Dear Donald


Dear Donald,

Let’s face it, even though almost 63 million of our friends somehow thought you and I would be a good match and were very happy for us, nearly 74 million of them expressed some very serious reservations, and in the 44 days we have been together, it turns out the majority of our friends were right.

You say you are putting me first, but your actions show otherwise. The lies, the sneaking behind my back, the way you treat my good friends, the secrets about your finances, the late nights on your social media, the secret relationships, the inappropriate outbursts, your bullying behavior, and the kind of people you are associating with are all just too much to take. You don’t respect me or my core principles and values. You are abusing me and staying with you would make me something I would never want to become.

I think it would be better for both of us if we simply agreed that we should get a divorce. I would prefer that we separate amicably and declare irreconcilable differences. We don’t want it to get ugly in the courts where I will have to defend myself and my honor against you, which means that everything you have done and are doing to me will have to fully come out. Let’s do ourselves a favor and both admit this was never meant to be and find a way to move on with our lives.

Regretfully,

The United States of America

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

To be a fascist, or not to be a fascist

fascism

For decades in the United States we have experienced a kind of national political neurosis in which millions of people have continued to vote against their own interests based on their perception of how the Republican Party was protecting their religious and cultural values. This did not just happen. It was the result of an extremely well-funded and well-organized strategy that focused on reshaping government, the media, higher education, public education, religious institutions, and the courts to be more supportive of corporate interests.

Now we have seen our country enter into a state of national political psychosis that is rightly called fascism – with all of the fascist trimmings of authoritarianism, nationalism, racial and religious scapegoating, attacking the free press, and xenophobia.

In a democratic country of our size, it takes tens of million of people who either knowingly vote for or who are duped into voting for a fascist for fascism to come into being. As our current president continues to govern on the fascist principles upon which he campaigned, the millions of people who may have knowingly voted for this are extremely pleased, and the millions of supporters who may have been duped no longer can use the excuse that they do not know what is happening now that “this” is actually happening.

In other words, if you keep on supporting a fascist even after he makes his fascism explicit, not only in word but also in deed, then you might very well be and probably are a fascist, and history eventually will not look kindly on you. Your continued support of a fascist will contribute to horrific suffering of both people and the planet. This will be something that your children and grandchildren will eventually want to forget about you, and for those who become even more complicit in this evil by acting out the worst of what this president wants to achieve, your children and grandchildren may not want to remember you at all.

Many of you who for some reason are still supporting this fascist president are not bad or evil people, but the longer you hold on to your support for him, the more difficult it is to describe you in that way. He is making it crystal clear who he is and what he will do as long as he is in power, and at some point you become a part of the evil, not just an innocent bystander. Everyone who is paying attention now has a clear choice: to be a fascist, or not to be fascist.

Oh, and if you think that you cannot be a fascist because so many of your Christian friends support this president, and you think that it is not possible that so many Christians would support a fascist, I direct your attention to the image below. The fascist they are hailing did well with the “Christian” vote too.

nazi-bishops

Fascist leaders cannot accomplish want they want to do alone. They need true believer propagandists like Bannon and Miller. They need those who will simply do what they say like Priebus, Conway, and Spicer. They need opportunists like Pence, Ryan, McConnell, and Chaffetz who think they or their agenda can benefit from the situation. They need the backing of powerful corporations and industry who see an opportunity for profit. They need millions of people who will believe their alternative facts and be willing to act to defend them, millions of persons who are too scared to resist, courts that will rubber stamp their directives, a press that will acquiesce to authoritarianism, and millions of persons who just don’t care enough to resist.

Our fascist president has almost all of these things going for him. It is up to the courts, the press, and the millions of people who do care enough to resist and stop him. The longer he is in power, the more he will weaken the free press and the courts, and it will be very difficult for the people to stop this fall into the fascist abyss.

