SECESSION AND OTHER POLITICAL CRAZINESS

By Paul

If it weren’t for what it brings to mind in regard to one of the bloodiest and most inhuman conflicts the country has ever had the misfortune of going through, namely the Civil War, it would almost actually be funny.  Imagine that more than 100,000 people in – where else? – the great state of Texas, and thousands of others in all of the other states, even places like California and New York, have petitioned the White House to secede from the Union.  Not to worry, of course, because it obviously is not going to happen; still, who even knew anyone was thinking about such a thing? 

It does, though, go to show the depth of anger, bitterness, and sense of betrayal engendered in many by the recent presidential race, leading up to the second-term election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States.  It has always amazed, puzzled, and frankly sometimes terrified me to see the depth of hatred – and I think that is not too strong a word – that many people in this country feel toward Pres. Obama.  Sadly, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that much of it is based on plain old bigotry, that is, racial animus and bias, exacerbated by what I would call the mildly liberal agenda of our current president. 

The difference is that I heard liberals say that, if Romney were to win, they would be the ones to move, probably to Canada.  Now, to be honest, that too is very likely as much of a load of malarkey as is all this secessionist talk.  In fact, I’ve heard the same thing from liberal friends about pretty much every conservative president from Reagan on down the line, and frankly I’ve yet to have the opportunity to go visit anyone who’s actually moved on to become a refugee, comfortably ensconced by the fire up in Toronto, or trying to stay out of the rain in Vancouver.  The difference, though subtle, is that progressives talk about moving, while the conservative strategy, apparently, would be to stay and keep their holdings.  Take Joseph Farah, as just one example of the many far right crazies out there, who recently said on his ultra-conservative website “World Net Daily”:  “I am convinced we’ve got to begin forming new communities of the faithful and declare our separation and independence once again, just as our courageous forefathers did 236 years ago.  We need to be prepared to defend ourselves, our families, our fortunes and our sacred honor.  Barack Obama was right about one thing:  America is no longer a Christian nation.  Our cultural institutions have been taken over by worshippers of other gods.  More than half of the population has turned its back on God’s Commandments.” 

You definitely do not hear the words “move on” or “leave” or “let’s get the hell out of this place” from archconservatives.  No!  Instead, it’s more like “declare separation,” “form new communities (where they currently are),” and “defend ourselves, our families, and (of course) our sacred honor.”  It fits right in with the conspiracy theorists, who are building bunkers and stockpiling canned goods, along with caches of ammunition and semi-automatic weapons, in preparation for the cultural Armageddon that is sure to come.  It’s kulturkamph, some would say, all over again, that attack in the 1870’s by Otto von Bismarck on the Catholic Church in which hundreds of priests and bishops, along with their faithful followers, were expelled from Prussia.  In fact, conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia even references kulturkamph, or its direct translation, “culture war,” in more than one of his written opinions. 

All this brings to mind another opinion, this one stated just yesterday by none other than the losing candidate, himself, Mitt Romney.  In a talk to his disappointed major donors, he is quoted as saying that “the Obama campaign was following the old playbook of giving a lot of stuff to groups that he hoped could get to vote for them and be motivated to go out to the polls.”  He goes on to specify who he’s talking about, namely, African-Americans, Hispanics, and young people.  I suppose he might have mentioned women, too, and maybe even gay people, if they even counted in his mind, which I very much doubt that they do.  But doesn’t this sound an awful lot like those moochers, those freeloaders, that 47% of the American population (according to his tally, anyway), who basically want to live off of the back-braking hard work of the God-fearing, money-making, tax-paying, overburdened straight white males, who do all the work in this damn country anyway? 

But what actually are these “gifts” that we’re talking about?  It can’t be anything other than the right to be educated, to find a job, to work to better yourself and your family, to be able to afford health care, such that if you’re sick you don’t have to go into bankruptcy, to say nothing of someday being able to buy a house, or at very least afford a rental apartment to live in.  Romney was pulling no punches.  Apparently he felt that there was no longer any need for him to dissimulate, sneak behind anybody’s back and say this only in the privacy of an exclusive banquet room.  No more need to try to make the public believe that he was some kind of compassionate conservative.  He went on to say that these were the people who made between $25,000 and $35,000 a year, but who want healthcare.  Can you imagine?  Poor people (or at least struggling lower middle class people), who actually have the temerity to think that they should get medical attention in the event of an accident or an illness.  Why, it’s unheard of!  And he specifies Blacks and Hispanics as those who are particularly pushy in this regard.  Black and brown people who want the same care he and his white family have always been able to afford – imagine!

He goes on at some length to list other such “gifts” that Obama supporters were essentially bought of by, things like “amnesty for the children of illegals,” and the extension of healthcare on their parents’ policies for people 26 and under, which supposedly brought many college aged women into Obama’s camp.  These are the “gifts” Romney is talking about.  But it’s funny, to me they just seem an awful lot like the things that a majority of the American people actually want and deserve.   You know, the things that a certain segment of the population has always had, and which they want to hold on to: education, jobs, health care, ability to afford a home etc.  And who wouldn’t?  That’s exactly the point, in fact.  These things are not gifts at all, they are basic human needs and desires that everyone wants and requires for themselves and their families.  And to have the audacity to refer to them as “gifts” merely shows how out of touch Mitt Romney is from so much of the experience of everyday Americans. 

So, if there were any possibility, I guess I would say that maybe we actually ought to let this minuscule portion of the population secede that seems to want to do so.  We could give them a couple of counties, maybe, someplace where the rest of us don’t want to live anyway, and see how well they fare.  But since even that isn’t going to happen, for now all we can say is let’s stop getting distracted by this secessionist craziness and get on with the business of attempting to deal with the innumerable problems that actually face this country.  Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof, the nuns always told me in grammar school.  There’s no need to manufacture more. 

I only hope the Joseph Farah’s of the world hear that, and work with the rest of us, rather than trying to do everything in their power to bring about greater disharmony.  And let’s let poor Mitt Romney, too, slink off to one of his mansions, where he can pay for all the medical help he needs to lick his wounds and recover from the political pummeling he so richly deserved.

Ten Steps to Republican Rebranding and Conservative Redemption

by Kevin

Dear Republican Party and Conservative Friends,
 
I sincerely hope you are beginning to feel a little better. A week ago today you received quite a shock when President Obama defeated Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election by a very decisive Electoral College margin and a comfortable popular vote lead. To add insult to your injury, four pro-gay-marriage initiatives passed, pro-labor candidates won in Wisconsin and elsewhere, The “Rust Belt” voted solidly for Obama, and liberal women won lots of seats in Congress. We have all heard that Governor Romney and his campaign team are still shell-shocked and trying to understand what happened, because they had been in denial about a potential defeat. Their wake up call was sudden and brutal. Mr. Romney had not even written a concession speech, making his extremely gracious and noble final statement even more remarkable for its genuine dignity and apparent intentionality.
 
The GOP can have a bright future and win again if you will implement ten steps to Republican rebranding and conservative redemption. I have thought carefully over the past week about whether or not to publish these ten steps. As a liberal Democrat, I’m afraid you might actually read my advice, take it seriously and succeed. I have been a consultant to Fortune 500 companies (conservative Republican institutions largely) for 22 years, facilitating market research, new product development, branding, positioning, and strategic planning projects. The ten steps listed here do not come from nowhere. They are my professional assessment regarding the GOP path to future success, based on decades of analysis of disasters similar to the 2012 election in corporate settings. After thinking twice, I realized that it is healthier for the American democracy to have a thriving but reasonable conservative wing in politics. I consulted with Paul, my very dear friend and fellow blogger for Two Old Liberals, and he urged me to publish these ten steps. I have to agree with his reasoning: “One party rule is very seldom a good idea. People get cocky and arrogant; and they get lazy without an opponent to keep them fit.”  
 
