Obama Probably Not Into Black Flag

Obama Black Fag Racist Homophobia PhotoshopAs I was preparing my article, Religious Right: Racism Not Abortion, I did a Google image search for “Now Accepting Negroes!” I didn’t find anything I could use based upon that, so I just put the phrase across the “Bob Jones University” sign. But it did bring me to the image on the left. Well, to be accurate, I cropped the image. Now, I’m the first to admit, I’m not very observant. I didn’t notice the rainbow bars and I misread it as saying, “Black Flag.” I can be forgiven, I think: it uses the same font.

I was so excited. I’ve always thought of Obama as kind of an uninteresting guy. Sure: smart and capable and cool in that laid-back way—but not the kind of guy who would be into Black Flag. So I thought, “I’ve got to find out if this is just a photoshop job.” Because it would be totally awesome. Black Flag was one of the great bands. I’m a huge fan. Obama’s coolness factor would go through the roof as far as I was concerned.

So I clicked over to the site, which is kind of like accidentally clicking onto a scat porn site. I should have known better, the page is titled, “Most Negroes Don’t Accept Homos!” But I was too excited. And that’s when I saw that the shirt actually said “Black FAG” and not “Black FLAG.” The article is kind of serious in its way, it has what looks like a quote from a serious journal that shows that there is more homophobia in the black community, although there are reasons to question this conclusion.

But the article itself is written in a very tired style of the right wing nutjob. It starts:

The Marxist Muslim usurper in the White House now pretends that the great civil rights struggle is make gays, and the alphabet soup of people identified by initials for perversions, to be recognized as fully equal.

Charming.

But it did give me a thrill for a moment. So I’m grateful to the hateful bigot for that. But this one goes out to our president who may not be fully as cool as he could be, but he is probably as cool as America could handle:

George Tiller and Late Term Abortions

George TillerIt’s been five years since Dr George Tiller was murdered. In one way, he is just another victim of senseless violence. In another, he a symbol for something very big: the abortion debate. It’s strange to think about it. I was about to write, “Tiller was murdered because he performed late term abortions.” But would any conservative be all right with me saying, “America was attacked on 9/11 because we set up military bases in Saudi Arabia”? I don’t think so. But both are the proximate causes. And I’m glad to bring up Dr Tiller, who was a hero. But not for that reason. We need to talk about late term abortions.

I admit it: I mostly talk about zygotes, because the social conservatives are so extreme that they even want to ban birth control. But late term abortions are really the crux of the matter. If you listened to Bill O’Reilly (And other than being a complete idiot, why would you?) you would think that all an eight month pregnant woman had to do was show up to his clinic, fork over five grand and he’d cut that viable baby right out of her. Of course, that wasn’t true. And I’m a big believer in the First Amendment, but O’Reilly is culpable in the murder of Dr Tiller. And I hope that O’Reilly’s Catholic religion is true so that he burns in hell for eternity. But I don’t want to get sidetracked.

Late term abortions are not done for the convenience of the mother. They are done when the fetus is not viable and when it threatens the life of the mother. That’s how you can tell that libertarians are part of the conservative movement: everything is simple to them. To the social conservatives (which is pretty much all of them including most who call themselves libertarian), the fetus has full rights as a citizen. They don’t even think about the competing interests of the life of a clearly viable mother and what is often a dead fetus.

A year and a half ago, I wrote about Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old dentist living in Ireland. She was pregnant with a non-viable fetus. And she was dying as a result of it—it was poisoning her blood. But abortion is illegal in Ireland. She had miscarried, yet the heart of the fetus was still beating. So no doctors would remove the fetus. And she died of blood poisoning. Since then, some minor reforms have been passed in Ireland, but I have a better idea: don’t be a woman in Ireland. Or increasingly, America.

But that’s what late term abortions are about. They aren’t about girls who just keep putting off that abortion they are so looking forward to. They are medical problems. When the children are viable, they are viable for short periods of time. Wanna know how long a baby born without a brain can live? Up to two and a half years, although usually they are stillborn or live at most a day or two. I mean: they don’t have brains. But there are lots of other perfectly good reasons for late term abortions. But the monsters in the anti-choice movement don’t think about actual people; they are focused on a higher ideal—higher than the pain and suffering of actual human beings.

So that’s what George Tiller was doing. He had a medical practice that was even more heartbreaking than those of pediatric oncologists. He was literally doing God’s work, trying to minimize the damage done by bad genetic and environmental luck. And he was murder because of it. And many people were happy about it, because of their ignorant “ideals.” Because there can’t be enough Savita Halappanavars who die unnecessarily in excruciating pain in the name of what some cleric somewhere decided was what God wanted.

Afterword

Yes, I am very angry. But in truth, I would never consign a soul to the fires of hell for eternity. Not Hitler. Not Stalin. Not Pol Pot. Not even Bill O’Reilly.

