How to Continue?


The three kittens are still here. Once space opens up for them in a local PetSmart store, I'll drop them off, and they'll be housed in cages until adoption (the store doesn't profit, and the rescue agency goes deeper in the hole with every cat). On that day, I will become the man who betrayed them, and I won't even have the comfort of knowing that they will be sent to loving homes.

I expected fostering to be hard, but I also expected to have the same kittens for only a few days or, at most, a couple of weeks. They've now been here for six weeks, and while I try to enjoy them in the moment, I know what they do not, and that I could spare them. To atone to the dogs I murdered in order to help dogs, I could make this their forever home, and so what if my life contained seven cats--is seven really that many, once they become old enough that the furniture can be uncovered and the knicknacks returned? Peggy says yes, and while my head agrees, my heart doesn't care. My only comfort comes from knowing that, according to the actuarial tables, I will die when their lives are but half over, so it is better to let them go now.

Can I keep inviting this heartache, but if not I, then whom, people who care less; people who are stronger; people who are more practical?

I hate my species for what we do to other lives.

Perhaps, I would be doing better if it were summer because every winter, for me, is a struggle for survival. My pain is worse, and the virtues of the other seasons are absent, replaced by what? Cold? Gray? Drizzle? Darkness? Death? God, what insanity possessed me that I moved halfway to the North Pole, to a place that rarely sees the sun for life-sapping months? I can't breathe for the agony. I am lost already, and the worst is yet to come.

Peggy, who is more rational than I, points out that there are other ways to serve animals. For instance, I could volunteer to show them to potential adoptees, and the decision to allow--or disallow--those people to adopt wouldn't even be mine. But what if I didn't approve? What then? Turn a cat over and hope for the best? Tell the applicant to go fuck himself? Like a crazed father who greets his daughter's beaus with a shotgun, I favor the latter.

I so wanted this to be fun. I so wanted to be useful, but I am drowning in sadness.

Sacred Beings Entrusted to My Care


Foster Kitten Harvey Centered Among Three of Our Adults

Surrendering to Love

Peggy and I adore the longhair kittens that weve fostered for three weeks. In the late 1970s, I killed dogs as a volunteer for a rural humane society, but surrendering these kittens to their forever homes will be even harder because at least I didn’t know the dogs.

Our three fosters came to us through the Cat Rescue and Adoption Network (CRAN)*, a local group with over 200 volunteers, no paid staff, and a $199,000 annual budget. The group’s Medical Rehabilitation and Ringworm Treatment Facility is nearly complete, but cats who are able will continue to be lodged in seventy local homes. CRAN’s cats are also listed on PetFinder and, as space becomes available, taken to one of two local Petsmart stores where still more volunteers oversee the adoption process.

Our three lovelies came to us with a large “condo,” toys, bowls, food, blankets, a litter scoop, two litter boxes, two tubs of litter, and other odds and ends, and it was all new. CRAN’s generosity had the effect of making me, at least, feel obligated to house cats regularly instead of sporadically, which is what I wanted to do in the first place if only Peggy will allow. 


Partial Page from a CRAN Newsletter
I had wanted to foster cats for years, but Peggy worried that they might infect our cats with parasites or disease, and that I would want to keep them, so she made me agree that we would accept only such cats as a vet had screened and vaccinated, and that I wouldnt whine about adopting them. After receiving our application, CRANs president, Louanne, came out in mid-October to tour our home and and conduct a screening interview. We havent had contact with her since, but Kim, the lady who brought first the supplies and then the kittens has stayed in frequent touch. She paid us a visit last Saturday because one of the kittens had a swollen abdomen related to having been spayed, and Kim wanted to examine her before we took her to WAG (Willamette Animal Guild) for a checkup. She later emailed: “You and Peggy are dreams for our foster organization.”

Dreams, us? I can accept that Kim was exceedingly pleased with how safe and happy our fosters feel, but when I consider people like Kim herself who have devoted a large part of their lives and fortunes to helping cats, we’re pikers. Yet within the confines of what we agreed to do and how well we’re doing it, we are good—very good. We’re also loving it, or at least I’m loving it, Peggy being less pleased with the necessity of putting away her knicknacks, draping sheets over the upholstery, and devoting a chunk of our den to a cat condo. In my view, nothing that we put away or covered over came even close to being as beautiful as the precious beings that took its place, and I have been glad to  observe that Peggy cheerfully takes on half of the work, which is a bit more work than we figured on because we have a bit more kittens than we figured on.

We initially agreed to take only one kitten at a time, but when Kim asked if we could take two, we reflected upon our very real desire to help and the amount of money the organization had invested in buying us supplies, and we said yes. So far so good, but ten minutes before she was to arrive, Kim phoned to say that she was en route with three kittens, and could we please take them all because they were bonded siblings. I don’t think the term “bonded” quite applies to kittens, but if we hadn’t taken them, Kim would, and she already had six fosters and fourteen resident cats. She sniffed so much while here that I asked if she had a cold, and she said no, she’s allergic to cats! I said that Louis J. Carmuti (1883-1981), the world’s first full-time cat vet was also allergic to cats.

 
The Hard Stuff

Far from being the cruel, selfish, and unloving little shits that cat haters claim they are, cat lovers regard cats as gentle, giving, loyal and sensitiveat least I do. How sad that they must eat the bodies of other gentle, giving, loyal, and sensitive, creatures. Vegetarian that I am, I think about this a lot now that I’m feeding seven cats.  I also reflect upon other humanitarian dilemmas. For instance, here is how the latest CRAN newsletter (see second illustration) described its care of a nursing kitten named Forrest who was found living on the street with his mother and sister:

“He became very ill and fought hard for his life. From vet visit to vet visit, antibiotic treatment to antibiotic treatment, medicated nebulizer treatments to steamy showers, sub-Q fluids and bottle feedings…all of this care leading at last to a healthy and thriving kitten.”

How is an organization to decide the worth of a kitten (or a child for that matter) when funds are limited, all kittens are of inestimable value, and the money devoted to one will be denied to others? I started this post by admitting that I used to kill dogs (call it euthanasia if you will, but it just felt like killing), and the fact that my intentions were good hasn’t mitigated the anguish that I continue to feel fifty years later. The bottom-line is that year-in and year-out, millions of animals are killed (or allowed to die) most of them because human beings are too indifferent to misery to spay and neuter, and it is oftentimes the very people who love animals who must end their lives. I am too new to intimate involvement with CRAN to know how it manages to remain a no-kill organization but, generally speaking, no-kill shelters pass on their worst cases and their overload to shelters that have no choice but to kill, shelters that are tax-supported. Sadly, the term no-kill can be interpreted to mean that the people who staff kill shelters are callous, maybe even kill-happy

I was the only man in the organization that I killed for. When we accumulated so many dogs that they were cannibalizing one another due to the extreme stress of gross overcrowding, an emergency board-meeting was called. At that meeting, the women all pronounced themselves too soft-hearted to do what had to be done. They then crossed their arms and waited for me to speak. I wish I had walked out.