Ten Steps to Republican Rebranding and Conservative Redemption
 
1. Embrace Hispanics wholeheartedly and become their partners in immigration reform with a path to citizenship. The Bush brothers (Jeb and G. W.) have known for a long time that the Republican Party must embrace Hispanics to survive the rapid demographic evolution of the American electorate toward a minority majority. The wages of ignoring this development became painfully evident for you in last Tuesday’s election. Unfortunately, when President G. W. Bush tried to move the GOP in this direction with friendlier immigration legislation, you rejected it. When the Tea Party extremists and Rush Limbaugh were allowed to hijack the GOP, your message to Hispanics became very hostile: “We don’t want you here. Get out or we will throw you out.”
 
A lot of Hispanic voters are conservative and would make natural Republicans if you would embrace them and become their advocates. Many Hispanics are devout Catholics who certainly do not believe in abortion or even birth control! Many are hard-working fiscal conservatives who hold very strong family values and would not be supporters of gay marriage. Does that portrait look like Democrats? No, it looks like Republicans, but you have forced them to vote Democratic in self-defense with your hostile rhetoric.

Oh, I know, I know… You believe that you ARE welcoming toward Hispanics and that it is just Democrats who make you look bigoted toward them. Well, Hispanics PERCEIVE hostility from you, and perception is everything in politics and in business. How can you change that perception? You could start by never nominating another candidate who talks about “self-deportation,” and by marginalizing the extreme voices in your party who describe Hispanics as lazy moochers. Support pro-immigration legislation with a path toward citizenship, and then move on to Step 2.
 
2. Nominate Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio as your 2016 presidential ticket. Or find another set of candidates who would be equally attractive to Hispanics. I recommend Jeb and Marco, because Jeb’s wife is Hispanic and they have a son, George Bush III, who is movie star handsome, charismatic, articulate, and Hispanic! Jeb is a center-right Republican who understands the imperative to adopt pro-immigration policies and befriend the exploding Hispanic demographic segment. Marco Rubio is young, good-looking, conservative, articulate, magnetic, and has a storybook gorgeous wife and family… and he is Hispanic. Unless you are ready and willing to become a minor regional party of grumpy old white men and crazy right-wing extremists, you will seriously consider nominating a pro-Hispanic ticket for the 2016 election.
 
3. Become enthusiastic supporters of women and empower them in society and politics. Stop the “war on women” now! I know, I know… You do not believe there ever was a GOP war on women. You feel that Democrats and a few right-wing wackos pinned that undeserved reputation on you. Okay… maybe so. But women PERCEIVE that you are hostile toward them, and perception is everything. How could you have let this happen, Republicans? Women make up the majority of the electorate, for God’s sake! You simply cannot allow this continuing perception that you want government to be able to intrude into women’s private lives and take control of their bodies. Issue a commandment to all old men in the GOP forbidding them from mentioning rape ever again. They lost that right with “legitimate rape” and rape that is “God’s will.” And any hint of trespassing into a woman’s control over her own body with ideas like “forced trans-vaginal probes” (speaking of rape…) is strictly forbidden, forever, period.
 
The Republican Party must enthusiastically support women and their right to earn equal pay for equal work and hold positions of power and authority in American society and politics. In this connection, it is time to aggressively seek and cultivate female candidates for office. The age of women in politics is thundering toward America like a tsunami along with the Hispanic and minority majority. You don’t believe me? Take a look at New Hampshire’s 2013 delegation to Congress — all women. Also in 2013, on the Democratic side of the aisle in the House of Representatives, women and minorities will comprise the majority for the first time in history, and it won’t be the last time.
 
When you look for female GOP candidates, run as fast as you can away from anyone who says she can see Russia from her house, or who urges citizens to exercise 2nd amendment remedies, or who thinks she might have been a witch at one time. Walk away from all these nut cases who have taken over your party and its messaging. Start looking for women candidates formed in the mold of hard-working, sane, professionals like Kay Bailey Hutchison, Olympia Snow, and Condoleezza Rice. You know they are among you. Bring them forward.
 
4. Exercise control over your nominating process to avoid extremists and run candidates who can win.  Republicans had a chance to take back the Senate in the 2012 election but you blew it again with extreme right-wing candidates who insulted and verbally abused the electorate. You cannot win elections when you attack the people you need to vote for you — women, Hispanics, gays, and other minorities. Stop it!

And your slate of presidential candidates in the Republican primaries this year looked like a clown car — Herman Cain, Donald Trump, Rick Santorum, Michelle Bachman, Rick Perry, etc… Give us a break! Do you really expect the American electorate to take you seriously when you present a list of crazy candidates like those for the presidency? Weren’t you embarrassed? It was very amusing and entertaining for the rest of us, but also pretty scary, when we considered that you were actually proposing that one of these nut cases should hold the most powerful job on earth.

There were four reasonable candidates — Tim Pawlenty, John Huntsman, Ron Paul and Mitt Romney. Pawlenty was apparently too moderate and ran out of money and steam early and dropped out. Huntsman was too liberal for you. Ron Paul was too libertarian and uncontrollable. And that left only Romney who was pushed so far to the right by the endless primary debates with clown candidates that he ultimately did not have a chance in the general election, despite his desperate last-minute attempt to disavow everything he had said during the primaries and turn hard toward the center. Get a grip on your nomination and primary processes, GOP, or your clown car will be replaced by a new and more reasonable party of serious, classic conservatives. You cannot win with your current slate of Tea Party extremists and dogmatic right-wing ideologues.
 
5. Befriend the LGBT segment and support gay rights and marriage. I’ll never understand it, but apparently there are lots of us gay people who would like to be conservative Republicans. A “gay Republican” has always seemed to me, as someone once described it, to be “like a 12-point buck at an NRA convention.” But, be that as it may, there are lots of LGBT people who want to get into your club, and can’t do it, because you constantly tell us you don’t want us or like us and we are an abomination against God and nature. You didn’t want to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” allowing gays to serve openly in the military, and you don’t want to let us marry each other. Now, I ask you, what American institutions are more conservative than the military and marriage? We are asking for the right to serve our country in the armed forces and enter into the commitment, stability and responsibility of the institution of legal marriage. As conservatives YOU should be applauding these impulses and helping us to realize them. Then you’d get lots of gay votes, which if I’m not mistaken, still count as much as straight votes.
 
Barry Goldwater understood this. Remember him?… your 1964 Republican nominee for the presidency? I’ll never forget him: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” He also famously said, “You don’t have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight.” In 1993 on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” Senator Goldwater said, “I see no harm at all with having gays in the military… I think that if you left it up to the American people, the attitude would be, ‘What the hell, there’s nothing wrong with a gay as long as he doesn’t misbehave himself.”  True classic conservatives want to get government out of people’s bedrooms and private lives and grant everyone fundamental civil rights for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Return to your classic conservative roots and the fundamental principles of freedom to win elections again, Republicans. 
 
6. Support clean renewable energy sources and the effort to stop and reverse climate change. My Nov 4, 2012 post at http://TwoOldLiberals.com entitled “Mother Nature Sends Sandy to Make Climate Change a Conservative Issue,” defines five compelling reasons why climate change is a conservative issue: A.) Loss of property;  B.) Extinction is bad for profits;  C.) Cost of preparedness and disaster response;  D.) Public and political pressure mounts;  E.) Everyone cares about the survival and happiness of their kids and grandkids.  Beyond that, what could be a more natural conservative value than leaving our children and grandchildren an environment that is at least as healthy and able to sustain life as the one we inherited? Conservatives are careful to maintain their home as an investment in the future stability and security of their families. The earth is our only home. It is time for conservatives to demand that we stop destroying this habitat for the sake of our children.
 