Posted in politics, religion | Tagged | 1 Comment

The Lord’s Prayer and 45

the-lords-prayer

The Lord’s Prayer was taught to a group of disciples by Jesus, a person who according to Christian scriptures was a refugee and whose family had been refugees, who came from a very humble and poor background, whose religion was under constant threat by the Empire, and who eventually would be executed by the Empire as a political threat. When the Lord’s Prayer was read before 45’s “rally speech” yesterday in Melbourne, Florida, it was a jarring reminder that what 45 stands for is the antithesis of what the Lord’s Prayer is pointing to as a vision of the Beloved Community on earth.

Our Father, which art in heaven,

Father here is one way that Jesus refers to God. This is the God who says welcome the stranger, don’t mistreat the aliens in your land, love your neighbor and even your enemy, don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t commit adultery, forgive others, bring good news to the poor and oppressed, take care of the sick and homeless and those in prison, be good stewards of the earth, and don’t cheat your employees. 45 does not have a good track record on any of these things.

Hallowed be thy Name.

It is certainly not hallowing God’s name to be using this prayer right before a rally speech of someone who is the very antithesis of what the prayer is about. There are other names for what this is. Blasphemy is one that comes to mind.

Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
As it is in heaven.

Whatever the Kingdom/Beloved Community may be that Jesus is praying will come and whatever the Divine will is for earth; it certainly cannot be one that rejects refugees, cheats workers, involves relentless lying, mistreats immigrants, removes people’s access to healthcare, tears families apart, mistreats women, and praises leaders who do all the above.

Give us this day our daily bread.

45 has never been and never will be satisfied with his daily bread. He has an insatiable drive for more wealth, more power, and more adulation. Not only is his daily bread not enough, but his actions of cheating employees/contractors, tearing families apart, and moving to make healthcare less accessible; all make it more difficult for others to receive their daily bread for their basic sustenance.

And forgive us our trespasses,

45 never really says that he is sorry or asks for forgiveness. Everything is everyone else’s fault. The humility and empathy required for truly asking forgiveness seem to be entirely lacking in 45.

As we forgive them that trespass against us.

45 does not forgive trespasses nor does he forgive perceived wrongs, unless the one who wrongs him publicly says he/she was wrong and goes back to giving 45 public adulation. All others who trespass against him become his permanent enemies, and he does not love his enemies. He once said, “When I’m wounded, I go after people hard and I try to unwound myself.”

And lead us not into temptation,

We all have temptations and make mistakes. I am not saying that 45 has never prayed that he not be led into temptation, but if he has, it has not been working too well for him as he appears to have given in to almost every temptation that the teacher of this prayer would want one to avoid.

But deliver us from evil.

Please deliver us from 45

For thine is the kingdom,
The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.

45 has spent his entire life gaining power and glory for himself. He revels in it, and he seems to be willing to do almost anything to create his own kingdom, to gain and maintain economic and political power, and glorify himself over all others. He seems utterly uninterested in attributing power and glory to anyone else but himself.

Amen.

This word may be translated as “so be it” or “may it be.” if we as a people hope for anything like what is described in this prayer to become a reality within our society, the way of 45 is not the way for us to follow.

If the Lord’s Prayer is a loving expression of a yearning for Beloved Community on earth, the result of earnestly praying it will lead to relentless resistance to what 45 is doing here on earth.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Paying the Refs

jthorpe1

Jim Thorpe Building photo by John Jernigan

Here in Oklahoma, we take our sports seriously – very seriously. One could argue (and I agree) that we take them too seriously, but bear with me and imagine if you will that you are the parent of a high school basketball player in Oklahoma. In the course of the season you learn that many of the referees who have been calling your son’s or daughter’s games over the past few years are receiving monetary aid from parents of your team’s biggest rival. They are not receiving their actual salary or direct monetary gifts from these parents, but they have had all of their referee training and certification fees paid by these parents. These socially connected and influential parents have also assisted the refs through their extensive connections in getting into the best division in which to referee.

