A friend asked me the other day if I felt different now that I’m the publisher of First Draft. Not at all; other than nervousness at having to follow Athenae in the role. There are worse things than having a case of the jitters. I’ll take them over the heebie jeebies any day.
I considered asking Tommy and Michael to call me Chief so I could make like Perry White and do this:
I decided not to do that, but I may start saying “Great Caesar’s Ghost.” It has a nice retro ring to it. It reminds me of my salad days…
This week’s theme song was written in 1990 by John Hiatt for his Stolen Moments album. The main reason I selected it was this verse:
It’s a new light, a new day
Listening for new meaning learning how to say
It’s a new place but you’ve always been here
You’re just listening to old voices with a new ear
I thought that fit the moment as we break ground on a brand-new year.
The late folk singer Odetta also recorded Listening To Old Voices but I have been unable to find it online. The Hiatt original will just have to do.
Before we jump to the break, here’s the title track from that album:
If you have a stolen moment, let’s join hands and jump to the break together.
The Assembly GOP plan would also enact several restrictions on state and local governments when it comes to limiting crowds. It would:
Restrict the power of local health officers from ordering the closure of a business unless it applies to all types of businesses. Similarly, a local health officer would be barred from restricting capacity at businesses unless those restrictions apply to all businesses.
Prohibit state and local health departments from prohibiting gatherings in churches.
Okay. Let’s ignore the obvious, which is that this entire bill is BUGBONKERS INSANE, punishing schools for offering online education and forcing people who can work remote to not to, just because. Let’s take some of this nonsense on its face, and while we’re at it, work into this the also bonkers ruling by Neil Gorsuch, who knows exactly what he’s doing here:
At the same time, the Governor has chosen to impose no capacity restrictions on certain businesses he considers “essential.” And it turns out the businesses the Governor considers essential include hardware stores, acupuncturists, and liquor stores. Bicycle repair shops, certain signage companies, accountants, lawyers, and insurance agents are
all essential too. So, at least according to the Governor, it may be unsafe to go to church, but it is always fine to pick up another bottle of wine, shop for a new bike, or spend the afternoon exploring your distal points and meridians. Who knew public health would so perfectly align with secular convenience?
Forget Gorsuch’s snippy little asides and his idea that somehow one becomes governor of NEW YORK by shutting down churches and synagogues. Let’s keep it simple. Framing opposition to temporary, targeted public health measures as an assault on religious freedom is bananas.
So now, in a global pandemic that is killing thousands of people every single day, to be told that services cannot be limited because to do so is an infringement on the freedom of religion is an affront to the intelligence with which God endowed His creations.
To, in fact, rile up religious congregations in opposition to public health measures in the name of belief, to characterize care for one’s fellow citizens’ LIVES as some kind of liberal communist plot, to silence the voices of the doctors and scientists God gave us who are BEGGING for a reprieve from large indoor gatherings, who are not asking us not to pray but to temporarily change just one small aspect of our behavior for one finite period of time, is the kind of naked avarice and political cynicism that once had a nice Jewish carpenter flipping tables.
So why is this happening? Why are we being told that God doesn’t want us to listen to doctors? Who has an interest in making this point and why are they making it?
All of this is predicated on the same persecution complex, the same paranoia, that has suffused American Christianity for the past 40 years and has filtered down from the obvious mouth-foaming snake-handling backwoods tentpole preachers to the nice ladies at your aunt’s book club.
They are all convinced Christ is under attack and must be defended.
Why? Well, God has been “banned” from “the schools,” you see.
People aren’t “allowed” to say Merry Christmas “anymore.”
(That one’s from a site called Texas Values, by the way.)
Now, George says, “society has brought social and legislative approval to all types of sexual relationships that used to be considered ‘sinful.’ Since the biblical vision of what it means to be human tells us that not every friendship or love can be expressed in sexual relations, the church’s teaching on these issues is now evidence of intolerance for what the civil law upholds and even imposes. What was once a request to live and let live has now become a demand for approval. The ‘ruling class,’ those who shape public opinion in politics, in education, in communications, in entertainment, is using the civil law to impose its own form of morality on everyone.”
There are rude words that your maiden aunts now have to see on Facebook, also. I don’t know anymore. It’s become a morass, a generally accepted narrative that the most victimized people on earth are the ones with “Blessed” stickers on their cars. And the best way to defend against that kind of assault is to throw a massive public hissyfit.
Somehow any evidence of a secular society, or the simple fact that not everyone is bound to respect what you respect, has become fuel for the least justified persecution complex in history. Yes, including the Cubs. And it enrages me more than almost anything else, because: How dare you make God so small, as to be bothered in the slightest by things like this.
As a practicing Catholic (I’m not very good at it, clearly) I’ve found my religion hemmed in on very few sides despite the secular circles I run in. I wear a saint’s medal around my neck and have done for 20 years and literally no one has ever said boo about it. I’ve worn it in mosques and synagogues and at liberal political gatherings where absolutely the most vocal atheists on the planet were in attendance (and drank me under the table).
This year I bought a large, overly expensive Christmas tree and lit it up in my front window. My daughter is learning the Nativity story in our home and there is a Bible, albeit more of a family heirloom than a working copy, in public view. We own, at last count, six books about the Christian holidays, including one with the full-on Beatitudes.
I discuss God with as many people as can possibly handle it. That someone may not like my tone doesn’t mean I don’t believe, and I find it offensive in the extreme to have my faith questioned because I don’t share the misconception that God and His Son and their representatives here on earth need us, of all creatures. That Jesus and His Dad can probably handle Themselves is not a point They need me to make.
Time was, my mainstream American brothers and sisters and nonbinary buds in Christ, we made vigorous mockery of the kinds of idiots who’d let their own kids die rather than entrust them to doctors, in the name of the Lord. Now we’re throwing in with them, in the name of political power and sticking it to the libs. Now we’re no better than the man on a rooftop who, watching the floodwaters rise, let a boat and a helicopter pass him by because God would save him. Great job, everybody. Well done.
I miss church, too. Advent is my JAM, my spiritual booty call, the time when I LOVE being in church. But Illinois is not, thank God, governed by the kind of people running Wisconsin, so unlimited indoor services are out of the question. Anyway, my parish priest is in quarantine.
Visiting the sick and dying, the elderly and alone, placed him at risk so he’s locked down while his test results are processed and for 14 days thereafter. He’s not screaming about government tyranny. He’s not in front of the church nailing himself to the door because no law of men applies to him.
He’s staying in the rectory and sending out emails asking people to please stop bringing him food because he has plenty, and in fact if anyone needs some they should come by when this is all over.
That’s who this kind of thing puts at risk. That’s who will truly suffer because some right-wing politicians want to make people think they’re being martyred. That’s who will sicken, through no fault of their own, because it was in the interests of a few people to feel important by acting like they’re persecuted.
That’s who will die alone in an ICU while their families say goodbye on an iPad.
These are iPad stations being prepared for virtual ICU end of life visits by a palliative care doc I know. Jesus. pic.twitter.com/lIgbg0FhaL
Look at that and imagine it’s your mother, your son, your spouse, on the other end, miles away, because you didn’t think God could handle waiting six months for you to get a vaccine and sit in a pew again.