7. Work openly to reverse voter suppression and support the Voter Empowerment Act. You may have heard earlier in the campaign that there was an “enthusiasm gap” among Democrats. There probably actually was a disturbing degree of apathy among Democrats at that stage. But you took care of that by doing everything in your power to suppress the traditionally Democratic vote. You worked hard to make voting impossible for seniors, students, poor people, and anyone without a photo ID. You tried to shut down early voting and same-day registration wherever possible. You sent out disinformation about the date and location for voting. You did not provide enough voting sites, machines or ballots so that many people had to wait 2 or 4 or 6 hours in line, jeopardizing their jobs and their children’s safety. The net result was rage on the part of the people whose vote you tried to suppress. That anger more than filled the “enthusiasm gap,” and those folks came out like never before to vote. Your tactics backfired. Oh, I know, I know… You think that you did not do this at all… that it was some other nefarious force sabotaging voter rights to make you look bad. But these people PERCEIVE that you tried to stop them from voting, and perception is everything. How can you correct this perception? Work openly to reverse voter suppression, and support the Voter Empowerment Act. Become known as every voter’s advocate and friend.
 
8. Define fiscal conservatism as more than just eliminating taxes and regulations for business and banking. I know it is near and dear to your hearts, Republicans, but this continuing crusade to reduce taxes for the wealthiest 2% of Americans just isn’t going to fly anymore. At least 60% of Americans want the wealthy to pay their fair share. And since we have all been suffering through the Great Recession for over four years, we certainly do not buy the line that simply removing regulations from business and banking and allowing the free market to have its way will work at all. We know too much now. We know that greed is part of human nature and will take over if unchecked. We are also smart enough to know that the math for balancing the budget and paying down the national debt will not work if you refuse to add more tax revenues into the equation and insist on increasing military spending, as did Mitt Romney in his ill-fated campaign. 
 
A lot of people are naturally fiscally conservative — even some moderates and some liberals. But you are going to have to say more than just “no taxes or regulation,” to get more of the fiscally conservative vote. You will need to outline detailed plans and programs that define fiscal conservatism, in a way that makes intuitive sense to strapped middle class householders who are desperately trying to balance their own budgets, pay down their debts, and stay afloat financially in the midst of a recession. You will also want to explain to voters how your fiscal policies will help them to do that in their personal lives.
 
9. Revive the moderate wing of the Republican Party. After last Tuesday, isn’t it time to give the electorate a moderate option within the GOP again? I’m old enough to recall when there was a liberal wing of the Republican Party — George Romney was one of them, ironically, and, of course, Nelson Rockefeller. Today American politics has moved so far to the right that I sometimes feel I cannot find any moderates in either party, let alone liberals. But, of course, you do have moderates — very highly respected individuals within the GOP — Gen. Colin Powell, Ambassador John Huntsman, Gov. Chris Christie, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and others. If it is true that elections are won in the center, doesn’t it seem like a good idea to offer the electorate some centrist candidates? And while you are at it, stop holding so many debates in your primaries. They only force everyone to the extreme right.
 
10. Stop obstructionism and make an effort at bipartisan collegiality and communication. Ever since Sen. Mitch McConnell vowed that his only job was to insure that Barack Obama would be a one-term president, and the Tea Party substituted hostile obstructionism in place of governing, every last vestige of simple civility, let alone comity and collegiality has vanished from Capitol Hill. Serious professional legislators like Republican Senator Olympia Snow are leaving public service, citing the loss of a civil climate essential for governing as their reason. The entire electorate is sick to death of this obstructionism and lack of civility in public life. We miss the days when Senators Orrin Hatch and Ted Kennedy used to hurl barbed, amusing comments and insults at each other on the floor of the Senate by day and then go out with a bipartisan group for a convivial evening of banter and laughter over drinks and dinner in the evenings. That was healthy for the Republic. The hatred and despair that we see now on Capitol Hill are poisonous and ruinous to the future of governance. It must stop now.
 
Oh, I know, I know… You feel that this is all the fault of the Democrats, not the Republicans, and it has been pinned on the GOP by the biased liberal press. Okay fine. Let’s say you are right. But the electorate PERCEIVES the obstructionism and lack of civility as coming primarily from the Republican side of the aisle, and perception is everything. So how can you reverse that perception? YOU be the bigger people. YOU take the high road. YOU, Republican Senators and Congress people, should agree that starting today you will invite a bipartisan group of colleagues for drinks and dinner every evening when in Washington D.C. and make every effort to have a good time and maintain a civil tone in everything that is said and done. This is what the American people want. If you restore civility in public discourse and governance, you will begin to win again.
 
What will be left of conservatism if Republicans adopt these ten steps? Classic conservatism — the high-minded thinking conservatism of decades past — would have adopted all of these ideas without difficulty and considered them a natural part of conservative philosophy. Here’s just a partial list of what’s left: Strict constructionist constitutional interpretation; fiscal conservatism that seeks to balance the budget and pay down the debt; overwhelming military might seems to be popular across the political spectrum (I’m sad to observe;) permissive gun ownership rights (God help us;) capital punishment (God forgive us;) strong law and order programs; smaller centralized government; more power to local and state governments; pro-business policies; superpower policing of international law and order (ill-advised, in my opinion;) expansion of democracy on the planet; support for moral and ethical decency; religious liberty; and the maintenance of an unbiased, objective judiciary.
 
And… my apologies. I must end this long list of criticisms withone final insult that I hope my Republican friends will consider: Did I mention that it’s all about perception? Today the increasingly brown and young, modern electorate perceives the Republican Party as an outmoded group of very white, much too old, overly male, mean-spirited and grumpy, obstructionist bigots, who care only about preserving power and wealth for the white privileged upper class, and have no clue about what is really happening and changing in America today. I’m very sorry, but that is how you are perceived.

If you want to win again, listen to the young people within your own ranks. They see that America is quickly becoming a minority majority. They know that same-sex marriage is no skin off their own noses and inevitable. If you don’t believe me, listen to Megan McCain and her mom. Your own young people know that the planet is warming so rapidly and dangerously that the very existence of future generations is threatened. Republican youth understand intuitively that power is shifting to women and it is time to get on that band wagon. They know that civil discourse and promoting the right of all Americans to vote is the proper and honorable way to go. 
 
If you want to win the midterm and 2016 elections, you will need to adopt at least steps 1, 2, and 3. Please do, for your own survival. We liberal Democrats need you. We miss the debates and discussions we used to have with you. Those arguments helped both of us define ourselves. We all need the contrast with one another to know what we believe. The dialogue is healthy for democracy and essential for a vibrant America. So, come back to life and sanity, Republicans! Find your way out of the corner into which you have painted yourselves, conservatives! We all need you and we miss you. You are part of our great American family!
 
Love, – Kevin

THE VALUE OF VALUES: WHY I’M RIGHT AND YOU’RE WRONG (OR YOU’RE RIGHT AND I’M WRONG!)

By Paul

The word “values” is a term that you hear thrown around a lot these days.  When it’s used in the singular we seem mostly to be referencing its more or less literal meaning, having to do with the worth of something, as in the expression, “the value of a dollar,” or something (some thing) being of great (or of little) value.    But what I’m more interested in is the symbolic or metaphorical meaning of the term.  That may at first sound a little abstract, but the application of our values generally in life, and in the political sphere particularly, and the ultimate concrete results of that application in the real world, is anything but abstract.

Let’s begin by agreeing that everybody has values.  You cannot live in human society and not have values.  I don’t care who you are, even the worst, the most hardened, criminal has values.  His (or her) values may not be your values, or my values, but they are values all the same.  So what exactly are we talking about when we use the term values? They are an internalized system often unconsciously, if tenaciously, held, whereby each individual makes judgments about the world, how it works, or how it ought to work, and about people or things in the world.  Most of the time, our values are automatic, that is, we don’t stop and think about them.  We don’t have to.  We know them; we recognize them immediately. They are powerful and they are visceral, as if somehow coming from the profundity of our inner selves.  They are a system, essentially a kind of internalized ruler against which we measure things.  In so doing, we make important decisions about whether an action, a thing, or a person is good or bad, right or wrong, appropriate or inappropriate, proper or improper, acceptable or unacceptable, advisable or inadvisable, some may even say sinful or virtuous.  They constitute one of the most important aspects of our lives, because it is essentially by and in accordance with our value system that we make decisions about how to lead our lives.   

