Ignore His Tweets and Taunts. Pay Attention To His Actions.

While Democrats and the media have focused on the Tweets and the taunts and the name-calling, many of the worst activities of the Trump administration have gone unnoticed. That’s because the administration seems to have borrowed a strategy from sports – especially NHL hockey. The idea is that, if you can’t win on the merits, you resort to cheating and bullying. You commit as many fouls as possible based on the theory that the referees won’t/can’t call all of them. The referees are then faced with two options: To make the game unwatchable from the constant stoppages and penalties. Or to call only the most egregious fouls.

Likewise, by burying the media, the public and Congress under an avalanche of executive orders, policy changes, unqualified presidential appointments, unjustified pardons, blatant corruption, obstruction and criminal actions, the administration seems to believe that the public will tire of the outrage and buy into the notion that the president is the victim of negative and partisan reporting.

Whatever else you can say about Donald Trump, you must admit that he is a master of the con and self-promotion. He knows how to manipulate his base and the media. Indeed, every time I see him speak, I see the narcissism of Benito Mussolini combined with the limited vocabulary and taunting of Vince McMahon and his WWE bullies. (I am quite certain that is the result of study and hours of practice in front of Trump’s favorite item – the mirror.)

Repulsed by the cartoon-like show, the majority of Americans often miss or ignore the things that are taking place behind the scenes – things that could prove fatal to our democracy.

Every single day, the administration commits more harmful and anti-democratic actions. Career public servants are replaced by unqualified family members, toadies and demagogues from the Trump propaganda network, aka Fox News. Highly partisan and unqualified judges are confirmed as a result of Mitch McConnell’s disregard for long-standing traditions and regular order. Refugees from all over the world are sent back to the dangers they tried to escape. (There are even plans to deport refugees who came here immediately following the Vietnam War.)

The constitutional protections from unreasonable search and seizures have been suspended within 100 miles of our borders – all of our borders. International laws and norms are ignored. Refugee children are traumatized by being ripped from their parents. Pollution is increased as the result of environmental deregulation. Increasingly, our lives are placed at risk by uncontrolled gun violence encouraged by Trump supporters in the NRA. Our economy and consumers are also placed at risk by the dismantling of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau regulations and the Dodd-Frank bill that was designed to prevent another financial collapse. And more people will go bankrupt or die because of the administration’s undermining of the Affordable Care Act.

Each day, the administration borrows more money from China to prop up our economy and to squander on unneeded, and often flawed, weapons systems. At the same time, it has imposed tariffs on billions of dollars of Chinese goods leading to a trade war and higher prices for American consumers. Diplomacy has been replaced by outright bullying and brinksmanship. Trump and his administration have threatened NATO members and turned their backs on trusted allies while embracing some of the world’s worst dictators.

The administration encourages violent racism and intentionally sews division to improve Trump’s chances of being reelected. Sacred Native American lands and public lands are being sold off to extraction industries. American citizens are displaced and their lives disrupted in order to build a senseless wall. Public schools, food stamps, veterans programs, fair trade, access to safe abortions, the constitutional separation of church and state, and so-called entitlements are all under attack. So, too, are our most important institutions like the press, the FBI and our Intelligence agencies.

The president and his mouthpieces commit daily assaults on the truth. The administration has forced a constitutional crisis by announcing that it will refuse to be burdened by congressional oversight. Meanwhile, the crime family in charge enriches itself with taxpayer money as it refuses to reveal its tax returns.

If the orange diKKKtator could accomplish all this while under investigation for conspiring with Russia during the 2016 election, imagine the harm he can cause now that he and his supporters falsely claim “total exoneration?” Even more frightening are the potential consequences of his re-election and the possibility of Congress being retaken by his stooges and sycophants.

Thankfully, you have the power to prevent that grim and dystopian future. Write or call your congressional representatives and demand that impeachment hearings begin immediately. Even more important, VOTE!

The 2nd Amendment: What Were The Framers Thinking?