I am so tired of explaining this to people who should know better. Who pride themselves on their belief in an awesome God, in a God who is everywhere, always with us, and can do anything including make it not rain on circus day. Who seem to think God wouldn’t cut them a break if they thought they could save their neighbors.
Who seek out — and you have to seek it out, you have to sign up on Facebook to get memes from these pages and make the kinds of friends who’ll send them to you in e-mail forwards — stories that activate this disgust response in order to have something to get riled up about. When, in truth, they can practice their faith all they want without HAVING to deal with anything more than the occasional bit of evidence that there are other people out there who aren’t them.
No one is coming for your Nativity scene, DUGAN.
While we’re on the subject of faith, the only people who’ve ever questioned my Christian bona fides have been my devout fellow believers. It’s not the atheists lifing me all day long about how I’m doing it wrong, but there sure are a lot of Catholics up in this piece implying I am no real member of their Body. Mostly because I don’t believe in limiting medical procedures of the type that helped me have my daughter, or in putting lawmakers in charge of women’s health.
Maybe it would help convince them if I simply told them I was worried about government overreach.
Some call it fake fall, I call it a tease. Whatever you call it, the weather has been mild and temperate all week. I’m not going to say more about it because I don’t want to jinx it.
The city of New Orleans is entering Phase 3.1. They’re loosening more pandemic-related restrictions since we did not have a major post Labor Day spike. I thought we would, but I was wrong. It’s not the first time and won’t be the last. Punditting is risky business. I’m still not going inside bars or restaurants but I’m hoping more of them will be able to survive. Let my people go-cup. You’ll have to read 2020 Fatigue at Bayou Brief to get the reference.
Stephen Stills wrote this week’s theme song in 1966. It’s the protest song’s protest song. It was originally written about clashes between hippies and cops on the Sunset Strip, but it’s become a universal protest song. It’s still relevant in 2020.
We have four versions of For What It’s Worth for your listening pleasure: the Buffalo Springfield original; CSN live with Tom Petty; Keb Mo, and Billy Porter with Stephen Stills from this year’s DNC.
Now that battle lines have been drawn, let’s jump to the break.
The scrutiny focused on Ms. Barrett’s beliefs has provoked allegations of old-fashioned anti-Catholicism on behalf of her Democratic critics. A good amount of febrile nonsense has indeed been floated regarding Ms. Barrett’s spiritual life, such as the notion that People of Praise inspired Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,”a charge that is reminiscent of 19th-century myths of nuns kidnapping good Protestant girls to force the faith upon them.
People keep pointing out the absurdity — the Democratic presidential nominee is a Catholic, the Speaker of the House is a Catholic, THE ONLY CATHOLIC PRESIDENT WE’VE EVER ACTUALLY HAD WAS A DEMOCRAT — and it’s such a fundamental misunderstanding of Catholicism as a part of modern electoral politics that I have to laugh.
Republican Catholics do not make room in their Republicanism or in their Catholicism for anyone who is not fervently anti-abortion.
That’s all there is.
You cannot be a Democrat and a Catholic, because Democrats generally support abortion rights. This has been the line for three decades at least, that the only issue that matters is abortion, the only Roman Catholic position that life begins at conception, and therefore there is no moral option to support a candidate who does not oppose abortion in the strongest of ways from the earliest stages of pregnancy, with no exceptions whatsoever.
No, not even if the anti-abortion candidate is a subhuman slime mold who’s likely paid for several abortions himself. Not even then. Because, you see, the slime mold still appoints anti-abortion judges. So it’s worth it.
That’s how you have churchgoing politicians told they’re hostile to religion, while a guy who couldn’t spell Jesus if you spotted him the J and both S’s gets a pass and his henchmen get awards for “Christlike behavior.”
You can point out the hypocrisy all day long. I’m not here to kinkshame you. We’re in a global pandemic. Make your own fun.
Just stop expecting it to matter that the candidate of a party that is supposedly so anti-Catholic is, himself, a Catholic. The people calling him godless know very well that he isn’t. They don’t care, and they know the people they’re talking to don’t care either.
They want an anti-abortion judiciary and they will tie themselves into any knots they have to in order to get to one. Stop acting like if you win the meme wars with your maiden aunt/racist uncle somehow this will convince them of anything. They are dishonest in their means but they are 100 percent serious about their ends.
Far better to spend our time focused on dissuading purportedly objective news outlets from allowing six reliably-available-for-a-quote dickheads from defining Christianity in general, defining Catholicism in particular, and promoting the entire idea that Americans are electing a spiritual leader of any kind. (The job entails drone-bombing schoolchildren, do you really want to give it to a monk?)
Democrats elected, let us not forget, the most devoutly Christian president in modern times in James Earl Carter, shortly before it began to occur to Republicans that they could use this one issue to cleave Holy Mother Church in two and leave Her for dead in the alley. Carter, you’ll recall, was roundly characterized as some kind of Communist pussy and is presently 856 years old and hammering nails into Habitat for Humanity Houses on weekends, in between curing diseases and brokering world peace.
So maybe the next time someone who hated him and his party opens their yawp about who does and doesn’t have JC on speed-dial, instead of arguing with the jackass we ask why he’s allowed in the stable in the first place.
There were few genuine scandals during the Obama administration. There were plenty of attempts by morally and ethically bankrupt Republicans to conjure up scandals, but the record is clear: nobody on Team Obama was indicted let alone convicted.
In contrast, there’s a deluge of Team Trump scandals; so many that it’s hard to keep track. There’s the scandalous pandemic response, the babies in cages scandal, and the corrupt cronyism and nepotism that’s rampant in this administration. The Mustache of War has belatedly chimed in with a new scandal involving China. Tornadic activity swirls above the White House on a daily basis. It’s amazing that the roof is still on the building.
There are so many scandal tornadoes that it’s hard to keep track of them all. I continue to believe that the worst scandals involve William Herrmann Goering Barr and the Justice Department. There’s cronyism, corruption, and mendacity aplenty at the DOJ but until recently Barr maintained an air of competence in furtherance of his nefarious schemes. Until the botched firing of SDNY honcho Geoffrey Berman last weekend.
Initially, Barr claimed that Berman had resigned. He did no such thing. Then, Barr dragged the Impeached Insult Comedian into it and claimed he’d fired Berman. Trump disputed Barr’s lie with one of his own. In the end, they wound up with a less pliable replacement thereby proving that it truly is the Sovereign District of New York.
“What I heard — repeatedly — was that Roger Stone was being treated differently from any other defendant because of his relationship to the president.”
Anyone surprised? Roger Stone and corruption are synonymous. In fact, he’s a one-man scandal tornado. Zelinsky is testifying in front of the House Judiciary Committee today. It should be interesting to see how GOPers handle it. We know that Gym Jordan will shout in defense of President* Pennywise. He has no conscience to wrestle with, after all.
The Kaiser of Chaos took his own personal scandal tornado to the pandemic plagued state of Arizona yesterday. One could even call him the White Tornado like in the old Ajax commercials:
Admittedly, that analogy is imperfect. President* Pennywise spreads dirt and destruction wherever he goes. Perhaps that makes him Pigpen’s evil twin:
The Impeached Insult Comedian was in Arizona to plug his stupid wall and oblige his supporters to sit in close proximity to one another. This time a smaller venue was chosen so it was not a repeat of the Tulsa Trainwreck other than the pandemic spreading possibility of this rally. In a church no less. I guess evangelicals expect the pandemic to bring on Armageddon. I have no idea why they’re giddy at that prospect, but they are. They and Trump deserve each other.
