Dear Trump Supporters: What Will It Take?

I understand that you chose to support The Donald because you wanted change. You were angry. You felt the economy was rigged. That you would be left behind. He promised to shake up the government and end business as usual.

He most certainly has done the that.

You’ve continued to support him despite abundant evidence that he colluded with Russian agents to rig the election and obstructed justice. You’ve supported him despite an avalanche of thousands of lies as documented by independent fact-checkers. You ignored his lies about an extramarital affair with a porn star. You’ve given him credit for his predecessor’s work in rescuing and expanding the economy. You’ve continued to support him as he alienated our longstanding allies and weakened NATO. You supported him as he took Putin’s word over that of our own intelligence agencies headed by Trump appointees.

You cried “fake news” at reports of his filling the “swamp” with an astounding menagerie of swamp monsters. You ignored the evidence showing that Trump, his family, and many of his cabinet appointees used their positions to line their bank vaults with taxpayer money. You seem not to care that he dismantled ethics offices and fired inspectors general whose job it is to investigate and expose the corruption. You seemed to take satisfaction in watching him take revenge on whistleblowers. You applauded his stonewalling of congressional oversight and his demands that administration officials ignore subpoenas. You’ve seen him dismiss investigative reporters whose job it is to expose government corruption by calling them “enemies of the people.”

You turned your backs on reports that the administration ordered children to be ripped from the arms of their refugee parents. You claimed not to see videos of those children confined in cages with only a foil blanket. You ignored the obvious racism of his calling Mexicans rapists and murders, of describing Latin and African nations as “shithole countries,” of referring to neo-Nazis and white supremacists as “good people.”

You continued to support him despite all of that. (Maybe because of it?)

You stood by your con man as dozens of former administration and government officials spoke up about his incompetence and his unfitness for office. You ignored the outrage of Republican leaders and strategists who have been repulsed by his actions. You watched as he corrupted the judicial system. You seemed not to care that he continues to hide his income taxes despite legitimate claims of money-laundering and tax evasion.

You cheered when the Senate refused to remove him from office as a result of his impeachment despite overwhelming evidence that he had broken the law by demanding the Ukraine to interfere in the upcoming election in exchange for congressionally-approved financial and military aid.

And what did you do when his incompetence led to the now 140,000 American deaths from the coronavirus? You blamed it on China and claimed his failed response was due to distractions caused by the impeachment. Following his example, you have contributed to the spread of the coronavirus by ignoring the pleas of scientists to practice social distancing and to wear masks. Not even Trump’s attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act in the middle of the pandemic has shaken your support. Nor has the addition of roughly $4 trillion to the national debt. And when his failures led to an economic collapse, you gave him a pass, blaming it on the CDC, the WHO, Dr. Fauci, and the media, instead.

Even when it became clear that Trump ignored reports that Russia offered payments to the Taliban for killing US military personnel, you have seemingly refused to blame him or even his buddy Putin.

So, I ask: What will it take for you to finally admit that you made a mistake by voting for a con man who has placed us all in danger? A president who operates more like a mob boss than a principled public servant? A man who is intellectually, ethically, and morally unfit to hold office? A man who has done more to serve Russia than the United States?

The Death Cult Of Donald Trump.

In the US, we like to think of our nation as the world leader. We cling to the notion of “American Exceptionalism” based on the belief that America is where dreams can come true. Where everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed.

It’s not true. And it never has been.

Yes, our Declaration of Independence from Great Britain stated, “All men are created equal.” Unfortunately, our Founders did not believe that equality applied to women. And they certainly didn’t believe it applied to people with a different color pigment in their skin. Our Caucasian ancestors enslaved them, stole their heritage, separated their families, and stole their land.

We’re still dealing with the aftermath of that inequity, resulting in discrimination along with inequalities in wealth, income and opportunity. True, the US did become the world’s lone superpower and we do print the world’s universal currency. But we no longer use that power to defend democracy and human rights around the world. Instead, under Republican leadership, we are seeing voter suppression, human rights violations, and a disregard for rule of law in our own country.

That’s not even the worst aspect of Republican leadership. Trump and his supporters are literally trying to kill you. The GOP has become a death cult. Don’t believe me? Look no further than the fact that 56 million Americans currently lack access to affordable healthcare. And, in the middle of a pandemic, the administration is asking the courts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which will take healthcare away from millions more.