To many gun owners, and especially to the NRA, the right to own guns is as sacred as the right of free speech. The Constitution, after all, includes the 2nd Amendment in the Bill of Rights immediately following freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to assembly and the right to petition the government. There it is in black and white: “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

However, that’s not the complete wording of the 2nd Amendment. Conveniently, the NRA ignores the first and, I believe, most important part: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…” Reading the amendment in its entirety changes the meaning of the amendment dramatically.

So what were our Founding Fathers really thinking when it comes to guns? According to historian, constitutional scholar and author Fergus Bordewich, they devoted little time or discussion to the issue. In an interview on Democratic Perspective, he says, “You would think that something that looms so large for present day Americans must have been something that loomed large for those who crafted the amendment. Not so. I read the debates. And I recommend to anyone who is getting annoyed by what I’m saying here to go read the debates. All the papers for the first congress are in print. It was kind of a collective shrug, frankly. There was no discussion whatsoever of this as a fundamental human right at all.”

This should come as no surprise to any thinking American. The Founders were creating a nation governed by the people. Their only real concerns regarding tyranny revolved around defending the nation from the British to the north and the Spanish to the south, and from giving too much power to a president who might try to become king.

According to Bordewich, “There was no mystery in the [2nd] amendment except that it’s badly written. It’s badly worded because we can still be sitting here 200 odd years later debating what they actually meant. And it’s perfectly clear, if you know the history and context, that they were talking about guns that would be handled by people who belonged to a militia.” That is supported by the fact that the amendment that immediately follows, the 3rd Amendment, prohibits soldiers from quartering in a house without permission of the owner – an issue that had risen out of the actions of the British army prior to and during the Revolutionary War. In other words, the Founders and most American citizens of the time were extremely wary of creating a standing army.

So what changed? How did we get to the point where nearly anyone can go into a gun shop and walk out a few minutes later with a powerful weapon of war? What led us to accepting hundreds of mass shootings and tens of thousands of non-suicidal gun deaths each year as the price of freedom?

Bordewich responds, “You get there by having a powerful, ruthless lobbying organization that’s backed by the arms industry that wants to sell a lot of guns and has convinced people that they are somehow threatened by reasonable legislation to control guns.”

Indeed, many Americans now seem more willing to put limits on the other rights enumerated in the Constitution than they are on guns. If that ever happens, we will have lost our democracy.

Is The GOP A Political Party? Or A Crime Syndicate?

For those of you who think the two major political parties in the US are different in name only, I would like to correct the perception. True, both parties are far too friendly with lobbyists and large corporations. Both rely on billionaires to fund their political campaigns. Both have voted to dole out billions in corporate welfare. But that’s where the comparisons end. Today’s GOP would be unrecognizable to Republicans such as Abraham Lincoln, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Nelson Rockefeller.

In my lifetime, I’ve seen GOP Sen. Joseph McCarthy create rampant fear of communists around every corner resulting in false accusations and black lists that ruined the lives of political opponents and innocents alike.

We saw GOP presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon treasonously interfere in the Vietnam peace talks for political advantage. As president, he divided the nation. Then, in his re-election campaign, he created a dirty tricks squad to torment his opponents. He was forced from office when it was discovered that he ordered a break-in of Democratic offices and used his position to cover it up. His VP, his Attorney General, his White House lawyer and others went to prison. And, during the Watergate hearings, he was found to have committed tax fraud. But, thanks to a pardon by his Republican successor, he was spared prison even as his tax lawyer was convicted and sentenced.

Similarly, we learned that Ronald Reagan secretly, and treasonously, negotiated with the Iranians to prevent the release of US hostages until after the presidential election. Then, during his second term, it was discovered that he had illegally ordered the sale of arms to Iran in order to fund an illegal war in Central America. At least a dozen members of his administration were indicted while Reagan was allowed to ride off into the sunset. Yet few of the culprits served real consequences since Reagan’s GOP successor, George H.W. Bush, ordered his Attorney General (William Barr) to pardon them.

Under false pretenses, Bush later led a war against Iraq over Kuwaiti oil. And following his “victory” Bush sent the nation’s economy into a deep recession by closing dozens of military bases in the US.

