Give Me That Old Time Religion.

It’s easy to look back on our lives and glorify earlier years as something special. But our memories are fallible. And, in reality, those days were seldom as good as we remember. There are, however, exceptions. One prime example is religion.

I remember growing up at a time when churches and synagogues were the pillars of communities. They were gathering places for life’s most important moments…places of joy for baptisms and weddings. They also served as support groups in times of sorrow when family members were lost. They also collected money for those less fortunate. And in many communities, traditional churches continue these are traditions.

Even more important, traditional religions taught good behavior based on principles such as the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

In my small Midwestern town, I cannot recall anyone proselytizing. One’s religious beliefs were considered private and personal. Indeed, the subject of religion seldom came up in gatherings, except at church. Everyone seemed to respect everyone else’s faith. There were no attempts to insert prayers before the Pledge of Allegiance in school; no attempts to install religious memorials on government property. There were, however, Christmas and Easter decorations in schools and in government buildings until they were, in my opinion, rightfully banned by the Supreme Court.

Fast forward to today when evangelicals proselytize at every opportunity. When they ignore the unethical, antisocial behavior of a president because they are convinced that he will give them the power they crave.

Today we have practitioners of the so-called “prosperity gospel” – the corrupted notion that God rewards true believers by making them wealthy. There are those who wish to hasten the “rapture” by unifying all of Jerusalem under Israeli rule, believing that only then will the next prophet appear. There are others who believe in the dominion principle, that only true believers are qualified to govern the United States. There are still others who believe one’s behavior is immaterial, that you can do whatever you wish as long as you declare your faith in Jesus.

For most of these, the Golden Rule has been relegated to the dust bins of history; a quaint notion that interferes with the business at hand. That business is raising money to provide a new mansion or jet for the pastor. Or to raise money and votes for representatives that believe as they do so they can make the US a Christian nation. Never mind that doing so would be blatantly unconstitutional and very much in contrast to the beliefs of our nation’s Founders.

Such a plan is antithetical to democracy. It would create a theocracy hostile to non-Christians…even to Christians who do not share the majority’s narrow religious view. In short, it would create a theocracy little different from the Taliban or ISIS.

If we are ever to make the US great again; if we are ever to regain our world leadership in matters other than military, we must stop focusing on the things that divide us. We must find a way to share the American experience. We must learn to care for one another; to respect one another; to talk with one another. We must commit to true equality.

That means rejecting faiths that proclaim their superiority over others; that try to dictate the behavior of others (that’s what the courts are for). And it means committing to the words and the intentions of the Declaration of Independence: “…that all men [and women] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

The Many Reasons Donald Trump Can Never Be My President.

1. He spent years undermining a sitting president by claiming that the president was not a citizen of the United States.
2. He broke a 40-year tradition of presidential candidates releasing tax returns. What is he hiding?
3. He has a long record of refusing to pay small businesses for work on his properties.
4. He has long bullied his critics by initiating frivolous lawsuits.
5. He has reputed ties to the mob.
6. He has licensed his name to foreign governments that use slave labor to build resorts.
7. He hired a campaign manager with ties to foreign governments that oppose democracy.
8. He openly praised the dictator of our nation’s chief rival.
9. He mocked a reporter with a physical disability.
10. He was recorded bragging about his sexual assaults of women earning him the title, Das Gropenfuhrer.
11. He has been accused of raping a 13-year-old girl.
12. He has been accused of being a serial sexual assailant.
13. He offered few policies to “make America great again.”
14. The policies he did offer were racist and unconstitutional.
15. He encouraged violence and racism at his rallies.
16. He refused to disavow the support of the KKK and other racist organizations.
17. He encouraged a foreign government to meddle in our presidential election by stealing confidential information from his opponent.
18. He refuses to disentangle himself from his business interests, creating conflicts of interest worldwide.
19. He refuses to hold press conferences to answer the questions of journalists preferring, instead, to communicate by Tweets.
20. He lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes and won the electoral vote by carrying 3 states by a total margin of fewer than a 78,000 votes. Yet he claims to have won by a “landslide.”
21. He has undermined the current president by interfering in foreign policy before his inauguration.
22. He has threatened other governments by tweet.
23. He used his status as president-elect to broker deals to benefit his family businesses.
24. He was elected as a direct result of the meddling by a foreign dictator, according to all of our intelligence agencies.
25. He not only refused to accept the findings of our intelligence agencies. He demeaned them.
26. He was elected as a direct result of voter suppression of minorities.
27. He has appointed a racist and originator of fake news as a senior adviser to the White House.
28. He has selected cabinet appointees who, instead of being reformers, are openly antagonistic of the departments they have been chosen to lead.
29. He nominated a racist to become Attorney General.
30. He nominated a close friend of Vladimir Putin to be Secretary of State – a oil executive whose company has a $500 billion deal at stake with Putin’s state-owned oil company.
31. Before inauguration, he recalled all US ambassadors.
32. He requested names of individuals within NASA who have been assigned to the study of climate change indicating that they will be singled out for punishment.
33. He requested names of individuals within the Energy Department who have worked to combat climate change.
34. He has sought waivers from government nepotism laws in order that he may appoint family members to positions within his administration creating even more conflicts of interest.
35. He has clearly demonstrated a lack of understanding of the Constitution and the office he will hold.
36. He has a long history of vindictiveness and he will hold the codes for our nuclear weapons.
37. He is filling the White House with family members and business partners.
38. He insulted and demeaned a Gold Star family.
39. He is a serial liar.
40. He exhibits all of the characteristics of a narcissistic sociopath!