A disproportionate number of those unable to afford healthcare are descendants of slaves and the nation’s original inhabitants who, along with recent immigrants, are unable to earn a living wage. Yet these people make up the largest portion of those who are considered essential workers during the pandemic. They are meatpacking workers, retail workers, farmers, and truckers. They work in grocery stores, restaurants, hospitals, and nursing homes. They prepare our food and clean our buildings. But even though they are called essential, to the GOP, they are expendable as evidenced by Trump’s White House advisor, Kevin Hassert, referring to them “human capital stock.”

And, of course, that perfectly describes how the administration is treating them. Despite large outbreaks of Covid-19 at meatpacking plants, they are forced to continue to work. Like other essential workers they are told that they will receive no unemployment benefits as long as their workplace is open. And, if they get sick as a result, they are limited to 5 days of paid sick leave. Is it any wonder then that the US leads the world in confirmed coronavirus cases (nearly 3.5 million) despite woefully inadequate availability of testing?

The US now has experienced more than 137,000 deaths due to Covid-19, roughly a quarter of all of the deaths in the world.

Taiwan, on the other hand, despite its proximity to China where the coronavirus is said to have originated, and despite receiving millions of Chinese visitors, has experienced just seven deaths. You read that right…seven deaths out of a population of 24 million! That means Taiwan’s death toll is .00005 percent of the US’s though it has roughly 14 percent of the US population!

Now Trump is campaigning to win re-election by trying to create fear of China and others as he did in 2016. But, clearly, the thing Americans should fear most is another four years of Trump.

We’re All Victims Of Trump Scandal Fatigue.

For many politicians, a single scandal has ended their careers. For Howard Dean it was a single, excited “Yaaay!” after losing the Iowa caucuses to opponent John Kerry. For Gary Hart it was an extramarital affair. For Hilary Clinton it was the use of a private email server as Secretary of State. But those are insignificant to any one of the scandals of Donald J. Trump.

In case you have forgotten them, they began with making racist statements about immigrants, demeaning the parents of a US soldier who died in combat, claiming Senator John McCain was a “loser” for being captured during the Vietnam War, bragging to a TV host that he grabbed women by their genitals, telling a radio host about walking into dressing rooms of his beauty pageants, and mocking a disabled reporter.

As his 2016 presidential campaign continued, we learned that more than a dozen women accused him of rape and sexual assault (including one who had been a teenager at the time). We discovered he had committed fraud with his charities and Trump University. We read that he had likely participated in money laundering by selling hundreds of millions of dollars of real estate to Russian oligarchs – a charge supported by the fact that he refused to make public his tax returns. We learned that Russian spies were interfering on behalf of his campaign and that the FBI and CIA documented dozens of contacts between his campaign and Russian officials. We even heard him ask Russia for help in uncovering the emails of his Democratic opponent.

Following the controversial results of his election, we heard him lie about the size of his inaugural crowd. In a blatant act of nepotism, he rewarded his daughter and son-in-law with White House jobs and classified access. We saw his National Security Advisor be fired and charged with lying to the FBI and secretly lobbying for a foreign government. We learned that he had paid hundreds of thousands to cover up extramarital affairs with a porn star and a Playboy model. And we heard him refuse to condemn the violence of neo-Nazis and members of the alt-right toward the counter protestors in Charlottesville, saying “there are good people on both sides.”

We saw him lie about his son’s pre-election meeting with a Russian agent offering dirt on Hilary. We saw him try to use his office to undermine the investigation of Russian election interference. We heard him call the FBI agents assigned to investigate “rogue” agents. We saw him kowtow to Vladimir Putin and take Putin’s word over that of our own intelligence agencies. And we saw a number of his friends and campaign officials plead guilty to crimes or be convicted in court as a result of the Mueller investigation.

Yet, despite the Mueller Report’s conclusion backed by reams of evidence that the Trump campaign requested and benefited from Russian interference, we hear Trump continue to call the investigation a hoax, say the investigation “exonerated” him, and refer to news reporters as “enemies of the people.”

