50 Years of A Charlie Brown Christmas

A Charlie Brown ChristmasTonight will be the 50th showing of A Charlie Brown Christmas. I met my oldest friend Will in the 8th grade because of it. He had tape recorded the audio of the show and was typing it up because he wanted to do a production of it. Mostly, he just wanted to perform Linus’ big speech, “Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.”

We did eventually get it performed and made $12 and some odd cents that we gave to the Optimist Society. I forget how it happened, but Charles Schulz’s secretary contacted us telling us that it was a copyright infringement and that if we did that again, we would need to license it. It was all done very nicely. But it does rather show the silliness of copyright: kids doing their own theatrical version of A Charlie Brown Christmas and giving the money to charity should not be seen as a threat to an artist’s livelihood. But that is a discussion for another day.

I rather liked it when I was a kid. Now all of those Charlie Brown cartoons drive me crazy. The voice acting is terrible. But there’s also something a bit too sweet about them. And then there is all the religious stuff. The interesting thing is that by the end of his life, Schultz certainly could not be considered a believer. Of course, many people try to push against that, because there was a lot of Christianity in his early strips. But whatever he was at the end of his life, it wasn’t a Christian — except perhaps of the universalist variety (and even I can consider myself one of those).

A Charlie Brown Christmas is incredibly heavy handed. It always reminds me of my aunt who used to say in a disappointed tone that we don’t remember the “reason for the season.” At the time, I didn’t really understand what she meant. I mean, I understood that she was saying that we should remember it was all about the baby Jesus. But I didn’t understand it in the full evangelical sense of the lament that Christmas should not just include Jesus but that it should be just about Jesus. I find it incredibly silly today, because if Christmas were just a religious holiday, no one would notice it. It be right up there with Flag Day.

The contrast in A Charlie Brown Christmas is between the commercialism represented by Snoopy and the “truth” spoken by Linus. And that truth is from Luke, chapter 2. And if it is really the reason for the season, it’s pretty pathetic:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

It’s just the announcement of a savior. We are not talking the Sermon on the Mount here. There is nothing edify about it. And the truth is that by Christian theology, there is nothing special of Jesus’ birthday. In fact, among many early Christians, Jesus was just the receptacle for the Christ, who entered him at some later time — most often when he was baptized.

The big holiday for Christians should be Easter. It is Jesus’ death and resurrection that matters. Yet I never hear Christians complaining about the Easter Bunny and the commercialization of Easter. And I think I know why. Christians covet Christmas’ popularity. They want it for their religion. It isn’t about theology; it’s about PR. And it is sad.

But here we have 50 years of A Charlie Brown Christmas — nothing short of full out Christian propaganda, Yet we have to hear each year about the war on Christmas. Imagine the outrage that would take place if a single television show presented Islam in a similar light!

World Thinks US Biggest Threat to World Peace

Noam ChomskyI was listening to a lecture by Noam Chomsky, and he mentioned how curious it was that American presidents like to say things like, “Iran is the greatest threat to world peace.” The US media repeat such claims as though there were obviously true, although depending upon the time and ideological need, the “greatest threat” can be China or Russia or Venezuela, for that matter. But the real irony about it is that if you ask the people of the world, by a large margin, they think that the United States is the greatest threat to world peace.

Let’s think about Iran for a moment, because it is such a bizarre claim. I could be the most evil and violent person in the world, yet I wouldn’t be high up on the list of the greatest dangers to world peace because I have almost no power. The claim that Iran (or Iraq before it) is the greatest threat to world peace is ridiculous because regardless of how awful you think Iran is, it doesn’t have much power. Even a war involving only Iran and Israel would almost certainly lead to a major Israeli victory. About the only advantage that Iran would have would be its larger population.

On the other hand, the United States spends roughly 48% of all the money spent in the world on making war. So there is the US on one side and everyone else on the other side. The United States is a huge potential threat to world peace just on the basis of that. But of much bigger concern to me is what it says about a country that hasn’t been attacked by another country in almost 75 years, but still feels it must spend roughly half of all the world’s spending on military. That is a dangerous country — very much akin to the freaks who stockpile guns for the coming race war.

