What if we’re wrong?

Our esteemed colleague and beloved friend Don Ardell forwarded an interesting exercise he received from his friend, a fellow Robert G. Ingersoll enthusiast. The Great Agnostic was asked what he would do if he passed on and discovered there was indeed a God. The Christian god, of all the possibilities. Ugh.

Q: If you died and somehow found yourself face to face with Jeezus Haploid Christ Incorporated, what would you say to him?

I have to admit my instantaneous reaction was to imagine myself getting right up in his grill and saying FUCK YOU YOU FUCKING FUCK. And not just because I’m a New Yorker and that’s how I greet everybody. It’s probably no secret ’round here that I detest Christianity (though I do not detest all Christians) with the burning passion of ten thousand UY Scuties. Cursing Jeezus out would succinctly convey my feelings perfectly well. But upon further reflection, a more thoughtful (though no less enraged or revolted) reaction might go something like this.

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Tragedy in Ft. Lauderdale.

As of this writing, five people are dead and eight remain hospitalized after a gunman fired a barrage of bullets in a baggage claim area at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida. The alleged shooter was taken into custody, and the airport was (and still is) on lockdown.

When the news first broke earlier today, my heart did too. My first thoughts went to the survivors, and to the loved ones of those who were killed and injured. I hope they get all the support and assistance they need after a(nother) senseless tragedy. Especially those with medical expenses that our wonderful society likes to charge to hapless victims of injury and illness.

My next thoughts were not quite so empathetic.

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Your liberal media: scolding the lefties and normalizing Trump.

A few years ago I somehow got myself involuntarily added to the distribution list for a Washington Post email brief called PowerPost: The Daily 202 (byline: “Morning intelligence for leaders.” LOL.)

daily202

I used to scan the thing along with my other daily updates, but I rarely found content interesting enough to think about (much less write about). See, these 202 peeps are the embodiment of modern corporate “journalism” in the 21st century US of A. They seem to fancy themselves “objective”—you know, all fair-n-balanced like—which is to say they are so far up the ass of the status quo they can see Chuck Schumer’s tonsils.

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Prepare to Resist: Let’s Out Tweet and Otherwise Take Back the Media from the Tweeter-in-Chief

Introduction

Donald Trump, elected by deplorables, the ill-informed, the easily fooled, the undereducated and the Russian government, communicates with child-like tirades in short sentences of 140 or fewer characters on Twitter. This forum does not permit reasoned discussion, explanations or enlightenment on any issue. What it does enable, as Trump demonstrates daily, is his compulsive need to insult, malign, bully, lie, obfuscate and attack any who dare question, challenge or, the horror, disagree with his behavior.

Unfortunately, the messages on this medium are picked up by other outlets, giving Mr. Trump dawn-to-dusk, coast-to-coast exposure throughout the land. His banal and fact-free shouts are but bluster and bully talk. He spreads fear, division, anger and uncertainty. He’s already a national disaster; once in office come January 20, he could be ruinous.

A Plan of Action

What can a citizen do, to counter, to some modest degree, the all-powerful communication channels dominated by the near omni-present boom of bombast coming from the presidential pulpit?

Not much, by him or herself, but plenty in concert with citizens around the country. Everyone willing to fight for the character and perhaps the fate of society can devote himself to reshaping, reforming and revitalizing minds taken in November 8 by the Trump illusion/delusion. Resistance to and/or reforming the senses of the Trumpian masses might best be accomplished, in time, not with arms in revolution (forget heroic martyrdom at the barricades ala “Phantom of the Opera” mythology), but rather with pens (and keypads) in resolution. With a mass of counter views, we can balance the banter of the Twitter King. Let’s take back at least a part of the media—and make the media great again. Let’s together flood the opinion pages of newspapers and other communication outlets with reasoned, fact-based and evidence-rich commentaries. Let’s resist this American wanna-be emperor, not just because he’s bare naked—that’s bad enough, but mainly because his messages, if not massively challenged and effectively countered, are ugly and pernicious to our secular and democratic Republic founded on Constitutional safeguards for all.