Finally, CRAN, like many rescue groups, requires that those who adopt its cats keep them indoors, and it also requires that kittens have the companionship of another animal. It does not trap feral cats, neuter them, and re-release them into the wild. Sadly, studies from the world over (including a recent mega-study by the Smithsonian Institute in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Survey) have consistently shown that feral cats kill billions of birds a year (and three times as many other creatures), a number which exceeds the number of birds killed by cars, pollution, pesticides, wind turbines, slamming into windows, and all other un-natural causes combined (Felis catus is un-natural in that it was created by humans in northern Africa and introduced to the rest of the world).** 

I used to see several garter snakes a year in my yard, but five years ago a neighbor with twelve outdoor cats moved in, and three summers have passed since I last saw a single snake. I watched a cat clamber over my fence carrying a grown tree squirrel, and the cat next door has killed birds by the dozen each and every year for the eight years that he has lived here. Many cat-lovers respond to studies of cat predation—and to my own eye-witness accounts of cat predation—with flat-out denial, vulgar vituperation, and in the case of the referenced study, death threats. A major concern that I have about being affiliated with a cat rescue group is that I don’t want to associate with such fanatics, and I certainly dont want to be numbered among them. This is why I was careful in my selection of CRAN.

*https://catrescues.org/
**https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms2380

"My Great and Unmatched Wisdom"

 
Soon after tweeting that he was about to withdraw American support from our longtime allies in the fight against terrorism, the Kurds (who live in the part of Syria that is adjacent to Turkey's southern border), Trump wrote another tweet: "If Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!)." 

The next day, Turkey's president, Erdoğan, began shelling and bombing the Kurds while announcing plans to send 3.6 million Arab refugees (who now reside in Turkey) to build permanent homes in the Kurdish homeland. As Kurdish troops moved to the border to meet the coming Turkish invasion, Islamic State prisoners were left lightly guarded. When a reporter asked Trump, "What if ISIS fighters escape and pose a threat elsewhere?" Trump responded, "Well they are going to be escaping to Europe, that's where they want to go." (There has since been one escape attempt.) Erdoğan, when criticized by the nations of Europe for the Turkish invasion, said that if Europe didn't back down: "We will open our borders and send 3.6 million refugees your way."

Trump's latest action marks the first time that I remember him receiving even token criticism from high-ranking Republicans, yet it has caused the support of his base to actually increase, and his base will do all they can to defeat any candidate who isn't solidly behind Trump. During his first few months in office, I imagined that when his base realized that Trump was a dictator wannabe, they would turn against him, yet the more brazen he becomes, the more they adore him, and the less place there is in government for anyone of his party who does not at least pretend to do likewise. I interpret this to mean that while both they and I understood what kind of a man Trump is, but that they liked him that way. The only good that has come from this realization is that I have a better idea what Germany was like before Hitler killed off his opposition.

Last year, someone in Trump's administration wrote a letter to the effect that, yes, the president is deranged, but there are those of us inside the administration who will continue to work to minimize the damage.** Since then, Trump loyalists have eliminated all such foot draggers, and Trump himself has either fired or forced out eighteen cabinet members (the cabinet is the president's inner circle of department heads) who dared to disagree with him. This means that his most significant opposition now comes from Congressional Democrats but, in the short-term, there is little they can do. In the long term, the effectiveness of their criminal investigations are unknown, and their impeachment effort is unlikely to succeed simply because Republicans know they won't be re-elected if they support it. It is also feared that our already unstable president might react to the culmination of any threat to his power by calling for civil war. In fact, he has already indicated that he will do so.


* This is the same Erdoğan who frequently talks to Trump on Trump's private cell phone, and whose bodyguards have twice gotten away with beating non-violent American protestors on American soil.

** https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Am_Part_of_the_Resistance_Inside_the_Trump_Administration

Sows, Wives, Brood Mares, and Other Expendable Properties


When I asked my sister for help with constructing our family tree, she demurred, saying that the study of genealogy gives ancestors ...a kind of aura simply because they’re dead.” I would substitute stench for aura.

When my grandfathers wanted to raise hogs, they paid for sows; when they wanted foals, they paid for mares; when they wanted children, other men paid them to take away their daughters. When those daughters died in childbirth—as they often did—other fathers paid my ancestors still more money to take away their daughters. By the time Peggy and I were married, dowries had been eliminated, but the parents of the bride still got stuck with the cost of the wedding, the implication being that girl children were so worthless that their parents should have to pay to be rid of them.

The only aura that I paint around my dead relatives is around old maids for having the guts to buck a system that held women in lower esteem than hogs, and portrayed independent women as desperate, ugly, unloved, and unhinged because, clearly, all normal women wanted nothing more than to accede to God’s curse on their gender by spending their short lives pregnant and under the domination of a man. While so-called confirmed bachelors” never sank below old maids in societys estimation, unmarried people of both genders were regarded as pathetic creatures that nobody wanted, and this remained true during my boyhood. Upon being told that a woman was an old maid, I would immediately wonder what was wrong with her.

It was only when I began studying genealogy that I learned enough to grieve over the ill-treatment endured by my unmarried aunts and uncles. I was even reduced to tears by the life of my great great aunt Sarah Jane Newby (1831-1882), an Alabamian who openly criticized the Southern Cause” (a euphemism for rich mens right to own black people). Sarah Janes bravery would have been lost to posterity had the Union Calvary not come along one day and taken “a valuable sorrel mare sixteen hands high” out from under her. In her post-war petition for reimbursement, Sarah Jane swore that she shed tears of disapproval when the South seceded; did her utmost to dissuade her three brothers from joining the Rebel army (all fought and one died); gave the Union army material assistance; and denied help to the Confederacy except when compelled to cook for its troops. One of her witnesses described her as a quiet woman who made no secret of her loyalty to the Union, and added that only her gender saved her from being assaulted.  

If anyone deserves an aura—if not a haloit’s not my male grandfathers who quoted racist and misogynistic Scriptures to justify their abuse of women and black people; it’s my unmarried aunts who said Hell no! to the prospect of staying pregnant for nine months out of every year until such time as pregnancy killed them, following which a second—and oftentimes a third—two-legged brood mare would take their place in bed in order to bring to fruition the manly desire to father as many boy children as possible in as short a time as possible.

Ah, but I haven’t mentioned my early 19th century West African grandmother who was raped by one of my grandfathers, nor have I made reference to the slave men who fathered their young in the knowledge that they would be the property of my grandfathers from the moment they drew breath. When asked about this in the 1930s by a Federal Writers Project” interviewer, one of my ancestors slaves said:

No, not any weddin’s. It was kinder dis way. When dere was a good nigger man an’ a good nigger woman, the Marster would say, I know you is both good niggers, an’ I wants you to be man and wife dis year an’ raise little niggers because then I won’t have to buy em. 

Paint auras around my ancestors? The more I learn, the more I distrust the men and pity the women. While men like William Lloyd Garrison were struggling valiantly for gender and racial equality, my male ancestors exhibited no more compassion, morality, and respect for the rule of law than a Trump supporter. But would I not concede that, just maybe, some women—and even some slaveswere happy with their lot? Would you be? 