As long as Trump remains in office, the country will be on a permanent Scandal Tornado Watch. The only way to end that is to vote him out. Make it so, America, make it so.
You want to pray? Call your parents, your siblings, anyone you’re lucky enough to love.
You want to pray? Put a note on your window, as one of my neighbors did yesterday, with your phone number: LOW RISK PERSON WILLING TO PICK UP MEDICINE OR GROCERIES, PLEASE TEXT.
You want to pray? Vote early or by mail.
You want to pray? My church cancelled communion LAST WEEK. They cancelled mass on Wednesday. That was prayer.
You want to pray? Drive someone to work so they don’t have to take the bus or the train. Drive yourself to work so you’re not on the bus or the train.
You want to pray? Give your fucking employees as many days off as you can. Bow your fucking head that way, you fucking fucks. God, I am so angry at everybody who’s got to barista right now. I am so angry on behalf of the gas station attendants whose workplaces never close, never ever, no matter what.
I am so fucking angry at everybody who wants to tongue-fondle Jesus on TV but won’t lift a finger to pay for free testing, and that includes politicians and the pastors who support them and the voters who fall in line while their parents and grandparents get sick. Joel Fucking Osteen could take what he spends on lunch and test everyone in this country. Jeff Bezos could do that AND pay everybody’s sick leave. But Our Father, Who Art in Heaven, amirite?
Our Father says Get Off Your Ass and bake a pie or something, in His holy name. This is such crap. Yes, in absence of everything else useful send some good thoughts skyward but there is so much to do and no one in any position of power deserves to be kneeling right now unless it’s to tie someone else’s shoes.
Do you know all the crap Jesus has to do? Like, all of it? He has so much shit to do. He has to keep His eye on sparrows and sort His junk mail and appear in visions from here to Laredo and now on top of that you want to give Him the unbelievable burden of supporting Sean Spicer on Dancing With The Stars? For His sake.
Sometimes I like to imagine Jesus, in His human incarnation, just bitching to His mom. “It’s not FAIR. I’m supposed to save every baby with cancer and ensure good weather on circus day AND make sure this nitwit wins his fail-dancing competition? Where does it end? When can I take a me-damned nap?”
Of course people are going to respond with “well, Jesus doesn’t get tired or frustrated and loves all of us etc etc” to which I would then offer as rebuttal the entirety of the Gospels in which He is basically like, “Guys, come on, I explained this six times already. Must we?”
As much fun as it is to clown on Huckabee and Spicer, the fascists’ court jesters are actually calling out to their true flock, those Christians who believe that Jesus is their personal savior and that that means He literally must climb into the pit and save them from everything up to and including the genital herpes they got from the sandwich shop girl. It’s a bizarre relationship with God, and this is me saying this. My relationship with Him is a series of increasingly loud arguments followed by an Advent booty call.
But this is the base they’ve cultivated. This is the army they’ve called to fight a culture war that is basically about what you watch on TV and hating liberals. This is why I say it’s useless to argue with the Trump cult. You want to convince the people who find THIS persuasive? You want me to believe talking to them is some kind of, what, normal option? No thank you.
Not only does Jesus have enough work to do already but so do I.
Conservative televangelist Pat Robertson says Alabama abortion law is ‘extreme’ and he believes…DAILY MAIL UK ^ | May 15, 2019 | Keith Griffith For Dailymail.com Posted on 5/16/2019, 1:29:24 AM by Morgana
FULL TITLE: Conservative televangelist Pat Robertson says Alabama abortion law is ‘extreme’ and he believes the state ‘has gone too far’
Christian televangelist Pat Robertson has said that he believes Alabama’s near total ban on abortions is ‘extreme’ and that the state has gone ‘too far’.
Robertson, who opposes abortion and hopes to see Roe v Wade overturned, made the remarks on Wednesday on The 700 Club, hours before Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed the new law.
The Alabama law contains an exception for when the pregnancy creates a serious health risk for the woman, but not an exception for rape or incest, and would punish doctors who perform abortions with up to life in prison.
‘I think Alabama has gone too far,’ remarked the 89-year-old Robertson
‘It’s an extreme law, and they want to challenge Roe verses Wade, but my humble view is that this is not the case that we want to bring to the Supreme Court, because I think this one will lose,’ the conservative minister continued.
Robertson has been an outspoken opponent of abortion, and drew condemnation when he implied in 2005 that Hurricane Katrina’s destruction of New Orleans was God’s punishment for America’s abortion laws.
But in Wednesday’s broadcast Robertson said he feared that Alabama’s new law would not create the right test case to challenge the 1973 precedent of Roe v Wade.
‘It’s ill-considered,’ he said. ‘The Alabama case, god bless ’em they’re trying to do something, but I don’t think that’s the case that I’d want to bring to the Supreme Court.’
Governor Ivey signed the measure on Wednesday. The law will make performing an abortion at any stage of pregnancy a felony punishable by 10 to 99 years or life in prison.
I think you want to pass the most restrictive law that might be upheld before the Supreme Court. This one is so politically risky that it could lead to serious election losses in 2020. If we could roll back the 19th Amendment, this wouldn’t be a problem. Thing is – women can vote, and they tend to vote against politicians who want to ban abortion.
7 posted on 5/16/2019, 3:06:23 AM by Zhang Fei (My dad had a Delta 88. That was a car. It was like driving your living room.)
My fiancé was raised as a reform Jew; I am a casual Christian. We have mutually decided not to circumcise our forthcoming son. His family is, to put it lightly, up in arms about our not hosting a bris. (“Because it’s a Jewish rite of passage!”)
I’m not sure what a casual Christian is. Does it mean she wears flip flops and shorts to church?
It’s unfortunate that the absence of a mohel is causing such turmoil but columnist Nicole Cliffe offers some good advice on how to avoid the surprise bris and a break with the Mother-In-Law.
A surprise bris? Oy, just oy.
The main reason this tickled me so much is that it reminded me of this classic SNL sketch:
I was absolutely convinced that there was a Samurai Bris sketch with John Belushi as Samurai Futaba, but I couldn’t find any record of it on the interweb. I did, however, find a site with a Samurai Mohel joke on it.
I guess a Samurai Bris sketch would have been too cutting edge even for the original SNL. Oh well, this Samurai Deli GIF will just have to do:
OK, people – a few hundred dollars worth of hardware and labour and the loss of my Windows 7 Professional software later, I’m back online and ready to rock.
Only one subject this morning – Hail Satin!!
IRS recognizes Satanic Temple as ‘church’, grants tax-exempt status
April 26, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has formally recognized the Satanic Temple as a church, according to a celebratory announcement by the organization and as confirmed by the Associated Press.
On Thursday, the Satanic Temple announced on Instagram that “for the very [first] time in history, a satanic organization has been recognized by the United States federal government as being a church.” The IRS website confirms that the Satanic Temple is now a tax-exempt organization “eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions,” but gives no further details on its status beyond being a “public charity.”
The AP, however, reports that it received a copy of the notice, which classifies the Satanic Temple as a “church or a convention or association of churches.”
