Monthly Archives: June 2014

HOLIER-THAN-THOU

Some years back there was a highly amusing Broadway musical called “Nunsense.” It was about a group of nuns affiliated with a certain church group performing all kinds of silly actions. The closing number in the show was called Holier-Than-Thou and had each nun singing about some supposedly godly act she had undertaken and was therefore holier than the other nuns. As I’ve said, quite amusing when done on-stage; not so amusing when exhibited in real life. Nevertheless, some people feel compelled to display in public the vast amount of homage they give obsessively to the invisible man. Public displays of their religious beliefs becomes a daily necessity. Some call it wearing their religion on their sleeves. Others, like myself, might simply term it religious lunacy.

A good example of this occurred about 2 summers ago. Dan Cathy, the CEO of a chain of fried chicken joints called Chick-fil-A, located mainly in the South and Midwest, revealed his family’s bias toward anything homosexual, and especially toward gay marriage, during a radio interview. He stated that: “As it relates to society in general, I think we’re inviting God’s judgement on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.” So there you have it. If we, in this country, allow marriage between 2 consenting adults of the same sex, God is going to crush us like a bug. He will stomp all over us as if we were ants trying to build an earthen colony. How sad that people even think along those lines. It had to take a lot of bible-thumping when they were young to get them so thoroughly brainwashed.

Sadder still is the tens of thousands of mostly Baptists that turned out to support Chick-fil-A’s religious fundamentalism. They picked a sweltering Saturday in July to line up at various Chick-fil-A outlets in order to stuff their bellies with greasy fried chicken sandwiches. Some of the lines at the restaurants were supposedly over an hour long as people sweated in the broiling sun. A small price to pay, however, if one is out to prove that they’re holier-than-thou, as well as to stave off God’s wrath and vengeance. I don’t know about you, but I sure hate the idea of having to put up with another 40 days and nights of hard rain.

Tim Tebow is another example of wearing one’s religion on his sleeve. An all-star quarterback in college, he was drafted into the pros with high expectations. But Tim liked show his religious devotion by going down on one knee when he was on the sidelines. I assume he was praying for Jesus to allow him to score more touchdowns, but it didn’t quite work that way. Despite all of Tim’s knee-bending, his quarterbacking skills in the pros just didn’t to pan out. Jesus would somehow not intervene to allow Tim to achieve more pass completions. After 2 years he was cut from the pros, and now, I believe, he does sports broadcasting.

In any event, this was kind of a long way around to discuss today”s Supreme Court verdict regarding birth control pills. It’s considered a big win for the bible thumpers, but it really amounts to much ado about nothing. An outfit called Hobby Lobby, which is almost identical in its religious fundamentalist views of life as the crowd running Chick-fil-A, sued all the way to the Supreme Court, so they wouldn’t have to pay for birth control pills in healthcare plans they provide to their female employees. It seems that providing such contraception is one of the requirements of ObamaCare. By a 5-4 vote the Court ruled in Hobby Lobby’s favor. No big surprise since there are 5 conservative and 4 liberal judges on the Court. But it’s considered a twofer for those on the religious right. Not only don’t they have to be a party to “killing” babies (even before they are conceived), but they get to stick it to President Obama. Anytime that occurs, it cause for celebration on the religious right. Break out the crates of apple cider.

As I’ve said, this is not a big deal. Birth control pills are usually pretty cheap, going for about $10 for a month’s supply. Almost any woman can afford to buy them on their own. Or they can insist that the men in their lives use condoms which are also sold at cheap prices over the counter. Either way there’s ample access to inexpensive birth control. But the bible thumpers in looney-tunes-ville desperately needed a win after a series of setbacks in the courts regarding same-sex marriage. Like a series of falling dominoes, court after court in state after state, has been overturning local laws regarding existing prohibitions against same-sex marriage. As Dan Cathy might have put it, the courts have been shaking their fists at God’s natural laws. And boy, are we going to have to pay for such secular shenanigans.

Religious fundamentalism predates Christianity, and goes back to the days of paganism when men worshipped idols and craven images. It seems that that there has always been a portion of the population steeped in deep paranoia. People who believe that if they don’t strictly obey all their god’s whims, he will strike them dead. Usually by crashing a bolt of lightening down on them. So with all this ancient history I’m not taking any chances. From now on, to show my devotion and humility to God, I’m going to walk around with a shawl covering my head and body, even in the Las Vegas heat. (It’s supposed to be over 110 degrees today.) I’ll show all those other nambie-pambies around here who’s holier-than-thou.

 

 

 

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FROM D-DAY TO ETERNITY

A few days ago, June 6th, marked the 70th anniversary of D-Day, and the beginning of the end of Adolph Hitler’s evil Nazi empire. About 160 thousand Allied troops consisting of mostly U.S. forces, but with some British and Canadian troops, stormed the beaches in Normandy, France, and endured unbelievably horrific and withering German artillery fire, as they endeavored to gain a foothold on French soil. Thousands lost their lives that day on those bloody beaches with thousands more severely wounded. But by the end of the day, the Allies did achieve a foothold, although just barely, and began their long trek towards Berlin. Heads of state, including President Obama, and other dignitaries attended the 70th anniversary celebrations in Normandy, especially paying tribute to those that were killed that day on the Normandy beaches as the ocean turned from blue to red. Also in attendance were some remaining veterans of that conflict, now in their late eighties or nineties. Their numbers, of course, dwindle with each passing year.

