Pine Needles, or Gold Rush, North Carolina 2021

The Gold in them there hills

— There is a saying among some farmers in the Carolina Sandhills: “ A man would have to be a fool to cut down a longleaf pine.”

It’s not because the gangly-limbed tree is particularly beautiful. The pine doesn’t have a magnolia’s flowers or an oak’s shade. And it has nothing to do with the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker that calls the tree home. The longleaf pine’s most obvious attribute is its strong, straight timber — perfect for utility poles.
But the reason that longleaf pines are prized around here: their needles.

***harvested mostly by hand, for use as high-end mulch. (Jeremy M. Lange/For The Washington Post)


*** Theft of any amount of pine straw in North Carolina is a felony. (Jeremy M. Lange/For The Washington Post)

Left and Right

A wise man’s heart inclines him to the right,
but a fool’s heart to the left.

There are exceptions to this. Donald Trump being one big one. He has a fool’s heart (and mind) but he does seem inclined to the right.

US President Donald Trump holds up a Bible outside of St John’s Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / via Getty Images)

The Roots of Josh Hawley’s Rage, a must read for americans of all persuasions.

Why do so many Republicans appear to be at war with both truth and democracy?

By Katherine Stewart, The New York Times ofJan 11, 2021

Ms. Stewart has reported on the religious right for more than a decade. She is the author of “The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism.”

In today’s Republican Party, the path to power is to build up a lie in order to overturn democracy. At least that is what Senator Josh Hawley was telling us when he offered a clenched-fist salute to the pro-Trump mob before it ransacked the Capitol,,,

Senator Josh Hawley on Wednesday, as the crowd that would storm the Capitol marched.Credit…Francis Chung/E&E News and Politico, via Associated Press

and this is the same message he delivered on the floor of the Senate in the aftermath of the attack, when he doubled down on the lies about electoral fraud that incited the insurrection in the first place. How did we get to the point where one of the bright young stars of the Republican Party appears to be at war with both truth and democracy?

Mr. Hawley himself, as it happens, has been making the answer plain for some time. It’s just a matter of listening to what he has been saying.

In multiple speeches, an interview and a widely shared article for Christianity Today, Mr. Hawley has explained that the blame for society’s ills traces all the way back to Pelagius — a British-born monk who lived 17 centuries ago. In a 2019 commencement address at The King’s College, a small conservative Christian college devoted to “a biblical worldview,” Mr. Hawley denounced Pelagius for teaching that human beings have the freedom to choose how they live their lives and that grace comes to those who do good things, as opposed to those who believe the right doctrines.

The most eloquent summary of the Pelagian vision, Mr. Hawley went on to say, can be found in the Supreme Court’s 1992 opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Mr. Hawley specifically cited Justice Anthony Kennedy’s words reprovingly: “At the heart of liberty,” Kennedy wrote, “is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” The fifth century church fathers were right to condemn this terrifying variety of heresy, Mr. Hawley argued: “Replacing it and repairing the harm it has caused is one of the challenges of our day.”

In other words, Mr. Hawley’s idea of freedom is the freedom to conform to what he and his preferred religious authorities know to be right. Mr. Hawley is not shy about making the point explicit. In a 2017 speech to the American Renewal Project, he declared — paraphrasing the Dutch Reformed theologian and onetime prime minister Abraham Kuyper — “There is not one square inch of all creation over which Jesus Christ is not Lord.” Mr. Kuyper is perhaps best known for his claim that Christianity has sole legitimate authority over all aspects of human life.

“We are called to take that message into every sphere of life that we touch, including the political realm,” Mr. Hawley said. “That is our charge. To take the Lordship of Christ, that message, into the public realm, and to seek the obedience of the nations. Of our nation!”

Mr. Hawley has built his political career among people who believe that Shariah is just around the corner even as they attempt to secure privileges for their preferred religious groups to discriminate against those of whom they disapprove. Before he won election as a senator, he worked for Becket, a legal advocacy group that often coordinates with the right-wing legal juggernaut the Alliance Defending Freedom. He is a familiar presence on the Christian right media circuit.The Interpreter: Original insights, commentary and discussions on the major news stories of the week.