That question aside, I will concede that if the oppressed were so beaten down as to believe that God ordained their oppression and would reward them in heaven, perhaps they were happy. I will even concede that most of my male ancestors honestly believed that God willed it that they rule over women and black people. I came to this conclusion upon finding deathbed wills that contained such provisions as, I give and bequeath to my daughter, Elizabeth, one bay horse and one slave named Polly, to belong to her and to her heirs forever.” 

But is it worse to do evil while thinking it is good, or while knowing it is bad? I suspect the former because where there is no awareness of wrong, cruelty becomes unrestrained and repentance impossible, which is why members of the Islamic State can douse caged prisoners with gasoline and burn them alive.

I have found little obvious heroism among my kin aside from the fact that they somehow found the strength to repeatedly survive the deaths of their children. While it is indeed possible to cry over old census records (I have done so), such sources tend more toward cold factuality than emotional revelation, and so it is that one can only probe the heart of most ancestors by reading between the lines. The fact that her courage and sense of fair play was right out there for everyone to see is why I so respect my aunt, Sarah Jane. Sadly, I can’t even find her grave.

How to Die in Oregon


In 1997, Oregon became the first American stateand the third place anywhereto legalize physician assisted dying.* Since then, eight other states and the District of Columbia have followed. The title of this post is the title of a documentary about the Oregon law. Frontline's The Suicide Plan, a related documentary, concerns assisted suicide in places where it's either illegal or a person doesn't qualify under current law. For example, the Oregon law requires that death be expected within six months and that the patient be able to take the required medication without assistance, the result being that some terminal people kill themselves before they wish, and that non-terminal people are excluded regardless of the severity of their condition.

While the American Medical Association and various handicapped rights groups oppose assisted dying (I was pleased to learn that my own doctor supports it), the bulk of the opposition comes from religious groups and is based upon the following: (1) God allows suffering in order to ennoble the afflicted and their caregivers, and (2) God alone can create life, so God alone must decide when to end life. Given their second argument, evangelical Christianity's military hawkishness and support for the death penalty is at best paradoxical, as is the fact that, this year alone, several states in America's so-called Bible Belt have passed laws to either end or severely restrict abortion and birth control, while also restricting financial assistance to poor families.

**
My own, very liberal, denomination, the Episcopal Church opposes assisted dying based upon the opinion of its General Convention that Christ, had he thought to address the issue, would have opposed it. I doubt that the church's position carries weight even among its own members, and I maintain that anyone who attempts to contribute to the public dialogue on the basis of authoritarian religious pronouncements has nothing of value to contribute to the public dialogue. "God said it; I believe it; and that settles it," only settles doubts regarding the speaker's intellectual earnestness.

But what of the slippery slope argument, the claim that assisted dying today will lead to outright euthanasia tomorrow? I certainly hope so. Under the Oregon law, if I fall victim to Alzheimer's, I will be too mentally compromised to kill myself by the time my life expectancy is within the six month limit, which means that I will be obliged to end my life early, while alone, and by means that are violent or degrading. Other sufferers—from ALS for examplemight retain their mental faculties but be unable to raise the glass to their mouths or swallow its contents. It would therefore take an enormous weight off the minds of many if the law permitted them to have help in dying or, where necessary, to outline in advance the conditions under which they would wish to be euthanized.

But why choose death rather than palliative care? (1) Not all pain can be relieved by narcotics, and some conditions cause excruciating pain for which palliative drugs are completely ineffective unless they are given in such high doses that the patient is rendered unconscious. For example, I was once told that I had Chronic Regional Pain Disease, a condition so horrifically painful that the patient must literally choose between suicide and insanity. (2) No drug can take away the misery and humiliation of having to have one's ass wiped, of needing to be bathed by others, of being too wretched to experience pleasure, and of losing all hope but the hope of a death that cannot come soon enough. (3) In America, the government will only pay for a person's long-term medical care after that person has nothing left to spend, and I, for one, have not spent my life saving only to leave my wife bankrupt so that I might prolong a nightmarish existence that is no longer worthy of the name life.

For those who, despite the things I just listed, continue to "say yes to life," I leave it to them to live, but how dare they deny me the right to die in a peaceful, timely, and dignified manner in the presence of my loved ones! Yet what rankles me most is not their arrogance but that they justify their arrogance by invoking the name of God without a smidgen of evidence to support that invocation.

It is no coincidence that all of the states (plus Washington D.C.) that have passed assisted dying laws are heavily Democratic and secular. The following list of Death with Dignity states*** includes the dates the laws took effect—the Maine law will become active in September. I'm confident that the day will come when the only states that lack such laws will be those of the Bible Belt, a reactionary region that never fails to go kicking and screaming behind the rest of the nation when it comes to the expansion of human rights.

Oregon—1997
Washington—2008
Vermont2013
California—2016
Colorado—2016
District of Columbia—2017
Hawaii—2019
New Jersey—2019
Maine—2019 


Finally, for my beloved Aussies who constitute the bulk of my active readership, I was pleased to learn that your state of Victoria has recently enacted a "Dying with Dignity" law.****

 
* The Death with Dignity lobby opposes the word suicide, so I will use their preferred terminology out of respect for those who have worked so hard to bring the laws about.

**https://euthanasia.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=001320

***https://www.deathwithdignity.org/learn/death-with-dignity-acts/

****https://www.dwdv.org.au/

What Happened at the God, Guns, and Trump Rally


Gadsden Flag

As I crossed the street to the demonstration, a motorcycle gang roared past. During the next 90-minutes, I was cursed twice, and I left with my ears ringing from the shouts and chants. A woman was hit with a bottle; a helmet-wearing man with a wrench taped to his arm was arrested for head-butting. Because the head butter wore a helmet, and I had a helmet (I had biked), I assumed that the woman who cursed me was redirecting her rage at him. The man who cursed me was just plain crazy. When he was unable to get his wheelchair over a rise, I asked if he wanted a push, and he became infuriated. A bearded man wore a dog collar, black short-shorts, and a bra under his purple halter top. Another man wore a red g-string and red tassels on his nipples. The police estimated the attendance at 300, and while that might have been the crowd size at any given time, people were coming and going.

I had thought there would be a clear division between the gun-nuts and the protestors, but the two intermingled. An old man in a red cape and a gold crown went about arguing with the gun people. An old woman had a sign that read, "Tell me why you support Trump; I'm here to listen." I heard people screaming, "Fuck you," and other people responding, "No, fuck YOU!" People had to shout to even be heard by the person next to them.

I sat atop a four-foot high wall that enclosed a large planter, and behind me stood a woman with a shotgun in her hands and a large pistol on her thigh. She was wrapped in a Gadsden flag, and looked down upon the demonstration protectively. Several people carried assault rifles, and I observed that one of them had her finger on the trigger. Most of the gun-nuts were men. I left my first vantage point to stand atop another four-foot wall that was near the center of the rally. The police were unable to keep the crowd out of the street, so they finally closed 8th Avenue. A man walked back and forth through the crowd with a 360-degree camera above his head.