The IRS’s decision comes despite the Satanic Temple’s own website all-but acknowledging it isn’t a religion in the traditional sense. The group’s FAQ page explains that it doesn’t believe Satan or other supernatural concepts literally exist, but embraces Satan’s name as a “symbol of the Eternal Rebel in opposition to arbitrary authority.”
It claims to qualify as a religion because it has “deeply held beliefs that we actively advocate,” a “narrative structure by which we contextualize our lives and works,” and a set of symbols and practices that give a “sense of identity, culture, community, and shared values” – a definition of “religion” that could encompass any number of ideological, political, or cultural groupings not traditionally considered to be religions.
“IRS regulations draw a clear distinction between ‘churches’ and other religious organizations,” Catholic News Agencyadds. “A church must have certain characteristics, according to IRS requirements, including: a recognized creed and form of worship; distinct ecclesiastical government; formal code of doctrine; ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of study; established places of worship and regular religious services.”
Rolling Stonenotes that the Satanic Temple itself has rejected tax-exempt status in the past, but reversed its position in 2017. Temple president Lucien Greaves made the change in protest of President Donald Trump’s moves to protect religious liberty, which Greaves claimed was turning religious groups into a “privileged class” from which Satanists should benefit as well.
“This acknowledgment will help make sure The Satanic Temple has the same access to public spaces as other religious organizations, affirm our standing in court when battling religious discrimination, and enable us to apply for faith-based government grants,” the Temple’s announcement added, meaning the new status is likely to bolster its legal claims in cases such as its placing of Satanic statues in the state capitals of Arkansas and Illinois.
The Daily Callernotes that the new status is “redundant” on the matter of grants, as there currently aren’t any federal grants exclusively available to faith-based groups, and faith-based and secular groups are equally free to compete for grants.
The weird weather continues in New Orleans. We seem to have skipped fall and gone straight to winter. One day we ran the AC, the next the heater. As you saw yesterday, the cats are happy. They love blankets and space heaters. I could do without either. I hate the cold; a stance befitting someone who has lived most of their life in California and Louisiana.
The other down side of cold weather NOLA-style is that public places crank up the heat. I strolled to the grocery store the other day dressed for the great outdoors, I returned a sweaty mess since I had to walk fast to avoid the Valence Street rooster. I’m not a fan of chickens and this one is on the aggressive side. I’d rather eat them than dodge them.
This week’s theme song was written by Tony Banks in 1976 for Genesis’ last pure prog album, Wind & Wuthering. Afterglow is a drop dead gorgeous song that closes the album as well as an era. It’s the last Genesis album featuring lead guitar player Steve Hackett who was missed almost as much by the band’s fans as Peter Gabriel.
We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the Genesis original followed by the Classic Rock String Quartet.
Now that we’re afterglowing, let’s jump to the break. I promise a soft landing.
Writing for First Draft is one of my passions. It’s often my therapy. This has been one of those times. The MAGA Bomber’s failed attempt at mass assassination shook me to the core. Then, the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh left many of us questioning what it means to be an American in the Trump era.
I am proud to be an American, but I am ashamed of our current leadership’s inability to respond with an ounce of human decency or a scintilla of empathy. As far as the president* is concerned, it’s an inconvenient interruption of rally mania. As far as I’m concerned, Trump and his allies have blood on their hands, if not literally, then symbolically.
I was taught in Squirrel Hill that we were in the one country that was an exception to the history of the human race in general and the Jews in particular. Founded on Enlightenment principles of individuality, freedom, tolerance and justice, the United States was the only place besides Israel where Jews could live at one with their nation, unburdened by fear or confusion about identity.
Now I must wonder: If Pittsburgh isn’t safe for Jews, if Squirrel Hill isn’t safe, if the Tree of Life isn’t safe, what place is? Without diminishing anyone else’s suffering and death, it’s a sad fact that the Jews often are the canaries in the coal mine of social and political collapse. So, what does the bloodshed in the Tree of Life mean?
It is a sign that hatred of The Other is poisoning our public life. It’s always been a vivid strain in America, stimulated by the stress of immigrant waves, but one we have overcome time and again. Although we often honor it in the breach, our founding idea remains: that each person here is precious and born with unalienable rights. Now, political enemies in America deny each other’s humanity.
It is a sign that communications can foster something less than understanding. Social media allows us to be connected but also caricatured as propaganda in campaigns of dehumanizing division.
It is a sign that President Trump’s remorselessly cynical, jungle-style vision of how to conduct business and politics is ripping apart a society already under the stress of generational, demographic, technological, economic and social change.
Once again, Donald Trump read a prepared statement in a flat, emotionless voice to signal the more mindless members of his personality cult that he didn’t really mean it. Then it was back to throwing raw meat at crowds of ravenous MAGA Maggots. He had the chutzpah to lecture the grief-stricken people at the Tree of Life Synagogue that armed guards could have prevented the slaughter. Wrong: Three police officers were wounded by the anti-Semitic gun man whose name I refuse to say. This recitation of the NRA line in the wake of a massacre sickened me.
I felt even sicker when the list of victims was published on Sunday morning:
Daniel Stein, 71
Joyce Fienberg, 75
Richard Gottfried, 65
Rose Mallinger, 97
Jerry Rabinowitz, 66
Cecil Rosenthal, 59
David Rosenthal, 54
Bernice Simon, 84
Sylvan Simon, 86
Melvin Wax, 88
Irving Younger, 69
Who kills octogenarians and a 97 year-old woman? Only a monster. A monster whose worst impulses were exacerbated by a national dialogue in which George Soros is the stand-in for Jewish demons conjured up in the fever dreams of the far-right. Donald Trump uses their vile rhetoric laced with anti-Semitic code words and names: Soros, globalists. Rinse, repeat, and wash.
Defenses that Trump cannot be anti-Semitic are out there already. His son-in-law is a Jew, his daughter a convert, and his grandchildren are Jewish. All true but there’s a difference between personal and political bigotry. His kinfolks are the good ones, a credit to their faith. Soros is a bad hombre who is flooding the country with brown Central Americans. Ergo Trump cannot be anti-Semitic according to his defenders. This is, of course, nonsense. Demagogues do not need to believe in their rhetoric to inflict damage. Is it better that Hitler believed in his rhetoric as opposed to Trump’s cynical exploitation of ancient hatreds? I think not.
What happened Saturday morning at Squirrel Hill was an American Kristallnacht in broad daylight. It inspired the students at a nearby high school-Howard Fineman’s alma mater-to hold a candlelight vigil at which the chant was for not for vengeance, but for people to vote.
These are terrible times for our country but it’s time to fight back in the way that Americans traditionally have: by voting the rascals out. There has never been a midterm election as important as this one. Vote like your life depends on it. The future of the Republic certainly does: 8 days until the midterms. Tick tock, motherfuckers.
The events of last week have not only broken the social contract, they have smashed it to smithereens. I never, ever thought I’d compare something that happened in the United States of America to Kristallnacht but it’s inescapable in 2018. Godwin’s law is dead, long live Godwin’s law.