Letters-to-the Editor

Two letters to the editor, neither focused entirely on Donald Trump, the Twitter President, illustrate the kind of citizen communications that might help many Americans think a little differently about issues. On occasions, a single letter might change a few minds. The first letter, below, was published in a Texas newspaper. It was written by the co-president of a national organization defamed a few days prior in the newspaper; the second letter-to-the-editor appeared after Christmas in response to a story about whether little children should be encouraged to believe in a seemingly harmful lie, namely, that Santa is real.

(Full disclosure: The second letter was written by yours truly.)

Letter Number One – Regarding An Outside Group Butting in on Local Matters

We at the Freedom From Religion Foundation would like to respond to a recent Amarillo Globe-News editorial. (History, facts should matter, Dec. 27, amarillo.com.)

Separation of Church and StateFirst, we aren’t an outside group in Texas. We’re a national group of 25,000 representing more than 1,000 members from all around the Lonestar State.

(The writer) dwells on the absence of the phrase “separation of church and state” in the U.S. Constitution.

President Thomas Jefferson actually coined the descriptive metaphor in a carefully crafted letter to the Danbury Baptists on Jan. 1, 1802, when they asked him to explain the meaning of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts have repeatedly invoked his phrase in major decisions.

It is true that the exact words “separation of church and state” do not appear in the U.S. Constitution, but neither do “separation of powers,” “interstate commerce,” “right to privacy,” and other phrases describing well-established constitutional principles.

When it comes to our censored display in the Texas Capitol, Gov. Greg Abbott’s action not only violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by offering preference to a Christian nativity display, but also infringed the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. Once the state opens up a venue for speech by citizens, it cannot suppress it merely because the governor does not like the content.

Last week, a federal judge ruled that FFRF’s case against Abbott had legal merit and could proceed. We’re confident we will prevail on the merits.

(The above letter was written by Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-founder/co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation based in Madison, WI.)

Letter Number Two – The Delicate Claus Question

This article asks if encouraging belief in an adipose man in a red suit delivering presents in one night to billions of kids around the globe is naughty or nice. In my view, it’s not nice, but it serves an important purpose in families that teach even more preposterous beliefs to children. In such cases, children usually don’t discover that these other beliefs are equally false — but more pernicious.

However, to look on the bright side, teaching the Santa myth can serve a beneficial purpose if children later come to realize that other beliefs pressed upon them when young are just as foolish but more damaging. It is good to discover that there are no goblins, ghosts or gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. Santa is a harmless myth, but religion is a myth that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.

Summary

These letters did not change minds, policies or prevailing customs in either instance, but that was not the goal. The idea in writing letters is to contribute to the dialogue, locally and otherwise, introduce a new perspective on issues and correct erroneous statements. If tens of millions of citizens regularly write letters to newspapers, politicians and other venues as never before, perhaps the influence of the Twitter-in-Chief can be diminished and the damage of his reign may be tempered.

After all, as Ingersoll so beautifully put it, “hope is the consolation of the world.”

FREETHOUGHT RESISTANCE.

blackflagbanner2I am excited to be contributing with many of my Freethought Blogs colleagues to a new group blog, Freethought Resistance,  focused on anti-fascist activism in the age of Trump. PZ’s introductory post is here.

Here are links to my first three posts:

Aww. Our first troll.

Some thoughts on activism.

Petition to Mark Zuckerberg: Don’t censor human rights documentation.

Going forward, I will probably cross-post material to the extent that it’s appropriate; for some reason, no one seems very gung-ho about hosting my anti-squirrel activism over there. (?!!!)

I hope you will check out Freethought Resistance on the regular and participate to the extent you are willing and able.

So what’s the problem?

[CONTENT NOTE: worker exploitation and abuse, nativism.]

Whenever immigration policy lands on the front burner we are all treated to “news” stories noting the inevitability of food costs soaring and the nation’s agricultural economy collapsing when undocumented farm workers suddenly become scarce. Here is one such article from The Nation in 2011 reporting on the eminently foreseeable catastrophes after Georgia and Alabama enacted draconian anti-immigrant statutes. Among other shitty fascist provisions, the laws required employers to confirm their worker’s legal status via the federal government’s E-Verify system. Any worker who used false documents to secure a job could be subject to fifteen years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

In perhaps the most utterly predictable chain of events in the universe ever, undocumented farm workers fled Georgia and Alabama in droves, leaving watermelons, peaches, blackberries and cucumbers rotting in the fields and businesses collapsing in their wake. The estimated loss for Georgia’s agricultural sector alone was $1 billion—for one season.

How on Earth could such a senseless situation come to pass? [SPOILER ALERT! Because conservatives.]

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I guess these are the conservatives with whom we’re supposed to “compromise”? Haha no.

[CONTENT NOTE: graphic descriptions of fetal remains and menstrual blood; no images.]

Via Rewire:

Texas Officials to Force Burial, Cremation of ‘Fetal Remains’

Texas health officials on Monday filed the final version of proposed rules requiring the remains of aborted or miscarried fetuses to be buried or cremated, despite criticism from funeral homes, abortion providers, and reproductive rights advocates.

The regulations will apply to all fetal remains, regardless of the period of gestation when the miscarriage or abortion occurred.

O.o

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“Forget Plymouth Rock. Stand with Standing Rock.”

The Thanksgiving fairytale is so pervasive that people across the country blindly teach and celebrate a 400-year-old mythic “friendship” between the pilgrims and Indians while turning their backs on real and systemic violence happening now to Native people and allies at the hands of authorities protecting oil interests over the interests of future generations of water drinkers. Forget Plymouth Rock. Stand with Standing Rock.
-Mniconjou Lakota journalist and citizen of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Taté Walker

My friend Sincere Kirabo has a pithy piece up at The Humanist about the myths surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday. The money quote: Continue reading

Two Republicans, Two Concerns About and Two Strategies for Dealing w/ the Election

Introduction

Robert Green Ingersoll was a prominent and influential Republican during the second half of the 19th Century. His eloquence and brilliance helped elect presidents; his ideas were beacons that guided many to appreciate, protect and expand human rights. A colonel in the Union Army during the Civil War, a distinguished attorney and a famous orator seen and heard by more Americans than any other until the advent of radio, Ingersoll helped citizens rally behind the First Amendment. He was the enemy of clergy, politicians and others who supported superstition—slavery of body or mind, the very idea of blasphemy, Sunday Blue Laws based on religious piety and church/state separation transgressions. He championed the rights of children, blacks, women, immigrants and anyone that laws and customs made servile or less than equal to the right and powerful in terms of guaranteed rights. In summary, Ingersoll was a powerful spokesperson for democracy, equality, science, reason and human freedom.

And, believe it or not, he was a Republican. Most Republicans of his era, including Lincoln, surely would abhor what the Party has become. Ingersoll’s Republicanism would have been more suitable for Bernie Sanders than Donald Trump. Now the Republican Party has taken an even darker turn, one that does not bode well for wellness lifestyles founded on reason, exuberance and liberty.

Thus, some might wonder: What do we do now? How best to deal with the coming kakistocracy, or a government by the worst persons—a pile of excrement, if you will. We are witnessing a justified outbreak of coulrophobia, that is, fear of clowns (not fear of Ann Coulter), due to the election outcome. We are reminded, as was Roger Cohen in a New York Times piece Sunday (mmmmmm) of H.L. Mencken’s warning: As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. Of course, Trump is no moron. Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s assessment is far more accurate, it seems to me: I’m a New Yorker and I know a con when I see one. Mr. Cohen suggested Bloomburg might have used the phrase, gifted charlatan, instead. (Source: Roger Cohen, New York Times, The Opinion Pages, The Man Who Would Not Be President, November 18, 2016.)

For starters, let me suggest two simple strategies: 1) Recognize the dangers of most concern; and 2) develop personal strategies to deal with each. (Be sure to choose concerns over which you can exert at least an iota of influence.)