When you discover this extremely troubling situation, you and the parents of the other players on your team are incensed that the refs are receiving aid from parents of an opposing team. This clearly raises the concern that the refs’ decisions may be influenced, consciously or sub-consciously, by the financial and professional benefit they have gained from the parents of the rival team. As you think about it, your anger and your sense of the injustice about the situation increase. Every close call that has not gone your team’s way races through your mind, and you wonder how many of these close calls may have been influenced by what the parents of the other team have done.

You and the other parents of your team come together to decide how to handle the situation, and you agree that talking to the state athletic administrators to make a complaint and demand justice is the best course of action. To your surprise and disgust, the administrators tell you that what the parents of the rival team’s players have done is not against the rules. They inform you as long as the refs are not receiving direct payment that paying for their training and certifications and even advocating on their behalf for the best refereeing jobs are all seen as perfectly appropriate by the athletic association. The administrators let you know that you are free to do the same thing for the referees if you wish, a suggestion that seems both morally wrong to you and pragmatically impossible given that you and the other parents related to your child’s team have neither the resources nor the kinds of social connections that the parents of the rival team’s players have.

You and the other parents and all of the players on your team are livid. All the close games lost to this rival, all of the runner-up finishes, all the “so close, but not quite” moments of the last few years now seem to be part of a larger pattern.  The athletic administrators admonish you for over-reacting, and they criticize you for impugning the good character of the referees. “These refs are professionals,” you are told. “How dare you suggest that they would let the good will, generosity, and commitment of the parents of the other team who have made their training and certification possible somehow influence their calls on the court!” You remain unconvinced. It is clear to you that the system is unjust, and you are right. You and the other parents of your team decide to take your case to the court of public opinion where you believe decency and commonsense will prevail when people hear what is really going on.

Crazy, right?  – Clearly a fictional example. No self-respecting athletic association in the state of Oklahoma would ever allow the refs to receive financial benefits and professional aid in a way that would threaten the integrity of the sport, and if they did, the vast majority of the public would see this for what it is – unfair! There would be consequences – remember we take our sports seriously in Oklahoma.

Yet here in Oklahoma we have allowed a similar unjust system to remain in place in an area of our common life together where the implications are much more serious than in the context of sport. Oklahoma currently has a system in place where referees are given large sums of monetary aid and professional assistance by the very entities for which they have the responsibility of refereeing. This does not happen in our sport systems – we take sports much too seriously to allow that to happen. It happens in our Oklahoma Corporation Commission. This is the commission tasked with the responsibility of refereeing/enforcing regulations in relation to all corporate activity within the state. Some of the CEO’s/parents of some of the most powerful corporations/teams give the maximum allowable amounts of money to these commissioners/refs, and the state officials keep saying there is nothing inappropriate about this system.

The corporations/teams with the most wealth, power, and connections in the state are the oil, gas, utilities, and agricultural companies. The corporation commissioners receive more political donations from these industries than any others, but they also receive donations from other major industries they are regulating. As some people in Oklahoma are becoming aware of this situation and see the injustice, unfairness, and potential for corruption in a system that allows the refs to be paid by the people they are refereeing; they are rightly becoming upset and speaking out. Some have referred to this phenomenon as “regulatory capture.” – a situation in which the regulators are captured by the influence, connections, and wealth of the very industries they are responsible for regulating.

Those familiar with Oklahoma know that the situation with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission was even worse a few decades ago when corporations and their surrogates would pay direct bribes to commissioners to wield their influence and control. One can rightly point to the integrity and courage of one of our three current corporation commissioners, Bob Anthony, in helping to bring this corrupt practice to an end.

Now it is time to also end political donations to corporation commissioners from the corporations they are regulating. We Oklahomans would not allow such practices in our sports, and we should also not allow such practices in our government and regulatory agencies. The commissioners/refs deserve to be paid, but they should never be paid directly or indirectly by the entities they are tasked with regulating. It is clear that this system is unjust, unfair, and ripe for corruption. Those who benefit from this system will try to convince Oklahomans that there is nothing wrong. I hope we will remain unconvinced and take our case to the court of public opinion and action where hopefully decency and commonsense will prevail when people hear what is really going on.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Oklahoma Game

capitoloilwell-1170x878

Here is the Oklahoma game: Oil and gas companies and other large corporations in Oklahoma have successfully lobbied the politicians they have financially supported to get into office to give them massive tax breaks that each year amount to hundreds of millions of dollars of lost revenue for the state. They also influence these same politicians to cut income taxes for the wealthiest Oklahomans. Over time this lost revenue is measured in billions of dollars.