Let’s take a simple, if admittedly mundane, example to begin with.  The other day, I was driving to the gym, when a guy cut me off on the freeway, weaving in front of me without so much as a flicker of a directional signal, so much so that I had to slam on my brakes in order to avoid him.  When, a few minutes later, traffic slowed enough that it allowed me to pull up beside him, I saw that he was texting something on his cell phone.  I was furious, and wanted to scream out the window at the guy, telling him what a jerk he was.  I didn’t have to stop and think, “Well, what are my values in this instance?  Am I in favor of following the law when it comes to driving, or do I feel as though it’s OK to ‘multitask’ by driving (more or less), while texting your boss, or you girlfriend, or your damn lawyer, for that matter?”  I knew immediately that he was wrong.  And, aha, as soon as you hear yourself use that word “wrong” (or of course its counterpart, “right”), you know instantly that you have entered into the majestic and hallowed halls of your own value system.  Even in such an innocuous example as this we see two important things about values.  One is that we recognize in an instant what they are and how we feel about them, and two, we often react with emotion.  I knew right away, without thinking, that this guy was wrong; and he really pissed me off!  So, there you have it: immediacy and emotion.  My values are such that I think it’s right, it is proper, it is appropriate for everybody’s safety to follow traffic laws while you’re driving around at 65 miles an hour, and his (apparently) were that it is perfectly proper, appropriate, and acceptable to send an “important message” as soon as the thought strikes, no matter where you are. 

Now, if such a small thing as being cut off on the freeway (it happens all the time, right?) causes such a reaction, what about the bigger issues?  Without getting into where our values come from (a topic of its own for another essay, or a book, or a whole library of books), what values do we hold related to the enormous questions that are facing our country right now?  It seems to me that the political conventions we have seen of late are very good indicators of the things that are valued by each of the parties.  Mitt Romney, for example, mocked the very idea of climate change.  He also spoke of letting people alone and allowing them to exercise their own creativity and make their own way in the world.  Americans act best when they act alone, and we don’t need any help from big government.  At most, we might accept some level of assistance from family, or from church, but government is almost always and everywhere a bad thing.  It was the classic “bootstrap” speech in modern guise.  As Mark Shields cogently remarked on the PBS coverage of the convention, using a baseball metaphor, “Mitt was born on third base, and thought he hit a triple!”  Michelle Obama, on the other hand, in her brilliant and human and very humane speech, and the President, himself, in his, espoused what I thought of as what is best about American society.  They both came out loud and clear for helping those in need (especially when those people don’t have a millionaire daddy, or if they don’t belong to a church that requires everyone to tithe 10% of their income).  They were for justice, for compassion, for service, for mutual assistance, and for inclusion.  In a word (and according to my value system anyway), the Obamas were absolutely right on, and Mitt Romney was dead wrong.  The President even went so far as to mention global warming, and said that climate change was not a hoax.  Most of  the speeches at the DNC may have been about jobs and the economy first of all, and then the so-called social issues secondarily, mainly women’s rights generally, reproductive rights specifically, and allowing (or not allowing) people to marry whomever they may love.  Still, any mention of human-induced changes to the environment has to be a very welcome (and very politically risky) thing.    

So I hail the Democrats for their values.  I also understand that you get elected mostly because you’ve talked believably about the things that people want you to talk about (i.e., what people value).  And I may think that climate change ought to have been front and center in the president’s speech, not merely mentioned.  Still, I get it that no parent is going to spend much time worrying about the future of the world’s climate, if tonight what is most pressing is whether or not there will be enough food on the table for the kids to eat.  I understand that this is a huge problem, and a very human one, and that there are lots of other enormous problems facing this country right now.  Maybe there always have been, but they somehow seem even more numerous and more ominous these days.  Everything from jobs for the millions of the unemployed, to healthcare for those without it, to a staggeringly burdensome public debt that will sooner or later weigh down the entire economy and grind it to a halt, to overpopulation of the globe, to – finally, once again – the warming of the planet to such an extent that it may someday extinguish life in its entirety. 

It’s all so huge, in fact, that it may sound like a job for God, or at least for some kind of superhero, but for the moment I’m afraid all we have to deal with these problems are fallible human beings, and their attendant values.  As such, I for one am in favor of people taking a close look at those values because, believe it or not, it is possible to change them.  You shouldn’t do so without a great deal of self-scrutiny, and some very serious introspection, but it can be done.  I’ve known people who have done so, as no doubt we all do. 

I only hope that whatever changes people make will be for the good. After all, I know that my values are proper and advisable and appropriate, and that those who disagree with me for the most part have values that are improper and inadvisable and completely inappropriate.  I know this because I know it.  I feel it deep inside.  And don’t tell me that I’m wrong either, because, damn it, I know that I’m right!  But then, so do you.  And that’s the problem with values.

SHORT TAKES

By Paul

Here are a few “short takes” on items large and small that have been in the news of late:

  • CHICK-FIL-A FRACAS – OK, so maybe I’m not really a good one to comment much on this, given the fact that I’m more or less a vegetarian (I do occasionally eat some fish).  However, I think I can categorically say that I wouldn’t be eating any Chick-Fil-A chicken, even if I did crave the bird.  Of course, it’s true that the head of this company has every right to express any opinion he likes.  I am, in fact, a full and total supporter of the 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution.  And no one has the right to tell him that his bigoted statements cannot be openly expressed.  On the other hand, everyone else also has the right to choose NOT to eat chicken that comes from a restaurant owned by a bigot.  So, Mr. Cathy, if you’re going to run your mouth off in public about your hateful attitudes toward LGBT people and their right to get married, you may just have to accept the social, and the economic, consequences of your narrow-minded homophobia.  Sorry, but in case you didn’t know, that’s the way Capitalism works.

 

  •  ROMNEY’S FOOT-IN-MOUTH DISEASE – If the presumptive Republican nominee is going to use the world as his stage by traveling to the UK, Israel, and Poland, I think he’d have done well to better prepare his statements a little in advance.  As it is, it’s looking as though he never quite got over jet lag.  He insulted the Brits first off by telling them that it didn’t look as though they were really prepared for the Olympics.  This is, at very least, what could be called an undiplomatic thing to say.  Some might call it insensitive, or even just downright dumb.  I mean, it’s probably not a good idea to insult your hosts, as they prepare to host you.  And then he seems to have suggested that the Palestinians aren’t doing so well economically because, well, something to do with their “culture”?   No word from Mr. Romney about the devastating effects of the Israeli blockade on Gaza, or on the fact that no economy can really flourish under constant stringent restrictions on the free movement of goods, services and people. No, it all seems to be about “culture,” whatever that may have meant to him.  We might ordinarily have expected that reporters accompanying him could have questioned him further about what he meant, as a matter of fact, except that his handlers weren’t letting those reporters anywhere near him.  No less a figure than Romney’s traveling press secretary told reporters to “Kiss my ass,” when they insisted too much.  Now that, too, might be thought of as undiplomatic.  Just take your pictures, boys, he seemed to be saying, and report on the platitudes our guy is spouting as he makes his way across Europe.  Oh, and don’t forget, Lech Walesa came out for him!  That should mean something in Chicago, shouldn’t it?  At least he hasn’t told any Polish jokes – not yet anyway. 

