What’s Really Behind America’s Gun Deaths?

Following the most lethal mass shooting in US history, it’s once again time to take a serious look at the cause. By all accounts, the Las Vegas shooter was not a terrorist – at least not in the traditional sense. He was no Osama bin Laden. He was not a member of ISIS. Moreover, he had no criminal record. He had no history of mental illness. And he had no history of domestic abuse.

What he did have was a penchant for collecting a large number of military-style weapons and an enormous amount of ammunition. The shooter was one of a tiny minority of Americans with such stockpiles. According to a study by Northeastern University and Harvard University reported by the Guardian, 130 million of America’s guns are in the hands of just 3 percent of American adults. That means each of these Americans, mostly men, own an average of 19 guns!

For what purpose? Why do these people feel the need to own such an arsenal?

Certainly, a small percentage of these people are collectors of war memorabilia and antique weaponry. But what about the others? What drives them? 19 guns are 18 more than necessary for self-protection. 19 guns are at least a dozen more than necessary for the most avid hunter of game large or small. And 19 is many times the number of guns needed for target shooting.

So how do we explain the rest?

I believe these owners are driven by a combination of anti-government paranoia and a fascination with all things military. In other words, we have a number of apparent Seal team wannabes who have become convinced – likely by the NRA and right-wing conspiracy theorists – that the government is coming for their weapons; people who fear that the US will be taken over by the United Nations; who believe that immigrants – especially those of color – are coming for their jobs and wealth.

These are also men who were militarized from an early age; from the endless displays of military might; from the military flyovers before football games and other large events. Maybe they are motivated by the plethora of TV shows, movies and video games based on the military. If so, they aren’t be alone. Far too many Americans can only define patriotism in military terms.

Have you ever asked yourself why? Is there really no other way to share our love of country than to display weapons of war? To superficially thank veterans for their service? To adorn our homes with flags?

More to the point, why are military-style weapons in high demand when they are of little use for hunting or self-defense? Who but an assassin needs a .50 caliber sniper rifle? Who but a mass shooter or a criminal needs a device to make a semi-automatic weapon mimic the rate of fire of fully-automatic military assault rifles? Who but a law enforcement officer or a bodyguard would feel the need to carry a concealed gun? And what civilian other than a bully or someone with a very small penis would want to strap a gun over his shoulder or onto his hip to intimidate those around him?

Why do so many of our citizens think education and health care are too expensive for our government to afford, yet think nothing of spending many times more money on new military weapons systems? Have we become so affected by right-wing propaganda that we think the military is the answer to every conflict? Horrifyingly, a large percentage of our population – mostly Republicans – now believe a military takeover of our government could be a good thing in certain circumstances.

Can you imagine the reaction of our founders if they were alive to see that?

Admittedly, there are far more questions than answers; questions that everyone should be asking of themselves and those around them.

If we are to ever end the outrageous number of gun deaths in the US, we need to regulate the number of guns and limit their firepower. But that alone won’t end the shootings. We need to transform our collective psyche from one that celebrates violence and war to one that celebrates life and accomplishments. That doesn’t require our nation to weaken our military. It simply means that we put violence in perspective as a last resort…a necessary evil that is only rarely necessary for survival. Not as something to be used whenever it serves our purposes; to bully others into deferring to our wishes.

The reality is that guns aren’t the cause of our mass shootings. They’re the means. They’re also a symptom of a much larger problem.

Our Racist-In-Chief.

Unfortunately, the hatred and bigotry that claimed the national spotlight on Saturday was highly revealing.

President Trump’s tepid condemnation and initial refusal to call out the hateful groups responsible for the violence in Charlottesville called attention to the White House’s deep ties to the “alt-right.” Indeed, Trump has a long history of racism. His parents were members of the KKK. His father taught him the importance of breeding, likening humans to race horses. Early in his business career, Trump Management Corporation was sued by the Department of Justice for refusing to rent to non-whites in violation of the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Later, he ran a full-page ad that many saw as racist. In it, he called for the return of the death penalty for five non-whites accused of raping a woman who was jogging in Central Park. (The men were later cleared of the charges.) And, of course, he was the most prominent leader of the racist “birther” movement, calling Obama an illegitimate president.

