“Cowboy Capitalists” and the American Dream

Our forefathers, educated in the classics and the writings of
their contemporaries in the fields of economics, philosophy, science, farming,
and trade, created a government for our nascent America that surprised the
world. It wasn’t that it was unprecedented. It borrowed from ideologies as
antique as those of Greece and Rome. But just consider how amazing our
Democracy is since it was created in an age of monarchs, of nobles, of serfs.
Do you think those kings and queens, who claimed “divine right”
to rule, wanted anyone to spread the credo that “all men are created equal and
are endowed with certain inalienable rights” – the very rights we hold dear –
life – liberty – the pursuit of happiness. 
Our forefathers started a trend. Their modern anachronism
went, as we would say these days, “viral”. Western Europe became mad for
Democracy. They went to war for it, they demoted their kings and queens for it.
This trend, as we know, did not catch on so much on other key
continents. And so we inherited today’s situation where countries with
differing ideas about governance have to coexist. We haven’t had to respect
theocracies for some time. They existed but they kept the rest of the world
away.
As with every culture we have come to value our form of
government so highly that we often have been guilty of acting almost like
missionaries, wanting to spread our Democracy (and, still, for some, our
Christianity) everywhere. Even now I hold the belief that someday people
everywhere on our planet will enjoy Democracy in one form or another. Except,
not everyone is so gung ho to have their traditions replaced. And we have come
to understand that respect for others means letting them chose their own
government (but not letting them choose ours). As for religion, I believe that
our forefathers, many fleeing religious persecution, were quite adamant in their
belief that people should be free to worship as they please and that the only
way to insure this was to keep religion separate from government.
Today many argue that our forefathers were only thinking about
freedom to pursue different forms of Christianity and they might have hedged
their bets if they knew we might have citizens who worship in so many different
ways or do not worship at all. This is the cusp of our current dilemma. Do we
reinterpret the things our forefathers said? Do we simply revise our documents
to fit some people’s ideas of what they think our forefather’s meant?
Are we perhaps in shock that our Democracy does not seem to be
trending the way it once did? Historically, change takes time. If we can wait
we might find the ideas of liberty and equality gaining popularity once again.
They are looking a bit tarnished as our economics has sort of usurped our
governance. Capitalism can be a bit aggressive and overbearing. We have just
been letting it get out of hand a bit. If we can tamp down those rampaging
Capitalists who have been so busy buying up everything in sight (including our
government) and cornering all the world’s wealth then our freedom might shine
forth once again.
So we need more economic regulation, not less. We need more
taxes on the rich, not less. And I’m thinking that if a Progressive wins and
starts to rein in Capitalists-gone-wild – our new economic “cowboys” – then we
the people will probably have to put up with a bit of punishment before things
level out a bit.
Donald Trump, one of those “cowboy” capitalists, doesn’t seem
to mind putting American ideals aside to win against radical “Islamistic”
terrorists. 
The “all men are created equal” part of Democracy never has sat
well with Capitalists. They sort of adapt it to say that we may be created
equal but we don’t all turn out equal. Those who turn out on top of the heap,
they imply, are there because they are actually better than others (not
luckier, not born with silver spoons). The fact is that these folks interpret
being better as having more money even if they stole it by manipulating laws.
If we let these “Capitalist Cowboys” sidestep our Declaration of Independence
and our U.S. Constitution won’t that be the end of the real America Dream? That
dream is really not at base a materialistic dream at all, but one of freedom of
the mind and of the person (within reason) and of governance “of the people, by
the people, and for the people.”
We can’t exclude all Muslims without forever debasing what
America has stood for around the world and what it is still struggling to stand
for. Our previous lapses may have been grandfathered in, but this time we are
fully aware of the harm from tarring an entire group with the same brush. We
cannot even use religion as an excuse to overturn laws that respect the beliefs
of any segment of our population. 
If we do these things, and it is entirely
possible that we might (fear being very powerful) they can we ever put the best
parts of the American Dream back together again? If we want to show the world
the way a Democratic society brings out a person’s best self then we must be
our best selves. Or we can do what Donald J Trump (did you notice he started
using his middle initial) suggests, but will we still be America afterwards?
By Nancy Brisson

War on Christianity

On Friday, June 5th, there was a report,
and I am not sure of the source (was it MSNBC, was it Jon Stewart, perhaps Bill
Maher). It was Bill Maher, but Jon Stewart has talked about this also. There
was a montage of clips showing one mournful Republican after another, mostly
Presidential candidates, claiming that there is a War on Christianity in
America.
The story was full of the fine comedic commentary
that is best known on the left. It implied that there was some truth to these
mostly paranoid remarks offered up by Republicans. Perhaps these Christians,
often labelled Evangelicals are trying to garner some sort of cultural
sympathy, or perhaps they want to call out Liberals as Godless and therefore
unelectable on grounds of immorality. This may all be Evangelical political
propaganda, but also may not be totally false.
I am a liberal who has no patience with the
Christianity of these Evangelicals. They are, for one thing, way too
self-righteous, as if they speak regularly and directly with God and they know
what will please him, something those without “faith” cannot know. Not only do
they have a monopoly on Patriotism, but, clearly, also on Faith. And yet these
folks are not perfect; they are still as flawed as any of us. We are constantly
learning about their human failings.
Evangelicals are citizens in a democracy which has
always read our founding documents to say that our government is a secular one
and that freedom of religion is a key aspect of our Democracy. In order to
insure these two things the importance of the separation of church and state was
certainly at least implied by our forefathers. Lately though, it is clear that
behavior in American is being judged by those on the right through the screen
of their Evangelical faith.
The Evangelical Church seems to have taught some
very distasteful and self-serving messages to our public servants. Their
religious study seems to support the central position of the white male in the
universe. Their studies have led them to believe that the Bible admonishes
women to be submissive. These two points of doctrine convince them that America
was intended to be a nation of Christian white couples paired up male/female
and bent on procreation, not fornication.