 

  • WHAT HAPPENED TO THE LIGHTS? – And the electricity to run the trains, or the hospitals, or even the crematoriums?  On the heels of a power outage that affected 370 million people, India has now gotten the prize for the mother-of-all power outages.  This latest one affected people all across northern India, amounting to an astounding 620 million souls.  Now there’s a number to gasp at!  That’s more than twice the population of the United States.  Another way to think of it is, if you combined the populations of Canada, Mexico, and the United States, there still would be more than 150 million people left over who were without power.  Of course, there are many reasons that can be given as to why India lost power, having to do with outdated equipment, weak monsoonal rains and continued high heat, routine pilfering of electricity by millions of dispossessed individuals, and outright stealing of the stuff by whole Indian states (all right, “over-drawing” of their allotted amounts, if you prefer).  But is anyone else wondering whether this kind of thing is just the beginning?  Given run-away population growth world-wide and continued oddities (to use perhaps an overly polite word) in weather patterns due to ever-increasing temperatures caused by global warming, ought we not to prepare ourselves for many more such problems in our future, and not just in so-called developing countries?  Here in our house, we’ve got a good old Coleman stove left over from our camping days that we can use to cook on, and lots of water saved up.  We used to think that this was preparation for “the Big One” here in California, that major shift in the San Andreas Fault that everybody know is coming sooner or later.  Now I’m beginning to think that there may well also be lots of other catastrophes we’d better prepare for, and some of them have nothing to do with the shifting of those pesky tectonic plates.

 

  • BLESS ME, FATHER, FOR I HAVE USED A CONDOM – The latest installment in the Los Angeles Times series on the population explosion, which I wrote at some length about in a posting on this site last week, has to do this time with the Philippines.  No doubt, it goes without saying that this is an overwhelmingly Catholic country.  Some 80% of the current population of 96 million people not only profess to be Catholic, but are serious about it.  They are what we used to call “practicing Catholics (I maybe ought to have capitalized the “P”).”  The Church’s absolutely intransigent stance there, and elsewhere, not just on abortion, but on any and all use of contraception has led to an out-of-control birthrate in a country that can ill afford it.  Rationalizations on the part of the Church are rife as to why the birthrate ought to remain high.  Signs and billboards are plastered all over the country, paid for by the Church, which declaim “NO to the Reproductive Health Bill – YES to the Gospel of Life.”  The Reproductive Health (RH) Bill referred to is a piece of legislation which has languished now for more than 14 years in the federal legislature, but which is coming up for another vote soon.  It would provide contraception for masses of poor people who otherwise cannot afford to buy it themselves.  As things stand right now, and if the population rate continues to soar as it currently is, the population of the Philippines is set to reach an astounding 155 million by the year 2050.  That makes it one of the fastest-growing populations in all of Asia, and metro Manila is already among the most densely populated places on the globe.  Dangerous back alley abortions – one of the few avenues currently open to many poor women attempting to control whether, or how often, they have children – are on the rise.  It is well established world-wild, in fact, that abortions  rise in countries where women have little access to reliable contraception.  And yet, here is a recent quote from Bishop Leo Murphy Drona of San Pablo in the Philippines, claiming that the country’s president was “misleading the Filipino nation into believing that killing children and the unborn through aggressive population reduction, through the RH law, will be better for the country.”  In what way, I would like to know, would population reduction NOT be better for the country?  As is so often the case in the Philippines and elsewhere, the Catholic Church is on the right side of rigidity, dogma, and convention, but sadly on the wrong side of history. 

 

MONEY MAKES THE WORLD GO MAD

by Kevin

Money Screws Up Everything!

Sometimes I just hate money. It screws up everything. Any first grader can see that I was born to be an artist. So, of course, I’ve spent the last 22 years as a business consultant to Fortune 500 companies. It was my own fault that I didn’t make any art during most of those years, but I forgive myself. I’m not the only one who would say that if it were not for having to make money, they would be doing something else. People should do what they were born to do, shouldn’t they? Yes… but money screws up everything. For decades some of my more idealistic friends have been urging, “Give up that job! Follow your dream! You are an artist!” Well… I AM an artist, and I AM following my dream, but I don’t want to starve in the gutter. So I have worked full time at my job and then performed a second full time vocation “following my dream” as an artist.

Even pleasure is evaluated according to how much money you pay for the experience. If you go on an expensive cruise or spend time at a fancy resort, everyone assumes you had a wonderful time. If you stay at home and sit in your backyard garden, the same people feel sorry for you. Frankly, I’ve had some truly lousy times on cruises and at fancy resorts, and some of my best times in my own garden, so the price tag on a vacation is a false indicator of its value. Money does not equal fun.

Money madness takes on much more serious forms as well. To get a lot of money, or only what they perceive to be a lot of money, some people are willing to steal, murder, betray loved ones, enslave each other, demean and prostitute themselves and others, and do all manner of illegal, immoral, cruel, awful things. Money basically brings the worst out in people. Why does everyone love it so?

Money is making a mess of our society right now. The Occupy Movement has famously pointed out that the richest 1% of U.S. people holds more wealth than the other 99%. They are doing their best to hold onto more power than the lower 99% too. In fact they are attempting to destroy the middle class. Scranton, PA is broke and the mayor has announced that they are now going to pay their fire fighters and police force minimum wage! Hard working teachers, civil servants and salt-of-the-earth blue collar union members are under attack. As median household wealth drops, people are afraid that others are getting more than they do, and they resent their friends and neighbors having a retirement plan or health insurance or a decent hourly wage. Money envy yields dangerous results.

Meanwhile, the apparent Republican nominee for the presidency may be worth about a quarter billion dollars. Nobody knows, because a great deal of his wealth is hidden in offshore accounts all over the world. Like all his wealthy friends, Mitt pays less than 15% taxes on his income while you and I pay over 30%. I don’t begrudge him his wealth, unless it was ill-gotten, but I do think he should pay his fair share of taxes – as much as you and I pay. President Obama has generously proposed to extend the Bush tax cuts for all income up to $250,000. Even billionaires would get that much of a tax cut, and then the rest of their temporary Bush income tax break would be rolled back to pre-Bush levels. But Romney and the Republicans want the fat cat tax breaks to become permanent. Discrepancies in fairness, like this one, around money and taxes make everyone mad, including me. Money is power, and those who have it often prove capable of stacking the cards in their favor for getting even more.

There’s No Money in Heaven

I certainly hope there is no money in Heaven. One of the things I look forward to enthusiastically about graduating from this mudball and moving on to the next realm is getting rid of money! I cannot imagine money being part of Heaven, can you? Of course not. Money is “the root of all evil.” There couldn’t possibly be any money in Heaven. We won’t need to eat or worry about shelter, since we will be angels, sleeping on clouds or something. We won’t have to buy cars, since we will be able to fly, right? In Paradise we won’t need any possessions other than our harps and white robes, which I assume will be issued at the Pearly Gates. We won’t have to go shopping. We won’t need money! YAY!

It’s kind of amazing, actually, that more people have not tried to come up with alternatives to money here on earth, since it is such a total pain in the ass. Barter is probably the most common effort to get around money, but it isn’t very precise, and someone is always feeling cheated, as in “I think my assistance building your barn was worth more than this one old goat you gave me!” Communes have been an interesting effort to get away from money in my lifetime. Supposedly everyone works as hard as they can for the good of the community without receiving any money to show for it. But then somebody is always slipping into lazy freeloading, and that causes resentment. Besides, most people do want to have a few possessions of their own and a little bit of privacy.

In our society the conservatives loudly proclaim the supremacy of unregulated capitalism – not what I expect to find in Heaven. Even in the material world, capitalism is beginning to look a little shaky. The unfettered economy of extraction, exploitation and abuse of resources, nature and people is ruining societies and our environment. It is increasingly clear that the powerful wealthy elite 1% is succeeding in redistributing wealth from the middle and lower classes to the extremely wealthy. The Republicans are very open about wanting to shred any semblance of a security net, and get rid of all social programs – eventually even Medicare and Social Security – leaving the poor to die in the streets and the remnants of the middle class increasingly desperate and impoverished. So much for our national Christian values of feeding the poor and clothing the naked. They even seem to want to deprive all but the wealthiest families of educational opportunities, to make sure that they keep control of all the money and power. They certainly don’t want another president like Obama, because he believes in fair taxation, equal opportunity in education and work, and fair pay for work done.

It’s a battle royale on planet earth right now over money, whether you want to talk about the Arabian oil fields, or the European Union, or extreme Third World poverty, or the increasing polarization of the U.S. classes. So I guess we’ll have to wait for our halos, wings and harps before we can look forward to living without money. Capitalism will catapult us into Heaven more quickly, however.

