A Blog By Clayton Callahan- Reluctant Political Activist

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I have never been an activist before. All my life, I’ve been content to vote every two years and shoot off my mouth perhaps once a week. But on November 8th, 2016 this country’s arcane electoral college system enabled a fascist, demagog to claim victory, and thus Donald Trump became President-Elect of my United States of America.

Americans are famous for our quick response to aid the victims of natural disasters. Now, we ourselves are the victims of our own self-inflicted  political disaster. My countrymen, we are better than this. We are not a nation of racist, sexist, xenophobes. We are not, and never have been, perfect. But we are a great people of a great nation, and I will not stand for a tyrant’s rule above us.

Why? Because, America, we are better than this!

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America’s New Civil War: Conservatives vs. Reason

This is by someone called Craig T. I don’t know who he is, but I know he’s right!

You Republicans spent 50 years nourishing a racist beast, and now that the beast has grown so that it’s about to devour your party, you want to wash your hands of it.
No… I’m afraid not… This is your baby.
From Barry Goldwaters anti civil rights crusade of 1964 all the way till today, you knew what you were doing.
When Ronald Reagan talked about “welfare queens”, you knew what he was doing. You defended him.
When George HW Bush ran the Willie Horton add, you knew what he was doing. You defended him.
When Rick Santorum bitched about “making black peoples lives better by giving them someone else’s money”, you knew what he was doing. You applauded him.
When Newt Gingrich referred to Obama as the “food stamp President”, you knew what he was doing. You cheered for him.
When you defended the waving of the Confederate flag and Confederate monuments, you knew what ideologies you were appealing to.
When Republican after Republican took to the stage to say, suggest, or imply that Obama was a Muslim and a Kenyan, you knew exactly who they were trying to appeal to. and you applauded them.
Now, 50 years on, your elected officials can’t even speak out against the KKK and Neo Nazis for fear of a primary challenge from the “Alt Right”.
Donald Trump bitch slapped you and took your party from you and handed it over to the beast that you’d been riding and toying with for 50 years.
You can no longer claim that the KKK doesn’t belong to you…. That the Neo Nazis don’t belong to you.
The gloves are off and there’s no more “code words” and “catch phrases” to hide behind.
I don’t feel sorry for you and I don’t give you “credit” for disavowing them now.
Because you should’ve been disavowing it for the 50 years that you were playing the “Southern strategy” game.
It’s too late. You bore this baby, you weened it, fed it, raised it to maturity….
We won’t let you walk away from it now.
The President that you nominated and elected while watching him blatantly race bait his way to power, has taken sides with the KKK and Neo Nazis over the people who would dare protest against them.
We will NEVER let you forget that you supported him while he was calling Mexicans rapist.
That you supported him while he was bragging about grabbing women’s pussies.
That you supported him while he was calling into question the birth origin of the first black president.
That you supported him while he was saying that a Mexican American judge couldn’t be impartial to adjudicate his case because of his ethnicity.
That you supported him when he wanted a blanket ban on an entire religion from entering the country.
We will NEVER let you forget.
Trump and the racism that he brought with him belongs to ALL of you Republicans.
Craig T.

And So It Begins

As I write this it is May 17th, 2017 and The Donald is having a very BAD day. Not that I consider that a bad thing for me of course 🙂

It started this morning when Congressman Al Green of Texas called for Trump’s impeachment on the house floor. As you may be aware, impeachment proceedings must begin in the US House of Representatives before the matter can proceed to the US Senate for trial. Rep. Green’s brave stand made that now possible, and I was quick to call my representative and encourage her to support Green.

And then the day got better.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller to serve as special prosecutor overseeing the investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election! This is something I’ve been pestering elected officials to do for months. We have desperately needed an independent legal authority to dig into Trump’s Russian dirt. Someone with the power to subpoena his tax returns and compel witnesses to testify, and now we have such a person.

And then the day got even better.

The Washington Post reported that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy apparently was recorded telling colleagues that he thinks Putin “pays” Trump! The recording has him making the assertion in a conversation with fellow lawmakers ― including House Speaker Paul Ryan ― months before the election! Now the question is not just, “What did the president know and when did he know it?” but “Hey, what about that speaker guy…what did he know and when?” This has the potential to rip apart the entire Republican establishment in Washington root and branch, and I have my popcorn ready.

And then it got even better still!

According to the site Real Clear Politics, Trump’s approval rating has once more dipped down into the 30s. He now has an average approval rating of 39.8, a low he has been at just once before. However, his disapproval is now higher than ever with an average of 55% of Americans giving him the thumbs-down. Keep in mind that every DC politician wants to hitch their trailer to a star, not a rock. If this tailspin is maintained, Trump will lose every ally he has in congress and Mr. Green’s impeachment vote will almost certainly find favor. This is especially true if our new best friend  Robert Mueller finds significant evidence of wrongdoing.