Within 11 months after D-Day, the Nazi Empire had crumbled and Hitler had committed suicide. But first the Allies had to contend with more horrific German firepower and ferocity in the towns and villages surrounding the Normandy beaches. Slowly grinding on, and again experiencing terrible casualties, Allied troops finally reached the outskirts of Paris. When the Allies finally broke through the German line, and American tanks rolled down the Champs-Elysees, Parisians by the tens of thousands, lined the streets, dancing in joy and tossing flowers and blowing kisses at the Allied troops. The U.S. was at its zenith back then, loved, admired, and respected by virtually every country in the world. Even by Germany and Japan, once they had rid themselves of the evil regimes that had taken over the reigns of their governments. Does anyone believe that U.S. troops would be greeted in a similar fashion if U.S. tanks made a similar entrance today. If U.S. tanks streamed down the Champs-Elysees today, or the streets of any other foreign city,  local citizens would be cursing, spitting, or shaking their fists at the U.S. presence. Just an indication of how far U.S. prestige has fallen in the eyes of the rest of the countries on this planet today.

But back in the 1940s and even the 1950s, America was looked upon as a savior from all the evil and nefarious forces lurking everywhere on this planet. The American economy began booming after the war’s end. There was a huge, pent-up demand for consumer goods, since U.S. factories during the war had shifted almost exclusively to the manufacture of military hardware. People were now buying everything from cars to kitchen appliances faster than they could be produced. It was an era of prosperity and good will; but dark clouds were already looming on the horizon. By the late 1940s Americans began to develop an inordinate fear regarding the spread of communism. This fear was not totally unjustified since China, the largest country on Earth fell to the communists in 1948. In Europe, Stalin’s Russia had spread its communist-style of governance through a slew of East European nations. Hence, the American fear concerning the spread of communism led to  epidemic proportions of paranoia.  It led us to go to war again in Korea; and to an eventual stalemate which freed only half of that peninsula. And, as usual under such circumstances, there were seedy politicians willing to take advantage of irrational fear mongering.

A senator out of Wisconsin named Joe McCarthy realized that there was much gain to be made out of anti-communist hysteria and political witch hunts, and began launching them with unbridled fanaticism. Hundreds, if not thousands of innocent lives and reputations were ruined or destroyed by McCarthyism, which actually became a new word in the dictionary. But the Senator’s very successes led him to overreach, which in turn led to his destruction. McCarthy finally drank himself to death in the late 1950s. With the end of that decade most Americans felt that the excesses of McCarthyism had been put behind them, and a new era of Camelot was about to begin with the election of John Kennedy in 1960.

It was thought that with movie star good looks, and exuding an excess of charm and charisma, JFK, of the Boston Irish Kennedy clan, would put America back on the ascendancy. Along with his glamourous wife Jackie, John Kennedy would surely re-establish the America dream to its full potency, and Camelot would reign throughout the land. Unfortunately, such hopes soon turned out to be bitter fruit. Kennedy allowed himself to fall into the previous decade’s anti-communist quagmire, and upped the ante on his predecessor’s involvement on conflict in a jungle hell-hole known as Viet-Nam. It was the most disastrous war the U.S. had ever engaged in, and the first war we lost out-right. It put us back on a downward slope. And if this weren’t enough, tragedy then struck. A deranged killer’s bullet laid Kennedy in his grave, in November 1963.  The country went into a deep period of mourning, from which it has never fully recovered, especially, the person closest to the slain President.

Jack’s younger brother, Bobby, had been his campaign manager during the 1960 election, and was then appointed Attorney-General, when Jack was sworn in as President. It was the tumultuous ’60s with great civil rights demonstrations against the segregated South, as well as huge demonstrations against the war in Viet-Nam. Both the President and the Attorney-General were deeply involved with the civil rights causes of that era, and with their leader, a young black minister named Martin Luther King Jr. If the Kennedy Administration became too involved in Viet-Nam, it at least succeeded in breaking down racial segregation barriers throughout the deep South. As I said, Bobby took Jack’s death especially hard; but the grief made him a deeper and more empathetic figure.

Bobby ran for the Senate in New York in 1964 and won. In 1968 he was determined to run for the presidency on a platform of extracting us from the Viet-Nam war, removing the last vestiges of racial segregation and bigotry in our country, and having the Government become more involved in the plight of the poor, sick and hungry. Alas, all this was not too be.