Money Makes the World Go ‘Round

Here on earth we are caught in a veritable rat race for money, money, money! My 87-year-old dad points out that back in the 50s, when I was a kid, a good middle class life meant a small modest home with one car in the driveway, a washing machine, and a black and white TV set with three channels… maybe a radio and a stereo, too, if you could afford them. That was a good life. Now we think we are utterly deprived if we can’t have a gigantic house and a big garden shed full of lawn equipment, one car for each family member of driving age, plus some additional recreational vehicles, unlimited high speed Internet access, cable TV with hundreds of channels in almost every room, endless travel and entertainment, huge closets full of clothing, phones in every pocket, college educations for everyone, major retirement savings and more insurance than you can shake a stick at.

 Insurance… now there’s a money pit! I pay for auto insurance for three cars, home and fire insurance for two properties, phone line repair insurance, $500/month for my own health insurance and $1,000/year for professional liability insurance because I’m an independent contractor and an artist with a display room downtown, $2,250/year for disability insurance, lots of life insurance, and I probably have insurance for my insurance! I feel guilty because I don’t have dental insurance and long term care insurance. I know I’m irresponsible for not having those, but I just cannot afford anymore damn insurance! Give me a break! That’s another good thing about going to Heaven… You don’t have to buy insurance in Heaven. You’re already dead!

Money may make the world go ’round, but it makes my head spin! I hate the way people respect you more if you make a lot of money and suspect you of being subversive if you choose not to make as much money as you could, or not to display ostentatiously how much money you make. And if you ever sell your big house, pay off all your debts and radically downsize, you will find out that people resent you for dropping out of the money rat race. “How dare you reject the game! You can’t do that!”

Living With Less

Oh yes we can… we CAN live with less… a whole LOT less. It was a very short time ago that people lived with less than we can now imagine. When my father was a boy, his home had no electricity or running water or indoor plumbing. They weren’t terribly poor. Those things just hadn’t reached many of the rural areas yet. They worked the farm, milked the cows and tilled the fields by the rhythms of the rising and setting sun, the weather and the seasons. They lived close to the land and their animals. Forget the 50s with the one car, TV set, and washing machine. In my father’s youth there was virtually no technology except for a few gasoline engines and 19th Century mechanical devices. At that time he could not have imagined our smart cell phones, iPads and computers facilitating instant and constant communications and business dealings; our global jet travel; our video-game-like drone warfare; and all of our gadgetry, amenities and luxuries. A light bulb and an indoor toilet and plumbing were life-changing luxuries to him.

It is time to live more simply again. Our extraction and pollution economies and technologies are raping the planet and killing it as a livable home for plants, animals and humans. We are starting to see that all around us now. We had no winter this year. Colorado has burnt up. Thousands of heat records were shattered by the end of June. Millions of households had to survive temperatures over 100 degrees with very high humidity without any electricity for air conditioning for a week. What will August be like? We have to reverse Global Climate Change if we want to survive. We have to change how we live and be willing to live with much less. We have to become friends with the Earth and the plants and animals again. Their fate will be ours.

You Can’t Take It With You

Money is not the key. You can’t take it with you. It won’t offer you permanent happiness. Money applied intelligently might be able to improve conditions for all life on earth and for the environment, but so far we are applying it to commit suicide. So it’s not working. Money is not working for us.

But enough of this frivolity. Let’s get serious. I have bad news: We are all going to die. If we are lucky, we will get old first, and then die. I have made a personal study of the aging process. Growing old is about giving up things bit by bit until we finally have nothing and then we let go of the body. At that point we will leave the material world of money, utterly penniless, whether we had billions when we died or nothing at all. Death is the great equalizer. It enforces the ultimate equitable wealth distribution. You may have gotten the impression that s/he who dies with the most money and toys wins. But it ain’t true. Only the intangibles that have fed and defined our souls stay with us. Money, or “mammon,” will mean nothing to us at the moment of our graduation to the next realm.

I’ve never been a Bible thumper, but the words of Christ say it best. There is so much unchristian Christianity going around these days. So, don’t take my word for it… Listen to the source:

Matthew 6:19-33

19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? 28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

THE GAY BURDEN

Dear Paul,
 
I deeply appreciate your May 23rd article “Dharun Ravi, The Latest in Homophobia.” Your essay is very intense, passionate and undeniably true. I especially admire the way you were able to capture “the gay burden” in words – what it feels like to live as a gay person with the constant requirement to decide how “out” to be in every social moment, and how exhausting that is, especially when one is in a part of the world where being gay is anathema, as it is here in this ultra-conservative backwater region where Robert and I live deep in the woods. But even in big progressive cities, as you point out, it is necessary for us gay people to decide how open to be in the course of daily life. Just mentioning my “partner” at lunch with a trusted client in the course of normal conversation, is a HUGE deal! So I usually don’t do it, because the consequences are potentially economically devastating. I did many creative problem solving projects and consultations for the national offices of the church in which I was raised, until I happened to mention in one event over 15 years ago, that many of my closest friends had died of AIDS. I have not been invited back since then. Even progressive clients don’t want to take the risk of being seen as supporting an openly gay “vendor.” In corporate America today, gay people are absolutely invisible and silent. When gay associates happen to identify one another in meetings and board rooms, they automatically stay as far away from each other as possible, in order to avoid inadvertently outing one another. Gay is NOT okay in corporate USA.
 
We gay people live with psychological violence daily, and you did an excellent job of defining that as well as the potentially disastrous hazards of such a life for sensitive young people who may just not feel that they have the stamina and courage to live with this “gay burden” day after day for a whole lifetime. Things have gotten both better and worse for young gay people. I knew I was gay from the very early age of 10, but there was no way for me to know that there were lots of other gay people in the world. Everything I read or heard about homosexuality defined it as a psychological pathology — an illness that had to be treated. Since I didn’t know any other gay people, I concluded that I must be one of 10 or 12 such freaks in the entire world, and I hoped I would outgrow my “illness.” But I didn’t outgrow it, and by age 14 I was literally crying myself to sleep every night over the realization that I could not possibly marry and have a family with my “condition.”
 
As a 14-year-old child, I was devastated by the thought that I would have to live my life alone, without love. As I think  back to that agony, it is easy for me to understand why some young people take their own lives during these very sensitive and vulnerable teen years. I did not consider suicide, but in desperation I wrote to Ann Landers and poured out my heart. She (or her staff) wrote back that I should seek psychological treatment for my problem. So I did. At 15 I could not abide the agony any longer. I told my parents that I was gay and wanted to be straight so that I could marry and have a family, and that I would need psychological therapy to achieve that goal. Unlike so many kids, I was incredibly fortunate to have very understanding parents. They scheduled weekly counseling for me immediately. The first small town Midwestern counselor I met with was clearly homophobic. He sneered and leered at me throughout the entire first session. I went home and told my parents that I would never speak to that man again, and that my counseling was over unless they could find me a more sympathetic ear. I have always been proud of myself for firing my first therapist. The one they found next for me was perfect. He was a Rogerian, which meant that he did not believe a counselor should speak at all in sessions. Well, I didn’t know what to say, so we sat in silence for the entire hour week after week for six months! I don’t know why, but after six months I started talking. I talked and talked and talked. For six months I talked a blue streak, and at the end of one full year I had talked myself into feeling just fine about being gay. The Rogerian approach had worked for me! I said “Thank you very much. Good bye.” But how many kids are as lucky as I was?
 
