I have just moved…hopefully for the last time for at least the next 10-20 years. It was a nightmare, worst fucking move I’ve ever had and I have had more than a few. I’m going to smear my movers up and down the Internet if they don’t pay for all the shit they broke.
The control center is taking shape. Just have to unpack my music, hang a few things, and I will have an office and little practice studio for to make bad noises from.
This has been a mentally and physically challenging experience, but as you can see, I’m bold as love. Just ask the Axis. He knows everything.
Now. Let’s talk a little about judging. But first, some background.
Even the most ignorant among us knows the name Joel Osteen. And if you have been on the Internet for five minutes in the last few days, you know it rained thunder and hell on Joel for locking its doors when Hurricane Harvey rained thunder and hell on Houston.
An onslaught of angry people went online to condemn Osteen for not living the Word and refusing to help people in need with his space, space that had room for 16,000 behinds. I happily passed that shit around, because I’m not a fan of religious hypocrites. Now you may ask, why did I have to specify that I don’t like religious hypocrites? Why not all hypocrites? Well, the reality is that we all have our moments of hypocrisy, owing to our human nature and monkey ancestry.
Sometimes a level of hypocrisy is necessary to excuse that which we have no excuse for. Hypocrisy is also great for deflection from your own faults. An easy example- I just had hamburgers for dinner. Animals died in horrific misery to fill my belly. Yet animal abusers make me furious. Hypocrite much, Ron?
Yes. And you’re kidding yourself if you are not part of the misery of animals too. Even vegetarians and vegans who object to slaughter often live in habitats that have been robbed from another animal. So there’s really no end to the finger pointing. It’s a matter of gradation, tolerating hypocrisy. We all have to choose what evil we can live with.
Anyway, so I answer the question thusly: because too often you religious folk try to hold yourselves and eventually everyone else around you to a standard which few can abide by. It’s bad for your mental health and annoying as shit to others. Besides, with God as your co-pilot, you should be hypocrisy-free. But you’re just like the rest of homo sapiens, if you but knew. So please, religious hypocrites, rend your own garments but stay away from me.
So Joel Osteen is a nebula-sized religious hypocrite who deserved to have his name passed around as belonging to a piece of shit, right?
We thought so, until a notorious atheist said hold up. We might be over our skis kicking Osteen around because of information he’d gathered that said the roads to his church were closed and some of his assets were halfway under water.
When one of today’s leading online atheist voices wants you to lay off the religious guy, well, you should probably listen because we usually never miss a chance to make a fool out of a fanatic. At least that was the litmus I used. But evidence kept rolling in, testimonials and pictures that suggested that Osteen was holding out from having to share his space with people who didn’t tithe. Eventually Joel, who makes a living out of appearing unimpeachable, had to throw the doors open to the needy. The last thing any pastor needs is a scandal.
The wife and I run in some online circles together, sharing mutual acquaintances, and we and our friends chewed the fat about Osteen and I brought up Hemant’s piece about cutting Joel some slack. So we digested that, and moved on until one of our mutual acquaintances said we were “Christian-bashing” (there were believers in this conversation) and that it wasn’t for us to “judge” good Pastor Osteen.
That was Jesus’ job, she relayed. The thing for good Christians to do was only to bring people to Christ.
Believer and heathen wasted no time telling her to sod off with that bullshit.
If I learned anything from my days as a Randroid, it’s that you must judge because surely you will be judged. Old Ayn, a huge hypocrite herself, was at least more of a student of the human psyche and certainly more a realist than Saint Paul. If you think about it, judging is one of the fundamental things any living creature does. It’s why we evolved senses, because misjudging what you saw or tasted might get your ass (if you had evolved one) hurt or killed. But we must pass judgment on those of our kind who are no good to anyone. Rapists, most killers, child abusers, Republicans…those are egregious examples which I think we can all agree that it’s a little OK to judge those people. And while the idea of what is ultimately Good is a bit rubbery, we have some basic roadmaps in our genes on how to get along in a functioning society. And it sticks in our craw to see that some people don’t know how to follow the basic rules. And one of those things you just shouldn’t do is take and not give back. That was Joel Osteen’s crime, and we collectively made sure he paid by damaging his reputation as a force for good in the world. This whole episode certainly came as no surprise to those of us already familiar with the prosperity scam he hawks that tells believers to ignore that pesky part in the bible about where Jesus said to build riches.
You gotta size up people. There’s no getting around it, and no amount of Scripture-twisting is going to stop people from doing it. I’m certainly not going to wait until an unlikely afterlife to wait for unease to come to a bad person. No. You find them, you name them and you shame them, or worse. Those are the rules.
Looking at my bookmarks, I see that I’ve been avoiding this post for about 3 months. But Charlottesville, Virginia failed to stop a white riot on Saturday that wound up killing a counterprotestor, so it’s the perfect time to list some of the signs and signals that would tell anyone who wanted to know that the
white right wing in this country was angling for a fight.
Our fake Republican president should shoulder much of the blame, ending the notion that the buck stops at the president’s desk. He encouraged violence repeatedly early on in his campaign in 2016. After he won, he mainstreamed the hatriot movement by giving high level executive branch jobs to their promoters and supporters.