We watched as Trump ordered his administration to ban entry to Muslims. We heard him threaten the future of DACA recipients – the so-called Dreamers. We saw his administration place thousands of Central American refugees in detention centers without access to toiletries, bedding or even water. We were shocked to learn that he ordered the separation of children, toddlers and infants from their immigrant parents placing them in cages with only an aluminum foil blanket. Yet, despite videos of the separated children and the accounts of reporters, he and his administration denied the obvious.

We’ve seen Trump spend more than 200 days golfing at his own properties resulting in the Trump organization receiving tens of millions in taxpayer money for rooms and golf carts for Secret Service agents. We’ve read reports of lobbyists and foreign officials spending tens of millions in Trump’s Washington, DC hotel in hopes of currying favor with the president. And investigative reporters uncovered corruption by numerous members of his cabinet – the Attorney General, the Treasury Secretary, the head of the EPA, the Labor Secretary, the Interior Secretary and more.

In just the past year, we saw him impeached for demanding the Ukraine announce an investigation of the Bidens in exchange for US financial and military aid. We also saw him ask for Chinese help for his re-election. We learned that he even made that a condition of his trade negotiations with China at the same time stating that he had no problem with China’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang. We learned that, for more than a year, he ignored Russian bounties to the Taliban for killing US soldiers. And we’ve seen 136,000 of our fellow Americans lose their lives as a result of Trump’s inaction and incompetence in dealing with the coronavirus.

Any one of these scandals would have ended the political career of any other politician or government official. So how does Trump survive? I believe it’s simply a matter of the sheer quantity of his scandals. By committing so many unethical, immoral, and illegal acts; by refusing to participate in any investigation; by claiming executive privilege; by firing anyone he considers disloyal; by constantly and blatantly lying; by politicizing everything, he keeps his political opponents, the media, and most of the nation in a constant state of outrage.

There simply isn’t enough time and there are not enough resources to fully investigate all of the scandals. Each real scandal is buried by an avalanche of news reports detailing the next one. And all of them are lost in the daily outrage over his insane statements, his drug dilated pupils, his slurred speech, and his revenge politics. It creates what I call scandal fatigue. So, is it true that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, as he once claimed, and nobody would care?

Maybe. He’s already done worse.

Long-Term Consequences Of Trump’s Failed Coronavirus Response.

When China first reported the outbreak of a novel coronavirus, the Trump administration had an opportunity to prevent, or at least to minimize, its impact on the US as previous administrations had done several times before. Instead, Trump dismissed the threat, telling us that China had everything under control. Then, when it did arrive on our shores, Trump called it a “Democratic hoax.” Apparently, he did not want to anger Xi Jinping. In fact, as we recently learned, instead of worrying about the coronavirus, he was trying to enlist China’s help for his re-election campaign.

When Covid-19 evolved into a full pandemic, Trump told us that it was only because of failed Democratic governors. Instead of leadership, he offered us false promises. And, instead of utilizing his emergency powers to provide Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), he created a bidding war between states and the federal government, prioritizing the needs of Republican-controlled states.

When the stock markets crashed and the economy stalled, he delayed emergency funds for the unemployed in order to have his name printed on the checks. Further, though he signed a second congressional bill to provide loans and more emergency funds, his administration refused to reveal the recipients, which has led Congress to suspect that Trump’s family businesses have benefited. And, instead of worrying about public health, he was laser-focused on pushing states to reopen their economies in order to improve his chances of re-election.

The short-term consequences have been devastating with now more than 2.6 million cases despite limited testing and nearly 129,000 deaths. Still, he refuses to show any real leadership by ordering the manufacture of more PPE and by ordering all Americans to wear masks to limit the spread of Covid-19. In fact, contrary to scientific advice, he held two rallies that will likely further spread the virus.

The long-term consequences could be even more devastating.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has written that the administration’s response and GOP policies are all but certain to lead to a “lost generation” of workers. He points to the 14 percent of the US population that is on food stamps and the projected 30 percent unemployment rate. “The numbers turning to food banks are just enormous and beyond the capacity of them to supply. It is like a third world country. The public social safety net is not working,” says Stiglitz.

He goes on to state, “If you leave it to Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell, we will have a Great Depression. If we had the right policy structure in place we could avoid it easily.”

The economy and staggering unemployment rate are only part of the problem. The trillions of dollars in additional debt will reduce our ability to fund other needs, such as infrastructure, safety nets, and national defense.

