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I’m not sure how it happened…

You see, there is this small group of people, I think they might be anarchists – at least that’s how they seem to act. They are all about destroying the existing order and making society go back in time hundreds of years. They say they have a vision, a pure vision of how life should be and they insist that I follow their ideals – or else. Oh, and here is a sign of their evil intent – they have a flag with a rattlesnake on it.

gadsden_flag

I should have known when I first saw it that it stood for their poisonous words and their venomous tactics. But I didn’t take them seriously; and to be quite frank, I don’t think anybody did. They were like a circus sideshow, you know a group of gaggling idiots and fools who could barely speak English. Whenever their supporters spoke in public (and there were a bunch of high level people like Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann), I could never understand what they said. I mean their words simply did not make sense, at least in this Universe. Literally, these people would blather on, making absolutely no sense. They call themselves the Tea Party, although they have nothing in common with the heroes who initiated the American Revolution against the King of England in 1776). Yet, they somehow capivated the minds of the uneducated American people who think they are Christian religious fundamentalists, although I doubt that Jesus would recognize their teachings.

I know, I know. This whole thing makes no sense at all. It’s like a poorly written story. But it happened. It is happening. And now I’m being held hostage by these people. And so are a lot of other innocent people.

They say that if I (actually the elected U.S. government) doesn’t give them exactly what they want (anarchy) they will pull the plug on the economy, and we will all go over some sort of very high cliff. All of us! Frankly, I’m very afraid of very high cliffs because if you fall off you will get hurt really bad. The problem is that these People of the Snake aren’t afraid of falling off of the cliff. That can only mean that they are either very stupid, or they are insane, or both. I think some are very stupid and the rest are insane. And here I am ( and you too, by the way). Trapped. A prisoner of a very small group of religious/economic zealots who have seized power in a very Un-American manner by misusing Congress and refusing to let the majority rule. In essence, “the lunatics have taken over the asylum”.

I know. I know what you are saying. These are just bargaining tactics and it will all come out OK in the end. Really? Have you ever looked into the eyes of Michells Bachman? Have you ever listened to the thoughts of Sarah Palin? Have you read Ayn Rand’s books? (She is the patron saint the of the TP). These people live in some alternate reality, a parallel universe that combines patriotic rhetoric from 200 years ago and Bible thumping, backwoods snakeoil salesmen pitches. They think they are suffering now, but they have no clue of the enormous economic suffering they are about to inflict on the entire world if they get their insane way. You see, I’m not the only hostage in the room. We are all in this together, yes, you too – wherever you are.

I should have known. When these people chose the poisonous rattlesnake as their mascot, it was a clear sign that they cannot be trusted.

May God Save the USA from this insane group of people… because Congress can’t.

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The recent murders of school children and teachers at Sandy Hook have once again caused the American people to examine their “right to bear arms”. More specifically, the question has arisen is this, “Why do ordinary citizens need assault weapons”? The answer that is usually given is that the right to bear arms is guaranteed by the second amendment to the Constitution. The text of the amendment is brief, simply stating that: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”. If one were to live somewhere far from the U.S., like perhaps on Mars, one might be forgiven having the understanding that the U.S. has a militia, i.e. volunteer soldiers who are normally just farmers and so forth, but who are ready to go to war at a moment’s notice. You might call such a group Minutemen and you would be right, although you would be off by a couple of centuries. Indeed, the United States was once protected by citizen soldiers who were called Minutemen and who were expected to be ready with a minute’s notice. For this reason every citizen had to have his own firearm handy in case he had to rush off to war against the British, or the French, or the Spanish, or even those pesky Native Americans who kept thinking they owned the land that the Europeans called America.