I read an old article by Eric Brown in the International Business Times, In Gallup Poll, the Biggest Threat to World Peace Is… America? You can tell from the headline that the writer doesn’t think much of that stat. He’s particularly surprised that “13 percent of American respondents rated their own nation the biggest threat to world peace as well.” But why is that surprising? I would certainly be part of that 13%. Who else is powerful enough to be the biggest threat? Really, this is part of what makes America so bizarre: we gloat about how powerful we are at the same time we tremble because we are so afraid of all the threats around us.

There’s also this idea that America is fundamentally a good country. We wouldn’t intentionally do anything wrong. I was amazed this last week that the US military came out with their findings that the Kunduz hospital bombing was an unfortunate mistake. And the media just bought it. The fact that the military tried to cover up the My Lai massacre doesn’t matter at all. We can always trust the US government, because America would never do anything intentionally bad!

Among these 13% like me who think that the US is the biggest threat to peace in the world, I’m sure there are very few who thought that Jade Helm was a secret government plot against its own citizens. Again: more American cognitive dissonance. Such people think that our government would kill its own citizens, but would never knowingly bomb a hospital that treated wounded soldiers regardless of who they fought for. And, for such people, it goes without saying, that our foreign policy is all about spreading democracy and helping the world.

One of the most dangerous things about America is just how ignorant we are about the way the world looks from outside our borders. And that’s the way the power elite of this country want things. This is why we have so many classified documents. This is why Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden are considered such villains. They do represent great threats to the military, because if the American people knew what our government was doing all around the world, they would be far less likely to fund it. Our documents are kept classified so we can keep our people infantilized so they believe the lies that we teach grammar school students: the US is just trying to make the world a better place.

I’m not suggesting that the US is a terrible country. But as the most powerful, it is the most dangerous. And the fact that it doesn’t what its own people to know what it is doing shows that it is up to a whole lot of no good.

Morning Music: Black & White World

Get Happy!!I was learning to play the bass guitar when I first heard Get Happy!! The bass playing on it is incredible. That would be Bruce Thomas. For whatever reason, he and Elvis Costello do not get along. I suspect that it is a personal thing. But it could be musical as well. Costello has talked about his tendency to rewrite in the studio. This causes problems for a bass player of Thomas’ brilliance. It is hard to get a bass part that really works, and it has got to be annoying to get something that works and have the song suddenly changed.

Regardless, I’ve always been particularly taken with the bass part on the song “Black & White World.” Even after all these years, I don’t really know what the song is about. It has various references to photography and cinema — and the difference between the fantasy and reality. But more than that, I can’t much say. Still, it is a fine song.

Anniversary Post: the First Eclipse

Solar EclipseOn this day in 3340 BCE, the first solar eclipse was noted. And it was in Ireland of all places. There is much dispute about this. But what the hell: it’s a good excuse to talk a bit of eclipses. When I was younger, I always wondered why it was we didn’t have solar eclipses on every new moon and lunar eclipses on every full moon.

The reason is because the solar system is really a mess — everything is tilted this way and that. So things have to line up just so in order to get an eclipse. It just so happens that we have very special solar eclipses here on earth because the apparent sizes of the moon and the sun are almost exactly the same. If you were on the moon, you would experience a whole lot more solar eclipses — they would last longer than our eclipses, but they would also not be so stunning in their near perfection.

Regardless, it isn’t surprising that we humans would would have been making notes about eclipses for thousands of years. If this Irish notation of a solar eclipse is right, it is around the time that humans first developed written language. In other words: as soon as humans started writing things down, they were writing about eclipses. Because they are amazing.

How GOP Base and Establishment Differ on Foreign Policy

Donald TrumpJonathan Chait wrote an interesting article at some point last week, Terrorism in the Age of Trump. I want to reflect on something that he mentioned in the article that I’ve found bizarre: the conservative establishment’s belief that the terrorist attacks in Paris would cause Republican base voters to turn away from Trump and toward “reasonable” candidates like Marco Rubio. Who would think such nonsense? Why would the base run from Trump? How is Trump unfit to address ISIS compared to other Republican candidates?

The whole basis of Republican thinking on foreign affairs is that we just have to be “tough” and be willing to do “whatever it takes” and then all will be well. I’ve been amazed by this kind of thinking my whole life. There are still people who think that we would have won the Vietnam War if only we had nuked the North Vietnamese back to the stone age. According to this way of looking at things, the only reason we don’t have clear victories like World War II anymore is because we don’t have the political will to destroy an entire country.