The American Renewal Project, which hosted the event where Mr. Hawley delivered the speech I mentioned earlier, was founded by David Lane, a political organizer who has long worked behind the scenes to connect conservative pastors and Christian nationalist figures with politicians. The choice America faces, according to Mr. Lane, is “to be faithful to Jesus or to pagan secularism.”

The line of thought here is starkly binary and nihilistic. It says that human existence in an inevitably pluralistic, modern society committed to equality is inherently worthless. It comes with the idea that a right-minded elite of religiously pure individuals should aim to capture the levers of government, then use that power to rescue society from eternal darkness and reshape it in accord with a divinely-approved view of righteousness.

At the heart of Mr. Hawley’s condemnation of our terrifyingly Pelagian world lies a dark conclusion about the achievements of modern, liberal, pluralistic societies. When he was still attorney general, William Barr articulated this conclusion in a speech at the University of Notre Dame Law School, where he blamed “the growing ascendancy of secularism” for amplifying “virtually every measure of social pathology,” and maintained that “free government was only suitable and sustainable for a religious people.”

Christian nationalists’ acceptance of President Trump’s spectacular turpitude these past four years was a good measure of just how dire they think our situation is. Even a corrupt sociopath was better, in their eyes, than the horrifying freedom that religious moderates and liberals, along with the many Americans who don’t happen to be religious, offer the world.

That this neo-medieval vision is incompatible with constitutional democracy is clear. But in case you’re in doubt, consider where some of the most militant and coordinated support for Mr. Trump’s postelection assault on the American constitutional system has come from. The Conservative Action Project, a group associated with the Council for National Policy, which serves as a networking organization for America’s religious and economic right-wing elite, made its position clear in a statement issued a week before the insurrection.

It called for members of the Senate to “contest the electoral votes” from Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and other states that were the focus of Republicans’ baseless allegations. Among the signatories was Cleta Mitchell, the lawyer who advised Mr. Trump and participated in the president’s call on Jan. 2 with Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state. Cosignatories to this disinformation exercise included Bob McEwen, the executive director of the Council for National Policy; Morton C. Blackwell of The Leadership Institute; Alfred S. Regnery, the former publisher; Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council; Thomas Fitton of Judicial Watch; and more than a dozen others.

Although many of the foot soldiers in the assault on the Capitol appear to have been white males aligned with white supremacist movements, it would be a mistake to overlook the powerful role of the rhetoric of religious nationalism in their ranks. At a rally in Washington on Jan. 5, on the eve of Electoral College certification, the right-wing pastor Greg Locke said that God is raising up “an army of patriots.” Another pastor, Brian Gibson, put it this way: “The church of the Lord Jesus Christ started America,” and added, “We’re going to take our nation back!”

In the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection, a number of Christian nationalist leaders issued statements condemning violence — on both sides. How very kind of them. But few if any appear willing to acknowledge the instrumental role they played in perpetuating the fraudulent allegations of a stolen election that were at the root of the insurrection.

They seem, like Mr. Hawley himself, to live in a post-truth environment. And this gets to the core of the Hawley enigma. The brash young senator styles himself not just a deep thinker who ruminates about late-Roman era heretics, but a man of the people, a champion of “the great American middle,” as he wrote in an article for The American Conservative, and a foe of the “ruling elite.” Mr. Hawley has even managed to turn a few progressive heads with his economic populism, including his attacks on tech monopolies.

Yet Mr. Hawley isn’t against elites per se. He is all for an elite, provided that it is a religiously righteous elite. He is a graduate of Stanford University and Yale Law School and he clerked for John Roberts, the chief justice. Mr. Hawley, in other words, is a successful meritocrat of the Federalist Society variety. His greatest rival in that department is the Princeton debater Ted Cruz. They are résumé jockeys in a system that rewards those who do the best job of mobilizing fear and irrationalism. They are what happens when callow ambition meets the grotesque inequalities and injustices of our age.