Why I Believe Trump Voters Are Worse Than Trump.

Trump is a sociopath. He is exactly who you see. There is no facade. He has made it perfectly clear that he’s a bully, a demagogue, a misogynist, a serial philanderer, a sexual predator, a racist, a promoter of hate and violence, an admirer of authoritarian dictators and a pathological liar.

He is, in fact, the poster boy for the seamy underbelly of society.

During the campaign, Trump proposed few policies and even fewer solutions for our nation’s problems. That means those who voted for him don’t get to claim that they voted for policies. They don’t get to pretend that they oppose racism. They don’t get to claim that they are caring of others. They don’t get to claim that they voted for civility. They don’t get to claim the moral high ground.

To excuse their vote, evangelicals and others now say that they were merely voting for change. Change from what? Change from a polite and caring society?

I can understand if voters didn’t trust Hillary. I disagree with the assessment, but I can understand it. And I can understand if you disagreed with some of her policies. But that’s no excuse! You had 16 other GOP candidates from which to choose in the primaries. And you had two other options in the general election. But you chose the narcissistic bigot, the obvious con artist who has defrauded others and even helped himself to charity funds donated to his own foundation.

In contrast, Hillary has a long track record of working to help others…particularly those who need help most. She successfully traveled the world to mend fences that were destroyed during the Bush administration. She opened negotiations with some of our adversaries in order to diminish threats to our nation. She worked to improve the plight of women and children around the world. And, along with her husband, she raised money to help end AIDS, poverty and hunger.

The only one Trump has helped is himself.

Truth is, your vote for Trump speaks volumes about who you are…the self-proclaimed “Christian” who voted for a wealthy bully; the “patriot” who voted for a man who was supported and enabled by our nation’s greatest rival; the “pro-lifer” who voted to endanger the lives of those less fortunate by taking away their access to health care; the “defender of freedom” who wants to limit the civil rights of Muslims, gays, lesbians and minorities.

Now, despite your candidate losing the popular vote by a significant margin, you have the gall to tell the rest of us to “get over it.” But getting over the fact that you elected an unqualified bigot to the most powerful office in the world is too much to ask.

You tell us that we owe it to the nation to support the president-elect. Okay. Should we support him in the same way you “supported” President Obama? The same way Trump supported Obama? By questioning his birthplace and his right to be president even though he was overwhelmingly elected by wide margins? By threatening him? By protesting outside presidential events armed with military-style weapons? By encouraging his opponents to buy guns to prevent his presumed tyranny? By marching with signs displaying racist images of the president? By blocking his every initiative with an endless number of filibusters?

You have already shown us how you “suck it up” and “support” your political opponents. You don’t get to play that card.

As for the racist attacks, the vandalism, and the hate crimes committed by your fellow Trump supporters, in my view, you are just as responsible as they are. You and your Cheeto Jesus are the ones who unleashed the hate groups and emboldened them to take action. That means you are all to blame.

Another Day. Another Police Shooting.

The current unrest in Charlotte as a result of yet another police shooting should come as no surprise to anyone, least of all metropolitan police departments. It’s only the latest in a long line of black men – many of them unarmed – who were shot and killed by police. The Charlotte shooting may well have been a justified shooting (it’s too early to make judgments). But that doesn’t mean that the unrest and rioting in Charlotte are unjustified.

After all, how many studies and investigations have uncovered disparities between the police treatment of whites and blacks? How many police departments have been exposed for racial profiling? How many studies have shown that the causes of crimes are economic rather than racial? How many studies have shown an enormous disparity in wealth and compensation between whites and blacks?

At least fifteen black people have been shot and killed by police – some of them with their hands raised – just since Colin Kaepernick called attention to the issue by refusing to stand for the National Anthem. Yet Kaepernick was vilified by some in the police, the military, and the media. And the Charlotte unrest, following the shootings in Dallas, the unrest in Ferguson and the formation of Black Lives Matter, has caused the clueless and the racist to believe that black people are lawless and get what they deserve.