And then it took him three days to condemn the white supremacists who started the Virginia riot.
It was Trump’s Hurricane Katrina. He completely and categorically failed the first major test of his leadership skills. By farming out the job of condemning the antagonists to underlings, he confirmed that he is only interested in being the president of 1/3 of the nation.
There’s really no going back after Charlottesville. Battle lines just got fucking drawn when the
white right wing mob decided to kill. They’ve been telling us repeatedly that they were getting ready for a confrontation, but no one listened because they were white and it’s OK to suggest that it’s time for things like civil war because free speech.
A small and by no means exhaustive list of evidence that shows that Heather Heyer’s death was premeditated follows (it jumps around a bit because consistency is not my strong suit.¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ). I began collecting incidents I thought notable because there was a pattern of behavior that made me rather worried that the nation was going to be plunged into violence. Hop around if you like, and it you have to tl;dr this, I understand.
September 22, 2016: Instapundit blogger Glenn Reynolds suggests running down protestors who block streets.
April 4, 2017: Radio commentator calls for the killing of “globalists”
because of Muslim immigration.
June 23: LGBT veterans memorial tarred.
July 5: Daily Stormer fanatics threaten to dox and bring violence upon CNN employees because the network discovered the identity of the creator of a GIF that showed Trump “beating up” a representation of the network. Oath Keepers say we would be in a civil war already if Clinton had won the election.
July 7: KKK gathers at Charlottesville with guns over the Lee statue slated for removal.
And that’s about where I stopped collating
white right wing calls and demonstrations for violence, because my Republican thick-necked mayor threatened me with arrest if I didn’t stop emailing him about his feckless decision to put religious stickers on cop cars. I got a little busy when I blew that up.
The point is, this weekend didn’t happen in a vacuum. It was the result of an increasingly emboldened
white right wing itching for something ugly. I hope Heather Heyer did not die in vain and the truth about the right (and Trumpism) cannot be hidden or spun anymore. I hope there’s no shortage of moral disgust among the average American about what happened in Virginia. There are some positive signs. It’s already evident that these Nazi fucks did far more damage to their cause than good because they cannot restrain their hateful impulses.
When it comes to standing up to these creeps, a few watchwords come to mind, words that a good writer friend of mine always uses when she signs off on a piece.
The world’s most childish, heedless and mentally unstable leaders who happen to have very dangerous toys are locking nuclear horns.
Listen carefully. No one wins a nuclear exchange, really. I have intimated in the past that America is still trying to game out an unanswered atomic first strike. And I fear we may now have a “leader” who is interested in trying it live.
This is in the best interests of about zero people. Everyone knows that North Korea has been invariably singing the same hoary song for decades now. The names change (not by much), but the message is the same. It is: “We’re going to attack and threaten U.S. interests until I get (reactors, food, whatever The Jong clan has been consistently unable to provide for its citizens despite all of its highfalutin talk of juche)”. Sensible secretaries of state have tried to unclench the North Korean fist, with success not lasting very long. It is a stubborn Gordian knot.
It is important to remember that we do not oppose North Korea as a peer militarily. Only Russia has that distinction. True, their conventional military is rather large-they keep at least a million under arms. South Korea has about 600,000 with 15-20,000 Americans providing support. Our razor sharp technological edge, our communications and our expertise at logistics are force multipliers that the North Korean army severely lacks. If North Korea suddenly invaded the south, it’d probably smart pretty bad at first…tens of thousands of American and South Korean soldiers and many more civilians would perish in the initial thrust. But we have a bench, shitloads of artillery and planes and bases here and afar and we’d break the clenched fist’s knuckles rather quickly. Personally, I am not even sure that the North Korean army is good at anything but marching menacingly in step.
A brief aside, if I may. I’ll let you in on a secret-we in the U.S. give officers medals with the minutest of justifications. When my unit got home from Iraq, the enlisted folks (who do all the work) all received standard commendation medals. But the officers all gave themselves Bronze Stars, as if the “leading” was of more importance than our working. My officers were fairly fucking useless, barking out orders without thinking most of the time. They had no idea how things worked, they just wanted them to work. Some professionals.
If I think about it, most bosses are like this. They just give themselves raises instead of medals.
North Korea hasn’t been up to anything near the DMZ since 1976, when we almost had an incident at the DMZ that could have but did not tick off a larger war. They’ve also lent support to various conflicts, and were on the losing side every time. But anyway, there is no fucking way of justifying the comical festooning of doddering leadership except that they’re just making shit up:
There are other images of absurd medal wearing by North Korean officers running around the web but alas, they were fake.
Point is, the army is largely a paper tiger.
You have green troops armed with what is likely Cold War Soviet surplus against our newest and meanest shit. There is no way North Korea is prepared for our conventional response.
And I haven’t even gotten to the nukes yet. We’ve got shit that could literally erase the country from the world map in a matter of hours.