Trump began his campaign for president by making racist claims about Mexicans and promising to build a border wall that would be paid for by Mexico. For a campaign slogan, he chose Make America Great Again, which in itself was a clarion call to racists. And the racists responded. The KKK endorsed Trump for president. Numerous other racist groups, such as Vanguard America, were formed as a result of Trump’s campaign. (The alleged driver of the car which killed one and injured at least 19 others in Charlottesville was photographed wearing a Vanguard America uniform and holding a Vanguard America shield.)

An examination of Trump’s voters is more telling. 62 percent of non-college educated white women voted for Trump. 56 percent of college-educated white women voted for Trump. And 63 percent of white men voted for the Donald. As a result, for the first time in generations, we have a white supremacist in the White House. And Trump is not the only one.

His chief strategist, Steve Bannon, is largely responsible for making Breitbart News “the platform for the alt-right” – a virtual megaphone for bigots and neo-Nazis. The White House is also the workplace for at least two other racists. Steven Miller is Trump’s senior adviser for policy and Sebastian Gorka serves as a deputy assistant to Trump. Not coincidentally, both have gone on record denying the threat of domestic terrorist groups.

Want more proof of Trump’s connections to the alt-right?

He appointed Jeff Sessions as US Attorney General, who in 1986 was denied a federal judgeship when his former colleagues testified that Sessions used the n-word and joked about the Ku Klux Klan, saying he thought its members were “okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana.”

In almost every conceivable way, not the least of which is color, Trump is the polar opposite of his predecessor. He is clueless and classless with no discernible redeeming traits. Indeed, he is the anti-Obama. Obama entered office saying, “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America – there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America – there’s the United States of America.” President Obama reached across the political divide to appoint 18 Republicans to his administration. He repeatedly called for unity. By contrast, Trump has done nothing to reach across the divide. In fact, he has deepened the chasm and widened it. He verbally attacks anyone who disagrees with him. And his furor isn’t limited to Democrats and liberals. He has repeatedly assaulted the media and virtually everything his opponents hold dear. He has continued his assault on immigrants, on the environment, on regulations designed to protect citizens, on health care…he has even attacked the law and the Constitution.

Yet Trump has been reluctant to say anything negative about Nazis and racists.

Only when he was backed into a corner did he tepidly denounce the support for his campaign by David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the KKK. And only when there was a near universal outcry following the violence in Charlottesville did he finally, and hesitantly, call out the alt-right groups that fomented the violence. Even the Nazis and white supremacists didn’t believe he was sincere in his denunciation. Indeed, David Duke was quoted as saying, “He has our back.”

By failing to wholeheartedly condemn Nazis and racists, there is reason to wonder if Trump is trying to give the alt-right what it wants – a race war. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to realize that increased violence would give Trump the opportunity to do what the dictators he seems to idolize (Putin, Duterte, Erdogan, et al) have done and declare martial law.

Yet, as Trump has willingly become a symbol of racism in America, a bigger problem is the racists next door who enable him. They are your neighbors and your family members. They are students, laborers, truck drivers, farmers, realtors, lawyers, business executives, police officers, sheriffs, border patrol and many others. Their racism is seldom obvious. They don’t bother to wear sheets and hoods. They rarely gather to burn crosses.

Instead, they gather on websites like Breitbart, the Drudge Report, Fox News, and the Daily Stormer. They listen to hate-filled radio programs hosted by Alex Jones, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham and dozens of others. Like the man in the White House, they choose to bully and threaten from afar. They troll social media like Facebook and Twitter.

More worryingly, they hoard high-powered weaponry and ammunition. Many are members of the NRA. Many belong to militias such as the Oath Keepers and the Border Guard. Others are sovereign citizens who refuse to follow laws or to pay taxes. And they have been placed on alert by Trump with his warnings that his “enemies” are trying to steal his office.