However, times change, and the reason for the second amendment has long passed into the dustbin of history. Which is why the supporters of “gun rights” always talk about the second clause of the second amendment and not the first clause. Nevertheless, one might argue that some sort of precedent exists, given that people have owned guns for over 200 years in the U.S. and that militia groups still exist, as in Texas; however, I don’t think that anyone could seriously contend that the militia groups of today are a serious defense against other nations who have nuclear bombs, ICBMs, and armies that number in the hundreds of thousands, if not the millions. The defense against those potential threats is relegated to the standing Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine forces of the U.S. The militias, such as they are, are of little to no value against modern threats from advanced countries. Even so, there are a lot of Americans who want their own guns, and not just guns, they want assault-style weapons. Why? One might ask. Surely you don’t need an assault weapon to defend yourself from a burglar who might break into your house in the middle of the night. Isn’t a pistol under your pillow much more convenient? Sure it is, and it was the typical solution for that problem for many Americans for many, many years.

An assault-style weapon can fire many, many bullets in a short period of time, perhaps 50-100 bullets in a minute. In comparison, a military assault rifle can fire close to 1,000 bullets per minute. So, the question must arise, why does the average American homeowner need an assault-style weapon? Surely, he’s not expecting to have a shootout with a burglar which requires the capability to fire 50-100 bullets in a minute, is he? Under what circumstances would the average American citizen need this firepower, let alone the firepower of a true assault rifle. Could it for hunting deer or maybe ducks? Imagine shooting a deer with 50 – 100 bullets, or maybe hitting a duck with all that lead. Does that make any sense? Could it be that the typical American gun owner is such a bad shot that he needs 50-100 rounds per minute just to hit a deer or a duck? I don’t think so.

The reason Americans want assault weapons – even multiple assault weapons – in their homes is this: they think they need them. Need them? For what? you say. The answer is found in the name of the weapon itself. They are used for conducting an assault – or for defending against an assault. Let us assume that most Americans are not planning an assault (with the exception of the numerous crazies out there who are clearly planning assaults with assault-style weapons). The typical American who wants assault-style weapons can only feel he has the need for one of these weapons if he is indeed fearing an imminent assault from someone else. From who? You say. Fidel Castro? No, of course not. It’s simple: it’s from THEM…. THEM…. Get it?

In case you are not familiar with THEM, THEM is the “others”, a group of people that is different from us, a group who wants our stuff, a group who, one day, will rise up and try to seize the property of TRUE Americans. That’s why Americans not only need assault weapons, it also why they need underground bunkers, a year’s worth of food and fuel, booby trapped properties, secret stashes of money, and so forth. It is a belief amongst the “haves” that the “havenots” are about to rise up in rebellion and take their stuff. Its a fear of class warfare. Its like a religious belief. It actually is a religious belief for some of these people. The end times are coming. The good and the bad will do battle – so the good need their assault weapons. It’s a combination of these ingredients and more that drive Americans to crave assault weapons.

So there you go… and you probably thought these people were just crazy or something.

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It has been about 2,000 years since the man we now call Jesus, but whose Jewish name was most likely Yehoshua or Yeshua, lived in the land of Judea (from which we derive the word Jew). There are an endless number of theology books that have been written about his teachings and a very large number of churches created, all of which profess to know his true message. The problem is that these churches tend to disagree, some almost completely, about exactly what he said and what he meant by the words he said. The issue is compounded by the fact that he wrote nothing himself and the major sources of information about his teachings , the Gospels, were written long after he died.

This much we do know: he lived and taught in the land of Judea. He ran afoul of both the Jewish leadership and the Roman leadership of the land and he was executed by the government of the Roman Empire for what we would today call treason. It seems that he had somehow acquired the title “King of the Jews” and, of course there could only be one king in the Roman Empire, and that was Caesar. He had also drawn the ire of the Jewish theocracy by teaching that the religious laws of the land were not the laws of God and need not be followed. Furthermore, he went around forgiving people who had broken the religious laws of Judea, thus robbing the priests and leaders of the Judea of their power over the people. For a theocracy, either Jewish or Roman, (and they were both theocracies) this was an unforgivable sin.