If you’re not Donald Trump, you’ve been laughing at the North Korean nuclear program for a while now. They have never exploded a bomb above ground. Their rocketry program produces one embarrassing dud after another. They claim they could nuke the United States. But it hasn’t been shown they have any idea how to weaponize rockets with atomic warheads, much less guide them to their target (however, recent reports in papers of record say that they have miniaturized a nuclear weapon-but I’m rather suspicious of the timing and sources of that report…I still haven’t totally made up with the New York Times for helping the Bush administration push the WMD lie that took us to Iraq again). They really haven’t put cart and horse together yet. In fact, they’re still trying to get the wheel down, to stretch a metaphor.
This is not to say “ignore North Korea”. But getting into a pissing contest with a tiny, insane little nation is really above us ( that is, if we put our best foot forward, which we aren’t always good at), especially because we outnumber them in number of fissile warheads by many orders of magnitude. But that’s exactly what President Loser McDipshit is doing. Trump is a bully, and he’s taken the bait hook, line, and sinker. He let himself be provoked by a boy emperor who puffs up and says outrageous things to rouse his brainwashed people.
It’s already been said several times, but to me, that sounds a lot like Chump and his followers. These two megalomaniacs are peas in a pod. We’d better be playing good cop/bad cop so oilman/not diplomat Rex Tillerson can ratchet this shit down, because it’s scaring the hell out of people. No one in Southeast Asia needs a giant irradiated crater next door to it, and no one should want to break the 60 year old cease fire because we are talking about death on a unspeakable, unacceptable level- military and civilian-if it is breached.
Empty threats are what the hermit kingdom exports. Let’s see them for what they are. The Jongs derive some of their power from telling their people that the United States wants to destroy it, so we’re playing into Un’s hand by escalating the rhetoric. So I worry a bit. We need expertise immediately to finesse this donnybrook and this administration is full of people who just don’t have it.
If I were a fireworks show, you’d probably want your money back. My first salvos were promising, but my launches started fizzling and we had several duds in the arsenal.
There certainly was no grand finale.
Because those fucking God stickers did not come off the Grovetown cop vehicles.
They won. This happened in part because I could not stay to finish playing the game I initiated. I had a few more moves in me, but a game is a game and I had other priorities.
Sorry for the metaphor abuse. I’m simply trying to paper over the fact that I did not, could not do more to go at this issue with gusto. Because I was in the right. The mayor made an idle threat, and I’m madder than hell he got away with it. Lots of you following this saga said I should have continued to um…dialogue with the mayor right then and there because I was well within my rights to do so. It became a two-pronged issue for me when he threatened me with a warrant for my arrest simply because I was having a battle of wits with an unarmed person. This was about abuse of power and separation. And to my mind, the stickers took a back seat to the idea that some podunk Boss Hogg could send a squad car to my house because of an argument we were having in his public email box.
I’m gonna say sorry again, because I failed to advance the larger conversation. I could have made several scenes if it was just me out there, but as I have said it is not just me out there.
I’m going to keep fighting for my rights. I simply have to pick my battles. Those of you who are rational know that we live to fight another day if we withdraw a little, and find a better position where victory can actually be had.
My deepest thanks to everyone who sent me quasi-viral, and thanks to NBC in Atlanta and WRDW in Aiken for publicizing the sticker issue. It’s a trying time in the land of Trump, where bigots feel emboldened to steamroll over the Constitution if it gets in their way of retaining their supremacy.
The people will win in the end if we keep our heads high. That may be an article of faith, for the struggle for rights is not a vector that is always pointed forward. It gets dark sometimes before things brighten again. But knowing that the brightness will inevitably follow buoys me and helps me get up every day and it should you as well.
I’ll close here as Kurt Vonnegut often did in the introductions to his books.
Well, it didn’t take long for me to realize that being humble and a bit penitent was unnecessary in my dustup with Mayor Gary Jones of Grovetown.
We made state news today. The coverage was better than what we got from Aiken.
In my last post here, I felt the need to clarify what had happened to me because I sent my story to Hemant Mehta of Patheos’ Friendly Atheist and his byline rocketed this sucker to what is shaping up to be more than regional attention. A LOT of you went to give Gary the sharp side of your tongue and fingers for fucking with atheist brethren by blowing up his phone, Facebook and email. And I told you all how much I appreciate you having my back. You didn’t have to do a thing, but you did, and I think that counts for something in a world where our community is uninvited. Yet, I felt that something had been misunderstood when Hemant wrote my story. If you didn’t read the entire email exchange between Jones and I, you might have gotten the impression that I was being threatened because I am a nonbeliever. I thought that was a mischaracterization of the situation and I have asked Hemant to post my clarifications and concerns, which he has done.
I have few issues personally with going at this head on, but I have a family. I have to be sure that I don’t expose them to danger. It is not safe here to not be a Christian. Yeah, I think we have common cause with whoever does not hold the majority faith, and you can fuck right off if you want to call me an accommodationist or what have you because I think we’re in the same hot water as minority religious sects.
Anyway, if you watch the segment, the reporter said at the end that Jones has no regrets about how he acted, after I struck a conciliatory tone because I lost my temper. He also said it WAS the persistent emailing, not the name calling (total bullshit). Oh, and that’s not all. It didn’t air, but the reporter has him on camera admitting that he was “bluffing” when he threatened me with arrest. I would very much like that footage, and I’m querying the reporter as to why it wasn’t part of the story.