These ugly times call for some beauty. That’s why the last word goes to Paul Simon. The final stanza of American Tune gets me every time:
We come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age’s most uncertain hour
and sing an American tune
But it’s all right, it’s all right
You can’t be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow’s going to be another working day
And I’m trying to get some rest
That’s all I’m trying to get some rest
In the 1980’s I paid attention to televangelists because their antics were so entertaining. From Jim and Tammy Bakker to the Gret Stet’s own Jimmy Swaggart, they were larger than life as were their scandals. The so-called prosperity preachers will inevitably get into trouble and that’s how Jesse Duplantis came on my radar screen. I’d never heard of him even though his ministry was founded in Destrehan, Louisiana which is a mere 30 miles from Adrastos World HQ. Apparently, I am a slacker in the house of the lord. I should pay more attention to billboards on the interstate.
Duplantis has a problem. He wants to spread the prosperity gospel worldwide but he can’t do it flying commercially. He needs a fourth private jet. And that is why Jesse Duplantis is malaka of the week.
If Jesus was to descend from heaven and physically set foot on 21st century earth, prosperity gospel televangelist Jesse Duplantis told his followers, the Redeemer would probably pass on riding on the back of a donkey: “He’d be on an airplane preaching the Gospel all over the world.”
And Duplantis believes Jesus wouldn’t exactly settle for 30 inches of legroom or getting patted down by TSA.
Why would He choose anything less than the Falcon 7X, a private jet that nears the sound barrier but also has noise-limiting acoustic technology, a bluetooth-enabled entertainment center and an optional in-flight shower?
Duplantis, saying he needs roughly $54 million to help him efficiently spread the gospel to as many people as possible, has asked the Lord – and hundreds of thousands of hopefully deep-pocketed followers across the world – for just such a plane.
During his request for a new plane, Duplantis said he realized some people would remain skeptical.
He said there was no obligation, and there was only one surefire way to determine what, exactly God wanted them to do: Prayer.
“So pray about becoming a partner toward it, if you like to and if you don’t, you don’t have to, but I wish you would,” he said. “Because let me tell you something about it, it’s going to touch people. It’s going to reach people. It’s going to save lives one soul at a time . . .
“If you pray about it, I believe God will speak to you.”
Did he say pray? He should have said prey because that’s what Malaka D and his ilk do: prey on the poor and/or ignorant. The prosperity gospel is a pious Ponzi scheme. It implies that if you give money to the preacher, you’ll become as rich as him. No wonder so many of these grifters are Trumpers. It’s same message, only the accent is different. You say youse, I say y’all. Let’s call the whole thing off.
The quote that stands out, of course, is the whole Jesus wouldn’t ride a donkey thing. I’m not a believer but I seem to recall Jesus being big on helping, not grifting, the poor. I suspect he’d take the bus, ride the subway, or drive a junker to get around. They’re the modern equivalents of riding a donkey. The only jackass in this story is the prosperity preacher. And that is why Jesse Duplantis is malaka of the week.
Contemplating Malaka D’s plane mania has given me some aviation related earworms.
Do you know how many women I know, who told their fathers? Who told their mothers, their friends, a “trusted adult” that they were being hurt or had been hurt? Do you know how many of these people, who have daughters, did nothing?
Homeless shelters are full of girls and boys whose parents chose their abusers over them. It happens every day.
Let me tell you what they’d do, these upstanding Republican congressmen, if it was their daughters.
They’d say to their girls, their beloved girls who they taught to throw a ball just like a boy and who they said could do anything a man could do and whose report cards they pinned to the fridge, they’d say:
You’re making that up.
He didn’t really mean it.
You led him on.
You should forgive him.
You know why they’d say those things to the girls they read bedtime stories to every night? You know why they’d back down in the face of someone who bullied their own flesh and blood?
Because nothing matters more than the status quo.
Do you know how many of these men have already faced the fact that it was their daughters?
Do you know how many of them did nothing?
I can even understand it, you know. It’s a human instinct to protect your relationships, and so you gamble: You call out a man for hurting your child, he might leave. He might cause trouble for you. He might get you fired or fight you or find a way to make you less, turn all your friends against you, refuse to work with you, tell others and embarrass you.
Your daughter? She will probably stay. She will probably quiet down. She will probably stop talking about it.
She will probably minimize what happened in her own mind and minimize it for you, so that her relationship with you can stay intact. Nothing’s worth destroying your relationship with your family, after all. She’s been socialized since birth to provide for men’s comfort and that means comfort of mind as well as body.
You can hear her telling herself: She survived it. It wasn’t that bad.
It’s a much safer bet, to discount her version of events, so that’s your solution. It keeps everything the same. It keeps everybody comfortable. And she stays. And she feels just a little less important to you, and a little less real, because whether you think about it in these terms or not, you’ve demoted her. She was your daughter.
Now she’s just another woman, another wicked female, who you don’t believe.
So when someone who looks just like her goes on the news and tells everyone that a member of a political party you admire and identify with, or a celebrity you like, tried to assault her, hurt her, rape her, you don’t see your daughter.
You see someone who’s trying to do what your daughter tried to do. Upset everybody. Get attention. Get something out of this.
And if you face the facts and say out loud that this didn’t have to happen to this stranger, this girl you don’t know on TV who’s accusing a man who looks and acts just like you, is in politics just like you, if you say out loud that someone should have stood up for her, should have done something?
Then you face the facts and say out loud that this didn’t have to happen to your daughter, and you should have stood up for her. You should have done something.
And oh, then doesn’t the whole nice polite reasonable world come crashing down?
I said back when Trump and Billy Bush were cackling about grabbing women by the pussy that the most insidious person on that bus wasn’t Trump but Billy, because lots of of guys wouldn’t be the bully but they would be the coward who laughed at his jokes.
They wouldn’t react differently if Roy Moore had hurt their daughter. Chances are someone like him already did, and they didn’t believe her.
I doubt if they’d accept that answer in the form of a question on Jeopardy but different religious traditions number the Ten Commandments differently. Impressed with my indifferent biblical scholarship? Don’t be. I learned about the 4-4 split on Wikipedia. I like to show off my erudition even when I don’t have any. All I know about the Ten Commandments, I learned from Cecil B. DeMille and that big slab of Kosher ham, Charlton Heston. Kosher ham? I know that’s impossible but he played Moses so…
The packages that made their way from Israel and the United Arab Emirates to retail outlets owned by Hobby Lobby, the seller of arts and craft supplies, were clearly marked as tile samples.
But according to a civil complaint filed on Wednesday by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, they held something far rarer and more valuable: ancient clay cuneiform tablets that had been smuggled into the United States from Iraq.
Prosecutors said in the complaint that Hobby Lobby, whose evangelical Christian owners have long maintained an interest in the biblical Middle East, began in 2009 to assemble a collection of cultural artifacts from the Fertile Crescent. The company went so far as to send its president and an antiquities consultant to the United Arab Emirates to inspect a large number of rare cuneiform tablets — traditional clay slabs with wedge-shaped writing that originated in Mesopotamia thousands of years ago.
In 2010, as a deal for the tablets was being struck, an expert on cultural property law who had been hired by Hobby Lobby warned company executives that the artifacts might have been looted from historical sites in Iraq, and that failing to determine their heritage could break the law.
Despite these words of caution, the prosecutors said, Hobby Lobby bought more than 5,500 artifacts — the tablets and clay talismans and so-called cylinder seals — from an unnamed dealer for $1.6 million in December 2010.