Trump’s failure to stem the pandemic has already led to a loss of US standing in the world, leaving those in other nations flabbergasted at our incompetence. That will have long-term impacts on tourism, trade, and alliances. The failure will also impact our already stressed and inadequate healthcare system. The pandemic has ended most elective surgeries and other procedures causing some clinics and hospitals to close. That will lead to even less access to healthcare, especially for the poor. And Trump’s defunding of the World Health Organization will only leave us more vulnerable to future viruses, some of which have already been identified in other parts of the world.

The Trump-ordered ban on work visas will create a brain drain for our research institutions and technology companies that can’t be fully replaced by our own residents. Americans are unlikely to quickly embrace sports, concerts and other large gatherings resulting in billions of losses annually. And since the Trump administration prioritized rescue funds for large corporations, we’re likely to see a further consolidation of brands and services.

The pandemic has already affected human rights in this country by leaving some of the poorest populations vulnerable as “essential workers” in nursing homes, groceries, and meat-packing plants. Worse, it has exposed those seeking refuge in this country who are being held in detention facilities. And it has caused others to be deported back to their countries of origin to be raped or murdered. Moreover, the GOP’s response to the pandemic will lead to further voter suppression which will most impact the poor and people of color, forcing them to risk infection in order to exercise their constitutional right.

Last, but certainly not least, the financial consequences of the pandemic, while temporarily stemming carbon emissions, will make it more difficult for the US to invest in renewable fuels to address the climate crisis.

The only conceivable answer to all of these crises can be summarized in one word: Biden. Or, if you prefer, two: Bye Don.

“Mississippi With Snow.”

During television coverage of the recent protests in Minneapolis, the head of the NAACP referred to Minnesota as “Mississippi with snow.” As a proud resident of Minnesota who has long tried to address the racism in our state, that was still difficult to hear. But it is an alarmingly accurate description. Despite the economic success of Minnesota (it’s home to numerous Fortune 500 headquarters) and our widely acclaimed creativity (in music, theater, advertising, graphic arts, culinary arts and more), the primary differences between the two states are that we have a harsher climate, fewer people of color and a different accent.

Once a bastion of Scandinavian-style liberalism and tolerance, Minnesota changed under the leadership of GOP governor Tim Pawlenty. It cut taxes and passed laws that rewarded the wealthiest Minnesotans while punishing the poorest. That punishment was felt most by Minnesotans of color.

In 2008, the population of Minnesota was just 4.6 percent black compared to 12.8 percent for the US as a whole. Similarly, the Latino population in Minnesota was just 4.1 percent versus 15.4 percent for the US. Yet, black people living in Minneapolis (there are precious few outside the Twin Cities) are nearly 6 times more likely to be poor than their white counterparts. A black college graduate in the state, on average, makes less than a white high school dropout.

In 2009, at the height of the Great Recession, the unemployment rate for black Minnesotans was 22.5 percent compared to 15.5 percent for Latinos and just 7.1 percent for whites. Again, in 2010, Minnesota ranked second in the nation for racial disparity in the jobless rate behind only Mississippi. Even in 2018, before the pandemic, when black unemployment was at a record low of 6.8 percent, black unemployment in Minnesota was nearly double the US average.

Nationally, for every $1.00 of income white households receive, Latino households receive 72 cents, and black households earn just 59 cents. For every $1.00 of wealth held by white families, Latino families have 12 cents, and black families have 10 cents! And one-third of black children live in poverty, compared to 12 percent of white children.

Police in Minnesota and elsewhere kill blacks at an alarming rate compared to whites. Each killing leads to mental health issues for most of the black population. And it’s not just police killing black people. Discrimination is literally killing blacks because they are less likely to be able to afford healthcare. (A fact that has been especially apparent with the impact of the pandemic on people of color.)

Moreover, people of color not only suffer from disparities in employment, income, wealth, healthcare, and opportunity. They suffer from disparities in education, policing, and voting.

In Minnesota schools are some of the most segregated in the US. Why? Because Minnesota was an early adopter of charter schools. And Minnesota law exempts charter schools from desegregation. Public schools are also highly segregated with many predominately black schools underfunded, which has resulted in a large achievement gap between blacks and whites.

