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.

How Ronald Reagan Destroyed America.

For many Americans, Ronald Reagan was a great president who reawakened and re-energized the nation as exemplified by the “Morning in America” commercials created by some of my friends. They even credit him for ending the Cold War. But the credit more accurately belongs to Gorbachev.

To me, Reagan will always be the person who used a hostage crisis to win election and who turned Americans against their own government by portraying it as the enemy. And that’s only the beginning of his negative impact on the US.

He famously ran up deficits and tripled the national debt. He flipped the economy upside-down with his Trickle Down theory of economics leading to extreme inequality in income, wealth and opportunity. Under Reagan, we saw the end of national usury laws making it possible for national banks to evade interest rate caps leading to interest rates of 18%, 30%, 40% and more. At the same time, Reagan took away the tax deductions for interest paid by middle class and poor Americans on auto loans, credit cards and other personal loans. One result, as evidenced by a new Institute for Policy Studies Inequality briefing paper by Bob Lord, is that the taxes paid by America’s billionaires have decreased 79 percent since 1980!

Known by some as the “Father of Globalization”, Reagan’s economic and trade decisions led to the offshoring of high-paying American jobs. As he embraced multinational corporations, he attacked the labor unions – the very organizations that created our middle class by fighting for living wages, healthcare benefits and safe working environments.

The Reagan administration supercharged the era of corporate consolidations and legalized stock buybacks for corporate executives. Those decisions led to multi-million-dollar annual compensation for corporate executives, inflated stock prices, and mass layoffs of workers.

And though Reagan criticized Carter for the capture of US embassy workers in Tehran, he was responsible for the deaths of 241 Marines, sailors and soldiers who were killed on his watch after he sent them to Beirut with no plan of engagement. He waged war on the island nation of Grenada – yes, Grenada – for aligning with Cuba. He also circumvented congressional oversight by creating a shadow government that illegally sold weapons to Iran in order to finance death squads in El Salvador and Nicaragua.

And maybe Reagan’s worst decision of all was to call for the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine that led to the likes of Fox News Channel, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, Alex Jones, and a host of others who have used hate, sensationalism and an avalanche of lies to divide us. I believe you can draw a direct line from that decision to Donald J. Trump and the most corrupt, conniving, inept and hateful administration in US history.

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 Five – Defense and Foreign Relations)

The Trump White House is fond of sending out emails and Tweets stating “Promises Made. Promises Kept.” And certainly Trump has kept a few of his campaign promises. But the promises broken far outnumber those kept. Following are but a few examples:

North Korea: Trump promised to bring an end to North Korea’s nuclear program. In fact, after emboldening Kim Jong-Un with two meetings, North Korea has not only accelerated its program. It has developed long range missiles capable of reaching North America.

Afghanistan and Iraq: Trump promised he would bring our troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq. Instead, after his ill-conceived assassination of Iran’s General Soleimani, we now have 14,000 more troops in the Middle East than before he took office.

ISIS: Trump promised he’d defeat ISIS. But it was the Kurds, Iran and Russia who did the most to defeat ISIS. And after they helped defeat ISIS, Trump abandoned the Kurds to be slaughtered by Turkey. He then provoked Iran by assassinating its leading general.

Palestine: Candidate Trump said that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be easy. Apparently, what he really meant was that it would be easy to pander to Israel while completely ignoring Palestinian issues. His actions have been completely one-sided: Recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capitol, legitimizing the Israeli development of the West Bank, legitimizing Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, and “negotiating” an Israeli-Palestinian “peace plan” without Palestinian participation.

China: Trump promised that he’d declare China a currency manipulator on day one. But, since the election, his administration announced that China is not a currency manipulator.

Syria: Trump promised he wouldn’t bomb Syria before ordering the bombing of Syria.

Russia: Trump promised that “nobody would be tougher on Russia than me.” But his election was aided by Russia and he kowtowed to Vladimir Putin at a summit meeting in Finland. Then he delayed congressional-imposed sanctions intended as punishment for interfering in our elections and took the word of Vladimir Putin over our own intelligence agencies.

On top of his broken promises, Trump has undermined our relations with allies, weakened NATO, and withheld nearly $40 billion in military aid to help Ukraine in an attempt to collect dirt on a political rival.

Trump’s Broken Promises. (Part Four – Military and Veterans)

In contrast to the many Emails and Tweets emanating from The Trump White House labeled “Promises Made. Promises Kept,” the Trump has broken far more promises than it has kept. Following are just those that relate to military families and veterans:

Respect For Military: Before the 2016 election, Trump said, “There’s nobody bigger or better at the military than I am.” Yet he famously avoided service in Vietnam by paying a doctor to claim he had bone spurs. During the campaign he also insulted a Gold Star family who lost their son in Iraq. And he called Sen. John McCain a “loser” for being shot down over Vietnam.