Following in his father’s footsteps, George W. Bush ignored warnings that al-Qaeda was set to attack the US resulting in 9/11. He then took us to war in Afghanistan (our longest-running war) and lied our nation into going to war in Iraq resulting in the squandering of trillions of dollars and the complete destabilization of the Middle East the consequences of which will be felt for many generations. Bush also oversaw the continued de-regulation of our financial sector leading to the collapse of our stock markets and the Great Recession.

Now we have the boss of a crime family occupying our White House – Donald J. Trump – who ascended to power as the beneficiary of substantial election interference by Russia, information stolen from Democratic databases, election fraud, illegal campaign contributions, and more than $70 million from the NRA. He has not only refused to acknowledge Russian interference, he has obstructed investigations into that interference. Only because of an inane judgment by the DOJ has he avoided charges. Meanwhile, his personal lawyer and members of his campaign committee have either pleaded guilty or have been convicted of crimes leading to prison sentences.

And that’s not even the worst of his presidency. He has led the plundering of our treasury to enrich his family, his friends and large corporations. He has gutted regulations designed to prevent another market crash and to protect our environment. He has engaged in ill-conceived trade wars. He has implemented racist policies. He has further divided our nation by empowering white nationalists. And he has undermined the truth, the press and most of our institutions.

All of this has been enabled by compliant GOP congressional representatives who are re-elected only as the result of extreme gerrymandering, union busting and a variety of voter suppression techniques designed to prevent people of color and the working poor from voting for their opponents.

By comparison, the last three Democratic administrations have been guilty of balancing the budget, rescuing our economy from financial collapse, giving millions of Americans access to affordable health care, and twenty years relatively free from scandal…except for that blow job and those emails. You know, THOSE emails.

Is The US Still A Nation Of Laws?

If so, Congress has no choice but to begin the impeachment process now.

Trump committed obstruction of justice – not just in private by ordering his underlings to fire Mueller – but in public by calling the investigation a witch hunt. He suborned perjury by stating that he would “take care of” those who refused to testify against him and by calling those who did “rats.” He has ignored the Constitution’s emoluments clause by using his Washington DC hotel to profit from foreign leaders, foreign citizens and lobbyists. And he obviously requested then accepted and benefited from property stolen by Russian hackers.

If those actions don’t rise to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” it’s difficult to imagine what does.

Nixon resigned under threat of impeachment for ordering the break-in of the Democratic office and resorting to obstruction of justice in order to cover it up. Clinton was impeached for accepting oral sex from an intern and lying about it. Are those crimes worse than accepting property stolen from a political opponent by a hostile nation and obstructing justice by attempting to prevent an investigation into the matter?

Since Trump began his campaign to win the most powerful office in the world, we have seen him refuse to reveal his tax returns unlike most other presidential candidates since Nixon. We have heard him brag about sexual assault. We have discovered that he had an extramarital affair with a porn star and a centerfold model then illegally paid for their silence. We heard from more than a dozen women, including one who was underage, that Trump had sexually assaulted them. We learned that Trump had been a regular guest at Jeffrey Epstein’s parties before Epstein was convicted of trafficking underage girls for sex. And we learned that a tabloid managed by a Trump friend practiced “catch and kill” to bury unflattering stories about Trump.

Despite Trump’s claims that he had nothing to do with Russia, we heard his sons brag that the family business gets all the financing it needs from Russians. We learned that Trump’s lawyer had continued to negotiate a deal for Trump Tower Moscow even after the 2016 election. We learned that much of Trump’s income comes from real estate sales to Russian oligarchs – likely as a means of laundering money. We’ve seen Trump’s campaign manager, his personal attorney, his national security advisor and others associated with his campaign arrested and convicted. And we learned of more than 100 contacts between members of the Trump campaign and Russians.

