Nebraska being, primarily, a “red” (Republican) state, almost all of these ads are for various Republican candidates, each of whom would like to claim that THEY are the “real deal,” the died in the wool, patriotic, AMERICAN true believers, who are for everything good, unlike those OTHER people who are in favor of killing babies, taking away our guns, raising taxes, letting all those “bad” people into our country, and for making sure that our elections are unfair so that they can put people into office who don’t deserve it, like happened last time.
Now, I admit to being advanced in age, but I know I remember when Republicans would “rather be dead, than red,” but very few Republicans oppose that label today, it would seem. And, I am also sure that those tremors in central Illinois really aren’t from Lincoln (or even Reagan) rolling over in his grave due to the antics of some who claim membership in his party.
I realize that I am violating my usual policy of avoiding discussion of politics and politicians in these postings and I have no intention of naming names, or advocating that readers vote for any specific candidates. That is, and should be, the reader’s choice. Unfortunately, in recent years, our politicians have become so preoccupied with grabbing and holding political power and using it for their own purposes that, in all too many cases, I’m afraid, they have distorted politics, and, seemingly, even their expressions of religion into something which approaches being unrecognizable as either.
Now, “Politics” is defined in the New Oxford American Dictionary as, “the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power…” There are further definitions, of course, but that’s the general idea. To me, this implies that the idea of politics involves debate and discussion between individuals and/or groups over the specific activities in which a government will engage. That’s a pretty loose definition, I know, but I think it may serve.
The first clause of the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. I take this to suggest that specifically religious ideas are not supposed to be written into law because they are religious. That is, religious beliefs MAY agree with laws, but the laws are not supposed to be established BECAUSE one, or more, religion(s) support them. I think one should also note that Article IV of the US Constitution reads, in part, “… no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” This seems pretty straightforward to me in establishing that one’s religious beliefs are NOT a part of one’s qualifications for any “Office or public Trust.” (And certain members of the Senate Judiciary Committee should know that.)
I suspect that the thinking behind this Article IV statement is because, for all of our fabled belief that the American colonies were founded on the principle of RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, the facts are that, while attendance at worship services was pretty high, church membership during colonial times was relatively low--rarely higher than a third of adult New Englanders and as low as five percent of adults in the South. It’s also true that EVERY one of the thirteen colonies was, at least in part, founded to support a specific denomination (or group of denominations) and that there are almost universal examples of those who did not conform to the dominant religious practice within a specific colony being persecuted by the members of that colony.
As I post this, as I previously stated, it is almost Easter for Christians and we are well into the “season” for primary elections. Here in Nebraska, most of the action is in the Republican Gubernatorial primary. And it is the actions of these candidates which spurred me into thinking about the (unfortunate) relationship between religion and politics, but I suspect that my concerns are not limited either to just Nebraska, nor just to gubernatorial primaries. In Nebraska, a lot of emphasis seems to be on a candidate being a “Christian,” as that, apparently, defines him or her, as one of the “good” guys. I suspect that this is the case in much of the US. But saying that you are a Christian is not relevant to holding office (see above), nor does saying it make it a fact.
I mean, I was taught that Jesus wanted us to "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That seems simple enough, as does the idea of “rendering unto Caesar (the government) the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s,” which I took to suggest that government’s job is to take steps to maintain the safety, defense, health, and so on of the country’s citizens (read The Preamble), and religion’s business has to do with the state of one’s soul, etc. (not a governmental issue). I would suggest that this actually supports the idea of the separation of church and state, although a great many people (apparently acting on the common assumption that their religious beliefs trump everybody else’s) would like nothing more that to establish an official US religion, ignoring the fact that the colonies which eventually became the US were (in several cases) founded by followers of a specific version of Christianity and were quite adamant about not wanting “others” allowed in their communities, even passing laws against such trespass, in some cases. Logically, this explains the forbidding of a “official” religion and forbidding restriction on the practice of religion in the First Amendment.
That doesn’t seem to give many of our politicians pause, however, suggesting that R. A. Heinlein was correct in asserting that EVERY religion would be happy (and DOES desire) to establish the beliefs IT supports as law, as ALL religions claim to be the sole authority of essential truth. This, of course, is where I have a problem, as I have yet to discover an “organized” belief system which does not want me to sacrifice my own thinking to their “leadership.” I find that hard to do.