When the bottle was thrown, the mood got ugly, and some of the gun-nuts yelled profanities at the police for "not doing anything," although the thought of police shoving their way through the crowd enmasse was unimaginable. On that and another occasion, I momentarily felt fear, but my overriding emotions were rage and disgust. I wondered what the gun-nuts planned to do if attacked--shoot into the crowd? And what did they imagine the lightly armed cops would do? As for the shotgun carrying woman--did she envision herself heroically emptying her scattergun, throwing it at the crowd, and then drawing her pistol, and didn't she realize how easy it would be for someone to either push her off the planter or grab her ankle from below and pull her off? Then there was the possibility of a gun going off accidentally, the crowd panicking, and other guns being fired at anyone who looked like a member of Antifa, perhaps even at some harmless seventy-year-old with a bike helmet.

When, in 2017, another set of gun-nuts forcibly occupied the offices of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, they would walk around the nearby town of Burns heavily armed. A local woman said of them, "Everybody in the Oregon desert has guns, but it would be offensive to wear them openly." As Tom, a reader of this blog, pointed out two posts ago, there are reasonable gun owners, but people who carry assault rifles into a crowded and emotionally-charged urban area aren't among them. Their goal is to instill fear, to say, "We are heavily armed, so you had better not tread on us by opposing our values."

When Antifa didn't appear, I assumed they were marshaling their resources for the Portland demonstration, and I felt compassion for them. My emotions--though not my head--told me that the enemy of Trump is my friend. I didn't anticipate this. I had stupidly thought that I would at least respect the gun-nuts for their courage in coming, but what respect I might have felt was displaced by disgust and loathing because it was people like myself they were trying to intimidate, and because they looked so utterly stupid. If their goal was simply to protect themselves, they could have carried pepper spray (which is legal in Oregon), but to carry assault rifles that fire small bullets at extremely high velocity, bullets that are designed to tumble through human bones and flesh and kill people blocks away!

When I got home, I learned that the police had detained a Texas man who was on his way to kill people at next week's Portland demonstration. This got me to wondering what the Eugene gun-nuts would have done had one of their number started killing people. They are to public safety what a child with matches is to gasoline, and I'm just sorry that when the explosion happens, others will also pay the price. I can but hope that the ones who survive will be locked away for a long, long time, and that the bloodshed will at long last inspire strongly restrictive gun laws.

What strikes me as I look back a day later is how easily one car backfiring, one firecracker exploding, one gun going off accidentally, or one stupid move by one ignorant, angry, or emotionally disturbed person, could have resulted in multiple deaths. I shudder as I anticipate this week's Portland rally because this kind of event cannot keep happening without one of them ending in disaster.

Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer, American Front, Crew 38, and, Alas, Numerous Others




Today, exactly one week after two larger than usual mass murders, downtown Eugene will simultaneously become the site of a God, Guns, and Trump Rally, a gay pride parade, and a large crafts fair. The Trumpers (who created the above illustration) have promised to bring their AR-15s. They can do this because Oregon is an "open carry" state. Antifa has vowed to confront the Trumpers, and while its members aren't known for using guns, they are known for using their fists. Next weekend, the right-wing demonstrators and their left-wing counterparts will move 110 miles up the road to Portland. 

Since Trump was elected, the local papers have become peppered with hate crime incidents. In the worst one yet, a self-described white nationalist stabbed two people to death and injured a third on a Portland commuter train in 2017. Hate crimes in the nation as a whole rose under Obama only to take off like a rocket under Trump. When asked this week if his rhetoric was partially responsibility for last week's El Paso murders, Trump said that his words don't push people apart but bring them together (he had previously said it's the "America-hater Democrats" who push people apart). Conservative talk radio agrees, and while it and Trump seldom deign to mention right-wing hate crimes, they both argue that Antifa should be singled out for a domestic terrorism designation, although the group's members have yet to kill anyone.

The Southern Poverty Law Center lists fifteen--nearly all of them conservative--hate groups in Oregon*, which are two more than in my historically racist home state of Mississippi. Liberal Eugene  has seen a 380% increase in hate crimes in four years,** although when I came here in 1986, it was an alternative-minded hippie town that many dubbed "The Berkeley of the North," because of its left-wing radicalism. Some of the notorious Weathermen were from here, and the town's Selective Service office was broken into and its files burned. The Grateful Dead hit town every summer; Ken Kesey wrote books and created scandals; nudists enjoyed a publicly-owned beach on the Willamette; and both drug use and nudity were common at the Oregon Country Fair. Then came the bomb-making anarchists who, like many, believed that violence is the threshold to utopia. Now it's right-wing hate groups and--barely noticeable by comparison--Antifa.

I've learned over the years that few things are as bad as our fears make them out to be, yet they can be even worse. I still haven't decided whether to join the protest, which starts in an hour. This might well prove to be yet another day when America demonstrates that it loves guns the way addicts love meth. I am afraid that if I go, I might become one of the dead people whose names scroll across the evening news, yet I'm somehow more afraid of staying home. I need to be a part of this.


*https://www.splcenter.org/hate-map

** https://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/2019/07/oregon-had-the-6th-biggest-rise-in-reported-hate-crimes-in-the-nation-over-a-4-year-period-study-says.html

An interesting article about the Portland Antifa: https://www.wweek.com/news/2019/08/07/portlands-antifascists-punch-white-supremacists-are-they-also-helping-trump/

More Mass Shootings than Days in the Year


As of August 5, which was the 217th day of the year, American has seen 255 mass shootings. In the past nine days, there was:

  • A shooting in a historic district of Dayton, Ohio, with nine killed and 27 injured.
  • A shooting at Walmart in El Paso, Texas, with 22 killed and at least 24 wounded.
  • A shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in the San Francisco Bay Area, with three killed and 15 injured.
  • A shooting at a Brooklyn block party, with one killed and 11 injured.
  • A shooting at a Walmart in Southaven, Mississippi, with two killed and two injured.*
Trump blames the problem on insanity and the Internet, but not on guns and certainly not on his White Supremacist rhetoric. As his supporters are fond of saying,

"Guns don't kill people; people kill people;" and 

"If you take away their guns, killers will just find some other weapon;" and

"The world is a dangerous place, and I need a gun to protect myself and my family;" and

"The problem isn't too many guns; it's too few guns;" and

"Gun ownership is my Constitutional right;" and 

"Mass murder is the price of freedom;" and

"These killings are God's punishment because America legalized gay marriage;"and

"Reports of mass shootings are just one more example of fake news."

There is now hope. It comes from the fact that America's powerful gun lobby, the National Rifle Association,  has been greatly weakened by internal scandals, combined with the fact that every mass killing is noticeably bringing the country that much closer to effective measures. Unfortunately, these measures will likely happen at the speed of women's equality in Saudi Arabia, and, of course, the people affected all have guns. How many guns? 393 million compared to a mere 133-million for all the armies on earth.**

*https://www.cbsnews.com/news/mass-shootings-2019-more-mass-shootings-than-days-so-far-this-year/ 

**https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_ownership

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I know few bloggers who post about Trump, and I know some who do their utmost to avoid the news. After all, when a president does or says several things a week that would have amounted to major scandals under another administration, what's the point in trying to keep up with them all? I know that I can't keep up with them all because they come at me so fast and furiously that they run together, giving last week's scandals the feel of events that happened years ago.

