E Pluribus Unum (Out Of Many, One).

The phrase was first recommended as our nation’s motto in 1776 as part of the Great Seal of the United States. It was meant to signify the union of the 13 colonies. But, over time, the meaning was expanded to embrace the fact that our nation is comprised almost entirely of immigrants from every part of the world – people who came here seeking liberty and refuge from persecution.

My, how things have changed!

Even though the motto still appears on the Great Seal, a seal that hangs on the president’s lectern, it now stands in open contrast to whatever comes out of that hate hole – that source of limitless lies – he calls a mouth. Instead of promoting unity, he creates division. Instead of respecting his political opponents and debating policies, he calls for his followers to lock them up. Instead of inspiring freedom and liberty for all, he inspires hate. And instead of welcoming the oppressed, he himself orders their oppression.

He has ordered refugees to be herded into cages that would be considered inadequate for animals. He has ordered children and babies to be ripped from their parents’ arms. He has deported veterans who risked their lives in war zones while wearing our uniform, forcing them to leave their spouses and children behind. He has reinvigorated white supremacists and neo-Nazis – many of them marching under the banner of religion. He has tried to disenfranchise the LGBTQ community by pushing for “religious freedom” – the freedom to deny others their civil rights. He has attacked our most cherished institutions, including the CIA, the FBI and the free press. He has openly shown admiration for dictators and expressed jealousy for their brutal control. At the same time, he has expressed contempt for those who have competing ideas for the future of our nation. He has pushed scientists, experts and loyal public servants out of our government, replacing them with grifters, know-nothings and sycophants.

Most recently, he has resorted to a long-time racist trope telling four congresswomen of color to go back to the countries they came from. He tells those who don’t support him to “love it or leave it” ignoring, of course, the fact that before he took office no one complained more about our government than he did. Worse yet, having repeated lies about a black congresswoman, he proudly stood by as the almost entirely white crowd at his political rally chanted “Send her back!” Instead of trying to stop the chant or to speak over it as he claims, he proudly stood there basking in the moment obviously pleased with the hatred he had fomented.

If this poor excuse for a man – this contemptable bully, this pussy-grabber, this serial philanderer, this abuser of the poor, this unapologetic racist, this grifter, this obstructer of justice, this traitor – is allowed to once again assume office, we should consider changing the motto to something more appropriate, such as the slogan on the back side of the Seal “Annuit coeptis” (He favors our undertakings). The He being Putin. Or maybe we could look to our past to find something suitable that’s more succinct, such as “Whites Only!”

And we should change the nation’s name to The Former Democratic Republic of The United States.

Whatever Happened To The Golden Rule?

The idea that we should treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves is a bedrock principle of many religions and cultures. Indeed, it was one of the first things I was taught in my middle American Christian church.

Given its importance to most faiths, one must wonder how today’s Christian evangelicals could have strayed so far from it. Despite their Bible stating that they have an obligation to treat strangers in their land with dignity and hospitality, the Christian evangelicals who support Trump in large numbers have simply ignored or denied the inhumane treatment of refugees seeking asylum. Confronted by the horrifying image of a young father and his daughter lying face down in a river having drowned in their attempt to find refuge, those same evangelicals simply turned away blaming the father for their deaths. And after viewing a cage filled with immigrants forced to live for weeks on concrete floors without ready access to water or even enough room to lie down, our holier-than-thou Vice-President seemed pleased.

What is wrong with these people? Did they not read their Bible? Did they miss that their religion was once based on compassion and kindness? Did they forget that the man they supposedly worship reached out to the poor and the oppressed with kindness? Did they forget that he gave the needy food and even knelt to wash their feet? Have they never read Matthew 25:40 in which Jesus is reported to have said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”?

How can the people like Pence, who wear their religion on their sleeves and profess piety, turn their backs on the needy and the displaced? How can they tolerate seeing children ripped away from their parents, caged for months without beds and basic toiletries then lost in the system and turned over to foster parents after their parents have been deported? How can they accept women being held in horrible conditions and told to drink out of toilets? How can they accept a single death of a child in our custody? How can they support a man who would order this treatment; who has bragged about sexual assault – even of children; who routinely threatens those who oppose him; whose every statement is a lie; who basks in his own racism, greed and cruelty?

If this is their religion, and I am certain it is, I want nothing to do with it. Neither should anyone else. There is no need for evangelists of hatred and greed. There are already more than enough of those people to go around.