So here’s my question to these people. Just how long should minorities put up with unequal treatment?

Blacks have already suffered through slavery, Jim Crow, voter suppression, segregation, redlining, discrimination, fewer educational opportunities, and lower wages. They were subjected to lynchings and bombings to gain their civil rights. They have put up with white flight leaving them to pay a disproportionate share of taxes while living in the hollowed out core of cities. They have been targeted for “stop & frisk”. Many of their families were torn apart as a result of disproportionate law enforcement for drug use. And almost all of them have been unlawfully detained for “driving while black”.

So I repeat the question: How much longer should minorities put up with inequality?

The unrest in Charlotte may not be justified by the police killing of Keith Lamont Scott. But it is nonetheless justified. Now, I’m certainly not advocating race riots – far from it. But it’s long past time for governments at all levels of our society to take action against racial inequities; to put some teeth into discrimination laws; to reform policing; to root out racist police officers. And it’s time for white people to stop blaming the messengers like Colin Kaepernick and to look at the message itself; to empathize with the people who are subjected to injustice. If demonstrating in the streets causes others to take notice, great!

Put into perspective, minorities in the US have been extraordinarily patient with the status quo. But their patience is obviously running out. It should.

Black Lives Matter! A Primer For White People.

When it became evident that an increasing number of black people were being killed by police despite being unarmed and often innocent, some activists formed Black Lives Matter. Given the obvious nature of their complaints, it’s unlikely that the founders thought the organization would be seen as particularly controversial. Yet many white people seemed to miss the point or, more likely, willfully ignored it. In response, they proclaimed that all lives matter.

Of course all lives matter! So do white lives and blue (police) lives. But such statements ignore the issue. The BLM organizers weren’t saying that black lives matter more than others. After reeling from police killings of unarmed black people: Eric Garner, Michael Brown, John Crawford, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland – the list is depressingly long – the activists were simply saying that black lives should matter as much as others! But the ongoing police murders of unarmed black people, black children, black people with their hands up in a clear sign of surrender, and black people in police custody clearly demonstrated to them that many police seem to assign a lesser value to black lives.

What the activists were really saying is that black lives matter, too! And the reason they took offense at the responses of All Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter and White Lives Matter is that those slogans entirely ignored the issue. They showed a lack of empathy and understanding of racism, even if the responses are well-intended.

Even when the Department of Justice (DOJ) released its scathing report on the Ferguson Police Department, many Americans failed to get the point. They again showed a lack of understanding when the DOJ released an equally scathing report on policing in Baltimore. Even as the officers who killed unarmed black people continued to escape charges or were acquitted for their actions, many white Americans either ignored the developments or chose to demonize the members of Black Lives Matter as engaging in reverse racism. We continue to see signs and chants of Blue Lives Matter, All Lives Matter, White Lives Matter.

The backlash reached a crescendo when Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the National Anthem prior to a NFL exhibition game (an anthem which, by the way, was written by a slave-owner and includes racist text in its second verse). Kaepernick was quickly dismissed as un-American and many accused him of disrespecting veterans who fought for our country. Of course, he was doing neither. He was exercising his First Amendment right to call attention to the disparity in policing of blacks and whites. In doing so, he was trying to improve the country; to make it live up to its promise for all Americans.

Here’s the thing: Until the police, the white supremacists and the clueless supporters of Donald Trump pull their heads out of their collective behinds, the BLM movement will grow.

What will it take to make Black Lives Matter end the demonstrations? That’s simple. The answer is for law enforcement officers and the justice system to end the unequal treatment of minorities. That will require higher standards and more intensive training for police. No more 16-week wonders who trade in their police academy books for guns. No more militarized police departments who treat policing as war. No more bullies with badges.

Police Chiefs must be tasked with identifying the bad apples within their departments and firing them. More important, the good police officers (and there are many of them) must end the practice of covering up for the racist and incompetent officers. Likewise, the police unions must hold their members accountable. When bad cops are allowed to continue to dispense street justice in a disproportionate way, everyone loses, including the good officers who place their lives on the line to ensure public safety for all of the people in their communities.

Finally, the state Attorneys General and the DOJ should track arrests and the penalties meted out in all communities across the nation. When they discover disparities they must hold the cities responsible to correct the issues or lose their state and federal funding.

No group of people should be allowed to think that their lives matter less than others. Black Lives Matter, too!

Ending Racism: A Proposal.

America has a problem with racism that we have not yet adequately addressed. Sure, we passed the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but those actions didn’t actually solve racism. Far from it. They merely altered it by making it somewhat less obvious and making it uncomfortable for racist white people to express their inner feelings.

Then along came Donald Trump and his attacks on political correctness, which freed racists to make public their long-held beliefs. In a way, such displays of overt racial hatred along with Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem can be seen as a good thing by bringing the issue back to the forefront. And I would suggest that it’s long overdue.