In short, it’s been a very, very good day for the resistance and a very bad one for the Orange Baboon.

So, what am I going to do to celebrate? Nothing! The war is not yet won. The Resistance must struggle on. We now have momentum, and we dare not squander it. We must keep calling our elected officials. We must keep writing letters to our editors. We must keep marching, and we must keep reaching out to our fellow citizens to oppose Trump.

Keep fighting until the fight is won, people. And take strength from every good day!

 

By Clayton Callahan

Hearts and Minds in the War Against Trump

I know it’s amazing to those of us who actually pay attention to what’s going on in this country, but just over 40% of our fellow Americans still think Trump is doing a good job. In fact, he even rates high with this group when asked specific questions like, “Is Trump keeping his promises,” or “Are manufacturing jobs returning since Trump became president.” This is according to the site Real Clear Politics, by the way, which you can find at…

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/other/president_trump_job_approval-6179.html

Now, I don’t mean to depress you, gentle reader. Rather I wish to inspire you to action! An action that you can take in small ways every day. Face it, senators and congressmen can be hard to reach but a living, breathing Trump supporter is much easier to get in touch with. And that is an opportunity we all must seize upon.

How many Facebook friends have we “unfriended” since November 8th, 2016? If you’re like me the answer is quite a few.  But looking back, I now realize these were tactical mistakes. In fact, we need to be in communication with these Trump supporting friends now more than ever. The longer Trump remains in the White House, the more promises he breaks and the more mistakes he makes. You can rest assured that Fox News won’t make your Republican buddy aware of all Trump’s cockups…but you can. Honest dialog is our best chance to degrade Trump’s support and we need to be engaging in it.

I recommend you keep it as polite as possible. Phrase things in a way that will appeal to the Trump supporter: “You know I’m as patriotic as you, that’s why this Russian thing really has me concerned. What do you think?” Plant that seed of truth and nourish it. As it stands, Trump is too popular for the GOP lead House of Representatives to move to impeach him. We must, therefore, undermine that popularity one citizen at a time until it becomes politically possible for them to kick him to the curb.

At no time in his presidency has Trump been at less than 39% approval. I challenge each and every knowledgeable American to work to get that number to under 20%. This is a war we can win, folks, but to do so, we’re going to have to start talking to people on the other side.

Good luck to us all.

 

By Clayton Callahan

Investigation Theater- Starring Richard Burr

Years ago I took a job as a security guard at a factory, and it counts as my only acting job to date. You see, we guards were instructed to check worker’s passes, make sure doors were locked and keep a sharp eye out for safety violations. However, whenever we did that, the workers would lodge a grievous to management. And as we were only expendable contract employees, management consistently sided with its own workers, and the guards got reprimanded every time.

So we turned a security guard job into an exercise in “security theater.” With polished shoes, we walked the factory halls so all could see our shiny badges. But we did nothing, nothing at all. For eight hours at a crack, we pretended to be performing a function when in fact we were staying out of trouble by hiding in plain sight. And it worked perfectly. No more reprimands and everybody kept their jobs.

And now as I watch our elected officials in Washington, I see the same show performed. Our Senator Burr is head of the senate intelligence committee, and he is a Republican. Faced with the vital mission of investigating the Russian involvement in the election of a Republican president, he realizes this could get him in trouble.

So what does our senator do? He puts on a play! Although the investigation into the demise of American democracy has been going for three months, no evidence has been uncovered by the committee. This is not a surprise as no full-time staffer has been assigned to the investigation, and of the seven staffers (who each sort of work part time on it) none are lawyers. At this rate, I am reasonably sure Senator Richard Burr can maintain the charade for the next four years when he can once again count on the help of a foreign dictator to keep the GOP in power.

Bravo, Senator Burr. Bravo!

 

By Clayton Callahan

Liberals, It’s Time We Came Together…Right Now.

So, last month I gave some of my hard earned cash to a guy named Rob Quist.

Who the heck is Rob Quist you may ask? He’s the democratic candidate for congress in Montana’s special election which will be held on May 25th, 2017.

Now, do I live in Montana?

Nope, I’ve never even been to the Treasure State. So why did I give money to a man who won’t even be my actual representative if he wins? Because, people, now is the time for all of us liberals to band together and FIGHT! Conservatives have been doing this for years and kicking our butts good and hard in the process. Donated money flowing across state lines beefed up the GOP’s congressional dominance that we now suffer under.

We, liberals, however, have not been doing this. Instead, we were content to merely vote every FOUR years and kept our money mostly in our own pockets. We also felt safe in the knowledge that Barack Obama would prevent anything truly crazy from happening in Washington, and we thought it best not to meddle in our “red state” neighbor’s business.

And look where that got us!

Recently, Bernie Sanders has been going around the country with prominent Democratic leaders in an attempt to unify liberals against a common foe. And as he does this, his Democratic teammates get heckled with cries of, “Bernie would have won!” And you know, it’s possible he might have won. And it’s also obvious the DNC played dirty to support Hillary over him.

