How does this happen? 14 Months Ago White Supremacists Marched Through Charlottesville, Virginia chanting “Jews will not replace us” and President of The United States Donald Trump chastised those who called the vile bastards out, saying “THERE ARE GOOD PEOPLE ON BOTH SIDES,” encouraging and validating far right extremists of every ilk. Today, in the wake of yet another tragic instance of hate and violence, he reads words of shock and indignation from a teleprompter and wonders how this could happen. This is Trump’s America, and if you support him, his race-baiting dog whistles, and his brand of vitriolic hate-mongering, THIS IS YOUR AMERICA. You made this.
In a shocking (to civilized human beings) development, Indiana Governor Mike Pence flourished his
burning cross ballpoint pen and signed Senate Bill 101, the ” Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” a so-called “religious freedom” law which forbids state or local governments from “substantially burdening a person’s ability to exercise their religion–unless the government can show it has a compelling interest and that the action is the least-restrictive means of achieving it.”
Just what the hell does that mean? In short, it means that as of July 1, any business in the state of Indiana can deny services, employment, or acknowledgement of anyone based on their religious beliefs. Practically speaking, it is a license to practice bigotry.
Governor Pence, denying that the law does any such thing, said “This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination I would have vetoed it.” Leaders of the Republican-controlled senate called concerns nothing more than a “misunderstanding.”
But Eric Miller, the Founder and Executive Director of Advance America stated, a leading supporter of the legislation, said “It is vitally important to protect religious freedom in Indiana. It’s the right thing to do. It was therefore important to pass Senate Bill 101 in 2015 in order to help protect churches, Christian businesses and individuals from those who want to punish them because of their Biblical beliefs!”
Because the 85% of people in the state of Indiana who identify as Christian suffer daily at the hands of the overbearing, rights-denying, freed0m-hating, gods-damning unwashed 15 who haven’t been bathed in the blood of the lamb, so to speak.
A press release from the ironically titled Advance America continued “Churches, Christian businesses and individuals deserve protection from those who support homosexual marriages and those who support government recognition and approval of gender identity (men who dress as women). SB 101 will help provide the protection…Christian bakers, florists and photographers should not be punished for refusing to participate in a homosexual marriage!”
The bill passed despite loud public outcry from citizen groups, celebrities (including Indianapolis Colts Punter Pat McAfee, who grew up about half an hour down the road from my home–good for you, Pat!), businesses, the NCAA and the sponsors of several major conventions that bring millions of dollars to the state have expressed serious concerns, not only for the economic impact of this bill but for the safety and welfare of conventioneers, business persons, employees, and others who might suffer the soon-to-be legal wrath of Christian extremists looking for payback after losing their struggle against equal marriage rights last year.
It is telling that Pence signed the bill during a private ceremony, which was barred to both public and press, in his Statehouse office just before 10 a.m. Thursday. He was joined by supportive lawmakers, Franciscan monks and nuns, orthodox Jews, and some of the state’s most powerful lobbyists on conservative social issues.
While this bill is aimed at punishing and denying civil rights to homosexuals, I’m curious what happens the first time, say, a Muslim store owner denies service to a Jewish patron, or perhaps a Hindi restaurant owner refuses to seat a Muslim–or, for that matter, a southern Baptist hotelier denies lodging to Catholic? It is a slippery slope, once we step away from the ideal of equality–I mean, what are the Scientologists going to do with this law? I shudder to think.
It’s going to suck to live in some corners of Indiana for a while, but supporters of equal rights should take comfort in the absolute surety that bigoted business owners in all but the most insular communities will quickly feel the financial effects of their discriminatory practices. Indeed, the main reason that shameful laws like this pass is because it requires the average person to sit quietly by and let the professional hate-mongers who make careers of sewing discord do the dirty work.
I very much hope that a network is quickly formed to call out the hidden bullies who will pick and choose when to use religion as a cudgel to wield against their neighbors. In fact, I’d love to see someone call out businesses in the State of Indiana who intend to adopt discriminatory policies because–you know what?–most of them are going to be too cowardly to actually see it through, let alone admit it publicly.
And, once again, I offer this old rhetorical chestnut: WWJD do, brothers and sisters?
And by the way, fellow Pennsylvanians–get off your high horses, we’ve got one of these laws too.
