Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Send A Message

[Ed. Note: I published this on my Facebook page tonight. I’ve heard too many cable-TV-news pundits gleefully point to polls which suggest that only a small percentage of young Americans will actually vote in the midterm elections tomorrow. I’d like to hope – after Parkland, after Kavanaugh, after children in cages, after a host of awful current events that seemed to awaken a great many American high-school and college students, over the last two years – that there are indeed a great wave of new voters who will end-run the corporate media’s bleatings and the various pollsters that only contact landline-based Americans, and give American representative government a well-deserved kick in the rear. May it be so.

[So here’s that Facebook piece, which I wrote while thinking of all the fine folks who have been students at the public schools and colleges and drum major clinics where I’ve taught, all of whom I’ve been able to watch, via social media, turn into people whom I’d trust to run this country.]

 

All right, my fine FB younger friends — a legion of wonderful people with whom I’ve had the pleasure of sharing a music classroom, or a rehearsal stage, or a high school or college football field, or a DMA parking lot: pull up a chair while I do my Wise Old Sage Of The Desert act.

I beg you. I mean it: I beg you — prove the pundits wrong tomorrow. There are people who go on the TV and pontificate because they’re paid to convince you that they know something about the world, who say that only a handful of young voters will actually engage in the political process. MAKE THEM EAT THEIR WORDS.

Forgive me, but I don’t think it’s hyperbole to suggest that tomorrow’s election — at the all levels, federal, state and local — boils down to a very simple idea:

Empathy vs. selfishness.

Regarding virtually every important issue facing our country right now — climate change, health care, gun violence, public education, women’s health and rights, rights of people of color, LGBTQ and transgender rights, freedom of (or from) religion, immigration (CHILDREN ARE STILL IN CAGES), the Supreme Court, simple human decency, and oh by the way Congressional oversight of this corrupt bunch of pirates masquerading as an executive branch …

… the current Congressional majority and many Republican-held state legislatures have consistently and repeatedly demonstrated BY THEIR ACTIONS an utter lack of human decency and empathy.

So vote them out tomorrow (if you haven’t early-voted already). Vote in such overwhelming numbers that Russian meddlers won’t matter, that voter-suppression schemes won’t matter, that the corporate media’s obsession with pretending that “both sides are equally horrible” … JUST WON’T MATTER.

And at this moment in history, I’m sorry, but it’s more important to vote within the context of the political system as it is, rather than as we wish it were. Which means, I’m sorry again, that independent candidates can’t help us in this election. Down the road, perhaps; but not tomorrow.

Mark Twain once said, not without cause, “I don’t belong to an organized political party. I am a Democrat.”

BUT … this time around, Democratic Party majorities in the US House and Senate are the only way to throw the brakes on this miserable Republican-Party-led executive branch (yeah, That Guy). The current Republican Party majorities in the House and Senate have, through their actions, proven themselves willfully incompetent at governmental oversight, and indeed at representative government at all.

So go to the polls. Stand in the lines when you have to. Send a message … to our elected officials, and to the rest of the world (most of which has quite honestly been watching us for the last two years with horror) — that we’re not going to just sit here and take it. That we’re not going to let selfishness win out over empathy.

If you ask me: vote blue. Vote Democratic. But in any case: vote.

My young friends, all of whom I’ve held in very high regard whenever I’ve had the privilege of enjoying your company … this is your golden opportunity, TOMORROW: to take this country back from the (mostly) rich old white guys who have used their control of the government to gather all the riches to themselves, right now — AND to work diligently to make life harder for everybody but themselves, both now and into the future.

Make the Women’s March and the Science March and the March For Our Lives and the Families Belong Together March seem like mere whispering tiny preludes.

VOTE.