And you know what…as of this point in the story, none of that matters a tinker’s damn!

The past is over, and if I could magically call a “do-over” for the entire 2016 election, you’re darn right I’d wave my wand to do just that. But I obviously can’t change the past. And, fellow liberals, the future is rushing upon us. It’s a dark future that’s coming too; where our basic rights are to be stripped away along with the natural environment we live in.

Is Rob Quist my specific kind of liberal?

Beats the crap out of me. He’s a friggin country western singer turned political-wannabe for Christ’s sake. However, I do know he’s anti-Trump, and I do know that we need as many men and women of that ilk as we can find in government right now.

Liberals like to chant, “A people united will never be defeated.” Cool. Let us test that theory. Let us unite behind every and any like minded soul who’s out there opposing Trump so that we may push back this darkness and let in the light of a better future for all.

And let’s do it NOW!

 

By Clayton Callahan

 

A New Protest Thing Anyone Can Do!

In this video we have The Donald, in his own words, championing the elimination of unnecessary government spending and asking the people to help him cut costs to make government more efficient–and for once I say we help him!

People, do you know of a federal employee who’s squandering taxpayer money? I do, and he’d frittering it away at the Mar-A-Lago Club every other weekend! Let’s all be sure to tell the inspector general about it so an official report gets generated that will slap The Donald in the face. You can fill out an official complaint at…

https://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/fraudnet.cgi

or call (800) 424-5454

Me? I’ve already done both. My complaint read as follows:

I know of a federal employee in a managerial position who is using public funds to finance personal vacation activities. Roughly twice a month, this manager flys in a government plane to a private resort where he compels federal employees to stay at a hotel he owns stock in. The cost to the taxpayer for each of these “getaway” weekends is estimated to exceed three million dollars. As a taxpayer, I am outraged by this overt abuse of government funds and I demand action be taken by the office of the Inspector General. The manager in question is the chief of the executive branch of the federal government.

   Thank you,

If enough people complain, we can expect an official report that the media will be sure to cover. So come on, folks, LET’S SOCK IT TO HIM!

By Clayton J. Callahan

No, I Don’t Have To Hate All Republicans

I had a bit of a wake-up call this morning and it was refreshing. Former REPUBLICAN Governor Shwartszneger put out a video slamming Donald Trump and supporting Meals On Wheels as well as federally funded after school programs.

Wow!

Now, I’ve never lived in California but my liberal friends who have report that he wasn’t such a bad governor. Sure, he did a few things they didn’t like or agree with. However, under his leadership, the business of government got done and some improvements to environmental laws were made. He did not try to restrict voting access for African Americans. He did not try to take marriage rights away from homosexuals, and he supported a woman’s right to choose.

Like I said, wow!

To compare his type of Republican with that of The Donald isn’t like apples to oranges. It’s like apples to moon rocks! And it reminds me that I did not always sputter with rage whenever the Republican party was mentioned in my presence. In fact, there was a time when I simply disagreed with the GOP’s take on certain issues and that was all. Is it possible that I can return to those happy days of yore? Can the Republicans purge themselves of this wretched disease and return to the Big Tent of mild conservatives that they once were?

If so, there is hope not only for the GOP but for the country as a whole. If not…well, I’d better stay angry because I’ll need my rage to keep me in the fight for a free and democratic America.

 

By Clayton J. Callahan

 

 

An Insider’s View: The Dark Rigidity of Fundamentalist Rural America

In deep-red white America, the white Christian God is king.

By Forsetti’s Justice / AlterNet

November 22, 2016

As the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump is being sorted out, a common theme keeps cropping up from all sides: “Democrats failed to understand white, working-class, fly-over America.”

Trump supporters are saying this. Progressive pundits are saying this. Talking heads across all forms of the media are saying this. Even some Democratic leaders are saying this. It doesn’t matter how many people say it, it is complete BS. It is an intellectual/linguistic sleight of hand meant to draw attention away from the real problem. The real problem isn’t East Coast elites who don’t understand or care about rural America. The real problem is that rural Americans don’t understand the causes of their own situations and fears and they have shown no interest in finding out. They don’t want to know why they feel the way they do or why they are struggling because they don’t want to admit it is in large part because of the choices they’ve made and the horrible things they’ve allowed themselves to believe.

I grew up in rural Christian white America. You’d be hard-pressed to find an area of the country with a higher percentage of Christians or whites. I spent most of the first 24 years of my life deeply embedded in this culture. I religiously (pun intended) attended their Christian services. I worked off and on on their rural farms. I dated their calico-skirted daughters. I camped, hunted and fished with their sons. I listened to their political rants at the local diner and truck stop. I winced at their racist/bigoted jokes and epithets that were said more out of ignorance than animosity. I have watched the town I grew up in go from a robust economy with well-kept homes and infrastructure to a struggling economy with shuttered businesses, dilapidated homes and a broken-down infrastructure over the past 30 years. The problem isn’t that I don’t understand these people. The problem is they don’t understand themselves or the reasons for their anger and frustration.