We watched Trump settle a lawsuit that his Trump Foundation defrauded donors. We saw him settle claims that his Trump “university” defrauded students. We learned that he and his siblings engaged in tax fraud in order to avoid paying millions on their inheritance. And we learned that his name was mentioned in the Panama Papers – a leak of those involved in offshore tax havens – 3,540 times. (Not surprisingly, his good friend Vladimir Putin was also named.)

We have seen reports of millions in donations missing from the Trump Inaugural Committee. We have learned that the former owner of an illicit massage parlor in Florida is a regular at Mar-a-Lago and helped raise funds from Chinese nationals for Trump’s campaign – funds that weren’t reported and cannot be accounted for.

We have listened to thousands of lies told by Trump and his administration since he took office. (It has been documented that roughly 70 percent of the statements Trump makes are false!) We have seen him appoint the most corrupt and unqualified cabinet in history. We have watched him appoint dozens of unqualified and ideological judges to lifetime positions. We have watched the unraveling of environmental, financial and safety regulations. We have witnessed his racism and his apologies for violent white nationalists. We have watched as his administration ripped immigrant children from their parents and housed them in cages. We have seen his administration veto a UN resolution that would hold war criminals accountable and force a change in another UN resolution that will result in the denial of abortions to girls who have been raped as a military tactic. We have read his Tweets promoting violence against a black Muslim congresswoman. And we have seen Trump cozy up to some of the world’s worst dictators while, at the same time, turning a cold shoulder to our longest-standing and most loyal allies.

How many more crimes must Congress see before taking action? How many more despicable acts?

Does Trump really have to shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, as he once bragged he could, to be held accountable for his actions? Would not any other resident of the US be charged and convicted for just one of the many crimes committed by Trump?

A woman in Texas is serving a 5-year prison sentence for not realizing that she was ineligible to vote. Yet Barr and the DOJ have let Trump and other members of his campaign off the hook for supposedly not knowing that it was against the law to undermine our electoral process by accepting help from a hostile nation. What happened to the long-standing legal principle that ignorance of the law is no excuse?

Throughout our nation’s history, we have operated according to the principle that no one is above the law. So far, that has not applied to the Teflon Don and his crime family.

The Barr Effect.

Contrary to Attorney General William Barr’s 4-page “summary” of the Mueller Report or his misleading press conference, Trump and his campaign were not cleared of collusion. And he most certainly was not exonerated. In his report, Mueller simply said that there was not enough evidence to indict Trump and his campaign for conspiring with the Russians to interfere with the 2016 election – largely because the Mueller team could not interview the Russian hackers and Russian intelligence officials to confirm that they conspired with the campaign. In addition, the Mueller Report notes that many of the campaign’s communications had been encrypted and much of the evidence had been destroyed.

Nevertheless, the report does detail many examples of cooperation with the Russians who interfered with our democratic process. It also details numerous instances during which the Trump campaign accepted material and information stolen from its political opponents.

By any definition, that is collusion!

As for obstruction, the Mueller Report outlines at least 10 incidents in which Trump tried to obstruct the investigation, including numerous occasions when he ordered underlings to fire the Special Counsel. That means that Trump clearly committed obstruction of justice even though members of his administration refused to follow his orders. (An act of obstruction does not have to be successful in order for it to qualify as an indictable offense.) But, as a result of the DOJ’s unsupported ruling that a sitting president cannot be indicted, Mueller deferred the responsibility of determining guilt to Congress. In doing so, Mueller clearly stated that his investigation DID NOT exonerate the president. And the Mueller Report does not even consider Trump’s corrupt business practices, his tax evasion, his racism, his sexual improprieties, and his obvious violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause.

Yet, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, the GOP and some of the media continue to repeat the falsehoods made by Barr in his memo and press conference that the investigation “cleared Trump of all charges.” In other words, for the time being, Barr’s cover-up has worked. He has succeeded in providing a false narrative in order to protect his boss.

None of this is surprising. After auditioning for the position of Trump’s Attorney General by writing an 18-page memo proclaiming the unlimited powers of the president, the skeptics among us saw this coming. Barr’s intentions should have also been clear to anyone with an understanding of history. After all, Barr had participated in presidential cover-ups before following the capture of the sitting president of a foreign nation and the pardons of all the criminals in the Reagan administration who participated in the Iran-Contra scandal.