It is the people who support Trump despite his overt bigotry, his birtherism and his dismissal of all Latinos as rapists and “bad hombres” who allow the alt-right to exist. It is the people who cheer Trump’s bluster and verbal attacks against the media and his political opponents who are responsible for the extreme divisiveness we face. It is the people who politely laugh when they hear racist jokes; who are willing to look the other way when they see examples of bigotry who are just as responsible for racial violence.

If we are ever to heal the divisions – racial and political – in this nation, we must be willing to call out violence and bigotry whenever we see it or hear it. We must put humanity, compassion and kindness above self. We must elect politicians who will put an end to policies that have resulted in economic inequities based on color, gender, sexual orientation or religious beliefs. We must encourage everyone to vote and remove from office those who try to suppress minority votes. We must put nation above tribal politics. And we must call out all those who refuse to do so.

What Is The Real Goal Of Trump’s Rallies?

Almost immediately after his inauguration, Donald Trump filed the paperwork for his 2020 campaign. And with the election barely over, he has continued to campaign. For what reason?

Some believe that he is simply addicted to the adulation of crowds. But every president draws crowds. And every president benefits from Americans’ respect for the office. (At least every president until now.) I believe the real reason for the rallies is more sinister than mere narcissism. I believe he is trying to further divide the nation; to destroy any remaining credibility for the mass media; to create a personal army of supporters that is immune to the facts; to create an army that is loyal to him, and him alone.

One need only listen to his rhetoric and read his tweets to see his plan in action. He continues to call any news stories that are not complementary to him “fake news.” He calls the Mueller investigation a “witch hunt.” And he continues to foment fear and violence. At his latest rally in front of an adoring West Virginia crowd, he accused his “enemies” of trying to steal his office, asking if they are just going to stand by and watch. That leads me to wonder what he suggests as an alternative to watching. Violence?

Those around him certainly think so.

Trump’s supporters continue to chant “lock her up” in reference to his former election rival. If you dumpster dive (or should I say, Trumpster dive) into the posts of his followers on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere on the Web, you will see numerous threats of violence toward Trump’s political opponents, especially from the so-called “Alt-Right” trolls. White House subordinates like Stephen Miller verbally berate anyone who dares to question or challenge Trump’s political pronouncements. Often they go further.

For example, Trump ally, Roger Stone, recently tweeted: “Robert Mueller plans a takedown of @realDonaldTrump based on trumped up charges but sadly will only begat extreme violence and his own take-down…”

Mueller, Congress, Democrats and the media should take such threats with some seriousness. Many of Trump’s supporters are, after all, heavily armed – many of them are members of the NRA. They are the same kind of bullies who stood behind Cliven Bundy just itching for an excuse to fire on federal officers who were in the process of executing a lawful court order.

If they’re willing to do that for a deadbeat rancher like Bundy, imagine how they’ll react to the sight of the fear-monger-in-chief being led out of the Oval office in handcuffs.

They’ll almost certainly be ready for war, which is likely what his orangeness is counting on. In fact, he is acting exactly like hundreds of despots before him – creating enemies both external and internal; turning citizens against one another; raising doubts about the Constitution; creating distrust of our institutions including the media, the courts and Congress; telling his followers that the “elites” are against them and only he can be trusted to fix things.

I believe Trump presents a very real threat to the future of our nation and the planet.

Now, I expect that many of you will consider this to be hyperbolic. But we’ve never had a president like this before. Yes, we’ve had candidates like George Wallace, David Duke and other equally despicable people. But, though virulently racist, even they seemed more principled than Trump. (They weren’t serial liars and they didn’t look to use the government for personal financial gain.) More to the point, they were soundly defeated. Yet just because our nation has survived other serious challenges is no reason to take this threat lightly. You need only look at the alarm sounded by the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect which draws parallels between Trump and Hitler, noting that Trump has created his own media, exploited youth at a rally, endorses police brutality, demonizes people who believe, look or love differently, stripped vulnerable people of their families, jobs and ability to live, and believes Congress should change its rules to give him more power.

And, if that’s not compelling enough, consider the current sorry status of Venezuela, a nation that modeled its constitution and government after ours. In Venezuela everything changed as the result of a financial crisis and a constitutional convention. (By the way, a Koch brothers’ effort is nearing the number of states required to call for a constitutional convention in the US.)

If dictators can take control in democratic countries such as Venezuela, Philippines and Turkey, a prospective dictator – even one as stupid and outrageous as Donald Trump – could take control here.

Republicans Are The Masters Of False Equivalency.

Following the shooting of Republican Congressman Steve Scalise, there were calls from both sides of the aisle to calm the extreme rhetoric. The House even made a great show of bipartisanship by kneeling together on the field prior to the annual Republican/Democrat baseball game. Senator Bernie Sanders made a forceful speech denouncing the shooter’s past support for his candidacy. Many others followed suit.

Yet, in a matter of hours following the Scalise shooting, the hateful rhetoric had returned.

A mere four days after the shooting, former GOP Congressman Joe Walsh tweeted, “Screw bipartisanship. This country is at war with itself. Choose your side and choose it now. Grab your musket and get ready.” That’s a great way to calm the anger. Don’t you think?

And Walsh was not alone. Others, including right-wing pundits Alex Jones and Newt Gingrich have also talked about a coming civil war. Of course, this comes on the heels of last year’s GOP convention during which the rabble chanted “Lock her [Hillary] up.” And it comes after then-candidate Trump speculated what might happen if he lost by saying, “…if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.” Others also suggested that, if Trump lost, there might be violence.

The US is more divided, and more angry, than any point in my lifetime. Indeed, the only other times we have seen such division were during the Revolution (when the Revolutionists fought against the Loyalists) and during the Civil War.

That should give everyone pause.

Of course, the fallback for Republicans is that both sides are equally guilty. But that’s simply not true. Let’s start by noting that there have been many fewer threats of violence by liberals against conservatives. I must also point out that the majority of gun owners in the US are conservatives. Indeed, a recent NPR article stated that right-wing extremists are responsible for about 74 percent of murders committed by domestic extremists. Not coincidentally, a recent Gallup study found that 55 percent of gun owners are Republican versus 32 percent Democrat. A Pew Research poll showed an even greater disparity with numbers of 49 percent for Republicans and just 22 percent for Democrats. In addition, the Southern Poverty Law Center currently lists 917 hate groups in the US. These include the KKK, neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, black separatists, anti-government militias, and Christian identity groups. They are almost exclusively right-wing.

Now let’s consider the media. Certainly, The NY Times and a few other newspapers lean to the left. But the Wall Street Journal, the Arizona Republic and many others lean to the right. That said, though their editorial columns may be partisan, most try to be impartial in reporting the actual news. Talk radio is almost exclusively right-wing…Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin…angry, screaming right-wing. Indeed, within a few years of the end of the Fairness Doctrine, talk radio was already more than 90 percent conservative.

With regard to television, the conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group is one of the nation’s largest media owners. It recently ordered its local news broadcasts to advance the conservative agenda. On satellite and cable, Fox News Channel has long acted as a megaphone for the Republican party. The lower-rated MSNBC was somewhat split. It’s prime-time devoted to liberals and the morning to conservatives. In between, it was impartial. And it’s moving farther right. ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC and PBS try to maintain neutrality, although their Sunday morning news programs are dominated by conservative guests.

That leaves the Internet, aka social media. There are so many Internet “news” sites, it is very difficult to make a comparison. But, if you use fake news as a determining criteria, the Internet is decidedly right-wing. The best way for me to explain is to use anecdotal evidence from Paul Horner the “King of Fake News” who appeared on a radio show I occasionally help moderate. Horner is a comedian and satirist. As such, he began writing satirical news stories during the past presidential election. He began by creating stories that would appeal to both sides. But he quickly discovered that stories aimed at liberals garnered few clicks and little money. The problem is that they would fact check his stories. Conservatives, on the other hand, bought his nonsense hook, line and sinker. As a result, almost all of his fake news was conservative. (You can listen to the interview by following this link.)

Want more evidence? Visit Breitbart “News” or any other right-wing website. Then do some fact checks.

That is not to say there aren’t some highly partisan, disgustingly angry websites, tweets and Facebook posts from the left. But there are fewer of them and even fewer of them promote violence.

The Real Threats We Face.

Our planet is facing a growing number of crises – any one of which could lead to a calamity that could end life as we know it.

Let’s begin with the threat of climate change. We’ve known about the impact of burning fossil fuels for many years. But our Republican politicians continue to allow the coal and oil industries to obstruct most attempts to switch to sustainable forms of energy. As a consequence, greenhouse gases continue to pollute our atmosphere and the planet continues to warm resulting in more severe storms and large scale droughts that are turning tillable land into desert. Already, this has caused the displacement of millions of economic refugees who are finding themselves increasingly unwelcome in other countries. Yet president-elect Trump has dismissed climate change as a Chinese-created hoax.

To make matters worse, climate change has led to the unprecedented melting of glaciers and sea ice. In fact, Arctic sea ice is now declining at the rate 13.3 percent per decade. The Antarctic ice sheet is melting at an alarming rate. And the melting of the Greenland ice sheet doubled between 1996 and 2005, receding more than 12 miles in just the past decade. That may not seem particularly catastrophic until you consider that just one of Greenland’s glaciers contains enough water to raise global sea levels by 18 inches. And, if the entire Greenland ice sheet, which covers more than 656,000 square miles, melts, it could raise sea levels by as much as 20 feet!

If our governments don’t act quickly and aggressively to slow and reverse the melt, many of the world’s largest cities will be under water within a few decades, displacing hundreds of millions more people.

In addition, our oceans are warming. This not only changes ocean currents, it’s placing stress on the coral reefs, which are home to the fish that sustain hundreds of millions of people. Already, 80 percent of the Caribbean’s coral reefs are dead. Large portions of the Great Barrier Reef are dying. And the reefs in the so-called Coral Triangle, which feed more than 380 million people, are stressed and over-fished. What are these people to do when the reefs are dead and the fish are gone?

As if that’s not bad enough, factory ships are cruising the oceans netting anything that swims. The oceans are also being inundated with oil, agricultural runoff and other toxins creating dead zones. What’s more, humans are using the oceans as trash dumps creating floating “islands” of plastics and other trash.

In the Amazon, the rain forest is being clear-cut to create grazing lands for cattle to meet the world’s rising demand for beef. And, in the South Pacific, rain forests are being cleared to grow palm oil to be used as an ingredient in a growing number of processed packaged foods. Not surprisingly, the loss of these rain forests leads to diminished rainfall and changing climate patterns. Moreover, the cattle release methane which further contributes to greenhouse gases and rising temperatures.

In Africa, the rain forests are also being destroyed and, on the savanna, the almost unabated poaching of large mammals, such as elephants, rhinos, giraffes, lions, leopards and tigers may lead to their extinction in our lifetimes. In particular, the loss of the apex predators will create a cascading effect by allowing the overpopulation of other species placing further stress on the environment.

Religious strife has led to wars and terrorism which have also displaced millions and further damaged the environment. Worse, they have distracted our governments from focusing attention on even more dire problems.

Finally, the growth of computerization, robotics and artificial intelligence threaten to eliminate roughly half of the nation’s jobs within the next 10-20 years. Yet, like most of the other crises, this has not even created a conversation by our politicians and news media.

As catastrophic as all of these things could be, they also represent opportunities. For example, addressing climate change by restructuring our economies around renewable energies could create millions of new jobs that could offset those lost to computerization. Rebuilding and modernizing infrastructure could also create jobs.