In deep-red America, the white Christian god is king, figuratively and literally. Religious fundamentalism has shaped most of their belief systems. Systems built on a fundamentalist framework are not conducive to introspection, questioning, learning, or change. When you have a belief system built on fundamentalism, it isn’t open to outside criticism, especially by anyone not a member of your tribe and in a position of power. The problem isn’t that coastal elites don’t understand rural Americans. The problem is that rural America doesn’t understand itself and will never listen to anyone outside its bubble. It doesn’t matter how “understanding” you are, how well you listen, what language you use…if you are viewed as an outsider, your views will be automatically discounted. I’ve had hundreds of discussions with rural white Americans and whenever I present them any information that contradicts their entrenched beliefs, no matter how sound, how unquestionable, how obvious, they will not even entertain the possibility that it might be true. Their refusal is a result of the nature of their fundamentalist belief system and the fact that I’m the enemy because I’m an educated liberal.

At some point during the discussion, they will say, “That’s your education talking,” derogatorily, as a general dismissal of everything I said. They truly believe this is a legitimate response, because to them education is not to be trusted. Education is the enemy of fundamentalism because fundamentalism, by its very nature, is not built on facts. The fundamentalists I grew up around aren’t anti-education. They want their kids to know how to read and write. They are against quality, in-depth, broad, specialized education. Learning is only valued up to a certain point. Once it reaches the level where what you learn contradicts doctrine and fundamentalist arguments, it becomes dangerous. I watched a lot of my fellow students who were smart, stop their education the day they graduated high school. For most of the young ladies, getting married and having kids was more important than continuing their learning. For many of the young men, getting a college education was seen as unnecessary and a waste of time. For the few who did go to college, what they learned was still filtered through their fundamentalist belief systems. If something they were taught didn’t support a preconception, it would be ignored and forgotten the second it was no longer needed to pass an exam.

Knowing this about their belief system and their view of outside information that doesn’t support it, telling me that the problem is coastal elites not understanding them completely misses the point.

Another problem with rural Christian white Americans is they are racists. I’m not talking about white hood-wearing, cross-burning, lynching racists (though some are). I’m talking about people who deep down in their heart of hearts truly believe they are superior because they are white. Their white god made them in his image and everyone else is a less-than-perfect version, flawed and cursed.

The religion in which I was raised taught this. Even though they’ve backtracked on some of their more racist declarations, many still believe the original claims. Non-whites are the color they are because of their sins, or at least the sins of their ancestors. Blacks don’t have dark skin because of where they lived and evolution; they have dark skin because they are cursed. God cursed them for a reason. If god cursed them, treating them as equals would be going against god’s will. It is really easy to justify treating people differently if they are cursed by god and will never be as good as you no matter what they do because of some predetermined status.

Once you have this view, it is easy to lower the outside group’s standing and acceptable level of treatment. Again, there are varying levels of racism at play in rural Christian white America. I know people who are ardent racists. I know a lot more whose racism is much more subtle but nonetheless racist. It wouldn’t take sodium pentothal to get most of these people to admit they believe they are fundamentally better and superior to minorities. They are white supremacists who dress up in white dress shirts, ties and gingham dresses. They carry a bible and tell you, “everyone’s a child of god” but forget to mention that some of god’s children are more favored than others and skin tone is the criterion by which we know who is and isn’t at the top of god’s list of most favored children.

For us “coastal elites” who understand evolution, genetics and science, nothing we say to those in flyover country is going to be listened to because not only are we fighting against an anti-education belief system, we are arguing against god. You aren’t winning a battle of beliefs with these people if you are on one side of the argument and god is on the other. No degree of understanding this is going to suddenly make them less racist, more open to reason and facts. Telling “urban elites” they need to understand rural Americans isn’t going to lead to a damn thing because it misses the causes of the problem.

Because rural Christian white Americans will not listen to educated arguments, supported by facts that go against their fundamentalist belief systems from “outsiders,” any change must come from within. Internal change in these systems does happen, but it happens infrequently and always lags far behind reality. This is why they fear change so much. They aren’t used to it. Of course, it really doesn’t matter whether they like it or not, it, like evolution and climate change even though they don’t believe it, it is going to happen whether they believe in it or not.

Another major problem with closed-off fundamentalist belief systems is they are very susceptible to propaganda. All belief systems are to some extent, but fundamentalist systems even more so because there are no checks and balances. If bad information gets in, it doesn’t get out and because there are no internal mechanisms to guard against it, it usually ends up very damaging to the whole. A closed-off belief system is like spinal fluid—it is great as long as nothing infectious gets into it. If bacteria gets into your spinal fluid, it causes unbelievable damage because there are no white blood cells to fend off invaders and protect the system. Without the protective services of white blood cells in the spinal column, infection spreads like wildfire and does significant damage in a short period of time. Once inside the closed-off spinal system, bacteria are free to destroy whatever they want.