For centuries after his death his followers were persecuted by the Roman Empire in an attempt to quell the growth of the movement he had started. It was only when the Roman Emperor Constantine declared tolerance for Christians in the year 313 than the attitude of the Empire began to change. It wasn’t too long afterward that Christianity was declared the official religion of the Roman Empire and all the laws of the Roman Catholic Church were incorporated into the laws of the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire had become a worldwide theocracy. Over the centuries many of the old Judean theocracy laws were included in “Christian” teachings, and “Christian” theocracies eventually came to Europe, first as part of the Roman Empire and later as Protestant “Christian” theocracies, such as England. The mixing of public law and religious laws eventually followed the Puritans to America and became part of American life with Christian prayers being said in public schools at the start of the school day, Christian holidays becoming state holidays, and so forth. It was accepted as normal by the people. The question is this: is this what Jesus had in mind? Is this why he was willing to die by Roman torture? The answer, of course, is no.

At the core of the New Testament story is the continual adversarial relationship between the theocracy of Judea and the teaching of Jesus. The reason for this is the nature of theocracies: they impose their will upon the people under threat of punishment by God. All you have to do is convince the people that your government is in touch with God and you have total control of the people. This method of control has worked well for thousands of years, not only for the Christian countries, but for countries that espouse other religions too. The initial teaching of Jesus was simple – the government does not speak for God.

However, as time went on and Jesus fell under heavy criticism from the religious leaders of  Judea, he also rebuked their teachings. It wasn’t long before he was teaching that neither the government nor the priests speak for God. Well then, you might ask, who does? The response of Jesus  to this is what he told his followers: I will send a counselor to you, the Holy Spirit of God, who will advise you about what is right or wrong. When Jesus was gone there would be no priest or governor to interpret the will of God because each person will be informed directly by the Spirit of God. Or, as Jesus also stated, the Kingdom of Heaven is within you.

The key message of Jesus was not that he was establishing a new religion, it was that men do not need the established religions in order to be in contact with God. His words were the words of treason against all theocracies. His words were the words of freedom for all individuals. His words were the rejection of the existence of any theocracy or priest – there was no need for an intermediary between you and God – in fact, this would be the only way you could ever experience God. You have to do it yourself. That was his message.

Now, 2,000 years later, as millions, perhaps billions celebrate Christmas, it is worth remembering that this man who gave his life for his message of defiance to theocracies was striking a blow for all of us to be free of religious leaders, like the present Pope, who say that pedophilia is OK, or other leaders of other religions who call for “Holy Wars”, or others who call for you to give 10% of your money to them because God wants you to, or those who say you must be a virgin, or those who say you must not eat this or you must not wear those clothes, or those who say you must not think this or say that. The list goes on and on of “religious” people who would control you, who tell you they speak for God, when of course they do not.

So why should we celebrate Christmas? Because in doing so we celebrate the life of a true hero of the world who 2,000 years ago stood up and defied the Roman Empire and the Jewish theocracy, and sacrificed his life, on behalf of every one of us. He  spoke out on behalf of freedom and the ability of each man to know God without the assistance of any other man.

We should celebrate the life of Jesus because he taught us that we are free of theocracies, because the Kingdom of Heaven, i.e. the Spirit of God, is already within all of us.

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There is an old Thai saying that goes like this: “When elephants fight it is the grass that gets trampled”.

There is a massive fight going on now in Washington D.C., and while many Americans might feel they have a stake in this battle, the fact remains that we are the grass in this battle of elephants.  On one side we have the strong and robust Republican/Tea Party – the party of the already wealthy. They feel they can take care of themselves and the less government, the better. On the other side are the weakling Democrats, traditionally the party of the working class, who believe that only a strong government can protect the average person from the avarice of the wealthy. This is not a new struggle – it is the remnants of a struggle that began in England before this country was even a glimmer in John Winthrop’s eye.

The old traditions of Europe: a small and very powerful wealthy class that owns almost everything and a very large peasant class that performs all the necessary labor so that the wealthy might live in luxury, were left behind when the Puritans sailed to Massachusetts. It was a new, virgin land (except for those troublesome Native Americans who really had no right to the land because they were not part of the Elect – and the fact that they mostly all died in battles with the early settlers (who had all the guns) proved that God was on the side of the Elect!!)