The reporter also told me that Jones wants to shake my hand.
I don’t think we’re there yet.
I’m in contact with an organization who wants to create “E Pluribus Unum” decals for the cars and I think the only way I will meet with Jones is if I have those decals in my left hand.
So this chess match is in the middle game. I’m not going to seek any more publicity because once again, my hands are tied because I can’t ID myself locally and I am weary from having to be faceless. But I will still be here documenting what is happening. I will seek an end to this controversy that is satisfactory to me and I think I can do that without selling out our cause. If that is not in the cards, if indeed the national media wants to run with this, then que sera sera and we’re on our way to challenging the motto itself instead of the mayor of my tiny, bustling city.
First off, I want to say thank you to everybody who saw my little story about a bullying small-town mayor and came to my defense.
However, a lot of it was offense. Many of you have posted his phone number and his email address. I hope those routes are not personal ones.
You have every right to be enraged that one of us got shut down speaking their mind. But I want to remind everyone that I did not get in trouble because I was an atheist. I got threatened because I called the mayor some names, of which “jerk” was the harshest one.
This story is bigger than I ever expected it to be. And I know if I hadn’t gotten terse with the mayor, none of you would know about Grovetown and the police decals. So there’s a little part of me that does not regret what I did, especially since I was well within my rights to call him a jerk in his government email.
I think there is a part of the mayor’s overreaction that has something to do with me being an atheist. But really, I just got under his skin with some name calling, which felt good. What he did after that is The Story. I implore you to read the entire email exchange here so you know that I was rude. He was derisive, dismissive, and disrespectful, so I let some insults fly. His responses after that were unbecoming of a public servant. If you can’t handle a little bit of name calling as a representative, you are in the wrong line of work.
Tonight, with any luck, there will be a story on NBC Atlanta that includes me being remorseful about what I have done. As Hemant said, he’d have handled it differently. I am not the mayor’s biggest fan right now, but I beg you, please don’t harass him unless you know why he threatened me. If you think you should tell him what for on account of free speech, let him have it. But do not jump from A to C by thinking it was merely my persistence or my irreligiosity.
Does everyone understand? This is the deep South. And I fear for my family if I get outed locally. It may happen anyway, but I’m trying to control that. As my wife said, we are a hated minority, and you all know that is true. That goes double for the bible belt. So do my family and this story a favor, and know why this is happening before you fire away.
Once again, I am heartened by the solidarity of the online community of nonbelievers and am not telling you to let this die because these decals are bullshit and someone’s got to say no more. But you should probably do this without me, because I’m not a good example of how one should behave in a situation like this. Perhaps you have to get mad to get things happening. I don’t know. This may have been our only way into the conversation. Just make sure you all know why everyone involved lost their composure.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and pass it around so we let people know that integrity, accuracy and truth is important to us.
I keep returning to the asshole well. That’s because it doesn’t run dry.
In my to do list is to finish the goddamn story about how I became a lefty, and I’ve been compiling stories that suggest to me that something big is gonna go down in America, like in a violent way. When (or if) the Republican Party is finally exposed for the criminal organization that it is, I think we’re going to pop off into a civil war-and I want to be ready, although my wife does not want me to be a soldier again.
Anyway, I’m biting at the Tucker bait because I think it’s funny and judging by the amount of people who come here to see what an asshole he is, it’s the sensible thing to write about. I need to give the people what they want.
So, how many of us remember “Ol’ Blood And Guts”?
No, not Patton.
A more current warmongerer is who I had in mind.
Hm. I don’t seem to have any stuff about Colonel Ralph Peters on this blog. That means I haven’t heard from him in over six years. He’s one of Fox News’ “analysts” and go-to guys on all things war, even though the good colonel has never been to one. Ralph’s a cantankerous fella, more old man than old soldier. You can reasonably assume that his appearances and writing will be over the top, and therefore hilarious. Here’s a few of his greatest hits. Kill, kill, kill for peace, hang the traitors by their thumbs and take the booty because it’s the white man’s burden to civilize the world.
Did I mention that Ralph is old? Ralph is so old, he’s a Republican who remembers that t
he Soviet Union Russia is not our friend. And don’t you forget it, sonny, or you’ll get a tongue lashing.
That’s the mistake that Tucker Carlson made, who is young and does not remember fallout shelters and desk drills and being an ass hair from mutually assured nuclear annihilation. Now look-I’m not saying that historical enemies cannot be our friends. But if you think about it, you generally have to waste them to get them to be nice, a la Germany, Japan and even Vietnam in the long run. We never broke Russia to the point where it pledged to be good after we crushed it. And we did the enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend thing with them already. When our common aims were achieved, which was ridding the world of the Nazis, we went on hating them and every godless thing they stood for.