The same is true with closed-off belief systems. Without built-in protective functions like critical analysis, self-reflection, openness to counter-evidence, and willingness to re-evaluate any and all beliefs, bad information in a closed-off system ends up doing massive damage in a short period of time. What has happened to too many fundamentalist belief systems is damaging information has been allowed in from people who have been granted “expert status.” If someone is allowed into a closed-off system and their information is deemed acceptable, anything they say will be readily accepted and become gospel.

Rural Christian white Americans have let anti-intellectual, anti-science, bigoted racists like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, the Stepford wives of Fox, and every evangelical preacher on television into their systems because these people tell them what they want to hear and because they sell themselves as being like them. The truth is none of these people give a rat’s ass about rural Christian white Americans except how they can exploit them for attention and money. None of them have anything in common with the people who have let them into their belief systems with the exception that they are white and they speak the language of white superiority.

Gays being allowed to marry are a threat. Blacks protesting the killing of their unarmed friends and family are a threat. Hispanics doing the cheap labor on their farms are somehow viewed a threat. The black president is a threat. Two billion Muslims are a threat. The Chinese are a threat. Women wanting to be autonomous are a threat. The college educated are a threat. Godless scientists are a threat. Everyone who isn’t just like them has been sold to them as a threat and they’ve bought it hook, line and grifting sinker. Since there are no self-regulating mechanisms in their belief systems, these threats only grow over time. Since facts and reality don’t matter, nothing you say to them will alter their beliefs. “President Obama was born in Kenya, is a secret member of the Muslim Brotherhood who hates white Americans and is going to take away their guns.” I feel ridiculous even writing this, it is so absurd, but it is gospel across large swaths of rural America. Are rural Christian white Americans scared? Damn right they are. Are their fears rational and justified? Hell no. The problem isn’t understanding their fears. The problem is how to assuage fears based on lies in closed-off fundamentalist belief systems that don’t have the necessary tools for properly evaluating the fears.

I don’t have a good answer to this question. When a child has an irrational fear, you can deal with it because they trust you and are open to possibilities. When someone doesn’t trust you and isn’t open to anything not already accepted as true in their belief system, there really isn’t much, if anything, you can do. This is why I think the idea that “Democrats have to understand and find common ground with rural America,” is misguided and a complete waste of time. When a 2,700-year-old book that was written by uneducated, pre-scientific people, subject to translation innumerable times, and edited with political and economic pressures from popes and kings, is given higher intellectual authority than facts arrived at from a rigorous, self-critical, constantly re-evaluating system that can and does correct mistakes, no amount of understanding, respect or evidence is going to change their minds and assuage their fears.

Do you know what does change the beliefs of fundamentalists, sometimes? When something becomes personal. Many a fundamentalist has changed his mind about the LGBT community once his loved ones started coming out of the closet. Many have not. But those who did, did so because their personal experience came into direct conflict with what they believe.

My father is a good example of this. For years I had long, heated discussions with him about gay rights. Being the good religious fundamentalist he is, he could not even entertain the possibility he was wrong. The church said it was wrong, so therefore it was wrong. No questions asked. No analysis needed. This changed when one of his adored stepchildren came out of the closet. He didn’t do a complete 180. He has a view that tries to accept gay rights while at the same time viewing being gay as a mortal sin because his need to have his belief system be right outweighs everything else.

This isn’t uncommon. Deeply held beliefs are usually only altered, replaced under catastrophic circumstances that are personal. This belief system alteration works both ways. I know diehard, open-minded progressives who became ardent fundamentalists due to a traumatic event in their lives. A good example of this is the comedian Dennis Miller. I’ve seen Miller in concert four different times during the 1990s. His humor was complex, riddled with references and leaned pretty left on almost all issues. Then 9/11 happened. For whatever reasons, the trauma of 9/11 caused a seismic shift in Miller’s belief system. Now he is a mainstay on conservative talk radio. His humor was replaced with anger and frustration. 9/11 changed his belief system because it was a catastrophic event that was personal to him.

The catastrophe of the Great Depression along with FDR’s progressive remedies helped create a generation of Democrats out of previously diehard Republicans. People who had up until that point believed only the free market could help the economy, not the government, changed their minds when the brutal reality of the Great Depression affected them directly and personally.