There’s nothing that makes me happier than some psalm-singing Evangelical son of a bitch being caught with their hand in the proverbial cookie jar. Receiving stolen artifacts is a crime against history and, I daresay, the religion the Hobby Lobbyists flaunt or is that flout. This Mesopotamian mess has also inspired a mess of puns. I myself have been Babylon and on…
If you’re an irony fan, the most delicious thing about the Mess in Mesopotamia is that Isis could have been the original sellers. When they’re not destroying or defiling historical artifacts, they’ve been known to sell them to incurious buyers. I guess one could say that fundamentalists of a feather flock together.
I wonder if this puts the kibosh on the proposed bible museum and craft store the Hobby Lobbyists and others of their ilk plan to open at Washington City this fall. I suspect it will go on but there’s going to be some empty space where the stolen artifacts should have been. Perhaps they’ll order up a miracle of some kind. Stay tuned.
Holy Mesopotamian Mess, Batman. It’s what happens when you fail to heed The Ten Commandments of Love:
That concludes this episode of Grifting For Jesus. Dial H for Hypocrisy, pass the collection plate, and play some Genesis:
I approached the Netflix documentary The Keepers with some trepidation. The story is grisly to say the least: a young nun was murdered in 1969 and the perpetrator *may* have been a priest accused of sexually abusing high school girls. It sounded depressing and like something I’d seen before. I was wrong, In the hands of director Ryan White, The Keepers is more than just a fascinating real-life whodunit, it’s a moving story of survival.
We meet some remarkable people (mostly women) as the 7-part documentary unfolds. They include Sister Cathy Cesnik’s devoted former students Gemma Hoskins and Abbie Schaub who are the most effective real life amateur detectives ever. The central figure of the film is clerical rape survivor Jean Wehner. She’s a brave, feisty woman who was given the runaround by Archdiocese of Baltimore who are still lying about the activities of the demonic priest around whom much of the action revolves: Joseph Maskell.
When I say that the series is like The Wire, this is a large part of what I mean: The shape of events at Archbishop Keough High School becomes clear through a multiplying, crisscrossing network of individuals with their own personal narratives, telling different pieces of the story from different vantages and wildly diverging interests. In one scene we watch Gemma Hoskins and Abbie Schaub talking about how important it is to find justice for their beloved high-school teacher. In another, we see Jean Wehner struggling to recount her memories of abuse by the school’s chaplain. In yet another, the filmmakers interview Sharon May, who blankly explains why she never brought charges against the school during her time in the district attorney’s office. The total view of what may have happened at Archbishop Keough High School in 1969 only becomes clear from a distance, as an interlocking network of many, many stories.
Ryan White and his team ran down many diverse leads; most of which are plausible but all of which cannot be true. They chose to let the viewers decide. Wise choice. Most of the leads do, however, involve Maskell and the Archdiocese that chose to cover up his crimes. The church was lying about serious issues as recently as 2016. So much for reform.
For those interested in reading more about the people we meet in The Keepers, here are two more links:
The filmmakers seem to have inspired a renewed cold case investigation led by a detective who appears to be sincerely interested in solving the case. But the problem never seemed to be with the police, it was with the Archdiocese and the Baltimore state’s attorneys office. If there was a cover-up, it’s on them and the local political system. Joseph Maskell was not worth protecting: he should have died in prison instead of a church run hospice.
I give The Keepers 4 stars, an Adrastos Grade of A, and an exuberant thumbs up. This was just the sort of documentary that Siskel and Ebert championed when they were still with us. It’s a classic and I don’t say that lightly.
President Donald Trump has increasingly infused references to God into his prepared remarks — calling on God to bless all the world after launching strikes in Syria, asking God to bless the newest Supreme Court Justice, invoking the Lord to argue in favor of a war on opioids.
That … isn’t finding religion. It’s finding a sales pitch.
For, let us be clear, war, war and more war.
“I’ve always felt the need to pray,” Trump said in that late-January interview. “The office is so powerful that you need God even more because your decisions are no longer, ‘Gee I’m going to build a building in New York.’ … These are questions of massive, life-and-death.”
FAITH IS NOT FIRE INSURANCE. You do not get to torch the place and be like, “Well, I prayed about it.” This is why I find so much born-again rhetoric bankrupt. There’s no such thing as a clean slate.
“I believe the weight of the office that he now holds and the burden of responsibility that it carries is humbling him somewhat and causing him to acknowledge and admit his reliance on God,” said Darrell Scott, an Ohio pastor who has known Trump for six years and supported Trump’s campaign and served on his transition team.
FAITH IS ALSO NOT A BOOTY CALL. (Says the girl who frequently Sees Other Deities yet winds up outside church with a boombox over her head every December blaring O Come O Come Emanuel, but I’m me, and not the president, and I’ve never claimed to be anything but a sinner who does not expect forgiveness.)
The White House did not respond to questions about whether Trump has been attending church as president, and if he has, it has been without the knowledge of White House pool reporters.
Still, Trump’s frequent invocations of God in his remarks as of late are a change from both his past life as a businessman and his time on the campaign trail.
So he hasn’t been going to church (which, let’s be fair, no more makes you a Christian than pulling into the garage makes you a car), he’s pursued policies of war and suffering and exclusion (which actually SHOULD disqualify you from from the Flock), but he’s USING MOAR JESUS WORDS HERE ARE A THOUSAND POLITICO ANALYSIS THINGS.
I remember very few papers I wrote as a college student. One exception is a paper about the horrific, anti-constitutional internment of the Japanese, including citizens, during World War II. It was an action initiated in panic by a racist Army General but ratified by some distinguished American liberals: President Roosevelt, Attorney General Francis Biddle, Justice Hugo Black, and then California Attorney General Earl Warren. It is a stain on all their memories and on American history. So much so that Congress and President Reagan formally apologized for internment in 1988. That right, Ronald Reagan knew it was wrong. There are ominous signs that the Trumpers do not.
One of Donald Trump surrogate’s claimed Wednesday that the forced internment of Japanese Americans during World War II provided a “precedent” for the next administration creating a registry of Muslims living in the United States.
Carl Higbie, a former Navy SEAL and booster of the President-elect, told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly that such a registry was necessary until “we can identify the true threat” posed by Islamic extremists.
“We have in the past,” Higbie said. “We have done it based on race, we have done it based on religion, we have done it based on region.”
“It is legal. They say it’ll hold constitutional muster,” Higbie said of the registry. “I know the ACLU is going to challenge us, but I think it’ll pass. And we’ve done it with Iran back a while ago. We did it in World War II with Japanese, which, call it what you will—”
I call it bigotry. That’s what I call it. Targeting a religious minority is also an egregious violation of the First Amendment. I am, however, glad that barking mad Naval Seal mentioned the Bush years. They were not big on the constitution either. It *can* happen here. In fact, it already has.
I have a a few questions. Will the “Muslim registry” apply to citizens? Is this partial payback for Khizr Khan? Trump is capable of such petty vindictiveness, after all. Who’s going to restrain him? Rudy? Kris Kobach? Jared Kushner? Not bloody likely.