Minnesota is not alone. The US spends $23 billion more on schools that serve predominately white students versus schools that serve predominately black and Latino students. Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans are expelled from schools at a higher rate than whites for the same transgressions. Too often, that leads to participation in the “justice” system and eventually to incarceration. Once they’re in the system, they find it hard to escape.

Per capita, blacks are 2.8 times more likely to be killed by police than white people. And believe it or not, Native Americans fair even worse. They are 3.1 times more likely to be killed by police than whites. Native Americans make up 0.8 percent of the population. But they experience 1.9 percent of all police killings. Many Native Americans live in poverty with no access to clean water. And many of their children are sent to outdate, mold-infested schools. Moreover, in an age of technology, many Native Americans have none. They not only lack high-speed Internet (a growing requirement for education). Many lack phone service.

And, if you think people of color can create change by voting, think again. A recent study by the Brennan Center for Justice found that black voters stand in lines 45 percent longer than white people. Latinos wait 46 percent longer than whites. And many Native Americans are unable to vote at all because some states require a street address, which most reservations lack. As a result of GOP voter suppression tactics, the situation is getting worse as evidenced in Georgia. Is it any wonder then that there are only 3 US senators who are black?

Now, following the murder of George Floyd, Minnesota has a real opportunity to make systemic change. As it has in many other ways, it can lead the nation. It can create an environment of justice and equal treatment for people of all colors and backgrounds. It can make its immodest slogan “Minnesota Nice” truly mean something.

Reimagining Police.

Since the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing violence, I’ve been struggling to know what to write about policing in America. Despite many encounters with lazy and corrupt Bullies With Badges, my attempts to identify and explain necessary changes have seemed inadequate. Fortunately, a former police officer has described the problems better than I, or most anyone else, could.

I highly recommend you read the linked article entitled “Confessions of a Former Bastard CopConfessions of a Former Bastard Cop.”

If you read it, I believe that you will never view police the same way again. There are far more than a few bad apples in law enforcement. The entire apple tree is decaying from its roots.

We’re All Complicit In George Floyd’s Death.

Let me begin by stating that Minneapolis is a great city. It has been home to world leaders in music, advertising, graphic design, theater, education, medicine and more. In addition, it has been home to principled and forward thinking political leaders such as senators Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale and Al Franken. The city has great dining and entertainment venues, as well as a full range of professional sports. Most of all, it has long been a clean and safe place to live. It has also been known as a place that is charitable and tolerant of others. For those reasons, it has accepted an amazing number of refugees – from Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Liberia, Somalia, Eritrea, Tibet and more.

That has made Minneapolis a particularly vibrant place where the warmth of its citizens more than offsets the sometimes frigid weather.

Unfortunately, the city’s tolerance has extended to corruption and racism. That became clear for all to see with the murder of George Floyd by four Minneapolis police officers. Though I’m not black, I have long been concerned about below-the-surface racism in the city after stumbling across corruption within the city council, the mayor’s office, and, in particular, the Minneapolis Police Department in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.

Police officers felt emboldened to stop people of color for any reason, at any time. They harassed the homeless. And some brutalized black people. From my office window, I personally witnessed six MPD officers cuff a black man, placing him face down in slush and snow. They then took turns kicking him before one finished the assault by emptying a can of mace in his face. I reported the incident, but since I was unable to get names and badge numbers, my report was ignored.

A series of police chiefs tried to clean up the mess that seems to have begun in the 1930s – one famous for his work in the South Bronx. But those chiefs were often blunted by the city’s police union. For example, when an off-duty officer brutally beat a college student in a downtown bar, he was fired. But the officer was returned to duty following arbitration and assigned to the role of department spokesman. Since then, many others have been fired for cause, but returned to duty following arbitration, even receiving back pay!

How on earth can any chief establish and maintain discipline under those circumstances? Though I support labor unions in general, the police union is most responsible for George Floyd’s death. But they are not alone.

The public has failed to demand better. Indeed, many are in denial that racism is a problem. Not here in Minnesota! They have decried racism at the same time they joined the white flight to the suburbs ostensibly in search of better schools, which explains why 65 percent of students in the city’s schools are children of color and 70 percent are living in poverty. Meanwhile, schools in some of the city’s suburbs have larger budgets and facilities that would shame many small colleges.