Now it could be argued that we are at that place again, this time against ISIS. But really, no one gives a jolly fuck about ISIS but us, partially because we keep picking at a scab called 9/11. That’s the story for the rubes in the United States, anyway. What we’ve actually been up to is trying to control the globe, cynically using our collective fear of terror (and make no mistake, the “terrorists” are today’s Red Menace) as a pretext to gobble up more power. We never stopped trying to hem Russia in while they spiraled into chaos in the 80s. Since then we’ve grown NATO, made buddy-buddy with breakaway soviets, and are moving antiballistic missiles closer and closer to the Russian border. I really think we are still trying to game out getting away with an unanswered nuclear first strike.
Then Vladimir Putin came along. An ex-KGB creep turned technocrat, he embraced capitalism, Christianity, and politically motivated murder while using Russia’s formidable oil wealth to mount a defense of itself. He has crushed rebellions and annexed land as he expands his power. And if you are an enemy of America, he wants to know you.
We are NOT angels, but Vladimir Putin is probably not a good person and not to be trusted whatsoever. We are at cross purposes with him in Syria. He’s pummeling the resistance to Bashar-Al Assad ruthlessly, and setting ISIS back on its heels a little in the process. We’ve had less luck in this area because we are futilely trying to arm the small resistance that has both ISIS and Assad as its nemeses. We’re trying to thread a needle here-because any further aggression against Assad is probably not going to sit well with Putin. We’re already in something approaching a proxy war with him already, and there seems to be no appetite here for a more direct one that could send this whole world to hell.
Anyway, it looks like Putin’s recent skulduggery took the form of trying to curry favor with an entire American political party, particularly one that would work with and protect one President Donald J. Trump and associates in order to advance Russian interests. After the country suffered six months of smoke inhalation, we’ve finally found some still glowing embers of the conflagration that we’re calling collusion. And it’s not going to go away. The American political system has never been tested in this way before-this is “new snow”, as I saw it put once. It’s so new, there might not be laws against it, I fear. But surely there is something odious and unethical at the very least about letting a rival nation ratfuck an American election. Our elections stink of illegal and unethical behavior as it is with caging and allegations of machine hacking. But the reachout to Russia must qualify as something in the “misdemeanor” part of the impeachment clauses, if Herr Trump is indeed red-handed. And that’s just the president-this dragnet could ensnare high ranking Republicans outside of Trump’s inner circle.
But you didn’t come here to listen to me tell you shit you already know. You want the good shit, where your suspicions that Tucker Carlson is an asshole can be confirmed. I don’t know what his producers were thinking when they put Peters, a temperamental cold warrior, on Tucker’s show to discuss how better we can work with Russia because they are achieving one of our foreign policy goals (while undermining another, because not only is Tucker an asshole, he’s a damn fool as well). Here’s the exchange:
You can read a partial transcript here, if you have no patience for how wrongly both of these people see the world before the sparks fly. But basically, Col. Peters said that Carlson was like Charles Lindbergh in 1938 who said he had no issues with Hitler because he hasn’t attacked the United States.
Boom, Ol’ Blood And Guts, boom.
So, is Putin Hitler? I don’t know really know enough about him. But the general rule is Hitler, and only Hitler, is Hitler. Peters is no stranger to hyperbolic thinking, but that doesn’t necessarily make him wrong in being worried about their expansion. The potential is certainly there. Peters is upset that the Russian military bombs indiscriminately. As if we have never done that. He props up vicious dictators like the Assad family. We do that shit all the time. So really, is Russia any more terroristic than we are? Not really. We are two sides of the same coin. But both of us are trying to divvy up the world, and Putin wants a few pieces and Tucker’s like, have at it, Russkies. And we don’t know how far they will go, and that’s why I’ll go with Peters’ assessment before I go trying to shake hands with the country who will try to run the board if we don’t. Personally, I wish we could stop playing Risk but bowing out of the imperial struggle does not guarantee that the other player wants to stop. And that’s where Carlson fucks up, failing to understand that we are two empires in competition and it’s not worth extending Russian reach across the globe in order to advance a narrow, misdirected foreign policy objective partly because we can Never Forget.
I do a lot of news reading. And I have watched with sadness and more than a bit of anger when I see nontraditional “beliefs” get pummeled by obnoxious flouting of the bedrock principle of the separation of church and state, a principle that endures despite today’s renaissance of fascistic Christian supremacy.
Surely most of you are familiar with the proliferation of the “In God We Trust” motto upon police cars.
You look at this stuff happening somewhere remote, and you say to yourself, “it can’t happen here”.
Then it does.
Sinclair Lewis saw it in his day, and I’m here to tell you it can still happen here. And there. And there too.
Yesterday, the separation of church and state became blurred in my current hometown. My police department is now operating with the authority of God.
Look, I know how that sounds, that I’m getting a little hyperventilated about an issue that is unlikely to affect the rights of nonbelievers. But I’m afraid that I can’t be sure that vesting religious authority in those who administer the law will not be tempted to use their authority to be prejudicial to those of us who advertise that we are not religious.
We’re a defiant folk, those of us who do not have a religion. We are past tired of being marginalized.
Of all the injustices that have been visited upon people in this country, on balance the complaints that atheists (and perhaps practitioners of non-Abrahamic religion) have seem to be a bit petty and privileged in and of themselves. But I can only fight the battles I know best. I read H. Rap Brown’s autobiography recently and it was literary fire for me-but I’m just a white atheist. I’d gladly join far worse oppressed people in their fight for justice, but really I can only speak for my own marginalization. I’m amenable to being recruited for more trenchant issues.