Back to the post title. The Supreme Court upheld the Japanese exclusion order in Korematsu v. United States in 1944. Fred Korematsu, an American citizen, was convicted of “violating the civilian exclusion order.” SCOTUS upheld his conviction in an opinion by Justice Hugo Black with three Justices in dissent: Stanley Roberts, Frank Murphy, and Robert Jackson. It was not one of Justice Black’s finest hours butJustice Jackson’s dissent rings true in the wake of the comments by that barking mad Navy Seal:
Korematsu was born on our soil, of parents born in Japan. The Constitution makes him a citizen of the United States by nativity, and a citizen of California by residence. No claim is made that he is not loyal to this country. There is no suggestion that, apart from the matter involved here, he is not law-abiding and well disposed. Korematsu, however, has been convicted of an act not commonly a crime. It consists merely of being present in the state whereof he is a citizen, near the place where he was born, and where all his life he has lived.
Much is said of the danger to liberty from the Army program for deporting and detaining these citizens of Japanese extraction. But a judicial construction of the due process clause that will sustain this order is a far more subtle blow to liberty than the promulgation of the order itself. A military order, however unconstitutional, is not apt to last longer than the military emergency. Even during that period, a succeeding commander may revoke it all. But once a judicial opinion rationalizes such an order to show that it conforms to the Constitution, or rather rationalizes the Constitution to show that the Constitution sanctions such an order, the Court for all time has validated the principle of racial discrimination in criminal procedure and of transplanting American citizens. The principle then lies about like a loaded weapon, ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need.
I added the bold face for obvious reasons. Korematsu has been discredited but never overruled. It still “lies about like a loaded weapon.” If the Islamophobes have their way, the chamber will be reloaded with their so-called registry. If that happens, all good people should try their damnedest to sign the thing in solidarity with those being oppressed. What’s next? A Yellow Crescent?
I started following the Israeli newspaper Haaretz’s Twitter feed during their last general election. As you may recall, the polls were wrong about that one too. An interesting link popped up on their feed:
I posted the tweet because Haaretz recently went behind a paywall with no free stories and Chrome’s incognito feature did not work. Oy, just oy.
I’m an agnostic who was raised Greek-Orthodox but most of my mother’s bridge playing and real estate cronies were Jewish, so I learned about sitting shiva as a child. I remember going with her to Mrs. Rosenberg’s house when her husband died. Mrs. Rosenberg was the Holocaust survivor I’ve written about before. I didn’t even complain about going because Mrs. R and I had a mutual admiration society. She remains one of my heroes. She was also as funny as hell. I’m convinced that I learned the essence of black comedy from her. It’s the Shoah survivor’s ethos: nothing will ever be as bad as what they went through, in her case at Treblinka.
Shiva is the week long period of mourning following a loved one’s death. During this time, family members traditionally gather in one home to receive visitors. The word “shiva” means seven, signifying the seven day mourning period in which mourners are supposed to sit low to the ground.
When I saw the headline, I realized that I had metaphorically sat shiva all day Wednesday. For many of us, Hillary Clinton’s loss felt like a death in the family. If it doesn’t to you, please have some respect for those of us who are mourning. We’re sitting political shiva.
I spent the day trading messages with friends on social media and via text. One close friend works at an oil company and had to deal with triumphant Trumpers. He described the people of color at his firm as looking like they expected deportation or worse at any moment. I cannot blame them. Some of Dr. A’s med students came to her in tears yesterday. That gives me hope for the future of the medical profession.
I checked in with two dear friends in the afternoon. One of whom’s four-year old daughter was upset because the mean man beat the nice lady. It’s a pity that so many so-called grown ups couldn’t see what a child can and elected a goniff. That’s Yiddish for a thief, dishonest person, or scoundrel. That fits the Insult Comedian to a T.
After undergoing First Draft therapy by writing The Fearful Countryand sitting virtual political shiva, Dr. A and I attended a Krewe meeting. Most of my Krewe mates looked as if they had slept precious little. I certainly did. Some of us had planned to suggest alternative election related themes but the Krewe wanted to develop a previously discussed theme. And that’s okay. The desire to move on from a trauma is understandable. The non-Krewe business conversation was about the election and how upset everyone was. The d word came up in the conversation: Devastated. The evening was a combination of sitting shiva and an Irish wake.
I sat next to my Spank protege who prefers to call me her Spank daddy. She converted to Judaism when she married. We talked about our mutual horror at how many forms of bigotry had been normalized by the Insult Comedian and his deplorable followers. The previously unspoken has been spoken. Loudly. Anti-Semitism has never left us but it’s back in its most virulent form since the 1940’s. An example of that is this:
The 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht. Nazi-Related Trump Graffiti Found in South Philly. Philadelphia Magazine https://t.co/1Nzxwb4XFj
That’s right, Kristallnacht took place on November 9-10 in 1938. America just elected a candidate who ran an anti-Semitic campaign. David Duke is celebrating with an exuberant, Heil, Trump. Yet another reason we’re sitting political shiva.
The mood on social media yesterday ranged from solemn to vengeful. The Trumpers were attacking perfect strangers for their supposed imperfections. One friend received hate messages from people who objected to a white chick being married to a black guy. This was deeply upsetting to me as they’re one of the sweetest couples I know. We’re also sitting shiva for the death of civility.
I had to deal with some vestigial Dudebros who wanted to say I told you so. I invited them to a “block party” but have no idea why they decided to crawl out of the woodwork. Actually, I do: everything has been normalized by the electoral college victory of the Insult Comedian. Btw, he’s attacked the electoral college in the past, now he loves it. Typical.
I think that the time for what ifs is down the road. I am skeptical that Sanders would have done better but I’m not certain about that. I do know that the stench of anti-Semitism was all over this election and a septuagenarian Jewish socialist would have felt it as well as incessant red baiting. Shorter Adrastos, I don’t know for sure and neither does anybody else. I am, however, not attacking individuals I disagree with on the internet. It’s called keyboard courage. Instead, I’m sitting political shiva.
My theory of what happened is a simple one. After a bruising primary campaign, Hillary Clinton had a great convention, won the debates, took a solid, steady lead and then came the first Comey letter. It depressed Democratic turnout and she lost the electoral vote but won the popular vote. The election was decided by James Comey, Rudy Giuliani, and the MSM’s sporadic attention to Trump’s scandals with an assist from Wikileaks, Russian intelligence, and the alt-right. Trump’s electoral vote victory has mainstreamed the latter. That’s another reason we’re sitting political shiva.
The Trumpers are already acting vengeful towards their enemies. The cartoon villain’s cartoon lackey, Omarosa, is openly discussing an enemies list. That’s right, a person who’s best known as a hiss-provoking reality show villain will have influence in the next administration. I wonder who will be Propaganda Minister: Bannon or Conway?
The awfulness of this election will endure for the next four years. Tolerance, mutual respect, and common decency were dealt a terrible, but not fatal, blow in 2016. Many of us are still reeling and that’s why we’re sitting political shiva. We need to grieve before we can move on.
The aftermath of this horrendous year and dreadful election result reminds me of what some New Orleanians did on Inauguration Day in 2005. We held a Jazz Funeral for Democracy to mourn Bush’s second term complete with brass bands and a horse-drawn bier. We did not know that disaster would come our way in a mere seven months. Here are two of Dr. A’s pictures of that march through downtown New Orleans:
I hadn’t seen that Flickr photo albumfor years. The second picture made me smile. The gent in the top hat and tails is-not Fred Astaire-my old friend Bob Smith. He’s more likely to be seen in a kilt now but I know he’s grieving over what happened this week. We all mourn the passing of someone/something special in our own way: from jazz funerals to demonstrations to wakes to sitting shiva. Me, I’m sitting political shiva this week.