Real Libertarians Should Be Democrats

Libertarian PartyDavid Atkins is now doing some of the weekend blogging over at Political Animal, and he brought my attention to a new Gallup Poll, Republicans Are Getting Left Behind, and “Independents” Won’t Save Them. The scare quotes around the word “independents” are there because as we should all know at this point, independents aren’t the lauded “swing” or “moderate” voters. Almost all of them are as reliably partisan as those who call themselves Democrat or Republican. For decades, my father has called himself an independent, but he’s as reliably a Republican voter as you are going to find.

My position on the issue is that calling oneself an independent is pretentious. We are all independent. I’ve never met a Democrat who agreed with the Democrats on every single issue. And that’s just as true for the Republicans. In fact, it’s probably more true of Republicans because I think the party is more out of step with its voters than the Democrats. Also, I think that calling oneself an independent is a cop-out. I think the same thing of the little parties. For years, I was a member of the Libertarian Party. But if I felt the same way ideologically today, I would not be a Libertarian; I would be a Democrat.

Now that might shock a lot of people. But in my experience, the Democratic Party is simply a lot better on the liberty issues that I care (and cared) about. The Republican Party is fundamentally an authoritarian group that is very big on foreign wars, tough police action, limiting women’s reproductive choices, and on and on. The one libertarian area where the Republicans ought to be good is taxes. And even on that, they are terrible. As I wrote last weekend, Reagan’s Legacy: Tax Cuts for Rich, Tax Hikes for the Rest. After eight years of his presidency, federal taxes on the rich went way down, but they went up on the average worker.

But my experiences in the Libertarian Party were that most of the people were disgruntled Republicans. They were not disgruntled because Reagan had raised their taxes, however. They had various reasons. But by and large, they didn’t even know Reagan had raised their taxes. In the Libertarian Party, Reagan had a fairly reasonable reputation. And if those people ever had to choose between one of the two candidates who might actually win, my guess was that 95% of them would vote Republican.

Why? What the Republican Party seems to believe is that mostly everyone in the middle is okay. The people at the bottom have far too much freedom. And the people at the top, well they might as well be in chains for all the freedom they have. As a libertarian, I never understood that. The Republican Party is fundamentally an outgrowth of John Adams and his royalist tendencies. (I don’t want to say Federalists, because now most of the Republicans have turned against the federal government for reasons I’ve written about elsewhere.) So for people who really want everyone to be as free as possible, the Republican Party is the worst party by far.

That small 5% group of what I would call the liberal libertarians: about 99% of them were there because they wanted drugs. And if you look around the nation, it has been the Democratic Party that has made progress on cannabis legalization, against the strongest of resistance from the Republicans. But it isn’t just that. If you look at the Gallup Poll, you will see where the Republican Party comes down on all kinds of freedom issues that the government really has no interest in. Only 60% of Republicans think divorce is morally acceptable. Only 54% think consenting but unmarried adults should be be able to have sex. Only 23% think that teenagers should be able to have sex with each other. And Republicans claim that they are the ones who see reality!

The fact is that when it comes to maximizing the liberty of everyday men and women, the Democrats are much closer to what I think of as libertarianism. But I’m fine with those pretenders—the neo-confederates who are the vast majority of so called libertarians—voting for the Republicans. The fight is inside the two party system. The only thing that third parties have ever done is grow big enough to be consumed by one of the big parties. And the Libertarian Party fits in really well with the Republican Party. That’s because the libertarians are very much like the conservative Christians. The Christian can tell you all kinds of things that he believes in, but the only thing he gets really worked up about is abortion (and homosexuality to a lesser extent). The libertarian can tell you all kinds of things that he believes in, but the only thing he gets really worked up about is marginal tax rates (and foreign wars to a lesser extent—maybe).

So admit the truth! You like Rand Paul. He’s a neo-confederate. He’s not for drug legalization. He’s anti-choice. But he does want to lower the top income tax rate. He does want to abolish corporate taxes. He does want to eliminate Social Security (whether he admits it or not). There’s your nationally viable libertarian presidential candidate. And if he gets the Republican nomination, almost all of you so called libertarians will vote for him. And you know what you’ll get if he wins? Just another conservative who limits the freedom of everyone except the very rich.

I think there is much good in libertarianism in its focus on freedom. I care about freedom. But I define it widely. It isn’t simply “the freedom of the richest people to keep as much money as they possibly can.” And since I care about freedom, I’m a Democrat. Of course, there are other things I care about like justice. But that also makes me a Democrat. The Democratic Party is not anywhere close to ideal. But there’s hope. Let the Republicans run wild and you’ve got fascism in America. And that ought to tell you quite a lot about American “libertarianism.”

Religious Right: Racism Not Abortion

Bob Jones University

A funny thing happened on the way to the Religious Right. And it explains why black churches and the Catholic Church are generally not part of the Religious Right. If you look at the movement now, it is all about abortion—dating back to the Supreme Court decision in Roe v Wade. And indeed, the Religious Right did rise up about that time, but that was not the issue. This is all explained in a great Politico article by historian Randall Balmer, The Real Origins of the Religious Right. The short answer is in his subtitle, “They’ll tell you it was abortion. Sorry, the historical record’s clear: it was segregation.”