Before the election, he said, “If they listen to the military people, we probably wouldn’t be having an ISIS right now.” Yet after taking office, he said he knows more about ISIS than the generals do.

Caring for Military Families: Trump promised that military service members and their families would have the best medical care, education and support – “both when they serve and when they return to civilian life.” And though he did increase the already bloated military budget, much of it going for weapons we don’t need, he also transferred $2.5 billion in military funds to build his wall on the southern border. Those particular funds were earmarked for military counterdrug programs and for the replacement of dilapidated buildings and schools for the children of military families. And Trump intends to divert yet another $7.2 billion in 2020.

Non-Citizen Soldiers: The US has had a long-standing policy of offering the opportunity to gain citizenship for immigrants who serve honorably in our military. There were 24,000 such service members in 2012 (the most current information available). But, following their service, the Trump administration has deported numerous such veterans. More recently, the administration stated that children born to non-citizen military and government personnel serving overseas will not automatically be considered US citizens.

VA Health Care: Trump promised to cut wait lists and scheduling backlogs at VA hospitals and clinics. But, instead of cutting wait lists, he cut VA funding. And he proposed cutting benefits for disabled vets once they reach the minimum age for Social Security benefits.

VA Hotline: Trump promised to set up a White House hotline to make sure no complaint about the VA would fall through the cracks. At this date, no such hotline exists.

Veterans’ Jobs: He promised to create jobs for veterans. Instead, he froze hiring for the federal workforce. That means federal agencies are unable to replace those who have retired from the federal workforce, eliminating job opportunities for more than 70,000 veterans per year. Many of these veterans are disabled making it difficult for them to find work elsewhere.

Wars: Trump promised to end the “endless wars” and bring our troops home. Yet, today, as a result of his failed diplomacy and ill-advised actions, we have more soldiers in the Middle East than when he took office.

What Didn’t Happen In 2019 – The Year In Review.

Despite the release of the Mueller Report, the impeachment of Donald J. Trump, and numerous disasters and milestones, I believe 2019 should be remembered more for what did NOT happen. Following are but a few examples:

• The GOP-controlled Senate refused to vote on more than 400 House-passed bills – half of which were bipartisan.

• Congress failed to pass a bill to rebuild our aging infrastructure – our bridges, our rail system, our electric grid and more.

• The Trump administration continued to ignore the greatest threats of our time, including the climate crisis, the mass extinction of the planet’s species, the coming job losses from automation. In fact, the administration’s actions – pulling out of Paris agreement, expanding oil drilling, relaxing fuel standards for vehicles and reducing incentives for sustainable energy, the trade war with China – actually made things worse.

• The Trump administration continued to hold the $18 billion in reconstruction funds approved by Congress that were intended to rebuild Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.

• The federal government collected no income taxes from 91 corporations listed among the Fortune 500.

• There was no real effort by the Trump administration or Congress to reduce federal deficits and the ballooning national debt.

• There was no significant change in workers’ wages, despite large run-ups in the stock markets.

• There was no change in income inequality, wealth inequality or opportunity inequality. In fact, the gap between the wealthy and ordinary Americans continued to widen.

• There was no Senate or administration action to secure our elections. Indeed, the GOP rejected election security bills 3 times in 2019. And the GOP continued its efforts to suppress votes.

• There was no nuclear peace deal with North Korea. Instead, Trump removed the US from the ABM treaty with Russia to limit short and intermediate range nuclear weapons.

• There was no peace agreement with the Taliban and no end in sight for America’s longest-lasting war – the war in Afghanistan.

• There was no real effort to reach a peace agreement in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine. In fact, the actions taken by the Trump administration exacerbated the problems.

• There was no trade deal with China that would provide relief to American farmers or end tariffs on imports paid by US consumers.

• There was no federal action on gun safety measures such as universal background checks, bans on bump stocks, high capacity magazines and military-style weapons.

• There was no federal action to prevent mass shootings.

• There was no action taken to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a US resident and Washington Post contributor, or for yet another terrorist attack on US soil by a Saudi citizen.

• There was no effort to end the war in Yemen.

• There was no federal effort to combat white supremacist terrorism, the greatest terrorist threat to US citizens.

• There was no Brexit.

• And, once again, there was no effort by the Trump administration to represent or even reach out to all Americans. Instead, he continued to represent only his white nationalist base.

Destruction Of The US. (Part Fourteen – GOP)

This is the last of my 14-part series. But last certainly does not mean least. Without the treachery and complicity of the Republican Party, most of the other factors that are destroying our nation either would not be possible. Or they would be far less damaging.