Back to the Jazz Funeral for Democracy. 2016 is one of the worst years in our nation’s history but so was 2005. Remember, we elected Barack Obama four years after Bush narrowly defeated John Kerry. We as a people should not have to go through this but we do. And that is why this gentile is sitting political shiva.
One of the best parts about writing for this blog is the diversity of thought and experience of the readership. That’s not me blowing smoke. It’s true. I have found that I learned a lot about my own position on this big blue rock from hearing of the positions of others here than I learned anywhere else. Agreement, disagreement, whatever. It comes down to people coming at an idea I have from a variety of angles.
Never more is this true than in the field of religion, where not only do people come from various faiths, but various positions on faith, spirituality, organized religion and other “not for me, but do what you dig” ideologies. So this piece isn’t as much about me offering thought as me asking for the sounding board to bounce thoughts to me.
I spent a dozen years in Catholic school and remain a semi-regular participant in the ritual that is Saturday/Sunday mass. My kid is in Year Six of the schooling and gets more of that at home from my mother-in-law, who spent her whole life as an educator of the faith and a pretty “hardline Catholic” (if such a thing exists). My parents are active in the church back home: Dad’s an usher, Mom does the readings. They still attend the same church they got married in almost 50 years ago.
So that’s the set up for what happened two weeks ago as I took Mom to church on a Saturday afternoon when I was in town for our other religious ritual: The monthly baseball card show.
The new priest we got (we seem to be going through them at a fairly brisk pace) isn’t the world’s most likeable man. He met me for the first time about a month ago and noticed that I had lost a lot of hair as he had at some point in his life. “I like your haircut,” he said as he laughed.
The bigger “problem” is that the man is hearing impaired, which makes him difficult to understand. To that end, he has his own personal deacon who does a lot of the talking for him, including the homily.
For those uninitiated in the faith, a deacon is a layman (all men still. My faith needs to grow up.) who serves as kind of a “caddy” for the priest. I’m sure some of them are decent people, but I’ve yet to meet one. My experience with deacons is that they are power-hungry, self-important assholes who believe that God has chosen them to fill the role. This man is like an Alpha Deacon in that regard. He has created rules that prohibit church members from approaching the altar during certain parts of the mass. He forbids readers to sit up front, which means they have to walk up to do the reading, walk back after the reading and then walk back to do the second reading. All of this makes no sense, as most readers are in their 70s and are lucky to be walking at all.
Above all else, however, this guy has that “presence” about him: Holier-than-thou. Smug. A Chosen One. He also looks like Ben from the Dilbert cartoons.
So all of this conspired to let the priest give Deacon Dickhead the mic for the homily at mass two weeks ago.
My mother kind of captured my thoughts on what the homily should be for me: “I go there to feel better,” she said. “I want something that makes me feel inspired or at least like I shouldn’t feel bad about something that is happening in my life.”
I agree. Even if it’s a little more toward the fire-and-brimstone side, it can be helpful and inspiration.
The readings were good ones: Moses holding up his arms with the staff of God helps his people win a battle, but as he grew tired, his arms fell. When his arms fell, the opposition had the better of the battle. Thus, two guys gave him a place to sit and held up his arms for him. The Gospel was similarly about getting by with a little help from your friends. (I don’t complicate my faith, I guess…) Thus, I’m looking forward to a good bit of preaching, even given this guy’s limited capabilities.
Instead, I got a political lesson.
The guy got up there and started talking about the election and how neither candidate was good, but one of them was going to make it easier for people to get abortions and we can’t have that. He told some story about Hillary Clinton not clapping for Mother Theresa. He then told this “real story” about a guy who died:
A guy feels sick and goes to the doctor. He finds out he has a virulent strain of cancer that despite every effort, he can’t overcome.
He dies and meets God. “God,” he says. “Why do we have something horrible like cancer? Why can’t you send us a cure for cancer?”
“My child,” God replies. “I did send you a cure for cancer. But she was aborted because her mother wanted a boy.”
At the end of this horseshit, people broke out in applause.
Did I mention we’re Catholic, where we don’t pretty much get jacked up about anything during church?
I could feel my field of vision narrowing and my head pounding as I saw a woman two pews up clapping like it was a Trump rally. I looked over at my mother who was just silent, so I had a hard time getting a feel from her about this.
When communion came (or as my kid once noted, “That time where you go up and get a cookie from the priest), Deacon Dickhead was running my line. I was torn between three actions:
Stay put, take the thing, don’t embarrass mom
Cut across the aisle to the other line, likely create a small scene, but feel better
Stay put and when he says, “Body of Christ” respond with “Fuck you you fucking fuck” and then take a swing at the guy. Larger scene, but probably worth it once in a lifetime.
I went with the first one because it was my parents’ church and I didn’t want to bring shame on the family. I did the perfectly Catholic thing: I sucked it up and took it. At the end of mass, the priest made a point of complimenting the deacon and people applauded again. I wanted to tell them both to fuck off and die. I remained politely Catholic.
On the way to the car, I began with the “So…” line, only to have my mother start railing against this like she was Regan in “The Exorcist.” Certain words don’t sound natural coming out of the mouth of a 70-year-old woman on her way out of church.
Mom found them all.
It got so bad, she forced my father to avoid that topic of discussion at dinner, a meal that was accompanied by a big jolt of wine.
I spent the rest of that week bitching up a storm in my head. Separation of Church and State. Self-righteous prick. Use open records and FOIA the shit out of everything he ever did and hope he had a sexual rap battle with Ken Bone.
I still don’t know why this is eating at me so much. It’s not like the church ever would be in the “Do what you do, just don’t get any on me” kind of thing when it came to anything sex-based. I never imagined my faith to be OK with life not beginning when a man unhooked the woman’s bra. What is it about this one speech that really pissed me off?
Part of it was the messenger, I’m sure. I dislike people who enjoy talking the talk but have never been forced to walk the walk. I also dislike people who cling to false stereotypes of people that serve as strawmen for their bullshit. I REALLY don’t like bullies and this guy is one of those as well. He’s basically an asshole fondue of everything I hate, so I get that.
Part of it was the venue. When I’m watching a baseball game and I get a commercial for Trump or Ron Johnson or Viagra (all equally helpful in getting old angry white guys hard), I’m not thrilled, but it comes with the territory. I also know that my faith tells me God is supposed to be everywhere, and if you watched the ALCS, you know he’s with me when the Indians are playing. Still, when I’m in His house, I’m not watching commercials on my phone, so I’m thinking I’m safe from this shit.
Maybe there’s another part of me that has allowed me to kind of compartmentalize my faith into areas of agreement and areas I ignore. When I’m forced to confront those things I like to keep in the trunk of the car, it really irritates me. I don’t know.
What I do know is that for all the trouble this faith is having in keeping people engaged, pissing off one of the few people in that joint under the age of 70 isn’t a great idea.
Thus, I leave you with the questions that have bothered me: Is this a big deal? Am I overreacting? What should I do?