Advertisements

November 5, 2018 Posted by | civil rights, current events, Facebook, government, news, politics, social media, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Axis of Awful

Just this week:

Saturday 2/18:

Popular domestic programs could face budget cuts. Trump’s budget office has drafted a hit list of programs that could be eliminated or have their domestic spending trimmed. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Legal Services Corporation, AmeriCorps, and the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities are on that list. Most of the programs cost under $500 million annually, a pittance for a government that is projected to spend about $4 trillion this year. (via The New York Times)

Monday 2/20:

Trump to roll back Obama’s climate and water pollution rules through executive action. While both directives will take time to implement, they will send an unmistakable signal that the new administration is determined to promote fossil-fuel production and economic activity even when those activities collide with some environmental safeguards. (via The Washington Post)

Republican health proposal would redirect money from poor to rich. The Republican plan would substantially cut funding for states in providing free insurance to low-income adults through Medicaid. And would change how tax credits are distributed by giving all Americans not covered through work the same flat credit by age, regardless of income. The draft proposal largely contains provisions that could be passed through a special budget process that requires only 50 Senate votes, and fulfills President Trump’s promise that the repeal and replacement of the law would take place “simultaneously.” (via The New York Times)

Tuesday 2/21:

Anne Frank Center criticizes Trump’s denouncement of anti-Semitism a “pathetic asterisk of condescension”. Trump refused to address a series of bomb threats against Jewish community centers when asked about the threats by a Jewish journalist last week. Trump cut the journalist off and said “I hate even the question.” The White House’s statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day also left out any mention of Jews. (via Talking Points Memo)

Wednesday 2/22:

The Trump administration plans to roll back protections for transgender students, reversing federal guidance that required the nation’s public schools to allow children to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that matched their gender identities. (via The Washington Post)

Thousands of emails show that the E.P.A. chief worked to battle environmental regulation as attorney general of Oklahoma. Scott Pruitt, now head of the Environmental Protection Agency, closely coordinated with major oil and gas producers, electric utilities, and political groups to roll back environmental regulations.

Thursday 2/23:

Voter to @SenTomCotton: My husband is dying. We can’t afford health insurance. What kind of insurance do you have? https://t.co/iYFiZtwJ1F” (via CNN Twitter feed)

Today, Friday 2/24:

Republican lawmakers expect that their Obamacare replacement will result in fewer Americans covered by health insurance. The new plan would do away with the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that all Americans have health coverage or pay a fine, and replace it with rules that let people choose not to buy insurance, instead paying higher premiums or penalties if they need it later. The result would be fewer people covered. (via Bloomberg)

 

When does “amoral” become “immoral”?

The Toddler-in-Chief, and his pirate-band Cabinet, and the cowardly Republican Congressional majority that supports them all … they all represent the absolute worst of humanity: they display exactly no trace of actual humanity.

Instead, their policies and behaviors are full of selfishness, greed, utter lack of compassion, complete absence of empathy, and almost-recreational cruelty.

Their idea of fairness is preserving the rights of us rich straight white guys via the taking away of rights from anybody who doesn’t look or think or worship or love like we do. They got theirs; and screw the rest of y’all.

They seem to revel in activities that make miserable the lives of the most vulnerable people.

Even in previous corrupt administrations, at least there was a veneer of civilization. Not so, now. The brazenness is breathtaking: they’re corrupt and horrible … they know what it looks like … they don’t care how awful it looks … they Do. Not. Care.

We are truly in a kakistocracy: government by the worst people.

Resist, yes.

Reject, yes.

But also this: It’s long past time; but no time like the present. RISE UP.

RISE UP.

February 24, 2017 Posted by | civil rights, current events, government, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God-Fearin’? -or- The Post That Really Brought the True Believers Down On Him

Following the news stories about the Occupy Wall Street (and Other Places) movement will get a fella thinking a bit. I’ve endured the mainstream media commentators who profess to be confused about just what the message of the Occupy movement even is. Please. I am reasonably assured that the majority of those commentators are willing to be willfully ignorant of this (as opposed to unaware or uninformed, and there IS a difference), in the service of whomever signs their paycheck. Which is to say, it may be in their personal best interests to cast doubt upon a movement that professes to challenge the status quo, and not in their best interests to bite the hand what feeds ya.