Since men are appointed to guide women then women
will agree, if they are good Christians, as all Americans should be, that
abortion and contraception are against the natural order of things. Since white
males rule and they claim that evolution is wrong, and humans can never harm
the earth since it was given to us by God for our use, then these things are true
and “beyond contestation”. Next we will be having witch hunts. I certainly
never believed we would reincarnate our Puritan past but if could very well
happen if we let Evangelicals get their hands on our government.
What I loved about movies like Star Trek and Star
Wars was the operational equality between men and women. There was banter
between sexes and there was still some abuse of women in some cultures, but
when it came to winning and losing the men and women pitched in and got the job
done. (Even in the Harry Potter books this equality between the sexes holds.) I
was hoping for a future with more tolerance for our differences, with more
cooperation and less competition.
Evangelicals represent a sort of “super” Christianity
which I think we do reject. That does not mean we reject Christianity or that
we are at war with Christianity. I am and I’m guessing many others are dead set
against turning America into a Theocracy lead by Evangelicals, Christians, or
any other religious group. And, more childishly, they started the war, we are
just defending America from an Evangelical takeover.
It is certainly interesting that Evangelical
Christians believe exactly the things that keep “good old boys” where they
think they belong – in charge. I cannot like this emphasis on white male
domination and this dismissal of science even if it means I am a terrible
sinner and that I will never make it to the Rapture.

By Nancy Brisson

Behind the Scenes- Changing America

 
 
If you don’t think that the Republicans, in their current
incarnation, are extreme then you need to concentrate not just on what they are
saying, but on what they are doing. They are using stealth tactics that they hope will fly under our radar to achieve their agenda through “creative” and small, but still legal strategies that are wiping out years and years of gains in the civil rights of Americans. They are tweaking local and state laws to achieve ends they have not yet been able to achieve on a national level. Consider the following:

  1. They are undoing decades of hard-won freedom for women that has allowed women to make decisions about their own health. Mississippi, Alabama and North Dakota are all passing or trying to pass laws that require Ob/Gyn’s who do abortions to have hospital privileges near their clinic and then the states set it up so that these physicians will never have hospital privileges. End effect – they get rid of abortions without technically breaking federal law. Nullifying federal laws by using tricks doesn’t sound exactly kosher. If the courts won’t shut these tactics down then I hope we keep really good statistics about the effects of blocking accessibility to abortion, wherever it occurs.
  2. Union busting is already gaining popularity. However, we remember the sacrifices our ancestors made to make unions possible and the important role they have played in ending bad practices in the work place. Again, if these actions against labor unions are not overturned, let’s collect data to see how this loss of power for unions will affect the pay and benefits of workers and the workplace treatment of workers. Let’s also determine how long it takes for significant changes to occur.
  3. Some states are voting to allow a broader interpretation of topics taught in schools. Ostensibly, this is meant to give student ideas more leeway in terms of creativity, but many fear that this is another of those tricky Republican strategies to wedge “Creationism” into school curricula.
  4. Voting rights are also under attack. We know Republicans have advocated passing voter ID laws in a number of states and have made voting more complex in other ways. The Voting Rights Act is being challenged in the Supreme Court right now because it is being argued that the protections offered by this law are no longer needed. If such protections are no longer needed I see no reason to challenge the law.
  5. Watch for a Republican push to change the way electoral votes are counted. Although this tricky strategy has already been exposed on TV and in the news, Republicans seem to be continuing to work quietly behind the scenes through their political support groups and PACs to accomplish their voting goals.
  6. Republicans continue to defy the tradition of separation of church and state. They argue that America is in a moral decline and that only Christian values will turn things around. It looks like the GOP would like the American government to become an evangelical Christian theocracy.

And then there is this really fringe nonsense. Get a load of
this video.
 

 I do not want to
become paranoid. If you watched the video you saw where that can lead. But I do
want to be prepared and to keep a tennis racket handy to divert the bats. (It’s
a metaphor.)

Thanks for the image, Google.

This is the view from the cheap seats.

Have We Lost Our Moral Compass?

People are worried that the separation of church and state is bad for America, or there is a movement afoot to make America a Christian nation, maybe even a fundamentalist Christian nation. I read an article on Sunday that seemed to suggest that we are misinterpreting the 1st Amendment. Texas is trying to rewrite textbooks. Many seem to believe that America has lost its moral compass, that, without religion in government, evil and depravity will seep into government and into our everyday lives. In fact they believe this has already happened.

I do not believe that one must belong to any particular religion or even any religion at all to be moral. The entire idea of America is based on humanistic ideals that build in morality. It doesn’t matter what religion you study. All religions have acceptable morals and values. Even atheists probably do not condone murder and mayhem. We need to live a life of morals and values because we believe “all men are created equal.”

It is our dual nature as humans, our flawed nature, that leads to moral slippage in society. We know the right way to behave but we are led astray by human desires. And, it seems, there are a lot of gray areas. Even very vivid images of Hell did not create highly moral societies. An existentialist existence with all its baggage of personal responsibility still does not allow one to do anything one pleases without some expectation of consequences. Existentialism has just as great a chance as the Heaven-Hell belief of engendering either morality or depravity.

People came to America seeking a freedom of religion that was definitely lacking in Europe. I’m fairly certain they were all or almost all Christians. Our forefathers did not consider Muslims and Buddhists, etc. because they were not on their radar. So they left us with an idealistic Constitution, with ‘morality by design’, a morality not necessarily of any one religious tradition, rather a morality of humanism. There is very little difference between “all men are created equal” and “do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”