Indeed, it should be abundantly clear to everyone that Barr is not the Attorney General for the United States. He has merely replaced Michael Cohen as Trump’s fixer and consigliore.

Clearly, Trump is operating outside the law. And both he and Barr are operating contrary to ethical and moral standards. As a result, I believe that both should be impeached. Our nation was built on the concepts of reason, justice and the rule of law. Though it’s likely true that doing so may further divide the nation. But it’s also true that not doing so could set precedents for future presidents and attorneys general which could allow them to commit even more heinous acts. Worse, it puts the entire foundation of our nation at risk!

“Patriotism Is The Last Refuge Of A Scoundrel.”

Samuel Johnson’s statement from the 18th century is just as true now as it was then.

When exposed, scoundrels will often claim patriotic intentions while questioning the patriotism of their accusers. For example, in order to hide their true beliefs, anti-government conservatives decorate their homes, their cars and their persons with the stars and stripes of the American flag. To disguise their racism, white nationalists also hide behind the flag. In an attempt to hide the treasonous complicity of his presidential campaign with Russians, Donald J. Trump questioned Hillary Clinton’s patriotism by alleging that she sold 20 percent of US uranium to Russia. And at this year’s CPAC, the traitor-in-chief waddled onto stage and made a show out of embracing the flag.

Now facing the pressure of a Democratic-controlled House Oversight Committee determined to fulfill its constitutional duty, Trump has built his re-election campaign around the same strategy by labeling his tormenters and potential opponents “un-American socialists.”

There are two distinct problems with that claim: One is that Trump doesn’t know the meaning of patriotism, and he doesn’t give a hoot about the majority of Americans. He has never tried to govern from the center in order to represent all Americans. He has done nothing to reach out to those who voted for his political opponents. Instead, he continually tries to pit his angry, loyal base against others – Democrats, people of color, Muslims and the LGBTQ population. He continues to call for investigations of Hillary by leading his followers in chants of “Lock her up.” He has refused to denounce neo-Nazis and white supremacists. In fact, he has embraced them. And he still maintains that President Obama was born in Kenya.

Second, he is mischaracterizing social democracy by calling it socialism in order to equate Democratic proposals with those of the failed Soviet Union and Venezuela. But, in fact, the “socialist” policies being proposed by Democrats are similar to those of Britain, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Sweden and much of the developed world – policies such as universal health care, free or affordable education, the Green New Deal, higher marginal tax rates for the extremely wealthy, and higher rates for estate taxes. These are all necessary if we are to rebuild our infrastructure, our middle class and the American dream. Without such policies, we may soon find ourselves lagging behind other global powers.

At the same time, in the name of patriotism, Trump and his administration have gone to extremes to destroy or diminish our nation’s most important institutions. If successful, his declaration of a national emergency to build his wall will diminish the power of purse given to the House of Representatives by our Constitution. He has damaged the power of the press by convincing his followers that any news critical of his actions is “fake news.” He has convinced his followers that the FBI, the DOJ and most other government agencies are controlled by the “deep state” which is determined to undermine his decisions. He dismisses the findings of our intelligence agencies and takes the word of our nation’s greatest enemies, instead. He and the GOP-controlled Senate have filled our court system with ideologues with neither the experience, the objectivity nor the temperament to act as judges. In addition, he has undermined our relationships with our most loyal allies.

And, according to many of those who have known him longest, if impeached or defeated in the 2020 election, Trump will not relinquish his office quietly. Indeed, they fear a second civil war. If those people are correct, Trump and his followers will no doubt claim that they are declaring martial law out of a sense of patriotism.

Where Was Trump’s Concern For Unity The Last Two Years?

During his State of the Union speech, Trump called for bipartisan unity in order to move the country forward. In reality, it came across as more of a threat. He all but said, “If you don’t end the investigations into my campaign, my business and my administration, and if you don’t build my wall, I will refuse to work with you.”

