, we saw hundreds of people basically surround our school.  We were an integrated school, but like the rest of the city the majority of students were white.  School was let out early and fortunately there was no violence as we left the neighborhood.

As the 60s came to a close, things calmed down some.  People thought that we had finally crossed the line and that we had defeated racism.  That was a fanciful dream, but not reality.  Anyone who rightfully remembers those times remembers Richard Nixon and his “Southern Strategy.”  That was a strategy that basically said if he could carry the South, he could win the election.  Since the South was against the Civil Rights Bill, that wasn’t hard for him to do.

We also remember that George Wallace ran an independent campaign for President based on a racist platform.  Both Nixon and Wallace not only railed against blacks, they railed against the “Hippies” as well.  There was a clear “divide and conquer” mentality to that election.  Nixon based his coalition on segregationist of the deep south and on the Conservative Christian Cult.  It was during this election we first heard the term “welfare queen.”

Nixon won the election.  Some were concerned that George Wallace even ran with his racist platform.  The only thing about Wallace’s campaign that worried me was that over 9 million people actually voted for him.  The thought that over 9 million people were in favor of an American version of Apartheid was worrisome by itself.

As time went by, the Republican Party moved more right, especially on social issues.  The party that claimed Abraham Lincoln as its hero, and had a history of fighting for equal rights, sold its soul for votes.  It began to demonize Blacks and Latinos.  It began trumpeting fear in its platform.  And of course, if you weren’t on their side, you must be a Communist.

It has come to the point where today, 50 years after those troubled times, we see the Republican Party mired in the politics of hate.  They have taken up the mantra of the “Old South,”  they just don’t use the exact words.  As a matter of fact, if Ronald Reagan were to run for President on the Republican side today, he would never get out of the primaries.  He would be branded as a “Republican In Name Only” because he wouldn’t be “conservative enough” for the Tea Party and their Cult cronies.

It is true that we have more Blacks in CEO offices than before.  It is true that we have a Black man in the Oval Office.  But, it is also true that Blacks are still proportionately more unemployed than whites.  It is also true that Civil Rights are still under attack from the Cult and other wackos.  It is also true that unarmed black men are being shot and killed by the very Police Officers who are supposed to protect them.

We are seeing cuts to welfare, food stamps, WIC, and other programs designed to help the poor.  We are seeing education budgets for public education cut dramatically.  We have seen a dramatic rise in income and social inequality.  How can this be happening in a country that was founded on the principle that “all men are created equal?”

It is because hatred and prejudice are still rampant in too many parts of this country.  Hate seems to be the only thing that has remained constant with too way too many people.  That is a very harsh indictment on us as a whole.  We see it everywhere.  We see it on TV in speeches.  We see it in laws being passed that legalize discrimination.  We see it in racist emails that get passed around.  We see it in voter suppression laws.

Don’t think that conservatives just came up with their voter suppression laws that have been passed in far too many states.  They have had plans to make things tough for people to vote for years.  They were simply waiting for the right opportunity to put them in place.  They call it “True Vote.”  That is just code words to make sure Blacks, Latinos, Elderly, and Young Voters don’t get to vote.  These “Photo ID” laws are intended to make it difficult for these groups to vote.  They place another burden on them to “prove” they are citizens and are actually who they say they are.

These laws cost the individual time and money.  Many members of these groups don’t have a driver’s license and are being forced to spend money to get copies of their birth certificate in order to get their “Photo ID”.  Many also have to travel tens of miles to get to an office where they can get their ID.  Some as much as 250 miles.  Without a driver’s license, that is a very difficult thing to do.

These laws were not designed this way by accident.  These laws were designed to make it more difficult for them to vote because historically these groups tend to vote Democratic.  It all boils down to the same thing.  Voter Suppression.  That was proven in Pennsylvania when the Republican Leader of their legislature stated very dramatically after a similar law was passed “Photo ID law that will ensure Mitt Romney wins Pennsylvania.. Done!”