I missed the whole “No-Go Zone” brouhaha of Fox News and Bobby Jindal in real time, having more important things to do like chase my wife around the house, whooping like a b-movie indian and accompany her on a quick lark of a trip down to Pittsburgh, an hour to the south, and back, for gourmet popcorn (I’m not kidding–add “standing in line for 25 minutes to pay $22 on popcorn” to the list of First World Problems), a bunch of Trader Joe deliciousness, and the best freaking shawarma and kibbeh EVER at Basha21 on Murray Ave. I moaned like a sexed up reverend while I ate food cooked up by the owners, right in front of us, and vowed to give ’em a plug. (This is it. This is the plug: eat some. Fly into the city if you must, or take the train–just have some.
Anyway, I can’t leave the internet alone for more than an hour and it gets itself in trouble, this time by some asshat on Fox News, an “expert” who raised a great stink in assuring that there were large swaths of France and England which are essentially “No Go Zones” for anyone who isn’t Muslim, places where even local government and law enforcement fear to go, where Sharia law is imposed. If that sounds like a April Fools story, you’re not alone. It turns out it was exactly that, and Fox News reluctantly walked back the story and apologized.
Not so Louisiana governor and republican presidential hopeful Bobby Jindal, a once-rising star in the GOP who, despite the earliness in the race, is already struggling for relevance in a post-Obama election where only one thing is certain: there ain’t no way right wing America is going to put another brown-skinned guy in charge, even if he was the second coming of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy himself. I’ve got a better chance to be President than he does so, naturally, when confronted by journalists the dude doubles down. Fox retracted, but not him. It’s beautiful.
I said, “For all you head-in-the-sand dirty rotten truth-deniers laughing at Fox News and Bobby Jindal this morning: “No-Go Zones” are absolute truth. We even have them in my small Appalachian university town. Of course, ours are enforced by Presbyterians, but…. #comedyisntthisfunny”
I immediately got this response from a conservative friend: A Pilipino women (sic) from my church will no longer travel back to the Philippines to visit her family because of the large Muslim population and the threat Catholics feel from radical Muslims. There may be no such thing as no go zones but there are areas around the world where the radical Muslim population is high and Christians will not go unless they want to risk death.
No good joke goes unpunished, it seems, so I was compelled to a retort about which I ended up feeling proud:
Plenty of dark corners in the third world–including some in Louisiana. But Jindal wasn’t talking about Nigeria or the The Philippines, The idea that people hate and fight over religious constructs is hands down the most absurd element of humanity–and the reality that cynical politicians like Jindal all over the world, regardless of creed, employ fear and hatred as tools to galvanize support is the most disgraceful. One might even call it sinful. Yet that’s what this is all about: all this Caliphate and Sharia nonsense has been stirred up by leaders over there, in an effort to maintain and expand their influence, and we in the west respond with bluster and bombs, playing right into their hands. The people doing the actual fighting on both sides believe they’re being noble, but they’ve been sold a rotten bill of goods. It’s telling when someone like Jindal, caught in his misstatement, refuses to admit it when even Fox has issued a retraction, but that too is a political strategem: tell a lie long and loud enough and it becomes like the truth.
There’s little left for the rest of us to do but laugh. Like Elvis (not that Elvis, the other one) said, “I used to be disgusted, now I just try to be amused”
I had decided to sit out Martin Luther King Day on the blogging front, and I was not missed. People with greater eloquence, in grander forums than this, did a much better job of eulogizing and celebrating this great man, than I could ever do. Several times during the day, my thoughts turned to Dr. King, his legacy, and his as-yet, largely unfulfilled dream. More precisely, I dwelt upon the refusal of a large portion of Americans to believe that “the dream” is indeed unrealized.
When I think of Dr. King, I think of two images: the one above, from behind his shoulder looking out over the massive crowd at reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial, when he made his famous speech. The other, for obvious reasons, is this one, a representation of the reality that greeted, and continues to greet, so many Americans.
I’ve said it a hundred times: it’s good to be a white man in America. I know how lucky I am.
The reason I decided to write about Dr. King after all was not a solemn one. I scribble right now because it just dawned on me that by a quirk of the calendar this year the politically determined MLK Day, which is scheduled to always occur on a Monday, coincides with Robert E. Lee’s birthday. This isn’t the first time this has happened, and it won’t be the last, but it’s the first time I’ve been cognizant of it and I have to say: the convergence of these two, very different, iconic historical figures pleases the heck out of me.