Marco RubioSuch people have not read their Carl von Clausewitz. They seem to think that the idea of war is to “win” — that we aren’t trying to do something else. Given this ridiculous way of thinking, we could beat ISIS by dropping about a thousand nuclear bombs on Iraq and Syria. But what would we have “won”? Would it make terrorist attacks like those on Paris less likely? Hardly. It would make them more likely because the only remaining front would be on the streets of Europe and America.

This is the way that the Republican base thinks about war. In general, they don’t think that any country (other than Israel) has an equal claim to existence to our own. And this is an idea that the Republican establishment has pushed for decades. This is the basis for Europe bashing. Liberals are horrible because they think that America might have something to learn from Europe. This is a sign of weakness. So of course the party base would think that being strong (that is: belligerent) is all that matters in a president.

I go back again and again to the 2004 interviews with James Hackett, where his big compliment was that Bush went to war in Afghanistan and he was certain that Gore would have treated the attacks on 9/11 as a police matter. Well, I always thought that was a stupid claim; Gore would have gone to war. But the point was that what was really important was to look tough. The right thing to do was not what would work best, but what would give Dr Hackett that conservative thrill that America was being “decisive” and “strong.”

But what’s most amazing is that Trump’s ideas on how to fight ISIS are no different than anyone else running for the Republican nomination. What’s more, we do have the example of George W Bush. He did, at best, a mediocre job in Afghanistan. Then he changed focus and went to war with Iraq. How would Trump be worse than that? At least if he took us to war in Iraq and Syria, I don’t see him losing interest and going to war in Argentina because they wouldn’t let him build a hotel or something.

The thinking of the Republican base is all messed up. But it is at least coherent. It is the establishment’s thinking that is incoherent. They want the same kind of foreign policy that the base wants: unthinking belligerence. But they want the slightest difference in rhetoric — or something. It makes no sense.

The Rich Are Spoiled and Lazy — Not the Poor

CocktailsSo much of the time, I despair about politics and economics. These are not areas where people are honest. I might have strong opinions about which are the best translations of Don Quixote. But they aren’t based upon the fact that I have a room full of them that I’m trying to unload. I know, politics has always been a messy business. But democracy was supposed to help in this regard, but I’m afraid that the power elite have become so good at manipulating people that the very idea of democracy in the kind of capitalism that we have may be impossible.

My mind constantly goes back to 2012 and the California Proposition 37, which would have required the labeling of GMO foods. Now on this issue, I tend to side with the conservatives. From a consumer standpoint, there is no evidence that there’s anything wrong with GMO foods. That’s not to say that I don’t have problems with them — especially in how they turn farmers into neo-serfs beholden to chemical companies. And I wonder about the environmental impact of GMOs. I don’t especially see labeling doing that much. But I also don’t see why the people have to be stopped from knowing. So I’m fine with labeling.

And in early 2012, the people of California were fine with GMO labeling. Early polling showed the law passing by a landslide. And then after months and millions of dollars of commercials featuring an old couple whose family farm was just going to be destroyed by the new law, Prop 37 went down to defeat by almost 3 percentage points. I was here during that time. This was not a case of the people being educated about the law. It was a case of an emotional campaign based upon gauzy romantic visions of the family farm and hysterical claims about the destruction of the California economy.

It is just that the whole “welfare makes people lazy” claim is a bit of “common sense” manufactured by the laziest people on earth: the rich.

The situation is even more annoying when it comes to economics, which is supposed to be an academic discipline. But it isn’t. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t a lot of people doing very good work. But in the public sphere, economics is used to make whatever point someone in power wants to make. This is why a careful think tank like the Tax Policy Center can always been offset with a conservative talking points mill to claim that whatever giveaway to the rich that the Republicans want to do will be fiscally responsible because it bring on 4% or 6% or 149% growth. It doesn’t really matter, because these groups just pull their numbers out of the air.

I was thinking about this the other day when I read an excellent article by Dylan Matthews, Economists Tested 7 Welfare Programs to See if They Made People Lazy. They Didn’t. This doesn’t come as a surprise. There has never been much indication that welfare programs made people lazy. Humans tend to be dissatisfied. If you give them food and a place to sleep, they will look for better food and a nicer place to sleep. And in our society, where making money is considered the only important function of men, it is a question of self-respect.