If there's one thing about which all Americans can agree, Trump is different, most presidents being two-dimensional figures who do their mediocre best to run the country while upholding the dignity and honor of the office. By contrast, Trump treats the country as "The Donald Trump Show," and he either has no use for dignity and honor, or, more likely, doesn't know what they mean. For instance, he just spent the better part of a week writing racist Tweets about the city of Baltimore, Maryland, and its black Congressman because he's mad at the Congressman. Prior to that, he Tweeted that four minority-group Congresswomen should "go back to the crime infested places from which they came," although three of the four were born in America, and the fourth was brought here as a child. All are U.S. citizens.

Lying and pettiness are not what Trump does; they are who Trump is, but the fact that he's pathological isn't the worst of it. The worst of it is that 43% of Americans believe his lies; and of that 43%, 90% are Republicans; and of that 90%, nearly all are Christians. While I know that people of intelligence and integrity can disagree about abortion, immigrant rights, and so on, my jaundiced attitude toward Trump supporters isn't based upon disagreement but upon indecency and hypocrisy. They elect a man whom Democrats and Independents loathe--not just dislike or disagree with--but loathe, and they imagine that something good will come of it. Republican leader Mitch McConnell expressed this sentiment well when he said, "Winners make policy; losers go home," his implication being that Americans should expect their elected officials to take turns remaking America. It wasn't always like this, and I see nothing but ruin coming of it.

I know a Texas blogger who avoids talking to anyone about politics, because if she discovers that a person supports Trump, she writes that person out of her life. Trump has split families and made enemies of lifelong friends. I've lost long-time blog buddies because of my anger toward Trump supporters. When Peggy's Trump-supporting father dies, our disillusionment toward him for his abandonment of the noble ideals that we once imagined him to hold dear will forevermore poison our memories. Americans are more divided now than they've been at any time since the Civil War, a war that ended 154-years ago. It's one thing to shun the friendship of a person who is in a minority, but what is the effect of turning against 43% of the nation? I just know that it's beyond sad to truly believe that when it comes to supporting Trump, a person's politics doesn't just make them wrong, it makes them evil.

On Being a Cat Man


Brewsky on bottom, Sage on top

When I got my fourth cat, a bonafide cat woman bestowed upon me the venerable designation of cat man. The 2011 arrival of my first cat marked the end of a lifetime of dogs, not because I fell out of love with dogs, but because Peggy, an ailurophobe, unexpectedly fell in love with a tabby. Being a first-time parent to a kitten was like being a first time parent to a baby in that we had no idea how to raise him. Luckily for us, Brewsky proved to be the world's best starter cat.

Our cats have surprised me in many ways, but the greatest is that their considerable affection for their human parents has yet to plateau. I gauge this by the amount of time they spend with us; the liberties they allow us to take in handling them; and their readiness to forgive.

Another surprise is their individuality. I'll give three examples. (1) I have one cat who welcomes visitors; one cat who hides behind the clothes dryer when visitors come; and two cats who ignore visitors. (2) I have one cat who is indifferent to having his belly rubbed; one cat who doesn't like it; and two cats who do. (3) I have one cat that wolfs his food; one cat who is a finicky eater; and two cats who eat with moderation.

A third surprise is their stubbornness. Dogs say, "You are my god, and I pledge to you my obedience." Cats say, "I am your equal, and you are to respect my right to self-determination." Brewsky found it so difficult to persuade me of the wisdom of this view that I used to chastise him by chasing him through the house yelling and waving a yardstick. When he tired of running, he would lay on his back, stretch to full length, and wait to be petted. I had imagined that cats were timid creatures, yet here was a cat with the self-possession to see right through me. On that and future occasions, I did as he asked while asking myself whether whatever I had expected of him was strictly necessary. 

When we proceeded to adopt other cats, Brewsky joined in their parenting, and he still "nurses" insecure Ollie. If Ollie wasn't a slurper, the situation wouldn't be so bad, but, sad to say and embarrassing to admit, I've found no way to stop him. 

Because I've yet to win a single War of the Wills with a cat, I've been forced to choose between lowering my expectations and making everyone miserable. I'm now down to a mere four behaviors that I go all out to thwart: Ollie nursing when I'm near enough to hear him; Brewsky taking food off my plate while I'm still eating; Scully chewing electrical cords; and anyone walking across the stove top. 

Ollie

Another surprising aspect of living with cats is that their behavior can suddenly and inexplicably change to an extent that I've never witnessed in dogs. For at least two years, Ollie had a favorite chair, but the surprising part wasn't that he liked the chair, but that he used it by placing his butt on the same spot of the chair's seat, and draping his front legs across the chair's arm. I came to regard this behavior as such an integral part of his Ollieness that I couldn't have been more amazed when he stopped doing it. 

Everyday that he lives, Sage does something equally surprising. To whit, I'm usually the one who lets the cats out of the laundry room each morning, and so it is that every day without fail, Sage looks at me with his eyes wide as if to say, "My god, who are you, and why do you want to kill me?!" It's as if he went feral overnight, but only around me because when Peggy awakens, he cries to be picked up, climbs onto her shoulders, and looks at me as if to say, "You're a brute, and I hate you." After that early encounter, he will often roll onto his back when I'm around and request a belly rub, but he never ever asks me to pick him up, and he never shows the least desire to climb onto my shoulder. 

I've sometimes had women tell me that their dog's first person must have been an abusive man, their evidence being that the dog is wary of men, yet my own dogs and cats are more cautious around strange men, and it's hardly because I abuse them. Dogs and cats simply find a strange man more threatening than a strange woman, especially if the man is big, loud, and moves quickly. Even wolves are that way. On the flipside, pets often behave more aggressively toward women. Peggy had a terrible time trying to control our Australian Cattle Dog, and when Brewsky was young, he often  ambushed Peggy, biting her leg hard enough to draw blood. For a cat to communicate displeasure--as Ollie sometimes does when he has had enough petting--by gently mouthing a hand is acceptable. But to persistently bite with the intention of causing harm is not. In the case of Brewsky, the behavior only stopped the night that he bit Peggy twice, and she and I both became so angry that he didn't even try to roll over for a belly rub.

Cat haters... 

Authoritarians hate cats, and cat haters are domestic dictators who demand instant obedience to their every whim. They are disturbed people who can't tolerate the least show of freedom on the part of their pets, and oftentimes their spouses and children. I'm confident that people who abuse pets also abuse humans, and it's a fact that mass murderers and serial killers usually start by torturing and killing animals.

Cat haters believe that cats prolong the killing of their prey because they are sadists (they do it to hone their hunting skills), although these same haters unnecessarily eat animals that lived in misery and died in terror. Many such people even hunt, just for the fun of it.