The problem stems from the fact that the US stands virtually alone in refusing to acknowledge its ugly past. For example, after Germany was defeated in World War II, it was forced to deal with the reality that it had committed genocide. As a result, it created memorials to those who were killed in Nazi death camps. It created textbooks for children detailing the horrors and explaining Hitler’s rise to power. And it banned any positive references to Nazism. It even banned the sale of copies of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Only recently has Germany again permitted the sale of the book, and only then if it includes notations regarding Nazi crimes.

Other nations have faced their ugly pasts is a similar manner. But the US refuses to do so. Our textbooks have been scrubbed of most references to the genocide of Native Americans. Likewise, they address slavery in a superficial, sanitized manner. And, instead of creating memorials to the victims of our genocide and to the victims of slavery, we have memorials to those who committed these vile acts. The former Confederate States of America have largely refused to acknowledge that their secession was motivated by their desire to continue the enslavement of blacks. Indeed, these states still celebrate the Confederacy, its leaders and, until recently, they still flew the Confederate battle flag.

There has been no restitution to the former slaves and their families. Indeed, the idea that they were given 40 acres and a mule is largely a myth. Lacking resources and possessions – and, in many cases, even a sense of family – following their emancipation many former slaves were employed by their former masters and corporations through a more acceptable form of economic slavery. As a result, today, more than 150 years after the end of the Civil War, we are still plagued by racism. Our schools are even more segregated now than during the late 1960s. And it has been estimated that it will take 228 years for the average black family to accumulate the wealth of the average white family!

Obviously, we have a problem.

So how can we fix it? How can we level the playing field for the descendants of African slaves and the Native Americans who had their land, their way of life and their identities stolen by our ancestors? How can we restore the well-being of cultures that were so thoroughly defeated and depressed? The answers are far more complicated than most white Americans are likely willing to accept. But I’ll make the attempt.

The solution to racism must begin with our nation, like Germany, finally acknowledging our past transgressions. As any therapist can tell you, there can be no healing as long as there is denial. And since the lingering effects of those impacted by our past actions are largely economic, we must work to provide blacks and Native Americans with opportunities. We must improve their education systems, making certain that they have the same resources and school budgets as our most affluent white suburbs. For those working in low-paying jobs, we must raise the minimum wage to a living wage. We must finally commit to universal healthcare so that all families have equal access to prenatal and childhood healthcare. We must commit to universal pre-school which has been proven to level the playing field and create lasting change. We must make certain that all families have food stability and access to healthy foods, which have been shown to improve performance in schools. We must commit to rebuilding our infrastructure, offering high-paying jobs to those without college degrees.

We must require national standards and training for those in law enforcement to eliminate racism within police departments and to ensure that all citizens are treated equal. We must end predatory city and community laws that treat citizens as a source of income for minor violations. We must pass universal background checks for gun purchases and pass other safety measures to get guns out of the hands of criminals and off of our streets. We should decriminalize and regulate drugs in order to rid the streets of predatory drug dealers. We should treat addictions with treatment instead of prison time. For the 1 in 9 black men who have already been sentenced to prison – often for petty, non-violent crimes – we should commit to rehabilitation programs to help them integrate back into society when they are eventually released.

And, most important of all, we should commit to thoroughly investigating every single claim of racist behavior – especially racism committed by those in power.

All of that may seem expensive and daunting, but it is all necessary. There can be no shortcuts – no half measures. After all, our nation benefited greatly from the labor of slaves and the resources stolen from natives. The problem of racism in this country has existed for centuries. It cannot be fixed easily or quickly.

And, if you’re wondering how our nation can pay for all of these things, just look to the cost overruns on the Pentagon’s weapons systems, such as the F-35 joint strike fighter – a fighter that has exceeded its budget by tens of billions of dollars. Also, you should consider the cost to society of not addressing racism – the cost of incarceration, lost tax revenue and the lost contributions from those who have neither the education nor the opportunity to shine.

How Trump Has Forever Changed The Standard For Presidential Candidates.

Prior to this election campaign, political candidates – especially presidential candidates – were held to almost impossibly high standards. They not only had to show experience that qualified them to hold the office. They had demonstrate a great depth of understanding about critical national and international issues. In addition, they were expected to be of great moral character. Moreover, they were expected to conduct themselves in a manner that seemed presidential.

Any exceptions to those standards were cause for disqualification. For example, when former Senator Gary Hart was accused of being involved with another woman, he was forced to withdraw from the 1988 presidential race. Senator Thomas Eagleton was forced to withdraw from the 1972 race as the Democratic vice-presidential candidate over a history of depression. And former Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis lost the 1988 presidential race for seeming “unpresidential” for appearing in a military tank with a tanker’s helmet. Over the years, many other candidates also found their campaigns in crisis over sexual affairs, drug use, even allegations that they were secretly separated from their wives or about to divorce.