I thought the financial crisis in 2008 would have a similar, though lesser impact on many Republicans. It didn’t. The systems that were put in place after the Great Recession to deal with economic crises, the quick, smart response by Congress and the administration helped turn what could have been a catastrophic event into merely a really bad one. People suffered, but they didn’t suffer enough to become open to questioning their deeply held beliefs. Because this questioning didn’t take place, the Great Recession didn’t lead to any meaningful political shifts away from poorly regulated markets, supply side economics or how to respond to a financial crisis. This is why, even though rural Christian white Americans were hit hard by the Great Recession, they not only didn’t blame the political party they’ve aligned themselves with for years, they rewarded them two years later by voting them into a record number of state legislatures and taking over the U.S. House.

Of course, it didn’t help matters that there were scapegoats available toward whom they could direct their fears, anger and white supremacy. A significant number of rural Americans believe President Obama was in charge when the financial crisis started. An even higher number believe the mortgage crisis was the result of the government forcing banks to give loans to unqualified minorities. It doesn’t matter how untrue both of these things are, they are gospel in rural America. Why reevaluate your beliefs and voting patterns when scapegoats are available?

How do you make climate change personal to someone who believes only god can alter the weather? How do you make racial equality personal to someone who believes whites are naturally superior to non-whites? How do you make gender equality personal to someone who believes women are supposed to be subservient to men by god’s command? How do you get someone to view minorities as not threatening to people who don’t live around minorities and have never interacted with them? How do you make personal the fact massive tax cuts and cutting back government hurts their economic situation when they’ve voted for such policies for decades? I don’t think you can without some catastrophic events. And maybe not even then. The Civil War was pretty damn catastrophic, yet a large swath of the South believed—and still believes—they were right and had the moral high ground. They were/are also mostly Christian fundamentalists who believe they are superior because of the color of their skin and the religion they profess to follow. There is a pattern here for anyone willing to connect the dots.

“Rural white America needs to be better understood,” is not one of the dots. “Rural white America needs to be better understood,” is a dodge, meant to avoid the real problems because talking about the real problems is viewed as too upsetting, too mean, too arrogant, too elite, too snobbish. Pointing out that Aunt Bea’s views of Mexicans, blacks and gays is bigoted isn’t the thing one does in polite society. Too bad more people don’t think the same about Aunt Bea’s views. It’s the classic, “You’re a racist for calling me a racist,” ploy.

I do think rational arguments are needed, even if they go mostly ignored and ridiculed. I believe in treating people with the respect they’ve earned, but the key point here is “earned.” I’ll gladly sit down with Aunt Bea and have a nice, polite conversation about her beliefs about “the gays, the blacks and the illegals,” and I’ll do so without calling her a bigot and a racist. But this doesn’t mean she isn’t a bigot and a racist, and if I’m asked to describe her beliefs these are the only words that honestly fit. Just because the media, pundits on all sides and some Democratic leaders don’t want to call the actions of many rural white Christian Americans racist and bigoted doesn’t make them not so.

Avoiding the obvious only prolongs getting the necessary treatment. America has always had a race problem. The country was built on racism and bigotry. This didn’t miraculously go away in 1964 with the passage of the Civil Rights Act. It didn’t go away with the election of Barack Obama. If anything, these events pulled back the curtain exposing the dark, racist underbelly of America that white America likes to pretend doesn’t exist because we are the reason it exists. From the white nationalists to the white suburban soccer moms who voted for Donald Trump, to the far-left progressives who didn’t vote at all, racism exists and has once again been legitimized and normalized by white America.

Here are the honest truths that rural Christian white Americans don’t want to accept; until they accept these truths, nothing is going to change:

  • Their economic situation is largely the result of voting for supply-side economic policies that have been the largest redistribution of wealth from the bottom/middle to the top in U.S. history.
  • Immigrants haven’t taken their jobs. If all immigrants, legal or otherwise, were removed from the U.S., our economy would come to a screeching halt and food prices would soar.
  • Immigrants are not responsible for companies moving their plants overseas. The almost exclusively white business owners are responsible, because they care more about their shareholders (who are also mostly white) than about American workers.
  • No one is coming for their guns. All that has been proposed during the entire Obama administration is having better background checks.
  • Gay people getting married is not a threat to their freedom to believe in whatever white god they want to. No one is going to make their church marry gays, have a gay pastor or accept gays for membership.
  • Women having access to birth control doesn’t affect their lives either, especially women they complain about being teenage single mothers.
  • Blacks are not “lazy moochers living off their hard-earned tax dollars” any more than many of their fellow rural neighbors. People in need are people in need. People who can’t find jobs because of their circumstances, a changing economy or outsourcing overseas belong to all races.
  • They get a tremendous amount of help from the government they complain does nothing for them. From the roads and utility grids they use to farm subsidies, crop insurance and commodities protections, they benefit greatly from government assistance. The Farm Bill is one of the largest financial expenditures by the U.S. government. Without government assistance, their lives would be considerably worse.
  • They get the largest share of Food Stamps, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.
  • They complain about globalization, yet line up like everyone else to get the latest Apple products. They have no problem buying foreign-made guns, scopes and hunting equipment. They don’t think twice about driving trucks whose engines were made in Canada, tires made in Japan, radios made in Korea, and computer parts made in Malaysia.
  • They use illicit drugs as much as any other group. But when other people do it is a “moral failing” and they should be severely punished, legally. When they do it, it is a “health crisis” that needs sympathy and attention.
  • When jobs dry up for whatever reason, they refuse to relocate but lecture the poor in places like Flint for staying in failing towns.
  • They are quick to judge minorities for being “welfare moochers,” but don’t think twice about cashing their welfare checks every month.
  • They complain about coastal liberals, but taxes from California and New York cover their farm subsidies, help maintain their highways and keep the hospitals in their sparsely populated rural areas open for business.
  • They complain about “the little man being run out of business,” and then turn around and shop at big-box stores.
  • They make sure outsiders are not welcome, deny businesses permits to build, then complain about businesses, plants opening up in less rural areas.
  • Government has not done enough to help them in many cases, but their local and state governments are almost completely Republican and so are their representatives and senators. Instead of holding them accountable, they vote them into office over and over and over again.
  • All the economic policies and ideas that could help rural America belong to the Democratic Party: raising the minimum wage, strengthening unions, spending on infrastructure, renewable energy growth, slowing down the damage done by climate change, and healthcare reform. All of these and more would really help a lot of rural white Americans.