But, to get back to politics and politicians. One of the most common features of the ads for ALL of the candidates is that OUR candidate is “a good Christian” who is 100% pro-life, stands strongly for the 2nd Amendment, opposes the teaching of Critical Race Theory in our public schools, is against illegal immigrants and, most of all, is anxious to make sure that only legal votes are counted in our elections (unlike last time when there was “massive” election fraud leading to the wrong person being declared the winner and requiring armed ‘patriots’ to storm the Capital building in a ‘patriotic’ act of “legitimate political discourse” to try to prevent this incredible act of impropriety from happening). Of course, the change of power was made, more or less, peacefully as the Constitution requires, but that’s beside the point, as we “got our say” against those “bad” people.
So, let’s look at each of these ideas in turn. I have no problem with any candidate being a “good” Christian, but I was taught to believe that Christianity was something that was demonstrated through one’s actions. It was not a badge you wore in public to prove that you were better than other people. I have little use for what people say about their religious beliefs, (as did Jesus if you read the first part of Matthew, Chap 6). I’m much more concerned about how they behave. (see doing unto others, etc., above) Of course, being a “Christian” is popular, so claiming to be one might attract a few votes. I think there’s a name for people who think like that. I think that name is “hypocrite.”
Of course, if you are a Republican (as these candidates are), you have to be anti-abortion, but you can’t say it that way, because that sounds negative. No, you have to be “Pro-Life.” Now, I have never heard of ANYONE who said they were “pro-abortion.” I’ve never met anyone who ever suggested that abortion was a desirable thing. But, I’ve met many who have suggested that it’s not the government’s business to eliminate the possibility of someone making a personal, medical choice for personal reasons. So, in fact, the choice is between being anti-abortion or being pro-choice. It doesn’t take much effort to find out that abortions occurred prior to the Roe v Wade decision, and that repealing that decision is HIGHLY UNLIKELY to stop abortions from happening in the future. Nor does it seem completely rational that one can really be “Pro-Life,” if he/she is avidly for the death penalty, as I have noticed many of these candidates are. Nor have I seen any significant support by the “pro-lifers” for Pacifism, which has to be considered a “pro-life” position.
This strikes me as rather like the people who have no problems with the numerous vaccines they (and their children) take to protect themselves from many well-known diseases (often REQUIRED BY LAW to be able to attend school, etc.) but argue that the COVID vaccine (or wearing a mask) is somehow a violation of their “God-given, individual freedom.” (Note: the Constitution says that IT provides your freedoms, not some Deity. That’s why we don’t have an official religion, but that’s another issue.) Of course, the “Pro-Lifers” also, apparently feel that lawyers and politicians are better able to make medical decisions than doctors and/or epidemiologists who have studied these matters all their lives, but again, perhaps being “Pro-Life” will attract some voters. I think people who behave like this are often called “prejudiced.”
Related to all of this is the fact that only a woman can have an abortion. Therefore, regulations restricting abortion are, apparently, intended to “protect” a woman from the ability to make a choice regarding her own medical care. And, to make matters worse, the chosen enforcement mechanism, in the most recent cases, is to create a system of paid vigilantes who apparently “know in my heart that she didn’t have a miscarriage, so she must have had an abortion, because a miscarriage would be an act of God and that could never happen.” Having known women who have suffered a miscarriage, this seems to me to be poor medicine. But it seems blatantly both bad religion and bad law, as it appears to, essentially, rely on the discredited sort of “spectral evidence” which was the basis of the most of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Of course, the whole idea is also blatantly sexist, since it is impossible for a male to become pregnant and have either an abortion, a miscarriage, or a baby. I wonder how the idea of banning Viagra as a stimulant for rape would be received? After all, it’s of no use to females and males only need it to have erections for sex. But, votes is votes, even if I have to be a Sexist to get them!
Another popular Republican campaign idea, especially these days, is that “those people” want to “take away your guns!” “Those people,” of course, are their opponents. The reason that we allow private gun ownership in this country is, obviously, the Second Amendment, which says, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This, according to some, means that if I wish to own an AK-47 or an M16 with a 20 or 30 round magazine, I should have the right to do so, correct? I’m not so sure that was the original idea. In the late 1700s, when the Constitution was written, I don’t believe that ANY “arms” fired more than a single shot without reloading, with the possible exception of double-barreled shotguns which were used for hunting (birds, primarily, I believe) and short-range defense. In fact, I think I’m correct that virtually all “arms” were loaded with powder, wadding and shot separately, as cartridges did not yet exist. Thus, the idea of rapid, multiple shots, (let alone automatic fire) was not even a possible consideration for the Constitution’s authors as magazines to allow for automatic, sequential loading of cartridges did (obviously) not exist, either. There is also no provision for a permanent, standing army in the Constitution. Funds to support an army had to be specifically designated every two years, requiring the need for a civilian Militia to be prepared to become an army at need. Now, a standing navy was authorized as, apparently, the Founding Fathers considered a navy necessary to protect trade, but a standing army apparently was viewed to pose a potential threat to the government, and so could pose a danger to the nation. (See the history of the English Civil War, etc.)