That status quo, boiled down, appears to be this:

There is a system in place in this country which allows a relatively small group of people to do what two-year-olds do, before they’re taught to share: they put their arms around all the toys they can reach; they reach for more toys to put inside their arms; and they shoo away anyone who asks if they can play with some of their toys. It’s a gigantic, institutionalized game of Keepaway, played with instruments of political and economic power. And money. Lots and lots of money.

Or, to use an analogy that I once heard on an episode of “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me” (curiously, from a panelist who was a conservative commentator): the upper 2% of the population is the Mob, and the rest of us are the restaurant they’re burning down for the insurance money.

Whatever happened to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”?

Oh, that’s right. The Golden Rule long ago turned into “Whoever has the gold, makes the rules.”

 

You know, all this explains a lot of things. All through my life I’ve had this strange, unaccountable feeling that something was going on in the world… and no one would tell me what it was.” 

      -Arthur Dent, in the BBC radio version of Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”

 

Let me get this straight. Scientists are warning us about extreme weather to come. Our infrastructure fails us at the drop of a hat. All it takes is a simple large early-season snowstorm to take down the power grid that serves a large chunk of the Northeastern US.  In the face of this reality, we could direct political will and economic resources toward reducing fossil fuel dependence and developing new energy sources, and re-building / shoring up the power grids, bridges, roads, etc., etc., which would employ more people, thereby reducing unemployment…

But, instead, no.

All Congress can see fit to do is spend their time doing things like confirming that the nation’s motto was and still is “In God We Trust”.

Who’s in Congress? Increasingly, members of the group that have been labeled “the 1 percent”; those who make the very most money and therefore have the very most power, influence and control over government policies that affect all 100 percent of us.

Perhaps many of them think that this is in fact the best, most desirable option: trust God to deal with our problems. Pray, kids; because at heart, we, your elected officials, have no interest in bucking the will of the oil companies and major corporations and many of the “1 percent” — because they keep us properly funded during re-election time, so that we can do their bidding, so they can stay prohibitively wealthy, so they can essentially rule the world.

Oh. Sorry. I get it now. Never mind. As you were.

It’s really a matter of selfishness.

 

For a time, I thought that it was strictly a case of Republicans in Congress and elsewhere doing whatever they had to, politically, in order to not have the incumbent Democratic president achieve any successes – to keep him from being able to point to any achievements, the better to defeat him in the next Presidential election. Senators and Representatives have gone on the record to say that their goal was to make the 44th President of the United States a “one… term… president” (insert rapturous applause of Koch-Industries-funded non-original Tea Party members here).

Whether or not this laughable legislative agenda has any deeper roots in personal enmity toward the actual human who is the Current Occupant of the Oval Office, it seems a remarkably politically-insular and short-sighted philosophy.

Now, thanks to the perspective-widening effect of the Occupy Wall Street movement, I’ve changed my thinking a bit. Although the “deny Obama success at all costs” strategy is childish and unhelpful – and let’s be honest, most of pure politicking is childish and unhelpful – I’m thinking more and more about that short-sightedness in the context of Saving the Planet, not to mention its people. For all its shortcomings, the United States’ economic power in the world has the capacity to do large things in the service of the rest of the world. For the sake of short-term political and personal gain (and maintenance of individual wealth and comfort), at the expense of everyone else around them, a small group of people are, indeed, wrapping their arms around all the toys.

Again, whatever happened to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”?

 

That gets me thinking further, in a different but related direction – especially considering one of my current occupations, church musician, and the fact that I’m a church musician at the Methodist church in which I grew up, still surrounded by many of the people who helped my parents shape my belief system.

I have trouble with people who, while supporting and promoting these “keepaway” economic and political systems and goals, are willing to invoke the name of God, Jesus Christ, and/or the Church as their rationale, or their source of support, or both. They obfuscate the discussion about theories of global climate change, even as more and more extreme weather patterns and events emerge – heralding a future state of climatic affairs from which we still have time to save ourselves (if someone would just step forward and do it!!). They work to exert religious influence upon the public education system and any other elements of American government, even as the US Constitution remains in place as a document that intends to separate religious influence from functions of state.