Filling The “Swamp” With Predators And Know-Nothings.

In 2016, Trump promised voters that he would “drain the swamp” of lifelong politicians and lobbyists – the so-called “Deep State.” To a degree, he has done that. But, instead of banning lobbyists from the corridors of Washington, he has encouraged them to stay in his Washington hotel and at Mar-a-Lago where he and his family can better profit from their activities. Instead of bringing in the “best people,” he has replaced longtime public servants and scientists with know-nothings and predators – those seeking to use their positions, like Trump, to enrich themselves and their friends.

For Treasury Secretary, he replaced the controversy-free Jack Lew with Steve Mnuchin, a product of Wall Street and Hollywood who aggressively pursued foreclosures during the Great Recession and who, once in office, promptly decided he could use taxpayer-funded military aircraft for personal use.

For Interior Secretary, he replaced the pro-environment Sally Jewell with Ryan Zinke who rode a horse (cared for at taxpayer expense) to his office, demanded that the secretary’s flag be flown over the building when he was in residence, gave away federal lands to states and the mineral rights to the highest bidders, claimed climate change is “unproven” science, chartered taxpayer-funded jets for private use, reduced national monuments and sacred tribal lands in order that they could be opened for drilling and mining, and rescinded numerous environmental regulations.

For Director of the Environmental Protection Agency, he replaced Gina McCarthy, a long-time environmental scientist, with former Senator Scott Pruitt, a man with no science background who was not only cozy with the oil industry. He had spent years fighting the agency in court on behalf of polluters. Pruitt promptly began using the office for personal gain, in addition to spending thousands on an unnecessary sound-proof booth for phone calls. He then went about dismantling a host of environmental regulations for the benefit of himself and his fossil fuel buddies.

For Energy Secretary, he replaced Grace Bochenek, an industrial engineer and former director of the National Energy Technology Laboratory, with former Texas governor Rick Perry, who has spent his career in politics. His only qualification for the office is that he has a degree in animal science and in yelling from a snotty military school (yes, that’s an accurate description of ATM). And his only knowledge of the department he leads was that, while campaigning for president, he wanted to dismantle it. Only after he was installed in office did he discover that the department controlled our stockpile of nuclear weapons and other assets.

For Commerce Secretary, Trump replaced Penny Pritzker, an entrepreneur and successful businesswoman with Wilbur Ross, a fellow grifter and friend of Trump’s. In contrast to his predecessor who sold her interests in 221 companies to avoid conflicts of interests, Ross is a walking, talking mass of conflicts of interests. He not only failed to divest of his financial holdings, he has been accused of using his position to further enrich himself through insider trading.

For Labor Secretary, he replaced Tom Perez, a civil rights champion and former Maryland Secretary of Labor with Alexander Acosta. Instead of fighting for labor, Acosta has overseen the dismantling of labor unions. But he is best known for his plea-bargain with billionaire sex predator and pedophile, Jeffery Epstein, a deal that has come back to haunt him.

I could go on. But you get the idea – at least you should.

The rest of the Trump administration, a group brought in to “drain the swamp,” consists largely of sycophants and political operatives: Sonny Perdue, Elaine Chao (Sen. McConnell’s wife), Ben Carson, William Barr, and Betsy DeVos. Most of the other cabinet members, including White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, serve as acting directors or secretaries – likely because they would have difficulty being confirmed. In addition, those who serve in acting roles are less independent. They are more malleable and willing to accept Trump’s corruption. And who could forget “Javanka” – Ivanka and Jared Kushner – the grifters in training who serve as Trump’s closest advisors? They couldn’t even obtain security clearance without the intervention of Trump himself. The rest of the administration is comprised of people who operate behind the scenes to push an extreme agenda of racism, misogyny and homophobia.

Of course, there have been a few – very few – who have served this administration with integrity and honor. But they soon resigned or were fired.

So, contrary to a reclaimed swamp, Washington has become populated by a new set of swamp monsters far more dangerous and greedy than any who preceded them. It is now even more fertile ground for predators, grifters and con artists. Would you expect anything less from the predator-in-chief?

God save us if he gets another four years and a compliant GOP-controlled Congress!

The Rebranding Of The United States Of America.