Cat haters' ignorance is endless and their complaints asinine. They argue that only an abysmally stupid animal would fail to beg, shake hands, and roll over; and they believe that a pet who doesn't run in frenzied circles when they come home from work doesn't love them. Cat haters are all-or-nothing thinkers on whom subtlety is lost, and cats are nothing if not subtle (anyone can tell when a dog is smiling, but what does a smiling cat look like?). Cat haters believe that a pet who isn't full-tilt hyper with affection couldn't care less if they died. Their need for validation is such that they even make their dogs neurotic.

Cat haters hold that a cat's every action provides proof of its selfishness. They argue that my cats only bathe one another so that they will be bathed; only sleep with their bodies touching because they crave warmth; that Scully only runs to welcome Peggy home so that Peggy will pet her; that a cat who alerted a friend of mine to the presence of a burglar was only concerned for his own safety; and god knows why a cat attacked a large dog to save a child, but rest assured that it was out of selfishness.


Dogs are social animals. With the exception of lions and male cheetahs who pair off with other male cheetahs, cats are not. Even so, Felis catus possesses an abundance of those virtues that our social species values, and it does so without the liabilities. For example, only a dullard or a cat hater could fail to observe that cats experience deep and abiding love for their humans, for one another, and even for creatures like birds and rodents with which they were raised but would ordinarily kill. It's also true that, unlike humans and chimpanzees, cats have never once joined forces with other cats to wage war. My cats never even fight over their favorite treats, but woe be to the dog that steals another dog's food.

At Peggy's urging, we got Brewsky the day after we lost our beloved schnauzer. Prior to that day, Peggy was so fearful of cats that demonic cats pursued her in her dreams. While we didn't discuss our reasons for getting a cat, I, at least, believed that a cat would be more interesting than a goldfish but spare me the horrific grief that I had repeatedly experienced upon losing dogs. I was wrong.

A Too Ready Acceptance


Matthew Shepard
From boyhood through my forties, I was singularly non-judgmental, my one notable prejudice being against the under schooled, aside from whom I could be friends with pretty much anyone who treated me well.

When I was in my thirties, my seemingly macho father confessed that he was transsexual (it being the word of choice back then) and said that he liked to "go down on" both genders. I told him it didn't matter. When a nephew told me that he and some friends beat-up two gay guys in a McDonald's parking lot, I didn't even bother to remonstrate.
   
As Jesus said about the sun and the rain, my acceptance fell "on the evil and the good, on the just and on the unjust," and it made me the recipient of confidences. I asked no questions because I had none. I instead existed as an incurious witness to words, facial expressions, and body language. I observed life as through the wrong end of a telescope. I told myself that real men kept their peace, and that condemnation was for prigs and hypocrites.

I can only speculate as to why I began to take a less accepting view, but it corresponded with listening to ultra-conservative Fox radio (aka "hate radio") for hours a day, plus finding my neighborhood suddenly infested with graffiti, heroin needles, and homeless people. As Fox infected me with its purulence, and my anger over what was happening to my neighborhood increased, I came to hate a great many people, but for reasons to lengthy to delve into, homosexuality became the first issue over which I tortured myself, and to which I will devote the rest of this post. 

I began by telling myself that homosexuality was "unnatural" because it was an evolutionary dead-end. When a young gay man named Matthew Shepard was tortured to death on a freezing Colorado night, "Fair and Balanced" Fox presented his murderers as the victims in what came to be called the "gay panic defense." What this meant was that Shepard's murderers went temporarily insane upon realizing that he was gay, and were thereby forced to do what any red-bloodied, God-fearing American boys would have done, which was offer him a ride home but instead drive him onto the prairie where they tied him to a barb-wire fence, and robbed, beat, tortured, and burned him. He was still alive when they drove back into town and started a fight with two Hispanics (they also suffered from Hispanic-panic). Because of its obvious lies, endless exaggerations, and convoluted logic, I stopped listening to Fox. I also re-evaluated my tolerance of my gay-bashing nephew in view of the Shepard murder and Rev. Martin Niemöller's Nazi-era admonition:

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me 



After a few years of internal debate, I lost interest in why people are gay because it seemed to me that justice and compassion demand full equality, and that anything short of full equality means tacit support for everything from job discrimination, to parking lot beatings, to blaming a young man for the fact that you tortured him to death. I never looked back from this position, and my interest in the life experiences of gay people became such that Peggy--who supports don't ask/don't tell and favors civil unions--flummoxed me by wondering aloud if I was a closeted gay.

I find it immensely rewarding to possess a clarity that I struggled to achieve, my previous years of ready acceptance having been as ethically neutral as the acceptance of a villainous man by his dog. I never called the cops when friends drove drunk; I refused to admit, even to myself, that I had two friends who were pedophiles; I looked on in silence as a friend tormented an insect with a cigarette; I said nothing to friends who bootlegged music and movies; and then there was the day that I didn't remonstrate when my cowardly nephew told me with pride that he and he and his gang of cowardly friends had beaten two gay boys.

I would not have you conclude that there was ever a point in my life that I would have tolerated anything (I would not have remained silent had my friend tormented a mammal with a cigarette), but I certainly tolerated too many things, and I did so, not because I was high-minded--as I told myself at the time--but because my values were so debased that I lacked a foundation for morality. I believed that virtue was for chumps, a chump being anyone who didn't go along with my willingness to use self-interest as a rationale for violating the rights of others--others beside myself that is.

A Week in Oregon


For the second time since April, Oregon's Republican lawmakers are boycotting the state senate rather than risk losing a vote. If they don't soon return, over 100 other bills won't be voted upon, and state employees won't be paid.

Republican senator Tim Knopp defended the action, saying, "This is democracy."

Democratic governor Kate Brown had a different view: "They are turning their backs on Oregonians and they are turning their backs on the democratic process." As is her right under Oregon law, Brown ordered state police to find the Republicans and bring them to the capitol. Armed militia members pledged to do "whatever it takes" to prevent this.

Republican senator Brian Boquist taunted the police, saying that when they come for him, they should "send bachelors and come heavily armed." Since then, he and other Republican lawmakers have fled the state to elude capture.

On Saturday, the capitol building was closed by police based upon “a credible threat from militia groups.” On Monday, Democrats reported to work anyway.

The last time that Oregon militiamen took up arms against the state was in 2016 when 26 of them occupied and vandalized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The occupation ended 39 days later when a militiaman was shot to death by the FBI. 

The Malheur occupation was inspired by the conviction of area ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond for setting fire to federally protected wildlife habitat because they weren't allowed to graze cattle on the land. Soon after the Malheur occupation, Trump pardoned the Hammonds. That same year, he referred to those who parade under swastikas and Confederate flags as "good people."

Like the heavily armed groups of Republican thugs that call themselves militias, the Trump administration and Republican lawmakers will do "whatever it takes" to insure that all power is in their hands. Of late, they have been redrawing state voting districts in order to marginalize black people, and, just today, Trump vowed to postpone the 2020 census indefinitely because the Supreme Court won't allow him to include a question that would penalize Democratically controlled states. These are not guesses; these are facts that have been admitted to by the Trump administration and Republican lawmakers.