Ignoring the threat, it’s telling that only now, after two years in office, Trump is reaching out to Democrats calling for an end to revenge politics. He certainly has made no previous efforts to promote unity. Indeed, he has attacked Democrats at every opportunity calling them names and questioning their intelligence or patriotism. One can only conclude that he is worried about what the investigations might reveal. After all, the investigations have already resulted in numerous indictments, convictions and guilty pleas of members of his campaign, his staff and his long-time personal attorney.

In addition, the ongoing investigations are likely to reveal fraudulent activity by his inaugural committee, his cabinet members, his business and his family. These investigations should not be considered vindictive. They are simply the result of justice and appropriate oversight.

The investigations aside, Trump and the GOP have some nerve calling for unity now. Where was the call for unity when Mitch McConnell and his GOP comrades announced that their primary goal was to make Barack Obama a one-term president? When they were determined to make his efforts fail? When they refused to hold confirmation hearings and votes on Obama’s judicial nominations? When they filibustered virtually every piece of Democratic legislation? When they held endless investigations into Benghazi and Hillary’s use of a private email server? When Trump and his supporters chanted “lock her up” during and after the campaign? When Trump made it his priority to undo and overturn virtually every accomplishment of the Obama administration? When he undermined the Affordable Care Act and rolled back environmental protections?

It seems clear that, despite the many Democratic efforts for bipartisanship, the GOP only seems interested in comity and unity when it serves their purposes and protects them from justice and oversight. Then, and only then, they are worried about revenge politics. And, too often, Democrats have accommodated them.

After Nixon committed treason by undermining the Vietnam peace talks and interfering with the 1972 election, Democrats let him resign and allowed his successor to pardon him. After Reagan committed treason by undermining the Iran hostage negotiations and illegally selling arms to Iran in order to fund the Contras in Central America, Democrats allowed George H.W. Bush to pardon those involved. And after Bush and the GOP took us to war in Iraq under false pretenses, Democrats let them off the hook for their lies.

This time must be different. Certainly, Democrats should work across the aisle in order to accomplish their campaign promises for the benefit of the nation. But they must not prematurely end the investigations. They must not abdicate their obligation to oversee the decisions of this administration. They must not bow down to this wannabe dictator.

And they absolutely must hold those who have committed crimes accountable regardless of the title before their names.

Where Are Those Patriots Now?

For many years, conservatives have portrayed themselves as some sort of super-patriots. They have displayed the flag and images of the flag at every opportunity – in front of their homes, on their cars, in the rear window of their trucks, on their hats and on their shirts. They have made a show out of saying the Pledge of Allegiance before every meeting. Like robots, they have recited “Thank you for your service” to every military veteran they meet. Without trying to understand the underlying cause, they have expressed their outrage at black football players who protested the treatment of African-Americans by kneeling for the national anthem. And they have told anyone who questions the decisions of our nation’s leaders, “If you don’t like it, leave.” (That is, except for when President Obama was in office.)

They have talked of American Exceptionalism as if the US has some divine right to rule the world. They have seemed to resent any foreigners who have crossed our country’s borders, especially if they are people of color or speak anything but English. And they have seemed all too willing to go to war with any nation that, in their view, doesn’t bow to our economic and military magnificence.

Most especially, these super-patriots despised the Soviet Union and totalitarianism echoing Ronald Reagan’s sentiment that its leaders “are the focus of evil in the modern world.”

My how things have changed.

We now have a so-called conservative in the White House who was put there with the help of Russian interference in our election. Since taking office, Donald Trump hasn’t even bothered to hide his affection and admiration for the Russian president – a former KGB member – who ordered that interference. And we have learned that Trump’s son, Don Jr., met with an Israeli company that presented a plan to use the interference of a foreign government to sway the election. As a result, it seems clear that the Trump campaign followed that plan in coordination with Russia.

In addition, it is known that members of the Trump campaign had at least 101 contacts with Russian officials during the campaign – several of them with the intent to set up a private back channel of communications between Trump and the Russian government. It is known that many of the campaign officials lied to Congress and the FBI about those contacts. And it is known that seven Trump campaign officials have been indicted or pleaded guilty.