These same oil and gas companies and other large corporations give back a tiny fraction of what they should be paying in taxes in the form of donations to charitable organizations for social services, the arts, and education. Many of the social service organizations to which they contribute exist to try to fill the many gaps and holes in our social fabric that are worsened by the lost revenue from taxes the oil and gas companies and other large corporations should be paying. If one of the charitable organizations to which they give money does something that they don’t like, pressure will be applied and funding for that organization may even cease.

The oil and gas companies and other large corporations make sure they get a lot of really good publicity for their wonderful charitable giving. They serve as presidents of charitable organizations and play other leading roles on their boards and in their fundraising efforts. They and their corporations are constantly recognized at galas, special events, and performances. Their personal names and corporation names are displayed prominently on our arts and education events and venues, and they are lauded as being model personal and corporate citizens in our state.

All of this giving is of course tax deductible, and they use the giving as a way to provide positive PR for their corporations. In essence, they are getting relatively inexpensive tax deductible commercials at a miniscule rate compared to the taxes they are no longer paying because of their hold on our economic, political, and cultural processes.

As the oil and gas companies and other large corporations continue to be lauded for all they do for our city and state, Oklahoma experiences massive budget shortfalls, nation leading cuts in public education, the highest female incarceration rate in the country, poor access to healthcare, above average child poverty rates, and oil and gas industry induced earthquakes with individual citizens left with the bill for the damage.

In addition to the ongoing positive tax deductible PR campaign pursued by these corporations, they operate in an environment of little regulation owing to the fact that they provide financial support for politicians in the Oklahoma Corporation Commission – the very commission tasked with the responsibility of regulating their corporate practices. This is the Oklahoma game, and the vast majority of people in Oklahoma are not winning it. The oil and gas corporations are left saying “Is this a great state or what?” Other Oklahomans… Not so much.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Scott Pruitt – Fossil Fuel First

scott-pruittAP

When it comes to the well-being of people and the planet, perhaps no appointment in the current administration is more important than that of Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA is responsible for protecting our air, water, and land and for implementing appropriate plans to address the existential threat of climate change.

The Trump administration’s “An America First Energy Plan” is in reality “A Fossil Fuel First Energy Plan,” and it reads as if it were written by executives of oil, gas, and coal companies; which is very likely the case. It is also becoming increasingly clear that this administration plans to cut environmental regulations across the board, using the justification that such measures are needed to boost the economy. It makes sense that an administration that takes its energy policy cues directly from fossil fuel companies and its direction for environmental regulations in general from entities such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) would nominate Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to be the Director of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Those of us in Oklahoma know that Pruitt is no stranger to taking his cues and direction from the fossil fuel industry, and he is no stranger to saying and writing things that sound like they come directly from its executives. On at least one occasion we know that Attorney General Pruitt sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency arguing that the agency was overestimating methane emissions. The letter was signed by Pruitt and printed on the letterhead of the Office of the Oklahoma Attorney General, but 97% of the letter was exactly the same as a letter presented to him by Oklahoma based Devon Energy. He simply cut and paste the vast majority of the letter to make Devon’s case to the EPA.

The Devon letter is symbolic and representative of a clear pattern in Scott Pruitt’s work as Oklahoma’s Attorney General. When it comes to the fossil fuel companies from which he has been the recipient of much political and financial support, Pruitt is passionate and proactive in his pursuit of the protection of their interests. However, when it comes to protecting the environment and people from the negative effects of the fossil fuel industry and other industries for that matter, Pruitt is passive and silent at best and actively antagonistic at worst.