To be clear, Minneapolis is not an outlier. Racism exists in every city, in every state. Indeed, it has grown as result of President Trump’s actions and words.

Racism will only end when our governments – all of our governments – take it seriously and take steps to end segregation and inequality. More important, all of us need to confront racism whenever and wherever it raises its ugly head. We need to block the Websites which racists use to congregate and plan their hateful acts. We need to hold racist politicians accountable. And we need to make sure that law enforcement officers are charged for their crimes. The Minneapolis Police Department should take the advice of Mayor Frey and immediately arrest the officer who murdered George Floyd along with his three accomplices.

Religion Perverted.

As the pandemic spreads around the globe, we see indications that people are turning to religion for help and guidance. And though there is reason to believe that religion can help some people through difficult times, we should not forget the harm that morally bankrupt religious leaders can do.

In the US, we see televangelist Kenneth Copeland take a temporary break from his fearmongering and constant calls for donations to purse his lying lips and blow away the coronavirus in the name of God. We see GOP leaders praise the demonstrators who are defying science and common sense to “liberate” states by saying they are doing the Lord’s work in fighting for protection of the Second Amendment. And we see evangelical Christians pledge their undying support to a pussy-grabbing, money-grubbing, Muslim-hating, family-breaking, child-caging, refugee-deporting, race-baiting, narcissistic sociopath. In fact, they not only support him. They believe him to be sent from God!

All of this has led me to examine religion as never before.

Historians tell us that many of today’s great religions – Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam – were created to encourage good behavior as humanity evolved from nomadic tribes into settlements. As various clans and tribes began living together, there was a need for new rules. What better way to guarantee that someone would behave appropriately than to put the fear of God into them? Unfortunately, rules based on divine retribution do not encourage compassion and morality. They result in actions born out of mere self-interest – the idea that you will be rewarded for good actions and punished for bad actions. That is not morality. Morality comes from performing good deeds without regard to personal benefit merely because they are the right, just, compassionate, and moral thing to do.

I believe it is precisely because of the concept of divine retribution that religions are so easily perverted and abused. The concept allows for pastors, priests, parishioners, and autocrats to make judgments. It permits them to decide what their God would want. It is this concept that has transformed so many religions into cults focused on evangelism, profiteering, repression, and persecution…all in the name of God.

The notion that only my fellow believers know the will of God permits the sanctimonious to turn their collective backs on those most in need: The poor, the homeless, the downtrodden and the endangered. How else do you explain Christians rationalizing the deportation of refugees to almost certain abuse or death while celebrating the supposed prosperity gospel? How else do you explain Christians justifying discrimination of minorities? How else do you explain Israel’s Zionist apartheid toward Palestinians? How else do you explain Wahhabi extremists justifying the murder of non-believers? How else do you explain the genocide of Muslims by Buddhists in Myanmar? How else do you explain religious wars?

Throughout the world, we see churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples ignore the suffering of others in defiance of their own teachings. We see them use religion as a weapon in their pursuit of a homogenous society in which everyone shares the same skin color, the same sexual preferences and the same beliefs. We see predators use the trappings of faith to abuse children. We see televangelists use their platform to purchase mansions and private jets. We see religious majorities discriminate against people of other faiths. We see them commit murder in the name of God.

Studies have shown that atheists are no less moral than those who claim to be religious. If atheists are not bound by the concept of divine retribution, why are they just as likely to do good as their religious brethren? I submit that it’s out of an internal compass…an innate sense of right and wrong, of caring for others.

For me, that raises several questions: Is organized religion any longer necessary? If it doesn’t engender good behavior, what good is it? If it is used to discriminate and divide, would we not be better off without it? Moreover, why do we afford religions special treatment? Why has it become impossible for an atheist or a deist to be elected to office? Why do we exempt churches from taxes? Though churches provide a sense of belonging and the comfort of communal support, so, too, do many other clubs and organizations.

If we are ever to achieve peace, I believe we must all embrace the philosophy of Thomas Jefferson as expressed in his writing, “…it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg… Reason and free enquiry are the only effectual agents against error.”

Jefferson believed that religion was a private matter solely between himself and his creator. We would all do well to follow his lead.

