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.
I’m under no illusion about where I live. I’m in the Bible Belt, and that seems to mean more than being surrounded by Book-waving Christians. But this group intersects with another group popular here; the persecuted white male. If I had to provide you with a Venn diagram, you would find that the shaded area is rather large. The circles might as well be concentric, so close are they.
Mr. Persecuted White Male doesn’t believe in basic women’s rights. He thinks he should have the right to own an arsenal because the 2nd amendment is the only amendment he can quote. He think that his god is being disappeared from polite society. He’s a reconstituted bigot. He hates taxes and support for the poor, regardless of how poor he is.
I have met many respectable souls in my time down here in the land of the neverending heat. But Republicans run this place; and this is how I know there’s a lot of Mr. Persecuted White Males running around, open carrying with their Duck Dynasty overalls on.
Mr. Persecuted White Male is afraid. That’s the bottom line. And his party and god make him this way.
What’s the most common fear in America these days? Actually, it is a fear that we all have, globally. If the headlines are correct, that fear is of terrorism. I personally fear Mr. Persecuted White Male more, because he is far more likely to act upon his psychotic fears near me than a terrorist. But I could go on about that at length in another post.
Ina sloppy segue, let’s move our focus to the Middle East. We all know that Syria is no longer an independent state. It is saturated with rebels against the government and this cancer called ISIS.
I can shoot and point a gun, but I would not be a fighter if I were a Syrian. I’d be a refugee. My family comes first and getting the hell away from the bombs and the murdering would suit me just fine.
It’s heartbreaking and we should all step up to help these refugees as much as we can. But that doesn’t sit well with the right wing; politicians are hell bent on a no-more-Muslim policy-in fact, one of them has called for a registry for those living here.
But now let’s move back to my homestate-where my dickless fuck of a governor is withholding sustenance from Syrian refugees:
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal (R) signed an Executive Order in November instructing all state agencies to halt any and all activity regarding Syrian refugees.
Ravae Graham, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Human Services, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the department will follow the Nov. 18 memo with a newly arrived family. “We are just going to follow that process as outlined,” she said.
A family of three from the Syrian crisis been relocated to the Atlanta area, where state officials are making life very diificult.
That’s right; this executive order nullifies a refugee’s right to receive food assistance. Fuck you, thanks for coming, now go eat garbage.
There’s a silver lining to this-I don’t know who he was trying to impress, but this is illegal:
The federal government has told Deal that he must roll back his executive order in order to comply with federal law. Jessica Shanin, associate administrator at the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,wrote a letter to the state in November warning that denying food stamps to Syrian refugees would violate federal law, noting that states cannot discriminate based on national origin or religion.
Is Deal up for election again? I’d like to know. Unless he’s angling for a Cabinet spot in the fantasy that is a Republican presidency,I don’t see why he has to be an unrepentant prick about this. If it’s the former, this is a great way to get Mr. Persecuted White Male to get on board. If the latter, he has to be as radical as the fascists who seek the big chair in order to get noticed.
Shit on Nathan Deal for grandstanding when real people are literally dying to get into this country because their old one barely exists anymore.
Slowly but surely, the South is being dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. From my home state, again:
Effingham County High School’s mascot was the focus of a heated school board meeting held in Springfield Tuesday night.
A small group of people, led by the NAACP, want the mascot changed from the “Rebels”, usually pictured as a Confederate soldier holding a Confederate Flag.
“We have come to make a petition to right the wrong that should have been corrected 60 years ago,” said Leroy Lloyd, president of the Effingham NAACP.
The petition – made by the local NAACP – is for the school board to remove the use of all confederate symbols used by the school. This includes the Rebel mascot, the use of the Confederate flag, and the school’s “Dixie” fight song.
Some say the history and hate associated with these symbols cannot be severed.
Pastor Franklin Blanks, Jr., First Union Baptist Church, said, “We should do better. We cannot ignore this practice any longer. We ask you to do the respect of representing all citizens. Do what is fair and honest concerning this practice.”
I get it. It’s disrespectful at best and racist at worst. No student should have to go to a school whose mascots are symbols of a terroristic past. It isn’t cute nor should it be rousing. Sorry, Georgia.
Nevermind all that. We are entering the second phase of the civil rights movement and that can only be a good thing. But you can expect some pushback by the New Old racists, and if it weren’t so pernicious, it’d be downright funny:
But the overwhelming majority of people who attended Tuesday’s meeting disagreed.
Stanley Carter, resident, said, “You try to erase my heritage, you try to erase anything you think is racist. But the whole time you were up here, sir. I apologize, but everything you said was racist.”
Translation: You’re being racist if you talk about my racism. Well, Cooter, it doesn’t work that way. Black people are allowed to discuss systemic racism without declaring superiority over white people. To take offense because someone else took offense is an asshole’s way out of a substantive debate, it’s tu quoque and it’s absurd.
Whitey runs the show everywhere you look. Complaining about having to cede some of your space to be hateful is lunacy. There’s plenty left-it just doesn’t have to take place on public grounds anymore. Put away your gray hats and flag. You lost the war and you’re going to lose this one too.
This is not quite in my backyard, but it shows that racism is not dead. I think that should be obvious by now, given all the pushback on the rebel flag and the daily murders of black people by cops. Well, some yahoo got creative with his bigotry:
The owner of an “eclectic” art gallery in Macon, Georgia took down the Confederate Flag flying outside the business this week — and replaced it with a World War II-era Nazi flag.
According to WGXA Channel 24, the gallery SEVEN on Second will be flying the Nazi flag for a week.
Owner Anthony Harris told the TV station, “I just want people to realize that it’s a flag. Don’t get so much in an uproar about it; it’s good to have a conversation about it; it’s good to address it, but there’s no need to want to kill someone over it.”
I have a question for the flag suckers-if it’s not so important, why are you making a big deal about it? You’re allowed to fly any flag you want, you know. No one has stopped you, you are protected by the First. But to just do something egregious and antagonistic and then claim it’s no big deal is bullshit of the highest order. You are not impressing anybody, you are not making a salient point; you are not funny by any stretch of the imagination. You are a fucking mouth breathing scumbag and I hope that someone vandalizes your projection of racism and hate. Because while the government can’t prosecute you, you’ll find that some people are going to react viscerally and jack your shit up.
Once again, America, sorry about that.