God & Country

GeorgeCarlinReligionIt’s hard to imagine now, but when John F. Kennedy first ran for President of the United States, there was concern that his allegiance would be to the Catholic Church instead of to his Country and its Constitution. Contrast that with the current presidential campaign, in which Fox News asked – in all seriousness – if any of the Republican candidates had received some sort of communication from God regarding what they should do if elected. Yes, not only do they want to know if any of these potential leaders of the free world have been hearing voices from unseen beings, but they seemed really excited and hopeful that some of them are indeed hearing voices and planning to base their presidential decisions on them.

Jeffrey Tayler offers an overly animated take on this very subject in a recent piece for Salon. But it’s certainly a question worth considering. Take George W. Bush. It was troubling enough that he claimed that God wanted him to become president, telling a friend: “I believe that God wants me to run for President.” But then he claimed that God told him to invade Iraq, telling a Palestinian diplomat: “God would tell me ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq.’ And I did.”

It’s terrifying to think that the man with the nuclear launch codes was receiving instructions from some unseen being. But it is absolutely horrifying to learn that this presumed deity actually instructed him to invade a sovereign nation, at a cost of 4,491 American lives, as many as 500,000 Iraqi lives, and an ongoing burden to the American taxpayers in excess of $2,000,000,000 (that’s two trillion dollars…or two-thousand stacks of a million dollars, for those struggling to imagine expenses of such magnitude; and this, from a man who promised to reduce government spending*).

HigherPowersIs it easier for “a man of faith” to believe what he wants to believe in spite of all the evidence to the contrary? That certainly was what Bush did in the case of Iraq. And what many of his contemporaries have been doing in the case of Climate Change. So while most see “faith” as a good thing, it clearly poses significant dangers when someone in power makes decisions based on by “faith” instead of on facts. It’s one thing to have faith in a higher power, but it’s a very risky proposition when people in power start claiming that we should have faith in their ability to interpret the wishes of that higher power.

When a presidential candidate claims to have heard the “call of God,” or received some sort of instruction from such a deity, how do we know he isn’t simply hearing voices in his head, the result of some mental illness, delusion, or deficiency? How do we know it isn’t Satan speaking to him, masquerading as God? How do we know he isn’t just lying, making this up to sucker the evangelical vote or to give credence to otherwise ludicrous policies? After all, how likely is it that God would decide to speak to – or through – a politician, the least trustworthy profession on our planet?

Should our next President have to pledge his or her allegiance to the United States and its Constitution, vowing to put it above any instructions they may (or may not) receive from some invisible entity? Sure, it’s easy to argue that it’s a non-issue, because God is inherently good. But look at what George Bush did in the name of his God. The unnecessary and unjustified deaths of hundreds of thousands of people can only be categorized as evil. Not to mention what horrors other men have done, claiming to act under orders of God.

*If God wanted Bush to invade Iraq, at a cost to the American taxpayers of more than $2 trillion and growing, then clearly God is in favor of massive government spending; and, therefore, God is certainly not a Republican.

Lessons Learned from the Fox News Republican Presidential Debate

FoxDebateesI thought the Fox moderators did an admirable job of asking some tough, pointed questions of each candidate last Thursday. Yes, you heard me correctly. I think Fox News actually did something right. #BlondesHaveMoreFun

Of course, conservatives are apoplectic because the Fox moderators did in fact do a decent job of questioning the candidates. I think they are a little miffed that the normally conservative cocoon of Fox may have exposed their entire field of candidates for the hypocritical buffoons they really are. #Irony

FoxRepThat said, few of the candidates actually answered the questions asked of them. Instead, they spun it around to recite the same canned message points each time they were called upon. And rarely did any of the moderators press them to answer the actual questions. #Weak

However, I thought the seven candidates in the first debate, those who hadn’t polled high enough to make it to the prime-time debate, did a slightly better job of answering the questions asked of them. #CandorDoesNotPollWell

All of the Republican candidates said they want to reduce the size and scope of government. And in particular, they said they want to reduce the amount of money our government spends. #AntiGovernmentPoliticianIsNotAnOxymoron?