Yet, beginning in 2008, with the selection of Sarah Palin as the GOP vice-presidential nominee, the standards seemed to change when she was found to be woefully ignorant about government and foreign affairs. But this year’s GOP primary voters showed that they have stunningly low standards for president when they voted to nominate Donald J. Trump as their preferred presidential candidate.

Following is a short list of just a few of the things that this orange-stained imitation of Benito Mussolini has said or done that would have previously disqualified any other candidate from running for our nation’s highest office:

1. He is twice divorced (because, you know, he believes in “family values”).
2. He said he would like to have sex with Ivanka if she wasn’t his daughter (because, you know, more “family values”).
3. There are serious questions about the circumstances of his current wife’s immigration (immigrants are bad, unless they’re female models).
4. His current wife posed for nude and suggestive photos (yet the GOP platform calls for banning porn).
5. He is accused of sexually assaulting a minor.
6. It has been reported that he has connections to the mob in New York and New Jersey.
7. He has failed to pay numerous small suppliers to his businesses (because they’re not “winners” like him).
8. He has been named in lawsuits more than 3,000 times.
9. He has filed for bankruptcy at least 4 times.
10. He called for the US to default on its debt (because that strategy has worked so well for him).
11. His Trump “University” is being sued for fraud.
12. He called Mexican immigrants murderers and rapists.
13. He called Sen. McCain a loser for being a POW.
14. He has repeatedly insulted and demeaned women, including Megyn Kelly.
15. He insulted and mocked a reporter for a physical disability.
16. He called a judge biased and unfit to serve because of his Mexican heritage.
17. He has vowed to unconstitutionally deny Muslims entrance to the US.
18. He has vowed to unconstitutionally track Muslims already in the US.
19. When skipping a GOP debate, he held a fundraising event for military veterans then failed to donate the money until confronted by the media.
20. There are serious questions about his financial ties to Russian oligarchs.
21. He hired a campaign manager with deep ties to Russia’s President Putin.
22. He called for a foreign nation (Russia) to hack his Democratic opponent’s email and US State Department emails.
23. He has embraced racists.
24. He has repeatedly incited violence by calling for supporters to assault protestors.
25. He refused to disavow support by former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke.
26. He has refused to release his income tax returns.
27. He insulted a Gold Star family for daring to criticize him.
28. He has repeatedly called the election system “rigged”.
29. He called for his supporters to shoot Hillary Clinton if she’s elected.
30. He has lied about his “huge” donations to charity. (By contrast, the charitable works of the Clinton Foundation have helped hundreds of thousands of people around the world.)
31. He has used the donations to his presidential campaign in order to enrich his businesses and himself.
32. Almost every statement out of his mouth has been exposed as a lie by fact-checkers.
33. His attacks on “political correctness” have coarsened political debate for a generation.

In addition, Trump has no government experience; no understanding of foreign affairs; no appreciation for those who serve in our military. Yet more than 40 percent of our nation’s registered voters are ready to make him president. And, because Hillary Clinton used a private email to keep in touch with her staff while serving as Secretary of State, a surprising number of voters think she is less trustworthy than the Cheeto Benito who routinely spews lies and hatred. Really?

A Stark Contrast.

I truly appreciate the views of my conservative friends with regard to politics. After all, I was raised in a reliably Republican household. I believe in eliminating government waste. I believe that people should take responsibility for the own lives and their own actions. Even after the GOP was over-run with religious extremists, I shared many of the party’s beliefs. For most of my life, I was an independent voter.

The party lost me was when the Nixon-Agnew ticket used propaganda and lies to divide us; when Nixon intervened in the Paris peace talks with North Vietnam for political advantage; when the Nixon administration created the War on Drugs for the purpose of marginalizing and incarcerating minorities which were seen as political opponents; when Nixon tried to subvert our democracy by ordering the burglary of the DNC offices in the Watergate complex.

I was further alienated when Ronald Reagan reportedly sent envoys to meet with Iran’s Islamic leaders to delay the release of our embassy hostages until after his election; when the GOP tried to marginalize those who disagreed with its “Moral Majority” presuming that its opponents were immoral; when the Reagan administration eliminated the tax write-offs for interest on loans other than mortgages creating history’s largest tax increase on the middle class; when the Reagan administration trained Central American death squads and was caught selling weapons to Iran in order to meddle in Central American politics.

As someone with a journalism degree, I was horrified when President H.W. Bush engineered the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine – an action that turned our electronic news media into little more than megaphones for the propaganda spewed by Fox News Channel and the rantings of conservative radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Alex Jones, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and the dozens of other hate-mongers who dominate more than 90 percent of talk radio.