During the 50s and 60s people were murdered over their desire for equality.  Thousands of people were injured when police charged the lines and began mercilessly beating people.  Thousands of people were arrested for daring to march to protest inequality.

If we could speak to those people today, what would we say?  How could we explain to them that although there has been some little progress in race relations, we are reverting back to the days they marched?  How is it possible that America has lost its soul, again?

I guess the only thing we can actually say is “We’re Sorry.”  But that rings very hallow.  We must take up their mantle and continue the fight until racism really is a thing of the past.  We owe them that much!

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I think it is time to ask a very dangerous question.  I do not do this lightly, but I believe it is time.  The question is this.  Is it un-American, even treasonous, to pass laws based on religious belief?  As I said, this is not an easy question to ask, and it is probably even harder to answer.

We are seeing a lot of state legislatures around the country trying to pass legislation that would basically make it legal to discriminate against another group of people.  The purported basis for these laws is called “religious freedom.”  I say that the real reason for these laws is bigotry!

This attack on the Constitution is not just in the deep south either.  We have seen legislation in states like Nebraska, Arizona, Kansas, and even Hawaii.  We have entered a stage in our history where people want their religious beliefs to become the “law of the land.”  Isn’t that being un-American?  Isn’t that attacking the Constitution?

Not far from where I live there was a controversy a few years ago at a veteran’s cemetery.  The controversy centered around the so-called “Christian Flag” flying from the flagpole at the cemetery.  Many people wanted it taken down, but the Cult wanted it displayed.  There were even threats of violence against anyone who disagreed with it being there.

A co-worker at the time asked me what I thought about the issue since I am a veteran.  I told him I was against the flag.  Not because of any religious implications, but because those of us who served, served the U.S. Flag and not a foreign flag.  Since this flag was not the U.S. Flag, it should be brought down.  I also considered the flag a slap in the face to the veterans buried there who were not Christian.

In Arizona, a law was passed that made it legal for business to discriminate against gay couples.  In their law, if a baker claimed “strong religious belief” that baker did not have to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple.  Fortunately, the bill was vetoed by the Governor.

Recently in Oklahoma, a similar bill was introduced.  State Sen. Joseph Silk, the Republican chief sponsor of the bill, said:  “gay people don’t have a right to be served in every single store.” He then added:  “People need to have the ability to refuse service if it violates their religious convictions.”  Now if this sounds familiar, remember these were the same arguments used to justify the Jim Crowe laws prior to the passage of the Civil Rights Bill.

As I wrote the other day, a wing-nut in California has submitted a ballot initiative there that would make being homosexual, or at least engaging in homosexual conduct, punishable by “a bullet to the back of the head.”  Under this extreme law if you sell magazines considered to be homosexual in nature, you would face a $1 million fine and possibly be exiled from the state for life.

In Alabama where the gay marriage issue is complete mess, GOP State Rep. Jim Hill has introduced legislation that would allow judges and religious leaders not only to opt out of performing marriages that defy their religious beliefs, but also to choose not to recognize them — for the sake of “religious liberty.”

There is a very real possible side effect to this bill known as the Freedom of Religion in Marriage Protection Act.  Although intended to stop same-sex marriage it could also pave the way for probate judges not to grant marriage licenses (or divorces) to couples of different religious backgrounds.  Wouldn’t this law also allow a Catholic judge, for example, to refuse to marry a Hindu, Muslim or Jewish couple?

Senator Inhofe the other day brought a snowball onto the floor of the Senate to prove that climate change was a hoax.  That was bad enough, but he then went on to “quote scripture” to support his claim.  We have had several members of Congress quote from scripture on the floor of both chambers.  Yet when an elected member of congress used a Koran for his swearing-in ceremony, the right-wing went bonkers.

Contradictions like these have always made me ask if we are a nation based on the belief that “all men are created equal” or are we a nation based on the belief that “all men we accept are created equal?”

We are constantly hearing terms like “Christian In Name Only” and “Republican In Name Only” and “Communist Left.”  These are nothing more than code words to say that the person being referred to is not a “Real American” because they are not “Real Christians” and only “Real Christians” are “Real Americans.”  Of course, the side caveat to that is left out.  Only “Real White Christians” are “Real Americans.”