Upon entering the Office of the Attorney General of Oklahoma in 2010, Mr. Pruitt dismantled the office’s environmental protection unit. Pruitt later sued the EPA to stop the Clean Power Plan to protect fossil fuel interests, and he has sued the EPA in relation to a host of issues and regulations over a dozen times during his tenure. In contrast, he has been totally unengaged with advocating on behalf of the thousands of Oklahomans affected by induced seismicity caused by the oil and gas companies’ wastewater injection wells.

It was no surprise that Harold Hamm, CEO of Oklahoma based Continental Resources and key energy advisor to Trump during the presidential campaign, was the chair of Pruitt’s re-election campaign. Hamm is well known for his efforts to cast doubt on the connection between wastewater injection wells and the increase in seismicity that has made Oklahoma the earthquake capital of the United States and left private citizens holding the bill for the damage. It is almost certainly the case that Hamm played a significant role in influencing President Trump to select Pruitt to direct the EPA.

Pruitt has repeatedly argued that EPA regulations need to be cut in order to enhance the fossil fuel industry and industry in general. If he is confirmed by the United States Senate to be Director of the EPA, the fossil fuel industry will effectively be in control of the agency. Whether it will write 97% of the agency’s policy is yet to be seen, but what is almost beyond a shadow of a doubt is that the agency will be much less about environmental protection under Pruitt and much more about deregulation for the protection of corporate interests. Proactive measures to mitigate climate change will be a thing of the past, greatly decreasing the chances of maintaining a livable climate, and corporate interests will trump the well-being of people and the planet.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

King’s Beloved Community vs. Trump’s Chaos

mlk-1965-selma-montgomery-march-p

Towards the end of his tragically shortened life caused by the bullet of a white supremacist, Martin Luther King, Jr. questioned whether our world house was headed for chaos or community. He reminded the world of the “fierce urgency of now” in relation to the global challenges that we face, and he warned that there is such a thing as “too late” when it comes to making the choice between chaos and community. King maintained that the path towards Beloved Community calls for recognizing that “[w]e have inherited a large house, a great “world house” in which we have to live together—black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Muslim and Hindu—a family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interest, who, because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace.” King articulated that living together in peace with justice would require a “revolution of values” in order to overcome the triple evils of “racism, materialism, and militarism.” (See King’s “The World House,” 1967)

My guess is that sometime on or before Monday, Mr. Trump will tweet some obligatory generic praise for Martin Luther King, Jr., but in word and action he represents everything that King stood against. Trump is the personification of what King called “the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism.” Trump has worked diligently to divide and conquer along racial and religious lines, and he is strongly supported by the same hate-filled and racist groups and individuals who fought against everything King was working to bring into being. Trump’s life is the epitome of depersonalizing materialism, and Trump has shown no hesitancy in harming persons in his relentless drive for more wealth and status. His willingness to tolerate violence among his supporters and his irresponsible militaristic language and threats, not excluding the talk of using nuclear weapons, have the entire world on edge.

If Martin Luther King. Jr. were alive today, he would be engaged in every non-violent effort imaginable to resist Trump. If you want to know what Trump would really think of King, all you have to do is look at what Trump is currently saying on Twitter about Representative John Lewis – those are Trump’s real views about persons who are working for and living the legacy of Dr. King. Trump’s most appropriate response to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is silence, because almost anything else will be permeated with a hypocrisy that will dishonor King’s legacy, unless of course Trump would sincerely like to use the day as an opportunity for his own repentance, the likelihood of which is miniscule.

Like all of us, Dr. King was a person with flaws, but his highest aspirations were for the creation of a Beloved Community of love and justice. King lifted up a vision of a world that was more peaceful, just, participatory, and loving; and he literally put his entire life on the line in pursuit of a revolution of values to care for our world house. Trump’s highest aspirations seem always to be related to himself, and his impending presidency threatens to lead the United States and much of the world on the path to chaos rather than community. Trump’s dream is King’s nightmare.

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , | Leave a comment