For a time, it all worked out. Anybody could just grab the land they wanted and they could live in total freedom. But with success comes more people, and more people, and more people. Pretty soon the people realized this total freedom thing wasn’t working for everyone, so they made rules. Then they fought a war against the English King and the English people because the English still wanted to play the old game of rich man, poor man. So, with the help of the people of France, who had recently overthrown their own wealthy oppressors, they created a new country styled upon the democracies of ancient Greece and Rome (which is why the architecture of Washington D.C. looks like it does).

Unfortunately, the rules didn’t cover a lot of things so it wasn’t long before the fox was in the henhouse – so to speak.  The wealthy people, not above stealing from the poor, soon owned the banks and the big businesses and went on to steal from the poor and the unsuspecting, which led to the Stock Market crash of 1929, not to mention all of the previous bank panics and economic catastrophes before that. The point was that the wealthy manipulators of the economy always enriched themselves based upon the power of their wealth, their connections with other wealthy people, and their inside information.

The Great Depression pointed out (to some people anyway) the need for reform of the system, and President Roosevelt went about that reform. In fact he named Joseph Kennedy to be the first head of the Securities and Exchange Commission – perfect: who better to catch a fox than another fox? The country recovered from the abuses of the wealthy thanks to Roosevelt’s strong government that was genuinely interested in helping the people.

Now, many years since the Great Depression we are in the midst of the Great Recession – with the potential to fall off a cliff into a second great depression if the wrong decisions are made. However, unlike the 1930’s, we do not have a President with a mandate to save the country. We have a house divided. We have the Republican/Tea Party who wants to do nothing, except lower taxes for the wealthy (the source of all jobs, remember?) and then deregulate pretty much everything. Minimal government is best they say – all we need is a strong military to kill everyone who doesn’t like the way we do things. Are far as the poor and the sick and the homeless goes – well, they’re on their own – Will of God and that sort of thing, you know? (They seem to think that this is the teaching of Jesus. After all, they are the Elect.) They feel kind of sorry for those God-forsaken people – but, they say, why is that the problem of the wealthy who have only made their vast fortunes by honest means? Exactly.

Now for the Democrats – the voice of the working man – where do they stand? It seems they stand firmly in favor of compromise. They talk a good story but in the end they will cave – and the Republican Tea Party knows that. Like a lion waiting in the tall grass, they know the Democrats have no teeth and no stomach for a battle. And why should they – after all, every Senator in the U.S. Congress is already a multi-millionaire, so really – just who do these people represent? And just why should they fight for the working man? After all, they’ve already been elected, so who cares, right? As for the Congressmen, they know where their bread is buttered. Sure some poor working class man might have scraped up $10 to make a campaign contribution – but can that compare to the vast amounts contributed  by major corporations to the campaigns? Of course not. Who would you listen to? And now that the fools in our Supreme Court have declared that corporations have the same rights of free speech as living people, everything has changed. Would you want the corporations, with their semi-infinite resources buying unattributed TV ads against you in the next election?

Don’t look to the Democratic Party to save the country this time. They don’t have the stomach for a fight – they like the good life too much. But, if we only look at history we can see that we are heading for a fight. We are a polarized country – the haves against the have-nots;  and the polarization is deepening. The Republican/Tea Party people are too stupid to see this, nor do they care, and the Democrats are equally blind to the danger that is building. When the Republican Tea Party proceeds to heartlessly cut the lifelines of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Welfare, and all other assistance to the poor – the fight will inevitably come. It has to. It will be a fight for survival. It won’t be the weaklings of this Democratic Party that lead the charge, but it will come anyway.  It always does when people refuse to learn the hard lessons of their own history.

And it is always the grass that gets trampled.

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It’s difficult to say when it began, but I am sure the seeds were planted on the very first day the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.  Surely the beliefs that allow such betrayals are contained in the essence of the Calvinist/Puritan teaching of the concept of the “elect”.  Surely such beliefs are made manifest in the wholesale slaughter of the native Americans who owned this land.  Surely such beliefs are made manifest in the enslavement of an entire race of people, all for the sake of the enrichment of private fortunes. They called America the land of opportunity. And who comes to a land of opportunity except opportunists?