The First Amendment gives us the “freedom of religion.”  That means that every citizen can believe or not believe in whatever religion he chooses.  That does not give them the right to discriminate against someone with a different religious belief, because that would be infringing on that other person’s right to their religious beliefs.

These are all very disturbing signs to me.  If you look throughout history, countries formed either monarchies or dictatorships based on the premise that one group was better than another group.  That is not what America was founded to be.  It was founded to be a country where everyone could live in peace with equal rights.  In other words, it was founded to be a secular country.

God did not become part of our national politics until the 1900s.  “In God We Trust” was not on our money until the 1920s.  The term “under God” in our pledge of allegiance did not appear until the 1950s.  I have heard outcries from the Cult that military chapels don’t have crosses on them.  They claim this is a new phenomenon.  It isn’t.  When I entered the service in 1970, there were no crosses on military chapels because they were used by just about every denomination, even non-Christian.

It would be just as much a violation of the “freedom of religion” clause for the government to force religious leaders like Priests, Preachers, Mullahs, Rabbis or any other  minister to perform same-sex marriage in their churches if it goes against their religious beliefs.  That is their right under the constitution.  However, that right does not include Civil Servants charged with performing non-religious marriage ceremonies.

If laws like these are allowed to be introduced, passed, signed, and stand what group of people will be next to be “legally discriminated” against?  If you think these laws are “absolutely wonderful” how will you feel when your group comes under fire?  Bigotry and ignorance never rest.  They are always on the hunt for another victim.  Which means that no one is safe from their arrows.

I served the United States of America, under the Flag of the United States of America.  When the call for help came across the radios I was monitoring, I never asked that person what nationality, race, sex, religion, or sexual orientation they were.  I simply put the mechanisms in place to save their lives.  I believe that America is based on equality for all of its citizens.

You have probably figured out my response to that question.  I believe that any elected government official, regardless of political affiliation, who legislates religious beliefs into law, regardless of which religion is being used, is violating the Constitution of the United Sates.  As a result, that official is guilty of violating his Oath Of Office and should be impeached.

Let your arrows fly.

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We keep hearing the right-wing use the term “American Exceptionalism” anytime they want to criticize something.  When the AP History curriculum was unveiled, they cried that it didn’t offer enough history about “American Exceptionalism.”  Whenever they get the chance to use the term, they jump on it.  But, what does American Exceptionalism really mean?

Is it supposed to mean that Americans are an exceptional people?  Is it supposed to mean that America is an exceptional place?  When they use the term are they saying that all Americans are exceptional regardless of race, religion, national origin, sex, or sexual orientation?  Maybe they think that America can do no wrong and that is why it is exceptional.

Actually, “American Exceptionalism” is just another meaningless term that gets thrown around to make people feel good about the country.  It has no definition because it doesn’t exist.  In order to be truly exceptional, a country needs to learn from their past faults and correct them.  Have we really done that?

If you listened to Bibi yesterday, you could easily come away with the idea that he doesn’t think America is so exceptional.  Basically, he told us that we are not smart enough to understand how to negotiate with an enemy.  He even told us we were naïve about trusting other countries.  That doesn’t sound like he thinks very highly of “American Exceptionalism.”

In order to better understand this false term, we need to look at some of the less than exceptional things we did as a nation.

We are a country that held slaves.  Our Founding Fathers owned people in order to farm their plantations, serve in the house as maids and other servants, and complete general duties they were too lazy to do for themselves.  I never understood the economics of slavery, but they seemed to think it was cheaper to own slaves than to pay others to do the work for them.  As a matter of fact we were one of the last Western Nations to abolished slavery.

After slavery was abolished, discrimination was institutionalized through what became known as the Jim Crowe laws.  These laws made it legal to discriminate against people because of the color of their skin.  During World Wars I and II we drafted African-Americans into the army but segregated them from the regular, or white, troops.