Despite this aforementioned claim, all of them also said that they want to increase the size and scope of government – and particularly increase government spending – to do things like fight more wars, build and protect our borders, and enforce expansive immigration laws. #SpendThenBlameTheDems

In other words, all of the Republican presidential candidates are talking out of their asses. #Hypocrisy

And while all of the candidates professed outrage over our nation’s current debt, they failed to acknowledge the indisputable fact that much of this debt was created the last time a Republican was in the White House. When George W. Bush became president, our nation had a budget surplus, thanks to the presidency of Democrat Bill Clinton (who, incidentally, had inherited a budget deficit from Republican George H.W. Bush). But thanks to eight years of a Republican in the White House, Democrat Barack Obama inherited yet another massive budget deficit. #NoAccountability #Hypocrisy&Denial #SpendThenBlameTheDemsAgain

I think the debate spelled the beginning of the end for Donald Trump. He came off even more dickish than usual, and that’s saying a lot. His spotty record as a businessman was exposed, including the fact that he has had to rely on government entitlement programs like bankruptcy as many as 4 times in past 25 years to make up for his management failures. And it didn’t help when the moderators reminded everyone that each time Donny shirked his debts he left a lot of loyal employees – hard-working Americans – unemployed as a result of his repeated incompetence as a leader. #DonaldRump #BankruptAmerica

FoxTrumpPlus, Trump made it clear that he’s more interested in Donald Trump than the Republican Party. In fact, he flat-out admitted that if the party chooses another candidate, he would continue to campaign as an independent. Which, of course, makes you wonder if he’d put the needs of the nation ahead of his own, should darkness sweep over this land and actually put him in the White House. #AllAboutMe

Though I think Trump’s popularity may serve as an important lesson for all candidates, but particularly Republicans. Republicans have falsely assumed that Trump’s appeal is based on their conservative ideals, when what people are really responding to is his unorthodox candidacy – the fact that he mocks the other politicians. Trump is walking proof that it’s really all about anger and rage against the system, rather than intellectual support for specific ideals or policies (especially since he has yet to articulate any of these). #WeHateBothParties

Ben Carson seemed to be largely ignored by the Fox moderators. Was this because he’s black, or because he’s smart? #SmartLivesMatter

And Lindsey Graham? All that guy cares about is starting a war. Look, we get it, you have invested heavily in the defense sector and want to make a killing – both in the market and on some battlefield. But try not to make it so obvious. Even Republicans have grown weary of wasting American lives. #WarMonger

For me, the brightest spot was Ohio Governor John Kasich. He’s what they call a compassionate conservative, and – despite his professions of faith – he sounded like a fairly reasonable, trustworthy guy. In other words, he seems to be the least bat-shit-crazy out of all the Republican candidates. I consider myself fairly liberal, but if the Republicans nominate that guy (which they surely won’t), I just might vote for him over Hillary Clinton. #VoteKasich

And speaking of Hillary Clinton, apparently she is far more qualified to be president than I realized. In fact, it seems she’s far more qualified to be president than any candidate on either side. You see, having listened to the Fox moderators and every single candidate in both debates, it’s clear that Hillary Clinton already is the President of the United States, a role she has apparently been sharing with Barack Obama for the past two terms. #FoxMisleads #PresidentHillary

Pope Lightens Up, Fox Tightens Up

PFBDuring a visit to Brazil, Pope Francis said, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” It’s not quite an open-armed embrace of the gay community, but it’s a big improvement from his predecessor, who equated homosexuality with pedophilia. And it’s a message that I hope will resonate with people of all faiths, not just Catholics.

But just as one door to enlightenment, tolerance, and general human decency opens, it appears that another closes, as is evidenced by this disgusting interview on Fox News. Academic and author Reza Aslan shows incredible restraint while being subjected to a shameful line of questioning that surely left even Fox News’ most ardent supporters grovelling about its unquestionable bias.

If I were Aslan, I would have stooped to respond with a few misguided questions of my own, like asking Fox’s female news anchor Lauren Green why she, as a woman, feels qualified to interview a man? After all, that’s tantamount to the argument she attempted to make about a Muslim writing a scholarly examination of history’s most famous Jew (and, for the record, Islam considers Jesus to be a great prophet).

At the end of the day, who do you think Jesus would embrace, the Muslim who has dedicated his life to fostering a better understanding of all religions or the Fox News anchor who can’t see past her own petty prejudice? Hey, like the Pope said, who am I to judge!