Through the centuries there have been numerous examples of men who professed a love for this country and its people, and all the while they acted out of anything but love for either the country or its people.  These captains of industry and leaders of government, clever with words and even more clever with the manipulation of the populace, time and again took advantage of the people solely for the purpose of self-aggrandizement.   The use of slaves in the south, the use of child labor in the factories of the north, the ejection of native Americans from their homelands on which they had lived for over 10,000 years, are all the work of opportunists – people without a sense of honor, righteousness, or human sympathy. These people knew only greed for wealth and would say anything, do anything, and go anywhere to obtain it. As they would say, ” You gotta do what you gotta do.” And they called themselves Americans.

We should have seen it coming fifty years ago. That’s when the captains of industry began moving the manufacturing industry of America from the industrial northeast to the south in order to take advantage of the cheap labor and thus obtain even greater profits. It was an opportunity not to be missed. And over the years the northeast lost many, many thousands of jobs and once thriving manufacturing towns became empty as people left, looking for work somewhere else. Never mind that the captains of industry had been good citizens. Some had even held political office. All had claimed they were working for the good of their communities. And then they left – for the opportunity to make even more money. And what about the people left behind? Who cares?

We missed the signs, though they were obvious to see. Then it happened again, except this time the captains of industry moved their factories to other countries where the people would work for even less money – it was an opportunity, you see. And our government? Well, it was just fine with our elected officials. No need to erect tariffs to keep out the cheaply made goods that would compete with American made products. It’s competition – good for everyone. Right? But it wasn’t. Sure it was good for Wal-Mart. Sure it has been wonderful for China. But what about the American worker? What could he do now?

Ah! The government had an idea (with the help of the banking industry). The poor people could buy and flip houses! Let them become mini-Capitalists! They can make their fortune’s that way and so can the banks. And the government said, “Let it be so.” And it was.

As Americans now look at the smoking ruin that was once the American economy, there is a strong sense of betrayal. Look at the Tea Party. They are made as Hell and they aren’t going to take it any more. Sadly, they have no clue about exactly what happened to them. They just know that they don’t want to pay taxes anymore. Everywhere there is unhappiness. The government cannot be trusted. The people we elect don’t deliver. They promise to do things and then they never even attempt to do them once they are elected. Democrat or Republican – it makes no difference, because, you see, they are all opportunists in this land of opportunity.

We, the people, don’t get it. It’s not about community. It’s not about patriotism.  It’s not about helping your neighbor. It’s not about people helping people. At least those are not the concerns of our captains of industry or our captains of government. We have been betrayed, fooled, bamboozled. The Tea Party knows it. We are a nation of suckers, believing political promises and televised slogans from big business. Our Supreme Court, in its mind-boggling wisdom, has declared that corporations are like people and that they enjoy the same freedom of speech that real, living people do.  Really! So now corporations can use their billion dollar megaphones to drown out the voices of dissent from the people.  We are indeed betrayed. Our jobs have been moved overseas. Our wealthiest citizens pay almost no taxes while our poorest people are evicted from their foreclosed homes to live on the streets. Our banks have received billions of dollars from the government in order to cover their losses. Our industries have received billions of dollars from our government in order to cover their losses. All because our government and our industry leaders deliberately moved the key machinery of our economy to China, India, and the rest of the developing world – and all at the expense of the American citizen.

The people of America have been betrayed by the leaders of their industries and their elected leaders for many, many years.  And now, while the smoke still lazily drifts upward from the ruins of a devastated economy, the politicians prod the people once again. “Vote for me. Vote for me.” But Washington, don’t you see? The people are tired of your tricks, tired of your betrayals, tired of your promises that mean so little.  We know you are nothing but opportunists.

I fear that the time is near when the American people, like Estragon and Vladimir in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, will simply not move.

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