The Revolutionary War was not only a response to tyranny. It was a reaction to Great Britain’s militarization of the colonies. That’s why the Founders were opposed to a standing army. Indeed, that was why the 2nd Amendment tied the right to bear arms to a “well-regulated militia.” But, over time, our population has embraced militarism to a degree that would almost certainly make the Founders shudder.

It is this militarization that has caused the US to be at war all but 13 years of our nation’s 243-year existence. Want to expand our territory? Take the lands from Native Americans. Want to control Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guam and the Philippines? Race to a war with Spain over false pretenses. Want to annex the American Southwest? Gin up a war with Mexico. Want to open trade with China? Attack the weakened dynasty. Want to give our corporations access to an endless supply of bananas? Send our troops into Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Nicaragua. Want a shorter path from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific coast? Threaten war with Colombia which controlled Panama. Want to protect our corporations’ access to the natural resources of Southeast Asia? Send military “advisors” into the region. Want to control Middle Eastern oil and establish a military base in the region? Send our troops into Kuwait and Iraq.

Despite an already long, sad history of bullying, what may have launched the militarization of the US was the poetic tribute of Francis Scott Key to our battle flag during the attack on Fort McHenry. Since then, the “bombs bursting in air” imagery has been taken far too literally. And it really ramped up during the age of television following WWII. That’s when the networks discovered they could cheaply fill time with movies celebrating the military heroism of our soldiers in Europe and Asia along with cartoons that vilified Germans, Italians and Japanese.

Since then, militarism has often been confused for patriotism.

Indeed, it seems each year we celebrate militarism more than peace and freedom. Military flyovers begin each major sporting event. The National Anthem precedes every major event and many minor ones. And, more recently, the flag has been co-opted by those who seem to fail to understand and appreciate its true meaning. Witness Trump’s show of literally embracing the flag.

The effect has been devastating. The symbol of America has been rebranded. Once revered internationally as a symbol of freedom and good, more and more, the stars and stripes has come to represent a threat, racism, an inflexible and unforgiving form of religion, and a political party led by a bully.

Never has that been more apparent than during the July 4th Trumpalooza in Washington, DC. An event intended to celebrate our freedom from tyranny was turned into a political display of our military might. VIP tickets were given only to donors and supporters by the RNC. There were tanks and other military hardware on display and there were flyovers by our latest and greatest war machines.

The event cost millions. For what purpose? To appease the current occupant of the White House; to make him feel as powerful as the dictators and strong men he so admires; to jumpstart his re-election campaign. It wasn’t a celebration of our nation’s founding so much as an opportunity for Trump to use the military and our flag as a brand that he can sell to multinational corporations, military contractors, evangelicals and racists.

Instead of celebrating our Dear Leader and his favorite weapons of war, we would be better advised to consider the wise words of Benjamin Berell Ferencz, the last living prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials: “War makes murderers out of otherwise decent people. All wars. And all decent people.”

A Primer On Freedom For Trump Supporters.

Following our annual celebration of freedom known as Independence Day, and given recent events, it has become clear that some of you – including our president – are unclear as to what freedom actually means. So I’ll attempt to clear that up for you.

Wikipedia defines freedom as “…having the ability to act or change without constraint. Something is “free” if it can change easily and is not constrained in its present state. In philosophy and religion, it is associated with having free will and being without undue or unjust constraints, or enslavement, and is an idea closely related to the concept of liberty. A person has the freedom to do things that will not, in theory or in practice, be prevented by other forces.”

Those “other forces” are, by necessity, laws. In order for all those within a given society to enjoy a large degree of freedom, there must be limits. Without them, freedom would quickly devolve into anarchy.

Though not themselves perfect, our Founders hoped to usher in an Age of Enlightenment. Through the Constitution, they hoped to create a nation that would serve as a model for the world in which its inhabitants were free from tyranny…even tyranny of the majority. That’s why the Constitution created a framework of laws. Why it forbade the establishment of an official religion. It’s why the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the rights of assembly. It’s why it guarantees the right of citizens to petition the government. It’s why it created a government elected by the people and a court system in which the people could address grievances. And, to ensure equality, Article IV states, “The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states. (In other words, all states.)

That stated, perhaps the best way to define the liberty that our Founding Fathers gave us is to look at what it is not.

For example, dear Trump supporters, you and your hero do not have the freedom to proclaim the United States a Christian nation. Nor do you have the freedom to deny rights to those who practice a religion different than yours or to those who practice no religion at all – no matter how much that may offend you. Freedom does not give you the right to impose your religious beliefs on others. Freedom does not give you the right to harass, bully, assault or threaten those who look different, worship differently, love differently or vote differently than you. And it certainly doesn’t mean that you are free to cage, torture and detain indefinitely those who speak a different language than you just because they crossed our borders seeking refuge.