Limiting our consumption of beef, in addition to other meats, and changing our diets to include more grains and vegetables from sustainable agriculture could not only save our rain forests, it could improve our health and reduce the chemicals in our foods. It could also reduce the stress on our oceans. And reversing the recent trend of nationalism and learning to respect the beliefs of those with other religions and cultures could also help by reducing wars and terrorism.

Ultimately, saving our planet and humanity depends on educating ourselves about these complex issues and electing government officials who truly understand the daunting issues we face and who are willing to address them.

Based on the results of the past election, we failed miserably.

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.

What Trump And A Live Grenade Have In Common.

There’s a growing movement in the US of voters disenchanted with the system and fueled by rightwing news outlets (I’m thinking of you, Fox News Channel and all of you hate radio clowns) that have decided to destroy our government rather than try to fix it. Nothing else could explain how the Great Pumpkin won the GOP nomination for president.

They see in The Donald a strong man – a father figure – who will go to Washington to clean house. They believe, somehow, that Daddy will make everything all right. They don’t seem to care about the damage that could be done; the destruction of decades-long relationships with our allies; the wars we could be drug into as a result of the Orange Ape’s short temper; the jobs lost by ill-conceived plans. For example, Moody’s Analytics examined both Trump’s and Clinton’s economic plans and found that Trump’s could cost 3.6 million jobs over 4 years, while Clinton’s would create 10 million jobs over the same time period. Other economists have noted that Trump’s tax plan would add trillions to the national debt.

Trump voters are willing to overlook his bombastic attacks and lack of presidential demeanor because they want to see a true outsider in the White House. They actually admire his insulting tirades against those who disagree with him. They excuse his racist statements because they claim to be tired of political correctness. They ignore his ill-conceived plans that are almost entirely without substance or detail. They forgive his anger; his obvious narcissism; his lack of character; his apparent lack of a moral compass. In fact, they have lowered the bar for Trump by almost every measure. But like a 1950s limbo dancer, he still seems to crawl under it. Indeed, after his vicious attacks on a Gold Star family mourning the loss of their son who was valiantly killed in Iraq, they continue to make excuses for their leader. And now they are trying to vilify the family.

Why?

Some are simply so partisan that they can’t accept the idea of a member of the competing party becoming president. They have been so brainwashed by rightwing media; so convinced that mainstream media are lying; that they are willing to vote against their own self-interests – to vote for someone who will cut taxes for the wealthy and powerful while shoving more of the burden onto those who can least afford it. These people have been around since the 1970s. But, today, there is a new kind of voter.

These are people who don’t care if a presidential candidate will work on their behalf to make our nation stronger and better. They don’t care if the candidate will work across the aisle to get things done. They don’t care if the candidate will try to improve government. They’d rather tear it down. Indeed, they are little more than terrorists who want to throw a grenade into the room – our government – to see how people react. They want to watch the chaos; to watch everyone run for cover. They care little about what will happen when that grenade inevitably goes off. They know there will be a mess. But they don’t really care.

However bad things get, they will have sent their message.

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.

We May Be Living In America’s Golden Age.

Contrary to what some politicians would have you believe, things in the world – and the US in particular – are not bleak. Indeed, a case can be made that things have never been better!

Fareed Zakaria’s Global Public Square on CNN pointed to statistics compiled by two Harvard professors. They show that, despite the events unfolding in Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan and Syria, worldwide, mass killings and genocides are near all-time lows. Violent crimes in the US have steadily declined since the 1990s. Incarceration is dropping. Victimization of children has dropped dramatically. Reported rape and sexual assaults in the US are near all-time lows. And, despite recent events, deaths of police are near an all-time low.