So why did four economists have to do detailed studies of 7 welfare programs to show that they didn’t make people lazy? In fact, the evidence indicates that helping out struggling people makes them less lazy. But you already know that. It is just that the whole “welfare makes people lazy” claim is a bit of “common sense” manufactured by the laziest people on earth: the rich. Take a man who has no money. He will almost certainly weed your whole back yard for forty bucks. Ask Donald Trump to do it. It isn’t just that he’s busy. He lives in a society that has lied to him — telling him that his time and effort is worth more money.

Anyone will get off the couch and work if you pay them enough money. But we’ve been sold a bill of goods. The poor are lazy, even though they will work for almost nothing. The rich are productive because they must be paid a huge amount of money to get off the bar stool at the Encore Wynn in Las Vegas.

Morning Music: Elvis Costello

Taking Liberties - Elvis CostelloSo I find myself down south staying with my sister for the Thanksgiving holiday, many days of writing ahead. Still, since I will be driving all Sunday, I realized that I hadn’t written Sunday’s posts when I got here. And it’s kind of hard to get work done here. It’s a little better now. But still, I was panicking. So as I think I mentioned, I decided to do a week of Elvis Costello. I don’t just have to get Sunday done; I also have to do Monday, because I’m sure I’m going to be a mess all Sunday night and probably all of Monday as well.

Costello does a great cover of the Rodgers and Hart classic “My Funny Valentine.” But I really don’t remember when I first heard it. I thought it had been on Get Happy!! But it wasn’t. According to the Elvis Costello Wiki, it was actually on, Taking Liberties — which until now I didn’t know was a compilation album. Regardless, the two albums came out at the same time, so I’m not totally insane.

Anyway, here he is performing the song live. It’s a great combination: three of my favorite songwriters working together (although not as writers — both Rodgers and Hart were dead by then anyway). After our week of Thanksgiving music, this should be pleasant.

Anniversary Post: a Century of Billy Strayhorn

[Under normal circumstances, I would write about the Whitman massacre. It provides a good opportunity to discuss violence that I disagree with, but at a distance to allow an honest discussion of the causes. Regardless, I really don’t like the whole missionary business. You know, if it were all about helping the poor and hoping by the example of your good works that you would convince them that your ways were the best, great. But that isn’t the way it works. And that certainly wasn’t the way it worked with the Whitmans. But I don’t have the time, so I’m going to reprint last year’s anniversary post, because it is about a very great man. -FM]

Billy StrayhornOn this day in 1915, the great jazz composer and arranger Billy Strayhorn was born. He is best remembered for his work with Duke Ellington. Of course, he largely isn’t remembered at all. Even people who don’t like jazz at all know who Ellington was. But Strayhorn worked in the shadows, and he seemed to have liked it that way.

He was a phenomenon at an early age. While still in high school, he wrote a musical. He also formed his own trio that played on local radio every day. And he wrote a number of great songs, including “Lush Life.” Here he is in 1964, performing it live:

Strayhorn wanted to be a classical composer, but he had the wrong skin color. His introduction to Art Tatum — a classical composer in his own way — pushed Strayhorn into jazz. And at the age of 23, he met and began collaborating with Duke Ellington. It is hard to say where one starts and the other ends. Ellington said, “Billy Strayhorn was my right arm, my left arm, all the eyes in the back of my head, my brain waves in his head, and his in mine.” But being the established great man, Ellington took credit for much of Strayhorn’s work. Generally speaking, if you see a tune composed by Strayhorn and Ellington, it is Strayhorn’s. And Strayhorn is probably even more important as an arranger in creating what we now think of as the Duke Ellington sound.

That’s not to say that Ellington took advantage of the younger man. They had a symbiotic relationship. It is doubtful that Strayhorn would have accomplished so much without the protection and encouragement of Ellington. And Strayhorn got sole writing credit for the most famous song of the Duke Ellington orchestra, “Take the ‘A’ Train.” Here he is performing the song on piano with the orchestra. At the end, Ellington lists some of Strayhorn’s other compositions.

Sadly, in 1964 — at the same time he recorded “Lush Life” above, he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, which seemed to ended his career. He died three years later.