As a former business owner, I was infuriated when my larger competitors received a myriad of GOP-initiated tax breaks and subsidies that were unavailable to my company.

I was shocked when then Florida governor Jeb Bush corrupted the Florida elections that his brother might be awarded the White House – a fact later proven by a consortium of independent media. I was infuriated when, after reading Richard (the Dick) Cheney’s Plan for a New American Century which included a call for the invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration acted on the plan based on false and misleading information. I became disgusted when the GOP co-opted the US flag and patriotism by denigrating anyone who opposed its ill-conceived wars.

I could go on to include the vast increases in our national debt caused by Reagan and Bush tax cuts that largely benefited the very rich, the attack on labor unions, the undermining of defined benefit pension plans, the housing crash and subsequent financial collapse of 2008, the utter disregard for the poor and the hungry, the attempts to privatize our public lands – including numerous national treasures – for development, the dismissal of science to maintain the profits of fossil fuel companies at the cost of the health of our planet, and the unfounded and racist attacks on our first black president.

Through all of that, I could still empathize with my conservative relatives and friends and their strongly-held principles of personal responsibility and cutting government waste. But now…now…the party has taken a step way too far.

It has nominated Donald J. Trump for president!

This is a bombastic billionaire who has said and done hundreds of despicable things – any one of which would have disqualified other candidates from pursuing the office. By any traditional measure, he is unfit for the office of dog catcher, let alone the highest office in the land. Following is an abbreviated list:

Family values? Trump is thrice-married and twice-divorced. (Former Senator Gary Hart was famously disqualified for seeking the nomination for a single affair and President Clinton faced impeachment by Republicans over a sexual incident with a White House intern.) He has been accused of a violent rape by one of his ex-wives. He has been accused of sexually assaulting other women, including minors. He has even publicly displayed lechery toward his own daughter, saying if she wasn’t his daughter he’d like to have sex with her!

Demeanor? Trump thrives on name-calling. He encouraged his supporters to assault those who demonstrate against him. And he has talked about physically assaulting those who spoke out against him at the Democratic National Convention.

Patriotism? Trump successfully sought a draft deferment for bone spurs in his foot – an injury that did not prevent him from competing in college athletics. When asked, he said that he couldn’t even remember which foot was injured. He also lied about donating the proceeds of a rally to charity.

Business acumen? Trump inherited much of his wealth yet, even by his own estimation of his wealth, he has earned less than if he had simply invested his inheritance in a stock index fund. He is also one of a very few casino owners who has declared bankruptcy – something previously considered impossible. And he is hated by many in Scotland and Florida for his golf course developments.

Business ethics? He has been involved in thousands of lawsuits – many of them from contractors he refused to pay for their services. He is currently being sued by a girl scout troop that he refused to pay after they performed at a rally. His bankruptcies allowed him to walk away with millions while leaving his creditors – most of them small business owners – in the lurch. And he is currently being sued for fraud over his Trump “University.”

Charity? When it comes to donations to charities, Trump has long been known as a cheapskate and, according to The Washington Post, he has donated precious little to his own Trump Foundation.

Honesty? His acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention contained no fewer than 21 lies! And, according to fact-checking organizations such as Politifact.com, throughout the campaign, he has been the least honest of all of the major party candidates. And it’s not even close.

Empathy? Some have called him a “Blue Collar Billionaire.” Seriously? Is there really such a thing? Trump conducts many of his media interviews while sitting in a gold chair in a gold-decorated penthouse that has more in common with a dictator’s palace than a blue collar family’s home. In addition, he has made numerous racist statements. He is guilty of race-baiting at his rallies. And he famously demeaned a reporter for a physical disability.

Understanding of foreign policy? Republican strategist Nicolle Wallace recently stated that Trump has less knowledge of foreign policy than Sarah Palin! She went on to say that while Palin wanted to learn, but couldn’t, Trump is completely disinterested in the subject. Further, Trump said that the US should exit the WTO (World Trade Organization), a move that would be devastating to US businesses.

Preparedness to lead? Trump has never held office, except in his own corporation. He has no understanding of the workings of our government and no commitment to public service. One has to question if he has even read our Constitution. After all, many of his promises would be blatantly unconstitutional. Maybe that’s why 4 of the last 5 people to receive the GOP nomination for president refused to attend his coronation…er…nomination at the RNC convention. Maybe that’s why the Republican governor of the host state refused to attend. And maybe that’s why none of the living presidents has endorsed him.

Understanding of national security? Trump has stated that he wouldn’t necessarily support our NATO allies against an invasion (presumably by Russia). Worse, he called for Russia to hack the emails of a former cabinet secretary and political opponent! As a result, many in our intelligence community do not want to include him in the customary briefings on national security.