At the same time, Zakaria notes that the US economy is growing. The US emerged from the Great Recession better than any of the world’s other major economies. The US has produced more than 14 million jobs since 2009 – more than the 35 other advanced economies combined. US auto sales have climbed from 9.6 million in 2009 to 16.6 million last year. The US has surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas. US unemployment is now below 5 percent nationwide – a figure that is historically considered near full employment. Wages are gradually improving. Our tax burden is low compared to other advanced nations. Despite claims to the contrary, the overall tax burden of US corporations is among the lowest in the OCED (Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development). Inflation is low while stock markets are at record highs. And, contrary to the beliefs of some, since 2009, more Mexican migrants have left the US than have entered it.

That’s right, the net rate of immigration from Mexico is below ZERO!

Those are the facts. If you doubt them, ask yourself: In which time period would you rather be living? The 1700s when the country was being founded on the backs of slaves? The 1800s when the nation was torn apart by slavery and white immigrants were committing genocide of Native Americans? The early 1900s when many of our citizens, including children, were forced to work seven days a week in sweat shops? When women and blacks were denied the right to vote? When we were embroiled in WWI?

How about the 1930s during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression? Or the 1940s when our men and women were dying on the battlefields of Africa, Asia and Europe? Would you rather be living in the 1950s when the top tax rate was 91 percent; when women were relegated to menial jobs and blacks were fighting (and dying) for the right to vote and to attend the same schools as whites; and when Americans were dying in Korea? Would you rather be living in the 1960s when we were fighting in Vietnam and at home over an ill-conceived war? Would you rather be living in the 1970s when both inflation and gas prices soared; when mortgage rates were as high as 25 percent, if you could qualify; and when women were routinely victimized in the workplace?

Would you rather be living in the 1980s when we were still engaged in the Cold War; when the national GDP fell; and when crime rates, incarceration rates and the national debt soared? Would you rather be living in the 1990s when incarceration rates continued to climb; when the economy rose out of the doldrums and when the federal government ran surpluses? Okay, I admit that might be a toss-up.

Would you rather be living in the early 2000s when we suffered the largest terrorist attack on our soil in history; when we invaded Afghanistan; when we invaded Iraq on false pretenses; when the government accumulated massive deficits and debt; and when the housing market caused the economy to implode?

Or would you rather be living now?

If you’re a white Christian male who has grown up believing that you are entitled to a life of privilege and power; if your media choices are Fox News Channel, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity and the like; or if you believe some of the lies told by politicians, you may want to return to a previous decade, or even a previous century. But, if you believe in science and facts; if you truly believe that all people are created equal regardless of race, religion or gender, you might just realize how lucky we are.

Certainly, there are many problems. Global climate change is a real and gathering threat. Our wilderness and oceans are being destroyed. Many species are being slaughtered. We must honestly face the problems of the past with regard to black slavery and the genocide of Native Americans. We must work to improve our policing and to lower incarceration rates. We must continue to improve Americans’ access to affordable health care. We must improve mental health care. We must find a way to get guns off of our streets. We must improve education and make it more affordable. We must rebuild our outdated and crumbling infrastructure. We must control greed and provide living wages to any who are willing to work full-time. We must find ways to create jobs to replace those that are being lost to robots and technology. We must strengthen our safety net programs for those less fortunate than ourselves. And we must rededicate ourselves to treat all people equally.

Nevertheless, all things considered, I choose to disregard the lies of politicians who portray our nation in crisis and the media who gleefully repeat their claims in search of higher ratings and profits. If not for the political divisiveness created by such people, we might all recognize how good we have it and that, if we choose to work together, things can be even better.

This is a golden age.

How Has Racism Plagued The Obama Administration? Let Me Count The Ways:

I have conservative friends who deny that President Obama has been treated any differently than previous presidents. Setting aside the prolonged fishing expedition to find dirt on the Clintons and the natural reaction to a stolen election and the lies told by the Bush administration to justify its invasion of Iraq, (yes, I proudly wore an “Impeach Bush” button) let’s look at the conservative response to the nation’s first African-American president.

Even before he was nominated, Obama was beset by claims that he was not an American citizen. For the first time in US history, the political opposition demanded to see a presidential candidate’s birth certificate.