Today things are much different for gay kids. They know very well that they are not alone and that there are millions of gay people in the world. There are gay clubs in high schools and gay support services everywhere to help scared and conflicted kids. But those kids still get the very strong message from our culture that it is not okay to be gay. Just yesterday the Illinois state senate failed by one vote to pass an anti-bullying bill, and the reason given was that the bill would “promote a pro-homosexual agenda.” There was no mention of bullying gay people in the bill. It was a generic bill about bullying. Today’s gay kids experience more pressure in many ways than you and I did. When we were in school 50 years ago, nobody talked about homosexuality, and nobody was identified as gay. Well… almost nobody. The coach showed our gym class homophobic films on “Health Fridays” and talked about how homosexuality was “sick.” And the principal’s boy ran around the locker room naked, with his flaming red hair and a raging hard-on. But even that was just interpreted as a hilarious prank! Today, gay kids are identified early and harassed by their schoolmates and others, long before they have had a chance to sort out their own feelings and attitudes and approaches to their sexual identities. Most of them don’t get the chance I had to spill out their hearts to a Rogerian psychologist for a year. And some of them crack under the pressure. Dharun Ravi’s incredibly cruel actions drove poor Tyler Clementi to suicide because Tyler could not live with the forced exposure and humiliation. Much of the Illinois legislature apparently thinks that kind of bullying should be allowed.  
 
I have been wondering lately what I might have achieved in this life if I had not been seen as a gay man, because, let’s face it, being gay is generally NOT an asset in most human pursuits. That’s why it is such a farce when people call it a “choice” or our “sexual preference.” A man once asked me why I made the “choice” to be gay. I responded with a question: “Can you tell me when and why you CHOSE to be straight?” Who would choose this kind of life when they are 14 and terrified?! I can assure you that I would have preferred to have lived my life on a level playing field, thank you very much. Would I have been fired from my position as art director for a church publishing company after ten years of loyal and effective service? Probably not. I believe my sexual orientation was most likely the secret weapon that my persecutors used to get me sacked finally after several failed attempts. Would I have been passed over for management and administration roles in the various positions I held? Probably not. Might I have been offered other more lucrative and powerful professional jobs in the world? Maybe so. As things stand, I AM gay and it IS known, and I have accomplished quite a lot in my professional life, despite carrying this “gay burden,” as have you. I’m happy with the way things turned out, and I feel relatively proud and satisfied with my public professional history as it winds toward a close, and you should feel extremely gratified by all of your stellar accomplishments in academe.
 
What remains now for both you and me is autonomous creative expression, loving our husbands and friends, contemplation, meditation, gardening and exercise. That is certainly a wonderful place to arrive at in one’s life. But I can’t help wondering if I have chosen to live at the dead end of a dirt road in these remote woods partly to escape the daily grind of the “gay burden.” The squirrels, frogs, trees, wildflowers, streams and ponds do not require me to decide “how openly gay I will be today.” I can just …BE… And that feels like a tremendous luxury and freedom. At the same time, of course, I have to acknowledge that Robert and I are surrounded outside of our private paradise by people who would want to do us harm if they knew that we are a couple. So, whenever we interact with them, I am “Old Uncle Kevin,” and Robert is my “nephew.” They are more comfortable with this lie, even if they happen to know the truth. Around here, any other approach would be suicide. And here’s the rub… even relatively accepting people tend to be uncomfortable with our reality. Many are willing to be tolerant as long as we don’t rub their noses in our lives. And unfortunately, rubbing their noses in it consists of engaging in very common everyday behaviors like kissing one’s lover goodbye or holding hands by the bonfire or mentioning the crazed cardinal that we saw through the window while we were having coffee and tea in bed this morning. We cannot do or say those common, ordinary, everyday things… and we don’t. We wouldn’t think of it. We value our safety. But gay children and young people are much more exposed and vulnerable. Once they are identified as gay in schools and communities, a certain segment of the population will persecute them just for being who they are, like Mitt Romney did 45 years ago when he instructed a gang of his bully friends to forcibly hold down a terrified and screaming gay boy, so that he, Mitt Romney, today’s Republican candidate for the U.S. Presidency, could violently cut off the gay boy’s long bleached blond hair and publicly humiliate him. Needless to say, even if, God forbid, Mitt Romney becomes U.S. president, he will never be MY president, for this and so many other reasons. We need a president who, among thousands of other deeds of courageous moral leadership, will help gay kids to survive the burden of growing up homosexual – a president who might even support gay marriage. Oh!… We already have that president. Let’s keep him. Then all we’ll have to do is persuade him to save the world from Global Climate Change… Easy!

— Kevin

G.O.P. Panic!

REPUBLICANS PANIC OVER THE 2012 GENERAL ELECTION

Backed into deep, dangerous right wing waters by the Tea Party coup, and weighed down with four unelectable candidates left swimming in their presidential primaries, the G.O.P. is descending into an ever more intense state of panic over the 2012 general elections.

The Deep, Dangerous Waters of Extreme Right Wing Positions and Policies:

  1. Foreign Policies and Wars – The G.O.P. exhibits a strange bipolar split between isolationism / withdrawal from the world, and constant threats of military build-up, escalation of hostilities and threats of war. They make fun of their own candidates who are so recklessly international in their interests to learn and speak French (Romney) or Mandarin Chinese (Huntsman.) They threaten to bomb Iran and the current G.O.P. presidential crop makes G. W. Bush look like a global darling.
  2. Birth Control and Women’s Rights – Today’s G.O.P. appears to stand to the extreme right of mainstream Americans with its position against birth control and a woman’s right to choice and control over her own body, health, and reproductive processes. There are even strong indications of Republican opposition to other basic human rights for women in their homes and in society at large. Women vote… right?
  3. Taxing the Poor and Giving the Rich a Big Break – Tea Party manipulated Republicans have clearly demonstrated that they really want to deny tax cuts and a minimum wage to the 99% of us who live in the middle and lower classes and pay 25% to 35% income tax. But they stridently demand tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% of Americans who make over $1 million per year and now pay only 13% to 16% tax. Is this a good strategy for winning votes from financially struggling Americans?
  4. Subsidies for Rich Corporations – Republicans monolithically support subsidies for hedge fund managers and for the richest corporations in human history – oil companies that exacerbate climate change, rape the environment, and gouge consumers and our economy. Meanwhile our infrastructure is disintegrating.
  5. Working against Economic Recovery – Doesn’t it seem crystal clear that Republicans do not want the economy to recover, because they’d rather have a failed economy to use as a bludgeon against President Obama? They have worked against all of his efforts and expressed unified condemnation of all the successful policies started under G. W. Bush and continued in the present administration, to save the U.S. and the world from deep global depression. They demand a return to ruinous deregulatory policies that produce smoke-and-mirrors financial products like the credit default swaps and poisoned derivatives that very nearly brought this nation down and the rest of the world with us. Their four remaining presidential candidates are even unanimous in condemning the completely successful auto industry recovery strategy that saved Michigan and the U.S. economy.
  6. Anti-Labor Efforts – Since their midterm election success (and long before that, of course) the G.O.P. has waged an all-out war on labor unions, collective bargaining rights, fair wages, and pensions, for salt-of-the-earth public servants, like firefighters, police, teachers and other public service workers who are the core of the middle class work force, many of them Republicans. Is this any way to win friends, influence people and get votes? Watch what happens to Gov. Walker in Wisconsin to gauge the wages of this sin. He will be recalled and the workers will win their rights.
  7. Head-in-the-Oil-Sands, All-Out, Suicidal Denial of Global Climate Change – Virtually 100% of the world’s climatologists and other scientists urgently warn us of extremely dire consequences if we do not immediately take major steps to stop and reverse Global Climate Change. But most Republicans spend their time denying that it exists at all, as if they had more data and expertise than climatologists. They instead support a suicidal policy of rapid development and consumption of fossil fuels, while working against investment in alternative clean energy sources and ridiculing hybrid and electric cars. They are unanimous in supporting the Keystone Oil Sands Pipeline – a powerfully destructive endgame plan for Earth’s environment.
  8. Racist Immigration Positions – Tea Party members, Republicans, and extreme right wing conservatives exhibit jingoistic, racist fears and reactionary responses to “the browning of America.” They want to stop and harass people of color, deport them, and prevent them from voting. They refuse to recognize the ways in which immigrants have built our country and serve as a pillar of labor in our economy.
  9. Making Education a Privilege Only the Rich Can Afford – Republicans have long advocated closing down the Department of Education. Now they want to remove all Federal and state money from public education, effectively ending the right of the masses to educate ourselves and climb the ladder to better conditions. Republicans prefer the idea of an America in which education is a privilege that only the rich can afford. They want to deny education to our increasingly brown populace, because they don’t want more people of color like President Obama aspiring to power. Accordingly, they are slashing and burning education budgets.
  10. Gay Civil Rights – The most conservative and right wing elements now in control of the Republican Party oppose gay marriage, GLBT civil rights in general, and the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” But Rick Santorum, the current leader of the pack among their presidential contenders, has pushed the G.O.P. even farther to the right on gay issues, about which he seems to be unnaturally obsessed. Years ago he famously compared gay orientation to incest, bestiality and polygamy. His extreme homophobia is bringing out the worst in Republicans as he urges them toward questioning the goodness and morality of gay citizens who may represent about 10% of the American electorate. Will any GLBT people vote Republican in 2012?
  11. Religion, Dogma and Bigotry – Republicans no longer seem to believe in our Constitutional separation of church and state, as long as it is THEIR Church of Fundamentalist Christian Dogma and Bigotry that controls the state. They clearly believe that Islamic citizens and non-Christian Americans are actually un-American and should not be allowed to vote or hold office… In fact, they shouldn’t be here.
  12. Obstruction of Government – A large part of this problem is due to growing Tea Party and Republican belief that any government and all government activities are bad for America. They seem to be moving dangerously close to proposing anarchy, but it would be a kind of anarchy in which right wing ideologues would run society. Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress have achieved a nadir in popularity ratings by opposing anything and everything that the Democrats and the Obama Administration propose, even if the Republicans had originally proposed and supported it themselves… and even if it is supported by their own Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority Leader McConnell. They have made government so dysfunctional that Congress would be more effective if it closed its doors and went home: anarchy.
  13. Extreme Right Wing Takeover – Ever since the ascendancy of the Tea Party and its ability to hold the Republican establishment hostage, the extreme right wing of the G.O.P. has hijacked their processes and positions and thwarted  the more mainstream agendas of Republican Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell. It has become almost impossible to find a moderate Republican anymore, as mainstream Republicans are forced to parrot Tea Party positions so outrageously and radically right wing that they cannot possibly prevail in the 2012 general election…. Or, if they do, it will be the end of America as we have known and loved it.The 13 deadly sins above are just the short list. There are a lot more. What do all of these positions and policies have in common? They represent a full-out attack on the people – the 99% of Americans – the vast majority of voters. Is it any wonder that the G.O.P. is in a panic about the 2012 election when they can’t stop themselves from alienating a big majority of the electorate? And people are catching on. Many conservatives are worried about guilt by association with the Tea Party extremists.