He points out that the vast majority of evangelicals were indifferent to Roe v Wade. They thought it was a “Catholic issue.” And indeed, they were right. I’ve always been kind of surprised that protestants picked up on this very Catholic issue. When I was a kid, protestants thought of Catholics the way they thought of Mormons—hardly Christians at all. Balmer points out that up through 1976—three years after Roe—the Southern Baptist Convention held for, “Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.” Remarkable, huh?

But if not Roe, then what? Well, it was a Supreme Court case: Green v Connally. This was a case that challenged the tax-exempt status of racially segregated schools. A lot of these were good old fashioned evangelical schools and they did not like this at all. The IRS contacted Bob Jones University to find out if it was segregated, and the response was, “Hell yes!” Well, actually, it was more along the lines of: we do not admit blacks. Bob Jones argued that the Bible dictated segregation, Genesis 9:27, “May God enlarge Japheth, And let him dwell in the tents of Shem; And let Canaan be his servant.” (Actually, that also justifies slavery, but what are you gonna do: it’s the literal word of God!)

Jerry Falwell and other leaders were smarter and tried to make it about “religious liberty.” If that sounds familiar, it should. Conservative Christians are today using the “religious liberty” canard to stop the working poor from getting healthcare. What charmers the Religious Right are. Am I right?! Meanwhile, Paul Weyrich, co-founder of the Heritage Institute, had spent decades trying to get the evangelicals on the side of conservatism. And nothing seemed to work: “pornography, prayer in schools, the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, even abortion.” Nothing worked until: “Oh my God! The darkies are coming for our women folk!” Or something like that.

Now this is all about the leadership of the evangelical movement. They knew they couldn’t get the base all riled up about segregation. So they grabbed onto the abortion issue and the rest is history. But this goes right along with what I have long said about Christian opposition to abortion. The Catholics have very abstract philosophical arguments about this issue that no one is interested in. The evangelicals really have no reason for being against early term abortions at the very least. But the followers of these religions are against abortion for the reason the Merovingian pointed out in The Matrix Reloaded: because they were told to.

So what we have is a movement that is mad as hell about abortion—so mad, in fact, that they murder people. But the reason these people are mad is because their leaders didn’t like the government telling them that racial bigotry wasn’t acceptable—or at least was unacceptable enough that the government was going to force them to pay taxes. And that rather sums up the conservative movement generally: rich white men who don’t want any of there money taken away to help poor black children.

Afterword

Balmer ends with a post script that I add only because of what it says about Ronald Reagan:

The Bob Jones University case merits a postscript. When the school’s appeal finally reached the Supreme Court in 1982, the Reagan administration announced that it planned to argue in defense of Bob Jones University and its racial policies. A public outcry forced the administration to reconsider; Reagan backpedaled by saying that the legislature should determine such matters, not the courts. The Supreme Court’s decision in the case, handed down on May 24, 1983, ruled against Bob Jones University in an 8-to-1 decision. Three years later Reagan elevated the sole dissenter, William Rehnquist, to chief justice of the Supreme Court.

Ronald Reagan was the worst kind of racist. And special note: there are now at least three justices on the Supreme Court who are more conservative than Rehnquist.

Darest Thou Now, Walt Whitman

Walt WhitmanOn this day in 1819, the poet Walt Whitman was born. My preference for poetry tends to be densely packed stuff that really packs a punch, like Mary Barnard’s translation of Sappho, “Pain penetrates / Me drop / by drop.” So I’ve never been all that fond of Whitman’s breezy free verse. But I like it’s content. I like his mysticism.

There are two ideas of the soul. There is what I call the Greek idea: the essence of who I am. Even that one I’m not that clear on, but it is a useful conceit, given that I think we are all just rather over-complicated machines that fool ourselves into thinking (!) we are doing something other than just processing chemical and electrical signals. The second kind of soul is what I call the Christian idea (although most religions have this): some essential thing that dwells within me. It is this second kind of soul that causes me to self-identify as an atheist.

I am, at base, a mystic. But I am humble and I do not think that the Great Paradox involves me to any greater an extent than, say, one of the cells in my thigh. This is probably why I like Emily Dickinson more than Whitman because I think she understood: I am the body electric, I do not sing it. Still, Whitman’s dualistic idea of the soul, more indicative of deism, is fascinating and rewarding. It is also a hell of a lot less morbid than Dickinson. (And me!)

Here is a beautiful one for Whitman’s 195th birthday, “Darest Thou Now, O Soul”:

Darest thou now, O Soul,
Walk out with me toward the Unknown Region,
Where neither ground is for the feet, nor any path to follow?

No map, there, nor guide,
Nor voice sounding, nor touch of human hand,
Nor face with blooming flesh, nor lips, nor eyes, are in that land.

I know it not, O Soul;
Nor dost thou—all is a blank before us;
All waits, undream’d of, in that region—that inaccessible land.

Till, when the ties loosen,
All but the ties eternal, Time and Space,
Nor darkness, gravitation, sense, nor any bounds, bound us.

Then we burst forth—we float,
In Time and Space, O Soul—prepared for them;
Equal, equipt at last—(O joy! O fruit of all!) them to fulfil, O Soul.

Happy birthday Walt Whitman!