On the day of his inauguration, in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, GOP leaders met to formulate a strategy to make him fail. At so-called Tea Party rallies, protestors carried racist images of Obama. They also showed up at presidential speeches armed with loaded guns and threatened to “exercise their 2nd Amendment rights.” At the same time, rednecks all over the South dug out their Confederate battle flags, planting them in their yards, on their houses and flying them in the back of their pickup trucks. Many covered their vehicles with stickers that read “NObama,” “One Big Ass Mistake America” and more blatantly racist slogans.

The Secret Service saw a dramatic increase in threats on the President’s life. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) noted a dramatic rise in hate groups. At the same time, rightwing radio hosts and the NRA claimed that Obama was “coming for your guns,” which, in turn, dramatically increased gun sales.

When Obama prepared a video to encourage students to work hard and stay in school (something that other presidents have routinely done), conservatives howled, claiming that Obama was going to “indoctrinate” their children. They also ridiculed the First Lady for encouraging students to move for fitness and to make more nutritious choices for meals.

When Obama first addressed a joint session of Congress, a racist congressman openly shouted “You Lie.” In another joint session, conservative Supreme Court justices visibly shook their heads in disgust at the President’s justifiable criticism of the Citizens United ruling. (At least in my long lifetime, such displays of disrespect for the president have never previously occurred.)

In the Senate, the GOP blocked the President’s initiatives with a record number of threatened filibusters. Republicans also blocked a record number of administrative appointments and a record number of nominees for federal courts. And Obama’s most recent nominee to the Supreme Court has been waiting for a vote for a record length of time as a result of the GOP attitude that, with nearly a year left in office, Obama was to be considered a “lame duck.”

There have been a record number of conspiracy theories surrounding President Obama, including the lunacy surrounding the military exercise known as Jade Helm. There have been claims that he would declare martial law or, worse, declare Sharia law. Conservatives have claimed that he is a secret Muslim at the same time they have accused him of following a radical Christian pastor. They blamed him for the national debt, for shipping jobs overseas, for abandoning Iraq (even though our departure was negotiated by the Bush administration) and the creation of ISIS.

They accused him of coddling terrorists; of selling out Israel by negotiating an end to Iran’s nuclear program; of bowing to foreign leaders; of “selling out” to the communist Castro regime by normalizing relations with Cuba. They accused him of failing to secure our borders despite a record number of arrests and deportations. And, for the first time in US history, the GOP Congress invited a world leader (Netanyahu) to speak to a joint session without following protocol and going through the executive branch and the State Department.

Conservatives have circulated false emails and social media memes that falsely claim that Obama ordered crosses removed from military cemeteries, banned prayer at the military academies, and worse. They have compared the Obamas to gorillas. They have boldly stated that the First Lady is transgender and called for the Obama’s beautiful daughters to be raped.

At the same time, conservatives have not given Obama any credit for the good things he has done. They would have you believe that he only got Osama bin Laden based on previous efforts by the Bush administration. They have not credited him for trying to nominate a record number of members of the opposing party to his cabinet. They have not credited him for saving the US auto industry. They have not credited him for arresting the precipitous slide of our economy or for policies that have caused the stock markets to soar to record highs. They have not credited him for cutting the national deficit faster than any previous president. They have not credited him for preventing health insurance companies from exempting people for pre-existing conditions. And, instead of congratulating him for making health care available to millions of Americans, they have voted to repeal “Obamacare” dozens of times.

They have called President Obama the “food stamp” president, the “Imperial” president, the anti-gun president, a socialist, a fascist, and a n***er. They have blamed him for the gang violence in Chicago and violence against the police. They even blame him for the shootings of unarmed black men by police.

Finally, in a stunning show of hypocrisy, they actually have the chutzpah to blame him for increasing racism in the US! And the presumptive GOP presidential nominee who should never again be named is running on the slogan “Make American Great Again” – a dog whistle call to racists that may as well say “Make America White Again.”