What The US Could Be.

Our nation has reached a crossroads. Will we continue to slide further down the path to autocracy and cruelty where the nation’s leader is unaccountable, where the rule of law only pertains to those the leader says it should, where the leader puts his thumb on the scales of justice, where elected officials cater to corporations and the wealthy, where discrimination is accepted, where millions continue to live in poverty with fewer and fewer safety nets, and where those seeking asylum are locked in cages?

Or will we choose to vote for those determined to reclaim our government and reshape it to live up to its promise?

Consider what a Uniter-in-Chief, instead of a Divider-in-Chief, could do. Consider what a Congress focused on solving problems and representing the people – all of the people – could accomplish.

Unity: Instead of being divided by political and racial tribalism, we could be united in solving the greatest issues of our time. By rejecting GOP candidates determined to divide us for political gains over social issues such as abortion, religion, discrimination and wealth.

Right now, there are nearly 400 House-passed bills that have been denied a hearing in the Senate. Many, if not most, of these bills address bipartisan issues such as protecting patients with pre-existing conditions, lowering pharmaceutical prices, improving gun safety through universal background checks. Reshaping the Senate by rejecting those who would rather play politics than address the nation’s needs would end gridlock and allow us to address the issues that affect all of us.

Equality: We could treat each other as true equals. Over the past few decades, the GOP has resorted to voter suppression tactics in order to choose their voters rather than allow voters to choose their candidates. They have relied on extreme Gerrymandering, restrictive voter IDs, purging of voter rolls, intimidation, reducing voting hours and closing polling places in poor and black areas, and taking voting rights away from those who have served prison time.

It’s time to end these repressive and undemocratic practices; to end discrimination of all kinds. We must reshape all of our governments – including city, county, state and federal – and commit to restoring democracy and civil rights for all.

Equal Representation: We could dismantle the archaic Electoral College that prioritizes geography over people – a system that gives a voter living in Wyoming nearly 4 times the representation of a voter living in California.

Climate Crisis: We could save our planet from the most severe impacts of climate change.

Though scientists have known about the dangers of our reliance on fossil fuels since the mid-1960s, the issue was mostly ignored until former Vice-President Gore released the documentary An Inconvenient Truth in 2006. By the 2008 presidential election, it had finally become a political issue with both candidates promoting a policy of cap and trade to reduce carbon emissions. Since then, only one party has shown any interest in addressing climate change. The other, supported by the fossil fuel industry, refers to it as a hoax.

Let’s suppose for a moment that the GOP is correct and climate change is a hoax (it isn’t), what would be the consequences of addressing the issue and embracing clean, renewable energy? The consequences would be many high-paying jobs, cleaner air, cleaner water and an end to wars over reserves of oil. Oh, and Big Oil would no longer exert such control over our government.

Ecosystem: We could save the diversity and the beauty of the many species that share our planet.

Many parts of our ecosystem are collapsing. Bees, which pollinate our fruits, vegetables and grains, are dying as a result of the use of pesticides. There is a dead zone in the Gulf caused by the runoff of fertilizers from our farms. Glysophate, a known carcinogen used to control weeds permeates our drinking water and our foods. Fracking fluids have leaked into the aquifers many rely on for drinking water. Many of our coral reefs, home to most of our oceans’ fish, are bleaching and collapsing due to climate change. Our oceans are also showing the ill effects of decades of use as garbage dumps. Deforestation and trophy hunting has forced thousands of species to the brink of extinction. I could go on. Yet the GOP seems uniquely unmoved by the devastation.

Replacing GOP politicians with those who believe in science, who will fight for ecological understanding and justice, may be the only way to save thousands of species from extinction…including our own.

Military: We could use much of our gigantic $718 billion military budget to improve conditions for the citizens of our nation and elsewhere. And we could, for one of the very few times in our nation’s history, wage peace.

For those who think that reducing the military budget would leave us vulnerable, consider that our budget is equal to that of the next 8 countries’ combined. And 6 of those are allies. Moreover, we benefit from the more than $305 billion in military spending of the other 28 members of the NATO mutual defense organization. Finally, our military budget doesn’t include the more than $50 billion budget of the Department of Homeland Security or the nearly $220 billion for Veterans Affairs.