What I understand is that rural Christian white Americans are entrenched in fundamentalist belief systems; don’t trust people outside their tribe; have been force-fed a diet of misinformation and lies for decades; are unwilling to understand their own situations; and truly believe whites are superior to all races. No amount of understanding is going to change these things or what they believe. No amount of niceties will get them to be introspective. No economic policy put forth by someone outside their tribe is going to be listened to no matter how beneficial it would be for them. I understand rural Christian white America all too well. I understand their fears are based on myths and lies. I understand they feel left behind by a world they don’t understand and don’t really care to. They are willing to vote against their own interests if they can be convinced it will make sure minorities are harmed more. Their Christian beliefs and morals are only extended to fellow white Christians. They are the problem with progress and always will be, because their belief systems are constructed against it.

The problem isn’t a lack of understanding by coastal elites. The problem is a lack of understanding of why rural Christian white America believes, votes, behaves the ways it does by rural Christian white America.

Dear, Trump Supporters, Please Stop Being Such Whiney Little Snowflakes! 

trump-supportersOne month into the Trump era and I’m already hearing Republicans complaining about how unfair the world is being to poor Donald Trump… and my jaw is hitting the floor.

Back when he was “president-elect,” all I heard from his supporters was how great he was going to be for the country. He was described as an unstoppable force. A tough, common sense man who had all the right answers. And, frankly, I wasn’t surprised that his fans described him that way because that was exactly the way Trump described himself.

When he announced his run for the presidency he said: “I, Donald J. Trump, will be the greatest president in our country’s history!”

At the Republican convention last summer he said: “Nobody knows the system better than I, and only I can fix it!”

After winning the election he said: “I will unite the country and do a great job.”

And before his first week in office was up he said: “I’m going to fix this country. That’s what I do. I fix things.”

So it’s time for The Donald to put his considerable money where his huge mouth is.

It’s been a month, and I’m still not seeing any greatness. In fact, what I’ve seen is a circus, complete with wild animals and clowns running loose in the White House. Much to Trump’s astonishment, his travel ban was blocked by the courts. His National Security Advisor had to resign in disgrace. His first press conference was an unhinged display of incompetence, and I now he’s doing campaign rallies to boost his sagging ego.

And now the Trump supporters in my circles are gearing up for full excuse mode:

“The courts are too political. They have no right to stop the president.”

“Michale Flynn did nothing wrong. The Democrats just wanted to make it look worse than it was.” 

“The media is the real enemy. They are the ones who are making him look bad.”

“He misspoke, it wasn’t Sweden, it was Syria…or Norway…or Boling green. You know terrorism is real!”

Honestly, I don’t want to hear any of it. If Trump knows the system better than anybody, he should have known the courts check the president’s power. If he’s able to unite the country, getting the Democrats to cooperate with his administration should be easy…once he gets started. And if he would just shut up and start fixing things like he promised, I guarantee the media would become a lot friendlier.

In short, Trump got elected by claiming he was bulletproof and his supporters believed him. They believed in the great and powerful Trump who would be the most terrific president in our country’s history. If they were correct and he is such a man, no force on Earth will stop him from making us “great” again. But so far he’s proven to be anything but that man.

So, I don’t want to hear any of his supporters make excuses now that he’s riddled with holes and making an ass of himself. Instead, I would prefer that they honestly admit they got rooked by this con man…or just shut the hell up.

 

“By Clayton J. Callahan

 

Where Has All Our Money Gone?