It could surely be argued that I need not speak out against my marginalization, because presumably I have a choice in the matter. I can choose to not be a believer, it is alleged. It’s nothing more than an intellectual conceit. I should be silent about it.
I disagree. Those of us who are not moved by a religious belief have no choice but to conclude that there is nothing moving this universe in any direction that would suggest that “someone” is doing it. Should evidence arise that we are wrong, I assure you we would believe. It’s not the same by a long shot, but it is as indelible as something like color or sexual orientation-we cannot politely say we are who we are or how maligned we have been. Granted, we have not been summarily lynched or anything resembling that (although you can still be killed in other nations for blasphemy and heresy)-but I am saying that it is part of our identity and we have just as much right to coexist as anyone, and the supremacists in our culture ought to know that we are among them.
Anyway, when I saw that this thoughtless decal initiative hit my little hick town in Georgia, I decided I’d had about enough of the marginalization. I went straight to the fount, the mayor who went on record saying that “some will be offended”, and that he didn’t really care. I began to email him at his public account.
I know you won’t change your mind, but you should know that the proposed
police car stickers that proclaim “In God We Trust” is troubling to
those of us who do not believe in the Christian “God”, be they
practitioners of different faith or practitioners of none. You should
choose to be inclusive as a public servant. But you think your faith is
more important than your civic duty, it seems.
Do we have a Christian police force? Did you ask them when you decided
to festoon their cars with religious slogans?
I know stunts like this play well politically in places like Columbia
County but you should probably pay more attention to the overloaded
infrastructure that can’t handle all of the commercial and residential
expansion in Grovetown rather than push people’s buttons on matters of
church and state.
As I said, I might as well talk to a wall from the impression I get of
you but I thought I’d try anyway.
Was I being a smart-aleck? Sure. I knew I wouldn’t make him ask himself if what he was doing was right with reason. But I wanted to be heard loud and clear.
Evidently being mayor isn’t a particularly busy job, because I got a response lickety-split:
In God we trust does not imply any particular God. This statement is broad. Congratulations you are the first to speak negatively about the stickers.
Do you ever wonder how some people keep their jobs? That they’re so stupid it’s a wonder they don’t come to work with mismatched shoes? Well, the mayor is one of those people. You already know from the national stage that stupid people are electable. That said, all grammatical assassination and disturbing punctuation conservation above and below is his.
Anyway, I called him out in the next email for being full of shit.
Thanks for the congratulations. I’m actually quite surprised, given that there is a robust community of nontraditional believers in the county who tipped me off to the story.
Come now, Mr. Jones. Do you honestly believe that anyone thinks of another monotheistic god when they see “In God We Trust”? Additionally, in your predictable response you fail to take into account nonbelievers who take the separation of church and state rather seriously. What about us? Once again I ask: do we have a religious police force?
You know this is your Christian privilege and you know you’re going to get away with it…unless of course one of your officers doesn’t want to drive an advertisement for religion. Then you might have a problem on your hands.
It has been said that the stupid are always sure of themselves, while the intelligent are often full of doubt. So in the spirit of certainty, Mayor Jones wasted no time firing off his next response, attempting to educate me on a subject that he clearly knows nothing about since he’s the dumbshit putting religious slogans on police cars.
I suggest you study up on Separation of Church and State. That statement in of itself does not impose religion upon anyone. Had I used the name of Jesus you may have a legitimate complaint. If you feel that strongly about it…stop using US currency.
There’s a lot to unpack in this response, and I lost my cool a little in attempting. I replied:
The mention of God qualifies as a religious belief. You are being extremely slippery by pretending it’s not about one god or another. The school system uses the same lame excuse when they tell kids to have “respect for a creator”. As I said, you’re being disingenuous by asserting it’s not about one god or another. Last I checked, lying was a sin.
You do not have to come to my house and baptize me to violate church and state separation. Jurisprudence has interpreted the separation of church and state to be more broad than just the imposition of a state religion. When the government gets in the religion business in any way (and once again, belief in a god, any god spells R-E-L-I-G-I-O-N), that’s constitutionally objectionable.
Thanks for making me laugh with the currency jab. Lets me know that I’m not only dealing with a lying bigot, but a jerk as well.
Some of you may think that I took a wrong turn when I called him a name. But he was literally being a jerk. Don’t use the money? Is that all you have, Mayor? Jesus Christ.
Anyway, I pushed the mayor’s angry button. He decided to get all tough with me. I’m a veteran of many an online flame war, and if there’s one thing you can expect it’s that conservatives will resort to threatening when they are losing an argument.
Come to a meeting and say that personally coward
What does that look like to you? It sure sounded to me like a threat or at the very least a personal challenge. So I asked him what he was doing. I am certainly not going to go to a town hall full of his slackjawed, heehawing supporters just to call him a name. Nope, this is my turf. Ron’s the name, writing’s my game.
Are you threatening me? I’ll be sure to forward that to the media.