Specifically, I’m enjoying the hell out of ruminating on just how vexing this must be the the rebel-flag waving “you can’t possibly understand southern culture” crowd. I imagine them getting all confused with their crosses and Tennessee battle flags, forgetting which one they’re supposed to fly in front of their mobile homes, and which they’re supposed to set on fire and, as a result. a tangible uptick in the number of trailer fires today in Tickdick, Mississippi and Flatass, Alabama.
Is it wrong to be a wise ass? Probably, but I’m not much for decorum or solemnity. I’ve never been very good at either. There is a part of me that his hopeful–the part that wonders if the high profile deaths of so many black men and children, and the inevitable push back from law enforcement, politicians, and a lot of clueless civilians reflexively defending the status quo, isn’t a temblor that might indicate the possibility of a culture-altering earthquake of enlightenment. Cops have been doing this stuff since forever, but now folks are actually paying attention. We won’t see increased convictions, but communities are demanding more accountability–and so what if those demands are inspired not by enlightenment but by the desire to avoid negative publicity and expensive litigation. Change is like spaghetti on the ceiling: occasionally it sticks.
It’s going to be a long trip, however it works out. It has only been a few years since a cross was burned on the front yard of a family not 20 miles from where I live, in western Pennsylvania–the home of a family well known for taking in foster children, one of whom, when the crime was committed, just happened to be the one African-American student in their entire school district. There’s a lot of hate–most of it rooted in the shallow soil of ignorance–in those narrow, twisty roads through the foothills and hollows. But shallow soils lead to shallow roots, so maybe there’s a chance.
This disgusting tale needs no editorial comment from me. WWJD indeed.
Excuse me a moment while I alienate all the southerners reading this blog….
This is General William Tecumseh Sherman on scenic horse ride through Georgia–I got in a bit of a kerfluffle with a southern stranger on Pinterest last year after I pinned the image to the right on the photo saving site, along with a favorite Sherman quote, one I find continually compelling, particularly in light of the penchant for many passionate southerners to look back on the history of the time through the rose tinted glasses of “northern aggression” and all that revisionist bullshit. If nothing else Sherman reminds us that the South started the war.
“You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out. I know I had no hand in making this war, and I know I will make more sacrifices to-day than any of you to secure peace.”
I have no love of the man, whose reasoned barbarism in the civil war was surpassed by his cruelty in the “Indian Wars” that followed–but I found the woman attacking me to be intolerable.
I found this interesting sign during a recent google adventure, and it led to some interesting research.
Frank Tanaka immigrated to the USA in 1903, when he was 16 years old. Twenty-nine years of hard work later he opened a popular Japanese restaurant in Salem, Oregon and became a respected businessman. His story, told on the sign he placed in the window of his restaurant after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, is not an uncommon one.
Not long after this sign went up, Mr Tanaka and his family were forcibly relocated to the Tule Lake concentration camp, along with most ethnic Japanese living in the western United States, regardless of citizenship status. Like all internees, Mr. Tanaka and his family were allowed to take only what they could carry. In some cases, non-Japanese friends were able to protect some of the internees valuables, but many more saw all of their property looted, or sold off illegally–or simply claimed by others. After the war, many of them came home to find other people living in their homes, often still using their furniture, and they had no legal recourse for reclaiming their property.
Most Japanese-Americans lost everything they owned during World War 2, but despite this, despite losing their rights, special volunteer units drawn from the husbands and sons of the 10 concentration camps set up to punish the Japanese for their ancestry, fought tenaciously in some of the fiercest battles in the war.
Over 122,000 people of Japanese extraction were interred during the war–nearly 70,000 of whom were American citizens. Many others had been in this country between 20 and 40 years. No person of Japanese heritage was convicted of sabotage or espionage during the war. None.
As the war progressed, small numbers of German and Italian prisoners of war were incarcerated at Tule Lake. Though segregated from the Japanese Americans, these confirmed enemy combatants were often given much greater freedoms.
This woman has spewed so much idiocy, I could write all day and not cover half of the hilariously frightening bile to come from her mouth. I’d call is A Cavalcade of Blowhard Bachmann Ejecta.
“Carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful. But there isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas.”
~ Rep. Michelle Bachmann