Happy birthday Billy Strayhorn!

Anti-Democratic America

Bernie SandersMorning Consult put out a very interesting bit of polling data, and found, Bernie Sanders Is the Most Popular Senator in America. They did polling of the people in all the states to come up with this. It’s a massive poll. Martin Longman noted that there are some real problems in the numbers for Republicans, “The most troubling result for the Republicans is that several of their Senators who are up for reelection next year are near the bottom in the approval ratings.” These include Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mark Kirk of Illinois, and Rob Portman of Ohio. And rightly so!

You might consider Ohio a swing state, but I think it is now fundamentally blue. And Wisconsin and Illinois are clearly blue states. Why do they have Republican Senators anyway? The same goes for Colorado, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania. It goes the other way too, of course. The following red states have one Democratic Senator: Indiana, Missouri (fluke), Montana, North Dakota, West Virginia. But even if you throw out Ohio, that’s five red states that have a Democratic Senator and five blue states that have a Republican Senator. Seems about right. But the misrepresented red states account for only 16 million people whereas the misrepresented blue states account for 38 million. That’s 134% more!

So the blue states represent more than 56% of the nation. Yet they get only 46% of the representation in the Senate.

The same thing is going on when you look at the “pure” states. This is where a blue state like California has two Democratic Senators or a red state like Texas has two Republican Senators. But looking at all those states, the numbers are still disturbing. There are 20 pure red states and only 15 pure blue states. What’s more, 103 million people are in these 20 red states whereas 116 million people are in these 15 blue states. If you look at all the data together, you see that blue states represent 154 million people and the red states represent 120 million.

So the blue states represent more than 56% of the nation. Yet they get only 46% of the representation in the Senate. Now in the old days, that wouldn’t have been such a bad thing. If a blue state sent a Republican Senator to Washington, she would be a moderate. But that’s just not true anymore. Ron Johnson is representing Wisconsin! At the same time, the Democrats representing red states are moderate — because the Democrats are still a regular political party and not a revolutionary power.

A lot of this is just the whining of a partisan whose party is losing. But there are also two important issues. The first is that we live in an oligarchy. The power elite have gotten great not just at manipulating voters, but making voting difficult — both directly (eg, not funding local polling places, voter ID laws) and indirectly (making poor people have to work too much). When was the last time you heard a Republican say (as Ronald Reagan did) that they wanted as many people to vote as possible? The truth is that the Republican Party has become very comfortable with the notion that their best chance of winning an election is to have as few voters as possible.

The other issue is that we have a terrible system of representation. It was perhaps the best that we could hope for two and a quart centuries ago. But it isn’t the best we could have now. And that’s not even to mention gerrymandering and the ridiculous Senate compromise where a conservative in Wyoming has roughly 66 times as many votes as a liberal does here in California. None of this is moral. But none of it will change, because it is great for the power elite. They know that if the Republicans are in control, they will money thrown at the rich. And if the Democrats are in control, they will throw slightly less money at the rich. (They will still end up doing better under the Democrats, because the economy will do better, because Democrats are not incompetent like Republicans are.)

This isn’t just a question of voting. It is a question of organizing. It is a question of all of us talking to other people and allowing them to see that we’ve lost our democracy and that we are going to have to fight to take it back. It’s not just going to be a difficult fight — it’s going to be a really long fight.

White People Are Afraid of the Wrong Things

AfraidThe Washington Post reported, White Americans Long for the 1950s, When They Didn’t Face So Much Discrimination. It’s a cheeky headline, but it is absolutely accurate based upon a recent poll done by the Public Religion Research Institute. Erik Loomis has the right reaction, Oh White People. It turns out that 43% of American whites think that discrimination against them is as bad as it is against minority groups. And 53% think things have gotten worse since the 1950s.

In one way, I think this is all meaningless. In any given poll, there are always 30% of Americans who believe the most amazing things. But the poll also asked if discrimination against whites had gotten as bad as it is for minority groups. That’s a leading question. Why not just ask, “Is discrimination against whites as bad as it is against African Americans.” I’ll bet that number would fall down to the established 30% crazy figure. As for the things being worse than they were in the 1950s, well, that’s meaningless. What 1950s are we talking about? In Loomis’ article, he uses a picture of the Cleaver family from Leave It to Beaver. It started in late 1957 and ran through 1963. I understand that this is what people think “the 50s” were, but they are wrong. The 1950s was really Joseph McCarthy, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and Emmett Till.