(Never mind the folks who think the End Times are near, and look forward to them, perhaps working under the presumption that at such a moment, they will experience ascent rather than descent.)

Anyway, I went digging around in a document that I suppose I should be more familiar with than I have heretofore been: the basic Social Principles of the United Methodist Church. At least in the neck of the woods where I attend services, we’re distinctly and heavily into social justice (although there are isolated pockets of Methodists out there who seem to behave in a less-than-tolerant way). “Social justice” is a term that has been turned by some commentators into a buzzword meant to inspire instant mouth-frothing (and therefore proper voting response) in their listeners, much like “ACORN”, “socialism”, etc.

Before we even get into the depths of the Social Principles, I could hope that those among us who revel in strict and literal Bible interpretation might be given cause for pause when they hit the book of Matthew, chapter 6, the first verse, and discover that it warns, “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them.” Also, Christ teaches us to feed the hungry and care for the sick, not to abandon them. Perhaps there are people who fancy themselves Christians but who haven’t read that part of the Bible where Christ admonishes us to care for “the least among us.” Oh crap. I liked the bit that sounded like God thought the gays were sinners; do we have to strictly-interpret these verses, that are definitely in the Bible, too?

Anyway, the Methodist Church says this about its Doctrinal Heritage:

Our forebears in the faith reaffirmed the ancient Christian message as found in the apostolic witness even as they applied it anew in their own circumstances. … Their preaching and teaching were grounded in Scripture, informed by Christian tradition, enlivened in experience, and tested by reason.

The underlying energy of the Wesleyan theological heritage stems from an emphasis upon practical divinity, the implementation of genuine Christianity in the lives of believers.

The Wesleyan emphasis [is] upon the Christian life — faith and love put into practice …

We see God’s grace and human activity working together in the relationship of faith and good works. God’s grace calls forth human response and discipline. Faith is the only response essential for salvation. However, the General Rules remind us that salvation evidences itself in good works. For Wesley, even repentance should be accompanied by ‘fruits meet for repentance,’ or works of piety and mercy.

Scriptural holiness entails more than personal piety; love of God is always linked with love of neighbor, a passion for justice and renewal in the life of the world.

For Wesley there is no religion but social religion, no holiness but social holiness. The communal forms of faith in the Wesleyan tradition not only promote personal growth; they also equip and mobilize us for mission and service to the world.”

The Process for Carrying Out Our Mission: We make disciples as we: … send persons into the world to live lovingly and justly as servants of Christ by healing the sick, feeding the hungry, caring for the stranger, freeing the oppressed, being and becoming a compassionate, caring presence, and working to develop social structures that are consistent with the gospel … As servants of Christ we are sent into the world to engage in the struggle for justice and reconciliation. We seek to reveal the love of God for men, women, and children of all ethnic, racial, cultural, and national backgrounds and to demonstrate the healing power of the gospel with those who suffer.”

 

So. How’re we all doin’ on that?

At the moment, it is in the practical best interest of too many people in charge of our government and economy to hold onto money, therefore hold onto communicative and influential power, therefore hold onto control of our government and economy. The system is in place, and the people whom it most benefits would logically be uninterested in changing the status quo, no matter who else in society is being adversely affected (um, HURT) by it.

As a colleague of mine put it recently: until we find some way to communicate substantively with the members of the “1 percent” who are in charge of the largely-unregulated banks and other forms of Wall Street tomfoolery, until we find some way to convince them that unbridled greed is (contrary to Gordon Gekko’s postulation) not good – in fact, is morally not good – we really can’t make headway. The Citizens United decision from the Supreme Court not long ago, surrounding money and its application to our means of communication and electoral persuasion, has only served to further cement the difficulty of making forward progress.

How are the 1 percent doing at that “service to the world” thing? And is it even possible to find a way to appeal to the moral conscience of a segment of our population who have been brought up in, and live fully in, an environment that encourages them not to have one?

December 16, 2011 Posted by | government, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment