Be All You Can Be
It is a sad time for America. We have elected a president who is the worse of us. This is not particularly about his policies or Russia but about who he is. He does not read. He is thin-skinned. He belittles through name calling or questioning their heroism as in the case of John McCain. He lies, brags, and exaggerates about most things. He does not pay his contractors. He talks vulgar about women behind closed doors and does not have equal pay for women on his staff. He cheated on his wives. He uses money in his charities to buy huge portraits of himself. He treats the professional Secret Service Agents as his errand boys. He praises strong man dictators and lifts them up as role models. He spends his money on garrulous things; a golden toilet to name one. He never apologizes. He is way too comfortable with alt-right racists. He is not religious or knows much about religion; two Chronicles is only the tip of the iceberg. He thinks winning is everything. He considers the ones who have the most to be the best of us. He tweets without thinking. He is impulsive. And regretfully the list could go on. He is just not the best of us. He makes anything and everything about himself no matter where he is or what is happening.
George W. Bush had horrible policies but he never was eager to divide and conquer us as Trump has demonstrated. Trump seems to revel in pitting groups of people against each other. Ronald Reagan, whose policy I did not as a rule agree, was not particular religious but he did seem to have a basic human decency about him. So the question is what or who are we to be in the midst of this onslaught of the worse of us? We can cringe in embarrassment. We can demand better behavior. And these are legitimate actions to take. But I propose that our response to having a president who is the worse of us is to become the best of us.
This will be hard. The worse of ourselves desires to out trump the worse of our president. Yet in the end this will only give us a temporary feeling of relief. It will not make better homes, workplaces, and communities. But if we burrow down deep within ourselves we can find the best of ourselves waiting to come out.
The best of ourselves will speak and act strongly when the vulnerable of our society are threatened. We will no longer be able to think about doing good but our best will demand we do good. We will not spend our money on garrulous things but give away our extra money to causes and people we believe. We will not be impulsively speaking words without thinking but use talk that does not exaggerate and lie but hits the nail on the head fearlessly. We will admit when we were wrong. This will ensure that when we speak people know we try to speak truth and to be helpful. We will find role models that demonstrate the reality we wish for all to live. We practice speech and actions that does not belittle others or discriminate against them. We nurture our higher selves. If this means going to church, meditating, volunteering or whatever we make sure we have a spiritual core. We value truth and know that Jesus, Mahatma Gandhi, Buddha, and so forth did not have a lot but they gave the world a lot. We do not value winning over all else.
You see we can gain if we let the worse of someone else bring out the best of ourselves. And to our happy surprise we will be better for it in the end. Sometimes it takes the worse of us to realize how much we need and want the best of us.
So the news is saying we are preparing to give away our commonly-held land for public development. This is why the land sharks are all circling around the Department of Interior [is it of the Interior?]. For over a century we have given presidents the power to create or add to national monuments of land. Usually this is land that may be full of natural resources but does not have the infrastructure to get to these resources. So no one wanted it or could afford it. But these lands have been part of our national park system and the basic infrastructure has been applied by your tax dollars. There are roads, bridges, and electricity where there was none and the investors have been chomping at the bit to have these lands privatized.
Ryan Zinke our new Secretary of the Interior rides around on his horse to give the illusion that he cares about the land. Beware the Trojan Horse. In the beginning we were looking to open the land because we had an energy crisis. Well not exactly; we were importing more oil than many thought appropriate. So they proclaimed we needed to divest ourselves of our public lands for mining coal and drilling for oil. It was a matter of public interest they said. But when dealing with the new right if you hear abortion think birth control, if you hear repeal Obamacare think Medicare too, so if you open public lands because we need oil think we need less public land period. Now you may not know it because of fracking and other things, we are now exporting much more energy than we import. I thought fracking would keep the freaking Republicans away from the public land. I mean it is a very questionable practice that we are allowing to go on, the environment be damned. But I reasoned, at least they will forget about divesting the public land. After all an energy shortage is no longer a problem (if it ever was). Not the case it seems ‘there are jobs in them there hills’ they proclaim in their newest argument to open public land for private use. Yet these same people boast about how the economy is booming like never before. You even heard the President proclaim it is the best recovery ever. He is our economic hero. Turns out he is not our economic hero but is the hero of those who have money to invest. We will be promised jobs in exchange for the land. None or poor to average paying jobs will come for us if we are lucky. But I do see a few more billionaires’ pockets being lined.
In the olden days when the government had land in the west, they offered it up in lotteries to give the simple folk like me and you a chance to have our own piece of land. I think if you watch carefully you will find this not to be the case if this land goes private. They will proclaim the government will need a good return on their money. So it will go to the highest bidder with the most promising plan for the land. And in their twisted logic, the land will be had at a fair price. The government will then turn around and to be sure the land is developed, they will give all sort of tax incentives and government loans and near interest free loans to the big boys who bought the land at a fair price. This will of course make the price of the land not as fair as they made it look. It is a good fortune to have if you already have a fortune.
And after the land is depleted of its resources the investors will leave a wasteland behind and the government will have to clean it up. The land will be cleaned up and made good for investments once again. And we will privatize the land.
This is the utopia that the Trumps of the world have for public lands. They say they only want to divest of the land that Obama declared public land. Of course you should be hearing, we want all the public land privatized, since this is the language of the Republicans. They say the first so you get used to the idea of giving the land away and once you have been lulled to sleep? They subtly add the rest to their agenda.
Visit your public lands now; who knows what will be public tomorrow.
The 3/5ths Racists
We are a nation of laws. That is what some say about the young immigrants covered by DACA. Therefore they must leave if we are to remain a nation of laws. But we give our judges discretion, have a parole system, and presidential pardons. We leave a little room for grace. We have a constitution but it has checks and balances and amendments to ensure we are not caught in legalism and outdated laws. We have elections to allow periodic assessment of our elected officials. In other words nothing is in stone. But if you listen to folks you would not think this was the case.
We have “Originalists” who think we are to only follow the original intent of the Constitution. As if a constitution written in 1787 should hold completely without amendment or change. These of course are the fundamentalists and legalists of the Constitution. ‘The Constitution was inspired work every dot and iota’ they say. The problem of original intent is the interpreters of original intent must be infallible. You may have general consent of the Supreme Court but one group of justices has reversed the opinions of another group of justices. It is handed down from the hand of God or our infallible founders. Of course we have and continue to add amendments (twenty-seven out of thirty-three proposed have been ratified by the states); it is constitutional after all.
But there are other problems with Originalists. The culture in which the Constitution was written was one in which African-Americans were slaves and many of the writers had what any reasonable person of today would call racist views. Another issue was the view of women as less and therefore they were not allowed to vote. It is also true (in a uniquely classist opinion) only landed citizens could vote. None of these opinions would be considered correct in today’s mainstream culture. But we are to believe that in this culture the Constitution was left unencumbered with the prejudices of its day. But opinions today are always influenced by culture. My God is a compromise with the slaveholders that blacks could be counted as 3/5ths of a person to be considered infallible?
And there is the rub: most people making the argument that we are a nation of laws against DACA immigrants are what I call the 3/5ths racists. They are more interested in having things remain as they once were even if it has racist consequences. Do not remove monuments, do not use revisionist history, and do not say black lives matter (which is the correlation of the Black is Beautiful movement of the sixties and seventies). They like to use laws to hide their real feelings. I do not care if you are a Mexican; I care that the law is upheld, they say.
Here is the truth as far as I am concerned. The people in Jesus’ day who demanded adherence to the law were the Pharisees. Jesus did not mind their adherence to the law. It was when they put the law over the needs of a person that he always responded harshly. People who opposed his healing on the Sabbath were holding the law over human need. I view this similarly: those who want to uphold the law over treating the DACA immigrants fairly and with no standard of human decency are not in the right.
So ye Originalists, Pharisees, 3/5ths Racists tread gently; you hold the soul of a nation in your hands. This soul while lawful is not bound by laws only. Let us do right by the DACA immigrants because we may be entertaining angels unawares.
Some Southerners try to create a moral equivalency between the North and the South in the Civil War. Our ancestors were protecting their homeland against Northern aggression, one might say, and they were fighting for states’ rights, another one says. The War was not about slavery they will say. But in the end slavery ended and the southern whites continued to fight against the rights of former slaves. They formed the KKK, they created the system of Jim Crow, they made voter poll taxes and required citizenship tests for black voters only to suppress their votes. But our ancestors were not about slavery and white rule? No we white southerners are on equal footing with the North as far as the Civil War and slavery are concerned.
The moral equivalency that the rest of the populace allowed to slowly take a foothold in our country has allowed the far right to garner power. We allowed them equal time to express their opinions in our media and then justified it by saying there are no wrong views. We can have a person spout racist ideas and commit racist acts but we are told “do not call me a racist.” They essentially have made the term “racism” only apply to the alt-right groups and if you listen closely to them this is under question. But racism comes in other shades too they explain.
The far right have used the moral equivalency against the rest of the population. The far right accuse moderates and liberals of the things they do. The traditional racists say ‘NO you are the real racists.’ They continue,” You are the ones who ignore facts. You are the ones who argue from emotion. You are the purveyors of immorality.’ And the far right all the while spouting traditional racist views are given equal time and legitimacy, all in the interest of fairness and moral equivalency by the rest of us. So unless you do more than surface thinking they sound almost reasonable. All the while promulgating the same sins of their fathers.
They challenge not just abortion but birth control. They challenge LGBTs not just marriage equality but recently Jeff Sessions has proclaimed that homosexuality is not covered by the Equal Opportunities Act. They not only say illegal immigration and DACA are bad but they challenge any immigration at all. They not only say government should be small but they revel in being able to shut it down. They not only say Obamacare is bad but Medicare is too. They were given an inch and they have taken a mile.
They will keep that mile as long as we allow them to claim they are more patriotic, more holy, more loving than us. The South supported slavery and the end result of the Civil War was slavery ended. There is no moral equivalency with the North especially when the slaves’ ancestors are still not allowed equal footing with their white counterparts. So in closing I say fly your Confederate flag, accuse our first black president of not being an American, continue to oppose healthcare for all, cut the government’s social programs, oppose gay and transgender rights, that is your right. But it is my right to declare, with a lot of confidence, that you are a homophobic, racist, unloving human who appears incapable of living Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount teachings. To hell with a false moral equivalency and to hell with equal time to people who only argue with their heads and have lost their heart in the godless churches of America. By the way that is my mild opinion. The only person I am willing to give equal time is to someone who gets their hands dirty helping others, has the ability to change their opinion, actually has spent time thinking and learning about the things they speak, and treats in their actions, words, and thoughts everyone with inherent worth and dignity.