It is known that Trump ushered Russian leaders and the Russian press into the Oval Office giving them classified information. It has been well documented that Trump has had multiple private meetings with Vladimir Putin. After the meetings, he collected the translator’s notes to keep the discussions secret. Moreover, Trump and his campaign staff are not the only Republicans with mysterious connections to Russia. It is alleged that some of Trump’s most ardent congressional supporters received campaign funds from Russian oligarchs which were apparently funneled through the NRA.

All of this is in addition to the many known financial connections between the Trump organization and Russian oligarchs.

It begs the questions: Why are those super-patriots not outraged by the Russian interference and Trump’s obvious obstruction of justice? Why are they not calling for Trump’s impeachment? Why do they even refuse to support any investigations into the apparent Trump-Russian conspiracy?

Obviously, Trump is pandering to them by giving them many of the things they have long wanted. They are thrilled with Trump’s nomination of ultra-conservative judges. They are pleased with his repeal of environmental regulations. They are happy to see Trump dismantle our federal government. And they are excited to see his hard-line response to his critics, the media, and people of color – most especially the immigrants seeking asylum from violence and crushing poverty in their own countries. But at what cost? Is any of that worth the damage to our electoral system? To our Constitution?

It’s time these self-described super-patriots consider the consequence of supporting a president who so openly cozies up to Vladimir Putin, a ruthless dictator who is obsessed with returning Russia to its former glory under the Soviet Union. They would do well to remember that Putin’s Soviet Union was our avowed enemy. A fact best expressed by former Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, who once said, “Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you!”

Given current developments, I fear he may have been right.

Healing Our Political Divide Must Begin With The Church.

On a local level, the traditional neighborhood church can be quite useful in helping individuals and families cope with crises in their lives. But, on a national and international level, the church has too often engaged in self-serving politics as a means of increasing its power and diminishing or demeaning people of other faiths. Indeed, unscrupulous pastors – most especially greedy televangelists – have used their positions of authority to help elect those candidates who will be most supportive of their beliefs. This has never been more clear than in today’s political environment.

If you study polling data as I have, you will find that we are not as divided as you might expect – at least not with regard to issues. If you remove the political labels, there is substantial agreement on many issues such as wealth inequality, climate change, common sense gun safety, immigration, health care, safety nets and government spending.

To a great degree, the chasm between us is the result of the church having been co-opted for personal gain and political purposes.

It began in the 1970s when, following President Nixon’s fall from grace, Paul Weyrich saw an opportunity to rebuild the Republican Party by pandering to evangelical fundamentalist Christians. He reached out to them by partnering with Jerry Falwell to found the so-called “Moral Majority.” Their message, which was quickly embraced by other fundamentalist Christian pastors such as Pat Robertson and James Dobson, was that all of the terrible events which plague our nation – mass shootings, drug abuse, even hurricanes and natural disasters – could all be traced to our supposed abandonment of Christian beliefs. The events were God’s punishment for our acceptance of homosexuality and abortion. The result of moral decay enabled by the secularist political elite.

Only by following conservative Christian doctrine, they said, could we return America to its former glory which had been ordained by God.

At Weyrich’s urging, Republican candidates began to embrace fundamentalist Christian issues labeling themselves “family values” candidates. At the same time, they began fomenting fear of the “other” – gays, immigrants, transgenders, and non-Christians. As a result, the Republican Party, which had long been the party of social liberalism and fiscal conservatism, turned its focus to various forms of discrimination. At the same time, the party pushed for states’ rights which would enable it to circumvent the restrictions of federal government. The party became staunchly anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-evolution, anti-science, anti-transgender, and anti-socialist. The more extreme party members began supporting dominionism (the belief that the nation should be governed only by Christians according to biblical law).