Over the past few days, following his participation in the failed efforts to overturn the election,Mr. Hawley’s career prospects may have dimmed. Two of his home state newspapers have called for his resignation; his political mentor, John C. Danforth, a former Republican senator from Missouri, has described his earlier support for Mr. Hawley as “the biggest mistake I’ve ever made”; and Simon & Schuster dropped his book. On the other hand, there is some reporting that suggests his complicity in efforts to overturn the election may have boosted his standing with Mr. Trump’s base. But the question that matters is not whether Mr. Hawley stays or goes, but whether he is simply replaced by the next wannabe demagogue in line. We are about to find out whether there are leaders of principle left in today’s Republican Party.

Make no mistake: Mr. Hawley is a symptom, not a cause. He is a product of the same underlying forces that brought us President Trump and the present crisis of American democracy. Unless we find a way to address these forces and the fundamental pathologies that drive them, then next month or next year we will be forced to contend with a new and perhaps more successful version of Mr. Hawley.

A Reading for Donald Trump. Would that he even in his seventies began to read books, books like this one by Gombrich, and that he no longer daily tweeted his anger, he might thereby cease destroying our world, and even save himself while doing so.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF THE WORLD

E. H. GOMBRICH

A. N. Wilson, in the Times Literary Supplement on reading Gombrich tells us he will buy ten copies of Gombrich’s little book and give it to ten of his favorite children … And I would give one to Trump, for as Wilson says this is a book that teaches what it is to be civilized, teaches by its very tone, which is one of gentleness, curiosity, and erudition, the very qualities that our president most lacks.

Ecclesiastes


The author of Ecclesiastes complains frequently in the book about the monotony of life.

“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done; and there is no new thing under the sun.”

This may well have been true at the time of the writing of the Old Testament. and if King Solomon was the author that time would have been during the years from 970 to 931 BCE.

But is it true today, that there is nothing new, nothing new under the sun? Solomon may have been comforted by that thought, that as bad as things may have seemed during his life time (or as things seem during our times) he had seen it all and there was really nothing new out there. a Clovid-19 or such, to be afraid of. Much like our president says of the pandemic raging at this moment, there is nothing to be afraid of, a Flu, he calls it and there’s nothing new about that. Plagues have always been with us so let’s not make too much of it and move on.

And King Solomon may be right about this for our times. Nothing new here either. And let alone the Pandemic we need not even be afraid of how Trump’s actions are destroying our democracy. Democracies are rare happenings but their destructions not unusual. Trump himself is only the most recent in a long line of bullies and tyrants who prey on democracies. And while the chances are that it will not survive the present circumstances, democracy will return, for t here is probably no better way of organizing our lives together.

For many, not just myself, have said that no other form of government can successfully compete with liberal democracy for the hearts and minds of the people. And having the people on its side is the ultimate test of any form of government, and democracy has always done this better than anyone else. For no other form of government sets out, if not succeeds, to promote, develop, and finally realize the infinitely diverse possibilities of the lives of individual men and women.

So is it true as the author of Ecclesiastes says there is nothing new under the sun? And that when things are bad we need only to wait and things will get better? This has been our history for some 10 or more thousands of years. This has been my own history for some 90 years.

But then I read, actually am reading right now David Attenborough’s A Life on our Planet. And he makes it clear in his book (and video) that Solomon was wrong, as are all of us who agree with his conclusion that there is nothing new under the sun.

There is something new, and most especially under the sun. And it’s not the destruction of our democracy by a president unfit for the job. For as we see democracies sooner or later are always destroyed. Now, however, as Attenborough makes clear, it’s not democracy but the planet itself that is being destroyed and we are the principal culprits….




	

less than a million years

“Less than a million years hence the average man or woman will realize all the possibilities that human life has so far shown. He or she will never know a minute’s illness. He will be able to think like Newton, to write like Racine, to paint like the van Eycks, to compose like Bach. He will be as incapable of hatred as St. Francis, and . . . every minute of his life will be lived with all the passion of a lover or a discoverer.