When I was in school during the 1950s, we read a lot about World War II.  The Bataan Death March was very prevalent in our history books.  That was an atrocious, brutal violation of the Geneva Convention which the Japanese had not signed because they believed that they were exceptional.

On the other hand, there was very little mention of the “Trail of Tears” we forced upon Native Americans.  President Jackson decided that Native Americans were not welcome on the East Coast.  So, he rounded them all up and deported them to the Oklahoma Territory.  Thousands of Native Americans died along the trail.  Our history books said very little about that.

Although our history books talked about the Holocaust carried out by Nazi Germany, it did not talk about the genocide that America committed against Native American Tribes once we began expanding westward.  Our history books talked about Native Americans as “savages” who needed to be “tamed.”  They talked about the Indian Wars and how the Indians slaughtered hundreds of settlers.  They failed to mention that America slaughtered thousands of Indians in the name of progress.  It wasn’t until after I graduated from High School that I read about the atrocity at Wounded Knee.

Things like the AP History curriculum allows for discussions about these issues and others in our past.  What is wrong with that?  Look, America has done some wonderful things both at home and abroad.  But, we have done some horrible things both at home and abroad, too.

Our government was involved in overthrowing other governments, like the democratically elected government of Iran in the 1950s, because we were afraid they may get closer to the Soviet Union than us.  How is that exceptional?  Iran wasn’t the only country this happened in either.  We supported brutal dictatorships in Latin and South America that killed thousands of their own people.  How is that exceptional?

How is it exceptional when too many of our children attend underfunded and dilapidated public schools while states keep slashing education funds?  How is it exceptional to allow corporations to get rich, while paying their workers wages at or below the poverty line while refusing to raise the minimum wage?  How is it exceptional that too many people including low-income families, the elderly, veterans, and the disabled are forced to live in poverty and not have enough to eat while cutting food stamp funding?  How is it exceptional when it is necessary to put labels on people so we can differentiate between groups?

How is it exceptional when women get paid less for doing the same job as a man?  How is it exceptional when there are laws restricting voting rights?  How is it exceptional when legislatures pass laws that allow discrimination against our fellow citizens?  How is it exceptional when there are laws to ban people of the same-sex from getting married thus getting the same rights to inheritance, health insurance coverage as other married people?

We have heard other nations talk about their exceptionalism or superiority in the past.  Alexander the Great’s Empire, the Egyptian Empire, the Roman Empire, the Persian Empire, the British Empire, the Soviet Union, and Nazi Germany all claimed to be superior to everyone else.  All claimed to be a “master race” of some kind.  Or, they claimed that God, or the gods, was on their side.  Now we are hearing how “God Blessed America.”  Is that why we are supposed to be exceptional?

Only when we recognize that we are all part of one race, the human race, when we recognize that religion is a personal belief and allow each other their own beliefs, when we recognize that all humans deserve the same civil rights as everyone else regardless of race, religion, sex, nationality, or sexual orientation, can we then maybe claim to be exceptional.

When I hear someone talk about “American Exceptionalism,” I only hear them claim that we, America, is better than everyone else.  That sounds too much like all the other nations and empires of the past.  They all ended up the same way.  Just a few pages in the history books.  Once America becomes exceptional at home, the world may then see us as exceptional as well.

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I just don’t know what the right-wing is thinking.  Or, if they are thinking at all.  We have seen the right-wing go completely off the rails.  This isn’t really anything new, the right-wing goes off the rails quite a lot.  But, things seem to be getting worse rather than better.

The other day at CPAC Gov. Scott Walker said he is ready to take on ISIS as President because he “took on 100,000 union protesters” in Wisconsin.  He also said that Ronald Reagan firing the air traffic controllers who went on strike in the 1980s was “the greatest foreign policy decision in my lifetime.”

I am sure that all workers out there who belong to the dwindling unions are very happy to hear how they are the same as ISIS or that fighting them has something to do with foreign policy.  How could we have ever let unions form in this country since, as Gov. Walker seems to think, they are foreigners trying to damage America?