A friend of mine passed this on to me. As a guy who wore the uniform, I can attest to the truth of this narrative. Just prior to my last deployment to Iraq, the US Army gave me a parka and set of snow pants that I had to schlep all the way to Bagdad and back. Why? Because the military has money to burn and somebody’s corruption just paid off.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER
For release 1/12/17
WAR CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE F-35
“The F-35 Lightning II Program (also known as the Joint Strike Fighter Program) is the Department of Defense’s focal point for defining affordable next generation strike aircraft weapon systems for the Navy, Air Force, Marines, and our allies. The F-35 will bring cutting-edge technologies to the battlespace of the future.”
Lurking behind this perky little PR blurb, from the F-35’s own website, is the void into which the soul of the human race has disappeared.
This is war consciousness: locked into place, awash in money. The deeply flawed F-35, the most expensive military weapons system in history, is ultimately projected to cost over $1 trillion, but no matter: “It will bring cutting-edge technologies to the battlespace of the future.”
What does that mean? It sounds like an ad for the next Star Trek movie, but it’s U.S. foreign policy — or, more accurately, the defining assumption of nationhood: We will always be at war with someone. It’s the quintessential self-fulfilling prophecy. When we spend trillions of dollars “preparing” for war, by God, we’ll find an enemy.
This is the consciousness we must transcend, and opposing Lockheed Martin’s way-over-budget, absolutely-unnecessary-for- national-security F-35 fighter jet, which is supposed to be ready to go by 2019, is certainly a good place to start.
“The F-35 is a weapon of offensive war, serving no defensive purpose,” reads the petition now in circulation, initiated by a dozen organizations. “It is planned to cost the U.S. $1.4 trillion over 50 years. Because starvation on earth could be ended for $30 billion and the lack of clean drinking water for $11 billion per year, it is first and foremost through the wasting of resources that this airplane will kill. . . .
“Wars are endangering the United States and other participants rather than protecting them. Nonviolent tools of law, diplomacy, aid, crisis prevention, and verifiable nuclear disarmament should be substituted for continuing counterproductive wars. Therefore, we, as signers of this petition, call for the immediate cancellation of the F-35 program as a whole, and the immediate cancellation of plans to base any such dangerous and noisy jets near populated areas.”
At the local end of this travesty, the F-35s, which would be based in Burlington, Vermont, and Fairbanks, Alaska, are so dangerous they could render nearby residential areas uninhabitable. The extreme noise level could cause cognitive impairment in children, according to a World Health Organization report; and the planes’ high risk of crashing, combined with highly toxic materials used in their construction, put local residents at an unacceptable risk.
But the absurdity of subjecting people to such risks is magnified exponentially by the needlessness to do so.
Roots Action, one of the organizations calling for the F-35’s cancellation, describes the fighter jet as “a first strike stealth weapon designed to penetrate air space undetected. It will be used for massive killing and destruction in more wars like Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and Vietnam in which millions of civilians have been killed and wounded and millions of refugees created.”
Yet these wars didn’t advance any rational agenda whatsoever. They didn’t make America safe, much less “great.” To confirm this point, the Roots Action site cuts to CIA director John Brennan, testifying before the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee last June:
“Unfortunately,” Brennan tells the committee, “despite all our progress against ISIL on the battlefield and in the financial realm, our efforts have not reduced the group’s terrorism capability and global reach.”
He goes on: “The resources needed for terrorism are very modest, and the group would have to suffer even heavier losses of territory, manpower, and money for its terrorist capacity to decline significantly.”
Let’s sit in silence with these words for a moment.
In the silence, the word “why” emerges with enormous force, more force, perhaps, than it’s possible to bear, at least when one begins adding up the costs of our ineffective efforts. Why are the weapons of war the only tools we choose to wield — the only tools we can imagine wielding — against the threat we call terrorism? Why are the multi-billion-dollar agencies of government trapped at such a feeble level of consciousness — war consciousness — that they are able to envision nothing but the wreaking of more destruction to “keep us safe,” when everything about this activity weakens us, endangers us, makes us ever less safe?
What if we began waging peace against terrorism? That is to say, what if we began to recognize that understanding the enemy is what’s crucial, while thinking we can destroy what we fear is an illusion of monstrous proportions?
Consider: “The Defense Department is designing robotic fighter jets that would fly into combat alongside manned aircraft,” the New York Timesreported in October. “It has tested missiles that can decide what to attack, and it has built ships that can hunt for enemy submarines, stalking those it finds over thousands of miles, without any help from humans. . . .
“Defense officials say the weapons are needed for the United States to maintain its military edge over China, Russia and other rivals, who are also pouring money into similar research (as are allies, such as Britain and Israel). The Pentagon’s latest budget outlined $18 billion to be spent over three years on technologies that included those needed for autonomous weapons.”
What a world we’re planning! I believe there’s still time to change directions, but the demand to do so must begin today.
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound is available. Contact him at koehlercw@gmail.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com.
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