“I doubt whether, given my psychological make-up, I should have found many greater thrills in a hundred lives.” He died with dignity and even nobility, ruing that he could not help his research students to complete their courses. “I don’t mind dying,” he said. “I mind dying with unkept promises.”
J .B.S. Haldane,

At the end, when Haldane was riddled with cancer in 1964, he wrote that he regretted that he had never walked across the sea floor from England to France, as he’d have liked, but as compensation he had been wounded in a world war, had known the love of women, had tried heroin and bang and had spent 48 hours in a miniature submarine.
(Mr. Davenport-Hines, Fellow-elect of All Souls College, Oxford.)

“I

the satanic temple

Note to my grandson.

Hey Maverick, Have you ever heard of the Satanic Temple? I hadn’t and just the other day I read this:

The mission of The Satanic Temple is to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense, oppose injustice, and undertake noble pursuits.

The Satanic Temple has publicly confronted hate groups, fought for the abolition of corporal punishment in public schools, applied for equal representation when religious installations are placed on public property…

And I ask myself why don’t I join up with these guys. Their beliefs are my beliefs, almost word for word.
BP

From their Website:

There are The Seven FUNDAMENTAL TENETS

  • I One should strive to act with compassion and empathy toward all creatures in accordance with reason.
  • II The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.
  • III One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.
  • IV The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo one’s own.
  • V Beliefs should conform to one’s best scientific understanding of the world. One should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit one’s beliefs.
  • VI People are fallible. If one makes a mistake, one should do one’s best to rectify it and resolve any harm that might have been caused.
  • VII Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.

Two Must reads, August 28, 2020

What chance is there for an aging American Liberal? What chance for Democracy in America?

An American Disaster Foretold

Europeans look at “containment” as the means to deal with Trump.

By Roger Cohen

President Trump with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Some American allies are fearful of what Mr. Trump will do if he’s re-elected.
President Trump with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Some American allies are fearful of what Mr. Trump will do if he’s re-elected.Credit… Erin Schaff/The New York Times

PARIS — Henry Kissinger this month called François Delattre, the former French ambassador to the United States who is now the secretary general of the Foreign Ministry. Kissinger was concerned about the deteriorating state of U.S.-Chinese relations and the risk that the situation could slip out of control.

Delattre told me he has his own concerns in that regard. An October surprise might involve a military incident in the South China Sea that President Trump uses to demonstrate American resolve against President Xi Jinping’s China. The resolve that would supposedly vanish in the event of a Joe Biden victory, whereupon, Trump claimed in a 70-minute speech on the South Lawn of the White House, “China would own our country.”

Trump is like the Bellman in Lewis Carroll’s “The Hunting of the Snark”: “I have said it thrice: What I tell you three times is true.” China would no more own Biden’s United States than Trump’s United States owns Greenland.

“It’s lonely being a European today,” Delattre mused. Russia is hostile. China is hostile. Emerging powers view the postwar multilateral organizations which Europe prizes as relics of a world made by and for Western powers — and want to change them. As for the United States, it’s absent.

Increasingly, Europeans speak of the need for “containment” of the United States if Trump is re-elected, the term coined by the U.S. diplomat George Kennan to define America’s Cold War policy toward the Communist Soviet Union. That would be a shocking development, except that nothing is shocking any longer.

Not in a world where presidential falsehoods repeated thrice, or more, are “true.”

Not after a Republican National Convention during which Mike Pompeo, the toadying secretary of state, sang the praises of Trump’s “‘America First’ vision” from a Jerusalem rooftop in open defiance of the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activities while on the job.

“Pompeo is the worst and most corrupt secretary of state ever,” Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told me.

Not after Trump set the scene for a demolition of American democracy by saying on the convention’s opening day that “the only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election.”