The Four Remaining G.O.P. Candidates for the Presidential Nomination

Republicans are in a panic about the 2012 general election partly because they have been painted into an extreme right wing corner by the Tea Party. But their panic is even more compellingly fueled by their disenchantment with the four remaining G.O.P. candidates left standing in their presidential primary process, because all of them look like sure losers against the mighty Obama re-election effort:

  • Rick Santorum is now a frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination – a fact that seems so unlikely as to be downright surreal. But he is riding a strong wave of momentum because the G.O.P. is so disenchanted with their other three candidates and they have nowhere else to go. (Tim Pawlenty, you dropped out way too soon. You could have been the frontrunner now.) Senator Santorum may have trouble in Pennsylvania, though, where the voters eventually realized how radically right wing and out of bounds his views are. They voted him out by an 18% margin. However, Nixon proved long ago that anyone can come back from a devastating loss and win the presidency. Nobody thinks Santorum can take the White House, but everyone should be very concerned if he wins the nomination, because such a right wing radical extremist should never be allowed to get that close to the presidency.
  • Mitt Romney seems to have been running for the presidency all his life. He and his family look like they were designed for the White House by central casting in  Hollywood. But the Republican electorate does not like him. “The sins of the father are visited upon the son,” and George Romney was a liberal to moderate Republican – a political animal that does not exist anymore. Mitt’s genuine impulses are a lot like his father’s, and Republicans can smell that. They do not believe his conversion to “severe conservatism.” They don’t like the fact that he is a moderate, but worse than that, he is a super rich Massachusetts elitist intellectual who speaks French!
  • Newt Gingrich is universally hated by the Republican establishment. He rose to the top of the polls briefly and had a second surge a bit later, but recently he has fallen like a stone to the bottom of the pile. To know him is to reject him as a mean, scary little man with megalomaniac aspirations. Republicans do not trust him because he is the ultimate Washington insider. And yet, almost nobody who worked with him will support him. The story of his three marriages does not help him. Moreover his intelligence and sharp, articulate, witty attacks do not serve him well in the long run. Again, American voters do not like intellectuals. Ask Adlai Stevenson and John Kerry.
  • Ron Paul himself publicly admitted that he had no chance of winning the Republican nomination or the presidency. He has a relatively small but ardent cadre of supporters and contributors, but the Republican Party has never taken him seriously. This year they snub him at their peril, because if he were to run as a third party candidate for the presidency, he would surely split off enough conservative votes to insure President Obama’s re-election, just as Ross Perot managed to make the first Bush a one-term president and put Bill Clinton in the White House.

So… What’s going to happen?

There are a number of interesting potential scenarios both emanating from and exacerbating the Republican panic over the 2012 general election:

  • Open, brokered convention – An increasing number of Republicans and political commentators are talking about the possibility of an open, brokered convention. It is hard to see how a return to the proverbial smoke-filled rooms of yesteryear could happen under the Republican Rules, but then, when it comes to elections, Republicans have never been very big on following the rules anyway. Maybe they’ll just change them and say, “Sorry, all you candidates who invested years of your life running for this nomination, and sorry, all of you billionaires and smaller donors who gave lots of money to them, but we are going to throw open this nomination process and draft Jeb Bush as our winning presidential candidate.”
  • Last-minute, Fifth Candidate – Is there any chance of a Johnny-come-lately, last minute candidate entering the race before the Super Tuesday Primaries? Could Tim Pawlenty somehow be resurrected? Mitch Daniels seems to be issuing “non-denial denials” regarding his interest in becoming a late entry, according to Chuck Todd.
  • Dreaded Third Party Candidacy – “Americans Elect” is already mounting a third party challenge for the presidency. They claim that three million people have expressed interest in their website, and they will narrow their list of candidates in May and choose one to run in June. They promise to put that candidate on all 50 ballots. This year anything could happen. We could see a fourth and fifth party, too. Donald Trump could decide that it would be good for his celebrity status and TV show to run on an independent ticket. So could Sarah Palin. Ron Paul might feel badly enough treated at the Republican Convention to spoil their soup and run as an independent. Many of these scenarios would spell re-election for President Obama.
  • Or… Maybe the G.O.P. Will Just Lose – If they continue on their current path, articulating extreme right wing positions and putting forward losing candidates, they may lose more than the presidency in the general election. They might just lose SO BIG that the Democrats would retake control of the House, bolster their position in the Senate, and replace a lot of Republican governors in the states.

 What’s going to happen?… A lot of rough and roiling water will have to pass under the November Election Bridge, along with a floundering G.O.P. elephant before we will know the answer to that question. But it is clear that the elephant is indeed floundering and in danger of drowning in those deep, dangerous extreme right wing waters. And the poor old pachyderm has fallen prey to a profound state of panic. No swimmer was ever saved from peril by giving in to panic. If the Republicans are going to survive this crisis, they are must analyze the needs of the electorate with a clear head and decide how to serve the vast majority of voters and stop alienating and insulting them. Then they need to nominate a mainstream moderate conservative candidate who can articulate a solid case for genuine service to the nation – in fact, service to the planet, and all its people.

— Kevin