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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 2nd Amendment: What Were The Framers Thinking?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Difference Between Muslim Extremists And Many Christian Evangelicals.

Spoiler alert: There is almost none!

Muslim extremists in the mold of ISIL and al-Qaeda are willing to martyr themselves to kill non-believers based on the bizarre notion that they will be greeted in the land of milk and honey by 72 virgins. On the other hand, extreme Christian evangelicals are willing to incite war in the Middle East by financing settlements in the West Bank based on their belief that establishing Israeli control of the “promised land” will lead to the return of their “Messiah.” As the story goes, that will prompt God to destroy the Earth while lifting true believers into heaven with the promise of everlasting life. For the same reason, many evangelical Christians deny that humans are contributing to climate change despite all of the scientific evidence that their inaction will lead to the extinction of more than a million species, the death of virtually all ocean life and rising sea levels that will displace or kill much of the Earth’s human population.

To these evangelicals, how the Earth is destroyed is of little concern. They are convinced the destruction will lead to their “rapture” one way or another.

Both types of extremists yearn to live under a theocracy based on the laws of their faiths. Both are contemptuous of other faiths. Both believe in the subservience of women. While Muslim extremists believe that women should cover themselves in public, many evangelical Christians view women as mere conveyances for children. Indeed, they are willing to impose the death penalty on any woman who dares to have an abortion for any reason, even in the case of rape or incest or threat to the life of the woman. They also believe that contraception is in defiance of God’s will.

Both groups believe they are persecuted. In fact, that is one of their primary tools for recruitment. Both refuse to accept that some of their accepted beliefs are the result of faulty translations of the scriptures. Both ignore the many contradictions in their gospels as well as the historical context in which they were written. And both groups are immune to conflicting information. They offer no room for discussion, debate or compromise. Indeed, they believe that doing so would be a betrayal of their faith.

Additionally, the extremists in both groups are masters of hypocrisy. We learned that some of the Muslim terrorists watched porn and visited strip clubs before committing their terrorist acts. Members of ISIL and Boko Haram have used rape as a weapon of war and have taken young women as slaves to bear their children. Meanwhile, many evangelicals live and preach “prosperity gospel” in complete contrast to the teachings of the man they claim to follow. Their leaders live in lavish mansions, are transported about in private jets, and some have been found to have engaged in embezzlement and other forms of financial fraud. And all of them enjoy the tax-free status of their religions.

Some of the evangelicals who are most outspoken against gays have been found to have gay lovers. Others have engaged in extramarital affairs. Some have even been found to have paid their mistresses to have abortions. And, recently, we learned that Jerry Falwell, Jr’s endorsement of Donald Trump came only after Trump’s “fixer” helped extort someone from releasing Falwell’s “embarrassing” photos.

Of course, there are extremists within virtually every religion. Yet, somehow, only one group of extremists is almost universally condemned by the majority population of the US. One really must ask why.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Real Tragedy Of Notre Dame de Paris.

In the 24 hours following the fire that partially burned the Notre Dame cathedral, donors have already pledged more than $1 billion for its repair. Certainly it was a tragedy for Parisians, for France, for Catholics and for the lovers of history and art. But consider what else could be done with that money. Imagine if the Vatican, an organization that holds approximately $1.6 billion in stockholdings, paid for the reconstruction of Notre Dame itself and the donors’ money was used to address far more serious tragedies elsewhere in the world. Imagine how much human suffering could be alleviated if corporations and the wealthy cared as much about people facing real hardships.

For example, $1 billion could provide approximately 3 billion meals for the Yeminis who are starving as the result of the US-backed war on Yemen by the Saudis. $1 billion could go a long way to address the tragic conditions faced by Central American refugees in their own countries. And what if we added the billions the Trump administration is squandering on a wall to feed the ego of the orange sociopath in the White House?

If the corporations and the wealthy so traumatized by seeing a Parisian landmark burn were equally concerned about human beings, they could solve most of the poverty in the world. They could improve conditions for most of people suffering as the result of war, climate change or the greed of brutal dictators. However, they only seem to care about the things that affect them directly or that have captured their imaginations.

Perhaps they’re merely influenced by media coverage.

As Notre Dame burned, many of the TV networks were transfixed, devoting virtually all of their time to scenes of the fire and of onlookers mourning. But on the same day, a fire broke out at the al-Asqa Mosque in Jerusalem. Where was their coverage of that fire? Where was their coverage of the three black churches in Louisiana that were burned by a white nationalist?

There are many serious tragedies in the world. Most go relatively unnoticed and unfunded. The fire at Notre Dame was not one of them.

Trumpism: Revenge Of The Misfits.

There has long been a phenomenon relating to those who have difficulty fitting in with polite society – people who look different than others; who are darker, bigger, taller, shorter, fatter, clumsier, or poorer. After being ostracized, bullied and left out, once they find others who have suffered from the same issues and band together, they, too, become bullies. And often they become more ruthless than those who have abused them.

I believe that phenomenon, combined with the anonymity of the Internet, is at the root of the rise of hate groups.

The Internet has become the sanctuary and gathering place to haters of a great variety. Most of these are people who have some sort of grievance: Young men who are unable to establish a relationship with a woman, those who despise the government and the so-called coastal elites, those who are jealous of people who are more educated and socially adept, those who fear different customs or different religions, and those who blame all of their problems on black and brown people, immigrants and refugees. The Internet affords these people a place to connect with the similarly aggrieved. It’s especially useful to white nationalists and neo-Nazis.

The anger of all of these haters has been mainstreamed by media such as Breitbart, right-wing radio and Fox News Channel. Moreover, Trump’s disdain for political correctness (i.e., polite and civil discourse) has given the haters a license to say and do whatever they feel.

We saw this in Charlottesville at the gathering of the “alt-right,” in Charleston at the Emanuel African-American Episcopal Church, in Pittsburg at the Tree of Life Synagogue and, most recently, in Christchurch, New Zealand at the Muslim mosques. These atrocities were all committed by people inspired by Trump’s attacks on Mexicans, Latinos, Muslims, people of color and Democrats – attacks that have been amplified by his most ardent followers on underground racist websites such as 4Chan and 8Chan.

Trump is the reason the number of active hate groups soared to an all-time high in 2018. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center that monitors such things, at the end of 2018, there were 1,020 active hate groups – white nationalist, neo-Nazi, anti-black, anti-Semitic, anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim groups whose members are willing to commit crimes. And these groups don’t even include the less organized “sovereign citizens” like Cliven Bundy and those who aimed their guns at government BLM employees and commandeered a nature preserve in Oregon. And they don’t include the Republican Party, which has become a hate group in its own right determined to punish opponents, suppress votes and deny civil rights to people of color, the LGBTQ community and Muslims.

Worse, thanks to Trump and his sycophants, these hateful ideologies are spreading around the globe. Indeed, Steve Bannon, Trump’s former Chief Strategist has been traveling Europe to spread his message of hate and fear financed by the billionaire Mercer family. At a recent European rally, Bannon told his audience that he wears the term racist as a badge of honor.

The goal is to unite the extreme far right to take over political control of western Europe. To what end we can only speculate. But it seems the intent is to destabilize western governments for the benefit of the oligarchs and autocrats. And, based on resentment of Syrian refugees and some long-standing grievances, they have had some success in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, even Sweden.

Unless our traditional political institutions are able to figuratively and literally disarm this movement, we can probably expect to see many more episodes similar to what we just witnessed in New Zealand.