Not after Trump, in an acceptance speech that, in the Pompeo mold, commandeered the White House for political purposes, warned darkly, “If the left gains power they will demolish the suburbs.” Not after Trump has turned the Republican Party into a personality cult. Not after Trump concluded from the impeachment proceedings that he can get away with anything.

I asked Ornstein, not prone to histrionics, how real the threat to American democracy is, at 67 days from the election. “If we are not at Defcon 1, we are pretty close,” he said, referring to the label used by the United States armed forces for the highest level of threat.

Europeans know how this goes. Viktor Orban, the rightist Hungarian prime minister, has established a template for the authoritarian system Trump would pursue if re-elected: neutralize an independent judiciary, demonize immigrants, claim the “people’s will” overrides constitutional checks and balances, curtail a free media, exalt a mythologized national heroism, and ultimately, like Orban or Vladimir Putin or Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, secure a form of autocratic rule that retains a veneer of democracy while skewing the contest sufficiently to ensure it can yield only one result.

In fact, of course, Trump has long since started down this road. He has Attorney General William Barr’s Justice Department in his pocket. He is on course, as he boasted in his speech, to appoint more than 300 federal judges. He already has his sights on The Washington Post’s owner, Jeff Bezos.

He is working hard at voter suppression and attempts to disqualify legitimate votes. “Mail ballots, they cheat,” the president claims. Mail ballots are “substantially fraudulent.” Mail ballots “will be printed by foreign countries.”

What I tell you three times is true. Like saying over and over that a Biden victory will lead to destruction or that he has done more for African-Americans than any president since Lincoln. Trump is orchestrating mayhem to keep the job that is probably his only means of evading New York prosecutors and a jail sentence. Surveys suggest masked Democrats are far more likely than unmasked Republicans to vote by mail. Hence Trump’s drumbeat and the recent accelerated removal of postal sorting machines.

Officials close to Biden are looking at several ominous scenarios: Trump claiming victory before the votes in battleground states are fully counted — a count that could take many days or even weeks given the likely number of absentee ballots; Trump, supported by Barr, who has claimed that foreign governments have produced counterfeit mail ballots, refusing to concede and challenging the validity of the mail-in voting tally; some attempt by Trump to use the armed forces to help him win; Trump contesting the outcome in one or more states, so that neither Biden nor Trump has the needed 270 electoral votes and the election is determined in the House by Republican-majority delegations with one vote per state.

Absent a Biden landslide, and I don’t see one, any of this could happen — and Europe will want to “contain” that America. Like Kissinger and Delattre, I am worried about China. But perhaps it is Xi’s move to eliminate presidential term limits and become emperor for life that concerns me most as a potential model for His Neediness.

Roger Cohen has been a columnist for The Times since 2009. His columns appear Wednesday and Saturday. He joined The Times in 1990, and has served as a foreign correspondent and foreign editor. @NYTimesCohen

Stephen Miller’s Dystopian America

Language is a tool for shaping minds, and Miller knows how to weaponize it.

By Jean Guerrero

Stephen Miller, White House senior adviser.
Stephen Miller, White House senior adviser.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Over the past week, the Republican National Convention sought to conjure a “radical left” hellscape.

Speakers conflated anti-racist protesters with deranged criminals out to destroy the country. Donald Trump Jr. called Joe Biden “the Loch Ness monster,” while the conservative activist Charlie Kirk praised Donald Trump as “the bodyguard of Western civilization.” In his speech on Thursday, the president denounced “mob rule.” “Your vote will decide whether we protect law-abiding Americans, or whether we give free rein to violent anarchists and agitators, and criminals who threaten our citizens,” he said.

The language at the convention comes from the “white genocide” conspiracy theory, which warns, among other things, that brown and Black people will destroy white civilization with the help of their anti-racist allies. It echoed that of the racist-dystopian novel “The Camp of the Saints,” which Stephen Miller, Mr. Trump’s senior policy adviser and speechwriter, promoted in 2015 through the right-wing website Breitbart.