Okay, I know many of my conservative friends and relatives dislike and distrust Hillary. Yes, I know you’ve probably heard accusations that Hillary stole investors’ money in Whitewater; that she unconstitutionally fired those who worked in the White House Travel Office; that she ordered the murder of Deputy White House Counsel Vince Foster; that she put the US consulate in Benghazi at risk and ordered the military to stand down when it was attacked; that she “illegally” used a private email server for State Department business then, when caught, erased thousands of incriminating emails.

Certainly, Hillary has made mistakes, but they are mistakes made while serving others. Though she misread the commitment of moderate rebels in Libya and Syria, so did most of the world leaders. Though she was horrified at the attack on the consulate, there was no opportunity to save the ambassador and, contrary to right wing claims, she had no authority to tell the military to stand down. Though she admits to making a mistake by using a private email server like her Republican predecessor as Secretary of State, there was no apparent harm done, except to her reputation. And though she has made statements that were later proven false, she is a beacon of honesty compared to her opponent.

Those are not the excuses of an apologist. Those are facts.

Few talk about the many things she has done right during a lifetime of service. Moreover, few people on our planet have undergone such scrutiny as the Clintons. The investigations into the so-called “scandals” have cost roughly $100 million over a quarter century. They have garnered billions of dollars of media coverage in a constant drip, drip, drip that has been orchestrated by her political opponents. Yet, after all of the investigations led by Republicans and government agencies, little of substance has been found – certainly nothing that would disqualify her from seeking the presidency.

Her opponent, on the other hand, constantly demonstrates – with his mouth and his actions – that he is completely unfit for office.

What The GOP Wants.

It’s easy to dismiss the mudslinging and hateful rhetoric of the speakers featured at the Republican National Convention as mere partisanship; as the typical hyperbole of a contested election. But the GOP platform shows that the fear and hate so prevalent at the convention is representative of the party’s deep-rooted beliefs.

On its surface, the GOP platform seems filled with platitudes and grandiose statements that may seem positive or, at worst, relatively harmless. But, if you look deeper, a different – more frightening – picture emerges.

The platform begins with a preamble that reaffirms the party’s commitment to the concept of “American Exceptionalism”… the very idea that led to the genocide of Native Americans, the meddling in foreign affairs, and the creation of “banana republics” as well as other puppet states that would be subservient to the US. And it further represents backward thinking by confusing the Constitution with the Articles of Confederation. (Yes, it’s true that our Founding Fathers originally committed to a limited federal government. But that was as a result of the differing beliefs of the original colonies, not the least of which was the colonies’ differing views toward slavery. But after the Revolution, the Founders wrote and ratified the Constitution which gives great, sweeping powers to the federal government.)

The platform only goes further downhill from there.

Despite our robust recovery from the Great Recession, the platform seeks to reinstate the very policies that led to the recession. It blames Democrats for the national debt despite the fact that the vast majority of the debt is the result of decisions made by the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations. Indeed, both the Clinton and Obama administrations have dramatically cut deficits created by Republicans.

The GOP platform calls for increased defense spending, claiming the Obama administration has shortchanged the defense budget for years despite the fact that the US currently spends more on the military than the next 9 nations combined – 7 of them strong US allies. And it contends that the Obama administration has refused to control our borders despite dramatic increases in border patrols and the apprehension and deportation of undocumented immigrants.

It claims that Democrats have attacked the production of energy and industry-related jobs while ignoring the reality that oil and gas production are at all-time highs, and that alternative energy production (wind and solar) has created millions of jobs. At the same time, the GOP denies the impact of technical innovation on the number of lost manufacturing jobs and its own role in providing tax incentives to multinational corporations that ship jobs overseas and hide profits offshore to avoid taxes.

The platform officially denies human-caused climate change while pandering to voters in coal country by proclaiming coal to be a “clean” energy source. It calls for a commitment to the already discredited “fair tax” that, if implemented, would not only give enormous tax breaks to the top 1 percent. It would add trillions to our national debt. And the platform perpetuates the myth that US corporations face the world’s highest tax obligations when, in reality, the US is tied with Tanzania for 64th in total tax obligations! Moreover, the US corporate tax obligation is lower than 22 of 32 OCED nations.

In addition to Trump’s notorious plan to build a wall along our Mexican border, the GOP would seek to build a virtual wall between us and our trading partners by trying to implement a series of harsh tariffs and other forms of bullying. The GOP would have you believe that Wall Street and corporations can regulate themselves free from any form of regulation. (We already know how disastrous that can be.) The platform pushes individual responsibility while excusing multinational corporations from their actions. At the same time, it seeks to diminish civil rights and equal opportunities for much of our population. It would also deny individuals many of the legal mechanisms needed to fight against injustice and predatory corporations.