Which I did. I thought it was totally inappropriate for an elected public figure to be doing the “say it to my face” routine, regardless of what I had called him, which was not only mild as names go, but accurate. Anyway, he decided at this point that he was a victim. That’s always amusing coming from conservatives, because they are so fond of being derisive toward people who actually are victims.
No it’s easy for folks like you to hide on social media and complain about everything as well as call folks names. A threat is constituted by one making statements to do bodily harm. My words no where indicate such. Do not email me again or I will seek a warrant for your arrest.
I did not know that public government email was social media, did you? But whatever, the mayor took his ball and went home, abusing his power along the way by threatening to sic his goon squad on the guy that said mean wittle things to him.
You’re quite a specimen, mayor.
So like I said, I went to the media, asking them if they wanted to let people know what a peach the Grovetown mayor is, and I received a reply. It was the reporter who initially covered the sticker story. She wanted to talk to people who opposed the slogans. I gathered a few atheists in my area, but none of us wanted to put our faces out there because Christians have a tendency to be rather un-Christian when you try to object to them barfing their beliefs into the public arena. Additionally, some of us held government jobs and were worried about reprisal.
The reporter wanted to do it the day following her breaking of the story, which gave me only a few hours to prepare. I spent several anxious hours in bed that night wondering what to say and whether or not I could say it right. Eventually I fell asleep and it was game time when my eyes opened.
Boy, was I nervous. But I usually can pull myself together for things like this when they finally happen. So we interviewed for about a half hour and I felt relieved that we all had struck a blow for our side. Everyone involved did great.
However, the piece(which is embedded in my link above) fell super short of my expectations. My conversations with the mayor were known to the reporter but I recited the highlights anyway, because I felt that the larger story was about abuse of power. I don’t think I’d have agreed to interview had the mayor not been a raging dick. None of his unfortunate, embarrassing behavior was touched on. None. We got three or four soundbites about our objections to the stickers. I don’t think anyone learned anything about atheists or separation.
In the end, what could I have expected? Separation of church and state is a complex issue that would require a network special to even scratch the surface of its importance. How we feel is irreducible and it’s impossible to do justice to the subject in 45 seconds. And I guess the local news is reticent to lose viewers over the truth about our bulletheaded, bible thumping leaders. Gary Jones knows that most of his dumb-ass constituents can be rallied by appealing to their feelings of Christian supremacy. It’s not dissimilar to, and this may sound like a stretch, shit that people like Saddam Hussein pulled. When his popularity waned after getting routed in the first Gulf war, he used religion to keep people loyal, going so far as to change the national flag to say “God Is Great”.
Demagoguery is so much easier than actually doing something, especially when your voters are brainwashed. And that’s what this is about. Cut from my interview was me quoting Jeremy Bentham about good governance and behavior. I’m paraphrasing, but he basically said that the ideal aim in society was to produce the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest amount of people.
And by that metric, Gary Jones is a fucking political failure.
OK, Liz Warren, you win.
I think I’ve finally been ground down.
It’s not really the special election losses. We came damn close here in Georgia with Jon Ossoff, even though I knew he wouldn’t win. The only reason that Ossoff had any juice (well, besides the allegations that the election was a referendum on Trump and it became a national campaign as a result) is that he almost cracked 50% and nearly won in the first election against a fractured Republican field.
It’s not the daily thinkpieces about Democratic dithering when it comes to picking hills to put troops on.
It certainly isn’t Greens or Bernie hangers-on that are starting to make sense to me.
There was so much intrigue that caused Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016. Voter suppression, hacking of machines, Russian skulduggery, the Comey Bomb and good old fashioned American sexism were proximate causes. So hold your horses with the corruption nonsense and the DNC plots etc., ad infinitum.
Since we are a party in the woods, I say it’s time to get the hard left swing out of our system and find out once and for all if Democrats are truly losing elections because they fail to inspire. It’s an experiment whose time is come, since we truly have nothing to lose cause we ain’t got nothin’ at the moment. Perhaps I will be vindicated in recommending a slow hand and creeping gradualism. Or, and I hope this is the case, perhaps I will learn something new about the character of this country. But we will not know the answer unless we try.
Parties are generally heavily change-resistant. There is a hierarchy and a career path to obey, and you don’t usually get your shot by not putting in your time. Let’s think about Sanders for a second. Firstly, Bernie Sanders is not a Democrat. Secondly, he has done nothing significant within the party machine. And after a brutal slugfest with Barack Obama in 2008 and dutifully serving as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton deserved that nomination more than anyone. Now I was no Clintonite that season-I thought her followers were off their rockers, and I had to write off several capable bloggers like Taylor Marsh and the folks at Corrente because I couldn’t brook the resentment and the conspiracy, not dissimilar at all to the way I reacted to the Bernie brigades.