Dark Moon on the Rise—Strategies Applicable to Two of My Concerns, Among Many

Next to thermonuclear Armageddon, more theocracy and less freedom are my biggest worries about the steady rise of the shadow of gloom on the horizon. Our secular constitutional Republic, at present, affords a generous measure of free speech, rights to assemble, equal opportunity and separation of church and state. However, theocrats are advancing on the White House, the House and the Senate—and nothing stands in their way. They will soon have a majority on the Supreme Court, since the ninth, tie-breaking justice will be chosen from a pool of Christian jurists on record favoring a lower wall of separation, and restrictions on reproductive rights such as expressed determination to reverse Roe vs. Wade. That’s just the start—there are over 100 federal court vacancies.

So, what to do if, like me, you can’t take solace in the supernatural, in miracles via a series of Hail Mary hopes of desperation? Does anyone believe that somehow, as the cast of Hamilton pleaded, Pence and company might uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. That’s a form of prayer—and what is prayer but talking to yourself? (If I thought a superpower needed my advice and was listening and disposed to grant favors, I’d pray for Trump’s health—because right behind him is play-goer Pence, an evolution-denying creationist whose professed loyalty is to Christianity, conservatism and the Republican Party, “in that order.”) You might remember his support, as Governor of Indiana, for a religion-inspired law that allowed businesses to discriminate against gays and others, such as atheists, if providing service to such people offended one’s Christianity. He signed another bill making abortions next to impossible to obtain. Like Pence, the Republican Party about to take over is on record in favor of a national voucher bill granting tax funds for religious schools. While prayer strikes me as the greatest time waster ever conceived by man, I just might try a little anyway—for Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s health.

The second thing that most concerns? The appointments the President-Elect has announced. Like Steve Bannon, for example, soon to be Senior White House Counsel and Chief Strategist with unfettered access to the West Wing. Bannon has railed against the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) for trying to stop a Texas county from displaying In God We Trust stickers on patrol cars, a nativity exhibit at the state Capitol, Christian crosses on police patrol cars and the Clemson football team (a public University) for a wide variety of public displays of religiosity. Leaders in the new government believe global climate change is a hoax, creationism should be taught in public schools and (tax-exempt) churches should be free to promote political candidates. Oh, the horror.

It’s true, I’m afraid: Science was on the ballot November 8—and it lost.

Personal Strategies

Forget fleeing—New Zealand, Australia, Norway, Liechtenstein—they’re too far, their language is hard to understand and they don’t want Americans, anyway. Would you, if you were in their place? After all, we’re citizens of the country that just elected Donald Trump, Mike Pence, a Republican Congress and state houses and legislatures that will be overwhelmingly Republican. It does little good to protest, to fall back on the lament that Hillary won the popular vote. Doesn’t matter—we’re guilty, and the decent thing is to live with the shame. Let’s do what we can to salvage, protect and defend the Republic. Besides, it’s only four years. That’s the first strategy—don’t run. Stay, adapt and fight—peacefully.

The second strategy is to make it difficult for the buggers. Support organizations that promote science, separation of church and state and human rights—make generous donations to organizations that have the leverage and capacity to slow the rate of national descent, such as FFRF, the Center for Inquiry, Americans for Separation of Church and State, the American Civil Liberty Union, The Secular Alliance. Give to worthy causes that protect choice—make a gift to Planned Parenthood in honor of Mike Pence.

And, just for good measure, here’s a third personal strategy for staying well mentally and physically—be kind, have fun, look for new ways to be happy and in all manner of ways devote more attention to your REAL wellness lifestyle. Eat better, exercise more (unless you’re already overdoing it) and try not to write snarky essays critical of the Republican Party. And, of course, look on the bright side of life.

I approve this tactic. UPDATED: Trump demands apology.

UPDATE: The Twit in Chief took to Twitter to demand an apology for this unconscionable harassment:

Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing.This should not happen!

And:

The Theater must always be a safe and special place.The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!

“Harassed.” LOL. Sure.

__________

Vice President-elect Mike Pence (R-eligious Bigot) went to see the Broadway show Hamilton last night, and got booed by the audience. Good.

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