When I heard that Oregon state senator praise democracy only to explain that democracy means taking his toys and going home anytime he might lose a vote, I remembered Melania Trump saying, "We must do our best to ensure that every child can live in comfort and security with the best possible education," even while her husband was busy denying basic necessities to children, and a less fortunate woman was watching her husband and child drown in the Rio Grande because of Donald Trump's harsh border policies (see photo). America's "first lady" had previously said that she opposes cyberbullying, conveniently overlooking the fact her powerful husband is up before dawn each day bullying people on the internet. The words of Republicans might look like cake icing, but one must remember that the cake contains arsenic, and that the Republican Party represents the world's gravest threat to America democracy.

Frothing with Loathing


Rather than renouncing him when it became evident that Trump was unsuited for office, Republican support rose from 81% (the number who voted for him) to 90%. The hatred that Republicans and Democrats feel toward one another is such that 5% had rather see the country fail than for their opponents to succeed.

When Peggy and I recently heard the supposedly shocking news  that 44% of America's evangelicals feel physically threatened by Muslims, we weren't surprised because we feel threatened by evangelicals (nearly all of whom are Trump supporters), the extent of the threat being proportionate to the extent of their political power. Many such people are like Peggy's father who is polite, soft-spoken, dresses well, works hard, teaches Sunday school, holds political office, flies the flag on patriotic holidays, and never cheats anyone. Unfortunately, they also favor military solutions; support repression in the name of religious freedom; have so little actual faith in God that they elected a president devoid of integrity; and even agree with that president when he says that a free press "is the enemy of the people."

For most of my life, I voted for the candidate rather than the party, and I tried to respect the motives of those with whom I differed, but I will never again vote Republican, and I despise Trump supporters. Of America's recent presidents, Barack Obama reminded me of a gum chewing college freshman; Bush II was an inarticulate moron; and Bill Clinton a lying sexual predator; but perhaps the only president who ever attained to Trump's level of wickedness was, aside from himself, his favorite president, Andrew Jackson. Jackson was infamous for having a hair-trigger temper; committing bigamy; fighting duels; holding himself above the law; ignoring a Supreme Court ruling that forbade the state of Georgia from stealing lands from the Cherokee; and for forcing 50,000 poorly provisioned and broken-hearted Indians to undertake a mid-winter death march to Oklahoma even as the people who stole their homes were warming themselves before fires for which the Indians themselves had provided wood. 

Trump adores Jackson because, like Jackson, he believes that obedience to the law is for suckers. In fact, Trump so adores Jackson that he hung his portrait in a prominent place, and announced that a long awaited plan to replace Jackson's image on the $20 bill with that of a black female abolitionist will never happen during the eight years that he plans to be president. The Georgia white people who believed that God had given them Indian lands (just as he had given the ancient Jews lands that were owned by others), were the spiritual ancestors of those whom today are kept busy looking for ways to shaft anyone who doesn't share their looks and religion. For instance, they just enacted a federal "conscience rule" allowing health care workers to make on-the-spot refusals to provide services, including emergency services, to LGBTs, women with abortion complications, and any and all others of whom they disapprove. Likewise, they were the spiritual ancestors of Christian lawmakers who, despite presiding over the nation's most dysfunctional states (in terms of crime, mortality, illiteracy, poverty, and every other quality of life measure), nonetheless find plenty of time to pass "Religious Freedom Protection Acts" that legalize Christian bigotry, and, more recently, "Human Life Protection Laws" that prohibit abortion after six weeks, which is before most women know they're pregnant. When lawmakers in the various states with new anti-abortion laws were asked if they planned to expand their already woefully underfunded social services in order to help the many desperately poor women who will now be having unwanted babies, they said that raising other people's children isn't their problem, and if a woman can't afford a child, she shouldn't get pregnant, although the same lawmakers who oppose abortion tend to oppose birth control.

As Trump's hatred for the leaders of free nations; his adulation of Putin; his self-described love affair with Kim Jong-un; his strange affection for neo-Nazis; his high-regard for Jew-hater Viktor Orbán; his reference to black-run nations as "shit-hole countries;" his preference for Northern European immigrants; his contempt for human rights; and his belief that the law only applies to others, would suggest, Trump is a Hitler wannabe (albeit a decades more aged and with much less energy and charisma), his only hindrance being the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, neither of which would stop him if he had sufficient popular support.

Hitler had that support, his power growing out of the Great Depression, hyper-inflation, Germany's anger at the rest of the Western world following the Treaty of Versailles, and his promise to erase the bitter taste of military defeat by making Germany great again. His 1934 propaganda film, The Triumph of the Will, consists of two hours of impassioned speeches, mass rallies, torch-lit parades, happy Aryan soldiers, the glorification of militarism, and thousands of worshipful faces uplifted to his in rapt adoration. Eleven years later, this man who pledged, "I will make Germany great again," had reduced it to ruin, brought death to 80-million, and lasting misery and debility to hundreds of millions more.

Like Trump, Hitler was an amoral narcissist who couldn't admit to mistakes, so as Russian tanks rolled into Berlin, he blew his filthy brains out after blaming the German people for having failed him. Pre-Trump, I couldn't understand how the German masses trusted a man whom, like Trump, was initially dismissed as cartoon-fodder by the intellectually serious, but I eventually concluded that my previously low confidence in the intelligence and clear-headedness of the masses had nonetheless been overrated. Generally speaking, the masses: are one issue voters; regard blind faith as the only path to ultimate truth; are highly susceptible to fake news; think in terms of right versus wrong and us versus them; are impatient with complexity; hold logic and evidence in low esteem; are deeply suspicious of scientists and intellectuals; and are easily swayed by politicians who reinforce their religion and bigotry.

They also equate having a legal right to think a certain way with having a rational right to do the same. The Trump era is described as "post-truth" in that unfounded opinion is held in higher regard (by Trump and his supporters) than scientific fact. All that Trump, a man who boasts of never reading, need do is to pronounce global warming non-existent (or unrelated to human activity--he has done both), and government agencies can be underfunded, and climatologists threatened with job loss if they warn of climate changes more than twenty years down the road. Such is the mentality by which America is being governed. 

Another aspect of living in a Trumpian post-truth world is that morality has been reduced to a matter of convenience. This allows Trump to defame his opponents with vague innuendo, often starting sentences with: "A lot of people are saying..." This week, he even justified accepting election help from hostile governments by saying, "Everybody's doing it," which is the sort of logic that many teenagers use to justify bad behavior.  Likewise, his Christian followers can deny that they're trying to shut down abortion clinics while imposing regulations that shut down abortion clinics, and they can bypass the legal challenges of using tax money to erect Latin crosses and Ten Commandment monuments on public property by claiming that those monuments "have no religious significance." I grew up in an era in which preachers criticized Communism on the grounds that Communists believe the end justifies the means. This being true, evangelical Christianity and its bastard child, Republican politics, has come to look much like Communism, in that its moral impetus has been directed away from positive admonitions to do good and toward an endless refrain of "Thou shalt nots" that use the law to destroy the lives of anyone deemed "not nice."