We also heard all of the so-called “front-runners” for the Republican nomination compare themselves to St. Ronald Reagan.  However, if Ronald Reagan gave a speech at CPAC today, he would be booed out of the place.  All of these wackos seem to forget that Ronald Reagan was not interested in a balanced budget.  He ran very high deficits.

They all seem to forget that Ronald Reagan did not fight against abortion as these radicals have.  Yes, he professed his belief in god, but he was willing to let the Roe v. Wade decision stand.  In many ways, Ronald Reagan was a lot more of a “social liberal” than they seem to remember.  Even some of his past policy advisors agree Ronald Reagan would not stand a chance at CPAC.

Everyone at CPAC railed against ISIS and Sharia Law.  The all espoused how ISIS must be eliminated, and they all seem to think it will be easy, and outlaw Sharia Law everywhere.  Hell, last November, Georgia even had an anti-Sharia law initiative on the ballot.

Yes, the right-wing has gone off the rails again.  The Tea Party and their allies in the Conservative Christian Cult are trying to start another “crusades” against Islam throughout the world.  All the while they are quietly trying to set up their own version of a “theocracy” right here in America.  According to their “agenda” if you are not Christian, you should not have any rights.

In California, this has been taken to one of the most extreme measures you can think of.  See, in 1911, California changed their constitution to allow ballot initiatives.  All you need to do is pay $200 to file your initiative, then get signatures from 5% of the total votes in the last gubernatorial election.

Well, one lawyer in California ponied up his $200 and submitted a really dangerous initiative.  He calls it “The Sodomite Suppression Act.”  Yes, it is exactly what you think it is.  He wants to outlaw all forms of same-sex sex.  But, outlawing it is not enough for this wacko.  His bill says “that any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification be put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method.”

It also says:

No person shall distribute, perform, or transmit sodomistic propaganda directly or indirectly by any means to any person under the age of majority. Sodomistic propaganda is defined as anything aimed at creating an interest in or an acceptance of human sexual relations other than between a man and a woman. Every offender shall be fined $1 million per occurrence, and/or imprisoned up to 10 years, and/or expelled from the boundaries of the state of California for up to life.

His “law” makes it illegal for a “sodomite” to hold public office or even work for a government agency.  There is a lot of other stupid stuff in it, but one that really stands out, if you aren’t sick enough already, says:

The state has an affirmative duty to defend and enforce this law as written, and every member of the public has standing to seek its enforcement and obtain reimbursement for all costs and attorney’s fees in so doing, and further, should the state persist in inaction over 1 year after due notice, the general public is empowered and deputized to execute all the provisions hereunder extra-judicially, immune from any charge and indemnified by the state against any and all liability.

And why does he think this is so important?  Because he believes that if this law is not passed, we are all doomed to follow in the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.  His justification for this idiocy says:

Seeing that it is better that offenders should die rather than that all of us should be killed by God’s just wrath against us for the folly of tolerating-wickedness in our midst, the People of California wisely command, in the fear of God…..

He even stipulates that this law must be posted in “all public schools.”

ISIS is a barbaric and cruel group of wackos trying to establish their personal beliefs on a region of the world.  We all know that.  They are dangerous and most people think something needs to be done about them.  The debate is over what and how this “something” should be.

Okay, even if I agree with that, can someone please explain to me how this “initiative” is any different from ISIS and their policies?  Can someone please explain to me how “executing” gays in this country is any different from ISIS killing non-Muslims in Iraq?  The simple answer is you cannot explain the differences because there are none.  Both groups are “terrorists,” as far as I am concerned.

This initiative is just another step in the “theocracy” that the Conservative Christian Cult wants to unleash on America.  The only difference it this goofball isn’t trying to sugar-coat it.  If this type of hate continues, the word “sodomite” will be replaced with “Muslim” or “non-White” or “non-Christian.

I wonder which speaker at CPAC will be the first to say anything against this “initiative.”  I am rather wondering which one will be the first to endorse it.

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