It does not give individuals and corporations the freedom to cheat, steal or cause harm to others. It doesn’t mean that you are free to pollute the air and water that we all need to survive. Or to steal our natural resources. It doesn’t give you the right to deny medical care and needed pharmaceuticals to others if doing so is against your perverted faith. It does not give you the right to deny other citizens the opportunity to vote even if you disagree with their choices. It does not give your president and his family the right to enrich themselves by pillaging our nation’s coffers. It does not give your Mango Mussolini and his wealthy friends the right to move their profits offshore in order to avoid taxes thereby forcing the rest of us to pick up their share.

And it sure as hell doesn’t give your politicians the right to seek and use the assistance of a foreign adversary in order to defeat their opponents!

Why I Won’t Be Celebrating This Fourth Of July.

On the eve of the Fourth of July and our wannabe dictator’s MAGA tribute to himself, we should pause and consider how patriotism has been commandeered by his political party to divide rather than to unite; to celebrate military might over the ideals of our founders; to benefit the greed of a few over the needs of the many; to use power to exact cruelty upon those less fortunate; to ignore human rights and the will of the majority; to deny civil rights to those who have a darker skin, who worship or love differently.

Once a celebration of our freedom from tyranny, Trump has turned the July 4th celebration in our nation’s capitol into a for-profit celebration of his power. He and the RNC have sold seats in a VIP section for his wealthy followers and lobbyists. He has filled his hotel with those seeking access to his office at the cost of $964 to $4,200 a night. He has redirected millions intended for defense in favor of military flyovers and a display of tanks. He has redirected millions in admission fees from national parks intended for maintenance and improvements to pay for his crass political rally.

His celebration should be met with outrage and derision.

Yet Trump is only a symptom of the political party and philosophy he represents. For many years now, members of the GOP have claimed to be the only true patriots – our country right or wrong. And more often than not, they have been on the wrong side of history – fighting against Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the Civil Rights Acts, leading us into unnecessary wars, passing tax cuts for the wealthy, pushing us further into debt, and leading us into economic calamities.

That’s why I’ll be ignoring tomorrow’s spectacle in Washington and it’s why I’ll be flying the battle flag of the republic upside-down.

How can we celebrate narcissism and contempt for norms? How can we celebrate perpetual war over the control of oil resulting in the deaths of the brave? How can we celebrate our government’s mass cruelty toward those seeking refuge in the land of the free? How can we celebrate greed? How can we celebrate a government led by someone who failed to win a majority of votes and was put in power only with the help of a foreign rival? How can we celebrate alongside a president who embraces dictators while shunning our allies? Who shows contempt for all those who voted against him? Who separates families at our southern border and incarcerates children in worse conditions than the terrorists who attacked our country?

Instead of watching our Dear Leader’s celebration on the national mall, we should read the Declaration of Independence as we dine on our hot dogs. We should read the Constitution over a good beer. We should read the many writings of the founders in order to better understand their intent and the age of enlightenment. We should read a civics textbook as we enjoy a slice of apple pie. Better yet, we should read the Mueller Report.

Then we should ask ourselves: How did we get here? How did everything go so wrong? How can we accept our nation’s many faults and try to make amends for the fact that it stole the land from the original inhabitants through genocide and built much of its wealth on the backs of slaves? How can we live up to the ideals of our founders and not their personal failures? How can we better stand up to those who would take us down the wrong path? How can we help the USA to become a better nation?

How can we end the senseless gun violence – the slaughter of children? How can we give all of our residents equal access to quality health care? How can we better provide our citizens education and equal opportunity? How can we better encourage and utilize their unique talents? How can we make certain that all of our citizens have the opportunity to exercise their right to vote? How can we improve our justice system to make it truly blind to color, religion or sexual orientation? How can we better help and welcome those seeking asylum from tyranny as our ancestors were welcomed? How can we be a better example for others in the world? How can we help others enjoy our freedoms? How can we end war? How can we address the growing threat of climate change? How can we make the planet we share with more than a hundred other nations better?

To me, that is what true patriotism means. Not some display of military might in honor of a sociopath who is an illegitimate occupier of our nation’s highest office.