The book, by the French author Jean Raspail, characterizes “anti-racists” as an apocalyptic “mob” of “agitators” and “anarchists,” and depicts the destruction of the white world by brown refugees described as “monsters,” “beasts” and “toiling ants teeming for the white man’s comfort.” He wrote of a world where “anti-racists” are “servants of the beast” tainted by the “milk of human kindness.” Empathy and interracial ally-ship are associated with primitive bodily functions.

Language is a tool for shaping minds, and Mr. Miller knows how to weaponize it. It’s why he draws from books like Mr. Raspail’s to shape rhetoric. It’s why, in 2015, he asked writers at Breitbart to produce an article about the parallels between the book and real life that painted the book as prophetic. It’s also why he inserts vivid, gory descriptions of crimes ostensibly committed by migrants into Mr. Trump’s speeches.

In July, Mr. Miller told Tucker Carlson that the federal crackdown on anti-racist protesters in Portland, Ore., was about “the survival of this country.” In an interview with the radio host Larry O’Connor that month, he said the priority of the administration was protecting America from the dangers of “cancel culture,” which he described as “a very grave threat to American freedom.”

Mr. Trump is leaning on Mr. Miller’s dystopian vision to stoke white fear the way Mr. Miller did in 2016, when he helped his boss depict Democrats as elites seeking to “decimate” America through immigration. This time around the targets have expanded beyond Mexicans and Muslims to include Black Lives Matter protesters and their allies. The Trump campaign’s strategy is to cast the president’s opponents as an existential threat to the nation.

The term “cancel culture,” used throughout the Republican convention, lumps together and demonizes critics of white male supremacy, in an attempt to silence them. The use of the term in this context allows the far right to dictate the terms of the conversation, as does the news media’s reluctance to call Mr. Trump and his chief adviser what they are: traffickers in hate, pushing a white nationalist agenda through narratives about national identity, prosperity and security.

Mr. Miller seeks to re-engineer immigration into this country to keep brown and Black people out, because he sees them as threat to America’s prosperity and national security. It explains why his policies disproportionately affect migrant families from Latin America and Africa, and why the federal government is using force against anti-racist protesters in cities run by Democrats.

This obsession with the supposed dangers of people of color, particularly immigrants or left-wing extremists, ignores reality. Right-wing extremists have committed the most terrorist attacks in the United States since the 1990s.

Officials say that a 17-year-old named Kyle Rittenhouse opened fire on people during a protest in Kenosha, Wis., on Tuesday, killing two and wounding a third. Mr. Rittenhouse, a supporter of Mr. Trump and the pro-law enforcement “Blue Lives Matter” movement, traveled to Kenosha from his home in Antioch, Ill., in response to online appeals from a right-wing militia group to “protect” businesses, property and lives from “rioters,” investigators say.

Last August, a gunman drove to a Walmart in El Paso, targeting Hispanics in massacre that left 23 people dead. The man charged in the killings, Patrick Crusius, wrote an anti-immigrant manifesto that spoke of a “Hispanic invasion of Texas,” mirroring Mr. Trump’s characterization of migrants from Central and South America as perpetrating “an invasion of our country.”

False Black and brown crime statistics are a common recruiting tactic in white supremacist circles; the website American Renaissance, which Mr. Miller also promoted through Breitbart, pumps out misleading statistics characterizing people of color as more prone to violence. These words take on a life of their own and serve to further radicalize an already divided citizenry.

Mary Ann Mendoza, an “angel mom” whose son was killed by a driver who was in the United States illegally, was scheduled to speak at the Republican convention. She was dropped from the convention lineup after she retweeted an anti-Semitic QAnon conspiracy theory. Mr. Miller has repeatedly given her a platform from which to spew fabricated migrant crime statistics that inaccurately paint migrants as more innately violent than citizens.

As Mr. Trump increasingly adopts the playbook of white supremacists, a new solidarity is emerging among white, Black, brown and other groups as they confront the growing threat of right-wing extremism together. The Joe Biden-Kamala Harris ticket reflects this new solidarity.