I believe that the blind faith which the religious masses place in an egregious politician like Trump--and other morally-challenged leaders of his party--is facilitated by their equally blind faith in an ancient savior, my premise being that when a person regards logic and evidence as obstacles to the realization of ultimate truth, he or she is more likely to apply the same standard to other forms of inquiry. As unkind as it is for scoffers to say that, "When believers go to church, they check their brains at the door," religious faith does require a segregation of a person's mental faculties, a segregation that at the very least requires one to say, "While reason and evidence might be appropriate when it comes to determining the boiling point of water on Mt. Everest, unfounded faith is a virtue when it comes to discovering the existence and nature of God." 

Trump has told one demonstrable lie after another, repeatedly prefacing them with, "Believe me..." When the news media began calling him on his lies, Trump urged members of his cheering crowds to assault reporters; labeled reporters the enemies of the people; put and end to press conferences by his press secretary; and demanded that the press be legally muzzled. Threats against reporters and their families have become such that they never know when the cost of criticizing Trump might be death.

Yes, I am frothing with loathing. While I despise nearly all of America's presidents for using the military (funded by my tax money) to commit mass murder in the name of political expediency, I formerly tried to tell myself that they were at least acting in the best light that they had. I cannot so excuse Donald Trump because his depravity is too brazen and unremitting, nor can I excuse his followers because they have continued to support him long after all possibility of doing so in ignorance ended. These people, most of them followers of Christ, know exactly what kind of a man Trump is, and they wouldn't have him any other way.

Religious Differences Within My Marriage and Other Matters


Rev. Jonathan Daniels, Episcopal martyr
I might compare my relationship to the Episcopal Church to that of people who practice Yoga but deny Hinduism. I might also liken it to a Japanese tea ceremony that offers tranquility and belonging in the absence of dogma. Admittedly, Christians--including Episcopalians--are less accepting of my nonbelief than are communities that revolve around Yoga or tea, although non-belief is on the rise. According to a British government survey, 2% of priests in the Church of England (the Episcopal Church's British counterpart) are atheists, and in America, the percentage of people who claim church affiliation has dropped 1% a year for 20-years, making the number of people who are un-churched greater than the number of Protestants or Catholics.

Peggy and I grew up in fundamentalist households--Southern Baptist in her case, Church of Christ in mine. My parents attended church sporadically and never pressured me into going, but I so loved church that when my family moved into town when I was ten, and I could walk to church, I went four times a week. Peggy's parents took her (took being the operative word) to church thrice weekly, but she spent the time daydreaming. With age came disillusionment, so that when I left for college, I left my boyhood church for the Episcopal Church. When Peggy left for college, she left church so completely that she flunked her school's mandatory chapel by failing to show-up. I became an atheist before she only because she was too bored by religion to think about it. Even today, religion is never far from my thoughts.

Peggy's Southern Baptist upbringing combined with her lack of interest in comparative religion, causes her to view the Christian world through a Baptist lens, and this leads her to say surprising things. For instance, she was shocked when I came home from a church men's group and told her that beer was served; even more shocked to discover that my evening prayer service includes hymns of adoration to Jesus' mother; and speculated that my parish priest assumes that if I attend church long enough, I'll be saved. For those who share her ignorance, the fact that Episcopalians sometimes serve liquor at church social events has inspired the church's detractors to refer to them as Whiskeypalians; some Episcopalians are devoted to Mary; and Episcopalians don't think in terms of being saved, lost, or born again. But what does distinguish the Episcopal Church, which I love, from the usual beliefs and practices of Christianity, which I loathe? 

(1) The Episcopal Church doesn't seek to rationalize the barbarism of the Biblical deity; it embraces the parts of the Bible that are honorable and rejects the rest as primitive tribalism. America's religious masses call this "cafeteria Christianity," and insist that the Bible is theologically and historically perfect.

2) Although the Bible endorses the oppression of women, America's Episcopal Church elected a woman to its highest office and has installed other women as bishops. Some of the church's women leaders are openly lesbian. 

3) Although the Biblical God demands that gay people be executed, America's Episcopal Church views them as equals, although doing so has cost it tens of thousands of members. Its acceptance of LGBT people has even inspired the wrath of the Anglican Communion, with some member denominations demanding that the American church be expelled. When the American diocese of New Hampshire sent its gay bishop to represent it at the worldwide Anglican convention in London, he was blocked from participating and even excluded from social events.

3) Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Episcopal Church's first female presiding bishop (national leader), condemned the concept of personal salvation as heretical and idolatrous. Although the concept of heresy is meaningless to me, I have observed that people who emphasize personal salvation minimize the importance of virtue because they don't believe that virtue will get them into heaven--or wickedness into hell. What will get them into heaven in their view is begging God's forgiveness according to the infinite merit of Christ's redeeming blood, which means that had Hitler, in his final moments, professed faith in Jesus and asked forgiveness in His name, Hitler is even now basking in God's glory; but if fifteen-year-old Ann Frank died without begging forgiveness in the name of Christ, she is writhing in eternal agony alongside Buddhists, Hindus, humanists, and such Christians as had the misfortune to die before asking forgiveness for their latest sin. In the words of Acts 4:12: "Only Jesus has the power to save! His name is the only one in all the world that can save anyone."


4) I first became aware of the Episcopal Church during the Civil Rights era when I watched Northerners in priestly attire participate in demonstrations. When one of those men was murdered* in front of numerous witnesses while saving the life another person in broad daylight, and the good Christians of Alabama refused to hold his murderer accountable, the killing became but one of hundreds of incidents that hardened me against the integrity of the Christian masses even as I had already become hardened against the depravity of the Biblical deity. Although in earlier centuries, the Episcopal Church had courted slave owners and robber barons, by my day, it was alone among white-dominated Southern Protestant churches in its concern for social justice. Never once did I hear a Church of Christ preacher speak-out for human rights, although they posted guards at church doors to keep black people from entering, and it was common knowledge that the same Klansmen who bombed churches and burned crosses on Saturday night, worshiped inside churches and before crosses on Sunday morning. 


By the time I left the Church of Christ, I was in search of a refuge of safety and healing away from Christianity, but there were none. However, there was the Episcopal Church, and because it was liberal, and because its liturgies and its sanctuaries were beautiful, the Episcopal Church came to represent an abandonment of all that religion had ever meant to me, and I embraced it. Church of Christ preachers devote a portion of every sermon to the torments of hell, and their sanctuary walls are bare. Episcopal priests seek to inspire, and their walls are richly decorated. Even today, the Episcopal Church doesn't seem like church to me, and I believe there were better men than Christ. Even so, he and the Bible do uplift at times, and I'm too old to go elsewhere. The world contains little that feels like home to me, and the Episcopal Church is among the things that do.

* https://www.lentmadness.org/2013/02/jonathan-daniels-vs-macrina-the-younger/
* https://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/shooting-jonathan-daniels-richard-morrisroe-alabama-50th-anniversary/Content?oid=18915294