But there’s a contemporary hole in this rule about the conservative nature of parties, or so it would seem. Donald Trump showed you could come out of nowhere, go full retard and win. Now of course, the same forces that caused Hillary’s defeat that I outlined above were in play for his victory. Yet, perhaps in his unorthodox win there’s a message to us on the left-that there’s room to move, that people are hungry for rarer species (or, this could simply mean that Republican voters are stone cold stupid-maybe both things are true). There’s certainly no better time than now, when people are having more trouble than ever making ends meet, to tell them that the government is coming to the damn rescue using all available trucks to meet the emergency. That dynamic may be a major factor in Trump’s win-the straightwhitechristianmale supremacist axis is getting out-birthed and out-educated and the people who support that system were looking for a savior, not a politician-and Donald…and it makes me grit my teeth to say this…played the part with aplomb and people bought it.
People are generally panicky in America right now, no matter who they are. A level of responsiveness, immediacy and throwing off of caution could benefit anyone willing to say the right things-and with any luck, carry enough people with them to do the right things. I’m willing to stop the fretting that I have been doing to see if the idealists are actually onto something, and should that gambit fail, I’m gonna riot.
Numbers usually don’t lie, unless the math is bad. But mostly numbers tell less lies than words do.
In the early hours of November 9, 2016, we began digging a shallow grave for the science of polling. Everybody who was somebody in the polling industry around that time was dead wrong about who was going to win the presidency. Some hedged a little, but pretty much everyone got caught with their ass out.
Donald Trump, who desperately needs vindication because he’s really insecure, crowed and crowed that He beat the odds. And ever since his statistically unlikely win, he has waged a war on information and analysis whether it is in the form of numbers or words. His charisma, or whatever the hell you want to call what he exudes, will always win the day over pesky facts and figures.
Before I go further on that, I should point out that there’s history of this marginalization of information. The right wing has been pushing the bullshit line that most polling is “liberal” for a long time now. The same goes for news. They shit on unfavorable information with abandon, cooking up all kinds of lunatic paranoid scenarios instead- but aren’t ashamed at all to point wildly to the always-wrong evil media hydra when their biases are suddenly seemingly confirmed by it. For a good recent example, there’s Chris Matthews, who is considered a lying fake libtard “MSM” shill-except this time he said something they want to be true. He said after the Comey testimony that Trump/Russia died because of it (an opinion), even though Comey could not answer in an open session as to whether or not Trump/Russia was a thing. As you can see from the link, conservatives fell all over themselves getting that sentence out to its readers, context and setting be damned. The filter for right wing information is very thick, but the transmission of information favorable to the right wing that does dribble out has an incredible velocity. For a minute there Chris Matthews had more cred with you than Karl fucking Rove.
Chris went back to being a paid hack liar etc. right after that utterance, I’m sure.
Frankly, if you ask the vast majority of liberals, you’ll find that Chris Matthews holds little currency among us. It certainly isn’t the first time he’s said something really tone deaf or off base. Wake me up when Rachel Maddow, a much more agile thinker, says something like this.
OK. With that in mind, stand back. I’m gonna say something positive about Donald Trump. No, that’s not the word I’m looking for. Something that is kind of the opposite of not-nice but not nice either.
Oh, to hell with it. Here goes:
Donald Trump is a fucking idiot.
But he’s a cunning fucking idiot. He knows you, and quite well, conservatives. Donald Trump isn’t aware of a whole lot, but one thing he does know is how to get your gears grinding. And like a demagogic Rumpelstiltskin he spins your ignorance and resentments into adulation for him, which Trump is now so addicted to that he’s still throwing victory rallies after seven months and you dumb clucks keep going to them. They’re nothing but ersatz call-and-response revivals with Donald Trump playing the smiling, confident good shepherd, reliving the magic of his miracle win.
Anyway, you all thought his long shot win was the death knell for the lying pollsters and dishonest lib journalism. Trump’s win was your wish fulfillment, after talking yourself silly for decades about how you couldn’t trust anything that Rush Limbaugh hadn’t cleared. Finally, the polls and the seasoned pundits were wrong and you were right.
Well, no one is right all the time. And it’s not really a poll’s job to be “right”, anyway. It’s there to show likely outcomes based on a sampling of the population. There was always a possibility that Trump could make the electoral math work, albeit a slim one. No one denied this. Shit, Michael Moore doesn’t know fuckall about polling but he nailed the election. Yet this was your moment to gloat that the pointy-headed intellectuals blew a call. And now Trump is telling you that after Him they will never be right again.
I wouldn’t count on that, but enjoy the sunshine while it’s on your side of the street.
It is true that at least the polling industry was knocked back on its heels real fucking hard, and it’s going to take more than a few prominent examples of correct prediction and careful information collection to show that the Trump triumph was just an outlier several standard deviations away from most of the predictions and that it’s OK to trust the information gatherers are going to get it just about right. Which is realistically all you can ask of it. It will face its first high profile, post-November test in ten days here in my state of Georgia, where Democrat Jon Ossoff appears to be beating Karen Handel in a district that Handel should win. Should be interesting.
I would be remiss if I did not emphasize the role of the Comey Bomb on the 2016 race, which scrambled the hell out of everything. I just had my carpet cleaned yesterday, and the cleaner had no shortage of disdain for President Trump so we had a fun discussion. But he didn’t vote, because he felt the re-emergence of the email investigation right before the election was evidence to him that Clinton was crooked. How he came to feel that way is part of another essay, one that I do not have the patience or perhaps the stomach to write just yet.