That means we’re currently spending nearly $1 trillion annually on defense and military-related issues. And we benefit from $305 billion more.

Healthcare: We could provide universal health care for all of our citizens and save thousands of lives.

Pharmaceuticals: By allowing the government, as the provider of universal health care, to negotiate with manufacturers and distributors, we could make necessary and life-saving pharmaceuticals affordable for all those who need them.

Religion: We could provide true religious freedom, including freedom from religion for non-believers. As Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God.”

Immigration: We could, once and for all, solve the issue of immigration by providing a path to citizenship for those who were brought here as children and have spent most of their lives in the US. We could create a system of work permits for those who are needed to raise and harvest our crops and to fill the jobs most US citizens don’t want. We could improve our system for those seeking asylum from violence and starvation in their home countries.

Economy: We could transform our economy from a plutocracy to a democracy that will work for all Americans. Not just the powerful and the wealthy. By eliminating the need for corporations to pay for their employees’ healthcare, we could demand that their savings be used to pay all employees a living wage. And, by asking the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes, we could invest in many other things that could benefit our nation, such as low-cost college education while, at the same time, decreasing deficits.

Infrastructure: We could create high-paying jobs that cannot be off-shored by committing to rebuild our aging and decrepit infrastructure: Streets, roads, bridges, railroads, seaports, airports and the electric grid.

Violence: We could address gun violence by ending the sale of the weapons of war. We could implement universal background checks, waiting periods and red flag laws. And we could address the issues that lead to violence, such as poverty, discrimination, lack of opportunity and easy access to guns.

Trump’s Broken Promises. (Part Seven – Race)

The Trump White House is fond of sending out emails and Tweets stating “Promises Made. Promises Kept.” He promised to bring people together; to improve the lives of blacks and minorities. But the promises broken far outnumber those kept.

African-Americans: Trump promised a New Deal for black Americans saying he would be better for African-Americans than any previous president. “What have you got to lose?” he asked. Then he immediately went about suppressing the black vote. Upon entering the Oval Office, he hired the White Nationalist Stephen Miller as one of his closest advisors. Not surprisingly, Trump’s policies have negatively affected blacks. For example, despite the growth of the stock market, the pay gap between whites and blacks has grown under Trump.

White Supremacists: The Trump administration has reportedly stopped tracking White Supremacist violence as a separate category of domestic terrorism despite a growing number of incidents and hate crimes. While the FBI used to track 11 different categories for domestic terrorism, the administration now uses a system with only 4 categories. One of those is the overly broad ‘racially-motivated violent extremism,’ which combines incidents involving White Supremacists and so-called ‘Black identity extremists.’ This is almost certainly intended to diminish the violence of White Supremacists.

Charlottesville: Rather than condemn the violent and murderous acts of White Supremacists who rallied in Charlottesville, Trump stated: “There were good people on both sides.” It appears that he didn’t want to alienate his base. After all, he was endorsed by David Duke, the KKK, violent militias and other White Supremacists.

Muslims: After taking office, Trump tried to enact a ban on all Muslims entering the US, except those from a few favored nations like Saudi Arabia. After the ban was overturned by the courts, he expanded it to include a couple of non-Muslim countries and it was eventually upheld by the Supreme Court. Now, after being acquitted by the GOP-majority Senate, he has expanded the ban again.

Jews: Though Trump has given Netanyahu and Israel virtually everything they’ve wanted, he has been no friend of Jews in the US. There’s no better example than the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue by a neo-Nazi. Afterwards, Trump blamed the victims by stating, “If they had protection inside, the results would have been far better.” He has also attacked Jews for not supporting him saying, “I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

LGBTQ: Throughout his term, Trump has escalated attacks on the LGBTQ community by using his “justice” department to make it legal to fire people for being gay or transgender under the auspices of “religious freedom.” He has moved to reverse healthcare protections for transgender people. And he has pushed to ban transgenders from serving in the military.

Latinos: From the moment Trump came down the escalator to announce his presidential campaign, it has been obvious that he has never cared to be their president. He began by calling Mexicans murderers and rapists. He has refused asylum to Central American refugees, sending many of them back to their home countries where they were murdered or abused. He placed thousands of would-be immigrants in camps under deplorable conditions. And he ordered immigrant children to be separated from their parents.