As a result of Weyrich’s efforts, many of our churches today are more political than spiritual. Instead of preaching love and compassion, many pastors subtly foment discrimination and hate against those who don’t believe as they do. Some tell their followers that they will go to hell if they vote for a pro-choice candidate. They use selected passages from the Bible to portray their political enemies and people of other faiths as evil. They use the Bible to justify racism and misogyny. They label as baby-killers those women who have made the heart-wrenching decision to end a pregnancy (usually for health reasons).

Today’s evangelicals and many of the “family values” Republicans have become the ultimate hypocrites – the ends-justify-the-means crowd – willing to overlook the adultery, corruption and predatory behavior of Donald Trump as long as he appoints conservative judges who will rule against legal access to abortion and base their decisions on biblical law. They are obsessed with forcing others to accept their beliefs and practices. They claim piety. But, in reality, their actions are less about religion than control.

That should surprise no one. For millennia, religions competing for control over the minds of people have engaged in wars and destroyed nations to further their interests. We must now acknowledge that that could happen here. As long as one of our two major political parties continues to blend a specific brand of religion with politics; as long as its elected officials continue to view issues through the lens of an unwavering religious belief; as long as they assume their political opponents are evil; there will never be room for compromise. (Would God compromise with Satan?) And the political chasm between us will continue to grow.

If we truly want to heal our nation – to remove the vitriol from politics – we must first acknowledge that the Constitution calls for separation of church and state. And we must be willing to focus on issues that will benefit the nation as a whole. Not any particular belief system.

America’s On-going Unnatural Disaster.

It has been nearly a year since a former student walked into the Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, pulled out a military-style weapon and shot 34 students. 17 of those students died. 17 more were seriously wounded. And many of those who escaped will likely suffer from PTSD for the rest of their lives.

Let that sink in for a moment.

High school students who were merely sitting in a classroom now share a disability with many of our military personnel returning from war zones! Even worse, Parkland was only one of 340 mass shootings that took place in the United States in 2018. Including Parkland, those shootings claimed 354 lives and wounded or injured 1,341.

Still worse, according to GunViolenceArchive.org, in 2018, there were 56,768 incidents in which an American pointed a gun at another and pulled the trigger. That’s an average of roughly 155 shootings per day, or about 6.4 shootings an hour!

In total, an astounding 14,600 people were killed by guns in the US last year. And that doesn’t even include gun suicides, which amount to almost twice the number of people shot by others. We see reports of these shootings in the news every day. We learn of the domestic violence killings; of the murder-suicides; of the road rage killings; of those being killed by stray bullets; of the children who discover a gun and unintentionally kill themselves or a playmate.

And what do we do about all of this?

We simply move on to the next news story or turn the page because we’ve come to accept this slaughter as normal. Or we accept it as the penalty our society must suffer in order to protect the 2nd Amendment.

But let me remind you. This is far from normal in the civilized world. No other advanced nation experiences such slaughter. Indeed, there are more casualties in the US from guns than there are in some nations that are considered war zones!

Let me also remind you that the Founding Fathers never intended the 2nd Amendment to allow US citizens gun down each other. It was only included in the Constitution to provide a mechanism for the defense of our nation. We did not yet have a standing army – indeed, the Founders were exceedingly wary of authorizing one – so they included the right to bear arms as part of a “well-regulated” state militia.

Further, as interpreted by the courts, the 2nd Amendment was not without limitations. The courts have consistently ruled that various jurisdictions can ban certain types of guns and ammunition. They have also ruled that certain people can be legally prevented from purchasing or owning firearms.

If our nation experienced even a small percentage of these deaths and injuries from other causes, there would be a loud uproar. People would be calling for the heads of the executives or politicians responsible. For example, in 2014, much of our population was panic-stricken over two deaths from Ebola in the US. Two! Allow me to do the math for you: That’s 14,598 fewer people who died from Ebola in the history of the US than died as the result of shootings last year alone.

And many of our citizens are willing to spend tens of billions of dollars and compromise the very fabric of our nation to prevent refugees from crossing our borders for fear a tiny percentage of them might commit a crime. But gun violence? Many of those same people won’t lift a finger or spend a dime of taxpayer money to reduce it.

Seriously, does that make any freaking sense?