The GOP platform calls for investment in our nation’s infrastructure while ignoring the fact that the only reason for our decaying infrastructure is the refusal of the party’s own members of Congress to vote for such initiatives. Moreover, Republicans didn’t just vote against those bills, they blocked many of them from ever coming to a vote. In addition, the platform continues the party’s long-standing attack on labor unions – the very institutions that helped build the middle class as the only way for workers to negotiate with management. (In case you haven’t noticed, as labor unions have been diminished, CEO and shareholder compensation have soared while the compensation of workers has stagnated. At the same time, the GOP has orchestrated the destruction of thousands of pension plans.)

Even more telling is the platform’s focus on exclusion – by unconstitutionally closing our borders to Muslims, by deporting millions of Latino immigrants, by denying civil rights to the LGBTQ community, by unconstitutionally establishing Christianity as the official religion of the US, and by diminishing the rights of women. In practice, GOP policies would diminish the rights of all those who look and think differently than white, male Republicans.

The party platform enshrines the GOP’s unwavering support of the 2nd Amendment. Yet, at the same time it embraces those who own the weapons of war, the GOP turns its back on those who are most vulnerable: Women who find themselves pregnant with a baby they cannot afford, women who wish to terminate a fetus that either endangers the mother’s life or is incapable of ever surviving on its own, the hopelessly impoverished who, without help, cannot reasonably expect to escape poverty; whose schools are underfunded; who live in areas without jobs and without access to public transportation.

The platform reaffirms the party’s intent to stack the judiciary from top to bottom with ideologues like the late Antonin Scalia. It would sell off public lands, including national parks. It would eliminate many regulatory agencies. It would privatize education and anything else that would allow corporations to profit. It would repeal Obamacare and return control of health care to insurance and pharmaceutical companies that would make health care unaffordable for tens of millions of Americans. It seeks to privatize Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. It would eliminate or diminish many of our other safety nets, including job training and food assistance.

The GOP platform indicates that the party will continue its assault on voting rights and its commitment to gerrymandering to ensure a GOP majority that does not reflect the composition of the voting public. It foments fear of others and distrust of government institutions. It doesn’t just seek to change government. It goes much further, seeking to impose a narrow set of “values” – to dictate morality and human behavior.

It is, perhaps, the most ideological document ever authored in the name of a political party. And, if implemented, it will negatively impact our nation for generations to come if, indeed, it doesn’t lead to its ultimate destruction. (If you think that’s mere hyperbole, consider the potential impact of the unabated burning of fossil fuels and environmental destruction that will make our planet uninhabitable.)

Thoughts And Prayers Will Not Stop Shootings.

After Columbine, there were thoughts and prayers. There were more thoughts and prayers after Aurora, Sandy Hook, Charleston, San Bernardino, Orlando and, now, Dallas. After Eric Garner, after Michael Brown, after Timor Rice, after Ezell Ford, after John Crawford III, after Jonathon Ferrell, after Alton Sterling, after Philando Castile, and after the deaths of 5 Dallas police officers, there were more thoughts and prayers. Yet the shootings continue.

Obviously, thoughts and prayers alone aren’t working. They may make us feel better. But they do nothing to stop the shootings. And because the shootings continue to divide us, there will be many more thoughts and prayers.

What we need, instead, are common sense laws to improve gun safety. Ideally, that would mean banning military-style semi-automatic weapons and semi-automatic handguns. Unfortunately, that genie is out of the bottle. Even if we banned the sale of them tomorrow, there would still be millions in circulation. But what we can do is to repeal all open carry laws. Even in the Old West, open carry was banned in towns…in “polite society.” We can do that again.

We can pass laws for universal background checks on ALL gun sales to close the so-called “gun show loophole.” We can ban the sale of guns to those on the no-fly list until they can prove that they are not dangerous. We can ban the sale of guns to those who have been convicted of domestic assault or are under restraining orders. We can ban the sale of guns to those who have been convicted of any violent crimes. We can require gun safety training to those who have conceal and carry permits. And we can take the words of the Dallas Police Chief to heart and discourage people from carrying guns in public places.

We can, once again, ban silencers and large caliber sniper rifles…rifles so powerful that they can blow a sizeable hole in an engine block. We can ban large capacity magazines, except at gun ranges.

We can reinstate funding for the Center for Disease Control to study gun violence. And we can reinstate funding for services to help the mentally ill – one of the three largest groups of victims of gun violence.

We can increase budgets for police departments that will allow more training in the de-escalation of violent situations. We can make certain that our police know how to safely disarm those who are armed with weapons other than guns, such as clubs and knives. We can assess police officer candidates for personality traits so that we hire the best possible candidates and eliminate those who are racist or trigger happy. And since, we will demand more of the police, we can pay them appropriately.

There are many things we can do to help police and limit the number of senseless shootings. But, if we rely on thoughts and prayers alone, they are certain to continue.