“Trump knows that if we find real solidarity, it’s a wrap,” said Aida Rodriguez, an Afro-Latina activist. “We’re all waking up to it, and you’re going to see it in November.” These alliances are a real-life manifestation of the mob of Mr. Miller’s nightmares. But that “mob” will not destroy America, as he imagines. It will destroy the white supremacist fantasy he and so many others live inside.

Jean Guerrero (@jeanguerre), an investigative journalist, is the author of the book “Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump and the White Nationalist Agenda.”

Journal notes, God Speak

There are those who say, and say without irony, with full belief in their words, that they speak for God. Truly amazing isn’t it, that one man or one woman, or a group of men and women, can believe that he or she or they speak for the great father of all of us. I don’t believe it (nor do I believe in the great father any more than I believe in Santa).

And that’s the principal reason I stopped going to church, synagogue, temple and mosque, the principal reason I stopped listening, if I ever did, to Robert Jeffress and his ilk, (Jeffress is the Senior Minister of the 14,000-member First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, and a good friend of Trump).

And here is what I mean by God speak, when for example Rev. Jeffress is speaking: “God’s judgment is not always immediate,” Jeffress told his congregation, as well as the tens of thousands of people watching and listening online, “but it’s always inevitable.” Yeah, sure.

We for certain, and maybe even a good number of the attendees at First Baptist, are constantly confronting enormous problems just trying to stay alive and well, (as in these terrible times of Trump’s untruths and the coronavirus) and church going has never shown any special ability or capacity in solving any of our real problems.

What did the First Baptist, or its like, ever do to make disappear first slavery and second Jim Crow? Well the lifetime of slavery in the U.S. was some 339 years, from 1526 (when the first Africans enslaved within the continental United States arrived at the San Miguel de Gualdape colony in present-day South Carolina), and 1865 when Abraham “freed the slaves.” And it’s more than likely that he church may be the principal reason slavery lasted as long as it did. And similarly Jim Crow, with a life time of 1865 until? when? Perhaps now? That’s some 150 years or more, and during all that time, First Baptist, where were you?

Has anyone ever noticed how much our churches speak of God and the Bible and how little they have to say of their, our own history, of the history of our country? Shameful isn’t it. The Christian church is a part of the country’s history, and not the most admirable part. Who of the church leaders do we admire like we admire our country’s leaders Washington, Lincoln, and FDR.?

Why is that? Because the churches have always been most taken up by a story not even true of man’s origins rather than the true story of the country.

Now I realize I’m saying nothing new or original, and that myriads of others have spoken and written, and much more elegantly than I about what I call our God problem. Really no problem at all but an aistraction, a Red Herring or irrelevant topic introduced into a conversation or argument to divert attention of the readers or listeners from the real issue. Right now there are, and probably always have been, a huge number of real issues confronting us, but neither the meaning of this or that text from the Bible , not even the existence of God is one of them.

Real issues and real problems being for example the deaths of hundreds and thousands of us from the ravages of the Covid-19 virus . On the recent Memorial Day weekend we reached the 100,000 total deaths attributed to the Virus, and now we’re not far from a 300,000 total.

Then there is the warming of the earth, what some are already calling the sixth extinction, and the close to collapse condition of many of our roads and bridges, the diminished quality of our air and water, the physical separation of our peoples into clans and tribes, much as in 18th century America before the coming of the gold and land seekers. And then there is the separation, stronger than ever before, of our peoples into rich and poor, white and colored, and what is perhaps hardest of all to swallow over morning coffee the separation of our pundits and leaders into lie tellers and truth tellers, truth itself often just trying to hold on for dear life .


Trump’s Enablers

What should happen to them? For the moment the enablers are still there, they still don’t seem to realize what carnage, what destruction they have laid upon our country by not defending us, first from a totally unfit and buffoonish president, and second from allowing that same president to play golf instead of controlling a destructive pandemic and thereby allowing free reign to the Coronavirus causing the deaths of 150,000 Americans. And it’s not over, Trump, and Trump’s enablers and Covid-19 are still deadly active. Will we survive the two scourges? It remains to be seen.

While the Supreme Court does seem to have restored capital punishment to our nation’s prison populations this seems hardly punishment enough for Trump’s Enablers. Those condemned to Dante’s Ninth Circle of Hell were placed within a large frozen lake, Cocytus, trapped in the ice, each according to his guilt, for high crimes, but in particular for treachery against their fellows. For the Enablers their Cocytus or Ninth Circle would be divided into four concentric rings corresponding in their cases to betrayal of family, community, and country, not to mention betrayal of self and world.

Dante speaks to the traitors in the ice, Canto XXXII

But here is Jennifer Rubin, writing in the Washington Post
of July 15, 2020

The bill is coming due for those who sold their souls to Trump

Between President Trump’s Rose Garden rant on Tuesday and the White House’s excuse that it never authorized trade representative Peter Navarro to write a screed attacking the world’s leading infectious-disease expert, it has become a wee bit difficult for in-house lackeys, elected Republicans and card-carrying members of the right-wing media to keep up the pretense that Trump and his administration are functioning normally — or even functioning at all. …

Increasingly, the White House operates not so much as the head of the executive branch but as a site for Trump’s personal and political breakdowns. It is hard to see that any official business is performed in an administration obsessed with covering Trump’s lies, catering to his ego, attacking his opponents and providing emotional refuge for those whose identity depends on venerating the Confederate flag and excusing systemic racism. There is almost no actual policy happening and no rationale for the administration’s continued existence.

Let’s turn, then, to the Senate Republicans who voted to acquit him (that would be everyone except Utah Sen. Mitt Romney), the House Republicans who mouthed Russian propaganda in his defense and the horde of right-wing pundits and media figures who both financially sustain and humiliate themselves with never-ending rationalizations for a president who struggles to complete a sentence, let alone think through complex policy matters.

The elected Republicans should be confronted at every turn by mainstream media and voters:

Do you think President Trump is fit even to complete his term?
Do you regret supporting his exoneration in the Ukraine scandal?
How can you support a president who clings to the Confederate flag and defends the killing of African Americans by police by saying more white people are killed?
How can the administration address the pandemic when members of the administration heap scorn on Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases?
Why are you supporting a president who refused to respond to Russian bounties placed on U.S. servicemen and women?
Does the self-enrichment and corruption bother you, even a little?
Is there anything he could do or say that would cause you to renounce him?

The right-wing media cohort — including both those helplessly corrupted by the money and fame that goes with feeding Trump’s frenzied base and those with pretensions of respectability have other concerns. As Laura Ingraham (who reportedly believes “we have to be prepared for Trump losing”) and the utterly tone deaf Ivanka Trump (“Find something new!”) advise, they will have to come up with their next act….

The spineless sycophants — who attacked Never Trumpers for their show of integrity, who fashioned disingenuous excuses for Trump and who concoct elaborate rationalizations to oppose voting for former vice president Joe Biden (Socialist!) — will swear up and down that Hillary Clinton would have been worse.

(Really — denying a pandemic? Inducing supporters not to wear lifesaving masks? Embracing white nationalists? Staffing the White House with a cohort of incompetents? Giving Vladimir Putin a free pass on targeting U.S. troops?) Some will insist they were against Trump all along. Some (a tiny few) will show some modicum of remorse, and some will try to ignore the past four years of intellectual hackery. What “polite society” (if there is such a thing) must not do is forget their role in sustaining an un-American president whose incompetency has resulted in more than 100,000 unnecessary deaths.

The bill is coming due for those who sold their souls to Trump. The voters may boot out a good number of incumbents. The rest of us, however, will have learned how through silence and collaboration a cadre of well-educated comfortable men and women can rationalize and excuse anything. It has been a frightening lesson in human weakness and propensity to accommodate themselves to evil, which should remind us the only thing that really matters in public life is character.

Liberté, Égalité, et Fraternité