Earlier in 1968, Martin Luther King had been gunned down by another deranged individual, and the civil rights movement lost their greatest leader. Then on June 5, 1968, just after he won the California primary in his race for the presidency, Bobby Kennedy was also shot by another sicko with a gun. He died the next day, June 6, the 24th anniversary of D-Day. I guess, as the song says, you don’t lose such quality and beloved leadership as John, Martin and Bobby, without serious consequences. Replacements for men of such caliber have been sadly lacking, and thus increasing the American Empire’s downward spiral. Today, we have dingbats such as Sarah Palin or Ted Cruz being mentioned for the presidency in 2016. A sign of the times of, indeed, how far we have fallen.

 

 

 

 

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GOOD OLE DIXIE

How many of you know that today is Jefferson Davis’s birthday. How many of you even know or care who Jeff Davis was. Well, for those of you that are historically challenged, Jefferson Davis was the first and only president of the Confederate States of America. In other words, he was Dixie’s equivalent to Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. For those of you who may still view the Civil War as a long-time-ago kind of a spat among the states that sort of got out-of-hand, let me assure you it was the absolute opposite. The Civil War was every bit as brutal, nasty, and inhumane as the war this country fought against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan during the 1940s. Today’s equivalent of over 6 million American lives were lost in that conflict 150 years ago, either on the battlefield or in abominable prisoner of war camps. And while atrocities were committed on both sides, Southern prisoner camps were especially despicable since Northerners held in captivity lived under conditions of unbelievable filth and disease, and were usually starved, beaten, tortured or just cold-bloodly murdered. Nevertheless many Southern states still continue to display the Confederate flag, and one state still celebrates Jefferson Davis’s birthday.

In Alabama today, state offices as well as many businesses will be closed in honor of the Confederacy’s first and only president. Jeff Davis was captured in 1865 and accused of treason, but was never tried in a court of law; and he was eventually released two years later. Just before his death in 1889, he advised Southerners that: “The past is dead; let it bury its dead, its hopes and its aspirations.” But many, to this day, refuse to heed that advise. He is still memorialized throughout the South with statues, parks and highways, in places such as Georgia, Florida, Texas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Virginia, and even Washington, D.C. But Alabama is the last state to to legislate that the first Monday in June will be set aside to celebrate Davis’s birthday. It should be noted that other Alabamians who actually made huge and beneficial contributions to civilized society such as Hellen Keller, writer Harper Lee, and blues musician W.C. Handy are not similarly commemorated. Such are the foibles of the human condition. I think the head of a local Alabama chapter of the NAACP put it best when he said that: “We’re supposed to be one nation under God. When people keep honoring the Confederacy, we are no longer one nation under God.”

So what has the U.S. accomplished in the 150 years since the end of that tussle among the states. First we had to endure another 100 years of semi-slavery for blacks better known as Jim Crowe. Strict segregation laws were established in the South that made it a crime for blacks to drink out of the same water fountain as whites, or use the same bathrooms, or sit at the same lunch counters. Blacks certainly couldn’t send their children to the same schools that white kids went to. When some protested how despicable segregation laws were, and that the federal Government should step in to rectify this abomination, the cry went out from Dixie for states rights. Southern states hammered home the point that the Constitution gave the states the right to enact segregation laws if they so desired. And by and large, the Feds did stay out of the South’s preoccupation with segregation. It wasn’t until the 1960s, with increased pressure from Northern freedom riders and greater militancy  from black communities that Jim Crowism and resultant segregation in the South finally started breaking down. They were finally washed away in a tidal wave of righteous indignation.

One of the greatest friends, ironically, that civil rights workers had in the early 1960s was an Alabama sheriff named Bull Conners. Conners, as one can infer from his name, was a fierce segregationist who looked every bit the part. When civil rights leaders tried to de-segregate his town, Conners had the police turn gushing water cannons on the marchers. People were hurt by the velocity of the water coming out these canons; and those that weren’t injured were thrown into the local prison. Those scenes were shown on TV nightly news, which then enraged most of the nation, thereby speeding up the de-segregation process. John Kennedy, who was President at the time, often stated that what Bull Connors did for the civil rights movement was well beyond anything he could achieve as President.

One would think that by crushing Jim Crowe and segregation, the cry of “states rights” in legislative affairs would have been long discredited. But if one did think that, one would be dead wrong. Today, try to enact federal gun control laws and the NRA immediately begins to scream that such laws would be a constitutional infringement of states rights. States throughout the South and Midwest have already enacted severe restrictions on a woman’s right to have an abortion, under the banner of states rights. Despite the Supreme Court’s verdict in Roe V. Wade. And new ballot restrictions intended to intimidate minorities and the poor from voting have also become law, supposedly protected by “states rights.” The Republican Party, of course, has become the chief advocate for states rights, since it perceives itself to be the main beneficiary in upcoming elections. So one must presume that when the GOP takes control of Congress this year, and the Presidency in 2016, the states will have the power to enact whatever they damn well please, no matter how obnoxious the legislation may be.

In the the meantime, let’s raise a glass of champagne in celebration of Jeff Davis’s birthday. At least at the end, when he was on his death bed, he finally got it right.

 

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