I understand that this is what people think “the 50s” were, but they are wrong. The 1950s was really Joseph McCarthy, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and Emmett Till.

But Loomis nails what is really going on. It’s the economic insecurity of the white middle class. You know, we talk a lot about the fact that wages have been flat for working people for the last 40 years. But you know, that isn’t that big a deal to people. I think what matters most to them is the insecurity. The big thing conservatives love to talk about is how people should be rewarded for taking risks. But American workers have the worst of both worlds: they have seen the risk of unemployment skyrocket and have been given nothing to compensate for it.

It isn’t at all surprising in this environment that the white working class would feel that it is being discriminated against. It is! Just not in the way that black and Latino and LGBT people are. There is a class war that is going on in this nation. It got really bad about 40 years ago. But we have a media infrastructure that is totally in the can for the power elite. We live in a nation where the only think that is considered real class warfare is talking about class warfare. Unions can be destroyed. Tort “reform” can take away individual rights. Bankruptcy protection can be limited for individuals even as it is expanded for corporations. And none of this is class warfare. That’s just natural or something that Jesus said in Matthew 5. But talk about income inequality and listen to the pundits scream in unison, “Class warfare!”

I was thinking today about one of the Democratic debates where Bernie Sanders said that he wasn’t talking about raising taxes back up to 91% where they were under Eisenhower. And I’m almost certain that the woman who was questioning him said, “I would hope not.” Can you imagine the firestorm of media coverage that would have erupted if the opposite had been said to a Republican. If Ted Cruz said, “I’m not talking about reducing taxes to 15%,” and a reported said, “I would hope not”?

We live in a nation controlled by the power elite. And the poor and working class feel that there is nothing they can do. So they lash out. They kid themselves into thinking that they have it as bad as blacks do. I’ve actually heard people claim that they are worse off knowing English in California than they would be if they only knew Spanish. These are irrational beliefs. But they are very, very understandable.

Morning Music: Mary Chapin Carpenter

Mary Chapin CarpenterOkay, let’s end this week with some nice Thanksgiving-ish songs. I was going to just do the Mary Chapin Carpenter song “Thanksgiving Song.” It really isn’t bad. I wish there were more songs like it. You know what the real problem is: Elvis never released a Thanksgiving album. And because of that, I definitely won’t be doing this next year.

Starting tomorrow, I think I’m going to do a week of Elvis Costello. Certainly a week of California punk would better get rid of the sticky sweetness of this last week. But Costello is really easy for me — especially if I stick to the first 15 albums or so, which should be pretty easy given I only need six songs and a concert.

Anyway, here is a short set that Mary Chapin Carpenter did Paste Studio NYC! We had one major thing to be thankful for that day: Mitt Romney wasn’t going to be president.

Anniversary Post: Kano Bombing

Kano bombingOn this day last year, the Kano bombing took place. It was another atrocity committed by Boko Haram. Roughly 120 people were killed and over 250 wounded. It was carried out at a mosque while Friday prayers were going on. Three bombs were set off — one on the road near by and two in the courtyard of the mosque. As the worshippers fled, they were gunned down. Allegedly, angry survivors caught and killed four of the gunmen.

That’s roughly as big an attack as the recent Paris attacks. But again: wrong kind of victims in the wrong place. Maybe we should make a bigger deal out of Paris. After all, what happened in Paris is the exception. Usually, it is overwhelmingly Muslims who are killed in these attacks. Yet here in America, we so casually blame “the Muslims.” You know, during The Troubles in Northern Ireland, people weren’t running around saying we couldn’t allow Catholics to immigrate to the United States.

In Hamlet, the title character has the perfect opportunity to kill Claudius. But Claudius is praying, and Hamlet does not want to send him straight to heaven. What does it say of Boko Haram that they kill people while worshiping? I think it says that religion really has nothing to do with their actions. If they believed in their god, they wouldn’t attack people while praying. They are just homicidal thugs who lust for power. I’m not saying they can’t find justification in their holy books. I’m just saying that it doesn’t matter. They could find justification on a postage stamp.