But things have changed. The courts have (apparently) decided that there is no need for one to belong to an established, organized, “well regulated” Militia (defined as “a body of citizens enrolled for military service, and called out periodically for drill but serving full time only in emergencies.”) in order to “keep and bear Arms.” My guess is that this was also due to the fact that hunting for food was important in early times, as was the need for personal protection, especially on the frontier. However, there are now MANY restrictions on the sorts of “arms” one can (is legally supposed to) “keep or bear.” You can’t own a tank, you can’t own a bazooka, you can’t own a Nuc, and there are many other limitations, including many laws regarding “concealed carry.” While I support such restrictions, even I will admit that certainly sounds like “infringement” to me, but few people seem too upset about such things.
But they are VERY upset about being denied the right to “hunt” or “defend” oneself with weapons and ammunition which were clearly designed solely for offensive military purposes. And the idea that gun ownership might be licensed, or regulated, in some fashion is outrageous! That’s just a ploy to keep us from our rights! We can, of course, require age restrictions, training, licensing, insurance and safety inspections for automobiles (and FEES for each of these) because their use is a “privilege,” but firearms are a right! Of course it’s a right which is, in fact, restricted as juveniles, convicted felons, people adjudicated as mentally incompetent, and some other categories of people are not supposed to be allowed to “keep and bear Arms.” And, I believe that there are restrictions as to what sorts of weapons and/or ammunition can be legally used for hunting, although that varies from state to state. So, apparently SOME restrictions on this right are okay, but we don’t want to talk about them.
At this point there are more guns in the US than there are people (about 400 million vs a total population of about 330 million including children) and the vast majority (estimates as high as 98%) of those guns are in civilian hands. It is reported that a significant majority of gun owners own more than one gun. I won’t extend this point, but I get quite nervous when political figures run campaign ads featuring their candidate in hunting garb holding a shotgun and talking about supporting “American values” and being opposed to the “liberal, transgender agenda” followed by pumping the action of their shotgun. Somehow, I find it hard to believe that this sort of image was what the Founders really intended in political discourse. I think it’s fair to suggest that ignoring the idea that situations change with technology and the passage of time isn’t “conservative,” it’s “reactionary.” And it gets votes!
It’s also become VERY popular among our political candidates to be opposed to (and accuse their opponent of being in favor of) the teaching of “Critical Race Theory” in the Public Schools. I find this somewhat amusing since I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of a case of that being attempted, let alone done. I have heard of this idea being discussed in law schools, but that’s hardly the same thing, is it? This whole notion has, somehow, gotten rolled in with the idea that “little white kids” are going to be taught to be ashamed of their elders and ancestors who supported slavery, bias against immigrants generally, bias against practitioners of “other” religions, bias against people of color, maltreatment (in the form of broken treaties, etc.) with indigenous peoples, etc. Well, I’m NOT a “little white kid.” I’m a somewhat elderly, White adult and I’m quite ashamed of many of the actions my forefathers have taken in relation to those people whom they considered their “inferiors,” which included, collectively, ALL of those groups. The Constitution allowed for slavery and counted slaves as 3/5 of a person. Women were not citizens and were denied the vote until about 100 years ago. Segregation and “Jim Crow” laws were common in many areas, as were other race-based discriminations, and subtler forms of racial bias have (and do) exist virtually everywhere. Indigenous people were driven from their lands without compensation and attempts were made to destroy many aspects of their culture! These are FACTS! They are well documented and provable in law. They were and are inexcusable, but many saw plenty of excuses for that sort of thing. After all, “those” people weren’t really people; they didn’t count; they weren’t important; they weren’t like us. This sort of thing goes back at least as far as the colonies when some European monarchs felt it was within their power to claim “unsettled” lands for the use of people who would uphold their monarchies, ignoring the existence of the then current residents. That means that this practice goes back even further than the American colonies. And, such things continue to the present.
