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.