The damage done to our government by the GOP began in earnest prior to the Nixon administration and has accelerated ever since. In 1968, Nixon undermined the Vietnam peace talks in order to benefit his election prospects. Similarly, he ordered the Watergate break-in to sabotage Democratic candidates during the 1972 election. Following Nixon’s lead, Reagan undermined the Carter administration’s efforts to release hostages from the US embassy in Iran in order to damage Carter’s re-election chances. Reagan attacked labor unions and, based on the discredited “trickle down” theory of economics, he cut taxes for the rich. George H.W. Bush led us in to war in the Middle East over oil. And two of his sons conspired to steal the 2000 election from Al Gore. Then George W. Bush led us into a war with Iraq on false pretenses.

But the GOP’s impact on our democracy has never been more damaging than it has over the past 11 years. During the Obama administration, it tried to undermine attempts to pull our economy out of a worldwide recession created by GOP policies. It blocked dozens of judicial appointments in the Senate culminating with its successful effort to steal a seat on the Supreme Court. And, having captured a number of state houses, it began instituting a wide variety of voter suppression laws in a blatant effort to prevent minorities and other Democrats from voting.

Since 2016, having colluded with a foreign rival to steal yet another election, it has allowed its Con-Man-in-Chief to sidle up to dictators, to bully allies, to promote white nationalism, to cut taxes for the ultra-wealthy, to take affordable health care from millions, to undermine public education, to roll back environmental protections, to block any attempts to address the climate crisis, to rip immigrant children away from their parents, and to pack our courts by giving lifetime appointments to young, and often unqualified, ideologues. The party has not only excused blatant abuses of power by Trump. It has openly participated in them as did William Barr in his handling of the Mueller report. Further, Republicans in Congress have tried to block any attempts of congressional oversight by the Democrat-controlled House. (Witness the behavior of House Republicans during the impeachment inquiry into Trump’s attempted shakedown of Ukraine.)

The GOP has run up trillion-dollar deficits in order to justify defunding all social safety nets, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps. At the same time, it has handed out subsidies to some of the world’s greediest corporations. Worst of all, the party has participated in the wholesale betrayal of our Constitution by accepting campaign money and other support from Russian oligarchs and excusing Russia’s interference in our elections.

It may have once been labeled the Grand Old Party as a result of Abraham Lincoln’s fight to end slavery and hold our nation together. But the only thing grand about it today is its level of hypocrisy and criminal behavior.

Destruction Of The US. (Part Nine – Consolidation Of Powers)

More than anything else, the framers of the Constitution were concerned that our fledgling nation could fall victim to tyranny. In particular, they feared that an authoritarian demagogue would be elected president and consolidate power to serve himself.

Given the current occupant of the White House, they had good reason to worry.

Yet the threat to our democracy has been building for quite some time. For decades, Congress has allowed its Article I Constitutional power to be diminished. For example, beginning with John Adams, Congress has allowed presidents to engage in a series of undeclared wars, despite the fact that the Constitution gives Congress the exclusive right to declare war. Never was that more problematic than in Korea and Vietnam. Though Congress passed the War Powers Resolution in 1973 in an attempt to claw back its authority to declare war, the law has not been consistently enforced. And, following 9/11, Congress gave President George W. Bush authority to pursue a war on terrorism, the ensuing presidents are able to strike in any nation at any time.

Further, Congress has acceded to the office of the president, the power to invoke tariffs. Though Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution says “Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises,” presidents have long claimed that tariffs are tied to foreign policy, which falls within their powers.

Similarly, presidents have attached many other responsibilities to their constitutionally-limited powers, which has allowed Trump to make many changes in our government policies by fiat – by executive order.

Worst of all, Congress has seemed to acquiesce to the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinion that a sitting president cannot be criminally charged even though that opinion does not appear in the Constitution and it has never been decided by the Judicial Branch of our government. And since the OLC is part of the Executive Branch, the opinion is akin to the president giving an opinion on his exposure to criminal charges.

Likewise, Trump has attempted to expand his powers by claiming Executive Privilege to block all current and former White House employees from testifying before Congress. A claim that, if allowed to stand, would all but completely prevent any form of congressional oversight – a congressional duty clearly given to Congress by the Constitution.

In a further attempt to negate oversight, he has even questioned the House of Representative’s authority to conduct impeachment hearings. And, to justify his many actions to personally enrich himself with taxpayer money, he has dismissed the Constitution’s Emolument Clause as phony.

Trump, like all of the presidents before him, has taken an oath to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States of America. Since he’s clearly unwilling to abide by that oath, he should be removed from office.

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.”