I’ve said before that, as far as I know, many of my ancestors settled first in New England, but they were no more free of engaging in these evil acts than people elsewhere. Picking on the “other” seems to be as old as humanity, but that doesn’t make it right and hiding the truth from our children doesn’t do them, or us, any good in the long run. I believe that facing up to the truth of our American heritage will benefit us in the long run, so learn the truth and “The Truth Will Make You Free.” Lying about our history is, IMHO, worse than the truth, especially when we are lying to our kids about their history. The whole purpose of studying history is to better understand what HAS happened, so that we can learn from it to help us make better decisions in the future. Teaching our children lies about how “fair and wonderful we are and always have been” does not seem likely to provide a reliable path to a better future, if for no other reason than the fact that we HAVEN’T always been so “fair and wonderful.” Being proud of our country is one thing, lying about it may get us votes, but it’s still lying.
I am not in favor of “illegal” immigration, but our immigration system is so flawed that it’s hard to know how far back to place the blame. We have been importing seasonal labor from Mexico, etc. without excessive concern about whether it was legal, or not, pretty much since slavery was (officially) abolished, if not before. The Woody Guthrie poem/song “Deportee” dates to 1948, so one really can’t suggest that it’s even that recent a thing. It’s beyond me how anyone thinks they can make an ≈2000 mile border (through rough country, much of it privately owned) completely secure. I’d like to see it happen, but I wonder how serious some of our politicians are when I hear calls to “open the borders to refugees from Ukraine” while demanding that we keep those “Messicans” out. Does that sound like racism to you? It certainly does to me. After all, Ukrainians are “white.” But, it MIGHT get some votes!
Then, finally, we have the BIG one. We have to solve the “massive fraud problem” of the last election. Let’s see, on November 3, 2020, we had an election. If what I have seen reported in many sources is true, as I believe it to be, there was the largest number of voters in the history of the republic. And, there were fewer difficulties in conducting this election than has usually been the case. Still, when the Republican Presidential candidate was announced to have lost, there were immediate protests of “MASSIVE” voter fraud and election irregularities. This led to numerous recounts, audits, court challenges, etc. which continued for months. (I think some may still be going on in some places.) In NO case was actual evidence produced which even suggested that there had been significant irregularities and every case of voter fraud reported (which was an absurdly small number) the indications were that it had been at least primarily engaged in by Republican voters. Still, the idea is being advanced that we have to make sure that elections are controlled by biased political figures instead of non-partisan professionals in order to be fair! (I am reminded of the “pro-life” folks who want lawyers and politicians to make your medical decisions, instead of trained, licensed medical professionals, but I’ve already been there.)
Of course, since we have just had a census, state legislature majorities have been gerrymandering voting districts as much as they can get away with to reduce the impact of people who don’t vote “their” way. In addition, while they are at it, they are acting to make sure that they (the legislators) can reject the popular vote and install whomever they want in office, apparently because politics is a “zero sum” game and the purpose is to win. It really doesn’t matter what the voters desire, what matters is that WE control. I think this is, properly, referred to as Fascism “…a form of far-right, authoritarian ultranationalism characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition….” I’m quite certain it is NOT what the Founding Fathers had in mind.
Speaking of voter fraud, has anyone else noticed that there were apparently NO election challenges regarding anything but the Presidential race in 2020? Does everyone simply assume that the Democrats could get away with “massive voter fraud” in the Presidential race, but couldn’t arrange to pick up a few more seats in the House and/or the Senate? That’s either reasoning on a level WAY above my head, or it doesn’t seem to make any sense at all. After all, Republicans gained seats in the House and Senate, as well as Governorships and seats in state legislatures.
To wrap this up, I find it hard to accept that our politics has stooped to the level where some Republican candidates seem to be battling as to who can gain the greatest support as the most hypocritical, prejudiced, sexist, reactionary, lying, racist, fascist. I’d bet that the Founding Fathers really didn’t have that sort of thing in mind when they started the whole thing.
I guess that, like constipation, this too shall pass. At least I hope so.
Happy Easter for those to who that applies!
P. S. I really don’t enjoy writing diatribes like this, but sometimes things bother me so much that I simply HAVE to find some way to release my frustration at the stupidity I find more often than I like in our society. Thanks to any readers who got this far for allowing me to use this forum to help restore what’s left of my sanity.
“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic; capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.” ―Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows